At One Indiana National Guard Base, Communications Devices are Truly State-of-the-Art

Communications are always changing in the United States: just a few years ago in 2000, the U.S. reached a peak in the number of phone lines at 186 million. Today, however, there are approximately 100 million fewer copper landlines, with more consumers using cellular phones and fiberoptic cable services.

The communications for the military are not impervious to change, either. At one military base in Terre Haute, Indiana, the communication devices utilized by soldiers are evolving, too.

Senior Airman Joseph Bowlin showed off the Indiana National Guard’s 181st Intelligence Wing and some of its radio and communication equipment. 

In military uses, Bowlin said, communication equipment helps the U.S. target enemy sites.

One example of this is the a device the size of a laptop computer, which can show live video from either a manned or unmanned aircraft.

Some of these items were on display at an invitation-only domestic operation expo last week, which was hosted by the Indiana National Guard’s 181st Intelligence Wing and Indiana State University. The event was held at the Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field.

Bowlin explained, “We also have radios, with the ability to communicate if power goes down and there are no cellphones or no phone lines.”

Such radios can be either satellite radios or even HF tactical radios, which allow for long-range communication.

The unit also has access to thermal-imaging devices, which can help emergency response teams find people under rubble or in remote locations. Some of these devices can take these images from unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone aircraft, about 12 feet long with 14-feet wingspans.

Such aircraft can fly for six hours for 70 to 75 miles with a speed of up to 127 miles per hour. They are designed to be “purely reconnaissance,” says Spc. Tyson Pelo, who is training to fly one.

The devices are controlled by two people: the aircraft operator and the camera operator, the former of which can make the plane go as high as 15,000 feet into the air.

The drone’s purpose is to show an overview of damage from wildfires and other natural disasters.

The wing at Terre Haute employees personnel from 62 of 92 Indiana counties and 18 states and has a payroll of over $50 million per year. In addition to its employment roster, its use of technology adds much revenue to the nation’s economy, according to some Indiana National Guard members.

As Eyewear Becomes More Fashion Focused, Sunglass Sales are Picking Up

Sunglasses: are they the next lipstick? Historically, economists have observed that in times of economic strife — such as the recent U.S. Recession — sales of makeup go up rather than down, as consumers search for relatively inexpensive ways to boost their morale and update their look.

Over the past few years, a new, related trend has emerged to accompany this: the rising sale of sunglasses. While women’s apparel experienced a 4% overall sale increase from 2012 to 2013, sunglasses revenue rose 9%, more than double the pace. About a billion pairs of sunglasses are now sold each year.

There are, according to industry experts, a few reasons this trend is taking off. One reason is that eyewear has become more fashion-focused. Instead of just buying a pair of shades at the drugstore, people are searching for upscale designs that complement their overall look. Retailers like Warby Parker and the rise of the Google Glass have helped to keep glasses fashion on consumers’ minds.

And again, the Recession plays a part in this. Many consumers want high-end brands, but can’t afford a $3,000 handbag. Sunglasses represent a happy medium where they can access the brands they love, without paying the higher retail price. Gucci handbags, for example, typically cost more than $1,000, while their sunglasses frequently sell for $300. For the price-savvy consumer, it’s comparatively a bargain.

“We know that [the] average American owns lots of shoes and handbags,” says Kristen McCabe, VP of the Sunglass Hut North America. “They’re starting to think about eyewear in the same way, which is really important.”

Rumors of Radio’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

People have been talking about the death of radio for years. AM lost its social clout when FM began to dominate the airwaves. In 1979, one-hit-wonder Buggles claimed that video killed the radio star. Then cars began to have cassette players. Then CD players. Now, they have USB ports, Auxiliary outlets, and Bluetooth capabilities, all of which allow MP3s — the figurative villain in the analog v. digital debate — to be streamed through the car’s audio system.

Yet, it seems that rumors of radio’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. According to the latest data from the Pew Research Center, 92% of Americans age 12 and older listened to the radio at least once per week in 2012, which is down by only two percentage points from 2001. This means that for over a decade, people have continued to listen to the radio despite having other listening options available. 

In America’s major cities, radio also continues to ride shotgun on people’s daily commutes, or at least for a portion of it. Of New York’s 34.7 minute daily commute, more than three minutes is spent listening to the radio. Of Chicago’s 31.1 minute daily commute, three and a half minutes is spent listening to the news on the radio. Of Boston’s 28.9 minute commute, more than three minutes is spent listening to news and talk radio.

What’s more, it’s been found that 80% of people spend between one to three hours listening, and 40% of people are listening for one to two hour sessions at a time

Although people proclaim the death of radio so often that the very phrase “radio is dead” has become cliche, it simply isn’t. Despite new technologies and changing listening patterns, radio has continued — and will likely continue in the future — to be a part of our everyday lives.

Free Wedding Gowns for Military Brides; Brides Across America Is At It Again

For military brides, and fiancés of deployed military men, a fairy tale wedding is usually only a dream. Being stationed across the world for months or years at a time can hinder any grand wedding plans that a bride has imagined her entire life. 

But not all her fantasies will necessarily go by the wayside. In fact, she can get the perfect wedding gown, thanks to Brides Across the America, a six-year-old organization that supports military brides. 

In Oakville, Connecticut, the organization will team up with The Wedding Embassy to roll out their annual drive on July 12 and 13, to offer these brides a free wedding dress.

Brides Across America founder, Heidi Janson, stated that the event helps remember the sacrifices fiancés make when their husbands-to-be get deployed, as well as when engaged military women are sent overseas for duty. 

“A wedding is something everyone loves and to give a wedding gown to support our troops makes perfect sense! This is our gift to them, to say thank you for their service and sacrifice,” Janson says. 

The Wedding Embassy is also just one of over 60 bridal salons working with Brides Across America to fit military brides with the perfect gown for their big day. In Ankeny, Iowa, the Bridal Connection will host its annual red carpet event for military brides on July 3. The company expects that 20 designer gowns will reach the hands of these brides during the soiree.

Brides Across America was founded in 2008 by Janson, who wanted to do something to help men and women that serve in the armed forces. The first year of Janson’s efforts saw at least 50 gowns distributed to military brides, but the campaign has ballooned in recent years, with 2013 garnering 12,000 dresses. 

The organization was also featured in People Magazine last year, and in 2012, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Dr. Jill Biden, recognized the company during an event to celebrate organizations that help military families. 

These bridal giveaways could be the key to helping fiancés of deployed soldiers, and military women, save money on the expenses a wedding incurs. Studies show that couples spend an average of $28,000 on weddings in the U.S

In order to qualify, brides must either be currently deployed, have a future deployment scheduled, a fiancé serving the military, or have been deployed to Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, or Korea in the last five years. Brides will also need to prove their eligibility with deployment papers and proper identification.

New Study Indicates That Consumers Will Avoid Businesses That Provide Inefficient Mobile Apps

According to a new study by AppDynamics and the Institute of Management Studies (IMS), the majority of people will delete an application if it operates too slowly.

The study findings are key for understanding just how much speed and efficiency matters when it comes to consumers engaging with apps on a routine basis. The researchers found that 86% respondents had already deleted an app because of slow or inefficient performance, and 33% said that, if their bank’s mobile app performed poorly, they would switch banks rather than deal with an alternate way of doing their banking.

The study was conducted out of both the U.K. and the U.S., and involved about 2,000 participants. The study is large enough that its findings can be extrapolated as representative of typical user interactions with smartphones.

Although these findings might seem worrisome for companies that tend to struggle with app speeds, there were indications that organizations with great mobile apps tended to benefit from it. About 30% of people surveyed said they would spend more money on a company that provided a great app.

This sends a fairly clear message to companies looking to make a profit through mobile conversion: investing in a great app can help ensure the sale. Considering that already, 28% of mobile users access the internet with a mobile device more frequently than they do with a desktop, this factor will only become more important as a shift to increasingly mobile-based internet usage continues. Mary Meeker’s 2014 announcement of annual internet trends echoes this — Meeker and her team have shown that, while the total number of internet users worldwide is growing at a rate of less than 10% annually, the number of smartphone users is still growing by about 20% annually.

“With Forrester analysts projecting U.S. mobile commerce sales alone to top $100 billion in 2014, our study underlines the importance of well performing apps,” said Tom Levey of AppDynamics.

Bedbugs Infest Library, Cause Human Bookworms to Flee

Everyone’s heard of bookworms — but what about book bugs? The City of Warren in Michigan had to temporarily close the Miller Branch public library after a bedbug infestation was uncovered there.

According to Detroit Free Press, a patron had originally reported that a man sitting next to her in the library had bugs crawling all over his body. A librarian escorted the man out, and asked him not to come back. She reported the incident to Mayor Jim Fouts, explaining that the man had previously been a frequent visitor.

Fouts hired Griffin Pest Control to inspect the branch, and the inspection confirmed that there was a bedbug infestation. Bug-sniffing dogs brought in revealed additional hiding bedbugs located throughout the library. Both chemical and heat treatments have since been scheduled in order to eradicate the pest.

Libraries are supposed to be clean and safe,” said Fouts about the infestation, adding that librarians are now trained to recognize bedbugs, and they will inspect any items being returned to the library for potential insects. “Everyone has the right to use the library, but no one has the right to infect the library and cause it to be shut down because of personal hygiene or whatever the case may be,” added Fouts in an interview with the Detroit Free Press.

While books are an unlikely vector for the pest, the libraries are most concerned about couch cushions located in area libraries where patrons are likely to sit for long periods of time. Bed bugs are a parasitic insect that feed on blood. While they are not dangerous, they can cause skin rashes, allergic symptoms, and welts to form. They can survive up to 300 days without eating. The library was smart to take care of eradication right away, because bed bugs can multiple quickly — within a short lifetime, each female can lay up to 500 eggs.

Urgent Care Clinics Becoming Growing Option for Sick Children, Says University of Michigan Study

When it comes to taking care of sick children, many parents find that options are limited if the children are prohibited from attending daycare or school. As such, working parents have to resort to taking time off, something that can cost the whole family in major resources.

But parents who need care for their children outside of normal working hours are in luck: an increasing number of urgent care facilities are popping up around the nation, and they can take the frustration out of waiting days or weeks for a doctor’s appointment and spending time and money in an emergency room.

And although these centers are new, one study has already concluded that they are growing in popularity as an option for parents of sick kids.

The study, published by the University of Michigan on June 23, found that more parents are choosing urgent care over emergency room visits when their children get sick and cannot attend school or daycare. Among parents who are single, divorced, African American, have job concerns, or need a doctor’s note for the child to return to school or care, emergency room and urgent care visits are significantly higher.

Children who have frequent mild illnesses are often unnecessarily excluded from child care at high rates. For parents whose children lack a readily available primary care physician, the emergency room and urgent care are more likely options.

According to the UM study, 80 percent of parents took their children to a primary care doctor when their children couldn’t attend child care or school. Twenty-six percent took their children to urgent care, beating the ER by one percent as only 25 percent of parents took their kids to an emergency room.

The UM study was based on a survey of 630 parents with children ages 0 to 5 in child care.

For many parents, availability isn’t the only issue when it comes to raising children. Out of pocket costs for healthcare are rising for everyone in the U.S. at alarming rates, and the cost of raising a child until the age of 18, for any born around 2012, is approximately $217,000 — not including college costs.

Iowa Reeling From Flood Damage, Expects More This Week

Iowa state officials are expecting a presidential disaster declaration for parts of the state that have been hit by severe weather damage, including extensive flooding. So far, the weather and flooding has damaged crops, 150 homes, and public infrastructure such as roads, bridges and public buildings. The damage to publish infrastructure alone is estimated to be a future cost of $15.5 million.

Gov. Terry Branstad has issued state disaster declarations for 18 counties so far, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will decide on whether to create a federal designation after they review damage assessments through the rest of the month. Mark Schouten, the director of the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department, says that there are still secondary roads underwater, and “we don’t know how much damaged they’ve sustained.”

Hail and flooding plagued different parts of the state, including Northwest Iowa, which has typically been one of the driest areas, and consequently was ill-prepared to handle extensive flooding. “We will have substantial crop damage separate and above what we’ve discussed here today,” said Branstad in a recent news conference.

According to Sioux City Journal, Eastern Iowa is preparing for the Cedar River to flood after Sunday delivered an additional bout of rain on the area — the river has already risen six feet since then. City officials are setting up pumps, sandbagging the sewage plant, and closing levee gates. One of the most important preventative measures a home can have is a sump pump; property too close to the flooding river, though, would stand little chance. Luckily, earlier extreme floods in 1999 and 2008 have meant that few properties lay beyond the city’s levee protection.

So far, residents have had to be evacuated from about 150 homes that have been damaged or destroyed by the floodwater.

Iranian Hackers Targeted U.S. Military, Government and Media Over Three Years Using Social Media, Says Report

A recent report from iSIGHT Partners, a Dallas-based computer-security firm, has exposed a three-year long cyber espionage campaign coming out of Iran. The attacks affected approximately 2,000 U.S. personal computers since 2011, and they specifically targeted U.S. military members, Senators, diplomats, lobbyists, and Washington-based journalists.

The Iranian hackers used social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to spread malware to their targets. Those who fell victim to the cyber attacks were directed to links that unleashed malware and phishing attempts with fake log-in screens used to steal usernames and passwords.

The hackers even impersonated journalists and defense contractors and set up a fake news website, (not to be confused with India’s The news site used content copied from other websites, with real writer names swapped out for fake ones.

iSIGHT Partners, which dubbed the threat “NEWSCASTER,” was able to pinpoint Iran as the source of the attacks based on data collected from the attack website. The website used for the attacks was registered in Tehran, with other sites the hackers used hosted in Iran, as well. The malware contained several Persian words, and the time stamps for the hackers’ activity matched the professional working hours in Tehran, with time off on Iranian weekends and holidays.

Military and government computers typically use plenty of software protections, in addition to military-grade transit cases commonly used by the Aerospace industry and Boeing, as well, to physically protect equipment. However, when it comes to hackers, the protections are becoming more and more difficult to utilize as time goes on and Iran begins to catch up with the more complex hacking methods used in China and Russia.

The findings, according to iSIGHT Partners, reveal three “critical insights”: that social media is a powerful and covert way to lure in government leaders and others in related industries; that the hackers may have used this technology to gain knowledge to develop weapons systems; and that these attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated by using multiple social media platforms.

It’s unclear what sort of information was taken by the hackers, but iSIGHT Partners concludes that this effort “is unprecedented in complexity, scale, and longevity,” and that any organizations that may have information of strategic or tactical interest to U.S. enemies should be concerned about threats like NEWSCASTER.

Internet Didn’t Kill Radio Stars, but It is Transforming Them

Forbes is reporting that internet radio is more popular than ever. Perhaps most surprising is the fact that the vast majority of radio is consumed live. In the United Kingdom, for example, 97.3% of all radio is listened to through the web while it’s happening. In this age of podcasts and prerecorded web series on Youtube, this is truly a fascinating finding. 

Despite Early Predictions, Radio is Thriving in the Internet Age
When Napster, Limewire, and all those other peer-to-peer applications lawmakers and music industry professionals love so much started gaining traction during the early 2000’s, many industry insiders believed that the internet would spell the end of radio as we know it. In other words, internet would kill the radio star. More than two-billion people now use the internet, so those early estimations are, at least in a way, accurate. SEO business is booming, as are SEO reseller organizations.

However, ostensibly, the internet hasn’t harmed the world of radio. In fact, it could be argued that the transformative nature of the worldwide web has taken radio and music to a whole new level. According to the most recently available statistics from IFPI, an international body for protecting artists’ music and their income, 39% of all global music sales came from digital sources in 2013, whether from popular music stores, like iTunes, or from digital radio services, like Spotify.

While the Forbes piece focused on online radio consumption in the United Kingdom, the Brits aren’t alone in their voracious appetite. Current estimations have 54.7% of Americans filling their need for radio online, with that number expected to climb to nearly 68% by 2016. While it can and, indeed, should be said that radio has had to change to fit the different flavor that Millennials are looking for, much as they look for online blogs, it should equally be argued that the web propped up and bettered an otherwise failing industry.