A U.S. Air Force officer hopes to soon release a database of bombs dropped from American military aircraft since World War I - a tool he says can be used to shed new light on old conflicts and perhaps even help locate unexploded ordnance.
Lt. Col. Jenns Robertson says he began working on THOR, or Theater History of Operations Reports, in his spare time in 2006. It combines information from numerous sources - thousands of paper reports, punch cards and magnetic tape records for older conflicts, and digital databases for others - across nearly 100 years.
The database, already being used by the Defense Department and other government agencies, for the first time allows users to search and find on a map nine decades of U.S. bombings. THOR was first reported on this week by The Boston Globe.
Robertson started the database when he was part of a briefing team for the Air Force’s chief of staff at the Pentagon.
“What drove the development of THOR was ... the data may have been out there, but it was a pain in the rear end to find it and make it useful,” Robertson said by phone Tuesday.
Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
Earlier on this very blog, we posed a question about the NBC Olympics coverage that some have deemed an #NBCFail. Would you prefer to watch the Olympics in real time, or do you prefer the tape delay in prime time? We got a passionate response from our readership, and we posted some on the daily Mash-Up on Monday. We also wanted to share a few more of the posts that caught our eye.
Live or later: What's your ideal Olympics coverage?
The people preferring a live broadcast seemed to have the edge in the comments, and they totally dominated the very unscientific poll at the bottom of the post.
AmerGrill: "I'd rather have it live. The controversies are late, too. Ye Shiwen story just broke in the U.S. and the race was days ago. Even anti-American Drudge who is always on top of news is only now just twisting the story to make America look bad when the committee, coaches and other swimmers have been questioning this race for days. So far for Americans the whole coverage has been a disaster. We aren't in the loop for anything and there are mixed stories coming in from a variety of sources."
Pebbles Flintstone: "The time difference is not that big. In an age when most work break areas have a TV, there is no reason why it can't be streamed live. Folks can watch during their lunch break and/or catch the rest of it in a prime time recap. Based on the fact that most of us work and can't watch TV all day long – most companies put out TVs for big events anyway. It can be worked around. Not rocket science for NBC."
JayL: "U.S. television always wants to make things fit into their TV schedule ... it has even modified the rules of major games in order to better "present" sports on TV. That's why soccer will never make it in the U.S., guess what, the world doesn't work that way ... other countries show games as they should be, LIVE. So, NBC, do what you have to do and show us the games live."
Ed Bark, former longtime TV critic of The Dallas Morning News, writes in an opinion piece that he believes NBC is being "unfairly eviscerated" about its coverage. FULL POST
The CNN Daily Mash-up is a roundup of some of the most interesting, surprising, curious, poignant or significant items to appear on CNN.com in the past 24 hours. We top it with a collection of the day's most striking photographs from around the world.
In an exclusive interview with CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has some pointed words for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose country's civil war is growing bloodier by the day:
I'm sure that deep down Assad knows he's in trouble and it's just matter of time before he has to go. I would say if you want to be able to protect yourself and your family, you better get the hell out now.
CNN iReporter Finnur Andresson in Iceland hurried out this morning with his camera when his photo club said he should to drive down to Krossvik because many whale sightings were occurring. As he began to take photos, he says the whales went wild and started to swim toward the shore when a whale watching boat approached closer to them. FULL POST
President Barack Obama announced new U.S. sanctions targeting Iran's oil Tuesday, warning Tehran that it faces "growing consequences" for refusing to answer international questions about its nuclear program.
The first set of sanctions announced will target the Islamic republic's energy and petrochemical industries, a move designed to "deter Iran from establishing payment mechanisms for the purchase of Iranian oil to circumvent existing sanctions," a White House statement explains.
The statement continues, "Sanctions are also authorized for those who may seek to avoid the impact of these sanctions, including against individuals and entities that provide material support to the National Iranian Oil Company, Naftiran Intertrade Company, or the Central Bank of Iran, or for the purchase or acquisition of U.S. bank notes or precious metals by the government of Iran."
The second set of sanctions will target banks, "a significant step to hold responsible institutions that knowingly enable financial transactions for designated Iranian banks," the statement said.
The Department of Treasury specifically targeted Bank of Kunlun in China and Elaf Islamic Bank in Iraq. The two financial institutions are alleged to have facilitated transactions worth millions of dollars for Iranian banks that are under sanctions because of the country's nuclear proliferation activities, according to the statement.
As speculation goes into overdrive about whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will fall, it’s still unclear where his posh British-born wife is. Is she in England? in Syria? Is she with their three young children somewhere?
Asma al-Assad may be MIA but that didn’t stop her from inspiring, in a way, a taunting Twitter hashtag overnight.
#countriesbyvoguewriters took off after a former Vogue writer, Joan Juliet Buck, published an explainer piece in Newsweek on Monday. Buck is the author of a March 2011 piece about Asma al-Assad titled “A Rose in the Desert.” Many people attacked Buck for glamorizing the Syrian first couple and completely ignoring Syria’s history of human rights abuses.
The profile appeared in the print March 2011 version. Vogue apparently removed the story from its website later though it remains available on a pro-Assad site.
In June, Vogue's editor in chief Anna Wintour released a brief statement saying that the Syrian regime’s “priorities and values were completely at odds with those of Vogue.
India suffered its second huge, crippling power failure in two days Tuesday, depriving as much as half of the vast and populous country, or up to 600 million people, of electricity and disrupting transport networks.
The first power grid collapse, on Monday, was the country's worst blackout in a decade. It affected seven states in northern India that are home to more than 350 million people.
But Tuesday's failure was even larger, hitting eastern and northeastern areas as well.
Both blackouts cut power in the Indian capital, New Delhi.
The power companies that operate the affected electricity grids reported Tuesday's collapse on their websites.
With about 1.2 billion people, India has the second-highest population of any country, behind China.FULL STORY
A call to police in England that sparked a frantic search for a 3-year-old girl who said her mother had collapsed was a hoax, police said after spending nearly 30 hours trying to trace the call.
Two 10-year-old girls were being questioned Tuesday, West Yorkshire police said after the urgent hunt in the city of Leeds.FULL STORY
Syria's most populous city remained engulfed by fighting Tuesday as opposition groups reported incremental rebel gains and the United Nations said civilian displacement rose.
Fighters attacked Syrian police stations in the central neighborhoods of Salhin and Bab al-Nayrab, and seized control of the buildings after hours of clashes, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
At least 40 police officers died in the violence. Deama, an activist who asked that her full name not be used for her protection, said Salhin has been the center of many "aggressive operations by the police and Shabiha militia."FULL STORY
Australian police say they have busted a major drug ring after seizing a record haul of methamphetamine and heroin worth $526 million (500 million Australian dollars) that was stuffed into terra cotta pots.
More than 674 pounds of crystal methamphetamine and 555 pounds of heroin were seized as part of an operation that began a year ago when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration tipped off officials that an international crime syndicate was planning to import drugs to Australia. Police targeted two massive cargo containers containing 3,200 terra cotta pots coming from Thailand.
X-rays of the containers showed what was probably drugs heavily packed into 100 pots, officials said Tuesday in Australia.
The pots were sealed with a putty-like substance to conceal the drugs, officials said.
"The actual concealment itself wasn't particularly sophisticated: terra cotta pots concealed in bulk on pallets within cardboard boxes and then shrink-wrapped," said Mike Pezzullo of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.
Officials from the two investigating agencies in Australia said it was the largest seizure of methamphetamine in the country's history and the third largest of heroin.
Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner of Operations Andrew Colvin said that through the course of the investigation, authorities kept close watch on suspects as they tracked the shipment.
Four suspects from Hong Kong and three Australians were arrested as part of the operation, the Australian Federal Police and Australian Customs and Border Protection Service announced. The men face a maximum penalty of life in prison on charges of possession or attempting to possess commercial quantities of methamphetamine or heroin.
“This operation follows the AFP’s most successful year in terms of drug seizures," Colvin said in a news release. “In the 2011/12 financial year, the AFP and its partner agencies seized almost 14 tons of illicit substances bound for drug distribution networks across Australia."
Colvin said that was in large part due to the collaboration between international intelligence groups.
CNN's Ivan Watson has been traveling through northern Syria near Aleppo, where bloody battles have raged for more than a week for control of the country's largest city. Watson and the crew are some of the few international reporters in Syria, whose government has been restricting access on foreign journalists and refusing many of them entry. Check out more from CNN inside Syria.
What is the state of the rebel offensive and what are the rebels saying about their chances? Here's what Watson recently saw and heard from on the ground near Aleppo (edited for length and clarity):
With our eyewitness vantage point, we saw was a rebel offensive that started at sunset Friday night. The rebels attacked the last Syrian army checkpoint before the gates of Aleppo to the north of the city.
It was a firefight that lasted hours. And in the end the rebels overran this entrenched Syrian army position that had more than a dozen tanks. It had machine guns firing into the night sky in all directions hitting surrounding villages. (Watch more in the video above)
In the end, they overran it. And then we saw what they captured: a number of tanks, armored personnel carriers, ammunition, tank rounds. And this was not only a moral victory for the rebels but a strategic one because they now control the main exit point to the north between Aleppo, the biggest city in Syria, and the Turkish border. It's a crucial transit route. ...
Every rebel you talk to has friend, has comrades-in-arms who are inside Aleppo. FULL POST
The race to the presidency now turns toward the general election in November. CNN.com Live is your home for all the latest news and views from the campaign trail.
Today's programming highlights...
9:30 am ET - Women's health care briefing - Senate Democrats join Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss new women's health care coverage that will take effect tomorrow.
Saadi Gadhafi, one of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's sons, has asked the United Nations to let him travel outside the African nation of Niger, his lawyer says.
Gadhafi is under a travel ban because the international police agency Interpol has issued a "red notice" for him, calling for his arrest.
But he fears for his safety in Niger, his lawyer Nick Kaufman said. Saadi Gadhafi fled to Niger as his father's regime collapsed last year.
"There has been at least one assassination attempt," although Gadhafi is under government protection, Kaufman told CNN Monday. They also fear that instability in nearby Mali could affect his safety.
British police arrested a teenager suspected of sending an offensive Twitter message to British Olympic diver Tom Daley.
Officers detained a 17-year-old man at a guest house in "the Weymouth area" of the county of Dorset in the early hours of Tuesday morning, they said.
The unnamed teenager is being questioned on "suspicion of malicious communications," a police spokeswoman told CNN.
On Monday, Daley retweeted a message he said he'd received from user "Rileyy_69" shortly after he and his partner Peter Waterfield placed fourth in the men's 10m synchronized dive, failing to win a medal.
Penn State's football team returns for a preseason workout Tuesday as it heads into its first season in decades without iconic head coach Joe Paterno, who passed away in January during the tempest of a sex abuse scandal.
A pep rally is scheduled to greet arriving the Nittany Lions at 6 a.m. ET, according to a Penn State sports radio show, which called on fans to "come out to show support for the Penn State players and coaches," and lured fans to the early start with coffee and donuts.
Boosting morale could be essential for the team, which saw NCAA sanctions wipe out more than a decade's worth of wins in the aftermath the scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse against 10 male victims.
The fear of attrition hangs over the football program as the NCAA has limited the number of scholarships it can offer, while also allowing current players to transfer should they choose to leave.FULL STORY
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will this week make her first visit to South Sudan, a nation barely one year old that is locked in a bitter dispute with its northern neighbor, as part of a six-country tour of Africa.
Clinton sets off Tuesday on the 11-day trip, which is intended to emphasize U.S. efforts to strengthen democracy, encourage economic growth and further peace and security in Africa, Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement Monday.
The visit begins in Senegal, a small country on Africa's west coast that has been an outpost of democratic stability in a region with a history of electoral chaos, civil wars and coups.
Despite outbreaks of violence in Senegal earlier this year surrounding former President Abdoulaye Wade's decision to seek a controversial third term in office, power passed peacefully to the eventual victor in the presidential election, Macky Sall.
Clinton will meet with Sall and "deliver a speech applauding the resilience of Senegal's democratic institutions and highlighting America's approach to partnership," Nuland said.FULL STORY
Eight and a half years after his third wife was found dead in a bathtub, the murder trial of former Chicago-area police officer Drew Peterson is set to begin in earnest with opening statements Tuesday.
The 58-year-old Peterson is accused in the 2004 death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in a trial that has been postponed for two years. He also remains under investigation in the October 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.
A jury of seven men and five women, chosen over two days last week, will weigh Drew Peterson's fate during a trial in Joliet, Illinois, that is expected to last about a month, according to his lawyer Joel Brodsky.
After the jury selection was finished Tuesday, Will County, Illinois, State's Attorney James Glasgow told reporters, "We're ready to go... We're anxious to get to trial, put the evidence before the jury and arrive at a verdict."
Brodsky, meanwhile, said he planned to use his opening statement to "tell the story of Drew Peterson from beginning to end ... and show the state's theory is implausible at best."FULL STORY