Wandering Eye: Baltimore's ticking time bomb of a sewer system, the nightmare of for-profit foster care, and more

American Public Media's "Marketplace" has an excellent piece out about Baltimore's aging and chronically leaking sewer system, set in the context of under-pricing the true cost of water for the past century. The city's public-works director, Rudy Chow, doesn't shy away from the issue, saying of the system, "it's like a time bomb" that's "going to fail. The question is where and when." (Van Smith)


Here's Voice of America bemoaning the revelation of America's long-term project to bury spyware in the world's computers. Uncovered a couple weeks ago by a Russian security software company, Kaspersky Labs (and widely reported to be related to Edward Snowden's leak of NSA surveillance methods), the revelations seem to prove that U.S.-based, government-backed hackers are the world's best at writing malicious code and seeing it propagated. Allies, enemies—doesn't matter. Nor does it seem to matter whether the target is a government or corporation. Everyone is infected—everyone who is anyone, at least. USA! USA! Which is why the blogger Dick Destiny (aka George Smith)'s post is worth a read. A senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, he told VOA that the revelations "make it hard to argue for proper rules of conduct in cyber space." In his blog he goes further: "It's made it impossible to argue for proper rules of conduct," he writes. Twenty years ago, "anti-virus researchers had a code: no virus-writers! Writing malicious code was verboten, immoral." Back then, he tells City Paper, "you really couldn't get hired as a malware programmer. For pretty obvious reasons . . . Now it's a good career track with great job security." (Edward Ericson Jr.)


Buzzfeed put out a story on National Mentor Holdings, the biggest for-profit foster care company, and if you didn't know foster care was a business like any other, you probably ought to have a look. The initial anecdote comes from Maryland's Eastern Shore, where National Mentor sent a boy to a foster family that sexually abused him. The perpetrator, a high school dropout from Baltimore, had specified that he only wanted to foster white males. His training consisted of watching the movie "What's Eating Gilbert Grape." His uncle had abused him in the past—and was also on the family compound, Last Chance Farm, abusing his own foster son, the story says. When the search warrant finally came, "In the master bedroom, there are sex toys everywhere," [prosecutor Jamie Dykes] said. "Oh god, it was nasty. And KY Jelly and Vaseline. And in the woodshop there was Vaseline. Why do you need Vaseline in the woodshop?" The case took years to make, in part, because the placement agent was an employee of the company, the story suggests. Meanwhile, in Texas the company was paid almost $40 a day to place kids in care. The families that did the work got $22 of that. One mother bashed her 2-year-old charge to death by grabbing her legs and swinging her head into the floor. "Obviously we made a poor judgment in that case," a National Mentor spokesperson told Buzzfeed. "And if we could turn back the clock we would." (Edward Ericson Jr.)

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