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Feds have no policy on posting meetings

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While the federal government has extensive rules about how its regulatory agencies makes rules--with notices, publication schedules and comment periods--there is no government-wide policy for providing information to the public about meetings between executive branch officials and private interests. These contacts between regulators those seeking to influence them--refered to as ex parte meetings--can have a profound effect on the final shape of the rules that govern everything from disposing of trash to disclosing positions in complex derivatives. Yet there is no uniform requirement to make information about these meetings available to the public, let alone whether or not agencies must ...

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Wall Street Journal sues for access to Medicare records

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The Wall Street Journal announced today that it's suing for access to data on payments that doctors receive from Medicare, which has been exempt from public disclosure thanks to a 1979 court case won by the American Medical Association. The Journal argues that absent data on the payments, it's impossible for journalists or members of the public to tell which doctors are billing the system improperly. "It's time to overturn an injunction that, for decades, has allowed some doctors to defraud Medicare free from public scrutiny," Mark Jackson, the counsel for Dow Jones, the Journal's immediate ...

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Republicans Ask Watchdogs to Review FOIA Request Process

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Inspectors general at the Energy Department and Social Security Administration say their review of FOIA procedures at the request of senior Republican lawmakers showed no signs of meddling by political appointees.

Two dozen other agency and department watchdogs have yet to respond to a letter from Rep. Darrell Issa of California and Sen. Grassley of Iowa asking for a quick check of FOIA procedures. The two Republicans sent the letters about a month ago after media reports that the Homeland Security Department subjected FOIA requests from lawmakers, journalists and activist groups to a new “political review” process. Such requests were ...

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Re-Named Offshore Energy Agency Urged to Publish Production Data

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The scandal-wrecked Minerals Management Services changed its name to Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) as part of a promised wave of reforms, but consumer advocacy groups say more transparency is what is really needed at the offshore energy agency.

The agency should provide online access to more data about crude oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and other offshore areas, as well as energy companies’ royalty payments to the U.S. government.

“The kind of data we want to see is on production numbers, so we can have better calculations to ensure ...

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Consumer Safety Agency Plans Crowdsourcing Database

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Over the objections of manufacturers, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will launch a searchable, online database in March that collects consumer complaints about harmful or dangerous products.

The new crowdsourcing tool at www.SaferProducts.gov will require consumers to describe the harm caused by a product, to identify the manufacturer, and to attest that their complaint is accurate. Currently, most consumer complaints about a safety issue remain confidential unless the CPSC decides that a recall is merited.

“This will really beef up research and data we have on public safety,” says Nancy Cowles of Kids In Danger, a child ...

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Gitmo detainee classifications remain detatched from identities

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When the Guantanamo Review Task Force summary report was released in June — more than five months after its completion — it marked the latest step in President Barack Obama’s plan to close the detainee prison in Guantanamo Bay.

Without identifying them by name, the report split the 240 detainees in four groups: approved for transfer; subject of active cases or investigations; too dangerous to transfer but not feasible for prosecution; and Yemenis designated for “conditional” detention.

Andrea Prasow, senior counsel for the terrorism program at Human Rights Watch, says the report is not transparent enough because it fails to specify ...

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OMB struggles to track $800 billion IT spending by government

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IT Dashboard attempts to tracks billions of dollars spent by the federal government on information technology, but the website itself has out of date information and inaccurate ratings on the investment risks of some agency projects.

Federal investments for IT improvements have a tendency to run over budget, or in the worst of scenarios, fail to meet any projected goals. While the private sector has seen blinding technological advancement in a relatively short time, federal agencies have struggled to keep up, even with a government-wide IT budget of $79.5 billion for fiscal 2011.

With so much need for technology ...

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