Monday, August 22, 2016

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Is Undead Smallpox Reemerging From Siberian Graves?

As if the news that resurrected anthrax from thawed-out reindeer wasn't bad enough, increasingly warming temperatures are prompting renewed fears that permafrost could thaw enough to unleash smallbox from remote Russian cemeteries.

As The Siberian Times reports, this year the permafrost melt has been three times more extreme than usual above the Arctic Circle, causing erosion near graveyards of a town where smallpox wiped out 40 percent of the population decades ago.

Yet, some scientists argue that it's not the graves we should be worried about.



Scientists from Russia's Virology and Biotechnology Center (or Vector) in Novosibirsk are investigating the bodies, some of which show bone sores associated with smallpox. Fortunately, only fragments of the strain’s DNA were found, rather than any evidence of surviving smallpox. However, the center plans to conduct more research on "deeper burials" in the future, just to make sure. So far, luckily, that's been the case for years, as another expedition in 2012 found only "fragments" as well.

The effects would be devastating if it ever got out. Around 300 million people died from smallpox within the last century alone. But it's also a rare example of a disease that's been "completely" eradicated, as the last wild case of it showed up in Somalia in 1977. Even most of the stocks from lab studies are gone, with the only known ones shelved away in Koltsovo (just a few miles outside of Novosibirsk, appropriately enough) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia.

Scientists have been worried about its resurgence from graveyard thaws for a while. Back in 2002, Science magazine was telling much of the same tale, complete with gruesome details about digging up young, mummified smallpox victims, finding the pustules, and drenching the area with disinfectant so no one would be able to resurrect the disease.

In another piece from The Siberian Times, Sergey Netesov, a professor at Novosibirsk State University and the part-time chief scientist at the Vector, emphasized that he's less worried about exposure to the virus than infectious disease-carrying rodents infecting immunodeficient people, such as HIV patients.

Netesov, who was one of the first people to start checking the Siberian bodies for live smallpox in 1993, believes the worry about the thawing graveyards is overblown.

Netesov notes that the tombs in northern Siberia all lie very close to the surface, and the increasing extreme thaws paired with the usual extreme freezes "reduces the number of viable viruses from five to tenfold."

In a statement on Sunday, in the wake of the anthrax outbreak, Netesov reaffirmed that only "fragments" of smallpox DNA had been found. He added, however, that no one's supposed to be going near the sites with anthrax and smallpox victims anyway, but the region's harsh climate has often swept away the wooden fences originally erected to keep snoopers and livestock out. Even then, there's a danger of other diseases getting out.

If there is a danger of smallpox reemerging in Siberia, Netesov said in a statement to TRTWorld this week, it'll likely come from people who dig deeper, such as miners or oil drillers. And that's cause for alarm, as the warmer temperatures are facilitating such activities in the remote regions of the world.

"If it is true that these viruses survive in the same way those amoeba viruses survive, then smallpox is not eradicated from the planet — only the surface,” he said.

But in fact, the greatest danger from smallpox may not even come from the thaws, he says. Back in the '90s Netesov and some colleagues from the CDC discovered that smallpox genomes are very similar to those of cowpox, an ancestor of smallpox. Back then a Siberian milkmaid caught what seemed to be cowpox, but he regrets that they weren't able to determine its ultimate origins.

"'And since people are not vaccinated anymore, it is possible, as was once the case, that there will be a new transition of the virus from animals to humans," he said. "This probability is non-zero. Once it has been happened in history, it may happen again."

TOPICS: Smallpox Thaws, permafrost, siberia, climate change, plague, pathogens, anthrax, mass graves, infectious diseases, reindeer, Virology and Biotechnology Center

Inside Gaza's Underground Smuggler Tunnels

By VICE Staff
August 17, 2016

In VICELAND's new series Black Market: Dispatches, we expand our look into global underground economies to see how contraband moves across borders.
In the first episode, we explore the underground network of tunnels that connect the Gaza Strip to Israel and Egypt to see how goods and soldiers move in and out of the Palestinian territory. Gazans get around the economic blockade by using the rudimental tunnels to smuggle in items they need to survive, even as neighboring territories try to bomb and destroy them.
Watch the full first episode above and make sure to catch the show every Tuesday at 10 PM on VICELAND.

Residents of New York's 'Murder Ave' Explain How the City Got Safer

By Amdé Mengistu

August 17, 2016


The author's intersection in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. All photos and GIFs by Alex Thebez of GIFRIENDS
Fort Greene, Brooklyn, has been my home for a decade now, and for the last couple years, I've raised my two young boys on Myrtle and Carlton, across from the Walt Whitman Housing Projects. We're on a border between tony brownstone blocks and rundown public housing. Our hood features aging homeless people, pot dealers and panhandlers. Gone, however, are the stick-up boys, gang fights and gunshots.
It's just plain old Myrtle Avenue now, but back in the 1980s and 90s, they called it "Murder Ave." These days, it makes for a picturesque scene—if you're looking for broken people sprinkled amidst New Brooklyn money.
Bill Bratton, who will step down as NYPD commissioner next month, tends to get much of the credit for this change. During a two-year stint in the same job under Mayor Rudy Giuliani beginning in 1994, he emphasized "broken windows" policing that went hard after so-called quality of life offenses like panhandling and turnstile jumping. Bill de Blasio appointed Bratton to the same gig after winning the mayor's office in 2013, and often gushes about his top cop on Twitter and IRL. The mayor isn't alone, either—from New York to LA, from the Post to the Times, Bratton is described as a seminal figure in American life, one whose obsession with tracking crime statistics neighborhood by neighborhood and block by block changed the city forever.
eCig gif.
There are no broken windows on my block anymore. When I asked the NYPD about the change, they offered data showing violent crime in the 88th precinct had dropped nearly 80 percent since 1993—and that my neighborhood saw 68 percent fewer murders last year than at the beginning of Bratton's first stint as NYPD boss. But to get a sense of how folks in the neighborhood perceive the man credited with making America's largest city one of its safest, I hit the block.
Phillip Campbell was born in 1977 and grew up on Lafayette and South Oxford, just across the park from Myrtle Avenue. "Well, the architecture is the same," he joked when I asked how the hood has changed. These days, you can pay $2300 a month for a studio in The Griffin, the pre-war building where he grew up. But in the 80s and 90s, Campbell told me, "There were prostitutes in the penthouse and crack vials on the floor," and his grandmother would never let him "go down those 100 steps" from the top of Fort Greene Park to the projects on Myrtle Avenue.
Campbell understands now that she wanted him "to feel like we had the chance to be middle class, but down there was the reality," he said. He doesn't have a great sense of Bratton as a public figure, but does recall how "Adolf Giuliani had two terms and it was so brutal." Campbell added that police would go where they knew there was poverty and "call them 'Hot-Spots' and put 200 cops there. You could get beat up for riding a bike on the sidewalk."



Booj on Myrtle Ave.
Two blocks away from Myrtle, every August for the past 23 years, Cook Green has run a summer basketball tournament for local kids on the playground at Dekalb and Carlton. "This was the worst neighborhood in damn near Brooklyn," he told me of the old days, adding that there were "real gangs here, Crazy Bishops, Comanches, Warlords, just to name a few." When I asked how that changed and when, he responded simply, "They hired way more police." But around 1997 or 98, he said, "You could get locked up for stupid shit—jaywalking."
Cook thinks that when Giuliani came around, "That's when shit went south. That nigger ain't give a fuck."
On Myrtle Avenue in 2016, you can have a smoke or a sip of Hennessy with kids that used to ball in Cook's tournament. One of them, known on the block as Booj, is in his 30s now, with a slightly faded neck tattoo of Myrtle and Adelphi street signs. He remembers the transition well, and actually thinks the biggest change came in the 2000s, when he "couldn't walk through the park without having to get stopped." Booj told me cops would target "only blacks though, even if whites were doin' the same shit, like riding bikes on a sidewalk."

Booj at the Bodega
It's more peaceful on the sidewalk now, but according to Othman al-Muntaser, the Yemeni bodega owner who sells Booj cigarettes and snacks, it's only been that way since about 2004. In the 90s, he told me, you could be robbed on the street "right in the afternoon, no problem." Asked to explain the change, Al-Muntaser snapped, "White people and Jewish moved in, what do you think?"
That reminded me of Booj's disdain for the cops and the change they wrought. He thinks they only cared to make the neighborhood safe for new developments like the Barclays Center, home to Brooklyn Nets games and big concerts since opening in 2012. "Jay-Z fucked up the 'hood, I always said that—write that shit down," Booj said. "They didn't clean this shit up for us."
There's an old church around the corner on Adelphi, where I stopped on a recent Sunday to see what the Elders had to say—maybe they were less antagonistic toward the NYPD and even grateful for the new way. Bishop-Designate Austin Craig Williams gave the service, and when we spoke afterwards, he recalled his father being robbed at gunpoint coming out of a barbershop on Myrtle. But Williams was on day five of his church's 21 Day No-Negativity Challenge, and said the neighborhood's changes had been a net positive. Citing "a concerted effort against crime," though, he told me it wasn't just about cops but also a real grassroots effort that had transformed the community.
Tony cuts hair at a place called Myrtle Avenue His and Hers. He was born around the corner in the Cumberland Hospital, between Myrtle and the Navy Yard. When I asked how long he'd been in the 'hood, he told me, "My whole life—I remember when we had the elevated train line," and pointed out to the sidewalk where the Myrtle El ran until 1969. "We had people change, drug change, social change, economic change," he said. Tony admitted that "this block was horrible" way back, but like every person I spoke to, declined to give credit to Bratton—or his cops. He suspects crime around here stems from economic need, and that hasn't changed. Rather than stamping out the problem, Tony thinks cops have simply moved the violence around.

Tony the Barber at his shop in Fort Greene
"They used to knock me on my head and take 12 dollars," he said, nodding his head vaguely toward the street. "Now they go into Walgreens and steal five tubes of toothpaste."
It's been a sweltering August on Myrtle Ave. You can watch a millennial nurse an iced latte while his bike gets tuned-up at a place that doubles as a café. You can see a homeless man from the Greatest Generation sit all day long in the B54 bus shelter. Back inside the barbershop, Tony eventually took to laughing at the very premise of my question—whether Bratton deserves credit for how safe it is here. Then the barber pushed himself slowly out of a chair and reached for his clippers.
"If you paint a dirty wall," he asked me, "did you clean it up?"
Amdé Mengistu is a recovering attorney raising two boys in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Expert to Rio athletes: 'Don't put your head under water'


Just days ahead of the Olympic Games the waterways of Rio de Janeiro are as filthy as ever, contaminated with raw human sewage teeming with dangerous viruses and bacteria, according to a 16-month-long study commissioned by The Associated Press.



Not only are some 1,400 athletes at risk of getting violently ill in water competitions, but the AP's tests indicate that tourists also face potentially serious health risks on the golden beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana.

The AP's survey of the aquatic Olympic and Paralympic venues has revealed consistent and dangerously high levels of viruses from the pollution, a major black eye on Rio's Olympic project that has set off alarm bells among sailors, rowers and open-water swimmers.

The first results of the study published over a year ago showed viral levels at up to 1.7 million times what would be considered worrisome in the United States or Europe. At those concentrations, swimmers and athletes who ingest just three teaspoons of water are almost certain to be infected with viruses that can cause stomach and respiratory illnesses and more rarely heart and brain inflammation — although whether they actually fall ill depends on a series of factors including the strength of the individual's immune system.

Since the AP released the initial results last July, athletes have been taking elaborate precautions to prevent illnesses that could potentially knock them out of the competition, including preventatively taking antibiotics, bleaching oars and donning plastic suits and gloves in a bid to limit contact with the water.

But antibiotics combat bacterial infections, not viruses. And the AP investigation found that infectious adenovirus readings — tested with cell cultures and verified with molecular biology protocols — turned up at nearly 90 percent of the test sites over 16 months of testing.

"That's a very, very, very high percentage," said Dr. Valerie Harwood, Chair of the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of South Florida. "Seeing that level of human pathogenic virus is pretty much unheard of in surface waters in the U.S. You would never, ever see these levels because we treat our waste water. You just would not see this."

While athletes take precautions, what about the 300,000-500,000 foreigners expected to descend on Rio for the Olympics? Testing at several of the city's world-famous beaches has shown that in addition to persistently high viral loads, the beaches often have levels of bacterial markers for sewage pollution that would be cause for concern abroad — and sometimes even exceed Rio state's lax water safety standards.

In light of the AP's findings, Harwood had one piece of advice for travelers to Rio: "Don't put your head under water."

Swimmers who cannot heed that advice stand to ingest water through their mouths and noses and therefore risk "getting violently ill," she said.

Danger is lurking even in the sand. Samples from the beaches at Copacabana and Ipanema revealed high levels of viruses, which recent studies have suggested can pose a health risk — particularly to babies and small children.

"Both of them have pretty high levels of infectious adenovirus," said Harwood, adding that the virus could be particularly hazardous to babies and toddlers who play in the sand.

"You know how quickly an infant can get dehydrated and have to go to the hospital," she added. "That's the scariest point to me."

Dr. Fernando Spilki, the virologist and coordinator of the molecular microbiology laboratory at Feevale University in southern Brazil whom AP commissioned to conduct the water tests, says the survey revealed no appreciable improvement in Rio's blighted waters — despite cleanup promises stretching back decades.

"Unfortunately, what we've seen throughout all this time is that there is a variation in the levels of contamination, but it fluctuates much more as a result of climactic conditions than due to any measures that may have been taken to try to remove this contamination," said Spilki, one of Brazil's most respected virologists.

The most contaminated points are the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, where Olympic rowing will take place, and the Gloria Marina, the starting point for the sailing races. In March, 2015, sampling at the Lagoon revealed an astounding 1.73 billion adenoviruses per liter; this June, adenovirus readings were lower but still hair-raising at 248 million adenoviruses per liter. By comparison, in California, viral readings in the thousands per liter are enough to set off alarm bells.

Despite a project aimed at preventing raw sewage from flowing directly into the Gloria Marina through storm drains, the waters remain just as contaminated. The first sampling there, in March, 2015, showed over 26 million adenoviruses per liter; this June, over 37 million adenoviruses per liter were detected.

While local authorities including Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes have acknowledged the failure of the city's water cleanup efforts, calling it a "lost chance" and a "shame," Olympic officials continue to insist Rio's waterways will be safe for athletes and visitors. The local organizing committee did not respond to multiple requests for comment, though it has previously said bacterial testing conducted by Rio state authorities has shown the aquatic venues to be within state guidelines.

The crux of the issue lies in the different types of testing used to determine the health and safety of recreational waters.

Bacterial tests measure levels of coliforms — different types of bacteria that tend not to cause illnesses themselves but are indicators of the presence of other, potentially harmful sewage-borne pathogens such as other bacteria, viruses and protozoa that can cause cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A and typhoid, among other diseases. Bacterial tests are the worldwide standard because they're cheap and easy.

But there's a growing consensus that they're not ideal for all climates, as bacteria break down quickly in tropical weather and salty marine waters. In contrast, viruses have been shown to survive for weeks, months or even years — meaning that in tropical Rio low bacterial markers can be completely out of step with high virus levels.

That disparity was borne out in the AP's testing. For instance, in June, 2016, the levels of fecal coliforms in water samples from Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches were extremely low, with just 31 and 85 fecal coliforms per 100 milliliters, respectively. But still, both had alarming readings for rotavirus, the main cause of gastroenteritis globally, with 7.22 million rotaviruses per liter detected in the waters of Copacabana, while 32.7 million rotaviruses per liter were found in the waters of Ipanema Beach.

The testing also revealed alarming spikes in fecal coliform levels — the very measure the state government uses to determine the safety of Rio's recreational waters.

"If these were the reported values in the United States, let's say in California, there is definitely an indication of a problem," said Dr. Kristina Mena, a waterborne virus expert at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

According to California's bacterial tests standards, 400 fecal coliforms per 100 milliliters is the upper limit for a beach to be considered safe for swimming. AP's tests revealed that Copacabana Beach, where the marathon and triathlon swimming are to be held and thousands of tourists are likely to take a dip, exceeded California's limit five times over 13 months of testing.

Nearby Ipanema Beach, which is not playing host to any Olympic sports but is among the city's most popular tourist spots, exceeded California standards five times over 12 months, once spiking to nearly 50 times what would be permitted in California. One of two testing spots along the beach in the Olympic hub neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca once hit more than 60 times that limit over the five months testing was conducted there.

"If we had exceedances that consistently were in the thousands like I'm seeing here, there would be a high likelihood that that beach would be put on our list of impaired water bodies," said Rik Rasmussen, manager of surface water quality standards at California's State Water Board. That would lead to water quality warnings posted on the beach, possible beach closure, and the development of a program to root out the source of the contamination, he said.

The beaches even violate Rio state's own standards, which are much less stringent than those in California, many other U.S. states and beach-loving countries such as Australia and New Zealand. In Rio, beaches are considered unfit if bacterial tests turn up more than 2,500 fecal coliforms per 100 milliliters — more than six times higher than the upper limit in California. But Copacabana and Ipanema even violated those much higher limits on three separate occasions. The state environmental agency, INEA, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Rasmussen acknowledged that the higher thresholds might make sense in Rio, where sewage pollution has been a perennial problem, meaning that locals are regularly exposed to the pathogens lurking in raw waste from an early age and therefore build up immunities. But visitors are unlikely to have such immunities, putting them at risk for illnesses.

After the AP's initial report on the findings of the study in July of last year, the Olympics' adviser on health matters, the World Health Organization, said it would carry out its own viral testing in Rio's Olympic waterways. The agency later flip-flopped, finally concluding that bacterial tests alone would suffice.

Athletes who have trained years for a chance at Olympic glory have resigned themselves to competing in the filth.

"There's been a lot of talk about how dirty the water is and all the viruses," said Finnish team sailor Noora Ruskola. "I'm mentally prepared for this. Some days the water is totally OK, and some days there are bad days."

However, tourists are unlikely to realize the dangers: Water quality warning signs used to dot showcase beaches, but they're no longer there. Now, a brief item on the weather page of the local paper lists which beaches the state environmental agency has deemed safe for swimming.

Most beach-going visitors are likely in the same situation as Raul Onetto, a 52-year-old bank executive from Uruguay recently soaking up the sun on Copacabana Beach.

When asked whether he knew that the bacterial levels sometimes exceeded the norms in other countries and could indicate problems, he expressed disbelief.

"The water looks beautiful. I didn't know it was dirty," said Onetto. "If it's dirty, the public should know it. I came 2,000 kilometers to be on a beach."

In Rio, the main tourist gateway to the country, a centuries-long sewage problem that was part of Brazil's colonial legacy has spiked in recent decades in tandem with the rural exodus that saw the metropolitan area nearly double in size since 1970.

Even in the city's wealthy areas, sewage treatment has lagged dramatically behind, with so-called "black tongues" of fetid, sewage-filled water common even on the tony Ipanema and Leblon Beaches. The lagoons in the fast-growing Barra da Tijuca region have been filled with so much sewage dumped by nearby glass-and-steel residential towers that vast islands of sludge emerge from the filthy waters during low tide. That lagoon system, which hugs the Olympic Park and Athletes' Village, regularly sees massive pollution-related fish die-offs and emits an eye-watering sulfuric stench.

Promises to clean up Rio's waterways stretch back decades, with a succession of governors setting firm dates for a cleanup and repeatedly pushing them back. In the city's 2009 Olympic bid document, authorities pledged the games would "regenerate Rio's magnificent waterways." A promised billion-dollar investment in cleanup programs was meant to be among the games' most important legacies.

Once more, the lofty promises have ended in failure.

Just over a month before the games, biologist Mario Moscatelli spent more than two hours flying over Rio in a helicopter, as he's done on a monthly basis for the past 20 years.

Viewed from above, Rio's sewage problem is as starkly visible as on the spreadsheets of the AP analysis: Rivers are tar-black; the lagoons near the Olympic Park bloom with fluorescent green algae that thrives amid sewage; fishermen's wooden boats sink into thick sludge in the Guanabara Bay; surfers paddle amid a giant brown stain that contrasts with the azure of the surrounding waters.

"It's been decades and I see no improvement," laments Moscatelli, an activist who's the most visible face of the fight to clean up Rio's waterways. "The Guanabara Bay has been transformed into a latrine ... and unfortunately Rio de Janeiro missed the opportunity, maybe the last big opportunity" to clean it up.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

U.S. Special Ops orders new batch of low-profile pickups from Battelle

 U.S. Special Ops orders new batch of low-profile pickups from Battelle
By Gary GasteluPublished July 27, 2016FoxNews.com

And you thought your pickup was special.

Battelle has landed a second contract to supply U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) with stealthy, armored trucks built to blend into the background in potentially hostile environments.

Similar to the commercial security vehicles that Battelle builds, the trucks were designed to maintain their stock appearance while providing military-grade levels of protection.

The non-profit R&D outfit has been modifying Toyota Hilux pickups for SOCOM under a contract for “Non Standard Commercial Vehicles” that began in 2013. It will add foreign market Toyota Land Cruisers and Ford Rangers as the partnership is extended over the next five years through a $170 million deal for several hundred trucks.



The models were chosen for both their baseline capabilities and popularity in the theaters where they will be used. Program Manager Jim Labine says Battelle uses a combination of consumer aftermarket and custom-made parts to fully convert the trucks’ suspensions and beef up their drivetrains to improve their off-road chops and better handle the thousands of pounds of armor added.

That armor is a mix of Dyneema plates hidden under the bodywork and sapphire-reinforced glass. Several levels of protection will be offered -- all classified, of course -- but the most potent models can provide protection on all sides, top and bottom included, from large-caliber firearms and IED shrapnel. Self-sealing fuel tanks and run flat tires are also employed.

Labine says a major engineering challenge is fitting the inflexible materials inside the existing bodywork without encroaching too much on the interior space, or leaving any gaps in coverage. From the outside, the trucks are nearly indistinguishable from the showroom versions. The only noticeable difference on the Ranger prototype is its very slightly thicker window trim.

The new trucks will be evaluated over the course of the next year before production begins, overlapping with fulfilment of the original contract.

Paranoid, off-roading fanatics shouldn’t waste their time looking for the trucks at their local military surplus auction anytime soon, however. Labine says that the upgrades have the secondary benefit of extending their lifecycles, and, even if SOCOM doesn’t destroy the evidence when it finishes with them, you’d probably walk right by them on the lot, anyway.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

11 Police Robots Patrolling Around the World

LAW ENFORCEMENT ACROSS the globe use semi-autonomous technology to do what humans find too dangerous, boring, or just can’t. This week, the Cleveland Police had a few nonlethal ones on hand at the Republican National Convention. But even those can be outfitted to kill, as we saw in Dallas earlier this month when police strapped a bomb to an explosive-detonation robot, and boom: a non-lethal robot became a killer. If that thought scares you, you’re not alone. Human rights activists worry these robots lack social awareness crucial to decision-making. “For example, during mass protests in Egypt in January 2011 the army refused to fire on protesters, an action that required innate human compassion and respect for the rule of law,” said Rasha Abdul Rahim of Amnesty International in a statement last year arguing that the UN should ban killer robots. More than a thousand robotics experts, including Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, signed a letter last summer warning against machines that can select targets without human control. We wanted to find out just how many of these things are in use around the world. But law enforcement isn’t exactly forthcoming about the topic, so this list is not exhaustive. Here’s what we found.




With the Republican National Convention underway, Cleveland police have enlisted the help of a new robot named Griffin, built by students from the local community college. Standing only 12 inches tall, the six-wheeled rover is designed to go places police can’t fit, like under a car or behind dumpsters to look for explosives. Griffin is equipped with a camera and light, which allows police to scope out the situation from a monitor at a safe distance. Unlike the larger bomb squad and military grade robots, like the one police strapped an explosive to in Dallas, Griffin is light enough to be deployed quickly without needing to be hauled out in a big truck. And it’s one of many robots Ohio police have on hand. Public records requests show Ohio law enforcement have received 40 robots from the federal 1033 program that transfers military equipment to local law enforcement.

India’s Riot-Control Drones
Police in the Uttar Pradesh region of India last year purchased a set of Skunk drones built to shower crowds with pepper spray and paintballs. The drone, manufactured by South African firm Desert Wolf, can hover mid-air over a protest and fire up to 20 paintballs (or other “non-lethal” ammunition) per second while simultaneously dispersing tear gas pellets onto people. Police control the drone from the ground, which levitates via eight motors that each power a 16-inch propeller. It’s outfitted with onboard speakers so authorities can communicate with crowds, as well as bright strobe lights and “eye safe” lasers to disorient and disperse a gathering. And of course, no drone is complete without surveillance capability. The Skunk comes packed with a thermal camera, an HD camera, and an onboard microphone, you know, to give the cops something to watch later.

South Korea's Prison Robo-Guards
Correctional officers at Pohang prison in South Korea had robot to help keep watch for them, during a trial in 2012.  Standing 5-feet tall, the Robo-Guard is equipped with 3D cameras and software to recognize inmate behavior. The robot’s makers say it’s able to report when something seems abnormal, like if there’s a fight or an inmate on the floor. The human in the control center can communicate with prisoners via the robot’s two-way radios. It’s unclear whether the robots were put into full-time use in South Korea after the tests, though recent reports indicate South Korea is now building robo-guards to keep patrol during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Isreal's Deadly Rover
This 26-pound, eleven 11-inch-tall robot is packing a 9mm Glock pistol. Designed by Israeli firm General Robotics Ltd with help from the Israeli Police Counter Terrorism Unit, the Dogo can fire up to five rounds in two seconds. This small land rover can enter a house quietly, climb stairs, and even maneuver over obstacles. Ready with eight cameras and two-way audio, the Dogo allows police to communicate with  and fire upon suspects without risking their lives, according to the company’s website.  If law enforcement aren’t looking to kill, the Dogo can also carry pepper spray or a dazzling light module to cause temporary blindness.

LAPD’s Huge Smasher
The Bat Cat—shorthand for Bomb Assault Tactical Control Assessment Tool—is the Los Angeles Police Department’s radio-controlled monster. Designed to pick up a car bomb with its massive, 50-foot telescoping arm, this unmanned ground vehicle reaches top speed at six miles per hour. While it might have been designed to remove massive explosives, the Bat Cat can also rip through a house in minutes, according to The Los Angeles Times,which reported that the LAPD used it to tear down the walls of a home during a standoff in 2011. Cops can switch out the end of the telescoping arm with a claw, a bucket, a forklift, or battering rams, and it can handle a payload of around 12,000 pounds, more than enough to haul your typical car bomb far from harm’s way. The Bat Cat was constructed on the chassis of a Caterpillar Telehandler, so it’s basically just pimped out remote-controlled forklift. Still, best to keep your distance.

Japan's Drone-Catching Drone
This is meta. Japanese police are using drones to take down drones, but they’re not shooting them. That would cause debris. Instead police are using a net. Japanese police introduced a net-wielding drone fleet earlier this year to catch suspicious looking small unmanned aircrafts that fly over sensitive government locations like butterflies. It takes a giant net to catch a drone, and the police fleet is equipped with a 6.5-foot-by-10-foot lattice. Last, year, the BBC reported that police deployed the net drones  in response to a drone carrying a non-harmful amount of radioactive sand that landed on the roof of the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s house—a stunt that turned out to be a protest by an anti-nuclear activist. Japan’s drone-catching drone certainly seems a lot safer than the Dutch National Police Force’s solution—they trained eagles to take down unauthorized drones.

Brazil’s Olympic Peacekeepers
The Olympics are in less than a month, and Motherboard reports that Brazilian police forces are pulling out all the stops, including calling on a number of model 510 PackBots that were originally acquired in preparation for the World Cup, a military grade bomb detection and reconnaissance robot that was used after the Fukushima meltdown in Japan and was deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each PackBot 510 weighs around 65 pounds and carries with it four cameras, as well as its main feature, a 6-foot telescoping arm that can lift a 30-pound payload. PackBots are primarily deployed for bomb detection and disposal; it can even use mechanical wire cutters attached to the end of its arm. The PackBot climbs stairs, maneuvers in water, and can crawl around at about 6 miles per hour, faster than most adults jog. With millions of people coming to town for the Olympics, Brazilian police will use the technology to inspect suspicious packages.

Democratic Republic of Congo's Traffic Robocops
In Kinshasa, the sprawling capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo,  The Guardian reports that city officials installed a handful of giant solar-powered robot traffic cops in 2013 in an effort to reduce deaths and get more people to follow traffic rules. Decked out in cool sunglasses, the massive humanoid robots stand at busy intersections as kind of an all-in-one traffic light/crosswalk/traffic camera. The robots direct traffic with arms that signal red and green flags, and usher pedestrians safely across wide, busy roads. The humanoids were designed by Women’s Technology, an association of female and male engineers in the DRC, and, like every police robot on this list, are installed with surveillance cameras. Theirs send footage back to police in an effort to deter dangerous driving.



Poland’s Tactical Bot
Polish police recently got their hands on a new reconnaissance robot to toss around. The Tactical Throw Robot, directly translated from Taktyczny Robot Miotany or TRM, is  meant to be literally tossed into buildings or dropped from up high to scout the scene with its camera, microphone, and various illumination options. This ultradurable robot is also ultralight; weighing less than four pounds, police can throw it into second story windows without any mechanical propulsion. The device is similar to Recon Throwbot used frequently by American cops, and is designed to be outfitted with stun grenades or explosives if need, which can then be triggered by the control panel used to drive the TRM around.

Border patrol between South and North Korea
The “demilitarized” zone between South and North Korea is paradoxically one of the most militarized places in the world, including South Korea’s fleet of semi-autonomous killing machines that patrol the border day and night. Developed by Samsung, the SRG-A1 is armed with a 5.5mm machine gun and grenade launcher that can detect targets two miles away with its sensitive heat and motion sensors, as well as low-light cameras for patrolling at night. Multiple reports indicate that the SRG-1 has a fully autonomous function, too.



A Life-Saving Robot For Refugees in Greece
The coast guard in Lesvos, Greece recently started deploying a robotic life-preserver to rescue Syrian refugees making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea. Refugee’s boats are often underpowered, overloaded,  and don’t have enough life jackets. Everyday authorities scramble to  save people from boats that have capsized, run out of fuel, or wrecked in the rough waters. The robot helping them is named Emily, an acronym for  Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard, and is a project by researchers at Texas A&M University. Emily is a floatation device that zooms across the water at 20 miles per hour tethered to a 2,000 ft. rope attached to a rescue ship. Emily makes fetching people who aren’t drowning faster, leaving the human rescue team free time to rescue victims who need more help.

By April Glaser  07.24.16  7:00am