Friday, September 30, 2011

Capital Punishment in the U.S.

On September 21, 2011, there were two executions, one in Texas and the other in Georgia.   Widespread doubts about the guilt of Troy Davis, the man executed in Georgia, led to international protests.  The case against Lawrence Brewer, convicted in the murder of James Byrd, was more clear cut.  Politics This Week | The Economist published a chart which shows that both the death penalty and resulting executions are on the decline in the United States. The story, which relies on statistics from the NAACP and the U. S. Department of Justice, reports that while there are "virtually identical numbers of black and white victims of homicide crimes against whites lead to three-quarters of all death sentences." With death sentences on the decline and exonerations on the rise, it is ironic that Brewer, convicted of killing a black man, and Davis, convicted of killing a white man, were executed on the same day.

Gurney used for lethal injections in
The question of capital punishment is a polarizing one. CQ Researcher, a subscription-based source, is a good place to look for pro and con on this issue and other topics of national interest.  Recent reports  include "Death Penalty Debates" and "Wrongful Convictions".  CQ Researcher can be found on the General and Interdisciplinary--Most Useful menu in Chinook's Find Articles & More pages.   You can take a look at the data Capital Punishment from the Bureau of Justics Statistics.    Additional information is available on the Government Information page on Crime and Justice: Reports and Statistics page. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

American Factfinder

Want to know the average income of a community? Or maybe how they get to work? For current data you will want to use the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS), which can be found in American FactFinder. This year the Census Bureau has launched a new version of FactFinder and this past week the 1-year estimates for ACS were loaded in. Therefore, it is time for us to unveil some new videos demonstrating how to use this database.

If you just want a basic demographic profile, then check out this introductory video:

For more advanced searching, with a information on mapping, check out this video:

The new American FactFinder can be intimidating to use the first time, but I follow these basic steps.

First, what is the community or community I want information on?
Second, what is the time period I want data for and what level of granularity am I looking for? Summary File 1 (population numbers) versus ACS/Summary File 3 or 4 (in-depth population information).
Finally, what do I want data on? Use the search or browse features to find the table I need.

Still want more demographic information? Check out the library's guide to Demographics and Statistics.

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 agriculture, health care, child care, and many other issues. If you would like to know more about GAO, check out the library's guide.

  • Observations on the Costs and Benefits of an Increased Department of Defense Role in Helping to Secure the Southwest Land Border. GAO-11-856R, September 12.
  • Management Report: Opportunities for Improvements in the Congressional Award Foundation's Internal Controls and Accounting Procedures. GAO-11-825R, September 9.

  • DOD Financial Management: Improved Controls, Processes, and Systems Are Needed for Accurate and Reliable Financial Information, by Asif A. Khan, director, financial management and assurance, before the Subcommittee on Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. GAO-11-933T, September 23.

    Highlights - 
  • Social Security Disability: Participation in the Ticket to Work Program Has Increased, but More Oversight Needed, by Daniel Bertoni, director, education, workforce, and income security issues, before the Subcommittees on Social Security and Human Resources, House Ways and Means Committee. GAO-11-828T, September 23. 
  • American Samoa and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: Employment, Earnings, and Status of Key Industries Since Minimum Wage Increases Began, by David Gootnick, director, international affairs and trade, before the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs, House Natural Resources Committee. GAO-11-956T, September 23.
  • Polar Satellites: Agencies Need to Address Potential Gaps in Weather and Climate Data Coverage, by David A. Powner, director, information technology management issues, before the Subcommittees on Investigations and Oversight and Energy and Environment, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. GAO-11-945T, September 23.

    Highlights - 
  • DOD Financial Management: Extent of Weaknesses in Controls over the Use of Public Funds and Related Improper Payments, by Asif A. Khan, director, financial management and assurance, before the Panel on Defense Financial Management and Auditability Reform, House Armed Services Committee. GAO-11-950T, September 22.

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  • Homeland Security: DHS and TSA Acquisition and Development of New Technologies, by Stephen Lord, director, homeland security and justice issues, before the Subcommittee on Transportation Security, House Homeland Security Committee. GAO-11-957T, September 22.

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  • Incapacitated Adults: Improving Oversight of Federal Fiduciaries and Court-appointed Guardians, by Kay E. Brown, director, education, workforce, and income security, before the Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, Senate Judiciary Committee. GAO-11-949T, September 22.
  • Aviation Security: TSA Has Made Progress, but Additional Efforts Are Needed to Improve Security, by Stephen M. Lord, director, homeland security and justice issues, before the Oversight, Investigations, And Management Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee. GAO-11-938T, September 16. Hearing held at Logan International Airport, Boston.
    Highlights - 
  • Disaster Recovery: Federal Contracting in the Aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, by William T. Woods, acquisition and sourcing management before the Senate Committee On Small Business and Entrepreneurship. GAO-11-942T, September 15.
  • Small Business Contracting: Opportunities to Improve the Effectiveness of Agency and SBA Advocates and Mentor-Protege Programs, by William B. Shear, financial markets and community investment before the Contracting And Workforce Subcommittee of the House Small Business Committee. GAO-11-844T, September 15.
  • DOD Financial Management: Ongoing Challenges in Implementing the Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness Plan by Asif Khan, financial management and assurance before the Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security Subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs Committee. GAO-11-932T, September 15.

    Highlights - 
  • Drug Safety: FDA Faces Challenges Overseeing the Foreign Drug Manufacturing Supply Chain, by Marcia Crosse, director, health care, before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. GAO-11-936T, September 14.

    Highlights - 
  • Homeownership Counseling: Although Research Suggests Some Benefits, Implementation and Evaluation Challenges Exist, by Alicia Puente Cackley, director, financial markets and community investment, before the Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity, House Committee on Financial Services. GAO-11-925T, September 14.

    Highlights - 
  • Visa Security: Additional Actions Needed to Strengthen Overstay Enforcement and Address Risks in the Visa Process, by Richard Stana, director, homeland security and justice before the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-11-910T, September 13.

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  • Homeland Security: Challenges for the Food and Agriculture Sector in Responding to Potential Terrorist Attacks and Natural Disasters, by Lisa Shames, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-11-946T, September 13.
  • Energy Policy Act of 2005: BLM's Use of Section 390 Categorical Exclusions for Oil and Gas Development. GAO-11-941T, September 9.
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  • Department of Homeland Security: Progress Made and Work Remaining in Implementing Homeland Security Missions 10 Years after 9/11, by Gene L. Dodaro, comptroller general of the United States, before the House Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-11-940T, September 8.

    Highlights - 
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: Update on Families Served and Work Participation, by Kay E. Brown, director, education, workforce, and income security, before the Subcommittee on Human Resources, House Committee on Ways and Means. GAO-11-880T, September 8.

    Highlights - 
  • Department of Homeland Security: Progress Made and Work Remaining in Implementing Homeland Security Missions 10 Years after 9/11, by Gene L. Dodaro, comptroller general of the United States, before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-11-919T, September 7. 
    Highlights - 
  • U.S. Postal Service: Actions Needed to Stave Off Financial Insolvency, by Phillip R. Herr, director, physical infrastructure, before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-11-926T, September 6.
    Highlights -
Presentation by Comptroller General
  • "GAO's Perspectives on Fiscal and Performance Challenges Facing Government," by Gene L. Dodaro before the American Institute of CPA's (AICPA) Governmental Accounting and Auditing Updates Conference, in Washington D.C. GAO-11-1071CG, August 23.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

NTSB Investigation of the Accident in Reno

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has launched an investigation into the recent crash at an air race in Reno, Nevada in which the pilot and 10 bystanders were killed.  "The National Transportation Safety Board is an independent Federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the United States and significant accidents in the other modes of transportation -- railroad, highway, marine and pipeline -- and issuing safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents."

The NTSB has been uploading press briefings to YouTube.  Although this video is a little dry, it provides a good overview of the process followed by the agency. 

The final NTSB report is usually released 1-2 years after an accident occurs. Recent reports are available from the agency website. In addition a selection of historic accident reports is available from the Department of Transportation's Online Digital Special Collections.  Tracking down the reports issued in between can be something of a challenge.  Many of them were distributed by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS).  Use the NTIS database or the National Technical Reports Library (NTRL) to identify report numbers.  Newer ones are generally available online.  The "in-between" years should be in the microfiche collections of the Government Information Library.
Additional links on issues relating to transportation are available on our aptly-named Transportation page.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The 1933 Double Eagle, Most Valuable Coin in The World

Connections between the often intimidating world of government information and legislation to issues and items of everyday interest can surface in unexpected places, as is the case in this excellent piece published recently by Bloomberg Businessweek magazine.

Starting with insight into the relationship between stodgy-seeming entities like the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the U.S. Secret Service's pursuit to destroy one of the last gold coins manufactured by the U.S Mint, the piece expands to discuss the Gold Reserve Act of 1934, a Congressional effort preceded by President Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order 6102, which together outlawed the hoarding of gold in an effort to raise the value of the Dollar. The Gold Reserve Act outlawed the private possession of gold, and demanded inviduals sell theirs to Department of the Treasury. The gold was then stored in the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox (an act that inspired many a reference to Fort Knox in later Warner Brother's cartoons, including the one embedded below).

As it turns out, the story of the Double Eagle coin involves both Presidents Roosevelt, as Theodore originally commisioned the coin in the early 1900's as part of his desire for an American coin whose style would rival those of ancient Greece.

America's desire to switch to a Gold Standard to preserve the value of the dollar is an issue that still enters the public sphere, such as in this clip with 2012 Presidential candidate, Congressman Ron Paul from the Colbert Report -- and one that stretches back to the expansion of the nation westward, something the recent book The President Is A Sick Man mentions in its look at President Gover Cleveland.

The trail of government information through any one item or issue is a journey that leads to occasioanlly remarkable places, both historically and in contemporary life. Check out the excellent piece on the Double Eagle from Bloomberg Businessweek, and contact the Government Information Library with any questions or curiosities you may wish to pursue.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Deficit Reduction Plan from the President

Today President Obama sent his plan for reducing the federal deficit to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. There are a variety of ways you can learn what he proposed.

1) Read his statement from the White House web site or watch it from the Washington Post web site (warning, you will have to watch a short ad):

2) Read the Office of Management and Budget blog post on the plan.
3) Read a fact sheet (4 pages) or the full plan (80 pages).

Want to comment on this plan? Or have your own ideas on how to reduce the deficit? The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction wants to hear from you. They have a form up on their web site to make commenting easy.

Still need more information? Why not check out the library's Debt and Budget Information guide.

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 budget, foreign relations, military issues, 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.

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

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gulf Oil Spill Final Report Released

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE)/U.S. Coast Guard Joint Investigation Team (JIT) released its final investigative report on the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon explosion, loss of life, and resulting oil spill. Volumes one and two of the final report as well as earlier hearings, transcripts, multimedia, and fact sheets gathered during the investigation into the spill are available from the joint commission website.

In contrast to earlier evaluations of the accident, the final BOEMRE report issued on Sept. 14, 2011, assigns the major portion of the blame to BP while still finding fault with both Halliburton and Transocean.  According to the report, BP took shortcuts to speed production at the site which was behind schedule and over budget.  The loss of life and catastrophic oil spill were the result of "poor risk management, last minute changes to plans, failure to observe and respond to critical indicators, inadequate well control response, and insufficent emergency bridge response training...."  The NY Times quoted a former Justice department official who speculated that the criminal charges may be brought against all three corporations. 

Friday, September 09, 2011

Homeland Security Digital Library

With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 days away, many in the United States are reflecting on the many changes that have occurred since then. We have become more conscious of the intersection between homeland security and larger global issues. One place to look for information on these topics is the Homeland Security Digital Library. Since the University Libraries is a federal depository library, the university community has access to over 92,000 documents that the site has compiled from a wide variety of national and international sources. These include documents outlining the national strategy for defense of the homeland as well as other materials. Recently added document include Muslim Americans: No Signs of Growth in Alienation or Support for Extremism from the Pew Research Center and Oslo Terrorist Attacks: Analysis, Lessons Learned and Consequences from the Fondation Pour La Recherche Strategique in France.

With material from a wide variety of sources the site is a good place to start research into security-related topics. Links are available on the Government Information's Homeland Security page and from the Find Articles and More page of Chinook.