From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

Valassis Database a Boon to Repopulation Efforts
BY Jack Neff  /  August 19, 2008

BATAVIA, Ohio — To people who have no use for junk mail, what’s
happening in New Orleans may come as a surprise. Direct mail could
help rebuild a city still struggling to recover as the three-year
anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches.

New Orleans has found a novel use for the massive database used by
Valassis Communications’ RedPlum direct-mail operation. Normally used
to send promotional circulars to virtually every household in the
U.S., it’s now being used to track the speed of recovery in the
Crescent City.

Overall, the Valassis data indicates New Orleans had 146,174
households receiving mail in June 2008, still down 28% from the
203,457 receiving mail in June 2005, two months before the Aug. 29,
2005, hurricane and resulting flood.

Groups focus their resources
The nonprofit Greater New Orleans Community Data Center is using the
Valassis data to track the city’s repopulation progress block by
block. Availability of the data already has resulted in volunteer
groups in some hard-hit neighborhoods, such as Holy Cross in the Lower
Ninth Ward, diverting funds and volunteer hours they had planned to
spend on street-by-street repopulation surveys to actual rebuilding
efforts instead.

Another group, Kingsley House, is using the block-level data to
identify repopulated parts of the Central City neighborhood to enroll
children in health insurance.

And neighborhood groups in other parts of town, such as Gentilly, are
using the data to show repopulation efforts have been successful as
they try to persuade businesses such as supermarkets to come back,
said Denice Warren Ross, deputy co-director of the nonprofit Greater
New Orleans Community Data Center, which is working with Valassis on
the project.

Online tools
On Tuesday, GNOCDC launched a section of its website using the
Valassis data along with Google Maps and Street View to provide a
graphic depiction of the city’s repopulation progress — or in some
sections, the lack thereof.

“One thing our neighborhoods have struggled with since the storm is
trying to determine who’s back and what do they need to do to get back
home,” Ms. Ross said. “That’s a lot of work for a neighborhood leader
to take on when they’re trying to rebuild their own home. Data and
tools like this allow the neighborhood to do more with their very
limited resources.”

The data also serves as a graphic reminder of how much of New Orleans
remains devastated — such as a section of the Lower Ninth Ward
directly adjacent to where a barge broke through a flood wall. Only
one of 25 homes there at the time remains today.

“The rest of the block just looks like a prairie,” Ms. Ross said.

In another case, though, the Valassis data shows a block where there
were no households before Katrina but 80 today. That’s likely the
result of a Federal Emergency Management Administration trailer park
still operating three years later, Ms. Ross said.

Another block showing particularly high population density in the
Valassis data is revealed by Google Street View to be an apartment
complex that was fortuitously built atop a parking garage.

GNOCDC has linked the Valassis data with Google Maps and Street View
to provide visual evidence and get a better idea of what’s behind the
numbers. Google’s Street View images come from a series of August 2007
photographs, though, so the Valassis data is more current.

Information trove
The group had been working with current Valassis data since early last
year, but what it lacked was a comparison to pre-Katrina New Orleans.
Valassis executives were preparing to develop a model to come up with
pre-Katrina household numbers when they found the June 2005 data
sitting in the company archives. It was pure luck, as Valassis, which
generally only has an interest in current household data, generally
doesn’t keep historical data.

“Since the storm, nothing was easy, and we couldn’t believe they just
had a snapshot in time of June 2005,” Ms. Ross said. “It was really
such a gift to us, because it allows us to put the current numbers of
households receiving mail in context.”

While New Orleans did have access to 2000 census data, it was outdated
even before Katrina and didn’t provide a close comparison to the
currently available Valassis data. GNOCDC has been paying what
Valassis Director-Data Solutions Mark Gundersen terms a “nominal fee”
to cover part of the operational and processing costs for the current
data, essentially what the organization had budgeted for the work.
Valassis has provided the historical data and consultation on how to
use that data for free.

“Where Valassis really put themselves out there for the greater good
is that they let us publish the technical details of how their mailing
list works and doesn’t work for this application,” Ms. Ross said.
“It’s documented in enough detail that another city could follow
it … and ramp up rather quickly.”

Valassis gets its data through weekly updates from the U.S. Postal
Service via a non-exclusive relationship, Mr. Gundersen said. But
because it sends out RedPlum mailers nationally to all of its
addresses on at least a monthly basis, Valassis tends to have the most
complete and up-to-date address database in the U.S. The post office
has similar data, but is restricted by law in how it can share the
data, he said.

Hard data helps
While anecdotal information about how much or how little New Orleans
has come back is plentiful, Valassis is helping provide hard data to
back up the claims, Mr. Gundersen said.

“When they came to us, we felt that it was right for us to help them
out,” he said. “People think the rebuilding is done. The volunteers
have dried up. But the need there is still very real, and they need
data to fight for federal funding for rebuilding efforts.”

“Households actively receiving mail”

This data is important because:
1. There are no magic techniques for finding out exactly how many
people are in New Orleans. There’s no way to scan the planet for life
forms like on Star Trek. And, the U.S. Census Bureau’s methods for
estimating population can’t keep up with the extraordinary situation
we have here post-Katrina.
2. Direct surveying is resource-intensive, and methodologies across
neighborhoods are often not comparable.
3. Data on households actively receiving mail is frequently updated
by the USPS, and readily available through several channels. It is
already being used by government officials and others who are making
decisions about New Orleans. So we think you should know about it,

Data experts never expect any particular data set to be perfect.
Instead they try to identify the limitations and find a way to work
with them. The following information will help you to do just that.

What does “actively receiving mail” mean?
Every month, the USPS reports the number of residential addresses that
are actively receiving mail. Remember, their data is a count of
housing and other living quarters—not mail, and not people. Most of
the addresses are for houses and apartments; some are “group quarters”
such as dorm rooms. “Actively receiving mail” means that someone has
picked up the mail at that address within the last 90 days—that is,
the mail isn’t piling up. Typically, a residence identified as
“actively receiving mail” has someone actually living in it.
Sometimes, someone nearby, like a landlord, may be picking up the mail
even though no one is living there. There are also many houses in post-
Katrina New Orleans where people are living and mail is not being

Though the total counts of households receiving mail are available,
federal law prohibits the USPS from sharing their actual address list
with the public. In order for us to map “residences actively receiving
mail” block-by-block, we purchased a comprehensive mailing list
database from Valassis.

What is Valassis data?
Valassis’ mailing list is as close to the actual USPS address list as
anyone can get. They start with a complete list of mailing addresses
for the entire country. Valassis is qualified to receive weekly
address updates from the Postal Service, which allows them to double-
check and enhance their database, and work cooperatively with the USPS
to improve address quality.

How accurate are these counts for each block?
Because we are using the Valassis data for a different purpose than
mailing, we started by taking a close look at some of the counts
ourselves. We found that in some blocks, the number of addresses
actively receiving mail was higher than the actual number of occupied
housing units, and in some blocks it was lower. Still, we found that
it was a very helpful indicator of how many housing units might be
occupied in a particular block.

Some reasons why numbers in a block might be an OVERcount:
* Seasonal homes such as boathouses on the lake, or condos on St.
Charles might receive mail though nobody lives there full-time.
* A family may be on the verge of moving in, but not yet actually
living in the house.
* A house may not be occupied, but a neighbor, relative or owner
picks up the mail regularly.
* Addresses from a nearby block might have been assigned in error
to this block. (This type of geocoding error occurs in ALL maps.)

Some reasons why the numbers in a given block might be an UNDERcount:
* Residents may have moved back home, but have chosen to get their
mail at a PO Box only.
* Itinerant workers (including international immigrants) often do
not receive mail.
* Squatters living in vacant or damaged homes would not receive
mail at those addresses.
* Homeless living in cars or tents do not have a physical address
that qualifies for mail delivery.
* Addresses belonging in reality to one block, might be assigned
in error to a nearby block (Again, this type of geocoding error occurs
in ALL maps.)

TIP: All data has flaws, and the smaller the area you’re looking at,
the more visible those flaws will be. If you combine data from
multiple neighboring blocks, the counts for the larger area will be
more accurate, particularly because this will resolve many of the
geocoding inaccuracies.

Why can’t I get the address level data?
You can get the address level data by purchasing it directly from
Valassis. We cannot share the address level data according to our
purchase agreement with Valassis. You can contact them through their
web site at or e-mail at:
Neworleansdata [at] valassis [dot] com

Technical Documentation
In this rapidly changing post‐Katrina environment, standard estimates
of population are insufficient. Valassis data offers a new indicator
of population that is timely and available for small geographic areas.
But this data is quite experimental. Users should be well aware of the
available research about this data. This report provides a description
of the Valassis Lists data and the methodology we used to create our
counts. Over the next year, we will continue our analysis of the
Valassis Lists data and document our findings in updated or additional
versions of this technical document.

Related research…
Using U.S. Postal Service Delivery Statistics to Track Population
Shifts Following a Major U.S. Disaster. Plyer and Hodges. 2008.
This paper examines the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on U.S.
Postal Service monthly residential address counts for parishes in
Louisiana. Pre-hurricane comparisons between USPS counts and Census
estimates establish a baseline. Then, starting with August 2005, month
by month address counts are examined to assess their effectiveness in
reflecting population displacement and recovery at the parish level.

Using U.S. Postal Service Delivery Statistics To Track the
Repopulation of New Orleans & the Metropolitan Area. Plyer with
Bonaguro. 2007.
This Research Note explains why U.S. Postal Service Delivery
Statistics are needed and useful for tracking repopulation in a post-
disaster context, and documents some of the limitations of the data as
a measure of repopulation. It provides initial comparisons of
indicators based on this USPS data and census estimates for the New
Orleans metro area, along with sub-parish analyses for Orleans and St.
Tammany parishes.

UPCOMING! The accuracy of USPS data on residences actively receiving
mail as a measure of neighborhood repopulation following a
catastrophic U.S. disaster

Allison Plyer of the Data Center will be conducting research in the
summer of 2008. The objectives will be to:

* assess the correspondence between USPS counts of active
residences by carrier route and on-the-ground counts of occupied
housing units in post-disaster neighborhoods;
* explore the reason for any observed differences between these
two data sets, including differences in operational definitions;
* assess the extent to which group quarters are included in USPS
counts of active residences.


From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]


Knights Templar to Vatican: Give us back our assets
BY Joe Fay  /  4th August 2008

The Knights Templar are demanding that the Vatican give them back
their good name and, possibly, billions in assets into the bargain,
700 years after the order was brutally suppressed by a joint venture
between the Pope and the King of France. If the Holy See doesn’t
comply, the warrior knights, renowned for liberating the Holy Land,
will deploy that most fearsome of weapons: a laborious court case
through the creaking Spanish legal system.

The Daily Telegraph reports that The Association of the Sovereign
Order of the Temple of Christ has launched a court case in Spain,
demanding Pope Benedict “recognise” the seizure of assets worth
€100bn. The Spanish-based group of Templars apparently says in a
statement: “We are not trying to cause the economic collapse of the
Roman Catholic Church, but to illustrate to the court the magnitude of
the plot against our Order.” This might come as a surprise to those
who believe that the order of warrior monks – also credited with
possessing the Holy Grail and laying the foundation of the European
banking system – was smashed in 1307 by Pope Clement V and Philip IV
of France.

At the time, the order was accused of a multitude of crimes, including
two medieval biggies – sodomy and heresy. However, recently discovered
Vatican papers showed that the order had never been declared heretics,
burnings at the stake for the leadership not withstanding. Rather, it
appeared that the order’s suppression was more a piece of realpolitik
on the pope’s part to pacify Philip, who was somewhat irked by the
prospect of the powerful order increasing its continental activities
after Jerusalem fell to the Turks.

Despite the order’s brutal apparent suppression, its legacy has been
claimed by numerous successor organisations, and besmirched by popular
authors ad nauseum. One of the successors, Ordo Supremus Militaris
Templi Hierosolymitani, is apparently recognised by Unesco. We
contacted the UK branch, otherwise known as the The Grand Priory of
Knights Templar in England and Wales, to see if they could throw any
light on the matter but they have yet to get back to us.

The Grand Priory’s website says the modern organisation is about
humanitarian and charity work. There is no mention of the Holy Grail,
though it does support the maintenance of the Holy Places. And if
you’re looking for esoteric rites or secret higher knowledge, you’re
likely to be disappointed. The website says: “Please don’t expect to
be enlightened with some supposed ‘secret’ knowledge, because nothing
exists.” Of course, any conspiracy theorist will tell you that’s
exactly what you’d expect them to say.

Knights Templar heirs in legal battle with the Pope
BY Fiona Govan  /  04 Aug 2008

The Association of the Sovereign Order of the Temple of Christ, whose
members claim to be descended from the legendary crusaders, have filed
a lawsuit against Benedict XVI calling for him to recognise the
seizure of assets worth 100 billion euros (£79 billion).

They claim that when the order was dissolved by his predecessor Pope
Clement V in 1307, more than 9,000 properties as well as countless
pastures, mills and other commercial ventures belonging to the knights
were appropriated by the church.

But their motive is not to reclaim damages only to restore the “good
name” of the Knights Templar. “We are not trying to cause the economic
collapse of the Roman Catholic Church, but to illustrate to the court
the magnitude of the plot against our Order,” said a statement issued
by the self-proclaimed modern day knights.

The Templars was a powerful secretive group of warrior monks founded
by French knight Hugues de Payens after the First Crusade of 1099 to
protect pilgrims en route to Jerusalem. They amassed enormous wealth
and helped to finance wars waged by European monarchs, but
spectacularly fell from grace after the Muslims reconquered the Holy
Land in 1244 and rumours surfaced of their heretic practices.

The Knights were accused of denying Jesus, worshipping icons of the
devil in secret initiation ceremonies, and practising sodomy. Many
Templars confessed to their crimes under torture and some, including
the Grand Master Jacques de Molay, were burned at the stake. The legal
move by the Spanish group comes follows the unprecedented step by the
Vatican towards the rehabilitation of the group when last October it
released copies of parchments recording the trials of the Knights
between 1307 and 1312.

The papers lay hidden for more than three centuries having been
“misfiled” within papal archives until they were discovered by an
academic in 2001. The Chinon parchment revealed that, contrary to
historic belief, Clement V had declared the Templars were not heretics
but disbanded the order anyway to maintain peace with their accuser,
King Philip IV of France.



“Years of research and organization, conducted by the Vatican Secret
Archive on its source material, have made possible the publication of
Processus Contra Templarios, the exclusive and previously unavailable
hearing of the original acts of the ancient trial against the Templar

A unique project in the world, this work comes in a limited run of 799
copies, under the supervision of the Papal Archive officials, and
includes the faithful replicas of the original parchments kept at the
Secret Archive along with a new and exclusive critical edition on the
minutes of the inquiry.

A thorough analysis of the original parchments, performed through the
technique known as “Wood lamp”, which allows the recovery of parts of
text unattainable to previous publishers, has made possible for the
supervisors to amend older editions, so as to afford a more accurate
and genuine reading of the documents.

The filing of pre-existing sources has indeed allowed to recover
misinterpreted text sections as well as standardize  designations for
both people and locations. Therefore, the Vatican Secret Archive gives
academics and interested subjects access to a precious and
scientifically reliable tool of research into the historical facts
related to the Templar Order.”

By Richard Holt and Malcolm Moore  /  29 Oct 2007

The Vatican is selling a limited edition of life-sized replicas of a
giant forgotten parchment that absolves the mysterious knights of
their status as heretics. Only 799 copies of the document, which is
the size of a small dinner table, will be sold for €5,900 (£3,925)
each. An 800th copy will be presented to Pope Benedict XVI.

The 300-page Processus Contra Templarios (Trial against the Templars),
measuring more than two metres across, records the trial of the
knights when they were accused of heresy before Pope Clement V between
1307 and 1312. Also known as the Chinon parchment, the original
artefact was discovered in the Vatican’s secret archives in 2001 after
it had been wrongly catalogued for more than 300 years. The
reproductions are printed on synthetic parchment with a replica of the
original papal wax seal. Enfolded in a soft leather case, each copy
also comes with a scholarly commentary.

The Knights Templar were a powerful and secretive group of warrior
monks during the Middle Ages. Their secrecy has given birth to endless
legends, including one that they discovered the Holy Grail. The order
was founded by Hugues de Payns, a French knight, after the First
Crusade of 1099 to protect pilgrims on the road to Jerusalem. Its
headquarters was the captured Al-Aqsa mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple
Mount, which lent the order their name. But when Jerusalem fell to
Muslim rule in 1244, rumours surfaced that the knights were heretics
who worshipped idols in a secret initiation ceremony.

The Chinon parchment reveals that, contrary to historic belief, the
pope found that the Templars were not heretics – even though he still
disbanded the order to maintain peace with their accuser, King Philip
IV “the Fair” of France. Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the
Templars, was burned at the stake in 1314 along with his aides on
Philip’s orders.

Some surviving monks fled. Some were absorbed by other orders, and
over the centuries, various groups have claimed to be descended from
the Templars. Some of the knights who did not manage to escape were
brought before Pope Clement. Their accusers claimed that the Templars’
initiation ceremony, which involved “spitting on the cross”, “denying
Jesus” and kissing the lower back, navel and mouth of the man
proposing them, was blasphemous.

However, the knights explained that the initiation mimicked the
humiliation that knights could suffer if they fell into the hands of
the Saracens, while the kissing ceremony was a sign of their total
obedience. The pope ultimately cleared them of heresy, but found them
guilty of lesser infractions of church law.

Barbara Frale, the Vatican historian who discovered the Chinon
parchment in a box of other papers, said: “For 700 years we have
believed that the Templars died as cursed men, and this absolves
them.” She added: “There were a lot of faults in the order – abuses,
violence … a lot of sins – but not heresy.”

Vatican paper set to clear Knights Templar
BY Malcolm Moore  /  07 Oct 2007

The mysteries of the Order of the Knights Templar could soon be laid
bare after the Vatican announced the release of a crucial document
which has not been seen for almost 700 years. A new book, Processus
contra Templarios, will be published by the Vatican’s Secret Archive
on Oct 25, and promises to restore the reputation of the Templars,
whose leaders were burned as heretics when the order was dissolved in

The Knights Templar were a powerful and secretive group of warrior
monks during the Middle Ages. Their secrecy has given birth to endless
legends, including one that they guard the Holy Grail. The Order was
founded by Hugues de Payns, a French knight, after the First Crusade
of 1099 to protect pilgrims on the road to Jerusalem. Its headquarters
was the captured Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount, which lent the
Templars their name. But when Jerusalem fell to Muslim rule in 1244,
rumours surfaced that the knights were heretics who worshipped idols
in a secret initiation ceremony.

In 1307, King Philip IV “the Fair” of France, in desperate need of
funds, ordered the arrest and torture of all Templars. After
confessing various sins their leader, Jacques de Molay, was burnt at
the stake. Pope Clement V then dissolved the order and issued arrest
warrants for all remaining members. Ever since, the Templars have been
thought of as heretics. The new book is based on a scrap of parchment
discovered in the Vatican’s secret archives in 2001 by Professor
Barbara Frale. The long-lost document is a record of the trial of the
Templars before Pope Clement, and ends with a papal absolution from
all heresies. Prof Frale said: “I could not believe it when I found
it. The paper was put in the wrong archive in the 17th century.”

The document, known as the Chinon parchment, reveals that the Templars
had an initiation ceremony which involved “spitting on the cross”,
“denying Jesus” and kissing the lower back, navel and mouth of the man
proposing them. The Templars explained to Pope Clement that the
initiation mimicked the humiliation that knights could suffer if they
fell into the hands of the Saracens, while the kissing ceremony was a
sign of their total obedience.

The Pope concluded that the entrance ritual was not truly blasphemous,
as alleged by King Philip when he had the knights arrested. However,
he was forced to dissolve the Order to keep peace with France and
prevent a schism in the church. “This is proof that the Templars were
not heretics,” said Prof Frale. “The Pope was obliged to ask pardon
from the knights. “For 700 years we have believed that the Templars
died as cursed men, and this absolves them.”

History:The Medicine of the Templars  /  BY Prof. C. Di Cicco, M.D.
15th Congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology,

“At Paris, 18 March of 1314, on the island of the Seine in front of
the Garden real, Jacques de Molay, the last Great Master of the
Templars, and Geoffroy de Charny, preceptor of Normandy, were burned
like heretics. Therefore the history of the Knights of the Temple,
after two centuries, finishes. The Templars would have been in
possession of the most hidden secrets of alchemy.

They were first to use the IPERICO, in the burns and hurts from cut,
like antiseptic, astringent, healing, and in order to improve humor of
the soldiers that remained immobilizes to bed for months. Such
experiences landed then to the salernitana medical school, that is
remained the crib of the phytotherapy until the six hundred.

The Templars created a mixture with pulp of Aloe, pulp of Hemp and
wine of Palm,called “ELISIR of GERUSALEM”, with therapeutic and
nourishing property, they used the Arborescens ALOE for its
antiseptic, bactericidal and fungicide action and for its capacity to
penetration in the deeper layers of the skin. Robert Anton Wilson, in
his book on the Templars, asserts that they used the hashish and
practiced a shape of Arabic Tantrism, doctrine of enlightenment as the
realization of oneness of one’s self and the visible world, combining
elements of hinduism and paganism, including magical and mystical

The authors of Holy Blood and Holy Grail Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln
comment that the Templars need to treat wounds and illness, made them
experts in the use of drugs and the Order in advance of their time
regarded epilepsy not as demonic possession but as to controllable
disease. Interestingly cannabis is the safest natural or synthetic
medication proven successful in the treatment of loads forms of
epilepsy. The esoteric inheritance and the alchemical-spagyrics
acquaintances were handed from the Templars to the Crocifers.

From these Orders, that one of Saint Giacomo or Jacobite managed many
Hospitals during the XV century. To the Jacobite monks , in quality of
experts in the cure of the diseases of the skin, the task was
entrusted to cure the wounded soldiers during the Crusades, in the
Hospitals of Malta and Cyprus. To they, in fact, was attributed the
capability to create miraculous ointments.

In such historical context it must estimate the work of the Templars
concluding with recognizing that they, anticipating the times, had a
modern vision of the Medicine and, although were considered heretics
and consigned to the fire, recently a document has been recovered in
Archives Vaticans from the studious Barbara Frale that demonstrates as
Pope Clemente V secretly pardoned Templars in 1314, acquitting their
Great Master from the heresy accusation.”

The Templars: unravelling the myths
BY Christopher Howse  /  26/07/2008

The importance of the Chinon parchment is that it proves that Pope
Clement V had absolved these Templars from their crimes and cleared
them of any taint of heresy. The subsequent dissolution of the order
was the work of the French king’s persevering campaign.

It was a long way from the idealism with which, on Christmas Day 1119,
a handful of knights took their vows as “Poor Fellow-Soldiers of
Christ” devoted to guarding pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, at
that period in Christian hands. The new foundation was granted as its
headquarters the al-Aqsa former mosque. This domed building on the
Temple Mount was thought at the time to be Solomon’s Temple, hence

Michael Haag, in his well-knit narrative, gets through an enormous
spread of history, helpfully telling readers what the Bible has to say
about the Jewish Temple before running through the Roman, Muslim and
Crusader centuries. The after-history of the Templars is dominated by
the imaginings of Freemasons and the conspiracy fancies of scarcely
distinct alternative historians and novelists. If anything, the author
is too tolerant of this froth. Historical truth does matter.

Perhaps the Templars themselves were off-beam from their first dawn,
since it seems to have escaped the notice of these poor, chaste and
obedient monk-knights that Christ was not a soldier. They joined St
Bernard in promoting the rather disastrous Second Crusade, but found
little success in freeing Christian territories in the Holy Land from
surrounding warring Islamic factions. They had better luck in Spain,
where the frontier of reconquered territory pushed steadily

The Templars acquired rich grants of land from kings such as Henry I
of England, who gave them a plot at the end of Chancery Lane, where
the Temple church now stands. Its model is not Solomon’s Temple, but
the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, built over the site of
the tomb of Christ.

An idea in medieval Europe, more widespread than the Templars, was
that every church in which the body and blood of Christ were
sacrificed again daily was another Holy Sepulchre. In 1009, long
before the Templars’ foundation, Christ’s rock-hewn grave in Jerusalem
was attacked with pickaxes after the church around it had been
demolished, on the orders of the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim, who made
Jews and Christians wear distinctive clothes and generally behaved in
a fierce manner.

There was never an unmoving monolithic Muslim force opposing a
monolithic Christian Crusader polity. Shia, Egyptian-based Fatimids
were displaced by Sunni, Persianised-Turkic Seljuks. Saladin, the man
who in 1187 recaptured Jerusalem from the Christians, was by origin a
Kurd, an Indo-European people like their Frankish enemies. Saladin
purified the Templar headquarters, restoring it as a mosque, but
decided not to demolish the rebuilt Holy Sepulchre.

When in 1229 Frederick II crowned himself King of Jerusalem there (no
bishop caring to crown this excommunicate troublemaker), he ensured by
treaty that the Templars were forbidden to return. It was a straw in
the wind. The Templars were to be destroyed by the jealousy of kings.

Long-lost text lifts cloud from Knights Templar
700-year-old document shows pope absolved order of heresy charges
Associated Press  /  Oct. 12, 2007

ROME – The Vatican has published secret documents about the trial of
the Knights Templar, including a parchment — long ignored because of a
vague catalog entry in 1628 — showing that Pope Clement V initially
absolved the medieval order of heresy.

The 300-page volume recently came out in a limited edition — 799
copies — each priced at $8,377, said Scrinium publishing house, which
prints documents from the Vatican’s secret archives. The Vatican work
reproduces the entire documentation of the papal hearings convened
after King Philip IV of France arrested and tortured Templar leaders
in 1307 on charges of heresy and immorality.

As their military might increased, the Templars also had grown in
wealth, acquiring property throughout Europe and running a primitive
banking system. After they left the Middle East with the collapse of
the Crusader kingdoms, their power and secretive ways aroused the fear
of European rulers and sparked accusations of corruption and

Accused by an indebted king
Historians believe Philip owed debts to the Templars and used the
accusations to arrest their leaders and extract, under torture,
confessions of heresy as a way to seize the order’s riches.

The publishing house said the new book includes the “Parchment of
Chinon,” a 1308 decision by Clement to save the Templars and their
order. The Vatican archives researcher who found the parchment said
Friday that it probably had been ignored because the 1628 catalog
entry on the 40-inch-wide parchment was “too Spartan, too vague.”

“Unfortunately, there was an archiving error, an error in how the
document was described,” the researcher, Barbara Frale, said in a
telephone interview from her home in Viterbo, north of Italy.

“More than an error, it was a little sketchy,” she said.

The parchment, in remarkably good condition considering its 700 years,
apparently had last been consulted at the start of the 20th century,
Frale said, surmising that its significance must have not have been
realized then.

Burned at the stake
Frale said she was intrigued by the 1628 entry because, while it
apparently referred to some minor matter, it noted that three top
cardinals, including the right-hand man of Clement, Berenger Fredol,
had made a long journey to interrogate someone.

“Going on with my research, it turned out that in reality it was an
inquest of very great importance” on behalf of the pope, Frale said.
Fredol “had gone to question the Great Master and other heads of the
Templars who had been segregated, practically kidnapped, by the king
of France and shut up in secret in his castle in Chinon on the Loire.”

According to the Vatican archives Web site, the parchment shows that
Clement initially absolved the Templar leaders of heresy, though he
did find them guilty of immorality, and that he planned to reform the

However, pressured by Philip, Clement later reversed his decision and
suppressed the order in 1312. Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the
Templars, was burned at the stake in 1314 along with his aides.
Surviving monks fled. Some were absorbed by other orders; over the
centuries, various groups have claimed to have descended from the

“The Templars had learned much about Arab/Eastern philosophy and
beliefs while in Jerusalem. They also absorbed the many building
techniques derived from the East and Classical Greece. Many of them
were stonemasons and they used biblical descriptions of the Temple of
Solomon and building tools in the symbolism of their designs and their

The Skull and Crossbones is also a good example of how our perception
of symbols can change over time. Esoteric and hermetic groups had for
centuries used the Skull and Crossbones as a symbol to represent birth
and rebirth (the evolving soul) and it was adopted for this reason by
the Knights Templar.

They used it as a symbol on the flags of their ships as well as that
of the Cross. After being driven out of the Holy Land, the Knights
Templars used their powerful fleet of ships to harass their Moslem
adversaries in the Mediterranean area. At the fall of the Templars in
1307, the entire Templar fleet disappeared from the port of La
Rochelle. The Skull and Crossbones flags of the Templar ships became a
symbol with a powerful reputation and identified with pirates.

By the 17th and 18th centuries the Templars had long since gone
underground and evolved into other organisations. The symbol of the
Skull and Crossbones came to be associated mainly with pirates and
also devil worship. It had become something to be feared. It was known
as the ‘Jolly Roger’ in the context of the pirates. (This may be a
corruption of the French name for the red flag, the ‘Jolie Rouge’.)”

The Jolly Roger and the Knight Templars

“Legend has it that the Jolly Roger obtained its appellation from the
French name for the red flag, the “Jolie Rouge.” And so it may be, for
the flag was first used by a French order of militant monks known as
the “Poor Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon” – commonly
known as the Knights Templar.

The Templars, were pious men. They gave up all their worldly
possessions when they entered the Order, only carrying money on
special occasions when they traveled alone, turning over whatever
money that remained upon reaching their destination. They were
ferocious warriors; pitching themselves into the midst of their
enemies, astride charging warhorses, against incredible odds.  Being
men of principle; their rules of conduct were strict. They were
willing to die for their beliefs, and so were feared on the
battlefield and respected in life. Such was their reputation, that in
battle, there were instances where the enemy would turn and run at the
very sight of Templars entering the field. Their Rule of Order stated
that breaking rank was worthy of losing ones habit. They neither asked
nor gave quarter; the were expected to fight until death stayed their
sword arm. Retreat from an enemy would not be countenanced unless the
odds were greater than three to one against them and they were
forbidden to ransom themselves if captured. They fought like men
possessed, either prevailing in their cause, or suffering death under
the banner of Gol’gotha – the place of the skull – where their Christ

Templars were not to succumb to the temptation of thinking that they
killed in a spirit of hate and fury, nor that they seized booty in a
spirit of greed. For the Templars did not hate men, but men’s

They were dedicated to the protection of travelers and pilgrims of all
religions, though they themselves were Christians, in fact many
Templars were of Palestinian birth, spoke perfect Arabic, and were
familiar with every religious sect, cult, and magical doctrine,
including that of the Islamic Assassins. The Grand Master Philip of
Nablus (1167 A.D.) was a Syrian. They were great statesmen,
politically adept economic traders, and they were allied with the
great sailor-fraternity that had created a worldwide trading empire in
Phoenician times. They became immensely powerful – had the largest
fleet and the most successful banking system in Europe. But they could
not sustain their grip on the Holy Land. Their losses were too great,
and they were eventually driven off the Levant by Saladin, their
Moslem adversary, in 1291. They continued to fight for their cause in
the only manner they could – on the high seas.

The best known Templar pirate ship was the Falcon, “the greatest that
had been built at that time. She was in the harbor when the fortress
of Acre fell “and rescued many ‘ladies and damsels and great treasure
and many important people by evacuating them to Atlit.

After the orderly navel evacuation of Atlit, the Templars retreated to
their Mediterranean island bases on Cyprus, Rhodes and Sicily. Until
their dissolution, they, together with the Order of St. John,
continued as the foremost maritime powers in the Mediterranean,
continuing to effectively wage war on Moslem shipping.

The Templars were still very powerful but in the eyes of European
monarchs and the Church, the Templars raison d’tre had ceased with the
loss of the Holy Lands. Jealousy and covetousness reigned. Phillip IV,
who was deeply in dept to the Order, had seen their treasures stored
in Paris, and designed to make it his own.

On Friday morning October 13th 1307 – and the reason for which Friday
the 13th has become known as an unlucky day – King Phillip IV together
with Avignonese Pope Clement V, ruthlessly suppressed the Order
throughout Europe, with false accusations, arrests, torture and
executions. Though they were offered commuted sentences and
comfortable lives if they would renounce their Order and plead guilty
to the charges, for some mysterious reason, they preferred to remain
true to their principles and received their punishment.

A large number of Templars escaped that day to an uncertain future,
and found refuge abroad. On the eve of the arrests, the entire Templar
fleet mysteriously vanished from the port of La Rochelle carrying with
it a vast fortune, the fate of which remains a mystery down to this

Just as a terrorist to one is a freedom fighter to another, so it was
with the Templars and their fleet. Wanted by the Pope and all the
crowns of Europe, they came to be viewed, by the “comfortable folks”
on the mainland, as pirates.”

The Secret Naval War Between the Knights Templar & the Vatican
BY David Hatcher Childress

“The fascinating world of maverick sea captains who were knights
Templars. This fleet flew the Skull and Cross-Bones, the symbol of the
Knights Templar, and preyed on Vatican ships coming from the rich
ports of the Americas: they were the original Pirates of the
Caribbean. Later, known as Scottish Rite Free Masons, they battled the
Spanish and Italian ships that sailed for the Pope. This lost Templar
Fleet was originally based at La Rochelle near Marseille, then hidden
away in the fiords of Scotland. This Templar fleet made a voyage to
Canada in the year 1298 AD, nearly 100 years before Columbus.”

The Secret Alliance to Build the New Jerusalem
BY Ernesto Frers

“When the Vatican condemned the Order of the Temple in 1312, many of
those who escaped took to the sea. Their immediate objective was to
take revenge on the Church. Recent discoveries confirm that ships of
the Templar fleet that went missing at La Rochelle later reappeared –
first in the Mediterranean and later in the Atlantic and the Caribbean
– to menace the Church’s maritime commerce. These Templar vessels
often flew the famed Jolly Roger, which took its name from King Roger
II of Sicily, a famed Templar who, during a public spat with the Pope
in 1127, was the first to fly this flag.

Opportunistic buccaneers were quick to see that vast wealth could be
gained in pursuing the Templars’ harassment of the Pope’s interests on
the high seas, and they spread a reign of terror across the shipping
lanes of the New World. Some unaffiliated pirates, in admiration of
the Templar egalitarian ideals, even formed their own secret
societies, and together with the Templars were part of the ferment
that gave rise to independence movements in France and the New World
and contributed to the growth of Freemasonry.

The Templar Pirates is the story of the birth and actual conduct of
piracy on the seas of the New World and of the vast influence the
Templars had on their constituents, and, by their wealth, on the
governments of nations old and new.

– Shows that the pirates of legend originated with the Knights
Templar’s secret navy.
– Reveals the Templars’ secret objective to establish a new universal
order based on spirituality, wisdom, and individualism – the New
– Examines the secret history of the Templars’ influence in
international politics.”

By Peter Lamborn Wilson

“From the 16th to the 19th centuries, Moslem corsairs from the Barbary
Coast ravaged European shipping and enslaved thousands of unlucky
captives. During this same period, thousands more Europeans converted
to Islam and joined the pirate holy war. Were these men (and women)
the scum of the seas, apostates, traitors, renegadoes? Or did they
abandon and betray Christendom as a praxis of social resistance?
Second edition, with new material documenting piracy in the very early
days of New York City.”



From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

NANO 101



For Rent: One Nano Research Lab…
BY Earl Boysen  /  March 24th, 2008

Say you’re an aspiring young nanotechnologist with an idea for a new
product. What are the barriers to moving your project forward? One big
barrier is the cost of the equipment to build and test your nano-based
prototype. For example an ebeam lithography system has a price tag of
a million dollars, not counting the cost of installation, a facility
to put it in, and maintance. The reality is that not just every Tom,
Dick, or Mary can set up a nano lab. What’s a researcher to do? Rent a

Several labs and facilities are making their equipment available for
nano related projects. Some simply charge a rental fee, others may
waive some or all fees if your research is non-proprietary. Still
others will test your materials for you if your research is allied
with their mission. Here’s a rundown of some of the facilities
offering this nifty service.

NNIN Lucky 13

If your in need of a lab your first step might be to see if one of the
thirteen facilities of The National Nanotechnology Infrastructure
Network (NNIN) located close to you has the equipment you need. These
facilities, supported by the National Science Foundation, are focused
on nanoscale fabrication and characterization (for example measuring
particle size distribution or material strength).

These centers are all located at universities such as Cornell,
Stanford, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Texas at
Austin, University of Minnesota, and Harvard. Each was funded by the
NSF to provide facilities for researchers from industry and other
universities. After completing a training program to qualify on a
particular tool you can rent equipment to use in building or
characterizing your little bit of nano material.

The DOE Office of Science Supports Nano Materials Research

If you are developing new nanomaterials you’ll be happy to hear that
the DOE has created five facilities called Nanoscale Science Research
Centers. These Research Centers are located in National Labs scattered
around the country: Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois;
Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York State; Lawrence Berekely
National Laboratory in California; Oak Ridge National Laboratory in
Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

The goal of these facilities is to encourage the development and
characterization of new nanomaterials. Each research center has a
number of focus areas that draws upon the expertise and equipment of
the National Lab where they are located.

For example, one focus at the Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory is on biological nanostructures; one focus at The
Center for Nanophase Material Science at Oak Ridge National Lab is on
nano enhanced catalysts, while down in New Mexico the Center for
Integrated Nanotechnologies at Sandia National Lab includes among its
focusses nanophotonics and nanoelectronics.

Measuring Health

Making progress in the fight against cancer often requires synergistic
efforts that involve sharing ideas and tools. The National Cancer
Institute, in association with the National Institute of Standards and
Technology and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has established a
Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory in Maryland. The mission of
this facility is to perform preclinical efficacy and toxicity testing
of nanoparticles in order to accelerate the transition of
nanoparticles into clinical applications.

If you’ve developed a nanoparticle for the treatment of cancer but
can’t afford to do the testing required to demonstrate that your
material is effective and safe, you can submit it to this facility,
but be sure to take a number: The testing program to characterize
physical attributes, biological properties, and compatibility of
nanoparticles takes about a year.

Nanofabrication and Measurement

The Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST) Nanofab in
Maryland is part of the National Institute of Standards and
Technology. The mission of the CNST is to solve nanoscale measurement
problems that hamper the progress of nanotechnology research.

These folks charge an hourly fee. If your research is non-proprietary
and could help to solve a nano measurement problem that supports the
production of nanobased applications you may be in luck. They may
offer discounted fees or waive fees entirely.

For more information on nanotechnology research labs and links to the
labs mentioned here:

National Institute of Standards Technology’s Nanofab
Nanoscale Science Research Centers Founded by US Department of Energy
The Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne National Lab.
The Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Lab.
The Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
The Center for Nanophase Material Sciences at Oak Ridge National Lab.
The Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies at Sandia and Los Alamos
National Labs.


A Green Energy Industry Takes Root in California
BY Matt Richtel and John Markoff  /  February 1, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO — The sun is starting to grow jobs. While interest in
alternative energy is climbing across the United States, solar power
especially is rising in California, the product of billions of dollars
in investment and mountains of enthusiasm. In recent months, the
industry has added several thousand jobs in the production of solar
energy cells and installation of solar panels on roofs. A spate of
investment has also aimed at making solar power more efficient and
less costly than natural gas and coal.

Entrepreneurs, academics and policy makers say this era’s solar
industry is different from what was tried in the 1970s, when Jerry
Brown, then the governor of California, invited derision for
envisioning a future fueled by alternative energy. They point to
companies like SolarCity, an installer of rooftop solar cells based in
Foster City. Since its founding in 2006, it has grown to 215 workers
and $29 million in annual sales. “It is hard to find installers,” said
Lyndon Rive, the chief executive. “We’re at the stage where if we
continue to grow at this pace, we won’t be able to sustain the
growth.” SunPower, which makes the silicon-based cells that turn
sunlight into electricity, reported 2007 revenue of more than $775
million, more than triple its 2006 revenue. The company expects sales
to top $1 billion this year. SunPower, based in San Jose, said its
stock price grew 251 percent in 2007, faster than any other Silicon
Valley company, including Apple and Google.

Not coincidentally, three-quarters of the nation’s demand for solar
comes from residents and companies in California. “There is a real
economy — multiple companies, all of which have the chance to be
billion-dollar operators,” said Daniel M. Kammen, a professor in the
energy and resources group at the University of California, Berkeley.
California, he says, is poised to be both the world’s next big solar
market and its entrepreneurial center. The question, Professor Kammen
says, is: “How can we make sure it’s not just green elite or green
chic, and make it the basis for the economy?” There also are huge
challenges ahead, not the least of which is the continued dominance of
fossil fuels. Solar represents less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the
$3 trillion global energy market, leading some critics to suggest that
the state is getting ahead of itself, as it did during the 1970s. The
optimists say a crucial difference this time is the participation of
private-sector investors and innovators and emerging technologies.
Eight of more than a dozen of the nation’s companies developing
photovoltaic cells are based in California, and seven of those are in
Silicon Valley. Among the companies that academics and entrepreneurs
believe could take the industry to a new level is Nanosolar, which
recently started making photovoltaic cells in a 200,000-square-foot
factory in San Jose. The company said the first 18 months of its
capacity has already been booked for sales in Germany. “They could
absolutely transform the market if they make good on even a fraction
of their goal for next year,” Professor Kammen said. “They’re not just
a new entrant, but one of the biggest producers in the world.”

Many of the California companies are start-ups exploring exotic
materials like copper indium gallium selenide, or CIGS, an alternative
to the conventional crystalline silicon that is now the dominant
technology. The newcomers hope that CIGS, while less efficient than
silicon, can be made far more cheaply than silicon-based cells.
Indeed, the Nanosolar factory looks more like a newspaper plant than a
chip-making factory. The CIGS material is sprayed onto giant rolls of
aluminum foil and then cut into pieces the size of solar panels.
Another example is Integrated Solar, based in Los Angeles, which has
developed a low-cost approach to integrating photovoltaic panels
directly into the roofs of commercial buildings. In 2007, 100
megawatts of solar generating capacity was installed in California,
about a 50 percent increase over 2006, according to the Solar Energy
Industries Association, a trade group.

That growth rate is likely to increase, in part because of ambitious
new projects like the 177-megawatt solar thermal plant that Pacific
Gas and Electric said last November it would build in San Luis Obispo.
The plant, which will generate power for more than 120,000 homes
beginning in 2010, will be built by Ausra, a Palo Alto start-up backed
by the investor Vinod Khosla and his former venture capital firm,
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The industry in California is also
helped by state and local governments’ substantial subsidies to
stimulate demand. The state has earmarked $3.2 billion to subsidize
solar installation, with the goal of putting solar cells on one
million rooftops. The state Assembly passed a law to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020, which could spur alternatives
like solar. Additional incentives have come from a small but growing
number of municipalities. The city of Berkeley will pay the upfront
costs for a resident’s solar installation and recoup the money over 20
years through additional property taxes on a resident’s home. San
Francisco is preparing to adopt its own subsidy that would range from
$3,000 for a home installation to as much as $10,000 for a business.

The subsidies have prompted a surge in private investment, led by
venture capitalists. In 2007, these seed investors put $654 million in
33 solar-related deals in California, up from $253 million in 16 deals
in 2006, according to the Cleantech Group, which tracks investments in
alternative energy. California received roughly half of all solar
power venture investments made in 2007 in the United States. “We’re
just starting to see successful companies come out through the other
end of that process,” said Nancy C. Floyd, managing director at Nth
Power, a venture capital firm that focuses on alternative energy. “And
through innovation and volume, prices are coming down.” Whether any of
this investment pays off depends, as it did in previous eras, on
reaching the point at which solar cells produce electricity as
inexpensively as fossil fuels. The cost of solar energy is projected
to fall steeply as cheaper new technology reaches economies of scale.
Optimists believe that some regions in California could reach that
point in half a decade.

At present, solar power is three to five times as expensive as coal,
depending on the technology used, said Dan Reicher, director for
climate change and energy initiatives at, the philanthropic
division of the Internet company. Among its investments, Google says,
is $10 million in financing for eSolar, a company in Pasadena that
builds systems that concentrate sunlight from reflecting mirrors.
“We’re at the dawn of a revolution that could be as powerful as the
Internet revolution,” Mr. Reicher said. The problem is, he said,
“renewable energy simply costs too much.” At a conference of
alternative energy companies in San Francisco last month, to discuss
how to encourage the industry’s growth, Mr. Brown, the former
governor, joked that if the participants wanted to make real headway
selling alternative energy, they should try not to come off as flaky.
“Don’t get too far ahead of yourselves,” said Mr. Brown, now the
state’s attorney general. “You will be stigmatized. Don’t use too many
big words and make it all sound like yesterday.”


Nanarchist: Someone who circumvents government control to use
nanotechnology, or someone who advocates this. [Eli Brandt, October

Nanarchy: The use of automatic law-enforcement by nanomachines or
robots, without any human control – see blue goo [Mark S. Miller].

Nanochondria: Nanomachines existing inside living cells, participating
in their biochemistry (like mitochondria) and/or assembling various
structures. See also nanosome. [Ken Clements 1996]

Nanodefenses: any of the “good” goo’s, such a Blue Goo. Protectors
against Grey Goo, destructive nanoswarms, and the like.

Nanodisaster: See the various ‘goo’ scenerios that have potentially
negative outcomes.

Nanogypsy: someone who travels form place to place, spreading the
“nano” word. Usually a person who takes the most optimistic viewpoint,
and is enthusitic. [uhf]

Nanohacking: describes what MNT is all about — “hacking” at the
molecular level.

Nanosome: Nanodevices existing symbiotically inside biological cells,
doing mechanosynthesis and disassembly for it and replicating with the
cell. Similar to nanochondria. [AS January 1998]

Nanotechism: the religion of nanotech, as opposed to the science of

Nanoterrorism: using MNT derived nanites to do damage to people or

Nano-test-tubes: CNT’s opened and filled with materials, and used to
carry out chemical reactions. See The Opening and Filling of Multi-
Walled Carbon Nanotubes (MWTs) and The Opening and Filling of Single-
Walled Carbon Nanotubes (SWTs).

Nanny: A cell-repair nanite

NE3LS: Nanotechnology’s Ethical, Environmental, Economic, Legal, and
Social Implications. From ‘Mind the gap’: science and ethics in
nanotechnology. click here (requires free registration) [Anisa
Mnyusiwalla, Abdallah S. Daar and Peter A. Singer 2003 Nanotechnology
14 R9-R13. 13 Feb 2003]

Shape-shifting robot forms from magnetic swarm
BY Tom Simonite  /  29 January 2008

Swarms of robots that use electromagnetic forces to cling together and
assume different shapes are being developed by US researchers. The
grand goal is to create swarms of microscopic robots capable of
morphing into virtually any form by clinging together. Seth Goldstein,
who leads the research project at Carnegie Mellon University,
Pittsburgh, in the US, admits this is still a distant prospect.
However, his team is using simulations to develop control strategies
for futuristic shape-shifting, or “claytronic”, robots, which they are
testing on small groups of more primitive, pocket-sized machines.
These prototype robots use electromagnetic forces to manoeuvre
themselves, communicate, and even share power.

No moving parts

One set of claytronic prototypes were cylindrical, wheeled robots with
a ring of electromagnets around their edge, which they used to grab
hold of one another. By switching these electromagnets on and off, the
so-called “claytronic atoms” or “catoms” could securely attach and
roll around each other (see video, top right). The robot’s wheels were
not powered, so they had to rely entirely on their magnets to
manoeuvre themselves around. “These were the first mobile robots
without any moving parts,” says Goldstein. They also used their
electromagnets to share power, to communicate, and for simple sensing.

Since using magnetic forces are less efficient at smaller scales, the
team has now begun experimenting with electric forces instead. The
latest prototypes are box-shaped robots dubbed “cubes” that have six
plastic arms with star-shaped appendages at the end of each. These
stars have several flat aluminium electrodes and dock together, face
on, using static electricity. Electrodes on different stars are given
opposing charges, which causes the stars to attract each other. Once
connected, no power is needed to hold the stars together.
Micro-scale robots Tests have shown that it is possible to send
messages and power to other cubes over the same links. “Our hope is to
assemble around 100 cubes to experiment with ideas,” Goldstein says.

Rob Reid at the US Air Force Research Lab is collaborating with the
Carnegie Mellon team to develop even smaller prototype robots. Reid
and colleagues can fold flat silicon shapes into 3D forms as little as
a few hundred microns diameter. “We will drive those using electric
forces too, by patterning circuits and devices into the silicon
design,” Goldstein says. He predicts that by the summer of 2008 they
will have prototypes capable of rolling themselves around this way.
Modularity is a popular theme with robotics researchers around the
world. Other designs include Swarm-bots, Superbot, and M-TRAN.

Complex connections

“The physical mechanism for docking different pieces is really tough
to do,” says Alan Winfield, who works on artificially intelligent
swarms at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK. “Most use
mechanical latches with hooks.” Although these physical connections
are complex, they do not need power, Winfield points out, unlike
magnetic connections. Using electromagnetic forces may make more sense
at smaller sizes, he adds. “My guess is that electrostatic connectors
will come into their own on the micro scale where less power is needed
to have a large effect,” he says. But software, not hardware, may be
the biggest challenge facing researchers working on swarms of robots,
he says: “Right now we just don’t know how to design a system that
produces complex overall behaviours from a group of simple agents.”
Ultimately, Goldstein believes his claytronic robots may one day
achieve this, and much more: “I’ll be done when we produce something
that can pass a Turing test for appearance,” he says. “You won’t know
if you’re shaking hands with me or a claytronics copy of me.”

Alan FT Winfield
email : Alan [dot] Winfield [at] uwe [dot] ac [dot] uk

Seth Goldstein
email : seth [at] cs [dot] cmu [dot] edu


Marco Dorigo
email : mdorigo [at] ulb [dot] ac [dot] be

Francesco Mondada
email : francesco [dot] mondada [at] epfl [dot] ch

Robot swarm works together to shift heavy objects
BY Tom Simonite  /  17 October 2006

A “swarm” of simple-minded robots that teams up to move an object too
heavy for them to manage individually has been demonstrated by
robotics researchers. The robots cannot communicate and must act only
on what they can see around them. They follow simple rules to fulfil
their task – mimicking the way insects work together in a swarm.

The robots were developed by Marco Dorigo at the Free University of
Brussels, Belgium, along with colleagues at the Institute of Cognitive
Science and Technology in Italy and the Autonomous Systems Laboratory
and Dalle Molle Institute for the Study of Artificial Intelligence,
both in Switzerland. “In the future we might have robots that actively
seek help from others when they come up a problem they can’t solve
alone,” says Dorigo, “For example if a robot can’t climb an obstacle
without tipping over it might go back and get others to climb over as
a group.” In experiments, six of the cylindrical robots were able to
drag an object across the floor of a room. Working autonomously, they
locate and assemble around the object and either grab hold of it
directly or of another robot nearby, before slowly dragging it towards
a target.

Mapping out
A video shows the six Swarm-bot robots gradually transporting a object
lit with red LEDs over to a large white target. Another video clip,
shown at 10 times normal speed, shows a larger team of robots working
together to map out a path from a red object and a blue target. This
strategy is necessary because none of the bots can see far enough to
work out the route between the object and its target for themselves.

Each Swarm-bot is 19 centimetres high, has a rotating turret, a claw-
like gripper and moves using a combination of caterpillar tracks and
wheels. Each also has a basic computer and is loaded with the same
software. The simple rules laid out in this software allow the robots
to perform complex actions as a group. A swarm of ants uses a similar
strategy to tackle difficult jobs like carrying a large object.

Evolving rules

The rules preloaded onto the Swarm-bots were “evolved” to suit the
particular task and incorporated genetics-based algorithms and a
detailed 3D simulation (see Nuclear reactors ‘evolve’ inside
supercomputers). “In the object transport scenario they search for a
red object and grasp onto it,” explains Dorigo. “When they do that
they also change colour from blue to red.” This means a cluster of
bots is “connected” to the object. When the bots cannot see any more
blue – meaning they are all linked together – they start dragging the
object towards its target.

The robots can adjust their caterpillar tracks, to ensure they are all
pulling in the right direction. “Each robot has a traction sensor
inside that detects all the external forces on it,” explains Dorigo. A
robot uses its sensor to identify any conflicting forces, and then
changes direction accordingly. Dorigo is now working on a swarm of
robots that could operate in a human environment. “It is called
Swarmanoid and will have three different kinds of robots,” he
explains. Some robots will be able to crawl along like Swarm-bots,
others will be able to climb walls, and others still will be able to
fly, he says.


NY City Subpoenas Creator of Text Messaging Code
BY Colin Moynihan  /  March 30, 2008

When delegates to the Republican National Convention assembled in New
York in August 2004, the streets and sidewalks near Union Square and
Madison Square Garden filled with demonstrators. Police officers in
helmets formed barriers by stretching orange netting across
intersections. Hordes of bicyclists participated in rolling protests
through nighttime streets, and helicopters hovered overhead.

These tableaus and others were described as they happened in text
messages that spread from mobile phone to mobile phone in New York
City and beyond. The people sending and receiving the messages were
using technology, developed by an anonymous group of artists and
activists called the Institute for Applied Autonomy, that allowed
users to form networks and transmit messages to hundreds or thousands
of telephones.

Although the service, called TXTmob, was widely used by demonstrators,
reporters and possibly even police officers, little was known about
its inventors. Last month, however, the New York City Law Department
issued a subpoena to Tad Hirsch, a doctoral candidate at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology who wrote the code that created

Lawyers representing the city in lawsuits filed by hundreds of people
arrested during the convention asked Mr. Hirsch to hand over
voluminous records revealing the content of messages exchanged on his
service and identifying people who sent and received messages. Mr.
Hirsch says that some of the subpoenaed material no longer exists and
that he believes he has the right to keep other information secret.
“There’s a principle at stake here,” he said recently by telephone. “I
think I have a moral responsibility to the people who use my service
to protect their privacy.”

The subpoena, which was issued Feb. 4, instructed Mr. Hirsch, who is
completing his dissertation at M.I.T., to produce a wide range of
material, including all text messages sent via TXTmob during the
convention, the date and time of the messages, information about
people who sent and received messages, and lists of people who used
the service.

In a letter to the Law Department, David B. Rankin, a lawyer for Mr.
Hirsch, called the subpoena “vague” and “overbroad,” and wrote that
seeking information about TXTmob users who have nothing to do with
lawsuits against the city would violate their First Amendment and
privacy rights.

Lawyers for the city declined to comment. The subpoena is connected to
a group of 62 lawsuits against the city that stem from arrests during
the convention and have been consolidated in Federal District Court in
Manhattan. About 1,800 people were arrested and charged, but 90
percent of them ultimately walked away from court without pleading
guilty or being convicted. Many people complained that they were
arrested unjustly, and a State Supreme Court justice chastised the
city after hundreds of people were held by the police for more than 24
hours without a hearing.

The police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, has called the convention a
success for his department, which he credited with preventing major
disruptions during a turbulent week. He has countered complaints about
police tactics by saying that nearly a million people peacefully
expressed their political opinions, while the convention and the city
functioned smoothly. Mr. Hirsch said that the idea for TXTmob evolved
from conversations about how police departments were adopting
strategies to counter large-scale marches that converged at a single

While preparing for the 2004 political conventions in New York and
Boston, some demonstrators decided to plan decentralized protests in
which small, mobile groups held rallies and roamed the streets. “The
idea was to create a very dynamic, fluid environment,” Mr. Hirsch
said. “We wanted to transform areas around the entire city into
theaters of dissent.”

Organizers wanted to enable people in different areas to spread word
of what they were seeing in each spot and to coordinate their
movements. Mr. Hirsch said that he wrote the TXTmob code over about
two weeks. After a trial run in Boston during the Democratic National
Convention, the service was in wide use during the Republican
convention in New York. Hundreds of people went to the TXTmob Web site
and joined user groups at no charge.

As a result, when members of the War Resisters League were arrested
after starting to march up Broadway, or when Republican delegates
attended a performance of “The Lion King” on West 42nd Street, a
server under a desk in Cambridge, Mass., transmitted messages
detailing the action, often while scenes on the streets were still

Messages were exchanged by self-organized first-aid volunteers,
demonstrators urging each other on and even by people in far-flung
cities who simply wanted to trade thoughts or opinions with those on
the streets of New York. Reporters began monitoring the messages too,
looking for word of breaking news and rushing to spots where mass
arrests were said to be taking place. And Mr. Hirsch said he thought
it likely that police officers were among those receiving TXTmob
messages on their phones.

It is difficult to know for sure who received messages, but an
examination of police surveillance documents prepared in 2003 and
2004, and unsealed by a federal magistrate last year, makes it clear
that the authorities were aware of TXTmob at least a month before the
Republican convention began.

A document marked “N.Y.P.D. SECRET” and dated July 26, 2004, included
the address of the TXTmob Web site and stated, “It is anticipated that
text messaging is one of several different communications systems that
will be utilized to organize the upcoming RNC protests.”


Tad Hirsch
email : tad [at] media [dot] mit [dot] edu

John Henry
Institute for Applied Autonomy
email : iaa [at] appliedautonomy [dot] com


TXTmob: Text Messaging For Protest Swarms
BY Tad Hirsch and John Henry

Abstract: “This paper describes cell phone text messaging during the
2004 US Democratic and Republican National Conventions by protesters
using TXTmob – a text-message broadcast system developed by the
authors.  Drawing upon analysis of TXTmob messages, user interviews,
self-reporting, and news media accounts, we describe the ways that
activists used text messaging to share information and coordinate
actions during decentralized protests. We argue that text messaging
supports new forms of distributed participation in mass mobilizations.




Competition to Offer Prizes and SMS Platform to Grassroots NGOs  /
Sep. 17, 2007
nGOmobile initiative highlights the benefits of mobile technology in
the developing world

CAMBRIDGE, England, Sept. 17 /PRNewswire/ — Mobile technology
organization has launched its latest non-profit mobile
initiative – nGOmobile, a competition to help grassroots NGOs take
advantage of text messaging.

The explosive entry of mobile technology into the developing world has
opened up a raft of opportunities for the non-profit sector. Text
messaging has proved itself to be remarkably versatile, helping remind
patients to take their medicine, providing market prices to farmers
and fishermen, distributing health information, allowing the reporting
of human rights abuses and promoting increased citizen participation
in government. While the list may be long, not everyone has been able
to reap the benefits.

nGOmobile is a competition aimed exclusively at grassroots non-profit
Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working for positive social and
environmental change throughout the developing world. “Behind the
scenes, the often unsung heroes of the NGO community battle against
the daily realities of life in developing countries, where it can take
all day to fulfill the simplest task,” said Ken Banks, Founder of “These people don’t lack passion and commitment, they
lack tools and resources” said Banks.”

Grassroots NGOs around the world are invited to submit short project
ideas explaining how greater access to mobile technology – and SMS
text messaging in particular – would benefit them and their work. The
competition is open from today until 14th December 2007 with the
winners announced in January 2008.

The top four entries, chosen by a distinguished panel of judges, will
each win a brand new Hewlett Packard laptop computer, two Nokia mobile
phones, a GSM modem,’s own entry-level text messaging
platform – FrontlineSMS – and to top it all, a cash prize of US$1,000.

Sponsors of the competition include Hewlett Packard, Nokia,
ActiveXperts, 160 Characters, Wieden+Kennedy, mBlox and Perkins Coie

Panel of Judges Ken Banks, Founder, Neerja Raman, From
Good to Gold Mike Grenville, Editor, 160 Characters Micheline Ntiru,
Nokia’s Head of Corporate Social Investment for the Middle East and
Africa Bill Thompson, Journalist/commentator Renny Gleeson, Global
Director of Digital Strategies at Wieden+Kennedy The competition
website can be found at

Ken Banks, Founder
email : ken [dot] banks [at] ngomobile [dot] org

About Since 2003, has been helping local,
national and international non-profit Non-Governmental Organizations
(NGOs) make better use of information and communications technology in
their work. Specializing in the application of mobile technology, it
provides a wide range of ICT-related services drawing on over 22
year’s experience of its Founder, Ken Banks. believes that
all non-profits, whatever their size and wherever they operate, should
be given the opportunity to implement the latest mobile technologies
in their work, and actively seeks to provide the tools to enable them
to do so.





BY Jeffrey Kosseff   /  March 25, 2003

At first glance, it looks like a 9-1-1 log or a transcript from the
police scanner:

05:37pm Protesters damage cars on Second and Davis.
05:38pm March spreading north into Oldtown.
05:43pm Morrison Bridge closed again.

But the communications Thursday during antiwar protests in downtown
Portland weren’t from the police. Instead, they were part of 126 text
messages sent out to 65 protesters’ cell phones, pagers and e-mail

Protesters say they have long searched for an efficient and quick way
of sharing news of bridge shutdowns, flag burnings and pepper
spraying. And they seem to have found it in a relatively young
wireless technology that is reliable, cheap and instantaneous, sending
short bursts of text onto many cell-phone screens at once.

“It definitely helped spread the news around,” said Michael Plump, a
24-year-old computer programmer who organized a text-messaging system
to improve communication among protesters.

Spreading news of developments takes too long with cell-phone calls
because organizers can reach only one person at a time. Walkie-talkies
aren’t reliable or secure enough. And most people don’t have laptops
with wireless e-mail access.

Plump said that since police pepper-sprayed him at a protest during
President Bush’s Aug. 23 visit to Portland, he has wanted to get more
involved with peace protests. “I wanted to help people know where the
police actions were occurring and where they were pepper spraying so
they could get away from it,” Plump said.

Web of reports

So he developed a Web-based program that allows protesters to enter
their cell phone or pager numbers or e-mail addresses into an online
database, which he promoted on Portland activist Web sites. Most
people received the alerts on cell phones or pagers, though a few
received e-mails.

From 4 p.m. to midnight Thursday, about 15 protesters throughout
downtown Portland phoned or sent e-mail and text messages to Plump’s
friend, Casey Spain. Spain summarized developments into a few words
and sent them on to the 65 cell-phone numbers in the database. Plump,
who was in downtown Portland throughout the protests, said cheers
erupted whenever Spain sent news of activists storming a bridge or

And even amid the chaos, the protesters found time for text-messaging

08:27pm Rummor — police may be planning assult from under Burnside
08:28pm Someone plase scout under the bridge please!
08:31pm Police may be eating donuts under the bridge.

Cell-phone text messaging is gaining popularity. According to
Telephia, a California research firm, 24 percent of U.S. cell-phone
subscribers used text messaging in the first quarter of this year, up
from 20 percent the previous quarter.

Verizon service up

Verizon Wireless, which charges 10 cents to send and 2 cents to
receive each text message, has seen its news-alert service double
since January for headlines about the military and Federal Bureau of
Investigation. “A lot of people use text messaging now, and it has
been going up all the time,” said Georgia Taylor, a Verizon Wireless

Wireless companies began offering text messaging in the United States
about two years ago, said Goli Ameri, president of eTinium, a Portland
telecommunications consulting firm. It is not yet as popular in the
United States as it is in Asia and Europe. Intel recently ranked
Portland the top city in the nation for the use of wireless
technology, so Ameri said she isn’t surprised that people here are
finding new uses for text messaging.

“Portland is a pretty tech-savvy city,” she said. “That’s why you see
so many of these new technologies get introduced here first.”

{email : jeffkosseff [at] news [dot] oregonian [dot] com}


Videos Challenge Accounts of Convention Unrest
BY Jim Dwyer  /  April 12, 2005  /  New York Times

Dennis Kyne put up such a fight at a political protest last summer,
the arresting officer recalled, it took four police officers to haul
him down the steps of the New York Public Library and across Fifth

“We picked him up and we carried him while he squirmed and screamed,”
the officer, Matthew Wohl, testified in December. “I had one of his
legs because he was kicking and refusing to walk on his own.”

Accused of inciting a riot and resisting arrest, Mr. Kyne was the
first of the 1,806 people arrested in New York last summer during the
Republican National Convention to take his case to a jury. But one day
after Officer Wohl testified, and before the defense called a single
witness, the prosecutor abruptly dropped all charges.

During a recess, the defense had brought new information to the
prosecutor. A videotape shot by a documentary filmmaker showed Mr.
Kyne agitated but plainly walking under his own power down the library
steps, contradicting the vivid account of Officer Wohl, who was
nowhere to be seen in the pictures. Nor was the officer seen taking
part in the arrests of four other people at the library against whom
he signed complaints.

A sprawling body of visual evidence, made possible by inexpensive,
lightweight cameras in the hands of private citizens, volunteer
observers and the police themselves, has shifted the debate over
precisely what happened on the streets during the week of the

For Mr. Kyne and 400 others arrested that week, video recordings
provided evidence that they had not committed a crime or that the
charges against them could not be proved, according to defense lawyers
and prosecutors.

Among them was Alexander Dunlop, who said he was arrested while going
to pick up sushi.

Last week, he discovered that there were two versions of the same
police tape: the one that was to be used as evidence in his trial had
been edited at two spots, removing images that showed Mr. Dunlop
behaving peacefully. When a volunteer film archivist found a more
complete version of the tape and gave it to Mr. Dunlop’s lawyer,
prosecutors immediately dropped the charges and said that a technician
had cut the material by mistake.

Seven months after the convention at Madison Square Garden, criminal
charges have fallen against all but a handful of people arrested that
week. Of the 1,670 cases that have run their full course, 91 percent
ended with the charges dismissed or with a verdict of not guilty after
trial. Many were dropped without any finding of wrongdoing, but also
without any serious inquiry into the circumstances of the arrests,
with the Manhattan district attorney’s office agreeing that the cases
should be “adjourned in contemplation of dismissal.”

So far, 162 defendants have either pleaded guilty or were convicted
after trial, and videotapes that bolstered the prosecution’s case
played a role in at least some of those cases, although prosecutors
could not provide details.

Besides offering little support or actually undercutting the
prosecution of most of the people arrested, the videotapes also
highlight another substantial piece of the historical record: the
Police Department’s tactics in controlling the demonstrations, parades
and rallies of hundreds of thousands of people were largely free of
explicit violence.

Throughout the convention week and afterward, Mayor Michael R.
Bloomberg said that the police issued clear warnings about blocking
streets or sidewalks, and that officers moved to arrest only those who
defied them. In the view of many activists – and of many people who
maintain that they were passers-by and were swept into dragnets
indiscriminately thrown over large groups – the police strategy
appeared to be designed to sweep them off the streets on technical
grounds as a show of force.

“The police develop a narrative, the defendant has a different story,
and the question becomes, how do you resolve it?” said Eileen Clancy,
a member of I-Witness Video, a project that assembled hundreds of
videotapes shot during the convention by volunteers for use by defense

Paul J. Browne, a police spokesman, said that videotapes often do not
show the full sequence of events, and that the public should not rush
to criticize officers simply because their recollections of events are
not consistent with a single videotape. The Manhattan district
attorney’s office is reviewing the testimony of Officer Wohl at the
request of Lewis B. Oliver Jr., the lawyer who represented Mr. Kyne in
his arrest at the library.

The Police Department maintains that much of the videotape that has
surfaced since the convention captured what Mr. Browne called the
department’s professional handling of the protests and parades. “My
guess is that people who saw the police restraint admired it,” he

Video is a useful source of evidence, but not an easy one to manage,
because of the difficulties in finding a fleeting image in hundreds of
hours of tape. Moreover, many of the tapes lack index and time
markings, so cuts in the tape are not immediately apparent.

That was a problem in the case of Mr. Dunlop, who learned that his
tape had been altered only after Ms. Clancy found another version of
the same tape. Mr. Dunlop had been accused of pushing his bicycle into
a line of police officers on the Lower East Side and of resisting
arrest, but the deleted parts of the tape show him calmly approaching
the police line, and later submitting to arrest without apparent

A spokeswoman for the district attorney, Barbara Thompson, said the
material had been cut by a technician in the prosecutor’s office. “It
was our mistake,” she said. “The assistant district attorney wanted to
include that portion” because she initially believed that it supported
the charges against Mr. Dunlop. Later, however, the arresting officer,
who does not appear on the video, was no longer sure of the specifics
in the complaint against Mr. Dunlop.

In what appeared to be the most violent incident at the convention
protests, video shot by news reporters captured the beating of a man
on a motorcycle – a police officer in plainclothes – and led to the
arrest of one of those involved, Jamal Holiday. After eight months in
jail, he pleaded guilty last month to attempted assault, a low-level
felony that will be further reduced if he completes probation. His
lawyer, Elsie Chandler of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem,
said that videos had led to his arrest, but also provided support for
his claim that he did not realize the man on the motorcycle was a
police officer, reducing the severity of the offense.

Mr. Browne, the police spokesman, said that despite many civilians
with cameras who were nearby when the officer was attacked, none of
the material was turned over to police trying to identify the
assailants. Footage from a freelance journalist led police to Mr.
Holiday, he said.

In the bulk of the 400 cases that were dismissed based on videotapes,
most involved arrests at three places – 16th Street near Union Square,
17th Street near Union Square and on Fulton Street – where police
officers and civilians taped the gatherings, said Martin R. Stolar,
the president of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers
Guild. Those tapes showed that the demonstrators had followed the
instructions of senior officers to walk down those streets, only to
have another official order their arrests.

Ms. Thompson of the district attorney’s office said, “We looked at
videos from a variety of sources, and in a number of cases, we have
moved to dismiss.”


Texting It In: Monitoring Elections With Mobile Phones
BY KatrinVerclas  /  August 11, 2007

In Sierra Leone’s national election today, 500 election observers at
polling stations around the country are reporting on any
irregularities via SMS with their mobile phones. Independent
monitoring of elections via cell phone is growing aqround the world,
spearheaded by a few innovative NGOs.

The story starts in Montenegro, a small country in the former
Yugoslavia. On May 21, 2006 the country saw the first instance of
volunteer monitors using SMS, also known as text messaging, as their
main election reporting tool. A Montenegrin NGO, the Center for
Democratic Transition (CDT), with technical assistance from the
National Democratic Institute (NDI) in the United States, was the
first organization in the world to use text messaging to meet all
election day reporting requirements.

Since then, mobile phones have been deployed in six elections in
countries around the world, with volunteers systematically using text
messaging in election monitoring. Pioneered by NDI, SMS monitoring is
becoming a highly sophisticated rapid reporting tool used not just in
a referendum election like in Montenegro, but in parliamentary
elections with a plethora of candidates and parties and complex data
reported via SMS. This was the case in Bahrain, a small country in the
Middle East, where monitors reported individual election tallies in a
series of five to fourty concurrent SMS messages, using a
sophisticated cosding system, with near accuracy.

Today’s election in Sierra Leone is lead by the National Election
Watch (NEW), a coalition of over 200 NGOs in the country. Assisted by
NDI, NEW has monitors at 500 of the 6171 polling stations. Monitors
report on whether there are any irregularities via SMS back to
headquarters. This election is particularly significant for the
country: It is the first presidential election since U.N. peacekeepers
withdrew two years ago. It considered a historic poll that many hope
will show that the country can transfer power peacefully after a long
civil war and military coups. In the run-up to the election there was
sporadic violence in Freetown; making the independent monitoring by
NGOs particularly relevant and necessary.

Election monitoring is a highly technical discipline, with a
sophisticated set of methodologies and extensive volunteer training.
Preparation for an election monitoring exercise involves volunteer
training and advance planning that often starts months before an
election.  Election monitors, typically led by domestic non-
governmental organizations (NGOs) often with the help of foreign
technical assistance providers like NDI, can report on multiple
dimensions.  They may, depending on the election, report on
quantitative data such as real-time voter turnout and even on actual
election results. In those cases, monitors use the data to provide a
“quick count” projection of the election results.  If a “quick count”
is conducted then a statistical random sample of polling places is
carefully selected to ensure the validity of projections.

Monitors also report on qualitative data about how well the election
is executed. This may include information on whether polls are opening
on time, whether there are enough ballots available, whether there is
free access to polling places, and whether there is any evidence of
intimidation or any other irregularities.

Reports are transmitted using an agreed-upon set of codes from a
representative sample of polling places around the country. In Sierra
Leone, for example, there are monitors stationed at 500 polling places
in every part of the country who text in reports at regular intervals.

In many contested elections, especially in emerging democracies, speed
of reporting is of the essence. It is critical that NGOs and
independent civil society organizations report data accurately and
quickly even before official results are released, especially when
fraud is feared. Mobile phones have been an important tool in this
regard. They are, of course, not a new phenomenon in election
monitoring; after all, cell phones have been around for a while now.
But prior to NDI showcasing that SMS is a viable and reliable
communication medium in elections, mobile phones were used merely to
transmit reports verbally that then still had to be transcribed in a
time-consuming and error-prone manual process.

Chris Spence, Director of Technology at NDI recalls: “In 2003, we had
24/7 shifts of college students in five locations across Nigeria
entering data from paper forms that were faxed or hand-carried into
the data centers. Timeliness and quality control were huge issues when
nearly 15,000 forms containing dozens of responses each had to be
manually entered into a database. Today, in the elections where we’ve
used SMS, you watch the data flow into the database directly when it
is time for the monitors to report. The system automatically sends
confirmation messages back to the observer in an interactive exchange
of SMS messages, so accuracy increases. At reporting time, it is quite
amazing to see the numbers change on the screen as the sms messages
pour into the database.”

In addition to increased speed and greater accuracy of reporting, SMS
election monitoring has a noteworthy ancillary benefit: the real-time
ability by headquarters to communicate with observers throughout the
election day by sending text reminders and updates keeps volunteers
motivated and engaged. SMS and phone contact also provides vital
opportunities for security updates should political conditions take a
turn for the worst.  As a result, morale amongst the volunteers soars
there is far less polling station abandonment.

In order for large-scale SMS election monitoring to succeed, a number
of conditions have to be in place. When NDI assisted an Albanian
consortium of NGOs in the local elections there in 2006, all the right
elements were present: NDI was working with an experienced and
reliable local NGO partner; SMS bulk messaging was available for all
of the mobile phone companies; the phone companies worked with the
NGOs and were available and ready during election day to deal with any
problems on the spot; phone companies and the bulk SMS vendors were
able to handle thousands of messages per minute to a few numbers at
reporting times, wireless coverage even in rural areas was excellent,
and the phone companies provided so-called interconnect ability that
allowed monitors to send messages from all of the different carriers
to one reporting number.

In Sierra Leone where most of the carriers lack international gateway
interconnect ability, the NGO coalition there will need to set up a
series of local phone numbers so that observers can text to a number
within their own provider network.  This necessitates a much more
rudimentary and complicated setup: Seven phones are tethered to a
laptop and observers are texting directly to those phones without any
bulk messaging intermediary.  Messages arrive in the phone and are
passed to computer, the software reads it using custom scripts, and
the data is compiled in an Access database ready for analysis.
Concerns about the phones handling a high volume of messages in this
situation necessitates a more complicated reporting strategy whereby
each observer will report all of data in a single text message using a
simple coding scheme.  Because Sierra Leone has more spotty wireless
coverage, election monitors in rural areas will have to travel to
areas where there is coverage to send in their reports at the end of
the day.

An important consideration is the cost of a wide-scale program. To
date NDI has found this method of reporting much more economical than
other strategies.  Pricing for bulk sms from a provider like Clickatel
is relatively inexpensive. In the Albanian election, for example, the
bulk messaging costs for a total of some 41,000 messages received and
sent from 2100 monitors was $2400 US Dollars — an extremely
inexpensive way to receive such massive amounts of data.

NDI uses a software called SMS Reception Center, built by a developer
in Russia and costing all of $69 USD. NDI tweaked the scripts over
time, and paid the developer to improve the product for its purposes
and specific local conditions.

In addition to the technical issues and costs inherent in running a
large-scale operation, Spence notes a number of strategic issues to
consider: The NGO partner on the ground needs to be experienced in
electoral monitoring, the information collected needs to be suitable
for the limited text messaging format of 160 chracters, and text
messaging needs to be commonly used and part of the local culture.
Notes Spence: “In all the countries we have worked, one thing we do
not have to do is train anyone how to text.”

In Nigeria earlier this year, a local NGO, the Human Emancipation
Project, ran a small-scale citizen monitoring program that used
untrained citizen reporters to send in SMS messages to one number. The
NGO compiled and aggregated the incoming messages and issued a report
after the election. Using a grassroots software tool, Frontline SMS,
organizers reported that about 8,000 individuals texted in some kind
of report. This is a very different method from the systematic
election monitoring conducted by NGO observer organizations and their
technical assistant providers where a more rigorous protocol is
adhered to. There is merit in engaging every-day citizens to protect
their country’s elections even if these efforts do not produce
reliable and verifiable election results and reports in the manner
that systematic election monitoring does. The Nigerian effort was
widely covered BBC News, and other outlets.

In the two years since the first large-scale SMS monitoring in
Montenegro, there have been rapid improvements in mobile services as
competition in the wireless industry has increased worldwide, and
there is growing interest and understanding on the part of NGOs that
systematic election monitoring is not as difficult as it first may
seem. As election monitoring via SMS becomes standardized and NGOs
gain experience, there is no reason for mobile phones and SMS not to
play a greater role in other areas of civic participation. For
example, imagine citizen oversight of public works projects where
people might report on whether a clinic is actually built as indicated
in a local budget. Other applications may be monitoring and
accountability of elected officials, and dissemination of voter
registration information such as the address of where to register, or
the nearest polling station. Several pilot projects in the United
States showed promising results in increasing voter turnout by text
message reminders. The future is bright for innovative ways in which
cell phones are used by citizens to participate and engage in their
countries as the mobile revolution unfolds.


Moving beyond Nigeria’s mobile rough patch
BY Judy Breck  /  August 27th, 2007

Reuters is reporting this morning that “Nigeria Aims to Let Mobile
Phone Users Keep Numbers.” The plan is to allow subscribers to keep
their numbers as they switch among providers — hopefully to improve
service through competition. The report includes this description of
the roughness of present service in Nigeria, which is interesting to
realize. Mobile has been making a positive transition in Africa in
spite of the problems described below. When mobile service gets
better, the transition should have important new impetus one would

Nigeria’s booming mobile phone market has grown from scratch to over
30 million subscribers in six years, making it one of the fastest-
growing in the world.

It is seen as having potential for many more years of rapid growth as
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country with 140 million people, the
majority of whom do not have phones.

However, the quality of service from mobile phone providers has always
been patchy and it has deteriorated over time.

Subscribers often have to dial several times before a call goes
through. Sometimes no calls go through for hours. When they do
connect, the lines are often so bad that callers cannot hear each
other. Calls frequently cut off after a few seconds and text messages
can be delayed by hours.

Mobile operators argue that services are impaired by frequent
blackouts, forcing companies to provide their own power with costly
diesel generators, and constant vandalism and armed attacks on
facilities and staff.


Monks Are Silenced, and for Now, Internet Is, Too
BY Seth Mydans  /  October 4, 2007

BANGKOK, Oct. 3 — It was about as simple and uncomplicated as shooting
demonstrators in the streets. Embarrassed by smuggled video and
photographs that showed their people rising up against them, the
generals who run Myanmar simply switched off the Internet. Until
Friday television screens and newspapers abroad were flooded with
scenes of tens of thousands of red-robed monks in the streets and of
chaos and violence as the junta stamped out the biggest popular
uprising there in two decades.

But then the images, text messages and postings stopped, shut down by
generals who belatedly grasped the power of the Internet to jeopardize
their crackdown. “Finally they realized that this was their biggest
enemy, and they took it down,” said Aung Zaw, editor of an exile
magazine based in Thailand called The Irrawaddy, whose Web site has
been a leading source of information in recent weeks. The site has
been attacked by a virus whose timing raises the possibility that the
military government has a few skilled hackers in its ranks.

The efficiency of this latest, technological, crackdown raises the
question whether the vaunted role of the Internet in undermining
repression can stand up to a determined and ruthless government — or
whether Myanmar, already isolated from the world, can ride out a
prolonged shutdown more easily than most countries.

OpenNet Initiative, which tracks Internet censorship, has documented
signs that in recent years several governments — including those of
Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan — have closed off Internet access,
or at least opposition Web sites, during periods preceding elections
or times of intense protests. The brief disruptions are known as “just
in time” filtering, said Ronald J. Deibert of OpenNet. They are
designed to quiet opponents while maintaining an appearance of
technical difficulties, thus avoiding criticism from abroad. In 2005,
King Gyanendra of Nepal ousted the government and imposed a weeklong
communications blackout. Facing massive protests, he ceded control in

Myanmar has just two Internet service providers, and shutting them
down was not complicated, said David Mathieson, an expert on Myanmar
with Human Rights Watch. Along with the Internet, the junta cut off
most telephone access to the outside world. Soldiers on the streets
confiscated cameras and video-recording cellphones. “The crackdown on
the media and on information flow is parallel to the physical
crackdown,” he said. “It seems they’ve done it quite effectively.
Since Friday we’ve seen no new images come out.” In keeping with the
country’s self-imposed isolation over the past half-century, Myanmar’s
military seemed prepared to cut the country off from the virtual world
just as it had from the world at large. Web access has not been
restored, and there is no way to know if or when it might be.

At the same time, the junta turned to the oldest tactic of all to
silence opposition: fear. Local journalists and people caught
transmitting information or using cameras are being threatened and
arrested, according to Burmese exile groups. In a final, hurried
telephone call, Mr. Aung Zaw said, one of his longtime sources said
goodbye. “We have done enough,” he said the source told him. “We can
no longer move around. It is over to you — we cannot do anything
anymore. We are down. We are hunted by soldiers — we are down.”

There are still images to come, Mr. Aung Zaw said, and as soon as he
receives them and his Web site is back up, the world will see them.
But Mr. Mathieson said the country’s dissidents were reverting to
tactics of the past, smuggling images out through cellphones, breaking
the files down for reassembly later. It is not clear how much longer
the generals can hold back the future. Technology is making it harder
for dictators and juntas to draw a curtain of secrecy. “There are
always ways people find of getting information out, and authorities
always have to struggle with them,” said Mitchell Stephens, a
professor of journalism at New York University and the author of “A
History of News.”

“There are fewer and fewer events that we don’t have film images of:
the world is filled with Zapruders,” he said, referring to Abraham
Zapruder, the onlooker who recorded the assassination of President
John F. Kennedy in 1963. Before Friday’s blackout, Myanmar’s hit-and-
run journalists were staging a virtuoso demonstration of the power of
the Internet to outmaneuver a repressive government. A guerrilla army
of citizen reporters was smuggling out pictures even as events were
unfolding, and the world was watching.

“For those of us who study the history of communication technology,
this is of equal importance to the telegraph, which was the first
medium that separated communications and transportation,” said Frank
A. Moretti, executive director of the Center for New Media Teaching
and Learning at Columbia University. Since the protests began in mid-
August, people have sent images and words through SMS text messages
and e-mail and on daily blogs, according to some exile groups that
received the messages. They have posted notices on Facebook, the
social networking Web site. They have sent tiny messages on e-cards.
They have updated the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

They also used Internet versions of “pigeons” — the couriers that
reporters used in the past to carry out film and reports — handing
their material to embassies or nongovernment organizations with
satellite connections. Within hours, the images and reports were
broadcast back into Myanmar by foreign radio and television stations,
informing and connecting a public that hears only propaganda from its

These technological tricks may offer a model to people elsewhere who
are trying to outwit repressive governments. But the generals’ heavy-
handed response is probably a less useful model. Nations with larger
economies and more ties to the outside world have more at stake.
China, for one, could not consider cutting itself off as Myanmar has
done, and so control of the Internet is an industry in itself. “In
China, it’s massive,” said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet
Project and an adjunct professor at the graduate school of journalism
at the University of California, Berkeley.

“There’s surveillance and intimidation, there’s legal regulation and
there is commercial leverage to force private Internet companies to
self-censor,” he said. “And there is what we call the Great Firewall,
which blocks hundreds of thousands of Web sites outside of China.” Yet
for all its efforts, even China cannot entirely control the Internet,
an easier task in a smaller country like Myanmar.

As technology makes everyone a potential reporter, the challenge in
risky places like Myanmar will be accuracy, said Vincent Brossel, head
of the Asian section of the press freedom organization Reporters
Without Borders. “Rumors are the worst enemy of independent
journalism,” he said. “Already we are hearing so many strange things.
So if you have no flow of information and the spread of rumors in a
country that is using propaganda — that’s it. You are destroying the
story, and day by day it goes down.” The technological advances on the
streets of Myanmar are the latest in a long history of revolutions in
the transmission of news — from the sailing ship to the telegraph to
international telephone lines and the telex machine to computers and
satellite telephones.

“Today every citizen is a war correspondent,” said Phillip Knightley,
author of “The First Casualty,” a classic history of war reporting
that starts with letters home from soldiers in Crimea in the 1850s and
ends with the “living room war” in Vietnam in the 1970s, the first war
that people could watch on television. “Mobile phones with video of
broadcast quality have made it possible for anyone to report a war,”
he said in an e-mail interview. “You just have to be there. No trouble
getting a start: the broadcasters have been begging viewers to send
their stuff.”


Shanghai’s Middle Class Launches Quiet, Meticulous Revolt
BY Maureen Fan  /  January 26, 2008

SHANGHAI — Bundled against the cold, the businessman made his way
down the steps. Coming toward him in blue mittens was a middle-aged
woman. “Do you know that we’re going to take a stroll this weekend?”
she whispered, using the latest euphemism for the unofficial protests
that have unnerved authorities in Shanghai over the past month. He

Behind her, protest banners streamed from the windows of high-rise
apartment blocks, signs of middle-class discontent over a planned
extension of the city’s magnetic levitation, or maglev, train through
residential neighborhoods. The couple checked to make sure no
plainclothes police were nearby and discussed where security forces
had been posted in recent days. “Did you take any photos?” the man
asked. Yes, she said, promising to send them to him so he could post
the evidence online. In a minute, the exchange was over, but the news
would soon be added to the steady flow of reports being posted on
blogs and community bulletin boards, as well as in housing compounds
along the proposed extension — which residents contend will bring
noise pollution and possibly dangerous radiation to their

The sudden “strolls” by thousands of office workers, company managers,
young families and the elderly in this sleek financial hub are the
latest chapter in a quiet middle-class battle against government
officials. The protesters are going about their mission carefully, and
many speak anonymously for fear of retribution in a country that
stifles dissent. The Communist Party has a massive security apparatus
that closely monitors what it views as subversive activity. The party
sometimes allows public protests if they serve its political
interests, such as the ouster of corrupt officials.

But the protests here have been unusual. They are led by homeowners
and professionals — people who may not previously have had much to
complain to the government about but whose awareness of their
individual rights has grown along with their prosperity. Police, who
have routinely put down rural protests by poor farmers, have found it
more difficult to intimidate an affluent, educated crowd in a major

The demonstrations do have at least one recent precursor, and it is
one Shanghai residents acknowledge using for inspiration. In the
picturesque seaside city of Xiamen, thousands of middle-class
residents have managed at least temporarily to halt the construction
of a $1 billion chemical factory because of environmental concerns.
Demonstrators in that city, in Fujian province, relied on the Internet
and cellphone text messaging to organize strolls and other opposition.
“We learned from Xiamen,” said Gu Qidong, 36, a Shanghai protester and
freelance sales consultant in the health-care industry. “We have no
other way besides this. We once asked if we could apply for a march
permit, and the police said they would never approve it.”

As in Xiamen, Shanghai residents have spent countless hours
researching their cause. They have posted fliers sprinkled with such
phrases as “electromagnetic compatibility” and wooed residents and
news media with slick PowerPoint presentations that question whether a
55-yard-wide safety buffer envisioned for each side of the rail
extension would be sufficient to keep noise and vibration from
reaching their apartments.

They say the existing maglev route, which takes passengers from an out-
of-the-way suburban subway stop to one of the city’s international
airports in less than eight minutes, is a showy waste of money. When
it opened four years ago, they note, the line operated at less than 20
percent capacity; after ticket prices were lowered, it ran at 27
percent capacity.

Armed with knowledge of the law, the Shanghai residents became angry
that public officials had neither given proper notice of their plans
for the extension nor held a public hearing. And so they decided they
had no alternative but to “take a stroll” or “go shopping.” They
started small, and they were careful to say they did not oppose the

First, a small group of protesters met at a shopping center the
morning of Jan. 6, shouting “Reject the maglev!” and “We want to
protect our homes!” They left after an hour, regrouping later in a
neighborhood near where the extension would be built.

A few days later, hundreds of people went to a mall that is popular
with tourists and made an evening stop in another affected
neighborhood. By Jan. 12, thousands of people were gathering at
People’s Square and on Nanjing Lu, both high-profile locations in
downtown Shanghai, shouting “People’s police should protect the
people!” and “Save our homes!”

The growing boldness of the protesters has prompted city officials to
emphasize that residents should find “normal” channels to vent their
unhappiness. “We will forestall and defuse social tensions,” Shanghai
Mayor Han Zheng said in his annual government report Thursday, in what
appeared to be a tacit nod to the protesters’ concerns.

After each stroll, residents upload photos and videos to Chinese Web
sites, which are often blocked by the government, and to YouTube, a
site that isn’t. The project has turned neighbors who did not know
each other into close friends and allies who now compare notes and
strategize. “They can’t arrest everybody,” said Yao, a 58-year-old
protester who asked that his full name not be used because he is a
manager at a state-owned enterprise. “We haven’t done anything wrong,”
said Wang Guowei, 51, a manager in a Chinese-Japanese plastics venture
whose family lives near the planned extension. “We always follow the
Chinese constitution, we never violate the law. And in our many
contacts with the police, they say we are within the law.”

A victory for the protesters here does not seem as likely as the one
activists achieved in Xiamen. Proud city officials hope the maglev
extension will further cement Shanghai’s reputation as the mainland’s
most advanced city when the train connects the city’s two airports and
the site of the 2010 World Expo. City officials have already made some
concessions. An original plan to extend the train from Shanghai to the
city of Hangzhou, for example, was scrapped in May. The new extension
proposal announced Dec. 29 lops almost two miles off the old plan, and
one section of track would be underground. But opponents say such
concessions are small.

Critics of the government plan point out that even some residents who
use the train are skeptical of the usefulness of an extension. “I’d
rather see an ordinary railway connecting” Pudong international and
Hongqiao airport. “It’s cheap, and it’s almost the same convenience,”
said Chen Min, 37, an airline pilot who rides the train each time he
flies abroad. “Does China really need more maglev trains? Does China
really need expensive things?”

Shanghai municipal officials declined requests for comment. At a news
conference this week, government spokeswoman Jiao Yang said Shanghai
Maglev Transportation Development Co., the Shanghai Academy of
Environmental Science and the Municipal Urban Planning Administration
would analyze public opinion “seriously.”

Without the entire city united against the project, residents concede
they are not optimistic the extension will be scrapped. “But we must
insist on our position. We require our government to respect the law,
and public construction must follow a legal framework and the right
procedure,” said the 54-year-old businessman who asked another
protester for her photos. “Our action is a way to wake up people’s
awareness of their civil rights.”

Facebook used to target Colombia’s FARC with global rally

Internet site to spawn protests in 185 cities Monday against rebel
group’s methods
BY Sibylla Brodzinsky  /  February 4, 2008

Bogotá, Colombia – Hundreds of thousands of Colombians are expected to
march throughout the country and in major cities around the world
Monday to protest against this nation’s oldest and most powerful rebel

What began as a group of young people venting their rage at the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on Facebook, an Internet
social-networking site, has ballooned into an international event
called “One Million Voices Against FARC.”

“We expected the idea to resound with a lot of people but not so much
and not so quickly,” says Oscar Morales, who started the Facebook
group against the FARC, which now has 230,000 members. Organizers are
expecting marches in 185 cities around the world.

The event is another example of how technology – such as text
messaging on cellphones – can be used to rally large numbers of people
to a cause. Some observers say it’s less a response to the FARC’s
ideology than it is global public outrage over kidnapping as a weapon.

Colombia continues to be the world’s kidnapping capital with as many
as 3,000 hostages now being held. Anger over the practice has risen in
recent months after two women released by the FARC last month after
six years in captivity recounted the hardships they and other hostages

Monday’s protests have the support of the government, many
nongovernmental organizations, and some political parties but its main
battle cry of “No More FARC” has also polarized some Colombians rather
than bringing them together.

While few Colombians support the Marxist insurgent army that has been
fighting the Colombian state for more than 40 years, many people are
uncomfortable with the message of Monday’s rally. They would prefer a
broader slogan against kidnapping and in favor of peace and of
negotiations between the government and the rebels to exchange
hostages for jailed rebels. The leftist Polo Democratico Party said it
will hold a rally in Bogotá in favor of a negotiation but would not
march. Some senators say they will march against Venezuelan President
Hugo Chávez, and other participants say they will be marching in favor
of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

Consuelo González de Perdomo, one of the two women released by the
FARC on Jan. 10 said she would not be marching at all.

The families of the 45 remaining FARC hostages will not march either.
“The way the march was called aims to polarize the country,” says
Deyanira Ortiz, whose husband, Orlando Beltrán Cuéllar, has been held
by the FARC for six years. “It’s not for the freedom of the hostages
but against the FARC. And that doesn’t serve any purpose.”

Instead, the families and released FARC hostages will gather in
churches to pray for the release of their loved ones and for a
humanitarian agreement.

Rosa Cristina Parra, one of the original organizers of the march said
the position of the hostage families is “completely understandable”
and will not detract from the importance of the event. “We cannot
forget the other victims of the FARC, the land-mine victims, the
displaced people,” she says.



NYC, the NYPD, the RNC, and Me
Fortress Big Apple, 2007  /  BY Nick Turse

One day in August, I walked into the Daniel Patrick Moynihan
United States Courthouse in lower Manhattan. Nearly three years before
I had been locked up, about two blocks away, in “the Tombs” — the
infamous jail then named the Bernard B. Kerik Complex for the now-
disgraced New York City Police Commissioner. You see, I am one of the
demonstrators who was illegally arrested by the New York City Police
Department (NYPD) during the protests against the 2004 Republican
National Convention (RNC). My crime had been — in an effort to call
attention to the human toll of America’s wars — to ride the subway,
dressed in black with the pallor of death about me (thanks to
cornstarch and cold cream), and an expression to match, sporting a
placard around my neck that read: WAR DEAD.

I was with a small group and our plan was to travel from Union
Square to Harlem, change trains, and ride all the way back down to
Astor Place. But when my small group exited the train at the 125th
Street station in Harlem, we were arrested by a swarm of police,
marched to a waiting paddy wagon and driven to a filthy detention
center. There, we were locked away for hours in a series of razor-wire-
topped pens, before being bussed to the Tombs.

Now, I was back to resolve the matter of my illegal arrest. As I
walked through the metal detector of the Federal building, a security
official searched my bag. He didn’t like what he found. “You could be
shot for carrying that in here,” he told me. “You could be shot.”

For the moment, however, the identification of that dangerous
object I attempted to slip into the federal facility will have to
wait. Let me instead back up to July 2004, when, with the RNC fast-
approaching, I authored an article on the militarization of Manhattan
— “the transformation of the island into a ‘homeland-security state'”
— and followed it up that September with a street-level recap of the
convention protests, including news of the deployment of an
experimental sound weapon, the Long Range Acoustic Device, by the
NYPD, and the department’s use of an on-loan Fuji blimp as a “spy-in-
the-sky.” Back then, I suggested that the RNC gave New York’s
“finest,” a perfect opportunity to “refine, perfect, and implement new
tactics (someday, perhaps, to be known as the ‘New York model’) for
use penning in or squelching dissent. It offered them the chance to
write up a playbook on how citizens’ legal rights and civil liberties
may be abridged, constrained, and violated at their discretion.”
Little did I know how much worse it could get.

No Escape

Since then, the city’s security forces have eagerly embraced an
Escape From New York-aesthetic — an urge to turn Manhattan into a
walled-in fortress island under high-tech government surveillance,
guarded by heavily armed security forces, with helicopters perpetually
overhead. Beginning in Harlem in 2006, near the site of two new luxury
condos, the NYPD set up a moveable “two-story booth tower, called Sky
Watch,” that gave an “officer sitting inside a better vantage point
from which to monitor the area.” The Panopticon-like structure —
originally used by hunters to shoot quarry from overhead and now also
utilized by the Department of Homeland Security along the Mexican
border — was outfitted with black-tinted windows, a spotlight,
sensors, and four to five cameras. Now, five Sky Watch towers are in
service, rotating in and out of various neighborhoods.

With their 20-25 neighborhood-scanning cameras, the towers are
only a tiny fraction of the Big Apple surveillance story. Back in
1998, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) found that there were
“2,397 cameras used by a wide variety of private businesses and
government agencies throughout Manhattan” — and that was just one
borough. About a year after the RNC, the group reported that a survey
of just a quarter of that borough yielded a count of more than 4,000
surveillance cameras of every kind. At about the same time, military-
corporate giant Lockheed Martin was awarded a $212 million contract to
build a “counter-terrorist surveillance and security system for New
York’s subways and commuter railroads as well as bridges and tunnels”
that would increase the camera total by more than 1,000. A year later,
as seems to regularly be the case with contracts involving the
military-corporate complex, that contract had already ballooned to
$280 million, although the system was not to be operational until at
least 2008.

In 2006, according to a Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)
spokesman, the MTA already had a “3,000-camera-strong surveillance
system,” while the NYPD was operating “an additional 3,000 cameras”
around the city. That same year, Bill Brown, a member of the
Surveillance Camera Players — a group that leads surveillance-camera
tours and maps their use around the city, estimated, according to a
Newsweek article, that the total number of surveillance cameras in New
York exceeded 15,000 — “a figure city officials say they have no way
to verify because they lack a system of registry.” Recently, Brown
told me that 15,000 was an estimate for the number of cameras in
Manhattan, alone. For the city as a whole, he suspects the count has
now reached about 40,000.

This July, NYPD officials announced plans to up the ante. By the
end of 2007, according to the New York Times, they pledged to install
“more than 100 cameras” to monitor “cars moving through Lower
Manhattan, the beginning phase of a London-style surveillance system
that would be the first in the United States.” This “Ring of Steel”
scheme, which has already received $10 million in funding from the
Department of Homeland Security (in addition to $15 million in city
funds), aims to exponentially decrease privacy because, if “fully
financed, it will include…. 3,000 public and private security
cameras below Canal Street, as well as a center staffed by the police
and private security officers” to monitor all those electronic eyes.

Spies in the Sky

At the time of the RNC, the NYPD was already mounted on police
horses, bicycles, and scooters, as well as an untold number of marked
and unmarked cars, vans, trucks, and armored vehicles, not to mention
various types of water-craft. In 2007, the two-wheeled Segway joined
its list of land vehicles.

Overhead, the NYPD aviation unit, utilizing seven helicopters,
proudly claims to be “in operation 24/7, 365,” according to Deputy
Inspector Joseph Gallucci, its commanding officer. Not only are all
the choppers outfitted with “state of the art cameras and heat-sensing
devices,” as well as “the latest mapping, tracking and surveillance
technology,” but one is a “$10 million ‘stealth bird,’ which has no
police markings — [so] that those on the ground have no idea they are
being watched.”

Asked about concerns over intrusive spying by members of the
aviation unit — characterized by Gallucci as “a bunch of big boys who
like big expensive toys” — Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly
scoffed. “We’re not able to, even if we wanted, to look into private
spaces,” he told the New York Times. “We’re looking at public areas.”
However, in 2005, it was revealed that, on the eve of the RNC
protests, members of the aviation unit took a break and used their
night-vision cameras to record “an intimate moment” shared by a
“couple on the terrace of a Second Avenue penthouse.”

Despite this incident, which only came to light because the same
tape included images that had to be turned over to a defendant in an
unrelated trial, Kelly has called for more aerial surveillance. The
commissioner apparently also got used to having the Fuji blimp at his
disposal, though he noted that “it’s not easy to send blimps into the
airspace over New York.” He then “challenged the aerospace industry to
find a solution” that would, no doubt, bring the city closer to life
under total surveillance.

Police Misconduct: The RNC

As a result of its long history of brutality, corruption, spying,
silencing dissent, and engaging in illegal activities, the NYPD is a
particularly secretive organization. As such, the full story of the
department’s misconduct during the Republican National Convention has
yet to be told; but, even in an era of heightened security and
defensiveness, what has emerged hasn’t been pretty.

By April 2005, New York Times journalist Jim Dwyer was already
reporting that, “of the 1,670 [RNC arrest] cases that have run their
full course, 91 percent ended with the charges dismissed or with a
verdict of not guilty after trial. Many were dropped without any
finding of wrongdoing, but also without any serious inquiry into the
circumstances of the arrests, with the Manhattan district attorney’s
office agreeing that the cases should be ‘adjourned in contemplation
of dismissal.'” In one case that went to trial, it was found that
video footage of an arrest had been doctored to bolster the NYPD’s
claims. (All charges were dropped against that defendant. In 400 other
RNC cases, by the spring of 2005, video recordings had either
demonstrated that defendants had not committed crimes or that charges
could not be proved against them.)

Since shifting to “zero-tolerance” law enforcement policies under
Mayor (now Republican presidential candidate) Rudolph Giuliani, the
city has been employing a system of policing where arrests are used to
punish people who have been convicted of no crime whatsoever,
including, as at the RNC or the city’s monthly Critical Mass bike
rides, those who engage in any form of protest. Prior to the Giuliani
era, about half of all those “arrested for low-level offenses would
get a desk-appearance ticket ordering them to go to court.” Now the
proportion is 10%. (NYPD documents show that the decision to arrest
protesters, not issue summonses, was part of the planning process
prior to the RNC.)

Speaking at the 2007 meeting of the American Sociological
Association, Michael P. Jacobson, Giuliani’s probation and correction
commissioner, outlined how the city’s policy of punishing the presumed
innocent works:

“Essentially, everyone who’s arrested in New York City, in the
parlance of city criminal justice lingo, goes through ‘the system’….
if you’ve never gone through the system, even 24 hours — that’s a
shocking period of punishment. It’s debasing, it’s difficult. You’re
probably in a fairly gross police lockup. You probably have no toilet
paper. You’re given a baloney sandwich, and the baloney is green.”

In 2005, the Times’ Dwyer revealed that at public gatherings since
the time of the RNC, police officers had not only “conducted covert
surveillance… of people protesting the Iraq war, bicycle riders taking
part in mass rallies and even mourners at a street vigil for a cyclist
killed in an accident,” but had acted as agent provocateurs. At the
RNC, there were multiple incidents in which undercover agents
influenced events or riled up crowds. In one case, a “sham arrest” of
“a man secretly working with the police led to a bruising
confrontation between officers in riot gear and bystanders.”

In 2006, the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), reported
“that hundreds of Convention protesters may have been unnecessarily
and unlawfully arrested because NYPD officials failed to give adequate
orders to disperse and failed to afford protesters a reasonable
opportunity to disperse.”

Police Commissioner Kelly had no hesitation about rejecting the
organization’s report. Still, these were strong words, considering the
weakness of the source. The overall impotence of the CCRB suggests a
great deal about the NYPD’s culture of unaccountability. According to
an ACLU report, the board “investigates fewer than half of all
complaints that it reviews, and it produces a finding on the merits in
only three of ten complaints disposed of in any given year.” This
inaction is no small thing, given the surge of complaints against NYPD
officers in recent years. In 2001, before Mayor Bloomberg and Police
Commissioner Kelly came to power, the CCRB received 4,251 complaints.
By 2006, the number of complaints had jumped by 80% to 7,669. Even
more telling are the type of allegations found to be on the rise (and
largely ignored). According to the ACLU, from 2005 to 2006, complaints
over the use of excessive force jumped 26.8% — “nearly double the
increase in complaints filed.”

It was in this context that the planning for the RNC
demonstrations took place. In 2006, in five internal police reports
made public as part of a lawsuit, “New York City police commanders
candidly discuss[ed] how they had successfully used ‘proactive
arrests,’ covert surveillance and psychological tactics at political
demonstrations in 2002, and recommend[ed] that those approaches be
employed at future gatherings.” A draft report from the department’s
Disorder Control Unit had a not-so-startling recommendation, given
what did happen at the RNC: “Utilize undercover officers to distribute
misinformation within the crowds.”

According to Dwyer, for at least a year prior to those
demonstrations, “teams of undercover New York City police officers
traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe” to conduct
covert surveillance of activists. “In hundreds of reports, stamped
‘N.Y.P.D. Secret,’ [the NYPD’s] Intelligence Division chronicled the
views and plans of people who had no apparent intention of breaking
the law, [including] street theater companies, church groups and
antiwar organizations, as well as environmentalists and people opposed
to the death penalty, globalization and other government policies.”
Three elected city councilmen — Charles Barron, Bill Perkins and
Larry B. Seabrook — were even cited in the reports for endorsing a
protest event held on January 15, 2004 in honor of Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr.’s birthday.

In August, the New York Times editorial page decried the city’s
continuing attempts to keep documents outlining the police
department’s spying and other covert activities secret:

“The city of New York is waging a losing and ill-conceived
battle for overzealous secrecy surrounding nearly 2,000 arrests during
the 2004 Republican National Convention…. Police Commissioner Ray
Kelly seemed to cast an awfully wide and indiscriminate net in seeking
out potential troublemakers. For more than a year before the
convention, members of a police spy unit headed by a former official
of the Central Intelligence Agency infiltrated a wide range of groups…
many of the targets … posed no danger or credible threat.”

The Times concluded that — coupled with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s
efforts to disrupt and criminalize protest during the convention week
— “police action helped to all but eliminate dissent from New York
City during the Republican delegates’ visit. If that was the goal,
then mission accomplished. And civil rights denied.”

Police Commissioner Kelly had a radically different take on his
department’s conduct. Earlier this year, he claimed that “the
Republican National Convention was perhaps the finest hour in the
history of the New York City Department.”

Police Misconduct: 2007

“Finest” might seem a funny term for the NYPD’s actions, but these
days everyone’s a relativist. In the years since the RNC protests, the
NYPD has been mired in scandal after scandal — from killing unarmed
black men and “violations of civil rights” at the National Puerto
Rican Day Parade to issuing “sweeping generalizations” that lead to
“labeling almost every American Muslim as a potential terrorist.” And,
believe it or not, the racial and political scandals were but a modest
part of the mix. Add to them, killings, sexual assaults, kidnapping,
armed robbery, burglary, corruption, theft, drug-related offenses,
conspiracy — and that’s just a start when it comes to crimes members
of the force have been charged with. It’s a rap sheet fit for Public
Enemy #1, and we’re only talking about the story of the NYPD in the
not-yet-completed year of 2007.

For example, earlier this year a 13-year NYPD veteran was
“arrested on charges of hindering prosecution, tampering with
evidence, obstructing governmental administration and unlawful
possession of marijuana,” in connection with the shooting of another
officer. In an unrelated case, two other NYPD officers were arrested
and “charged with attempted kidnapping, armed robbery, armed burglary
and other offenses.”

In a third case, the New York Post reported that a “veteran NYPD
captain has been stripped of his badge and gun as part of a federal
corruption probe that already has led to the indictment of an Internal
Affairs sergeant who allegedly tipped other cops that they were being
investigated.” And that isn’t the only NYPD cover-up allegation to
surface of late. With cops interfering in investigations of fellow
cops and offering advice on how to deflect such probes, it’s a wonder
any type of wrongdoing surfaces. Yet, the level of misconduct in the
department appears to be sweeping enough to be irrepressible.

For instance, sex crime scandals have embroiled numerous officers
— including one “accused of sexually molesting his young
stepdaughter,” who pled guilty to “a misdemeanor charge of child
endangerment,” and another “at a Queens hospital charged with
possessing and sharing child pornography.” In a third case, a member
of the NYPD’s School Safety Division was “charged with the attempted
rape and sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl.” In a fourth case, a
“police officer pleaded guilty…. to a grotesque romance with an
infatuated 13-year-old girl.” Meanwhile, an NYPD officer, who molested
women while on duty and in uniform, was convicted of sexual abuse and
official misconduct.

Cop-on-cop sexual misconduct of an extreme nature has also
surfaced…. but why go on? You get the idea. And, if you don’t, there
are lurid cases galore to check out, like the investigation into
“whether [an] NYPD officer who fatally shot his teen lover before
killing himself murdered the boyfriend of a past lover,” or the
officer who was “charged with intentional murder in the shooting death
of his 22-year-old girlfriend.” And don’t even get me started on the
officer “facing charges of conspiracy to distribute narcotics and
conspiracy to commit robberies of drugs and drug proceeds from
narcotics traffickers.”

All of this, and much more, has emerged in spite of the classic
blue-wall-of-silence. It makes you wonder: In the surveillance state
to come, are we going to be herded and observed by New York’s finest

It’s important to note that all of these cases have begun despite
a striking NYPD culture of non-accountability. Back in August, the New
York Times noted that the “Police Department has increasingly failed
to prosecute New York City police officers on charges of misconduct
when those cases have been substantiated by the independent board that
investigates allegations of police abuse, officials of the board say.”
Between March 1, 2007 and June 30, 2007 alone, the NYPD “declined to
seek internal departmental trials against 31 officers, most of whom
were facing charges of stopping people in the street without probable
cause or reasonable suspicion, according to the city’s Civilian
Complaint Review Board.” An ACLU report, “Mission Failure: Civilian
Review of Policing in New York City, 1994-2006,” released this month,
delved into the issue in even greater detail. The organization found
that, between 2000 and 2005, “the NYPD disposed of substantiated
complaints against 2,462 police officers: 725 received no discipline.
When discipline was imposed, it was little more than a slap on the

Much has come to light recently about the way the U.S. military
has been lowering its recruitment standards in order to meet the
demands of ongoing, increasingly unpopular wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, including an increase in “moral waivers” allowing more
recruits with criminal records to enter the services. Well, it turns
out that, on such policies, the NYPD has been a pioneering

In 2002, the BBC reported that “New York’s powerful police union….
accused the police department of allowing ‘sub-standard’ recruits onto
the force.” Then, just months after the RNC protests, the New York
Daily News exposed the department’s practice of “hiring applicants
with arrest records and shoving others through without full background
checks” including those who had been “charged with laundering drug
money, assault, grand larceny and weapons possession.” According to
Sgt. Anthony Petroglia, who, until he retired in 2002, had worked for
almost a decade in the department’s applicant-processing division, the
NYPD was “hiring people to be cops who have no respect for the law.”
Another retiree from the same division was blunter: “It’s all judgment
calls — bad ones…. but the bosses say, ‘Send ’em through. We’ll
catch the problem ones later.'”

The future looks bright, if you are an advocate of sending the
force even further down this path. The new choice to mold the
department of tomorrow, according to the Village Voice, the “NYPD’s
new deputy commissioner of training, Wilbur ‘Bill’ Chapman, should
have no trouble teaching ‘New York’s Finest’ about the pitfalls of
sexual harassment, cronyism, and punitive transfers [because h]e’s
been accused of all that during his checkered career.”

In the eerie afterglow of 9/11, haunted by the specter of
terrorism, in an atmosphere where repressive zero-tolerance policies
already rule, given the unparalleled power of Commissioner Kelly —
called “the most powerful police commissioner in the city’s history”
by NYPD expert Leonard Levitt — and with a police department largely
unaccountable to anyone (as the only city agency without any effective
outside oversight), the Escape from New York model may indeed
represent Manhattan’s future.

Nick Turse v. The City of New York

So what, you might still be wondering, was it that led the
security official at the federal courthouse to raise the specter of my
imminent demise? A weapon? An unidentified powder? No, a digital audio
recorder. “Some people here don’t want to be recorded,” he explained
in response to my quizzical look.

So I checked the recording device and, accompanied by my lawyer,
the indomitable Mary D. Dorman, made my way to Courtroom 18D, a
stately room in the upper reaches of the building that houses the
oldest district court in the nation. There, I met our legal nemesis, a
city attorney whose official title is “assistant corporation counsel.”
After what might pass for a cordial greeting, he asked relatively
politely whether I was going to accept the city’s monetary offer of
$8,500 — which I had rejected the previous week– to settle my
lawsuit for false arrest. As soon as I indicated I wouldn’t (as I had
from the moment the city started the bidding at $2,500), any hint of
cordiality fled the room. Almost immediately, he was referring to me
as a “criminal” — declassified NYPD documents actually refer to me as
a “perp.” Soon, he launched into a bout of remarkable bluster,
threatening lengthy depositions to waste my time and monetary
penalties associated with court costs that would swallow my savings.

Then, we were all directed to a small jury room off the main
courtroom, where the city’s attorney hauled out a threatening prop to
bolster his act — an imposingly gigantic file folder stuffed with
reams of “Nick Turse” documents, including copies of some of my
disreputable Tomdispatch articles as well as printouts of suspicious
webpages from the American Empire Project — the obviously criminal
series that will be publishing my upcoming book, The Complex.

There, the litany of vague threats to tie me down with
depositions, tax me with fees, and maybe, somehow, send me to jail for
a “crime” that had been dismissed years earlier continued until a
federal magistrate judge entered the room. To him, the assistant
corporation counsel and I told our versions of my arrest story —
which turned out to vary little.

The basic details were the same. As the city attorney shifted in
his seat, I told the judge how, along with compatriots I’d met only
minutes before, I donned my “WAR DEAD” sign and descended into the
subway surrounded by a phalanx of cops — plainclothes, regular
uniformed, Big Brother-types from the Technical Assistance Response
Unit (TARU), and white-shirted brass, as well as a Washington Post
photographer and legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild —
and boarded our train. I explained that we sat there looking as dead
as possible for about 111 blocks and then, as the Washington Post
reported, were arrested when we came back to life and “tried to change
trains.” I asked, admittedly somewhat rhetorically why, if I was such
a “criminal,” none of the officers present at my arrest had actually
showed up in court to testify against me when my case was dismissed
out of hand back in 2004? And why hadn’t the prosecutor wanted to
produce the video footage the NYPD had taken of the entire action and
my arrest? And why had the city been trying to buy me off all these
years since?

Faced with the fact that his intimidation tactics hadn’t worked,
the city attorney now quit his bad-cop tactics and I rose again out of
the ditch of “common criminality” into citizenship and then to the
high status of being addressed as “Dr. Turse” (in a bow to my PhD).
Offers and counteroffers followed, leading finally to a monetary
settlement with a catch — I also wanted an apology. If that guard
hadn’t directed me — under threat of being shot — to check my
digital audio recorder at the door, I might have had a sound file of
it to listen to for years to come. Instead, I had to be content with
the knowledge that an appointed representative of the City of New York
not only had to ditch the Escape from New York model — at least for a
day — pony up some money for violating my civil rights, and, before a
federal magistrate judge, also issue me an apology, on behalf of the
city, for wrongs committed by the otherwise largely unaccountable

The Future of the NYPD and the Homeland-Security State-let

I’m under no illusions that this minor monetary settlement and
apology were of real significance in a city where civil rights are
routinely abridged, the police are a largely unaccountable armed
force, and a culture of total surveillance is increasingly the norm.
But my lawsuit, when combined with those of my fellow arrestees, could
perhaps have some small effect. After all, less than a year after the
convention, 569 people had already “filed notices that they intended
to sue the City, seeking damages totaling $859,014,421,” according to
an NYCLU report. While the city will end up paying out considerably
less, the grand total will not be insignificant. In fact, Jim Dwyer
recently reported that the first 35 of 605 RNC cases had been settled
for a total of $694,000.

If New Yorkers began to agitate for accountability — demanding,
for instance, that such settlements be paid out of the NYPD’s budget
— it could make a difference. Then, every time New Yorkers’ hard-
earned tax-dollars were handed over to fellow citizens who were
harassed, mistreated, injured, or abused by the city’s police force
that would mean less money available for the “big expensive toys” that
the “big boys” of the NYPD’s aviation unit use to record the private
moments of unsuspecting citizens or the ubiquitous surveillance gear
used not to capture the rest of the city on candid camera. It wouldn’t
put an end to the NYPD’s long-running criminality or the burgeoning
homeland security state-let that it’s building, but it would, at
least, introduce a tiny measure of accountability.

Such an effort might even begin a dialogue about the NYPD, its
dark history, its current mandate under the Global War on Terror, and
its role in New York City. For instance, people might begin to examine
the very nature of the department. They might conclude that questions
must be raised when institutions — be they rogue regimes, deleterious
industries, unaccountable corporations, or fundamentally-tainted
government institutions — consistently, over many decades, evidence a
persistent disregard for the law, a lack of accountability, and a deep
resistance to reform. Those directly affected by the NYPD, a nearly
38,000-person force — larger than many armies — that has
consistently flouted the law and has proven remarkably resistant to
curtailing its own misconduct for well over a century, might even
begin to wonder if it can be trusted to administer the homeland
security state-let its top officials are fast implementing and, if
not, what can be done about it.


Nick Turse is the associate editor and research director of He has written for the Los Angeles Times, the San
Francisco Chronicle, the Nation, the Village Voice, and regularly for His first book, The Complex, an exploration of the
new military-corporate complex in America, is due out in the American
Empire Project series by Metropolitan Books in 2008. His new website (up only in rudimentary form) will fully launch in the
coming months.

Why security matters

Every email takes a perilous journey. A typical email might travel
across twenty networks and be stored on five computers from the time
it is composed to the time it is read. At every step of the way, the
contents of the email might be monitored, archived, cataloged, and

However, it is not the content of your email which is most
interesting: typically, a spying organization is more concerned by
whom you communicate with. There are many ways in which this kind of
mapping of people’s associations and habits is far worse than
traditional eavesdropping. By cataloging our associations, a spying
organization has an intimate picture of how our social movements are
organized–a more detailed picture than even the social movements
themselves are aware of.

This is bad. Really bad. The US government, among others, has a long
track record of doing whatever it can to subvert, imprison, kill, or
squash social movements which it sees as a threat (black power, anti-
war, civil rights, anti-slavery, native rights, organized labor, and
so on). And now they have all the tools they need to do this with
blinding precision.

We believe that communication free of eavesdropping and association
mapping is necessary for a democratic society (should one ever happen
to take root in the US). We must defend the right to free speech, but
it is just as necessary to defend the right to private speech.

Unfortunately, private communication is not possible if only a few
people practice it: they will stand out and open themselves up to
greater scrutiny. Therefore, we believe it is important for everyone
to incorporate as many security measures in your email life as you are

Email is not secure

You should think of normal email as a postcard: anyone can read it,
your letter carrier, your nosy neighbor, your house mates. All email,
unless encrypted, is completely insecure. Email is actually much less
secure than a postcard, because at least with a postcard you have a
chance of recognizing the sender’s handwriting. With email, anyone can
pretend to be anyone else.

There is another way in which email is even less private than a
postcard: the government does not have enough labor to read everyone’s
postscards, but they probably have the capacity and ability to scan
most email. Based on current research in datamining, it is likely that
the government does not search email for particular words but rather
looks for patterns of association and activity.

In the three cases below, evidence is well established that the
government conducts widespread and sweeping electronic survillence.

full-pipe monitoring
According to a former Justice Department attorney, it is common
practice for the FBI to practice “full-pipe monitoring”. The process
involves vacuuming up all traffic of an ISP and then later mining that
data for whatever the FBI might find interesting. The story was first
reported on January 30, 2007 by Declan McCullagh of CNET

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class-action
lawsuit against AT&T on January 31, 2006, accusing the telecom giant
of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating
with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive and illegal
program to wiretap and data-mine Americans’ communications.

Because AT&T is one of the few providers of the internet backbone
(a so called Tier 1 provider), even if you are not an AT&T customer is
is likely that AT&T is the carrier for much of your interent traffic.
It is very likely that other large internet and email providers have
also worked out deals with the government. We only know about this one
because of an internal whistleblower.

For legal domestic wiretaps, the U.S. government runs a program
called Carnivore (also called DCS1000).

Carnivore is a ‘black box’ which some ISPs are required to install
which allows law enforcement to do ‘legal’ wiretaps. However, no one
knows how they work, they effectively give the government total
control over monitoring anything on the ISP’s network, and there is
much evidence that the government uses carnivore to gather more
information than is legal.

As of January 2005, the FBI announced they are no longer using
Carnivore/DCS1000 and are replacing it with a product developed by a
third party. The purpose of the new system is exactly the same.

ECHELON is a spy program operated cooperatively with the
governments of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia,
and New Zealand. The goal is to monitor and analyze internet traffic
on a wide scale. The EU Parliament has accused the U.S. of using
Echelon for industrial espionage.

Call database

On May 10, USAToday broke the story that the NSA has a database
designed to track every phone call ever made in the US. Although this
applies to phone conversations, the fact that the government believes
that this is legal means that they almost certainly think it is legal
to track all the email communication within the US as well. And we
know from the AT&T case that they have the capability to do so.

You can do something about it!

What a gloomy picture! Happily, there are many things you can do.
These security pages will help outline some of the simple and not-so-
simple changes you can make to your email behavior.

* Secure Connections: by using secure connections, you protect
your login information and your data while is in transport to
* Secure Providers: when you send mail to and from secure email
providers, you can protect the content of your communication and also
the pattern of your associations.
* Public Key Encryption: although it is a little more work, public
key encryption is the best way to keep the content of your
communication private.

See the next page, Security Measures, for tips on these and other
steps you can take. Remember: even if you don’t personally need
privacy, practicing secure communication will ensure that others have
the ability to freely organize and agitate.

Practice secure behavior!
These pages include a lot of fancy talk about encryption. Ultimately,
however, all this wizbang cryto-alchemy will be totally useless if you
have insecure behavior. A few simple practices will go a long way
toward securing your communications:

1. Logout: make sure that you always logout when using web-mail.
This is very important, and very easy to do. This is particular
important when using a public computer.
2. Avoid public computers: this can be difficult. If you do use a
public computer, consider changing your password often or using the
virtual keyboard link (if you use for your web-mail).
3. Use good password practice: you should change your password
periodically and use a password which is at least 6 characters and
contains a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols. It is better
to use a complicated password and write it down then to use a simple
password and keep it only in your memory. Studies show that most
people use passwords which are easy to guess or to crack, especially
if you have some information about the interests of the person. You
should never pick a password which is found in the dictionary (the
same goes for “love” as well as “10v3” and other common ways of
replacing letters with numbers).
4. Be a privacy freak: don’t tell other people your password. Also,
newer operating systems allow you to create multiple logins which keep
user settings separate. You should enable this feature, and logout or
“lock” the computer when not in use.

Use secure connections!
What are secure connections?

When you check your mail from the server, you can use an
encrypted connection, which adds a high level of security to all
traffic between your computer and Secure connections are
enabled for web-mail and for IMAP or POP mail clients.

This method is useful for protecting your password and login. If you
don’t use a secure connection, then your login and password are sent
over the internet in a ‘cleartext’ form which can be easily
intercepted. It is obvious why you might not want your password made
public, but it may also be important to keep your login private in
cases where you do not want your real identity tied to a particular
email account.

How do I know if I am using a secure connection?

When using web browser (Firefox, Safari, etc.)
If you are using a web browser to connect to Riseup, you can look at
three things to check to see if you are using a secure connection.

The first is easy, are you using Internet Explorer? If so, switch to
Firefox. The security problems with Internet Explorer are too numerous
to mention and making the switch to Firefox is an easy step in the
right direction.

Secondly, look up at the URL bar, where the address is. If it starts
with “https://” (NOTE the ‘s’), then you have a secure connection, if
its just “http://” (NO ‘s’), then you are not using a secure
connection. You can change that “http” to “https” by clicking on the
URL bar and adding the ‘s’ and then hit to load the page securely.

The third way to tell is by looking for a little padlock icon. It will
either appear in the URL location bar, or in the bottom corner of the
window, it should appear locked, if the lock doesn’t exist, or the
lock picture looks like it is unlocked, you are not using a secure
connection. You can hover your mouse over the padlock to get more
information, and often clicking (or sometimes right-clicking) on the
lock will bring up details about the SSL certificate used to secure
the connection.

If you click on the padlock, you can verify Riseup’s certificate
fingerprints, this is a very good idea! Follow these directions to
verify our fingerprint.

When using a mail client (Thunderbird, Outlook, etc.)
For POP and IMAP, your mail client will have the option of enabling
SSL or TLS. For sending mail (SMTP), both SSL and TLS will work, but
some ISPs will block TLS, so you might need to use SSL. For more
specific, step-by-step configurations for your mail client, see our
mail client tutorials and SMTP FAQ.

The limits of secure connections

The problem with email is that takes a long and perilous journey. When
you send a message, it first travels from your computer to the mail server and then is delivered to the recipient’s mail
server. Finally, the recipient logs on to check their email and the
message is delivered to their computer.

Using secure connections only protects your data as it travels from
your computer to the the servers (and vice versa). It does
not make your email any more secure as it travels around the internet
from mail server to mail server. To do this, see below.

Use secure email providers
What is StartTLS?

There are many governments and corporations who “sniff” general
traffic on the internet. Even if you use a secure connection to check
and send your email, the communication between mail servers is almost
always insecure and out in the open.

Fortunately, there is a solution! StartTLS is a fancy name for a very
important idea: StartTLS allows mail servers to talk to each other in
a secure way.

If you and your friends use only email providers which use StartTLS,
then all the mail traffic among you will be encrypted while in
transport. If both sender and recipient also use secure connections
while talking to the mail servers, then your communications are likely
secure over its entire lifetime.

We will repeat that because it is important: to gain any benefit from
StartTLS, both sender and recipient must be using StartTLS enabled
email providers. For mailing lists, the list provider and each and
every list subscriber must use StartTLS.

Which email providers use StartTLS?
Currently, these tech collectives are known to use StartTLS:


We recommend that you and all your friends get email accounts with
these tech collectives!
Additionally, these email providers often have StartTLS enabled:

* universities:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
* organizations:,
* companies:,,,,,,,,, greennet (

What are the advantages of StartTLS?
This combination of secure email providers and secure connections has
many advantages:

* It is very easy to use! No special software is needed. No
special behavior is needed, other than to make sure you are using
secure connections.
* It prevents anyone from creating a map of whom you are
communicating with and who is communicating with you (so long as both
parties use StartTLS).
* It ensures that your communication is pretty well protected.
* It promotes the alternative mail providers which use StartTLS.
The goal is to create a healthy ecology of activist providers–which
can only happen if people show these providers strong support. Many of
these alternative providers also also incorporate many other important
security measures such as limited logging and encrypted storage.

What are the limitations of StartTLS?
However, there are some notable limitations:

* Your computer is a weak link: your computer can be stolen,
hacked into, have keylogging software or hardware installed.
* It is difficult to verify: for a particular message to be
secure, both the origin and destination mail providers must use
StartTLS (and both the sender and recipient must use encrypted
connections). Unfortunately, it is difficult to confirm that all of
this happened. For this, you need public key encryption (see below).

Use public-key encryption
If you wish to keep the contents of your email private, and confirm
the identity of people who send you email, you should download and
install public-key encryption software. This option is only available
if you have your own computer.

Public-key encryption uses a combination of a private key and a public
key. The private key is known only by you, while the public key is
distributed far and wide. To send an encrypted message to someone, you
encrypt the message with their public key. Only their private key will
be able to decrypt your message and read it.

The universal standard for public-key encryption is Pretty Good
Privacy (PGP) and GNU Privacy Guard (GPG). GPG is Free Software, while
PGP is a proprietary product (although there are many freeware
versions available). Both work interchangeably and are available as
convenient add-ons to mail clients for Linux, Mac, and Windows.

For information configuring your mail client to use public key
encryption, see our mail client tutorial pages. In particular, see the
tutorials for Apple Mail and Thunderbird. Otherwise, you should refer
the to documentation which comes with your particular mail client.

Although it provides the highest level of security, public-key
encryption is still an adventure to use. To make your journey less
scary, we suggest you keep these things in mind:

* Be in it for the long haul: using public-key encryption takes a
commitment to learning a lot of new skills and jargon. The widespread
adoption of GPG is a long way off, so it may seem like a lot of work
for not much benefit. However, we need early adopters who can help
build a critical mass of GPG users.
* Develop GPG buddies: although most your traffic might not be
encrypted, if you find someone else who uses GPG try to make a
practice of communicating using only GPG with that person.
* Look for advocates: people who use GPG usually love to
evangelize about it and help others to use it to. Find someone like
this who can answer your questions and help you along.

Although you can hide the contents of email with public-key
encryption, it does not hide who you are sending mail to and receiving
mail from. This means that even with public key encryption there is a
lot of personal information which is not secure.

Why? Imagine that someone knew nothing of the content of your mail
correspondence, but they knew who you sent mail to and received mail
from and they knew how often and what the subject line was. This
information can provide a picture of your associations, habits,
contacts, interests and activities.

The only way to keep your list of associations private is to to use an
email provider which will establish a secure connection with other
email providers. See Use secure email providers, above.

What are certificates?

On the internet, a public key certificate is needed in order to verify
the identity of people or computers. These certificates are also
called SSL certificates or identity certificates. We will just call
them “certificates.”

In particular, certificates are needed to establish secure
connections. Without certificates, you would be able to ensure that no
one else was listening, but you might be talking to the wrong computer
altogether! All servers and all services allow
or require secure connections. It can sometimes be tricky to coax a
particular program to play nice and recognize the
certificates. This page will help you through the process.

If you don’t follow these steps, your computer will likely complain or
fail every time you attempt to create a secure connection with

What is a certificate authority?
Certificates are the digital equivalent of a government issued
identification card. Certificates, however, are issued by private
corporations called certificate authorities (CA).

I thought you were against authority?
We are, but the internet is designed to require certificate
authorities and there is not much we can do about it. There are other
models for encrypted communication, such as the decentralized notion
of a “web of trust” found in PGP. Unfortunately, no one has written
any web browsers or mail clients to use PGP for establishing secure
connections, so we are forced to rely on certificate authorities. Some
day, we hope to collaborate with other tech collectives to create a
certificate (anti) authority.

Your certificate is not recognized – what should I do?
We recently installed new certificates that should solve this issue
for webmail and mail client users. However, users accessing the secure
pages for,, and will still receive this annoying error message. The
problem is that these servers use a CA Cert root certificate, which is
not on the list of “trusted” certification authorities. So, in order
to use the certificates without receiving the error message, you will
need to import the CA Cert Root Certificate.

What are the fingerprints of’s certificates?
Some programs cannot use certificate authorities to confirm the
validity of a certificate. In that case, you may need to manually
confirm the fingerprint of the certificate. Here are some
fingerprints for various certificates:

Hash: SHA1

1. SSL fingerprint for
* sha1: BA:73:F5:45:E0:98:54:E5:6D:BA:5C:4B:98:EF:1A:A9:4B:C1:47:9D
* md5:  88:12:94:4D:D5:43:FE:22:84:4E:67:C9:0C:1E:DC:DA

2. SSL fingerprint for
* sha1: F2:1D:DC:23:89:36:15:F9:1B:2C:66:F0:93:99:6E:C8:EB:2C:43:BB
* md5:  A1:3E:38:19:39:70:DA:F0:0E:B1:58:D9:1A:67:41:AD

3. SSL fingerprint for
* sha1: 13:C8:86:19:53:52:C7:A1:B8:03:B0:53:1A:E9:DA:FF:AD:A9:BB:24
* md5:  84:32:84:43:81:13:16:56:0F:CE:68:A9:CF:29:4D:8D
Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (GNU/Linux)


When should I verify these fingerprints?
You should verify these fingerprints whenever they change, or you are
using a computer that you do not control (such as at an internet cafe,
or a library). Verify them if you are suspicious, be suspicious and
learn how to verify them and do it often.

How do I verify these fingerprints?
To verify these fingerprints, you need to look at what your browser
believes the fingerprints are for the certificates and compare them to
what is listed above. If they are different, there is a problem.

In most browsers, the way you look at the fingerprints of the
certificate that you were given is by clicking on the lock icon that
is located either in the URL location bar, or in the bottom corner of
your browser. This should bring up details about the certificate being
used, including the fingerprint. Some browsers may only show the MD5
fingerprint, or the SHA1 fingerprint, some will show both. Usually one
is good enough to verify the validity of the fingerprint.

I want to learn more

Great, this is an important topic and we encourage you to read this
piece which clearly articulates in a non-technical way the problems
involved in certificate authorities as well as outlining some
interesting suggestions for ways that the existing architecture and
protocols can be tweaked just a little bit to change the situation for
the better.


Policy at
We strive to keep our mail as secure and private as we can.

* We do not log your IP address. (Most services keep detailed
records of every machine which connects to the servers. We keep only
information which cannot be used to uniquely identify your machine.)
* All your data, including your mail, is stored by in
encrypted form.
* We work hard to keep our servers secure and well defended
against any malicious attack.
* We do not share any of our user data with anyone.
* We will actively fight any attempt to subpoena or otherwise
acquire any user information or logs.
* We will not read, search, or process any of your incoming or
outgoing mail other than by automatic means to protect you from
viruses and spam or when directed to do so by you when



Security resources for activists

This site contains a quick overview of email security. For more in-
depth information, check out these websites:
Helping activists stay safe in our oppressive world.
A series of briefings on information security and online safety for
civil society organizations.
Guide to Email Security Using Encryption and Digital Signatures
Computer Security for the Average Activist
An introduction to activism on the internet


FBI taps cell phone mic as eavesdropping tool
BY Anne Broache and Declan McCullagh  /  December 1, 2006

The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic
surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile
phone’s microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations.

The technique is called a “roving bug,” and was approved by top U.S.
Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York
organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance
techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him.

Nextel cell phones owned by two alleged mobsters, John Ardito and his
attorney Peter Peluso, were used by the FBI to listen in on nearby
conversations. The FBI views Ardito as one of the most powerful men in
the Genovese family, a major part of the national Mafia.

The surveillance technique came to light in an opinion published this
week by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan. He ruled that the “roving
bug” was legal because federal wiretapping law is broad enough to
permit eavesdropping even of conversations that take place near a
suspect’s cell phone.

Kaplan’s opinion said that the eavesdropping technique “functioned
whether the phone was powered on or off.” Some handsets can’t be fully
powered down without removing the battery; for instance, some Nokia
models will wake up when turned off if an alarm is set. While the
Genovese crime family prosecution appears to be the first time a
remote-eavesdropping mechanism has been used in a criminal case, the
technique has been discussed in security circles for years.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s security office warns that “a cellular
telephone can be turned into a microphone and transmitter for the
purpose of listening to conversations in the vicinity of the phone.”
An article in the Financial Times last year said mobile providers can
“remotely install a piece of software on to any handset, without the
owner’s knowledge, which will activate the microphone even when its
owner is not making a call.”

Nextel and Samsung handsets and the Motorola Razr are especially
vulnerable to software downloads that activate their microphones, said
James Atkinson, a counter-surveillance consultant who has worked
closely with government agencies. “They can be remotely accessed and
made to transmit room audio all the time,” he said. “You can do that
without having physical access to the phone.”

Because modern handsets are miniature computers, downloaded software
could modify the usual interface that always displays when a call is
in progress. The spyware could then place a call to the FBI and
activate the microphone–all without the owner knowing it happened.
(The FBI declined to comment on Friday.) “If a phone has in fact been
modified to act as a bug, the only way to counteract that is to either
have a bugsweeper follow you around 24-7, which is not practical, or
to peel the battery off the phone,” Atkinson said. Security-conscious
corporate executives routinely remove the batteries from their cell
phones, he added.

FBI’s physical bugs discovered

The FBI’s Joint Organized Crime Task Force, which includes members of
the New York police department, had little luck with conventional
surveillance of the Genovese family. They did have a confidential
source who reported the suspects met at restaurants including Brunello
Trattoria in New Rochelle, N.Y., which the FBI then bugged.

But in July 2003, Ardito and his crew discovered bugs in three
restaurants, and the FBI quietly removed the rest. Conversations
recounted in FBI affidavits show the men were also highly suspicious
of being tailed by police and avoided conversations on cell phones
whenever possible.

That led the FBI to resort to “roving bugs,” first of Ardito’s Nextel
handset and then of Peluso’s. U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones
approved them in a series of orders in 2003 and 2004, and said she
expected to “be advised of the locations” of the suspects when their
conversations were recorded.

Details of how the Nextel bugs worked are sketchy. Court documents,
including an affidavit (p1) and (p2) prepared by Assistant U.S.
Attorney Jonathan Kolodner in September 2003, refer to them as a
“listening device placed in the cellular telephone.” That phrase could
refer to software or hardware.

One private investigator interviewed by CNET, Skipp Porteous
of Sherlock Investigations in New York, said he believed the FBI
planted a physical bug somewhere in the Nextel handset and did not
remotely activate the microphone. “They had to have physical
possession of the phone to do it,” Porteous said. “There are several
ways that they could have gotten physical possession. Then they
monitored the bug from fairly near by.”

But other experts thought microphone activation is the more likely
scenario, mostly because the battery in a tiny bug would not have
lasted a year and because court documents say the bug works anywhere
“within the United States”–in other words, outside the range of a
nearby FBI agent armed with a radio receiver.

In addition, a paranoid Mafioso likely would be suspicious of any ploy
to get him to hand over a cell phone so a bug could be planted. And
Kolodner’s affidavit seeking a court order lists Ardito’s phone
number, his 15-digit International Mobile Subscriber Identifier, and
lists Nextel Communications as the service provider, all of which
would be unnecessary if a physical bug were being planted.

A BBC article from 2004 reported that intelligence agencies routinely
employ the remote-activiation method. “A mobile sitting on the desk of
a politician or businessman can act as a powerful, undetectable bug,”
the article said, “enabling them to be activated at a later date to
pick up sounds even when the receiver is down.”

For its part, Nextel said through spokesman Travis Sowders: “We’re not
aware of this investigation, and we weren’t asked to participate.”
Other mobile providers were reluctant to talk about this kind of
surveillance. Verizon Wireless said only that it “works closely with
law enforcement and public safety officials. When presented with
legally authorized orders, we assist law enforcement in every way
possible.” A Motorola representative said that “your best source in
this case would be the FBI itself.” Cingular, T-Mobile, and the CTIA
trade association did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mobsters: The surveillance vanguard

This isn’t the first time the federal government has pushed at the
limits of electronic surveillance when investigating reputed mobsters.
In one case involving Nicodemo S. Scarfo, the alleged mastermind of a
loan shark operation in New Jersey, the FBI found itself thwarted when
Scarfo used Pretty Good Privacy software (PGP) to encode confidential
business data. So with a judge’s approval, FBI agents repeatedly snuck
into Scarfo’s business to plant a keystroke logger and monitor its

Like Ardito’s lawyers, Scarfo’s defense attorneys argued that the then-
novel technique was not legal and that the information gleaned through
it could not be used. Also like Ardito, Scarfo’s lawyers lost when a
judge ruled in January 2002 that the evidence was admissible. This
week, Judge Kaplan in the southern district of New York concluded that
the “roving bugs” were legally permitted to capture hundreds of hours
of conversations because the FBI had obtained a court order and
alternatives probably wouldn’t work.

The FBI’s “applications made a sufficient case for electronic
surveillance,” Kaplan wrote. “They indicated that alternative methods
of investigation either had failed or were unlikely to produce
results, in part because the subjects deliberately avoided government

Bill Stollhans, president of the Private Investigators Association of
Virginia, said such a technique would be legally reserved for police
armed with court orders, not private investigators. There is “no law
that would allow me as a private investigator to use that type of
technique,” he said. “That is exclusively for law enforcement. It is
not allowable or not legal in the private sector. No client of mine
can ask me to overhear telephone or strictly oral conversations.”

Surreptitious activation of built-in microphones by the FBI has been
done before. A 2003 lawsuit revealed that the FBI was able to
surreptitiously turn on the built-in microphones in automotive systems
like General Motors’ OnStar to snoop on passengers’ conversations.
When FBI agents remotely activated the system and were listening in,
passengers in the vehicle could not tell that their conversations were
being monitored.

Malicious hackers have followed suit. A report last year said Spanish
authorities had detained a man who write a Trojan horse that secretly
activated a computer’s video camera and forwarded him the recordings.

From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

Astronaut Candidate

SALARY RANGE: 59,493.00 – 130,257.00 USD per year
OPEN PERIOD: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 to Tuesday, July 01, 2008
SERIES & GRADE: GS-0801-11/14
POSITION INFORMATION: Full-Time Permanent appointment
DUTY LOCATIONS:   Few vacancies – Houston
WHO MAY BE CONSIDERED: This announcement is open to all qualified U.S

JOB SUMMARY: NASA, the world’s leader in space and aeronautics is
always seeking outstanding scientists, engineers, and other talented
professionals to carry forward the great discovery process that its
mission demands. Creativity. Ambition. Teamwork. A sense of daring.
And a probing mind. That’s what it takes to join NASA, one of the best
places to work in the Federal Government.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a need
for Astronaut Candidates to support the International Space Station
(ISS) Program.

NASA uses the USAJobs resume as the basic application document. NASA
limits resumes to the equivalent of about six typed pages, or
approximately 22,000 characters (including spaces). You cannot
complete the application process if your USAJobs resume is too long.
More information about the NASA application process is also available
under the “How to Apply” section of this announcement.


* Position subject to pre-employment background investigation
* U.S. citizenship is required
* This is a drug-testing designated position
* Frequent travel may be required
* Selectee must pass a pre-employment medical examination

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announces the
opportunity to apply for the position of Astronaut Candidate to
support the International Space Station (ISS) Program.

Persons from both the civilian sector and the military services will
be considered. All positions are located at the Lyndon B. Johnson
Space Center in Houston, Texas, and will involve a training and
evaluation program lasting approximately 2 years.

NOTE: The medical standards for the Astronaut Candidate Program were
recently updated and now allow certain corrective surgeries for visual
acuity. See the new standards in the Basic Qualifications Requirements

International Space Station Program Description Return to TOC

The ISS is the largest international scientific and technological
endeavor ever undertaken. The ISS is a permanent laboratory in a realm
where gravity, temperature, and pressure can be manipulated for a
variety of scientific and engineering pursuits that are impossible in
ground-based laboratories. The ISS is a test bed for the technologies
for the future as we learn more about living and working in space.
Aboard the international laboratory, crews conduct medical research in
space; develop new materials and processes to benefit industries on
Earth; and accelerate breakthroughs in technology and engineering that
will have immediate, practical applications for life on Earth.

When completed, the ISS will be 356 feet across and 290 feet long, and
it will weigh about 940,000 pounds. Six people can live on the ISS.
The ISS is forging and maintaining new partnerships with the other
space faring nations of the world; and satisfying humanity’s need to

Constellation Program Description Return to TOC

The Nation’s next major human space flight program is the
Constellation Program.  From the first short flights of the Mercury
Program to the long-duration missions of the ISS Program, NASA has
refined its understanding of the challenges associated with human
exploration of the cosmos.

NASA’s Constellation Program is currently developing spacecraft and
launch systems for a new generation of explorers that will go back to
the moon, Mars, and beyond.  Initial flights of the new Orion
spacecraft will be to the ISS in low-Earth orbit, but by 2020 will
support the development of an outpost on the moon.  Early lunar
missions will be about a week long, but eventually stays on the lunar
surface are expected to last about 6 months, similar in length to
current ISS missions.

Orion will be capable of carrying crews of up to six people to the ISS
and remaining docked to the station for 6 months as a crew return
vehicle if needed.  For lunar missions, Orion will carry four
astronauts all the way to the lunar surface and back.  The capsule
will be capable of orbiting the moon untended for up to 6 months and
will be capable of returning home with the crew at any time.

Astronaut Responsibilities Return to TOC

Astronauts are involved in all aspects of assembly and on-orbit
operations of the ISS  This includes extravehicular activities (EVA),
robotics operations using the remote manipulator system, experiment
operations, and onboard maintenance tasks.  Astronauts are required to
have a detailed knowledge of the ISS systems, as well as detailed
knowledge of the operational characteristics, mission requirements and
objectives, and supporting systems and equipment for each experiment
on their assigned missions.

Long-duration missions aboard the ISS generally last from 3 to 6
months.  Training for long duration missions is very arduous and takes
approximately 2 to 3 years.  This training requires extensive travel,
including long periods away in other countries training with our
International partners.  Travel to and from the ISS will be by Space
Shuttle until its retirement in 2010.  Following the Shuttle
retirement, all trips to and from the ISS will be aboard the Russian
Soyuz vehicle.  Consequently, astronauts must meet the Soyuz size
requirements, as indicated below.

Basic Qualification Requirements Return to TOC

Applicants must meet the following minimum requirements before
submitting an application.

Applicants may meet the minimum requirements in one of two ways:

Astronaut Candidate (Non-Piloting background)

1. Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering,
biological science, physical science, or mathematics.  Quality of
academic preparation is important.  Degree must be followed by at
least 3 years of related, progressively responsible, professional
experience.  An advanced degree is desirable and may be substituted
for experience as follows: master’s degree = 1 year of experience,
doctoral degree = 3 years of experience.  Teaching experience,
including experience at the K – 12 levels, is considered to be
qualifying experience for the Astronaut Candidate position; therefore,
educators are encouraged to apply.
2. Ability to pass the NASA long-duration space flight physical,
which includes the following specific requirements:

Distant visual acuity: Must be correctable to 20/20, each eye

(NOTE:  For those applicants under final consideration,
additional visual screening will be performed to include the following
standards:  refractive error (distant vision)-cycloplegic refractive
error must be between +5.50 and -5.50 diopters in any meridian.
Astigmatism may require up to 3.00 diopters of cylinder correction.
Anisometropia of up to 3.50 diopters.  You are not required to provide
this information with your initial application.  We will request it
later if needed.)

Near visual acuity: Must be correctable to 20/20, each eye

The refractive surgical procedures of the eye, PRK and LASIK,
are now allowed, providing at least 1 year has passed since the date
of the procedure with no permanent adverse after effects.  For those
applicants under final consideration, an operative report on the
surgical procedure will be requested.

Blood pressure not to exceed 140/90 measured in a sitting position

Standing height between 62 and 75 inches

Astronaut Candidate (Piloting background)

1. Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in engineering,
biological science, physical science or mathematics.  An advanced
degree is desirable.  Quality of academic preparation is important.

2. At least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft.
Flight test experience is highly desirable.

3. Ability to pass the NASA  long-duration space flight physical
which includes the following specific requirements:

Distant visual acuity: Must be correctable to 20/20, each eye

(NOTE:  For those applicants under final consideration,
additional visual screening will be performed to include the following
standards:  refractive error (distant vision)-cycloplegic refractive
error must be between +3.50 and -4.00 diopters in any meridian.
Astigmatism may require up to 2.00 diopters of cylinder correction.
Anisometropia of up to 2.50 diopters.  You are not required to provide
this information with your initial application.  We will request it
later if needed.)

Near visual acuity:  Must be correctable to 20/20 each eye

The refractive surgical procedures of the eye, PRK and LASIK,
are now allowed, providing at least 1 year has passed since the date
of the procedure with no permanent adverse after effects.  For those
applicants under final consideration, an operative report on the
surgical procedure will be requested.

Blood pressure not to exceed 140/90 measured in a sitting

Standing height between 62 and 75 inches

Notes on Academic Requirements Return to TOC

Applicants for the Astronaut Candidate Program must meet the basic
education requirements for NASA engineering and scientific positions –
specifically: successful completion of standard professional
curriculum in an accredited college or university leading to at least
a bachelor’s degree with major study in an appropriate field of
engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. The
following degree fields, while related to engineering and the
sciences, are not considered qualifyi:

*- Degrees in Technology (Engineering Technology, Aviation Technology,
Medical Technology, etc.)
*- Degrees in Psychology (except for Clinical Psychology,
Physiological Psychology, or Experimental Psychology which are
*- Degrees in Nursing.
*- Degrees in Exercise Physiology or similar fields
*- Degrees in Social Sciences (Geography, Anthropology, Archaeology,
*- Degrees in Aviation, Aviation Management, or similar fields.
Citizenship Requirements Return to TOC

Applicants for the Astronaut Candidate Program must be citizens of the
United States.
Application Procedures  Return to TOC

* Civilian
Applications can only be submitted through the Office of
Personnel Management’s USAJOBS site

* Active Duty Military
Active duty military personnel must submit applications through
the Office of Personnel Management’s USAJOBS Web site
and to their respective military service. Contact your military
service for additional application procedures.

Selection Return to TOC

Following the preliminary screening of applications, additional
information may be requested from some applicants, and individuals
listed in the application as supervisors and references may be
contacted.  Applicants who are being considered as finalists for
interview may be required to obtain a flight physical.

A week-long process of personal interviews, medical screening, and
orientation will be required for both civilian and military applicants
under final consideration.  Further interviews and a complete medical
evaluation will be conducted prior to selection.  Once final
selections have been made, all applicants will be notified of the
outcome of the process.  Complete background investigations will be
performed on those selected.
General Program Requirements Return to TOC

Selected applicants will be designated Astronaut Candidates and will
be assigned to the Astronaut Office at the Johnson Space Center,
Houston, Texas.  The astronaut candidates will undergo a training and
evaluation period lasting approximately 2 years, during which time
they will participate in the basic Astronaut Candidate training
program, which is designated to develop the knowledge and skills
required for formal mission training upon selection for a flight.
Astronaut Candidates (Piloting background) will maintain proficiency
in NASA aircraft during their candidate period.

As part of the Astronaut Candidate training program, Astronaut
Candidates are required to complete military water survival before
beginning their flying syllabus, and become SCUBA qualified to prepare
them for the EVA training.  Consequently, all Astronaut Candidates
will be required to pass a swimming test during their first month of
training.  They must swim 3 lengths of a 25-M pool without stopping,
and then swim 3 lengths of the pool in a flight suit and tennis
shoes.  There is no time limit.  They must also tread water
continuously for 10 minutes.

Applicants should be aware that selection as an Astronaut Candidate
does not ensure selection as an astronaut.  Final selection as an
astronaut will depend upon satisfactory completion of the training and
evaluation period.  Civilian candidates who successfully complete the
training and evaluation and are selected as astronauts will become
permanent Federal employees and will be expected to remain with NASA
for a period of at least 5 years.  Civilian candidates who are not
selected as astronauts may be placed in other positions within NASA,
depending upon Agency requirements and labor constraints at that
time.  Successful military candidates will be detailed to NASA for a
specified tour of duty.

NASA has an affirmative action program goal of having qualified
minorities and women among those selected as Astronaut Candidates.
Therefore, qualified minorities and women are encouraged to apply.

For additional information about the Astronaut Candidate Program,
please go to the Astronaut Selection site

Pay and Benefits Return to TOC

* Civilian
Salaries for civilian Astronaut Candidates are based on the
Federal Government’s General Schedule pay scales for grades GS-11
through GS-14, and are set in accordance with each individual’s
academic achievements and experience.

* Military
Selected military personnel will be detailed to the Johnson
Space Center but will remain in an active duty status for pay,
benefits, leave, and other similar military matters.



Von Liebig Center helps professors at UCSD market their discoveries
By Terri Somers / February 2, 2007

When UCSD engineering professor Yu-Hwa Lo discovered he could make a flat zoom lens by changing fluidic pressure in the lens, he knew it might have commercial applications.

Through word of mouth at the University of California San Diego, Lo had heard that professors could get help commercializing their discoveries through the William J. von Liebig Center, a grant-making nonprofit affiliated with the university’s Jacobs School of Engineering.

So he submitted an application for funding from the center to help him further develop the lens for use in eyeglasses.

His application was rejected.

The center’s panel of scientists and business executives didn’t think that Lo’s discovery would be marketable or profitable to the eyeglasses industry. The panel members suggested that Lo think about other applications for his lens.

Then they kept on him for months, through e-mails, phone calls and casual conversations when they saw him around campus.

Three months later, Lo applied for funding to develop the lens further so it could be used in camera phones.

“It was a hit, everyone liked it and I got $50,0000,” Lo said.

The center also gave Lo an adviser, Tim Rueth, who has a background in the development of integrated circuit design and wireless systems. Rueth worked his way up to vice president of strategic technology for Qualcomm and has been involved in business development and angel investing.

With the advice of Rueth and other von Liebig Center advisers, Lo turned his technology into Rhevision, a San Diego-based company that is further developing the lens for cell phones and other markets. The CIA’s venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel, is a major investor.

Lo is one of many professors the von Liebig Center has helped make commercial use of their discoveries.

Fifteen von Liebig-supported projects have been converted into startup companies. In the past two years alone, start-up companies that received von Liebig support have raised more than $10 million in capital.

And even more discoveries have been licensed to telecommunications, biotechnology and other industry companies that are using the UCSD science to make new products or make their existing products better.

The center, started with a $10 million grant, has awarded a total of $2.4 million to 56 projects. An additional 25 projects have benefited from the center’s advisers.

The return on investment has climbed steadily.

The revenue UCSD received from the commercialization of discoveries out of the Jacobs School of Engineering has grown from $57,563 in 1999 to $602,713 in 2004, the most recent year for which figures were available.

The center is the brainchild of Bob Coon, former Jacobs School dean. Coon thought the engineering school was not seeing enough of its science find life in the commercial world, said Paul Kedrosky, the center’s executive director.

“As a public university, you kind of have the obligation to get stuff out for commercialization,” Kedrosky said.

And engineering is a natural for commercialization, he said, because it tries to solve real problems. But the engineering school faculty are teachers and scientists, which is a much different skill set than entrepreneurs. In all their years of schooling, many never learn how to commercialize their work.

In 1999, the engineering department started discussing how they could bridge that education gap.

There was a decision to keep the project focused on the Jacobs school, to avoid bureaucracy and fiefdoms. The way to success, the center’s organizers thought, was through a grass-roots effort: get the faculty to endorse it, build strong word of mouth and show usefulness.

By 2001, there was a plan but no money.

The university started canvassing the country for a special kind of philanthropist. Someone who wasn’t interested in starting a scholarship fund or paying for a building that would be named after him or her.

Finally, the university team learned about the William J. von Liebig Foundation in Orlando, Fla. The foundation was created by its namesake after he made hundreds of millions of dollars by selling his medical device company to Boston Scientific.

The $10 million the foundation decided to give UCSD allowed the engineering school to create the nation’s first commercialization center.

In grants of no more than $75,000, the von Liebig Center aims to foster a business incubator on campus. The scientists – only UCSD faculty are eligible – don’t receive the entire grant at once. They must meet milestones set by the advisers, to become eligible for the next grant installment.

When that funding runs out, they can apply for another grant from the center.

The money is helpful, said Lo and other faculty members who have worked with the center. It’s often hard to get a government grant to fund commercialization.

But even more useful, faculty members said, is the advice they receive from the volunteer adviser who is assigned to each project. The advisers, who hail from life sciences, software and defense industries, spend several days a month working with the center.

One of them is Steve Flaim, a Ph.D in cardiovascular physiology who worked on the first calcium channel blocker for Johnson & Johnson, before spending many years in San Diego’s biotech industry.
Flaim retired several years ago and quickly found it boring. He began consulting for biotechs. He also became involved in Tech Coast Angels, a group of individuals that help fund start-up companies.

“I like the idea of seeing new technologies emerge,” Flaim said. “I also like helping bright young innovators avoid the problems that we’ve all made that consume lots of energy, money and time.”

Flaim is now trying to help UCSD’s dean of engineering get the medical school more involved with the engineering department and the von Liebig Center.

The service of the advisers, Kedrosky said, is priceless: “You can get money from a lot of places, but good advice is hard to find.”

Lo’s adviser, Rueth, talked to his friends in telecommunications and crunched numbers to validate the professor’s idea to target the cell phone market.

Connections made by Rueth and the von Liebig Center also helped Lo find the Center for the Commercialization of Advanced Technology, a federally funded program that also helps develop innovative technology. CCAT gave Lo two more $75,000 grants to work out the kinks needed to commercialize his technology.

In 2004, Lo founded Rhevision around the technology. He asked Rueth to lead it.

Rueth has since used his contacts, including those he made as a member of the San Diego Tech Coast Angels, to recruit investors. Rueth won’t talk about how much investment the company has acquired. Rhevision just leased a building in Sorrento Valley where five employees are working to improve the lens technology. Rueth expects to have 20 employees by year’s end.

Lo is now an adviser to the company.

Not all discoveries are turned into companies.

Kenneth Vecchio, a professor of materials science and engineering, has received von Liebig Center grants to develop his inventions to a point where companies would be interested in buying the rights to it.

One of Vecchio’s discoveries was an iron-based amorphous steel that has a high level of dent resistance and elasticity, making it a good product for sporting goods and personal electronic equipment. A $50,000 grant enabled Vecchio to demonstrate the material could be made at a price that undercut another product on the market.

At that point of development, the von Liebig projects are often handed over to the university’s Tech Tips Office, which makes sure the technology has patent protection and looks for companies that might be interested in licensing it.

The von Liebig Center can also play a role in shopping around for licensees.

For instance, it hosted an event that allowed Vecchio to present his steel project to industry. Someone from the audience immediately approached him about possibly licensing the technology.

“The von Liebig Center’s ties to the industrial community are priceless, because the advisers here have conversations on a daily basis with all different types of potential partners,” Vecchio said.

He is currently in talks with companies interested in another technology he has developed, using the chemical properties of shells to create a bone filler.

“The university has helped me learn more about industry. . . . It’s really affected how I view what I do and has me keeping an eye toward whether or not what I’m doing has commercial appeal,” he said.

The opportunity created by the center has not been lost on other universities. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Southern California now have similar programs.

“Industry starts with innovation, not entrepreneurs. And that’s exactly what the center is helping the business community access,” said Duane Roth, who heads Connect, a nonprofit that helps San Diego start-ups with professional guidance and channels to funding.

With relatively little bits of funding and a very low profile, the center fuels new projects, new jobs and helps keep San Diego’s industries on the cutting edge, said Joseph Panetta, who heads Biocom, a regional biotech industry group.

“Places like Florida say that they want to create a life sciences community like San Diego’s and think all that they have to do is attract some venture capital and create a couple of companies and it will happen,” Panetta said. “But they really don’t have a clue to the depth of what we have going on behind the scenes here, with programs like the von Liebig Center, where industry veterans help other people avoid making mistakes, and create the networks and connections needed to succeed.”

Paul Kedrosky
Exec Director
Phone: (858) 822-6777
Fax: (858) 822-5959
Building/Room: Bio-Engineering Bldg 006

dr. paul kedrosky – venture partner

Paul joined Ventures West in 2005 and brings technology and market experience in such areas as open-source software, consumer technologies, broadband communications, semiconductors, and medical devices. He has more than 15 years of experience with early-stage companies in various roles, including founder, investor, analyst, and director. He has served on a half-dozen private company boards, and he currently serves on the boards of directors of Marqui Communications and Dabble DB, in the latter of which he led the first investment round.

Paul has been involved in the formation and/or success of many technology companies, including ActiveState (sold to Sophos), StockPickr (sold to, NetSift (sold to Cisco), and others. He has been the Executive Director of a pre-seed fund in San Diego out of which has come 19 companies, many of which have attracted subsequent venture investment, and all of which are based on world-class intellectual property in diverse areas, ranging from life sciences to materials and software.

In addition, Paul was President and founder of GrokSoup, the first hosted blogging company. Paul founded that company in 1999, and grew it to be the largest in the market by early 2001.

Before starting GrokSoup, Paul created and led the technology equity research practice at HSBC James Capel, a multinational brokerage firm. Transactions with he was involved created more than a billion dollars in public-market value.

Paul is an often-cited authority on technology, finance and markets. He has written and lectured extensively on these subjects, with columns and quotations in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times,, and many other publications. He is a sought-after commentator who appears regularly on CNBC, as well other media outlets. Paul wrote the widely-cited “Feeding Time” for Harvard Business Review, an article which presaged the current era of realtime technologies, syndication, and distributed content.

Paul earned a B. Engineering from Carleton University, an M.B.A. (Finance) from Queen’s University, and a Ph.D. in Information Technology and Economics from the University of Western Ontario. He divides his time between La Jolla, California, and Vancouver, British Columbia.



Rapid and Accurate Screening of Cancerous Cells in Biopsy Samples by a Protein-based Biosensor with TAT-HA2 Method.
PI: Shu Chien
Chien plans to establish the technology needed to develop an efficient screening test based on fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) microscopy to detect cancerous cells in clinical biopsy samples.
Chien’s group has previously developed a FRET biosensor that enables the visualization of specific tyrosine kinase activity, called Src, in live cells with high temporal and spatial resolution. The activity of Src is closely correlated with early carcinogenesis. Proof-of-principle studies have demonstrated that the Src biosensor can accurately identify cancer cells mixed with normal cells, and recent studies have also revealed that HIV-1 TAT protein and a peptide derived from the influenza virus hemagglutinin protein (HA2) can facilitate priming of biopsy samples for FRET analysis. The grant will enable Chien to increase the efficiency, speed, and accuracy of the promising cancer-detection tool.

Development of a Filter System for Removal of Humoral Cell Activators in Severe Cardiovascular Diseases
PI: Geert W. Schmid-Schoenbein
Professor Schmid-Schoenbein and his team have completed the examination of several filter devices to remove inflammatory mediators from plasma. The rate of clearance was found to be optimal during use of a glass-fiber filter. Subsequent tests in a rat hemorrhagic shock model showed no improvement in survival, but analysis indicated that (a) there may be complement and prothrombotic enzyme activation in the plasma on the glass filter, and/or that (b) the rate of filtration by collection of individual blood samples from the femoral vein needs to be accelerated and replaced by a continuous plasma filtration process. With the von Liebig Center funding, the researchers will conduct studies they hope will help establish the feasibility of a filtration technology to remove inflammatory mediators from plasma. Schmid-Schonbein’s team will filter the plasma in the presence of a protease inhibitor to block complement and thrombotic cascade activation and minimize complement activation during the filtration process. The team will test whether the glass filter still eliminates the inflammatory mediators in the presence of protease inhibitors under in-vitro conditions, and whether filtration with the modified glass filter with protease inhibitor serves to reduce the level of inflammatory mediators in a rodent model of shock, improve blood pressure and survival.

Handheld Self-Contained Alveolar Gas Analyzer for Investigating Lung Disease”
PI: John West
Measuring oxygen and carbon dioxide in the depths of the lung – so-called alveolar gas – typically requires cumbersome equipment that is not portable. Professor West — who is a Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Physiology in the UCSD School of Medicine — has already constructed a crude proof-of-concept device with only an oxygen analyzer, and it successfully tracked the changes in alveolar oxygen when a subject traveled to the UC White Mountain Research Station, altitude 3800 meters. The purpose of this new project is to build a full prototype with both O2 and CO2 analyzers and the appropriate electronic circuitry. West believes the handheld, self-contained alveolar gas meter has potential commercial value because it would permit non-invasive testing, notably in the hospital emergency room to assist in the diagnosis of various respiratory diseases, and also in a paramedical setting at a road accident where injury of the chest wall is suspected.

In Vivo Efficacy of Stratified Cartilage Tissue
PI: Robert Sah
In his second project award from the von Liebig Center to date, Professor Sah and his team will test a new way to engineer cartilage tissue for joint repair and replacement, after developing in 2001 a method of creating cartilaginous tissue constructs through fabrication of a tissue with stratification, localizing specialized cells at the tissue surface. These cells express the functional marker molecule thought to be critical for lubrication. In the past year, Sah’s group has developed methods for testing the efficacy of these implants, and the von Liebig Center funding will allow them to carry out the tests in vivo in adult mini-pigs, to determine whether such stratified constructs are better than the established microfracture type of repair. Positive results could stimulate further industrial interest, and pave the way for immediate applications in animals (e.g., dogs, horses) as well as human clinical trials.

Expansion of UCSD Pattern Recognition Methodology for Prediction of Biological Interactions
PI: David Gough
Dr. Gough and his colleague, Dr. Joel Bock, have applied for a patent on a new pattern recognition methodology that would speed up the process of detecting possible interactions among millions of proteins and inferring their biological functions. The methodology is for predicting protein-protein interactions, and employs an algorithm that can be trained to recognize interactions in a limited set of known interaction pairs. The algorithm can then be applied to a larger set of proteins of unknown interactions to predict interactions with quantifiable accuracy. This method has been applied successfully to proteins of several different organisms based on training information available on the web. The method has major advantages in predictive capability and computational economy over other approaches, and is a disruptive technology. The von Liebig grant will allow the team to (1) expand the application of this technology to protein-protein interactions in a broader range of organisms, and (2) explore its application to predict interactions between other types of biomolecules. These studies will solidify the foundation of the UCSD intellectual property and may lead to other inventions.

Electric Field Induced Fluctuation of Quantum Dot and Fluorescent Quencher Probes for High Sensitivity Genotyping, Gene Expression and Infectious Agent Detection
PI: Michael Heller
Efforts to detect infectious agents and other bioterrorism threats are stymied by the ongoing difficulty of doing rapid genetic identification and eliminating the need for the time-consuming (and expensive) step common to all current methods: amplification of the DNA/RNA target through Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). Professor Heller is proposing a novel electric field mechanism by which a combination of a fluorescent nanoparticle (quantum dot) and quencher fluorophore can used to detect very low levels of target DNA/RNA sequences in complex samples. The proposal involves the development of pairs of fluorescent nanoparticles (i.e., quantum dots) and fluorescent quencher probes which can selectively hybridize to a target DNA sequence. As part of a new process, Dr. Heller’s team will apply an oscillating electric field (DC or AC) to the sample which causes the fluorescent nanoparticle and quencher probe combination that is hybridized to the target DNA sequence to produce an oscillating fluorescent response. This oscillating fluorescent system can now be easily detected even among thousands of non-specifically bound fluorescent particles. The endpoints of this research will be to optimize the performance of selected donor/quencher pairs prior to commercialization, and Heller says it is likely, given that the experimental design has been finalized, that this technology will be ready for market in less than one year.

Efficacy of Stratified Cartilage Tissue for Treating Articular Defects
PI: Robert Sah
The goal of Professor Sah’s project is to engineer cartilaginous tissue in novel and effective ways for joint repair and replacement. Current therapies are limited by lack of donor tissue and a lack of prosthesis durability for active patients, and the current generation of engineered cartilage. Sah has already invented Methods to Engineer Stratified Cartilage Tissue (disclosed in 2001 and with a patent application in progress), which demonstrated the ability to tailor cartilage to have cells at a surface producing SZP (Superficial Zone Protein), a molecule critical for lubrication. In this project, Sah and his team will conduct high-risk in vivo experiments in an attempt to establish key scientific concepts and experimental models, relating the presence of SZP to maintenance of cartilage health, and conversely, the loss of SZP to joint deterioration. If successful in showing the association between loss of SZP and the failure for repair, the value of the earlier invention will increase greatly, because it will be established that having SZP-producing cells at a surface will most resemble normal cartilage. Also, an in vivo model would be established for future studies that will directly test the therapeutic efficacy of SZP-based therapies and pave the way for future clinical trials.

In-Silico Modeling for Bioengineering and Medicine
PI: Andrew McCulloch
In systems biology, sufficient structural and cellular data are becoming available to develop predictive computational engineering models of the physiological function of the heart and other organs. The PI already has a copyrighted software package called Continuity, used by academic researchers for in-silico modeling. The proposed project is to convert that package to a form suitable for licensing to a third party as a platform for the development of commercial software tools for in-silico modeling in biomedical applications. The project will generate example data sets that demonstrate the application of the software to medical device design, surgical procedures, diagnostic imaging and drug discovery. Because of the high costs, regulatory requirements and social pressures of in-vivo testing, in-silico modeling is an attractive element of the medical device and drug development pipelines that could decrease costs, reduce development times and improve success rates in the development of FDA-approved therapeutic products. Continuity is a scientific and engineering research tool with proven commercial applications, but it is not yet in a general-purpose format. This project will enhance the prospects of licensing it for commercialization and sale in the medical device, surgical planning, diagnostic imaging and drug discovery industries.

Development of Filter System for Humoral Cell Activators in Severe Cardiovascular Diseases
PI: Geert Schmid-Schoenbein
The project aims to develop a system to filter blood in shock patients, to eliminate humoral inflammatory mediators (toxic protein fragments). In the absence of a pharmacological response to shock, the only current alternative for blood filtration in shock patients is plasmaphoresis, which removes all components of the blood, regardless of cell toxicity. The filter system will be designed with specific characteristics that are optimized for binding of protein fragments. It will be tested in two steps; initially under in-vitro conditions with toxic protein fragments generated in the laboratory from homogenized tissue and in a secondary sequence of experiments it will be tested in rodents subjected to an experimental form of shock. The design objective is to achieve a greater than 90% reduction in the toxic protein fragment level in a living animal under conditions of hemorrhagic shock.

Development and Application of Biosensors to Monitor Kinase Activity with High Temporal and Spatial Resolution in Live Cells
PI(s): Shu Chien and Yingxiao Wang
Chien and Wang aim to establish the technology to monitor the activity in live cells of specific kinases, and to apply it to different physiological and pathological conditions, especially for the diagnosis of diseases such as cancer. Kinases play a crucial role in a variety of cellular processes, including cell division, angiogenesis, motility, and adhesion. Chien and Wang have developed a biosensor capable of detecting kinase activity in live cells based on an optical technology which allows the real-time measurement of kinase activity with high temporal and spatial resolutions in live cells. Preliminary experiments have demonstrated that this biosensor reports kinase activity with high degrees of specificity and sensitivity. With the von Liebig grant, they will conduct proof-of-concept research on this biosensor and its potential as a powerful tool to efficiently and conveniently diagnose the different developmental stages of cancers, e.g. in a biopsy or a pap smear sample.

Computer Science and Engineering

ActiveCity – Location-based, Advertising-supported Services via Mobile Phones
PI: William Griswold
Griswold is developing a mobile phone application called ActiveCity. Based on the location, time, day, and the personal profile of a phone user, ActiveCity will keep the user apprised of nearby relevant opportunities. The application would provide reminders and suggestions for shopping opportunities, coupled with online coupons and multimedia advertising. Additionally, the application could advise of friends and family members who are nearby. Griswold’s group has developed technologies for PDAs and mobile phones for performing low-cost location-based computing that has the potential to be highly portable and robust.

The group also has developed market models with von Liebig Center students, and Griswold is developing an operational demonstration of an ActiveCity mobile phone application based on the market analysis developed by the students.

HAP: A Software Tool for Identifying the Genetic Basis for Human Disease
PI: Eleazar Eskin
With the explosion of genomic sequence data and the completion of the human genome project, much of the progress in understanding the genetic basis of disease relies on computational analysis of the genomic data, including data on the variation in genes associated with a disease for a population of individuals. Understanding the genetic basis of disease involves two steps: determining the functional variants in each gene locus that is linked to the disease and the effect of functional variants on the regulation and gene products of the gene; and understanding how these intermediate phenotypes affect disease outcomes. Using this information, researchers can identify subtypes of the disease which are candidates for different drug response. Eskin’s group has developed a powerful piece of software for performing this analysis – inputting genotypes and outputting haplotypes for each individual. The two-year-old HAP Webserver ( ) has already processed over 4,000 datasets from researchers around the world. In early 2005, a new version will be released, and articles in several high-profile publications will highlight the project. Eskin sees strong commercial potential among pharmaceutical and biotech companies on top of the public-domain availability of the HAP Webserver for non-commercial and research purposes. The von Liebig Center funding will allow the group to work on potential commercial uses of the software.

Overcoming Information Overload by Measuring Message Quality Automatically
PI: Charles Elkan
Professor Elkan is developing software to measure the quality of messages and documents automatically, and other software to enable a web server to give faster responses to high-priority users. The first software can assess documents in milliseconds, and developers say the technology “scales easily to millions of documents and millions of users.” The von Liebig funding will help Elkan commercialize the first application based on the technology – to financial message boards. Elkan, an expert in data mining, expects that the software will benefit major service providers, such as MSN, AOL, and Yahoo. He also sees great potential for the technology benefiting many other companies in a wide variety of market segments.

High-level Synthesis Using Aggressive Parallelization of System C Code
PI: Rajesh K. Gupta
There have been numerous attempts in the past at creating an effective high-level synthesis tool for designing integrated circuits directly from a behavioral language. While each of them has its own merits, Gupta and his team (in collaboration with Alex Nicolau and Nikil Dutt at UC Irvine) have taken a novel approach to this challenge by using aggressive code parallelization and motion techniques to discover circuit optimizations beyond what is possible with traditional approaches. They have developed a number of speculative code motion techniques and dynamic compiler transformations that optimize the circuit quality in terms of cycle time, circuit size, and interconnect costs. This grant will enable his team to productize the tool by enabling it to interface to common industry formats, linking it to simulation tools, and filing for appropriate intellectual property rights.

NetControl: Setting the Internet on AutoPilot
PI: George Varghese
As the Internet expands, it is taking more and more time to oversee the networking technology that links it all together. Now, Varghese believes that he has settled on new software systems that could effectively remove human beings from the loop in certain key networking functions such as controlling Internet attacks and spam. He is proposing to develop two new software products that, according to one von Liebig reviewer, “represent technology that could solve a real pain.”

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Increasing Solar Cell Efficiency Via Incorporation of Engineered Metallic Structures
PI: Edward Yu
Yu’s laboratory has developed a novel technique to enhance the near-surface absorption of photons by semiconductors using plasmon resonances in engineered metallic nanoparticles placed on the surface of the semiconductor. A UCSD invention disclosure and provisional patent application covering this concept and its application to solar cells and other semiconductor-based photo detector devices have been submitted.
Yu is applying the technology to thin-film photovoltaic solar cells in the development of a prototype in collaboration with researchers at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. He has developed a process for fabricating individual photovoltaic devices incorporating transparent indium tin oxide contacts. He has integrated that process with the incorporation of colloidal gold nanoparticles in a process to fabricate an improved photovoltaic device. Yu plans to optimize the energy conversion efficiency of his technology.

Yellow-Amber-Red Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) Fabricated from a New Material System and Technique
PI: Charles Tu
Solid-state lighting recently has become one of the most exciting subjects of research in the semiconductor technology area. Visible color LEDs are useful for outdoor full-color displays, signaling, traffic lights, automobile lights. White light from LEDs would offer many advantages for general lighting: reduced electrical energy consumption, reduced carbon-related pollution, increased lifetime, and so on. There are numerous research approaches to the problem, especially the best materials and devices. Professor Tu has filed a provisional patent on a new material system and fabrication technique based on gallium nitride phosphide (GaNP) that would replace more traditional yellow-amber LEDs thanks to GaNP’s higher luminescent efficiency. Some of its advantages derive from the fact that the material is grown through one-step epitaxy that is much simpler than conventional methods of substrate removal and wafer bonding. With von Liebig Center funding, Tu aims to acquire specialized test and measurement setups for LEDs, and proceed to fabricating prototypes and comparing them to existing commercial high-brightness LEDs.

InP Nanowire-Based Large-Scale Photo Sensing Array with Ultra-High Sensitivity, Super Low Power Consumption, Wide Bandwidth and High Frequency
PI: Deli Wang
Semiconductor nanowires are attractive building blocks for the ‘bottom-up’ assembly of nanoelectronic systems. The ability to control the electronic properties of nanowires in a predictable manner during synthesis has enabled reproducible fabrication of a number of nanodevices based on single nanowires, such as field effect transistors (FETs). Professor Wang and his colleagues have grown high-quality, indium phosphide (InP) nanowires using metal-organic chemical vapor deposition. They have also fabricated devices such as a photodetector based on nanowires. Wang’s research shows these nanowire-based photodetectors exhibit ultrahigh sensitivity and extremely large gain. He foresees great potential for commercialization of high-sensitivity, high-speed, and cost-effective photodetectors enabled by nanotechnology, and Wang’s new funding will allow him to further the commercialization and fabrication technology of novel, nanowire-based photodetectors.

Integrated Adaptive Optics for Cameras in Cell Phones, PDAs, Notebook Computers, and Micro Surveillance Systems
PI: Yu-Hwa Lo
A growing percentage of the 535 million cell phones sold each year contain cameras, and the improvements in picture quality have mostly come from electronics through expansion of the number of pixels and image processing capability. Further improvement will require changes in the front-end optics that have become the bottleneck for performance, functionality and the cost of all miniature cameras. With support from DARPA and the U.S. Air Force, Professor Lo’s group has fabricated a prototype integrated optical-front-end-on-a-chip, using microfluidic and optical MEMS technologies. This comes at a time of growing industry interest in fluidic lenses for high-performance, multi-functional, and cost-effective miniature imaging systems. Having overcome the major technical hurdles, the focus of Lo’s effort under the von Liebig Center grant will be on product development, notably hiring of a product engineer to generate samples for alpha-testing in 7 to 9 months after the program starts, and beta samples in 12-15 months.

Video Instant Messaging System
PI: Truong Nguyen
This is the von Liebig Center’s third award to Professor Nguyen, and will build on work he did as part of a 2003 grant to develop a “Video Walkie-Talkie.” Nguyen’s group is now developing a video instant-messaging system that would work over wireless 802.11 (Wi-Fi) or cellular networks. Users with PDAs could easily videoconference with anyone on their “video buddy list” – with the video streams delivered automatically at the best level of quality available for the specific device. Nguyen sees a pressing need for video instant messaging in the homeland security arena, where emergency first responders and law enforcement would benefit from situational awareness to observe activity at other parts of a disaster scene. Video could also be “pushed” to phones to provide alerts and instructional video information such as news reports.

Nanostructure-based Enhancement of Semiconductor Optical Absorption for Photodetectors and Photovoltaic Devices
PI: Edward Yu
Professor Yu and his team have developed a novel technique to enhance the near-surface absorption of photons by semiconductors using engineered nanostructures placed on the surface of the semiconductor. The approach leads to a substantial increase in optical absorption, even in silicon-based semiconductors. Now, Yu plans to adapt this technology to thin-film photovoltaic solar cells and other semiconductor photodetectors. The commercial potential is huge: Even a moderate increase in efficiency of thin-film solar cells could have a major impact on the economic viability of solar power generation via photovoltaics, which as of 2001 was a $2 billion industry and is projected to grow to roughly $15 billion by 2020. Yu will collaborate with investigators at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, to test the technology in realistic solar-cell devices to gauge their efficiency.

Video Walkie-Talkie Appliance
PI: Truong Nguyen
The combination of new mobile communication standards (3G) and advances in wireless, PDA and networking technologies is creating opportunities for wireless multimedia access. But current multimedia standards such as MPEG-4, H.264 and H.324 are not designed for mobile devices, and the current default codec for image transmission – JPEG – is not ideal for wireless because it does not take advantage of temporal redundancy using motion estimation and prediction. The result: the decoded image is degraded significantly. As part of this project, Professor Nguyen will develop the prototype of an efficient video codec for wireless multimedia that uses the latest models of mobile phones and PDA with built-in cameras, color screens, etc. This Walkie-Talkie appliance will incorporate Dr. Nguyen’s latest research on real-time video coding algorithms as well as decoding enhancement algorithms. He expects that the prototype will attract sponsors including service providers, consumer electronics companies, chip manufacturers, mobile phone and PDA manufacturers.

Electro-optic Waveguide Modulation using Inner Step Barrier Quantum Wells and Peripheral Coupled Waveguide
PI: Paul Yu
As new generations of optical networks take shape thanks to advances in fiber-optics technology, engineers must also develop new devices that will keep pace with those advances. To facilitate the modulation, switching and detection of optical signals at high speed, Professor Yu favors device concepts that allow massive integration of semiconductor waveguide components on the same substrate. Under this project, Dr. Yu’s team will develop two technologies — multifunction waveguide modulators and photodetectors — using inner stepbarrier quantum well (IQW) and peripheral coupled waveguide (PCW) technologies. The goal will be to bring them to manufacturable stage, with the vision of developing efficient electro-optic modulation components based upon semiconductor materials and processing technology using the new approaches. Yu anticipates a broad application of these technologies in the next generation of optical networks.

Low-Cost De-Interlacing Technique for Progressive-Scan Video Player
PI: Truong Nguyen
Professor Nguyen’s research team has invented a very efficient, low-cost algorithm for motion estimation that produces much improved video quality in today’s interlaced television reception—especially on large screens, where the artifacts due to interlacing are more pronounced. This invention would be a clear improvement on the very simple de-interlacing techniques now built into all commercial DVD players which do not produce high-quality video on big-screen TV sets. The choice of the present interlaced television system arose from numerous compromises between the visual quality of the displayed image, the bandwidth required for the transmission, the technical feasibility of the fundamental components, the cost price of the receiving set and other economic considerations. Unfortunately, interlacing produces some disturbing visual artifacts like interline flicker, line crawling and pairing. In the recent few years with the advent of big screen televisions and DVD technology, the dream to realize the movie viewing experience at home has become a reality. The artifacts due to interlacing are more pronounced when viewed on large screens. The development of the line doublers and finally the progressive scan DVD player is a direct consequence of this quest for much improved quality video. Nguyen’s project will further optimize the technique to minimize the computational cost and implement the algorithm on Texas Instruments and VHDL chipsets to accurately measure its computational cost and the chip size needed for hardware implementation. This technique could eventually improve all DVD players, a market of 25 million sold in the United States alone in 2002—and growing at 50% a year.

Personal Digital Tele-viewer for Handheld Devices
PI: Mohan Trivedi
Traditional pan-tilt-zoom video monitoring systems permit only one remote viewer to have a customized view at a time. A digital tele-viewer (DTV) is a software tool that taps into an omni-directional video feed, and unwarps the video into a customized view. Many users can customize their views simultaneously from the video stream of one 360° camera. Adapting this technology to PDAs and other mobile devices would provide clear benefits for crisis management, traffic monitoring, surveillance, virtual reality, and other purposes.

Real-time Volumetric Imaging of Neural Activity
PI: Albert Kellner (with Erik Viirre)
Evaluating neural activity in the brain today typically requires fluorescent dyes and large, expensive equipment for MRIs, PET scanning and computerized tomography. But advances in optical physics and signal processing enable the development of new instruments to assess neural activity. This project aims to develop a simple instrument that measures neural activity using non-invasive in-vivo brain imaging of human subjects through the intact skull. The imagers under development track the essential barometer of neural activity by measuring the optical scattering of infrared light with neurons.
Non-invasive, volumetric measurements of neural activities are of extreme interest for many clinical medical areas, ranging from clinical diagnostics to stroke management and repetitive stress disorder. In addition, many research areas will benefit from real-time volumetric measurements, including fundamental neuroscience and cognitive science.

Enabling Affordable, Predictable, Reliable Wireless Data Services through Adaptive Content Shaping
PI: Sujit Dey
Next-generation wireless data networks are starting to offer new data services. Additionally, wireless data devices (wirelessly-connected laptops, PDAs and cell phones) are becoming more popular and affordable. But delivery of wireless data to, as well as general Internet surfing on, these devices is hampered due to limited bandwidth, unpredictable error levels, and handheld constraints. Dey and his team have developed techniques for shaping data dynamically as a function of network and device conditions and constraints, resulting in a rich wireless surfing experience. Wireless network operators as well as content providers and aggregators already have expressed interest in this technology. This grant will enable Dey and his team to make this software more commercial-ready and add several advanced features.

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Bio Implant and Accelerated Cell Growth Devices
PI: Sungho Jin
Titanium metals and alloys are widely used in orthopaedic and dental implants. Jin’s project aims to develop and optimize the nanoscale surface structure of titanium for improved bone growth, and to study the effect of processing parameters, microstructural specifics, and surface conditions on biological interactions. Jin will investigate the possibility of significantly accelerated bone growth on a template of biocompatible material consisting of geometrically controlled and nanostructured surface coating that is strongly adhered to titanium metal. Titanium implants that have been modified with the surface coating may offer an improvement over existing titanium implant devices used in orthopaedic and dental reconstruction surgeries for accelerated healing and therapeutic functions.

Synthetic Bone by Hydrothermal Conversion of Shells and Marine Skeletal Structures
PI: Ken Vecchio
Vecchio is developing a new method for creating synthetic bone for biomedical applications. The basis of his technology is the hydrothermal conversion of aragonite, or calcite crystals forming mollusk shells and marine bones, to hydroxyapatite, the mineral component of bones and hard tissues in mammals. The major hurdle to synthesis of synthetic bone from aragonite/calcite is the difficulty of making sufficiently dense forms of hydroxyapatite with strong mechanical properties. On the other hand, the dense aragonite crystals in shells and marine bones have excellent mechanical properties. Vecchio has demonstrated the complete conversion of specimens (25 mm by 25 mm by 4 mm) of various aragonite shells to hydroxyapatite. In addition to the conversion to hydroxyapatite, certain marine structures can be converted to a tricalcium phosphate phase, which is believed to be both biocompatible and bio-resorbable, meaning the implants can over time be replaced by natural bone growth. The continuation of the project will include preliminary in-vivo experiments of the synthetic bone samples to determine biocompatibility, and to fabricate prototype samples of the synthetic bone material in the shape and size needed for actual bone replacements.

Development of Cost-Effective Amorphous Steels
PI: Ken Vecchio
The aim of this project is to develop a recent invention of an iron (Fe) rich, low-cost alloy possessing an amorphous structure, requiring only a modest cooling rate to make amorphous, thereby constituting what is referred to as a ‘bulk metallic glass’ material (also known as amorphous steels, when they contain 60 to 70 atomic percent iron). Using an iron composition of 50 to 70 atomic percent, low-cost bulk processed amorphous steels have been created in Professor Vecchio’s lab. These materials exhibit tremendous properties as compared to conventional steel, while maintaining a price point and manufacturing process that should model conventional steel. Amorphous steels of the present design will find broad commercial application, potentially enabling civilian and military vehicles of significantly reduced weight (and therefore higher fuel efficiency and/or transportability) without sacrificing structural durability. Likewise, bridge and infrastructure projects will benefit from the greater strength and corrosion resistance provided by amorphous steels, and seagoing vessels could benefit from shallower drafts and non-ferromagnetic hulls to avoid magnetic triggering of mines. Currently, the only commercial bulk metallic glass material is a class of alloys based on zirconium produced by a company called LiquidMetal. It is mainly used in sporting goods (such as tennis rackets, baseball bats, and golf club heads) and in consumer electronics (e.g., cell phone cases and antennas). The material under development by Vecchio at UCSD has substantial potential for these any many other applications, including biomedical implants, transformer cores, and so on. In addition, it is much cheaper than LiquidMetal, because it is iron-based rather than zirconium-based.

Ultra-fast Combustion Stability and Performance Sensor
PI: Steven Buckley
Emissions requirements for stationary and mobile power sources have led to combustion-control problems, notably oscillatory behavior that diminishes performance and can damage equipment (such as turbine blades). Professor Buckley and his team have developed gas-absorption sensors that can be multiplexed in a single fiber optic, based on tunable diode lasers that are used in the telecommunications industry. Buckley’s sensors can measure emissions and performance oscillations at rates needed for rapid feedback control of these devices (e.g., 500 Hz and above), and because the sending and receiving electronics can be mounted at some distance from the high temperature process, only a small optical access is needed for the fiber-optical input and exit. The von Liebig Center grant will pay for proof-of-concept and prototyping work, including integration and testing of the requisite combination of gas sensors.

Development of Improved Radiological Predictions of the Risk of Rupture of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms
PI: Juan Lasheras
Professor Lasheras hopes to improve the current capabilities of biomedical imaging techniques to better monitor the disease progression in Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms (AAA). Quantifying the spatial and temporal distribution of mechanical stresses acting on the vessel walls, the project could lead to a quantitative assessment of the risk of rupture in AAA – and potentially provide improved guidelines for intervention. Lasheras will work with other engineers, computer scientists as well as physicians specializing in radiology and vascular medicine. The proposed method consists of using high resolution computerized tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to reconstruct a three-dimensional model of the abdominal aorta, including AAA. A finite-element computer code incorporating non-linear elastic effects and all physiological and mechanical information of the arterial wall will be developed to compute the distribution of stresses along the aneurysm’s wall to provide information on the possible location of rupturing and a quantification of the risk of rupture.

Active Noise Control of Cooling Fans: Applications to Air Ventilation, Data Projectors and Computer Systems
PI: Raymond de Callafon
Forced airflow cooling is required in many industrial and electronic systems, including computers, data projectors and air ventilation systems, creating an audible noise. For low frequencies in particular, reducing the noise emission may require a large amount of ‘passive’ sound absorption material. Professor de Callafon believes that a good solution to deal with the noise problem is active noise control (ANC) – canceling sound by either a controlled emission of a secondary opposite (out-of-phase) sound signal, or controlling the absorption and boundary conditions of insulation material. ANC hardware and algorithms for a fan by itself would be commercially not realistic, as this would increase the cost of the fan. However, integration of the ANC in a system as a whole is not only cost effective but also significantly better for the control of sound. The implementation of ANC is complex due to the (unknown) dynamic and spatial relationships between noise source and noise cancellation objectives. However, with the growing availability of efficient transducers (microphones), data processing algorithms can be used to estimate and characterize the dynamic sound propagation to optimize the development of noise cancellation algorithms. The primary goal of this project is to show proof of concept for ANC in various commercial systems and to address the complexities in ANC by developing new data based modeling and control strategies for active sound cancellation. This project will demonstrate proof of concept for various systems and the technology for ANC in these systems will provides new technical developments and material for patents.

Improved Method of Semiconductor Wafer Fusion
PI: Vitali Nesterenko
The main goal of Professor Nesterenko’s project is the development of a process based on hot isostatic pressing with uniform bonding over the size of wafers – with diameter about 50 mm on first stage and with 6 inch diameter on the last stage, with minimal wrapping of wafers and without intermediate layers. This will determine the lowest level of temperature exposure and optimize P-T-time bonding window. The participants in this project successfully demonstrated feasibility of the process on small-scale wafers and filed UCSD disclosure. Significant efforts are needed to advance this approach toward large-scale bonding. Efforts to model residual stresses in bonded wafers with a goal to reduce their level, to test bonding quality based on resonance ultrasound spectroscopy, and to use a variety of prebonding techniques are also planned.

Development of a Solid-State Lamp
PI: Joanna McKittrick
Solid-state lighting will eventually replace conventional lighting, such as incandescence and fluorescence. The devices are flat and do not require a vacuum (incandescent) or a pressurized gas (fluorescent) to operate. They are more energy efficient, and have low maintenance and longer lifetimes than conventional bulbs. Professor McKittrick (in collaboration with Cree, Inc. and the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory), will build a compact solid-state white-light source that can be used for solid-state lighting and other general illumination applications. The device to be demonstrated will lead to a high-performance, white-emitting light emitting diode (LED). The device will use several phosphors to simultaneously generate different colors that combined (based on the additive principle of color theory) will produce white light and/or simply using the single-phase composition approach. McKittrick and her team at UCSD have recently developed mixtures of three compositions (of red, green and blue phosphors), as well as single-phase white-emitting phosphors. The blends and compositions can be activated efficiently with gallium-nitride (GaN) radiation.

Testing of Supported Zeolite Membranes Produced by Electrophoretic Deposition
PI: Jan Talbot
Supported zeolite membranes are used in gas separation and pervaporation. Existing processes are not reproducible and zeolite films are prone to cracking or formation of macropores which short-circuit permeation through the zeolite pores. Professor Talbot and her team have developed an easy and reproducible procedure by electrophoretic deposition (EPD) to produce uniform and homogeneous zeolite films on porous metallic supports. These supports are for potential use in membrane separation processes. This project will test the supported membranes produced by EPD for gas separations by collaboration with a company or university that have gas separation membrane testing equipment. Typically, supported zeolite membranes have been used to separate hydrogen from nitrogen, oxygen from nitrogen, and carbon dioxide from nitrogen. Existing test equipment will be modified to test these membranes for gas separation, and the testing will allow Talbot to assess the viability of the EPD process as a means to produce supported zeolite membranes for gas separation.

Advanced Medical Training Simulator Based on Operating Room Data
PI(s): Nathan Delson and Mike Bailey
School of Medicine Collaborators: Randolph Hastings, Matthew Weinger
The goal of this project is harness virtual reality, augmented reality, and computer-controlled mannequins to train personnel in medical procedures—thus eliminating the current training method of practicing those skills on real patients. One of the key challenges of developing accurate simulations is the current lack of accurate physical data required to model the procedure. The approach of this study is to instrument medical tools used in the operating room, in order to measure the medical skill and patient properties necessary for a realistic simulator. The medical procedure to be addressed with von Liebig equipment grant is airway intubation via laryngoscopy. The simulator will be programmable to mimic patient anatomy observed during our study, and cues from expert motions will be accessible to the trainee to assist and evaluate the trainee. The physical properties of the simulator will be based on the stiffness properties acquired from the force and motion data from the instrumented laryngoscope. This prototype will illustrate a new method for medical simulator development, with potential applications in other medical procedures.

Extending Ion Thruster Engine Lifetime
PI: Russell Doerner (with Dennis Whyte)
“Each satellite typically has several ion thruster engines on board for positioning control while in orbit. Increasing the lifetime of a satellite requires doing the same for the engines, whose lifetime is determined by the erosion rate of the molybdenum (Mo) accelerating grids within the engines. The goal of this project is to demonstrate the feasibility of increasing the resistance of the grids to erosion and extending their mean time to failure by as much as 500%. While there are only a handful of companies that manufacture ion thruster engines for satellites, the monetary size of this market and the impact of increasing the lifetime of a satellite are large. The project will conduct proof-of-principle experiments to enhance the value of this technology for worldwide licensing, and fund a patent application.”

Torque Pulsation Compensation Schemes for DC Motors + Robotic Arm for Stroke Patient Rehabilitation
PI: Alan Schneider (with Alex Seguritan)
This project has two phases. The first involves developing software and hardware that can be applied to commercial electric motors to mitigate the adverse effects of torque pulsation disturbances that are deleterious in many applications that involve high precision positioning. The applications for this technology are limitless, covering anything where high precision motion control is required. Potential uses range from military and automotive applications, to the medical industry, including robotic surgical instruments controlled by surgeons performing highly accurate surgery, rehabilitation devices for trauma and stroke patients, auxiliary motion control suits which could help quadriplegic patients walk, and replacement artificial limbs.
The specific application to be developed in the course of this project would benefit stroke victims. Stroke is the leading cause of acquired adult hemiplegia in the United States . Over 2 million Americans suffer from permanent neurological deficits of stroke. Limb spasticity remains one of the major rehabilitation challenges. The system under development consists of a direct-drive brushless DC motor which powers the adjustable mechanical arm into which the patient’s arm comfortably fits. The motor drives the robot arm under closed-loop feedback control using a digital computer as a programmable controller. The “robot arm” is a tool to make quantitative measurements of spasticity, thereby facilitating the assessment of spasticity-reducing therapies, including drugs, and the study of neuromuscular causes of spasticity. The initial commercial market would be in pharmaceutical companies and other research institutions, followed by full-scale production and sale to major rehabilitation clinics. A later development would be a smaller, lighter, cheaper version for home use by stroke patients.

Novel SiGe Processes and Devices for Nano-Photonics Applications
PI: Prabhakar Bandaru
Experts in the photonics industry see potential in the integration of Germanium-based optical components with conventional CMOS-based electronics, allowing for the development of opto-electronic integrated circuits with superior performance and functionality (compared to optical or electronic circuits alone). With this grant, Bandaru hopes to collaborate with an industry leader on further development and commercialization of his technology to make a Germanium-on-Silicon integrated photodetector capable of detecting 2.5 Gigabits per second.

New Method to Create Synthetic Bone
PI: Kenneth S. Vecchio
The aim of this project is to refine a new method for creating synthetic bone for biomedical applications such as dental implants and biocompatible prosthetic interfaces. Vecchio recently developed a new method to convert marine skeletal structures into new materials with a composition similar to the structural basis of bone. These new materials have microstructural architectures similar to the marine skeletons imparting excellent mechanical properties, but possess bio-compatible constituents. This project will focus on optimizing the conversion process to develop this new material while maintaining the architecture structure required for high-performance bone substitutes.

Structural Engineering

A Fiber Optic-Based Sensor System for Real-Time Shape Reconstruction of Deformable Objects
PI: Michael Todd
During major seismic events, horizontal ground motion can lead to soil liquefaction, and subsequent lateral spreading of the liquefied ground material is the largest cause of structural damage, including cracking, fracture, and even catastrophic failure. In partnership with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Professor Todd demonstrated a prototype for a novel sensor concept based on fiber optics and a thin flexible beam transducer mounted on a laminar box experiment at UCSD. The simple beam geometry allows for easy conversion of local displacement at each point into an integrated bending displacement profile for the beam. This approach has the advantages of minimal intrusivity, high sensitivity, insensitivity to electromagnetic interference, and easy sensor multiplexing for greater spatial profile resolution. Todd now wants to go several steps further. The Center funds will allow him to investigate design improvements for field ruggedness; to initiate an integrated hardware/software design and a user-friendly interface; and to demonstrate a redesigned prototype in a larger-scale series of tests to establish performance parameters. Ultimately, Todd hopes to present a design to the ground-motion sensor industry.

Improved Materials for Heat Exchanger Tubes for Power Plants
PI: Bimal Kad
Mechanically alloyed oxide dispersion strengthened (ODS) Fe-Cr-Al alloy thin walled tubes and sheets, produced via powder processing and consolidation methodologies, are viable component materials for eventual use at temperatures up to 1200oC in the power generation industry. That is far above the temperature capabilities of conventional alloys. Target end-uses range from furnace components, heat shields in re-usable space vehicles, gas turbine (jet engine) combustor liners, nacelles to high aspect ratio (L/D) heat exchanger tubes in power plants. Recent studies in cross-rolled ODS-alloy sheets indicate that transverse creep is significantly enhanced via controlled transverse grain fibering, and similar improvements are expected for cross-rolled tubes. This project will systematically examine and validate post-extrusion forming methods to create hoop strengthened tubes, which will be evaluated at ‘in-service’ loads at service temperatures and environments. Kad and his colleagues aim for eventual commercial adoption in the power-generation market.

Apparatus for the Inspection of Pipes and Tubes
PI: Francesco Lanza di Scalea
The safe operation of oil, power generation, and chemical processing plants requires screening of their pipes to ensure that there are no unacceptable levels of corrosion. Since a significant portion of industrial pipes are insulated, this means that even external corrosion cannot be detected by visual inspection without the removal of the insulation, which can be prohibitively expensive. A quick and reliable method for the detection of corrosion, which does not require the removal of the insulation, is therefore required. Professor Lanza di Scalea is developing an apparatus for the inspection of long lengths (hundreds of feet) of pipes and tubes — only requiring access to one end and without requiring insulation removal. The system will operate by long-range ultrasonic guided waves that will be reflected by corroded areas providing a means for the detection and classification of the corrosion.


Dr. Paul S. Kedrosky

Short Version:

Dr. Kedrosky is a venture capitalist, media personality, and entrepreneur. He is a sought-after speaker; an analyst for CNBC television; a columnist for TheStreet/RealMoney; the editor of Infectious Greed, one of the best known business blogs on the Internet; and he is frequently quoted in major publications around the world.

To obtain more information about having Dr. Kedrosky speak at your event please contact the National Speakers Bureau at 800.661.4110.

Long Version:

Dr. Kedrosky is a venture capitalist, media personality, and entrepreneur. He is a sought-after speaker; an analyst for CNBC television; a columnist for TheStreet/RealMoney; the editor of Infectious Greed, one of the best known business blogs on the Internet; and he is frequently quoted in major publications around the world.

Most recently he has been the Executive Director of the William J. von Liebig Center in San Diego, California. Using an innovative seed capital program, the Center catalyzes the commercialization of technologies from the internationally-ranked University of California, San Diego.

He is a venture partner with Ventures West, Canada’s largest institutional venture capital firm. In that capacity his interests include consumer technologies, media, semiconductors, and life sciences. He is currently on the board of Marqui Corporation, a marketing automation software firm, as well as Dabbledb, a hosted data management company.

Earlier in his career, Dr. Kedrosky founded the technology equity research practice at HSBC James Capel. As a highly-ranked technology equity analyst, transactions with which he was involved created in excess of a billion dollars in public market value. Dr. Kedrosky was one of the first analysts to cover Internet companies, as well as making early and timely calls in networking and communications.

Dr. Kedrosky has also been a successful entrepreneur. In 1999 he financed and launched one of the first hosted blogging services, GrokSoup. The service grew to more than a thousand subscribers. Relatedly, he wrote for Harvard Business Review what is widely regarded as the seminal article on dark matter and syndication technologies.

Dr. Kedrosky is a sought after media personality. He has hosted a television program, “Profiles on Innovation”, that is available on cable in the U.S., as well as on the web (at He has written influential columns for Business 2.0 magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Harvard Business Review, and others. He has also appeared on many media outlets, including CNN, PBS Newshour, ABC Nightline, and the New York Times, and he can be seen frequently on CNBC’s “On the Money”. He maintains one of the best known technology, venture capital, & finance blogs at

Dr. Kedrosky currently divides his time between La Jolla, California, and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Paul Kedrosky Named Executive Director of The von Liebig Center

San Diego, CA, August 16, 2005 — Jacobs School of Engineering dean Frieder Seible and External Relations executive director MaryAnn F. Stewart announced today that Paul Kedrosky has been appointed Executive Director of The von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement. Kedrosky has extensive experience in entrepreneurship, finance, venture capital, and academia.

Kedrosky advises venture capital firms in the U.S. and Canada, and has been a venture partner with Ventures West, a $500-million venture firm, as well as having been a board-member of various technology companies. He founded the technology equity research practice at HSBC James Capel (Canada), a subsidiary of one of the largest brokerage firms in the world.

Technology transactions with which he was involved created in excess of $3 billion in public market value. Kedrosky continues to be on the board of advisors of companies in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to having founded three companies of his own. He has also been a faculty member at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
Kedrosky has published more than 300 articles in academic and non-academic publications on venture capital, entrepreneurship, and innovation. He has appeared on many media outlets, including CNN, CNBC, PBS Newshour, and ABC Nightline, as well as having been interviewed by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. He has also written for The Economist, Wall Street Journal, Brookings Institute Review, Forbes, Harvard Business Review and the National Post.

In his new position, Kedrosky will concentrate on long-range strategic planning and external relations for the von Liebig Center, as well as expansion of existing von Liebig seed investment and education programs. Managing Director Steve Halpern will continue to be responsible for day-to-day operations of the Center.

Kedrosky succeeds Joe Bear, who will continue to assist the Jacobs School in development of resources to sustain business development programs and solicitation of industry participation in new Architecture-Based Enterprise Systems Engineering (AESE) programs.

From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

1ST PRIZE US$100,000

“If success or failure of the planet and of human beings depended on
how I am and what I do … How would I be? What would I do?”
– Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller’s prolific life of exploration, discovery,
invention and teaching was driven by his intention “to make the world
work for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through
spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or disadvantage of

Fuller coupled this intention with a pioneering approach aimed at
solving complex problems. This approach, which he called comprehensive
anticipatory design science, combined an emphasis on individual
initiative and integrity with whole systems thinking, scientific rigor
and faithful reliance on nature’s underlying principles.

After decades of tracking world resources, innovations in science and
technology, and human needs, Fuller asserted that options exist to
successfully surmount the crises of unprecedented scope and complexity
facing humanity – he issued an urgent call for a design science
revolution to make the world work for all.

Entry Criteria

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge seeks submissions of design science
solutions within a broad range of human endeavor that exemplify the
trimtab principle. Trimtabs demonstrate how small amounts of energy
and resources precisely applied at the right time and place can
produce maximum advantageous change.

Solutions should be:

* Comprehensive – a clear demonstration of holistic systems
* Anticipatory – projectively tracking critical trends and needs;
identifying and assessing long term consequences of proposed
* Ecologically responsible – reflective and supportive of nature’s
underlying processes, patterns and principles.
* Verifiable – able to withstand rigorous empirical testing.
* Replicable – capable of being readily undertaken by others.
* Achievable – likely to be implemented successfully and broadly


How to Enter

Entries for The Buckminster Fuller Challenge will be accepted via our
web-based platform or the post beginning September 4th and ending
October 30th, 2007.


Entries will be limited to a maximum total of 1500 words. You will
also be permitted to submit up to six images with your entry.

The final application will ask you to address the following:

1. The problem you are trying to solve and/or the preferred state
you are trying to achieve.
2. Your solution and your plan to implement it.
3. How you are going to finance it.
4. Who is going to do it.
5. Who will vouch for you and your plan.

Entries to THE BUCKMINSTER FULLER CHALLENGE will be accepted from
September 4th – October 30th, 2007.

To receive an entry form announcement, please sign up for our mailing


In design science, the trimtab metaphor is used to describe an
artifact, or system, specifically designed and placed in the
environment at such a time, in such a place, where its effects would
be maximized, thereby effecting the most advantageous change with the
least resources, time and energy. Doing more with less.




Design Science
In the words of Buckminster Fuller, Design Science is “effective
application of the principles of science to the conscious design of
our total environment in order to help make the Earth’s finite
resources meet the needs of all humanity without disrupting the
ecological processes of the planet.”.


Individuals and/or teams may submit no more than 1 (one) entry for
consideration. Entries will be accepted if the individual and/or team

* Are 18 years of age or older.
* Maintain a current and valid form of identification appropriate
to country of residence.
* Submit entry in English.
* Follow the submission process completely and on time.
* Remit a non-refundable processing fee ($50).
* Are available to be contacted by email or telephone at any point
in the evaluation process, and are available (if requested) for a site
visit by a member of the evaluation committee.
* Are able to attend (or send a representative to) a prize
ceremony in June, 2008 in New York City (travel and accommodation
expenses will be paid for by The Challenge program).

Entries will be subject to a preliminary screening for compliance with
eligibility and entry requirements. Compliant entries will be
evaluated and a group of semi-finalists will be chosen.

Semi-finalists will be asked to respond to additional questions and,
if necessary, will be contacted directly to clarify their responses. A
select number will advance to the finalist phase.

Finalists will be interviewed and a winner will be selected by a
distinguished panel of judges.

Program Timeline:

Sep 4 – Oct 30 Period for accepting entries
Oct 30 Submission deadline for all entries (mailed entries to be
postmarked by Oct. 30)
Oct 31 – Nov 30 Entry evaluation period
Dec 3 Semi-finalists chosen and notified. Additional questions
submitted to semi-finalists.

Feb 16 Deadline for Semi-finalist responses (mailed entries to be
postmarked by Feb. 16)
Feb 18 – Mar 28 Semi-finalist evaluation period
Mar 31 Finalists chosen and notified
Mar 30 – May 2 Finalists Interviewed
May 12 Jury deliberations begin
Jun 2 Winner of The Buckminster Fuller Challenge notified
Jun TBA Public announcements of the winner
Jun TBA Conferring of the prize

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge Winner:

The winner (individual or team) will receive a $100,000 cash prize to
support the on-going development and implementation of their winning

Additional benefits conferred in 2008 to the winning entry include:

* Round trip airfare to New York City (accommodations included) to
receive the Prize at a ceremony to which the press and guests will be
* Opportunities to present winning work at events organized by the
Buckminster Fuller Institute in the United States, and subject to
funding, abroad.
* Opportunities to present winning work to the international
* Exposure of winning work through the Buckminster Fuller
Institute’s outreach programs.
* Work will be featured in an annual Buckminster Fuller Challenge
print publication.

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge Finalists:

Finalists in the Challenge will receive:

* Featured recognition of work through the Buckminster Fuller
Institute’s outreach programs.
* Presentation of work in an annual Buckminster Fuller Challenge
print publication.

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge Semi-finalists:

Semi-finalists will be invited to feature their entries for public
access on the program’s easy-to-use searchable website. A press
announcement will be published and circulated encouraging the
international press and interested public to view the work.


The Buckminster Fuller Challenge is currently seeking press partners
(national and international).

To discuss a potential partnership, please contact.


Financial Support for The Buckminster Fuller Challenge

Prize monies and basic operational funding have been made possible by
the visionary support of an individual anonymous donor to the
Buckminster Fuller Institute.


The Buckminster Fuller Institute is accepting sponsorship proposals
from companies, organizations and individuals whose mission clearly
aligns with the goals of the program to sponsor its core features.
These include a high-profile ceremony event; a national lecture tour
for challenge winner; professionally produced annual publications
featuring Challenge winner and finalists.

If you or your company would like to discuss sponsorship opportunities
please contact:

Angela Molenaar
Director of Development
718 290 9282

Elizabeth Thompson
Executive Director
718 290 9285



These documents comprise a series entitled “World Design Science

The series originates with the proposal made by R. Buckminster Fuller
to the International Union of Architects (I. U. A. ) at their VIIth
Congress in London, England in July, 1961. He proposed then that the
architectural schools around the world be encouraged by the I. U. A.
to invest the next ten years in a continuing problem of how to make
the total world’s resources which [in 1961] serve only 40% serve 100%
of humanity through competent design despite a continuing decrease of
metal resources per capita.

In essence, The World Design Science Decade series of documents
suggests, in great detail, ways in which world architectural schools,
and specifically their students, should initiate, and assume The
Design Science Decade. The total series includes many of Fuller’s most
prescient ideas.

A note from the series editor, John McHale:

“Though the language of some of the texts may seem difficult at first
approach, it should be borne in mind that one of our major problems in
thinking today [1965] is the use of language systems which still
represent a fixed, structurally compartmentalized world view. The
terms available to us for the expression of dynamic, rather than
static, concepts are far from satisfactory. Fuller’s language is
particularly representative of the ‘transitional state’ (of the
western world) between the older, traditional, noun-centered culture
to its present day, changing, verb-centered culture’. In his search
for an adequately descriptive terminology he tends to employ concepts
and usages from many different fields juxtaposed in ways which may be
unfamiliar to those more customarily restrained within the
vocabularies of particular disciplines.”

* Phase I (1963) Document 1: Inventory of World Resources Human
Trends and Needs by R.
* Phase I (1964) Document 2: The Design Initiative by R.
Buckminster Fuller [pdf 113mb]
* Phase I (1965) Document 3: Comprehensive Thinking by R.
Buckminster Fuller [pdf 3.8mb]
* Phase I (1965) Document 4: The Ten Year Program by R.
Buckminster Fuller and John McHale [pdf 75 mb]
* Phase II (1967) Document 5: Introduction to Comprehensive Design
Strategy by R. Buckminster Fuller [pdf 1mb]
* Phase II (1967) Document 5: Comprehensive Design Strategy by R.
Buckminster Fuller [pdf 222k]
* Phase II (1967) Document 5: Chronofile by R. Buckminster Fuller
[pdf 73k]
* Phase II (1967) Document 6: The Ecological Context Energy and
Materials by John McHale [pdf 89mb]
* Document I: The World Game (1971) The World Game: Integrative
Resource Utilization Planning Tool by R. Buckminster Fuller.

Design Science Primer documentEnvironmental Design Science Primer by
Howard Brown, Robert Cook & Medard Gabel

From the foreword: This primer outlines one alternative to present
problem-solving techniques, an approach Buckminster Fuller calls
“comprehensive anticipatory design science.” Design science is “the
effective application of the principles of science tothe conscious
design of our total environment in order to help make the Earth’s
finite resources meet the needs of all of humanity without disrupting
the ecological processes of the planet.”

Environmental Design Science Primer by Howard Brown, Robert Cook &
Medard Gabel [pdf 4.2mb]

Places to IntervenePlaces to Intervene in a System by Donella H.

Dr. Donella H. Meadows (Ph.D. in biophysics, Harvard University), a
Pew Scholar in Conservation and Environment and a MacArthur Fellow,
was one of the most influential environmental thinkers of the
twentieth century.

The central thesis of Places to Intervene in the System is “Leverage
points are not intuitive. Or if they are, we intuitively use them
backward, systematically worsening whatever problems we are trying to
solve.” Leverage points are those “places within a complex system (a
corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a
small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything.”

Places to Intervene in a System by Donella H. Meadows [pdf 92k ]

Sustainability Principes DocumentSustainability: The Five Core
Principles by Michael Ben-Eli

Dr. Michael Ben-Eli is an international consultant on management and
organization. He was a student and close associate of Buckminster
Fuller, with whom he collaborated on projects involving research on
advanced structural systems and exploration of issues related to the
management of technology and world resources for the advantage of all.

The Five Core Principles of Sustainability have been developed to
serve as a new framework to advance our understanding of what must
guide our actions if we intend to implement breakthrough
sustainability practices.

“If you wish to fly and want to successfully construct an aircraft in
order to do so, you need to understand the basic principles of
aerodynamics. Similarly, if we are serious about ensuring a
sustainable future, we need to be guided by a set of principles which
underlie sustainability as an enduring state.” – M. Ben-Eli

Sustainability: The Five Core Principles by Michael Ben-Eli [pdf
112k ]


* Are there any restrictions on the cash prize?

The cash prize is intended to be used to take the winning
strategy to the next stage of development. BFI will remain in contact
with the prize recipient for a minimum of one year to follow the
progress of development.

* Are entries limited to a particular area or field of endeavor?

No, entries may relate to any field of human enterprise.
Examples include: art, architecture, community development, design,
decision support and visualization, education and learning,
engineering, human health, industry, infrastructure and the built
environment, innovations in finance and accounting, innovative use of
existing technology and new technology innovations (actual technology
artifacts and systems or software), policy and legislative
initiatives, public awareness, and scientific discovery.

* What topical themes are you looking for?

Entries may relate to any topic or theme. We are interested in
receiving entries that take a comprehensive approach to solving our
most pressing problems.

* How far along does my solution need to be in order to be

Entries at the start-up stage are acceptable as well as those at
more advanced stages of development. What is more important than the
stage of development is the degree to which the prize monies will make
an impact on the further development of your solution. It is our
intention that prize monies will effect maximum advantageous change.

* If I have a great solution, how much experience must I or my
team have in order to enter The Challenge?

The state of an applicant’s or team’s career is of less
importance than the overall capacity of the team, the quality and
achievability of the solution itself, and its potential to be a
“trimtab” (see definitions below). You and your team members need to
be 18 years of age. If you are lacking in experience we suggest you
make a strong case in your entry for your capacity and find highly
experienced people who can vouch for you and your idea.

* I know someone whose work should be considered to win this
Challenge. Can I submit an entry on their behalf.

There are special circumstances under which we will consider
submissions made on behalf of someone else. For example, the
originator of a solution may not know about the Challenge, does not
have access to a computer or the internet, does not read/write/speak
English, lives in a remote location without postal service, is too
modest to enter on his/her own, etc.

Entries entered on behalf of an individual/or team will be
accepted if the following considerations are met:

1. Permission must be granted by the project originator for
someone else to enter the Challenge on their behalf.
2. If the entry is invited to be considered beyond Stage One
of the Challenge selection process, the project leader must be
available to respond to further inquiry (either directly or through a
3. If the entry wins the Challenge, the project leader (or
representative selected by the project team) must be available to
receive the prize in person at a ceremony in New York.

* What is a “trimtab”?

Buckminster Fuller referred to the function of a trimtab in
nautical and aeronautical design to demonstrate how small amounts of
energy and resources precisely applied at the right time and place can
produce maximum advantageous change.

A large ship moving through the ocean has great momentum.
Turning the rudder changes the direction of the ship but with great
effort. Turning the trimtab – a tiny rudder on the trailing edge of
the main rudder – causes an initial momentum allowing the main rudder
to turn with less effort in pulling the whole ship around.

Buckminster Fuller said, “When I thought about steering the
course of the ‘Spaceship Earth’ and all of humanity, I saw most people
trying to turn the boat by pushing the bow around.”

“I saw that by being all the way at the tail of the ship, by
just kicking my foot to one side or the other, I could create the ‘low
pressure’ which would turn the whole ship. If ever someone wanted to
write my epitaph, I would want it to say ‘Call me Trimtab’.”

From What’s a Trimtab?

“Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little
man could do. Think of the Queen Mary – the whole ship goes by and
then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the
rudder called a trimtab.

It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds
a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at
all. So I said that the little individual can be a trimtab. Society
thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if
you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just
put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going
to go.

So I said, call me Trimtab.”

– R. Buckminster Fuller, Barry Farrell (Playboy Interview, Feb

In design science, the trimtab metaphor is used to describe an
artifact, or system, specifically designed and placed in the
environment at such a time, in such a place, where its effects would
be maximized, thereby effecting the most advantageous change with the
least resources, time and energy. Doing more with less.

For more definitions please visit

* How do I submit my $50 processing fee?

The preferred method of submitting fees will be via a secure, on-
line payment system accessible through the Challenge website,
beginning September 4, 2007. An optional method for submitting fees is
by check or money order made payable to The Buckminster Fuller
Institute and sent to:

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge
181 N. 11th Street, Ste. 402
Brooklyn, NY 11211

You entry will not be considered complete until your processing
fee has been received.

* Who are the judges?

We will publish the names of our judges as they become
available. There will be three stages of evaluation of entries to The
Buckminster Fuller Challenge.

The first stage is a thorough screening of entries to ensure
compliance with the eligibility and entry requirements. This means
that your entry must be complete, on-time, accompanied by the non-
refundable $50 processing fee, in English, one entry per individual or
team, all team members 18 years of age or older.

The semi-finalist stage of evaluation will be conducted by a
committee comprised of both highly qualified experienced generalists
and topic-related experts. Both the semi-finalist and finalist entries
will be evaluated in this manner.

The winner will be selected by a distinguished, international
panel of jurors, to be announced.

* Are there intellectual property issues I should be concerned

Our intellectual property policy is currently being formulated.
We will post it soon.