DHS Grants RC 'Copter to Police Armed with Tazer, Shotgun, Grenades


Basic UAS unit with CCD TV optics, standard semi-autonomous flight avionics package and turbine or piston power plant.


Upgraded UAS with day CCD TV camera as well as FLIR optics package, fully autonomous avionics package and turbine or piston power-plant.


UAS with day CCD, FLIR and thermal cameras, fully autonomous avionics and weaponized with either 40mm, 37mm grenade launcher or 12 gauge shotgun with laser designator (military/LE use only.)


Unavailable to non-military users.

Payload Characteristics

Sony FCB EX-980 CCDTV, 20X Zoom FLIR Photon 320, Tau UTAM-32 Thermal Camera
Semi/Full autonomous system radio link, Auto Take-off/Land, Pilot Assist Module, 30 hz Laser Altimeter, DGPS system with 2cm accuracy option.
U.S. Military and Law Enforcement consumers have less-lethal/lethal options including single or mulitple shot 37 mm/40mm grenade launcher, 12g shotgun

Airframe Characteristics

Dry Weight: 35lbs (16 kg)
Overall Length: 96 in (243.9 cm)
Height: 29.8 in (75.7 cm)
Width: 17 in (43.2 cm)
Rotor Span: 76.5 in (194.3 cm)
Usable Load: 22 lbs (10 kg)
Cruising Speed: 35 mph (56.3 kph)
Max Speed: 70 mph (112.6 kph)
Max Range: 35 miles (56 km)
Fuel Endurance: Turbine 45 min/Piston 3.5 hrs.


Tased From Above! New Robot Copter To Begin Patrolling Our Skies


Tech in development for UAV's...

Murdered Over Open Container Ticket

The recent police-related deaths of 43-year-old Allen Kephart in Lake Arrowhead, California and 37-year-old Kelly Thomas in Fullerton, California have sent shockwaves through the their respective communities. Indeed, both are being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The death of Thomas, a homeless schizophrenic beaten into a coma by Fullerton police, is also being investigated by the Orange County District Attorney's Office. His case is not the first time Orange County law enforcement has been accused of applying excessive force to a mentally ill homeless man.

In October 2007, 28-year-old Michael Patrick Lass was living on the streets of Santa Ana when police stopped him for having an open container of alcohol. At the time of his arrest he was alcohol-dependent, schizophrenic, bipolar, and had a history of seizures.

The altercation that led to Lass's death took place at the Orange County Central Jail, where Lass was sentenced to serve five days after pleading guilty to public intoxication. The day Lass would have been able to leave he felt ill and asked for medical attention. Lass was ordered to leave his cell and after repeatedly looking over his shoulder while being directed by a deputy, he was tackled to the ground and a melee ensued.

"He wasn't fighting or anything and he was already in a contained area, locked in a contained area," Lass's father Frederick, says of the incident. "Immediately there was a second deputy there, a third deputy, a fourth, a fifth, and on and on it went. There was so many deputies that you couldn't count how many deputies were there."

Lass was shocked with a Taser nine times and the county's autopsy said he had multiple contusions on his body, "involving the head, neck, torso and extremities." The struggle was captured on film. "I can remember viewing the film and at one point while they are beating him Michael tells them, 'You're killing me.' Literally: 'You're killing me'," says Frederick Lass.

Frederick Lass sued Orange County and six deputies involved in the incident. Although neither was found liable in that case, Orange County later revised its Taser policy so that deputies would not be able to use Tasers on restrained suspects unless they display "overtly assaultive behavior."

While an improvement, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California says the policy didn't go far enough. Executive Director Hector Villagra sent a letter to Sheriff Hutchens in January 2009 urging still-stricter use of Tasers, pointing to five people who have died since 2005 after being stung with the weapon.

Like the cases of Allen Kephart and Kelly Thomas, the death while in custody of Michael Patrick Lass raises troubling questions about police procedures - and the power of surveillance videos to shine a bright light on the workings of the criminal justice system.

The following video includes graphic violence and viewer discretion is advised.

Written and produced by Paul Detrick. Camera: Paul Detrick, Zach Weissmueller, and Alex Manning; edited by Detrick.

Special Thanks: Frederick Lass.

Music by Audionautix.com.

Go to http://www.reason.tv for downloadable versions of this and all our videos, and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube Channel to receive automatic notification when new content is posted.


6 Completely Legal Ways The Cops Can Screw You

I get into a lot of debates with people about why I am no fan at all of the police. No matter how many videos you show someone of the police beating a homeless man to death or articles about them cutting off bed-ridden granny's oxygen before tasing the shit out her, there are always the same generic replies. That cops are "just people" too, or that these are "isolated" incidents, to not let "one bad apple" spoil the bunch. All well and good until your wife calls the police for help and winds up being arrested and stripped naked in front a few few male deputies I suppose.

As it turns out, what police did there was perfectly legal. The departmental policy does forbid opposite-sex strip-searches, however, this was not classified as a strip-search. They were putting her on suicide watch for replying "now, or ever?" when asked about thoughts of suicide.

So yes, maybe the cops really are just people too. Which makes it all that much more important to not give police the power to pull crap like this in the first place. I don't "hate" the police as individuals, I hate the very institution itself as it stands today. Aside from the thousands upon thousands of supposedly isolated incidents where the police themselves are in fact committing actual crimes while in uniform, blatantly violating the public trust and their authority, it is now the very institution itself which legally violates the liberty of innocent citizens. It is not enough to have done nothing wrong. The police can still screw you over in a number of ways, which are all completely legal. And that my friends, is why I hate police. Not because I have some leftover teenage angst against authority figures, but because we have all become second-rate citizens who must bow before the tyranny and oppression of the police-state.

Let's go ahead now and have a look at this article put out by Cracked.com :

6 Completely Legal Ways The Cops Can Screw You

We are so lucky to be living in an era of law when it's no longer common for, say, suspects to be interrogated with live cobras tied to the ends of nightsticks. Unfortunately, there are still many colorful ways the police can royally screw you while Lady Justice shrugs.

For instance, you might be surprised to learn that right now in the U.S., it's actually legal for the cops to...

#6. Steal Your Stuff

Imagine you had your car stolen, but then fortune smiles upon you and the cops find it after the thief used it to smuggle 200 pounds of cocaine across the border, running over 30 children in the process while sexually assaulting the car itself.

You realize you're going to need to get all of its fluids replaced from a mechanic with a soft voice and gentle hands, but you still want it back, because hey, it's your car, right?

Yeeeah, there's some bad news: It has been sold to buy a new espresso machine for the station's break room.
It's called civil asset forfeiture. You probably already have heard of something like this, where the police get to seize the car and house of some drug kingpin and stick the money in the department's budget (that's criminal forfeiture).

But then there's this loophole where the police can seize anything they suspect has been used in a crime, even if it doesn't belong to the criminal, and even if there hasn't been a conviction.

"Let's take the jet. Those bootlegged DVDs from China had to get here somehow."

Then if you, as the actual owner of the goods, try to challenge it, the burden of proof is on you to prove you didn't know it was going to be used in a crime. That's civil forfeiture.

For the police, there is no legal requirement to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that, say, your TV set was once used by a ring of Dutch pedophiles to view kiddie porn. They can simply take it, without ever giving it back, even if they never formally charge anyone for a crime.

You're Shitting Me!

In 2004, Zaher El-Ali, a Jordanian immigrant and U.S. citizen, sold a truck to a man who agreed to pay for it in installments. Before he could finish the payments though, the man was arrested for drunk driving and the truck was seized. Seeing as the car still legally belonged to Zaher (he still had the title), he demanded it back. The police refused, and possibly laughed.

Because civil forfeitures are so simple, over 40 percent of police executives admitted their budgets depend on cash from them. That means each year, those stations have a quota of forfeitures to fill and technically there is really no stopping them from filling it with YOUR Xbox.

I don't know about you guys, but to me that sounds a lot like leaving a fox guarding a hen house. Not only "can" they do this, but police departments actually have to do this in order to get the funding for shit like tasers and SWAT teams, yeah and coffee makers for the break room.

"Its not like I was pointing a gun at your head."

I am not going to quote their entire article here, but I'll do a little point by point supplemental to add a little more to what they said, as a read-along. Next on their list was...

#5. Guess Your Car's Speed and Ticket You For It

Not only are some police officers supposedly "trained" to be their very own speed-enforcement radar without need of the actual equipment, saving money for coffee-makers instead, but here's another little tidbit they didn't bring up there in the Cracked article. You can also be ticketed for doing the speed limit. You could be doing exactly 40 mph in a 40 mph zone, and a cop can still pull you and give you a ticket for "unsafe speed" if he personally deems the road conditions to not be suitable to travel at 40 mph in your vehicle. Maybe because your vehicle is larger than most, traffic is too dense, roads are wet, it's a little foggy, or whatever else the cop wants to make up.


#4. Arrest You For Drinking in a Bar

Cracked did a pretty good job explaining that one. Bu8t also keep in mind too, that you can be arrested for DWI too, even if you are not driving. It used to be, that as long as you did not have the key in the ignition, you were safe to go sleep in off in the parking lot. Not anymore. There have been a number of people arrested and convicted for sleeping in the back seat with keys in their pocket. Even defense attorneys who would try to argue that you did not nor had any intention of driving drunk, call the proposition "iffy."

#3. Arrest You For Filming Them

As pointed out in the Cracked article, you can be arrested for filming police. Sometimes even in places where filming police is not explicitly illegal too, so just because you don't live in one of the 12 states where it is illegal to film cops, don't think you are safe.

Also, be sure to check out these two related articles:

Rochester police swarm neighborhood...

Technolgy and police hypocrisy

Now, on to...

#2. Book You For Carrying Condoms

Well, Cracked covered that one pretty well, so let's move on to...

#1. Steal Your Identity

As if the hypocrisy alone weren't enough, the Cracked article doesn't really get into the inherent dangers to using someonelse's identity. First, we have to "trust" that the undercover cop won't go out and run up a nice tab on your credit to pay for tranny hookers in Reno. Even with their best intentions, it doesn't take much to imagine how some administrative slip-up could royally fuck your credit up for years to come. But better that than say, having some hitman for Columbian drug lords show up at your house and set your family on fire. After all, these cops are setting out to create some animosity, using YOUR name. Not hard to imagine that some people might be pissed off enough to come looking for John and Jane Piglover SS #'s 123-45-6789 and 987-65-4321 from Suckerpunch Way, Cleveland, Ohio.

UF student 'Googled' self and didn't like what he found: MyFoxORLANDO.com


The Asshole Blanket

The blanket you wake up under after a night of hard shitty drinking in which you have partial blackout memory, except for the few fragments of things you said and did that you really DON'T want to know about, but can't quite piece together either. The embarrassment and self-hatred turn the stomach in symbiosis with the general effects of a cracker of a hangover. You retreat under the asshole blanket, head and all, trying to forget that you even exist, wishing you didn't, and hiding from the entire world for the next day or so. Yes, you are an asshole, and you know it.


Hurricane Doom Repeats for 9/11 Decade Anniversary

Talk a about a mind-blowing coincidence. As if it weren't enough to have an unprecedented earthquake rattle the East Coast from the Carolinas to Albany, NY, to as far west as Ohio, we also have the potentially deadly Hurricane Irene bearing down on us.

Does anyone remember the last time a major hurricane came bearing down on the Northeast, the NY area? Her name was Hurricane Erin, a category 5 behemoth worse than Katrina. She was the reason why skies were so crystal clear on... September 11, 2001, as we narrowly averted the fate of New Orleans.


9/11 Weather Anomalies and Field Effects

Weather control, can it be done?

Rain out: China aims to control Olympics weather

Fireworks Fun with Pepe the Dog

NYPD is CIA Front

With CIA help, NYPD moves covertly in Muslim areas

NEW YORK—In New Brunswick, N.J., a building superintendent opened the door to apartment No. 1076 one balmy Tuesday and discovered an alarming scene: terrorist literature strewn about the table and computer and surveillance equipment set up in the next room.

The panicked superintendent dialed 911, sending police and the FBI rushing to the building near Rutgers University on the afternoon of June 2, 2009. What they found in that first-floor apartment, however, was not a terrorist hideout but a command center set up by a secret team of New York Police Department intelligence officers.

From that apartment, about an hour outside the department's jurisdiction, the NYPD had been staging undercover operations and conducting surveillance throughout New Jersey. Neither the FBI nor the local police had any idea.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NYPD has become one of the country's most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies. A months-long investigation by The Associated Press has revealed that the NYPD operates far outside its borders and targets ethnic communities in ways that would run afoul of civil liberties rules if practiced by the federal government. And it does so with unprecedented help from the CIA in a partnership that has blurred the bright line between foreign and domestic spying.

Neither the city council, which finances the department, nor the federal government, which contributes hundreds of millions of dollars each year, is told exactly what's going on.

The department has dispatched teams of undercover officers, known as "rakers," into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program, according to officials directly involved in the program. They've monitored daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes and nightclubs. Police have also used informants, known as "mosque crawlers," to monitor sermons, even when there's no evidence of wrongdoing. NYPD officials have scrutinized imams and gathered intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, jobs often done by Muslims.

Many of these operations were built with help from the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans but was instrumental in transforming the NYPD's intelligence unit.

A veteran CIA officer, while still on the agency's payroll, was the architect of the NYPD's intelligence programs. The CIA trained a police detective at the Farm, the agency's spy school in Virginia, then returned him to New York, where he put his new espionage skills to work inside the United States.

And just last month, the CIA sent a senior officer to work as a clandestine operative inside police headquarters.

While the expansion of the NYPD's intelligence unit has been well known, many details about its clandestine operations, including the depth of its CIA ties, have not previously been reported.

Get the full expose at this link:


Also check out:

CIA Psyop: Cordoba Initiative

Poll Results: Reactions to Casey Anthony Verdict

When the verdict first came in I thoguht for sure there would be a push to abolish the jury system. Instead, there was a HUGE push to create "Caylee's Law" which voids the Fifth Amendment. You can read more about that here...

Recap of Why Caylee's Law is a Bad Idea

And here are the results of the two polls. Thankfully, the majority of readers here seem to have some common sense and understanding of how our system is supposed to work. Sadly, we seem to be way outgunned in the bigger picture, with millions of sheeple signing to the petition to pass Caylee's Law.

Brits Brutally Beaten by Dicks

Klingon 'Bird of Prey' Spotted Over Spain?

Spaceship or not? This UFO was spotted over Spain and the witness managed to snap a few shots before it was gone.

Check out the article for details:

Scorpion-shaped UFO seen in the skies over Los Cristianos, Spain


Black-Eyed Kids (BEKs)

The first documented account of this phenomenon comes from journalist Brian Bethel, in 1998. Here is his account:

I don't really know what I'd call this story if I was submitting it for publication in Fate or something of its ilk. "Brian vs. the Evil, Black-eyed, Possibly Vampiric or Demonic But At Least Not Bloody Normal Kids" doesn't have much of a ring to it. (Shrug.) :)

But that's at least an accurate title.

As so many things do, it all started out innocently.

My Internet Service Provider used to have offices in a shopping center before they moved to their (comparatively) lush accommodations elsewhere. There was a drop box at that original location. The monthly bill was due, and thus, there but for the Grace of the Net I went.

It was about 9:30 p.m. when I left. From my relatively isolated apartments, it's about 10-15 minutes or so to downtown (Abilene has a population of about 110,000).

Right next to Camalott Communications' old location is a $1.50 movie theater. At the time, the place was featuring that masterwork of modern film, Mortal Kombat. I drove by the theater on the way into the center proper and pulled into an empty parking space.

Using the glow of the marquee to write out my check, I was startled to hear a knock on the driver's-side window of my car.

I looked over and saw two children staring at me from street. I need to describe them, with the one feature (you can guess what it was) that I didn't realize until about half-way through the conversation cleverly omitted.

Both appeared to be in that semi-mystical stage of life children get into where you can't exactly tell their age. Both were boys, and my initial impression is that they were somewhere between 10-14.

Boy No. 1 was the spokesman. Boy No. 2 didn't speak during the entire conversation -- at least not in words.

Boy No. 1 was slightly taller than his companion, wearing a pull-over, hooded shirt with a sort of gray checked pattern and jeans. I couldn't see his shoes. His skin was olive-colored and had curly, medium-length brown hair. He exuded an air of quiet confidence.

Boy No. 2 had pale skin with a trace of freckles. His primary characteristic seemed to be looking around nervously. He was dressed in a similar manner to his companion, but his pull-over was a light green color. His hair was a sort of pale orange.

They didn't appear to be related, at least directly.

"Oh, great," I thought. "They're gonna hit me up for money." And then the air changed.

I've explained this before, but for the benefit of any new lurkers out there, right before I experience something strange, there's a change in perception that comes about which I describe in the above manner. It's basically enough time to know it's too late. ;)

So, there I was, filling out a check in my car (which was still running) and in a sudden panic over the appearance of two little boys. I was confused, but an overwhelming sense of fear and unearthliness rushed in nonetheless.

The spokesman smiled, and the sight for some inexplicable reason chilled my blood. I could feel fight-or-flight responses kicking in. Something, I knew instinctually, was not right, but I didn't know what it could possibly be.

I rolled down the window very, very slightly and asked "Yes?"

The spokesman smiled again, broader this time. His teeth were very, very white.

"Hey, mister, what's up? We have a problem," he said. His voice was that of a young man, but his diction, quiet calm and ... something I still couldn't put my finger on ... made my desire to flee even greater. "You see, my friend and I want to see the films, but we forgot our money," he continued. "We need to go to our house to get it. Want to help us out?"

Okay. Journalists are required to talk to lots of people, and that includes children. I've seen and spoken to lots of them. Here's how that usually goes:

"Uh ... M ... M ... Mister? Can I see that camera? I ... I won't break it or anything. I promise. My dad has a camera, and he lets me hold it sometimes, I guess, and I took a picture of my dog -- it wasn's very good, 'cause I got my finger in the way and ..."

Add in some feet shuffling and/or body swaying and you've got a typical kid talking to a stranger.

In short, they're usually apologetic. People generally teach children that when they talk to adults, they're usually bothering them for one reason or another and they should at least be polite.

This kid was in no way fitting the mold. His command of language was incredible and he showed no signs of fear. He spoke as if my help was a foregone conclusion. When he grinned, it was as if he was trying to say, "I know something ... and you're NOT gonna like it. But the only way you're going to find out what it is will be to do what I say ..."

"Uh, well ..." was the best reply I could offer.

Now here's where it starts to get strange.

The quiet companion looked at the spokesman with a mixture of confusion and guilt on his face. He seemed in some ways shocked, not with his friend's brusque manner but that I didn't just immediately open the door.

He eyed me nervously.

The spokesman seemed a bit perturbed, too. I still was registering something wrong with both.

"C'mon, mister," the spokesman said again, smooth as silk. Car salesmen could learn something from this kid. "Now, we just want to go to our house. And we're just two little boys."

That really scared me. Something in the tone and diction again sent off alarm bells. My mind was frantically trying to process what it was perceiving about the two figures that was "wrong."

"Eh. Um ...." was all I could manage. I felt myself digging my fingernails into the steering wheel.

"What movie were you going to see?" I asked finally.

"Mortal Kombat, of course," the spokesman said. The silent one nodded in affirmation, standing a few paces behind.

"Oh," I said. I stole a quick glance at the marquee and at the clock in my car. Mortal Kombat had been playing for an hour, the last showing of the evening.

The silent one looked increasingly nervous. I think he saw my glances and suspected that I might be detecting something was not above-board.

"C'mon, mister. Let us in. We can't get in your car until you do, you know," the spokesman said soothingly. "Just let us in, and we'll be gone before you know it. We'll go to our mother's house."

We locked eyes.

To my horror, I realized my hand had strayed toward the door lock (which was engaged) and was in the process of opening it. I pulled it away, probably a bit too violently. But it did force me to look away from the children.

I turned back. "Er ... Um ...," I offered weakly and then my mind snapped into sharp focus.

For the first time, I noticed their eyes.

They were coal black. No pupil. No iris. Just two staring orbs reflecting the red and white light of the marquee.

At that point, I know my expression betrayed me. The silent one had a look of horror on his face in a combination that seemed to indicate: A) The impossible had just happened and B) "We've been found out!"

The spokesman, on the other hand, wore a mask of anger. His eyes glittered brightly in the half-light.

"Cmon, mister," he said. "We won't hurt you. You have to LET US IN. We don't have a gun ..."

That last statement scared the living hell out of me, because at that point by his tone he was plainly saying, "We don't NEED a gun."

He noticed my hand shooting down toward the gear shift. The spokesman's final words contained an anger that was complete and whole, and yet contained in some respects a tone of panic:


I ripped the car into reverse (thank goodness no one was coming up behind me) and tore out of the parking lot. I noticed the boys in my peripheral vision, and I stole a quick glance back.

They were gone. The sidewalk by the theater was deserted.

I drove home in a heightened state of panic. Had anyone attempted to stop me, I would have run on through and faced the consequences later.

I bolted into my house, scanning all around -- including the sky.

What did I see? Maybe nothing more than some kids looking for a ride.

And some really funky contacts. Yeah, right.

A friend suggested they were vampires, what with the old "let us in" bit and my compelled response to open the door. That and the "we'll go see our mother" thing.

I'm still not sure what they were, but here's an epilogue I find chilling:

I talk about Chad a lot. He's still my best friend, my best ghost-hunting companion and an all-around cool guy. He recently moved to Amarillo, but at the time this happened was still living in San Angelo of Ram Page fame.

I called him and talked to him briefly. He had two female friends with him at the time, both professing some type of psychic ability.

I started telling him the story, leaving out the part about the black eyes for the kicker. One of the women (we were on a speakerphone) stopped me.

"These children had black eyes, right?" she asked. "I mean, all-black eyes?"

"Er ... Yes." I said. I was a bit taken aback.

"Hmmm," she said. "One night last week, I had a dream about children with black eyes. They were outside my house, wanting to be let in, but there was something wrong with them. It took me a while to realize it was the eyes."

I hadn't even gotten as far as them wanting to come in.

"What did you do?" I asked.

"I kept the doors and windows locked," she said. "I knew if they came in, they would kill me."

She paused.

"And they would have killed you, too, if you had let them into your car."

So, from this extra-long post, we have three unanswered questions:

A) What did I see?

B) What would have happened if I opened my car door?

C) Why does Chad always get the cool psychic chicks? ;)


More on the bizarre phenomenon can be found at these links:




Babies in Bars, Do We Need A Law?

(CNN) -- From time to time, Sasha Raven Gross can be seen teetering around a neighborhood drinking hole. She flirts with strangers, talks gibberish and sometimes spins in circles for no apparent reason until she falls down. In one hand is her liquid of choice -- watered-down orange juice in a sippy cup.

The 14-month-old toddler is the sort of barfly who's at the center of a recurring and heated debate: Should parents be allowed to bring their babies and children to bars?

Get the full article at this link:


I am never a fan of new laws. I can't think of a single proposed law in recent memory that I actually supported, or thought might even be a good idea. And I still feel the same when it comes to this issue.

We already have laws against child abuse, neglect, and so forth. Laws which might be applicable if a parent brought a kid to a real rough and rowdy place and proceeded to get plastered while not even bothering to keep an eye on their child. On the other hand, I don't see it as irresponsible at all to stop in and have a pint with a few friends during an afternoon stroll, or maybe on your way to the grocery store or something. Especially nowadays when smoking is illegal in bars in so many states like here in NY.

Parents should exercise some discretion of course. They should respect the comfort zone of other bar patrons for one thing. A parent should not be dragging a kid into a rough and tumble foul-mouthed biker bar, or a sex-charged pick-up scene sort of bar and expect other patrons to change their behavior because they have a toddler in tow. But a local pub that is as much a local hangout and place to grab a bite as it is a place to get a beer or shot of whiskey is not really a place that a child should be forbidden from entering necessarily.

At the end of the day, I would leave it up to the bar owner rather than legislators. If it's a bar where the owner and patrons are not offended by the presence of a child, then what's the problem? If you are offended by a kid in a bar, visit a bar that won't allow kids.

I don't know about anyone else, but I happen to like freedom. The freedom to choose. To choose where to go. To choose your company. To choose how you want to run your business. To choose how you think it is best to raise your own child.

Earthquake Swarm (Breaking News)

5.8 Earthquake in Virginia. Pentagon Evacuated. tremors felt as far away as Ohio, and even here locally in Dutchess County NY, north of NYC. 1:55 pm.

This follows 5.5 quake in Colorado last night.

Updates to follow.




Structural damage in Dutchess County NY.


Nuclear power plant knocked offline by quake. Using diesel generators to maintain cooling...

Washington Monument in danger of toppling?


We May Use Synthetic Life to Colonize Mars

SAN FRANCISCO — Synthetic organisms engineered to use carbon dioxide as a raw material could help humans settle Mars one day, a prominent biologist says.

Man-made, CO2-munching lifeforms are already in the works, geneticist Craig Venter told a crowd here during an event called TEDxNASA@SiliconValley Wednesday night (Aug. 17). Venter and his team, who made headlines last year by creating the world's first synthetic organism, are trying to design cells that can use atmospheric carbon dioxide to make food, fuel, plastics and other products.

This ability would obviously have huge implications here on Earth, but it could also help make Mars — whose thin atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide — a more livable place, Venter said.

Read more:



RIP Budd Hopkins

Budd Hopkins (June 15, 1931 – August 21, 2011)[1] was a central figure in abduction phenomenon and related UFO research.[2] He was also a painter, sculptor and raconteur of note. Born in 1931 and raised in Wheeling, West Virginia. He graduated from Oberlin College in 1953, that same year moving to New York City, where he lived until his death in 2011.
Hopkins' art is in the permanent collections in the Whitney Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, Hirshhorn Museum, and at the Museum of Modern Art; he received grants or endowments from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. His articles on art appeared in magazines and journals, and he lectured at many art schools, including Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill.


I'll Be Watchin' You

Foreign Student-Workers Strike Protesting Against American Working Conditions

Hershey/Palmyra, PA - Hundreds of foreign student-workers walked off the job and marched on downtown Hershey, Pennsylvania protesting low wages and poor working conditions at a packing warehouse for the candy giant Hershey Company. Protests were also planned for Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The student guest-workers are here as part of a State Department program that brings hundreds of thousands of foreigners stateside each year to learn about American life.

Well, it appears the program is successful.

Using a special J-1 work-travel visa the students came to America and were contracted to the Palmyra plant by a California-based company called the Council for Educational Travel, USA (CETUSA). According to one article, the students...

...were made to do heavy lifting and meet a strenuous production schedule, some of them working night shift. They were paid only $8.35 an hour, and large portions of their paychecks were automatically deducted for program fees and rent. Students said after the deductions they were not earning enough to recoup the cost of the program and to make ends meet.

Welcome to America kids.

Now I would be the first to agree that wages in America have become absurdly unfair. Even at a dollar or so per hour above minimum wage, Americans lucky enough to have a full-time job will not earn enough to live on in most parts of the country. That is indeed a serious problem, for Americans. But for temporary foreign student-workers to be complaining about it seems absurd when Americans themselves aren't able to make ends meet. Shouldn't we be the ones protesting? Aren't these students lucky to even be paid anything at all when so many Americans are usually not paid anything for what amounts to an internship? Aren't the Oompa-Loompa's lucky to be out of Loompaland?

The New York Times article on this story gives this account of one student who participated in the program...

Harika Duygu Ozer, 19, a second-year medical student from a university in Istanbul, said she had heard from friends that the summer exchange program would be fun and that she would earn enough money to pay for her medical school tuition.

“I said, ‘Why not?’ This is America,” Ms. Ozer said. (emphasized)

When she was offered a contract for a job at a plant with Hershey’s chocolates, she said, she was excited. “We have all seen Charlie’s chocolate factory,” she said. “We thought, ‘This is good.’ ”

Like many other students, Ms. Ozer said she invested about $3,500, which included the program costs, to obtain the J-1 visa and travel to the United States.

Why would a they assume that they would be paid enough to not only pay for their entire trip and all of their living expenses, but also to pay for their future education? It seems that some of these students thought they hit the jackpot with a free ride in the land of milk and honey and were bound for streets of gold, but didn't have to bother reading a contract or to work out some basic arithmetic. It also seems that people around the world have a serious misconception of what life is really like in America. What exactly did they think they were being promised, a six-figure salary, free English classes, and a chauffeur to take them from theme park to theme park?

At $8.35 an hour, a student would have to work about 35 hours per week (before deductions) for 12 weeks (a summer vacation) in order to repay the $3,500 amount that Ms. Ozer invested. Seems like a quite generous offer really, to be promised paid employment in order to help offset the costs of their visit, at a time when tens of millions of willing and able Americans aren't able to find any regular work at all. Even after a deduction for $400 per month rent, far less than what many Americans pay for rent, she complains about being paid a bit less then $200 a week in "take home" pay. Again, welcome to America. There are many folks who are glad to take home even $50 a week after rent. And it seems that if she is actually netting that much pay, she is not forced to pay the deductions that American workers must pay. Working 40 hours a week, an American worker making $8.35 an hour will only take home about $230 or so per week, at most, BEFORE rent.

“We want to own our rights,” 20-year-old Chinese student Zhao Huijiao told the New York Times. “There is no cultural exchange, none, none… It is just work, work faster, work.” She and three other Chinese students held out their arms to display bruises from moving heavy boxes.

Bruises? Oh nose! Try working for a dollar less per hour in some gas station kwiki-mart dealing with asshole customers all day and running a very high risk of getting shot over the $200 in your cash register. Rights? What rights? You are not entitled to anything here in America, as a foreigner, yet you are enjoying as much rights as any American, and even more. You were guaranteed a job. A luxury most Americans do NOT have. Cultural exchange? Well buddy, take a big whiff of life in America. Work, go home, eat some ramen, watch some American Idol, sleep for a few hours, and do it all over again. That is life in America today. If you want more than that, then on your day off go ahead and visit a museum, or head on down do the Hershey fun park, have a candy bar and a slice of pizza. There is your cultural exchange. Granted, factory work is not the most fulfilling work. It is labor intensive and repetitive, but one could do a lot worse than to work in an American factory that has a rather high safety standard and labor protection laws compared to the rest of the world. Did you really think you were being promised an executive suite in Manhattan?

Here is another excerpt from the NYT article...

“You stand for the entire eight hours,” she said. “It is the worst thing for your fingers and hands and your back; you are standing at an angle.”

At one of the sites where she worked, she said, cameras were trained on her, and supervisors told her that if she did not want to maintain the pace of work, she should leave.

Well sweetheart, if you can't do the job, then why should they pay you? They need a job done, that is the bottom line. If you can't do it, you're on your own. They have no obligation to you of any sort. Take it up with the Sate Department if you don't like the job you were handed on a silver platter. In the meantime, they need these boxes packed and shipped. That's the job. Don't like it? Start putting out job applications elsewhere just like every other American and a long line of foreigners. And cameras? Lol. If you have a problem with cameras America is not the country for you.

One more excerpt form the NYT article quoting a student-worker...

Godwin Efobi, 26, a third-year medical student from Nigeria who is studying at a university in Ukraine, said his job was moving boxes. “Since I came here, I have a permanent ache in my back,” Mr. Efobi said. “Holding a pen is now a big task for me; my muscles ache.”

Wow, just wow. And folks have the nerve to call Americans soft? This guy lifts some boxes for a few hours and can't lift a pen? Hit the gym buddy.

Now all things considered here, I never read any of the contracts or promotional material recruiting these students. It's quite possible that they were coerced to some extent. I would not doubt that in the least in fact, that they were led to believe that they were being offered something more than they were getting, without actually being lied to "technically" for the benefit of an American company or two. But hey, that's lesson number one in America. Read the fine print. And if it isn't in the print at all, you damn well better ask and nail someone down to an answer before you commit. Never assume anything.

It also sounds too though, like all these medical students and so forth from foreign lands have a certain "silver spoon" syndrome that many American students also have. That somehow manual labor is beneath them. Or that working a full time job interferes with "more important" things.

So really, at the end of this article I am of mixed feelings. On the one hand, these students should feel lucky at all to be given any full-time job at all, even one above minimum wage on top of that, in order to offset their costs of living in America for a time under genuinely American conditions. On the other hand, we can see clearly that American corporations are exploiting foreign labor while shunning domestic labor. At the same time we must ask ourselves, how far have we fallen that people from third-world nations and totalitarian states find common life in America to be wretched?

End all be all, I think that these students were shocked to find that America is not what we have been billed to be around the world for so many years. We are rapidly degenerating into a third world nation, as predicted now for many years, and this story makes the prediction now apparently true. There is a very wide income disparity, workers are treated more unfairly than ever in relation to their pay versus labor. It is no exaggeration to say that we are being paid a slave-wage, or worse. At least slaves are given enough to subsist on. Today, so many American workers labor away only to find themselves sinking deeper and deeper into debt, as if there were a vampire draining away their life's toil, reducing them to less than slaves. Human beings of negative value.

A sad state of affairs. Did we really need some foreign students to wake us up to this new American reality?

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