The QR code has been a popular punching bag for the nonplussed tech press, but Mercedes-Benz has figured out a way to not only make the over-endowed barcode useful, but life-saving.
The ADAC — or the Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club — is Germany’s version of the AAA. And they require every automaker to provide a “rescue sheet” in vehicles sold in Germany. The sheet provides first responders with information about the placement and volatility of everything from fuel lines to airbags, pressurized cylinders, and the high-voltage cables fitted to hybrids. This gives paramedics, police, and firefighters a map of the vehicle so they don’t cut through something that goes “boom.”
The only problem: These “rescue sheets” are rarely in the same place in every car — if at all — and if they are, they may be in the glove box or stored somewhere first responders can’t get to quickly.
Enter the QR code.
By placing a sticker with the square, black and white pattern inside the fuel filler door and on the pillar ahead of the passenger side — two places Mercedes says aren’t generally damaged in crashes — a firefighter with the Jaws of Life in hand can scan the code with their smartphone or data-connected tablet and get a complete rescue sheet on their device before they start hacking away at the Benz.
The retrofitting of QR codes to existing vehicles is something Mercedes is looking into. And just to make proliferation easier for all vehicles, no matter the automaker, Mercedes has waived the right to a patent registration. Bully for them.
Eleven years ago Sönke Neitzel, a German historian based at Glasgow University, stumbled on the sort of documentary treasure trove that other historians spend their lives dreaming about. On a rainy autumn day, during a routine research visit to the National Archives in Kew, Neitzel came across the transcript of a covertly taped conversation between captured German officers in a British PoW camp. Like Oliver Twist he asked for more and it soon became clear that his original find was just the tip of a gigantic iceberg.
Late in the Second World War, the British had systematically bugged private discussions between captive German soldiers of all ranks. (The Americans soon followed suit and recorded the conversations of their PoWs, too.) The resulting mountain of material has already yielded one fascinating book, Tapping Hitler’s Generals (2007), in which Neitzel used taped discussions, including heated arguments, between German generals held in Trent Park camp, following the capitulation of the Afrika Korps in Tunisia in 1943 and after the 1944 Normandy campaign.
These unguarded conversations proved a rich haul to the British Intelligence ‘buggers’ monitoring them. They showed, for example, the deep disillusionment among the higher ranks of the Wehrmacht with their Führer and his disastrous mismanagement of the war. They also revealed the army’s bitter and cynical hostility to the growing power of Himmler’s SS.
Now, in Soldaten, his second selection of extracts from the taped transcripts, Neitzel has printed more reflections from the generals, but also extended his trawl to the Wehrmacht’s lower ranks: commissioned officers, NCOs and ordinary private soldiers. Like Tapping Hitler’s Generals this is an equally fascinating snapshot of the psychology of Hitler’ssoldaten. In their chats, which they naively imagined to be private, the men who had occupied Europe unbutton and tell us, often in salty terms, their true opinions and experiences.
The great value of Neitzel’s work is that these conversations are not the results of interviews in which German soldiers told their captors what they wanted to hear. Nor (as, for example, in evidence given at the Nuremberg tribunal) are they statements consciously presented for public consumption. Rather, these are akin to informal messroom chatter (without the distorting addition of alcohol), by turns boastful, remorseful, rueful, but above all candid. With no idea that they were being overheard, still less that their comments would ever be published, the soldaten let down their guards. In a nutshell, the picture that emerges is, in Kipling’s phrase about armies, that of ‘a brutal and licentious soldiery’, as cruel as they were casual in inflicting horrific violence on combatants and civilians alike.
One result of their frankness is that it will never again be possible to argue, as many have, that in contrast to the despised SS, the Wehrmacht fought a ‘clean’ war, not dirtying their hands with atrocities. (One recounts with pride wearing chamois gloves in order to knock down a ‘dirty Polish swine’.) With astounding insouciance, often punctuated with laughter, they recount crimes they have either witnessed without protest or carried out, ranging from the mass gassing of Jews and gang rapes to individual killings: a Dane shot dead over a trivial quarrel on a tram; a Frenchman gunned down because the killer needed his bicycle. One or two voices feebly protest that such crimes are not the actions of ‘honourable soldiers’ but they are a distinct minority.
Astonishingly, until we recall how deeply Nazi totalitarianism had warped German minds, the most common complaint voiced about war crimes here is that there were not enough of them. Seeing German defeat approaching (although some still put their faith in the Führer or secret weapons supposedly about to come on stream), many voices lament that Germany would have won if only they had been ten times as ruthless as they were. ‘We were too soft’ is an all too common refrain.
This book is genuinely ground-breaking in letting Hitler’s soldiers speak out in their own unvarnished voices. It is not a pretty sound. Neitzel’s work on these transcripts is an important, contribution to the great debate on who knew what about the Third Reich’s agenda, both hidden and open. It is such a significant work that it is much to be regretted that Neitzel, instead of writing it alone as he did with his first volume, called in as co-author the social psychologist Harald Welzer. I feared the worst when I read that Welzer, rather than a historian, was a professor of something called ‘transformation design’ and he does not disappoint. His jargon-laden commentary, telling us what we ought to think about the transcripts rather than letting the soldaten speak for themselves and forever fitting their remarks into a Procrustean bed of psycho/social-babble, is a continually irritating and unnecessary background noise and diminishes the impact of this powerful book. Neitzel should have had the confidence to let his witnesses condemn themselves out of their own mouths.
Nigel Jones is the author of Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London (Hutchinson, 2011)
A 67-year-old woman from Hainaut Province in Wallonia (Belgium) left her home in Erquelinnes on 12 January to pick up a friend at the Brussels North Station, but arrived in Zagreb (Croatia) twelve hours later after using her GPS.
A 40-minute trip, turned into a 12-hour journey (1,450km) across Germany and Austria. “I was absent-minded so I kept on putting my foot down”, Sabine Moureau told the daily Het Nieuwsblad.
"I switched on the GPS and punched in the address. Then I started out. My GPS seemed a bit wonky. It sent me on several diversions and that’s where it must have gone wrong”, explained Sabine, who was reported missing to the police by her son.
"I saw tons of different signposts, first in French, later in German, but I kept on driving". She thought that something was going wrong, but she decided to sleep a few hours by the wayside and continue her trip. "It was only when I ended up in Zagreb that I realised I was no longer in Belgium”, she said.
While she was on her unexpected tourist voyage, her friend arrived at Sabine’s home and her son called the police. The Belgian authorities searched her home and were about to launch a full scale manhunt when she phoned to say she was in Zagreb.
"Weird? Maybe, but I was just distracted and preoccupied," Moreau said.
What’s in a name? Quite a lot, if you live in Iceland
Recent decades have ushered in an era of creative baby names – at least in Hollywood. But not every country embraces such unique labels. In the first case of its kind, a 15-year-old girl in Iceland is suing the state for the right to use her name.
Blaer Bjarkardottir’s first name (it means “light breeze” in Icelandic) is not on the official list of approved names issued by the Icelandic government, causing her to be identified simply as “Stulka” – or “girl” on all her official documents.
The state’s refusal to accept the teenager’s name has led to years of frustration, as she is constantly forced to explain the story when filling out forms or dealing with the country’s bureaucratic system.
Iceland is one of several nations, including Germany and Denmark, which has rules regarding what a baby can be called.
The country’s “Personal Names Register” contains a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials say will protect children from embarrassment.
Parents can apply to a special committee for names which are not on the list. Blaer’s family did just that, but the name was rejected because it takes on a masculine article. Undeterred, Blaer filed a lawsuit against the state. The decision is expected January 25.
Blaer’s mother says she learned the name wasn’t on the register after the priest who baptized her daughter later informed her that he had mistakenly allowed it.
"I had no idea that the name wasn’t on the list, the famous list of names that you can choose from," Bjork Eidsdottir told AP.
Eidsdottir hopes her daughter will win the lawsuit – the very first of its kind.
"So many strange names have been allowed, which makes this even more frustrating because Blaer is a perfectly Icelandic name," she told AP. ”It seems like a basic human right to be able to name your child what you want, especially if it doesn’t harm your child in any way…and my daughter loves her name.”
However, history suggests that Blaer may have an uphill battle ahead of her. In the past, the name “Carolina” was rejected because the letter “c” is not part of Icleand’s 32-letter alphabet and “Satania” was shot down because it was deemed too close to “Satan.” "The law is pretty straightforward so in many cases it’s clearly going to be a yes or a no," said Agusta Thorbergsdottir, the head of the government committee which will hear the case.
But the determined teen says she’s prepared to take the case all the way to the country’s Supreme Court if the court doesn’t overturn the decision.
Given names hold extreme importance in Iceland. Surnames are based on a parent’s given name and everyone in the phone book is listed by their first name.
Hitler’s stealth bomber: How the Nazis were first to design a plane to beat radar. By Marcus Dunk
With its smooth and elegant lines, this could be a prototype for some future successor to the stealth bomber.
But this flying wing was actually designed by the Nazis 30 years before the Americans successfully developed radar-invisible technology.
Now an engineering team has reconstructed the Horten Ho 2-29 from blueprints, with startling results.
It was faster and more efficient than any other plane of the period and its stealth powers did work against radar.
Experts are now convinced that given a little bit more time, the mass deployment of this aircraft could have changed the course of the war.
First built and tested in the air in March 1944, it was designed with a greater range and speed than any plane previously built
and was the first aircraft to use the stealth technology now deployed by the U.S. in its B-2 bombers.
Thankfully Hitler’s engineers only made three prototypes, tested by being dragged behind a glider, and were not able to build them on an industrial scale before the Allied forces invaded.
From Panzer tanks through to the V-2 rocket, it has long been recognised that Germany’s technilowcal expertise during the war was years ahead of the Allies.
But by 1943, Nazi high command feared that the war was beginning to turn against them, and were desperate to develop new weapons to help turn the tide.
Nazi bombers were suffering badly when faced with the speed and manoeuvrability of the Spitfire and other Allied fighters.
Hitler was also desperate to develop a bomber with the range and capacity to reach the United States.
In 1943 Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering demanded that designers come up with a bomber that would meet his ‘1,000, 1,000, 1,000’ requirements – one that could carry 1,000kg over 1,000km flying at 1,000km/h.
A full scale replica of the Ho 229 bomber made with materials available in the 1940s at prefilght
A wing section of the stealth bomber. The jet intakes were years ahead of their time
Two pilot brothers in their thirties, Reimar and Walter Horten, suggested a ‘flying wing’ design they had been working on for years.
They were convinced that with its drag and lack of wind resistance such a plane would meet Goering’s requirements.
Construction on a prototype was begun in Goettingen in Germany in 1944.
The centre pod was made from a welded steel tube, and was designed to be powered by a BMW 003 engine.
The most important innovation was Reimar Horten’s idea to coat it in a mix of charcoal dust and wood glue.
Vengeful: Inventors Reimar and Walter Horten were inspired to build the Ho 2-29 by the deaths of thousands of Luftwaffe pilots in the Battle of Britain
The 142-foot wingspan bomber was submitted for approval in 1944, and it would have been able to fly from Berlin to NYC and back without refueling, thanks to the same blended wing design and six BMW 003A or eight Junker Jumo 004B turbojets
He thought the electromagnetic waves of radar would be absorbed, and in conjunction with the aircraft’s sculpted surfaces the craft would be rendered almost invisible to radar detectors.
This was the same method eventually used by the U.S. in its first stealth aircraft in the early 1980s, the F-117A Nighthawk.
The plane was covered in radar absorbent paint with a high graphite content, which has a similar chemical make-up to charcoal.
After the war the Americans captured the prototype Ho 2-29s along with the blueprints and used some of their technological advances to aid their own designs.
But experts always doubted claims that the Horten could actually function as a stealth aircraft.
Now using the blueprints and the only remaining prototype craft, Northrop-Grumman (the defence firm behind the B-2) built a fullsize replica of a Horten Ho 2-29.
Luckily for Britain the Horten flying wing fighter-bomber never got much further than the blueprint stage, above
Thanks to the use of wood and carbon, jet engines integrated into the fuselage, and its blended surfaces, the plane could have been in London eight minutes after the radar system detected it
It took them 2,500 man-hours and $250,000 to construct, and although their replica cannot fly, it was radar-tested by placing it on a 50ft articulating pole and exposing it to electromagnetic waves.
The team demonstrated that although the aircraft is not completely invisible to the type of radar used in the war, it would have been stealthy enough and fast enough to ensure that it could reach London before Spitfires could be scrambled to intercept it.
‘If the Germans had had time to develop these aircraft, they could well have had an impact,’ says Peter Murton, aviation expert from the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, in Cambridgeshire.
‘In theory the flying wing was a very efficient aircraft design which minimised drag.
‘It is one of the reasons that it could reach very high speeds in dive and glide and had such an incredibly long range.’
The research was filmed for a forthcoming documentary on the National Geographic Channel.
Hamas TV Host Criticizes UNRWA for Teaching the Holocaust to Palestinian Children
Following are excerpts from a TV debate on Holocaust studies in the Gaza Strip, which aired on Al-Aqsa TV on October 22, 2012.
TV host Hany Al-Mgahri: UNRWA teaches the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews to Palestinian refugees. The Zionist enemy has spread this Zionist lie to the world, claiming that under the Germany Nazi regime, millions of Zionists were killed at the hands of this government.
The Zionist enemy continues to punish Germany and the entire world to this day, on the basis of this lie. All the while, this enemy has committed many holocausts in the 63 years since the occupation of Palestine.
They can say whatever they want, but we have our beliefs and we know the truth, but UNRWA, which was formed to provide relief and work for the Palestinian refugees, teaches the Holocaust to children. This raises many questions.
The poll, undertaken between December 2011 and February 2012, encompassed 24,090 respondents worldwide. Iran took the unflattering top spot, again, with 55% of respondents saying is has a negative influence on the world. Pakistan ranked second (51%), with Israel and North Korea tied for third place (50%).
Last year, 47% of poll respondents said Israel had a negative effect on the world.
According to the latest survey, only 21% of respondents view Israel’s influence as mostly positive, the same figure as last year. A favorable change in the West was only recorded in the United States, with 50% of Americans saying they view Israel in a positive light, compared to 35% who said they view the Jewish state in a negative light.
Declining support in China, India
The US figures constitute the highest approval rating for Israel by Americans since the poll’s initiation, in 2005. Two more nations with favorable attitudes towards Israel are Nigeria (54%) and Kenya (46%).
In post-revolution Egypt, 85% of respondents said they view Israel in a negative light, a 7% rise from last year. The Jewish state’s situation is particularly grim in Europe, with 74% of Spaniards viewing Israel negatively. Negative attitudes were also recorded in France (65%), Germany (69%), Britain (68%), Australia (65%) and Canada (59%).
Support for Israel also declined in China, India and Russia.
According to the survey, the most beloved states in the world are Japan, Germany, Canada, Britain and China.