Alfred P. Sloan Foundation taps seven from Harvard

first_imgSeven Harvard faculty members are among the 118 outstanding early career scientists, mathematicians, and economists recently awarded Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowships by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.Fellowships are awarded to faculty colleges and universities in the United States and Canada who are conducting research at the frontiers of physics, chemistry, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, computer science, economics, mathematics, and neuroscience.The fellowships have been awarded since 1955, and 38 Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in their fields, 57 have received the National Medal of Science, and 14 have been awarded the Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics. Although Sloan Research Fellowships in economics began only in 1983, Sloan Fellows have subsequently accounted for nine of the 14 winners of the John Bates Clark Medal, considered the most prestigious honor for young economists.Harvard recipients include Sandeep R. Datta, neuroscience; Emmanuel Farhi, economics; Peter J. Park, molecular biology; Tobias Ritter, chemistry; Alkes L. Price, molecular biology; Jennifer E. Hoffman, physics; and Marko Lončar, physics.last_img read more

Study finds high-risk pregnancies persist despite screening

first_imgIsotretinoin (also known by its former brand names Accutane or Roaccutane) is an extremely effective acne medication that can help patients whose severe acne has not responded to other drugs.But the drug is also a potent teratogen — if a woman takes isotretinoin while pregnant, even for a short time, her fetus runs a high risk of severe birth defects.In 2006, the U.S. Federal Drug Administration imposed a special restricted distribution program, known as iPLEDGE, that has stringent, recurring requirements for patients, prescribing physicians, and dispensing pharmacists. Despite the substantial imposition of iPLEDGE on patients and clinicians, the extent to which it has reduced pregnancy and other adverse effects had been unknown.In a new study, investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital evaluated the frequency of reported pregnancies and pregnancy-related adverse events among women taking isotretinoin. In a paper published in JAMA Dermatology, the team reports that although the number of pregnancies among women taking isotretinoin has decreased, incidences of pregnancy persisted even after iPLEDGE was implemented.“While the number of pregnancies among patients taking isotretinoin is low, even 200 pregnancies is too high,” said corresponding author Arash Mostaghimi, director of Dermatology Inpatient Service and co-director of the Complex Medical Dermatology Fellowship Program at the Brigham. “We need to think about regulations that can reduce that number without being overly burdensome for patients and physicians.”iPLEDGE requires that women of childbearing age have a negative pregnancy test and attest to using two forms of birth control or abstinence before they can begin taking isotretinoin. They must repeat a pregnancy test and attestation every month they continue taking the drug. Each month, physicians prescribing the drug must enter the test results and the pharmacist must obtain authorization from the iPLEDGE program.In the current study, investigators analyzed FDA reports of pregnancy-related adverse events associated with isotretinoin from Jan. 1, 1997, to Dec. 31, 2017, using the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS), a database of adverse reactions to medications filed by prescribers, consumers, and manufacturers. Reported pregnancies peaked in 2006 (768) before settling into a range of 218 to 310 per year after 2011.Pregnancies, abortions, and fetal defects all decreased after iPLEDGE was implemented in 2006, but they did not stop. The authors note that several factors beyond iPLEDGE may be contributing to the downward trend, including a national decrease in teen pregnancies and increased use of long-term birth control and emergency contraception.Earlier this month, Mostaghimi and colleagues used the FAERS database to look at a different constellation of side effects: those related to mental health. In that study, they found that a large proportion of patients taking isotretinoin experienced mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and sometimes suicide.“With mandated monthly visits for iPLEDGE, we have an opportunity to improve screening for other side effects, such as mental health, in addition to identifying more effective ways to lower pregnancy rates,” said Mostaghimi. “iPLEDGE springs from the desire to protect newborns and women, but we should think of it as a testing ground for identifying the best system to reduce isotretinoin-related complications while maintaining access to an important drug.”last_img read more

Institute for Latino Studies celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

first_imgThe Institute for Latino Studies plans to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with seven events highlighting the cultural richness and diversity of countries with Hispanic origin in the Americas.Hispanic Heritage Month, which was established by law in 1988 under President Reagan, lasts from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Several countries with Hispanic origin celebrate their independence days during this timespan.Director of the Institute for Latino Studies and professor Luis Ricardo Fraga said the month is a way of celebrating the shared Hispanic history of American nations.“The idea behind it — I think — is basically the idea that given the long history of the presence of peoples from Spain, and later from other countries in Latin America, in the United States, it was appropriate that the United States … celebrate both the heritage of our Latin American countries that we might see as brothers and sisters of the western hemisphere … and at the same time celebrate the presence of people from a number of different countries in Latin America in the United States,” Fraga said.Fraga said Hispanic Heritage Month is a demonstration of the way America can recognize and celebrate diversity.“The whole purpose of Hispanic Heritage Month is to celebrate the way in which America at its best has the capacity, through its institutions, and at its best through some of its political leaders, to see and celebrate difference and know that it doesn’t in any way threaten our common destiny and our linked fate with one another,” he said.This year’s festivities include a viewing of the film “Selena” on Sept. 16 at DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, as well as a discussion by Luis Alberto Urrea, an award winning Mexican-American poet on Oct. 2 at McKenna Hall Auditorium.“[The activities planned] are a demonstration of the varieties and richness that the presence of Hispanics here at Notre Dame bring to the university — intellectual richness, cultural richness, linguistic richness,” Fraga said.While all the events are scheduled to take place on the Notre Dame campus, Fraga said the Institute hopes to attract people from the surrounding areas as well.“We strongly encourage, of course, all the members of the Notre Dame community to come, but we also make a concerted effort to bring people in from South Bend, from St. Mary’s, from Holy Cross, from IUSB,” Fraga said. “We’re fortunate in having resources and we want to make sure we share them with the broader community. We have found that at most of our events, all sorts of people come, it’s not just Latino folks who come, and that’s our purpose. Our purpose is to share, to celebrate and to learn from each other.”Senior Jinelfry Rodriguez, president of the Latino Students Alliance (LSA), said Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate Hispanic heritage, regardless of ethnicity.“It’s nice to have a time when we are acknowledged by the community and to have a time and space where we’re able to come together and also … share our culture and the aspects of ourselves and our history with people who may not be aware or just aren’t Latino themselves,” Rodriguez said.LSA secretary and junior Julianna Ortiz said Hispanic Heritage Month allows members of LSA to reach out and share the joy they find in their culture.“We definitely all love as a community to get together and be able to hang out and be with something familiar to us, but also to share with people who don’t really know our culture as well,” Ortiz said. “To be able to share with people our culture and show how great it can be … I think that’s important.”Fraga said Hispanic Heritage Month should have particular importance at Notre Dame because of its shared Catholic roots with countries of Hispanic origin and the rising numbers of Catholic Hispanics and Latinos in America today.“Hispanics represent both the future of the Catholic Church and the past of the Catholic Church at the same time. We have endorsed Hispanic heritage month as a major opportunity to celebrate the presence of Latinos in the United States,” he said. “The increase in the capacity of our institutions to grow even more richly if they embrace the diversity of our growing community gives Notre Dame an opportunity to be at the forefront of the best thinking, the best research, the best teaching, the best students who are interested in understanding the future and committing to it.”Junior Hibram Sanchez, LSA’s diversity council representative, said Hispanic Heritage Month allows communities to escape the negativity in politics and focus on the beauty of a diverse American society.“[Hispanic Heritage Month] is important right now especially with this negativity that’s going around,” Sanchez said. “You just see the negative aspects regardless of what your position is … Showing that there’s also these subsets of the American population that contribute to the fabric of the country … it’s important to show what we believe is beautiful in our cultures but at the same time acknowledge that we’re a part of the American experience.”A full listing of Hispanic Heritage Month events can be found on the Institute for Latino Studies’ website.Tags: hispanic and latino culture, Hispanic Catholics, Hispanic Heritage Month, Institute for Latino Studies, Latino Student Alliancelast_img read more

Governor Peter Shumlin’s schedule for Thursday, September 15

first_imgVermont Governor Peter Shumlin’s schedule for Thursday, September 15, 2011.9:00               ‘Feed the Hungry Donation with UFCW,’ VT Foodbank – Smithfield donation; 33 Parker Road, Wilson Industrial Park, Barre 10:30             Vermont State Dental Society; Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center, Burlington 11:45             Bike Path Opening, South Burlington Recreation & Parks Dept.; Tilley Drive & Community Drive 12:20             Comcast Internet Essentials; The O’Brien Center in Winooski, 32 Mallets Way Ave. 1:30               Press Conference on Jobs; On the Rise Bakery, 39 Esplanade, Richmond 3:00               Tour Waterbury Downtown damaged by Tropical Storm Irene,  starting at Fire Station on Main Street 5:50               5 x 5 x 5. Vermont Business Awards; Doubletree, South Burlington6:30               Governor’s Lakeside Gathering, Community Sailing Center; 234 Penny Lane, Burlingtonlast_img read more

Proposed Board of Governors’ actions

first_imgProposed Board of Governors’ actions Proposed Board of Governors’ actions Pursuant to Standing Board Policy 1.60, the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar hereby publishes this notice of intent to consider or take final action at its October 21, 2005 meeting on the following items. These matters are additionally governed by Rule 1-12.1, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, where applicable. Most amendments to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar that are finally acted upon by the board must still be formally presented to the Supreme Court of Florida, with further notice and opportunity to be heard, before they are officially approved and become effective. To receive a full copy of the text of any of these proposed amendments call (850)561-5751 B please reference any requested proposal by its title or item number and date of this publication. RULES REGULATING THE FLORIDA BAR Chapter 1 General 1. Rule 1-7.5 Retired, Resigned, Inactive, Delinquent Members Summary: Deletes “resigned” members from text that lists those members who shall not practice law until reinstated; revises title likewise. Subchapter 1-12 Amendments 2. Rule 1-12.2 Supreme Court Procedures on the Review of Proposed Amendments Summary: New rule, which sets forth a court conference and dialogue process – rather than a case or controversy format – as the procedure to amend the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. Chapter 2 Bylaws of The Florida Bar Subchapter 2-7 Sections 3. Bylaw 2-7.3 Creation of Sections and Divisions Summary: Changes the name of the “Out-Of-State Practitioners Division” to the “Out-Of-State Division.” Chapter 3 Rules of Discipline Subchapter 3-6 Employment of Certain Attorneys or Former Attorneys 4. Rule 3-6.1 General Summary: Throughout entire rule, clarifies the limitations imposed on suspended, disbarred, or disciplinary resigned attorneys when they are employed by lawyers and law firms. Chapter 4 Rules of Professional Conduct Subchapter 4-6 Public Service 5. Rule 4-6.5 Voluntary Pro Bono Plan Summary: Consistent with proposed changes in rule 2-7.3, changes the name of the Out-of-State Practitioners Division to the Out-of-State Division. Chapter 5 Rules Regulating Trust Accounts Subchapter 5-1 Generally 6. Rule 5-1.1 Trust Accounts Summary: Within subdivision (g)(7), allows the bar foundation to disclose to the bar the location of an attorney’s trust account and account numbers in limited circumstances and subject to maintenance of confidentiality. Chapter 6 Legal Specialization and Education Programs Subchapter 6-16 Standards for Certification of a Board Certified Business Litigation Lawyer 7. Rule 6-16.3 Minimum Standards Summary: Within subdivision (b), allows for substitution of 1 of the 8 required matters submitted to the trier of fact for resolution through a trial advocacy seminar that is at least 3 full days, approved by the business litigation certification committee, and includes as part of its curriculum active participation by the applicant in simulated courtroom proceedings; deletes current reference to “complex” in definition of “protracted adversary proceedings” and adds further clarification that such are “business litigation” matters. 8. Rule 6-16.4 Recertification Summary: Within subdivision (b), allows for substitution of 1 of the 5 required matters submitted to the trier of fact for resolution through a trial advocacy seminar that is at least 3 full days, approved by the business litigation certification committee, and includes as part of its curriculum active participation by the applicant in simulated courtroom proceedings. Subchapter 6-25 Standards for Certification of State and Federal Government and Administrative Practice Lawyers Summary: New subchapter, setting forth standards to establish a new certification in the area of state and federal government and administrative practice. 9. Rule 6-25.1 Generally 10. Rule 6-25.2 Definitions 11. Rule 6-25.3 Minimum Standards 12. Rule 6-25.4 Recertification 13. Rule 6-25.5 Manner of Certification Subchapter 6-26 Certification of Intellectual Property Certification Standards Summary: New subchapter, setting forth standards to establish a new board certification in the field of intellectual property law. 14. Rule 6-26.1 Generally 15. Rule 6-26.2 Definitions 16. Rule 6-26.3 Minimum Standards 17. Rule 6-26.4 Recertification Chapter 10 Rules Governing the Investigation and Prosecution of the Unlicensed Practice of Law Subchapter 10-2 Definitions 18. Rule 10-2.1 Generally Summary: Within subdivision (a)(2), clarifies language regarding a person’s use of the title “paralegal” or “legal assistant.” Chapter 14 – Grievance Mediation and Fee Arbitration Summary: Amends provisions of Chapter 14 that deal with fee arbitration in order to be consistent with the provisions regarding mediation as same relate to authority for referral to fee arbitration and referral to mediation. 19. Rule 14-2.1 Generally 20. Rule 14-6.1 Binding Nature 21. Fee Arbitration Procedural Rules 22. Grievance Mediation Policies Chapter 17 Authorized House Counsel Subchapter 17-1 Generally 23. Rule 17-1.2 Definitions Summary: Within subdivision (a)(6), rearranges wording of rule to clarify that an authorized house counsel must reside in Florida or soon relocate to Florida. CLIENTS’ SECURITY FUND REGULATIONS 24. Regulation 14 Definition of Useful Services Summary: Revises regulation that states CSF claims “will be denied” if useful services were performed to a claimant, to read that claims “may be denied” in such instances; adds a definition of useful services. STANDING BOARD POLICIES 100 Series General Board Policies 25. Policy 1.80 General Recusal Policy Summary: New policy, to clarify that the president or presiding officer may order recusal of a board member in any non-disciplinary matter upon concurrence of a majority of the board; further clarifies that a recused member may not participate in any manner of discussions with any member or group of members of the board concerning the matter, and the recused member should not be present when the matter is being debated by the board. 500 Series – Committees, Sections and Divisions 26. Policy 5.10 Standing Committees Summary: Conforms name changes, additions, or deletions of various committees as necessary. 27. Policy 5.60 Section Budget Policies Summary: Based on suggested revisions within newly proposed SBP 5.63, deletes subdivision (f) regarding distribution of dues proceeds and redesignates subsequent subdivisions appropriately. 28. Policy 5.63 Administrative Support Policy Summary: New proposed policy for calculating the amount each section is to reimburse The Florida Bar for support services, including 80 percent of general and administrative allocation. Section charges range from $12.50 per paying member to $17.50, effective July 1, 2006. Allows in certain circumstances for support in excess of the amount collected, and for return of any excess paid if support costs are less. 600 Series – Continuing Legal Education 29. Policy 6.20 Authority for CLE Courses Summary: Within subdivision (b)(1), replaces “videotape” with “other media.” 30. Policy 6.30 Fees for CLE Courses Summary:Deletes “then” from penultimate sentence relating to adjustment of fees. 31. Policy 6.31 Distribution of Proceeds Summary: Changes codify the recently approved formula for distribution of CLE proceeds or losses between The Florida Bar and either co-sponsoring sections or the Out of State Practitioners Division. Effective July 1, 2005 distribution will be on a net basis after all costs, direct and indirect, have been paid. 32. Policy 6.50 CLE – Eligibility to Attend or Receive Materials and to Purchase Publications Summary: Within subdivision (a), deletes subdivisions (1)-(7) and revises policy language to state that CLE programs may be attended by any person, without limitation. 1500 Series – Lawyer Regulation Policies 33. Policy 15.20 Recusal of Board Members Summary: Consistent with recent changes in policy 15.10, adds language within subdivision (a) to clarify that the president or presiding officer may order recusal of a board member in a disciplinary matter upon concurrence of a majority of the board; further clarifies that a recused member may not participate in any manner of discussions with any member or group of members of the board concerning the matter; adds new language stating that a recused member should not be present when the matter is being debated by the board. BYLAWS 34. Health Law Section Summary: Within Article II (Purposes), adds a mission statement for the section; within Article IV (Executive Council) deletes outdated provisions dealing with terms of office during the section’s first year of existence after adoption of its bylaws; within Article IX (Committees) adds a Communications and Technology Committee, deletes the Substantive Law Committee, renames the Education Committee as the Education, Training and Information Committee, deletes the Nominating and Legislative Committees as full committees, and renames and reconfigures the Section Administration Committee as the Section Effectiveness Committee, to now include Nominating and Legislative Subcommittees; and within Article X (Miscellaneous) revises effective date of bylaws. 35. Tax Section Summary: Within Article VI, Section 4, changes the structure of the Federal Tax Division into five separate subdivisions and designated committees, with assistant directors who report to the division director; within Article VIII, Section 3, adds requirement that a proposed legislative position be within the scope of both Articles I and Section I of Article VIII of the section bylaws rather than one or the other. POLICIES GOVERNING CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION COMMITTEE 1.00 – Scope and Function of CLE Committee 36. Policy 1.05 Transaction of Business Summary: Adds language to define a quorum as at least 20 percent of members present. 37. Policy 1.06 Removal Summary: Adds language giving the chair authority to waive the removal of a committee member after 2 consecutive meeting absences if such absences are deemed unavoidable. 38. Policy 1.07 Responsibility Summary: Consistent with Standing Board Policy 6.10, deletes language indicating committee’s responsibility to educate Bar members is “in cooperation with the sections, divisions and committees of The Florida Bar and other co-sponsors.” 39. Policy 1.08 Executive Committee Appointment Summary: Changes the appointment of subcommittees and subcommittee chairs from required action by the committee chair, to optional action. 40. Policy 1.09 CLE Co-sponsorship with Law Schools, Other Bar Associations and Professional Groups , Sections, Divisions and Committees of The Florida Bar Summary: Revises title, to emphasize role of sections, divisions and committees as CLE co-sponsors. 41. Policy 1.10 Program Evaluation Responsibility Summary: Adds “and Oversight” to title, to reflect the committee’s active role in program development as well as program evaluation; reduces the number of courses, from 2 to 1, that committee members must evaluate on an annual basis. 2.00 Section/Division Responsibility 42. Policy 2.01 Primary Responsibility Summary: Deletes reference to section and division “authority” for programs; clarifies that such programs are “co-sponsored” rather than sponsored; deletes reference to use of speaker evaluation systems; and adds language about established quality standards. 43. Policy 2.02 Selection of Speakers Summary: Changes title to “Speaker Diversity”. 44. Policy 2.03 Financial Recapitulations Summary: Revises language to specify that financial recapitulation information shall go directly to sections and division instead of through the CLE representative. 45. Policy 2.04 Revenue Sharing Summary: Substitutes the term “allowable” for “direct” in reference to revenue sharing with sections and divisions, and adds 3 examples of revenue sharing to make the policy easier to understand. 3.00 CLE Programs 46. Current 3.02 / Proposed 3.04 Method of Resolving Conflicts Summary: Moved and renumbered as new 3.04 47. Current 3.03 / Proposed 3.02 Proposed Courses – Review – Conflicts Summary: Renumbered as 3.02 in view of movement of former 3.02 48. Current 3.04 / Proposed 3.03 Standards for Resolution of Conflicts Summary: Renumbered as 3.03 in view of movement of former 3.02 49. Policy 3.07 Considerations of Ethics and Professionalism Summary: Updates references to areas of special credit, to include substance abuse and mental illness awareness; conforms title to reflect considerations of “Special Credit Hours” rather than “Ethics and Professionalism.” 50. Policy 3.08 Smoking Policy Summary: Deletes provision regarding permissive smoking in designated areas. 51. Policy 3.09 Exhibits and Displays at Courses Summary: Revises policy to allow bar staff, rather than the committee, to determine whether exhibits have educational value. 4.00 Preparation of Publications 52. Policy 4.01 Selection of Steering Committees and Authors Summary: Deletes references to actual steering committee selection by staff; confirms that policy is also applicable to coordinating the selection of authors; and clarifies that authors or steering committee members disciplined “in any jurisdiction” may not serve. 53. Policy 4.04 Publication Covers Summary: Expands policy to confirm that staff has discretion over all aspects of the design and style of CLE publications; conforms title accordingly. 54. Policy 4.05 Supplements Summary: Expands policy to confirm its applicability to new editions as well as supplements; conforms title accordingly. 55. Policy 4.08 Purchase and Return of CLE Publications Summary: Decreases period in which purchasers may return publications, from 90 to 30 days. 56. Policy 4.11 Price Lists for CLE Publications Summary: Updates language to reflect the posting of order forms and price lists on the Bar’s website. 5.00 Lease Programs 57. Policy 5.01 Local Bar Lease Program Summary: Revises and condenses policy language for ease of understanding. 6.00 Fees, Charges, and Complimentaries 58. Policy 6.01 Registration Fees Summary: Allows for increase of base course fee based on the number of speakers or out of state speakers; increases, from $15 to $25, the surcharge for non-member attendance at section or division programs. 59. Policy 6.02 Refunds Summary: Increases, from $15 to $25, the cancellation fee charged against refunds. 60. Policy 6.03 Late Registration Charge Summary: Increases, from $15 to $25, the surcharge for late registration. 61. Policy 6.04 Half-price Registration Fees for CLE Courses Summary: Within subdivision (b), adds full-time clinical instructors at “provisionally accredited” as well as accredited law school as eligible for half-price registration fees. 62. Policy 6.05 Half-price Fees for CLE Publications Summary: Specifies new or revised limits on half-price publication purchases in various instances – within subdivision (b), 2 copies for public libraries; within subdivision (c), 3 instead of 5 copies for contributing authors; within subdivision (d), 1 copy for university students; within subdivision (e), 1 copy for college professors; and within subdivision (f), 2 copies for selected law libraries. 63. Policy 6.06 Complimentary CLE Publications Summary: Within subdivision (c), deletes distribution of 1 complimentary publication to each district court of appeal judge; adds provision authorizing 1 complimentary copy to all court libraries at each level of the court system; within subdivision (h), adds provision allowing complimentary copies of Standard Jury Instructions to all circuit and county judges. 64. Policy 6.07 Complimentary Course Admissions Summary: Within subdivision (d), revises reference to “general masters” to read “magistrates,” and adds court-appointed hearing officers as complimentary attendees; within subdivision (e), deletes provision regarding Florida Legal Services and adds news reporters instead. 9.00 Course Quality Standards and Reporting 65. Policy 9.01 Quality Control – CLE Committee Summary: Deletes provision regarding the committee’s lack of authority to control the quality of other providers. 66. Policy 9.02 Minimum Quality Standards for Florida Bar Continuing Legal Education Programs Summary: Within subdivision (2), adds reference to CLE diversity policy regarding the selection of CLE volunteers; updates reference to speaker database, to “recent evaluation report summaries.”center_img October 1, 2005 LAWS Regular Newslast_img read more

One-third of Americans living on financial edge

first_imgIf your rainy day fund is light, you have plenty of company. According to a newly released report from Bankrate, 24 percent of Americans have more credit card debt than emergency savings, and 13 percent are not much better off—they don’t have credit card debt but they don’t have emergency savings either. Put another way, more than a third of Americans are living at risk of a financial crisis.Generation X is the group shortest on emergency savings, Bankrate found, largely because they are in an expensive stage of life. Some 32 percent of respondents aged 30 to 49 had more credit card debt than emergency savings. Millennials are in relatively better shape, with just 21 percent of respondents between 18 and 29 having more credit card debt than emergency savings.Perhaps that is because they have not hit the high-spending years and perhaps, as Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate, said, “You are looking at a generation that had a front row seat for the financial crisis, so they have a greater tendency to save ingrained in them.”Retirees were the most prepared for emergencies, with just 14 percent saying their credit card debt was bigger than their emergency savings. Bankrate’s figures released Monday do show some improvement from a year earlier. Only 58 percent of Americans have more emergency savings than credit card debt, Bankrate found, but a year ago that figure was 51 percent. Respondents in the new survey also feel better about their finances than the respondents a year earlier. continue reading » 5SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

Capitol Case: Robert Freeman’s Enduring Fight Against Government Secrecy

first_imgRobert Freeman has been helping people extract public information from New York state agencies for four decades. He is the executive director of the New York Committee on Open Government, a division of the New York Department of State that advises the public on the Freedom of Information Law — the state statute authorizing access to public records.While Freeman gives Gov. Andrew Cuomo credit for making a substantial amount of state data available online, he says the administration has been slower and more difficult than any previous administration in responding to formal Freedom of Information requests.Several ProPublica reporters have recently experienced delays and resistance from New York state agencies in responding to such requests. Joaquin Sapien has spent the last several weeks reporting on violent crimes perpetrated by youngsters living in group homes throughout New York City. Last week, he received a response to a request for inspections of the homes and enforcement actions made against their operators from the Office of Child and Family Services. The response came two weeks past the 20-day-deadline and said the agency needed an additional 75 business days to fulfill the request.Meanwhile, ProPublica reporter Michael Grabell has fought a three-year legal battle with the New York Police Department trying to obtain records on the department’s use of X-ray surveillance machines.Freeman agreed to participate in a Q&A with Sapien. In it, Freeman, 68, draws on his experience working under seven different governors to speak to such delays in the release of public information and their underlying causes.The transcript of the Q&A has been edited for clarity and space. (Listen to the full interview below or on SoundCloud.)Sapien: What is the Committee on Open Government? How did it start? And how’d you get involved?Freeman: The committee is a creation of the state’s Freedom of Information Law, which was initially enacted in 1974. And it came about, in fact, as the result of commentary by members of the news media. The news media pushed for the creation of some sort of an oversight body.That led to an amendment to the original enactment to create what was then called the Committee of Public Access to Records. Our function really is quite simple. We give advice and guidance, either verbally or in writing, to anybody who has a question about public access to government information. The staff is tiny; it’s myself and one other. I describe this office as the smallest state agency that actually does anything and leave the rest to people’s imagination.Sapien: Governor Cuomo, when he was running in 2010, pledged to usher in a new era of transparency, saying, “We must use technology to bring more sunlight to the operation of government.” Has he lived up to that promise?Robert: The truth is, in relation to technology, in many ways, the answer is yes.The governor has initiated an executive order which deals with open data, making data available online that is usable in ways that most of us can’t imagine. Certainly, there’s much more that is available online than in the past.But then again, when it comes to the typical freedom of information request, state government has engaged in too many instances, in my opinion, in unnecessary and unwarranted and unreasonable delays.Sapien: Has that been happening more now than before?Freeman: I think it has but it has for a variety of reasons. Number one, Freedom of Information Law, I used the term FOIL before, it is part of the language in New York.Our website receives literally millions of hits every year. People know about it and they use the law. That, I think, represents something of a cultural difference between New York and other places in this country, and in the world for that matter.We fight City Hall. We make lots of requests. That has resulted, in some instances, in delays. In other situations, my belief is that delays have occurred due to, let’s say, a failure on the part of many to have the ability to act independently.Sapien: What’s at the root of that failure? Is that a cultural issue within this administration, that’s particular to this administration?Freeman: Every administration has wanted to exercise a degree of control. Some more than others. In my view, this administration seeks to do so more than its predecessors.Sapien: Give us some examples of that.Freeman: There are any number of situations in which agencies receive requests and are told that they really should not respond until they have an OK from the executive chamber. If you deal with press people at state agencies, you know that it’s difficult to get quick answers from them.Once upon a time, and I’ve told this many times, years ago, I had a friend who worked here in Albany at the Capitol. I said to him, “There’s a significant story on every floor of every state agency building. You just have to get it.”Back in the olden days, you could just walk into a state agency and talk to people. You can’t do that anymore. Generally speaking, the average state employee cannot talk to the press.Sapien: Is it true, then, that information is more tightly controlled under the Cuomo administration than it has been under previous governors?Freeman: I think that that is true.Sapien: I want to bring up a specific example of Mr. Cuomo’s approach toward public records with regard to preserving and disclosing emails.Apparently, he has adopted a controversial tactic of allowing or maybe even encouraging staffers to conduct official business on private email accounts. My colleague Justin Elliott has written about it.Freeman: As I mentioned earlier, our law was enacted in its initial form in 1974. It was completely revised in 1978. When we were drafting the amendments in ’77, we tried to correct what we perceived to be deficiencies in the federal act. One of the deficiencies that exists to this day is that the federal Freedom of Information Act does not define what a federal agency record is.The truth is [New York] got lucky. We got lucky. We drafted a definition of the term “record.” At the time, think about the late ’70s, high tech was an electric typewriter. We used carbon paper to make copies. There was no such thing as the (commercial) Internet or email. But since ’78, our law has dealt with all agency records. And the term record has been defined expansively to mean any information in any physical form whatsoever kept, held, filed, produced, or reproduced by, with, or for a government agency.If I go home and I sit down at my home computer and I use my personal email address and I communicate with you in my capacity as an employee of the Department of State, that is a Department of State record. It falls within the coverage of the Freedom of Information Law and, like any other record, its content would determine what’s public and what’s not.The question came up years ago, “Are those communications covered by FOIL?” The answer, based upon the definition of the term record, is clearly yes.Sapien: Do you get the sense that public officials are doing this on purpose, that using a private email account will make it more difficult for people to get their hands on those records in the future?Freeman: Sometimes, that may be so. The truth is, we heard about that in the Bloomberg administration. We’ve heard about it many times since. Whether that is done purposefully, or with knowledge of FOIL or not, I don’t know. I don’t know and I think it will vary from one situation to the next.Sapien: Taking it back down to a local level, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York also ran on a campaign of openness and transparency. How does he stand on answering open records requests? What are you hearing about that?Freeman: I’ve been somewhat disappointed. You might know that when Mr. de Blasio was public advocate, he engaged in what amounted to a freedom of information audit of New York City agencies. He put out a report which consisted, by and large, of a report card where city agencies were graded relative to their compliance or absence of compliance with FOIL.Based upon that interest, my hope was that, with the new mayor, the implementation of FOIL would improve in New York City. I don’t see that that has happened.Sapien: What’s the evidence that it hasn’t happened?Freeman: Again, there are any number of situations in which a request will be made and the agency engages in what I would consider to be unreasonable delays. There have been other situations in which I believe that they have engaged in unreasonable denials of access. For better or for worse, it is not uncommon.Sapien: The NYPD has long frustrated the press and advocates with its obstinance on public records. I’ll give you an example from our very own reporter, Michael Grabell.In January of 2012, Michael was writing about xray machines used by law enforcement. He learned that the New York Police Department was using them, and that the machines have raised serious civil rights and privacy concerns, and radiation from the machines has been linked to health problems.He submitted a FOIL request. He asked for some basics: How many xran vans the police had, the after action reports, documents regarding policy and procedure, things like that.For three years, Grabell and the department went back and forth with appeals and denials. Finally, in December 2014, a New York County judge ordered the police department to produce some of what he’d been asking for.Now, the police have appealed to a higher court. The soonest a ruling could come would be in January of 2016. So that’s one request, four years of legal drama, and still no records. How common is that?Freeman: Several points to be made. In terms of the delay, I mentioned earlier that the Committee on Open Government submits a report to the governor and the legislature. We offer legislative proposals. One of them is soon to go before the governor. It’s passed both houses of the legislature. It would deal with the issue of delay.Any time somebody sues, the loser has 30 days to appeal. Thirty days to file a notice of appeal. Thereafter, it has a certain period of time within which it must perfect the appeal by filing a brief. It can be, in some cases, as much as nine months.What you described happens far too frequently. We described the issue as access delayed is the equivalent of access denied. This bill would say, yep, the agency still has 30 days to appeal, but from there it has 60 days, not nine months, to perfect the appeal. If they don’t do that, the appeal would be deemed abandoned. That’s point one. We’re working on that. My hope is that that will become law within a very few weeks.Sapien: So take us behind the scenes a little bit. I think reporters often wonder what these FOIL officers are doing when it takes months or years to respond to a request, often with a blanket denial.Is this deliberate? Is it laziness? Is it a cultural problem? What’s going on in these state agencies when our requests go unanswered for so long?Freeman: I think it’s a combination of all of those things. First of all, I do know, and I’m going to defend the agencies, we are as thin as we have ever been. The truth is that there are many, many agencies that simply can’t do as much work as they used to do not so long ago.It’s an aging workforce. I’m an old guy. The truth is that people leave. They retire. They die. In too many situations, you don’t have people at the agency who have the ability to pick up the ball and carry out the duties, the functions in the same way.Sometimes, yes, I think it is institutional resistance. Sometimes, it may be sloth. We just don’t want to go look for it. We don’t want to go through it. We don’t want to do what the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, has told us. And in fact, you used the phrase that the court used. The court rankled when the New York City Police Department engaged in what it called, “The blanket denial of access.”FOIL says that all government agency records are available except those records or portions of records that fall within a series of exceptions. There are any number of situations in which some elements of a record, even on a single page, will be public. Others might justifiably be withheld. But it is unusual that the entirety of the page, of the document, will justifiably be withheld.FOIL says, at least the way I see it, very basically that all records are available except those records or portions of records that fall within a series of exceptions. Those exceptions are based upon common sense.All the law really should ever say is that everything is available except to the extent that disclosure would hurt – either somebody in terms of an invasion of privacy, the government in terms of its ability to do its job well on behalf of the public or, on occasion, a private company visàvis its competition.The real question in so many instances is, “What would happen if we had to disclose?” And unless the answer in the gut is, “Ouch, this would really hurt,” disclosure ordinarily should be the outcome. Obviously, that’s an oversimplification, but that’s what the law is about. In fact, the law specifies that the government has to meet the burden of defending secrecy.Sapien: You’ve obviously been outspoken and in favor of disclosure for a long time now. You’ve helped a lot of people get records, many of whom in our own office.Freeman: It’s hard to believe that they pay me to do this, actually. They don’t pay me very much.Sapien: That’s what I’m getting to. Being a state employee, have you been the subject of criticism or backlash from your colleagues in state government?Freeman: Not as far as I know. Behind closed doors, probably, but I think that there’s a recognition that to function at all this office has to be independent.It’s interesting that you raise the question, because for all intents and purposes, my first real boss was Mario Cuomo, who above all, was a lawyer. He arrived as Secretary of State, his first government job, in 1975. I was pretty much a kid. I picked up the phone because it rang and answered people’s correspondence because it landed on my desk and offered what I believed to be the right answer under the law, regardless of the source of the question.Things have not changed since then. This office has always been independent.Sapien: So what’s the big picture lesson for folks who want to obtain public information? How do we heighten our chances of getting the most and the best information possible through our FOIL requests?Robert: Number one, use our website. It’s easy to find. We’re the only Committee on Open Government in the world. You simply Google “COOG” and you’ll get there. We have an immense amount of material that’s available online. You scroll to “Freedom of Information Law.” There will be a box that says, “Advisory Opinions.”We’ve written 25,000 over the course of years. They’re indexed by key phrase. Use them. You find an opinion that supports your point of view and you make a request. Attach it to the request so that you can show that you’ve done your homework, that it’s not you alone who wants it, that other people have wanted the same information in the past, that you’re referring to the language of the law, and usually judicial precedent to back you up.The other thing that I think is absolutely critical, and I’ve said this a thousand times, I refer often to the statement offered by Judge Louis Brandeis 102 years ago. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” That’s what you do. You shed light on situations.Often, when you do, when you tell the world, either good things begin to happen or bad things stop happening. I think that the effort to continue to do that has to go on forever.Help us investigate: If you have experience with or information about transparency in government, email [email protected] stories: For more coverage, read ProPublica’s previous reporting on the Cuomo administration’s use of private email to conduct government business and our legal fight for New York Police Department records on X-ray surveillance machines.ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter. Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York last_img read more

The Masters: Bryson DeChambeau loses a ball, triple-bogeys, and slips outside cut line | Golf News

first_imgWayward drive to the third results in an unfortunate lost ball and leads to triple-bogey for DeChambeau, who will need to dig deep to avoid missing the halfway cut when play resumes at Augusta National. By Keith JacksonLast Updated: 14/11/20 1:35am Realising his ball was likely to be plugged in the soft ground, DeChambeau and playing partners Jon Rahm and Louis Oosthuizen conducted an extensive search which proved unsuccessful within the three-minute time allocation.His ball was later found, but not in time for him to have to be carted back to the tee, from where he hit another towering drive on a similar line, over-hit his pitch and eventually holed out for a seven.- Advertisement – Bryson DeChambeau lost a ball at the third hole “I know they found it afterwards, but we must have been close,” said Rahm, who will have a five-foot putt for birdie on the 13th that would get him into a tie for the lead on nine under when the second round resumes on Saturday morning. DeChambeau was taken back to the tee after failing to find his ball in time DeChambeau was taken back to the tee after failing to find his ball in time

First home buyers gain pace

first_imgFirst homebuyer loan numbers are on the rise according to mortgage broker AFG. Picture: suppliedThe AFG Mortgage Index Report — March Quarter 2017 shows first property buyer lodgements lifting back up to 10 per cent for the first time since March Quarter of 2014.“First home-buyer (FHB) numbers have been in the single digits for some time,” said AFG interim CEO, David Bailey.Mr Bailey says moves by various state governments are playing out in a positive way for first-time purchasers.He singled out changes to the FHB scheme in Victoria, as well as considerations by the New South Wales government to alter their scheme as a counter to rising house prices.More from newsMould, age, not enough to stop 17 bidders fighting for this home6 hours agoBuyers ‘crazy’ not to take govt freebies, says 28-yr-old investor6 hours agoIn addition, Queensland increased their FHB grant from $15,000 to $20,000 from the 1st July last year.“It is good to see state governments looking to support those trying to get a foot on the property ladder,” Mr Bailey said.AFG also noted tighter Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) guidelines around investor lending have had an impact on the numbers.“Lenders have been told by the regulator to rein in their exposure to the investor market and APRA continues to monitor growth in lending to investors.“As a result many lenders have embarked upon a series of rate increases and a tightening of credit policy for investors to comply with APRA’s guidelines,” Mr Bailey said.“This activity has seen investor loans drop from 34 per cent to 32 per cent across the quarter.”last_img read more

Blood, sweat and then years of admiring the hard work

first_imgIt is definitely grand!Alfresco areas add to that holiday at home feeling. “There was nothing left to chance,” Mr Marino said. “When we finally saw the finished product it was exactly what we had always wanted.”The 1244sq m double-storey house sits on a 1247sq m block overlooking Columbus Canal.Mr Marino said one of his fondest memories was standing at the barbecue as an inquisitive dolphin looked on.“We often get them coming in. They play for about 15 minutes and move on,” he said. 24 Cayman Crescent Raby BayWHEN Alfio Marino could not find someone to build his dream Mediterranean-inspired house at Raby Bay, he decided to just do it himself.A designer and builder by trade, Mr Marino and his wife Alannah purchased the block of land at 24 Cayman Crescent, Raby Bay, in 1994, and spent the better part of seven days a week for two years constructing their home. You can watch the dolphins from hereMore from newsParks and wildlife the new lust-haves post coronavirus17 hours agoNoosa’s best beachfront penthouse is about to hit the market17 hours agoThe house has five bedrooms, three bathrooms and a four car garage. Grand was the word used to describe the living spaces, which include an elegant formal lounge and dining area, with vaulted ceilings adding to feeling of space and light. The ‘state-of-the-art’ kitchen has European appliances and solid timber cabinetry.Outside, alfresco areas add to that holiday at home feeling with the pool occupying its own terrace.Mr Marino said one of his favourite spots was an upstairs balcony with parapet.“You could sit out and read the paper and the passing boats wouldn’t even know you were there,” he said.“On a windy day, you were protected from the elements.”Additional features include a granite staircase with a custom-designed, hand-forged iron balustrade, decorative cornices and ceiling roses, handcrafted times, suspended concrete floors, ducted airconditioning, C Bus wiring, security video cameras plus alarm system, and foundations wrapped in builders black plaster to avoid concrete rot.Mr Marino said it had taken “a very long time” to make the decision to move.“It was the longest time I have been in one place,” he said. “I am moving towards retirement and we have downsized to a two-storey penthouse (at Redcliffe).“It’s still big but I like space. This house (Raby Bay) has always felt like you were permanently on holidays.”The house is listed for sale for $6.5 million and is being marketed by Ming Body and Jan Goetze of Raine and Horne Cleveland.last_img read more