Transparency News 6/4/14

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

State and Local Stories

A new assessment of the quality and cost of high-speed Internet access in Virginia’s schools could lead to lower bills and better bandwidth, according to state officials and an executive with the nonprofit leading the review. Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced today that Virginia was the first state selected for this review by the San Francisco-anchored EducationSuperHighway based on data indicating that Virginia’s schools pay more than the national average for Internet access and network connectivity.

Lawyers for former Gov. Bob McDonnell and former first lady Maureen McDonnell are urging a federal judge to issue 10 blank subpoenas on their behalf for witnesses at their corruption trial. Lawyers for the McDonnells say blank subpoenas -- which would keep the witnesses' names secret for now -- are crucial to their defense. The lawyers tell Judge James R. Spencer that federal prosecutors do not oppose the motion.
News & Advance

In some emergencies, dialing 911 is not an option; the situation might be too dangerous to speak or a person who is deaf cannot use the phone. Soon, residents here in the Valley could be able to reach 911 by sending a text message. Text-to-911 was created by the Federal Communications Commission to give people in emergency situations another way to call for help. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless voluntarily committed to making texting to 911 available in areas where the local 911 center was prepared to receive the texts. The process started in a few areas, both here in Virginia and across the country, during the month of May as a test drive. “I think it can be very beneficial for someone who is truly in an emergency. But I think there are also some concerns,” said Waynesboro Police Sgt. Brian Edwards. “It has its drawbacks. It can’t zero in on a location if a dispatcher loses contact with the caller, but if a person is in peril and needs to inconspicuously call for help, it could be a lifesaving resource.”
News Virginian

National Stories

Dianne "DD" Barker is fighting for her rights — specifically, the right to perform cartwheels at public meetings. The Phoenix resident has received a letter from an attorney for the Maricopa Association of Governments demanding that she "immediately cease performing cartwheels at MAG meetings." She has been known to show off her gymnastic skills at the planning agency's regular gatherings. "You have from time to time suggested that MAG cannot prevent you from performing cartwheels during your comments," the letter states. "That position is incorrect."
USA Today

A routine request in Florida for public records regarding the use of a surveillance tool known as stingray took an extraordinary turn Tuesday when federal authorities seized the documents before police could release them. The surprise move by the U.S. Marshals Service stunned the ACLU, which earlier this year filed a routine public records request with the Sarasota, Florida, police department for information detailing its use of the controversial surveillance tool. The ACLU had an appointment Tuesday morning to review documents pertaining to a case investigated by a Sarasota police detective. But marshals swooped in at the last minute to grab the records, claiming they belong to the U.S. Marshals Service and barring the police from releasing them.

When the Federal Communications Commission released its proposed Net Neutrality regulations, Chairman Tom Wheeler said the founding fathers were likely looking down on the public outcry over the draft rules and smiling. They must be laughing hysterically now. The FCC's online public-comment system stumbled under heavy traffic Monday after comedian John Oliver capped a 13-minute segment about Net neutrality -- the concept that all Internet content should be delivered without preference or discrimination -- with a rallying cry to the Internet's trolls to visit the FCC's website and "focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction."

Disparate regulations currently in place have tended to frustrate information seekers. The inter-agency discussions are meant to develop a common set of practices that would make navigating the system simpler for information requesters, in addition to helping the government update its regulations with greater ease. A coalition of transparency advocates — consisting of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the National Security Archive — recently developed its own set of recommendations. Below are some highlights of the group’s proposals:
Washington Post


Ray Boone kept his eye on the prize. He devoted himself, through journalism, to combating Jim Crow and its legacy. His accomplishments were many, but he will be remembered as the founder and publisher of the Richmond Free Press, a newspaper he employed as a pulpit. He once confided to us that he used the pen as a butcher’s knife. His editorials cut to the bone.