An English brewery donates a sizable amount of fresh beer for the troops fighting in Normandy and a unique delivery method is created, strapping kegs to the underwings of Spitfires being shipped to forward airfields. Flying at 12,000 feet chills the brew to perfection. The troops love it, but the British Ministry of Revenue and Excise steps in and informs the brewer that it is in violation of law to export beer without paying taxes on it. End of “authorized” beer runs. June 13, 1944
I wonder how deep the hole was?
Our golden used tunnel in deep enough that all you saw was his tail sticking out.
General Stanley McChrystal (ret), in a TED talk, makes his brief but cogent “military case for sharing knowledge,” surprising all with his call for general transparency.
Of course there are a million ramifications and complexities that cannot fit into a TED talk. It is a complex world and our Protector Caste has genuine needs for tactical (short term) secrecy. But needs become excuses for bad habits that are self-defeating over the longer term … and that could ultimately lead to Big Brother. There must be an ultimate trend toward an open world, and Gen. McChrystal makes about as strong a case as you could in a ten minute TED.
“I am more scared of the bureaucrat that holds information in a desk drawer or in a safe than of someone who leaks, because ultimately we’ll be better off if we share.”
Oh, for a more in-depth appraisal of this new era, see (of course) The Transparent Society.
== Those who want to shut down both light and enlightenment ==
The Yiddish word “chutzpah” means gall and utterly arrogant nerve. It should be re-spelled to “koch-spah” after this news… that the ever-meddlesome Koch brothers are now funding a major campaign against state efforts to ramp up solar energy.
It would be one thing if they limited their attacks to ending tax rebates and minor subsidies for solar and wind… hypocritical, given how much they have benefited from vastly larger oil-gas-coal subsidies, tax breaks and almost free access to resources on public lands.
No, they are also targeting “net metering” which is the law allowing a homeowner who owns a rooftop solar unit to sell excess power back to the utility.
Please read that again. The Koch brothers do not want you selling your excess power to the market. Their beef is with filling energy markets with millions of little-guy producers. Their “institute” proclaims that its aim is to “preserve the public utility power company concept” — a state mandated monopoly system in which single companies control all access to energy. Some enterprise capitalists! Some libertarians!
But let’s dig deeper to the heart of it. WHY are the Kochs (and their Saudi partners) doing this right now? Because solar energy is taking off. Because efficiency and durability of photovoltaics have been skyrocketing, in part because we had the wisdom to use some mild incentives to boost an important new industry, the way the U.S. Postal contracts stimulated air travel, in the 1920s, or public roads spurred the rise of the automobile.
Only with this difference: renewable energy systems are improving far faster than airplanes or automobiles did, in their nascent days. And more spectacular tech advances loom on the horizon, that the Kochs can see coming fast.
Dig it well. They would not be doing this if renewables weren’t taking off and a looming threat to the brothers’ bottom line. Millions of autonomous citizens, generating and selling their own power is no longer a sci fi pipe dream. It is coming true fast…
…and parasitic dinosaurs are bellowing.
== focus where it hurts ==
Let’s get down to absolute fundamentals: what must shrink is ability of oligarchy to “capture” and corrupt government. Given how deeply committed the Koch brothers are, to meddling and altering our elections, we might want to show it goes both ways, by becoming aware of which products in your neighborhood store augment their Georgia-Pacific empire:
OTHER BRANDS: Charmin, Cottonelle, Scott, Bounty, Viva, Hefty cups/plates/etc, Kleenex/Bounty/Scott napkins.
Hmmm. Print it out. Keep it next to your shopping list. Make up your own minds.
== Bad Democratic Oligarchs? ==
This article in the Washington Free Beacon, Oligarchy in the 21st Century, pushes the meme — and with some fascinating anecdotal support (!) — that democrats do oligarchy, just as much as republicans do! And indeed, the essay is worth reading, with some informative moments… except a conclusion that is warped and sick and just plain wrong.
Actually, it’s kind of sad, revealing something dark in this writer’s core, that he assumes rich democrats must have the same reasons for donating to liberal causes as wealthy donors on the right.
To him, the only conceivable reason that a rich person would donate money would be self-interest, cheating and greed. But the narrative does not wash when Bill Gates and Warren Buffett publicly proclaim “my class should be paying higher taxes.”
There is another possible motive. Love of a country and civilization and middle-class society that was very good to them.
== Military Matters ==
The US Navy is showing off, announcing the deployment on-ship of a close-defense laser system and the imminent shipboard testing of a railgun system.
You might recall the dramatically exaggerated depiction of a railgun in one of the Transformers flicks. Railguns use electromagnetic energy known as the Lorenz Force to launch a projectile between two conductive rails. The high-power electric pulse generates a magnetic field to fire the projectile with very little recoil. Many sci fi tales have portrayed rail guns used either in space combat or as great big electromagnetic launch systems, hurling cargoes from the Moon or even from Earth. The development of smaller scale guns for the military was an intermediate step, necessary in several ways.
Combine all this with the Navy’s new Zumwalt class destroyer and you can see how advanced a service got that was not crushed and half-ruined by a decade of brutally self-destructive and pointless land wars of attrition in Asia.
Here’s a thought-provoking essay on how empires — mostly spread by military means — do allow (for all their faults) greater safety from violence and opportunities for trade and development. There are feedback loops and ironies. I do not agree in all ways! But interesting.
Defend civilization, especially the ways in which ours has been unlike any others.
The president of a South Carolina Bible college was charged last week with essentially treating foreign students as slaves by forcing them to perform work for little or no pay.
According to The Sun News, federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Cathedral Bible College President Reginald Wayne Miller, accusing him of forced labor.
An affidavit included with the complaint said that students “described a pervasive climate of fear in which their legal status as non-immigrant students was in constant jeopardy, at the sole discretion of Dr. Miller, who threatened expulsion and therefore termination of their legal presence in the United States for noncompliance with his demands.”
Students told investigators that classes at the school “were not real,” and that the real purpose of the school was to force them to work over the maximum of 20 hours per week that federal law allows for student visas. The students alleged that Miller often forced them to live in substandard conditions without hot water, heat or air-conditioning.
The complaints said that students worked over 50 hours a week, and often received no pay, even though some had been promised $100 a week. Several students said that they were paid $50 a week for 40 hours of work or more.
The Friendly Atheist blog quipped that slavery was rampant throughout the Bible, allowing Miller to “still be considered a true man of the Bible.”
Miller was arrested in 2006 on charges of lewdness and prostitution after he exposed himself to an undercover officer in a bathhouse at Myrtle Beach State Park. Records indicated that Miller participated in a pre-trial intervention program, allowing his record to be expunged.
During a Friday appearance at Florence Federal Court House, a federal judge set bail at $250,000. He was also ordered to stay away from Cathedral Bible College, and its students. The former pastor could spend 20 years in jail if convicted.
Watch the video below from WBTW, broadcast May 22, 2014.
I was fortunate enough to have been born and to have spent my life living in a part of America where the climate is conducive to outdoor living year-round.
The San Diego of my youth was the fabled “sleepy Navy town” of yore; scrub-filled canyons and mesas extending to the beach and the communities that sprouted up along the coast.
My earliest days, before being shuffled off to Catholic school, were spent at a beach a few blocks away from our home. Because we were poor, a day at the beach with a packed lunch was the locus of cheap entertainment on the days when it was “too nice to be inside watching TV,” which was in black-and-white. My earliest memories are of scurrying along the waterline, my back browned by the sun, digging up sand crabs and putting them into a bucket filled with water and sand into which they would burrow once again, believing they were safe from large probing toddler hands. When I grew bored they were dumped back into the surf where they no doubt buried themselves again only to someday be temporarily kidnapped once again by another bored child.
I was a born hunter and collector.
Because we were poor, my brother and I fished on Saturday mornings with our dad on his day off because it was cheaper than buying store-bought fish. We were given the choice of early mornings on Crystal Pier or going to St. Brigid’s for Catechism classes. Saturday morning cartoons were not an option. Fishing always won out because Crystal Pier offered hot chocolate, something never found on a nun’s menu. At an early age we learned to tie a hook, gaff a fish, and to handle a knife for when cutting was called for. We dropped lobster traps in what is now called Tourmaline Surf Park, retrieving them late at night, measuring them in the beam of a flashlight, making sure the tasty crustaceans were legal-sized.
When I was eight, I attended gun safety courses put on by the NRA at the local community center where thick-necked men with serious faces and butch haircuts promised us hell and worse if we mishandled a rifle or a shotgun. There was no Eddie Eagle cartoon character who spent his time talking about the 2nd amendment because the important thing was to learn not to shoot yourself or someone else. It was serious people teaching the next generation how to safely hunt and not just how to shoot.
I waited another year before I was actually allowed to carry a shotgun, serving instead an apprenticeship in the field, walking and watching and learning and carrying the kill in the back of my new hunting vest.
When the time came, I was given a .410 single-barreled shotgun by my uncle and spent days at a shooting range learning how to lead and squeeze.
The first time I was allowed to hunt, we were walking a dirt-clod field in Imperial Valley during dove season. In dawn’s very early light, I spotted the distinctive beat-beat-glide of a single dove almost directly above us, but way out of range. After pleading with my father to let me take a shot because I had waited so long, he finally relented. I tracked the bird to the best of my then non-existent experience and pulled the trigger. Far above us we saw the dove lurch, followed by a small puff of what were no doubt feathers, and then it plummeted to the ground, the victim of an overachieving bb or two that managed to find its mark.
I was a natural born killer.
Depending upon the season, we hunted pheasants, dove, quail, and duck. When it wasn’t hunting season, we fished. On summer nights we walked the edges of the vernal pools that used to dot the parts of San Diego that are now suburbs, gigging frogs for their legs. They really do taste like chicken, as did the rabbits we hunted as they hopped up to those same pools to drink at dusk.
We did this, not for the sport — although there was an element of that — but because it was a way to supplement what we ate.
And we did this for years, raising and breeding hunting dogs, spending hours in the garage at night reloading our own shotgun shells and hand painting decoys.
We felt safe in the field because the NRA had taught us how to be safe; to know where everyone else was when you pulled the trigger, to keep your weapon pointed at the ground, to open the breech and extract the shells if you weren’t hunting, to keep you finger off of the trigger unless you had reason to pull it.
As I grew older I began to notice a different breed of hunter; men who showed up with multiple shotguns as if they were golf clubs needed for specific shots. While most of us wore jeans, t-shirts and hunting vests, these newcomers dressed like they were going on safari, wearing bush hats, shooting jackets (in the 100 degree heat), and cargo pants with more pockets than there existed implements to fill them. You would see them walking the fields; shotgun draped over one arm, can of beer in the other hand. We learned to stay away from them.
For these men hunting was a manhood thing, a way to get in touch with their alpha male, a way to prove they weren’t soft city dwellers and what better way to do that than to get together with some buddies and shoot some guns at whatever moved.
It was no coincidence that, at this same time (this being early seventies), the NRA changed their focus from hunting programs to promoting gun ownership and defending the 2nd Amendment from imaginary enemies.
Each trip afield meant running into more men concerned with the idea of shooting but unburdened with any concept of the etiquette of hunting. For an adult, all you needed was the cash to purchase a gun and a hunting license and you were good to go forth and kill.
The last time my father, my brother, and I hunted together was pheasant hunting in Imperial Valley. We walked the short-grown alfalfa fields hoping to kick up a pheasant, or watched to see our German Shorthaired Pointer, Candy, go on point. When she did we would instruct her to chase the bird until it flew, at which time it was considered “fair game” to shoot it. Rule of thumb: you do not shoot a bird not in flight. Not cool.
Having worked the field, we returned to our truck to get water. By our truck were several other cars and trucks with hunters standing around talking and smoking and looking for shade in the ninety-degree heat. While we sat on the truck’s tailgate, Candy — ever the worker — kept sniffing around and doing what came naturally to her. Somewhere, possibly by one of the canals that separate many of the fields, she kicked up a pheasant and gave chase, the pheasant running several feet in front of her, refusing to fly. A large man, decked out in a bush hat, cargo pants, and vest with no shirt — his white skin blotchy and red in the heat — immediately swung his shotgun up despite standing amongst of hunters in all directions and fired off two quick shots at the running bird. Poor shot that he was, he missed the bird but sent up two large explosions of dirt no more than two feet in front of Candy’s nose as she skidded to a stop.
It was deathly quiet afterwards as everyone looked at him, stunned by what he had done.
My father quickly walked over to him, cursing all the way, grabbed the shotgun out of his hands by grabbing it by the barrel — no doubt burning his hands — and broke it open ejecting the spent shells. He then threw it end over end into the field. As my father berated him, using words I wasn’t well acquainted with at the time with but have learned to love since then, the hunter (known in family lore now as “The Great White Hunter”). His friends looked away and shuffled their feet, no one daring to come to his defense. I have no doubt, had the man shot and killed Candy, my father would have shot him if he’d had a loaded shotgun in his hand.
Having verbally unloaded on the man who didn’t dare to look upset that his gun was laying in the field somewhere, my dad said, “Get in the car boys. We’re going home.”
I don’t remember if he said another word during the two-hour drive back to San Diego.
When we got home, we released Candy to the yard while my dad went into the garage and cleaned the pheasants we had shot. Afterward he cleaned the shotguns before sticking them in his bedroom closet without a word.
He never took us hunting again, and we never asked to go.
Years later, when I was working as a roofer, I became friends with a co-worker who loved to hunt and we made plans to go down to the valley for the start of dove season on Labor Day weekend. I stopped by my parents house to pick up the 20-gauge shotgun that my dad bought for me when I turned fifteen; a beautiful pistol-gripped Savage with engraved silver-plating. It wasn’t there and neither were any of our guns, including the .410 that I used to shoot my first dove. My mother explained that my father said they were of no use to him anymore so he sold them. The new breed of hunter, the events of that day, made him lose his passion for hunting and he turned to the solitary and more ruminative sport of lake fishing by himself.
I used to hunt and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the hell out of it. But I wouldn’t consider attempting it now, in an age where gun-owners lump AR-15′s in with sporting guns. Where a lousy shooter can disguise his inability to shoot with an extended clip that allows him to keep shooting until he finally hits something, anything. Where hunters feel the need for silencers for God knows what reason.
The NRA has killed off the sportsman with their neglect and replaced him with the gun nut who spends more money on more guns, not out of a desire to feed his family, but to stave off a mythical jack-booted government bogeyman coming to take away those guns. This paranoid vision of America that the NRA sells is why we have the gun violence that we have today, because no sensible gun legislation can be passed because of what the father of one of Elliott Rodger’s victims described as “craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA.”
I’m not the NRA poster child that I was at age 8 anymore. I want nothing to do with those people.
I may be a natural born killer, but I’ll be damned if I’ll be an accomplice to murder.
[Vintage photo of boy with an air gun on Shutterstock]
Leo Selvaggio, “URME Surveillance” (2014) (all images courtesy the artist)
SAN FRANCISCO — It seems like everyone is making artistic reactions to our increasingly surveilled world. Chicago-based new media artist Leo Selvaggio has joined the likes of Zach Blas, Simone C. Niquille, and Adam Harvey in exploring tactics to counter facial recognition and pervasive surveillance. Intrigued, I reached out to Selvaggio over email to ask him some questions about his latest series, URME Surveillance.
* * *
Ben Valentine: Considering there are many groups who have sought counter-surveillance measures through tactics of obfuscation, why did you chose to use your own face?
Leo Selvaggio: The majority of the strategies used by other artists and groups are primarily forms of hiding or obscuring one’s face, such as Adam Harvey’s “CV Dazzle,” or Zach Blas’ Facial Weaponization Suite. Even outside of the art world, the majority of methods used to combat surveillance involve ski-masks, sunglasses, and hoodies. The problem with this underlying strategy of hiding or obscuring is two fold. First, the hiding of one’s face is associated with criminality and suspicion. Take the case of Trayvon Martin, for example.
The second, and more central to my work, is that it fails to consider the social component of surveillance, by which I mean that surveillance typically occurs in crowded public space where not only cameras are watching us but other people are as well. The aesthetics of a project like “CV dazzle” are somewhat extreme and will most likely not be adopted by the majority of the public. Furthermore, wearing this kind of makeup, which I have to say is a brilliant idea for other reasons, will draw unwanted attention to the wearer.
My work instead substitutes the face of the wearer with my own in such a way that it thwarts facial recognition while allowing the wearer to pass inconspicuously through a crowd. Because we are talking about an automated system, the project needed a face that has actual data associated with it, otherwise it would be easily identified as a fraud or as a John Doe of sorts. Thus a fake face was not an option. Furthermore, I was ethically concerned that a made up face may actually look like a real person somewhere in the world, and I wasn’t comfortable with possibly appropriating another’s identity such as Conrad Zdzierak inadvertently did when he wore a latex mask when robbing six Ohio banks.
The natural follow up question to this would be, “well, if its only your face, then won’t that be easily identifiable at some point?” The answer of course is yes. However, the next step in the project is to ask the public to donate their faces to URME Surveillance, so that there are several options to chose from of every race, ethnicity, and gender. But for now, my identity is the only I am willing to put at risk.
There is also the fact that the first mask had to be a white man’s because there is nothing more invisible to surveillance than a white man in a suit. Surveillance practices are built upon prejudicial architecture. I am hoping that URME Surveillance can expose the blueprints of those structures by examining the role of identity in surveillance culture.
The “URME” mask worn
BV: Can you contrast your work, which seems much more activist-driven, with Adam Harvey’s work, which is still very much a luxury commodity.
LS: Adam Harvey, along with several artists (Ben Grosser, Zach Blas) has been a huge influence on my work. Harvey is exploring surveillance art in a very interdisciplinary way, examining its intersection with mediums like make up and fashion. That being said, when approaching how to make URME Surveillance, I found myself generating a very specific criteria that are simply not the strengths of Harvey’s work. The first criterion was to take into consideration both the social component of surveillance and the human element within the system. You just can’t wear CV Dazzle without looking conspicuous unless you only ever use it going out to a rave club somewhere. Not only are others going to look at you on the street, but it would be very easy for a human being watching a set of surveillance monitors to track you: just look for the face with triangles and squares on it. URME Surveillance differs by substituting the users face for my own, thus fooling the cameras while at the same time not drawing attention to the user because of its photorealistic qualities. Though upon close inspection the prosthetic is detectable, in a crowd most people wouldn’t look twice and at a glance it can be fairly convincing.
The second criteria I asked myself How does one make a practical anti-surveillance intervention for the public, that is not just passable (first criteria) but also fairly democratic. I think of Harvey’s project “Stealth Wear” which protects the wearer from thermal imaging, the primary form of “vision” used by drones, by erasing one’s heat signature. While “CV dazzle” is fairly democratic, as most people can afford some form of make up, The material required for “Stealth Wear” is extremely expensive. For example, the Burqa costs 2,500 dollars. Some of the garments also don’t cover the entire body, which makes me question their effectiveness.
Lastly, and this is the biggest concern for me, is that due to the garments overwhelming price, its not a solution that is available to general public. This is further compounded by the fact that they are currently not available in the Middle East, which is where an intervention as thoughtful as this one is needed. While my own “URME Surveillance Identity Prosthetic” is costly at $200, it is far more reasonable a price. “URME” also offers a paper mask at $1. Furthermore, I am also not making a profit off of any of the URME Surveillance devices because I want them to be as affordable as possible.
I don’t see my work as being in reaction to, or somehow separate from, Harvey’s. Rather, I am trying to contribute to a discussion that he and other artists have already started. Its important for surveillance, tech, and new media artists to consider their work within a criteria of Social Practice if it is going to bring about change, and that is where my interest lies. I should also mention that URME Surveillance, like all projects has its fair share of problems as well, but it is a entry point for me to start treating surveillance as material to work with in my art practice.
“URME Surveillance” at Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” in downtown Chicago
BV: You mention your interest in post-humanism, what do you see the future of identity, both online and off, looking like? How does “URME” play into or fight that?
LS: I can’t help but think of URME Surveillance in light of texts like Donna Harroway’s Cyborg Manifesto. In the text she calls for an elimination of binaries in exchange for celebrating and identifying as beings with a set of interests rather than prescribed anatomy. The future of identity is fluid. Like Cindy Sherman, we are at a precipice where we have the ability to perform identity in a very multifaceted way. Combine this with the curatorial powers of social media to edit ourselves, the future is going to be an ever changing landscape of personas.
Surveillance threatens this fluidity because it is built with rigid prejudicial architecture welded tightly by fear on the cracking foundation of freedom. By eventually asking the public to donate their faces, URME Surveillance hopes to create a public that actively and consciously chooses an identity(s) to wear and purport. I see a time when exchanging faces with each other is not only an active subversion of our surveillance systems through facial disinformation, but also engages with the core of what it means to be an individual. Rather than U R ME, I aspire to create a community under the guise of U R WE.
A Good Time with a Bad Girl (1967) directed by Barry Mahon
Two years after a mentally ill Florida inmate was found dead, locked in a scalding-hot shower, the autopsy remains incomplete and no charges have been filed.
Darren Rainey was pulled into the shower as punishment June 23, 2012, for defecating in his cell and refusing to clean it up, according to a complaint filed by a fellow inmate at the Dade Correctional Institution.
The other inmate, who worked as an orderly, said the 50-year-old Rainey was locked in the narrow stall for more than an hour with scalding-hot water turned on full blast as he screamed apologies and begged for help.
“I can’t take it no more, I’m sorry,” Rainey screamed. “I won’t do it again.”
Rainey’s body was found face up, and a medical examination revealed his skin was burned so badly it had shriveled away from his body, a condition called slippage.
The inmate/orderly said the shower was large enough to avoid direct contact with the water, but he said the extreme heat would have made the air unbreathable at some point.
He wrote in his complaint that he saw officers carry a “dead naked body” past his cell, and a convicted murderer said he was ordered to clean up the shower after Rainey died.
Maintenance workers disabled plumbing the following week in the shower where Rainey died, the inmate/orderly said.
But the Miami-Dade medical examiner still has not completed an autopsy, and the Florida Department of Corrections has stopped its own investigation until autopsy results are available or police uncover new evidence.
“The exact cause of death has not been determined by the Medical Examiner,” the report said. “Upon receipt of the autopsy report, it will be included in the investigative file.’’
The inspector general’s report said a video camera in the shower area malfunctioned after corrections officer Roland Clark placed Rainey in the shower, and the report said a disc that might have recorded the incident had “malfunctioned.”
“Two years is a very long time to wait to find out why your brother was found dead in a shower,’’ said Rainey’s brother, Andre Chapman.
George Mallinckrodt, a psychotherapist who counseled inmates at Dade Correctional and has filed a formal complaint on Rainey’s death with the U.S. Department of Justice, said guards provoked inmates and then punished them.
“As I became more attuned to inmate abuse, I realized [it] wasn’t just somebody getting beaten,” Mallinckrodt told WLRN-TV. “I did a number of incidence reports on guards that would go by an inmate’s cell and torment them, call them really nasty names — ‘diaper sniper,’ ‘baby raper’ — and then a whole lot of names I can’t repeat.”
He said the inmates would eventually start swearing and yelling back at the guards, who would then write up disciplinary reports on the inmates.
A source told the Miami Herald that corrections officers said Rainey, who was scheduled to be released the following month from his sentence for cocaine possession, died from a heart attack.
The inmate/orderly and two other sources told the newspaper that guards physically abused prisoners in the mental health unit and withheld food from inmates who became unruly.
But inmate Harold Hempstead, a convicted burglar serving decades in prison, said his complaints were returned marked “without action.”
He said investigators, including homicide detectives who looked into Rainey’s death, never spoke to him about the incident.
Another inmate hung himself in September, saying guards had physically and sexually abused him and other prisoners.
Richard Mair, 40, left a suicide note in his underwear that detailed the abuse allegations before hanging himself with braided strips of bedsheets from an air-conditioning vent.
He had been serving a sentence for second-degree murder.
“Life sucks and then you die, but just before I go, I’m going to expose everyone for who and what they are,’’ Mair wrote. “I’m in a mental health facility…I’m supposed to be getting help for my depression, suicidal tendencies and I was sexually assaulted.’’
He said guards – identified by name – gambled on duty, sold cigarettes and marijuana, and forced prisoners to perform sex acts and threatened them if they filed complaints.
The paper reported that it found no evidence the inspector general had investigated any of those claims, but the probe found that guards had failed to adequately check on Mair before his death.
The Miami Herald reported that corrections officials had provided only some of the documents requested by the newspaper, and a spokeswoman said the Department of Corrections would not comment on the prisoner deaths.
But the paper reported that DCI Warden Jerry Cummings and four of his top aides had quietly and temporarily been relieved of their duties last week.
The paper said corrections officials did not explain why Cummings and the other administrators were suspended.
An official with the Teamsters Local 2011 union that represents corrections and probation officers said there had been a recent spike in prison complaints, and he said employee turnover was staggering.
“In general, we have a difficult time retaining good officers,’’ said Les Cantrell, state coordinator of the union. “Assaults on officers have risen and inmates know they are short-staffed, (and) it makes it unsafe for the officers and for the inmates.”
Mallinckrodt said inmates do frequently lie, but he said they sometimes tell the truth.
“You know these guys that are in prison — and definitely deserve to be there — they’re there to pay their debt to society, not to get tortured or beaten or murdered, so I’d like to see that resolved,” Mallinckrodt said.
For all of you unfortunate souls out there who have ever gotten your penis stuck in a PVC pipe, this is one paper you don’t want to miss! These crafty doctors came up with a simple solution to this everyday problem. DIY medicine FTW!
“Introduction. Penile incarceration for erotic or autoerotic purposes has been reported in a wide range of age groups, and often presents a significant challenge to urologic surgeons. No ready method has been reported for removing a polyvinylchloride (PVC) pipe entrapped on the penis. Aim. To present our experience in using hot-melt method to remove a constricted PVC pipe on the penis. Methods. A long melting split was made on the PVC pipe entrapped on the penis by using the long narrow branch of forceps heated on a gas stove. Results. The heated forceps was able to make a melt split on the PVC pipe. Consequently, the PVC pipe was removed by pulling the edges of the pipe apart without much difficulty. The total operation time was 20 minutes. Conclusion. Penile incarceration is a urologic emergency, for which resourcefulness is required in some unexpected cases. Hot-melting has proved to be an easy and effective method for removing penile strangulation by a PVC pipe. To our kn=-09876543wledge, it is the first report about the removal of PVC pipe entrapped on a penis.”
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Vacuum cleaner injury to penis: a common urologic problem?
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Ever wonder how much electricity your penis can take?
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: A vacuum device for penile elongation: fact or fiction?
The post Friday flashback: Penis stuck in a PVC pipe? We have a solution! appeared first on Seriously, Science?.
Jacque Fresco, from Zeitgeist: Moving Forward
His name is Jacque Fresco. He’s a futurist and social engineer. He lectures his views on sustainable cities, energy efficiency, natural-resource management, and the role of science in society, while being entirely self-taught.
He’s also the founder of the Venus Project, an organization that advocates a resource-based economy. The project combines Fresco’s versions of sustainable development, natural resource management, energy efficiency, and advanced automation in a global socioeconomic system based on social cooperation and scientific methodology.
As you can tell he’s a pretty badass dude.
This GIF shows an example of conductive ink.
Circuit Scribe is a rollerball pen that uses a silver conductive ink to let you create fully functioning circuits as fast as you can can draw, making it cheaper, faster, and easier to test out electronics and prototype concepts.
Boring: Super Tiger Privilege
Twenty percent of American children have never climbed a tree, and 95 percent of children in developed countries spend their free time watching TV or on the computer — and only 5 percent outdoors.
This is cause for concern because many young people are alienated from nature and may not realize the value of protecting natural ecosystems and species.
The skin is our gateway to the physical world. Below its surface are oodles of nerve fibers relaying different types of messages to the brain. At the ends of the fingertips, for example, fat and fast Aβ nerves help you fish for keys at the bottom of a messy purse, or feel the difference between cotton and polyester. Nearby those big nerves are thinner and slower C-fiber nociceptors, which transmit pain, and others that relay itchiness.
What I didn’t know until this week is that there is yet another type of nerve, found only under hairy skin, that carries information about our social interactions. These nerves, known as C-tactile (CT) afferents, respond to slow, gentle stroking — the soft touch you’d give to a baby’s forehead or a lover’s arm. And some researchers believe that these fibers are crucial for the development of the social brain.
“A hand on the shoulder, a pat on the back — these things anchor and cement social relationships in a meaningful way,” says Francis McGlone, a cognitive neuroscientist at Liverpool John Moores University in the U.K.
In today’s issue of Neuron, McGlone and his colleagues published a commentary reviewing what’s known about these nerves, including some provocative studies suggesting they play a role in autism.
“This C-tactile system is not there to sense the physical world, it’s there to feel the physical world,” McGlone says. “It’s coding something very important, particularly during early development.”
CT nerves were first described in 1939. Swedish physiologist Yngve Zotterman found that in a cat’s leg, certain thin nerve fibers would fire electrical signals in response to slow stroking with the edge of a round wooden pin. “The complex response to stroking naturally raises the question whether the different groups of spikes are derived from groups of fibres with different sensory functions,” Zotterman wrote.
Subsequent studies confirmed that these nerves exist in cats (1957), as well as in monkeys (1977) and rats (1993). They weren’t reported in people until the late 1980s and ‘90s, thanks to a technique called microneurography pioneered by two Swedish scientists, Karl-Erik Hagbarth and Ake Vallbo. With this method (which Hagbarth and Vallbo first perfected on their own arms to prove its safety) a
metal electrode tungsten microelectrode is poked through the skin of an awake person to record electrical signals from the nerves underneath.
Deciphering the code of these nerves is difficult and takes a lot of patience. “It’s like putting a microphone into a United Nations convention — there’s lots of different languages you’re going to be hearing,” McGlone says. “I think five people on this planet can record from C-tactile afferents.” These trained scientists can hear the language (that is, a certain pattern of electrical waveforms) of the CT afferents only when the skin is gently stroked.
McGlone’s lab has done a series of fascinating studies on CT afferents. His team uses a robotic stimulator to deliver gentle brush strokes in a steady, consistent way. Here’s a quick video of how it works:
The person in the video is rating how pleasant (or unpleasant) the touch feels on different parts of his body. In 2009, McGlone’s team published a study in Nature Neuroscience in which this robotic brush stroked volunteers at different velocities. Turns out that the velocities that volunteers rated as most pleasant are the same ones that activate CT nerves. “They matched up perfectly,” McGlone says.
OK, so there are nerves that selectively respond to a soft touch. The real question is, why? What are they for?
“We’re still asking that question,” McGlone says. “What I hope I’ve done in this new paper is put a few more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in place.”
Several puzzle pieces come from brain imaging studies. In 2012, for example, McGlone and collaborators in Montreal scanned volunteers’ brains while slowly stroking two skin areas: a hairy patch of the forearm, which holds CT fibers, and the hairless palm, which does not have CT fibers. Stroking CT fibers triggered activity in the posterior insular cortex and mid-anterior orbitofrontal cortex, which are both part of the brain’s limbic system, deep circuits that process emotion. Stroking the palm, in contrast, activated the somatosensory cortex, the outer layers of brain that process our physical sense of touch.
Stroking CT fibers also activated a brain region called the angular gyrus, which is involved in our internal representation of our body. (In studies of epileptic patients, stimulating this region leads to dramatic out-of-body experiences.) This result is intriguing, McGlone says, because it suggests that CT afferents are involved not only in our awareness of others, but in our physical sense of self.
The same brain regions activated by CT afferents — the insular cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, and angular gyrus — have also been implicated in autism and related disorders. Could autism be the result of an impaired touch system?
“I think it’s very believable,” says Kevin Pelphrey, a neuroscientist at Yale who is known for his brain-imaging studies of children with autism. In 2012, Pelphrey’s team scanned the brains of 19 healthy adults while they received either slow or fast strokes on their forearm. The slow touch activated brain regions involved in social behaviors, as shown before. But this brain activation was lowest in participants who scored high on tests of autistic traits.
Pelphrey is most interested in one of those brain regions, the superior temporal sulcus, or STS. This area is sensitive not only to social touch, but to socially meaningful sights and sounds. “We’re working on smells now as well,” Pelphrey says. His earlier work has shown that children with autism have abnormally low activity in the STS.
Pelphrey has also scanned the brains of children with autism while they felt slow or fast arm-stroking. “We wanted to know if the brain response to social versus non-social touch is present in autism or not, and to what degree it’s disrupted,” he says. “We found something,” he says, but wants to keep the results under wraps because the study is currently under review.
There are other reasons to suspect that CT afferents may be involved in autism, Pelphrey says. Many individuals with autism, such as autism advocate Temple Grandin, have sensory sensitivities. Pelphrey notes that some of the earliest descriptions of the disorder mention that babies with autism don’t react to being picked up in way that most babies do. “Touch is the first sensory system to develop,” Pelphrey says. “The brain response to C-tactile afferents should be present well before birth.” So if the system is disrupted in autism, it could become a very early biomarker of the disorder.
The question of why these afferents exist is still open. They could be vestigial, useless leftovers of our evolutionary past, the skin’s appendix. But McGlone doesn’t think so. He believes that affective touch is crucial for our brain development, and worries about what will happen as we transfer more and more of our social lives online.
“We live in a touch-deprived world,” he says. “You can see sort of an Armageddon scenario, where the affective touch system may well become vestigial. And what would the consequences be for the social brain?”
The text has been slightly modified: The electrode used in microneurography is made of tungsten, not metal.