Wandering Eye: NSA side businesses, shaky math from Baltimore's Department of Public Works, and more

Government pay is universally derided as below-market, so it is unsurprising that many government employees start side businesses to make ends meet. Now comes Buzzfeed with the news that the National Security Agency's signals intelligence chief is associated with not one but two private businesses, one of which owns a light plane. Teresa H. Shea lives "on a quiet street in Ellicott City," Buzzfeed reports, and shares her home with her husband, James Shea, and two corporations: Telic Networks, which James (whose day job is with another private intelligence contractor, DRS Signal Solutions) founded, and OPLNet, LLC. Teresa is the resident agent for that company, which Buzzfeed says deals in office equipment and electronics. Oplnet also owns a condo in Hilton Head, South Carolina and a six-seat Beechcraft Bonanza to get there. James is a licensed pilot. The NSA declined to comment or release documents to Buzzfeed the website reports. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

The 17,500-gallon sewage leak in West Baltimore, reported by the AP this morning, served as a reminder to take a look at how Baltimore's Department of Public Works (DPW) reported such overflows in August, when a massive storm caused millions of gallons to surge out of the city’s under-renovation sewage-conveyance system and into the harbor. The official tally shows that on the day of the storm, Aug. 12, nearly 9.2 million gallons of sewage leaked, with the bulk of it coming from 1819 E. Eager St. (7.7 million gallons) and 1731 E. Chase St. (nearly 1.5 million) in the area being redeveloped just north of the Johns Hopkins medical complex in East Baltimore. Apparently not reported in the official record of the day’s contamination was what DPW initially announced about the damage: that 3.2 million gallons had flowed out of the city's Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant, plus another 170,300 gallons at Shell Road in Fairfield. The official August report also reveals that DPW did not hazard guesses at how much sewage overflowed during the storm at several other disclosed leak locations: 1550 Orleans St. (also near Hopkins), 1800 S. Clinton St. in Canton, 3300 Clipper Mill Road near Falls Road, and the intersection of Dundalk and Holabird avenues in Southeast Baltimore. Even without counting whatever amounts leaked out of these locations, the official number of gallons of sewage reported to have leaked in the month of August—9,249,927.5—appears to be significantly underestimated, given that DPW belatedly announced that the total estimate for the Aug. 12 storm alone was more than 12 million gallons. (Van Smith)

 

"Classical music revamps its image to attract a younger audience," appeared over at Al-Jazeera America yesterday. It is framed around a 20-year-old Baltimore-born-and-raised Peabody student named Tariq al-Sabir. He is young and black and wanted to be a rapper, at least until he caught Andrea Bocelli singing on MPT one night. But al-Sabir is an outlier the piece tells us. I won't comment on the story's shaky lede because classical music isn't dead and it probably isn't dying, though American interest does seem to be dwindling (the story notes that "a third of Peabody's students are international") but I will comment on how al-Sabir appears to be crowbarred into the story towards no end. He isn't held up as the future face of classical music and his early interest in hip-hop is set up in contrast to the more sophisticated world of classical, even though his love of hip-hop was sincere and intense (he says he "just went crazy" producing beats at age 10) and no doubt fed into an even more intense interest in classical. The story ends by focusing on recent moves by the classical music community to court a wider audience. Footage includes a performance of the music from "Star Wars" and oh wow, a rapper, Sir Mix-a-Lot, rhyming over an orchestration of his 1992 hit 'Baby Got Back.' What a golden opportunity to tie the whole thing together, to actually use al-Sabir, child of the third hip-hop generation who had his mind blown by Bocelli, as something more than a frame for a flimsy story. Instead, it is muddled and confused. American teens! Put down the sampler and throw away the rhyme book and get into classical and then one day maybe you'll be able to stand on the stage...and play an orchestrated version of a rap song? (Brandon Soderberg)

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