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George Li of BioDefense describes to Angela Corrieri of Mobile Digital Systems the workings of MailDefender, an oven-like device designed to decontaminate mail, at the Chesapeake Innovation Center in Annapolis.
George Li of BioDefense describes to Angela Corrieri of Mobile Digital Systems the workings of MailDefender, an oven-like device designed to decontaminate mail, at the Chesapeake Innovation Center in Annapolis. (By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)

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By William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 20, 2007

First came duct tape. Then the airport liquid ban. And yesterday, officials unveiled the latest development in the country's war on terror: an American Idol-style contest for homeland security inventors.

Six finalists. One stage. Ten minutes each to win the hearts of the judges and walk away with $50,000. Or perhaps more important, a phone call from one of the defense contractors sitting in the audience.

Among the contestants:

· A Russian scientist with his biological weapons detector. "All of Western civilization is at war," he proclaimed.

· A team from Boston with a 300-degree steel furnace capable of killing biological threats.

· A former Ohio police officer, frustrated with law enforcement's unwieldy Web networks and offering a way to fix them.

· An inventor from Atlanta with an X-ray device able to detect everything from a vial of cocaine to nuclear waste.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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