by Ned Hickson
Here in the Northwest, activists have been complaining for years that police routinely violate their right to protest about really important global issues, such as the need for tougher Tofu standards. They argue that, when it comes to the right of peaceful assembly and eventual rioting spurred by boredom, the use of nonlethal weapons by police makes vandalizing things nearly impossible.
Fortunately, some new nonlethal weapons currently under development could be the answer -- as long as the question involves a wiener, and how to cook it in less than three seconds from 20 feet away.
But we'll get to that.
In the past, stopping unruly protesters has left police with only a handful of nonlethal alternatives, including the dispersal of rubber bullets, high-velocity bean bags, pepper spray, and, in extreme cases, throwing Yanni CDs.
Protesters say this kind of action is overly aggressive, hostile, and way beyond the limits of civilized law enforcement. Police argue that they only turn to Yanni CDs as a last resort.
Because of this, nonlethal weapons programs across the U.S. have been expanding their list of options -- beginning with a new anti-traction gel nicknamed "liquid ball bearings." According to officials at The Southwest Research Institute of Texas, the new sprayable gel is the "slipperiest substance ever created by man."
(Note: This doesn't include Halliburton executives, who were unavailable for testing.)
Excited researchers predict that the first batch of anti-traction gel should become available sometime in the next few weeks -- just as soon as someone at the lab can stand up long enough to write the ingredients down.
For situations that call on a more direct approach, a firm called Foster-Miller, based in Waltham, Mass., has created something called The Webshot, which is a 10-foot-wide Kevlar net that can be fired from a special shotgun and used to subdue an out-of-control protester from as far away as 30 feet!
Thanks to what has been described as "very heavy lobbying" from readers of Working Mother magazine, The Webshot will also be available in the toddler section of major department stores starting in December.
For larger threats, General Dynamics has developed the Portable Vehicle Arresting Barrier, which is an elastic net that can spring up out of the ground to stop a 7,500-lb. truck moving at 45 mph. In addition, testing has shown that the same device can also stop a truck being moved by 45 toddlers at one mph.
(Again mothers, you'll have to wait until December.)
This brings us to the subject of Direct Particle Beams, which not only offers another option in nonlethal law enforcement, but also in the way we cook our wieners. Described as a cross between a microwave oven and a Star Trek phaser, Direct Particle Beams can flash-heat a target from a great distance. This is a vast improvement over my current technique of flash-burning my children's Ball Park Franks while standing next to the stove. With a Direct Particle Beam, I would have the freedom to leave the kitchen entirely and burn our children's hot dogs from the comfort of the living room.
Getting back to the nonlethal-weapon aspect of this device: knowing my aim, I'm not sure I'd be willing to take the same chance with my own wiener.