Sunday, May 19, 2013
From the Open Government Partnership blog: I am part of an international project called "42 Voices About Open Government". The Catalan version was presented at the Mobile World Centre in Barcelona on April 10, 2014, with the participation of the Catalan writer Màrius Serra, who conducted the event. The English-language version is here. The Catalan and Spanish versions are available for download too. Read more about the growing wealth gap in the US and the open government commitments. Without intervention, hard work will matter less, inherited wealth more. The fortunes of the few will unsettle the foundations of democracy.My LinkedIn Influencer posts are the best way to stay current with my other projects. Here is the link to my ExpertNet architecture which are interoperable expert networking platforms. The US OpenGov 2.0 plan calls for expert networking pilots at the federal agencies. Here is some good information about how the government uses GitHub and the timeline of open source in the U.S. government. My architecture is generic and could be used by any government agency anywhere in the world. It's time to think outside "cloud in a box". Collective Intelligence can solve our most pressing global problems. Join the discussion at the White House Google Group for OpenGov.
Fascism is rising around the world. Our project and this blog make some very tangible suggestions for reversing that trend.
What would happen if we shifted the dialogue about Artificial Intelligence (AI) away from "robots are taking our jobs" and "robots will eventually destroy humans", to "how can AI help government to do its job better"? Would government officials with Intelligence Amplification (IA) be preferable to the ones we have today? There have been a few really evil government officials in place over the course of history, but there are many more ignorant ones. A much greater threat to humanity than AI is humanity itself.
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) was launched in 2011 to provide an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. Since then, OGP has grown from 8 countries to the 69 participating countries. Tunisia is the first "Arab Spring" country to join, setting an example across the Arab world. Lebanon and Saudi Arabia are increasingly frequent visitors to my blog. Sweden became the first country in the European Union (EU) to recognize Palestinian statehood. The Open Government Data & Best Practices Symposium, which was organized by the Information Technology Authority (ITA) at the InterContinental Hotel Muscat, Oman, ended on June 3, 2013 with high participation. More than 200 attendees from a wide range of public and private institutions participated alongside an international participation of a number of lecturers from Spain, Sweden and Malaysia, as well as a number of IT specialists from ITA. When a majority of the Arab Spring countries join, it will indicate a new era in digital diplomacy. As such, my blog will focus on demilitarizing law enforcement, arms control and nuclear disarmament, and ending the war on terror. Since 9/11, Americans killed by law enforcement outnumber Americans killed in the Iraq war. According to a West Point study, most terrorism in the US since 9/11 has come from right-wing extremist groups, not Muslims. President Obama's counterterrorism strategy boils down to: targeted action against terrorists; effective partnerships with other countries; and diplomatic engagement and aid. In my humble opinion, these changes can not come too soon. The U.S. government has lost all sense of proportion when it comes to national security. War has cost the U.S. $1.4 trillion since 2001. The best posts I have seen about countering Daesh's (ISIL) influence in the world focus on countering the ideological issues. Here is a good overview on "Deception, Disinformation, and Strategic Communications: How One Interagency Group Made a Major Difference". We must be mindful of Madison: "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." Daesh/ISIL is not the only group in the world with mad ideologies. Those who support "Star Wars" or the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and its modern counterparts are equally mad in my view. Using nuclear weapons in space is highly controversial with unacceptable cost and risk, and is currently illegal and should remain so.
"The greatest danger that I see from these militant Islamists is that they will marry their mad ideologies to weapons of mass death" - Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is an Israeli politician, and the current Prime Minister of Israel.That scenario is far less likely than our own military marching towards an apocalyptic "RAHOWA", or racial holy war.
The recent changes in the White House suggest a stronger focus on human rights. President Obama named Susan E. Rice and Samantha Power to major national security posts on June 5, 2013 promoting two outspoken voices for humanitarian intervention on a foreign policy team known for its deep caution in dealing with conflicts abroad. According to a recent New York Times article "Ms. Samantha Power and Ms. Susan Rice, who are friends, each bring their own anguished histories to these questions. For Ms. Power, who covered the wars of the former Yugoslavia as a journalist, Bosnia was a formative experience. In her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “A Problem From Hell,” she recorded the history of genocide in the 20th century, offering a critique of the failure of the United States and other countries to stop it. For Ms. Rice, who began her career in the National Security Council during the Clinton administration, Rwanda was a crucible. President Bill Clinton’s inaction in the face of genocide there led people who worked for him, including Ms. Rice, to vow never again to allow such a slaughter." I am hopeful that these changes, in addition to the rise of the digital citizen and the OGP, will usher in a new era of global cooperation and peace. Rwanda became the 71st country to sign the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs Arms Trade Treaty on June 5, 2013. On Sept. 25, 2013 US Secretary of State John Kerry signed the treaty.
The music industry and civil society as a whole are helping to highlight instances of human rights abuse in the U.S. and abroad. Kanye West raps about the private prison industry, Sean "Diddy" Combs and the WWE have produced an anti-bullying youtube, and hip-hop icon Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, joins the fight to explore the injustice as only he can. "Re-Victimization" is a great way to discuss government cover-ups and "mobbing". The victim must go through the pain again and again, with no resolution until (and if) it gets into the courts, which is another long battle. Appointing third party investigators and interim relief supervisors during internal investigations is the best approach for all involved, maximizing the likelihood of early intervention and resolution. Retaliation and government cover-ups don't work in the age of social media. Broken internal processes also contribute to an increasing number of leaks to the press. In addition, it is unlawful to prohibit or prevent a government employee from talking to Congress. Using the Congressional processes in parallel with internal investigations is key in that they provide a necessary level of external oversight missing in the internal processes, which are consistently manipulated in favor of the institutions. Peter Ludlow, a professor of philosophy at Northwestern University, argues in a recent Op-Ed in the New York Times that "there is a moral principle at work in the actions of the leakers, whistle-blowers and hacktivists and...that that moral principle has been clearly articulated, and it may just save us from a dystopian future."
Many victims of sexual assault in the military say only one experience comes close to the pain of the actual crime, and that's going to court to bring charges against the attacker. This is believed to be one reason why so few victims come forward and report these crimes, and now the Air Force is hoping a new team of lawyers will help to change that. Lt. Gen. Richard Harding has high hopes for the officers who have come to his base for training in a new field; they are among the first special victims' counsels, or SVCs. The SVCs are attorneys who do not represent the defendant, and they don't represent the government — they will stand up for the victims. "We know 85 percent of our victims don't report," he says. "Maybe if they understood the value of an SVC, some of them might feel a little bit more comfortable about reporting." That's the long-term hope for the Special Victims' Counsel program, which is currently limited to the Air Force but could expand to other government agencies and cover issues such as child abuse, harassment and whistleblower retaliation. Should government officials and executives in companies that receive federal funding who engage in unlawful violations face discipline? See here for a few answers. Government officials who resign or retire before an investigation ends can still be handed a reprimand and a demotion in rank that would result in reduced retirement benefits.
The Sunlight Foundation has compiled a repository of civil society organizations working on transparency and open data issues around the world. Given the rapid growth of the international OpenGov community, the data collection is endless and the repository will never be considered complete. They are now opening up the process and asking for the community’s help in verifying or correcting the data in the spreadsheet and adding missing organizations or projects. What have we learned about budget transparency and accountability? The International Budget Partnership (IBP) has published a new book on Open Budgets: The Political Economy of Transparency, Participation, and Accountability.
As we transition to a focus on reinvigorating the global economy, citizen engagement and revolutionary ideas become increasingly important. Join the Facebook "Open Government and Civic Technology" group and the OGP Civil Society Hub. Read the "Open Contracting" global principles. Learn about the OpenGov Hub and Pierre Landell-Mills, co-founder of the Partnership for Transparency Fund (PTF), who presented his new book Citizens Against Corruption - Report from the Frontline on June 13, 2013. Help the Open Data Census assess the current state. Learn about open policy making. Here is the #Storify story from the OGP Summit October 31 - November 1, 2013. Ross Dawson has developed a Beta v1 infographic on the future of work given the crowdsourcing boom, and the transformation of government given the current landscape. In the age of the consumer web, smartphones and social media must be an integral part of any government interaction and redesigning work environments will be key to achieving sustainable business performance improvement. Here is a recent Wired article on "The Programmable World". My latest conundrum: is the world itself programmable? Let's find out.Legislative Reform on Pinterest
How many doors to democracy would open if a few of the "Big Brands" like Coca Cola and Procter & Gamble, and the first OGP countries like the US and the UK, would implement internal policies and executive orders to allow for the exponential growth of social media and crowdsourcing? Although 2+ billion people are now online, there are still 2/3 of the world left out. Here is where they live. I am gratified to see an increasing number of companies and government entities allowing for unrestricted staff access to social media during working hours. This is one of the best ways to fight corruption worldwide. Here is a good article about turning social influencers into brand advocates. Here is a roundup of the G8 Summit 2013 in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland on June 17 and 18, addressing global issues and the most pressing international challenges. The leaders' remarks explain the outcomes in brief, including major updates on tax, trade, transparency and the ongoing situation in Syria. There is no appetite within the United States to address the Syrian war, though there is to address the ISIS threat. Intelligence, not bombs, is the key to the fight against ISIS. Here are "15 Global Challenges Facing Humanity". Goal: raise the US Global Peace Index ranking to the Top 50 by 2017. Disrupt violence. From a recent OGP blog post:
Open is the new normal. - UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
@meganesque My head just exploded :) - Thanks!— Andrew Wilson (@AndrewPWilson) June 4, 2013
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Curriculum content differentiation involves varying what we teach or how students gain access to that content. For example, teachers can provide students with leveled reading material, books on tape, highlighted text, varied topics for research, independent study options, interest centers, optional mini-lessons on a specific topic or skill, online extension activities, mentors or a compacted curriculum.
The content of lessons may be differentiated based on what students already know. The most basic content of a lesson should cover the standards of learning set by the district or state. Some students in a class may be completely unfamiliar with the concepts in a lesson, some students may have partial mastery of the content - or display mistaken ideas about the content, and some students may show mastery of the content before the lesson begins. The teacher may differentiate the content by designing activities for groups of students that cover different areas of Bloom's Taxonomy. For example, students who are unfamiliar with the concepts may be required to complete tasks on the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy: knowledge, comprehension, and application. Students with partial mastery may be asked to complete tasks in the application, analysis and evaluation areas, and students who have high levels of mastery may be asked to complete tasks in evaluation and synthesis. Here is a list of some of the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offered by the best universities and other entities.
Here is some good information from USA.gov about understanding trusts, helpful tips on preventing identity theft, understanding credit, filing a consumer complaint, and more. At what point does the goal of accumulating wealth become destructive? Counterproductive? Dysfunctional? Narcissistic? Illegal? Deadly? It seems to me that it is really no different from any other addiction. Why isn't the focus of our millionaires and billionaires on giving back and redistributing their wealth in productive, socially relevant ways? Helping others is the model for 12 Step programs and religions, and is by far the most deeply rewarding life experience. According to a new analysis (pdf) of Census Bureau data published on April 23 by the Pew Research Center, since the economy officially emerged from the recession in mid-2009, the wealthiest 7 percent of households saw soaring gains of an estimated $5.6 trillion, while the remaining 93 percent—111 million households—saw their overall wealth fall by an estimated $0.6 trillion. The number of US children living in poverty grew to 23% in 2011. What is the most valuable thing you've learned from listening to beneficiaries? Weigh in here.
International graft-busting efforts are bearing fruit. New laws have raised the cost of wrongdoing. Financial markets are punishing corrupt companies. Most encouraging, activists have growing clout not only in high-profile cases but at grassroots level, where the internet helps to highlight instances of “quiet” (low-level) corruption. Citizen-driven sites like Bad Cop Santa Cruz and I Paid a Bribe are shifting the power away from internal investigations (where the bias is towards the offending institutions) back to the victims and the taxpayers. In May, in an attempt to clean up its image, Seattle PD became the latest department to equip its officers with wearable cameras. This year’s elections around the world were often marred by allegations of election fraud, including vote buying, intimidation and physical violence. But what is new is the shift in how such claims are being reported in the digital age – and taken seriously. Ushahidi, a company that specializes in interactive mapping, was initially created to map out reports of violence in the deadly aftermath of Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential election results. Five years later, the tech company launched the Uchaguzi platform prior to the 2013 Kenyan elections. The most far-reaching approach yet, Uchaguzi crowd sources data via Twitter, SMS, Android, e-mail, the web and more. The comprehensive classifications of both negative offences and acts of integrity ranged from polling station logistical issues to police peace efforts.
The countries that support the American-backed Open Government Partnership (OGP) are committed to providing data about the way public money is spent, helping to highlight wasteful (and corrupt) government procurement. Apps contests and larger scale technical challenges such as XPrize are a new approach, circumventing costly and inefficient internal contracting mechanisms. Every two years, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) calls attention to agencies and program areas that are high risk due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or are most in need of transformation. This site presents GAO's current High Risk List, explains what has changed since the last update, and provides background information and related multimedia. Although internal government investigations are often "cover ups", exposing, preventing and finally eradicating corruption is a key cost savings measure in lean budget years. Here is a good article on who is doing what to fight corruption worldwide. Here is a link to the President's Budget for Fiscal Year 2014. Good governance didn’t make it to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when the United Nations established them in 2000, but today, a civil society organization argues there is no reason why fighting against corruption and making public officials accountable should not be included in the post-2015 agenda. A May 29th webinar highlighted "Emerging Technology Solutions to Fight Fraud, Waste, and Abuse". It examined customer case studies of agencies that have reduced fraud, waste, and abuse in a variety of innovative and effective ways.
The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government 2012 Rankings includes the results of seven years of survey data, including trend charts of index scores. A good strategy for creating a healthier federal workplace is to develop a trend chart of the data for your organization, add the average line, look at the high and low and average scores and look for any outliers. Compare your assessment with the trends provided in Appendix D of the FEVS report. More data is always better and is needed for identifying common and special cause variation. Outdated government process doesn't work. Many of the managers in key roles are no longer "cutting edge", if in fact they ever were. I think we can all agree on that. So what can we do about it? Here are a few ideas from XPrize's Visioneering 2013. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held their first ever Twitter Town Hall on May 15, 2013. Join the discussion at any time using the hashtag #EEOfedtalk.
This year's What's Next DC conference was held on May 6,7 and featured communication strategy using case studies from the United Nations Foundation, The World Bank, Smithsonian, Facebook, Washington Post, National Geographic, PBS, Popvox, Accenture and many more. There were so many great speakers and sessions, I couldn't capture it all, but my slideshow will give you some of the highlights. Integrated Marketing Week is the event for marketers looking to learn and integrate on and offline marketing data, campaigns and technologies. The #IMW13 VIP Party was held at the 40/40 club, the all-American sports bar and lounge owned by hip hop mogul Jay-Z. Here is my slideshow capturing some of the highlights of the huge event. Key takeaways: From a retail perspective, the US acts like a developing nation. Use disruptive technology to embrace the consumer as a producer.
Here is some good information about Oracle Policy Automation. In our increasingly citizen-driven lawmaking environment, tools like this can help to bring more clarity to the stakeholders. The Oracle Policy Automation software has been publicly deployed within several government web-sites. Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship uses it for visitors to check their eligibility for visas. The UK Revenue and Customs agency uses it for their Employment Status Indicator assessment tool; and the United States IRS uses the software for guidance on tax law. On April 26, 2013, CodeX - the Stanford Center for Legal Informatics - hosted the first-ever CodeX FutureLaw Conference at Stanford Law School. Here's a look at some of the discussions from the conference, which focused on how technology is changing the landscape of the legal profession.
Ballot measures, referendum, proposition, resolution, and initiative: while the substance matters more, the terms can make even those with a law background feel dizzy. Even more confusing is that they vary some by state. We can start by describing them all as "ballot measures".
* Initiative: (E.g., county government form) While the word is sometimes used more loosely, an initiative is a citizen-driven, and generally citizen-drafted (although anyone can draft it) effort to put an item directly on the ballot. Requires a statutorily set number of signatures to get on the ballot.
* Referendum: Originates with the legislature - a citizen vote to accept or reject a law, like a popular veto power. Referenda formats vary by state; some are petition-driven, others offered by the legislature ("optional referendum"); or in some states, for constitutional amendments.
* Joint resolution: In Idaho joint resolutions are used for constitutional amendments, are drafted in the senate (SJR) or house (HJR), and require a two-thirds majority vote of both before being sent to the ballot. They needn't be signed by the governor. (Also used to ratify amendments to the U.S. Constitution.)
The two states with the most citizen-driven measures historically are western: Oregon and California.
correlation between public debt and economic growth. Economists have been astonished to find that a famous academic paper often used to make the case for austerity cuts contains major errors. Another surprise is that the mistakes, by two eminent Harvard professors, were spotted by a student doing his homework. It seems counterintuitive that wiping out government jobs and programs would help to invigorate the economy, leading instead to more global unemployment. There are fewer Americans working than at any time since 1979. This finally adds urgency – political urgency – to a jobs crisis that is only getting deeper and more painful for Americans. The unemployment rate keeps dropping – it's currently at 7.6% – which gives the illusion of a better economy. The real story is told by another number. Economists call it the "labor force participation rate". It tells us how many people are working, and how many are dropping out of the workforce because they can't find a single employer who could use their abilities, even for a few hours a day. The labor force participation rate is really a measure of potential that is lost: the intelligence and strength of Americans that goes idle because it cannot find a single profitable outlet. The deficit is not shrinking only, or even mostly, because of the actions of Congress or the President. The drop in the deficit is mostly due to the growth — albeit slow — of the economy, bringing the government more revenue than expected. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says the increased revenue is also due to tax increases, most notably the expiration of the payroll tax cut and the higher rates enacted on upper-income taxpayers. Given the plethora of data showing unprecedented gaps between the rich and the poor, I would like to see an infusion of new tax dollars coming in from under-taxed companies and wealthy citizens over the next decade and beyond. Median U.S. CEO pay was $9.7 million in 2012, 6.5% more than in 2011. Median U.S. worker pay was $39,900 in 2012, 1.6% more than 2011. U.S. corporations pay an average effective tax rate of 12.6%. What are three factors that contribute to income inequality? Nepotism, cronyism, and narcissism. And let's not forget plagiarism, cleverly disguised as teamwork or the results of a single, highly effective team lead. If you have any thoughts on this subject (or any other), you can contact your elected officials here.
California is a role model for other states and for the federal government. Thanks in part to Proposition 30, California has been flooded with revenue this tax season and is on track to finish the fiscal year with a surplus of billions of dollars, according to officials. State coffers contain about $4.5 billion more than expected in personal income tax payments. Nearly $2.8 billion of it arrived April 17, the third-highest single-day collection in California history, according to government figures. Business taxes have also rebounded and are likely to be $200 million ahead of projections. The leading states by high-tech employment in 2012 were California (968,800), Texas (485,600), New York (318,200), Virginia (285,400), and Florida (270,900).British tax authorities said they were working with the United States and Australian tax administrations on “data which reveals extensive use of complex offshore structures to conceal assets by wealthy individuals and companies.” So far, it said, it had identified “over 100 people who benefit from these structures … and are under investigation for offshore tax evasion.” They have also identified more than 200 UK accountants, lawyers and other professional advisors who advise on setting up these structures who will also be scrutinized. Here is the Council of the European Union's conclusions on tax evasion and tax fraud.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the annual suicide rate among people ages 35 to 64 increased a startling 28.4 percent between 1999 and 2010. For people in their 50s, the number of suicides doubled in that period. The findings highlight the need for suicide prevention geared specifically toward middle-aged populations, according to the report. Historically, suicide rates correlate with economic downturns. The U.S. economy twice went into recession during the period under study, in 2001 and between December 2007 and June 2009. “I’m sure that the economy shift had something to do with it,” said Dar Walker, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness St. Louis chapter. “Especially if you’re 48 years old and haven’t worked in three years.” Workers in their fifties are about 20% less likely than workers ages 25 to 34 to become re-employed, according to an Urban Institute study published last year. "Once you leave the job market, trying to get back in it is a monster," said Mary Matthews, 57, who has teetered between bouts of unemployment and short temp jobs for the last five years.
In a new book, “The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath,” author Nicco Mele argues that global cynicism is not only warranted, it’s the inevitable result of social and political changes wrought by what he calls “radical connectivity.” That is, our ability to send vast amounts of data instantly, constantly and globally using breathtaking new tools that “empower the individual at the expense of existing institutions and ancient social structures.” These include government, businesses, entertainment, military, schools, media, religion, and other big institutions designed to protect and sustain people. Here is my first slideshow on this subject, entitled Disruption - Part 1. The University of Southern California (my alma mater) is the first to offer a degree in Disruption. Disruptive technology is changing the way we work, think, and innovate on a global scale. As an example, an interactive map released in May by U.S. geography students shows what regions in America originate the highest number of racist and homophobic posts on Twitter. Mele goes on to say that "radical connectivity is altering the exercise of power faster than we can understand it. Most of us feel lost in the dust kicked up by the pace of change. We can tell political, social, and economic life is shifting, but we don't know what to make of it in the aggregate."
Polls consistently show our faith in institutions in steep decline. In particular, trust in Washington is at near-record lows because the current model is a “vending machine government,” a phrase Mele borrows from technologist Tim O’Reilly to describe public frustration. Politicians make promises, we pay taxes, and our participation is limited to “shaking the vending machine.”
Instead, Mele writes, government should be considered a “platform” upon which individuals, organizations, and companies can build services and offerings that suit the times—flexible, transparent, and accountable. Here is a recent OGP blog on transforming multilateralism and global innovation. The OGP as a new model of international cooperation raises a number of challenging questions: How do governments benefit from their participation in OGP, and what will keep them engaged over time? How can civil society balance its role as a critical ally, where it must play the roles of both advocate and monitor? And how can we bridge the gap between countries that embrace participation in these new, mixed coalitions, and those that remain on the outside? For the OGP, promoting solid democratic institutions is what counts most. Fortunately, with the support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), countries of the so-called Arab Spring (Middle Eastern and North African nations), such as Tunisia, seem to be willing to prepare their institutions for future adherence to OGP.
Although Russia has retracted its letter of intent, its government's version of "openness" may endure, at least with respect to federal, city and state IT systems. Over the winter, a version of "Open Government a la Russe" - In Cyrillic большоеправительство or or “big government” — seemed to accelerating at the national level and catching on in its capital. Maybe that will still happen, and the Russian national action plan will go forward. Open government and technology blogger Alex Howard broke the news of Russia’s withdrawal from the OGP on May 17. In the meantime, the recent crackdown on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the world suggests the need for stronger privacy settings on sites like Twitter and Facebook. The OGP is currently seeking researchers for 39 country action plans including Canada, Israel, Ukraine, Turkey and Spain. Welcome to the newest OGP countries, Australia and Ireland (where my maternal grandfather was born).
In the wake of the events in Boston, here are some good resources for dealing with violence and traumatic events. Here is an insightful tweet from Adriel Hampton @adrielhampton at Gov 2.0 LA on April 20th:
Boston+internet is an unregulated view of violence new to American consciousness, says @obs3sd - compare to LIFE images of Vietnam.
Yet, death in the workplace is a much more real possibility for almost all Americans than is death at the hands of a terrorist. In 2011, 4,609 Americans were killed in workplace accidents while only 17 Americans died at the hands of terrorists — about the same number as were crushed to death by their televisions or furniture. Here is a 2013 report entitled Preventable Deaths: The Tragedy of Workplace Fatalities. Unfortunately, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is limited in what it can accomplish, and occupational illnesses and injuries still cost an estimated $250-300 billion each year. In Japan, the word for "death from overwork" is Karōshi. Japan is one of the few countries that reports it in the statistics as a separate category. The major medical causes of karōshi deaths are heart attack and stroke due to stress.Here is a map of the leading causes of death worldwide. Here are the statistics for how people are murdered in the United States.
Friday, July 6, 2012
Mr. President, as CEO of the federal government, how will you treat your workers?For Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), creating an Anti-Bullying Caucus in Congress was more personal than political.
"As a Japanese American born at the height of World War II, I was placed in an internment camp before I could walk or talk," Honda wrote in a statement.
"For many years after the war, I endured confrontations and insults from my peers solely because of my appearance."
Honda launched the bipartisan Anti-Bullying Caucus on Thursday, June 28, 2012 in an attempt to "stop bullying -- both offline and online," according to a release from his office. At least 42 other representatives -- including three House Republicans -- have joined the effort to empower bullied "youth, seniors, religious communities and LGBT-identifying individuals," among others.
Honda, who represents a large portion of Silicon Valley, including Cupertino, made sure the caucus mission statement specifically addressed cyberbullying, since online attacks are a "fierce and urgent component of the issue as a whole," d'Annibale said. The focus on cyberbullying earned the caucus the support of social media giant Facebook.
In fact, more than 30 groups, including Change.org, the Human Rights Council and the AARP, have pledged to support the caucus. The Department of Education also teamed up with the caucus to address the issue.
The anti-bullying movement has garnered national attention this year, and President Barack Obama has endorsed two anti-bullying bills, the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act.
Some good comments from members of the Caucus:
Many of the lawmakers who spoke shared their own experiences with bullying. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., told the story of her nephew committing suicide after being hazed while serving in the military in Afghanistan.
"What ends up on the battlegrounds often begins on playgrounds," she said.
Rep. Laura Richardson, also a California Democrat, said as a child attending a predominantly African-American school, her mixed heritage left her the target of bullies, who asked why she had freckles, why her hair was lighter than theirs, and why her veins glowed green through her skin when the weather turned cold.
Those who see bullying and don't do anything about it should be punished along with the bullies, Richardson said.
Mike Honda's comments were even more emphatic:
"Today the health, safety, competitiveness and moral fiber of America is threatened by an epidemic that affects more than 13 million children each year. These kids are teased, taunted and physically assaulted by their peers -- reflecting racism, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism. This bullying epidemic also spreads far beyond classroom walls to strike countless communities from coast to coast in different social environments. Bullying is particularly acute in the elderly community. It is reported that one in 10 elders in America has experienced mistreatment in the past year. It has also been reported that for every case of elder abuse, neglect, exploitation or self-neglect reported to authorities, five more go unreported.
The caucus seeks to engage and empower each constituency involved in the anti-bullying movement, including but not limited to youth, seniors, religious communities and LGBT-identifying individuals. The purpose is to focus the energy and effort of the movement to forge a path forward to stop bullying -- both offline and online."
Updates on elder financial abuse:
Federal regulators launched an investigation into the financial abuse of the elderly, citing a new report that advisors, planners, family members and others were ripping off seniors more than ever.
Americans over 60 lost at least $2.9 billion in 2010 to financial exploitation — ranging from simple home repair scams to complex insurance swindles. That figure was up 12% from 2008, according to a study released by MetLife Mature Market Institute, the National Committee for Prevention of Elder Abuse and Virginia Tech University. The findings mirror an earlier 2009 report entitled "Broken Trust: Elders, Family and Finances".
The 2012 Investor Protection Trust's Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation (EIFFE) survey shows that family members, caregivers and swindlers are the top financial exploiters of older Americans. The top three financial exploitation problems identified by the experts are: (1) “theft or diversion of funds or property by family members” (79 percent); (2) “theft or diversion of funds or property by caregivers” (49 percent); and (3) “financial scams perpetrated by strangers” (47 percent).
President Obama has proclaimed June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The Elder Justice Roadmap Project Report is a call to action by the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services. Tougher oversight by regulators is needed to prevent financial predators from preying on vulnerable elderly victims, said Patricia L. McGinnis, executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a San Francisco group that often deals with financial abuse.
As printed on the Today Show on March 5, 2002 on MSNBC.com, "...there are many misconceptions about living trusts, and AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) reports since the first of the year, there has been an upsurge of deceptive telemarketing calls, mass mailings and newspaper ads designed to lure consumers into paying a lot of money for something they may not need." If you feel that you were the victim of a living trust scam, contact an estate litigation attorney in your state. If the living trust was sold by a living trust mill, report them to the Department of Consumer Affairs in your county.
Here is some information about the range of issues that must be considered in blended families for solid estate planning. With the increase in 2nd and 3rd marriages, what estate and elder laws are outdated and ineffective? What amendments or new laws are needed to handle situations when step-families over-step? In Switzerland, for example, there are protections against leaving all of the family wealth to the surviving spouse forcing the children to wait until the death of the widow or widower. In such a case, this would breach the “forced heirship rule” as the children would not get their minimum share of the estate. Under Swiss law, adult children must agree to renounce their minimum share of the estate. In addition, although not all of the estate can go to the surviving spouse “in full ownership”, he/she can inherit the “usufruct” on the entire estate. This is similar to a life interest on the estate. He/she cannot sell the assets, but he/she can freely benefit from them (e.g. the family house, the proceeds of the bank portfolio, etc.).
Let's bring some transparency to families, too. Here is some good information about the rights of trust beneficiaries. In order to protect the rights of trust beneficiaries to whatever benefit they are due according to the trust, the law provides beneficiaries with ways to monitor the trust and the trustee. Trust beneficiaries are usually entitled to income from the trust, which can be interest from investments or rents, among other things, and the trustee who is in charge of the trust is responsible for ensuring that assets from the trust are invested well. The rights of trust beneficiaries to monitor the trust and the actions of the trustee allow trust beneficiaries to protect their interests with regard to the trust.
Rights of Trust Beneficiaries in California1.You have the right to a true, complete and final copy of the trust, any written amendments thereto, and any written instructions that effect distribution of trust assets.
2.You have the right to contest the validity of a questionable trust, and any of its provisions or amendments. (Please note there are statutes of limitations on trust contests.)
3.You have the right to be reasonably informed about the trust and its administration. Upon reasonable request, you are entitled to a report of information about assets, liabilities, receipts and disbursements of the trust, the acts of the trustee, and the particulars relating to the trust that are relevant to your interest.
4.You have the right to an accounting. The accounting must include the trustee’s written statement of receipts, disbursements, the nature and value of assets and liabilities, the trustee’s compensation, the names of the agents hired by the trustee, their relationship to the trustee and their compensation. In California, the trustee has 60 days to provide you with an accounting. After that, you are free to file a "Petition to Compel an Accounting" in the local probate court.
5.You have the right to object to an accounting, and to seek judicial review and approval of any accounting you receive.
6.You have the right to compel a trustee to administer the trust according to its terms, avoid conflicts of interest, avoid self-dealing, and to secure and make trust property productive.
7.You have the right to be treated fairly and impartially by the trustee.
8.If the trustee violates your rights as a beneficiary, you have the right to ask a Judge to suspend the trustee of his/her powers or remove him/her and appoint a successor trustee, or both.
9.If the trustee misappropriates, wrongfully transfers, takes, secrets, or otherwise mismanages or wastes trust assets, you have the right to seek legal remedies against the trustee, personally, and if the trustee is bonded, against the bond company as well.
10.You have the right to receive timely distributions from the trust without signing any documents.
Can we strengthen these rights at the Uniform Trust Code (UTC) and state levels? Can we amend the laws to ensure that tiered reporting is required by trustees for revocable and irrevocable trusts in all states, including revocable living trusts if the value exceeds $2.5M (with reporting requirements becoming more stringent as the value increases); and/or if the trusts are for combined estates for blended families; and/or the trusts are amended after the new legislation goes into effect? The Washington Trust Act has been called the most sweeping piece of probate and trust legislation enacted in Washington State in more than a decade. How can we raise the visibility of the rights of trust beneficiaries across the country? More information can be found here. Public comments due 8/20/2012.Some changes ahead for California:
Teenagers text about 4000 messages per month. Organizations like Dosomething.org and Crisis Text Line are reaching out to kids where they are: on smartphones. On July 1, 2012, A.B. 9 (Seth's Law) and A.B. 1156 went into effect, making teachers and school administrators legally obligated to do something when a student reports bullying. If they do not comply with these laws, the student is allowed to transfer to a new school district.
Can we enact similar laws for the Federal workplace? Could (mandatory) interim relief supervisors during Equal Opportunity investigations encourage early intervention?
International news: ACTU Call to Get Tougher on Workplace Bullies
The Australian Council of Trade Unions' submission to a parliamentary inquiry into workplace bullying called for tougher penalties, including jail terms for extreme cases, and a greater recognition that employers have a responsibility to provide bullying-free workplaces. The ACTU said research by the Productivity Commission found workplace bullying cost the economy $6 billion to $36 billion a year. The government of South Australia has recently issued a guide for employers entitled "Preventing Workplace Bullying." In addition, the government is offering a $1000 jobs bonus incentive to take on "over 50" workers for at least three months in a bid to counter entrenched discrimination against unemployed older workers. Here is a good white paper on mobbing in the public sector in Australia. Mobbing, or organized harassment, occurs in countries that have equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws and processes like the US. Mobbing is a systemic problem in government because it is not possible to simply fire a worker, so a story against the target must be told over time.
Mobbing is a sophisticated form of bullying where management aligns as a team against the Complainant, with "mobsters" typically numbering in the dozens and one or two "puppet masters" or mobbing ringleaders. Identifying puppet masters can be a challenge, but these are typically Senior Officials at a local or HQ level who make the final approvals.
Fortunately, mobsters make up in carelessness what they lack in humility. To differentiate mobbing from bullying, look for performance reviews that sound alike or are grossly inconsistent with interactions during the work year, a rapid escalation in adverse/retaliatory actions, sudden/unjustified changes in priorities and direction, and gross inconsistencies with prior years' experiences and ratings. The work environment will become extremely hostile in a very short period of time. The goal of the mobsters is to move the targets out of the company or agency as quickly as possible to weaken their ability to file complaints or document charges. Although you may like, trust or prefer certain managers, it is best to include all managers who have firsthand involvement in any mobbing incident from the start, including both first and second level supervisors and functional area managers as required. If you discover that additional managers are involved mid-way through an investigation, it is possible to add them to any new retaliatory adverse actions, up to and including termination or constructive discharge, as long as you notify them of your EEO activity before the adverse action occurs. Because poor performance reviews and disciplinary actions typically include multiple steps designed to remedy the situation, this is not onerous. The ages, race and gender of the mobsters is irrelevant. Discrimination wears many masks.
Adverse/retaliatory actions can include unwarranted disciplines, undeserved/poor performance reviews, work assignments that are illegal with a mismatch to your skills and/or unrealistic work deadlines. Other examples are denial of benefits such as sick leave or vacation time, and denial of travel, training, telework, award nominations, or any of the other discretionary benefits that were granted in prior years.
Mobbing is difficult to document and to stop because of the sheer number of managers who are typically involved and because of the speed at which the retaliatory adverse actions accumulate. The target must move quickly to document the charges and to put the complicated puzzle together in terms of which managers are the puppet masters and which managers are working behind the scenes. Since some managers never interact directly with the target, it is important to question the supervisor in terms of why a request was denied and what managers were involved in the decision. The target's supervisor is the primary responsible manager, but s/he can't continue the harassment over time without support from higher ups and human resources/legal departments.
If you are a long-term employee, mobbing will be easier to document. A distinguished record with many years of stellar reviews and/or a blemish-free record can help to establish your credibility in the face of what is often a growing group of hostile managers. In Canada, public servants have also sounded the alarm about mobbing, and have established an excellent website with resources for victims and families. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has posted some good examples of bullying. Do not expect loyalty from long-term colleagues. With a mobbing incident, even the good go bad.
Saturday, May 12, 2012
It’s Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW). Anything special happening in your workplace to honor the efforts of you and your colleagues? How much of a difference do you believe this week can make when it comes to the public’s perception of federal workers?
As far as public perception, I think that it’s just going to be received by the public as just another pat on the back for a bunch of spoiled feds instead of what it should be: a sincere thank-you for a job well done for federal employees nationwide. Maybe I should be glad it’s low-key so I don’t have to listen to a bunch of people complain about us again.
Veterans Affairs employee
Not at all, unless you count me bringing in donuts today.
Craig O’Brien, Consumer Product Safety Commission
Last Friday at the State Department, Foreign Service Day was held. The American Foreign Service Association is the master of ceremonies at this annual event, in the south (“Flag”) lobby of the department.
One Foreign Service career staff person, who passed away at an overseas post in December 2010 from a tropical disease, was the center of the recognition — it has been a fairly bloodless 18 months.
Her name went up on the stone tablet bearing the names of those who have died while on active service beyond the oceans.Matthew Johnson, Deputy for Management Affairs, U.S. Mission Nigeria Resident at Embassy Abuja
Now is an excellent time to reward those who have gone the extra mile.
These are very harsh times for govvies: formal complaints are up across the board and the work environment is becoming increasingly hostile. We need these sorts of activities to provide a counterbalance to the fear. A great work environment is not linked to big budgets. There are many ways to reward employees and to provide incentives that do not require big budgets such as dog parks, doggie day care, child care, compressed schedules, telework, and other discretionary benefits.
Megan Eskey, Computer Engineer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Friday, February 17, 2012
by rachna on February 15, 2012Nearly one in four households provide care to someone who is aged. With that in mind, we pulled together some bills that are related to elder care.
Issue Spotlight: Elder Care
S 464 The End Abuse in Later Life Act establishes a grant program to enhance training and services to prevent abuse in later life.
HR 577 The Elder Abuse Prevention Act prevents the abuse and exploitation of older individuals.
S 1744 The Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act provides funding for State courts to assess and improves the handling of proceedings relating to adult guardianship and conservatorship, authorizes the Attorney General to carry out a pilot program for the conduct of background checks on individuals to be appointed as guardians or conservators, and promotes the widespread adoption of information technology to better monitor, report, and audit conservatorships of protected persons.
S 462 The Elder Abuse Victims Act (and HR 2564) better protects, serves, and advances the rights of victims of elder abuse and exploitation by establishing a program to encourage States and other qualified entities to create jobs designed to hold offenders accountable, enhance the capacity of the justice system to investigate, pursue, and prosecute elder abuse cases.
S 465 The Senior Financial Empowerment Act prevents mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud targeting seniors in the United States, to promote efforts to increase public awareness of the enormous impact that mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud have on seniors, to educate the public, seniors, and their families, and their caregivers about how to identify and combat fraudulent activity.
S 525 The Positive Aging Act amends the Public Health Service Act to provide for integration of mental health services and mental health treatment outreach teams.
S 604 The Senior Mental Health Access Improvement Act provides for the coverage of marriage and family therapist services and mental health counselor services under part B of the Medicare program.
S 1819 The Strengthening Services for America's Seniors Act amends the Older Americans Act of 1965 to improve programs and services.
AB332, which passed 78-0, increases the fines from $1,000 to $2,500 for embezzlement, forgery, fraud or identity theft against an elder or dependent adult for a misdemeanor offense of less than $950. The bill also enables felony charges for some theft crimes against the elderly with fines of up to $10,000. The increased penalties are in addition to any jail or prison sentences. The bill was approved by the Governor and filed with the Secretary of State on September 30, 2011.
Saturday, February 11, 2012
President Obama defined what he believes should be the minimum "fair share" for millionaires and billionaires to pay in taxes. His answer: At least 30% of their income. States are also getting onboard. Here is a link to the campaign in California.
In 2007 the richest 1% of the American population owned 34.6% of the country's total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%. Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country's wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%. Financial inequality was greater than inequality in total wealth, with the top 1% of the population owning 42.7%, the next 19% of Americans owning 50.3%, and the bottom 80% owning 7%.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
Monday, September 19, 2011
“In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable. And now, we must build on that progress. And when we gather back here next year, we should bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries, while living up to the ideals that can light the world.”
--President Barack Obama, September 23, 2010
The Open Government Plan of the United States will formally launch on September 20, on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City. We are busy finalizing our National Action Plan but wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for all of the comments that we received during our public consultation. All of the responsive comments that we received can be found here.
In the meantime, we hope that you’ll stay tuned to all of the upcoming events next Tuesday in New York, including the signing of the Open Government Declaration.
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) Fact Sheet provides a succint overview of the objectives of the plan.
The U.S. National Action Plan includes important initiatives to support the relationship between job creators and the government, including a commitment to publish guidelines on how to access scientific data produced through unclassified federal research funding, the ability to tap into their expertise on relevant public policy deliberations through an “ExpertNet” platform, and a global “Apps” competition drawing a global cadre of scientists and concerned citizens to harness open data to solve global challenges including weather impacts and the depletion of ocean resources.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011