Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Hussein executed

Saddam Hussein has been executed today in Iraq. The New York Times obituary provides an overview of the Iraqi dictator's life.

Presidential Pardons in Time for the Holidays

This article from CNN supplies the details on 16 pardons issued by President Bush. The current president has now issued a total of 113 pardons during his time in office. By way of comparison, the article notes, "President Clinton issued 457 in eight years in office. Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, issued 77 in four years. President Reagan issued 406 in eight years, and President Carter issued 563 in four years. Since World War II, the largest number of pardon and commutations -- 2,031 -- came from President Truman, who served 82 days short of eight years."

Friday, December 22, 2006

Texas Statehood

Texans, remember to celebrate December 29 since on that date in 1845 Texas officially became a state. (You can actually celebrate two dates since transfer of government occured on February 19, 1846.) To learn about the events leading to statehood, read the Narrative History of Texas Annexation provided by the Texas State Library.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Happy Birthday Federal Reserve

On December 23, 1913 President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Federal Reserve Act to establish more effective supervision of banking in the United States. The New York Branch of the Federal Reserve has written a brief history of the chaotic events that led to the founding. For a more detailed history see Allan H. Meltzer's A History of the Federal Reserve Volume 1:1913-1951. Source materials cited by Meltzer are available on FRASER (Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research). FRASER also links to other documents pertaining to the history of the Federal Reserve through 2005.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Oops - USPS!

Caught in a bind because you haven't mailed your holiday packages to Aunt Emma in San Francisco or Uncle Fred in Maine? If you hate waiting in long lines at the post office, find the nearest Automated Postal Center by entering your city, state, and zip code in the online form or by calling (800) ASK-USPS. Automated postal centers near Rice University include the University of Houston at 1319 Richmond Ave. ( .95 miles), Southmore at 4110 Almeda Rd. (1.33 miles), Medical Center at 7205 Almeda Rd. (1.78 miles), and River Oaks at 1900 W. Gray St. (2.30 miles). Maps and driving directions are available from the site.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Are You Now in a Flood Plain?

After Tropical Storm Allison the Harris County Flood Control District and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) created a joint study project (The Tropical Storm Allison Recovery Project or TSARP) to help the public understand flood risks. TSARP has just released new Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). Check the maps or call the Harris County Flood Control District at 713-722-7227 to see if your property is included in the approximately 10,000 commercial and residential properties newly added to the flood plain, or if you are one of the lucky ones whose property has now been removed. Read TSARP's Quick Reference Sheets and a letter from Mike Talblott, Director of the Harris County Flood Control District, to gain a better understanding of flood insurance as well as how these new maps might affect you. Flood insurance rates will rise dramatically on June 18, 2007 for those living in identified flood-prone areas, but you have six months to lock in cheaper grandfathered rates. Even if your residence or business is outside the official flood plain, though, FEMA advises you to purchase flood insurance since almost two-thirds of the flooding during Allison occured outside the 100 year floodplain. For more information about how to purchase flood insurance, access the National Flood Insurance Web site or call 1-888-379-9531.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Google Patent Search

Google has just added a new patent search feature to their expanding list of research tools. The site allows for simple fulltext searches as well as more advanced searches. This article has more details.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Male Circumcision Reduces HIV Risk in Africa

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, announced today that two clinical trials of medically performed male circumcision ended early because interim data showed promising results in halting the spread of HIV acquired through heterosexual intercourse. In Kenya medically circumcised males were 53% less likely to acquire HIV than their uncircumcised counterparts, while in Uganda the reduction rate was 48%. These results do not necessarily apply to the United States, however, since most U.S. males are already circumcised, HIV rates are lower, and most male HIV infections in the U.S. occur in males who have sex with other males. For reactions to these findings, see the World Health Organization's (WHO) statement.

Monday, December 11, 2006

EPA Saga Continues

According to a Public Employees for Environmental Responsibilities (PEER) news release, EPA has been selling furniture and equipment for less than pennies on the dollar despite requests from Congress to wait for Congressional review. The agency also closed the Office of Prevention, Pollution and Toxic Substances (OPPTS) Library, the repository for reports about the effects and properties of toxic chemicals, and delinked thousands of documents from its Web site.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

East Texas and the Federal Register

As a Depository Library located in Texas we have a special closeness to one of the seminal government publications: the Federal Register. As this article explains, the Federal Register was established in 1935 when it became clear that the Federal Government needed to provide a single source for executive orders and regulatory codes. The reason that this was so apparent in 1935 was the tremendous growth in executive orders and regulatory pronouncements associated with the New Deal. The point was driven home by a Supreme Court decision involving two Texas oil companies. It appears that two companies in East Texas ran afoul of federal regulations on the transportation of oil and they appealed their case to the Supreme Court. During oral questioning it appears that regulators had to admit that there was a question as to whether or not the specific regulation in question was even in effect at the time of the alleged violation. The confusion convinced lawmakers to establish a uniform publication for regulator information: The Federal Register.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Remember Pearl Harbor

A good place to start your remembrance is the Library of Congress Today in History site which contains background information, pictures, and dispatches as well as links to a wide variety of materials including music, oral histories, and "man of the street interviews." Continue your journey to the Naval Historical Center to access a Pearl Harbor overview, a list of ships present at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, pictures of damaged ships, and related resources. If you experienced the raids in person that day, you might want to join the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. End your journey by reading President Bush's official proclamation designating Dec. 7 as the National Pearl Habor Remembrance Day, 2006.

Iraq Study Group Report Now Available

The Iraq Study Group Report is now available for download. It can also be downloaded from the Baker Institute website. The press conference can be viewed now on CNN.

Iraq Study Group Report

President Bush received the Iraq Study Group Report this morning. The bipartisan panel will release the report to the public later this morning. It will be available on websites for the United States Institute for Peace, Rice University's Baker Institute, the Center for Strategic & International Studies, and the Center for the Study of the Presidency.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Senate Hearings on Robert Gates

Listen to the currently occurring Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing on the nomination of Robert Gates to replace Donald Rumsfeld as the Secretary of Defense:


Pentagon Channel

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

World AIDS Day - Friday, Dec. 1, 2006

World AIDS Day, originally conceived at the 1988 World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programmes for AIDS Prevention, occurs this year on Friday, Dec. 1. A wide variety of activities including a documentary, videoconference, posters, panel discussion, and concert will raise awareness on the Rice University campus. On the national level the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has free World Aids Day posters, English/Spanish fact sheets, and a listing of events by state. Internationally the World Aids Campaign (WAC) Web site contains worldwide events, resources, and media materials plus messages from dignitaries representing countries around the world.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

New Service - USPTO and EPO

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) have announced plans to launch a new free service in January 2007 that will allow electronic exchange of patent application priority documents. This service will help applicants who file in more than one country by allowing them to claim "an earlier application filing date in one patent office based on a prior filing in another."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Name That Turkey

Just when you thought we'd posted our last voting blog for the season... There are only five days left to vote on the names for the National Thanksgiving Turkey and alternate! Your choices are:

Ben and Franklin
Plymouth and Rock
Washington and Lincoln
Corn and Copia
Flyer and Fryer has an excellent listing of Thanksgiving resources including travel advice, recipes and cooking tips, and ideas for Thanksgiving activities. Have a safe and happy holiday!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Holiday Travel - Be Informed!

If you are traveling during the holiday season, access these links to make your trip easier.

To find out about traffic conditions in Houston including road closures and construction and speed reports, view Houston Transtar. For Texas statewide road conditions visit the Texas Department of Transportation Travel site.

If you are traveling by air, check out the "live updates" section of Avoid Delays to see if a particular airport is experiencing delays. If you plan to take carry-on luggage, read the requirements on the TSA site. Access the Department of Transportation's Aviation Consumer Protection Division's latest report to find out if your airline has a reputation for flight delays, mishandled baggage, oversales, or consumer complaints.

If you are traveling overseas, it's a good idea to read Tips for Traveling Abroad and A Safe Trip Abroad first. If you plan to drive a car in a foreign country, in addition to your driver's license you may need an International Drivers Permit (IDP) available from a local office of the American Automobile Association. Check with the consular office in the country you are visiting to find out if the IDP is required. To locate that office, call the Federal Information toll-free line at 1 (800) FED INFO. For precautions about driving abroad or riding a train, see the State Department's article "Traveling by Train and Driving Abroad." If you are going to an area of the world experiencing political unrest, access the State Department's Travel Warnings and
Consular Information Sheets
. To view the recommended immunizations for visiting a particular country, acess the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Travel Information Page. If you have passport questions, visit the State Department's Passport page. See details about the new electronic passport. For questions about what you can bring back with you, access the
U.S. Customs and Border Protection site.

Bon Voyage!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Senate Democrats Announce Leadership

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced incoming leadership for the 110th Congress as well as likely committee assignments.

Happy World Usability Day!

Today is World Usability Day described as an event to raise awareness of usability engineering and user-centered design. For information about events by country check out the web home for World Usability Day.

For usability guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services see Research-Based Web Design and Usability Guidelines, 2006 edition.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Federal Reserve Board - Chairman Bernanke's Speech in Germany

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke Friday at the Fourth ECB Central Banking Conference in Frankfurt, Germany on "Monetary Aggregates and Monetary Policy at the Federal Reserve: A Historical Perspective." See this article in the Houston Chronicle for a discussion of his speech.

Not sure about the meaning of some of the monetary terms used in the article? Interested in learning more about money supply and the operation of the Federal Reserve? Check out FED101 on the Federal Reserve education site. For definitions of the monetary terms used in the speech, Wikipedia's article on money supply is also very helpful.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Public Papers of the Presidents online

The University of Michigan Digital Library Project has digitized the Public Papers of the Presidents collection. This not only allows users to read the entire public papers collection online, but it also allows users to search the entire collection, which includes the papers of the presidents from Herbert Hoover to Bill Clinton, with a single keyword search.

Celebrate Veterans Day, November 11, 2006

Internationally, Veterans Affairs Canada honors veterans on Saturday, Nov. 11 with a a Day of Remembrance. For a listing of national celebrations see the Department of Veteran Affairs site which also contains teacher resources, photo and poster galleries, history projects, and fact sheets. Celebrations in Houston commence at 10:00 a.m. with a ceremony at City Hall (901 Bagby/Hermann Square), continue at 11:00 a.m. with a Moment of Silence to commemorate the signing of the WWI Armistice (11th Hour, 11th Day, 11th Month), and culminate with a parade at 11:30 starting at Smith and Texas. Rice University celebrates on Friday, Nov. 10, with a 12 noon gathering around the flagpole at the Rice Memorial Center followed by a reception honoring Rice's veterans.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Texas Death Row

Since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976, the State of Texas has executed more inmates than any other state in the United States. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice maintains a website to keep the public informed about executions in the state of Texas. The site provides background information on death row inmates, their crimes, and execution dates. The site also provides information on executions that have been carried out, and if available even provides the last words of executed inmates.

Rumsfeld resigns

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has announced his intent to resign. See the announcement on CNN or the New York Times. President will nominate Robert Gates to succeed Rumsfeld.

Election Results in Texas

For election results in Texas and Harris County check out the Texas Secretary of State or HarrisVotes. The Secretary of State has historical election results back to 1992. For news coverage of election results:

Houston Chronicle
New York Times
Washington Post

Close Senate Races in Montana and Virginia

For details on the Virginia and Montana Senate races and election laws, check out the Virginia State Board of Elections and the Montana Secretary of State as well as election results in Virginia and Montana.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Public Papers of the Presidents: George W. Bush, Book II

From the Government Printing Office:

Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George W. Bush Book II - July 1 to December 31, 2002 are now available on GPO Access at:

Each Public Papers volume contains the papers and speeches of the President of the United States that were issued by the Office of the Press Secretary during the specified time period. The material is presented in chronological order, and the dates shown in the headings are the dates of the documents or events. In instances when the release date differs from the date of the document itself, that fact is shown in the textnote.

As subsequent volumes covering the administration of President Bush are published, they will be added online. Volumes covering previous and future administrations will continue to be added on an incremental basis.

Vote Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2006!

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Grand Hall of the RMC (Precinct 361) is the polling location for those who live on campus and registered that address. Those living in the Rice Graduate Apartments (Precinct 40) vote at Poe Elementary, 5100 Hazard at South Boulevard, while those living in the Morningside Square Apartments (Precinct 148) vote at Roberts Elementary, 6000 Greenbriar at Swift. Residents of Harris County can access HarrisVotes to find their polling locations and see sample ballots tailored to their specific precincts. The League of Women Voter's Guide for Ft. Bend County or for Harris County (in English) or (in Spanish) is available online to help with an informed choice. The Texas Secretary of State posts state-wide election return information as does the Houston Chronicle (with pre-voting sample ballots and precinct information) and CNN.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Patent Disclosure Document Program Eliminated

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will eliminate the Disclosure Document Program pursuant to the final rule published today. The effective date for this change is February 1, 2007.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Who’s Ahead in Congressional Races?

Do gaffes by prominent figures change whether citizens will vote for Democrats or Republicans in the upcoming elections? Check out the latest polling information on Originally designed to provide electoral statistics, the site has now expanded to provide data for the current national Senate and House races.

Stop Annoying Phone Calls

Maybe you registered your home phone with the Do Not Call Registry, but did you realize you could also register your cell phone (personal phones only, no business phones)? After a 31-day processing period, you can stop calls from telemarketers for five years. Unfortunately or fortunately at this time of year, political calls can still come through as can calls from charities, telephone surveyors, and from any company with “which you have an existing business relationship, or those to whom you’ve provided express agreement in writing to receive their calls.” Online you can register three phones at once; by telephone you can register only one at a time (the phone you are calling from). If you have already registered and forgotten when your registration expires, you can click on the Verify a Registration button.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Findings Issued on Texas City BP Refinery Explosion

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board issued a press release yesterday announcing extensive new findings from the investigation of the Texas City BP refinery explosion that occurred on March 23, 2005.

International Education Week, Nov. 13-17, 2006

The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education are jointly sponsoring International Education Week. This year’s theme is International Education: Engaging in Global Partnerships and Opportunities. Access the official Web page if you would like to download promotional materials, view and submit events, take a global IQ quiz, read press releases, or visit the IEW library for classroom materials. In 2005 all 50 states and 77 countries participated in IEW.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween Government Style

Check out the Census Bureau’s Halloween page for fun facts and statistics about everything from where Halloween celebrations started in the U.S. to the number of Trick or Treaters.

NASA to Repair Hubble

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin announced this morning that NASA will send the space shuttle to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. The servicing mission will likely take place in 2008, when astronauts will take new instruments, batteries and gyros necessary to Hubble's success through 2013.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Pittsburg, P.A.?

In the 1890s President Benjamin Harrison launched a campaign to standardize the spelling of U.S. place names. The problem was that federal agencies were using multiple variations of spellings for the same locations and this practice was a source of needless confusion. So on September 4, 1890 President Harrison issued an executive order creating a new agency, U.S. Board on Geographic Names, the job of which was to standardize the spellings of U.S. locales. At the time, no one probably expected that the work of the agency would become the source of controversy.

As part of the standardization process, however, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names decided to drop the final "h" in places ending with "burgh." As this NPR story reveals, this change didn't sit well with many citizens of the newly dubbed "Pittsburg, Pennsylvania" and thus began a twenty year campaign on the part of Pittsburgh citizens to get back the "h" in their name. At a special meeting in 1911, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names decided to give up the campaign to remove the "h" in Pittsburgh, and the secretary of the board sent a letter to Pennsylvania Senator George T. Oliver instructing him of the decision.

The fight over place names can be told with Government Documents (thus the connection!). For instance, the executive order that President Harrison issued on September 4, 1890 to create the U.S Board on Geographic Names can be read on the second page of this document. Also, to see an original copy of the U.S. Board's complete report on uniform place names, see the House of Representatives Report "Message from the President of the United States Transmitting The Report of the United States Board of Geographic Names," [52 Congress, 1st Session, Ex. Doc. No. 16], which was issued on December 23, 1891.

EPA Library Closures -ALA Action Alert!

From an ALA Action Alert as cited in

Help save the EPA Libraries - call your Senators before November 1 and ask them to sign the Boxer-Lautenberg "Dear Colleague" letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee asking that the EPA be directed to "restore and maintain public access and onsite library collections and services at EPA's headquarters, regional, laboratory, and specialized program libraries while the Agency solicits and considers public input on its plan to drastically cut its library budget and services."

U.S. Capitol switchboard 202-225-3121

Also see our earlier post on the EPA Library Closures.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Patents, Patents Everywhere!

According to Canadian Patent Librarian Michael White, everyone is jumping on the patent reality tv bandwagon. Ever since American Inventor debuted in the Spring of 2006 on ABC, other networks are following suit. PBS will be airing Everyday Edisons in May 2007 and are interviewing Oct. 28 in Chicago for the next season. Nov. 30 is the deadline for patent hopefuls to enter the History Channel’s Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge with a May 2007 airtime. Even Canadians are joining the race with two shows, Discovery Canada’s Patent Bending which tries to figure out why wacky inventions never became popular and CBC’s Dragons’ Den in which inventors compete for the backing of “business moguls” (the dragons).

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Government Spending Database

Want to know where your tax dollars are being spent? OMB Watch has created a free database,, that allows users to search government grants and contracts back to FY 2000. Check out their helpful tutorial first to make your search strategy more productive.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Early Voting Oct. 23 - Nov. 3, 2006

In Harris County you may vote early at one of the locations indicated on the Harris County Early Voting Map (includes hours of operation). For precinct information specific to Rice University, access Rice Vote Coalition Voting Reference Information which also includes absentee ballot information. On election day (Nov. 7) for those voting at Rice (Precinct 361), the poll will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Grand Hall of the RMC. If you are not sure what precinct of Harris County you are in, check the Harris County Precinct Guide. Use Who Represents Me? to identify state and national representatives and senators for your precinct. View a non-precinct specific sample ballot in English/Spanish or Vietnamese/English and The League of Women Voter's Guide for Ft. Bend County or for Harris County (in English) or (in Spanish). If you prefer to vote by mail, applications for ballots by mail must be received (not post marked) by Oct. 31, 2006.

Friday, October 20, 2006

When do you really need a patent?

For those who might have missed it, here is a terrific article that Business Week ran on the pros and cons of obtaining a patent.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

School Associated Violent Deaths

In addition to the free downloadable report mentioned in the title, the National School Safety Center site offers school safety assessments, tips, leadership training, presentations, technical assistance, journals, and videos. The Texas School Safety Center also conducts safety training and collects school safety data. Of particular interest to schools that need to upgrade security but face budgetary constraints is its Grants for Schools Districts Concerning School Safety Issues.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

U.S. Population Reaches 300 Million

The U.S. Census Bureau announced that the population of the U.S. reached 300,000,000 early this morning. See the Population Clock for the current number.

Monday, October 16, 2006

UN Resolution - Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

The United Nations Security Council passed a non-proliferation resolution regarding the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on Saturday, October 14. See also the Security Council's announcement and the press release from the U.N. News Centre.

Also see the Statement by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on the North Korea Nuclear Test.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge

Win a $25,000 grant if your "breakthrough" invention is selected by The History Channel for its Wednesday night (8pm/7c) television series Modern Marvels. Co-sponsered by the USPTO, the contest ends Nov. 11, 2006.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

EPA Library Closures

Congressmen Gordon, Waxman, and Dingle have requested that the Government Accountability Office examine the President's budget proposal to cut funding for the EPA Library System by 30 percent for FY 2007. These cuts will cause some regional EPA libraries to close while others will reduce hours and services.

Read the notice in the Federal Register about the EPA Headquarters Library closure. See page 6 and page 11 (attachment 2) of the EPA FY 2007 Library Plan: National Framework for the Headquarters and Regional Libraries for information about library closures.

PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) expresses concerns about lost services when material housed in the EPA Headquarters Library is relocated to three “information repositories.”

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Texas House District 134 Debate

Rice University will be hosting the Texas House of Representatives District 134 Debate on Thursday, Oct. 12, at 8:00 p.m. in McMurty Auditorium, Duncan Hall. Candidates debating will be Ellen Cohen (Democrat), Mhair Dekmezian (Libertarian and senior student at Rice), and Martha Wong (Republican). Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and close at 7:50 p.m. Admission is free but seating is limited. RSVP online at

Voter Guides are here!

The League of Women Voters 2006 Voter Guides are ready. You can pick up a paper copy at Fondren Library (both entrances, the reference desk, bulletin board, or the government publications service desk in the basement of Fondren) or access the Guide online.

For additional election information see the Fondren Library Government Publications and Microforms election website.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Friday, October 06, 2006

Silly Government Titles Contest Winners

(Students) 1st Place - Stephen Ahn - Odors From Confined Livestock Production
2nd Place - Diana Yen - Texas Turkey Talk
3rd Place - Emilia Calvaresi - The Environmental Impact Statement – It Seldom Causes Long Project Delays but Could Be More Useful if Prepared Earlier
(Community) David Bynog - Boron: Light Heavyweight