Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Unmanned Systems' Vital Role in Warfare

The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) has developed a roadmap for using unmanned aircraft, ground, and maritime systems to meet our nation's security needs especially in the Global War on Terrorism. The Unmanned Systems Roadmap (2007-2032) documents the value of these systems for carrying out such tasks as mine detection, signals intelligence, precision target designation, reconnaissance, communication, and data rely while reducing the risk to human life. The document suggests prioritizing future research, development, and procurement of unmanned systems based on needs in four areas: reconnaissance and surveillance, target identification and designation, counter-mine warfare, and CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive) reconnaissance.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Finding Goverment Information - a Challenging Quest

OMB Watch and the Center for Democracy and Technology have released an 18 page report entitled Hiding in Plain Sight: Why Important Government Information Cannot Be Found Through Commercial Search Engines. The Web sites of many federal agencies block web crawlers from commonly-used search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Live, and Ask. Even searches done on can miss crucial information that Government Information Librarians know to find directly on agency Web sites, but the public might miss without expert help. To remedy the situation, the report makes the following recommendations:

  • Congress should pass the E-Government reauthorization act, which would require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to create best practices to encourage searchability of federal Web sites.
  • OMB should officially recognize the importance of commercial search engines to Internet users and work with the CIO Council to adopt policies to help users find information.
  • Agencies should adopt an information policy that makes public accessibility of online content and resources a priority.
  • Agencies should create Sitemaps of content on their sites, with special attention given to materials stored in databases and accessible only through drop-down menus. For example, many agencies have FAQ databases that are not accessible to search crawlers but contain very succinct and useful answers to common questions.
  • Agencies should review their use of robots.txt files in order to ensure they are used in the least restrictive way possible. Every effort should be made to include, rather than exclude, materials from the website, whether materials were excluded purposefully or accidentally in the past.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Remembering the "Boys of Summer"

The media buzz about steroid use among current baseball players makes one wonder about the physiques of the stars of yesteryear. If you would like to see what American baseball players looked liked when baseball first became popular in the United States, the American Memory Collection from the Library of Congress hosts Baseball Cards, 1887-1914. See images of such greats as Ty Cobb, Cy Young, and Walter Johnson to name a few. You can browse the cards by player, team, league, city, and card set or search by keyword.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Day of Infamy Interviews

What did ordinary Americans think and feel following the Japanese raids on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941? The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress has made it possible for us to get an inkling thanks to a forward-thinking employee, Alex Lomax from the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center). Mr. Lomax asked field workers in ten geographically diverse locations across the United States to collect "man-on-the-street" reactions to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and subsequent entry of the United States into World War II. Workers also conducted a second set of interviews in January and February 1942 to gage reactions once the initial fury died down. Both sets of interviews are available in the American Memory online collection, After the Day of Infamy.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Adopt an Attwater Prairie Chicken

The Attwater's prairie chicken, a species of grouse known for elaborate mating rituals, has been on the Endangered Species List since 1967. Urbanization caused the destruction of most of the bird's habitat. The chicken is now classified as critically endangered.

Don't let the Attwater's prairie chicken go the way of the dodo; adopt a prairie chicken through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The $25 donation goes to programs raising the chickens. Donors receive an informational packet about the threats facing the prairie chicken.

To see Attwater's prairie chickens, visit the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, 10, 528 acres dedicated to increasing their population. The refuge is approximately an hour drive from Houston.

For more information about Attwater's prairie chicken, check out these links:

Understanding Venezuela's Hugo Chavez

What does the defeat of Hugo Chavez's major reform proposals mean for Venezuela and the United States? The Council on Foreign Relations, an independent (not affiliated with the U.S. Government) nonpartisan center promoting a better understanding of foreign policy choices, has interviews with and reports by experts in the field about Hugo Chavez and Venezuela from 2002 to the present.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Early Voting Ends Today

The final day to vote early in the Harris County/City of Houston Joint Runoff Election is Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Election Day is Saturday, December 8 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information about early voting locations and to see a sample ballot, click on the Voting Information tab of Harris Votes. Runoff elections are to decide who will be the Houston I.S.D. Trustee, District II, and who will be the city council member from Districts D, E, and At-Large Position 5. Information solicited from candidates before the general election is still available in the November 2007 Voter Guide from the Houston League of Women Voters.