Wednesday, September 26, 2007

U.S. Military Recruits Kids w/Games, + Drills & more...

Manchester – By 9 p.m. more than 100 gamers, some with parents in tow, had gathered at the GameStop for a "Halo 3" release party, and plenty more were expected by midnight, when the wildly popular X-Box game would officially go on sale.
There was only one glitch in the festivities -- a "Halo 2" tournament was delayed after the chain store's district manager, Suzan Shockley, announced that nobody under 18 could participate. Top prize: a copy of "Halo 3."
"I'm sorry, but it's a company rule. We take the game ratings seriously," she said. "Our store manager misunderstood the rules of the tournament."
The futuristic combat game is rated M for Mature for "blood and gore, mild language and violence," which means you have to be 17 to buy it, or a parent has to buy it for you.
Fortunately, the Air Force was on hand to save the day.
As co-sponsor of the gaming event, local Air Force recruiters were manning party central outside in the strip shopping center parking lot off South Willow Street, where underage gamers who had fled the store in despair flocked for pizza, Mountain Dew and a chance to play "Halo 2" on a split screen from the back of a pimped-out military SUV.
T.J. Abbott, 13, propped a cell phone between his left ear and shoulder while his rapid-fire fingers unloaded a plasma grenade, via wireless controller, onto a lanky alien who came into range from behind a tree in a desolate virtual village.
"Nice kill," said an electronic voice.
Abbott and his friends, R.J. O'Brien, Jorge Rojas and Sean Collins, all eighth-graders at Southside Middle School, have been waiting since the 2004 release of "Halo 2," when they were just a bunch of little kids, for this moment.
"We're getting up at 5 a.m. to play it," said O'Brien, who considered taking a day off school after a late night at the launch party. "But then I couldn't talk about it in school."
For more than a year now, gamers who have loved the first-person shooter aspect of "Halo" have been salivating over all the high-tech improvements promised by Microsoft in its final incarnation.
Pre-sales of "Halo 3" beat all previous records by hitting the million mark two months before the game's release, said Darrell Kiley, a GameStop employee and member of the National Guard.
Sales are expected to be unmatched.
That's thanks to heightened anticipation fueled by a mass-marketing campaign that has included a host of strategic TV trailers and key sponsors -- from Mountain Dew and 7-Eleven, to NASCAR, Pontiac and Burger King.
And of course, having the U.S. government on board doesn't hurt.
"This is going to be huge," said Air Force recruiter Staff Sgt. Christopher Johnson, who got to the site about an hour before the party to set up. He took a break from attaching wings to a replica of a mini F-22 jet.
"We expect a big showing. We have the same demographic as they do," he said, nodding toward the video game store across the parking lot, where kids were already starting to mill around inside. "Our target market is identical to that of video game stores," Johnson said.
He said last month's Air Force/GameStop tailgating bash for the launch of "Madden '08" netted two new recruits.
He said he has yet to hear anyone object to the marketing marriage between the military and adolescent video-gamers.
"I was warned when I got to New Hampshire that it was a very liberal, not exactly pro-military environment, but so far I haven't had any negative feedback," Johnson said.
Joe Turcotte of Derry, a veteran of the Iraq war and member of the New Hampshire chapter of Iraqi Veterans Against the War, said there are those who feel the practice of using simulated war games as a recruiting tactic isn't the best way to enlist new soldiers.
"The whole idea of serving your country out of patriotism gets lost. It cheapens the honor and sacrifice when you turn it into a video game," Turcotte said. "We are proud of our service to our country, but there's something about this that just doesn't seem right."
He feels having military recruiters at the biggest video game launch in history is over-the-top marketing.
"I would like to know if there's a disclaimer, if they're warning kids that their actual combat experience may vary," he said. "War is not a game."

Terrorism simulation will have real explosions, fires

Downtown Wichita will be rocked by explosions, fires and mass casualties next month.
Elsewhere in the city, terrorists may hold a school hostage.
But it will only be a drill.
Emergency service agencies from more than a dozen counties will converge on Wichita to take part in a full-scale terrorism simulation and training from Oct. 13 to 21.
The exercise will be capped by a 48-hour simulation with actual explosions and fires unfolding in more than one location around the city, officials said.
The mass casualty disaster simulation is being sponsored by the University of Kansas Medical Center and the South Central Kansas Homeland Security Council, and financed in part by a grant from the Department of Homeland Security.
Dozens of people acting as victims will await rescue in rubble left behind by a terrorist attack on buildings on the northwest corner of Washington and Waterman. A demolition crew on Tuesday tore down part of a building that will be used in the simulation.
"This is just an unprecedented opportunity to have real-time training in a scenario that's as realistic as you can get," said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the state's adjutant general and director of Kansas Emergency Management.
A wide range of emergency personnel -- firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency management, doctors and medical technicians -- will take part in the simulation after several days of training at locations around Wichita.
"Victims" will wear moulage, realistic body make-up depicting injuries, officials said. Medical personnel will "treat" victims caught in the rubble. (Cont..)

Anthrax drill unites agencies, shows potential problems

Imagine a outbreak of anthrax. How can help be given to residents without cause mass confusion and widespread panic?Several area agencies worked together Wednesday, Sept. 19, at the Hancock County Fair Grounds in Augusta to run through a mass medication dispensing drill for an outbreak of anthrax.The practice drill included the Hancock County Health Department, Hancock County ESDA, Augusta Fire Department, West Point first responders and about a dozen community volunteers. Students from Southeastern High School played community members who drove to the fair grounds to receive medications.Public information officer Melita Finney of the health department began the day with a media session at Augusta City Hall. She read a prepared statement outlining the anthrax outbreak and the steps citizens needed to take to receive medication.The instructions stipulated no one was to leave their vehicle. People were also to know their family medical history, to note any medications they were on or give any conditions like allergies.(Cont.)

Bank exercise plans for disaster

What if bird flu mutated into a disease that could be passed readily from human to human? What if it was brought to the United States by an infected traveler and quickly spread to pandemic proportions?
And what if financial life had to go on - transactions essential and mundane needed to be conducted - despite the dire nationwide circumstance?
Sometime after the next three weeks, you can ask the U.S. Treasury Department.
A total of 2,725 banks and other financial institutions across the country - including several in the Eugene-Springfield area - have volunteered to take part in a federal exercise to highlight the risks a pandemic would present and the readiness of the financial services sector to weather such an outbreak. The drill began Monday and will run through Oct. 12. (Cont..)

Australia to take part in U.S. anti-terrorism exercise

CANBERRA, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- Australian Attorney-General Philip Ruddock announced on Wednesday Australia will take part in a U.S. counter-terrorism exercise for the first time next month.
Exercise Top Officials 4 in Arizona, Oregon and the U.S. territory of Guam, or TOPOFF 4, is the fourth in a series of exercises hosted by the United States.
The exercise is aimed at testing U.S. preparedness and response systems in relation to a simulated terrorist incident.
Australian government agencies will join Canada and the United Kingdom in this year's exercise.
"Australia has a comprehensive counter-terrorism exercise program to test our arrangements at a national level," Ruddock said in a statement.
"TOPOFF 4 will allow our Australian security agencies to test their responses in conjunction with some of our international partners," he said.
"Taking part in a large scale international exercise allows Australia to continue to strengthen our national preparedness while also expanding international coordination mechanisms," he said.
During the exercise, personnel from Australian agencies will beembedded with U.S. agencies as they respond to simulated attacks.
Australia will also work with the three countries to respond toconsular issues arising from the attacks.

Anthrax spores. Hostages in the schools. Terror hits home. Sort of.On Sept. 22, the county's public safety personnel including police and firefighters, and school officials participated in the Virginia Department of Emergency Management's Region II Full-Scale Exercise (cont..)

Phoenix to conduct 'World's Biggest Fire Drill' on Oct. 4

SAIC homeland security work may jump 20 pct in 2008


Fort Belvoir, Va. Department of Defense officials broke ground at Fort Belvoir on Tuesday, kicking off a massive set of construction projects that will eventually accommodate thousands of new workers on the base.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or NGA, plans to bring 8,500 workers to the installation’s Engineer Proving Ground over the next four years. The shift is part of the 2005 round of federally mandated Base Realignment and Closure adjustments and is expected to add a total 19,000 new jobs to Belvoir’s work force.
The NGA, headquartered in Bethesda, is a highly secretive intelligence agency whose mission is to collect and analyze geographic data for national security purposes. The new $1.4 billion facility at Belvoir includes 2.4 million feet of administrative and support space and will house all of the agency’s eastern operations. The construction is scheduled to be completed in 2011.

From the Start, the Space Race Was an Arms Race

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