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Classroom Deliberation: Should the United States Senate Conduct Confirmation Hearings for a Supreme Court Vacancy in a Presidential Election Year?

As part of C-SPAN’s “Classroom Deliberations” site (produced by C-SPAN’s Senior Fellows, designed to engage students in classroom deliberations about current issues being debated in the United States) a new lesson:

  • Should the United States Senate Conduct Confirmation Hearings for a Supreme Court Vacancy in a Presidential Election Year?

    Following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on February 13th, 2016, the Republican controlled Senate and leading Republican presidential candidates stated that a Supreme Court vacancy which occurs in the same calendar year as a presidential election should be left vacant until the newly elected President can make a nomination. President Obama believes the President has a Constitutional responsibility to make a nomination when a vacancy occurs.

    Democratic Senators, currently in the minority, argue that no Supreme Court nominee sent to the Judiciary Committee by a sitting President in the last 100 years has been denied a hearing. Senate Republicans argue that Democrats are on record in the past as having supported the idea of not holding hearings on potential candidates nominated by President Bush in the last year of his Presidency.

    Is the Senate violating its Constitutional responsibility to provide “Advice and Consent” to President Obama’s nominee?

    Should a lame duck president be allowed to make a lifetime appointment in the final months of their administration?

List of articles about FBI vs Apple

Lots of News and Essays about the FBI vs. Apple, by Bruce Schneier, Crypto-Gram (March 15, 2016).

Bruce says, “This isn’t the most comprehensive list of links, but it’s a good one. They’re more or less in chronological order.” Indeed, it is a very good list for catching up on this important issue, or filling in the gaps, or understanding the issues. While browsing the list, see also Bruce’s article in the same issue of Crypto-Gram: The FBI vs Apple: Decrypting an iPhone

What the FBI wants to do would make us less secure, even though it’s in the name of keeping us safe from harm. Powerful governments, democratic and totalitarian alike, want access to user data for both law enforcement and social control. We cannot build a backdoor that only works for a particular type of government, or only in the presence of a particular court order.

Either everyone gets security or no one does. Either everyone gets access or no one does. The current case is about a single iPhone 5c, but the precedent it sets will apply to all smartphones, computers, cars and everything the Internet of Things promises. The danger is that the court’s demands will pave the way to the FBI forcing Apple and others to reduce the security levels of their smart phones and computers, as well as the security of cars, medical devices, homes, and everything else that will soon be computerized. The FBI may be targeting the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter, but its actions imperil us all.

GPO Continues Its Move To Cloud Technology With Library Community Websites

Press Release from GPO:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 10, 2016 No. 16-05

GPO CONTINUES ITS MOVE TO CLOUD TECHNOLOGY WITH LIBRARY COMMUNITY WEBSITES

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) continues to embrace technological innovation by transitioning its Integrated Library System (ILS) public websites to the cloud using Amazon Cloud Services. This move supports the Federal Cloud First policy that encourages agencies to take advantage of cloud computing opportunities. The cloud improves performance of these sites during peak traffic times, giving the user faster search results and content downloads.

• The Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP): http://catalog.gpo.gov
• The Federal Depository Library Directory: http://catalog.gpo.gov/fdlpdir/FDLPdir.jsp
• MetaLib: http://metalib.gpo.gov/

GPO recently became the first legislative branch agency to successfully move its email to the cloud. The transition creates benefits of a larger mailbox size, increased email archiving, anti-spam and malware services, collaboration tools and online meeting capabilities. GPO’s IT infrastructure has been simplified and users are experiencing greater functionality since the implementations.

Full press release [PDF].

Act to prevent cuts to the National Health Interview Survey

NHIS

Crucial content may be cut from one of the most valuable surveys that the U.S. Government does, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). For more than 50 years, this survey has conducted personal household interviews and gathered data that helps track health status, health care access, and progress toward achieving national health objectives.

The Minnesota Population Center has details and examples and suggestion for how you can act. Note that there is a short deadline: you must submit comments on these changes to NCHS before March 15, 2016.

The plan, announced by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), would dramatically overhaul the NHIS. The most significant proposed change is the elimination of the family questionnaire that collects basic demographic, socioeconomic, health status, disability, and health insurance information about everyone in the sampled household. Removing the measurement of family characteristics will leave a disturbing gap in public health surveillance and population data infrastructure and will harm the state of health knowledge for years to come.

If you rely on NHIS or work with those who do, we urge you to let NCHS hear what you think about these changes.

Hot off the presses: “Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits”

Government information specialists know the value of the information that government agencies gather, create, assemble, and distribute, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a book that documents that value and provides examples of how that information is used? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a book that doesn’t just list useful databases, but describes the missions and histories of the agencies that produce the information?

Back in 2013, Dr. Miriam Drake, longtime director and dean of libraries at Georgia Institute of Technology, wanted to create such a book: A book about the value of public information and how the communities that libraries serve actually use that information. The result is this new book that we think deserves the attention of practicing government information professionals and teachers:

Government documents librarians know and use FDsys (and now govinfo), and USA.gov, and the Catalog of Government Publications and specialty web sites like the Census Bureau’s American Factfinder and the Bureau of Economic Analysis and The National Archives and Congress, and GPO’s federated search engine metalib, and probably at least a few more. But after the basics, it is hard to keep track of the wealth of information available and how to find it. You might know, for example, that there are 123 U.S. federal government agencies that collect and distribute important statistical data, but how do you find it and which agency is best for which statistic? Have you ever used the Library of Congress’s Performing Arts Encyclopedia, or think about the non-government, public knowledge in the LoC, such as historic newspapers online? How many of the Databases, Resources & APIs at the National Library of Medicine have you explored? You’ve used USA.gov, but have you tried Science.gov or WorldWideScience.org? Are you helping your community find datasets, but you haven’t used OSTI data explorer?

And, if you have used some of those, but haven’t had time to understand the subtle differences between databases or agencies (e.g., do you know when to use NASA Technical Reports Server and when to use The National Technical Information Service?), you will find this book useful. This book will be useful for those who answer reference questions and work with communities who need information in almost any discipline. It gives the historical context of the development of the vast government information infrastructure and describes how agencies are changing rapidly and planning for the future. If you are a new or “accidental” government information librarian, or if you teach government documents, this book is for you.

And, yes, we wrote a chapter of this book, but we’d be praising its utility even if we were not part of it. The publisher has kindly allowed us to offer you a PDF copy of the chapter we wrote for this book.

Every chapter is different and every chapter is worthwhile. Here is a complete list of the chapters and authors.

Table of Contents

  • The Relationship Between Citizen Information Literacy and Public Information Use. Forest “Woody” Horton Jr.
  • Beyond LMGTFY: Access to Government Information in a Networked World. James A. Jacobs, University of California-San Diego Library, and James R. Jacobs, Stanford University Libraries.
  • Government Resources in the Classroom. Susanne Caro, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana.
  • The U.S. Government Publishing Office. Miriam A. Drake and Donald T. Hawkins.
  • The Library of Congress. Miriam A. Drake.
  • The National Library of Medicine. Katherine B. Majewski, MEDLARS Management Section, and Wanda Whitney, Reference and Web Services Section, National Library of Medicine.
  • The Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information, Part 1: Extending the Reach and Impact of DOE Research Results. Brian A. Hitson and Peter M. Lincoln, Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information.
  • The Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information, Part 2: Bringing the World’s Research to DOE. Brian A. Hitson and Peter M. Lincoln, Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information.
  • NASA’s Scientific and Technical Information for a Changing World. Lynn Heimerl, NASA STI Program.
  • The National Technical Information Service: Public Access as a Driver of Change. Gail Hodge, Ha (Information International Associates).
  • Federal Statistics Past and Present. Mark Anderson, Michener Library, University of Northern Colorado.
  • Agricultural Information and the National Agricultural Library. Marianne Stowell Bracke, Purdue University Libraries.
  • Hidden Government Information. Miriam A. Drake.
  • The Future Is Open. Barbie E. Keiser, Barbie E. Keiser, Inc.

James A. Jacobs
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