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Archive for the ‘ethics’ Category

Transparency — Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on Lack of Access Concerns from Inspectors General

August 13, 2014 Comments off

Grassley on Lack of Access Concerns from Inspectors General
Source: Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, is a long-time advocate for independent agency inspectors general. Grassley has been concerned by problems inspectors generals have had accessing necessary information from their agencies. For example, the Peace Corps inspector general was stonewalled simply trying to get access to records to ensure the agency was acting in accordance with the law in addressing sexual abuse cases. Grassley sent three letters to the agency explaining the law and ultimately held up the nomination of the director before a temporary solution was found. The Justice Department inspector general in 2009 suddenly ran into problems getting access to material previously received from the FBI. Grassley pressed the FBI Director for answers to this abrupt change in position during an oversight hearing on May 21, 2014. The Justice Department responded to an April 2 letter on June 24 to try to justify its position. The dispute continues.

Grassley was copied on a letter today to congressional committees of jurisdiction from 47 inspectors general expressing concern about agency refusal to provide access to critical agency records. The inspectors general cite the Department of Justice, the Chemical Safety Board and the Peace Corps as examples.

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CRS — The Receipt of Gifts by Federal Employees in the Executive Branch

August 6, 2014 Comments off

The Receipt of Gifts by Federal Employees in the Executive Branch (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report provides information on the federal statutes, regulations, and guidelines concerning the restrictions on the acceptance of gifts and things of value by officers or employees in the executive branch of the United States Government.

CRS — Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance (updated)

August 6, 2014 Comments off

Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

The capacity, transparency, legitimacy, and cohesiveness of Afghan governance are crucial to Afghan stability as U.S.-led NATO forces exit Afghanistan by 2016. The size and capability of the Afghan governing structure has increased significantly since the Taliban regime fell in late 2001, but the government remains weak and rife with corruption. Hamid Karzai has served as president since late 2001; he is constitutionally term-limited and will leave office after the conclusion of presidential and provincial elections. The first round of took place on April 5, 2014, and the results required a June 14 runoff between Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani.

The runoff increased ethnic tensions between Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s largest group represented by Ghani, and the second largest group the Tajiks, with whom Abdullah is identified. Amid accusations by Abdullah of a fraud-inspired large increase in turnout between the two rounds, preliminary results released July 7 showed Ghani ahead 56% to 44%. With Abdullah’s supporters urging him to declare himself the winner and form a government, Secretary of State Kerry visited Afghanistan to broker a July 12 resolution of the dispute. Under the agreement, all 23,000 ballot boxes would be recounted under international supervision, and the winner of the election would agree to appoint the loser as a “chief executive” of government, pending a more permanent constitutional alteration to a prime ministerial system. The recount has proceeded more slowly than expected due to distrust between the two camps and there are differing expectations for the post-election power-sharing agreement. The vote count might not be completed and a new president sworn in until well into September 2014.

Guidelines for the Use of Fishes in Research

July 29, 2014 Comments off

Guidelines for the Use of Fishes in Research (PDF)
Source: American Fisheries Society

The understanding and welfare of animals used in research can be served best by using a multidisciplinary approach in which data and expertise are derived from such disciplines as ecology, behavioral studies, nutrition, genetics, toxicology, chemistry, endocrinology, physiology, anatomy, and fish health. At the same time, understanding that research is conducted in a variety of human cultural settings is important. Ideally, scientific procedures, analytical methods, data interpretations, and conclusions based on scientific studies should be consistent across all cultures; however, personal belief systems can and do influence concepts regarding which practices and methods are, or are not, consistent with humane treatment of animals. Some members of the 2014 Uses of Fishes in Research (UFR) Committee also served on the committee that revised the 2004 Guidelines (Use of Fishes in Research Committee 2004). The 2004 and 2014 Guidelines not only reflect the scientific expertise of both UFR Committees but also provide a framework for the promotion of scientifically valid research on fish and fish habitats and for research that is conducted in a manner acceptable to the social communities within which the research takes place.

The Guidelines address both field and laboratory rese arch with fishes and will serve as a resource document on topical themes. Specific information in response to United States laws is a focus here, yet these Guidelines can be applied and adapted internationally by investigators working within their own ins titutional infrastructure with regard to animal care and use committees. Internet pathway links to various Web sites and documents are included; however, such pathways to online media may change.

Abuse of Structured Financial Products: Misusing Basket Options to Avoid Taxes and Leverage Limits (hearing and report)

July 24, 2014 Comments off

Abuse of Structured Financial Products: Misusing Basket Options to Avoid Taxes and Leverage Limits
Source: Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations

The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has scheduled a hearing, “Abuse of Structured Financial Products: Misusing Basket Options to Avoid Taxes and Leverage Limits,” on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, at 9:30 a.m., in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building.

The Subcommittee hearing will examine a set of transactions that utilize financial engineering and structured financial products to attempt to avoid paying U.S. taxes on short-term capital gains. Witnesses will include representatives of major financial institutions, as well as tax experts from a nonprofit institution and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

VA OIG — Administrative Investigation, Prohibited Personnel Practice and Preferential Treatment, National Cemetery Administration, VA Central Office

July 22, 2014 Comments off

Administrative Investigation, Prohibited Personnel Practice and Preferential Treatment, National Cemetery Administration, VA Central Office (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

The former Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs engaged in a prohibited personnel practice when he created a position and preselected an employee for that position. He also engaged in preferential treatment of an NCA contractor when he developed a less-than-arm’s-length relationship with the contractor. Further, NCA improperly gave the contractor sole-source contracts to provide one-to-one services to select NCA employees.

Using Ethical-Response Surveys to Identify Sources of Disapproval and Concern with Facebook’s Emotional Contagion Experiment and Other Controversial Studies

July 15, 2014 Comments off

Using Ethical-Response Surveys to Identify Sources of Disapproval and Concern with Facebook’s Emotional Contagion Experiment and Other Controversial Studies
Source: Microsoft Research

We surveyed 3570 workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to gauge their ethical response to five scenarios describing scientific experiments—including one scenario describing Facebook’s emotional contagion experiment. We will post an update of this paper containing the results and analysis on or after 12:01AM Pacific on Monday July 14.

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