Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Meet Tump's Cabinet Picks

Atlantic Media's Government Executive is a daily news source aimed at high-ranking civilian and military officials concerned with "carrying out the laws that define the government's role in our economy and society." It is now offering online brief descriptions of Trump's Cabinet picks so far who must still be confirmed by the Senate.  "Meet the Trump Cabinet" also includes newspaper quotes when appropriate to get a fuller picture of a nominee's viewpoints.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

War Strategies of General James Mattis, Trump's Secretary of Defense Nominee

USMC Major Michael L. Valenti from the US Army Command and General Staff College Press published a report in 2014 about the strategies General James Mattis, President-elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Defense, employed in war. The abstract on p. iii of The Mattis Way of War: an Examination of Operational Art in Task Force 58 and 1st Marine Division, summarizes his "way of war":
A “Mattis Way of War” is postulated in the conclusion which draws from his use of history, commander’s intent, and leadership to build up a capacity, or potential energy, for action in his unit. Once built up, he unleashes this energy utilizing explicit trust in his staff and subordinates.
Access a pdf of the full report including a three-page bibliography at http://armypress.dodlive.mil/files/2016/09/Mattis-WayofWarFinal.pdf.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Explanation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program

During the campaign President-elect Trump made statements about possibly repealing the administrative order establishing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). For those unfamiliar with all the provisions of DACA, on Sept. 30, 2014 the Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a summary of DACA provisions in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): Frequently Asked Questions .

Monday, November 14, 2016

Win $10,000 to improve education in Texas

The Rather Prize, started by journalist Dan Rather and his grandson Martin, provides funding for a great idea to improve education in Texas. A student, teacher or administrator can submit an idea to compete for the $10,000 prize and an additional $10,000 from Rice University. Last year's prize went to Dr. Sanford Jeames from Eastside Memorial High in Austin who devised a student training/mentorship program for students who had been in a low-functioning school until he took over.

Vote for your favorite project in January 2017 when a shortlist of the top ten projects will be available. The winner will be announced at SXSWedu 2017.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

How Does the Electoral College Work

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is charged with writing concise background reports to keep Congress informed about issues under consideration. As such, they are also great tools for the public. On April 13, 2016 CRS published a 17 page report about how the Electoral College works by Thomas H. Neale, Specialist in American National Government. The report covers the origin of the system and how it works today. For more information see The Electoral College: How It Works in Contemporary Presidential Elections.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Conflicts of Interest and the Presidency - CRS Report

On 10/14/2016 the Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a brief Legal Sidebar report addressing whether or not the federal law requires the President to relinquish his or her business interests. Conflicts of Interest and the Presidency reveals what the law is and how it is being applied. It covers conflicts of interests, divestiture of assets to avoid conflicts, disclosure requirements, the history of presidential practices, and issues in the 2016 election.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Bay of Pigs History Vol. 5 Released

The George Washington University's National Security Archive posted a notice on Oct. 31, 2016 that Volume 5 of the Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation is now available after years of litigation. See the history of that litigation and a link to Volume 5 (CIA's Internal Investigation of the Bay of Pigs) at http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB564-CIA-Releases-Controversial-Bay-of-Pigs-History/. The National Security Archive also provides links to the other four volumes:
Vol. 1 Air Operations, March 1960-April 1961
Pt.1, pages 1-302
Pt.2, pages 303-506
Pt.3, pages 507-541
Vol. 2 Participation in the Conduct of Foreign Policy
Pt.1, pages 1-167
Pt. 2, pages 168-255
Vol. 3 Evolution of the Bay of Pigs Operation, and
Vol. 4 The Taylor Committee Investigation of the Bay of Pigs.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Nuremberg Trials Materials Now Available Online

The Harvard Law School has made available online digitized images or full-text versions of the Library's Nuremberg documents, descriptions of each document, and general information about the trials.The Project currently provides access to most of the following materials for five of the United States Nuremberg Military Tribunals:
  • NMT 1 (U.S.A. v. Karl Brandt et al.),
  • NMT 2 (U.S.A. v. Erhard Milch),
  • NMT3 (U.S.A. v. Josef Altstoetter et al.),
  • NMT 4 (U.S.A. v. Pohl et al.), and
  • NMT7 (U.S.A. v. Wilhelm List et al.)

Monday, October 24, 2016

National Park Service Releases LGBT History Study

Part of the National Parks Service's initiatives is the preservation of historic places connected with Civil Rights. In the past they have supported "such notable sites as Women’s Rights National Historic Park at Seneca Falls, New York (1980); Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, Atlanta, Georgia (1980); Brown vs, Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka Kansas (1992); Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site in Little Rock, Arkansas (1998); the Votes for Women History Trail (2009); Manzanar National Historic Site, Independence, California (1992); and the Caesar E. Chavez National Monument, Keane, California (2012). Now the Parks Service has undertaken a theme study to identify places and events associated with the story of LGBTQ Americans. The study's goals are:
  • engaging scholars, preservationists and community members to identify, research, and tell the stories of LGBTQ associated properties;
  • encouraging national parks, national heritage areas, and other affiliated areas to interpret LGBTQ stories associated with them;
  • identifying, documenting, and nominating LGBTQ-associated sites as national historic landmarks;
  • increasing the number of listings of LGBTQ-associated properties in the National Register of Historic Places.
Unveiled on Oct. 11, 2016, National Coming Out Day, LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History is available online. You can also download individual chapters or articles.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Vacancies in Major-Party Candidacies and the Position of President-Elect

On Oct. 6, 2016 the Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a brief report addressing what would happen if a candidate for President or Vice President were to die or leave the ticket before the Nov. 8th election or between the election and the Electoral College Meeting or between the Electoral College Meeting and the Inauguration. Read about the different procedures for each of those scenarios in Thomas H. Neale's Presidential Elections: Vacancies in Major-Party Candidacies and the Position of President-Elect.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How Well is the Open Government Partnership Working?

A draft of the United States of America Midterm Self-Assessment Report - Third Open Government National Action Plan 2015-2017, September 2016, is now available. The self-assessment report "describes the development process for the third NAP and the progress made implementing the initiatives halfway through the two-year implementation period. " The initiatives are based on four open government principles: transparency, civic participation, public accountability, and technology and innovation for openness and accountability. All 45 open government commitments of the NAP are described in a quick-view chart along with each one's level of completion.  The commitments cover a wide range of areas from helping students make informed decisions about higher education to improving health with data-driven precision medicine to developing a common whistleblower training curriculum for the intelligence community.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Grand Opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

The grand opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture the weekend of September 23-25, 2016 fulfills the aspirations of Black Civil War veterans who suggested the museum in 1915 and countless others since then as discussed in the September 2016 edition of the Smithsonian Magazine. Seated prominently on the National Mall across from the Washington Monument, the museum displays over 35,000 objects collected from all over the world. The founding director, Lonnie Bunch, reveals the four pillars the museum was built on:
  1. to harness the power of memory to help America illuminate all the dark corners of its past.
  2. to demonstrate that this was more than a people’s journey—it was a nation’s story.
  3. to be a beacon that illuminated all the work of other museums in a manner that was collaborative, and not competitive.
  4. to reflect upon the global dimensions of the African-American experience.
(Read the full story at http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/definitive-story-national-museum-african-american-history-culture-came-be-180960125/#eXHRKcDrqqkTiryo.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter)

If you can't visit the museum in person for the grand opening, you can still see artifacts and access videos and music online from the museum's home page. Also ABC News has posted a 360 degree-video so you can view galleries and important artifacts.

Friday, September 02, 2016

How Can the Results of a Presidential Election Be Contested?

On August 26, 2016 the Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a report entitled "How Can the Results of a Presidential Election be Contested?"  The brief report reveals that challenges to the vote for presidential electors are initially handled in the states since states are the initial and principal authority for the administration of elections within their jurisdictions. The document also reveals how objections can be made when Congress meets in joint session to count the electoral votes. For further information, it also recommends CRS Report RL32717 ("Counting Electoral Votes: An Overview of Procedures at the Joint Session, Including Objections by Members of Congress") and CRS Report RL32611 ("The Electoral College: How It Works in Contemporary Presidential Elections").

Friday, August 26, 2016

Celebrate the National Park Service's 100th Birthday

On August 25, 2016 the National Parks Service (NPS) turned 100.  To celebrate the NPS created 99 Ways to Find Your Park, a linked list of 99 activities people can do in urban, nature, and historic parks. They also created the hashtag #FindYourPark for those wanting to post a picture or video of a park experience.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Presidential Candidates and Election Information

Where can you find out more information about Presidential candidates' policies? Check the Elections/Voting LibGuide for links to various free and subscription (library only or remote access with a Rice ID) services.
For example, if you want:

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Monitoring Restoration of Gulf Coast After Deepwater Horizon (DWH) Oil Spill

Concerned that monitoring of the restoration of the Gulf coast after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill may be inadequate, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine have created a publication identifying best practices for restoration monitoring, assessment, and synthesis. The publication also "offers specific guidance for a subset of habitats and taxa to be restored in the Gulf including oyster reefs, tidal wetlands, and seagrass habitats, as well as a variety of birds, sea turtles, and marine mammals." Download Effective Monitoring to Evaluate Ecological Restoration in the Gulf of Mexico for free on the Academies' site or purchase a paper copy for $52.00.

Friday, July 29, 2016

July 29, 2016 - Last Day to Apply for Houston-Area Flooding Assistance for April 2016 Floods

The City of Houston Disaster Recovery homepage lists Friday, July 29, 2016  as the final day for residents of 16 Texas counties to register with FEMA for assistance for damage/losses due to the April 17-30 floods. See http://www.houstonemergency.org/go/doc/2263/2861890 for more information.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Understanding Political Party Conventions

With the Republican Party Convention convening next week, some may have questions about how the convention process works. A new guide entitled USAGov's Guide to the Party Conventions is now available to explain the basic structure of political conventions.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Understanding Brexit

UK Data Service Research Associate Dr. Kathryn Simpson, an expert in comparative European politics, political behavior and public opinion, has a new blog post, Making Sense of Brexit - the data you need to analyse. In the post she discusses four key issues: immigration, sovereignty, security, and economy. She then provides links to data that fall under the following broad categories: data to analyse Europe; data to analyse Britain/UK; and data to analyse Northern Ireland.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Most common age in U.S., by race and ethnicity

Using Census data, the Pew Research Center has created a histogram showing the most common age for white (55 years), black (24 years), Hispanic (8 years), and Asian (33 years) people in the United States. The full report explaining the histogram is also available.

Public Trust and Law Enforcement

In the wake of still more shootings of or by police officers, what actions could Congress take to improve public trust in law enforcement?  In March before the latest round of shootings in Baton Rouge and Dallas, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) wrote a report entitled Public Trust and Law Enforcement - A Brief Discussion for Policymakers. The report mentions Gallop poll data showing Americans are generally confident in the police, but that varies by race, place of residence and other factors. The report makes the following suggestions to Congress:

  •  Congress could consider placing conditions on federal funding to encourage law enforcement to adopt policy changes to promote better community relations.  
  • Policymakers could consider expanding efforts to collect more comprehensive data on the use of force by law enforcement officers.  
  • Congress could consider providing grants to law enforcement agencies so they could purchase body - worn cameras for their officers. 
  •  Policymakers could take steps to facilitate investigations and prosecutions of excessive force by amending 18 U.S.C. §242 to reduce the mens rea  (intention of wrongdoing) standard in federal prosecutions, or place conditions on federal funds to promote the use of special prosecutors at the state level . 
  •  Congress could fund Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring grants so law enforcement agencies could hire more officers to engage in community policing activities. 
  •  Policymakers might consider using the influence of congressional authority to affect the direction of national criminal justice policy.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Refugee Law and Policy In Selected Countries

In March 2016 the Global Legal Research Center of the Law Library of Congress released a report entitled Refugee Law and Policy in Selected Countries.  The report looks at refugee and asylum-seeker law and policy in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, the European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, the Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. The report begins with a comparative summary describing the topics covered: "participation  in  relevant  international  conventions; laws and regulations governing the admission of refugees and handling refugee claims; processes for  handling  refugees  arriving  at  the  border;  procedures for  evaluating  whether  an  applicant  is  entitled  to  refugee  status;  the  accommodations  and  assistance  provided  to  refugees  in  the  jurisdiction; requirements  for  naturalization;  and  whether  asylum  policy  has  been  affected  by  international  emergencies,  such  as  the  current refugee  crisis  in  Europe." The report ends with an extensive bibliography of selected recent English-language materials.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Increase in Business E-Mail Scams

The F.B.I. is warning businesses to beware of a dramatic rise in business e-mail compromise scams (B.E.C.). The scammers spoof company e-mail or assume the identify of a company officer or trusted vendor and often involve wire transfer using dollars. The scam has been conducted in all states and in at least 79 countries. Victims should contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Jihadist-Inspired Violence in the West, 2012-2016

On June 16, 2016 the CTC (Combating Terrorism Center) at West Point released a report entitled The Road to Orlando: Jihadist-Inspired Violence in the West, 2012-2016. The report analyses "47 cases of jihadist-inspired violence carried out in Western countries between January 1, 2012 and June 12, 2016." Some of the findings include that most attacks were "carried out by individuals with no direct ties to overseas terrorist groups and were low-tech and relatively ineffectual." More than half of the attacks have occurred in France or the United States and are often targeted to civilians, law enforcement, and the military. Knife attacks are the most common while shooting is the deadliest.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Mass Shootings and Terrorism Bibliographies

In the wake of yet another mass shooting several government agencies have published bibliographies for finding information about terrorism or lone wolf terrorism:

  • Lone Wolf Terrorism  - A Brief Bibliography by Greta E. Marlatt, Homeland Security Digital Library 
  • Mass Shootings and Terrorism, - CRS (Congressional Research Service) Report by Jennifer E. Lake, Section Research Manager, June 13, 2016 - Lists different CRS Reports that address mass murder with firearms, firearms regulation, domestic terrorism, and hate crimes. Click on the report number to view it although it might not appear to be linked.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Quality of Life for America's Aging Population

In May 2016 the non-profit Bipartisan Policy Center's  Senior Health and Housing Task Force published a report to address concerns about the well-being and safety of millions of older Americans who will represent 20% of the overall population by 2030. Problems identified by the report include:

  • The current supply of housing that is affordable to the nation ’s lowest-income seniors is woefully inadequate. As more low-income Americans enter the senior ranks, this supply shortage — currently measured in millions of units — will become even more acute.
  •  The overwhelming majority of seniors say they wish to “age in place” in their own homes and communities. Y et most homes and communities lack the structural features and support services that can make living there independently a safe, realistic option. 
  • About 70 percent of adults over 65 will eventually require help with bathing , food preparation, dressing, and medication management— assistance that is referred to as “long-term services and supports,” or LTSS. Medicare does not cover LTSS, though the costs of this care can consume a large portion of a household’s budget. In addition, only a small minority of Americans has long-term care insurance covering these expenses. 
  • Personal savings are a critical source of retirement funding, but for millions of seniors these savings will fall far short of what is necessary to pay for housing, modifications to make homes safer, LTSS, health care, and other retirement needs.
One of the report's key premises is "a greater integration of America’s health care and housing systems will be absolutely essential to help manage chronic disease, improve health outcomes for seniors, and enable millions of Americans to age successfully in their own homes and communities."

See the background, discussion and recommendations of Healthy Aging Begins at Home available as a PDF.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Legislation About the Federal Reserve

On May 19, 2016 the Congressional Research Service released a report entitled Federal Reserve: Legislation in the 114th Congress by Marc Labonte, Specialist in Macroeconomic Policy. Labonte breaks the bills about the Federal Reserve (Fed) into four categories:
  1. Changes to Fed governance -  "change the Fed's institutional structure."
  2. Changes to oversight and disclosure - increase "congressional oversight or require the Fed to disclose more information to Congress and the public."
  3. Changes involving the Taylor Rule - "require the Fed to compare its monetary policy decisions to those prescribed by a Taylor Rule and report those findings to Congress." According to the Federal Reserve, "Taylor rules are simple monetary policy rules that prescribe how a central bank should adjust its interest rate policy instrument in a systematic manner in response to developments in inflation and macroeconomic activity.
  4. Changes to the Fed's emergency lending powers - "reduce the Fed's discretion to make emergency loans under Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act."
The report covers bills that have seen committee or floor action. Labonte analyses the above provisions and the policy debate about them.

Friday, May 20, 2016

PFOA & PFOS Drinking Water Health Advisories

The EPA has published a health advisories fact sheet about PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. These fluorinated organic chemicals are used to make "carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food and other materials (e.g., cookware) that are resistant to water, grease or stains."   PFOA and PFOA related chemicals were phased out of production in the United States between 2000 and 2002, but drinking water in some communities has been contaminated by industrial facilities that used these chemicals in manufacturing or by airfields that used the chemicals for firefighting. The health advisories fact sheet provides recommendations about safe levels of these chemicals in the water and steps to remove them from drinking water systems.
The fact sheet is available at  https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-05/documents/drinkingwaterhealthadvisories_pfoa_pfos_5_19_16.final__0.pdf

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Labor Department's Final Rule on Overtime

According to the U.S. Department of Labor website, on May 18, 2016 President Obama and Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez announced a Federal Register final rule updating overtime regulations. The website lists the following key provisions of the Final Rule which goes into effect on December 1, 2016:
The Final Rule focuses primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for Executive, Administrative and Professional workers to be exempt. Specifically, the Final Rule:
  1. Sets the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South ($913 per week; $47,476 annually for a full-year worker);
  2. Sets the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees (HCE) subject to a minimal duties test to the annual equivalent of the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally ($134,004); and
  3. Establishes a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels every three years to maintain the levels at the above percentiles and to ensure that they continue to provide useful and effective tests for exemption.

Additionally, the Final Rule amends the salary basis test to allow employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level.
See more information including fact sheets at https://www.dol.gov/WHD/overtime/final2016/

See the final rule at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/05/23/2016-11754/defining-and-delimiting-the-exemptions-for-executive-administrative-professional-outside-sales-and
(Please note: until May 23, 2016 you can download only a pre-publication PDF version of the rule from this link.)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Guidance for Schools about Transgender Bathrooms

According to the U.S. Department of Education's blog, Homeroom, on May 13, 2016, "the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released joint guidance to schools explaining how federal law prohibiting sex discrimination affects schools’ obligations toward transgender students." The Department of Education "also released a compilation of examples of ways that schools across the country are already successfully supporting transgender students."

The guidance letter "identifies the key requirements that schools need to keep in mind to comply with Title IX and other federal laws." A condition of receiving Federal funds is that schools comply with the requirements of Title IX.

Both documents are available from the Homeroom blog.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Vietnam War Summit, Live Streamed April 26-28, 2016

April 26-28, 2016 the LBJ Presidential Library is live streaming The Vietnam War Summit. Speakers include the keynote address by U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and the following major participants:
  • Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State and former National Security Advisor Vietnamese Ambassador to the United States Pham Quang Vinh
  • Ken Burns, Award-winning Documentarian
  • Dr. Grace Liem Galloway, former Medic at Third Field Hospital and Cu Chi
  • Tom Hayden, Anti-war Activist and Politician
  • Bob Kerrey, former U.S. Senator and Medal of Honor recipient
  • William McRaven, University of Texas System Chancellor and former Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command
  • Journalists Peter Arnett, Dan Rather, David Maraniss, and Joe Klein
  • Nick Ut and David Hume Kennerly, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers
  • Also present will be Country Joe McDonald of Woodstock fame.
You can live stream the presentations here: vietnamwarsummit.org/live.
Each session will be archived on their YouTube page
See the schedule at http://www.vietnamwarsummit.org/attend/sessions.html

In addition, at UT Austin's LBJ Presidential Library along with a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall), the following exhibits are being featured:
  • Vietnam: Evidence of War, April 1-July 31, Vietnam photojournalism and artifacts from the collection of The University of Texas at Austin's Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
  • Tributes to the Fallen, April 14–June 26, Artifacts from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection comprised of objects that have been left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
  • Vietnam: Turning Points of War, April 14-June 26, Key Vietnam-related documents from the Truman through the Ford administrations

Rather Prize to Improve Education in Texas

Journalist Dan Rather with his grandson, Martin Rather, currently a student at Rice University, have set up a $10,000 prize for a Texas student, teacher or administrator who has the best idea for improving Texas education.

The 2016 inaugural winner of the prize is Dr. Sanford Jeames of Eastside Memorial High School for an idea partnering high school students with college students in a mentorship program. See more information at the Rather Prize website.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Celebrate Earth Day, April 22, 2016

Record Rainfall in Southeast Texas, April 2016
Photo Credit: NASA Earth Observatory map by Jesse Allen, using IMERG data provided courtesy of the Global Precipitation Mission (GPM) Science Team's Precipitation Processing System (PPS). Caption by Kathryn Hansen.

To start your celebration of Earth Day, check the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Earth Day site which gives the history, projects, events and activities association with Earth Day since its inception in 1970. It also includes quotations about the environment such the following from former Wisconsin Governor Gaylor Nelson, the founder of Earth Day:

The ultimate test of man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.

For fascinating views of the earth, check NASA's Visible Earth, the origin of the photo displayed above which has particular meaning to those in Houston currently impacted by floods.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Politics from the Past

Does the name Charles Curtis, Alben W. Barkley, Garret A. Hobart, or George Mifflin Dallas sound familiar? Each of these men served as Vice President of the United States. The Senate website has links to their biographies at the end of a brief introduction. Today's controversy about candidates running for elections is nothing new. Former Vice Presidents include one who became a fugitive after murdering a man, one who led an invasion of Washington, D.C. as a member of the Confederate Army, and another who was criticized for playing a piano with an actress posed seductively on top of it.  On the other hand, three received the Nobel Peace Prize, one was the wealthiest banker of his era, and one composed a popular melody. On the Senate site read more about their talents, challenges, and the office of Vice President.

Monday, April 11, 2016

World Bank's New Climate Action Plan

According to an April 7, 2016 news release, the World Bank announced its new Climate Change Action Plan  that will "help developing countries add 30 gigawatts of renewable energy – enough to power 150 million homes – to the world’s energy capacity, bring early warning systems to 100 million people and develop climate-smart agriculture investment plans for at least 40 countries – all by 2020." The plan focuses on helping countries develop national policies and leverage private sector investment. Instead of a one-size-fits all plan, it stress differentiated actions and supports according to the point a country is starting from and its emission levels.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Senate Approves New Education Secretary, John B. King, Jr.

On March 14, 2016, the Senate confirmed John B. King, Jr. as Arne Duncan's replacement for Secretary of Education. Although Mr. King's parents were educators in New York City, both died from illness by the time he was 12. He credits public school teachers with " saving his life by providing transformative educational experiences and giving him hope about the future." He began his own education career as a high school social studies teacher in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Boston. He then became co-founder and co-director for curriculum and instruction at Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Massachusetts where the school outperformed even affluent Boston suburban schools. He also served as a managing director at Uncommon Schools, a chain of high-performing charter schools in Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. He then served first as a senior deputy commissioner and then commissioner of education in New York before coming to the Education Department as principal senior adviser whose duties were to carry out the tasks of the deputy secretary and to oversee President Obama's My Brother's Keeper task force formed to address "persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color."

Dr. King has a "Bachelor of Arts in Government from Harvard University, a Master of Arts in the teaching of social studies from Columbia University's Teachers College, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and a Doctor of Education degree in educational administrative practice from Columbia University's Teachers College."

To learn more about Dr. King, read his biography on the Education Department's website.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Census Bureau Irish Statistics for St. Patrick's Day

The Census Bureau has a Facts for Features section on its web page that celebrates holidays and seasonal/special events. The page that is dedicated to celebrating St. Patrick's Day has a wide variety of statistics ranging from the educational and income status of Irish Americans to beef and cabbage production. Celebrate St. Patrick's Day (March 17) with fun facts.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Encryption: Selected Legal Issues

Debate has been raging about whether Apple should grant the FBI's request to provide a technological way to obtain encrypted content stored on an iPhone when legally requested. On March 3, 2016 the Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a new report that "provides background to the ongoing encryption debate, including a primer on encryption basics and an overview of Apple, Google, and Facebook’s new encryption policies." Entitled Encryption: Selected Legal Issues by Richard M. Thompson II, Legislative Attorney and Chris Jaikara, Analyst in Cybersecurity Policy, the authors chose to focus on two questions from the many political, economic, and legal questions being raised: 
  1. Does the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination bar such a request?
  2. Can the All Writs Act federal statue that "provides federal courts with residual authority to enforce its orders be interpreted broadly enough to cover compelled assistance on the part of the device and software manufacturer?"

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Mobile Friendly govinfo to replace GPO's Federal Digital System (FDsys)

According to a February 3, 2016 news release, the Government Publishing Office has launched govinfo (www.govinfo.gov), a mobile friendly way to access government information on the three branches of the Federal Government.  In 2017 it will replace FDsys (Federal Digital System). In addition to being mobile friendly, govinfo provides an ABC list of collections and has quick links to popular publications. One feature likely to be popular is the ability to browse documents by the issuing Congressional committee.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Natural Born Citizen as President Debate

Since questions have been raised about what it means for a U.S. President to be natural born, the Social Science Research Network is hosting two opposite opinions. Taking a broad view is Michael D. Ramsey from the University of San Diego School of Law in his January 7, 2016 article, "The Original Meaning of 'Natural Born.' " Taking the narrow view is Mary Brigid McManamon in the Catholic University Law Review, v.64,  no. 2 (2015), Widener Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-21, "The Natural Born Citizen Clause as Originally Understood."

Thursday, January 21, 2016

New Authorization for Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State

On January 15, 2016 the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report by Specialist in Foreign Policy Legislation Matthew C. Weed entitled A New Authorization for Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State. Since "a number of members of Congress have raised numerous questions and concerns about the President's authority to use military force (AUMF) against the Islamic State," the report "focuses on the several proposals for a new AUMF specifically targeting the Islamic State made during the 113th and 114th Congresses." Included are "a brief review of existing authorities and AUMFs, as well as a discussion of issues related to various provisions included in existing and proposed AUMFs that both authorize and limit presidential use of military force." The appendix section provides " a comparative analysis of similar provisions in new AUMFs proposed in the 113th and 114th Congresses."  

Weed notes that the "report will be updated to reflect congressional activity."

Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons

On January 14, 2016 the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal entitled Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons by Paul K. Kerr, Analyst in Nonproliferation and Mary Beth Nikitin, Specialist in Nonproliferation. The summary reveals that Pakistan has approximately 110-130 or more nuclear warheads. Despite taking steps in recent years to increase the security of its nuclear arsenal, instability in the area causes some to have concerns especially about the fear of a "radical takeover of the Pakistani government or diversion of material or technology by personnel within Pakistan't nuclear complex." The report also highlights issues for Congress.

Library of Congress Receiving 9/11 Responder Oral History Collection

According to a Dec. 18, 2015 news release, the Library of Congress will receive a collection of oral histories of first responders to the 9/11 attacks on the New York World Trade Center. Donated by Dr. Benjamin Luft, the Edmond Pellegrino Professor of Medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine and director of the Stony Brook WTC Wellness Program who treated the responders. the collection includes "200 oral histories (each one hour to 1.5 hours long) and more than 1,000 digital photographs, manuscript materials, logbooks and indexes involving the personnel who responded to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers and who worked on response to the event, including rescue and recovery work on the building debris pile, over subsequent months." Future installments are expected since this represents only a portion of what Dr. Luft collected.

Additional 9/11 materials are part of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center collections. Between October 2001 and May 2002 ethnographers from around the country sent audio and video recordings documenting peoples' experiences about and reactions to 9/11 to form the "September 11, 2001, Documentary Project."  In addition, recorded StoryCorps personal narratives about 9/11 were donated to their archival collection.

Census Bureau Report on Child Support

On January 19, 2016 the Census Bureau released a report entitled Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2013 containing data from the Child Support Supplement to the April 2014 Current Population Survey. The report "presents a snapshot of custodial parents and child support payments — either legal or informal — that were reported as received from noncustodial parents living outside the home." Highlights include:

  • About half (48.7 percent) of all custodial parents had either legal or informal child support agreements, and custodial mothers were more likely to have agreements (52.3 percent) than custodial fathers (31.4 percent).
  • The aggregate amount of child support due in 2013 was $32.9 billion, a decrease of $14.0 billion from a decade earlier when adjusted to 2013 dollars.
  • About 68.5 percent of the $32.9 billion in child support due in 2013 was reported as received, averaging $3,950 per year per custodial parent who was due support.