From NY Post: Two envelopes addressed to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson have initially tested positive for the deadly poison ricin at the Pentagon’s mail facility, according to a report.
The packages, which were delivered Monday, were intercepted before making it into the sprawling headquarters of the Defense Department in Virginia near Washington, DC, spokesman Chris Sherwood said Tuesday.
A defense official told CNN that the intended recipients were Mattis and Richardson.
“On Monday, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency detected a suspicious substance during mail screening at the Pentagon’s remote screening facility,” Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.
“The envelopes were taken by the FBI this morning for further analysis,” he said, adding that all US Postal Service mail received at the screening facility Monday was under quarantine and posedno threat to Pentagon personnel.
The FBI said in a statement that as the envelopes are undergoing further testing, “we will have no further comment.”
Ricin, a highly toxic compound extracted from castor beans, has been used in terror plots and is lethal in tiny doses if swallowed, inhaled or injected. It is 6,000 times more potent than cyanide.
If ingested, it causes nausea, vomiting and internal bleeding of the stomach and intestines, followed by failure of the liver, spleen and kidneys, and death by collapse of the circulatory system.
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A group of Christmas carolers was thrown out of a U.S. Post Office in Silver Spring, MD, after the post office manager told them they were not allowed to sing Christmas carols on government property.
A spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service confirmed the incident occurred Saturday at a branch office in the Aspen Hill Shopping Center. A trio of carolers walked into the building dressed in attire reminiscent of Charles Dickens and began singing.
“They were only a few notes into their carol when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a scowling postal manager rushing to confront the carolers,” said JP Duffy, who was standing in a line with his wife and two-year-old daughter.
Duffy, who also happens to be a staff member of the Family Research Council, said he was stunned by what happened next.
“He told them that they had to leave immediately because they were violating the post office’s policy against solicitation,” Duffy said. “He told them they couldn’t do this on government property. He said: ‘You can’t go into Congress and sing and you can’t do it here either.’”
You will find the rest of the story here.
When the United State Postal Service finally goes Tango Uniform a few years from now, somehow I doubt this Scrooge of a manager will be able to get a job greeting customers at Wal-Mart.
I am guessing he will make a great Port-O-John pumper, though. 🙂 -Dave
By Douglas Rushkoff, Special to CNN September 7, 2011 The U.S. Postal Service appears to be the latest casualty in digital technology’s slow but steady replacement of working humans. Unless an external source of funding comes in, the post office will have to scale back its operations drastically, or simply shut down altogether. That’s 600,000 people who would be out of work, and another 480,000 pensioners facing an adjustment in terms.
We can blame a right wing attempting to undermine labor, or a left wing trying to preserve unions in the face of government and corporate cutbacks. But the real culprit — at least in this case — is e-mail. People are sending 22% fewer pieces of mail than they did four years ago, opting for electronic bill payment and other net-enabled means of communication over envelopes and stamps. New technologies are wreaking havoc on employment figures — from EZpasses ousting toll collectors to Google-controlled self-driving automobiles rendering taxicab drivers obsolete. Every new computer program is basically doing some task that a person used to do. But the computer usually does it faster, more accurately, for less money, and without any health insurance costs.
We like to believe that the appropriate response is to train humans for higher level work. Instead of collecting tolls, the trained worker will fix and program toll-collecting robots. But it never really works out that way, since not as many people are needed to make the robots as the robots replace.
And so the president goes on television telling us that the big issue of our time is jobs, jobs, jobs — as if the reason to build high-speed rails and fix bridges is to put people back to work. But it seems to me there’s something backwards in that logic. I find myself wondering if we may be accepting a premise that deserves to be questioned.
I am afraid to even ask this, but since when is unemployment really a problem? I understand we all want paychecks — or at least money. We want food, shelter, clothing, and all the things that money buys us. But do we all really want jobs? We’re living in an economy where productivity is no longer the goal, employment is. That’s because, on a very fundamental level, we have pretty much everything we need. America is productive enough that it could probably shelter, feed, educate, and even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working.
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, there is enough food produced to provide everyone in the world with 2,720 kilocalories per person per day. And that’s even after America disposes of thousands of tons of crop and dairy just to keep market prices high. Meanwhile, American banks overloaded with foreclosed properties are demolishing vacant dwellings to get the empty houses off their books. Our problem is not that we don’t have enough stuff — it’s that we don’t have enough ways for people to work and prove that they deserve this stuff.
Jobs, as such, are a relatively new concept. People may have always worked, but until the advent of the corporation in the early Renaissance, most people just worked for themselves. They made shoes, plucked chickens, or created value in some way for other people, who then traded or paid for those goods and services. By the late Middle Ages, most of Europe was thriving under this arrangement.
The only ones losing wealth were the aristocracy, who depended on their titles to extract money from those who worked. And so they invented the chartered monopoly. By law, small businesses in most major industries were shut down and people had to work for officially sanctioned corporations instead. From then on, for most of us, working came to mean getting a “job.”
The Industrial Age was largely about making those jobs as menial and unskilled as possible. Technologies such as the assembly line were less important for making production faster than for making it cheaper, and laborers more replaceable. Now that we’re in the digital age, we’re using technology the same way: to increase efficiency, lay off more people, and increase corporate profits.
While this is certainly bad for workers and unions, I have to wonder just how truly bad is it for people. Isn’t this what all this technology was for in the first place? The question we have to begin to ask ourselves is not how do we employ all the people who are rendered obsolete by technology, but how can we organize a society around something other than employment? Might the spirit of enterprise we currently associate with “career” be shifted to something entirely more collaborative, purposeful, and even meaningful?
Instead, we are attempting to use the logic of a scarce marketplace to negotiate things that are actually in abundance. What we lack is not employment, but a way of fairly distributing the bounty we have generated through our technologies, and a way of creating meaning in a world that has already produced far too much stuff. The communist answer to this question was just to distribute everything evenly. But that sapped motivation and never quite worked as advertised. The opposite, libertarian answer (and the way we seem to be going right now) would be to let those who can’t capitalize on the bounty simply suffer. Cut social services along with their jobs, and hope they fade into the distance.
But there might still be another possibility — something we couldn’t really imagine for ourselves until the digital era. As a pioneer of virtual reality, Jaron Lanier, recently pointed out, we no longer need to make stuff in order to make money. We can instead exchange information-based products. We start by accepting that food and shelter are basic human rights. The work we do — the value we create — is for the rest of what we want: the stuff that makes life fun, meaningful, and purposeful.
This sort of work isn’t so much employment as it is creative activity. Unlike Industrial Age employment, digital production can be done from the home, independently, and even in a peer-to-peer fashion without going through big corporations. We can make games for each other, write books, solve problems, educate and inspire one another — all through bits instead of stuff. And we can pay one another using the same money we use to buy real stuff.
For the time being, as we contend with what appears to be a global economic slowdown by destroying food and demolishing homes, we might want to stop thinking about jobs as the main aspect of our lives that we want to save. They may be a means, but they are not the ends.
Rushkoff’s recommendation is that “We start by accepting that food and shelter are basic human rights. The work we do — the value we create — is for the rest of what we want: the stuff that makes life fun, meaningful, and purposeful.”
While I agree with Rushkoff that computer technology is making obsolete more and more paid jobs (this blog, Fellowship of the Minds, being an example), the big question that pops into my mind is:
Who will decide how much “food and shelter are basic human rights” and who gets to redistribute that “food and shelter” from those who have much to those who are without?
The problem is this: that “who” must have a lot of power to decide and redistribute — power enough to overcome those in society who do not agree with this formula. And as we’ve been warned, repeatedly:
“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”
“The Devil may appear as an Angel of Light” (St. Paul)
This is a problem that has vexed humanity for eons. Until Rushkoff addresses this problem, sadly, his essay, while thought-provoking, in the end is just so much pie in the sky…. ~Eowyn
“They would be the first ones on the scene for disasters and so forth, weather issues. Cuz they’re the first ones in there, the only ones that can get in to every neighborhood on a daily basis.”
“There’s things they can do with sophisticated scanners because they go everywhere.”
Like an ambulance or police car can’t get into my neighborhood quicker than a mail carrier? And if we let more union goons help “protect us”, like the TSA, are we going to face a pat down to get our mail? Instead of finding ways to save money, this union leader wants to increase the size and role of government. Always a bad idea.