Monday, November 22, 2010

Traveling over the Holidays?

If you are one of the folks lucky enough to be flying somewhere this Thanksgiving week you might have been watching with interest all the discussion on airline security. In addition you might have been wondering exactly which leftovers can go in your carry-on. Here are some web pages to check out.

Traveling Tips
  • Traveling With Food and Gifts There is nothing worse than packing some leftovers in your carry on and having them be taken by the security guard. So this is a short list of some of the things you should stuff in your checked bag (or send home if you can't stand to pay the bag check fees).
  • Liquids Policy Okay, at this point most travelers know about the 3-ounce rule, but in case you need a refresher, check out this 3-1-1 plan.
  • MyTSA Mobile This is a mobile optimized web site for searching the TSA site using your smart phone. Interestingly, this is now the only way to view security gate wait times. The non-mobile version has been taken down for improvements.
Security Debate
  1. First, let's take a look at the TSA's information:
    • Advanced Image Technology This is the machine that is causing all the debate. It will scan through your clothing and let the operator see if you are carrying anything. To see what the operator sees, check out these images. It is possible to decline the machine and instead ask to be patted down.
    • Pat-Downs Want to know what triggers a pat-down and what rights you have during a pat-down? Check it out here to find out more. You can also link to a very brief statement that TSA provided on the fact that changes are coming to the pat-downs. It is these changes (which are not spelled out) that have triggered some of the debate.
    • TSA Statement from Administrator John S. Pistole This statement was released yesterday regarding the security debate.
  2. Second, let's check out some polling.
    • CBS's Poll This poll states that 4 in 5 people support full-body scanners. This does not ask if people would be comfortable using this machine.
    • Wall Street Journal Poll This poll asks if folks "Would you be willing to undergo a body scan examination before boarding a plane?" 76.3% said they would be willing.
  3. Finally, what do you think? This is a unscientific poll of our readers to see if you would be willing to undergo a body scan at the airport.
Would you be willing to undergo a TSA body scan before boarding a plane?
Still want more? Check out the library's guides to transportation and travel information.

New Documents of Note for Nov. 22: Child Health, Obesity, and the Great Recession

This week's selection of notable government publications recently received at the CU Boulder Libraries come from a variety of sources.

Child Health USA 2010, published by the Health Resources and Services Administration, is the latest of an annual, statistics-filled publication that has also been fully reproduced online. This publication reveals the ongoing discrepancies in child health and welfare, particularly where those differences involve race. For example, you may be startled to realize that State numbers for infant mortality demonstrate that black infants in Colorado suffer more than double the number of deaths per live birth versus white children in the state. These are important figures to remember as we use the holidays to seek out opportunities to positively affect our neighbors' lives.

From the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or "OECD," CU Boulder has received, "Obesity and the Economics of Prevention." Surprising almost no-one, the United States ranks first in obesity, with 36% of women and 32% of men labeled as such (Mexico and South Africa come in shortly behind the U.S.). Countries with the lowest rates for obesity are India (1% of men and women both) and Indonesia (0% of men, and 3% of women). Clearly, these numbers were taken just after we all ate last year's Thanksgiving dinner.

"From Crisis to Recovery" is another timely OECD publication. The short book explores "the causes, course and consequences of the Great Recession," and reveals interesting trends. For example, the illustration below shows which countries (in blue) saw positive economic growth during 2009. Nearly all of them are in the Southern Hemisphere, revealing the interdependency of Western economies in vivid terms.

Each of these publications are available in print from Norlin Library and online thought the links above.

Friday, November 19, 2010

World Bank releases World Development Report

The World Bank has just released another collection to us that was previously not available for free to everyone (see post on free data report from April 2010)! The title is the World Development Report and you can now find them back to 1978 (press release). The World Development Report is the in-depth analysis of a particular research topic, for example last year in 2010 the report looked at Development and Climate Change.

Want to learn more about the World Bank? Check out the library's guide.

GAO Reports and Releases

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) which is often called the investigative arm of Congress. This past week GAO investigated defense, environment, international , and other issues. If you would like to know more about GAO, check out the library's guide.

Special Publications

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The FDA Bares Its (Yellow) Teeth on Tobacco

Tomorrow, November 18, is the 35th annual Great American Smokeout, a day when health-related organizations across the country encourage those who indulge in cigarettes to ignore the habit and live a day as a non-smoker.

According to a short history from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Smokeout began in 1972 in Randolph, Massachusetts, when a high-school guidance counselor challenged locals to donate their day's cigarette money to a scholarship fund.

The CDC's Web site also provides multiple online publications dedicated to information about the effects of Smoking and Tobacco use. These reports include information on women and tobacco specifically, recent Federal legislation and policies on tobacco use, and extensive amounts of data, such as this page of highlights on Colorado and the Surgeon General's reports on smoking and tobacco use from the past decade.

A recent addition to the national conversation on smoking comes from President Barack Obama, himself a smoker, who last summer signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. One of the main pieces of the Act -- which at 161 pages comes in fairly short for legislation -- was to transfer regulative authority over tobacco to the Food and Drug Administration, and give the FDA discretion over the advertising and promotion of tobacco products. The President, who has been badgered by both the press and his own family about smoking, discussed the risks and costs of smoking, and his own habit, at the signing of the Act on June 22, 2009.

Whether or not President Obama still smokes, the FDA has taken its new charge seriously, and this past Friday unveiled a set of proposed imagery to be added to packages of cigarettes as more visually intrusive warning labels. Some of those labels have been reproduced below.

Will these labels be effective in discouraging tobacco use? Do the messages speak well to their intended audience? The longterm answers of the campiagn are unknown, but the evidence of smoking's -- and secondhand smoke's -- effect on individual health is irrefutable. Unless, of course, you work for a tobacco company. We do hope, however, that if you choose to smoke, you will choose not to smoke tomorrow.

FULL DISCLOSURE: The author of this post is himself a former smoker, and now a frequent runner. His secret to quitting was to take more naps and to eat a lot of carrots. Good luck!

Monday, November 15, 2010

New Documents of Note for Nov. 15: Microfinance, New Orleans, and HIV Prevention

Here are interesting and timely selections recently received at the CU Boulder Libraries. This week's items are all Congressional Hearings, which provide an excellent level of detail on their subjects, as well as input and testimony from recognized experts in their areas. Hearings are available in print, as well as electronically from a variety of sources such as FDsys (linked here) or via LexisNexis Congressional.

Promoting Small and Micro Enterprise in Haiti
A fascinating topic of sustained interest for Economists, especially as the subject garnered a Nobel Peace Prize for India’s Muhammad Yunus in 2006.

Post-Katrina Recovery: Restoring Health Care in the New Orleans Region
Here combined are two topics that may very well define the legacies of our most recent Presidents – access to health care, and the destruction and recovery of the city of New Orleans.

The Domestic Epidemic is Worse Than We Thought: A Wake-Up Call for HIV Prevention
A topic truly without boundaries, HIV prevention is the focus of worldwide attention, yet prevention practices encouraged by U.S.-funded programs remain highly politicized.

Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports

Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a research agency of Congress and writes reports at Congress' request. These short reports (usually 10-40 pages long) cover recent topics of concern. This week brings us reports on foreign relations, economics, politics, and much more. Although these reports are in the public domain, there is no central database available to the public. To get a copy of a CRS report, you can request it from your senator or representative. These reports were discovered by Secrecy News and Open CRS:
Interested in historical CRS reports? If you are here at the Boulder campus, check out the LexisNexis Congressional database, which has reports dating back to 1916.

Not on campus but still want access to additional reports? The library has a guide linking to various additional sources of CRS reports.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Images of An Active Military

Connotations of military service to those who have not experienced it can rely heavily on scenes and stories passed down by friends and family histories, and through the documents and images preserved by institutions and individuals alike. The collective memory about the military and active combat can become clouded, however, by portrayals that are purposefully more commercially-minded.

U.S. Army Sgt. Stephanie Tremmel, in Afghanistan (link)

Whether films based on popular military histories -- like the Band of Brothers series based on Stephen Ambrose's book, and Oliver Stone's biographical film Born on The Fourth of July, from the Ron Kovic autobiography -- or though efforts to translate contemporary events within newer entertainment formats, as with Call of Duty: Black Ops, a video game released this Tuesday, the effect of a more commercialized view of military service can be a help and hindrance to understanding how well the modern world understands and interprets military service.

Members of the 2-504th Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, in Iraq (link)

While these portrayals are passionate, and often founded on fact, an unromanticized history of military service is essential to understanding the value and responsibilities of the country's volunteer military service. To that end, one tool that provides actual photography and footage of our modern, active military is the Department of Defense database,

Reenlistment ceremony for the 4th Infantry Division, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, Afghanistan (link), whose photographs populate this post, is a collection of still imagery and film dating from 1982-forward. A search by military branch, service member name (when noted), or by country or area of deployment retrieves downloadable digital imagery. Print copies of imagery, or copies of videos, can be purchased for a fee.

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenya Spratt, in Afghanistan (link)

The photos, combined with historic collections from the Library of Congress's American Memory, provide an even perspective on the realities of military service, as well as the opportunity to recognize common scenes of military life that have spanned the history of the United States. If nothing else, they allow viewers to escape the hyperbole of war as a commercial production, and let them instead see the faces of men and women who have and who continute to serve the country though military service.

As with any image database, users should be aware of, and follow, the terms of use for this collection.

Happy Veteran's Day.

GAO Reports and Releases

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) which is often called the investigative arm of Congress. This past week GAO investigated defense, environment, international , and other issues. If you would like to know more about GAO, check out the library's guide.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility was created by President Obama to address the "nation's fiscal challenges" ("About the Commission") also known as the federal debt. Specifically, the goal is to balance the federal budget by 2015.

Today the co-chairs released the first proposal. The proposal comes as a Power Point slide show or a written explanation of each of the cuts equaling $200 billion. These cuts come through elimination or merging of departments, pay freezes, and much more. This is just the first pass, the commission has been charged with submitting a final report by December 1, 2010 and it requires approval of at least 14 of the 18 bipartisan members.

Now this was just released this afternoon, so the media coverage is just starting, but here are a few major newspaper's start on this story:
Want to learn more the budget and debt? Check out the library's guide.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Good Reading: The Government Book Talk Blog

A blog begun in the early months of 2010 by Government Printing Office employee Jim Cameron, Government Book Talk is an excellent resource on new and historic government publications to show readers how "Gov Pubs," as we call them, are not merely shelves of statistical abstracts and Congressional hearings. In no time at all, Cameron has put together an intelligent, readable resource while unearthing a host of insightful documents on U.S. government history and fascinating slice-of-life materials.

Some of the items Government Book Talk has featured include pieces on the use of Balloon Bombs during World War II, a Comic Book History of Printing, documents on Urban Landscaping and Historic Orchards, and a multi-war perspective on Prisoner Interrogation. All of which are, of course, publications from the federal government.

If you enjoy some of the stories we've published that highlight specific government resources and historic events, you'll want to subscribe to Government Book Talk for a great look into the lives and history behind these fascinating government documents.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports

Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a research agency of Congress and writes reports at Congress' request. These short reports (usually 10-40 pages long) cover recent topics of concern. This week brings us reports on foreign relations, military, and much more. Although these reports are in the public domain, there is no central database available to the public. To get a copy of a CRS report, you can request it from your senator or representative. These reports were discovered by Secrecy News:
Interested in historical CRS reports? If you are here at the Boulder campus, check out the LexisNexis Congressional database, which has reports dating back to 1916.

The Supreme Court Discusses a Minor's Right to Play Mortal Kombat

The Supreme Court this week heard oral arguments in Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California v. Entertainment Merchants Association,a case that contemplates whether video games deserve specific legal treatment that excludes them from protection under the First Amendment.

SCOTUS transcripts of oral arguments are both enjoyable and fascinating to read, and in this case (number 08-1448, to be exact), the discussion has particular relevance to a younger set that has grown to see video games change from simple distractions between homework assignments to becoming a tournament sport and the source of very public discussions on whether the format is an recognizable art form.

In his questioning Zackery Morazzini, the Supervising Deputy Attorney
General for California, Justice Antonin Scalia frames the overall issue:
JUSTICE SCALIA: You are asking us to create a -- a whole new prohibition which the American people never -- never ratified
when they ratified the First Amendment. They knew they were -- you know, obscenity was -- was bad, but -- what's next after violence? Drinking? Smoking? Movies that show smoking can't be shown to children? Does -- will that affect them? Of course, I suppose it will.

But is -- is that -- are -- are we to sit day by day to decide what else will be made an exception from the First Amendment? Why -- why is this particular exception okay, but the other ones that I just suggested are not okay?

Where the discussion becomes difficult to deliberate is in reference to the games themselves. Three games were mentioned by name in Tuesday's discussion: Mortal Kombat, a fighting game that has also been turned into a movie franchise; MadWorld, an over-the-shoulder perspective video game in colored only in black, white, grey, and red; and Postal 2, an open-ended first-person-perspective shooting game, and the most widely discussed at the Court for its extreme violence. (Perhaps not surprising to those in public relations, the publisher of Postal 2, Running With Scissors, has created a page on its Web site to track the progress of the case, with considerable editorializing.)

Debates on the First Amendment are easily discussed in the abstract, but when recorded examples from gameplay in Postal 2 depict the brutalization of women and what appears to be a deliberate nod to the teen-aged perpetrators of real-life murders in public schools, the debate becomes far less abstract.

While avoiding approaching the topic's more nebulous aspects, the Court takes the practical considerations of censorship into consideration, such as when Justice Scalia asks Morazzini how video game developers can avoid prosecution, or if the expectation is to define video game obscenity trial-by-trial.

Also discussed is the effectiveness of the existing but voluntary ratings system for video games, as organized by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, and whether parents having the last word in the purchase of items otherwise unavailable to minors is protection enough from violent content. Chief Justice Roberts takes a particular interest in how the distribution of video games might be parallel, in the state's view, with the sale of cigarettes and other items seen to be as harmful toward minors.

The arguments overall are an excellent opportunity to see the working styles of individual Justices, and in particular its newest members, Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. Both Justices show a familiarity with the medium and good humor about the process (Kagan remarks that half her staff likely grew up playing Mortal Kombat), though nearly every Justice participates in the discussion.

All in all, the oral arguments are a short, timely, and interesting introduction to the deliberations of the Supreme Court about a topic on which surely most college students themselves have an opinion.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

GAO Reports and Releases

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) which is often called the investigative arm of Congress. This past week GAO investigated immigration, airlines, small businesses, and other issues. If you would like to know more about GAO, check out the library's guide.


Monday, November 01, 2010

How Judge Robert Bork Became a Verb

In late October newspapers reported that Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, telephoned Professor Anita Hill, a former aide to Justice Thomas, and in a voicemail message asked Hill to apologize to her husband. Anita Hill is probably best known for her testimony against Justice Thomas during his nomination hearings for the Supreme Court, for in her testimony, Hill cited multiple inappropriate sexual advances Thomas had allegedly made while Hill was his employee both at the Department of Education and at the Offices of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It was for making these allegations that Virginia Hill sought an apology.

That telephone call – and the memories of the Thomas Nomination it rekindled – served as a reminder that nominations to the Supreme Court are hardly as smooth a process as recent history may imply. Indeed, when looking at even a contemporary history of SCOTUS nominations, there have been startlingly pointed hearings that make President Obama’s success at benching two new Supreme Court Justices in his first two years appear somewhat astounding.

The 1987 nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court is probably the most angrily remembered by politicians of both parties (though for substantially different reasons), and is seen by many Republicans as having established new lows in the nomination process. That point is argued from the first day of the nomination, July 1, 1987, when within an hour of the announcement of the nomination, Senator Ted Kennedy minced no words on the Senate floor about the Democratic party’s stance against Judge Robert Bork.

Senator Kennedy continued:

This speech – succinctly remembered as "Robert Bork's America" – was met with a comparatively forgettable rebuttal by Senator Robert Dole, and statements against Reagan’s nominee continued in a combative vein, with questions raised about Bork's judicial rulings that seemed, to the political Left, to be directly at odds with the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Among the most vocal of opponents to the nomination was then-Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee (now Vice President of the United States) Joe Biden. In a 78-page document prepared for the Senator -- A Report to the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Joseph Biden, on the nomination of Robert H. Bork to the United States Supreme Court -- Biden accused the Reagan White House of distorting Bork's judicial record to make him appear as political moderate, thus masking the ideological shift in the make-up of the Supreme Court that would result from his confirmation. As the Report stated the issue:

If this seems enough to ensure that Bork would fail as a nominee, the conversation was only beginning. In a move all-to-familiar in political theater, high-profile television ads were launched against the nomination, and news reports became decidedly personal, evoking rumors of Judge Bork's drinking habits and possible alcoholism. This widget provides an audio summary of commercial news reports made during the nomination hearings, running from the political to the personal:

In the end, the weight of accusations and evidence against Judge Bork led to the Judiciary Committee voting to move the nomination to the full Senate, but without their support for Bork's affirmation to the Supreme Court, a decision that rankled both the White House and the nominee. President Reagan, looking to salvage his nominee, took his message to the public, asking them directly to contact their Senator to vote in support of the nomination.

The result was negligible, with the nomination ending in a 58-42 Senate vote against Bork's appointment to the Supreme Court, with discussions remaining volatile until the day of the vote.

For its blistering rhetoric and focus on personal habits and public perception, the Bork nomination was a turning point for many politicians and commentators. The tone of that entire summer, from the July announcement through the October vote, displayed to many a viciousness in discourse unseen -- and unexpected -- in discussions of surrounding the Supreme Court. Indeed, from 1988 forward, in virtually every Congressional discussion on the Supreme Court nomination process, and sometimes in the nomination hearings themselves, Robert Bork's name is used to illustrate either how unworkable the nominations process can become, or how unfit a candidate to the Court can be. The change in tone was enough that the nominee's very name became synonymous with the process he'd been put through, and Robert H. Bork the man became simply, "Bork," the verb:

Definition of "Bork" in the OED

Full-text of the Bork confirmation hearings are available in Lexis-Nexis Congressional, and video recordings are available via the C-Span video archive for all five-days of hearings, or in a three-hour summary.

Election Day 2010

Tomorrow brings us the midterm elections of 2010 for the House and Senate, as well as a variety of Colorado, local and initiative measures. Here are a few resources from the state and county to help you prepare for tomorrow:
Still looking for more information? Why not check out the library's elections and voting guide.