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Taking a Crack At Recycling E-Waste 183

Posted by Zonk
from the giving-back-to-ma-nature dept.
An anonymous reader wrote to mention a New York Times article being hosted at News.com. It touches on a new initiative in upstate New York to deal with the problem of e-waste. The Town of North Hempstead has positioned helpers at the dump the last four weekends, assisting people with a flood of old monitors, keyboards, laptops, word processors, and even a Pong game or two. Besides the obvious benefit of getting this junk out of our homes, the article highlights why this should be a growing concern around the country. From the article: "While federal law regulates the disposal of electronics by businesses and government agencies, it does not affect individual consumers, who account for more than half the e-waste produced annually, according to the federal agency. Every old computer monitor contains about four pounds of lead, and other parts are filled with heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, cadmium and chromium. They have toxins that hover in the air after incineration or leach into the water supply when buried in landfills. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh say that dumps around the nation's major cities, including New York, hold more than 60 million computers."
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Taking a Crack At Recycling E-Waste

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  • Obligatory (Score:4, Funny)

    by jpaz (512242) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @03:21PM (#16815808) Homepage
    This post made with 100% recycled electrons.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I can tell. It looks like you just took /dev/null and shook it out over the keyboard. PLEASE take your bit bucket to the recycling center in the future instead of just dumping it.
  • by Channard (693317) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @03:23PM (#16815828) Journal
    .. 'helped' onto E-Bay. If it's working or repairable, I guess some of the stuff gets pocketed and recycled onto E-Bay or put into home use. You can replace the batteries on defunct iPods for example. My own iPod mini, for example, was screwed, but I managed to get the 4GB drive out of it, which was working fine, and the drive now stores my music for my 360.
  • by IntelliAdmin (941633) * on Sunday November 12, 2006 @03:24PM (#16815832) Homepage
    I think one of the solutions is to get companies to donate old equipment, or give it to organizations that will fix it up and give to the needy. I have seen companies trash perfectly good computers, but refuse to give them to anyone. These computers were far from useless, and could be used by grandma to get email and surf the net. I think if these type of programs were setup at companies it would reduce the level of waste considerably.

    Still we need a solution to the problem of lead and other toxic chemicals leached into the soil. That makes me wonder...what happened to all the stories of businesses dumping this type of waste in rural China?

    Steve Wiseman
    http://www.windows-admin-tools.com [windows-admin-tools.com]
    • I think there's a certain degree of (not entirely unjustified) paranoia on the part of corporations that are afraid of confidential information that might leave on old systems. They figure it's just better to have the stuff destroyed rather than risk some ghetto kid getting hold of next year's financial projections.
      • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:00PM (#16816710)
        Most of the problem isn't about corporate data - any charity that recycles computers guarantees that the data is wiped and uses specialist equipment to clean the drives, but that they only accept relatively good computers.

        Look at ComputerAid International [computeraid.org] that uses MoD-specified data wiping tools, but won't accept anything less than a 450Mhz P3.
    • by mrmeval (662166)
      Reusing computers is a good idea. With the current increase in metals pricing it becomes desirable to reclaim the metals. Within 30 years you will see 'landfill mining' to recover, metal, plastic, rubber and organics. I would suggest investing in a large one. :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by triffid_98 (899609)
      Actually, that's not what really happens. Due to the massive trade imbalance, container shipping back to mainland china is practically free, so vast amounts of the stuff get shipped back to China for 'recycling', otherwise known as burning and recycling the copper,gold,steel and nasty airborne pollutants. Since China doesn't have any environmental laws to speak of this is a real money making operation, not only do they get paid to take the cheap crap they originally sold us but recycling it is a profitable
    • what happened to all the stories of businesses dumping this type of waste in rural China?

      Then we have massive problems such as this [npr.org].
      'Rural China' does not equal uninhabited. Someone is going to take that stuff apart for the valuable bits. And leave the rest to rot.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think one of the solutions is to get companies to donate old equipment, or give it to organizations that will fix it up and give to the needy.

      Part of the problem is the piggish resource consumption of modern software. Neither commercial nor FOSS bloatware is going to run well on these old Pentium 1 and Pentium 2 systems that are being thrown out (to say nothing of old 486 systems).

      I wish the Open Source community would look at the forgotten middle ground of software! Your choices for text processing

  • Why not... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @03:25PM (#16815838)
    just keep computers longer and not toss them every 2 years. My HP Kayak Station ca. 1999 works just fine for word processing and 'net surfing. Which is all fully half of users probably need.

    -b.

    • Or FreeCycle [freecycle.org] them. If they no longer meet your needs there's bound to be someone else whose needs they do meet.
    • just keep computers longer and not toss them every 2 years. My HP Kayak Station ca. 1999 works just fine for word processing and 'net surfing. Which is all fully half of users probably need.

      Keep computers for two years? I wish I could afford to replace mine every two years. The one I'm typing this on I got in 2000, it's almost 7 years old. Another one I have, on the other side of my chair, I got in 1997 so it's 9 years old. The only reason I got the newer one is because the older one is a DEC Alpha an

    • I generally don't dump entire computers anyway. I agree with you: you don't need a 2 Ghz machine to read mail and browse and write letters. I tend to upgrade my machines piecemeal over time, consequently I put relatively little old hardware into the local landfill. People that toss an entire system in the dumpster because they feel the need for a new one are most of the problem.
    • by wall0159 (881759)
      What are you - some kind of communist?!?

      Silliness aside, our entire economy is geared towards encouraging (though maybe 'coercing' or 'brainwashing' would be better words) people to spend and consume more. Your suggestion, while fair and reasonable, is unlikely to happen while the marketing-droids hold the reins of our society.

      In my opinion, geeks/nerds are particularly big suckers for marketing hype. Just as bad as the fashion victims...
    • by mordors9 (665662)
      Don't discourage this. I need the 4 lbs of lead from those monitors to line my room with. Soon the aliens in our government will not be able to read my thoughts and I will finally be free....
    • My concern goes further than that. When I was a kid, I learned a lot and had a lot of fun taking stuff apart to learn how it works, etc. All that stuff that the article claims "Besides the obvious benefit of getting this junk out of our homes," sounds like my mom throwing all the cool stuff away each summer when I went to summer camp.

      This is a nerd/geek site. And that does NOT only mean 'IT' nerds (grrr). There's a place in every community where some nerdy guy has hoarded up a lot of cool older electron
    • just keep computers longer and not toss them every 2 years. My HP Kayak Station ca. 1999 works just fine for word processing and 'net surfing. Which is all fully half of users probably need.

      People keep TVs for 10 years, and I don't think the average person who buys a desktop or notebook is thinking of it as just a two year purchase. Now that's the "average person" of course. It's the techies who want constant upgrades and the latest and greatest. I saw saw someone in a Mac forum recently who claimed to b
      • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
        then he'd sell his 9 month "old" one on ebay. Ugh.

        That might actually not have been unreasonable if he needed to run WinTel applications and his old Mac was a G4.

        -b.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Doppler00 (534739)
      Wow, keeping something electronic longer than two years? I dunno, living in the bay area, I don't see a lot of that. I see computers thrown in dumpsters all the time that can't be more than 4 or 5 years old. I've thrown a few Pentium II machines away myself simply because I don't have room for them. I also do tend to upgrade a major component in my computer every 6 months or so, so I have a lot of older expansion cards and HD that I have to get rid of regularly. Heck, who wants an old 56k modem, 10bT ISA et
  • It's as "downstate" as you can get, on Long Island. The recycling company is upstate in Buffalo, NY.
    • by MadEE (784327)
      Pthhh. Only if your a conformist sheep and follow the heard by holding the map with North on the top. Real men don't confine themselves by such frivolous things such as standards!
    • by Jaime2 (824950)
      Hmmm.... I live around Buffalo and we call ourselves Western New York. When you we hear Upstate, we think Watertown and Plattsburgh.
  • Works for me. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ant P. (974313) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @03:30PM (#16815896) Homepage
    There's a recycling site near here, and the best part is they don't mind people taking away stuff that's been left there (with the usual disclaimers). It's a bit depressing to find out some people will throw away perfectly fine (and often new) PCs just because the windows installed on it got spyware.
    • It's a bit depressing to find out some people will throw away perfectly fine (and often new) PCs just because the windows installed on it got spyware..

      Well, when I have people over for dinner and somebody says something like "No thanks, I don't like mashed potatoes" I just say, "Goody .. more for me."
    • by Lumpy (12016)
      Post an ad in the paper, you pay $10.00 for computers for recycling. My son got 5 P-4 1.8ghz machines that way (I know omg, how fricking slow!) for almost nothing.

      Most rich people think it's cheaper to buy a new Dell every 6 months than call the idiots at "geek squad" to tinker for a few hours and then charge $300+ for cleaning the PC when you can get a new one for $250.00-$280.00.

      • Most rich people think it's cheaper to buy a new Dell every 6 months than call the idiots at "geek squad" to tinker for a few hours and then charge $300+ for cleaning the PC when you can get a new one for $250.00-$280.00.

        This is perfectly fine provided the new PC works out of the box for you. If you are a typical professional working on a computer beyond casual web browsing, you need to install software, customize settings, transfer old files, get accustomed to new features and bugs, calibrate and/or get
        • If you can replace your computer like a drinking cup or a chair, you are not using it for much.

          ...in which case, you do NOT need a new computer, except when your existing one is 6+ years old. So I don't quite get why those people would replace a machine every six months. Is buying a new machine in a store cheaper than having a clean operating system install (to get rid of viruses and spyware)?
  • North Hempstead is on Long Island, and is thus not in upstate New York [wikipedia.org]. (And, no, the word "upstate" is found nowhere in the original article; Times writers and editors know what upstate encompasses, even if Zonk doesn't). This is as incorrect as saying that Pasadena is in the San Francisco Bay area or that Palo Alto is in the Southland.
  • Is this new? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pe1chl (90186) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @03:31PM (#16815910)
    Are the United States really so far behind in environmental issues?
    I understood from Bush that he does not really care about the environment (relative to other issues), but I would think that lower levels of government would already have acted more responsibly.

    Over here, the separated collection of waste, including separate places where electronic waste (computers, household electronics) has been in place for many years.
    We even pay a small fee on new equipment to pay for the recycling of old equipment.

    I think the US should change from "we only care about economics and hate to pay for others" into something more responsible.
    • Over here, the separated collection of waste, including separate places where electronic waste (computers, household electronics) has been in place for many years.

      And we can see from your Slashdot User ID that you live in ...
      • by pe1chl (90186)
        Some people can... they often have similar (letters-digit-letters) slashdot IDs.
    • I think the US should change from "we only care about economics and hate to pay for others" into something more responsible.

      Nothing like a blanket generalization about an entire nation of people...A great deal of us are responsible here, do care about the environment, and try to recycle as much as possible.

      A great deal of us are also sick of hearing from other nationals about how much the US and Americans suck, and can pretty much do no right anywhere...

      I'm sure you don't like generalizations and igno

      • by pe1chl (90186)
        When we see your president on TV, he is proclaiming that he does not care about the environment when saving it would hurt the US economy or American jobs.
        This makes others in the world angry because they are voluntarily doing things that may hurt their economy and help the environment.
        They constantly meet the fact that the country that burns the majority of the world's oil does the least to tune down that consumption. They complain about gas prices that are 1/2 to 1/3 of what they are in other parts of the
    • Are the United States really so far behind in environmental issues?

      No. [fujitsu.com]
      " California e-waste law took effect on January 1, 2005, and requires charging customers a fee at the time of purchase to cover recycling of certain electronics products at the end of the product's useful life."
      "Effective January 1, 2006, Maine's new e-waste law will take effect"
      "Effective January 1, 2006, Maryland's new e-waste law will take effect."

      I think the US should change from "we only care about economics and hate to p
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      Nice US-bashing. I guess just because we're "only" ahead of 95% of other nations instead of 100%, you see that as a horrible crime against humanity. In 40 years when China finally decides to do something about their environment, I hope you enjoy writing about how great China is for doing so.
  • We have about 60 HP Vectras sitting in a closet at my school. They're being used for nothing, and the school district refuses to let them go. So they're going to have to be thrown away. I know any number of people that would like to pick one up to play with, whether to use it as a spare Linux box, or simply to take apart and salvage parts out of. But the district can't get out of it's own way to put them to use, so they're probably going to sit in that closet until someone can take them to the dump.
    • by British (51765)
      Can you convince the school board to sell them, like a bake sale or something, cheap and get some $ out of it? That would sound better than having to spend money to get them hauled away.

      Just sell them next to the lemon bars & rice crispie treats. Offer a discount or first crack at students who don't have one at home.
      • by RiffRafff (234408)
        Often things like that have already depreciated, and thus making a profit on them in a sale would entail too much effort, red-tape, and lawyers. They could probably give them away, though.

        I recently sat my 17" Princeton Graphics CRT out on the curb with a sign that said, "Free. Works fine." It was gone by the end of the day.

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)
      Volunteer to get rid of them... a few to your friends, a few on ebay, a few to recycling charity (that will come and collect), the knackered ones to the dump. Go on, do your bit, don't just sit there and type how terrible it is.
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      That's nothing. I recently obtained a Underwood typewriter from a local hospital. Circa 1940s. It had been sitting in their shipping/receiving room for probably 20 years in a corner and nobody had ever taken it to a dumb or anything. It's a little damaged, but the thing's worth a couple hundred at a trendy antique store.
  • The hardest part is sorting out the ones and the zeros without generating more ones and zeros than you started with. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University believe they are on the cusp of a major breakthrough in the E-Waste initiative.
  • $100 Computers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mykepredko (40154) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @04:06PM (#16816200) Homepage
    While probably not solving the problem but displacing it, how about using old computers for the $100 computer initiative for developing countries.

    They would definitely use more power than the $100 computers designed for this purpose but chances are they would provide the same amount of processing power, better graphics, more hard drive space and would have available monitors and network/WiFi adapters.

    As I said, that this is displacing the problems as now the developing countries will have to deal with the waste at some point in time. But, it could give their economies & education systems a much needed boost.

    myke
    • by gbjbaanb (229885)
      Type 'computer recycle charity' into google, and see just how many hits you get. Or click this link ComputerAid International [computeraid.org] if you're too lazy :)

      The $100 computer thing is more about a PC that can be used in places where there isn't the kind of electricity supply that would be needed to power most PCs.
    • how about using old computers for the $100 computer initiative for developing countries.

      Where are you going to plug them in?

  • 1. Each thing sold must be taxed for its recycling (kind of an additional VAT, with standard amount for item category and the possibility for sellers to certify a different packaging or item composition which gives em a discount)

    2. Consumers can either choose to dump stuff in the bin or go to recycling sites and get refunded for the amount and quality of the material they give back.

    IMHO that would pressure producers to consider packaging more carefully, let consumers get something in return for the effort o
    • by rduke15 (721841)
      That's about how it works in some European countries.

      Each thing sold must be taxed

      There is a specific recycling tax on electronics equipment, paid by the shop to the distributor, or directly by the end user to the supplier (in cases like direct orders from Dell, Apple, etc.).

      The amount is small (around 1%).

      However, you are not allowed to just throw the stuff away in a rubbish bin. It must be brought back either to a recycling place, or to any shop around the corner selling the same type of equipment.

      The sho
    • It's largely an economic consequence of cheap energy and expensive labour. It's much cheaper to have machines make a new thing on a production line than it is to have humans recycle or refurbish something old.

      Of course, humans are particularly expensive because the government levies a 30-40% tax on their use.
       
  • E-waste (Score:2, Insightful)

    by akar_naveen (677699)
    At first sight the word e-waste looked like it meant waste data. Does anyone else think it's a misnomer?

    It could be just me. I was just shopping online for a second external hard drive after the first one got full, with some useful but mostly 'can't delete yet-might need in future' kind of stuff.

    • by belg4mit (152620)
      Waste information, huh? A bit of an oxymoron.

      No, it's a long established name, short for electronic(s) waste.
  • by dangitman (862676) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @04:15PM (#16816286)
    Pong is junk? Blasphemy!! Burn the witch!

    Next thing you'll be saying is Pacman is gay. Hello? Ms. Pacman? Pacman is a red-blooded heterosexual disc with a triangle cut out.

  • There is a place close to me, called erecycler [channeladvisor.com], that resells a bunch of things - mostly used computers from businesses and schools. This is a really good way to cut down on the waste. (Yes eventually it does wearout but this gives it a longer life.) I've bought stuff from them with good luck.
  • Recycle NYC (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @04:29PM (#16816382) Homepage Journal
    The Lower East Side Ecology Center [lesecologycenter.org] is running an electronics recycling event [lesecologycenter.org] today, coordinated by Manhattan Boro President Stringer, the NYC Council (City legislature), and the Upper West Side councilmember, Gale Brewer:
    Electronic Recycling Drop-Off Event
    Sunday, November 12th, 8am to 12:30pm
    Lincoln Center - Service Road

    We will accept working and non-working computers, laptops, monitors, printers, keyboards, mice, cables, TVs and VCRs(no wooden consoles only plastic case models), fax machines, cell phones and pagers.

    Saturday, December 9th, 8am to 4pm at PS 321
    180 7th Avenue, between 1st & 2nd Streets
    Park Slope, Brooklyn

    Sunday, January 7th, 2007, 8am to 4pm
    4th annual 'After the Holidays' event at Union Square Park - North Plaza 17th St & Broadway


    Brewer and Stringer are promoting a new City law, Intro 104, to require manufacturers to recycle products in a complete product lifecycle:
    Intro. 104, sponsored by Council Member Bill De Blasio, which would require manufacturers to collect discarded electronic products. Intro. 104, the Electronics Recycling and Reuse Act, would remove many of these products from landfills and incinerators currently used by the City of New York, as these products pose an environmental risk when burned, buried or recycled improperly.


    The Council's Technology in Government [nyccouncil.info] committee is running a public feedback survey [surveymonkey.com] on recycling.

    When the World Is Running Down" [sing365.com] by the Police
    Turn on my V.C.R., same one I've had for years
    James Brown on the T.A.M.I show,
    Same tape I've had for years
    I sit in my old car, same one I've had for years
    Old battery's running down, it ran for years and years

    Turn on the radio, the static hurts my ears
    Tell me, where would I go? I ain't been out in years
    Turn on the stereo, it's played for years and years
    An Otis Redding song, it's all I own

    When the world is running down
    You make the best of what's still around
  • But just "recycling" isn't enough - in fact it can be worse than landfilling it in North America!

    Why? Much of tech waste sent for recycling ends up in China and other countries where unprotected workers burn material in open fires to separate out the metals from the plastics, and use hydrochloric acid (again unprotected) to isolate gold and other precious metals. It's a horrible practice. Visit the web site of the Basel Action Network [ban.org] for photos of the conditions. Included in the photo gallery are America

  • by v1 (525388) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @08:22PM (#16818422) Homepage Journal
    The funadamental problem with computers is the nature of their design, or rather, the current easiest/cheapest methods. Take a look at a lot of the current day products and how easy some of them are to recycle. A lot of kids toys are made of one giant piece of plastic, all the same kind of plastic. Most food containers are now that way too. Computers can't be made that way. They are a very diverse collection of parts, assembled in ways not meant to be disassembled, and the parts are so small and so numerous that even if you wanted to take them apart it would be very difficult work. I can't imagine how long it would take someone to take apart a motherboard into recyclable pieces. Optical drives, power supplies, fans, none of these lend themselves well to recycling. We can't just keep burying our trash, that doesn't make the problem go away, it just pushes it off on the next generation to deal with. Eventually we are going to have to deal with all our trash.

    Really it would not surprise me if in say, 50 years, there is an entire industry of waste reclamation, where a company bids on and BUYS a landfill, and sends in machines to process the garbage and make a proffit off what's reclaimed.
  • I don't typically post, much less as a grandfather, but here goes. Someone somewhere got me interested in the profitability of electronics waste(recycling). If I remember correctly, to be a recycler, all you have to do is do one of three things. Store it, sell it, or recycle it "properly" (EPA guidelines, etc--probably pretty expensive). So what do these recycling outfits do? In order to maximize profit, they charge you to take it off your hands. Then they sell as much of the stuff they "recycle" as p
    • by Jeremi (14640)
      What recycler would actually have any incentive to turn this stuff into non-hazardous waste?


      One that's tired of having to rent out yet another warehouse every month, I would imagine... if that was their strategy, their costs would go up indefinitely over time.

  • "Four pounds of lead in a monitor" is a bogus issue. It's in the form of leaded glass. The glass is not soluble in water.
  • Does it start once you get east of Flushing?

    North Hemptead on google maps [google.com].

    -dB

    • Hehe, yeah, I noticed that too. I grew up on Long Island, and "upstate" was anything north of Westchester. That's a useless definition for the rest of us who live "upstate". Here, you've got yer Adirondacks, yer Lake Champlain, yer North Country, yer Tug Hill Plateau, yer Central New York, yer Buffalo, yer Rochester, and yer Southern Tier. All of that is "upstate" to what we call "the city" aka "the boat anchor".

  • It seems to me that a potential future solution to the e-waste recycling problem is some form of nanotech. Imagine a strain of bacteria genetically engineered to "consume" some environmentally hazardous substance -- say arsenic -- and produce some environmentally safe substance as a waste by-product -- say nitrogen.

    Obviously, IANAGE (I am not a genetic engineer) :-).

    Alternatively, I can imagine some form of nanomechanical device that "disassembles" e-waste into more easily dealt with components.

    Just my 2 ye
    • by Jeremi (14640)
      Imagine a strain of bacteria genetically engineered to "consume" some environmentally hazardous substance -- say arsenic -- and produce some environmentally safe substance as a waste by-product -- say nitrogen.


      Heh... now imagine a few ounces of that bacteria "accidentally" getting released inside an Apple store.


      Oh, the humacnity!

  • by Zedrick (764028) on Monday November 13, 2006 @02:51AM (#16820682)
    From TFA:

    old Commodore Plus/4's with cracker crumbs in the keys

    Aaaargh! A Commodore Plus/4 should not be thrown away/recycled. I would pay up to $100 for a Plus/4 depending on condition and serial numhber, and it's irrelevant if it's filled with cracked crumbs or not.

    This is like saying "Oh, I'll just get rid of these 2000-year old Roman coins, they can't be used in the store anymore."

    If you have some old 70's or 80's (or "exotic" 90's) hardware in the wardrobe, please please please don't get rid of it before first spending 5 minutes on google to see if there might be collectors that are looking for *your* wardrobe-"junk".

    I'll lie sleepless tonight, thinking about morons who might throw away their old Commodore C65 or Commodore MAX without having any idea how invaluable they are. Even common things like a C64C are still in demand, although you won't get that much for it.
  • by drwho (4190) on Monday November 13, 2006 @03:12AM (#16820776) Homepage Journal
    Instead of just grinding up 4 year old computers, they can be put to other uses. There ought to be more effort put into reuse before recycle. For instance, if you have some old computer you need to get rid of, at least post it up on the free section of craigslist or freecycle first. You don't even have to make a big fuss about it. Just tell people to pick it up off your porch, or say you've put it on the curb for the trash collectors the next morning, someone hurry and get it if they want. Just communicate! It doesn't take much effort.

    This doesn't go for just computers. You might be surprised how easy it is to get rid of everything from old clothes to building material to cellphones.
  • At least in the UK.

    I'm setting up a computer recycling project at work - I'm still wondering if it's going to be workable in the long run due to all the legalities and associated costs.

    * Need to register as a Waste Carrier (we got a note back saying we're exempt as a charity)
    * Register as a Hazardous Waste Producer, due to things like the lead in CRTs. Cost £18 (but for us, closer to £30 because we can't get a debit card and have to do it by snail mail + cheque)
    * Make sure that the donor is eit

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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