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6 Intelligence Agency Websites Geared Toward Children

The United States spends $80 billion annually on its intelligence community. That’s equal to the combined amount spent on the entire Marine Corps, NASA, and the State Department each year, with enough change left over to buy the Legislative Branch. To keep that kind of cash flowing, success isn’t enough—it’s going to take some good marketing. As the tobacco industry taught us, there’s no demographic more lucrative than the youth market. Here are a few websites used by the intelligence community to win the hearts and minds of K-12.

1. National Security Agency CryptoKids®

Crypto Cat, Decipher Dog, and Rosetta Stone are part of a wacky gang of misfits who make up the CryptoKids, our secret weapon in the War on Terror. Take Decipher Dog: He loves playing online multiplayer games, soccer, and paint ball. And illegally intercepting the emails and phone calls of American citizens. Allegedly.

2. The CIA Kids’ Page

The part of the CIA website geared toward children is exactly like the part for adults, except for the terrifying Picassoesque illustration of a woman using a stiletto heel telephone. The best thing about the site—maybe the best thing on the entire Internet—are the quote marks in this sentence from CIA Kids, from the first paragraph on the first page:

The CIA is an independent US government agency that provides national security “intelligence” to key US leaders so they can make important, informed decisions.

3. Defense Intelligence Agency Kids

The beating heart of military intelligence is the Defense Intelligence Agency. Michael Flynn, its newly appointed director, spearheaded the intelligence revolution at the Joint Special Operations Command. If he plans to similarly reinvent DIA, he'll probably have to start at its kids’ page. At present, the site is like a 1997-era Macromedia commercial as designed in hell. There, a static, dead-eyed soldier stands at parade rest and stares at visitors, enlisting children to choose such missions as Hangman and Word Search. Don’t let the moribund Flash design fool you, however. The site promises “More to Come!!”

4. NCTC Kids Zone

Nothing says “childlike whimsy” like the National Counterterrorism Center, and the NCTC Kids Zone aims to capitalize on it. Together with Beaker the Eagle, Geo the Globe, and Chip the Inexplicably Wheel-Chaired Computer, children are invited to games of Word Find and Memory Match. Unlike the Junior Spies at CryptoKids, however, Beaker & Co. have no backstories—making them the perfect spies.

5. NRO Jr.

It wasn’t until 1995 that the National Reconnaissance Office was officially declassified. It was so declassified, in fact, that someone at headquarters fired up FrontPage and wanted to get the whole family involved. Parents, teachers, and grades K-5 all have a role at NRO Jr., but only children in grades 6-12 are designated TEAM RECON. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to Explore... A Career in the NRO; Enjoy... Recon Ringtones; Play... the new Launcher Command Word Find game. The takeaway is that Word Find is hugely popular in the spy community.

6. The FBI Kids Page

J. Edgar Hoover was a master at public relations, and spent his tenure as director of the FBI courting favorable media and press coverage. He would have approved of the FBI Kids Page, which is one 1985 World Almanac away from being a real-world Carmen Sandiego game. In stark contrast with DIA Kids (which only barely qualifies as a Gopher page, let alone an actual website), FBI Kids has more than just games, including facts about the bureau, breakdowns of actual FBI cases, and a mascot named after William Colby.

Bonus!

You’re probably thinking, “But what about the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency?” As it turns out, the NGA had a site called Image Ace, where children could stare at satellite imagery and help a character named Orbit find his friend Terry Firma. For reasons unclear, Image Ace presently returns a 404 Not Found. This is either a job for Orbit, or an example of the shameful underrepresentation of youth-oriented GEOINT on the Internet.

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Tulane University Offers Free Semester to Students Affected by Hurricane Maria
Infrogmation, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

As Puerto Rico continues to assess the damage left by Hurricane Maria last month, one American institution is offering displaced residents some long-term hope. Tulane University in New Orleans is waiving next semester’s tuition fees for students enrolled at Puerto Rican colleges prior to the storm, Forbes reports.

From now until November 1, students whose studies were disrupted by Maria can apply for one of the limited spots still open for Tulane’s spring semester. And while guests won’t be required to pay Tulane's fees, they will still be asked to pay tuition to their home universities as Puerto Rico rebuilds. Students from other islands recovering from this year’s hurricane season, like St. Martin and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are also welcome to submit applications.

Tulane knows all too well the importance of community support in the wake of disaster. The campus was closed for all of the 2005 fall semester as New Orleans dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. During that time, schools around the world opened their doors to Tulane students who were displaced. The university wrote in a blog post, “It’s now our turn to pay it forward and assist students in need.”

Students looking to study as guests at Tulane this spring can fill out this form to apply.

[h/t Forbes]

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Pablo, a Groundbreaking New BBC Series, Teaches Kids About Autism
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Autism spectrum disorder affects one in 68 kids in the U.S., but there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding the nature of the condition and what it feels like to have it. As BuzzFeed reports, a new British children’s program aims to teach viewers about autism while showing kids on the spectrum characters and stories to which they can relate.

Pablo, which premiered on the BBC’s kids’ network CBeebies earlier this month, follows a 5-year-old boy as he navigates life with autism. The show uses two mediums: At the start of an episode, Pablo is played by a live actor and faces everyday scenarios, like feeling overstimulated by a noisy birthday party. When he’s working out the conflict in his head, Pablo is depicted as an animated doodle accompanied by animal friends like Noa the dinosaur and Llama the llama.

Each character illustrates a different facet of autism spectrum disorder: Noa loves problem-solving but has trouble reading facial expression, while Llama notices small details and likes repeating words she hears. On top of demonstrating the diversity of autism onscreen, the show depends on individuals with autism behind the scenes as well. Writers with autism contribute to the scripts and all of the characters are voiced by people with autism.

“It’s more than television,” the show’s creator Gráinne McGuinness said in a short documentary about the series. “It’s a movement that seeks to build awareness internationally about what it might be like to see the world from the perspective of someone with autism.”

Pablo can be watched in the UK on CBeebies or globally on the network's website.

[h/t BuzzFeed]

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