Thursday, December 10, 2009

National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats

According to a December 9, 2009 White House press statement, President Obama has released his "vision for addressing the challenges from proliferation of biological weapons or their use by terrorists." His National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats focuses on seven objectives:
  1. Promote global health security
  2. Reinforce norms of safe and responsible conduct
  3. Obtain timely and accurate insight on current and emerging risks
  4. Take reasonable steps to reduce the potential for exploitation
  5. Expand our capability to prevent, attribute, and apprehend
  6. Communicate effectively with all stakeholders
  7. Transform the international dialogue on biological threat
To find out more, see the full text of the strategy.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Macroeconomic Schools' Response to the Economic Crisis

The November 2009 issue of Liber 8, a newsletter from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, contains a brief article entitled "How Would Modern Macroeconomic Schools of Thought Respond to the Recent Economic Crisis?"  Written by Michelle T. Armesto, Senior Research Associate,  the article examines how three modern schools of economic thought (the New Keynesian, the Monetarist, and the New Classical) might approach the current economic crisis. Armesto also provides an online bibliography of recent articles and further resources about schools of economic thought.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tracking the Stimulus and Economic Recovery

While the 2009 Economic Stimulus package continues to be controversial and its effectiveness endlessly debated, obtaining information on how the stimulus package is being implemented continues to be an important part of the democratic process. Accessing this information plays an important role in allowing individuals to both participate in the program, as well as monitor its development.

The government created a website to provide information about how stimulus money is being spent and track the effectiveness of stimulus programs. Users can find information on how money has been allocated, report jobs that have been saved, apply for funds, and report fraud or abuse of stimulus funding.


Learn more at:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits

The American Council on Education unveiled a new Web site on Nov.9, 2009 "designed to assist service members and veterans by providing clear yet comprehensive guidance on the steps to making the most out of their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits." Entitled Today's GI Bill, the site posts stories from veterans about how they are using the GI Bill and discusses why higher education is important, how to determine eligibility, how to get benefits, and how to choose a field and career path.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Young People Ineligible for Military Service

Mission: Readiness, a group of retired senior military leaders, has released a publication reporting that 75% of America's young people aged 17 to 24 are ineligible for military service principally for three reasons: failure to graduate high school, having a criminal record, or lack of physical fitness/obesity. Entitled "Ready, Willing and Unable to Serve," the report stresses that high quality early education is the key to helping young people graduate from high school, avoid crime, and achieve success in life.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Veterans' Day Celebrations

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a Veterans' Day (November 11, 2009) page filled with resources and information about ceremonies, observances, initiatives, proclamations, and resources to honor our nation's veterans. The National Ceremony will be held at Arlington National Cemetery at 11:00 a.m.

In Houston festivities are arranged around the theme Houston Salutes American Heroes. Activities start at 10 a.m. on the steps of City Hall, 901 Bagby. After an 11th hour ceremony, a Veteran's Day Parade will commence at 11:45 a.m. at Smith Street between Texas and Lamar. Free parking will be available for Veteran's Day activities between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. in Theatre District parking.

Veterans at Rice will be honored at 11 a.m. with a ceremony in the Ray Courtyard of the Rice Memorial Center. Selected because of his outstanding contributions to Rice University and his military service, Dr. George Bennett from Biochemistry and Cell Biology will be this year's special honoree . Presidential Visiting Fellow Colonel Daniel Ragsdale and ROTC member Josh Kirlin will give remarks. The Shepherd School's Brenton Ryan will sing the national anthem, and the MOB will provide music.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

2009 Survey of the Afghan People

The Asia Foundation recently released its fifth survey of the Afghan people based on fieldwork conducted in June and July before the August 20 elections. The 2009 Survey of the Afghan People discusses "national perceptions of security, economy, governance, democratic values, and women and society." Surveys for 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2008 are also available.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Election Quick Links

Candidates and IssuesPolling PlacesElection Results For more information see Fondren's Election/Voting Resources page.

Friday, October 30, 2009

China - Cyber Warfare and Computer Network Exploitation

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission released Oct. 22, 2009 a report entitled "Capability of the People's Republic of China to Conduct Cyber Warfare and Computer Network Exploitation." Aimed at
China specialists, policymakers, and information operation professionals, the report assesses China's capability "to conduct computer network operations (CNO) both during peacetime and periods of conflict."

Other reports about China are also available on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission website.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Houston, We have an App . . .

Recently NASA introduced an app for iPhone users that will deliver "up-to-the-minute" news and information from the space agency. The information transmited via the app will include images and video links and cover a broad range of topics and features from space missions to allowing users to track mission orbits via GoogleMaps.

The app is free. For more information visit NASA App for iPhone.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Senate Health Care Reform Bill is Now Available for Download

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) has posted the America's Healthy Future Act of 2009 on its website. Which was approved by the Senate Finance Committee on October 13, 2009; full Senate debate is expected to begin the week of October 26, 2009.

According to the GPO press release,

"The authentic, electronic version is available on GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys), named by Government Computer News as one of the Government’s best Web sites. GPO authenticated the document by digital signature. This signature assures the public that the document has not been changed or altered. A digital signature, viewed through the GPO Seal of Authenticity, verifies the document’s integrity and authenticity."

Interested individuals can download the bill here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In Celebration of Fall!

NASA has posted some spectacular pictures of Fall arriving in Wisconsin and Michigan taken by NASA’s Terra satellite.

In just one week Fall has spread across the Lake Superior and Lake Michigan areas. See these and other amazing images at NASA's website: Earth Obserbvatory.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Bill to Expand Open Access Beyond NIH Funded Research

Senate Bill 1373 sponsored by Senators Lieberman and Cornyn proposes to extend public access to government agencies with extramural expenditures of over $100,000,000 such as Health and Human Services, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Agriculture Department, NASA, etc. The bill states the following regarding what the proposed Federal research public access policy would provide--

  • (1) submission to the Federal agency of an electronic version of the author's final manuscript of original research papers that have been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals and result from research supported, in whole or in part, from funding by the Federal Government;
  • (2) the incorporation of all changes resulting from the peer review publication process in the manuscript described under paragraph (1);
  • (3) the replacement of the final manuscript with the final published version if--
    • (A) the publisher consents to the replacement; and
    • (B) the goals of the Federal agency for functionality and interoperability are retained;

  • (4) free online public access to such final peer-reviewed manuscripts or published versions as soon as practicable, but not later than 6 months after publication in peer-reviewed journals;
  • (5) production of an online bibliography of all research papers that are publicly accessible under the policy, with each entry linking to the corresponding free online full text; and
  • (6) long-term preservation of, and free public access to, published research findings--

    • (A) in a stable digital repository maintained by the Federal agency; or
    • (B) if consistent with the purposes of the Federal agency, in any repository meeting conditions determined favorable by the Federal agency, including free public access, interoperability, and long-term preservation.

In addition to the THOMAS (Library of Congress) version linked above, provides updates about the status of S.1373: Federal Research Public Access of Act of 2009.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Last Day to Register to Vote for Nov. 3, 2009 Elections

Today is the last day to register to vote in the November 3, 2009 elections. Voter registration forms are available in the basement of Fondren Library in the Kelley Center for Government Information and Microforms. A downloadable version is also available from the Harris County Tax Office. The tax office also lists all the eligibility requirements for voting.

The City of Houston, City of Bellaire, Houston Community College System, Alief ISD, Channelview ISD, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Houston ISD, Klein ISD, North Forest IDS, Spring ISD, Harris County Improvement District No. 3, Harris County MUD 127, Southwest Harris County MUD No. 1, and West Memorial MUD are all having elections. Ballots will also include state amendments.

League of Women Voters guides are being prepared and will be available soon in Fondren's Kelley Center and online at the League's site.

Early voting begins Oct. 19 and ends Oct. 30. A list of early voting locations and times is available on Harris Votes. A variety of election information is also available on Fondren's elections page.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Houston Oral History Interviews Now Online

The Houston Oral History Project, a collaboration among the Mayor's Office, the Houston Public Library, and the University of Houston now has interviews available online. The oral history project consists of three parts:

  • The Mayor Bill White Collection of 100 initial interviews of well-known political, business and civic leaders. These interviews are available in the digital archives of the Houston Public Library, and copies are deposited at the University of Houston.
  • The Neighborhood voices recordings created in the summer of 2008 by citizens who came to Houston Public Library locations to record their recollections about life in Houston. These will be digitized in the near future.
  • HMRC (Houston Metropolitan Research Center) Oral Histories. This research center of the Houston Public Library has digitized more than 200 oral histories of artists, musicians, civil rights activists, politicians and civic leaders from the 1970s and 1980s. Click on one of the 200 names listed on the website to listen to the interview. At present interviews for names listed in bold are accessible digitally.

The project has several Rice University connections. Historian Dr. Louis Marchiafava joined the project at Rice in l974 before moving to the Houston Public Library as director the their research center. Marie Wise, the Houston Public Library's digital projects manager, worked at Rice's Digital Media Center on the TIMEA (Travelers in the Middle East Archive) project. Rice University's Center for Technology in Teaching and Learning worked with two middle school teachers at Hogg Middle School to teach middle school students how to interview WWII veterans from the Heights area. They created an oral history project entitled The Heights Remembers World War II. Melinda Wolfrum, a Rice University history major, edited the students' videotapes and interviewed them about what they learned in the process. Rice employees Tom Bisciglia and Eric Rombokas helped make excepts of the videos available on the Internet.

For more details about the Houston Oral History Project, see the Houston Chronicle's Sept. 29, 2009 story Homespun tales now on Web.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

EPA Improving Transparency

According to a September 15, 2009 article posted on OMB Watch, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken seriously the Obama Administration push for all federal agencies to become more transparent. Examples of the steps that EPA is taking to increase transparency include:

  • Releasing the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data for 2008 early. Rulemaking under the Bush administration restricted the amount of toxic release information made available to communities and the public. This data release restores reporting to the levels that existed before that rulemaking.
  • Releasing two sets of data about the herbicide atrazine which is commonly found in streams and groundwater but is toxic to humans and animals even at low levels. One data set is for drinking water monitoring and the other is for ecological monitoring.
  • Making available online data about the air quality around selected schools.
  • Publishing a list of the highest-risk coal-ash dumpsites in the nation.

On the cautionary side, however, OMB Watch notes that some data releases are the result of FOIA requests and lawsuits. The EPA also still lacks a permanent assistant administrator for the Office of Environmental Information (OEI) which plays a key role in releasing data to the public.

More information about each of these steps is available from the full article on OMB Watch.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

SEC & Madoff's Ponzi Scheme

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has release Investigation of Failure of the SEC to Uncover Bernard Madoff's Ponzi Scheme - Public Version. A 22 page executive summary is also available. The SEC admits:
As the foregoing demonstrates, despite numerous credible and detailed complaints, the SEC never properly examined or investigated Madofi's trading and never took the necessary, but basic, steps to determine if Madoff was operating a Ponzi scheme. Had these efforts been made with appropriate follow-up at any time beginning in June of 1992 until December 2008, the SEC could have uncovered the Ponzi scheme well before Madoff confessed.

President Obama's Speech to School Children

In his speech to school children today President Obama emphasizes student responsibility:
I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

He also stresses the importance of students' school success to the well being of our country:
We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.

President Obama's complete speech is available from the White House.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Edward Moore (Ted) Kennedy, 1932-2009

Family statement from Edward Kennedy's senate website:

Edward M. Kennedy—the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply—died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port. We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.

Statement from President Barack Obama on the death of Senator Ted Kennedy
Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.

For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.

I valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.

An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time.

And the Kennedy family has lost their patriarch, a tower of strength and support through good times and bad.

Our hearts and prayers go out to them today--to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family.

Edward (Ted) Kennedy's Biography from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

Ted Kennedy's Speeches on the House and Senate floors for the 111th Congress, 2009-2010 from

See tributes, videos, and pictures of the senator and share memories and sympathy with the Kennedy family at

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Texting while Driving - a BIG No No!

Heddlu Gwent Police in Wales dramatically addressed the problem of texting while driving. They produced a four-minute video hosted by YouTube about a young woman who killed four people in a three-car accident because she was distracted by texting. "COW - the film that will stop you txting and driving" used local drama students to produce this realistic and gruesome public service announcement.

Deborah Hersman, Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, reacted to the Welsh video by saying that it provides a powerful lesson. She said 40,000 people lose their lives each year because of distracted driving practices (cell phone use and texting). In a speech before the International Symposium on Distracted Driving held in Oct. 2008 in Arlington, Virginia, her predecessor, Mark Rosenker, acting Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board discussed the need for states to improve their impaired driving laws. Regarding teen drivers, he urged states to "enact graduated driver licensing legislation that teach teens to drive gradually, restrict the number of teen passengers traveling with young novice drivers, and prohibit use of wireless communications devices by young novice drivers."

More information about safe driving for teens is available from the following sites:

Friday, August 21, 2009

H1N1 (Swine Flu) Recommendations for Institutions of Higher Education

On Aug. 20, 2009 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a document containing guidelines for institutions of higher education to follow regarding the spread of the H1N1 (Swine Flu) virus. Entitled Guidance for Responses to Flu for Institutions of Higher Education during the 2009-2010 Academic Year, the document contains strategies to implement if the disease starts spreading quickly. It also provides a checklist for making decisions and includes guidance for dormitories and residence halls.

The document is one resource from the CDC's H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu):Resources for Child Care Programs, Schools, Colleges and Universities page. The page also provides an online toolkit entitled Preparing for the Flu: A Communication Toolkit for Institutions of Higher Education which contains fact sheets, a poster, a template letter, and a template announcement to use for communicating about H1N1 with students, faculty, staff, and parents.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Department of Defense Web Portal

According to an Aug. 17, 2009 news release, the Department of Defense (DoD) launched a new home page,, "designed to invite participation from the public and make military news and information more accessible." A new feature called "We Want to Hear From You" allows users to ask Department of Defense leaders questions and vote on policy issues they would like to have explained. It also includes a frequently asked questions section. The site provides quick access to the most popular DoD sites including DoD news, the Pentagon Channel, and DoD social media sites.

The former portal,, will now serve as a news Web site and will be accessible from

Monday, August 10, 2009

New Drought Portal

Fifteen government agencies have come together to create a new portal for ascertaining the location and impacts of droughts in the United States. from the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) is part of an interactive system designed to:

  • Provide early warning about emerging and anticipated droughts
  • Assimilate and quality control data about droughts and models
  • Provide information about risk and impact of droughts to different agencies and stakeholders
  • Provide information about past droughts for comparison and to understand current conditions
  • Explain how to plan for and manage the impacts of droughts
  • Provide a forum for different stakeholders to discuss drought-related issues

The portal includes the U.S. Drought Monitor and the Drought Impact Reporter which alternate on the screen and use a clickable color-coded United States map to provide a dramatic visual display. Drought conditions and impact statements for states and regions are available from a pull-down menu. Other features include forecasting, planning, research, and recovery information, and educational materials targeted to general audiences and to K-12 students and teachers.

Monday, August 03, 2009

NYT Artist/Blogger Maira Kalman series on American democracy

Thanks to colleague Scott Shaffer (University of Vermont) for sharing this amazing NYT blog entry on Benjamin Franklin and inventing by Maira Kalman:

Artist Maira Kalman's series on American democracy, "And the Pursuit of Happiness", begins with the inauguration of President Obama and continues with a new entry each month. The artwork is beautiful and the entries are thoughtful and inspiring.

For the RSS feed:

Friday, July 31, 2009

H1N1 Influenza Vaccine Recommendations

On July 29, 2009 the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met to make recommendations about who should receive the H1N1 vaccine when it initially becomes available. They recommended the following groups receive the vaccine first:

  • Pregnant women
  • Household contacts and caregivers of children younger than 6 months
  • Healthcare and emergency services personnel
  • All people from 6 months through 24 years of age
  • People aged 25 through 64 years of age who have health conditions that might make them more susceptible to medical complications from influenza

Although not expected, if there is a shortage of the H1N1 vaccine, the first three groups above are still targeted to receive the vaccine, but the last two groups change to:

  • Children 6 months through 4 years of age
  • Children 5 through 18 years of age who have chronic medical conditions.

For more information about the rationale behind selecting these groups, see the H1N1 vaccination recommendations press release.

The CDC stresses that this vaccine is not a substitute for the seasonal flu vaccine. Both may be administered on the same day.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cash for Clunkers

Are you considering buying a new car but are not sure if your old car qualifies for the government rebate? (Car Allowance Rebate System) has a frequently asked questions section to help you decide if your old car qualifies and, if so, for what amount($3,500 or $4,500).

Friday, July 24, 2009

CDC Addresses Obesity in the U.S.

A July 24, 2009 report released by the CDC entitled Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States, html version or (pdf version) contains some rather alarming statistics. Approximately two thirds of adults and one fifth of children in the United States are overweight. An estimated 33% of adults are classifed overweight with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25-29, 34% are classified obese with a BMI of 30 or greater, and nearly 6% are classified extremely obese with a BMI of 40 or greater. About 17% of children and adolescents fall above the 95 percentile of sex-specific BMI for age growth charts.

The CDC is concerned because being overweight or obese increases the risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers. To help communities promote healthier eating and active living behaviors, the CDC has initiated the Common Community Measures for Obesity Prevention Project which recommends a set of 24 strategies and measurements for communities to use to "plan and monitor environmental and policy-level changes for obesity prevention." The 24 strategies fall under six general strategies:

  • promote the availability of affordable healthy food and beverages
  • support healthy food and beverage choices
  • encourage breastfeeding
  • encourage physical activity or limit sedentary activity among children and youth
  • create safe communities that support physical activity
  • encourage communities to organize for change.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Older Population

The Census Bureau has released today, Monday, July 20, 2009 a study entitled, An Aging World: 2008. Commissioned by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Aging, the study contains detailed international information about life expectancy; health; disability; gender balance; marital status; living arrangements; education and literacy; labor force participation and retirement; and pensions.

Statistics that might be surprising include the current rate of growth of older people in developing countries is more than double that in developed nations. Also, the so-called "oldest old" or those 80 and above are the fastest growing portion of the total population in many countries. For more details about the report, see NIH News.

Moon Walk

The last few weeks t.v. stations have constantly played images of Michael Jackson moonwalking, but today's moonwalking image is a 40 year old video of Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the surface of the moon and uttering the now famous, "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." Walking across the surface of the moon along with fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin while astronaut Michael Collins manned the space module, Armstrong likened the scenery to the American dessert.

YouTube has made available videos of both the moon landing and Armstrong's speech. NASA has a link to the news conference of President Obama with Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins at 2:30 p.m. today. Also available through NASA is the text of President Kennedy's May 25, 1961 speech proposing to put a human on the Moon by the end of the decade and his Sept. 12, 1961 address at Rice University with his oft-quoted words "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

Given this Rice and Houston connection, SpaceFest is commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with a four day (July 17-20, 2009) celebration at Houston's downtown park, Discovery Green. Entertainment includes music, space films, historical exhibits, and activities for kids.

For more information about Rice University's extensive involvement in space initiatives, see the Rice News story "We choose to go to the moon."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Security and Stability in Afghanistan

The Department of Defense has released its latest version (June 2009) of Progress toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan. The report states the "core goal for the United States in Afghanistan and Pakistan is to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al-Qaida and its extremist allies, their support structures, and their safe havens in Pakistan, and to prevent their return to either country."

In order to achieve the core goal, the report lists the following objectives:

  • Disrupting terrorist networks in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan to degrade any ability they have to plan and launch international terrorist attacks.
  • Promoting a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan that serves the Afghan people and can eventually function, especially regarding internal security, with limited international support.
  • Developing increasingly self-reliant Afghan security forces that can lead the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism fight with reduced U.S. assistance.
  • Assisting efforts to enhance civilian control and stable constitutional government in Pakistan and a vibrant economy that provides opportunity for the people of Pakistan.
  • Involving the international community to actively assist in addressing these objectives for Afghanistan and Pakistan, with an important leadership role for the UN.

The 76 page report includes an executive summary, acronyms, statistics and tables, and discussion about strategies to meet the objectives.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Track Environmental Exposures & Chronic Health Conditions

According to a July 7, 2009 press release the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched the online Environmental Public Health Tracking Network which enables users to track environmental exposures and chronic health conditions. According to Michael McGeehin, Ph.D., director of the Division of Environmental Hazard and Health Effects of CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, "The Tracking Network is the foundation we need to make better environmental health decisions and help prevent chronic illnesses, such as asthma, cancer, and heart disease."

This program has already proven beneficial for the Utah Department of Health which received a call from a person concerned about incidents of cancer in his neighborhood. Instead of taking a year to complete a study, in less than a day the tracking program was able to determine the likelihood of cancer in his area was no greater than in the state as a whole.

In addition to the press release and site, A YouTube video is available with more details about the program.

Monday, June 15, 2009

2010 Census

To lay the groundwork for the 2010 Census, census workers are already canvassing addresses in 151 local census offices. They plan to finish by mid July. Census workers will carry an official Census Bureau badge and will never ask for bank or social security information. Workers also take an oath not to reveal respondents' answer even to official government agencies such as the FBI, the IRS, the CIA, Welfare, or Immigration.

The 2010 Census kicks off in January 2010 in remote Alaskan villages. In late March most Americans will receive their census forms by mail or in person. An advance letter will inform people that the census is about to begin. Census forms will be available by request in five languages other than English: Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Russian.

It is important for everyone to complete census forms since data collected from the census are used to decide how many Congressional seats a state gets as well as what community services and how much federal funding local, state, and tribal governments will receive.

For those interested in a job with the census, peak recruitment begins in the fall of 2009 with most hiring occurring in the spring of 2010. For more information and for a link to a practice test for potential census workers, access the 2010 Census Job site.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Cyberspace Policy Review

According to a May 29, 2009 White House press release, President Obama's requested report on cybersecurity is now available. Entitled Cyberspace Policy Review: Assuring a Trusted and Resilient Information and Communications Infrastructure, the report contains the following five main chapters:
  1. Leading from the Top
  2. Building Capacity for a Digital Nation
  3. Sharing Responsibility for Cybersecurity
  4. Creating Effective Information Sharing and Incident Response
  5. Encouraging Innovation

Intelligence Community Overview

In an introduction to Consumer's Guide to Intelligence released May 28, 2009, David Shedd, Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Policy, Plans, and Requirements, states that "... it is important for consumers to understand the mission, background, opportunities, and challenges facing the IC (Intelligence Community)." The report begins by explaining what the Intelligence Community is and what it can and cannot do. It discusses sources and levels of intelligence; planning and direction; collection; processing; analysis and production; and dissemination. The report also details what role consumers can play in the intelligence process.

To read other publications by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, access their Reports and Publications page.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Home Foreclosure Help

To provide foreclosure alternatives the federal government has created According to a May 14, 2009 press release, these alternatives "provide incentives for servicers and borrowers to pursue short sales and deeds-in-lieu (DIL) of foreclosure in cases where the borrower is generally eligible for a MHA modification but does not qualify or is unable to complete the process, which helps prevent costly foreclosures and minimizes the damage that foreclosures impose on borrowers, financial institutions and communities." To help consumers determine eligibility for the program, the Making Home Affordable web site includes self assessment tools. The site also warns consumers to beware of foreclosure rescue scams and links to tips for avoiding mortgage modification scams and foreclosure rescue scams.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Biological Lab Safety

The Defense Science Board (DSB) which provides independent advice to the Secretary of Defense just released its final report about safety in DoD (Department of Defense) biological labs. When comparing DoD labs with those of similar size in government, industry, and academia, the report found that DoD labs were as good or better. The labs also exceeded recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the DSB task force also found that "a determined adversary cannot be prevented from obtaining very dangerous biological materials intended for nefarious purposes, if not from DoD laboratories, then from other sources." Therefore, the task force recommended improvements in seven areas:
  • Cyber Red Team (computer systems security)
  • Monitoring Activities
  • Biological Personnel Reliability Program
  • Overseas Regulations
  • Compliance Inspections
  • BSAT (Biological Select Agents and Toxins) Transport
  • Public Education and Relations
  • Wednesday, May 20, 2009

    GAO Report - Alleged Abuse at Schools & Treatment Centers

    On May 19, 2009 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a 62 page report entitled Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers. The one page highlights version of the GAO's testimony before the House Committee on Education and Labor gives background and examples about the use of restraints and seclusions in public and private schools that resulted in abuse or death. To prepare the report, GAO reviewed federal and state laws about the use of restraints and seclusions in schools, examined allegations of abuse from the past twenty years, and looked at police reports, autopsies, and school policies of closed cases. GAO personnel also interviewed parents, attorneys, and school officials and searched to find the current employment status of staff involved in the cases.

    GAO found the following common themes in the 10 cases of restraint or seclusion they examined that resulted in either a criminal conviction, a civil or administrative liability finding, or a large financial settlement:
    • they involved children with disabilities who were restrained and secluded often in cases where they were not physically aggressive and their parents did not give consent
    • restraints that block air to the lungs can be deadly
    • teachers and staff in the cases were often not trained on the use of seclusions and restraints
    • teachers and staff from at least 5 of the 10 cases continue to be employed as educators.
    The highlights version of the report also contains a chart with details about four of the ten cases.

    Monday, May 11, 2009

    Banks' Stress Test

    According to a Board of Governors' press release dated May 7, 2009, the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation made public the results of a comprehensive assessment of the financial conditions of the nation's 19 largest bank holding companies (BHCs). Called the Supervisory Capital Assessment Program (SCAP), the assessment identified "potential losses, resources available to absorb losses, and resulting capital buffer needed for the 19 participating BHCs."

    The SCAP complements the Treasury's Capital Assistance Program (CAP) whose function is to make capital available to financial institutions "as a bridge to private capital in the future."

    Both the Overview of Results (333 KB PDF)and a statement by Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben S. Bernanke are available.

    Thursday, May 07, 2009

    U.S. Nuclear Strategy

    The Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States has released its final report about U.S. nuclear strategy. Entitled America's Strategic Posture: The Final Report of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United, the executive summary's introduction states that in preparing its report the Commission addressed the following questions:

    • What factors in the external security environment should inform U.S. policy and strategy?
    • How has U.S. nuclear and strategic policy evolved since the end of the Cold War?
    • What role should nuclear weapons and U.S. strategic military capabilities more generally (including missile defense) play today in U.S. military strategy and national security strategy?
    • How should U.S. forces be postured? How many nuclear weapons are “enough?”
    • How can political instruments be used to shape the security environment? What can arms control contribute? How can nonproliferation be strengthened?
    • What is the most efficient and effective way to maintain a safe, secure,
      and reliable deterrent?

    Monday, May 04, 2009

    Terrorism Reports

    Two new annual reports about terrorism are now available.

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    Swine (H1N1) Flu

    Local, state, national and international agencies have organized resources to keep the public well informed about swine flu.
    Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services (HCPHES) has created a Swine and Pandemic Flu Resources page to provide information for businesses, healthcare providers, first responders, educators, and the public.

    The Texas Department of Health Services also has an extensive listing of resources on its swine flu page including information for professionals and news releases about precautions such as school closures.

    The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a wide variety of frequently updated multi-media links about flu/swine flu (now called by them H1N1 flu).

    The World Health Organization provides constant updates about the threat of an influenza pandemic.

    Commercial Vendors
    EBSCO Publishing announced that its DynaMed is providing free swine flu information to health care providers and institutions throughout the world. DynaMed's Swine Influenza resource helps medical care providers stay current "with recommendations for monitoring, diagonosing, and treating patients with flu-like illnesses."
    Gale Cengage Learning is providing free access to dozens of eBooks in Gale Virtual Reference Library and to its newly created Swine Flu Portal in Global Issues in Context which is updated daily.

    Latest Updates
    CDC frequent updates about H1N1 has a comprehensive list of links about H1N1 Virus plus the latest updates including the 5/5/09 update about recommendations concerning closing schools.

    5/4/09 Links for special populations/situations in addition to the ones listed several days ago are:
    First Responders

    Texas and Area Cases

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    World Digital Library

    Modeled on the American Memory project from the U.S. Library of Congress, the World Digital Library is now available in seven languages - Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Partners include UNESCO, archives and museums from around the world, the Library of Congress (who maintains the site) and other national libraries. The World Digital Library makes available for free over the Internet in a variety of formats, languages and time periods "significant primary materials, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, recordings, films, prints, photographs, architectural drawings, and other types of primary sources."

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Celebrate Earth Day

    Celebrate Earth Day today and every day with tips from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has an Earth Day site with information about the history of Earth Day, a widget to get daily environmental information, environmental podcasts, and practical ideas for everyone to help make Earth a greener place.

    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    National Academies Historic Documents Available

    According to an April 10, 2009 press release, the National Academies completed "the first phase of a partnership with Google to digitize the library's collection of reports from 1863 to 1997, making them available – free, searchable, and in full text – through Google Book Search." Plans are to have the entire collection of nearly 11,000 reports digitized by 2011.

    The press release describes the following available reports:

    • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 1 (1863–1894). This was the first NAS publication series, and it includes information about the Academy's early work for the government on topics such as how to prevent compass deviation which sent iron warships off course, whether the metric system of weights and measures should be adopted, and how the new U.S. Geological Service should be organized.
    • Investigation of the Scientific and Economic Relations of the Sorghum Sugar Industry (1882). This report was the Academy's first self-initiated study, produced by the first committee to include non-Academy members.
    • Proposed U.S. Program for the International Geophysical Year, 1957-1958. American participation in the International Geophysical Year – a historic, worldwide scientific effort that investigated the workings of the Earth and saw the launch of the first satellites – was guided and coordinated by a committee of the Academy.
    • The Polar Regions and Climatic Change (1984) Changes in Earth's polar regions are widely covered in the news today, but the Academies have been studying this phenomenon for more than 20 years.

    The National Academies is made up of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council. Although private nonprofit institutions, they operate under a congressional charter to provide science, technology, and health policy advice to the nation. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln "signed into being" the National Academy of Science to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" when asked by any department of the government. Expansions included the National Research Council in 1916, the National Academy of Engineering in 1964, and the Institute of Medicine in 1970.

    Thursday, April 09, 2009

    NIH Public Access Help

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has created a page to help scientists who must submit final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts arising from NIH funded research to the digital archive PubMed Central. NIH Public Access and NIH Manuscript Submission - Useful Resources & Tools includes information about how to address copyright and how to submit and cite papers. It also has links to the NIH Manuscript Submission System and to the PMID:PMCID converter tool for translating PUBMed Identifiers (PMID) to PMC Identifiers (PMCID) or vice versa.

    According to the NIH Public Access Policy, "Final, peer-reviewed manuscripts must be posted to the NIHMS upon acceptance for publication, and be made publicly available on PMC no later than 12 months after the official date of publication."

    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    China's Military Power

    On March 25, 2009 the Department of Defense (DOD) released its annual report about the current and future military capability of the People's Republic of China. The Military Power of the People's Republic of China 2009 discusses their grand, security, and military strategies through the next 20 years.

    Previous annual reports from 2002-2008 about the military capability of the People's Republic of China are also available.

    Monday, March 09, 2009

    Economic Stimulus Plan Web Sites

    If you are seeking information about the stimulus plans, in addition to the Obama Administration's which helps Americans track spending from the $787 Billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, several federal and independent agencies have pertinent web sites:

    IRS Information Related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 highlights the following topics:

    • COBRA: Health Insurance Continuation Subsidy

    • Tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time home buyers

    • Tax credit of $400 or $800 for many taxpayers

    • $250 payment to Social Security Recipients, Veterans and Railroad Retirees

    • Deductions for state and local sales taxes for purchasing certain new 2009 vehicles

    • Tips to avoid Recovery Rebate Credit confusion from the U.S. Department of the Treasury contains links about making housing affordable, the Consumer and Business Lending Initiative (TALF), the Capital Assistance Program (CAP), the Financial Stability Plan, fact sheets, and press releases and statements.

    The fiscal year 2010 budget overview from the Office of Management and Budget describes the Obama Administration's fiscal policies and major budgetary initiatives.

    State Economic Stimulus Plans from the National Conference of State Legislatures provides details about state-level stimulus plans for 16 states.

    Stimulus Watch describes projects that are candidates for funding by federal grant programs once the stimulus bill passes. This site allows people with local knowledge about the proposed projects in their cities to find, discuss, and rate the projects.

    Wednesday, March 04, 2009

    Consumer and Business Loans

    According to a March 3, 2009 press release, the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board rolled out the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), part of the Consumer and Business Lending Initiative. The TALF potentially makes $1 trillion available for loans to businesses and households.

    The press release explains:

    The TALF is designed to catalyze the securitization markets by providing financing to investors to support their purchases of certain AAA-rated asset-backed securities (ABS). These markets have historically been a critical component of lending in our financial system, but they have been virtually shuttered since the worsening of the financial crisis in October. By reopening these markets, the TALF will assist lenders in meeting the borrowing needs of consumers and small businesses, helping to stimulate the broader economy.

    On March 17, 2009 the program will accept subscriptions for funding and on March 25 the new securitizations will be funded, creating new lending capacity for additional future loans. Funding should continue on a monthly basis through December 2009 or longer at the discretion of the Federal Reserve Board.

    See for additional information about the TALF and the CBLI (Consumer Business Lending Initiative).

    Thursday, February 26, 2009

    Obama's Proposed Budget

    President Obama's proposed fiscal year 2010 budget entitled A New Era of Responsibility: Renewing America’s Promise is now available. The document provides an overview of the full fiscal year 2010 budget that will be released later in the spring. It describes the Obama Administration’s fiscal policies and major budgetary initiatives.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    Track Spending from the Economic Stimulus Package

    To enable Americans to track spending from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law on Tuesday, Feb. 17, the Obama Administration has created The site includes a video introduction by President Obama, graphs that chart spending by major categories, timelines of major milestones, a place to share how the Recovery Act is affecting you, and a link to the complete bill.

    Wednesday, February 04, 2009

    Reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan

    Quarterly Inspector General reports about reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan are now available.

    SIGAR's (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) second quarterly report to Congress (Jan. 2009) about Afghanistan summarizes oversight reports on reconstruction since 2002, discusses observations about challenges to reconstruction, and outlines SIGAR's methodology for oversight.

    SIGIR's (Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction) Jan. 2009 quarterly report about Iraq "examines the obligation and expenditure of the four major U.S. reconstruction accounts, updates progress on significant projects in the provinces, and reviews key political, economic, and security developments that will affect the U.S. program in Iraq during 2009." It also makes the following recommendations:

    • Expeditiously appoint new leadership and clearly articulate policy and budget direction.
    • Re-evaluate and re-shape the reconstruction management structure to fit the new era in Iraq.
    • More efficiently integrate civil and military management structures.
    • Effectively manage the security situation in accord with the terms of the new Security Agreement.
    • Urge the Government of Iraq to embrace and sustain its primary role in reconstruction.

    Response to Nuclear Detonation

    Unfortunately in today's world United States public and private institutions must think about what to do in the event of a nuclear detonation. To address this topic the Homeland Security Council has just released its Planning Guide for Response to a Nuclear Detonation: First Edition targeted to emergency response planners and their leadership. The guide "addresses the unique effects and impacts of a nuclear detonation such as scale of destruction, shelter and evacuation strategies, unparalleled medical demands, management of nuclear casualties, and radiation dose management concepts." It focuses on what to do the first few days before Federal resources could be put in place.

    Wednesday, January 28, 2009

    Indian (Native American) Affairs Lawyer

    The University of Nebraska has a new Web site detailing the life and works of Charles J. Kappler, known primarily for writing Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties. Mr. Kappler's long list of accomplishments include serving on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, acting as co-counsel in the first case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, and participating in major Indian law cases before the United States Supreme Court.The Web site even includes how the authors searched major legal databases to gain access to Kappler's court cases.

    Thursday, January 22, 2009

    Economic Downturn Income Tax Issues

    Given the current economic situation, the IRS is beginning the 2009 tax season with information to help financially challenged taxpayers. The IRS is doing such things as postponing collection actions, being more flexible with missed payments, conducting second reviews when local real-estate valuations are in question, arranging options to help taxpayers avoid default, and expediting levy releases for hardship reasons. For more details about this assistance, see IRS Begins Tax Season 2009 with Steps to help financially Distressed Taxpayers.

    The IRS has also created a page of "what-if" scenarios listing possible consequences for topics ranging from losing a job or losing a home through foreclosure to filing for bankruptcy protection, withdrawing money from an IRA, or facing drops in value for a 401k.

    Wednesday, January 14, 2009

    Stability and Security in Iraq

    The Department of Defense has released its Dec. 2008 quarterly report, Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq. The report indicates progress toward political, security, and economic stability in Iraq. Also of interest are charts and graphs scattered throughout the publication on such topics as oil production and export, civilian deaths, U.S. deaths, weapons caches, neighborhood stability, and MoD and Mol operational readiness. Another helpful tool is a list of acronyms and abbreviations.

    Previous quarterly reports are also available.

    Wednesday, January 07, 2009

    Iraq Reconstruction

    What is the status of reconstruction in Iraq? Reports about reconstruction progress are available from SIGIR, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction which replaced the Coalition Provisional Authority Inspector General (CPA-IG), created by Congress to provide oversight of the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF). Quarterly reports from SIGIR are available from March 2004 to the present. The SIGIR reports site also includes "lessons learned" reports, audit reports, project assessment reports, testimony before Congress, and links to other related resources.

    Credit Crisis Timeline

    The Federal Reserve has posted a timeline of events and actions for the credit crisis. The Timeline of the Financial Crisis lists market events and actions by the Fed and other government agencies. Included are links to official source documents, relevant economic data, and government agency websites. Additional content will be added to the site in the coming months.

    New Military Reports

    New reports are available from the Defense Science Board. Challenges to Military Operations in Support of U.S. Interests [2007 Summer Study] is available as an executive summary (Vol. I) or as the main report (Vol. II). The introduction paints a grim picture: "The United States could well confront the possibility of going to war abroad in the face of significant devastation in the homeland--dividing forces between homeland catastrophe relief operations and combat abroad--even facing the possibility that deploy and supply of U.S. military forces could be delayed and disrupted." The study investigated and made recommendations for seven areas for which the United States might need more preparation:

    • Future of war
    • Unconventional weapons and technology proliferation
    • Nuclear proliferation-a special case
    • Unconventional operational concepts and the homeland
    • What we know and don't know about adversary capabilities: intelligence
    • Fighting through asymmetric counterforce
    • Strategic communication--another instrument of U.S. power

    A December 2008 report also addressed nuclear weapons:Permanent Task Force on Nuclear Weapons Surety Report: Nuclear Weapons Inspections for the Strategic Nuclear Forces. An April 2008 related report dealt with unauthorized movement of nuclear weapons.