The challenge in working for government transparency is that you are always working against its opposite: opacity. What we don’t... View ArticleContinue reading
Recruiters have long used video games to sell military service to young people. The armed forces also use games -- er, "computer simulations" -- to train troops for battle. Now the Veterans Affairs Department plans to join the fun by sending its nurses to Second Life.
According to its open government plan, VA health care providers will "virtually practice patient safety techniques" in Second Life's online world, using alternate identities called avatars. The idea is to have providers work through scenarios before they encounter them in the real world.
"I now realize that I must have had my first glimmer of the need for
preventive journalism as a young West Virginian who would hear of a
mine disaster, then read heartbreaking stories of weeping widows and
indignant editorials demanding effective safety regulations. But in the
years that followed, no reporter went down into the mines to see if
they were safer. We only found out they were not after the next
disaster when a new round of heartbreaking articles and indignant
editorials would appear." -- Charles Peters, Understanding government.com
This week the Labor Department began releasing data that reporters ...
Monday’s explosion that killed 25 miners at Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia came at a mine that had been flagged by inspectors for a series of violations – 3000 since 1995 and more than 500 in 2009 alone.
How does that compare to other mines? Because of the way the federal government releases the data, we can't say.
Data on safety inspections is published in the Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Web site, where users can find information on mine safety, inspections and violations. But getting to it is the hard part ...
- The DC restaurant industry is not happy with congressional efforts to prohibit lobbyists from treating lawmakers and their staff to meals, according to the Los Angeles Times. In response to this attempt at reforming lobbying the restaurant industry has dispatched its own team of lobbyists to lobby Congress to allow lobbyists to be able to spend freely for lawmakers’ meals.
- What happens when you violate safety laws, don’t pay fines, and oppose increased oversight? The Hill reports that you get tax breaks: “After fatal mining accidents this year, the mining industry is on the verge of winning tax breaks to help pay for new safety technologies as it lobbies against government-imposed safety requirements.” Back in January the Washington Post reported that, “the Bush administration abandoned or delayed implementation of 18 proposed safety rules that were in the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration's regulatory pipeline in early 2001”.
- President Bush’s Faith and Community Based Initiative is directing millions of dollars into organizations run by his religious right supporters, according to the Washington Post. Rep. Mark Souter (R-IN) says that the program has “gone political” and Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX) asserts, “I believe ultimately this will be seen as one of the largest patronage programs in American history.” Outspoken televangelist Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing received tens of millions of dollars; “local antiabortion and crisis pregnancy centers have received well over $60 million in grants for abstinence education and other programs;” Shepherd Smith, the strategist for Robertson’s 1988 presidential bid, received $7.5 million; many of the recipients of federal grants were “influential supporters of Bush's presidential campaigns.”
- Prosecutors in the Tom DeLay (R-TX) money laundering case are trying to get two charges reinstated against the troubled former Majority Leader, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle reports that DeLay believes that the charges are just political theater and prosecutor Ronnie Earle will throw out the charges after the 2006 midterm elections.
The Bush Administration nominee to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration, Richard Stickler, is a former executive of Massey Energy, one of the largest coal producers, and a former miner. Despite revelations that recent mine tragedies could have been avoided had the Bush Administration not scrapped 18 mine safety regulations, Stickler believes that no new laws or regulations are needed. Stickler would replace acting agency director David Dye. Dye recently walked out of Senate hearings on mine safety claiming that he had to tend to other matters, including a coal mine fire in Colorado. James Ridgeway of the Village Voice followed up and discovered that the fire in Colorado has been burning for two months.Continue reading
Six years ago when the Bush Administration took office they “abandoned or delayed” 18 mine safety rules and implemented a self-regulatory approach for the mining industry. According to the Washington Post, two of those safety rules scuttled by the Administration may have been able to prevent the death of twelve miners in the Sago mine. These rules were to include “mandatory caches of oxygen tanks and breathing masks inside every mine” and to expand the number of rescue teams. Mine-safety experts claim that a lack of oxygen reserves and a slow response led to the deaths at Sago in West Virginia. After the Sago disaster two more miners were killed at the Alma mine in West Virginia when their conveyor belt caught fire. In 2002, the Administration abandoned a proposal to find ways to make the conveyor belts fire-proof.Continue reading