Tag Archives: government

MondayMap: The Feds Own 84.5 Percent of Nevada

map-federal_lands

The Unites States government owns almost one-third (28 percent) of the entire nation. Through various agencies that include the United States Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Fish and Wildlife Service, the total owned “by the people, for the people” comes to a staggering 640 million acres of land.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the federal owned land lies in the Rocky Mountains and to the West. In fact, the US government owns 47 percent of the land in the western states, versus just 4 percent in states east of the Rockies.

More from Frank Jacobs over at Strange Maps:

The rough beauty of the American West seems as far as you can get from the polished corridors of power in Washington DC. Until you look at the title to the land. The federal government owns large tracts of the western states: from a low of 29.9% in Montana, already more than the national average, up to a whopping 84.5% in Nevada.

What is all that federal land for? And exactly who is in charge? According to the Congressional Research Service [4], a total area of just under 610 million acres – more than twice the size of Namibia – is administered by no more than 4 federal government agencies:

* The United States Forest Service (USFS), which oversees timber harvesting, recreation, wildlife habitat protection and other sustainable uses on a total of 193 million acres – almost the size of Turkey – mainly designated as National Forests.

* The National Park Service (NPS) conserves lands and resources on 80 million acres – a Norway-sized area – in order to preserve them for the public. Any harvesting or resource removal is generally prohibited.

* the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), managing 248 million acres [5] – an area the size of Egypt – has a multiple-use, sustained-yield mandate, supporting energy development, recreation, grazing, conservation, and other uses.

* the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) manages 89 million acres – an area slightly bigger than Germany – to conserve and protect animal and plant species.

Check out the entire story here.

Image: Federal Real Property Profile. Courtesy: U.S. General Services Administration /  ‘Can the West Lead Us To A Better Place?‘ an article in Stanford Magazine.

Send to Kindle

Time-Off for Being Productive

If you are an IT or knowledge-worker, computer engineer, software developer or just use a computer for the majority of your working day, keep the following in mind the next time you negotiate benefits with your supervisor.

In Greece, computer-using public sector employees get 6 extra days-off per year because they use a computer. But austerity is now taking its ugly toll as the Greek government works to scrap this privilege — it already eliminated benefits to workers who show up at the office on time.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Greek civil servants stand to lose the six extra days of paid vacation they get each year—just for using a computer—after the government moved Friday to rescind a privilege that has been around for more than two decades.

The bonus, known as “computer leave,” applied to workers whose job involved sitting in front of a computer for more than five hours a day—basically most of the staff working in ministries and public services.

“It belongs to another era,” Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the administrative reform minister, said. “Today, in the era of crisis, we cannot maintain anachronistic privileges.”

Doing away with this bonus, which dates to 1989, represents “a small, yet symbolic, step in modernizing public administration,” he said.

But the public-sector union Adedy said it would fight the decision in court.

“According to the European regulation, those using a computer should take a 15-minute break every two hours,” the general secretary Ermolaos Kasses said. “It is not easy to have all those breaks during the day, so it was decided back then that it should be given as a day off every two months.”

Inspectors from the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank are expected in Athens later this month to review Greece’s performance in meeting the terms of its second bailout.

Apart from shrinking the public sector, raising taxes and cutting wages and pensions, the government wants to show that it is moving forward with abolishing costly perks.

It has already limited the pensions that unmarried daughters are allowed to collect when their father dies, and scrapped a bonus for showing up to work on time. It has also extended the work week for teachers.

Read the entire article here.

Image: City of Oia, Santorini. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Send to Kindle

PRISM

From the news reports first aired a couple of days ago and posted here, we now know the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has collected and is collecting vast amounts of data related to our phone calls. But, it seems that this is only the very tip of a very large, nasty iceberg. Our government is also sifting though our online communications as well — email, online chat, photos, videos, social networking data.

From the Washington Post:

Through a top-secret program authorized by federal judges working under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the U.S. intelligence community can gain access to the servers of nine Internet companies for a wide range of digital data. Documents describing the previously undisclosed program, obtained by The Washington Post, show the breadth of U.S. electronic surveillance capabilities in the wake of a widely publicized controversy over warrantless wiretapping of U.S. domestic telephone communications in 2005.

Read the entire article here.

Image: From the PRISM Powerpoint presentation – The PRISM program collects a wide range of data from the nine companies, although the details vary by provider. Courtesy of Washington Post.

Send to Kindle

Surveillance of the People for the People

The U.S. government is spying on your phone calls with the hushed assistance of companies like Verizon. While the National Security Agency (NSA) may not be listening to your actual conversations (yet), its agents are actively gathering data about your calls: who you call, from where you call, when you call, how long the call lasts.

Here’s the top secret court order delineating the government’s unfettered powers of domestic surveillance.

The price of freedom is becoming ever more expensive, and with broad clandestine activities like this underway — with no specific target — our precious freedoms continue to erode. Surely, this must delight our foes, who will gain relish from the self-inflicted curtailment of civil liberties — the societal consequences are much more far-reaching than those from any improvised explosive device (IED) however heinous and destructive.

From the Guardian:

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government’s domestic spying powers.

Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.

The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.

The Guardian approached the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment in advance of publication on Wednesday. All declined. The agencies were also offered the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order.

The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI’s request for its customers’ records, or the court order itself.

“We decline comment,” said Ed McFadden, a Washington-based Verizon spokesman.

The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA electronic copies of “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls”.

The order directs Verizon to “continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this order”. It specifies that the records to be produced include “session identifying information”, such as “originating and terminating number”, the duration of each call, telephone calling card numbers, trunk identifiers, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, and “comprehensive communication routing information”.

The information is classed as “metadata”, or transactional information, rather than communications, and so does not require individual warrants to access. The document also specifies that such “metadata” is not limited to the aforementioned items. A 2005 court ruling judged that cell site location data – the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to – was also transactional data, and so could potentially fall under the scope of the order.

While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively.

It is not known whether Verizon is the only cell-phone provider to be targeted with such an order, although previous reporting has suggested the NSA has collected cell records from all major mobile networks. It is also unclear from the leaked document whether the three-month order was a one-off, or the latest in a series of similar orders.

Read the entire article here.

Send to Kindle

So, You Want to Be a Brit?

The United Kingdom government has just published its updated 180-page handbook for new residents. So, those seeking to become subjects of Her Majesty will need to brush up on more that Admiral Nelson, Churchill, Spitfires, Chaucer and the Black Death. Now, if you are one of the approximately 150,000 new residents each year, you may well have to learn about Morecambe and Wise, Roald Dahl, and Monty Python. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink!

From the Telegraph:

It has been described as “essential reading” for migrants and takes readers on a whirlwind historical tour of Britain from Stone Age hunter-gatherers to Morecambe and Wise, skipping lightly through the Black Death and Tudor England.

The latest Home Office citizenship handbook, Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents, has scrapped sections on claiming benefits, written under the Labour government in 2007, for a triumphalist vision of events and people that helped make Britain a “great place to live”.

The Home Office said it had stripped-out “mundane information” about water meters, how to find train timetables, and using the internet.

The guide’s 180 pages, filled with pictures of the Queen, Spitfires and Churchill, are a primer for citizenship tests taken by around 150,000 migrants a year.

Comedies such as Monty Python and The Morecambe and Wise Show are highlighted as examples of British people’s “unique sense of humour and satire”, while Olympic athletes including Jessica Ennis and Sir Chris Hoy are included for the first time.

Previously, historical information was included in the handbook but was not tested. Now the book features sections on Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Viking Britain to give migrants an “understanding of how modern Britain has evolved”.

They can equally expect to be quizzed on the children’s author Roald Dahl, the Harrier jump jet and the Turing machine – a theoretical device proposed by Alan Turing and seen as a precursor to the modern computer.

The handbook also refers to the works of William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer and Jane Austen alongside Coronation Street. Meanwhile, Christmas pudding, the Last Night of the Proms and cricket matches are described as typical “indulgences”.

The handbook goes on sale today and forms the basis of the 45-minute exam in which migrants must gain marks of 75 per cent to pass.

Read the entire article following the jump.

Image: Group shot of the Monty Python crew in 1969. Courtesy of Wikpedia.

Send to Kindle

Supercommittee and Innovation: Oxymoron Du Jour

Today is deadline day for the U.S. Congressional Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to deliver. Perhaps, a little ironically the committee was commonly mistitled the “Super Committee”. Interestingly, pundits and public alike do not expect the committee to deliver any significant, long-term solution to the United States’ fiscal problems. In fact, many do not believe the committee with deliver anything at all beyond reinforcement of right- and left-leaning ideologies, political posturing, pandering to special interests of all colors and, of course, recriminations and spin.

Could the Founders have had such dysfunction in mind when they designed the branches of government with its many checks and balances to guard against excess and tyranny. So, perhaps it’s finally time for the United States’ Congress to gulp a large dose of some corporate-style innovation.

From the Washington Post:

… Fiscal catastrophe has been around the corner, on and off, for 15 years. In that period, Dole and President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, came together to produce a record-breaking $230 billion surplus. That was later depleted by actions undertaken by both sides, bringing us to the tense situation we have today.

What does this have to do with innovation?

As the profession of innovation management matures, we are learning a few key things, including that constraints can be a good thing — and the “supercommittee” clock is a big constraint. Given this, what is the best strategy when you need to innovate in a hurry?

When innovating under the gun, the first thing you must do is assemble a small, diverse team to own and attack the challenge. The “supercommittee” team is handicapped from the start, since it is neither small (think 4-5 people) nor diverse (neither in age nor expertise). Second, successful innovators envision what success looks like and pursue it single-mindedly – failure is not an option.

Innovators also divide big challenges into smaller challenges that a small team can feel passionate about and assault on an even shorter timeline than the overall challenge. This requires that you put as much (or more) effort into determining the questions that form the challenges as you do into trying to solve them. Innovators ask big questions that challenge the status quo, such as “How could we generate revenue without taxes?” or “What spending could we avoid and how?” or “How would my son or my grandmother approach this?”

To solve the challenges, successful innovators recruit people not only with expertise most relevant to the challenge, but also people with expertise in distant specialties, which, in innovation, is often where the best solutions come from.

But probably most importantly, all nine innovation roles — the revolutionary, the conscript, the connector, the artist, customer champion, troubleshooter, judge, magic maker and evangelist — must be filled for an innovation effort to be successful.

Read the entire article here.

Send to Kindle