Daily Archives: June 23, 2008

Texas town reels from horrific abuse in its midst

This photo released by the Smith County Sheriff’s Office shows Patrick Kelly. On Monday, June 23, 2008, Kelly is scheduled to stands trial in Tyler, Texas, for his alleged role in the ‘Mineola Swinger’s Club’ where prosecutors say four children, ages 5 through 7, were forced to have sex and dance for an audience of adults. (AP Photo/Smith County Sheriff’s Office)

Associated Press | Jun 22, 2008

By PAUL J. WEBER

MINEOLA, Texas – In the windowless front rooms of a former day care center in a tiny Texas community, children as young as 5 were fed powerful painkillers they knew as “silly pills” and forced to perform sex shows for a crowd of adults.

Two people have already been convicted in the case. Now a third person with ties to the club, previously known in town only as a swingers group, is set to go on trial Monday not far from Mineola, population 5,100.

“This really shook this town,” said Shirley Chadwick, a longtime resident of Mineola. “This was horrible.”

Patrick Kelly, 41, is charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child, tampering with physical evidence and engaging in organized criminal activity.

In all, six adults have been charged in connection with the case, including a parent of the three siblings involved.

Jurors this year deliberated less than five minutes before returning guilty verdicts against the first two defendants, who were accused of grooming the kids for sex shows in “kindergarten” classes and passing off Vicodin as “silly pills” to help the children perform.

Jamie Pittman and Shauntel Mayo were sentenced to life in prison. Kelly also faces a life sentence if convicted, and Smith County prosecutors hope for another swift verdict.

Thad Davidson, Kelly’s attorney, said his client passed a lie-detector test proving his innocence and worries about getting a fair trial in Tyler, 25 miles southeast of Mineola, which is in Wood County.

“I think it’s impossible to get a fair trial within 80 miles of Smith County,” Davidson said.

Mineola, about 80 miles east of Dallas, is a close-knit, conservative bean-processing town of with more than 30 churches. Residents there want to put the scandal behind them as quickly as possible.

The one-story building where prosecutors say four children — the three siblings, now ages 12, 10 and 7, and their 10-year-old aunt — were trained to perform in front of an audience of 50 to 100 once a week has been vacant since the landlord ousted the alleged organizers in 2004.

Down a slight hill is a retirement home, and even closer is the office of the local newspaper. Doris Newman, editor of The Mineola Monitor, said rumors of swinger parties spread around town but that no one mentioned children being involved.

Newman, who can see the building from her office window, said she remembers the parking lot filling up with more than a dozen cars at night.

In August 2004, an editorial under the headline “Sex In the City” opined that if the swingers left quietly, “we’ll try and forget they’ve infiltrated our town with their set of moral standards.”

“It’s not that we’re trying to look the other way,” Newman said. “But there’s a lot more to Mineola than that.”

According to a Mineola police report, the department first investigated a complaint in June 2005 in which the siblings’ foster mother said one of the girls described dancing toward men and another child saying that “everybody does nasty stuff in there.”

In the second trial, Child Protective Services caseworker Kristi Hachtel testified, “I’ve seen a lot and I never in my wildest dreams imagined this. They were preyed upon in probably one of the most heinous ways possible.”

The children are now doing better, the welfare agency said.

“Through counseling and therapy sessions, these children are now finally feeling secure and safe,” agency spokeswoman Shari Pulliam wrote in an e-mail.

Permanent custody of the three siblings was given to John and Margie Cantrell. This week, prosecutors in California charged John Cantrell with sexually assaulting a child in the state 18 years ago. Margie Cantrell said her husband is innocent.

Kelly’s attorney moved Friday asking to postpone the trial in light of the allegations against Cantrell, a state witness. Texas Child Protective Services said it would be “common” for the agency to investigate.

The Rev. Tim Letsch is opening a church in the yellow-plastered building where the children were abused. He acknowledges that building a congregation might be difficult because of the stigma attached to the property.

“You got to decide whether you’re willing to forgive those kind of things,” Letsch said. “It’s a hard deal. Especially for a spiritual person to walk in and say, ‘This happened here.'”
Texas town reels from horrific abuse in its midst

Edgy comic George Carlin dies in L.A., aged 71

George Carlin poses with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 15th annual American Comedy Awards in Los Angeles in this April 22, 2001 file photo. (Rose Prouser/Files/Reuters)

Reuters | Jun 23, 2008

By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Comedian George Carlin, a counter-culture hero famed for his routines about drugs, dirty words and the demise of humanity, died of heart failure at a Los Angeles-area hospital on Sunday. He was 71.

Carlin, who had a history of heart and drug-dependency problems, died at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica about 6 p.m. PDT (9 p.m. EDT) after being admitted earlier in the afternoon for chest pains, spokesman Jeff Abraham told Reuters.

On “Who Really Controls America”


Known for his edgy, provocative material developed over 50 years, the bald, bearded Carlin achieved status as an anti-Establishment icon in the 1970s with stand-up bits full of drug references and a routine called “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television.” A regulatory battle over a radio broadcast of the routine ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the 1978 case, Federal Communications Commission vs. Pacifica Foundation, the top U.S. court ruled that the words cited in Carlin’s routine were indecent, and that the government’s broadcast regulator could ban them from being aired at times when children might be listening.

On 9/11

The Grammy-winning Carlin remained an active presence on the comedy circuit. Carlin was scheduled to receive the John F. Kennedy Center’s prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in November and his publicist said Carlin performed in Las Vegas this month.

His comedic sensibility revolved around a central theme: humanity is a cursed, doomed species.

On Voting

“I don’t have any beliefs or allegiances. I don’t believe in this country, I don’t believe in religion, or a god, and I don’t believe in all these man-made institutional ideas,” he told Reuters in a 2001 interview.

Carlin told Playboy in 2005 that he looked forward to an afterlife where he could watch the decline of civilization on a “heavenly CNN.”

On Religion

“The world is a big theater-in-the round as far as I’m concerned, and I’d love to watch it spin itself into oblivion,” he said. “Tune in and watch the human adventure.”

AWARDS

Carlin wrote three best-selling books, won four Grammy Awards, recorded 22 comedy albums, headlined 14 HBO television specials, and hosted hundreds of variety shows. One was the first episode of “Saturday Night Live” in 1975, when he was high on cocaine.

On American Bullshit

Drug addiction plagued him for much of his life, beginning with marijuana experimentation as a teen, graduating to cocaine in the 1970s, and then to prescription painkillers and wine. During the cocaine years, Carlin ignored his finances and ended up owing about $3 million in back taxes. In 2004, he entered a Los Angeles rehab clinic for his alcohol and Vicodin abuse.

George Dennis Carlin was born on May 12, 1937, in New York City, where he was raised with an older brother by their single mother. He fondly recalled that the nuns at his school tolerated his early comedic inclinations.

On Stupid People

After a brief, troubled stint in the U.S. Air Force, he started honing his comic act, developing such characters as Al Sleet, a “hippie-dippie weatherman.”

Carlin told Playboy that his sensibilities developed in the 1950s, “when comedy stopped being safe … (and) became about saying no to authority.” He cited such influences as Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Dick Gregory and Bob Newhart.

On Airport Security

He also dabbled in movies and television, recently voicing a hippie Volkswagen bus named Fillmore in the Pixar cartoon “Cars.”

Carlin is survived by his second wife Sally Wade; daughter Kelly Carlin McCall; and brother Patrick. His first wife, Brenda, died of cancer in 1997. News of his death was first reported by the television show “Entertainment Tonight.”

Roomba robot maker to build shape-shifting DARPA spybots that squeeze through cracks and crevices

Just when we thought the fight couldn’t get any harder against our soon-to-be robotic overlords, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) decides to screw us over. They’ve issued a request for shape-shifting robots, bots that can “manoeuvre through openings smaller than their static structural dimensions.” These so-called chembots would be like rats, which can squeeze their way into crevices smaller than their actual size. Essentially they want a T-1000. Yep, we’re screwed. – Louis Ramirez

The T-1000 is a fictional android assassin featured as the main antagonist in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

The Register | Jun 18, 2008

Flexible bot-probes to penetrate tight backdoors

By Lewis Page

Famous robotics company iRobot – maker of the noted Roomba autonomous floor-cleaner and supplier of war-bots to the US military – has announced a radical new development contract. The company is to create a “soft” robot able to wriggle its way through “openings smaller than its actual structural dimensions”.

It almost goes without saying that the $3.3m in military blobotics funding comes from DARPA, the Pentagon boffin collective which is to the established military-technological paradigm what stun grenades are to tea-parties.

“During military operations it can be important to gain covert access to denied or hostile space,” said Dr Mitchell Zakin of DARPA, suggesting that the squashy machines are intended to penetrate physical security covertly.

“We believe that a new class of soft, flexible, meso-scale mobile objects that can identify and maneuver through openings smaller than their dimensions to perform various tasks will be quite valuable”.

“Consistently [tackling] challenges with robots has made us a trusted DARPA partner,” said Helen Greiner, co-founder and chairman of iRobot, offering a shrewd hint as to the best way of becoming friends with the radical military brainboxes. The new flexi-penetration bot programme has been dubbed ChemBots. It was originally announced last year, as a modification to a wider enabling-techniques push, but nothing further was made public until now.

DARPA requires that the final $3.3m prototype machine:

1 Travel a distance

2 Traverse an arbitrary-shaped opening much smaller than the largest characteristic dimension of the ChemBot

3 Reconstitute size, shape, and functionality after traversing the opening

4 Travel a distance again

5 Perform a function using the embedded payload

The Phase One version, which iRobot are now embarked upon, should be “approximately the size (but not necessarily the form-factor) of a regulation softball” which can move 5 metres in 20 minutes, pass through a 1cm opening and reassume its original shape in 15 seconds. Roughly speaking, then, we’re talking about a cricket-ball sized job which can get through a keyhole. This might open up a few backdoors, in a security sense.

DARPA don’t care how this is done, but they do note that “nature provides many examples of ChemBot functionality … mice, octopi, and insects readily traverse openings barely larger than their largest ‘hard’ component”.

The paradigm-punishing boffins reckon that the squidgy mechanoids could make use of “gel-solid phase transitions”, “shape-memory”, “magneto-rheological materials” or – perhaps rather more credibly – “geometric transitions, eg, folding”. That last might be the one to bet on, perhaps combined with miniature, deflatable balloon tyres.

One might also note that payload and function are agreeably non-specific, and that many explosives – just for instance – are available in liquid or gel form. It would probably be within the rules of the game for the robot to simply blow up or release a gas in order to “perform a function”.

But iRobot is an imaginative company, and makes lovely robots. (Even if the machines aren’t all that good at cleaning floors.) It can probably come up with something a bit more cunning.

Related

Squeeze bots
Remember the morphing robot T-1000 from the film Terminator 2? Could something like that ever become a reality? The folks at DARPA apparently think so. Last week they issued a request for proposals on developing so-called Chemical Robots (ChemBots), which would change shape in order to squeeze through tiny gaps.
How about using shape-memory alloys, electro-active polymers, or even rheological substances? Are there other materials that might prove useful? And what would such a thing look like?