News about government information

Posted by: on Jul 4, 2007 | No Comments

Strib=Star Tribune and PPD=St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch

Strib, 6/24, p. A9: “The silent influence of Dick Cheney” contains interesting comments about how the V.P.’s office handles government information.

Strib, 6/25, p. A8: “The silent influence of Dick Cheney” is the second part of this series with more information related comments. This article focuses in part on the role secrecy played int he development of the administration’s position on torture. Both these stories raise difficult questions about how the history of the Bush administration will be written given the penchant for secrecy and keeping information “off the books”.

Strib, 6/26, p. A8: “Cheney’s secrecy fits long pattern” is an editorial discussing the V.P. and secrecy. It contains the following quote. “Secrecy is antithetical to the American values of government openness and public access.”

Strib, 6/27, p. A1: “CIA releases files on illegal spying in U.S.” is largely focused on CIA activities in the 1970’s. Can we imagine what kind of spying is going on now that a lot of it has been legalized by the Patriot Act?

Strib, 6/27, P. A3: “Prisoner’s bid draws big costs, experts” is a story about a Massachusetts’ convict’s demand to have a sex change operation. Much of the story is based on documents obtained under the Mass. FOIA with interesting results. For example, the operation would have cost $20K. So far, the State’s fight has cost $52K.

Strib, 6/27, p. B1: “Health chief grilled for four hours” describes the hearing about the Health Department’s Commissioner withholding information. There was testimony from a Health Department employee that she was told not to put information about these the issue in writing. (Clear attempt to evade the Data Practices Act?)

Strib, 6/27, p. B2: “Court rules doctor’s rights were violated, but he may get license back” includes a discussion of part of the Court’s decision upholding release of data about doctors under the Data Practices Act.

PPD, 6/27, p. 1B “Told to quit, health chief apologizes” is the PPD’s story about the hearing discussed above.

PPD, 6/27, p. 5B. “Court rules for board in cancer doctor case” is PPD story about the doctor issue discussed above.

PPD, 6/27, p. 3A, “CIA domestic spying detailed” is the PPD story about the CIA 1970’s spying.

Strib, 6/28, p. A1, “State’s drug law goes to Congress” continues the discussion about the drug company payments to doctor’s data base. This story includes information that when the reporters first started looking for these reports, they were found in dust covered boxes.

Strib., 7/1, p. A5: Garrision Keillor’s column, entitled “The public library: A place of respite, still” is a reminder of why many of us LOVE libraries.

Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 10-16.

Posted by: on Jun 19, 2007 | No Comments

Some stories have links to the online version.
Strib=Star Tribune
PPD=St. Pauo Pioneer Press Dispatch

Strib, 6/10, p. B1. “Chasing a cold case” is a story that illustrates the importance of retaining old records in criminal matters.

Strib, 6/11. p. A8. “Immigration judges often picked based on GOP ties, records show” is a story based government data.

Strib, 6/11 p. B1, “Drivers, MnDOT feel more bumps in the road” is a story based on government data.

Strib, 6/11, p. E4. In the “Fixit” column, which is headlined “Road repair crews are on a roll with TP”, there is a question about access to police incident data. The answer says nothing about the access under the Data Practices Act. Another teaching moment lost.

Strib, 6/12, p. B1. “Integration effort can’t stop old patterns” is a story based on government data.

Strib, 6/12, p. D1. “Farm subsidies for the rich” is a story based on government data.

PPD, 6/12, p. 1C. “Who gets all that farm aid” is a story based on government data.

PPD, 6/12, p. 2A. “Official accused on unlawful advocacy” is a story based on government documents.

PPD, 6/12, p. 3B “Two arrested in master key prank” includes information about police refusing to release public arrest data.

Strib, 6/12, p. A11. In a column headlined “Shine more light on drug clinical trials”, a Minnesota legislator advocates establishment of a publicly accessible data base.

PPD, 6/13, p. 2A. “Congressmen question FBI’s proposed data base” is about a plan to create a terrorism data base that would have six billion records. A similar story appears in the Strib, on 6/13 at page A12.

PPD, 6/13, p. 1A. “State cops seize more property, cash in ’06” is a story based on government data.

PPD, 6/13, p. 5A. “Hurricane satellite on last legs” is a story based on government documents.

PPD, 6/13, p. 8B. “Agency: Drinking water in good shape” is a story based on a government report.

PPD, 6/13, p. 1C. “State jobless rate edges up” is based on a government report.

Strib, 6/13, p. B1. “A big disparity in graduation rates: is a story based on government data.

Strib, 6/13, p. A1. “State tops U.S. jobless rate for first time in 31 years” is based on government data.

Strib, 6/13, p. A11. “Poisoned patriots” is a story based on government data.

PPD, 6/14, p. 1A. “Drivers shun car pools despite high gas prices” is a story based on government data. A similar story is in the Strib. for 6/14 at p. B5.

PPD, 6/14, p. 3A. “House votes to fix gun check system” is a story about a development that will enhance government data collection and sharing. A similar story appears in the Strib. for 6/14 at p. A3.

PPD, 6/14, p. 6A. “FBI finds it overstepped bounds in data collection” is a story based on government data.

Strib, 6/14, p. A1. “Victims’ advocate being investigated for selling government data” is a story about the alleged theft of government data.

Strib, 6/14, p. E5. In “News of the Weird” there is an item about the malfunction of computerized data in Alaska which results in two months of round the clock work to use paper records to re-create a data base.

PPD, 6/14, p. 1C. “Farm subsidy database is only part of the story” is an opinion column based on government data.

PPD, 6/14, p. 1C. “IRS to revive random tax audits” is a story based on government data which tells us that the IRS often uses random audits not to check on tax compliance but to collect personal data to build better tax compliance systems.

Strib, 6/14, p. D1. “Fed survey sees solid growth, including in Upper Midwest” is a story based on a government report.

PPD, 6/15, p. 3A. “Money rolls in for Clintons” is a story based on filings with the Federal Elections Commission.

PPD, 6/16, p. 5A. In “Nation and World Briefing” section is a story headlined “Intern loses device with state data” about a missing disc with social security numbers and other information about Ohio state employees.

PPD, 6/16, p. 8B. “Scientist says state retaliated against him” includes an allegation that a fired state employee destroyed government data.

June 6th to June 9th

Posted by: on Jun 15, 2007 | No Comments

Strib=Star Tribune and PPD=St. Paul Pioneer Press

Strib, 6/6, p. D1. “Minneapolis Wi-Fi boots up.”

PPD, 6/7, 10B. “Maybe it should be called Homeland Insecurity Department” is an opinion column including a discussion of a highly redacted Inspector General’s report on the Homeland Security Department.

PPD, 6/7, 1A . “U, Google unite to put books on-line” describes the new agreement between the U and Google to computerize books in the U collection.
See whole article below as copied from this link:

U, Google unite to put books online
Pioneer Press – Article Last Updated: 06/06/2007 11:54:20 PM CDT

The University of Minnesota and other Big Ten schools will team up with Google to digitize as many as 10 million books, including 1 million from the U.
U officials Wednesday called the deal a big step in preserving important works – including its Scandinavian and forestry collections – and improving scholarly research by making materials easy to find and search on the Web. Google picks up the digitizing tab, estimated at $60 a volume; the schools pay to get the books ready.
Google will post “snippets” of copyrighted materials and point viewers to places where they can buy the book or get it at a local library. Entire books in the public domain can be searched or downloaded; generally, that means government documents and material published in the United States before 1923.
Visit library.html to read more.
– Paul Tosto

PPD, 6/7, 6A, In a story, headlined “Rights groups seek end to secret U.S. detentions” includes descriptions about FOIA brought which try to reveal the extent of the detentions.

Strib, 6/7, A1 “Study of 3M chemicals, no cancer cluster is found” summarizes the results of a government study.

Strib, 6/7, A1. “U deems its library collection Googleworthy” is similar to the PPD story noted above.

PPD, 6/8, 5A. “Report: CIA prisons in Poland, Romania” is a story based on a report of a European government agency.

PPD, 6/8, 5A. In a mini-editorial, headlined “Make FOIA Stronger”, paper calls on Congress to enact pending improvements to FOIA

PPD, 6/9, 5A. Story, headlined “Why withhold officer’s name?”, discusses, among other things, the basis in the Data Practices Act for not releasing the name of the undercover officer involved in a road rage incident.

PPD, 6/9, 5A. Story, headlined “Rash of suicides, attempts infect Indian reservation.” is based on government data. However, the story points out the data is incomplete because the computer tracking suicides and attempts was down for six weeks.

Strib, 6/9, A16. “Senate should pass open-government bill” is an editorial supporting changes to FOIA.

Catching-up on Government Info in the News

Posted by: on Jun 7, 2007 | No Comments

Strib= Star Tribune of Minneapolis and PPD = St. Paul Pioneer Press

Strib, 5/20. p. A1. “High hopes. Sad Reality” is a story about what has happened to the Minneapolis Public Library system. Much of the story is based on government data.

Strib, 5/20. p. A19. “Justices’ questions reveal the people behind the law” is a story based on analysis of U.S. Supreme Court transcripts of Court proceedings.

Strib, 5/22. p. E2. “Tracking the cost of war” is a story about websites, using government information, that are devoted to reporting on the dollar and other costs of the war in Iraq.

PPD, 5/28. p. 4A “Anti-terror track record scrutinized” is a story based about the Department of Homeland Security based on a study of government information.

PPD, 5/28. p. 1B. Although the story headlined “Files stolen and identities used” does not involve government data, it does involve the College of St. Catherine’s with which many COGI folks have strong associations.

PPD, 5/30. p. 12B. In the Metro/Regional section, a story headlined “City unveils new online crime map” describes how the City of Eagan has put some crime data on line. The City’s decisions about what to put up indicate either confusion about what is public under the Data Practices Act, timidity or something else.

Strib, 5/31. p. D1 Story, headlined “Thomson, U to connect using speedy Internet 2” describes a coming development by which Thomson West and the University of Minnesota will stream court proceedings to law firms. Given the Minnesota judiciary’s long term resistance to cameras in the courtroom, this is an interesting development.

Strib, 6/3. p. A6. This story, headlined “State-disciplined doctors still on drug payroll”, describes another use, this time by the N.Y. Times, of the State of Minnesota data base into which doctors are required to report their contracts with drug companies. The story illustrates what can be done with government data and some creative analytical work.

PPD, 6/3. p. 11A “Doomsday plan shifts control to White House” is another story, based on government information, about expansion of executive authority by the Bush administration.

May 4th and 5th

Posted by: on May 10, 2007 | No Comments

Star Tribune, 5/4, p. B1. Nick Coleman’s column, headlined “The Ballpark Boys? They’re batting .000 on good public policy”, includes comments about Hennepin County treating the amount of Twin’s contribution as not public.

Star Tribune, 5/5, p. D1. Story, headlined “Minneapolis Wi-Fi starts next week in Seward”, describes the rollout of the City’s wi-fi network.

Star Tribune, 5/5, p. A13. Story, headlined “TSA loses hard drive with employee data”, documents another government agency losing personal data. Some irony here as the agency is the Transportation Security Agency.

May 1, 2, 3

Posted by: on May 10, 2007 | No Comments

Strib=Star Tribune and PPD=St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch

5/1. Strib. p. A6. “Olmert rejects call for resignation”. The aforementioned call is in an Israeli government report.

5/1, Strib. p. A6. “Study: Arctic sea ice melting 30 years faster than expected” is based on a government study.

5/1, Strib. p. A3. “Report shows sharp increase in terror attacks in 06” is based on a State Department report. Surprise, surprise, the largest number of attacks were in Iraq.

5/1, Strib. p. A5. “Gonzales gave aides power to hire/fire appointees” describes a “secret” signed by Mr. Gonzales.

5/1, Strib. p. D1. “U.S. wants options data withheld” concerns access to the alleged backdated stock options in the United Healthcare case.

5/1, PPD. p. 1C. “CEO’S pay raises hackles at NWA” is based on filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission [SED].

5/2, Strib. p. A10. In Nation subsection, story, headlined “Interior official resigns before inquiry” is the latest development in the case of the Bush appointee who was changing government reports for alleged political purposes.

5/2, PPD. p. 3B. “Dog bites actually declining in city” is based on government records.

5/2, PPD. p. 2A. In Nation and World Briefing subsection, story, headlined “Court widely OK’d wiretaps warrant, among others states that only one wiretap request was disapproved.

Also on page 2A of the PPD are stories similar to those above about the Olmert report and the Interior official’s resignation.

5/3, Strib. p. B5. Story, headlined “Keep month of supplies handy”, is about a new Minnesota Department of Health website that helps prepare for emergencies. In order to use the site, the user must provide detailed personal information. Similar story in PPD, 5/3, on p. 12B.

5/3 Strib. p. B1 Story, headlined “3M did research on water in 1990’s”, see the light of day because of documents provided to the state.

April 29 and 30

Posted by: on May 1, 2007 | No Comments

St.Paul Pioneer Press, 4/29, p. 4A. “Katrina aid largely unused. Documents and interviews paint picture of government bumbling and waste”. And so, the Katrina saga of horrible mismanagement continues.

StarTribune, 4/29, p. A6. “‘Successful rebuilding didn’t last”, is a story, based on a government report on shoddy construction in Iraq.

St.Paul Pioneer Press, 4/30, p. 1B. “Victim sought high security” is a story about the alleged failure of a home security system which led to the murder of two people in a domestic dispute. The government information angle is that the security system companies want access to active criminal investigative data which law enforcement will not give them until after any appeals of the alleged perpetrator.

St.Paul Pioneer Press, 4/30, p. 5B. “Wolfowitz bank seek graceful parting” updates us about the Wolfowitz scandal at the World Bank and includes an information aspect in that Wolfowitz’s attorney is threatening to get information about Bank salaries and perks and make that information public.

St.Paul Pioneer Press, 4/30, p. 2A. Story, headlined “Google pushes for public data”, describes how Google, with changes in its software, wants to work more closely with state governments to have Google used as a public access tool.

St.Paul Pioneer Press, 4/30, p. 2A. Story, headlined “Traffic stops still target minorities”, is based on a federal study. Similar story appears in 4/30 StarTribune on p. A3.

St.Paul Pioneer Press, 4/30, p. 3A. Story, headlined “Report will increase pressure on Olmert”, about a soon to be published Israeli government report on the latest war in Lebanon. Similar story appear in 4/30 StarTribune on p. A9.

One story in particular is incredible.

Posted by: on Apr 30, 2007 | No Comments

Fairly quiet lately but one in particular is incredible.

St.Paul Pioneer Press 4/25, p. 1A. Story, headlined “U archives unvarnished look at war detainees”, describes an archive of government documents that are on a U web site that is describing some terrible things that have happened to some of the Guantanamo detainees and their families. The story also contains the following comment on what some federal flacks think of freedom of information.

” A Defense Department spokeswoman acknowledged the U documents were originals sent to the ACLU, but she declined further comment.

‘Further dissemination of this material isn’t in the spirit of the FOIA program,’
spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said.”

St.Paul Pioneer Press 4/25, p. 4A. Story, headlined “Stories of war ‘war heroics’ criticized”, illustrates why actual records of government are needed to check against official lies.

St.Paul Pioneer Press 4/25, p. 4A. Story, headlined “America marks 500 years on map”, is about the 500th anniversary of the creation of the first map that used the term America to describe this hemisphere and illustrates why government archives and the money for them are so important.

St.Paul Pioneer Press 4/26 10B, Editorial, headlined “Strong enough to face the facts about threats”, commends the U for putting up the document archive.

St.Paul Pioneer Press 4/26 1B. Story, headlined “Sheriff forms ‘rat squad’ to home in on bad guys”, describes a Washington County web site of the County’s most wanted criminals.

Posted by: on Apr 27, 2007 | No Comments

I am trying, except in special instances, to stay focused on stories about government information. So, here is the latest.

StarTribune, 4/21, p. A11. Story in Nation section, headlined “Social security numbers exposed”, is about another poorly protected government website.

StarTribune, 4/21, p. B3. Story, headlined “Twins’ extra money for stadium is confidential”, is about Hennepin County refusing to disclose how much extra money the Twins are kicking in to pay for the stadium site.

St. Paul Pioneer Press, 4/21, p. 4C. Story, headlined “Google deal hits privacy question”, discusses some of the privacy implications of Google buying Doubleclick which has a bad reputation for tracking and selling information about people’s Internet usage.

St. Paul Pioneer Press, 4/21. p. 4A. Story, headlined “Social Security data found online”, is the St Paul take on the Department of Ag. data.

StarTribune, 4/22. p. A21. Story, headlined “Report: penalties for abuse nursing home inadequate”, summarizes another GAO report the problem of nursing home abuse.

St. Paul Pioneer Press, 4/23. p.3A. In Nation/Word section, story, headlined “Audit finds more waste by FEMA”, is another government report documenting federal management failure and possible corruption.

St. Paul Pioneer Press, 4/23. p. 3B. Story, headlined “AT&T backs cable bill to expand market”, is a Wisconsin story based on campaign contribution reports.

St. Paul Pioneer Press, 4/23. p. 8B. Story, headlined “Librarians boost immigrant services”, describes how out-state libraries are helping immigrants particularly with bilingual materials.

Posted by: on Apr 12, 2007 | No Comments

The latest update from two local papers.

4/7 PPD, p. 6A. Story, headlined “Global warning papers softened by U.S., China”, is another example of politics trumping science in government information.

4/8 PPD, p. 1A. Story, headlined “When drug firms pay doctors, what do they get?”, illustrates what we can all learn from state information.

4/8 PPD, p. 1B. Ruben Rosario’s column, headlined “Prosecutor’s office loses its way” illustrates the reluctance of government agencies to provide access to embarrassing information.

4/8 PPD, p. 3D, Story, headlined IRS Lax in preventing ID Theft”, is another in a continuing series of instances of government computers,full of personal information,being lost or stolen. (500 IRS laptops lost or stolen over a 3.5 year period.

4/8 Strib, p. A3. Story, headlined “Scientists feel climate report is too weak”, is also about politics interfering with science.

4/9 Strib, p. A9. Story, headlined “Iraq’s resilient symbol of hope: the library” includes information about a unique role for a library director – finding guns and ammo to protect the library.

4/9 Strib, p. A3. Story, headlined “Army prosecutions for desertion up sharply”, is based on a government report.

4/9 Strib. p. A8. Story in Nation subsection, headlined Effort to catalog all species living tops 1 million”, is about the work of the National Museum of National History.

4/9 PPD, p. 2A. Story: headlined “Army cracks down on targets deserters”, is similar to Strib story above.

4/9 PPD. p. 4B, Story, headlined “Used car title search settlement criticized”, is about Carfax and its access or lack thereof to public records that it uses to develop car histories.

4/10 Strib, p. A1 Story, headlined “Ex-Viking Marshall gets pardon for drugs”, illustrates the affect of public records.

4/10 Strib, p. A1. Story, headlined “Minnesota joins states backing ban for a national ID”, is about legislation opposing the national ID, i.e. driver license, federal mandate.