Saturday, March 31, 2007

Global Warming

On March 20, 2007 California Representative Henry Waxman, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced the Safe Climate Act of 2007 (H.R. 1590) which "sets targets and requires the actions that will be necessary to avoid dangerous, irreversible warming of our planet." Targets are to be achieved through a combination of technological advances, energy efficiency and renewable energy measures, and a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions.

Similarly, the Rice University Student Association is addressing global warming by sponsoring a Carbon Neutral Day on April 20th, 2007. The association will buy "carbon credits" to pay for clean energy and energy efficient projects that equal the amount of emissions attributed to Rice's energy consumption for a single day. The association hopes to collect enough money to buy 55 tons of carbon credits at $10/ton ($550). Those wishing to donate can send checks by April 5 made out to Rice University (with the memo line indicating carbon credits) to:

Rice University
CSES, MS-170
P.O. Box 1892
Houston, TX 77251-1892

Monday, March 26, 2007

Congressional Actions - U.S. Attorney Firings

Given concerns about the firing of federal attorneys, the Senate passed S. 214, the "Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007." The House Committee on the Judiciary has likewise referred to the Whole House H.R. 580, a bill which provides for a 120-day limit to the term of a United States attorney appointed on an interim basis by the Attorney General.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Tag Clouds and Presidential Speeches

A fascinating website has applied tag clouds to presidential state of the unions speeches dating back to the Administration of John Adams. By moving the scrolling tool from left to right (or vice versa) one can see how the issues that faced the country have changed over time. In the mid-nineteenth century, for instance, slavery was a major topic, while one hundred years later communism was much discussed. Most recently, words such as terrorism and freedom are frequently mentioned in state of the union speeches.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Postal Rates Increase

As of May 14, 2007 new prices for mailing items using the U.S. Postal Service will take effect. Since it costs the Postal Service more money to process flats and parcels than letter mail, shape-based rates will apply. A partial breakdown of the new rates follows:

up to 1 ounce - 41 cents
up to 2 ounces - 58 cents
up to 3 ounces - 75 cents
up to 3.5 ounces - 92 cents
Letters that weigh over 3.5 ounces now fall under flats.
(One way to avoid future increases is to purchase the "forever stamp" which may be used for the prevailing rate at the time of mailing even though it was purchased initially for a lower rate.)

Flats: start at 80 cents and increase at 17 cents with each ounce. Example:
up to one ounce - 80 cents
up to two ounces - 97 cents
up to three ounces $1.14
flats weighing 13 ounces and above fall into Priority Mail category

Parcels: start at $1.13 and increase 17 cents with each ounce. Example:
up to one ounce - $1.13
up to two ounces $1.30
up to thee ounces $1.47
up to four ounces $1.64

A complete listing of the new rates and fees is available as a pdf or an html file.

Slavery/Human Rights

Currently Great Britain is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the end of the slave trade, but slavery and human rights violations still exist today as pointed out in the March 18, 2007 edition of the Houston Chronicle. What has 110th Congress done to address these problems? First, a sampling of the measures undertaken in Congress includes the observation by both the House and Senate of the anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade. The House of Representatives has also encouraged the abolition of modern-day slavery, established an anti-slavery day, and recommended authorizing appropriations for the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Both the House and the Senate have supported the goals of International Women's Day. (More women than men serve as present-day slaves). House Resolution 146 also encourages members of the United Nations to meet obligations agreed to in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 which emphasizes implementing an international law to protect the rights of women and girls during and after conflicts. Other measures that deal with protecting human rights during conflicts include House Resolution 125 (an expression of concern about using human shields during war such as when Hezbollah embedded its forces among civilians during the conflict with Israel) and House Concurrent Resolution 75 which condemns the use of child soldiers and asks the international community to find remedies to end the practice. Furthermore, in similar resolutions both the House and the Senate asked President Bush to ensure that United States foreign policy reflects "appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide." Finally, Senate Resolution 295 supports the National Archives and Records Administration efforts to establish a servitude and emancipation archival research database.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

OpenCongress Website

Take a look at OpenCongress, a wonderful new resource that combines offical legislative resources such as Thomas with blogs, and news coverage. The goal, as they say on their website, is to "bring together, for the first time in one place, all the best data on what's really happening in Congress." OpenCongress includes:

  • Official Congressional information from Thomas, made available by bills, votes, committee reports, and more.
  • News articles about bills and Members of Congress from Google News.
  • Blog posts about bills and Members of Congress from Google Blog Search and Technorati.
  • Campaign contribution information for every Member of Congress from the website of the non-profit, non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics,
  • Congress Gossip Blog: a blog written by the site editors of OpenCongress that highlights useful news and blog reporting from around the web. The blog also solicits tips, either anonymous or attributed, from political insiders, citizen journalists, and the public in order to build public knowledge about Congress.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sunshine Week Display

To commemorate Sunshine Week (Mar. 11-17, 2007) the Kelley Center for Government Information and Microforms has created a display with a sampling of materials available in Fondren Library about open access to government information. Sunshine Week is sponsored by the American Association of Law Libraries, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, the League of Women Voters, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the National Freedom of Information Coalition,, the Special Libraries Association, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Sunshine Week was established in 2005 to stress to the American public the importance of open government.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunshine Week

This week is the third national Sunshine Week, an initiative that promotes awareness of open government and freedom of information issues. Good resources for information about Sunshine Week and Open Government include:

Texas Open Government Information
Sunshine Week News

More information about open access to government information

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Congressional Reaction to Walter Reed Revelations

On Monday, March 5, 2007 Congress addressed problems revealed by the
Washington Post about the out-patient medical treatment of veterans with physical or psychological injuries. Representative McCarthy of New York proposed that implementing health information technology would prevent medical records from being lost and make transitioning from the hospital to out-patient care easier especially for brain-injured patients. Senator Dorgan expressed concern about the lack of resources for the Veterans Administration (VA) to which many patients are transitioned. He described the suicide of a veteran home from Iraq who had not been able to get immediate attention despite showing up at a VA hospital and admitting he was suicidal. To address these concerns, Senator Akaka recommended a $2.9 billion increase over figures submitted by the administration for the fiscal year 2008 Department of Veterans Affairs' budget. The increase includes an additional $300 million for the treatment of brain injury and and an additional $693 million for VA mental health programs.