Editors note: This will be the final edition of the Today in OpenGov newsletter for 2017. We're taking a much needed break, but will be back in the new year with all of the top open government news. We want to say a sincere and hearty thank you to our loyal readers. It hasn't been an easy year, but it has been our pleasure to share the news with you throughout it all.
Now, enjoy one last look at the day's open government news for 2017 including the latest on net neutrality repeal, the withdrawal of several Trump nominees, concerning news for press freedom, good news for access to information in New York state, and more!
net neutrality's day of reckoning
Calls to delay or cancel the vote are coming from at least 18 state attorneys general (The Verge) at least one Republican member of Congress (Ars Technica) and countless experts and internet pioneers — including Tim Berners-Lee, the "inventor of the World Wide Web," (Pioneers for Net Neutrality).
You can read more on our longstanding support for net neutrality on the Sunlight Foundation blog.
- The Federal Election Commission could vote to require disclosure for online political ads today. "Political advertisements on Facebook would have to include disclosures showing who paid for them, under two draft legal opinions the nation’s federal election regulators are scheduled to take up this week." The FEC is set to consider both proposals today. (USA Today) Our Take? Transparency for electioneering online is long overdue. We hope the FEC moves to require political advertising on social media platforms to include disclaimers that inform the public who paid for the ads. That said, as Sunlight's Alex Howard told USA Today, transparency will not be enough without some accountability for bad actors within the system.
- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended Mueller team, DOJ in the Senate. "The Justice Department official who is supervising its Russia investigation testified today before the House Judiciary Committee. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended the special counsel's probe as Republicans accused investigators of anti-Trump bias." (NPR)
- 100 years of "the United States of Petroleum". Jie Jenny Zou explores how the fossil fuel industry, and particularly the American Petroleum Institute, has thrived over the past century. One big reason? "Since the Wilson administration, API’s directors have enjoyed unfettered access to the White House and federal agencies, thwarting or slowing progress on everything from leaded gasoline to smog. With Donald Trump in the White House, the organization sees an unprecedented window of opportunity." (Center for Public Integrity)
- Two of President Trump's most controversial judicial nominees withdraw from consideration. "The White House is giving up on two of President Donald Trump's nominees for the federal bench. The president will not pursue the nominations of Brett Talley to a district court slot in Alabama and Jeff Mateer to a district court post in Texas, a White House official confirmed to POLITICO Wednesday." Tally, you may remember, neglected to disclose that his wife works in the White House counsel's office. (POLITICO) A third controversial nominee was approved by the Senate earlier this week. (The Hill)
- Facing mounting opposition, Trump nominee to oversee chemical safety at the Environmental Protection Agency withdraws. "President Trump’s nominee to oversee the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical safety division on Wednesday withdrew his name from consideration for the post in the face of mounting opposition." Michael L. Dourson has faced criticism for his close ties to the chemical industry. (New York Times)
- Trump aide insists the Office of Science and Technology Policy is working hard, despite lack of director or permanent US Chief Technology Officer. Deputy Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios "spoke Wednesday morning at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Innovation Day, a celebration of the agency’s internal innovation accelerator Ignite. Kratsios used his time to outline the administration’s tech and science priorities — among them expanding rural broadband, investing in nuclear energy and promoting STEM education." He also stressed the Trump administration's focus on promoting emerging technologies through minimal regulation. (FedScoop)
- Has President Trump strengthened the media by constantly attacking it? Steve Coll assesses the president's love of citing fake news, habit of using his bully pulpit to distribute his own misinformation, and constant attacks on the media. All of these things have caused harm, but he ultimately argues that "in attacking the media Trump has in many ways strengthened it. This year, the Times, the Washington Post, and many other independent, professional enterprises have reminded the country why the Founders enshrined a free press as a defense against abusive power. Among other achievements, the media’s coverage of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has made transparent the seriousness of its findings so far, and constrained the President’s transparent desire to interfere." (The New Yorker)
around the world
- New report says 2017 is the worst year on record for press freedom, with record number of journalists jailed. "The number of journalists imprisoned worldwide hit another new record in 2017, and for the second consecutive year more than half of those jailed for their work are behind bars in Turkey, China, and Egypt. The pattern reflects a dismal failure by the international community to address a global crisis in freedom of the press." (Committee to Protect Journalists)
- Concern grows as two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar. "The U.S. Embassy on Wednesday called for the Myanmar government to explain the arrests of two Reuters journalists after they were invited to meet with police officials in Yangon." (The Hill) We echo the concerns of the US Embassy in Myanmar as well as the State Department; Freedom of the press is essential to democracies everywhere. Protecting & defending journalism is crucial.
- Ecuadorian vice president found guilty in corruption probe. "Ecuador’s Vice President Jorge Glas was found guilty by a three-judge panel at Ecuador’s top court Wednesday of "illicit association" related to a sweeping corruption probe involving Brazilian firm Odebrecht." (Bloomberg)
- Right to Information requests helped show how news sites are blocked in Sri Lanka. "On November 8 news began to spread that independent news website LankaeNewshad been blocked across all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Sri Lanka. Subsequently, a few online websites filed a request for information under the Right To Information (RTI) Act of Sri Lanka in order to gain more information and shocking details emerged about the process of blocking of news websites." (Global Voices)
states and cities
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signs important Freedom of Information Law reforms. Brian M. Rosenthal tweeted, "New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo just announced that he's signed a bill allowing citizens to recoup attorney's fees if they prevail in a lawsuit alleging that a governmental entity failed to appropriately respond to a Freedom of Information Law request…" We are glad to see Governor Cuomo support this reform and will be looking to his administration to make the Empire State more open and accountable in the months to come.
- How data can help cities more efficiently handle traffic, reducing congestion and boosting safety. "The collection and analysis of traffic data can surface vehicle movement and road usage patterns over time for cities. As these patterns become apparent, cities can make strategic decisions on how to coordinate resources (e.g. traffic lights, public transit stops, parking) in order to reduce overall congestion and increase vehicle efficiency and safety in urban environments. Moreover, after enough data is collected and analyzed, cities can integrate machine learning techniques into their systems to make these strategic decisions in real-time. Today, cities are leveraging existing data and generating new data in order to improve urban mobility." (Data-Smart City Solutions)
- Following concern over use of private messaging app, Missouri attorney general confirms that texts are public records. "Attorney General Josh Hawley says text messages are public records under Missouri’s open records law, raising fresh concerns about fellow Republican Gov. Eric Greitens’ use of a secretive app that deletes text message after they’ve been read." (Government Technology)
one sentence or less
- This member of Congress loves to vape, but is he too close to the vaping industry? (Roll Call)
- While responding to FOIA requests, FBI may have considered prosecuting requesters. (MuckRock)
- A leadership shake up at the GSA raises questions for innovative federal technology programs. (FedScoop)
- How to launder $1 billion worth of Iranian oil. (Bloomberg)
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