Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More Surveillance Cameras, Italian Arms Smugglers Busted, Local Severed Head Goes to Arizona

Maureen Dowd
Andy Borowitz

I realize now that I have no need to be paranoid over the fact that Big Brother is watching. He has been literally watching us for years now, proving that all of the paranoid fantasies from the '60's have come true, just like in a Philip Dick novel. There are security cameras in every major building in every major city throughout the world, many are posted on major streets and intersections by the police, and thermal imaging cameras are looking out to sea along stretches of coastline. With the publicity and impressive videos made during the assassination of a Hamas member in Dubai, more expensive high definition cameras, which is good news for American optical companies like ICx Technologies. For example, in Abu Dhabi: " Security chiefs are to build a network of surveillance towers around the capital. The towers will be equipped with radar-enabled cameras linked to a central communications system to protect the emirate’s critical infrastructure assets. Installation will begin in April and is expected to take eight months. The new cameras, bought from the American company ICx Technologies, will add to the CNIA’s already widespread network around Abu Dhabi, providing additional coverage and replacing some older units."

So, the next time you are in a strange country for business or out on holiday, remember to smile for the camera. Many of these systems have been working for years in places like London and New York. Surveillance is becoming so sophisticated, that in the near future, if Big Brother wants to find you, there will be an app for that...

A couple of other interesting technologies, reported in Wired Magazine's Danger Room: "In a war zone, evacuating patients under fire is one of the most dangerous jobs there is. That’s why the Pentagon’s hoping to capitalize on recent innovations in robotics to finally create ‘bots that operate as “combat casualty extraction system[s].”

And the military doesn’t just want solo robot heroes, plucking the injured from battle and rushing them to a waiting — and human-operated — vehicle. Nope. The Pentagon’s after an autonomous EMS crew, complete with an unmanned ambulance and robodocs, who can aid fallen troops “with minimal intervention by medic or other first responder operators.”

The potential benefits are obvious. Replacing humans who now help bring medical attention to wounded soldiers would reduce the number of people at risk in rescue operations. And the Army is betting that technology in the works, with developments like free-ranging robots that have human-like movement or legs strong enough to jump 25 feet, offers a chance to swap human medics with robotic versions." Who doesn't love robots? While the Japanese have concentrated on making creepy female robots, the US and Israel are concentrating on spy-bots and bots that can find roadside bombs, and bots that can work in situations that are harmful to humans, especially in wartime.

Another fascinating invention that is about 10 years out from being used in the marketplace, is the way to convert energy from walking or jogging into electricity: "Until now, researchers have been unsure how to make the crystals biocompatible. Manufacturing piezoelectric crystals requires heat that can exceed 1,000 degrees, so they’re tough to embed into temperature-sensitive materials, like rubber or plastic. So McAlpine’s team used nanotechnology, creating ribbons of the crystals on a substrate — 100 strips in a single millimeter — and then embedding them into silicone rubber. The result is a flexible strip of “piezo-rubber” that’s 80 percent efficient at converting mechanical energy (like what’s generated from walking) into electricity.

McAlpine tells Danger Room that a single PZT crystal, implanted into a shoe, could theoretically generate around enough to operate an iPod. Now imagine that instead of a single crystal, the entire shoe’s insole is lined with strips of PZT, that can convert most of the body’s energy into usable power.

Next up for the intel-funded researchers are prototype devices and some number crunching, to figure out exactly how much money the government agency could save if it switched to crystal-based people power.

More than just charging up intel gadgets, the research has clear applications across the military, including easy power harvesting for troops working in isolated, far-out terrain. But McAlpine is also anticipating widespread civilian use. Most importantly, perhaps, is replacing batteries on implanted medical devices, like pacemakers. The strips would harness power from the lungs to control the heart, and work perpetually without needing replacement parts." 

arms smuggling to Iran...
Some of the international sanctions against Iran that have been in effect for several years may have to be tweaked and tightened up. We know about the Hamas official who used to buy arms from Iran for his organization in Gaza. We know about a Russian freighter supposedly full of wood but really was carrying missiles bound for Iran was "hijacked," then returned to a Russian port after being found. There was an airplane from North Korea, staffed by Uzbeks and Georgians, that stopped for refueling in Bangkok, and was confiscated containing arms and small missiles bound for Iran. The crew of the plane were recently released to go home and the cargo taken over by some Thai generals for their personal collections...

Today, an international arms smuggling ring based in Italy was busted by police: "Five Italians and two Iranians, including "some who are believed to belong to the Iranian secret service" were among those detained, police said on Wednesday.

Authorities believe the arrests, which took place on Tuesday in several Italian cities, disrupted an operation which would have shifted large quantities of hi-tech gear including bullets, guns and explosives, to Iran." One of the Iranians was a television journalist who had worked in Italy for 17 years. Perhaps we could trade him for several of the 37 journalists who are currently in Iranian jails?

The international aspect of this case can be illustrated in how it began: "The scheme fell apart during a check by Romanian customs officials, who confiscated 200 gunsights. Another 100 were seized in London... police in Bern, Switzerland, where one of the Italian suspects resided, had collaborated with the investigation. Then, British authorities arrested a Briton implicated in the trafficking a few months ago." Italy used to be one of Iran's largest trading partners, but since Silvio Berlesconi came into office, his right wing, old school anti-Communist beliefs do not mesh with the Iranian style of right wing religious fascism, and their relationship soured. If the arms embargo can stop the arms smuggling, and this has been just the tip of the iceberg, then Iran will be in trouble. Their economy is in a downward spiral, almost half of their population is under 30 years old and currently not working. Further sanctions will affect the many Iranian businesses in the Gulf countries, and with no money or guns coming in, food in short supply, and such high unemployment, the country could fall apart internally. Which is what the US is planning on, causing a regime change from within. If a more repressive ruler takes over, we may soon be wishing for the bumbling, ranting, charmless Ahmadinejad...

mmmmm, head cheesy...
Another fun story from here in Colorado Springs that made the rounds. Usually, whenever a local news story goes national, it's always something embarrassing. A local woman got scammed by an Arizona cryogenics company called Alcor, infamous for being the home of the head of Ted Williams. Yes, they have the severed head of the late baseball player stored in some freezer, taking it out for an occasional bowling match after midnight...

This nice lady, who was enamored with immortality, but not too bright, signed a contract and gave them a $50,000 deposit to keep her head when she died, to become resurrected at an unspecified later date. Recently, she contracted cancer and decided not to go through with her nefarious plan, and wrote a letter stating her reasons.

Then, she died.

Alcor is claiming the head and offering to return the body to the family. Her family want to bury her intact. A judge ruled that, because she hadn't bothered to notorize her letter or sign a seperate contract cancelling her previous agreement, the company wins. Her body is currently being kept on dry ice while the family appeals.

The Bride of Frankenstein      by Edward Field

The Baron has decided to mate the monster,
to breed him perhaps,
in the interests of pure science, his only god.
So he goes up into his laboratory
which he has built in the tower of the castle
to be as near the interplanetary forces as possible,
and puts together the prettiest monster-woman you ever saw
with a body like a pin-up girl
and hardly any stitching at all
where he sewed on the head of a raped and murdered beauty queen.

He sets his liquids burping, and coils blinking and buzzing,
and waits for an electric storm to send through the equipment
the spark vital for life.
The storm breaks over the castle
and the equipment really goes crazy
like a kitchen full of modern appliances
as the lightning juice starts oozing right into that pretty corpse.

He goes to get the monster
so he will be right there when she opens her eyes,
for she might fall in love with the first thing she sees as ducklings do.
That monster is already straining at his chains and slurping,
ready to go right to it:
He has been well prepared for coupling
by his pinching leering keeper who's been saying for weeks,
"Ya gonna get a little nookie, kid,"
or "How do you go for some poontang, baby?"
All the evil in him is focused on this one thing now
as he is led into her very presence.

She awakens slowly,
she bats her eyes,
she gets up out of the equipment,
and finally she stands in all her seamed glory,
a monster princess with a hairdo like a fright wig,
lightning flashing in the background
like a halo and a wedding veil,
like a photographer snapping pictures of great moments.

She stands and stares with her electric eyes,
beginning to understand that in this life too
she was just another body to be raped.

The monster is ready to go:
He roars with joy at the sight of her,
so they let him loose and he goes right for those knockers.
And she starts screaming to break your heart
and you realize that she was just born:
In spite of her big tits she was just a baby.

But her instincts are right --
rather death than that green slobber:
She jumps off the parapet.
And then the monster's sex drive goes wild.
Thwarted, it turns to violence, demonstrating sublimation crudely;
and he wrecks the lab, those burping acids and buzzing coils,
overturning the control panel so the equipment goes off like a bomb,
and the stone castle crumbles and crashes in the storm
destroying them all . . . perhaps.

Perhaps somehow the Baron got out of that wreckage of his dreams
with his evil intact, if not his good looks,
and more wicked than ever went on with his thrilling career.
And perhaps even the monster lived
to roam the earth, his desire still ungratified;
and lovers out walking in shadowy and deserted places
will see his shape loom up over them, their doom --
and children sleeping in their beds
will wake up in the dark night screaming
as his hideous body grabs them.                

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