Today in OpenGov: Lines in the sand


In today's edition we review the first six months of the Trump Administration, tensions rise around the Russia investigation, the House attempts to curb improper payments, Poles protest an attempt to weaken their judiciary, and more…

around the world

Image Credit: Maciej SzczepaƄczyk
  • In Poland, parliament is moving forward with a bill that would gut the judiciary. Yesterday, Poland's lower house of parliament approved a bill that would force the country's entire Supreme Court into retirement and give parliament unprecedented power to shape the judiciary. Poland's upper chamber is slated to consider the bill today. (BBC)
  • Poles take to the streets in protest. "Tens of thousands of Poles poured into the streets of the eastern European nation’s biggest cities after the passage of a controversial revamp of the judiciary that’s been criticized by the European Union for backsliding on democracy." (Bloomberg)
  • The European Commission threatens action over threat to Polish judiciary. The European Commission is reportedly considering invoking Article 7 of the Treaty of the EU. The unprecedented move would lead other EU member states to issue a formal warning against Poland. (Financial Times)
  • Bahrain closes one of the Gulf's few independent media outlets. "Last month in Bahrain, one of the Gulf region's few truly independent media outlets, Al Wasat, closed its doors…[after] the Bahraini Ministry of Information informed Al Wasat that it would immediately suspend the newspaper’s online and print editions over a column that…addressed the wave of protests calling for jobs and economic development in Al Hoceima and other cities in Morocco." (Global Voices)
  • Australia investigates Open Banking. "On July 20, the government announced the commissioning of an independent review to recommend the best approach to implement an Open Banking regime in Australia, with the report due by the end of 2017." The regime would increase access to banking product and consumer data, assuming consumer consent. (OpenGov Asia)

An administration at six months

Yesterday, we looked back at the first six months of the Trump Administration. Our conclusion is inescapable: this is a secretive administration, allergic to transparency, ethically compromised, and hostile to the essential role that journalism plays in a democracy. We welcome your feedback and comment, including from The White House itself, which has declined to answer our queries regarding these issues.

elswhere in trumpland

  • Trump is exploring multiple options to curtail the Russia investigation. Multiple reports indicate that President Trump and his legal team are exploring all available options to limit the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. The New York Times reported that Mueller and his team's backgrounds are being scoured for potential conflicts of interest. Meanwhile, the Washington Post has reported that Trump is exploring his ability to issue pardons, potentially to shield family, aides, or himself. This all comes after Trump drew a line in the sand around the special counsel's investigation into Trump family finances…
  • Russia probe reportedly expanding to Trump family finances. "The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe." (Bloomberg)
  • Trump's public comments on Russia probe increase legal risks. "Like the president’s tweets, his interviews can be used to establish facts or intent, offering investigators a gold mine of information but potentially creating conflicts for others that can lead to headaches for their various lawyers — or to criminal charges including perjury or obstruction of justice." (POLITICO)
  • Exxon Mobil violated Russia sanctions under Tillerson. "The Treasury Department on Thursday fined Exxon Mobil $2 million for violating sanctions that the United States imposed on Russia in 2014 while Rex W. Tillerson, now the secretary of state, was the oil company’s chief executive." (New York Times)
  • Jared Kushner's family just can't quit using his job to pitch Chinese investors. Drew Griffen and Curt Devine report that "Jared Kushner's status as a top aide to President Donald Trump was used to lure Chinese investors to his family's New Jersey development, even after his family's company apologized for mentioning his name during a sales pitch in May…" (CNN)

watchdog rules

  • Major U.S. news outlets opting to get rid of internal oversight positions, despite growing public distrust. "Of the major national media outlets, only NPR still has an ombudsman, a reader’s representative who is paid by the news organization to raise issues from an outsider’s perspective and to hold it accountable." (Columbia Journalism Review)
  • There were more than $16 billion in improper payments tied to one Medicare program last year. Fred Schulte reports that, earlier this week, the GAO told Congress that "Federal health officials made more than $16 billion in improper payments to private Medicare Advantage health plans last year and need to crack down on billing errors by the insurers." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Meanwhile, the House budget includes money for a government-wide panel to fight improper payments. Charles Clark reports that "the House Republican plan sets the goal of cutting unmerited payments in such programs as Medicare and the Earned Income tax Credit by 50 percent within the next five years, rather than" the 10 years outlined in President Trump's budget. The plan has drawn support from both political parties as well as former and current federal officials. (Government Executive)

save the dates

  • July 10th through 24th: e-Forum Discussion on the Agriculture Open Data Package, virtual. "The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with the Global Open Data on Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) are inviting interested individuals to participate in this forum discussion on 'Agriculture Open Data Package' to be held on the e-Agriculture Platform. The initial target audience for this forum are policy-makers, researchers, open data experts, and/or agricultural experts – however, any one interested is invited to attend." Learn more about the forum and how to participate here.
  • July 20th, 5:00 PM EST. Webinar: The Power of Data Visualization in Cities. The Civic Analytics Network (CAN) will host a webinar, “The Power of Data Visualization in Cities,” Thursday July 20th, from 5pm to 6pm ET. The public webinar will be moderated by Stephen Goldsmith, Director of CAN and the Innovations Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the presentation will highlight some of the best data visualization products created by city governments across the country. Learn more here.
  • July 20th – 22nd, The Thursday Network's Un-Hack the Vote 2017 Hackathon, Washington, DC. This hackathon aims to "Inspire young professionals to protect the voting rights of racial minorities…[and push them] to learn about redistricting and gerrymandering and propose data and technology-driven solutions that increase public awareness." Learn more and register to attend here
  • July 27th, 10 am: Chief FOIA Officers Council Meeting in Washington, DC. "OGIS and the Department of Information Policy (OIP) at the Department of Justice are happy to announce that the next meeting of the Chief FOIA Officers Council will be held on Thursday, July 27th from 10 am to noon. You can register to join the audience in the William G. McGowan Theater beginning on July 26. You can also plan on watching the livestream via the National Archives’ YouTube Channel."
  • July 27th, 6:00 to 9:00 PM: New FOIA tactics and FOIA Karaoke with Michael Ravinsky, in Washington, DC. Join MuckRock and the DC chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists "for a fun, informative talk given by FOIA expert Michael Ravnitzky, followed by a few rounds of FOIA Karaoke…Ravnitzky will be sharing a bunch of new FOIA tactics and research tools – including new ways of thinking about FOIA and strategies for learning about the current administration – that have never before been shared publicly." Learn more and RSVP!
  • August 1st: DKAN Summit in Washington, DC. Part of Drupal GovCon 2017, the DKAN Open Data Summit will feature open data leaders discussing how DKAN can be used to facilitate government open data efforts. Learn more and register here
  • September 11th and 12th: Civic Tech Fest and TicTec@Taipei in Taipei. "TICTeC@Taipei is the first ever conference about the influence of civic tech to be held in Asia. We’ve invited members of academia, business, politics, NGOs, education to participate, and discuss their research. We hope through this event, we can build a global network of civic tech enthusiasts." The event is being held during #CivicTechFest 2017. The agenda is up now and you have until July 21st to sign up for early bird tickets!
  • September 13th: Civic and Gov Tech Showcase in San Jose, California. "Innovate Your State, in partnership with Microsoft and the City of San Jose, is bringing the 3nd Annual Civic & Gov Tech Showcase to the Capitol of Silicon Valley. The Civic & Gov Tech Showcase is an opportunity to connect with civic minded entrepreneurs, potential investors, and government leaders to showcase the great work that is being done to improve government and governance. The goal of the event is to encourage collaboration and the support of new technologies to improve government and public participation." Learn more and get your tickets here.
  • September 14th – 16th: Digital Humanities and Data Journalism Symposium, in Miami, Florida. "Digital humanists and data journalists face common challenges, opportunities, and goals, such as how to communicate effectively with the public. They use similar software tools, programming languages, and techniques, and they can learn from each other. Join us for lectures and tutorials about shared data types, visualization methods, and data communication — including text visualization, network diagrams, maps, databases and data wrangling. In addition to the scheduled content, there will be opportunities for casual conversation and networking." Learn more and register here.
  • September 28th: Powering Sustainable Development with Access to Information, Paris, France. "The 'IPDCtalks' will be held to highlight and elaborate on the importance of Access to Information for all sustainable development efforts around the world. It will consist of a series of attractive and dynamic talks from global public leaders, top journalists, young intellectuals and community leaders. While some of the speakers will elaborate on the key role of Access to Information for the achievement of a particular Sustainable Development Goal, others will reflect on the essential role of Access to Information for our society and future." You can learn more and request an invitation on the event website. If you're interested, but can't attend the event will be broadcast live on the web.
  • October 13th – 14th: 2017 FOI Summit, Nashville, Tennessee. "Music City USA becomes home for NFOIC, state FOI coalitions and open government advocates for the 2017 FOI Summit on Friday and Saturday, October 13-14, 2017.The National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and our host, the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government will convene the annual summit at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University." You can learn more and register here


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