Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Horrible Police Action

Man sues after "POLICE" t-shirt arrest
By Nicholas J.C. Pistor

A Belleville Police officer arrested a St. Charles man for wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the word "POLICE."

Now, Adam C. Weinstein, of St. Charles, has sued the department for what he calls a violation of his constitutional rights.

According to police documents, Weinstein was arrested in 2006 outside a bar in Belleville for "impersonating officers." He was wearing a black t-shirt with the word police striped across the front and back under a sweater. The t-shirt became exposed when he removed the sweater because he was hot.

"Those t-shirts are a sign of solidarity," said Howard A. Shalowitz, an attorney representing Weinstein. "How many people wear NYPD caps? Are they impersonating police?"

According to the lawsuit, a waitress told Weinstein that some police officers wanted to speak with him outside the bar. Weinstein went outside, he said, and was greeted by Belleville Police Officer Jeff Vernatti.

Vernatti, Weinstein alleges, asked him for his police credentials. Weinstein says he told the officer he didn’t have any credentials because he wasn’t a police officer.

That’s when, according to Weinstein, the police officer started screaming curse words and became physically and verbally abusive. Weinstein says he was cuffed and later released by the officer, but made to take the t-shirt off while standing in the cold.

Weinstein was ticketed for impersonating a police officer, but it was later dismissed. The ticket only alleges Weinstein wore the t-shirt.

"I’m afraid to go to Belleville," Weinstein said in an interview. According to the lawsuit, Weinstein is a firefighter.

Weinstein said he bought two of the shirts--one for him, one for his wife--at Leon’s Uniform Company in St. Louis while buying supplies for firefighting.

The lawsuit was filed last week in St. Clair County. Vernatti and the city of Bellevile are named as defendents.

In 2005, Vernatti and the city of Belleville were sued for allegedly tasering a man. That case was later settled before going to trial.

Belleville Mayor Mark W. Eckert declined to comment through an aide. A spokesperson for the Belleville Police also declined to comment. Vernatti couldn’t be reached for comment.

Steven Beckett, professor and director of trial advocacy at the University of Illinois’ law school, said the arrest may be a violation of Weinstein’s First Amendment rights.

"A t-shirt alone isn’t enough to arrest someone," Beckett said. "There must be some overt act."

Beckett added: "The police complaint on its face is inconsistent with the First Amendment."

[snark]Send lots money to The Whirlpool. It will be used to join the thousands of angry citizens purchasing "POLICE" t-shirts and buying airline tickets to Belleville, Illinois.[/snark]

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When is collective bargaining NOT collective bargaining?

Evidently, collective bargaining doesn't mean bargaining-in-good-faith when done in the State of Washington.

The state employee's union bargained and won collective bargaining rights in 2002. In 2008 current Governor Christine Gregoire negotiated with the State Employee Union for contracts containing the following provisions:

*State employees recently agreed to 2% wage increases.

*SEIU and the governior's office agreed to pay hikes of 25-cents an hour in 2009 and 22-cents an hour in 2010 for 23,000 workers who care for seniors and people with disabilities.

Following those negotiations, the Revenue Forcasts have gone in the tank. Even though both sides agreed to the negotiations, the proposed contract would have to be put to the Washington State Legislature to approve or deny without the opportunity to amend according to Washington State Law.

The Governor took those negotiated raises out of the budget she intends to send to the legislature rather than fund the raises to which she previously committed.

Both the State Employees and SEIU have filed suit.

It would seem to put a real damper on negotiations if, after agreement, the Executive Branch could ignore their previous agreement because the budget got tight.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Irony is Not Dead

I am a great fan of the musical satirist Tom Lehrer. I remember, as a teenager, devouring and memorizing the lyrics to Lehrer’s songs, “Poisoning Pigeons In The Park,” “Be Prepared,” “National Brotherhood Week” “Whatever Became of You Hubert” and the iconic, “Vatican Rag” - - “make a cross on your abdomen, when in Rome do like a Roman, Ave Marie, gee it’s good to see ya, doin the Vatican Rag.” I still have all Lehr’s records. I read somewhere that when Lehrer stopped making personal appearances and recordings, he did so because an international event had killed irony. The event? The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the war criminal, Henry Kissinger. But, as later day events have proved, Lehrer was wrong. Just remember for a moment George Bush awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to George Tenet, Paul Bremmer and Tommy Franks.
I was reminded of all this again last week when a “bipartisan” (oh, that word!!!!!), when a bipartisan task force of former top national security policymakers issued a report calling on Barack Obama’s administration to prevent genocide and mass atrocities overseas as a top U. S. foreign policy priority. What’s so ironic about that, you may wonder? One of the leading lights of that task force is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. “The central premise of our report,” said Albright, “is that genocide is unacceptable and that we can and should do more to prevent it.” That the war criminal Albright should be calling for the end to genocide is, well, ironic.
As Secretary of State she stood aside, with barely a word, while more than a million Rwandans perished. More importantly, Albright helped design and carry out the Clinton policy of genocide in Iraq.
Secretary of State Albright confronted military Chief of Staff Colin Powell in 1993 over the use of U. S. military forces when she demanded to know, “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about, if we can’t use it?” “Mesmerized by the prospects of putting American soldiers to work to alleviate the world’s ills,” writes Andrew J. Bacevich, “Albright soon enough got her way. An odd alliance that combined left-leaning do-gooders with jingoistic politicians and pundits succeeded in chipping away at constraints on the use of force.” During Clinton’s presidency, the United States conducted “tens of thousands of sorties into Iraqi airspace, dropped thousands of bombs, and launched hundreds of cruise missiles,” enforcing the “crushing sanctions regime authorized by the UN,” but carried out by the United States. The sanctions regime “complicated Saddams’ life” while limiting the amount of funds available from Iraqi oil. But the primary effect was “making the wretched existence of the average Iraqi more wretched still.” As early as 1996, UNICEF reported that the U.S. enforced sanctions had killed as many as half a million Iraqi children. When asked to comment on the UNICEF report, Madam Albright did not even question the figures. “Instead, she replied, ‘I think this is a very hard choice, but the price - - we think the price is worth it.”
Worth it? Maybe Tom Lehrer was right. Maybe irony really is dead.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Letters To Heroes

I was astonished at the sentiments expressed by Mike Root, Angela Bishop and their fifth grade students as related in Callie White’s article in the Aberdeen Daily World, “Harbor Kids Remember Our Soldiers Serving Overseas,” that appeared on Christmas day.

Ms. White characterizes as “overreaching” one student’s fear of being shot on the way to school if U.S. troops were not occupying countries around the world. Ms. Bishop singled out for approval a fifth grade student’s letter that claimed U. S. soldiers are “making a ‘path of peace’ for generations to come. You are out on the battle field fighting for independence of the present and future.” Mr. Root asks, “what better way to cheer a soldier up than with a pack of fan letters from his class. . . .”

Let me take Mr. Root’s comment first. What better way? One thing that occurs to me would be for thousands of citizens in our community to take to the streets, with their children and their children’s teachers, marching, demonstrating, demanding that the U. S. government withdraw all U.S. troops from more than 750 bases in more than 125 countries around the world. Thousands of citizens marching on Washington, D. C. demanding the end to the U. S. empire and the restoration of our republic. Thousands of citizens demanding that government look to the general welfare rather than the welfare of generals.

Where did Ms. Bishop’s students learn that the invasion of another country in a preventive war, a war crime, means that U. S. soldiers are making a “path of peace” and “fighting for independence?” In her class, by writing letters to “heroes?” Peace for whom; independence for whom; at what cost? This is a fantasy land and a disservice to the young people who will one day be called upon to take the place of those occupation forces - - called upon by recruiters in their schools, urged on by teachers who filled them with propaganda about the heroic actions of U. S. troops overseas.

U. S. soldiers are not fighting for liberty; they are occupying countries that the United States invaded. Heroes? Our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the 150,000 mercenaries who supplement them, are being used as imperial storm troopers, as occupation forces. Torture. Indiscriminate killing. Secret prisons. Extraordinary renditions. The compliance of citizens in these grotesque actions has been extracted through fear. Of course the “overreaching” student reflects the propaganda being fed to all of us - - we are fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here.

What better way, Mr. Root? How about teaching students the difference between a republic and an empire? How about teaching students that no republic in history has lasted more than 300 years - - that they have been destroyed as they degenerated into empires? Instead of “a pack of fan letters,” how about teaching them to write letters about their inheritance being squandered by the imperial dreams (nightmares?) of their leaders?


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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Here's to Your Retirement George

Give it up for Ava and Peace Takes Courage.


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Monday, December 22, 2008

Welcome someone new to help stock the pond

Gary has joined the fold and will share his views in a column he'll call "What's Left?"

You'll learn more about Gary and his take on the world through his words and comments, but suffice it to say Stash and others have been chastised more than once for mistakenly using the word "liberal" to describe him. He is not a liberal. He is a radical.

There was a time when Stash thought no one could be left of him. Gary changed my mind. Gary had a radio show for almost a year entitled "What's Left?" and will continue his diatribe on the injustices he sees in our country and around the world.

I hope you enjoy reading his column. I know you will sometimes be enthralled and ecstatic about what you read. I also know sometimes you will be angered or enraged.

Ain't it great! I can't wait.

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What's Left?

Is there one indispensable action the United States could take that would help bring peace in the middle east? Yes.
In the summer of 1989 I spent several weeks in Occupied Palestine, Gaza and the West Bank, during the first Palestinian Intifada which began twenty years ago this month. I was one in a delegation of about twenty Americans sent there to monitor Israeli human rights abuses. The situation for Palestinians in the West Bank was dire but in Gaza the Israelis were carrying out brutal occupation in one of the most crowded places on earth. Israeli soldiers whom I met, many of them Americans with Brooklyn accents, killed, brutalized, tortured, broke the bones and humiliated men, women and children. They maintained at least two Nazi-style concentration camps - - one in Gaza called Ansar II and one in the Negev desert. I thought then and continue to believe that Israel is a rogue, criminal state. With the support of the United States, Israel has thumbed its nose at literally dozens of U. N. resolutions demanding that it end the occupation of Palestine.

Unbelievably, now, twenty years later, through American administrations Republican and Democratic, the situation is worse. The Israeli government continues to deny Palestinians basic human rights - - rights to food, water, shelter, security and dignity. Israel and the United States have imposed draconian sanctions on Gaza Palestinians because they elected a government not to the liking of the U.S. and Israel. Now all 1.5 million people in Gaza are in a concentration camp. They are being held prisoner. No person can enter or leave without permission, fishermen cannot fish, world food aid cannot be delivered to the starving population. Israel has shut of fuel, water, and electricity. There are no drugs for the sick, no kidney dialysis, no insulin.
We are witnessing in Gaza the kind of ghetto the world thought it would never see again and the comparison was conjured u early this year by Israel’s deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai when he threatened “a bigger holocaust” against the Palestinians in Gaze.
Thus Israel prevents at least 400 critically ill patients from leaving Gaza for urgent medical attention in other hospitals. Thousands of other patients are being turned away from hospitals suffering from a severe shortage of 300 different kinds of medicines.
It takes 1,500 trucks a week to supply the food needs of Gazans yet Israel is allowing in only 1/10 of that. Israeli Prime Ministerial adviser Dov Weisglas said in February, “the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not make them die of hunger.” This malevolent policy has led to a steady increase in malnutrition as people are being slowly starved of their staples of life. Flourmills have been shut. Of the 72 bakeries operating in Gaze, 29 have completely stopped baking bread and the others are expected to follow. Bread - - the most staple of all foods - - will soon not be available for a hungry population.
Some have called the Israeli policy “cruel,” but former president Jimmy Carter makes no apology for describing the situation as “a heinous atrocity: amounting to a war crime.
What is truly astonishing is the world’s silence in the face of all this. The shameful rush to grant Israel every honor and recognition so that it will be saved from the historical ignominy of having orchestrated the destruction of Palestinian society, is nothing short of unconscionable.

So, yes, there is one indispensable action that the United States could take to diffuse the volatile situation in the Middle East. We should live up to our democratic ideals. We should stop economic and military aid to Israel unless and until the Israelis end the occupation of Palestine. We must demand that Israel destroy its nuclear weapons. We must demand that Israel stop its imperialism, end its preventive war policies and provide real democracy for its own citizens of Palestinian descent. There will be no peace in the Middle East until Israel ends the occupation of Palestine. It is in the best interests of the United States, Israel and the whole Middle East that Israel be brought into the roll of civilized nations.


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When art, hacking & politics collide...

One of your more clever anti-war protests, this...

Neural magazine celebrates 15 years of publishing with issue #31 and joining S.W.A.M.P. group (Doug Easterly and Matt Kenyon) for a collective micro-printing action.

Subscribers will receive a numbered/limited edition of a S.W.A.M.P.'s "Notepad" sheet of paper with an envelope. It looks like an everyday yellow legal paper, but each line is constructed of micro-printed text and contains the personal details of Iraqi civilian casualties.

Subscribers are triggered to write a letter or memo or draw a picture on it and send it to the White House, then signing up for a free replacement sheet on the S.W.A.M.P. website, if they want. Once in circulation each sheet then acts as a "Trojan horse" - slipping the unwanted and unacknowledged civilian body count data into official governmental archives.

This is a joint action that proves how paper and pixel together can make the difference.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Issue #31, winter 2008

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Friday, December 19, 2008

From the "Find a New Line of Work" File

Alleged tire slashers leave footprints in snow

By Paula Horton, Tri-City Herald staff writer
Richland, WA

Footprints in the snow led Richland police to two men suspected of slashing the tires on nine vehicles early Thursday.

Officers were called to the McDonald's at 101 Wellsian Way after a vehicle was found with its tires slashed and a mirror broken, police said.

Officers followed footprints in the snow up to the 300 block of Wright Avenue, finding at least eight other vehicles with slashed tires along the way, police said.

Each time, the footprints led up to the damaged vehicles.

Officers then followed the footsteps to a home, where they said they found Kyle J. Hissam, 22, of Richland, and Kaleb T. Lounsbury, 20, of Yakima. The home belongs to Hissam.

Both men were arrested and booked into the Benton County jail on suspicion of malicious mischief.

Estimates have damages up to at least $1,000 so far.

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Bush's Legacy Committee has been hard at work

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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An ObamaNation... Rick Warren? Really?

President-elect Barack Obama has announced that Rick Warren will be speaking at his Inauguration.

We understand it's Obama's Inaugural. We also understand a plethora of reasons to object to Warren exists.

We only have one. Rick Warren doesn't think an atheist should be President.

Just like the Boy Scouts of America, Rick Warren believes it is appropriate to discriminate against someone because of religion.

Normally, we'd give Obama a pass. His success at breaking barriers and his remarkable win over McSame earn him a honeymoon period. He'll get it on this as well. But, we will refuse to let it go unnoticed.

Rick Warren giving the invocation at the Inaugural is a mistake.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Guano do a line?

What I want to know is, who's the poor guy had to snort some of this to test it out?

Peru seizes 3 tons of cocaine mixed with guano

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Drug agents in Peru say they have seized 3 tons of cocaine mixed into a shipment of guano bound for Spain.

A four-month investigation led to the seizure at a warehouse in the capital of Lima, anti-drug police Col. Cesar Cortijo said Monday.

Cortijo said the drugs belonged to a trafficking ring that smuggled cocaine out of the country mixed with other products. Four Peruvians and a Colombian were arrested.

Police delayed announcing the Dec. 4 raid because it was initially impossible to calculate how much cocaine was mixed with the guano, the nitrogen- and phosphate-rich droppings of birds and bats.

Cortijo said the cocaine was destined for Barcelona, Spain.

Peru is the world's largest producer of coca and cocaine after Colombia, and it is also a major source of guano, harvested from excrement-stained islands off its southern coast. Most is used as fertilizer in Peru's fields, but some is shipped overseas, where it is a favorite among organic gardeners.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Definition of a quandry

Just when we thought no one was capable of making George Dubya Bush look good, along come the Republican Senators.

The House passed the Auto Industry loan package handily. But, Senate Republicans put on the brakes. Many fear one or more of the Big Three will collapse as a result of the Senate decision. But, along come George. He has indicated a willingness to utilize his authority as enunciated in the $700 Billion dollar financial industry bailout package to shore up the auto industry.

He was opposed to this prior to the Senate Republicans showing their bias for the foreign owned auto companies in their southern states. Now he's for it.

If he follows through with his decison to use those funds over the objections of Senate Republicans, George Dubya Bush's approval rating might stay above 30%.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christians Call for Newsweek boycott

Lou Engle, of TheCall, and his right-wing Christian followers are calling on Christians to cancel their Newsweek subscriptions because they "got the gay"!

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Helping homes without people.

Now, this is a good idea! - Stash

Illegal Activism: Moving Homeless People Into Foreclosed Houses in Miami

By Tamara Lush
Associated Press

MIAMI -- Max Rameau delivers his sales pitch like a pro. "All tile floor!" he says during a recent showing. "And the living room, wow! It has great blinds."

But in nearly every other respect, he is unlike any real estate agent you've ever met. He is unshaven, drives a beat-up car and wears grungy cut-off sweat pants. He also breaks into the homes he shows. And his clients don't have a dime for a down payment.

Rameau is an activist who has been executing a bailout plan of his own around Miami's empty streets: He is helping homeless people illegally move into foreclosed homes. "We're matching homeless people with people-less homes," he said with a grin.

Rameau and a group of like-minded advocates formed Take Back the Land, which also helps the new "tenants" with secondhand furniture, cleaning supplies and yard upkeep. So far, he has moved six families into foreclosed homes and has nine on a waiting list.

"I think everyone deserves a home," said Rameau, who said he takes no money for his work with the homeless. "Homeless people across the country are squatting in empty homes. The question is: Is this going to be done out of desperation or with direction?"

With the housing market collapsing, squatting in foreclosed homes is believed to be on the rise across the country. But squatters usually move in on their own, at night, when no one is watching. Rarely is the phenomenon as organized as Rameau's effort to "liberate" foreclosed homes.

Florida -- especially the Miami area, with its once-booming condo market -- is one of the hardest-hit states in the housing crisis, largely because of overbuilding and speculation. In September, Florida had the nation's second-highest foreclosure rate, with one out of every 178 homes in default, according to Realty Trac, an online marketer of foreclosed properties. Only Nevada's rate was higher.

Like other cities, Miami is trying to ease the problem. Officials launched a foreclosure-prevention program to help homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments, with loans of up to $7,500 per household.

The city also recently passed an ordinance requiring owners of abandoned homes -- whether an individual or bank -- to register those properties with the city so police can better monitor them.
Elsewhere, advocates in Cleveland are working with the city to allow homeless people to legally move into and repair empty, dilapidated houses. In Atlanta, some property owners pay homeless people to live in abandoned homes as a security measure.

In early November, Rameau drove a woman and her 18-month-old daughter to a ranch house on a quiet street lined with swaying tropical foliage. Marie Nadine Pierre, 39, had been sleeping at a shelter with her child. She said she had been homeless off and on for a year, after losing various jobs and getting evicted from several apartments.

"My heart is heavy. I've lived in a lot of different shelters, a lot of bad situations," Pierre said. "In my own home, I'm free. I'm a human being now."

Rameau chose the house for Pierre, in part, because he knew its history. A man had bought the home in the city's predominantly Haitian neighborhood in 2006 for $430,000, then rented it to Rameau's friends. Those friends were evicted in October because the homeowner had stopped paying his mortgage and the property went into foreclosure.

Rameau, who makes his living as a computer consultant, said he is doing the owner a favor. Before Pierre moved in, someone stole the air-conditioning unit from the back yard, and it would be only a matter of time before thieves took the copper pipes and wiring, he said.

"Within a couple of months, this place would be stripped and drug dealers would be living here," he said, carrying a giant plastic garbage bag filled with Pierre's clothes into the home.


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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Proposition 8: The Musical

The artistic community is raising hell about the passage of Proposition 8 in their own special way. Funny or Die has the video.

Good on 'em!

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Handguns for the handicapped!

Via Medgadget: The burnishing of the Bush legacy continues. The latest? A company called Constitution Arms has designed a special handgun for handicapped people, and the FDA has approved its' designation as a medical device. A press release from the company says this:

We thought you might be interested to learn that the FDA has completed its “Device/Not a Device” determination and concluded the handgun will be listed as a Class I Medical Device, exempt from 510(k) Pre-Market Notification in accordance with 21 CFR 890.5050 “Daily Activity Assist Device.”

We have now submitted an application to the CMS contractor Noridian for a DME (Durable Medical Equipment) Coding Verification in order to be assigned an HCPCS code. Once assigned , physicians will be able to prescribe the Palm Pistol for qualified patients who may seek reimbursement through Medicare or private health insurance companies.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

And memory expands again

Remember when we thought we'd never need anything bigger than a 10-megabyte hard drive? I still have one of the first 10-meg IDE hard drives ever made--it's actually built into an expansion card, and it has "demonstration unit" stamped on it. Well, now we can go down to any Office Depot and get hard drives in the terabyte range -- that's 10 to the 12th power, as opposed to 10 to the 6th power for a megabyte--and according to these folks at Rice University, very soon a terabyte will seem teensy...

HOUSTON -- (Nov. 21, 2008) -- A team at Rice University has determined that a strip of graphite only 10 atoms thick can serve as the basic element in a new type of memory, making massive amounts of storage available for computers, handheld media players, cell phones and cameras.

In new research available online in Nature Materials, Rice professor James Tour and postdoctoral researchers Yubao Li and Alexander Sinitskii describe a solid-state device that takes advantage of the conducting properties of graphene. Tour said such a device would have many advantages over today’s state-of-the-art flash memory and other new technologies.

Graphene memory would increase the amount of storage in a two-dimensional array by a factor of five, he said, as individual bits could be made smaller than 10 nanometers, compared to the 45-nanometer circuitry in today’s flash memory chips. The new switches can be controlled by two terminals instead of three, as in current chips.

Two-terminal capability makes three-dimensional memory practical as graphene arrays can be stacked, multiplying a chip’s capacity with every layer, said Tour, Rice’s Chao Professor of Chemistry as well as a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science.

Being essentially a mechanical device, such chips will consume virtually no power while keeping data intact – much the same way today’s e-book readers keep the image of a page visible even when the power is off.

What distinguishes graphene from other next-generation memories is the on-off power ratio – the amount of juice a circuit holds when it’s on, as opposed to off.

“It’s huge — a million-to-one,” said Tour. “Phase change memory, the other thing the industry is considering, runs at 10-to-1. That means the ‘off’ state holds, say, one-tenth the amount of electrical current than the ‘on’ state.”

Current tends to leak from an “off” that’s holding a charge. “That means in a 10-by-10 grid, 10 ‘offs’ would leak enough to look like they were ‘on.’ With our method, it would take a million ‘offs’ in a line to look like ‘on,’’’ he said. “So this is big. It allows us to make a much larger array.”

While generating little heat itself, graphene memory seems impervious to a wide temperature range, having been tested from minus 75 to more than 200 degrees Celsius with no discernable effect, Tour said. That allows graphene memory to work in close proximity to hot processors. Better still, tests show it to be impervious to radiation, making it suitable for extreme environments.

Tour said the new switches are faster than his lab’s current testing systems can measure. And they’re robust. “We’ve tested it in the lab 20,000 times with no degradation,” said Tour. “Its lifetime is going to be huge, much better than flash memory.”

Best of all, the raw material is far from exotic. Graphene is a form of carbon. In a clump it’s called graphite, which you spread on paper every time you use a pencil.

The technology has drawn serious interest from industry, said Tour, who’s working on manufacturing techniques. He said it’s possible to deposit a layer of graphene on silicon or another substrate by chemical vapor deposition.

“Typically, graphene is very hard to think about fabricating commercially,” he said, “but this can be done very easily by deposition. The same types of processes used right now can be used to grow this type of graphene in place.”

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