Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Lately, In Transparency #3

by August 1st, 2011

To complement the work at Public Data Ferret hub, we’re using the Ferret’s Twitter account to accent news highlights from the world of government transparency, freedom of the press and human rights. Here are some of our most recent finds.

U.S. plastic surgery infographic. Despite the struggling U.S. economy, plastic surgery was up 5 percent in 2010 over 2009’s total. U.S. consumers spent more than $10 billion on 13 million procedures. Which body parts got the most attention? The Guardian’s DataBlog provides a handy infographic.

Is Bell ready for reform? The interim administrator of the scandal-plagued city of Bell, California, located in Los Angeles County, left his position Monday amid the city’s budget crisis, the Los Angeles Times reports. It’s unclear how reforms will proceed as the city council struggles to recover from the debt and mismanagement under a previous administration which earned broad notoriety for inflated salaries and benefits which escaped public notice.

Immigration asylum petitions: tough sledding. U.S. immigration judges have denied most asylum petitions in the last five years, according to The Texas Tribune. Their report is based on the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonpartisan public records clearinghouse based at Syracuse University. The organization analyzed the decisions of 265 immigration judges across the U.S.

U.K. observer: Govt. data dumps don’t equal transparency. The posting online of voluminous public data sets does not equate to government transparency, a British parliamentary committee chairman said hours after UK Prime Minister David Cameron made new transparency commitments. Via

Online sunshine for Congressionally-required agency reports? Under a proposed Senate bill, the Government Printing Office would launch and maintain a website containing electronic copies of all U.S. agency reports required by Congress. From Federal Computer Week.

An unfree press in Sudan. Reporters Without Borders reports a female journalist for the daily Al-Jarida was sentenced to a fine of 2,000 Sudanese pounds (864 U.S. dollars) or a month in jail for reporting on an alleged sexual assault a female activists claims she suffered from members of the Sudanese security forces. Amal Habani was taken to Omdurman women’s prison July 25, 2011 and was released from prison July 27, 2011 after her colleagues paid the fine.

Seattle’s own Common Language Project gets CJR write-up. The Seattle-based Common Language Project was was profiled by the Columbia Journalism Review, highlighting the organization’s focus on creating in-depth human rights news and multimedia storytelling. CLP is a non-profit group dedicated to covering underreported international issues on different platforms.

U.S. military contracts keep rolling into WA. The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded Puyallup, Wash. company Absher Construction a $35,275,888 contract to build an enlisted personnel housing facility at the U.S. Army’s Schofield Barracks in Oahu, Hawaii. Via Public Data Ferret.

Don’t drink the water? The director of the U.S. Government Accountability Office of Natural Resources and Environment testified to a senate committee that the Environmental Protection Agency continues to fail to adequately safeguard the nation’s drinking water. David Trimble said the EPA’s lack of focus on potential impacts of certain toxic agents and pollutants in the nation’s public drinking water requires more rigorous science and procedures. Via Public Data Ferret.

$425K proposed fine for Cascade Natural Gas. Public Data Ferret reported that Kennewick, Wash.-based Cascade Natural Gas Corp. has agreed to pay $425,000 in state and federal safety violations under a proposed settlement between the company and the the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. Cascade is also subject to another $1.8 million in fines if it fails to deliver on additional corrective actions outlined in the draft agreement.

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