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Test drive the Pentagon's latest crowd control technology


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“Hell no, we won’t go!” Quite a bit of unpleasantness last month at the G8 Summit in Genoa, Italy, don’t you think? Not at all the kind of images the gray-flanneled advocates of the brave new world order would like for their glossy promotional brochures touting the wonders of globalization and corporate hegemony: burning cars, tear gas, riot troops punching protesters in the face, water cannons stripping the hides off the backs of unarmed teenagers. And how about that poor, bloody protester lying dead in a pool of his own blood, felled by “live” ammunition. In one day alone, 150 people at the Genoa protests sustained injuries at the hands of police that required medical attention, including 50 members of the media. Now, it’s one thing if it’s just a bunch of nameless, black-bloc anarchists being dispatched from the future ranks of the AARP, but what’s the likelihood that Wolf and Sam and Cokie are going to sit on their hands for long while fellow members of the fourth branch are being gunned down like prairie dogs? This will not do!

Thus, the Pentagon—ever mindful of its wobbly public image—proudly unveiled last March the latest in so-called “non-lethal” crowd control technology: The “Vehicle-Mounted Active Denial System,” a weapon touted for its ability to stop protesters dead in their tracks, while causing no permanent injuries. The San Francisco Bay Guardian first reported in April on the “Active Denial System,” which has been 10 years and some $40 million in the making. According to author Martin Lee, a special transmitter fires two-second bursts of focused microwave energy that causes burning sensations on the skin of people up to 700 yards away, resulting in brief but intense pain and confusion, and prompting the unruly and disobedient hordes to vacate the area posthaste. Because the beam only penetrates the skin’s surface to a depth of 1/64th of an inch, it leaves no telltale burns, bruises or unseemly bikini strap lines. Although the “Active Denial System” is still in the experimental stage (hand-held models coming soon!), it’s reportedly being field-tested already on personnel at the Kirkland Air Force Base in New Mexico (giving new meaning to the slogan, “Aim high! Air Force!”) Critics of the weapon argue that at close range, this modified microwave oven “could cook a person’s eyeballs.” Others express concern about the possible long-term consequences, such as cancer and cataracts.

OK, so setting your phasers to stun isn’t wowing the client? How about the latest in “stench warfare?” The Pentagon —yes, the Feng Shui in that five-sided building sure produces some hair-brained ideas—announced recently that it’s developing a stinkbomb powerful enough to drive away the most virulent WTO and NAFTA opponents. The Guardian reported last month that researchers on this project are focusing on the neurological link between smell and fear, and believe that by formulating an odor that activates tissue deep in the brain they can induce panic in the ranks of protesters. This may also be seen as turning the tables on protesters in Europe, who have been known to take lion dung from zoos and safari parks and hurl it at police horses, who panic at the lion’s scent and throw their riders. Welcome to the front line of the new world odor.


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