Liberation as Death Sentence: Health Care at the End of the Civil War

Liberation as Death Sentence

By JENNIFER SCHUESSLER    Published: June 10, 2012   New York Times

When Civil War History published a paper this spring raising the conflict’s military death toll to 750,000 from 620,000, that journal’s editors called it one of the most important pieces of scholarship ever to appear in its pages.

Richard Perry/The New York Times historian Jim Downs at Grant’s Tomb.
Timothy H. O’Sullivan/Library of Congress  Digging graves in Fredericksburg, Va.,in 1864. A million ex-slaves are said to have become sick or died after 1862.

But to Jim Downs, an assistant professor of history at Connecticut College and the author of the new book “Sick From Freedom,” issued last month by Oxford University Press, that accounting of what he calls “the largest biological crisis of the 19th century” does not go nearly far enough.

To understand the war’s scale and impact truly, Professor Downs argues, historians have to look beyond military casualties and consider the public health crisis that faced the newly liberated slaves, who sickened and died in huge numbers in the years following Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.

“We’re getting ready to celebrate 150 years of the movement from slavery to freedom,” he said in a recent interview at a cafe near his apartment in Chelsea. “But hundreds of thousands of people did not survive that movement.”

“Sick From Freedom,” at 178 pages (not counting 56 pages of tightly argued footnotes), may seem like a bantamweight in a field crowded with doorstops. But it’s already being greeted as an important challenge to our understanding of an event that scholars and laypeople alike have preferred to see as an uplifting story of newly liberated people vigorously claiming their long-denied rights.

“The freed people we want to see are the ones with all their belongings on the wagon, heading toward freedom,” said David W. Blight, a professor of history at Yale and the director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition. “But the truth is, for every person making it there may have been one falling by the way.”

Professor Downs, 39, is part of a wave of scholars who are sketching out a new, darker history of emancipation, Professor Blight said, one that recognizes it as a moral watershed while acknowledging its often devastating immediate impact. And the statistics offered in “Sick from Freedom” are certainly sobering, if necessarily tentative.

At least one quarter of the four million former slaves got sick or died between 1862 and 1870, Professor Downs writes, including at least 60,000 (the actual number is probably two or three times higher, he argues) who perished in a smallpox epidemic that began in Washington and spread through the South as former slaves traveled in search of work — an epidemic that Professor Downs says he is the first to reconstruct as a national event.

Historians of the Civil War have long acknowledged that two-thirds of all military casualties came from disease rather than heroic battle. But they have been more reluctant to dwell on the high number of newly emancipated slaves that fell prey to disease, dismissing earlier accounts as propaganda generated by racist 19th-century doctors and early-20th-century scholars bent on arguing that blacks were biologically inferior and unsuited to full political rights.

Instead, historians who came of age during the civil rights movement emphasized ways in which the former slaves asserted their agency, playing as important a role in their own liberation as Lincoln or the Union army.

“For so long, people were afraid to talk about freed people’s health,” Professor Downs said. “They wanted to talk about agency. But if you have smallpox, you don’t have agency. You can’t even get out of bed.”

Professor Downs first became interested in the health of newly liberated slaves when he was a graduate student at Columbia University with a job as a research assistant in the papers of Harriet Jacobs, the author of the 1861 autobiography “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” and a vivid chronicler of the often abysmal conditions in the “contraband camps” where escaped slaves congregated during the war and in settlements of freed people more generally after it. The papers were full of heart-wrenching encounters with sick and dying freed people — references that he noticed were strikingly absent in recent scholarship.

As he developed the topic into his dissertation, Professor Downs recalls sparring with his adviser, Eric Foner, the author of the classic book “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Business, 1863-1877.”

“He would joke: ‘Look in my index. You don’t even see smallpox,’ ” Professor Downs said.

But as he sorted through the little-explored records of the medical division of the Freedmen’s Bureau and other archives, he found reams of statistical and anecdotal accounts of sick and dying freed people, whose suffering was seen by even some sympathetic Northern reformers as evidence that the race was doomed to extinction.

Meanwhile tallies of the smaller number of white smallpox victims were kept only lackadaisically and eventually crossed out all together — evidence, he argues, that officials were eager to see the outbreak as a “black epidemic” not worth bothering about. (By contrast a cholera outbreak in 1866 that mainly affected whites was vigorously combated, he notes.)

Professor Downs also found a medical system that was less concerned with healing the sick than with separating out healthy workers who could be sent back to the fields, and then closing the hospitals as quickly as possible.

In an e-mail Professor Foner praised “Sick From Freedom” as offering “a highly original perspective” that “deserves wide attention.” And Professor Downs makes no bones about wanting to place health issues at the center of multiple scholarly conversations about the war and its aftermath.

“I wanted to say, ‘You’re not allowed to do the history of labor or the history of the family or the history of citizenship unless you go through my book,’ ” he said. “I wanted to be able to tell a story about these people’s lives that wouldn’t get pushed aside as melodrama.”

He is also not shy about drawing out his work’s contemporary relevance. His dissertation included an epilogue about AIDS, another epidemic, he said, that broke out shortly after a moment of liberation (in this case of gay people), was blamed on the victims and was largely ignored by the federal government. (He dropped the point from the book, which instead ends with an epilogue showing how policies developed in the post-Civil War South were exported to the Western frontier, with similarly devastating health consequences for American Indians.)

Professor Downs also sees parallels with the current health care debate. “Freed slaves,” he writes in the book, were “the first advocates of federal health care” — a statement that could be read from the left as an example of early black political activism, or from the right as an instance of newly liberated people immediately asking for a government handout.

That second reading was one he initially worried about, Professor Downs said. But he ultimately just let the historical chips fall where they may.

“I’ve been alone with these people in the archives,” he said. “I have a responsibility to tell their stories.”

Radium Girls Statue Dedicated in Ottawa, Illinois

Radium Girls Statue Dedication Is the Place to Be This Labor Day Weekend —  Friday, September 2nd, 11:00 AM, Ottawa, Illinois

radium-death-newspaper-article On Friday, September 2, at 11:00 a.m. at the corner of Clinton and Jefferson streets in Ottawa, Illinois, a statue of a young woman holding flowers in one hand and paintbrushes in the other will be unveiled. She is the symbol of the Radium Girls, the young women who worked in the clock and watch factories dotting the Illinois Valley in the first half of the 20th century. This was the era of “glow in the dark” watch and clock dials, painted with deadly radium. Many of these workers died from the effects of putting their brushes in their mouths countless times a day to sharpen the points, as the companies trained them to do.

The statue will stand on the site of the Luminous Processes factory in Ottawa at Clinton and Jefferson. The City of Ottawa, community groups and local unions worked together to raise the funds and assure the successful completion of this project. Laborers Local 393, an affiliate union of the ILHS, has donated many member volunteer hours to prep the site where the statue will be placed.

It all started when student Madeline Piller made the Radium Girls the subject of her junior high history fair project, and then never forgot their story. Her father Bill Piller is a sculptor and she enlisted his help to honor these women, many of whom were laid to rest after their untimely deaths in the Catholic cemetery just outside of Ottawa. A Geiger counter passed over these graves will still register the presence of the deadly radium poison that took their lives.

The Ottawa Radium Girls were not alone. Radium-painting factories were also operating in New Jersey and Connecticut. In her book Radium Girls, Woman and Industrial Health Reform, 1910-1935, Central Michigan University historian Claudia Clark extensively documents the suffering of these young women and the fight they and their families mounted to obtain proper compensation from their employers.

radium-girls1 On July 7, 1937, the Chicago Daily Times covered one such legal battle. Reporter John Main wrote: “Fifteen living dead women will appear before the Illinois Industrial Commission here on July 25. It will be the next-to-last act of what lawyers say is the biggest and most pitiful miscarriage of justice in the history of Illinois. The last act will be these women’s death – sure, tortured, horrible.”

These efforts for justice helped spark needed legislation concerning occupational diseases’ and workers compensation laws throughout the country. This Labor Day weekend, we commemorate the contribution made by the struggle of these young women to the health and safety protection of all working people.

The video Radium City (excerpt) movingly recounts this tragedy.  For the complete video (almost 2 hr documentary), click here.

Gauley Bridge, West Virginia 76 Years Ago

[A year ago a West Virginia mine explosion shocked the nation.  No new legislation has been passed to protect workers, no criminal sentences have been handed down to punish the corporations responsible.  It may be shocking, but it’s not surprising, as the story below shows.  There is a long and dishonorable tradition of ignoring workers health and safety.]

1500 Doomed”: People’s Press Reports on the Gauley Bridge Disaster

The deadly lung disease silicosis is caused when miners, sandblasters, and foundry and tunnel workers inhale fine particles of silica dust—a mineral found in sand, quartz, and granite. In 1935, approximately 1,500 workers—largely African Americans who had come north to find work—were killed by exposure to silica dust while building a tunnel in Gauley Bridge, West Virginia. Ordinarily, silicosis takes a several years to develop, but these West Virginia tunnel workers were falling ill in a matter of months because of exposure to unusually high concentrations of silica dust. The crisis over silicosis suddenly became a national issue, as seen in this article in the radical newspaper Peoples’ Press. In 1936 congressional hearings on the Gauley Bridge disaster, it was revealed that company officials and engineers wore masks to protect themselves when they visited the tunnel, but they failed to provide masks for the tunnelers themselves, even when the workers requested them.

476 Dead

1500 Doomed in W. Va.

Tunnel Catastrophe

From Federation News, 1936 (Chicago Federation of Labor)

Picture Caption:

Their only gravestones [are] cornstalks waving in the wind, their shrouds [are] the overalls in which they died, 169 tunnel workers killed at Gauley Bridge were tossed into trenches in this field at Summerville, W. Va., to rot. As they keeled over in the death tunnel, one at a time or several in a day, choked to death by silicosis, they were hauled 40 miles to Summerville and dumped into the grave the same day. No identification, no coffins. The company paid the undertaker $50 a piece to bury them. A wife who came tearfully to claim the remains of her loved one was quietly driven away. There was no way in which his body could be found. They were all victims of America’s worst industrial disaster. Then government officials, newspapers and others conspired to keep this story from the public knowing that soon the witnesses would all be dead. The 26 foremen are already dead. In Gauley Bridge, Town of the Living Dead, men once strong and hearty waste away while loved ones grimly await their death.

Gauley Bridge, W. Va.—America’s greatest industrial catastrophe has been hidden from the public.

There are 476 known dead.

There are nearly 1,500 doomed to die. Of these 200 are believed already dead.

Daily they cough their lives away, their lungs clog, they grow weaker. Finally they fall.

Gauley Bridge, the Town of the Living Dead, shrinks a bit and hurries on. For practically every man in the whole community is doomed to a death like that.

In one cornfield, 169 bodies have been tossed, unmarked. One doctor has treated 307 other men. They’re dead. Some 200 have written desperate letters from other cities—and then have stopped writing!

Desperately, the corporation whose tunnel job caused this holocaust has tried to keep the facts from the public until the last witness was gone. That will not be long. Already all of the 26 foremen are dead.

Mrs. S. E. Harrah sent a two-line item to the county seat paper about ambulances—and her husband was fired. He son, a lawyer, investigated, talked suits. Not any more. Last September he died suddenly. “Heart failure,” they called it.

Mrs. Charles Jones brought suits. Her son, Shirley, 18, was the first to die. Then his brother Owen, 21, died. Then their brother, Cecil, 23. Then an adopted son, Oley Jeffrey. Then Mrs. Jones’ brother. She has lived through this horror to see her husband wither before her eyes. Once he weighed 182. Now he weighs 126. He will read his story; we draw the curtain here.

All for Greed

All this because a rich and powerful corporation valued dollars above lives.

When the Rinehart & Dennis, Co., contractors for the New-Kanawha Power Co., started tunneling through two mountains a mile east of Gauley Bridge, on a power project to cost millions, it knew the tunnel would go through silicate rock.

It knew that men working in the tunnel would breathe in the dust.

It knew that without protection they would get silicosis, deadly lung disease.

Behind Rinehart & Dennis was the New-Kanawha Power Co., set to build the tunnel, dissolved as soon as the tunnel was completed late in 1934.

Union Carbide at Top

Behind the New-Kanawha Power Co. is the Electro Metallurgical Co. This is the big company that will use and sell the New Kanawha power.

Behind the Electro Metallurgical Co. is the Union Carbide & Chemical Co., gigantic company spreading into many fields.

Power to be won from the mountains and the rivers of West Virginia was behind the building of the tunnel at Hawk’s Nest, near Gauley Bridge. Dams, powerhouses, and a tunnel through the mountains to increase the drop in the New River and the force of the water power—a huge project, with huge profits to be made, from the power and the enormous silicate deposits.

A huge project, started in 1926, not yet completed, though the death tunnel is done.

Millions have been spent—$20,000,000 already.

Four years ago, preliminary work done, the tunnel was started.

Engineers of the company had made tests. The mountains were full of silicate rock. Silicate—valuable, deadly if breathed into the lungs in large amounts.

No complete protection against silicate was known, when very fine, as in this case. But there were masks that helped. Ventilation shafts would carry some of the dust away.

Lives Against Dollars

These would cost a few thousand dollars, in the $20,000,000 project.

Should Rinehart & Dennis order the masks, the shafts?

The men who own the Electro Metallurgical Co. did not go into the tunnel. They did not see the fine particles of dust, so penetrating that a 48-ton locomotive with headlights on could not be seen five feet away.

They did not see.

The men who would get the profits but never go into the tunnel decided—

Not to buy masks, not to put in air shafts or any other ventilation.

Some 2,000 men worked in the tunnel, 400 to 1,100 at a time. They got 25 to 30¢ an hour and worked 12 hours a day.

They are all dead, dying or doomed to death.

Shirley Jones was the first to die. He was 18, thrilled to get his first job, in love.

‘We’ll Be Marryin’ Soon’

“Think of it, honey,” he told his girl happily. “A job! Twenty-five cents an hour, 12 hours a day. That’s—why, that’s $3 a day! We’ll be marryin’ soon, honey.”

Three dollars a day for 12 hours of hell in an airless tunnel filled with fine dust that kept you from breathing, that you might wash off your hands but would never wash out of your lungs.

That’s what Shirley Jones found.

Within three months, he was fighting for breath, fainting, going back to work and fainting again, shaken by agonizing pain in his chest. He was losing weight so rapidly his big bones were hardly covered.

“Don’t know what’s wrong, honey,” he gasped now to his sweetheart.

Finally he had to go to bed.

The First Death

One day he called his mother, Emma Jones, mother at 47 of so many children she had to count them to tell a stranger the number.

“Mom,” Shirley gasped. “I don’t know what’s wrong but I’m a-goin’ to die. I think it’s from my work. I want you to have me cut open. If you can get anything from the company, go ahead.

“And mom, get pappy and Uncle Raymond and the boys out of that hole.”

A few days later Shirley was dead.

But pappy and the boys stayed in the tunnel. Three dollars, maybe $3.60, a day’s a lot around Gauley Bridge, and if you didn’t work for the company what could you do?

They stayed in.

The boys are dead—Owen, 21, Cecil, 23, the adopted boy, Oley Jeffrey. Owen died second; Cecil, who had a wife and two children, last. Silicosis kills the young first. Mrs. Jones’ brother Raymond Johnson is dead. Her husband still lives!

What Was Andrew Mellon Doing in Gauley Bridge in 1926?

Watch the People’s Press for answers to these questions.

An Appeal for the Dying

In the name of greed, 476 men—at least—are dead. Another 1,500 are doomed of whom 200 probably are dead in other places.

The dying are unable to get state or federal relief.

The doomed who can still work cannot get jobs. Employers know they are doomed.

The wives and children of the dead, the families of the dying and the doomed live at the edge of the starvation line.

Greed put them there.

In the name of humanity, the People’s Press asks you to help them.

Any sum, large or small, $100 or 1¢ will make life a little easier for this Town of the Living Dead.

They will not get help from the millionaires who kill 2,000 men for a few dollars. That we know.

So we urge you to help them. Everything given will go directly to these people in desperate need.

Send what you can to:

The Gauley Bridge Fund,

Care of the People’s Press, Eastern Branch,

245 Seventh Avenue, New York City.

Source: People’s Press, 7 December 1935. NARA, Record Group 174, Department of Labor, Sec. Frances Perkins, Labor Standards — Jan.-April 1936, Box 59.

Health Care: Kool Herc Is In Pain

from the New York Times


January 31, 2011, 6:23 pm

Kool Herc Is in Pain, and Using It to Put Focus on Insurance

Kool Herc at a news conference in 2008.Chris Hondros/Getty Images Kool Herc at a news conference in 2008.

Update, Feb. 2 | A medical relief fund has been set up for Kool Herc.

D.J. Kool Herc, the turntable magician known as the Father of Hip-Hop, needs help conjuring up some money to cover bills.

Although the blogosphere lighted up over the weekend with alarming but vague reports that he was facing “a very serious illness” and “broke,” he is actually at home and grappling with the aftermath of surgery for kidney stones.

His lack of medical insurance, however, is quite real, despite his status as a living legend who helped create a cultural form that became a global – and lucrative – force.

Herc, born Clive Campbell, is the latest hip-hop pioneer for whom an otherwise routine medical issue morphed into a financial crisis for lack of insurance.

“This is just a disgrace that Kool Herc has to negotiate over the details of his health care,” said Bill Adler, a former executive with Def Jam Records and a historian of the genre. “People who are not performers think that the musicians they love have a big house, lots of cars and more money than they’ll ever know. The reality is that the majority of people who choose a life in the arts make a tough economic choice. They’re almost choosing voluntary poverty.”

Herc’s sister, Cindy Campbell, said that her brother sought treatment at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx in October for kidney stones. As part of the procedure, a stent was temporarily inserted to alleviate the pressure.  She said that Herc had to reschedule several appointments to remove the stent due to bad weather and not feeling well. She said the last time he spoke with the hospital, a little over a week ago, he was told that he needed to place a deposit.

“He told me he asked them to give him a figure,” she said. “But nobody has given him any solid information.”

Steven Clark, a spokesman for the hospital, said that privacy rules prevented him from commenting on the specific case. He said that, in general,  the hospital would not refuse an uninsured patient in the emergency room, and that follow-up procedures would also be performed.

“But if a patient doesn’t show up, or repeatedly misses appointments, that changes the game,” he said. “They can’t dictate their care.”

A medical professional who often works with uninsured patients at St. Barnabas and other Bronx hospitals said that in those cases, the hospital might ask for a deposit and set up a reduced-fee schedule to ensure that the patient showed up for treatment.

Fans, promoters and D.J.’s have rallied to Herc’s side, vowing to raise funds to help him pay his bills. In the meantime, Ms. Campbell said, her brother was at home and taking painkillers to alleviate the discomfort.

The larger issue, she said, was how Herc’s generation of graying rappers and D.J.’s would cope with the medical issues bound to come their way. Just as she and her brother rallied to save the Bronx building where her brother’s famed parties gave birth to hip-hop, she saw this latest trial as a way of being of service to the larger community.

“There isn’t any type of medical program for these artists,” she said. “Maybe it takes a visible person like Herc for people to pay attention. Maybe we can help set something up. My brother and I were trailblazers. We tried to save the building. Now we’re going to advocate for plenty of other artists and have a program to assist them.”

Automation and Robotics News – Jan 30, 2011

[Along with the usual excitement about drone technology and war making, this issue of Automation and Robotics News brings insightful articles about robot job displacement including replacement of entire occupations.  There should be no wonder why Egyptian workers with diplomas cannot find jobs . .

By Larry McCormack, The (Nashville) Tennessean James Scott says the printing industry "is flooded with people looking for jobs."

.and what does that say about the future in the US?  Check out the worker replacement guide below to find out  — Lew Rosenbaum]

Automation and Robotics News–Jan 30, 2011
Tony Zaragoza



Stats Back Al-Qaida Claim of Drone Pain
Spencer Ackerman, January 27, 2011

Is the U.S. drone war in Pakistan putting the squeeze on al-Qaida’s safe havens? It’s not a question that lends itself to easy answers, given the difficulties of reporting from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where al-Qaida’s top leaders are believed to be. But a new statistical analysis by researchers at Harvard finds that the deadly robots overhead are reaping modest “counterterrorism dividends” — something that al-Qaida itself is complaining about.

Even DHS Is Freaked Out by Spy Drones Over America

Spencer Ackerman January 26, 2011

Police departments around the country are warming up to unmanned spy planes. But don’t expect the Department of Homeland Security to catch drone fever anytime soon. It’s too controversial for an agency already getting hammered for naked scanners and junk-touching.

Return of The ‘Beast of Kandahar’ Stealth Drone
Spencer Ackerman, January 25, 2011

It returns from the skies! Back in 2009, the Air Force confirmed that it had a mysterious stealth drone, the Lockheed RQ-170, flying over Kandahar in Afghanistan — the subject of much online speculation and grainy photography. Now, after something of a lull,  the Secret Projects forum has new pics of the drone that Ares aviation ace Bill Sweetman dubbed “The Beast of Kandahar.”

Will Israel Sell Russia Its Prized Monster Drone?

Spencer Ackerman, January 18, 2011

Israel and Russia: once Cold War enemies, now partners-in-drone. Only the Russians want Israel to let the Kremlin in on its most powerful unmanned spy plane.


Fanuc Bets Future on ‘Cranes With Brains,’ Inaba Says

BusinessWeek – Jason Clenfield – Jan 17, 2011

Inaba built Fanuc into an automation empire over three decades, focusing on making the controls that run more than half of the world’s computerized tools. …

Robots Dominate Manufacturing – Take a Look Inside the Making of a Memory Card …

Singularity Hub – Aaron Saenz – Jan 20, 2011

Watching these slick industrial robots do their thing is something else. You have to check out the video below and see what I mean. …

Little Helper Robot Wants to Be Big Help on Factory Floor

POSTED BY: Samuel Bouchard  /  Wed, January 05, 2011

The manufacturing industry in many countries, facing labor shortages and pressed to become ever more efficient, can certainly use a little help. Or how about a Little Helper?


Robots: Harvest Automation, January 14th, 2011

In today’s episode we look at a new market in robotics with huge potential, agriculture. With us, <>Joe Jones, co-founder of Harvest Automation and father of the Roomba.


Digging through a high-tech recycling center

January 24, 2011, Martin LaMonica

A waste recycling center uses a series of machines to automatically sort material to enable single-stream recycling for consumers.

Teasdale Quality Foods Achieves Significant Savings by Automating Invoice…

Business Wire (press release) – Jan 25, 2011

Teasdale’s implementation of the EZCM accounts payable automation solution was so successful that, within months, order entries and accounts receivable were …

‘Go to’ clouds of the future, part 1

January 03, 2011, James Urquhart

Two companies will play major roles in the cloud computing transformation in the next decade, and who they are might surprise you–as well as how they will do it.

Robot puts ill teen back in classroom

Chicago Sun-Times – Jan 21, 2011

WICHITA FALLS, Texas — A Texas school district here has teamed up with a communications company to allow a homebound student to attend class via robot.

Restaurant robot delivers the future of food service

DVICE -Adario Strange – Jan 25, 2011

The MK Robot Project produced the robot to assist waiters with an eye towards total autonomy in the future. Although slow and still in need of human …

Robot glider to investigate Australia floodwaters – Jan 24, 2011

A gliding robot is set to cruise over a stretch of Australian coast that has been devastated by the recent flooding. The glider will be on a reconnaissance …

12 Advances In Medical Robotics

Looking to make an informed robot-buying decision? Here are some options for assisting (or replacing) your employees.

InformationWeek – Jan 29, 2011

Japan, which has a large elderly population, has developed a number of robot-based technologies that appear to help slow down the advent of dementia, …

Robots to fix parking problems in Abu Dhabi

The National – Jan 23, 2011

The “valet” is a mechanical robot, it promises to park or retrieve your car inside 50 seconds – and best of all, parking will be free.

With Home Carpeting Conquered, Robots Eye the Office

Jack Loftus, 1/16/11

The Roomba has conquered the home. No more vacuuming! Now robots must tackle mail delivery and coffee-making tasks in the office. Enter the coldly-named humanoid bot HRP-4. It doesn’t surf the net. It doesn’t gossip. It simply serves.

Sushi Restaurant Uses Sushi Robots and Control Centers to Cut Costs

Casey Chan

Kura, a sushi chain, focuses on efficiency and turning a profit. So much so that they’ve eschewed traditional sushi chefs for sushi robots, a large staff of waiters for conveyor belts and restaurant managers for a control center with video link.


Adept introduces packaging robot platform

Vision Systems Design – Jan 6, 2011

Built on the USDA-accepted Adept Quattro s650HS robot, the Adept PAC is the first robotic packaging platform designed from the ground up to address the …


Move Over, WALL-E: Puttering Along Power Lines

New York Times (blog) – Matthew L. Wald – Jan 12, 2011

Electric Power Research Institute A prototype of the robot that would monitor transmission lines for problems.


Tense time for workers, as career paths fade away

USA Today – Rick Hampson – Jan 12, 2011

•Globalization and automation may export or eliminate not only jobs, but entire occupations — ways of life, really. The Labor Department predicts that …

The Robot Economy is Here by Derek Thompson

The Atlantic (blog) – Derek Thompson – Jan 18, 2011

Entrepreneur Marshall Brain–that’s his real name–says robots will become widely available by 2030 and could eventually take nearly half of all jobs in the …


Automation Touted As Way To Help Fix Immigration System

National Journal – Aliya Sternstein – Jan 13, 2011 reports that the government can fix the immigration system without legislation, by automating visa processing and by …

Barcelona Seeks Technologies for Automation of Urban Services

TMC Net -Calvin Azuri – Jan 24, 2011

The city of Barcelona invites international solutions providers and research centers who can materialize its automation goals through sensors and other …

The Killer Robot Caucus

01/25/11 WSJ Washington Wire

Members of Congress love their drones, but they want to give all robots their due. So the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Caucus…


Robotics Industry Is Optimistic in 2011

by Bennett Brumson, Contributing Editor

Posted: 01/11/2011 As the global economy emerges from the Great Recession of 2008-2009, business activity is slowly picking up….


Japanese Robot Cargo Ship En Route to Space Station – Jan 24, 2011

An unmanned Japanese cargo spaceship is closing in on the International Space Station, on track to link up with the orbiting lab Thursday (Jan. 27).

Seoul To Spend US$89.5 Million On Robot Pilot Projects

Bernama – Jan 26, 2011

SEOUL, Jan 27 (Bernama) — The government will spend 100 billion won (US$89.5 million) on robot-related pilot projects to bolster growth of the cutting edge …

After 50 Years Robots Have New Horizons

by Bennett Brumson, Contributing Editor

Posted: 01/11/2011 Advancements in safety systems, end-effectors and sensors are rapidly bringing robotics into new applications…

Building a Super Robust Robot Hand

Erico Guizzo  /  Tue, January 25, 2011

German researchers have built an anthropomorphic robot hand that can endure collisions with hard objects and even strikes from a hammer without breaking into pieces. In designing the new hand system, researchers at the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), focused on robustness. They may have just built the toughest robot hand yet. The DLR hand has the shape and size of a human hand, with five articulated fingers powered by a web of 38 tendons, each connected to an individual motor on the forearm.

Cloud Robotics: Connected to the Cloud, Robots Get Smarter

Erico Guizzo  /  Mon, January 24, 2011

Connected to the Cloud, Robots Get Smarter

In the first “Matrix” movie, there’s a scene where Neo points to a helicopter on a rooftop and asks Trinity, “Can you fly that thing?” Her answer: “Not yet.” Then she gets a “pilot program” uploaded to her brain and they fly away. For us humans, with our non-upgradeable, offline meat brains, the possibility of acquiring new skills by connecting our heads to a computer network is still science fiction. Not so for robots. Several research groups are exploring the idea of robots that rely on cloud-computing infrastructure to access vast amounts of processing power and data. This approach, which some are calling “cloud robotics,” would allow robots to offload compute-intensive tasks like image processing and voice recognition and even download new skills instantly, Matrix-style. Imagine a robot that finds an object that it’s never seen or used before—say, a plastic cup. The robot could simply send an image of the cup to the cloud and receive back the object’s name, a 3-D model, and instructions on how to use it, says James Kuffner, a professor at Carnegie Mellon currently working at Google.

Top 20 Robot Videos of 2010

Erico Guizzo  /  Tue, January 11, 2011

Last year was an incredible time for robotics, and to recap the best robot moments of 2010 we decided to compile a list of our favorite videos. Check out below our selection — going from No. 20 to the No. 1 — and let us know what you think.

The Best Robots of CES 2011

One of the best robots of 2010

Erico Guizzo  /  Tue, January 11, 2011

Robots made a big appearance at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. There were home robots, robotic pets, humanoids, telepresence systems, and even a little robot to massage people’s backs. Check out the highlights

Myth Of American Primacy: How Does The US Compare With Other Countries?


Just How Exceptional is the US?

The Myth of American Primacy


The New Year season is a good time to reflect on the U.S.’s true standing in the world.

Politicians of every stripe ceaselessly repeat the well-worn clichés about America’s uniqueness and prowess at 4th of July, Memorial Day, election campaign and other patriotic celebrations.

But how exceptional are we?

The following list of some 35 categories compares our standing to other nations.

Sadly, the five categories in which America ranks #1 are Military Expenditure, Incarceration, Marriage, Cosmetic Procedures and Obesity.

Read on …

U.S. Ranked #1

Military Expenditures (2008)

#1 — U.S. = $663.2 billion (4% of GDP)
#2 — China = $98.8 billion (2% of GDP)

Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Military Expenditure Database (2009)

Military Expenditure per GDP (2005)

#1 — Omar = 11.4%
#25 — U.S. = 4.2%

Source: CIA Factbook

Incarceration Rate

#1 — U.S. = 756 per 100,000 (1,613,740 in 2009)
#2 — Russia = 629 per 100,000 (86,9814 in 2006)

Source: King’s College London International Centre for Prison Studies: U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics

Marriage Rate (“crude,” 2007)

#1 — U.S. = 7.4 per 1,000
#7 — Denmark = 6.7 per 1,000

Source: National Healthy Marriage Resource Center

Cosmetic Surgical Procedures (2009)

#1 — U.S. = 1.5 mil
#2 — Brazil = 1.0 million

Source: ISAPS

Obesity Rate

#1 — U.S. = 34% (2008)
#2 — Mexico = 30% (2006)

Source: OECD


#1 — Costa Rica = 76.1
#114 — U.S. = 30.7

Source: Happy Planet Index 2.0

Satisfaction with Life Index (2006)

#1 — Denmark = 273.4
#23 — U.S. = 246.7

Source: Adrian White, “A Global Projection of Subjective Well-being: A Challenge To Positive Psychology?”

Subjective Well-Being (2007)

#1 — Denmark = 4.24
#16 — U.S. = 3.55

Source: World Values Surveys

National Economy

Gross Domestic Product (2009)

#1 — European Union = $14.4 trillion
#2 — U.S. = $14.1 trillion

Source: CIA Factbook

Per Capita GDP

#1 — Lichtenstein = $122,100 (2007)
#11 — U.S. = $46,000 (2009)

Source: CIA Factbook

Human Poverty Index (2007-2008, lowest)

#1 — Sweden = 6.3
#17 — U.S. = 15.4

Source: Human Development Index

Current Account Balance (2009)

#1 — China = $297.1 billion
#190 — U.S. = ($378.4 billion)

Source: CIA Factbook

Competitive Economy

#1 — Switzerland
#4 — U.S.

Source: World Economic Forum

Digital Economy

#1 — Sweden
#3 — U.S.

Source: Economist Intelligence Group’s “e-readiness”

Information Technology

#1 — Sweden
#4 — U.S.

Source: World Economic Forum

Environmental Impact

Renewable Electricity Production (2009)

#1 — China = 682.1
#3 — U.S. = 413.2

Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, June 2009

Environmental Impact (worst to best)

#1 — Brazil
#2 — U.S.

Source: University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute in Australia

CO-2 Emissions (Climate Change Performance Index, of 56 countries, 2008, best to worst)

#2 — Germany = 3.0% share
#55 — U.S. = 21.4% share

Source: Germanwatch


Life Expectancy

#1 — Japan = 82.6 years
#38 — U.S. = 78.2 years

Source: United Nations (2005-2010)

Infant mortality (to 1,000 live births, 2009)

#1 — Iceland = 2.9
#33 — U.S. = 6.3

Source: UN Population Division

National Health Systems

#1 — France
#37 — U.S.

Source: World Health Organization

Health Care Expenditures (% of GDP, 2006)

#1 — France = 11.0%
#37 — U.S. = 15.8%

Source: OECD

Overweight Rate

#1 — Mexico = 70% (2006)
#2 — U.S. = 68% (2008)

Source: OECD

Domestic Life

Divorce Rate (of marriages, 2002)

#1 — Sweden = 54.9%
#7 — U.S. = 45.7%

Source: Americans for Divorce Reform

Cohabitation Rate (20 year-old plus, 2007)

#1 — France = 14.4%
#6 — U.S. = 5.5%

Source: National Healthy Marriage Resource Center

Non-Married Childbirths (2007, US and Europe)

#1 — Sweden = 54.7%
#6 — U.S. Denmark = 38.5%

Source: National Healthy Marriage Resource Center

Motherhood Ranking (best to worst)

#1 — Norway
#28 — U.S.

Source: Save the Children “Mothers Index”

Gender Gap (narrowest to widest)

#1 — Iceland
#19 — U.S.

Source: World Economic Forum


Secondary School Graduates (2008)

#1 — S. Korea = 93%
#18 — U.S.= 73%

Source: OECD

College Graduates (25-34) (2007)

#1 — Canada = 55.8%
#12 — U.S. = 40.3%

Source: the College Board


#1 — Korea = 539
#15 — U.S. = 500

China was divided into three regions (Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao) and Shanghai and Hong Kong out-performed the U.S).


Science Education

#1 — Finland = 554
#20 — U.S. = 502

China was divided into three regions (Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao) and each out-performed the U.S.


Math Education

#1 — Singapore = 562
#28— U.S. = 487

China was divided into three regions (Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao) and each out-performed the U.S.


Telecommunications Services

Internet Users (2008)

#1 — China = 298 million
#2 — U.S. = 231 million

Source: CIA Factbook

Wired Broadband (2010)

#1 — Netherlands = 37.8 per 100 (6.2 mil subscribers)
#14 — U.S. = 27.1 per 100 (183.3 mil subscribers)

Source: OCED

Wireless Broadband (2010)

#1 — Korea = 95.0 per 100 (146.3 mil subscribers)
#9 — U.S. = 44.4 per 100 (136.3 mil subscribers)

Source: OCED

Broadband Data Rate (downsteam)

#1 — Korea = 36.9 Mb/s
#31 — U.S. = 9.9 Mb/s

Source: Speedtest

Broadband Data Rate (upsteam)

#1 — Korea = 20.3 Mb/s
#33 — U.S. = 2.5 Mb/s

Source: Speedtest

Please add you own categories and circulate.

David Rosen is the author of “Sex Scandals America: Politics & the Ritual of Public Shaming” (Key, 2009). He can be reached at


Automation & Robotics News – Dec. 12, 2010, from Tony Zaragoza

[This issue includes information on a robot who could be taking your medical history soon, the wikileaks revelation that drones are on everyone’s list to Santa, and, if you thought that China might be the last haven for those pursuing low wage workers, think again:  see below to find the “waiter” who may be serving you in Chinese restaurants.]

The Northrop-built drone touched down late Tuesday night at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California after spending more than a day aloft.

Automation and Robotics News–Dec 12, 2010



High-Flying Spy Drone, Powered By Liquid Coal

Jason Paur, November 24, 2010

No unmanned aircraft in the American arsenal flies higher or longer than the Global Hawk. On Tuesday, it soared high and long, powered by a blend of synthetic fuel. The Northrop-built drone touched down late Tuesday night at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California after spending more than a day aloft. Both the Navy and Air Force have flown numerous other aircraft using other non-traditional jet fuels, but this is both the first for an unmanned aircraft, and the first time any type of aircraft has flown with this type of fuel. JP-8 jet fuel (the kind typically used in the Air Force) was combined with a synthetic paraffinic kerosene derived from liqufied coal, and another derived from natural gas, to make up the blend.

Air Force on Secret Space Plane: Nothing to See Here, Move Along

David Axe, December 7, 2010

The Air Force has news for anyone looking for sinister motives behind the flying branch’s latest orbital gizmo: the mysterious, high-tech X-37B space plane. The 29-foot-long robotic shuttle — vaguely labeled a “test asset” by the Pentagon — returned to earth on Friday after 224 days, nine hours and 24 minutes in space. In those eight months, observers speculated that the X-37 might be a prototype bomber, a satellite-snatching snoop or a speedy, quick-reacting sensor platform. Forget it, Richard McKinney, Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for Space Programs, said Monday. “I applaud the ingenuity and innovation of some reports, but really it’s as described. This is a test vehicle, pure and simple.” But a test vehicle for what? Well, for testing, McKinney said. The way he described it, the X-37 should eventually function as an orbital laboratory for new satellite components and other space gear — pricey stuff that today gets boosted into the heavens with very little realistic testing. “If we could place technology in orbit, check it out and bring back to earth, that would be significant accomplish,” he said. “The purpose of this particular mission was the vehicle. In order do the other things we talked about … we’ve got to have a vehicle to do that.”

All the same, the X-37 did carry something in its payload bay during its inaugural flight — something secret, McKinney admitted. “It’s not unusual for us to put satellites into orbit that are classified. This is no different than that.”

WikiLeaks Reveals Everybody’s Christmas List: The World Wants Drones

WikiLeaks Reveals Everybody’s Christmas List: The World Wants Drones

Adam Rawnsley, November 29, 2010

Black Friday has passed, but the holidays are upon us and shopping days are increasingly few. Having a hard time finding the perfect gift for that tiny emirate hoping to psych out Iran or the large NATO ally looking to fight terrorism in Iraq? Fortunately for you, WikiLeaks has revealed the number one item atop seemingly everybody’s wish list: drones. Only a select few close American allies have the export-restricted Predator B (a.k.a. MQ-9 Reaper) armed drones, but that hasn’t stopped countries from the United Arab Emirates to Turkey from pestering & pleading with America to sell them the shiniest new toy, the WikiLeaks document show.


Strawberry-picking robot knows when they’re ripe

Robots to put ripe strawberries on your table

December 13, 2010 Posted by Tim Hornyak

Japan prepares to unleash a strawberry-harvesting robot on the world.

Robot’s singular job: Cutting flesh from pig bone

Tuesday, December 07, 2010 Posted by Matt Hickey

Some people are scared of clowns, some of zombies. I’m scared of giant robots with knives programmed to slice meat from a pig’s thigh.

Entwistle’s of Ramsbottom sets one-year target to double sauce production – 12/13/10

While Entwistle said that Lancashire Sauce was looking into taking on another team member, he stressed that the investment in automation was intended to …


Robots wait on you in this Chinese restaurant

Robots serving food in this restaurant in . . . China!

Thursday, December 09, 2010 Posted by Juniper Foo

At China’s Dalu Rebot (sic) restaurant, patrons are greeted by robot receptionists and attended by robo-waiters. Fortunately, real-life cooks are on hand in the kitchen.

Personal Robotics Market to Top $19 Billion in 2017

Sales of telepresence and security robots are helping to drive the latest forecast.

Robotics Trends Staff – Filed Dec 13, 2010

While many consumers’ current interaction with robots is limited to those that clean their floors, pools, or gutters, ABI Research, in its market study “Personal Robotics,” forecasts that the personal robotics market will grow to more than $19 billion in 2017, driven in large part by sales of telepresence and security robots featuring high-quality cameras, microphones, and processors that allow the robots to serve as interactive substitutes for human beings.

“Hi I’m a robot. I’ll be your doctor today.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (blog) – Mark Johnson – Dec 8, 2010

The engineers say the technology now exists to design robot assistants competent to perform in the high-stress environment of a hospital emergency room.


Section 179: Take Advantage of Tax Deduction in 2010, December 07, 2010

Considering purchasing robots, workcells, or other robotic equipment soon? Why not make this capital investment now, before the end of the year. This way you can take

Romeo, shown here in a computer-generated rendering, is a French humanoid robot designed to assist elderly and disabled people. Image: Aldebaran Robotics

advantage of Section 179 tax incentives.


Automate Keynote Speaker Tom Ridge

November 23, 2010

First Secretary of Homeland Security and Distinguished Statesman

Two major automation and logistics shows, Automate 2011 and ProMat 2011, are collocated March 21-24 in Chicago, Illinois at McCormick Place and together bring you a special keynote speaker, Tom Ridge, on Monday, March 21. His topic is, “Fortune Favors the Brave: The Net Gain of Supply Chain Security in a Risk-based World.”


France Developing Advanced Humanoid Robot Romeo

Erico Guizzo  /  Mon, December 13, 2010

France is set to join the select club of countries that have developed advanced adult-size humanoid robots. Paris-based Aldebaran Robotics, famed for its small humanoid robot Nao, is working with major French research organizations to build a larger and more capable humanoid called Romeo, to be unveiled next March. Designed to assist elderly and disabled individuals in their daily activities, the 1.4-meter-tall robot will be able to walk through a home, fetching food from the kitchen, taking out the garbage, and acting as a loyal companion who helps entertain its owners and keep tabs on their health.

Running robot aims to take on Usain Bolt

Monday, December 13, 2010 Posted by Leslie Katz

Aptly named Athlete, bipedal robot developed in Japan takes a biomechanical approach to running in an attempt to mimic human flexibility and agility.

Automation and Robotics News: November 7

Automation and Robotics News–Nov. 7, 2010

Highlights: Upgrading drones; why companies should automation; Indian Dairy Automation; automation and increaing demand; Robot sales up this year in NA; Asimo 10 year anniversary.

Archives:  – back issues  — current issue


U.S. Army Pursues Nanosats and Microlaunchers on a Shoestring

Doug Mohney, October 29, 2010

Far away from Washington D.C., in the shadow of NASA’s Huntsville Saturn 5, the U.S. Army Space & Missile Defense Command is working on small, cheap nanosatellites for communications and imagery and an equally low-cost way to put them into orbit quickly. It’s a radical break from the past, but the Army wants rapidly responsive and flexible assets that it can launch on short notice to support warfighting, peacekeeping, and humanitarian operations — and cheap enough to be essentially “throwaways.…

IAI Offers New Ultralight MiniPOP Payload for UAVs

Nov 01, 2010Robotics Trends Staff

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is introducing the newest member of its MiniPOP (plug-in optronic payload) family: the Ultralight MiniPOP. The new lightweight MiniPOP payload is manufactured using lightweight metals, including magnesium and titanium. The MiniPOP is designed to be used by small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which demand long endurance, and by special ground forces for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (ISTAR) missions. The system can be handled and operated by a single soldier.

Drones Get Ready to Fly, Unseen, Into Everyday Life

WSJ, 11/03/10

Personal drones aren’t yet plying U.S. flyways. But an arms race is building among people looking to track celebrities, unfaithful… In early 2010, Senior Airman Cassie McQuade was all alone in an isolated corner of Bagram air field, NATO’s main base in Afghanistan. As the sole airman assigned to a team of civilian contractors from Boeing subsidiary Insitu, it was McQuade’s job to analyze video streams pumped into her trailer by the team’s fleet of low-flying ScanEagle drones used to spot threats to Bagram. “The hardest part is determining what is suspicious and what we are looking for,” she told me. The long, dark shape in a man’s arms could be a shovel — or a rocket launcher. Men digging by the side of the road could be repairing a culvert or planting a bomb. Telling the difference required training, practice … and intuition. With more and more drone-provided video pouring into Pentagon servers — “24 years’ worth if watched continuously” just in 2009, according to The New York Times – the Air Force in particular is struggling to train up enough analysts like McQuade to sift through it all. Their job is made more difficult by the raw nature of most video feeds. Watching untagged video is like “tuning in to a football game without all the graphics,” one industry executive told The Times.

Learning Computers to Help Humans Scour Drone Footage

David Axe, November 5, 2010

In early 2010, Senior Airman Cassie McQuade was all alone in an isolated corner of Bagram air field, NATO’s main base in Afghanistan. As the sole airman assigned to a team of civilian contractors from Boeing subsidiary Insitu, it was McQuade’s job to analyze video streams pumped into her trailer by the team’s fleet of low-flying ScanEagle drones used to spot threats to Bagram. “The hardest part is determining what is suspicious and what we are looking for,” she told me. The long, dark shape in a man’s arms could be a shovel — or a rocket launcher. Men digging by the side of the road could be repairing a culvert or planting a bomb. Telling the difference required training, practice … and intuition. With more and more drone-provided video pouring into Pentagon servers — “24 years’ worth if watched continuously” just in 2009, according to The New York Times – the Air Force in particular is struggling to train up enough analysts like McQuade to sift through it all. Their job is made more difficult by the raw nature of most video feeds. Watching untagged video is like “tuning in to a football game without all the graphics,” one industry executive told The Times.

Northrop Arms Its Robot Pack Mule With Big G

Spencer Ackerman, October 27, 2010

JJon Anderson has seen a lot of gawkers pause at his Northrop Grumman booth in the Association of the U.S. Army’s Washington conference. Not that he’s odd-looking or off-putting: He’s a gregarious guy. The stares he’s getting are about the .50-caliber M2 machine gun he’s got mounted on a treaded robot — something Northrop isn’t even selling right now. “Quite frankly,” explains Anderson, a Northrop advanced-systems employee with short white hair and a whiter smile, “a weapon on a robot brings people into the booth.” That it does. For the past few years, Northrop has produced a treaded, 60-inch robot vehicle to help troops haul their gear called the Carry-all Mechanized Equipment Landrover, or CaMEL. It’s like a more traditional version of the BigDog robot — a simple flat, motorized platform that putters along at up to 7 miles per hour while taking on up to 1,200 pounds of stuff. Northrop has sold more than 60 of them to the Israeli military; and recently, the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning expressed interest in the CaMEL as a hauler.

Army’s Drones Get New Add-Ons: Radars, Self-Landing, Cellular Coverage [Updated]

Spencer Ackerman, October 26, 2010

It’s not that the unpiloted aircraft that the Army flies aren’t already tricked out. Some of them carry the latest surveillance systems and powerful missiles. But some companies at the Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington D.C. figure that the drone fleet needs some upgrades. The box above? That’s a guidance system to make sure that a malfunctioning drone can land safely on the spot that a unit directs it — essentially, something that makes an unmanned plane really independent of human control. There’s also radar gear to give drones a better line of sight down to the ground for airborne spying. Need cellular coverage in the middle of nowhere? Hook a few pods up to the bottom of a drone, send it aloft, and start tweeting again.

Army’s WALL-E Robo-Scout Patrols D.C. Confab

Spencer Ackerman, October 25, 2010

The Army isn’t about to be upstaged at its own party by its contractors. Inside a pseudo-base set up on the floor of the sprawling Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington D.C.’s convention center is Forward Operating Base Modernization, a set-piece military version of Disney’s Carousel of Progress. Only the Army’s equivalent has models of synced-up soldier gear and a 32-pound motorized robot on treads designed to go into dangerous places troops can’t. This WALL-E-looking creature is the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle, or SUGV, a cousin of iRobot’s Packbots. When last we checked in on it, the Army was testing the SUGV at Fort Bliss to see if it makes sense for infantry use. Testing continues. But the glee with which Army officials showed it off for reporters — and its pride of place in the Army’s brochure for modernization — suggests that the service really, really wants it to work.

Autonomous underwater robot hits the waves (photos)

November 03, 2010, Jennifer Guevin

An advanced undersea vehicle promises to take oceanic research to a new level, going faster and farther than its predecessors–and even doing some thinking of its own.

Israeli developed robots can spot and shoot terrorists

Globes – Nov 3, 2010

Former Israel Security Agency agent Amos Goren claims his robots can detect threats before the human brain does. Robots developed by a former Israel …


Five Reasons U.S. Companies Should Automate Now

November 05, 2010,

Right now, businesses in the United States are facing some tough challenges including offshoring pressures, approaching work shortages, fierce competition, and economic upheaval.  Robots offer a way to fight back and stay strong. Consider the unique benefits robots provide for U.S. manufacturing companies at this unique point in time. 1. Combat Offshoring: Manufacturing companies in the United States don’t have contend with the unforeseen costs and hassles posed by offshoring. Robots allow manufacturing and other companies to remain on U.S. soil while still achieving offshoring goals (i.e. low cost, high quality production). Robots offer a much more reliable way to keep manufacturing costs down and remain competitive in the global economy. 2. Prepare for Skilled Worker Shortage: It may seem hard to believe considering the current unemployment rate, but the United States will soon be facing a severe worker shortage. According to a recent Industry Week article, over the next five years baby boomers (making up 40% of the workforce) will begin retiring en masse and there won’t be enough workers with similar skill sets to fill the openings. Worker populations in specific applications, such as welding, will be especially hard hit. Prepare your company for this inevitable shortage by investing in industrial robots.   3. Compete Locally and Globally: Industrial robots make it possible for U.S. companies to keep up with both domestic and foreign competitors. As mentioned earlier, robots are reliable tools that can effectively keep costs down and quality consistent. This way your company can compete with low labor costs abroad, respond easily to product and packaging changes, as well as streamline and increase production. More and more businesses are turning to robots to gain a competitive edge. During the first nine months of this year, robot orders from North American companies have increased 34%. Don’t fall behind! Invest in robots today. 4. Take Advantage of Tax Incentives: Recent legislation makes automating with robots even more advantageous for U.S. manufacturing companies. The Small Business Jobs Act extended and expanded Section 179. Now equipment (both new and used) that is ordered and put into use in 2010 or 2011 is eligible for the tax write-off. In addition, the thresholds have doubled. Companies can write-off the first $500,000 (not just the $250,000). The cap on purchases has grown from $800,000 to $2 million. 5. Strengthen the Country: The United States has been through some difficult times of late. The economy is still recovering from a recession and unemployment is at a record low (9.6% according to the BLS). With robots you have a chance to give back – to make sure you contribute to building up this nation. Be a force of change: staying onshore, providing robot techs and programmers with jobs, and contributing to the country’s economic wellbeing.  Interested in robots for your company? Contact RobotWorx at 740-383-8383.

US processors competing globally thanks to automation and technology

Plastics News – Robert Grace – Oct 28, 2010

DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY (Oct. 28, 12:30 p.m. ET) — The U.S. plastics industry, the third-largest U.S. manufacturing sector, is now stepping up its adoption of advanced machinery and automation to produce sharp gains in productivity, according to Bill Carteaux, president and CEO of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. “We got burnt back in the 1990s,” he said, when business was booming and the plastics industry didn’t bother to invest much in automation. “Now,” he noted, as an industry “we’re investing more in automation than in primary equipment.” The result is a more globally competitive U.S. plastics industry, albeit with fewer workers and plants.


After milk revolution, India enters into hi-tech Dairy era

Commodity Online – Nov 3, 2010

This cow farm will be one of the world’s finest facilities integrating the best of automation and mechanisation, hygiene and quality standards and genetic …

Spraying set to become more automated

10/29/2010 – Farmers Weekly

Telematics, GPS and tractor-implement automation are just a few of the technological developments set to revolutionise how operators spray in the future, according to those attending an Association of Applied Biologists (AAB) workshop last week.

Spraying set to become more automated

FarmersWeekly – Emily Padfield – Oct 29, 2010

As legislation tightens it’s grip and factors like the Water Framework Directive come into force, herbicide and pesticide application is going to come under ever increasing levels of scrutiny.

Recession spurs faster replacement of workers with technology

Columbus Dispatch – Alana Semuels – Nov 1, 2010

Automation means Young no longer needs large crews of farmworkers to plant or harvest – and no more worrying about immigration status, pay or benefits. …


Better Learning? A Robot in Every Kindergarten -Christine Zibas – Nov 4, 2010

Asian nations have always been more engaged by robots and what they can accomplish than those of us in the West. While robots playing the violin or …

Pilot Reliance on Automation Erodes Skills

ANDY PASZTOR, WSJ, Nov 5, 2010

Increasing reliance on cockpit automation appears to be eroding manual flying skills of airline pilots, who are “sometimes…

Evolution Robotics’ Mint Floor Cleaning Robot Now at Bed Bath & Beyond

Jayashree Adkoli, TMCnet Contributor, October 27, 2010

Pasadena, Calif.-based Robotics technology company Evolution Robotics, Inc., announced that its Mint Automatic Floor Cleaning robot is now available at all Bed Bath & Beyond stores nationwide, as well as online.

Service Robots – Getting Successfully Established

by International Federation of Robotics, Statistical Department

Posted 09/16/2010
So far, about 77,000 service robots for professional use were sold worldwide, reports the IFR Statistical Department in the new study “World Robotics 2010 – Service Robots”, which was published on Tuesday in Frankfurt. The total value of professional service robots sold was about US $13 billion. Due to the economical downturn the annual supply decreased for the first time slightly in 2009 to almost 13.000 units. Service robots can be characterized as assistants of man. They take over jobs which are dangerous, impossible or unacceptable. They help to rationalize, to save time and to improve quality. Military and agricultural applications predominate About 30% of the sold units of service robots are used for defense applications, mainly unmanned aerial or ground based vehicles and demining robots. Another 25% are milking robots, which were one of the first service robots ever produced. Both categories made up more than half of all sold service robots and can be regarded as the most established ones. Cleaning robots and medical robots follow with shares of 8% each and underwater robots with 7%. Cleaning robots are mainly used to clean swimming pools. Medical robots are used in combination with minimal access surgery, but also increasingly for diagnostics. Diagnostic robots may come in the form of devices that guide diagnostic equipment to the human body.  One of the most established robotic operations in this field is biopsy.

Robotic Sternum Separator Draws Curves

1 Nov 2010,

The sternum stands between the surgeon and the vital organs within the chest. Typically it is simply sawed through then fixated afterwards with hardware. This fixation is imperfect and movement between the pieces can cause pain and even life-threatening issues. A new system by novoSurge uses x-rays and ultrasound under robotic control to precisely cut a path. The interesting part is that the path is not straight but sinusoidal so that the pieces fit back together better than a straight cut – sort of like a puzzle. This can lead to quicker healing for the patient and fewer complications. Hat tip to the fine folks at medGadget

How to Make a Humanoid Robot Dance

Erico Guizzo  /  Tue, November 02, 2010

Japanese roboticists recently showed off a female android singing and dancing along with a troupe of human performers. Video of the entertaining and surprisingly realistic demonstration received millions of views on the Internet. How did they do it?

A Robot Lifeguard Patrols Malibu


( — Emily may not be the prettiest thing with plastic parts on bikini-riddled Zuma Beach in Malibu, Calif., but ‘she’ still turns heads. That’s because Emily — whose name is an acronym for Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard — is a four-foot-long robotic buoy capable of racing through rough surf at 24 miles per hour. Emily’s creators estimate that the robot can rescue distressed swimmers twelve times as fast as human lifeguards. Take that, David Hasselhoff!


Union conflict on the horizon with automation

Lloyd’s List Daily Commercial News Jim Wilson – Oct 27, 2010

Following on a theme from yesterday’s speeches at the Ports Australia biennial conference being held today in Hobart, Mr Rowsthorn said today automation …


Robot Employee Developed in Japan

WIFR – Oct 25, 2010

To combat concerns over a decreasing workforce, researchers developed a new robot that would help pick up the slack in the manufacturing sector. …

Automation Proves the Intrepid Solution to Higher Demand – A Robot Case Study

Clare Goldsberry, Senior Editor/U.S. , Copyright Modern Plastics Worldwide, April 2010, reprinted at RIA with permission
Motoman Robotics Posted 10/06/2010

Overseas sales increase, and you need more workers or more automation. For this small processor, automation proved the right choice, with those new robotics saving time and money at Intrepid Industries Inc. It is a problem many processors would welcome facing. An increase in foreign sales boosted Intrepid Industries Inc.’s business to the point that it either needed to hire for a second and third shift or invest in automation. Erich Bredl, president and partner in the company, chose the latter. “We’re in the process of putting a six-axis Motoman robot on the second molding station, and should be up and running this month,” he said. “We’ve got a small window of a three-day molding run and will get the robot installed and set up to run the mold continuously around the clock. It’s like gaining a second and third shift without hiring people.”


NASA plans to put a robot on the moon

Economic Times – Nov 3, 2010

LONDON: NASA is contemplating sending a robot to the moon in just 1000 days — for just a fraction of the cost of sending a human. Engineers at the US space …


A Look at Robots in Alternative Energy

by Bennett Brumson, Contributing Editor, 11/01/2010

As the world grapples with diminishing supplies of petroleum and the increasing carbon impact of coal, nations and manufacturers are turning their attention to alternative sources of power. Wind, solar and fuel cells are alternative energies poised to supplant coal and oil but the cost per megawatt is higher than conventional sources. Robotics plays a leading role in making ever-changing alternative energy more competitive with fossil fuels. “Alternative energy companies were very small and doing everything manually. With government funding available and the push towards alternative energy, companies are producing in much greater volume but cannot support that volume with manual processes,” says Christopher Blanchette, National Distribution Account Manager with FANUC Robotics America Inc. (Rochester Hills, Michigan) “Alternative energy companies are looking to automate quickly and to design an assembly process with hard automation would slow them down because the market changes so quickly.”

Robot Sales in North America Jump 34%

November 03, 2010,

As the economy recovers and more businesses realize the competitive advantages robots provide, the number of robot orders is rising steadily. North American companies are buying robots again – thousands of them! The Robotics Industries Association (RIA) has its finger on the pulse of these developments. The most recent statistical report from the RIA combined data from all the North American based robot manufacturers. According to the RIA, North American companies purchased 9,628 robot units (estimated value: $618.4 million) over the first nine months of this year. Compared with 2009 data, these numbers represent a 34% increase in units and a 45% increase in dollars. Increases in robot orders didn’t only come from North American companies. RIA reports an additional 1,778 robots (representing another $102.6 million) ordered by companies located outside of North American borders. When placed beside Jan-Sept. 2009 numbers, these stats show a 143% unit gain and 168% dollar increase. What kind of businesses are purchasing all these robots? The answer might surprise you. While robot orders from automotive companies are up 18%, roughly half (52%) of the total orders are from non-automotive companies. Non-automotive orders increased 53% from last year.

Non-Automotive Industry          Percentage Increase

Plastics and Rubber…………………..62%
Life Sciences/Pharmaceuticals/
Medical Devices…………………………54%
Food/Consumer Goods………………41%

Application Stats                        Percentage Increase

Coating and Dispensing……………78%
Arc Welding……………………………….65%
Material Handling………………………60%

The robotics industry is getting back on track!

IFR press release

Sales slump in 2009 – Strong recovery in 2010 – Further growth expected in 2011 and 2012 The IFR Statistics Department presented the preliminary results of the annual statistics on Industrial Robots on Wednesday, 9 June 2010, in Munich at the AUTOMATICA. In 2009, with about 62,100 industrial robots shipped, the number of units sold worldwide slumped dramatically by about 45% compared to 2008, one of the most successful years. But in the first quarter 2010 the sales skyrocketed worldwide by more than 50% compared to the first quarter 2009.

Happy Birthday ASIMO

Robotics Trends Staff – Filed Nov 01, 2010

Ghouls and goblins weren’t the only ones partying yesterday—ASIMO, Honda’s humanoid robot, celebrated its 10th birthday. To mark the date, dedicated anniversary Web sites and films were launched, with new photos, videos, the story of the robot’s creation, and smartphone apps.


Coffee Ground Filled Balloon Gripper Holds Promise

28 Oct 2010,

The age-old problem of creating a robotic gripper capable of grasping unusually shaped objects has advanced one more step with this interesting development from researchers at Cornell, the University of Chicago and iRobot Corp.The Universal Gripper as they call it consists of a balloon filled with a jam-able particulate. When the balloon comes in contact with an object it conforms easily, then when a vacuum is applied, the particulates interlock providing the grasping action. Early material included rice and ground-up tires, but coffee seems to work really well.

Superfast Robotic Camera Mimics Human Eye

Erico Guizzo  /  Mon, November 01, 2010

German researchers have developed a robotic camera that mimics the motion of real eyes and even moves at superhuman speeds. The camera system can point in any direction and is also capable of imitating the fastest human eye movements, which can reach speeds of 500 degrees per second. But the system can also move faster than that, achieving more than 2500 degrees per second. It would make for very fast robot eyes.

Geminoid F Looks More Realistic Than Ever

Erico Guizzo  /  Mon, November 01, 2010

Kokoro Co., the Japanese firm that manufactures the android and sells it with the name Actroid F, recently demonstrated its newest capabilities. The android features facial movements even more realistic than before. It blinks and twitches and moves its head with remarkable realism.

Watch This Robot Mouse Blow Through a Maze Faster Than You Can

Sam Biddle, 10/28/10

Okay, this might not look impressive at first. The maze isn’t that complicated. But imagine being the size of the robotic Micromouse—relatively, this is a human-sized hedge maze. Then imagine running to the finish in only five seconds.

Becoming the Microsoft of the Robot World

BusinessWeek -Joel Stonington – Nov 2, 2010

Robots build our cars and electronics. They sort packages with ease, lift enormous weights, and perform microsurgeries too small for the human eye. In Afghanistan, robots are fighting our wars. What they can’t do is share an operating system. Today approximately 8.6 million robots are around the world, according to IFR World Robotics. That’s equal to roughly the population of New Jersey. And most of these have been designed from scratch. For years, tinkerers in garages, professors at universities, and scientists at corporations have essentially been reinventing the wheel each time they develop a new robot. That means designing the hardware and writing the code that drives the actions. >From robot welders to robot vacuum cleaners, the robotics industry at this point is essentially siloed. But maybe not for much longer. Enormous profits await the company that could become the Microsoft  of the robotic world. “There is competition over who is going to have the dominant operating system for robots,” says Ryan Calo, director of the Consumer Privacy Project at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society.

Automation & Robotics News for Oct. 24

Tony Zaragoza’s very popular biweekly feature:

Automation and Robotics News–Oct. 24, 2010

Highlights: DARPA, DARPA crazy; Robotics Rodeo; Call Center Automation; Robotic Teachers; Reports on robot job displacement; positive ways of looking at robot job displacement; piano bot; bowler bot; babies and robots; and antarctic exploration.

Click here for Archives:

Click here to go directly to this issue:


DARPA Seeking to Revolutionize Robotic Manipulation

Erico Guizzo  /  Mon, October 18, 2010

50 Leading Robotics Organizations are Set and Ready to Demo during U.S. Army “Robotics Rodeo” at Fort Benning

RIA, 10/18/2010

For the second consecutive year, the U.S. Army has invited prominent robotics technologists from across the country to display their …

Feds Plot ‘Near Human’ Robot Docs, Farmers, Troops

Katie Drummond, October 22, 2010

Robots are already vacuuming our carpets, heading into combat and assisting docs on medical procedures. Get ready for a next generation of “near human” bots that’ll do a lot more: independently perform surgeries, harvest our crops and herd our livestock, and even administer drugs from within our own bodies. Those are only a few of the suggested applications . . .

Friends Made in Low Places: Swat Teams Adopt Tiny Reconnaissance Robots

JOE BARRETT, 10/18/10

For years, military and police bomb squads have used large robots to help investigate suspicious objects without putting…

Boeing to Offer A160T Hummingbird in Response to NAVAIR RFP

By Robotics Trends Staff – Filed Oct 15, 2010

Robot weapons creating human enemies

ABC Online – Lisa Millar – Oct 18, 2010




Robot milks cows for all they’re worth

3News NZ – Oct 20, 2010 By Dave Goosselink


Call centre automation could save economy £23bn a year

Computing – Nicola Brittain – Oct 22, 2010

. . . the automation of customer service as a way to cut costs.

Robot teachers invade South Korean classrooms

CNN – Susannah Palk – Oct 22, 2010

A student practices her English pronunciation with a robot as part of South Korea’s robot-learning program.

Toyota and Fujita Health University Testing Robot to Aide Stroke Patients

SlashGear – Evan Selleck – Oct 18, 2010


David Autor, Inequality and Technological Change

Excellent econ reports on tech impacts on the US economy.

Automation Insurance: Robots Are Replacing Middle Class Jobs

Andrew Price, October 13, 2010

The middle class is disappearing and the problem is deeper than politics. How will we understand work in the coming age of robotics?

Last April, the MIT economist David Autor published a report that looked at the shifting employment landscape in America. He came to this scary conclusion: Our workforce is splitting in two. The number of high-skill, high-income jobs (think lawyers or research scientists or managers) is growing. So is the number of low-skill, low-income jobs (think food preparation or security guards). Those jobs in the middle? They’re disappearing. Autor calls it “the polarization of job opportunities.” These days, all of us, from President Obama on down, are thinking about jobs. The unemployment rate is hovering around 10 percent, we’ve watched the ground disappear from under Detroit and Wall Street, and there’s a pervading sense that other industries might be next. It’s not that the issue isn’t getting attention. The Princeton economist Paul Krugman is out there telling Congress to spend more money to create jobs. The former secretary of labor Robert Reich is arguing for tax breaks for the bottom brackets so people can buy stuff again. Here’s the thing, though: The erosion of the middle class is a phenomenon that’s bigger than the Great Recession. Middle-range jobs have been getting scarcer since the late 1970s, and wages for the ones that are still around have remained stagnant.

Robots the Best Way to Keep Jobs in America

October 22, 2010,

Anti-robot sentiments are on the rise. There’s a lot of chatter online right now about a study published by MIT economist David Autor. In a nutshell, Autor states that while American manufacturing is strong, middle class jobs are dying out and robots are to blame. . . . A closer look at the issue doesn’t have to result in a doom and gloom response. Ultimately, robots offer opportunities to keep and create new and better jobs for Americans.

Will robots replace doctors? It’s already happening – Oct 22, 2010

Recent studies by Duke University researchers show that robots performing medical operations may be part of our future. In studies conducted by Duke …


Piano player bot tickles the ivories in Taiwan

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 Posted by Tim Hornyak

Robot can bowl a perfect strike every time

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 Posted by Matt Hickey

Hey robots, census wants to know all about you

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 Posted by Leslie Katz

Study Shows That If a Robot Acts Like a Human, A Baby Will Think It’s Human

Switched – Amar Toor – Oct 20, 2010

Underwater robot studying ice-covered Antarctic Ocean – Oct 23, 2010

Tell Me Again: Why Do We Need The Drug Industry? The Story of Colchicine

Excerpted from the Labor Paeans September 2010 issue by Ira Grupper: Health Care or Wealth Care (posted Sept. 5 on SNCC_List, published in the September issue of FORsooth, the Louisville Fellowship of Reconciliation newspaper available on line at this link.)

. . .The AARP reported earlier, on June 29:  “The number of doctors refusing new Medicare patients because of low government payment rates is setting a new high, just six months before millions of Baby Boomers begin enrolling in the government health care program.”
Why does our government permit this?  Maybe for the same reason it is allowing a drug company to gain a market lock on the drug colchicine.
Colchicine was used originally, and still is used, to treat rheumatic complaints, especially gout, and other conditions.   It is also being


investigated for its use as an anticancer drug.  Gout is excruciatingly painful, caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the blood, which crystallize and are deposited in joints, tendons, and surrounding tissues.
On July 29, 2009 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved colchicine as a monotherapy, and gave seven-year marketing exclusivity to one drug company, URL Pharma, in exchange for URL Pharma doing two new studies.  URL Pharma then raised the price from $0.09 per pill to $4.85, and sued to remove other versions from the market.
Colchicine is an ancient drug.  Colchicum, the precursor of colchicine, was described for treatment of rheumatism and swelling in the Ebers Papyrus, about 1500 B.C.  The use of Colchicum corm for gout probably traces back to ca. 550 A.D.  Colchicum extract was first described as a treatment for gout in De Materia Medica by Pedanius Dioscorides in the first century CE.
Colchicum corm was used by Persian physician  Ibn Sina, and other Islamic physicians, was recommended by Ambroise Pare in the sixteenth century, and appeared in the London Pharmacopoeia of 1618.
It was first isolated in 1820 by two French chemists.  In 1833 P.L. Geiger purified an active ingredient, which he named colchicine.  Colchicum was brought to America, from France, by Benjamin Franklin.  Additionally, Colchicine, it is said, is “used widely,” and off-label by naturopaths for a number of treatments, including the treatment of back pain.
So, colchicine is an ancient treatment.  Well, comes now modern capitalism and the profit motive, with the Australian biotechnology company Giaconda, the British drug development company Angiogene, our very own URL Pharma, and others, all wanting a piece of the financial action generated by patient pain.
As a drug predating the FDA, colchicine was sold as a generic in the United States for many years. Yet, in August 2009, colchicine won Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in the United States as a stand-alone drug for the treatment of acute flares of gout and familial Mediterranean fever.  It awarded Colcrys (the brand name of Colchicine made by URL Pharma) a three-year term of market exclusivity, PROHIBITING generic sales.
URL Pharma raised the price from $0.09 per pill to $4.85, and sued to remove other versions from market. This, some feel, will increase costs to state Medicaid programs from $1 million to $50 million.
A March 18 memo from the American College of Rheumatology reports:  “The ACR has been in contact with the FDA and URL Pharma to address the increase in cost of the drug Colchicine.”  Read the June issue of Rheumatology News:  “As URL Pharma Inc. and other drug companies battle in court over access to the U.S. colchicine market, the supply of unapproved colchicine is beginning to decline.”
In a January 2010 editorial in Rheumatology News, Dr. Edward Fudman writes:  “The price of colchicine (will increase) by 50-fold…unless rheumatologists and patients can convince the Food and Drug Administration to allow the colchicines made by generic manufacturers to stay on the market.”
Remember:  colchicine eases the excruciating pain of gout.  Because of the impending colchicine shortage, and the increase in price (from nine cents to almost five dollars per pill), will the excruciating suffering of patients be eased, or will one drug company gouge profit from the anticipated pain of masses of people?
Contact Ira Grupper: