Monday, December 23, 2013

FDA Food Safety Proposed Rule

The FDA is proposing a rule that would "require the largest food businesses in the United States and abroad to take steps to prevent facilities from being the target of intentional attempts to contaminate the food supply." Under the proposed rule, a food facility would be "required to have a written food defense plan that addresses significant vulnerabilities in its food production process" and identify and implement strategies to address these vulnerabilities. Companies would also need to "establish monitoring procedures and corrective actions, verify that the system is working, ensure that personnel assigned to the vulnerable areas receive appropriate training and maintain certain records."

More information is available from the FDA News & Events page or from the proposed rule.

MOOCS Letter to the President - Science & Technology Advisory Council

The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) has released a December 2013 report to President Obama evaluating the present and future impact of MOOCs. The report concludes:
After only two years of practical experience with MOOCs and related technologies, it is too early to tell whether substantial gains in the quality of instruction, access, achievement, and cost will be realized. But there is no question that the new technologies offer the potential for expanding access for millions of Americans, not only to college degrees, but to a wide range of effective and low-cost training modules and courses that might assist in providing the vocational skills that a twenty-first century workforce needs. To be truly successful in promoting both expansion of access and improvement in the quality of education, the MOOCs and their relatives will need to (1) employ excellent technology, (2) foster excellent pedagogy, (3) apply the results of learning science, (4) deploy new techniques of big data analysis to provide rapid feedback to teachers and learners, and (5) cultivate an online social ecosystem to enhance peer-to-peer learning and teaching. Although the jury is out, and there are legitimate reasons to be skeptical, PCAST believes that all of these conditions for success can potentially be met.

The recommendations that follow reflect PCAST’s thinking about how the Federal Government might most effectively contribute to achieving the potential of MOOCs to help address the Nation’s challenges in higher education. Going forward, we intend to explore the potential of information technology to improve K-12 education, technical training, and adult education as well as higher education, and we will report on our findings in the future.

Read the full report at

Friday, December 20, 2013

Nanotechnology: A Policy Primer

On December 16, 2013 the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a new science and technology report by John F. Sargent, Jr. addressing three topics of interest to Congress regarding nanotechnology: "federal research and development (R&D) in nanotechnology; U.S. competitiveness; and environmental, health, and safety (EHS) concerns." Nanotechnology: A Policy Primer addresses those three topics plus nanomanufacturing and public understanding of and attitudes toward nanotechnology. The report is available as a PDF.

Google Transparency Reports and Government Requests

In 2010 Google launched the Transparency Report "to provide hard evidence of how laws and policies affect access to information online." They recently released numbers showing how many requests Google received from various governments to remove content from their services. There was a 68 percent increase of government requests to remove content from the last six months of 2012 to the first six months of 2013. Various types of governments or government officials have asked Google to remove political content ranging from judges, police departments, and town councils to countries such as Turkey and Russia. Reasons given for the requests include defamation, privacy and copyright laws.

Google emphasizes:

While the information we present in our Transparency Report is certainly not a comprehensive view of censorship online, it does demonstrate a worrying upward trend in the number of government requests, and underscores the importance of transparency around the processes governing such requests.

The report also includes a link to a safe browsing page detailing how many malware and phishing websites Google detects each week, how many users they warn, and which networks around the world host malware sites. Google also has a series of videos that describe malware infections and the cleanup process.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering JFK

John F. Kennedy
May 29, 1917 - November 22, 1963

John F. Kennedy Papers (in Fondren = Gov AE2:114:961-963, Public Papers of the Presidents, 1961-63); (digital through Univ. of Michigan); (digital through JFK Museum)
Assassination Documents:
Space Speech at Rice University, Sept. 12, 1962

Noncopyrighted official portrait available from Wikimedia Commons 


Friday, November 08, 2013

OMB Report on Impacts of the Government Shutdown

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has published a report discussing the impacts and economic, budgetary, and programmatic costs of the October 2013 Federal government shutdown. Bullet points under each section of Impacts and Costs of the October 2013 Federal Government Shutdown provide a quick view of the negative impacts.

2013 Survey of Americans on U.S. Role in Global Health

The Kaiser Family Foundation has published its fifth survey discussing Americans' perceptions and knowledge about the role the United States plays in improving the health of people living in developing countries. The 2013 survey "explores new questions including the public’s perception of the 'bang for the buck' of U.S. aid and its ability to promote self-sufficiency in developing countries, views of spending reductions in the context of the federal budget deficit, and more detail on people’s sources of information, including how much news they report hearing about specific global health issues." The report site includes a summary of key findings for quick review.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Hear Ye, Hear Ye - 1st Audio Book Now Available on FDsys

GPO Announcement updated Nov. 7, 2013:
The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) has made an audio book available for the first time on the agency’s Federal Digital System (FDsys). Published by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the audio book, Getting to Know the President: Intelligence Briefings of Presidential Candidates, 1952-2004, is a historical account of the information sharing process between the intelligence community and presidential candidates and presidents-elect during campaigns and administration transitions. The audio book is available in an .mp3 format on FDsys, a one-stop site to authentic, published Government information. The print version of the book is also available through GPO’s bookstore.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Sports-Related Concussions in Youth

Sports-Related Concussions in Youth: Improving the Science, Changing the Culture is now available for free download or purchase (paperback) from the National Academies Press. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC) convened the Committee on Sports-Related Concussions in Youth to research concussions in youth of elementary-school age through young adulthood, including military personnel. The committee "was charged with reviewing the available literature on concussions, within the context of developmental neurobiology, regarding the causes of concussions, their relationships to impacts to the head or body during sports, the effectiveness of protective devices and equipment in preventing or ameliorating concussions, screening for and diagnosis of concussions, their treatment and management, and their long-term consequences."

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Government Operations and Websites Impacted by Shutdown

For information about how the government shutdown is affecting the operations and services of the federal government, see the shutdown information page at The White House has also posted links to agency contingency plans at
Most government websites indicate being closed completely or not updating information because of the shutdown. A partial list of shut down websites include those from the:
  • Census Bureau
  • Copyright Office (Will accept registrations to be processed once the shutdown ends.)
  • Library of Congress (except the legislative sites and
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
  • Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)
  • National Center for Education Statistics(NCES) sites including ERIC,the Digest of Educational Statistics, and International Comparisons in Education. Fondren has three commercial ERIC databases and an extensive collection of ERIC microfiche.
  • National Science Foundation
  • Interior Department including USGS (United States Geological Survey) (Information about Interior Department closures is available from

A partial list of sites open but not updating include:

  • FDSys (Federal Digital System)(Provides official access to documents from all three branches of government). Exception: Federal Register services necessary to safeguard human life, protect property or provide other emergency services will be updated
  • (Normally provides comprehensive information on government resources, services and forms for citizens, businesses and government.)
  • but statistical sites are closed - see above
  • CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)(but CDC Wonder for disseminating health information is closed)
  • Health and Human Services sites such as NIH (National Institutes of Health),PubMed, and AHRQ (Agency for Healhcare Research and Quality)
  • (Housing and Urban Development)
  • (Will accept applications, but applications will not be processed by any of the federal agencies.)

The USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) has funds to continue operating for several weeks. The Department of Energy pages presently have no statement as to their status.

On Oct. 3, 2013 Inside Higher Education documented interruptions in academic research as a result on the shutdown in an article by Michael Stratford entitled Locked Out of the Library.

If you wish to contact Congress to describe how the lack of access affects you, Who Represents Me, Texas provides a database to identify your U.S. House of Representatives member as well as the Senators from Texas.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Employment Trends: Young Adults and Older Workers

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce and The Generations Initiative have published a report analyzing the "divergent labor market trends for young and older adults since 1980." The major findings of the report entitled Failure to Launch: Structural Shift and the New Lost Generation are:
  • In 1980, young adults reached the middle of the wage distribution at age 26; today, they do not reach the same point until age 30. For young African Americans, it has increased from age 25 to 33.
  • Young adults’ labor force participation rate has returned to its 1972 level, a decline that started in the late 1980s and has accelerated since 2000.
  • Older workers aren't crowding young adults out of the labor market: there are more job openings created from retirements per young person today than there were in the 1990s.
  • The 2000s were a lost decade for young adults. Between 2000 and 2012, the employment rate for young fell from 84 percent to 72 percent.
  • Opportunities have especially dwindled for young men, high school graduates, and young African Americans.

Read the full report and/or the executive summary.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Affordable Health Care Act Video

Confused by all the hype surrounding the Affordable Health Care Act? The Kaiser Family Foundation has created a 6.53 min. video to explain the basics of the act in a clear and entertaining way. See the English version The YouToons Get Ready for Obamacare: Health Insurance Changes Coming Your Way Under the Affordable Care Act or the Spanish version Los YouToons Se Preparan Para Obamacare: Cambios En Los Seguros Médicos Que Llegarán Con La Ley De La Salud a Bajo Precio.

For additional information, see Fondren's Understanding the Affordable Health Care Act LibGuide.

Both the guide and the video link to the official site for Affordable Health Care Act information,

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has released a report detailing the threats posed by the antibiotic-resistant germs having the most impact on human health. Yearly in the United States an estimated 2 million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria while about 23,0000 people die as a result of these infections. The infections can be contracted anywhere, but most deaths occur in hospitals and nursing homes. The report divides the resistant microorganisms into three levels: urgent, serious, and concerning. In the urgent category are Clostridium difficile (life-threatening diarrhea),carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE)(bloodstream infection), and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (gonorrhea).

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report

The bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission created to find the domestic and global causes of the financial crisis five years ago has released its final report. The commission "reviewed millions of pages of documents, interviewed more than 700 witnesses, and held 19 days of public hearings in New York, Washington, D.C. and communities across the country that were hard hit by the financial crisis." A website - - will host a wealth of additional material "including documents and emails, video of the Commission’s public hearings, testimony, and supporting research." In the future more materials will be made available through the National Archives and Records Administration.

UN Report on Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria

The United Nations has released its report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The 38 page report including pictures and charts concluded:
27. On the basis of the evidence obtained during our investigation of the Ghouta incident, the conclusion is that on 21 August 2013, chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, also against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale.

28. In particular, the environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent Sarin were used in Ein Tarma, Moadamiyah and Zamalka in the Ghouta area of Damascus.

The facts supporting the conclusion follow in the full report.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

698 New Laws for Texas

According to the Legislative Reference Library of Texas, 698 bills that passed during the regular session of the 83rd Legislature took effect on September 1, 2013 as did sections of bills passed in 2011. Access the list of new laws from The page includes links to the legislation.

The Aug. 31, 2013 Forth Worth Star Telegram also features a selection of these laws which include:
  • prohibiting teens under 18 from using tanning beds
  • prohibiting the use of drones to photograph people on private property without their consent
  • prohibiting motorists from using cellphones on school property (even outside a school zone) unless their vehicle is stopped or they are using a hands-free device
  • requiring drivers to move over a lane or slow to 20 mph below the posted speed for Texas Department of Transportation vehicles and tow trucks on the side of the road in addition to the previously listed first responder or law enforcement vehicles.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Report of the Subcommittee on Military Justice in Combat Zones

The Defense Legal Policy Board has released a report dated May 30, 2013 which addresses both best practices and areas for improvement regarding "military justice in cases of U.S. Service members alleged to have caused the death, injury or abuse of non-combatants in Iraq or Afghanistan." The Secretary of Defense's questions explored by the committee were:
  1. The manner in which such alleged offenses are initially reported and investigated; are there ways to ensure that alleged offenses are reported and investigated promptly, thoroughly, and accurately? Are there ways to improve cooperation with local law enforcement and local communities?
  2. The command level at which the initial and final disposition authority now resides in such cases; is it at the right levels, or should the disposition authority be withheld to a different level?
  3. In joint, deployed areas, should military justice be pursued within the joint force, utilizing joint resources, rather than having cases handled separately and within each component service?
  4. In deployed areas, are resources adequate for the investigation of offenses and the administration of military justice?
  5. Should the system of military justice be revised in some manner to improve the way in which cases involving multiple defendants are handled? In cases involving multiple defendants, should the system be revised in some manner to better secure the testimony and cooperation of those involved in the offense? Are there lessons to be learned from the civilian system?
  6. Does the military justice system in deployed areas fully preserve the rights of the accused, while also respecting the rights and needs of victims and witnesses?

To read the Report of the Subcommittee on Military Justice in Combat Zones access:

Friday, August 02, 2013

Targeting U.S. Technologies

The Defense Security Service has published its 2013 annual report about the targeting of U.S. technology by foreign entities. Targeting U.S. Technologies: A Trend Analysis of Cleared Industry Reporting uses "information contained in reports from industry to develop analytical assessments that articulate the threat to U.S. information and technology..." Key findings include that electronics was "East Asia and the Pacific's most commonly reported targeted technology, with attempts aimed at specific sensitive components rather than complete systems." U.S. defense technology may be the target of South and Central Asia while Near East entities tend to use "complicated and opaque procurement networks to attempt to avoid export-control regulations." Europe and Eurasia ranked fourth in collection attempts, but contain some of the most skillful collectors targeting U.S. information and technology.

Reports from 2008 through 2013 are available from the Defense Security Service's Counterintelligence Report's page.

SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) Quarterly Report

The July 30, 2013 SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) Quarterly Report pinpoints key concerns in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. In the introduction to the report, John F. Sopki, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan, states a concern that the Army has failed to act "on SIGAR’s recommendations to prevent supporters of the insurgency, including supporters of the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and al-Qaeda, from receiving government contracts." Among the contracting and procurement concerns he mentions is that the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF) has a monopoly on providing security service and USAID implementing partners who need armed security have to pay often inconsistent and inappropriate fees. The report also mentioned the Defense Department is "moving forward with a $771.8 million purchase of aircraft the Afghan National Army cannot operate or maintain."

SIGAR is launching a high risk list that will "call attention to programs, projects, and practices in Afghanistan that SIGAR finds especially vulnerable to waste, fraud, and abuse, or which may be otherwise seriously detrimental to the U.S. government’s reconstruction objectives."

The July 30 report along with other SIGAR reports is available from

Thursday, August 01, 2013

NSA's Core Values

Given the recent NSA leaks by Edward Snowden, NSA's Deputy Director, John C. Inglis, has added explanation of NSA/CSS's core values to its website. In addition to a core value message, Inglis has given answers to a set of questions about civil liberties vs national security and provided a link to a NSA/CSS Core Values Brochure.

A group composed of civil society groups, industry and international experts in communications surveillance law, and policy and technology experts has published a set of principles they believe nations should consider in relation to State surveillance of communications. International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance discusses the following principles: legality, legitimate aim, necessity, adequacy, proportionality, competent judicial authority, due process, user notification, transparency, public oversight, integrity of communications and systems, safeguards for international cooperation, and safeguards against illegitimate access.

Organizations participating in the International Principles are listed on the website as follows:
The International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance was co-operatively written by privacy organizations and advocates worldwide, including but not limited to Access, Article 19, Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia, Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, Association for Progressive Communications, Bits of Freedom, Center for Internet & Society India, Comision Colombiana de Juristas, Electronic Frontier Foundation, European Digital Rights, Fundación Karisma, Open Net Korea, Open Rights Group, Privacy International, and the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic. In addition, we also want to thank IP Justice, SHARE Foundation - SHARE Defense and Instituto NUPEF for help connecting concerned groups together.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Texas Senate Bill 5 Video Available

The Texas Senate maintains video archives of its committee hearings and proceedings. The June 25th Senate Session containing Senator Wendy Davis' 11 hour filibuster is now available online.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Effects of Climate Change on Sub_Saharan Africa, South Asia and South East Asia

Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience is now available from the World Bank (A report for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics. Washington, DC:World Bank. License: Creative Commons Attribution—NonCommercial–NoDerivatives3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.)The report makes a strong case "that climate change is a fundamental threat to economic development and the fight against poverty" in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and South East Asia and that there "can be no substitute for aggressive national emissions reduction targets."

2012 Revision of the World Population Prospects

Do you need world population data? The UN has released its online 2012 Revision of the World Population Prospects. Information is available from quick search images or from the left side bar which includes links under the broad topics of Data, Documentation, Methodology, Research, and Other Information.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

New Mental Health Website

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced the launch of, an online resource providing information about mental health. The site includes information about "about the signs of mental illness, how individuals can seek help, and how communities can host conversations about mental health." Also included are videos from people sharing their stories about mental illness, recovery, and hope.

A companion piece, the SAMHSA Toolkit for Community Conversations About Mental Health, will be available soon through the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration) website or store or

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Public Access to Federally-Supported R&D Data and Publications: Planning Meetings

The National Academies recently held two meetings to solicit comments by interested stakeholders regarding public access to federally-supported research and development data and publications. The first meeting focused on scientific data while the second focused on scholarly publications. The agenda, archived webcast, written statements, PowerPoints, and transcripts of public comments are now available for both meetings at (scroll to the bottom).

Friday, May 10, 2013

Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2013

On May 3, 2013 the Congressional Research Service published a report by Barbara Salazar Torreon listing "hundreds of instances in which the United States has used its Armed Forces abroad in situations of military conflict or potential conflict or for other than normal peacetime purposes." Its purpose is to serve as a rough survey for the time period 1798-2013 without "without reference to the magnitude of the given instance noted." As such, it is a good starting point for more extensive research.

Congressional Research Service reports on an extensive variety of topics are available to those with Rice access as part of ProQuest Congressional. Sources of free Congressional Research Service reports are listed on Fondren's Congress subject page.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Unemployment from a Child's Perspective

The Urban Institute, a nonpartisan economic and social policy research center arising in 1968 out of a blue-ribbon commission created by President Lyndon Johnson, released an issue brief In March 2013 by Julia Isaacs about how unemployment affects children. Unemployment from a Child's Perspective "provides estimates of children affected by unemployment by state and metropolitan area, considers the effects of parental job loss on child development, and reviews policies affecting the safety net for children of the unemployed."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

New Report on Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels

The National Academies Press has published a new report that assesses the potential for reducing petroleum consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 80% across the U.S. light-duty vehicles fleet by 2050 compared to 2005. Entitled Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels, the report analyzes scenarios that combine various fuel and vehicle pathways, "identifies barriers to implementation of these technologies and suggests policies to achieve the desired reductions." Both a free PDF and a reasonably priced paperback version of the report are available from the Academies' website.

Friday, March 22, 2013

New American Community Survey Bills

Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) are sponsoring two new bills limiting the reach of the American Community Survey. Representative Poe's bill, H.R.1078, seeks to make participation in the American Community Survey voluntary except with respect to certain basic questions. Senator Paul's bill, S.530, has similar wording. Poe explains the purpose of his bill on his website as does Senator Paul in a March 15, 2013 press release.

Terri Ann Lowenthal from The Census Project, an informal network of census stakeholder organizations, expresses strong concerns about the bills in her March 20, 2013 blog entry.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Impacts of Sequestration

With the threat of Sequestration cuts looming on March 1, many are wondering what the possible effects of Sequestration will be. The United States Senate Committee on Appropriations is conducting Sequestration hearings now and has made available letters from various government agencies discussing possible impacts. For more information, see The Impacts of Sequestration page.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Medigap: Spotlight on Enrollment, Premiums and Recent Trends

The Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of California at Los Angeles have released an analysis of Medigap plans designed to help with expenses not covered by Medicare. The study looks at national and state trends in enrollment and finds a variation across the country and within states regarding monthly premiums for identical plans. For more information access the study at .

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Protection of Classified Information: The Legal Framework

When WikiLeaks published classified information, many wondered about the legalities involved. Legal background information is now available from a new Congressional Research Service report, The Protection of Classified Information: The Legal Framework by Legislative Attorney Jennifer K. Elsea. According to the summary, the report
provides an overview of the relationship between executive and legislative authority over national security information, and summarizes the current laws that form the legal framework protecting classified information, including current executive orders and some agency regulations pertaining to the handling of unauthorized disclosures of classified information by government officers and employees. The report also summarizes criminal laws that pertain specifically to the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, as well as civil and administrative penalties. Finally, the report describes some recent developments in executive branch security policies and legislation currently before Congress (S. 3454).

* Understanding the Risks Inherent in Shadow Banking

Staff at the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank have published a paper exploring how shadow banking relates to systemic risk and the recent financial crisis. The paper, Understanding the Risks Inherent in Shadow Banking: A Primer and Practical Lessons Learned by David Luttrell, Harvey Rosenblum and Jackson Thies, is divided into two parts. "The first serves as a primer on shadow banking; the second provides a narrative of how the system froze during the financial crisis and pertinent lessons learned for the current reform effort." The paper explains shadow banking came about because technological advances opened up new avenues of credit. "The various other avenues of credit flow have been called the shadow banking system— so named because they intermediate credit with less transparency and regulation than in traditional banking. Shadow banks are at the center of our global market-based financial intermediation system, conducting maturity, liquidity, and credit transformation without explicit public sector credit guarantees or liquidity access."

Long-Term Implications of an Aging Population

The National Academies recently released a congressionally mandated study from the National Research Council about the long-term economic implications of the ratio of people aged 65+ to people aged 20-64 rising by 80%. Entitled Aging and the Macroeconomy: Long-Term Implications of an Older Population, the report offers "four practical approaches for preparing resources to support the future consumption of households and for adapting to the new economic landscape." A free pdf of the 239 page report is available from the Academies website as is a $49.00 paperback version. More information is available from the press release.

ACS Online Response Option

According to a Dec. 17, 2012 news release, in 2013 the Census Bureau will begin offering a secure online response option for the American Community Survey (ACS). Households sampled for the ACS will receive a package introducing the survey and providing a secure website to complete the survey which also includes new questions about computer and internet use. Alternative paper, telephone, and personal interviewing options are available for those not choosing the cost-effective secure website option.