Autistic Soldiers Have Special Skills Deciphering Intelligence Photos–and benefit from the chance to use those skills

The Israeli Defense Forces’ Secretive Unit 9900, which specializes in deciphering “visual intelligence,” now has 100 autistic volunteers so far (link here).

The program is working well–for the IDF, for the volunteers on the autism spectrum, and for their fellow soldiers.

The program, dubbed “Seeing Afar,” which is jointly run by the IDF and the Ono Academic College, is now in its fifth year. It includes a training course that teaches autistic youths to decipher aerial and satellite visual-intelligence images, based on their enhanced visual ability and their tendency towards patience, which allow them to explore the minutest details—an essential attribute for this role, an officer from an intelligence unit that received the volunteers has told JNS. –JNS (Jewish News Syndicate)

The job requires people in the unit to search patiently through reams of intelligence images looking, as one soldier said, “for a needle in the haystack.”

Some people on the autism spectrum seem to be especially good at that, and the IDF is integrating them into this specialized unit.

The effect on these recruits themselves seems to be very positive.

“When I first arrived here, I still felt like a civilian,” Cpl. O told JNS in an interview. Gradually, however, he began to feel like an organic part of the military.

“You search and search, and don’t find it at first. Sometimes, it feels like forever until you find it. But when you do, it certainly brings satisfaction,” said Cpl. O. “There were whole days that I couldn’t find what I was looking for. On other days, I’d locate it in every picture—six pictures in a row. On those days, I wanted to look for more! –JNS

The autism-spectrum soldiers think their skills and experience will help them enter the job market when they finish service. And the other soldiers who work with them speak of their positive experiences, with some wanting to work with autism issues after they leave the service.

Thanks to JNS for reporting a fascinating and inspiring story.

Here’s a blue-sky idea that might help these autism-spectrum soldiers when they return to civilian life–and might help doctors and patients in Israel.

Why not a test program to see if these soldiers, with some training, can do the same thing with X-Rays, MRIs, and CAT-Scans??

They have already been screened by the IDF for the general characteristics.

The fact that they stayed in the IDF photo-intelligence unit says that they have the necessary patience and visual acuity in working situations.

I wonder if they would be good at finding cancer nodules, etc.?

If they were, then the screening and training could be used in other countries for people on the spectrum.

Seems like it is worth a try, especially in “Innovation Nation.”


Chicago Cubs’ star and cancer survivor, Anthony Rizzo, makes major contribution to children’s cancer hospital

Rizzo fights back tears as he visits children at the ribbon cutting

The Chicago Tribune reports:

“Geez,” said Rizzo, sniffing, turning away and fighting back tears during a ceremony to commemorate his foundation’s $3.5 million commitment in May to fund programs for patients and families dealing with cancer.

“I remember sitting with my mom saying we were going to do this 10 years ago. And it’s just a little step toward our mission,” the Cubs first baseman said.

Rizzo was diagnosed in April 2008 with Hodgkin lymphoma, which has since gone in remission. –Chicago Tribune




ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Friday, Sept. 30

Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
Linked articles in bold purple

two-spies-colored-green-and-purple-labeled-200px-margin-left♦ It’s hard for spies to go undercover now without . . . Facebook and Twitter footprints in their false names, reports the Financial Times. Spymasters say social media now make it impossible for spies to adopt multiple identities.


usa_today_logoFor the first time in its 34-year history, USA Today takes an editorial stand on the presidency, calling Trump ‘unfit for the presidency.” It still declines to endorse Clinton.

obamacare-logo-200px-w-marginNon-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) slams Obama Administration for “failing to follow the president’s health care law in a $5 billion dispute over compensating insurers for high costs from seriously ill patients,” according to an Associated Press report. Essentially, they Health and Human Services Dept. funneled some $2 billion to insurance companies without legal authorization–and against the plain language of the law.

Comment: I think Obamacare will become a more important issue in October, mainly because of premium increases. The program’s finances are unsustainable. Whoever wins the presidency will have to fix or replace the Affordable Care Act. With partisan divisions so deep, that will not be an easy task.

zd-big-medical-data-with-caduceus-green-labeled-201px-margins-on-left♦ Big data comes to cancer research, with great promise but the challenges of truly massive data (New England Journal of Medicine)  How massive?

The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) data set alone is over a petabyte in size and consists of more than 575,000 files. Just to download the data using a 10-Gbit-per-second connection would take over 3 weeks. –New England Journal of Medicine

♦ NEVER cite polls where people simply choose to check off their views online. The samples are not random, so they reflect the motivated viewers or readers of the website or cable show that asks them to volunteer their opinion. After Fox News’ Shaun Hannity uses these dreadful polls to “show” that Trump won the debate, a Fox executive tells him and others on the network to STOP IT. (The Hill) Hannity’s show is a nightly love-fest for Trump, with all the critical insights you find on the back of a cereal box.

sinks-the-putt♦ The FUN story of the day. The European Ryder Cup team is practicing in Minnesota, and one fan is heckling them for a previous performance. The pros turn to the heckler and say, “Ok, you’re so great a golfer, you try it.” They left him with a 12-foot putt and one of the pros put a $100 bill on the green. Well, you can imagine what happened next!