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New From the GAO

July 31, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Air Force Working Capital Fund: Actions Needed to Manage Cash Balances to Required Levels. GAO-14-480, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-480
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665138.pdf

2. Large Bank Holding Companies: Expectations of Government Support. GAO-14-621, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-621
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665163.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/665108

3. Defense Health Care Reform: Actions Needed to Help Realize Potential Cost Savings from Medical Education and Training. GAO-14-630, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-630
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665157.pdf

4. Defense Management: DOD Needs to Improve Future Assessments of Roles and Missions. GAO-14-668, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-668
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665191.pdf

5. Defense Health Care: US Family Health Plan is Duplicative and Should be Eliminated. GAO-14-684, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-684
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665150.pdf

6. Healthcare.gov: Ineffective Planning and Oversight Practices Underscore the Need for Improved Contract Management. GAO-14-694, July 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-694
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665178.pdf

7. Active and Reserve Unit Costs: DOD Report to Congress Generally Addressed the Statutory Requirements but Lacks Detail. GAO-14-711R, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-711R

Testimonies

1. Healthcare.gov: Contract Planning and Oversight Practices Were Ineffective Given the Challenges and Risks, by William T. Woods, director, acquisition and sourcing management, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Energy and Commerce. GAO-14-824T, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-824T

2. Department of Homeland Security: Continued Actions Needed to Strengthen Oversight and Coordination of Research and Development, by David C. Maurer, director, homeland security and justice, before the Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Oversight, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. GAO-14-813T, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-813T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665129.pdf

3. Aviation Manufacturing: Status of FAA’s Efforts to Improve Certification and Regulatory Consistency, by Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D., director, physical infrastructure issues, before the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. GAO-14-829T, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-829T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665132.pdf

4. Large Bank Holding Companies: Expectations of Government Support, by Lawrance L. Evans, Jr., Ph.D., director, financial markets and community investment, before the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection, Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. GAO-14-809T, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-809T

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Survey Finds Infrequent Social Media Use by Jurors

July 31, 2014 Comments off

Survey Finds Infrequent Social Media Use by Jurors
Source: United States Courts

Social media use by jurors, and the problems resulting from it, remains a relatively infrequent occurrence, according to a survey of U.S. district judges.

Nearly 500 judges in all 94 districts responded to a Federal Judicial Center survey assessing jurors’ use of social media. The findings were published in May 2014.

Among other questions, the survey asked the judges for their strategies for curbing social media use by jurors in trials and jury deliberations. For the first time, too, judges were asked about the use of social media by attorneys.

Of the 494 judges responding to the survey, the majority of judges explained to jurors in plain language why social media is banned. This strategy must be effective; only 33 of the 494 judges reported any detectable instances of jurors using social media – and then in only one or two of their cases and mainly during trials.

Jurors access Facebook and personal blogs more often than instant messaging services. Six judges reported that a juror divulged confidential information about a case. Additionally, three judges reported that a juror communicated or attempted to communicate directly with participants in the case and two jurors revealed aspects of the deliberation process.

Judges generally learned of the inappropriate use of social media from other jurors, court staff, or attorneys in the case. Most judges cautioned a juror when social media use was discovered, but some removed the juror from the jury, while still others dealt with the juror post-trial. One juror was held in contempt of court.

Hat tip: INFOdocket

IFLA 2014 eLending Background Paper

July 31, 2014 Comments off

IFLA 2014 eLending Background Paper (PDF)
Source: International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions

eBook Trends

Given the different stages of maturity of eBook publishing in different countries, it is not surprising that digital publishing statistics and trends vary substantially by region and country.

In the United States, the most developed market for eBooks, 2013 saw a significant decline in eBook sales growth. This is dramatically illustrated considering the Association of American Publishers’ first quarter eBook sale s growth (the peak selling period of the year) over the past 4 years:

2010 +252%
2011 + 159%
2012 + 28%
2013 + 5%

When considering eBook sales it is now routine for English language market analysts to use terms like “matured’, “levelled off” and “plateaued”. Having said this it is evident that eBooks now form an important and still growing revenue stream for trade publishers. In the words of one commentator “The e-book may turn out to be more of a complement to the printed book, as audiobooks have long been, rather than an outright substitute”.

Having said this it is evident that eBooks now form an important and still growing revenue stream for trade publishers. In the words of one commentator “The e – book may turn out to be more of a complement to the printed book, as audiobooks have long been, rather than an outright substitute”. In this context it should be noted that in 2013 overall US adult trade hardcover book revenue rose 9.7% in 2013 , while adult eBook revenue rose by 3.8%. In 2013 in the US, overall adult eBook revenue accounted for 27% of all adult trade revenue. By comparison, 2013 eBook sales in Canada (a less mature market for eBooks) accounted for 17% of all book purchases. In non – English speaking EU countries eBook sales revenue is correspondingly much lower, numbering in the low single digits: e.g. in Norway eBook sales account for less than 1% of publisher revenue and in The Netherlands 2.2% of revenue.

Hat tip: INFOdocket

How Humans Respond to Robots: Building Public Policy Through Good Design

July 30, 2014 Comments off

How Humans Respond to Robots: Building Public Policy Through Good Design
Source: Brookings Institution

Historically, robotics in industry meant automation, a field that asks how machines perform more effectively than humans. These days, new innovation highlights a very different design space: what people and robots can do better together. Instead of idolizing machines or disparaging their shortcomings, these human-machine partnerships acknowledge and build upon human capability. From autonomous cars reducing traffic accidents, to grandparents visiting their grandchildren by means of telepresence robots, these technologies will soon be part of our everyday lives and environments. What they have in common is the intent to support or empower the human partners with robotic capability and ultimately complement human objectives.

Human cultural response to robots has policy implications. Policy affects what we will and will not let robots do. It affects where we insist on human primacy and what sort of decisions we will delegate to machines. One current example of this is the ongoing campaign by Human Rights Watch for an international treaty to ban military robots with autonomous lethal firing power—to ensure that a human being remain “in the loop” in any lethal decision. No such robots currently exist, nor does any military have plans to deploy them, nor is it clear when robotic performance is inferior, or how it is different from human performance in lethal force situations. Yet the cultural aversion to robots with the power to pull the trigger on their own is such that the campaign has gained significant traction.

China’s digital transformation

July 29, 2014 Comments off

China’s digital transformation
Source: McKinsey & Company

As individual companies adopt web technologies, they gain the ability to streamline everything from product development and supply-chain management to sales, marketing, and customer interactions. For China’s small enterprises, greater digitization provides an opportunity to boost their labor productivity, collaborate in new ways, and expand their reach via e-commerce. In fact, new applications of the Internet could account for up to 22 percent of China’s labor-productivity growth by 2025.

Yet the Internet is not merely a tool for automation and efficiency; it also expands markets rapidly. Greater adoption of web technologies in China could lead to the introduction of entirely new products and services if government and industry take the right steps to maximize the potential (exhibit). A new report from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), China’s digital transformation: The Internet’s impact on productivity and growth, projects that new Internet applications could fuel some 7 to 22 percent of China’s incremental GDP growth through 2025, depending on the rate of adoption. That translates into 4 trillion to 14 trillion renminbi in annual GDP in 2025.

Census Bureau Releases Industry Series Report on Semiconductors and Related Device Manufacturing

July 29, 2014 Comments off

Census Bureau Releases Industry Series Report on Semiconductors and Related Device Manufacturing
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau today released additional figures from the 2012 Economic Census Industry Series reports for the manufacturing sector of the economy. This release includes new statistics for semiconductor and related device manufacturing (NAICS 334413).

Highlights include:

  • The semiconductor and related device manufacturing industry employed 90,244 people in 2012, down 38.3 percent from 146,152 employed in 2007.
  • The total value of industry shipments in the semiconductor and related device manufacturing industry was $72.2 billion in 2012.
  • The cost of gold and other precious metals used as a material in this industry more than doubled from $149.3 million in 2007 to $372.0 million in 2012, an increase of 149.1 percent.

Highlights of value of product shipment data

  • The total value of product shipments in the semiconductor and related device manufacturing industry was $70.7 billion in 2012.
  • Memory increased 24.4 percent from $6.0 billion in 2007 to $7.5 billion in 2012.
  • Transistors decreased 42.2 percent from $938.0 million in 2007 to $542.0 million in 2012.
  • Microprocessors made up 58.6 percent ($41.4 billion) of the total value of product shipments from semiconductors and related devices ($70.7 billion) in 2012.

Promoting Patient Safety Through Effective Health Information Technology Risk Management

July 29, 2014 Comments off

Promoting Patient Safety Through Effective Health Information Technology Risk Management (PDF)
Source: RAND Corporation

The potential for health information technology (IT) to improve health care delivery has been appreciated for decades, but “digitizing” health care can also introduce new risks and even harm. As the use of health IT has grown, these risks have become more apparent. The authors of this report evaluated the efforts of 11 hospitals and ambulatory practices to use an improvement strategy and tools developed to promote safe use of health IT and to diagnose, monitor, and mitigate health IT–related safety risks. Through interviews, the authors discovered that some health care organizations (especially hospitals) with expertise in process improvement were able to identify and begin to mitigate health safety risks, but in most others, awareness of these risks was limited (especially in ambulatory practices). The authors concluded that better tools like the recently released Safety Assurance Factors for EHR Resilience (SAFER) Guides are needed to help organizations optimize the safe use of health IT. However, health care organizations will require a better understanding of the safety risks posed by electronic health record (EHR) use to take full advantage of the SAFER Guides. There may also be a need for additional tools and metrics (and further usability studies of existing tools and metrics) to better support the needs of health care organizations as they increasingly rely on health IT to improve the quality and safety of patient care.

Guidance for Schools Issued on How to Keep Parents Better Informed on the Data They Collect on Students

July 29, 2014 Comments off

Guidance for Schools Issued on How to Keep Parents Better Informed on the Data They Collect on Students
Source: U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education today announced new guidance for schools and districts on how to keep parents and students better informed about what student data is collected and how it is used.

In the guidance issued by the Department’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center, schools and districts are urged to be proactive in communicating how they use student data. Information should be available to answer common questions before they are asked.

Report Finds NSA Surveillance Harming Journalism and Law

July 29, 2014 Comments off

Report Finds NSA Surveillance Harming Journalism and Law
Source: ACLU and Human Rights Watch

Large-scale U.S. surveillance is seriously hampering U.S.-based journalists and lawyers in their work, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch said in a joint report released today. Surveillance is undermining media freedom and the right to counsel, and ultimately obstructing the American people’s ability to hold their government to account, the groups said.

The 120-page report, “With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale U.S. Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy,” is based on extensive interviews with dozens of journalists, lawyers, and senior U.S. government officials. It documents how national security journalists and lawyers are adopting elaborate steps or otherwise modifying their practices to keep communications, sources, and other confidential information secure in light of revelations of unprecedented U.S. government surveillance of electronic communications and transactions. The report finds that government surveillance and secrecy are undermining press freedom, the public’s right to information, and the right to counsel, all human rights essential to a healthy democracy.

UK Life Insurance Customers Prefer Buying Policies Online but Personal Touch is Important for Advice, According to Accenture Research

July 29, 2014 Comments off

UK Life Insurance Customers Prefer Buying Policies Online but Personal Touch is Important for Advice, According to Accenture Research
Source: Accenture

The most popular way to buy life insurance is now through digital channels but customers still value face-to-face contact for financial advice, according to the latest survey of UK life and pensions customers conducted by Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

According to the poll of 2,870 UK life and pensions customers, 38 percent of consumers purchasing life insurance in the last 12 months, bought online. This included purchases through websites run by insurers, independent financial advisors (IFAs) and banks. By comparison 33 percent bought policies in person and 22 percent completed transactions over the phone.

The survey also reveals that a significant number of customers (19 percent) used price comparison websites to buy a life policy in the last 12 months. In addition, 41 percent of all customer interactions with life insurance providers and 38 percent of interactions with pension providers over the last 12 months were digital, including time spent researching, buying and servicing products.

However, in-person meetings were the preferred way to conduct long-term financial planning. Almost one-third of customers (30 percent) do their planning in this way, and 43 percent would like to do so.

New Global Study Finds Companies Advanced in Social Business Actively Leveraging Social Data

July 28, 2014 Comments off

New Global Study Finds Companies Advanced in Social Business Actively Leveraging Social Data
Source: Deloitte/MIT

New research released today by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte reveals that nearly two thirds of surveyed companies around the world find social business initiatives —including social media, social software and social networks—are positively impacting their business outcomes.

The report, Moving Beyond Marketing: Generating Social Business Value Across the Enterprise, based on a global survey of more than 4,800 business executives across 26 industries and 109 countries, found that the level of value companies achieve is related to their social business “maturity.”

Respondents who rated their companies further along the social maturity scale were more likely to report their companies practice the following:

  • Apply social business data in the decision making process: Nearly 80 percent analyze social data, and 67 percent integrate it into systems and processes to improve business decisions.
  • Employ a leadership vision that social can bring about fundamental changes: More than 90 percent of respondents say their leaders believe it can create powerful and positive change.
  • Infuse social business into multiple functions across the enterprise: A total of 87 percent use social business to spur innovation.

2013 Digital Inclusion Survey Results Published

July 28, 2014 Comments off

2013 Digital Inclusion Survey Results Published
Source: Institute of Museum and Library Services, American Library Association, Information Policy & Access Center (University of Maryland), International City/County Management Association

Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and conducted by the American Library Association (ALA), the Information Policy & Access Center (iPAC) at the University of Maryland, and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), this study conducted a national survey of public libraries that explores the digital inclusion roles of public libraries in four key areas:

  • Public access technology infrastructure resources and capacity (e.g., public access workstations; broadband connectivity).
  • Digital content, services, and accessibility.
  • Digital literacy (including languages in which instruction is offered).
  • Domains-specific services and programs (civic engagement, education, health and wellness, and workforce/employment).

Based on a national survey conducted in Fall 2013, our analysis provides insights into how public libraries help build digitally inclusive communities. In particular, we offer multiple products, including:

  • Interactive mapping tools that combine digital inclusion survey and community-level data. The map enables libraries to better understand their community demographics, education and learning, economic/workforce, and health contexts along with the digital inclusion services that they provide. We have also developed a state view of the interactive mapping tool found on the individual state pages.
  • State pages that provide an interactive state-level mapping tool and selected summary data that compares states to national data.
  • Issue briefs on key topics such as broadband, employment, e-government, community access, digital literacy, and digital inclusion.
  • National report that analyzes data from the survey.
  • Executive summary that provides an overview of survey findings.

These reports and other survey-based products are based on data collected from public libraries between September and November 2013. It may well be the case that libraries have added capacity (e.g., public access computers, more broadband, space) and services/programs (e.g., health information, engagement, training classes) since then.

Nearly 100 percent of libraries offer tech training and STEM programs, study finds

July 28, 2014 Comments off

Nearly 100 percent of libraries offer tech training and STEM programs, study finds
Source: American Library Association

According to a new study from the American Library Association (ALA), nearly 100 percent of America’s public libraries offer workforce development training programs, online job resources, and technology skills training. Combined with maker spaces, coding classes, and programs dedicated to entrepreneurship and small business development, libraries are equipping U.S. communities with the resources and skills needed to succeed in today’s – and tomorrow’s – global marketplace.

Online Casino Gambling

July 25, 2014 Comments off

Online Casino Gambling (PDF)
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Did You Know
• Delaware is the only jurisdiction where the state operates online gambling within its borders.
• The U.S. Virgin Islands is the most recent jurisdiction to permit online gambling.
• The Restoration of America’s Wire Act, introduced in Congress in March, would ban all forms of Internet gambling.

Guidelines for Digital Newspaper Preservation Readiness

July 25, 2014 Comments off

Guidelines for Digital Newspaper Preservation Readiness
Source: Educopia Institute

Libraries and other cultural memory organizations curate a substantial body of digital newspaper content. The genesis of these collections is often a series of iterative and cumulative digitization and born-digital acquisitions with idiosyncratic and ad-hoc data storage structures that vary radically in their file types, structures, and metadata. These institutions have limited resources to expend on the normalization or restructuring of their legacy digital content.

The NEH-funded Chronicles in Preservation project has produced a set of Guidelines that explicitly differentiate between the essential and the optimal in preservation readiness activities and that document the incremental steps that institutions may take to move from the essential to the optimal level of preservation readiness for their digital newspapers.

If institutions believe that they are incapable of readying their content for preservation according to emerging standards and guidelines, they may not take any action at all. If they instead can engage in an incremental process that allows them to begin preserving content now, while slowly and steadily building toward an optimal level of preservation readiness, they will be more likely to participate in preservation activities now.

CRS — “Black Boxes” in Passenger Vehicles: Policy Issues

July 25, 2014 Comments off

“Black Boxes” in Passenger Vehicles: Policy Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

An event data recorder (EDR) is an electronic sensor installed in a motor vehicle that records certain technical information about a vehicle’s operational performance for a few seconds immediately prior to and during a crash. Although over 90% of all new cars and light trucks sold in the United States are equipped with them, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing that all new light vehicles have EDRs installed in the future. Under previously adopted NHTSA rules, these devices have to capture at least 15 types of information related to the vehicle’s performance in the few seconds just before and immediately after a crash serious enough to result in deployment of airbags.

EDRs have the potential to make a significant contribution to highway safety. For example, EDR data showed that in several cases a Chevrolet Cobalt’s ignition switch turned the engine off while the car was still moving, causing the car to lose power steering and crash; the data directly contributed to the manufacturer’s decision to recall 2.6 million vehicles. EDR data could also be used, sometimes in conjunction with other vehicle technologies, to record in the few seconds before an accident such data as driver steering input, seat occupant size and position, and sound within a car.

The privacy of information collected by EDRs is a matter of state law, except that federal law bars NHTSA from disclosing personally identifiable information. The privacy aspects of EDRs and the ownership of the data they generate has been the subject of legislation in Congress since at least 2004. The House passed a floor amendment to the transportation appropriations bill in 2012 that would have prohibited use of federal funds to develop an EDR mandate. This provision was not enacted. The Senate passed two EDR-related provisions in its surface transportation reauthorization bill (S. 1813) in 2012, mandating EDRs on new cars sold after 2015 and directing a Department of Transportation study of privacy issues. The provisions were not included in the final bill.

iDATA: Improving Defences Against Targeted Attack

July 24, 2014 Comments off

iDATA: Improving Defences Against Targeted Attack (PDF)
Source: Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (UK)

iDATA is a CPNI cyber research programme. The programme consists of a number of projects aimed at addressing threats posed by nation states and state-sponsored actors. iDATA has resulted in a number of outputs for the cyber security community. This document provides a description of the iDATA programme and a summary of the outputs.

OECD releases full version of global standard for automatic exchange of information

July 24, 2014 Comments off

OECD releases full version of global standard for automatic exchange of information
Source: OECD

Taking an important step towards greater transparency and putting an end to banking secrecy in tax matters, the OECD today released the full version of a new global standard for the exchange of information between jurisdictions.

The Standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information in Tax Matters calls on governments to obtain detailed account information from their financial institutions and exchange that information automatically with other jurisdictions on an annual basis. The Standard, developed at the OECD under a mandate from the G20, endorsed by G20 Finance Ministers in February 2014, and approved by the OECD Council.

The Standard provides for annual automatic exchange between governments of financial account information, including balances, interest, dividends, and sales proceeds from financial assets, reported to governments by financial institutions and covering accounts held by individuals and entities, including trusts and foundations. The new consolidated version includes commentary and guidance for implementation by governments and financial institutions, detailed model agreements, as well as standards for harmonised technical and information technology solutions, notably a standard format and requirements for secure transmission of data.

TIGTA — Fiscal Year 2014 Statutory Review of Disclosure of IRS Collection Activity With Respect to Joint Returns

July 24, 2014 Comments off

Fiscal Year 2014 Statutory Review of Disclosure of Collection Activity With Respect to Joint Returns
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

Highlights of Reference Number: 2014-30-046 to the Internal Revenue Service Commissioners for the Small Business/Self-Employed and Wage and Investment Divisions.

IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS
Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C.) Section (§) 6103(e)(8) gives joint filer taxpayers who are no longer married or no longer reside in the same household the right to request information regarding the IRS’s efforts to collect delinquent taxes on their joint tax return liabilities. If the IRS does not provide employees sufficient guidance for handling those requests, taxpayer rights could potentially be violated.

WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT
This audit was initiated because the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 added I.R.C. § 7803(d)(1)(B), which requires TIGTA to annually review and certify the IRS’s compliance with I.R.C. § 6103(e)(8). The objective of this review was to determine whether the IRS is complying with the provisions of I.R.C. § 6103(e)(8) as related to the disclosure of collection activities with respect to joint filers.

WHAT TIGTA FOUND
IRS procedures provide employees with sufficient guidance for handling joint filer collection activity information requests. However, TIGTA could not determine whether the IRS fully complied with I.R.C. § 6103(e)(8) requirements when responding to written collection activity information requests from joint filers. IRS management information systems do not separately record or monitor joint filer requests, and there is no legal requirement for the IRS to do so. Further, TIGTA does not recommend the creation of a separate tracking system.

WHAT TIGTA RECOMMENDED
TIGTA made no recommendations in this report. IRS officials were provided an opportunity to review the draft report and did not provide any comments.

UK — Ofcom publishes report on internet safety measures

July 24, 2014 Comments off

Ofcom publishes report on internet safety measures
Source: Ofcom
Ofcom has today published a report for Government outlining measures the UK’s largest internet service providers have put in place to help parents protect children from harmful content online.

This follows an agreement between the Government and BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, the four largest fixed line internet service providers (ISPs), announced in July 2013. Each ISP committed to offer new customers ‘family-friendly network-level filtering’ by the end of December 2013.

This is the second of three reports the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has asked Ofcom to produce on internet safety measures to protect children. The DCMS asked Ofcom to look at the approach taken by each ISP to implement family-friendly filtering services which block content that may be inappropriate or harmful for children, rather than assess the effectiveness of the filters.

The report also describes measures taken by ISPs to present a pre-ticked ‘unavoidable choice’ to new customers on whether or not to activate the filter, and includes initial take-up data among new customers offered filters.

The filters apply to all web based internet content, on any device that is connected to the fixed broadband network in the home.

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