Freedom of the Press Foundation this week filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Justice Department over their unpublished rules for using National Security Letters and so-called informal “exigent letters” to conduct surveillance of journalists. Read the rest
“A key Interior technology official who had access to sensitive systems for over five years had lied about his education, submitting falsified college transcripts produced by an online service.”
Calling themselves Los Ferronautas (or "railanauts"), Ivan Puig and Andrés Padilla Domene documented the impacts of the privatization — and subsequent immediate closure — of Mexico's passenger rail lines. Their home-built vehicle could travel on the rails or on the ground, from Mexico City to the Atlantic.
[Video Link] Read the rest
The US Transportation Department today proposed
air travelers be given detailed information on the fees they're being charged for each checked bag, advance seat assignments, and carry-on luggage. Read the rest
Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. Image: Stephen Kim Legal Defense Trust.
Former State Department official Stephen Kim announced today he will plead guilty to leaking classified information to Fox News journalist James Rosen and will serve 13 months in jail.
The case sparked controversy last year when it was revealed the Justice Department named Rosen a “co-conspirator” in court documents for essentially doing his job as a journalist. But a largely ignored ruling in Kim’s case may have far broader impact on how sources interact with journalists in the future. Read the rest
E-cigarettes are different enough from cigarettes that it's hard for regulators to figure out how to monitor their safety and use
. There's nicotine, but no tobacco. There's heating, but not combustion. Theoretically, they should be safer to use than cigarettes, but nobody really knows for sure. This piece at InsideScience is an interesting look at how we manage new technologies that don't quite fit into any previously defined regulatory boxes ... and why we'd want to regulate them, to begin with. Read the rest
The Whitehorse City Council meeting will be the most dramatic, tension-filled television you'll experience all week. It airs every Monday evening on Whitehorse Community Cable in Yukon, Canada. (Thanks, FP!) Read the rest
The good news: Fecal transplants work well enough as a treatment for patients with Clostridium difficile
infections that the Food and Drug Administration has decided to take them out of the grey area of legality in which they were previously being performed
. Poop transplants for C. difficile
will be legal, and the doctors doing the transplants will have to be approved by the FDA, to make sure they're getting the donor poop through safe means and not prescribing poop transplants for things that poop transplants don't help. The bad news: The approval process turns out to be ridiculously arcane and time-consuming — featuring a 30-day waiting period and requirements that are apparently secret. Read the rest
“The future of technology will be largely determined by citizens who will design, build, and hack their own”
My Institute for the Future colleague Jake Dunagan is hosting a 24-hour online forecasting game to imagine the future of government services and civic engagement. It's called Connected Citizens and there are still a few hours left to play!
The near future holds epic opportunities for rapid innovation in government services. New civic technologies will be built with open data, ubiquitous cloud connectivity, and real-time sensing. Connected Citizens is a global conversation about how connectedness will change the relationship between citizens and governments, and how government services will be designed and delivered in the future.
Connected Citizens Read the rest
Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez,
Read the rest
If you want access to all the tax filings of US nonprofit corporations, the IRS will sell you sets of DVDs for $2580 per year of data. We acquired all of these filings from 2002 to the present, a set of DVDs weighing 98.7 pounds. I'm pleased to report that all 6,461,326 of those returns are now successfully extracted and available on our new bulk data feed.
This data really should be available directly from the IRS at no charge. Accordingly, we've drafted a deed of gift offering the system back to the government.
Until the .gov people do take it over, we're offering access to all 5 TBytes of data using the http, ftp, and rsync protocols. Our hope is that developers will come up with lots of new uses for this information. In order to make the database even more useful, we've started working with Captricity to extract data from the forms and make it available as computable data (e.g., CVS files instead of TIFF images!).
Once search engines such as Google finish indexing the data, the tax filings of nonprofits will show up in the search results. When you search for a nonprofit, the first thing you see ought to be their home page. But, the next thing you ought to see are things like how much they pay their CEO, how much revenue goes for fundraising, and if they spend money to lobby public officials.
Nonprofits in the US had $1.87 trillion in 2009 revenues and it is these periodic filings that make the nonprofit marketplace work properly, just like SEC EDGAR filings help make the corporate markets work properly.
Greg from TechCrunch sez,
TechCrunch has launched a beta version of a new technology policy
platform, Crunchgov. Crunchgov (beta) is designed to source the most
thoughtful people and ideas for the purpose of crafting smarter tech
policy. The tech industry is great at getting headlines for things
like SOPA but haven't been successful at passing laws--this leaves
them vulnerable to the status quo on education, immigration, IP and a
hot of other issues.
So, we designed two tools, which are both first for a media
organization as far as I know. One is a a report card - each House of
Representatives member (and soon Senators) are rated on how
their voting record aligns to the consensus interests of the
technology industry. To gage what consensus issues are, we surveyed
the top tech lobbies, which collectively represent most of industry.
Where they all agreed on a bill, we put it into our report.
We ended up with 3 bills: The Fairness in High
Skilled Immigrants Act, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), The JOBS
Act (crowdfunding for startups).
We also identified 10 congressmen, who were given As or Fs, based on
whether they were well-known champions or threats. This will help
citizens keep track of the most thoughtful people, and be warned when
known threats try to co-opt important issues, such as when SOPA author
Lamar Smith introduced a partisan immigration law destined to fail.
Read the rest
This year's IgNobel Prizes were a characteristically great bunch, but as a writer, I'm particularly excited to see that the organizers awarded a prize in literature this year. The prize went to the US Government Accountability Office, for Actions Needed to Evaluate the Impact of Efforts to Estimate Costs of Reports and Studies, or as the IgNobels put it:
The US Government General Accountability Office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.
The feds didn't send anyone to accept.
Winners of the IgNobel Prize
(via As It Happens)
Read the rest
Zachary Sanders, 38, traveled to Cuba as an unauthorized tourist 14 years ago. He was 23, and had been teaching English in Mexico. He decided to travel to Cuba for a couple of weeks in 1998. "I wanted to learn about how a socialist country worked in practice," Sanders says. "I had no illusions. ... I'm not like some diehard supporter of the (Cuban) government or anything like that." The U.S. Treasury Department penalized him for not having filled out the proper forms, and a long-running legal battle ensued. Today, Sanders reached a settlement with the government: he must pay $6,500 for his mistake
. Read the rest
My pal Anthony Citrano points to this outrageous story, and says: "The State Department says their staff should blog about 'individual stories', but this bullshit about your new nipple is just too much."
The tl;dr: Jennifer Dinoia, who is married to a foreign service agent, maintained a family blog that was promoted on the State Department website. She wote about her experience in treatment for breast cancer. All was fine with the blog, and its inclusion in the State Dept.'s official blogroll, until she wrote a post detailing nipple construction after mastectomy.
From Ms. DiNoia's blog post, after she realized her story was no longer welcome:
Read the rest