China’s Gold Penitentiaries
In this day and age, human rights activists in the United States have deemed chain gangs a violation of the civil liberties of prisoners and demanded they be made a thing of the past, relegating rock crushing and license plate stamping to being seen only in Hollywood portrayals. However, in countries less concerned about labor laws, like glorious China, criminals are expected to pay their debt to society with some actual effort. At the Jixi re-education through labor camp in Heilongjiang province, this does include the expected crushing of rocks and the whittling of wood into chopsticks and toothpicks until their hands were raw. One would assume that after several hours of backbreaking labor, the prisoners would be allowed to rest for the next day’s work, but that is not the case. Instead, they are repaying the debt to society quite literally, making approximately US$700-900 per day, by farming gold. A 54-year-old man who was imprisoned for three years recounts twelve-hour shifts spent behind the keyboard, required to farm as much gold as possible, with harsh punishments for falling behind. “If I couldn’t complete my work quota, they would … make me stand with my hands raised in the air and after I returned to my dormitory they would beat me with plastic pipes,” he said of his torturous years at the facility. Shocking as this is, University of California San Diego researcher Jin Ge has found in his studies that this is not uncommon in China. Even with 2009 legislation making it illegal to trade real currency for virtual currency without a license, it is still estimated that 80% of the world’s gold farmers are in China, and for good reason. Gold farming was estimated in 2008 to be a US$2 billion industry, and pay in gold farming facilities tends to be higher than that of other factory jobs. While there are groups opposed to the forced labor industry working to get more legislation passed, it does not seem that the trend of gold farming, voluntary or mandatory, will be slowing down anytime soon.
Have Cooler, Will Travel
There are a handful of organs in the human body that are unnecessary, especially anything that has a partner. However, for the organs that are necessary, hospitals and their sick patients can be very desperate to find a replacement for one that has gone bad. We have all heard stories about the black market for organs, where anyone with a kidney, a disregard to hygiene, and no qualms about breaking the law can make a quick buck for giving up the second of their organ pair. This is exactly what a 17-year-old boy in the Anhui province of China did when he found himself in need of cash to buy, amongst other things, an iPad 2. Going to a hospital in the Funan province, the teen had a kidney removed and was paid US$3,500 for his organ, which he promptly spent on his Apple product as well as another computer and other assorted tech gear. Knowing that the teen was usually broke, his mother thought something amiss and questioned him about his purchases until he confessed. Authorities went searching for the perpetrator of the crime, but his missing kidney has yet to be found. He expressed regrets about the sale, but who needs to filter pee when you have Steve Jobs at your side?
Pachter’s Obvious Predictions Coming True
Emperor Palpatine Kotick of Activision has struck again, though to be fair, we expected this for a long time. Shed a tear of Oliver Motok’s impending bankruptcy, as the fabled Call of Duty subscription service has finally been announced this week. The price has yet to be identified, but the details of the subscription make sure to as misleading as possible, referring to everything as “free” while ignoring that while the content is not being paid for individually, there is definitely a monthly fee. Multiplayer Call of Duty will still be available to all users regardless of Elite subscription, but those with the subscription will get all of the DLC without paying for each one. There will be exclusive CoD Elite apps for Android and iOS devices, where players can track their stats on customized leaderboards and work with their customized loadouts. Players will be able to create their own clans or join groups based on similar interests, as well as analyze their kills and deaths to improve their skills. Many features were left undetailed because they will debut with Modern Warfare 3, but the Elite service will go into beta with Black Ops sometime this summer. Anyone wishing to sign up for this beta can do so at Activision’s CoD Elite website. Perhaps Oliver can sell a kidney for it…
Hopefully Not Halle Berry
Rocksteady Studio’s 2009 blockbuster Batman: Arkham Asylum got no less than four out of five stars on the majority of gaming websites in addition to winning multiple awards for story, characters, and even several Game of the Year awards. One of the only criticisms of the game was the optional character, The Joker, being little more than a remodel with the same moves as Batman. For the highly-anticipated sequel, Batman: Arkham City, it has been revealed that Catwoman will be the playable character this time around, and she will actually be a full-fledged playable character. She does not have a cape as Bats does, but instead moves through the environment with a series of parkour-style moves, using her own version of Detective Mode to identify things to steal. As expected, she is not an ally of the Dark Knight, but as the player levels Batman, Catwoman will also grow and be able to improve her armor, abilities, and gadgets. It is still not confirmed or denied if Catwoman’s role is indicative of a much requested multi-player mode, but developers do confirm that she is only playable for about ten to fifteen percent of the game, so Batman still takes the lead in the sequel.