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Wandering Eye: Baltimore's transit chief pleads guilty, Boyd Rutherford to forgo having his own staff, and more

Wandering Eye: Baltimore's transit chief pleads guilty, Boyd Rutherford to forgo having his own staff, and more

Barry Stephen Robinson, the former Baltimore City transit chief indicted for bribery and money laundering in October, amid a host of other legal problems, pleaded guilty yesterday to the charges, which stemmed from his conduct at the helm of the Charm City Circulator. The Baltimore Brew's coverage of the plea is the latest in its recent flurry of scrutiny of dodgy practices at the city's transportation department involving fraudulent overtime and forgery schemes in which supervisors and employees have helped themselves to the public till. The scandals have been uncovered by the city's inspector general, Robert H. Pearre Jr., and underscore the need for an audit, scheduled for next year. (Van Smith)

On Tuesday, incoming Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford announced plans to forgo having his own distinct staff from the governor's, as deputies have traditionally had. Baltimore Fishbowl reminds us that, a few weeks ago, local political observer Barry Rascover made a pretty good case for eliminating the deputy office altogether. He points out that Maryland did just fine without a lieutenant governor before the office was re-established in 1970 after a 102-year absence. He offers a detailed description of the mostly figurehead roles lieutenants have played over the years, and points out outgoing Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's missteps, including handing control over a public-private partnership bill to developers and exempting the Healthcare Exchange from state procurement laws, which led to an incompetent, low-balling IT company getting the contract and creating a site that crashed on its first day of operation.  Perhaps Brown's empty-suit reputation will have a lasting impact after all, in convincing Maryland that his job was a waste in the first place. (Evan Serpick)

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Here are two competing stories about a big tethered blimp the Army is testing over Aberdeen Proving Ground in the coming weeks. It's part of a two-blimp system to detect and counter cruise missiles—should any be launched against land targets on the East Coast. The blimps have high-resolution radar called JLENS and can see things moving on or near the ground. This is important. The Stars and Stripes went with an AP report of the press availability yesterday and explained the system: "When fully deployed next spring, the system will feature two, unmanned, helium-filled aerostats, tethered to concrete pads 4 miles apart. They'll float at an altitude of 10,000 feet, about one-third as high as a commercial airliner's cruising altitude," the military news outfit wrote. "The project, built by Raytheon Co. of Waltham, Massachusetts, and TCOM L.P. of Columbia, Maryland, has cost the government about $2.8 billion so far. Congress approved another $43.3 million last week for the first year of the test." It quotes a Raytheon flack explaining what a bargain that is, compared to using planes. Meanwhile, those getting their take from First Look's The Intercept received a much more ominous—if confused—view. Half the story recounts the outrageous threat these airships present to civil liberties and privacy—they can see your car!—but the other half details all the ways in which the anti-cruise-missile system is, in fact, an enormous, money-sapping boondoggle that doesn't even work. "Raytheon trumpets the results of several successful tests of the system, including an August 2013 demonstration in which JLENS helped an F-15 knock a mock cruise missile out of the sky. But a blistering analysis from the Pentagon's Operational Test & Evaluation office for fiscal year 2013 found that testing had been inadequate and that JLENS needed improvement in critical areas, including 'non-cooperative target recognition, friendly aircraft identification capabilities, and target track consistency'—i.e. telling the difference between friends and enemies." Um . . . uh oh? (Edward Ericson Jr.)

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