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Ollie North: hero, patriot…scientist? North has patents on three inventions: the Lightweight Ballistic Protective Device (a bulletproof vest), the Removable Ballistic Resistant Armor Seat Cover and Floor Mat, and the Ballistic Shield (demonstrated, in the patent application illustration, by a ringer for George Bush). These protective devices received patent approval in 1994-95, and North’s company, Guardian Technologies International of Dulles, Va., now sells them to both individuals and government agencies, touting itself as “The Life-Saving Company.” Lifesaving, maybe–money losing, definitely.

North took the company public in 1996, hoping investors would provide a boost. They didn’t. By April of this year, corporate records show that North’s salary had been slashed from $113,740 to $16,014. Although the company announced a “200 percent increase in first-quarter revenues” in May, a closer look shows that it still ran a net loss of more than $160,000 for the quarter.

The deal most responsible for keeping Guardian afloat is a contract from the General Services Administration for body armor and restraining equipment. And how would fans of the retired lieutenant colonel, who frequently lambastes “big-government bureaucrats,” feel about his relying on Uncle Sam to keep his company going? North was unavailable for comment.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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