Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Patrolling the Skies for Dangerous Reindeer

As some of you may be aware late on December 24th the skies of North America will be invaded by a jolly man dressed in a red suit with a few flying reindeer. In case you were worried that this nefarious man might invade our territory without anyone noticing I direct you to NORAD's Santa site.

First, you might want to check out this video on how this worked last year:

Then, you might want to stroll over to the Countdown Village to while away some precious hours until he arrives and the jets come out.

Jets? Who said anything about jets? Well, Santa does not file a flight plan ahead of time, so the following protocol is followed: "Canadian NORAD fighter pilots flying the CF-18 intercept and welcome Santa to North America. In the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15, F-16 or the F-22 get the thrill of flying alongside Santa and his famous reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and, of course, Rudolph."

Finally, when the time arrives for the big flight, you can use Google Earth to track Santa's movements so you don't have to worry about him catching you unprepared. If you want to learn how or just want to watch Santa's movements on a web page, check out NORAD's tracking page.

Now for those adults who want to know more about NORAD I encourage you to check out their web site. If you want to know the technical details on this project, such as how many tax dollars are used, check out the FAQ. Finally, if you want to learn a bit more about Homeland Security, check out the library's guide.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Government Accountability Office (GAO) Reports and Releases

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) which is often called the investigative arm of Congress. This set of publications from GAO investigates the housing, fire, health care, and many other issues. If you would like to know more about GAO, check out the library's guide.

  • Drug Shortages: FDA's Ability to Respond Should Be Strengthened, by Marcia Crosse, Director of Health Care Issues, before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. GAO-12-315T, December 15. 
  • Homelessness: To Improve Data and Programs, Agencies Have Taken Steps to Develop a Common Vocabulary, by Alicia Puente Cackley, Director of Financial Markets and Community Investment, before the Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing, and Community Opportunity, House Committee on Financial Services. GAO-12-302T, December 15.

    Highlights - 
  • Medicaid Program Integrity: Expanded Federal Role Presents Challenges to and Opportunities for Assisting States, by Carolyn L. Yocom, director, health care, before the Subcommittees on Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management and Health Care, District of Columbia, Census and the National Archives, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-12-288T, December 7.

    Highlights - 
  • Fraud Detection Systems: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Needs to Expand Efforts to Support Program Integrity Initiatives, by Valerie C. Melvin, director, information management and technology resources issues, before the Subcommittees on Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management; and Health Care, District of Columbia, Census and the National Archives; House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-12-292T, December 7.

    Highlights - 
  • Visa Waiver Program: Additional Actions Needed to Address Risks and Strengthen Overstay Enforcement, by Richard M. Stana, director, homeland security and justice, before the Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, House Committee on the Judiciary. GAO-12-287T, December 7.

    Highlights - 
  • National Capital Region: 2010 Strategic Plan is Generally Consistent with Characteristics of Effective Strategies, by William O. Jenkins, Jr., director, homeland security and justice, before the Subcommittees on Disaster Recovery and Intergovernmental Affairs and Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia; Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Oversight Committee. GAO-12-276T, December 7.
  • Foster Children: HHS Guidance Could Help States Improve Oversight of Psychotropic Prescriptions, by Greg Kutz, FAIS, before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security. GAO-12-270T, December 1.

    Highlights -
    Podcast available - 
  • Federal Housing Administration: Risks to the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund and the Agency's Operations, by Mathew Scire, FMCI, before the House Committee on Financial Services. GAO-12-277T, December 1.
    Highlights - 
  • Coast Guard: Observations on Arctic Requirements, Icebreakers, and Coordination with Stakeholders, by Stephen Caldwell, HSJ, before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. GAO-12-254T, December 1.

    Highlights -

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

No Texting While Driving??? Why Not???

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims, has voted unanimously to recommend a ban on non-emergency use of portable electronic devices (aka cell phones) while driving.  The decision followed on heels of the discussion into the causes of an accident involving two school buses, a GMC pickup, and a Volvo tractor.  The board concluded that the most likely cause of the accident, which killed two and injured many others, was probably inattentiveness on by the pickup driver who was text messaging at or near the time of the accident. 

It's a big problem.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  "in 2009, more than 5,400 people were killed and an additional 448,000 were injured in crashes that were reported to involve driving while distracted. Among those killed or injured in these crashes, nearly 1,000 deaths and 24,000 injuries included cell phone use as the major distraction (Distracted Driving in the United States and Europe)  It's considered such a serious problem that the U.S. Department of Transportation has a website ( devoted to the issue.  The site includes fact sheets, summaries of state laws, and links to research reports. 

Chart from Distracted Driving in the
United States and Europe
Take a look at this chart. Only about 1/3 of us "never" use a cell phone while driving.  We sincerely hope that you are not reading this blog post while driving.

Drive safely 

Monday, December 12, 2011

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 month brings us reports on the federal laws, secrecy and tracking. 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 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.   

Friday, December 09, 2011

Shootings at Virginia Tech

Students at Virginia Tech were stunned to find themselves in the midst of another shooting on campus.  In 2007 Virginia Tech was the site of the worst shooting in U.S. history when a student named Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 and wounded 25 others before committing suicide.  Initial reports on this shooting indicate that the campus alert system functioned well.  The campus has reopened and final exams will begin on Saturday.  Sadly a campus police office lost his life in the shooting.  The Virginia Tech website includes information about the memorial fund established in the name of Officer Crouse.

Stories like this are appalling.  Just how safe are college campuses?  Campus crime statistics are available from the U.S. Department of Education at the Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool.   Despite its somewhat unfortunate name, the site provides information on alleged criminal offenses reported to campus security authorities and/or local law enforcement agencies at over 6000 postsecondary institutions.  The report on Virginia Tech indicates that there was one murder between 2008 and 2010.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Report Says Teenagers Are Having Less Sex. Unless They Aren't.

According to the Centers for Disease Control's new, catchy titled report -- "Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing, 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth" -- Teenagers -- those between the ages of 15 and 18 -- are having less sex.  Or at least they say they are having less sex when asked about it by the Centers for Disease Control, which isn't quite the same as telling your Dad, is it?  Teens wouldn't hide the truth from figures of authority would they? Parents? Relatives? Scientists in white lab coats holding clipboards and waiting impatiently for answers to their questions?  Of course they would.

18.7% of Teenagers say they are waiting to have sex because they "haven't found the right person yet."
Or at least that is what one recent editorial about the CDC report discusses.  In her piece at the New York Times' blog Motherlode (a coincidental title, that, but nonetheless here unfortunate) -- "Are Teenagers Really Having Less Sex?" --  author KJ DellAntonia (who only sounds like she's a character from Twilight) worries that a survey "administered by a C.D.C. interviewer but conducted largely on a laptop with headphones" is bound to be flawed.

(Click on the image above to see the excerpt writ large.)

She makes a valid point: self-reporting activity provided via an interview allows for a greater chance for mis-representation or omission of sexual activity than data collected anonymously over an electronic medium.  Because talking about sex isn't always something Americans do, or do well.
What teen would be intimidated by a friendly-sounding report like this one?
Click on that title for the full CDC report.  For the trailer to Breaking Dawnclick here.
The report itself provides all sorts of interesting data, some of which is perhaps too detailed for a family-friendly blog like this one.  For example, did you know that since 2002, the number of African American females who reported using birth control during their last sexual encounter stayed at 71%?  For Hispanic and Anglo populations of teenage women, those numbers increased by 8% and 4% respectively.

Click to embiggen.
Putting aside teenagers, the CDC also provides extensive data on Sexual Health and Activity for adults and for the LGBT community, though there is not yet a site speaking to the sexual issues of vampires or werewolves.  Or, for that matter, those impregnated by midichlorians.

In terms of more data, why not peruse this page-turner:  "Sexual Behavior and Selected Health Measures: Men and Women 15-44 Years of  Age, United States."  Trust me, it only sounds boring.  Within its pages we learn this: that 22% of Anglo males and 34% of African American males have had 15 or more opposite-sex sexual partners in their lifetimes.  We can only guess how many of those were in college.  Hispanic and African American women with more than 15 partners were fewer: 5% and 9% respectively.

If the CDC says so, it must be true.

According to another CDC Report, we learn that the majority of married persons (40%) first had sex between the ages of 15-17 -- and that majority holds for those widowed, separated, divorced, never married, or currently cohabitating.  Apparently, John Hughes was right.  That report, by the way, is "Drug Use and Sexual Behaviors reported by Adults: United States, 1999-2002."  Who knows why the two are linked, but this same document states that 13.1% of married individuals have at one time or another used cocaine or other "street drugs."  This might prove a useful statistic to toss out the next time the parents (or Centers for Disease Control) ask why the car was brought home late after Senior Prom.

Monday, December 05, 2011

FRUS turns 150--you say what???

Foreign Relations of the United States, a title often abbreviated to "FRUS", turned 150 on December 3.  You know that you are a government publications afficianado when that gets you excited.  Here at CU Boulder it's one of our favorite tools when a student needs "primary sources" on on a topic related to U.S. foreign policy.

FRUS volumes contain documents from Presidential libraries, Departments of State and Defense, National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency, Agency for International Development, and other foreign affairs agencies as well as the private papers of individuals involved in formulating U.S. foreign policy.  The series is edited by a group of historians at the Department of State.  The editors "choose documentation that illuminates policy formulation and major aspects and repercussions of its execution."

The volumes are arranged by the name of the president in office and the world region or issue. Rather than being lumped in with other content, serious national and international issues are sometimes covered in separate volumes.  The Cuban Missile Crisis (Kennedy) gets a volume of its very own. So does the Arab-Israeli War that occured during Nixon's presidency. 

You can find links to freely-available versions of FRUS on our page on the department's page on Foreign Relations and International Aid.  A subscription-based version is available on campus through HeinOnline


Monday, November 28, 2011

What Did that Turkey Do to Need a Pardon, Anyway?

Last week, on November 23rd, President Obama participated in the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation, a traditional White House event dating back to at least 1873 with President Ulysses S. Grant, wherein the Commander-In-Chief is presented with a bird for the White House Thanksgiving Dinner.  A newer tradition -- and seemingly now an annual event -- is the Annual Pardoning of the Thanksgiving Turkey, in which the gifted turkeys are released by the President to live the remainder of theirs lives free from the threat of being eaten by the leader of the free world.

President Gerald Ford, in 1975, pardons another turkey.
The affair is light-hearted (and gravy-free), and often provides the President an opportunity to get in a few digs at the media, as President Obama did in his presentation last week.  A video of the 2011 Pardoning is embedded below.

This year the White House Blog also provided its own brief on the history of Presidential Turkey Pardons.

But crafty readers may wonder what these innocent-looking turkeys may have done to need a pardon in the first place.  For the answer to this question, they may wish to turn to Crime in the United States, an annual publication from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Program that organizes crime statistics into several (un)appetizing categories such as Property Crimes, Homicides, and even by number of persons arrested.  There is sadly no compilation of statistics specifically for crimes committed during a Walmart Black Friday sale. But perhaps soon.
More hard-hitting statistics are available through the Department of Agriculture, such as this year 2000 report, ominously titled "Structural Change in U.S. Chicken and Turkey Slaughter," in which we learn of America's insatiable appetite for bird meat.

Chilling.  Like unheated cranberry-sauce chilling.  But still no definitive numbers exist for crimes committed by turkeys, or how the crimes of pardoned turkeys might break down by category.  Nevertheless, the archives of the Annual Pardoning ceremonies and the FBI's Crime in the United States publication are just two of the many kinds of Government Documents available on the issues that matter to YOU

Also, the government prints cookbooks.  An anti-bird conspiracy if there ever was one.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Appeals Court Upholds Roadless Areas

On October 21 a federal appeals court upheld a rule barring construction of roads in designated areas in national forests and grasslands managed by the U.S. Forest Service.   The rule, which was enacted near the end of Clinton's presidency, has been tied up in the courts ever since.  Environmentalists are elated.  The mining industry is not.  To qualify as roadless areas, the lands should have: high quality or undisturbed soil, water, or air; sources of public drinking water; diversity of plant and animal communities; habitat for threatened, endangered, proposed, candidate, and sensitive species, and for those species dependent on large, undisturbed areas of land; primitive, semi-primitive motorized, and semi-primitive non-motorized classes of dispersed recreation; reference landscapes; natural-appearing landscapes with high scenic quality; traditional cultural properties and sacred sites; and, other locally identified unique characteristics.

Pole Creek near the headwaters of the Rio Grande River in Rio Grande National Forest
Because of concerns expressed by the mining, timber, and ski industries, the State of Colorado would like to have a specific rule that applies to Colorado only.  To learn more about the proposed Colorado Roadless Areas (CRAs) visit the Colorado Rule area of the Roadless Area Conservation website hosted by the Forest Service. 

The Government Information website also has pages on Parks, Forests, Grasslands, Wildlife Refuges, and Historic Places

Monday, November 14, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court to Review Legality of Obama Heath Care Overhaul

As is being reported widely across news services today, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments regarding the constiutionality of provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PDF), the 2010 overhaul of U.S. health insurance and one of the major accomplishments of Barack Obama's presidential administration.

A White House photo from 2009, as then President-elect Obama visits with members of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Predonimantly at question is the Act's provision requiring that citizens of the country purchase some form of health care or be penalized with a fee.  Interestingly, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear five-and-one-half hours of arguments for and against the Act -- a length of time not devoted to a case before SCOTUS since 2003's arguments on the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act in the case of McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (Click here for transcripts of that case's Arguments and the Court's Decsion).

Online at the Supreme Court's Web site now are several publications from the case docket, or the materials filed with the court, including several "Petitions for Writ of Certiorari" -- which are petitions for the Supreme Court to evaulate the ruling of a lower court in cases "of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination" -- and "Briefs in Opposition," which point out "any perceived misstatement of fact or law in the petition" that bears on the issues before the Court, should the certiorari be granted. (See The Rules of the Supreme Court for more details on these terms.)

Embedded above are President Obama's remarks as he signs the Affordable Care Act into 
law (Transcript).  The moment was also notable for Vice President's on-mic comments that
occur about 7:15 into the video.

Whether related to the Court's announcement, or part of an ongoing push by the White House to remove congressional barriers from the passage of additional economic stimuli, a new program was announced today by the adminsitration and the Department of Health and Human Services that ties funding from Affordable Care Act to a "Health Care Innovation Challenge," which grants at least one million dollars to programs designed to "deliver better health, improved care and lower costs to people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program." 

At the very least, the inititive ties to existing efforts by the Obama administration to better publicize the Affordable Care Act, including the White House's own Web site on the issue and the HHS' Web site.  The Obama White House has always been savvy with its ability to use technology to promote its agenda, such as in this video pointing out heath care statistics just before the Act's passage.

With a Supreme Court ruling likely appearing in June of 2012, its decision and the results of the White House's efforts in promoting the Act could have a major impact on the court of public opinion going in to the 2012 Presidential election.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nixon Grand Jury Records

The image (all images are from the Nixon Presidential Photo Gallery) below is just one of the steps in the Watergate crisis that ultimately ended in the resignation of President Richard Nixon on August 9th 1974. The resignation was not the end of the story, today at noon the National Archives released the grand jury testimony taken in 1975 after the resignation. 
President Nixon delivers an Address to the Nation from the Oval Office responding to subpoenas for the White House Tapes with edited transcripts.
Date:   April 29, 1974
Roll-Frame number:   WHPO E2679c-09A
In May 1975, the Watergate Special Prosecution Force (WSPF) decided that it was necessary to question former President Richard M. Nixon in connection with various investigations being conducted by the WSPF. Mr. Nixon was questioned over the period of two days, June 23 and June 24, 1975, and the testimony was taken as part of various investigations being conducted by the January 7, 1974, Grand Jury for the District of Columbia (the third Watergate Grand Jury). Chief Judge George Hart signed an order authorizing that the sworn deposition of Mr. Nixon be taken at the Coast Guard Station in San Mateo, California with two members of the grand jury present. For more details on what was released check out the press release.

These records are available from three sources:
In addition the Nixon Presidential Library is releasing:
These documents supplement the documents already available from the Nixon library, many digitally, and provide illumination on a previously sealed portion of the history of this scandal.

President Nixon leaving the White House
Date:   August 9, 1974
Roll-Frame number:   WHPO E3386c-35
Still want more? Why not get find some more presidential documents using the library's Presidents guide.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Mining the Mountain of Presidential Elections Publications

With television and online news coverage of the 2012 Election only increasing as next year's election day draws near -- but hopefully before Americans become oversaturated with election events -- now seems an opportune time to (re)introduce users to sources and publications about American Presidental Elections.

Clinton and Obama during the 2008 debates.  From AP Iamges.
Our patrons may already be aware that the Government Information Library offers a general guide to resources and useful government links on the issues of Elections and Voting, and they may even know that the GIL has presented pages in the past regarding specific election years, such as 2004 and 2006

At the same time, standard "go-to" government web sites like the Federal Election Commission help to illuminate the process of campaign financing, providing useful historical data, as well as information on donations put toward yet-to-be-decided events like the Presidential Elections of 2012The Stasitical Abstract of the United States (a publication some may remember is operating under the threat of extinction) offers data on campaign financing, too, but additionally provides overviews of voter participation, the apportionment of membership to the House of Representatives, and demographic characteristics of office holders in its section on Elections
The Presidents Bush (43rd and 41st) in 2008.  From AP Images.

From elesewhere around the Web, the University of California Santa barbara's American Presidency Project presents election data more visually at its Elections site, which extends as far back as the first election of a president in 1789 (one of only two U.S. presdiential elections decided by unanimous electoral vote -- though Thomas Jefferson's election to the office in 1804 came awfully close).  They also have a section on 2000's contested election to the office, with transcripts of key events and newscasts featuring both parties.

C-SPAN's Video Library site features over 18,000 programs in the Campaignan & Elections portion of its cataloge, including the now infamous concession of the 200 election by Vice President Al Gore to President-elect, George H. W. Bush.

With all this raw data available, some may surmise that there is no election in the world as well scrutinized as those deciding the President of the Unites States.  And that assumption would have to include more narrative contributions from media journalists over the years, many of whom offer well researched and well documented accounts of the behind-the-scenes events that often decide the canidates Americans are later asked to choose between.  Below are just a few of the literally hundreds of titles offered in the CU Boulder system on some of our country's more recent presidential elections.  Check them out! And for more data or publications about a particular election, stop in to the Government Information Library or the Norlin Library Rsearch Desk.

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the race of a lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin (Click here for more titles on the 2008 Election).

Bush versus Kerry : a functional analysis of campaign 2004 by William L. Benoit (More about the 2004 Election).

The Race to 270 : the Electoral College and the campaign strategies of 2000 and 2004 by Daron R. Shaw (and more on the 2000 Election).

What it Takes: the way to the White House by Richard Ben Cramer (More on the 1988 election).

Reagan's victory : the presidential election of 1980 and the rise of the right by Andrew E. Busch (More on the 1980 election).

Finally, Theodore H. White wrote the series "The Making of the President" for elections in the years 1960, 1964, 1968, and 1972

Thursday, November 03, 2011

GAO Reports and Releases

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) which is often called the investigative arm of Congress. This set of publications from GAO investigates the post office, agriculture, banking, and many other issues. If you would like to know more about GAO, check out the library's guide.


Comptroller General Presentation
  • Meeting Accountability Challenges in a Dynamic Environment, by Gene L. Dodaro, comptroller general of the United States, before the annual meeting of the Alabama Examiners of Public Accounts, in Montgomery, Alabama. GAO-12-167CG, October 17, 2011