Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Track Santa's Movements Online

A favorite with children during the holiday season is the online Santa Tracker available in several languages. Since 1955 the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), have provided a Santa tracking service to children all over the world. NORAD's creative website includes the Santa tracker and games and images related to the North Pole and Santa's Village. It even has apps to tract Santa from a mobile phone.

State Population Estimates

What states are the most populous? Find out using the December 2015 release from the  Census Bureau entitled "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rice: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015 (NST-EST2015-01." The publication includes the following note:

The estimates are based on the 2010 Census and reflect changes to the April 1, 2010 population due to the Count Question Resolution program and geographic program revisions. See Geographic Terms and Definitions at for a list of the states that are included in each region.  All geographic boundaries for the 2015 population estimates series except statistical area delineations are as of January 1, 2015.  For population estimates methodology statements, see

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

U.S. Energy Imports from Canada

On its beta website the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) provides an overview of Canadian energy imports into the United States. The entry reveals that Canada is the "largest source of U.S. crude oil and refined products" and is "one of the few countries from which U.S. crude oil imports are increasing."  Although the Keystone pipeline did not receive a presidential permit, crude oil from Alberta is being shipped by rail to points in the United States. Of interest to Houston is the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project, which began operating by rail in January 2014 from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast Texas refining sector with plans to expand capacity from the initial 520,000 b/d to 700,000 b/d. To see proposed routes for the actual pipelines especially for the Houston Lateral which would go through Liberty, Chambers and Harris counties, see TransCanada's map.
The EIA website entry also touches on coal, natural gas and electricity exports from Canada.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Cybersecurity: Legislation, Hearings, and Executive Branch Documents

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a new report on Dec. 10, 2015 by Rita Tehan entitled "Cybersecurity: Legislation, Hearings, and Executive Branch Documents." The report provides links to cybersecurity legislation and hearings from the 112th to the 114th Congresses and information about cybersecurity bills signed by the President. It also references other CRS reports covering various aspects of cybersecurity such as data and statistics and authoritative reports.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

President Obama Signs ESSA - No More "No Child Left Behind"

On December 10, 2015 President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act which does away with provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. The four versions of the bill [S.1177.ENR] are available from THOMAS (The Library of Congress).
The White House blog post of Dec. 7, 2015 compares President Obama'a priorities for the Every Student Succeeds Act with those of the Bipartisan Bill and No Child Left Behind. The Senate Legislative Activity page shows the main provisions of the act while the Education Week blog explains them.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

GAO Report About Asylum Application Fraud

On Dec. 2, 2015 the General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report entitled Asylum: Additional Actions Needed to Assess and Address Fraud Risks. The following provides reasons why the GAO did this study citing the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) and the DOJ (Department of Justice).

GAO was asked to review the status of the asylum system. This report addresses (1) what DHS and DOJ data indicate about trends in asylum claims, (2) the extent to which DHS and DOJ have designed mechanisms to prevent and detect asylum fraud, and (3) the extent to which DHS and DOJ designed and implemented processes to address any asylum fraud that has been identified. GAO analyzed DHS and DOJ data on asylum applications for fiscal years 2010 through 2014, reviewed DHS and DOJ policies and procedures related to asylum fraud, and interviewed DHS and DOJ officials in Washington, D.C., Falls Church, VA, and in asylum offices and immigration courts across the country selected on the basis of application data and other factors.

GAO recommended:

... that DHS and DOJ conduct regular fraud risk assessments and that DHS, among other things, implement tools for detecting fraud patterns, develop asylum-specific guidance for fraud detection roles and responsibilities, and implement timeliness goals for pending termination reviews.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Webinars, Nov. 17-19, Patent and Trademark Searching for Business Owners

The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are offering a free three-day webinar series next week to help business owners, inventors, entrepreneurs, and start-ups understand the value of conducting proper prior patent and trademark searches. The webinars will cover:
  • What are patents and trademarks?
  • What are the benefits of patent and trademark searching?
  • What are some of the strategies for conducting a search?
  • What are some of the factors to consider when you conduct a search?
Webinar Topics, USPTO Speakers, and Access Information:

Day 1 – November 17, 1 p.m. ET – Patent Searching – Gwen Blackwell
Join online at
Event number: 995 336 700 Event password: 12345
Join audio conference only: Call-in toll number (US/Canada): 1-650-479-3208 Access code: 995 336 700
Day 2 - November 18, 1 p.m. ET – Trademark Searching – Catherine Cain
Join online at
Event number: 995 724 657 Event password: 12345
Join audio conference only: Call-in toll number (US/Canada): 1-650-479-3208 Access code: 995 724 657
________________________________________ Day 3 – November 19, 1 p.m. ET – General Town Hall Q&A Session – Anthony Knight and Scott Baldwin
Join online at
Event number: 991 047 950 Event password: 12345
Join audio conference only: Call-in toll number (US/Canada): 1-650-479-3208 Access code: 991 047 950

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

According to a November 10, 2015 blog post, The United States Department of the Treasury in November 2015 launched to seek user input on the design changes to the site to be completed in 2017. Although, mandated by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, is currently functioning and provides access to information on how tax dollars are spent, the beta site allows the American public a chance to review, test, and provide feedback about what changes should be made to the site.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Veterans History Sites

As we thank veterans for their service on Veteran's Day, sometimes it's hard to imagine what they went through. Several sites make that imagining easier. The most comprehensive site is the Veterans History Project from the Library of Congress. It makes available personal narratives, correspondence and visual materials of American war veterans from World War I beginning in 1914 through the Iraq War, 2003-2011. Sites concentrating on specific wars also exist. For World War II, the Atlantic Magazine has created a stunning photo gallery including military and civilian photos, while the University of Miami has made available WWII posters encouraging support of the war effort. Texas Tech University has created the Vietnam Center and Archive which includes photographs, slides, maps, periodicals, audio, moving images, and books related to the Vietnam War, Indochina, and the impact of the war on the United States and Southeast Asia.

Monday, October 26, 2015

International Comparisons of the Quality of Life for the Aging

The Global AgeWatch Index has released it 2015 international report comparing quality of life in older age in different countries. The Index is supported by a global advisory panel of more than 40 independent experts in aging, health, social protection and human development and provides data for informed decisions about aging. Coming in at number 9, the United States was surpassed by Japan (8), Iceland (7), the Netherlands (6), Canada (5), Germany (4), Sweden (3), Norway (2), and Switzerland (1).

New Medicaid and Affordable Health Care Act Reports - General Accounting Office

Close to the 3rd enrollment period for the health insurance marketplace which begins Nov. 1, 2015, the General Accounting office has released four new pertinent reports:

Friday, October 02, 2015

October is National Employment Disability Awareness Month


This year is the 70th anniversary of NDEAM (National Disability Employment Awareness Month) and the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). See the Department of Labor's interactive timeline to learn more about other important events in disability employment history.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

DoD Releases Fiscal Year 2014 Defense Spending by State Report

From a September 28, 2015 DoD Press Release:

The Defense Spending by State Fiscal Year 2014 report examines U.S. defense spending in FY 2014, at the state and local levels, for all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

According to the budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2015, national defense spending is expected to decline 28 percent from FY 2011 to 2019 in real terms, after increasing by more than 65 percent from FY 2000 to 2010. Sequestration went into effect in March 2013 and required across-the-board cuts to defense and non-defense programs from FY 2013 to 2021. Over this period, defense spending will be reduced by a total of $454 billion.

The impact of these cuts depends in part on the number of defense personnel and amount of defense contract revenue in each state and region. This report highlights factors, such as the regional expenditures from military bases or private contractors, which can be used to evaluate each state's potential exposure to projected declines in defense spending.

View the FY2014 Defense Spending by State Report - Part 1 of 2.

View the FY2014 Defense Spending by State Report - Part 2 of 2.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

FCC Plans Open Source Accessibility Platform

According to an August 20, 2015 press release, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will "offer an open source video access platform that will enable Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or who have a speech disability to communicate directly with federal agencies and businesses in American Sign Language (ASL)."

The press release describes the system as follows:

The platform will provide open source applications for mobile and desktop operating systems which – along with direct video calling – will allow for text and high-quality voice communications. In addition, the FCC will provide applications that relay service users can download on their smartphones or desktops in order to communicate directly with agency representatives. An ASL-user will be able to click on who they want to talk to and the call will be connected directly to a customer service center staffed by, most commonly, another person who is deaf or hard of hearing who is fluent in ASL. The Commission plans to roll out a beta version later this year with final release schedule for spring of 2016.

The FCC’s platform will provide the basic building blocks that are common to any IP-based application. The platform also will establish a set of interoperability standards to be used by today’s two-way video communications providers, ensuring seamless usability while maintaining freedom of choice for all ASL users. Giving applications developers open access to source code will enable them to provide apps with easy interoperability for those receiving calls.

Under the leadership of Chairman Tom Wheeler, the FCC has become a leader in using "interactive video to allow deaf and hard of hearing callers direct access to ASL consumer support." Other agencies such as the Small Business Administration, the Census Bureau, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the City of New York are already following or planning to follow the FCC's example.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Smithsonian's Plan for Increased Public Access to Federally Funded Research Results

On August 18, 2015 the Smithsonian Institution released its Plan for Increased Public Access to Results of Federally Funded Research  which proposes "to provide increased public access to certain peer-reviewed scholarly publications and supporting digital research data"  for research partially or wholly funded by a federal funding source. The plan applies to "all fields in which the Smithsonian conducts  research, including but not limited to the fields of science, history, art, and culture." 

Address Wildfire Threat with National Seed Strategy

According to an August 17, 2015 press release, as "part of a comprehensive, science-based strategy to address the threat of wildfires that are damaging landscapes across the West, the Department of the Interior today announced the release of a National Seed Strategy for rehabilitation and restoration to help foster resilient and healthy landscapes." More information is available from the press release and the FAQs.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Iran Nuclear Agreement: Selected Issues for Congress

On August 6, 2015 the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report entitled Iran Nuclear Agreement: Selected Issues for Congress By Kenneth Katzman and Paul K. Kerr. The agreement between Iran and the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and China (countries labelled the P5+1), is under review by Congress until September 17. A paragraph in the report's summary describes the agreement in broad terms:

Broadly, the accord represents an exchange of limitations on Iran’s nuclear program for the lifting or suspension of U.S., U.N., and European Union (EU) sanctions. The text contains relatively complicated provisions for inspections of undeclared Iranian nuclear facilities, processes for adjudicating complaints by any of the parties for nonperformance of commitments, "snap-back" provisions for U.N. sanctions, finite durations for many of Iran’s nuclear commitments, and broad U.N., E.U., and U.S. commitments to suspend or lift most of the numerous sanctions imposed on Iran since 2010. Many of the agreement’s provisions have raised questions about the degree to which the accord can accomplish the P5+1 objectives that were stated when P5+1-Iran negotiations began in 2006.

Legal Background of National Security Letters in Foreign Intelligence Investigations

Charles Doyle, Senior Specialist in American Public Law, has written a new Congressional Research Service (CRS) report entitled "National Security Letters in Foreign Intelligence Investigations: A Glimpse at the Legal Background." He discusses the five National Security Letter (NSL) federal statutes that authorized "intelligence officials to request information in connection with national security investigations" and the Department of Justice's Inspector General (IG) findings in relation to the five statutes. In the summary he reveals:

The President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies recommended several NSL statutory adjustments designed to eliminate differences between NSLs and court orders under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“§215 orders”), including requiring pre-issuance judicial approval of NSLs. Instead in the USA FREEDOM Act, P.L. 114-23 (H.R. 2048), Congress opted to adjust the NSL judicial review provisions governing the nondisclosure requirements that may accompany NSLs. It also precludes the use of NSL authority for bulk collection of communications or financial records. Finally, it adjusts existing reporting requirements to permit recipients to publicly disclose the extent to which they have been compelled to comply with NSLs.

Friday, June 12, 2015

New Strategic Plan for the National Library of Medicine

According to a June 11, 2015 press release, the National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D, released a new strategic vision for the National Library of Medicine (NLM) created by a NLM Working Group. The vision will help ensure that NLM "remains an international leader in biomedical and health information." The Working Group believes "NLM has an important opportunity to play a key leadership role in one of the most exciting periods of biomedical history: data science is increasing rapidly, computational power is expanding at a breathtaking pace, the breadth and depth of digital health data are undergoing unprecedented and accelerating growth, a movement towards more interdisciplinary work and team science continues to gain momentum, a broad commitment to open science is becoming increasingly adopted, and the demand for services to support an ever more engaged and informed public is expanding." The group made six broad recommendations:
  • RECOMMENDATION #1. NLM must continually evolve to remain a leader in assimilating and disseminating accessible and authoritative biomedical research findings and trusted health information to the public, healthcare professionals, and researchers worldwide.
  • RECOMMENDATION #2. NLM should lead efforts to support and catalyze open science, data sharing, and research reproducibility, striving to promote the concept that biomedical information and its transparent analysis are public goods.
  • RECOMMENDATION #3. NLM should be the intellectual and programmatic epicenter for data science at NIH and stimulate its advancement throughout biomedical research and application.
  • RECOMMENDATION #4. NLM should strengthen its role in fostering the future generation of professionals in biomedical informatics, data science, library sciences, and related disciplines through sustained and focused training efforts.
  • RECOMMENDATION #5. NLM should maintain, preserve, and make accessible the nation’s historical efforts in advancing biomedical research and medicine, thereby ensuring that this legacy is both safe and accessible for long-term use.
  • RECOMMENDATION #6. New NLM leadership should evaluate what talent, resources, and organizational structures are required to ensure NLM can fully achieve its mission and best allocate its resources.

To see more including breakdowns within the recommendation, access the full report (PDF).

Friday, May 29, 2015

Sunlight Foundation Creating Database for Criminal Justice Data

The Sunlight Foundation, a national non-partisan, nonprofit organization committed to open government, has created an inventory of publicly and privately produced criminal justice data as the first step to creating a database. The inventory, Opening Criminal Justice Data, shows what data has been collected so far and provides an opportunity for people to submit their own data, statistics or a finished report. However, no information is given on the main page about how these submissions will be evaluated. Links to data and reports already submitted can be accessed by opening the Google spreadsheet. Most of the reports presently available are from official government agencies.

Audit of the Management of the International Space Station National Laboratory

The General Accounting Office (GA0) released a report covering the April 2014 to April 2015 management of the ISS (International Space Station) National Laboratory. The Highlights section of the report, International Space Station: Measurable Performance Targets and Documentation Needed to Better Assess Management of National Laboratory, explains the purpose of the audit and provides recommendations:
Why GAO Did This Study

The U.S. has spent almost $43 billion to develop, assemble, and operate the ISS over the past two decades. The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 required NASA to enter into a cooperative agreement with a not-for-profit entity to manage the ISS National Laboratory and in 2011 did so with CASIS. CASIS is charged with maximizing use of the ISS for scientific research by executing several required activities. Recently, questions have arisen about the progress being made to implement the required activities and the impact it has had on ISS’s return on the investment.

GAO was asked to report on the progress of CASIS’s management of the ISS National Laboratory. GAO assessed the extent to which (1) CASIS has implemented the required management activities, and (2) NASA and CASIS measure and assess CASIS’s performance. To perform this work, GAO reviewed the cooperative agreement between NASA and CASIS, CASIS’s annual program plans, and other documentation and interviewed ISS, CASIS, and NASA officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends NASA fully staff the ISS National Laboratory Advisory Committee; NASA and CASIS work together to develop measurable targets for CASIS’s metrics; and NASA begin documenting its annual review of CASIS’s performance. NASA partially concurred and CASIS did not concur with the first recommendation, but concurred with the other two. GAO continues to believe the first recommendation is valid, as discussed further in the report.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Massive National Recall of Takata Air Bags

According to a May 19, 2015 news release, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a national recall of certain types of driver and passenger side air bag inflators made by Takata. The recall, which started with those at highest risk due to age of vehicle and areas of high absolute humidity, is now nationwide with about 34 million vehicles involved. Even if your vehicle is not listed at present, the NHTSA advises you to keep checking the website as new entries continue to be added. The new website created to provide regular updates on the status of this and other recalls is

Thursday, April 30, 2015

New Fair Use Index from the U.S. Copyright Office

The U.S. Copyright Office has created a Fair Use Index "to make the principles and application of fair use more accessible and understandable to the public by presenting a searchable database of court opinions, including by category and type of use (e.g., music, internet/digitization, parody)." It includes a wide selection of cases regarding fair use (but not all) and is not a substitute for legal advice. Each decision includes "a brief summary of the facts, the relevant question(s) presented, and the court’s determination as to whether the contested use was fair." Browse all the cases, search for specific cases or review cases from specific courts. Usually only the highest court decision issued in a case is included. The index does not include the court opinions themselves, but provides citations to access those opinions through other free (Google Scholar, Justia, etc.) or commercial databases (Westlaw, LEXIS, etc.).

Monday, April 27, 2015

Humor EPA Style

Need a chuckle? The EPA has created a booklet of trash-related jokes entitled "American the Beautiful: a Collection of the Nation's Trashiest Humor." It's available for download from as a PDF, TIFF, or unformatted text.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Cuba: Issues for the 114th Congress

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report on April 17, 2015 entitled Cuba: Issues for the 114th Congress. The introduction states:
This report is divided into three major sections analyzing Cuba’s political and economic environment, U.S. policy toward Cuba, and selected issues in U.S.-Cuban relations. While legislative initiatives are noted throughout the report where appropriate, a final section of the report provides a listing of bills and resolutions introduced in the 114th Congress.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Importance of Data Occupations in the U.S. Economy

The Economics and Statistics Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce released a March 12, 2015 report entitled The Importance of Data Occupations in the U.S. Economy. The report identifies "occupations where data analysis and processing are central to the work performed" and measures "the size of employment and earnings in these occupations, as well as in the industries that have the highest concentration of these data occupations."

The key findings of the report are:
  • Employment where data is central to the job was about 10.3 million in 2013 (of which 1.6 million were government workers), or about 7.8 percent of all employment. However, including occupations where working with data is at least an important part of the job dramatically increases that number: to 74.3 million jobs, or over half of the workforce.
  • Hourly wages for private-sector workers in data occupations, which are concentrated in the broad categories of business and computer/mathematical occupations, averaged $40.30 in 2013, about 68 percent higher for all occupations
  • For these top data occupations, two-thirds or more of the workers have at least a college degree; in comparison about one-third of workers across all occupations have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Private sector industries with the highest concentration of data occupations added 1.8 million jobs over the last decade, representing about 31 percent of total private job growth which was four times faster than in private industries overall
  • Data intensive industries are located in many states, but the highest concentrations are in Washington, D.C.; Virginia; Massachusetts; Maryland; and Connecticut.

Friday, March 06, 2015

The 2015 Economic Report of the President written by the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers is now available for download (full report or by chapter) in PDF format. Statistical appendix tables are also available in either PDF or Excel format.

In the introduction President Obama notes that 2014 was a "breakthrough year" with the lowest unemployment rate in over six years, health coverage for more Americans, continued investment in renewable energy and a cut in dependence on foreign oil. For 2015 President Obama would like to focus on three initiatives for the middle class:

  • affordable childcare, college, health care, a home, and retirement
  • upgraded skills so more Americans can "earn higher wages down the road."
  • high-skilled, high-wage jobs supported by "21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, better roads, clean water, clean energy, faster trains, and the fastest internet."

Ferguson Police Department Investigation Report

The U.S. Department of Justice released its Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department dated March 4, 2015. The following paragraph from the summary section of the report highlights issues of concern:
Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs. This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson’s police department, contributing to a pattern of unconstitutional policing, and has also shaped its municipal court, leading to procedures that raise due process concerns and inflict unnecessary harm on members of the Ferguson community. Further, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices both reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias, including racial stereotypes. Ferguson’s own data establish clear racial disparities that adversely impact African Americans. The evidence shows that discriminatory intent is part of the reason for these disparities. Over time, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices have sown deep mistrust between parts of the community and the police department, undermining law enforcement legitimacy among African Americans in particular.
The report ends with broad recommendations about changes Ferguson should make to its police and court practices and states that the Justice Department will "work with the City of Ferguson toward developing and reaching agreement on an appropriate framework for reform."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fair Use Week, Feb. 23-27, 2015

ARL, the Association of Research Libraries, is coordinating a celebration of Fair Use Week from February 23-27, 2015. ARL states:

[Fair Use Week] celebrates the important role fair use plays in achieving the Constitutional purpose of intellectual property rights in the US: to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. The flexible nature of the fair use doctrine has permitted copyright to adapt to new technologies and changes.

Information about ways to participate in Fair Use Week are available from  and from ARL.

Monday, February 09, 2015

National Security Strategy

On February 6, 2015 the White House released the latest National Security Strategy (29p. PDF). In the introduction, President Obama addresses the United States' strengths and speaks of the following challenges:
Now, at this pivotal moment, we continue to face serious challenges to our national security, even as we are working to shape the opportunities of tomorrow. Violent extremism and an evolving terrorist threat raise a persistent risk of attacks on America and our allies. Escalating challenges to cybersecurity, aggression by Russia, the accelerating impacts of climate change, and the outbreak of infectious diseases all give rise to anxieties about global security. We must be clear-eyed about these and other challenges and recognize the United States has a unique capability to mobilize and lead the international community to meet them.

For a quick overview, access Fact Sheet: The 2015 National Security Strategy

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

USGS Releases Historic Hydraulic Fracturing Data

According to a January 27, 2015 news release, the U.S. Geological Survey has made available online two new publications about hydraulic fracturing, the Scientific Investigation Report and its companion Data Series, The publications highlight historical hydraulic fracturing trends and data from 1947 to 2010. They "provide a basis for making comparisons of current-day hydraulic fracturing to historical applications" and an "improved understanding of where the practice is occurring and how hydraulic fracturing characteristics have changed over time."

Monday, January 26, 2015

Asteroid Visible from Earth on January 26, 2015

According to NASA, an asteroid about a third of a mile in size (0.5 kilometers), will be visible from Earth with binoculars on January 26, 2015 as it passes by about 745,0000 (1.2 kilometers) miles away.

For more information and to see a graphic and a video depiction, access NASA's new story, "Asteroid to Fly By Earth Safely on January 26."

Friday, January 23, 2015

National Taxpayer Advocate 2014 Annual Report to Congress

The National Taxpayer Advocate, an independent organization within the IRS created to help taxpayers resolve problems with the IRS and/or recommend changes to prevent problems, released its 2014 Annual Report to Congress. According to its newsroom report, taxpayers "this year are likely to receive the worst levels of taxpayer service since at least 2001 when the IRS implemented its current performance measures."

The primary sections of the report include:
A link to the Executive Summary and the full report is available at

The preface to the report was dated Dec. 31, 2014. In January libraries participating in the IRS Tax Outlet program were notified that since Congress cut IRS appropriations in the 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill, outlets will receive Forms 1040EZ, 1040A and 1040 but not the multi-page instruction booklets (104 pages for 1040; 86 pages for 1040A; 43 pages for 1040EZ). Each program will receive only a reference copy of the popular Publication 17,  the general rules for filing a federal income tax return. Individuals are encouraged to download forms from or order tax products from to be delivered by mail. They may also call 1-800-829-3676, but phone service is one of the problems noted in the report.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Songs from the Selma March

On January 15, 2015 spotlighted songs recorded on the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, some of which were used in the Ava DuVernay film Selma. The songs were recorded by Carl Benkert, an architectural interior designer from Detroit who joined the march and captured it with a battery-operated reel-to-reel tape recorder hidden under his overcoat. The songs are available for listening, but require using a free Spotify account.

For more information access Smithsonian's Listen to the Freedom Songs Recorded 50 Years Ago During the March From Selma to Montgomery .

Monday, January 19, 2015

Celebrating the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, January 19, 2015, all over the United States celebrations are being held to  commemorate the the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In Houston the Children's Museum is hosting a celebration of his life with activities going on throughout the day. It's a beautiful day to visit MacGregor Park, home to the Houston Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial which honors "Dr. King’s legacy and contributions to peace, justice, equality, human dignity, and education." People also have an opportunity to participate in a National Day of Service to honor his memory. Find service opportunities by entering a zip code at (slow loading page).

To learn more about Martin Luther King, Jr. including links to his speeches, access the American Memory Collection from the Library of Congress, or the Martin Luther King Jr., Research and Education Institute, or the King Center."