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.
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  • 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