Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Congressional Research Service

American Libraries May, 2007 issue reports briefly on a change of policy at the Congressional Research Service (about CRS link). The director, Daniel P. Mulhollan, issued a memo on March 20 instructing staff to that the service now requires prior approval from high-level staff before ANY CRS report can be released to any non-congressional recipient. Such requests will be honored where the administration finds "the distribution benefits the Congress by assisting CRS in its work" (as through reciprocity sharing info back to CRS or through peer review or expert opinion).

The Federation of American Scientists (link) is offering a collection of Congressional Research Service reports through their weblink given here. And they also refer searchers to a collection here at the Department of State, here at the U. S. Embassy in Italy, Open CRS, and Digital Library at University of North Texas. This link at the National Council for Science and the Environment also has searchable archives of CRS reports. offers this web page explaining how to search for other CRS reports on the Web, and info on ordering reports from Penny Hill press, which will sell any CRS report for $29.95. They also include this link to Memory Hole, which has archives of CRS reports, and BeSpacific blog where you can search for CRS or Congressional Research Service.

Various congressmen have filed bills to make CRS reports available on the Web or otherwise to the public. John McCain and Patrick Leahy are two, but many others support this idea. A quick search turns up entries in the Congressional Record from both of them in 1998 and again in 2003, seeking to amend the law to offer open access to CRS reports. The taxpayers underwrite the research, they should have access to the results.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Making electronic legal practice a reality

Also in this month's ABA Journal, a story reviewing and advising firms on the use of thumb drives. Now the tiny thumb drive can hold slimmed down programs, so you can actually carry all your productivity tools with you, and also maintain client confidentiality even at a public computer. See the complete story at the link in the title. Here are a few highlights:

Portable core programs on thumb drives extend data portability to the ultimate.

You can have in your pocket a fully functional version of OpenOffice, giving you a Microsoft Office-compatible suite set to your preferences.

But most impressive to us is Lotus Nomad. Plug a 1 gig (or half-gig) USB thumb drive into any computer, and Nomad presents a fully func­tional Lotus Notes desktop. It will even run Domino Designer for those who want to program.

Our jaws dropped when we first saw this (and we don’t easily drop our jaws). Not only was everything there, but the speed was good. If the computer had an Internet connection, not only were the calendar and e-mail accessible, but so were all our Lotus Notes databases—running off the server in our office. We have a paper-free law office that scans 99.9 percent of its paper into databases. Now our entire office is accessible from a $20 thumb drive.

Even without an Internet con­nection, the current generation of thumb drives has enough storage to take along a few critical databases.

Work to your heart’s content locally, saving to the thumb drive, and then rep­licate the updates the next time you have an Internet or network connection. Virtually no trace of what you do stays on the computer you plugged the thumb drive into. Nomad installs items into the host computer registry and then removes them when you unplug.

Patenting Legal Strategies!

The ABA Journal reports that some practitioners are patenting legal strategies. In Crisis Pending, Steve Seidenberg reports that there has actually been a suit filed against a client for using their own lawyer's advice, claiming that the action infringed a patent held by another attorney. A snippet:

...the first-ever infringement lawsuit seeking to enforce a legal strategy patent is already under way.

The Patent and Trademark Office issued the first tax strategy patent on May 20, 2003, to Robert Slane, a financial adviser in Altamonte Springs, Fla. The patent gives Slane exclusive rights to a certain type of grantor retained annuity trust.

GRATs are well-known estate planning devices often used to slash the amount of gift taxes that must be paid when a donor gives large amounts of wealth to family members.

On Jan. 6, 2006, Slane’s company scored another first, filing suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Con­necticut alleging infringement on its patent. Wealth Transfer Group v. Rowe, No. 3:2006cv00024. The suit alleges that, after Slane’s patent issued, John Rowe—the former chair and CEO of insurance giant Aetna—funded several GRATs covered by Slane’s patent. The suit seeks treble damages, an injunction and attorney fees. The suit does not name Rowe’s estate planning attorney or any other financial advisers as defendants. (Attorneys handling the litigation declined to comment for this story.)

When a GRAT is set up, the donor funds it with assets that are expected to grow in value. The donor receives a fixed annuity from the GRAT during the life of the trust.

When the GRAT expires, the corpus is distributed to the trust’s beneficiaries—and the amount of gift tax is based on the discounted future value of the assets at the time they were placed into the GRAT, not the (larger) actual value of the assets at the time they are distributed to the trust’s beneficiaries.

What Slane claims to have invented—and what his patent covers—is the use of unqualified stock options to partially or fully fund a GRAT.

Many tax experts ridicule the patent, saying GRATs typically are funded with whatever appropriate assets a client may have. “Coupling a GRAT with a specific asset should not be patentable, because there’s nothing unique about coupling a congressionally authorized estate planning technique with any asset,” says Belcher, a past chair of the ABA Section of Real Property, Probate and Trust Law.

Tax and trust experts fear Slane’s patent limits the extent to which they and their clients can use GRATs. If they want to put any unqualified stock options into a GRAT, they can do so only if they can obtain a license from Slane’s company, the Wealth Transfer Group, to which he has transferred the patent. Other­wise, they face the risk of being sued for patent infringement.
I predict that vendors will develop some product that will survey patents, scanning for law practice patents. Evidently, there are hundreds waiting decision at the Patent and Trade Office. If they make a good search engine and include a good editorial summary that makes it more findable with alternate terms and methods of practice, it should be a big seller for anxious attorneys.

Also, what's up with suing the client and not the lawyer who gave the advice? Is that professional courtesy?

Cool New Technology: RFID kit and Foldable solar panel

Wow! I haven't been this excited since Mr. Wizard went off the air. The Boston Globe tech reviewer Mark Baard has some online videos reviewing interesting technical innovations (see the complete and growing menu at this link to Globe Biz page), scroll down near the bottom of the page, left hand column, "Tech Lab" or see individual videos at links just after the 2 reviews I highlight below.

Portable Solar Charger
A Foldable array of solar chargers so you can recharge portable electronics anywhere. Put it in your car; it includes jumper cables, or take it camping, or put it in your emergency kit. You can get either a 12 or a 26 watt Solaris foldable solar panel. See them at Brunton (the link takes you right to the 26 watt model which should power a laptop at need or jump-start your car in a pinch (after it sits in the sun a while, natch!). Cell phones, blackberries, PDAs would take a smaller charge, and you could use the 12 watt Solaris 12. Take your electronics camping or have a back-up system for emergencies. The company's home page is and they have all kinds of camping equipment. (Link to Globe video review here)

Wow! You can tag your kid or your cat or your spouse and then track them. I'll bet librarians can think of a bunch of other things to track with this kit. It includes a nice array of RFID tags (that can dangle, stick, in credit card, or even one to surgically insert, with a warning not to do it!), and a reader. Comes from (RFID Experiment Kit. Check out their home page, too! They also have RFID blocking billfolds (in case you want to protect that info from others), and a USB port that also includes a mock doomsday button in case you get too frustrated with your computer. Lots of fun stuff. (Link to Globe video here)

The RFID reader in the kit above is made by You might also want to look at their home page for a broader list of USB port accessible phidgets. A related website is, which also makes USB port accessible phidgets. Both companies offer RFID stuff of their own, as well as phidgets. These are programmable gadgets that link to USB ports. So, lots of interesting potential. At least we should be aware of these things, because I predict we'll be using them one way or another in libraries.

Social Networking Tools: Hands on Learning

Fellow law librarian, blogger, and social networking diva Connie Crosby will be teaching a day-long web course on Social Networking Tools on Thursday, August 9, 2007. According to the description:

Web 2.0, Facebook, Second Life - have taken the world and the library by storm! Explore these social media networking tools in this hands-on computer lab class. Set up a blog and wiki, view RSS feeds in an aggregator, try a social bookmarking site such as, and create a profile on professional networking site LinkedIn. Look at Flickr, LibraryThing, Ning, Facebook, MySpace and Second Life. Test out the latest apps such as Twitter and Jaiku. We will try some of these and have a "tour" of others, as well as discuss the implications for libraries.

Specific learning outcomes for students

At the end of the course, participants will:

  • be able to set up a blog using Blogger or Wordpress
  • be able to set up a wiki using PB Wiki
  • set up some RSS feeds in a web-based aggregator such as Google Reader or Bloglines
  • set up a profile on business networking site LinkedIn
  • try using a web-based social bookmarking site such as or equivalent
  • become familiar with Ning, Twitter, Jaiku, Flickr, LibraryThing , MySpace, Facebook and Second Life either through hands-on use or a live "tour" given to the class, depending upon time
  • become familiar with how these are being used by libraries and library staff
Key topics covered
  • who in society is using these applications?
  • how are they being used by libraries and library staff?
  • what are both the positive and negative aspects to these technologies?
  • using social networking applications inside the firewall
  • issues surrounding communication in public spaces
  • what is Library 2.0 compared to Web 2.0
  • how to learn more
  • how to stay current in this area

Registration is only $240 Canadian, which is something like $40 US, eh? It looks like a great opportunity to ramp up your skills on the latest computer-mediated communications technologies.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day, 2007: Honor Bright

Honor Bright

They believe
In honor, duty.
They, they honor bright.

They duty
Bound for glory.
They, they honor bright.

Government lies,
But they duty;
They, they honor bright.

Into battle
Sans armor, exit plan:
They, they honor bright.

Now we argue
Send more to die.
They, they honor bright.

Let they blood
Redeem our lies:
They, they honor bright.

Memorial Day, 2007, by Betsy McKenzie

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Emerging Global Networks for Free Access to Law: World LII's

New from

"Emerging Global Networks for Free Access to Law: World LII's
University of New South Wales Law Research Paper No. 2007-16

University of New South Wales - Faculty of Law

University of Technology, Sydney - Faculty of Law

University of Technology, Sydney - Faculty of Law

Full Text:

ABSTRACT: Those who value free access to law need to respond to the increasingly global nature of legal research, and the fact that most countries still do not have effective facilities for free access to law. The free access to law movement, centred around University-based Legal Information Institutes (LIIs), is assisting and encouraging the development of free access law facilities in many countries in the developing world. While doing so, it is also creating a global network of interconnected free-access legal research facilities on the Internet. This
network is becoming comparable to the global legal research facilities provided by the multinational legal publishers.

The free access to law movement is explained: its history, methods of cooperation, and Declaration on Free Access to Law. Public policies to maximise free access to law are advanced to explain why it is not good enough for governments to provide
access to law through their own websites. Instead, a 'competitive model' is advanced, stressing the right of others to republish legal information.

The task of developing global legal research is explained through categorisation of the elements of the visible and 'hidden' webs of legal information, and the implications this has for tools that LIIs must develop. This helps explain the modestly decentralised global free access to law network which is emerging, based on independent national and regional LIIs, with a smaller number of 'hubs'.

The World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII), one of the hubs of this network, is explained in detail, particularly as a locus of five strategies to advance global free access to law. It is a Legal Information Institute in its own right with a focus on
international content such as the decisions of International Courts and Tribunals. It is an 'incubator' of LIIs, hosting collections of national databases which may and have matured into separate LIIs.

Third, WorldLII is an integrator of LIIs, providing not only a combined search of 439 legal databases from 55 countries (and growing by 25% per year), but also far more targeted searches such as those limited to one type of document (eg legislation) drawn from all its collaborating LIIs. More sophisticated forms of integrations are becoming possible as LIIs cooperate more closely, such as cross-LII hyperlinks, and global 'Noteups' of legislation and cases.

WorldLII is primarily an English language interface to all LII content, but aims to go beyond that in a number of ways. Interfaces in other languages to the shared data set will better emerge elsewhere, but WorldLII may have an interim role.

Finally, WorldLII is a platform for more systematic global legal research beyond the content held by its collaborating LIIs. Its tools are the WorldLII Catalog and WorldLII Websearch providing access to over 17,000 law websites worldwide, and 'Law on Google' (translating WordLII's searches into Google's search language and
limiting their scope to law).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Uncouth boors acting out badly

The Boston Globe article linked in the title above, surveys the decline in public civility. Recently, a Boston Pops performance at Symphony Hall was disrupted by actual fisticuffs May 10. The fight apparently started when one man asked another to stop chatting on his cell phone while the music was being performed. The more recent article linked in the title discusses more incidents of boorish behavior at arts venues:

* Another patron complaining to the Symphony Hall management of cell-phone abuse at another concert;

* New Reperatory Theater director bemoaning the use of Blackberries during performances, distracting both nearby audience members and the cast on stage;

* A NY play disrupted by a fistfight over the noise one audience member made with a bag of potato chips.

Avid Boston theatergoer and WGBH trustee Peggy Charren agrees that this sense of entitlement is having a negative effect on how audience members conduct themselves. Charren, who attends scores of plays every year, says it's not that more people are talking during shows these days. It's that those who do talk get more belligerent when asked to be quiet.

"They have this idea that if they want to make noise sitting in the fourth row, they can," she says. "When someone taps them on the shoulder, they seem genuinely shocked. That's why I wasn't surprised by what happened at the Pops."

Entitlement cuts both ways, both [New Rep Theater artistic director Rick] Lombardo and Charren point out. People paying top dollar to see a play don't want any distractions, either. "There's a divide on both sides," Lombardo concedes.
I'll bet these statements ring a bell with my fellow librarians. We have increasing numbers of students who feel that they have the right to a loud cell phone conversation wherever and whenever they please. I have heard rumors of students answering cell phones during law classes, and continuing the conversation in the classroom.

Several years ago, I posted a blog entry Cell Phone Blues about the ubiquity of cell phone abuse in libraries. I later added Cell Phone Wah Wah, after my daughter mentioned that her volunteer work a the children's Discovery Center at the Boston Museum of Science involves chiding cell-phone abusers. It was the first time I was aware that cell phone abuse wasn't just for libraries. I am more than ever convinced:
the reason patrons are so hostile when we ask them to stop using their cell phones in the library – we are pulling the binkies right out of their mouths! This is my new theory. Not all cell phone users are like this, but a lot are – the ones we see using cell phones when they are sitting together in the restaurant. The terrific Zits cartoon about the movie theater full of teens who cannot enjoy the movie without IM-ing their friends incessantly. They are cocooning themselves in an electronic blanket where they do not have to deal with reality face-on. The cell phone, the IM, the I-Pod, the PDA and the Blackberry all form a matrix that is their interface with reality. The hostility we encounter when asking them to lose the cell phone is a symptom of a sub-rational nature of need we accidentally tripped over. We pulled the binky out of the mouth. Of course they cried bloody murder.

Gossip at work

Another Globe article today (link in title) is about the controversial firing of 4 long-time employees in Hookset, NH, for gossiping. I read this article with a lot of empathy all the way around. The town administrator created a new position, with a generous salary and hired a woman (it isn't clear, but it appears she was already an employee, so she got an internal promotion). Then the rumors began about an affair between the married, male town administrator and the newly promoted woman, who is also married.

I have seen for myself the terrible impact that gossip can have on a workplace. What feels like "support" and "empathy" among the disaffected turns slowly into a consensus against one or more of their fellows. The Hookset article includes a quote from a psychologist on the "best way to handle gossip" in the workplace:

The best response to a rumor is a truthful rebuttal, said Nicholas DiFonzo , a psychology professor who studies rumors at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He said rumors can be deeply damaging, but he also supported [lawyer for the fired employees, B.J.] Branch's view of gossip as a normal way to work through uncertainty.

"People are going to try to figure out the facts of the matter, and they view that as their basic right," DiFonzo said.
While I would like to believe that the best rebuttal to rumors is a truthful statement, I don't believe it always works like that. A, the butt of the gossip can truthfully state that he chose B to be the best choice for this slot, and has no interest in B as an object of personal attention. But, people who have already concluded that A secretly lusts for B will believe that A is fooling himself and just hasn't realized that he's in love.

There is NOTHING more destructive of a harmonious work environment than gossip. People with the best intention in the world huddle together to provide support or try to figure out what is happening. But the result will tear their workplace apart. DON'T GOSSIP should be the mantra when we do orientation for new hires.

The article mentions several other situations in which gossips have either been fired or rules have been laid down allowing firing for gossip. I really feel uncomfortable about infringing on employees' rights to speech. But I can tell you how it destroys the fabric of a workplace. It's probably better to have rules disallowing gossip. What a terrible thing.

What do you get when you cross a scientist with a law degree?

The Boston Globe today has an AP article on the growth if IP law careers as an option for scientists. Those of us with IP classes in our law school have seen the boom develop. They talk in the article about the pleasures of using writing and communications skills in this combined career, two skill sets that aren't used the same way or extent in labs. They talk about the disappointments of an academic career with a pretty low salary. One thing they don't mention is the way women scientists find a more friendly workplace in law compared to the labs or academic situations where they find themselves under subtle fire.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cyber-attacks against Estonia

The BBC reports that "cyber-pirates" have attacked a wide variety of websites and services in Estonia.

Estonia, he said, depended largely on the internet because of the country's "paperless government" and web-based banking.

"If these services are made slower, we of course lose economically," he added.

While the government in Tallinn has not blamed the Russian authorities directly for the attacks, its foreign ministry has published a list of IP addresses "where the attacks were made from".

The alleged offenders include addresses in the Russian government and presidential administration.
Link to the full story though the link in the title. A Russian government spokesman denied that the government was involved in the attacks and noted that IP addresses can be faked. The hacker attacks followed the Estonian removal of a Russian war memorial, and that move also involved riots. What is interesting about the attacks, to me, is that they point up the increasing vulnerability of governments and corporations to hacker attacks, and the low level of support required for such attacks. Those who read The Handmaiden's Tale, by Margaret Attwood, may remember that the beginning of the religious right's overthrow of the government in the U.S. in that dystopian vision, began with seizing control of electronic funds transfers. I'm sorry, I get the willies when I think about that book!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A review of Google Books, from AHA blog

Follow the link in the title above to read a thought-provoking and somewhat disturbing review of Google Books from the American Historical Association blog, written by Robert B. Townsend, on April 30, 2007. Here is a snippet:

Over the past three months I spent a fair amount of time on the site as part of a research project on the early history of the profession, and from a researcher’s point of view I have to say the results were deeply disconcerting. Yes, the site offers up a number of hard-to-find works from the early 20th century with instant access to the text. And yes, for some books it offers a useful keyword search function for finding a reference that might not be in the index. But my experience suggests the project is falling far short of its central promise of exposing the literature of the world, and is instead piling mistake upon mistake with little evidence of basic quality control. The problems I encountered fit into three broad categories—the quality of the scans is decidedly mixed, the information about the books (the “metadata” in info-speak) is often erroneous, and the public domain is curiously restricted.
Be sure to read through all the very worthwhile comments following the blog entry.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Stick shift is to automatic as...

The Boston Globe reports today on a new, simple-to-use programming language developed in the MIT Media Lab, called Scratch.

The goal: turn a daunting subject usually taught in college and considered the domain of geeks into an integral part of education for the grade-school set. MIT researchers hope the program will promote a broader cultural shift, giving a generation already comfortable using computers to consume content online a set of new, easy-to-use tools to change the online landscape itself.

The lab has also created a social networking site to provide Scratch users of all ages a community in which they can critique each others' projects. (snip)

Scratch -- a free download at -- is easy enough for kindergarten-age children to use some of the functions (snip)

In place of programming jargon, Scratch offers users jigsaw-shaped programming pieces, which people can click and drag in order to create sequences of code that do things like make a character move or change costume or trigger a series of events -- like have a cop car chase a gangster
I definitely plan to explore Scratch. But this automated form of programming reminds me of the evolution of the Internet with the development of GUI (graphical user interface), and the changes in searching Lexis and Westlaw as they developed menus to overlay the former command language, the changes in word processing as we moved from the command-driven world of ASCII to WYSIG (What You See is What You Get).

Jim's comments about the casual assumption of youthful "digital natives" that "old folks" like us can't deal with computers here, springs to mind. I have had young students in my advanced legal research class comment with unconscious superiority that it's so cool somebody as old as I am can be so comfortable with technology. It is quite true that I would know far less had I not become a librarian. But it's kind of interesting to see that attitude from people to whom "natural language" searching seems like artificial intelligence, and to whom the search engines are mysterious black boxes.

I am not a programmer, but at least I was there through the development of technology from serious geek stage to current smooth surface with menus and GUI that relieve the user of having to know what happens inside. It's the same technological curve that automobiles went through from stick shift to automatic, or typewrites to word processing on PCs. Our hard-won, techy knowledge is partly obsolete, but I think it increases our understanding of what's going on "under the hood."

Monday, May 14, 2007

Thomson Selling Off Higher Education Assets

According to a press release released on May 11, the Thomson Corporation is divesting itself of its "higher education, careers and library reference assets" including the following brands: Wadsworth, Delmar Learning, Gale, Heinle, Brooks/Cole and South-Western. The assets will be acquired by "funds advised by Apax Partners and OMERS Capital Partner" for a total value of approximately $7.75 billion U.S. cash. The sale is consistent with "Thomson's previously announced strategy to sell the assets of its Learning business to enable Thomson to pursue opportunities better aligned with its growth strategy and business model." Presumably Thomson's recently-announced purchase of Reuters is part of this same strategy. The deal will close later this year, and is subject to the usual regulatory approvals.

Libraries, publishers, marketing and money

Sunday's New York Times had an article on how book publishers receive little feedback from readers. Because publishers have to guess what readers will like, the industry has to rely on blockbusters to fund operations. Why don't libraries sell their circulation stats? It should be possible to strip out personal id information and datamine by pub date and class number. OCLC could promote Worldcat as the central book blog and make programs to identify trends. If Amazon can do it, I can't see why a bunch of smart librarians can't.

Courthouses and municipalities sell information to landlord groups and information brokers. If the personal id information is stripped out, I cannot see any objections.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Taking it personally

When I was a reference librarian, I did not have a class to teach, just cameo guest shots in other people's courses. I thought it was touching and kind of cute when a cetrtain professor I knew would come by lamenting the quality of his exams. He took it very personally, as though it were a personal affront that his students had failed to learn. Now that I have courses of my own to teach, I have a lot more empathy for this guy. It's hard not to take it personally when a student blows your course off -- obviously never having paid any attention to the things said in class. It even hurts when students (or colleagues!) dismiss books or webographies purchased or created by the library. It's like saying your work or whole life, even, are worthless. I am trying to take a long view, and not take it personally, but boy, it's hard!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

For Shame, U.S. Government! More on leaving injured troops in the lurch

The March, 2007 issue of Discover Magazine had an in-depth report on the treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) provided for American soldiers deployed currently in Iraq and Afghanistan (here). Much of the lengthy article is about the amazing advances in treating severe injuries in the field. But in the middle and end of the article, it begins to contemplate the lack of follow-up for the brain-injured vets.

From Walter Reed, soldiers are then triaged to one of the nation's VA polytrauma centers, where the hard work begins. (There are only 4 polytrauma centers and 21 designated polytrauma rehabilitation sites, a painfully small number to deal with the great many injured troops.) [snip]

"Now the government must make a commitment to help them in their recovery, but where are the resources going to come from? As brain-injury professionals, we know that TBI services aren't available in many places across the country, and we are aware of huge holes in the system," she says. "Frankly, I'm frustrated and angry about the government's refusal to give the TBI population the support it desperately needs." [quoting Dr. Marilyn Price Spivack, a brain injury rehab specialist at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston]

Spivack is not being glib; the giant holes are glaringly apparent. Many states do not have a single brain-injury rehabilitation center, and of the states that do offer some level of TBI treatment, few actually provide enough assistance to acquire even the most basic level of specialized care. At rates that can exceed a thousand dollars a day for postacute TBI rehabilitation, there aren't many American families that can afford a month's worth of treatment, much less the recommended minimum of 90 days.

As recently as mid-July 2006, the VA Office of the Inspector General admitted that patients and families were dealing with major inadequacies. The reality is that a fundamental level of care is simply absent in most states.

The military did not anticipate the magnitude of the problem, and now they are scrambling to add new brain-injury programs and services. Problems experienced by patients and families include inadequate or absent communication with case managers, lack of follow-up care, and being forced to pay out-of-pocket for necessary treatments and medication.

The article then mentions a study by the Institute of Medicine (link) evaluating the small progress made in developing facilities nationwide to deal with Traumatic Brain Injury. Summarizing the report, which can be downloaded in full at the link just given,
In 1989, a federal task force reported to the nation that there were serious gaps in post-acute clinical care and rehabilitation for persons with traumatic brain injury. Eight years later in the Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 1996, Congress directed the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to take on a share of the responsibility for advancing state-based TBI service systems.

In this report, the IOM Committee on Traumatic Brain Injury assesses the impact of the HRSA TBI Program. Established in 1997, the TBI Program is a modest federal initiative with broad ambitions; a $9 million grants program aimed at motivating states to create systems improvement on behalf of persons with TBI and their families.

The IOM Committee concludes that there has been demonstrable improvement in two essential preconditions for improving TBI service systems--state-level TBI systems infrastructure and the overall visibility of TBI have grown considerably.

Nevertheless, substantial work remains to be done at both national and state levels. HRSA should address the TBI Program’s fundamental need for greater leadership, data systems, additional resources, and improved coordination among federal agencies.

The state TBI Programs are now at a critical stage and will need continue federal support if they are to build an effective, durable service system for meeting the needs of individuals with TBI and their families.

Ironically, the Discover article never even touches on the scandal of conditions at Walter Reed Hospital that blew up in the press and Congress close to publication date (See here for a group of articles that ran on the issue in the Washington Post). The lack of proper facilities and support for wounded veterans is a wider problem than just the Walter Reed Hospital.
Substandard living conditions like those found at Walter Reed Army Medical Center probably exist throughout the military health care system, the head of a House panel investigating the army's flagship veterans hospital in Washington said Monday.

"We need a sustained focus here, and much more needs to be done," Representative John Tierney, Democrat of Massachusetts, said of a scandal enveloping Walter Reed. Charges of bureaucratic delays and poor treatment there have produced calls in Congress for quick reform.

Tierney said he feared that "these problems go well beyond the walls of Walter Reed," adding that "as we send more and more troops into Iraq and Afghanistan, these problems are only going to get worse, not better."
From the Internation Herald Tribune, full story here. The article reports on hearing in Congress, which is not yet available in transcript form from GPO Access. When it gets posted, you should be able to find it by browsing here. The Int'l. Herald Tribune article reports that VP Cheney and President Bush both promise improvements and a full report. You can track more about this on the website of the President's ommission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors here. Note that it's co-chaired by Republican Senator Bob Dole (along with Donna Shalala). But perhaps the Commission will actually deliver the goods since Dole himself was a seriously wounded veteran. Follow the "meetings" link for lists of open hearings, and transcripts of completed hearings.

Thomson to Buy Reuters?

Reuters reports today that the Thomson Corporation is "in talks to buy Reuters Group" for approximately $17.6 billion--a staggering sum of money. If the deal goes through, it would "create the world's biggest financial news and data company." Thomson's President and CEO Richard Harrington would retire once the deal was complete, and Reuters CEO Tom Glocer would become CEO of the combined company. The deal would enhance the financial side of Thomson's business while allowing it to "tap into booming global markets." Commentators expect the sale to face tough scrutiny by regulators in the United States and Europe. There is no word yet on what the deal might mean for Thomson's legal publishing group.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Striking a Blow for Gender Equality at Oxford

I thought readers of OOTJ would be interested in this news item from the latest edition of the Smith College Alumnae E-Newsletter:

"Leading Librarian Ends 400 Years of Male Tradition at Oxford

Sarah Thomas ’70 broke more than four centuries of English tradition earlier this year when she became the first woman to lead Oxford’s Bodleian Library, the second-largest library in the U.K. In her new role, Thomas, who has also worked at the Library of Congress and most recently at the Cornell University Library, oversees more than 11 million printed volumes at 40 different sites. She is also responsible for modernizing the library system and bringing it into the digital age, while preserving the library’s long history. Just as news came of her appointment, Thomas was awarded a 2007 Melvil Dewey Medal from the American Library Association, which recognizes distinguished service to the profession of librarianship. In announcing the award, Winston Tabb of Johns Hopkins University, the award jury chair, recognized Thomas for her extraordinary leadership in the advancement of research libraries, and cataloging and bibliographic standards and practices during her three-decade career. Thomas will be presented with the Melvil Dewey Award on June 26 during the annual ALA Conference in Washington, D.C."

Some random rich websites

"Beyond Google" - at Online Education Database, a terrific collection of web resources for searching the "Deep Web," government statistics, business info and more.

Union of Concerned Scientists - news, briefs, and background info on politically sensitive issues of science (like global warming, auto fuel efficiency, energy policies, national and international security, food safety and scientific integrity.

Earthtrends - environmental info.

Genetically Modified Food a U.S. government website with a nicely balanced approach to a hot button issue. From Oak Ridge National Lab, of all places. At this link on their site, they also have an index of other science and technology info they offer.

Electronic Frontier Foundation - legal cases and bloggers' rights

Reporters Without Borders - covers issues of safety, censorship and journalistic integrity. Not without controversy.
Spyware - news and information on spyware, malware and how to remove them.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Google Answers folds: The Gift Economy of the Internet

The interesting Google Answers project, which recruited volunteer researchers to answer questions, is finito. A fascinating experiment in the gift economy of the Internet. The blogger at here, considers how the efforts of a small band of volunteers made it work, but also clues us into Uclue, a paid research site. Apparently many of the best answserers at Google Answers also work at Uclue. The going rate at Uclue is $10/question. There is an interesting posted discussion of the viability of question-answering sites like Google Answers, Uclue and another I never heard of, Wuyasea here.

I am fascinated by the gift economy model -- it fits so neatly with the ethos of librarianship. But we can afford to give away information because somebody, somewhere, has funded our library as a resource. These websites are mirroring what libraries have done since the first public libraries began. But they are skating on much thinner funding in their business models which either depend on eyeballs to sell advertising or sell answers. Wikipedia is successful in business terms, but the quality of answers can be sometimes suspect. These question-answering sites seem to be hitting rough weather. Either not enough visitors on a regular basis, or too few folks willing to shell out cash for an answer before they get it.

Information made free

On the Boston Globe's Brainiac blog, here, Joshua Glenn reports on a subversive move on 5/1 to publicize the string of hexadecimal numbers that are the code to unlock HD DVDs. This was evidently prompted by a bunch of "cease and desist" letters sent to hacker websites offering the code to the relatively small bunch of visitors to those sites. In retaliation, these web denizens fit the number string into images on the web, making it much more difficult to search and find them. In a second blog entry, Glenn explains the word "steganography" or hidden writing from the Greek.

steganography, a way to conceal a coded message inside an innocuous-looking photograph, document, or other bit of media. ... ...steganography is Greek for "covered writing." When the ancient Greeks wanted to transmit a secret message, we were informed at Boston Latin School, they'd shave the head of a messenger, tattoo the information on his scalp, wait till his hair grew back, then send him off on his journey.
The word applies excellently to this insurrection, as this image titled "Takedown This!" at New Freedom blog,

The whole tempest is an illustration of the philosophical gulf between the guardians of intellectual property and those who believe the Internet makes all information free.

Why the AG firings matter: Voting Rights

The Boston Globe's wonderful Charlie Savage reports today on investigations into the appointment by the Bush Administration of a replacement Attorney General in Missouri, Bradley Shlozman. Bypassing Senate confirmation under a stealth section in the USA PATRIOT Act, they appointed a young attorney with more political zeal than morals or legal chops. Shlozman is a poster child for the illegal attempts of the Bush Administration to subvert Justice (literally as well as metaphorically) for the selfish ends of advancing conservative agendas.

No stranger to election law controversy, Schlozman previously spent three years as a political appointee in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, where he supervised the voting rights section.

There, he came into conflict with veteran staff over his decisions to approve a Texas redistricting plan and a Georgia photo-ID voting law, both of which benefited Republicans. He also hired many new career lawyers with strong conservative credentials, in what critics say was an attempt to reduce enforcement of laws designed to eliminate obstacles to voting by minorities.

"Schlozman was reshaping the Civil Rights Division," said Joe Rich , who was chief of the voting rights section until taking a buyout in 2005, in an interview. "Schlozman didn't know anything about voting law. . . . All he knew is he wanted to be sure that the Republicans were going to win." ...

...the complaints about Schlozman dovetail with other allegations of political bias at the Justice Department. Last week, the department was forced to acknowledge that a key player in the US attorney firings, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's former White House liaison Monica Goodling , is under internal investigation for allegedly taking party affiliation into account when hiring career assistant US attorneys, contrary to federal law.

The Justice Department's voting rights section referees disputes over the fairness of state election requirements. Under federal civil rights law, the section must sign off on redistricting maps and new voting laws in Southern states to ensure that changes will not reduce minority voting power.

Schlozman stepped into this fray in May 2003, when he was promoted to deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division. He supervised several sections, including voting rights. In the fall 2005, he was promoted to acting head of the division. ...

Schlozman and his team soon came into conflict with veteran voting rights specialists. Career staff committees recommended rejecting a Texas redistricting map in 2003 and a Georgia photo ID voting law in 2005, saying they would dilute minority voting power. In both cases, the career veterans were overruled. But courts later said the map and the ID law were illegal.
Read the article attached in the title of this post for more details.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Bush Administration's Under Scrutiny Again

Well, you can take your pick of the moral disasters dogging the Bush administration, but this one is about the Attorney General firing dem AGs to make room for Republicans. Karl Rove was evidently coaching Gonzalez's underling William Moschella just before he went to tesitfy before Congress. The story is linked in the title above. If you want some other controversies, try Wolfowitz and his girlfriend's bonus at the World Bank. Or go for a light-hearted Bushism as A commander guy, not THE commander guy. Would that all the tempests were in such small teakettles!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Impeach Bush!

If you are like me and sick of this administration, angry and ashamed of our government, follow the link above to an article, and a website that allows you to send a message.

ALDA Deans attack tenure generally

Thanks to Becky Clapp who alerted us to this important article from Inside Higher Education. Follow the link in the title to see what ALDA hath wrought!

LOLbrarians gone wild!

The young turks are running with scissors! check them out.

Warning on those bar recommendations!

To all OOTJ readers who are asked to write recommendations for new admittees to the bar, take heed! In Massachusetts, at least, you need to be careful whom and how you recommend. Follow the rule to write only what you know, absolutely, to be true. The link in the title above is to a Boston Globe story about a lawyer called for discipline by for the Board of Bar Overseers, because he wrote a recommendation for a fellow whom he assumed (wrongly) to have completed his JD. Sascha Pfeiffer writes, the Supreme Judicial Court took pity on the poor lawyer:

Saying that Evan M. Slavitt was "duped by an imposter" when he recommended for bar admission a man who turned out not to have a law license, the state's highest court yesterday explained why it reduced the time Slavitt -- a former federal prosecutor and 2002 Republican candidate for attorney general -- was suspended from practicing law from one year to two months.

According to the Supreme Judicial Court opinion, Slavitt did not, as the Board of Bar Overseers concluded, make a false or misleading statement when he swore that he did not realize Douglas Fineberg was not a licensed lawyer when he wrote a letter recommending Fineberg for admission to the Massachusetts bar.

Readers celebrating books! 33rd Buenos Aires International Book Fair

In Argentina, the publishing industry has grown like a phoenix rising from the ashes of their recent depression. The 33rd annual Book Fair in Buenos Aires got picked up by the Washington Post here. The fair, unlike other book fairs, is not aimed so much at the publishing professionals as at readers, readers, readers! The Post article notes

The publishing industry is shrinking in many countries, but not Argentina. Since an economic collapse in 2001, the number of new titles published annually here has more than doubled. Argentines are, for the most part, proud of their country's reputation as a literary capital in South America, and they're proud that their book fair is expected to draw well over 1 million visitors during its two-week run.

It is on nights like this when the fair is at its most quintessentially Argentine, when the national passions for reading and for the night feed into one another, when more than 35,000 pass through the entry gates after9 p.m., most lingering until the red-eyed hours.
Que bueno! The link in the title above is to the book fair's own site, in Spanish, of course. Browse around and enjoy some vicarious thrills from a fair and a city that considers it only reasonable to have hours that extend until 2 AM!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Women in Law Firms

Today's Boston Globe features a disheartening article entitled "Many Female Lawyers Dropping Off Path to Partnership." The article discusses the results of a survey due to be released today at 4:00 PM by the MIT Workplace Center in association with the Equality Commission, which includes representatives from the Women's Bar Association, the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar Assocation; the Commission was formed in response to a 2003 address by U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner, "who called for urgent attention to the relative lack of women in leadership positions in the law." The survey concluded that "female lawyers continue to face intractable challenges in their attempts to become partners, causing them to abandon law firm careers--and the legal profession entirely--at a dramatically higher rate than men." The summary of the report is here.

Approximately 1,000 Massachusetts lawyers responded to the survey. Thirty-one percent of female associates left private practice, compared with 18 percent of male associates. For associates with children, the percentage of women who left private practice rose to 35 percent, compared with 15 percent. The authors of the study attribute the dropout rate to the "combination of demanding hours, inflexible schedules, lack of viable part-time options, emphasis on billable hours, and failure by law firms to recognize that female lawyers' career trajectories may alternate between work and family." A little more than half of women who leave law firms move to legal positions at organizations that are more family friendly: "nonprofit groups, government agencies, or corporations." However, the rest abandon the law altogether.

I guess the statistic that stood out the most for me was the one that indicated that women who practice law must choose between working and having a family. "Senior male lawyers are more likely than their female peers to be married or living with partners (99 percent vs. 84 percent, respectively) or to have children (80 percent vs. 68 percent)."

Concludes Mona Harrington, program director of the MIT Center, "Nothing is changing." I think that is correct--law firm culture has not changed, despite the influx of so many bright, young female associates. Either the women change to meet the expectations of the firm (which are based on the male attorney with a stay-at-home wife who raises their children) or they have to leave, demoralized and disheartened about not using the degrees they worked so hard to get. I have always told my daughter that she could have it all (although I have to confess I have never urged her to attend law school), and now I'm wondering if I'm misleading her.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Supreme Court and Technology

Today's New York Times, in an article by Linda Greenhouse, reports on the Supreme Court's decision yesterday in Scott v. Harris, No. 05-1631. Greenhouse writes that the "justices took the unusual step--a first for the court--of posting on the court's Web site the 15-minute video of the chase, recorded by a camera mounted on the squad car's dashboard." The video is linked to from the Times article. The black-and-white video is hardly compelling viewing (it shows a high-speed chase that ended in the police ramming the driver's car and seriously injuring him), but it does represent a big technological leap for the Court.

A hat tip to my colleague Professor Ralph Stein for pointing out this article to me. Professor Stein wonders whether "this continuing embrace of technology" might be "credited to the [new] Chief Justice?"

And because I also love new tech toys...

Follow the link in the title to Thanks to Roy Balleste, who introduced me to this cool new gadget. Folks at Carnegie Mellon figured a way to let a viewer move around a flat photo, viewing those parts visible in the image from different angles. Besides, the music is soothing.

And just because I love books!....

Here is a link to a wonderful article from the Boston Globe about an exhibit opening tomorrow, of miniature books at the Boston Public Library (which also has info about the exhibit on their web page). These books are about 3/4 inch by 1/2 inch in size -- just beautiful! There is a similar exhibit at the New York Grolier Club (here) opening May 16. If you are in easy distance, either exhibit should be lovely, but you can also see a bit on the two websites. Tres cool! The image above is from the Grolier Club announcement page,

Supreme Court limits patent-holders' rights

Today's Boston Globe notes two new Supreme Court decisions that rebalance the power between patent-holders and users of technology. Microsoft v. AT&T, (No. 05-1056)414 F. 3d 1366, reversed on certiori. KSR International v. Teleflex, Inc., (No. 04-1350)119 Fed. Appx. 282, reversed and remanded, another cert. case. Note that the citation for this last one is just the Federal Appendix. First time I've cited something there. Two landmark cases. Read the brief article link in the title, which includes handy links to the corporate websites.