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 http://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/2014-Annual-Report/full-2014-annual-report-to-congress/

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 IRS.gov/Forms or order tax products from IRS.gov/orderforms 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 Smithsonian.com 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  http://www.nationalservice.gov/mlkday2015 (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."

Monday, December 22, 2014

NORAD's Santa Tracker


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. Volunteers from NORAD personally respond to phone calls and emails and use the internet to track Santa. NORAD's creative website includes the Santa tracker and games and images related to the North Pole and Santa's Village. It even has an app to tract Santa from a mobile phone. To find Santa's exact location children can call 1-877-446-6723 to talk with a NORAD staff member from 3:00 a.m. MST on December 24 until 3:00 a.m. MST on December 25, or on December 24 they can email noradtrackssanta@outlook.com.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Report on the Future of Privacy

On December 18, 2014 Pew Research, a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, released a report that looks "into the future of privacy in light of the technological change, ever-growing monetization of digital encounters, and shifting relationship of citizens and their governments that is likely to extend through the next decade." Digital Life in 2025: The Future of Privacy canvassed thousands of experts and Internet builders to share their predictions. (They use the term canvas since this was not a representative randomized survey.) Questions asked of the responders were:

  • Will policy makers and technology innovators create a secure, popularly accepted, and trusted privacy-rights infrastructure by 2025 that allows for business innovation and monetization while also offering individuals choices for protecting their personal information in easy-to-use formats?
  • Describe what you think the reality will be in 2025 when it comes to the overall public perception about whether policy makers and corporations have struck the right balance between personal privacy, secure data, and compelling content and apps that emerge from consumer tracking and analytics. 
  • Consider the future of privacy in a broader social context. How will public norms about privacy be different in 2025 from the way they are now?

Common thoughts shared by those interviewed were:

  • Privacy and security are foundational issues of the digital world
  • People are living in an unprecedented condition of ubiquitous surveillance
  • People require little more inducement than personal convenience to disclose their personal information
  • Norms are always evolving, and privacy will certainly change in coming years 
  • An arms-race dynamic is unfolding
  • Renegotiation and compromise will be a constant in privacy-security policy space
For more information and to obtain a PDF of the report, access 
http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/12/18/future-of-privacy/