Wandering Eye: Makerspace offers to help Station North, but how?, and more

What if U.S. policy in Syria was dependent on a tiny arms-dealing company operated by a bankrupt former counterintelligence officer out of Fort Meade? That help would explain why, for instance, only six U.S.-trained Syrian "moderates" had been deployed by July, right? And why the contractor tried to source 30-year-old Soviet rocket-propelled grenades for the job? And why one American Navy vet got blown up trying to train with one of those. Here's BuzzFeed digging in to a little company called Purple Shovel, which somehow (and we know how—this sort of thing has been SOP in intelligence work for decades) got a multi-million-dollar contract to supply small arms to favored Syrian rebel groups, despite having no track record whatsoever in such work. As Buzzfeed wryly notes, "Federal law typically discourages no-bid contracts, and the Pentagon declined to say why one was given in this case, though a federal procurement data system reported that it was because there was 'only one source.'" The story says Purple Shovel got a performance review from the U.S. government, calling its work "exceptional." And the beat goes on. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

Creative place-making, makerspace, creative (as a noun) . . . It's getting harder to keep up with the buzzwords that are being used to brand and market Baltimore. In a profile on Technical.ly, Jason Tashea tosses around some similar jargon when he talks about Open Works Baltimore, a new warehouse space on the 1400 block of Greenmount Avenue, which is set to open in the fall of 2016. Promising studios, classrooms, workshops, a cafe, and a store for the "makers" to sell their stuff, Open Works is meant to "lift the community," according to Mac Maclure of BARCO, the corporation developing Open Works. This is not a bad idea in theory—the project gives artists and craftspeople (of which there are plenty in this city) more space to make their work, connect with others, and maybe even sell things. What's weird about it is the way the writer chose to put the project in context. "Even with this altruistic goal," he writes, referring to the idea that the project will generally uplift the community, "tensions are still real. Immediately before touring the future location of Open Works for this article, youth threw rocks at the front of the building breaking some of the glass and unnerving those inside. Those that witnessed the act said that the youth invoked the police-involved death of Freddie Gray during their frustrated act of vandalism." Tashea also says, "Maclure hopes that once the facility is operational those same youth will be able to come into the building and take advantage of their unique programming, instead of throwing rocks." Without going into detail as to how they plan to accomplish that, Tashea says Open Works will provide classes on how to use some of the machinery and technology in the building, and that they'll "partner with groups around the city to provide educational programming." The vagueness of these plans is disconcerting, as is the writer's constant reassurance that this is not another example of gentrification: "Cognizant of both recent and historical tensions around both race and class in Baltimore, Maclure and [Will] Holman are clear that they are not interlopers taking advantage of low property costs in a gentrifying area of Baltimore city. They point to the fact that there is no café or meeting spot on their stretch of Greenmount Avenue, and that Open Works will be able to provide both." It seems doubtful that those brick-throwing youths will want to pay $125 for workshops here, and it's not enough to just call yourself an open space, so the question remains: How is Open Works going to actually work in and engage with the community around it? (Rebekah Kirkman)

 

Yesterday, Twitter focused its outrage on Martin Shkreli, a former hedge-fund manager who's now CEO of a pharmecutical company that recently procured the rights to a drug for parasitic infections and raised the price from $13.50 a pill to $750. The New York Times first reported on the company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, and its acquisition of the drug Daraprim. "The Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association sent a joint letter to Turing earlier this month calling the price increase for Daraprim 'unjustifiable for the medically vulnerable patient population' and 'unsustainable for the health care system,'" the Times reports. Naturally, people went on social media to tell Shkreli off; Hillary Clinton even took a shot at him, saying, "Price gouging like this in the specialty drug market is outrageous" and linking to the Times story. Shkreli did a series of interviews to defend himself, telling Bloomberg TV the cost surge will allow for more research and development for "an improved toxoplasmosis treatment," Forbes reports. But Clinton's tweet leveled some measurable damage: Forbes notes the Nasdaq Biotech Index fell 4 percent as a result. (Brandon Weigel)

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