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The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is holding hearings this week called “Ensuring Transparency through the Freedom of Information Act.” Now, before you doze off from reading that sentence, let me rephrase it: The House Oversight Committee is holding hearings on a law that delivers info on drones, the force-feeding of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, grenade launchers delivered to small-town cops, and a nearly endless variety of other matters that federal agencies won’t voluntarily tell us about. If you’re curious about the 55,000 pages of emails Hillary Clinton sent while she was Secretary of State, you’re interested in FOIA. If you want to know why it took so long for veterans to get answers about the mysterious, possibly-cancer-inducing barrels they handled while deployed in Iraq, you’re interested in FOIA.

Government agencies are increasingly ignoring and circumventing the very laws meant to hold them accountable

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Another departure from pure science, but some interesting data visualization from a study published last week. Each dot is a single member of the House of Representatives (democrats = blue, republicans = red). The proximity and lines between dots indicates cooperation - voting the same way on legislation. The more they vote the same way, the thicker the connecting lines and the closer the dots.

Man Fails To Prosecute Officer Caught On Tape Killing Unarmed Man, Gets Elected To Congress

With the NYPD re-reteaching its officers how to avoid being racist, using verbal abuse, and resorting to needless physical force, a strange turn of events happened Tuesday night: the lead prosecutor who failed to secure a grand jury indictment in the Eric Garner case and a steadfast supporter of the NYPD became New York’s newest Congressman, and will represent Staten Island.

One out of every five children in America lives in poverty. In the wealthiest country in the world, nearly 16 million of our children and nearly 5 million of our elders lack food security. But congressional leaders think the first piece of business should be to ensure that those who pay little in life leave nothing of their great fortunes to the common good after they die.
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An unexpected tip for female staffers who want access on the Hill: bring a chaperone. According to a report from National Journal, certain men in Congress refuse to be alone with the women who work for them. Not because these women are femme fatales out to steal their bosses’ virtue, but to avoid — in the words of one staffer — “negative assumptions that might be made” about the nature of their relationships. Add it to the list of barriers women must overcome in order to do their jobs and move up in their fields.

A new report suggests that some congressional Republicans are deliberately shutting women out

“Geology is not a core science” #ThanksEarthScience

In 2009, the governor of the state of Louisiana was giving a reply to a speech by the U.S. President that in part described how there were supposedly wasteful items in a spending bill being considered by Congress when something remarkable happened. One example of the type of thing the government should not be funding given in this speech was “something called volcano monitoring”.

To a geologist, this clause was jaw-dropping. Not only did it seem like the concept that “we should monitor volcanoes as a natural hazard because they could kill people” wasn’t understood, hearing that from the governor of the state devastated a mere 3.5 years earlier by Hurricane Katrina and the associated engineering failures was particularly startling.

I couldn’t help but flash back to that moment this week as Earth Science in the United States has a target on its back once again. At the beginning of May, the Congress passed a NASA budget outline that included a huge cut in their Earth Science spending. Then this past week, a U.S. Congressperson on the budget committee argued that the slight increase in funding for the National Science Foundation should go to the 4 “core sciences” which specifically excluded Earth Science and Social Sciences.

Keep reading

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It used to be that Israel was the only global player who refused to admit that its settlements in Palestine were illegal under international law. Now there is a danger that Congress could be added to the list. Members of both the House and Senate have recently introduced at least six different pieces of legislation attempting to legitimize these Palestinian land grabs by shielding them from increasing international trade pressure. In doing so, Congress is essentially requiring the U.S. to punish trade partners for adhering to international laws and for the first time in its history, endorse and defend the settlements by treating them as a part of Israel.

Members of Congress want to ignore international law and recognize illegal Israeli settlements. Bad, bad idea…