Wandering Eye: The Harbor gets an F, The FBI's prolific use of surveillance in cities, and more

The AP has an interesting story about the FBI's prolific use of surveillance aircraft in cities across the country. "After The Washington Post revealed flights by two planes circling over Baltimore in early May, the AP began analyzing detailed flight data and aircraft-ownership registrations that shared similar addresses and flight patterns," the story, by Jack Gillum, Eileen Sullivan, and Eric Tucker, says. The reporters found more than 50 planes, plus documents indicating there are twice that many. The planes take a lot of video and, of course, also carry "Stingray"-type cellphone tower simulators to pull data from phones in the target area. They are registered to corporate cut-outs—fake companies that serve as fronts for the bureau. This is an old CIA tactic whose reason in this context is unclear, particularly as an FBI spokesperson told the AP that the program is not secret: "Law enforcement officials said Justice Department lawyers approved the decision to create fictitious companies to protect the flights' operational security and that the Federal Aviation Administration was aware of the practice," the story says. Huh? But, turns out, this spook bullshit predates 9/11. "A 1990 report by the then-General Accounting Office noted that, in July 1988, the FBI had moved its 'headquarters-operated' aircraft into a company that wasn't publicly linked to the bureau." (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

New York magazine has an interesting package on the continuing rise of EDM culture. There's a piece on a popular club in the city and profiles of a party organizer and one of the guys making bank off this whole thing. But what caught our attention is the introductory essay by music writer Lindsay Zoladz. Many other writers have pointed out that DJs and producers are the new rock stars, and that's reaffirmed here by highlighting how many of them were at the press conference to launch Jay Z's streaming service, Tidal. How did we get to this point? As Zoladz notes, "The rise of mainstream EDM culture is perfectly in step with our social-media era; as any DJ will tell you, dance music is inherently populist." Mega-DJ Steve Aoki is quoted in a new book, "The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America," as saying: "One reason electronic music is such a successful big-group scenario is that you aren't watching a singer. You're just experiencing the feeling of the music around you and being part of a larger experiential feeling." But Zoldaz rightly points out two big problems: "[t]he mainstream variant of the music obscures the history from which it springs — you can't have Disclosure without the black and Latino queer underground that birthed house music" and "[t]oday's blockbuster EDM festivals are not only overwhelmingly white but often downright hostile to female fans." Similarly, most of the genre's biggest stars are white dudes. (Brandon Weigel)

 

The Waterfront Partnership and Blue Water Baltimore released their annual Healthy Harbor Report Card, which basically acknowledged that our waterways are still shitty after all these years. The Baltimore Harbor got an F, as did the Tidal Patapsco River and the Jones Falls. On the bright side, the Gwynns Falls Watershed got a D-. Despite the miserable grades, the waterways are mostly improving. Only the Jones Falls saw falling scores year-over-year. Raw sewage is still a huge problem despite the city’s spending billions to rebuild its storm and wastewater systems, much of it under the past decade and a half under a federal consent decree. (Evan Serpick)

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