A police officer is free on bond after being arrested following a rash of road-sign thefts in southeast Alabama.  Brantley Police Chief Titus Averett says officer Jeremy Ray Walker of Glenwood is on paid leave following his arrest in Pike County.  The 30-year-old Walker is charged with receiving stolen property.  Lt. Troy Johnson of the Pike County Sheriff's Office says an investigation began after someone reported that Walker was selling road signs from Crenshaw County.  Investigators contacted the county engineer and learned signs had been reported stolen from several roads.

NPR Politics presents the Lunchbox List: our favorite campaign news and stories curated from NPR and around the Web in digestible bites (100 words or less!). Look for it every weekday afternoon from now until the conventions.

Convention Countdown

The Republican National Convention is in 4 days in Cleveland.

The Democratic National Convention is in 11 days in Philadelphia.

NASA has released the first picture of Jupiter taken since the Juno spacecraft went into orbit around the planet on July 4.

The picture was taken on July 10. Juno was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter at the time. The color image shows some of the atmospheric features of the planet, including the giant red spot. You can also see three of Jupiter's moons in the picture: Io, Europa and Ganymede.

The Senate is set to approve a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

My husband and I once took great pleasure in preparing meals from scratch. We made pizza dough and sauce. We baked bread. We churned ice cream.

Then we became parents.

Now there are some weeks when pre-chopped veggies and a rotisserie chicken are the only things between us and five nights of Chipotle.

Parents are busy. For some of us, figuring out how to get dinner on the table is a daily struggle. So I reached out to food experts, parents and nutritionists for help. Here is some of their (and my) best advice for making weeknight meals happen.

"O Canada," the national anthem of our neighbors up north, comes in two official versions — English and French. They share a melody, but differ in meaning.

Let the record show: neither version of those lyrics contains the phrase "all lives matter."

But at the 2016 All-Star Game, the song got an unexpected edit.

At Petco Park in San Diego, one member of the Canadian singing group The Tenors — by himself, according to the other members of the group — revised the anthem.

School's out, and a lot of parents are getting through the long summer days with extra helpings of digital devices.

How should we feel about that?

Police in Baton Rouge say they have arrested three people who stole guns with the goal of killing police officers. They are still looking for a fourth suspect in the alleged plot, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

"Police say the thefts were at a Baton Rouge pawn shop early Saturday morning," Greg says. "One person was arrested at the scene. Since then, two others have been arrested and six of the eight stolen handguns have been recovered. Police are still looking for one other man."

A 13-year-old boy is among those arrested, Greg says.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

After an international tribunal invalidated Beijing's claims to the South China Sea, Chinese authorities have declared in no uncertain terms that they will be ignoring the ruling.

The Philippines brought the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, objecting to China's claims to maritime rights in the disputed waters. The tribunal agreed that China had no legal authority to claim the waters and was infringing on the sovereign rights of the Philippines.

Pages

Piecing Together 'The World's Largest Jigsaw Puzzle'

Oct 8, 2012
Originally published on October 8, 2012 4:35 am

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, East Germany's secret police, the Stasi, frantically tore up millions of files gathered during decades of spying on its own citizens.

More than two decades later, the vast array of secret papers collected by the Stasi is still in huge demand. So far this year, 70,000 people have applied for access to the Stasi archives.

Many are young Germans — some searching for information about relatives, others just eager to know more about their country's past.

To help meet this demand, archivists are now using groundbreaking computer technology to reconstruct those shredded files.

A Painstaking Mission

In a room as spotless as a doctor's clinic, Karina Juengert is working at her desk. Beside her, there's a big brown sack filled with small scraps of paper. She picks out one of these scraps, examines it closely and drops it into a tray.

Juengert was barely a toddler when Soviet-controlled East Germany collapsed. At 24, her working life is devoted to piecing together some of the nastier remnants of her nation's past.

She has no doubts about the merits of what she's doing.

"Nobody is going to spend time and energy tearing up documents that have no importance. So the work we are doing is, yes, of absolute importance," Juengert says.

The sack Juengert is dipping into is full of documents ripped up by the Stasi in the dying days of its rule.

She's one of a team employed by the government of the now unified Germany to put these papers back together again for the vast archive they're creating of Stasi files.

At times, Juengert finds this work painful.

"My job consists of really just sorting out the first level, but of course I get an idea sometimes of what some of the files are about, and absolutely it does anger me. But I don't experience as much of that in my task, in my job, as some of the others do," Juengert says.

Jungert works in the giant complex that was the Stasi's headquarters in Berlin. Her room is at the end of several long corridors. Walk those corridors, ride from floor to floor on the old wooden, jump-on, jump-off, paternoster elevator, and you'll have no trouble imagining when this place was full of spies, prying into every corner of the lives of their fellow citizens.

The Stasi existed for only 40 years. Yet its multitude of agents and informers amassed enough secret files to fill more than 60 miles of shelving. When the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989 and it was obvious East Germany was collapsing, the Stasi began destroying its most incriminating records.

"They had special shredding machines that were able to shred hundreds of meters of files," says archivist Andreas Petter. "These machines were very powerful, but for this huge amounts of documents, kilometers of documents, even these big machines were too small."

Petter says the shredding machines were under such strain they eventually burned out.

"They were used too much. They were used by night and day and it was too much for the machines," Petter says.

Panic-stricken, the Stasi's agents resorted to ripping up files with their bare hands.

For some three months, with their country in chaos, they worked round the clock, tearing up papers and stuffing them into sacks.

When they finally abandoned their posts and their headquarters were taken over by angry protesters, they left behind 16,000 of those sacks, containing hundreds of millions of pieces of paper.

Machine Assistance

Assembling this giant paper jigsaw by hand would take many decades, if not centuries. Some documents — those torn only into a few pieces — can be reconstructed manually.

Back in that spotless office, an archivist is doing exactly that, using tape and tweezers.

The Stasi's panicky agents ripped many of their secret papers into tiny fragments. Piecing those together by hand is extremely difficult.

There's another option: pattern recognition computer technology developed by German scientists, called the E-puzzler.

The E-puzzler is basically a shredding machine in reverse. You scan torn-up documents into it. It matches up the pieces using color, paper texture, fonts, tear lines and other details.

"The E-puzzler works in the way that a person doing a 1,000-piece puzzle would work. You start at the edge. You look for the forest, you look for the lake and the sky, and that is exactly how the E-puzzler works," says Joachim Haeussler, the archivist in charge of digital reconstruction.

For the past few years, the E-puzzler has been used under a pilot program funded by the German government. But it has processed only a few hundred sacks. There are more than 15,000 to go.

Haeussler now wants to greatly step up the use of E-puzzler technology, though that will require more government money.

"It will help us enormously. We couldn't even employ the amount of people that would be needed to put together the tiny, tiny pieces of files, because some files are only half a fingernail's worth in size," Haeussler says.

Reopening Old Wounds

Some Germans oppose spending so much money and effort piecing together the Stasi papers.

This is a sensitive issue in Germany. Those files contain many unpleasant secrets, including the names of so-far-undiscovered Stasi informers.

Down in the vaults of the archive, when you look at the vast array of documents, plus covertly recorded videos and audiotapes, it's hard to imagine anyone ever archiving all of this.

Archivist Nils Sebastian says the job will be completed, though, because it has to be done. "Sure, standing here looking at the amount of files you think, 'Does this particular file here really matter, when you think about the bigger picture?' But of course it does, because each file is a person and the secret police really worked against the citizens of East Germany and that's why every single file is important," Sebastian says.

No one understands that better than the man in overall charge of this place.

Roland Jahn, federal commissioner of the Stasi archives, is a former dissident, jailed in the 1980s for supporting Poland's Solidarity movement. After the Berlin Wall fell, Jahn was the first East German to read his own Stasi file. He found out some of his friends had informed on him.

"Of course it did hurt, but it enabled me to forgive concrete people and I think that is exactly what looking at your Stasi file can do, because it enables you to then go and question the perpetrators," Jahn says. "And we must learn from these records, what it was like to live with the secret police and to live under a dictatorship. That is what is important."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some people are calling this the world's largest jigsaw puzzle. It's what was left after East Germany's secret police, the Stasi, tore up millions of files when the Berlin wall came down. Archivists are now using ground-breaking computer technology to reconstruct those files. They're doing this because more than two decades on, the vast array of secret papers collected by the Stasi are still in huge demand.

So far this year, 70,000 people have applied for access to the Stasi archives. Many of them are young Germans: some searching for information about relatives, others just eager to know more about their country's past. NPR's Philip Reeves went to meet some of the archivists in Berlin who are piecing together this gigantic puzzle.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: In a room as spotless as a doctor's clinic, Karina Juengert is working at her desk. Beside her, there's a big brown sack filled with small scraps of paper. She picks out one of these scraps, examines it closely, and drops it into a tray.Juengert was barely a toddler when Soviet-controlled East Germany collapsed.

At 24, her working life is devoted to piecing together some of the nastier remnants of her nation's past. She has no doubts about the merits of what she's doing.

KARINA JUENGERT: (Through translator) Nobody is going to spend time and energy tearing up documents that have no importance, so the work we're doing is, yes, it's absolute importance.

REEVES: The sack Juengert is dipping into is full of documents ripped up by the Stasi - East Germany's secret police network - in the dying days of its rule. She's one of a team employed by the government of the now unified Germany to put these papers back together again for the vast archive they're creating of Stasi files. At times, Juengert finds this work painful.

JUENGERT: (Through translator) My job consists of really just sorting out the first level, but, of course, I get an idea sometimes of what some of the files are about, and absolutely, it does anger me. But I don't experience as much of that in my task, in my job, as some of the others do.

REEVES: Juengert works in the giant complex that was the Stasi's headquarters in Berlin. Her room is at the end of several long corridors. Walk those corridors, ride from floor to floor on the old wooden, jump-on, jump-off, paternoster elevator, and you'll have no trouble imagining when this place was full of spies, prying into every corner of the lives of their fellow citizens.

The Stasi existed for only 40 years, yet its multitude of agents and informers amassed enough secret files to fill more than 100 kilometers of shelving. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and it was obvious East Germany was collapsing, the Stasi began destroying its most incriminating records. Archivist Andreas Petter says they started by shredding them.

ANDREAS PETTER: They had special shredding machines that were able to shred hundreds of meters of files. These machines were very powerful, but for this huge amount of documents, kilometers of documents, even these big machines were too small.

REEVES: Petter says the shredding machines were under such strain, they eventually burned out.

PETTER: They were used too much. They were used by night and day, and it was too much for the machines.

REEVES: Panic-stricken, the Stasi's agents resorted to ripping up files with their bare hands. For some three months, with their country in chaos, they worked round the clock, tearing up papers and stuffing them into sacks. When they finally abandoned their posts and their headquarters were taken over by angry protesters, they left behind 16,000 of those sacks, containing hundreds of millions of pieces of paper.

Assembling this giant paper jigsaw by hand would take many decades, if not centuries. Some documents, those torn only into a few pieces, can be reconstructed manually. Back in that spotless office, an archivist is doing exactly that, using tape and tweezers. But the Stasi's panicky agents ripped many of their secret papers into tiny fragments. Piecing those together by hand is extremely difficult.

There's another option: pattern-recognition computer technology developed by German scientists, called the E-puzzler. The E-puzzler is basically a shredding machine in reverse. You scan torn-up documents into it. It matches up the pieces using color, paper texture, fonts, tear lines and so on.

JOACHIM HAEUSSLER: (Through translator) The E-puzzler works in the way that a person doing a 1,000-piece puzzle would work. You start at the edge. You look for the forest. You look for the lake and the sky, and that's exactly how the E-puzzler works.

REEVES: Joachim Haeussler is the archivist in charge of digital reconstruction. For the past few years, the E-puzzler's been used under a pilot program funded by the German government, but it's only processed a few hundred sacks. There are more than 15,000 to go. Haeussler now wants to greatly step up the use of E-puzzler technology, though that will require more government money.

HAEUSSLER: (Through translator) It will help us enormously. We couldn't even employ the amount of people that would be needed to put together the tiny, tiny pieces of files, because some files are only half a fingernail's worth in size.

REEVES: Some Germans oppose spending so much money and effort piecing together the Stasi papers. This is a sensitive issue in Germany. Those files contain many unpleasant secrets, including the names of so-far-undiscovered Stasi informers. Down in the vaults of the archive, when you look at the vast array of documents, plus covertly recorded videos and audiotapes, it's hard to imagine anyone ever archiving all of this.

Archivist Nils Sebastian says the job will be completed, though, because it has to be.

NILS SEBASTIAN: (Through translator) Sure, standing here looking at the amount of files, you think: Does this particular file here really matter, when you think about the bigger picture? But of course it does, because each file is a person, and the Stasi, the secret police, really worked against the citizens of East Germany. And that's why every single file is important.

REEVES: No one understands that better than the man in overall charge of this place. Roland Jahn, federal commissioner of the Stasi archives, is a former dissident, jailed in the 1980s for supporting Poland's Solidarity movement. After the Berlin Wall fell, Jahn was the first East German to read his own Stasi file. He found out some of his friends had informed on him.

ROLAND JAHN: (Through translator) Of course it did hurt, but it enabled me to forgive concrete people, and I think that's exactly what looking at your Stasi file can do, because it enables you to then go and question the perpetrators. And we must learn from these records what it was like to live with the secret police and to live under a dictatorship. That is what's important.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.