Fireworks. Medical needles. Insect spray. Cooking fuel. Flammable gas torches. Ammunition. Yes, people forget they have cooking fuel in their travel bags. Or, amazingly, they thought it was acceptable in the first place to take cooking fuel onto an airplane.
So what happens to all that bizarre crap security screeners have to confiscate? It doesn’t just disappear, after all. Turns out a mammoth defense contractor you’ve probably never heard of called Science Applications International Corporation gets paid a lot of money to dispose of it. They just won a contract worth $46.8 million for that very task from the Transportation Security Administration.
Hi Tumblrs! We’re interrupting for a moment to ask for your support. This holiday season, take a moment to support the Center for Investigative Reporting so we can continue to reveal injustice and produce the investigative reporting you depend on! Want to learn about the impact of our work? Read more below from our Executive Director Robert J. Rosenthal.
Since 1977, CIR has been on the forefront of nonprofit investigative reporting, telling thousands of stories on all platforms and through prominent outlets, reaching millions.
Over the years, these stories have sparked federal legislation, policy at all levels of government, United Nations resolutions, public interest lawsuits and changes in corporate practices.
Here are a few examples from the past year:
A Senate committee launches a probe after a CIR investigation found that the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis has done little to improve the nation’s intelligence data.
A police chief resigns amid an FBI investigation and murderers are convicted following dogged reporting by The Chauncey Bailey Project, a collaboration of dozens of news organizations, including CIR, into the murder of Oakland Post editor Bailey by a corrupt group about which he was reporting.
A grand jury is convened following reporting by Stanley Nelson of the Concordia Sentinel in Ferriday, La., that identified a leading suspect in the unsolved 1964 murder of Frank Morris. Nelson is part of The Civil Rights Cold Case Project, a collaboration of award-winning journalists, documentary filmmakers, civil rights attorneys, universities and others working together to seek truth; create conditions for justice; and foster reconciliation connected with hundreds of unsolved, racially motivated murders from the Civil Rights era.
Bureaucratic shakeup, rule changes and two separate internal investigations at the California state architect’s office, plus the release of $200 million in bond funds for seismic safety of K-12 schools, follow a California Watch investigation that revealed the failure to fully enforce the state’s landmark earthquake safety law for public schools.
The U.S. State Department requests copies of “The Price of Sex,” the documentary film about international sex trafficking, to use for training at the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and in embassies around the world.
New laws and penalties are put in place for nursing homes after California Watch revealed that hundreds of homes took money from a taxpayer fund intended to hire staff and boost wages in the name of quality care, but actually cut staff and reduced wages.
The superintendent of public instruction in California calls for an immediate review of school textbooks and a community group gathers 20,000 signatures in opposition to a curriculum after our environmental reporter discovered that the American Chemistry Council directly provided textbook passages that downplayed the environmental risks of plastic grocery bags.
The state Department of Real Estate launches an investigation after we reported about a Southern California housekeeper who was scammed by an unlicensed mortgage lender. At least one reader was so moved by the housekeeper’s story that he donated money directly to her.
I don’t use online file-sharing networks to download copyrighted music and movies, not due to some position I take on the matter, but mostly because I’m paranoid about linking my computer to anything that can feasibly inject malicious software. So I didn’t hesitate to drop by the site Youhavedownloaded.com, because I knew they wouldn’t have any records of my Internet activity. Guess I took the Department of Homeland Security’s whole “Stop. Think. Connect.” cybersecurity campaign seriously.
But so seemingly powerful is the new site, I’m not providing a link to it here. You’ll have to decide whether to go there yourself. Once you do, the site will automatically check your IP address against a massive database of 50 million unique identities and spit out a list of files you may have downloaded from a file-sharing network, everything from “Pink Librarians” to “Maroon 5 Reinterprets the Christmas Classics.”
How does the site do this? Many file-trading networks are public, and the entertainment industry relies on this fact to collect information for randomly targeted lawsuits against people who are alleged to have illegally downloaded copyright-protected material. Youhavedownloaded.com is simply making it easier for the world to see this information.
[Site founder Suren] Ter-Saakov said he’s received emails from users whose information was listed but who deny having downloaded any files (he also said people can have their information removed on request). ‘One guy claimed he downloaded stuff only because his grandmother was ill and he wanted to watch a ‘Harold & Kumar’ movie to cheer himself up,’ Ter-Saakov said. ‘Another kid wrote and asked to have his information removed because he was downloading porn and was afraid his parents would be able to see what kinds of movies he downloaded.’
Krebs adds that there are significant limitations with the database. IP addresses can be dynamic and change over time, or an address at a home or business may cover the activity of multiple users. But searching “Family.Guy” out of curiosity turned up numerous IP addresses, as seen above. We already know that relying too heavily on IP addresses for copyright-infringement lawsuits
Local police say they have used unarmed Predators based at Grand Forks Air Force Base to fly at least two-dozen surveillance flights since June. … ‘We don’t use [drones] on every call out,” said Bill Macki, head of the police SWAT team in Grand Forks. ‘If we have something in town like an apartment complex, we don’t call them.’
“I don’t think the levels that are approved for use in wine in the EU and Australia will give that laxative effect.”—
Wendell Lee, general counsel for the Wine Institute, the trade group for California’s wine industry. Lee commented on the news that the Australian government has given the nod to winemakers to begin using a chemical contained in laxatives.
Fewer face deportation because of criminal charges, data shows
The number of people facing deportation because of criminal charges has declined steadily the past three fiscal years, according to data released by the U.S. Justice Department.
Instead, in California and beyond, a growing number are accused only of entering the United States without permission.
The Obama administration has pledged to focus its immigration enforcement on “criminal aliens,” illegal immigrants who’ve been convicted or accused of serious crimes. At the front of this effort, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed the Secure Communities program. The initiative is installing the federal immigration database in every jail in the nation so that when police scan arrestees’ fingerprints, a computer checks their residency status. Read more.
It’s known as the Shredder Challenge. The military’s think tank of crack technology researchers known as DARPA launched a curious contest earlier this year that few people thought was actually possible: Develop a computer algorithm that can aid in reassembling shredded documents. The idea was to figure out how war fighters could extract useful intelligence from them as quickly as possible.
A San Francisco-based team actually succeeded and won a $50,000 prize for their efforts. It wasn’t magic. All the winning technology can do is “suggest fragment pairings to human assemblers for verification,” meaning grunts still have to get ink on their hands. But the team still managed to build algorithms that could assist in piecing together more than 10,000 puzzle parts of shredded documentation, according to DARPA.
So why couldn’t this same technology be used to stymie attempts by Wall Street executives and financial regulators to destroy documents that may paint a picture of wrongdoing? You might recall that shredded records were a major feature of the Enron energy scandal. And how about the Securities and Exchange Commission’s habit of destroying records that could be used as evidence against alleged white-collar criminals?
My family has been dealing directly with HIV and AIDS for almost 30 years, yet the disease and its effects still feel so foreign to me. My father, a hemophiliac, contracted HIV in early 1982 after a blood transfusion shortly after I was conceived. He died in 1991 when I was right, my sister 10. Coming from a large family, he had three brothers, and three nephews, all hemophiliacs, all infected with HIV. Some have lived and some have died.
What I can tell you from experiencing AIDS up close is that it is an awful way to leave this life. It is brutal on both its victim and their family. I have known the disease my whole life, intimately so, yet when I see the efforts put forth by the broader community to stem the spread and effects of AIDS. I somehow disassociate and feel like it is something that has not deeply effected my life. I have no idea why, as I’m not against speaking out, telling our story, or giving my time and resources.
The only answer I have been able to come up with is that AIDS, just like so many of the things that life can afflict you with, is something you deal with, you manage, and try to continue to live your life and move forward. I think that has been the testament of my family, it has never defined them, or prevented them from living. Granted ignoring the disease completely and not openly speaking about it has its drawbacks. I am glad for the work of the broader community to rid the world of a disease so awful that affects so many, many you would never think. But I would remind you all to keep living, to not let AIDS define your life, that it can be the driving force that reminds you everyday to keep living and moving forward.
For World AIDS Day, we’re inviting you to share your AIDS stories with us here on The Atlantic Tumblr. If you know someone who is living with AIDS, or are HIV positive yourself, feel free tosubmit a post or tag your entry with#My AIDS Story and we’ll post your submissions here.