Today in OpenGov: American vulture funds feed on Argentina’s debt crisis

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TOP NEWS: In a new feature for Sunlight, Senior Staff Writer Melissa Yeager digs into the struggle between American hedge funds and the government of Argentina, which defaulted on over $100 billion dollars in foreign debt.

“Even though it appears this lengthy dispute is coming to a close, it still has left a lasting legacy on the global monetary system as the international community looks for a way to handle the bankruptcy of sovereign states and the impact of what some refer to as ‘vulture investors,'” she writes. “The practice has been going on for decades, but this time, a battle between the funds and a country with a large voice on the international stage has helped shed light on a practice that the United Nations has described as a ‘violation of human rights.'” [READ THE DEEP DIVE ON OUR BLOG]

DON’T CHECK OFF THIS FOIA LIST: As Fortune and The Guardian reported, agricultural lobbyists successfully petitioned Congress to hide boards overseen by the USDA from public scrutiny in pending legislation.

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY: Freedom House’s report shows that press freedom weakened around the world in 2015. [New York Times]

According to the D.C.-based watchdog’s research:

  • “Press freedom declined to its lowest point in 12 years in 2015, as political, criminal, and terrorist forces sought to co-opt or silence the media in their broader struggle for power.
  • Only 13 percent of the world’s population enjoys a Free press—that is, where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.
  • Forty-one percent of the world’s population has a Partly Free press, and 46 percent live in Not Free media environments.
  • Among the countries that suffered the largest declines in 2015 were Bangladesh, Turkey, Burundi, France, Serbia, Yemen, Egypt, Macedonia, and Zimbabwe.”

National

  • Stephanie Kanowitz reported on the recent Congressional Research Service’s report on FOIA reform in Congress, along with the National Security Archive’s critique of that research. [FierceGovernmentIT]
  • Bob Biersack looked into who’s financing this year’s political conventions. [OpenSecrets]
  • Darren Samuelson reports that the GOP is not planning to use electronic balloting at its convention. [Politico]
  • Google’s political influence is continuing to receive scrutiny, with the Campaign for Accountability promising to publish more details of the tech giant’s interactions with the federal government at its “Google Transparency Project.” [Silicon Beat]

State and Local

  • Neighborhood policing apps always end up being used for racial profiling, writes Ethan Chiel: “In case after case, apps designed for community policing inevitably reflect the racial biases of the community members doing the policing.” He allows for the potential for the situation to improve with more accountability to the populations they serve, but he is not optimistic:

    It’s possible that these sorts of services can be directed towards more fruitful discussion, but only with transparency. It takes neighbors calling out racism, which Harshaw also saw on Nextdoor; reporting on the flaws in app design that encourage racial profiling; and analysis of the data to assess demographics of innocent people being reported on. In the case of private groups like FQTF, such data isn’t necessarily available.Transparency, unfortunately, seems to be in short supply.

    As he notes, these kinds of digital services and communities are not subject to public records laws. [Fusion]

  • Steven Vance wrote about AllTransit, a new analysis tool from the Center for Neighborhood Technology and TransitCenter that he thinks will help legislators to better understand the public’s mass transit needs. [Chicago Streetsblog]
  • Nydia Tisdale is bringing transparency to public meetings in Georgia, educating public officials on the state’s open government laws in the process. [CJR]
  • A Kansas court ruled that there would be no redactions for accident reports. [Times Record]
  • Middleton, Wis., is considering creating an open data platform. [Wisconsin State Journal]
  • Portland Public Schools settled a lawsuit with Oregon Public Broadcasting over public meetings laws. [OPB]
  • Ohio’s Supreme Court ruled that a “private prearranged discussion of public business by the majority of a public body’s members either face-to-face or by other means such as telephone, e-mail, text, or tweet, violates the Ohio Open Meetings Act.” [Court News Ohio]
  • Tourists can take a corruption tour in Chicago. [Reuters]

International

 

  • Cesar Hidalgo shared his thoughts on what’s wrong with open data websites and how to fix them. As we noted in April, DataUSA, which he was a driving force in creating, set a new bar for informing the public through data visualizations. [Scientific American]
  • Daniel Bruce wrote about information inequality on a global scale. [Medium]
  • Canada is asking for feedback on its commitments to improve its Access to Information Act. [Open Canada]
  • Rakesh Rajani shared his thoughts on the Open Government Partnership’s growth and challenges. [OGP]
  • Edward Snowden argued that whistleblowing is not just leaking, it’s “an act of political resistance.” [The Intercept]

Events

 

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We want to find and share the most important stories about open government around the world from the past 24 hours here. To do that, we’ll need YOUR help. Please send your tips and feedback at ahoward@sunlightfoundation.com. If you would like suggest an event, email us by 7 am on the Monday prior to the event.