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.