When it comes to pending legislation, Congress loves data

Sunlight Foundation - 6 hours 36 sec ago

Hundreds of bills currently pending in Congress highlight the never-ending push-pull between the public’s right to know and assorted privacy and security concerns. With 535 legislators constantly introducing bills, there’s no simple way to keep track of every one that might affect the collection or dissemination of data.

By searching on, however, I found that in the 115h Congress alone, 13 bills contain the term “public records,” 93 contain the word “database” and 403 contain the word “data, as of mid-April 2017.

Sifting through these proposed laws, it’s clear that data collection is a factor in all types of government functions, from modernizing the copyright process to closing underutilized military bases to monitoring the assets of Iranian leaders.

Following is a breakdown of how and where data comes up in legislation in the 115th Congress, including a partial list of bills Sunlight supports.

Some bills, like the Federal Records Modernization Act of 2017, indicate  in the title that they modify the government’s information-gathering powers.

In other cases, data collection or disclosure is obscured by the title of the bill. For example, The Wingman Act would let congressional staffers obtain health records of consenting veterans without having to go through the VA.

Some bills are relatively non-controversial.

  • The Cold Case Record Collections Act of 2017 proposes that “All government records related to civil rights cold cases shall be preserved for historical and governmental purposes.” The bill acknowledges that the disclosure of such records has historically been slow and inadequate under the Freedom of Information Act – and that executive orders claiming to protect national security information have also blocked transparency.
  • The Improving Support for Missing and Exploited Children Act of 2017 calls for the coordination of state-level missing-children clearinghouses and to “make available to the general public, as appropriate,” data on missing children and attempted abductions.

Other bills have other potential landmines.

  • The Tax Accountability Act of 2017 would deny federal employment, grants and contracts to anyone with “seriously delinquent tax debt.” The bill would authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to disclose to other agency heads whether certain people have such debt.
  • The stated goal of Pharmaceutical Information Exchange Act (H.R. 2026) is “to improve patient access to emerging medication therapies by clarifying the scope of permitted health care economic and scientific information communications between biopharmaceutical manufacturers and population health decision makers.”  But its title alone — the Pharmaceutical Information Exchange Act — raises some red flag about what health data might be shared with companies and who could stand to profit.
  • The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act of 2017, which seeks to expand nuclear-energy research among civilians, proposes “a database to store and share data and knowledge relevant to nuclear science and engineering between Federal agencies and the private sector.” Theoretically, getting more people learning about nuclear capabilities could result in better practices; then again, what if Kim Jong Un downloads a copy?

A number of bills in the pipeline are focused on the threat of terrorism.

  • The Frank Lautenberg Memorial Secure Chemical Facilities Act is an effort to gather data on small chemical facilities like fertilizer or pesticide manufacturers. It provides for the development of security assessments, as well as the establishment of whistleblower hotlines to report non-secure facilities.  Should this information be available to neighbors understandably concerned about potential threats? Or stay secret, lest the proverbial bad guys exploit it? The bill foresees such conflicts, as it provides for the vague power to “prescribe such regulations, and may issue such orders, as necessary to prohibit the unauthorized disclosure” of related information.
  • H.R. 876, the Aviation Employee Screening and Security Enhancement Act of 2017, seeks to mitigate insider threats to airport security by insuring that certain employee entry and exit points in airports include secure doors that require PIN numbers or biometric technology, as well as surveillance video. The bill covers employees including airport concessionaires and requires collecting their social security numbers. It calls for creation of a “national database of Administration employees who have had either their airport or aircraft operator-issued badge revoked for failure to comply with aviation security requirements.” It also calls for a process for removing anyone falsely added to the database.

Another set of bills would set up new databases, some of which are problematic because of the ways weaponizing selective disclosure could undermine public trust in government.

  • The Mobile Now Act would require the Office of Science and Technology Policy to “establish and operate a single database of any covered property that is owned, leased, or otherwise managed by an Executive agency” and make the database available to communications companies, but also “establish a process for withholding data from the database for national security, public safety, or other national strategic concerns.”
  • The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 commands the Director of National Intelligence to study the feasibility of creating a database of surveillance imagery.
  • The Sportsmen’s Act, which seeks to open federal land to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting, would require creation of a searchable database of court adversaries and a “priority list” of lands currently inaccessible to the public.
  • The Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act, a.k.a H.R. 1033, calls for the creation of “an online searchable database containing information about cases in which fees and expenses were awarded by courts or federal agencies to individuals or entities under the Equal Access to Justice Act.”
  • The Corporate Crime Database Act would have the Attorney General acquire data regarding civil, and criminal judicial proceedings initiated by the federal government against corporations.

Other proposed laws focus on social media.

The “Social Media Screening for Terrorists Act of 2017” requires the Department of Homeland Security “to search all public records, including Internet sites and social media profiles, to determine if an alien applying for admission to the United States is inadmissible under the Immigration and Nationality Act.” It’s legally debatable whether social media counts as “public record,” if it’s not produced by a government agency.

While many bills seek to open up the government’s books or mandate public access to certain categories of records – The Mar-A-Lago Act  would require public disclosure of visitor logs to the White House and President Trump’s private Florida estate – others would close off the flow of information.

For instance, H.J.Res. 38 eliminated the Stream Protection Rule, which required mining companies to collect and monitor environmental data on mining sites and groundwater.

Others bills remain up for debate, including:

Other bills focus on fundamentally reforming how the government collects, organizes and discloses data to the public.

  • Senator John Tester of Montana’s Public Online Information Act of 2017, asserts that the federal government should make its “public information available on the Internet,” and do so “in ways that take advantage of modern technology, that anticipate the public’s needs, and that provide access to the greatest number of people. The Government should strive to make its information available on the Internet in real-time and in machine processable formats.”  Sunlight has been a long-time support of the POIA.
  • The Preserving Government Data Act (H.R. 2026) would require federal agencies to preserve public access to data sets and prevent the removal of those data sets from the Internet without sufficient public notice. You can read the full text of the The Preserving Data in Government Act on our blog. Sunlight supports it!
  • The OPEN Government Data Act would codify an expectation into law that the Sunlight Foundation has been advocating for since we were founded a decade ago: Public data created with taxpayer dollars should be available to the public in open, machine-readable forms when doing so does not damage privacy or national security. We helped draft it, we support it in 2017., and hope you will too!
Categories: Research

It Keeps Getting Worse for Michael Flynn

Project On Government Oversight - 7 hours 5 min ago
President Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn may be in legal trouble for failing to disclose information about his relationships with foreign governments.
Categories: Research

Today in OpenGov: Congressmen try to preserve data, journalists collaborate to open FEC data, and more…

Sunlight Foundation - 13 hours 29 min ago

In today's edition, California develops a state-wide water data portal, Washington prepares for upcoming DATA act deadlines, news nerds combine their powers against PDFs, Brazil finds a colorful way to fight corruption, and more…

states and cities
  • Louisville Mayor touts transparency, but keeps his meetings secret. Louisville, Kentucky Mayor Greg Fischer has made transparency a key part of governing philosophy. But, as it turns out, he hasn't extended that to his own interactions. "There is no public record of guests or visitors to the mayor’s office, according to a WFPL News investigation that sought to find who might have private influence over the administration during a time of city budget planning. The mayor’s office also denied a request for any other documents that show the name of anyone visiting Metro Hall to meet with Fischer, when they visited and for how long." In the past Sunlight has praised Fischer for his work on transparency, but as Alex Howard pointed out "Any administration that is putting its shoulder toward being more open and accountable to the public will embrace voluntary disclosures of influence as part of making sure that transparency and accountability don’t just end with a policy, but are actually borne out in spirit." (WFPL) You can find a more detailed statement on our Facebook page
  • California focuses on statewide water data platform. "This spring the Department of Water Resources (DWR), the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) jointly submitted a budget proposal that would put $2.9 million in fiscal year 2017-18 and more than $2 million each year thereafter toward the platform's development and maintenance." (Government Technology)
  • Report finds that "special districts" and authorities, which handle many public services, lack basic transparency. "When citizens turn on their faucet, visit a library or fly out of an airport, there’s a good chance they’re being served by a special district. These entities frequently spend hundreds of millions in public funds a year, but information about how those dollars are used is often scarce." (Governing)
  • ACLU, others sue LAPD for "systemic violations" of public records law. "The American Civil Liberties Union has joined with a journalist, a college professor and an activist to sue the Los Angeles Police Department over what they describe as a 'systemic violation' of California’s public records law. (LA Times via NFOIC)
data, data, data
  • New bill would preserve public access to public data online. A bipartisan team of Senators have introduced the Preserving Data in Government Act to ensure that once data has been made available to the public online it will remain available. Sunlight strongly supports this effort and we hope that Congress passes the bill quickly. Read more on the Sunlight blog
  • With DATA Act deadline approaching, officials stress that this is only the start. "The first deadline for the DATA Act, which requires all agencies to report spending in a standardized way, is on May 9. But that marker, officials say, is only the beginning." Some agencies have acknowledged that they will struggle to meet the upcoming deadline, but Congressional overseers and the agencies in charge of overall implementation are stressing that the process is ongoing and early struggles will do not equal failure. (FedScoop)
  • Financial transparency is a priority for the president, according to Trump aide. Despite the fact that some agencies are struggling to meet the upcoming DATA act deadline "…financial transparency is still a priority for President Donald Trump’s administration, Matt Lira, special assistant to the president for innovation policy and initiatives, told an audience in Washington Thursday." (Nextgov)
  • Reporters from competing publications collaborated to open up Trump inaugural data for the public. After President Trump's Inaugural committee filed its disclosure to the FEC in print and it was disclosed as a PDF, "news nerds" from ProPublica, the Wahington Post, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post worked together to clean up the data and published it as a more useable, open dataset. Then, they invited the public to act as  "citizen sleuths" to identify contributors. As a result of the issues they found, the committee has to refile. Get the whole story at OpenNews
  • Review of White House press pool reports sheds some light on who has access to President Trump. "Reuters analyzed more than 900 White House press pool reports to give the first big picture view, albeit an incomplete one, of who has had the most and least success at bending the president's ear." Those getting the most time include manufacturing companies and Wall Street players. Sunlight's John Wonderlich weighed in on Trump's decision to withhold public access to White House visitor logs, saying ""A public record of who has the president's ear is more important than it has ever been." (Reuters)
  • Transparency is not a Trump priority. "Nearly 100 days into his presidency, Trump hasn’t made keeping Americans informed about what his administration is doing a top priority – despite the many public signing ceremonies for executive orders and congressional resolutions." Sunlight's John Wonderlich summed it up nicely, saying "President Trump is not going to lead on any kind of transparency or accountability…[the White House's] default is whatever choice prevents discomfort and inconvenience." (The Miami Herald)
  • President Trump signs VA accountability executive order. "President Donald Trump visited Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters on April 27 to sign an executive order setting up a new office to crack down on problem employees and protect those who report waste, fraud and abuse." (Federal Computer Week) But will it really help whistleblowers? The move is the latest in a series of efforts to solve problems at the VA it it leaves many open questions. The Project on Government Oversight has the whole story and a recommendation for Congress to "conduct close oversight of the Central Whistleblower Office as well as the broader Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection." (Project on Government Oversight)
think global
  • Open data is making progress in the Caribbean, albeit slowly. "Unfortunately, progress in the Caribbean has been mixed, if not slow. While Caribbean governments were early adopters of Freedom of Information legislation–7 countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago) having passed FOI law–the digital channels through which many citizens are increasingly accessing government information remain underdeveloped." (Open Knowledge)
  • Indian government blocks social media platforms in Kashmir. "Authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir have blocked 22 social media applications including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter." Authorities argue that the services are being used to disturb "peace and tranquility" and could be blocked for a month. (Global Voices)
  • Chrome extension serves as corruption scorecard for Brazilian politicians. "Released before what is expected to be the biggest general strike in decades, Colour of Corruption is an online political scorecard that details criminal allegations against members of the cabinet, the upper and lower houses of parliament, state governors, their deputies – and even the president." (The Guardian)
save the dates
  • #TCampAZ is coming up on May 22 in Phoenix. Learn more on Facebook and get your tickets hereThis one-day unconference will bring together the government representatives, developers and journalists to solve problems relating to civic data access. TCamp participants design the agenda, present their ideas and dive into the challenges, success stories and new possibilities during morning and afternoon breakout sessions. It is being hosted by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting with key partners including Sunlight, Galvanize, and the Institute for Digital Progress.
  • May 6th: Sustainable Development Goals Data Archive-a-thon in Washington, DC. The SDG Data Archive-a-thon is an opportunity for programmers, archivists, scientists and volunteers of all kinds to help preserve publicly accessible federal data resources in the public interest. The goal of this event is to archive the datasets used to report on the SDG indicators and to ensure they remain accessible to the public online. This event is hosted by the Center for Open Data Enterprise. Learn more and register to participate here
  • May 17th and 18th: Reboot Congress 2017 and the Kemp Forum in Washington, DC. "Held in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, Reboot Congress 2017, is an invite-only conversation that will bring together a dynamic mix of problem solvers – civic tech innovators, engineers and designers, elected officials, senior staffers, policy experts, and other stakeholders working to modernize Congress." Learn more here.
  • May 17th: The 2017 Door Stop Awards in Washington, DC. "Lincoln Network and The OpenGov Foundation are joining forces to present the 2017 Door Stop Awards for Congressional Innovation and Transparency. Awards will be presented on May 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. at an evening party as part of Reboot Congress." Learn more here.
  • May 19th and 20th: Global Legislative Openness Conference in Kyiv, Ukraine. "This 2-day event is hosted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, organized by the Legislative Openness Working Group of the Open Government Partnership and Open Parliament Initiative in Ukraine. The event will convene leading legislators, government officials, and civil society representatives to consider how legislative openness can strengthen public trust in representative institutions and build a responsive, 21st century legislature. In addition, the conference will explore how parliaments can best leverage the Open Government Partnership's new legislative engagement policy to develop and implement legislative openness plans and commitments." Learn more here. 
  • June 8th and 9th: Personal Democracy Forum 2017 in New York City. "The annual flagship conference brings together close to 1,000 top technologists, campaigners, hackers, opinion-makers, government officials, journalists, and academics for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities to celebrate the power and potential of tech to make real change happen." Learn more about #PDF17 and get your tickets here.
  • June 29th: DATA Act Summit 2017 in Washington, DC. "The fourth annual DATA Act Summit, hosted by the Data Coalition and Booz Allen Hamilton, will bring together supporters of the open data transformation from across government and the private sector." Learn more and get your tickets here
  • September 11th and 12th: TicTec@Taipei in Taipei. "TICTeC@Taipei is the first ever conference about the influence of civic tech to be held in Asia. We’ve invited members of academia, business, politics, NGOs, education to participate, and discuss their research. We hope through this event, we can build a global network of civic tech enthusiasts." The event is being held during #CivicTechFest 2017. Learn more, submit a session proposal, and register to attend here


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Categories: Research

Apple Patent Hints At Wirelessly Charging Your iPhone Via Wi-Fi Routers

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - 15 hours 33 min ago
According to AppleInsider, "Apple is experimenting with medium- to long-distance wireless charging technologies that could one day allow users to charge up their iPhones with nothing more than a Wi-Fi router." From the report: Detailed in Apple's patent application for "Wireless Charging and Communications Systems With Dual-Frequency Patch Antennas" is a method for transferring power to electronic devices over frequencies normally dedicated to data communications. In its various embodiments, the invention notes power transfer capabilities over any suitable wireless communications link, including cellular between 700 MHz and 2700 MHz, and Wi-Fi operating at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. More specifically, the document's claims apply to millimeter wave 802.11ad spectrum channels currently in use by the WiGig standard, which operates over the 60 GHz frequency band. Theoretically, the proposal opens the door to wire-free charging from in-home Wi-Fi routers to cellular nodes and even satellite signals. Of course, amplitude in a wireless system is normally a function of distance. Like conventional wireless charging techniques, Apple's design requires two devices -- a transmitter and receiver -- to function. Each device contains one or more antennas coupled to wireless circuitry capable of making phase and magnitude adjustments to transmitted and received signals. Such hardware can be employed in dynamic beam steering operations.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

NASA Delays First Flight of New SLS Rocket Until 2019

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - 18 hours 33 min ago
schwit1 writes: Despite spending almost $19 billion and more than thirteen years of development, NASA today admitted that it will have to delay the first test flight of the SLS rocket from late 2018 to sometime in 2019. "We agree with the GAO that maintaining a November 2018 launch readiness date is not in the best interest of the program, and we are in the process of establishing a new target in 2019," wrote William Gerstenmaier, chief of NASA's human spaceflight program. "Caution should be used in referencing the report on the specific technical issues, but the overall conclusions are valid." The competition between the big government SLS/Orion program and private commercial space is downright embarrassing to the government. While SLS continues to be delayed, even after more than a decade of work and billions of wasted dollars, SpaceX is gearing up for the first flight of Falcon Heavy this year. And they will be doing it despite the fact that Congress took money from the commercial private space effort, delaying its progress, in order to throw more money at SLS/Orion.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

Kill Net Neutrality and You'll Kill Us, Say 800 US Startups

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 23:30
A group of more than 800 startups has sent a letter to the FCC chairman Ajit Pai saying they are "deeply concerned" about his decision to kill net neutrality -- reversing the Title II classification of internet service providers. The group, which includes Y Combinator, Etsy, Foursquare, GitHub, Imgur, Nextdoor, and Warby Parker, added that the decision could end up shutting their businesses. They add, via an article on The Verge: "The success of America's startup ecosystem depends on more than improved broadband speeds. We also depend on an open Internet -- including enforceable net neutrality rules that ensure big cable companies can't discriminate against people like us. We're deeply concerned with your intention to undo the existing legal framework. Without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the Internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market. They could impede traffic from our services in order to favor their own services or established competitors. Or they could impose new tolls on us, inhibiting consumer choice. [...] Our companies should be able to compete with incumbents on the quality of our products and services, not our capacity to pay tolls to Internet access providers."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

2017 World Press Freedom Index – tipping point

beSpacific - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 23:19

“The 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reflects a world in which attacks on the media have become commonplace and strongmen are on the rise. We have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms – especially in democracies…RSF’s latest World Press Freedom Index highlights the danger of a tipping point in the state of media freedom, especially in leading democratic countries. (Read our analysis entitled Journalism weakened by democracy’s erosion.) Democracies began falling in the Index in preceding years and now, more than ever, nothing seems to be checking that fall.  The obsession with surveillance and violations of the right to the confidentiality of sources have contributed to the continuing decline of many countries previously regarded as virtuous. This includes the United States (down 2 places at 43rd), the United Kingdom (down 2 at 40th), Chile (down 2 at 33rd), and New Zealand (down 8 at 13th)…”

Categories: Research

How Libraries Became Public

beSpacific - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 23:14

Barbara Fister, April 26, 2017 – “Of all of our cultural institutions, the public library is remarkable. There are few tax-supported services that are used by people of all ages, classes, races, and religions. I can’t think of any public institutions (except perhaps parks) that are as well-loved and widely used as libraries. Nobody has suggested that tax dollars be used for vouchers to support the development of private libraries or that we shouldn’t trust those “government” libraries. Even though the recession following the 2008 crash has led to reduced staff and hours in American libraries, threats of closure are generally met with vigorous community resistance. Visits and check-outs are up significantly over the past ten years, though it has decreased a bit in recent years. Reduced funding seems to be a factor, though the high point was 2009; library use parallels unemployment figures – low unemployment often means fewer people use public libraries. A for-profit company that claims to run libraries more cheaply than local governments currently has contracts to manage only sixteen of over 9,000 public library systems in the U.S. Few public institutions have been so impervious to privatization…”

Categories: Research

How to Break Your Smartphone Addiction

beSpacific - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 23:02

“When people talk about addiction, the first thing that comes to mind are illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. But in the mobile era, behavioral addiction is much more prevalent and pervasive — and the culprit is the ubiquitous smartphone. Adam Alter, a marketing and psychology professor at New York University, says it’s an addiction by design — and one that’s insidiously hard to break. In his new book, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, he explains how humans are hardwired for addiction and offers suggestions on how to break the habit. He discussed his findings on the Knowledge@Wharton show, which airs on SiriusXM channel 111.”

Categories: Research

U.S. Study Shows Widening Disconnect with Nature, and Potential Solutions

beSpacific - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 22:58

Yale 360 Environment: “A survey of 12,000 adults and children in the United States has shown that many people have lost a close connection with nature, although a wide cross-section of respondents expressed a desire to close that gap. The study, conducted by the public relations and marketing firm DJ Case and Associates in conjunction with state and federal wildlife and park agencies, underlines what many people have intuitively known for years: that the increasing use of computers, smart phones, televisions, and other technology, coupled with a growing movement from rural areas, is pulling many Americans away from the natural world. “It is increasingly normal to spend little time outside,” the report states. The study, The Nature of Americans National Report, found that more than half of adults reported spending five hours or less in nature each week, and being satisfied with this small amount of time spent outdoors. Parents of children 8 to 12 years old said that their children spend three times as many hours with computers and televisions each week as they do playing outside….”

Categories: Research

Success of decades-long federal program to clean up Chesapeake Bay threatened by EPA $73M funding cut

beSpacific - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 22:55

Yale Environment 360 – “President Donald Trump’s first budget would eliminate all of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s $73 million in annual funding for restoring Chesapeake Bay. It is a radical break with decades of federal policy that ironically comes just when investment in the nation’s largest estuary appears to be paying off. “After decades the bay is finally turning around,” says Walter Boynton, a University of Maryland researcher. “Time to double down, build on the momentum, spend more, not less.” Boynton has been studying the bay since early signs of decline 45 years ago mobilized the likes of U.S. Senator Charles Mathias, EPA Administrator Russell Train, Interior Secretary Rogers Morton, and community leader Arthur Sherwood, who started the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. All were Republicans, Boynton notes.“Now we have robust science that tells us we are slowly but surely succeeding,” he says. “How cool for [Trump]to seize on this and say, ‘We’ve taken one of the world’s most productive ecosystems, that was just a mess, and made it great again. Huge victory.’” The reality is far grimmer. Trump’s budget would zero out direct EPA support for the Chesapeake restoration that began in 1983, and for similar projects in other world-class water resources from the Great Lakes to Puget Sound. This is a break with federal priorities that stretch back to President Ronald Reagan, who in 1984 declared the bay a “national treasure…”

Categories: Research

Recent Developments in Patent Law (Spring 2017)

beSpacific - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 22:47

Lemley, Mark A. and Laupheimer, Madeleine and Yoon, James, Recent Developments in Patent Law (Spring 2017) (April 27, 2017). Available at SSRN:

“This paper summarizes the significant developments in patent law in the twelve months ending in April 2017. “

Categories: Research

U.S. Anti-Semitic Incidents Spike 86 Percent So Far in 2017 After Surging Last Year

beSpacific - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 20:17

ADL (Anti-Defamation League) Report: “Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. surged more than one-third in 2016 and have jumped 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017, according to new data from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). In its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, ADL reports that there has been a massive increase in the amount of harassment of American Jews, particularly since November, and a doubling in the amount of anti-Semitic bullying and vandalism at non-denominational K-12 grade schools. In 2016, there was a 34 percent year-over-year increase in incidents – assaults, vandalism, and harassment — with a total of 1,266 acts targeting Jews and Jewish institutions. Nearly 30 percent of these incidents (369) occurred in November and December. The surge has continued during the first three months of 2017, with preliminary reports of another 541 incidents, putting this year on pace for more than 2,000 incidents. Americans of all faiths have felt the increase and in a poll ADL released earlier this month a majority said they are concerned about violence in the U.S. directed at Jews…”

Categories: Research

Pew – Searching for News – The Flint water crisis

beSpacific - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 20:11

“During the long saga of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan – an ongoing, multilayered disaster that exposed about 100,000 residents to harmful contaminants and lead and left them even as of early 2017 advised to drink filtered or bottled water – local and regional audiences used online search engines as a way to both follow the news and understand its impact on public and personal health. A new Pew Research Center study, based on anonymized Google search data from Jan. 5, 2014, through July 2, 2016, delves into the kinds of searches that were most prevalent as a proxy for public interest, concerns and intentions. The study also tracks the way search activity ebbed and flowed alongside real world events and their associated news coverage. The study begins in 2014, when officials switched the source of municipal drinking water from the Detroit city water system to the Flint River. The study period covers ensuing events that included bacteria-related “boil water” advisories, studies showing elevated lead levels in children’s blood and tap water samples, government-issued lead warnings, bottled-water distribution, declarations of emergency, the filing of criminal charges, a Democratic presidential candidate debate in Flint and a visit to the city by President Barack Obama. The data, based on nearly 2,700 different search terms associated with the crisis, reveal that residents of Flint were searching for information about their water before the government recognized the contamination and before local and regional news media coverage intensified beyond a handful of stories related to the initial switch of the water supply. And, while news was the first type of information people searched for, questions about personal and public health implications soon came to the forefront. The politics of the water crisis – which involved the governor of Michigan, the city of Flint and several agencies – did not resonate as a local search topic until Obama reacted, when the story spread nationally…”

Categories: Research

Estimates of U.S. Population by Age and Sex: April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2016

beSpacific - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 20:07

“A downloadable file containing estimates of the resident U.S. population by single year of age and sex is available on the Population and Housing Unit Estimates webpage at <>.  In the coming months, the U.S. Census Bureau will release 2016 population estimates for cities and towns, as well as national, state and county population estimates by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin.”

Categories: Research

U.S. Manufacturing: Federal Programs Reported Providing Support and Addressing Trends

beSpacific - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 20:06

U.S. Manufacturing: Federal Programs Reported Providing Support and Addressing Trends, GAO-17-240: Published: Mar 28, 2017. Publicly Released: Apr 27, 2017.

“GAO identified 58 programs in 11 federal agencies that reported providing support to U.S. manufacturing by fostering innovation through research and development, assisting with trade in the global marketplace, helping job seekers enhance skills and obtain employment, and providing general financing or business assistance. Twenty-one of these programs reported using all of their obligations in fiscal year 2015 to support U.S. manufacturing. For these 21 programs, obligations of each program ranged from $750,000 to $204 million in fiscal year 2015, the most recent full year of data. Twenty-six other programs reported using funding to support manufacturing—in addition to other sectors—and provided ranges of estimates for the obligations directly supporting manufacturing. The remaining 11 programs either did not provide an estimate of their support to manufacturing or reported no program obligations in fiscal year 2015. GAO also identified nine tax expenditures that can provide benefits to manufacturers, amounting to billions of dollars in incentives for both the manufacturing sector and other sectors of the economy.

Most (51) of the 58 programs reported addressing trends toward an increase in advanced manufacturing (e.g. activities using automation, software, or cutting edge materials), the need for a higher-skilled workforce, and more global trade competition for U.S. manufacturers by providing funds and resources, sharing information, and promoting coordination. Survey responses from the 58 programs indicated that more than two-thirds of them are addressing the shift toward advanced manufacturing, approximately half are taking steps to address increased globalization and competition, and fewer than half are addressing the need for a higher skilled workforce.

Forty-four of the 58 programs reported having performance goals or measures related to the support of manufacturing, but agencies that comprise an interagency group have not identified the information they will collect from agencies and use to report progress in supporting advanced manufacturing. Ten of the 11 agencies that administer programs GAO reviewed participate in a federal interagency initiative to coordinate activities and report on progress in the area of advanced manufacturing. The Subcommittee on Advanced Manufacturing—co-chaired by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and that coordinates advanced manufacturing efforts—supports the updating and reporting on a National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing. The plan, which was published in 2012, identifies objectives and potential measures that could be used to assess progress. The subcommittee plans to report in 2018 on progress in achieving the strategic plan’s objectives, as required by the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2014. However, OSTP has not worked with the subcommittee member agencies to identify the information needed to report progress in achieving the strategic objectives, such as what measures will be used. While subcommittee officials said the subcommittee does not provide top-down direction to federal agencies on how to measure effectiveness, specifying the information it will collect from federal agencies would better position it to report consistent and comprehensive information on the progress in achieving the plan’s objectives.”

Categories: Research

University of California IT Workers Replaced By Offshore Outsourcing Firm To File Discrimination Lawsuit

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 20:05
The IT workers from the University of California's San Francisco campus who were replaced by an offshore outsourcing firm late last year intend to file a lawsuit challenging their dismissal. "It will allege that the tech workers at the university's San Francisco campus were victims of age and national origin discrimination," reports Computerworld. From the report: The IT employees lost their jobs in February after the university hired India-based IT services firm HCL. Approximately 50 full-time university employees lost their jobs, but another 30 contractor positions were cut as well. "To take a workforce that is overwhelmingly over the age of 40 and replace them with folks who are mainly in their 20s -- early 20s, in fact -- we think is age discrimination," said the IT employees' attorney, Randall Strauss, of Gwilliam Ivary Chiosso Cavalli & Brewer. The national origin discrimination claim is the result of taking a workforce "that reflects the diversity of California" and is summarily let go and is "replaced with people who come from one particular part of the world," said Strauss. The lawsuit will be filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

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Categories: Research

Should Banks Let Ancient Programming Language COBOL Die?

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 18:00
COBOL is a programming language invented by Hopper from 1959 to 1961, and while it is several decades old, it's still largely used by the financial sector, major corporations and part of the federal government. Mar Masson Maack from The Next Web interviews Daniel Doderlein, CEO of Auka, who explains why banks don't have to actively kill COBOL and how they can modernize and "minimize the new platforms' connections to the old systems so that COBOL can be switched out in a safe and cheap manner." From the report: According to [Doderlein], COBOL-based systems still function properly but they're faced with a more human problem: "This extremely critical part of the economic infrastructure of the planet is run on a very old piece of technology -- which in itself is fine -- if it weren't for the fact that the people servicing that technology are a dying race." And Doderlein literally means dying. Despite the fact that three trillion dollars run through COBOL systems every single day they are mostly maintained by retired programming veterans. There are almost no new COBOL programmers available so as retirees start passing away, then so does the maintenance for software written in the ancient programming language. Doderlein says that banks have three options when it comes to deciding how to deal with this emerging crisis. First off, they can simply ignore the problem and hope for the best. Software written in COBOL is still good for some functions, but ignoring the problem won't fix how impractical it is for making new consumer-centric products. Option number two is replacing everything, creating completely new core banking platforms written in more recent programming languages. The downside is that it can cost hundreds of millions and it's highly risky changing the entire system all at once. The third option, however, is the cheapest and probably easiest. Instead of trying to completely revamp the entire system, Doderlein suggests that banks take a closer look at the current consumer problems. Basically, Doderlein suggests making light-weight add-ons in more current programming languages that only rely on COBOL for the core feature of the old systems.

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Categories: Research

New bill would preserve public access to public data online

Sunlight Foundation - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 17:45

Today, Sunlight joins a diverse coalition of government transparency, data innovation, scientific groups and environment defense advocates in supporting new bipartisan bill in Congress to preserve public access to public data.

The Preserving Data in Government Act speaks to a matter of of heightened public interest in the spring 2017, as open government data has been removed from the Internet during the Trump administration. The bill would require federal agencies to preserve public access to data sets and prevent the removal of those data sets from the Internet without sufficient public notice. You can read the full text of the The Preserving Data in Government Act online.

Why introduce this bill now?

Here’s what the two Congressmen who drafted and sponsored it say:

“Research data that has been collected using taxpayer dollars should be publicly accessible and easily searchable,” said U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), in a statement.

“Small businesses and individuals rely on federally produced information for everything from long-term planning to innovative product development to help grow their companies and create jobs. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Senator Gardner that will help ensure that taxpayer-funded data remains publicly and openly available for innovators to use as they work to solve our country’s toughest challenges.”

“Once data has been published and made available to the public, it should remain available to the public,” said U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), in a statement.

“Whether it’s a technology entrepreneur working on their next innovation or a retailer seeking better weather forecasting to help organize shipments, data is utilized to achieve numerous goals and plays a critical role in improving processes and our daily lives. I’m proud to work with Senator Peters on legislation that ensures government data remains readily accessible in an appropriate manner and that we continue to prioritize government transparency.”

We’re glad to see these Senators championing these ideas and principles. They’re not alone. The Center for Data Innovation at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Natural Resources Defense Council are all standing up for certainty about public access to open government data.

As we told the office of Senator Peters, democracies depend upon citizens being fully informed about not only how their tax dollars are spent but the performance of government programs and the products created by scientific, regulatory and consumer protections agencies.

We were honored to be asked for our feedback on the legislation when they began drafting it this spring and are hopeful that the result will be a useful catalyst for public debate about public access to public assets.

In the 21st century, the Internet provides an unprecedented platform to publish government data on all these areas and more, enhancing transparency and accountability.

In 2017, it’s clear that we can’t take hard-won progress quality, integrity or openness for granted. At a time when public access to public information online has become shadowed in doubt by reduced disclosure and increased secrecy, this legislation provides a vehicle to preserve and defend the knowledge commons that has grown over the past decades online.

Sunlight supports this bill for the same reason we have advocated for the Public Online Information Act, the DATA Act, and the reforms to the Freedom of Information Act we celebrated last summer: they not only improve public’s access to data online, but create useful incentives and worthy principles for career civil servants and political appointees to be good stewards of our country’s knowledge.

The updates to the U.S. Code that they mandate will enable our government to build a better foundation for the digital architecture of access and participation open data represents in this young century.

We hope the United States Congress takes the Preserving Data in Government Act and the OPEN Government Data Act up and passes them into law.

Categories: Research

Chrome Will Start Marking HTTP Sites In Incognito Mode As Non-Secure In October

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Thu, 04/27/2017 - 16:40
Reader Krystalo writes: Google today announced the second step in its plan to mark all HTTP sites as non-secure in Chrome. Starting in October 2017, Chrome will mark HTTP sites with entered data and HTTP sites in Incognito mode as non-secure. With the release of Chrome 56 in January 2017, Google's browser started marking HTTP pages that collect passwords or credit cards as "Not Secure" in the address bar. Since then, Google has seen a 23 percent reduction in the fraction of navigations to HTTP pages with password or credit card forms on Chrome for desktop. Chrome 62 (we're currently on Chrome 58) will take this to the next level.

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Categories: Research