To Russia with… Respect

February 20, 2014

With worldwide sports audiences focused on television and Internet stories from the 2014 winter games in Sochi, Russia, we are all learning more about this fascinating country.  America has had a long and complex history of relations with Russia, from both the Soviet Union era and now as the Russian Federation. From allies to adversaries—and sometimes both at the same time— the U.S. and Russia have covered the gamut of different roles over the centuries.

In a month replete with themes of love for Valentine’s Day and stories about Russian history, the U.S. Government Bookstore adds to the dialogue with dozens of publications about Russia and the Soviet Union that show, if not always love, then the perpetual mutual respect between our two nations.

Russia-Soviet-Books-available from the GPO-US Government Bookstore

World War II

Book Cover Image for Moscow to Stalingrad: Decision in the East (Paperback)Russia’s role as both an adversary and an ally during the Second World War lays the foundation for its complicated but critical relationship with the rest of the world today. But its historic triumph over its former ally, Nazi Germany, is a feat still studied and admired today. In Moscow to Stalingrad: Decision in the East (Paperback), the planning and execution of the German offensive against Russia in 1941-1942 are reviewed.

Book Cover Image for Stalingrad to Berlin: The German Defeat in the East (Paper)Stalingrad to Berlin: The German Defeat in the East (in Paperback and ePub eBook) describes the German defeat by the Russians in World War II and the events that resulted in the Soviet Union becoming a dominant military power in Europe.

The Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact and the Cold War

In response to West Germany’s inclusion in NATO and reflecting Soviet leadership’s desire to maintain control over military forces in Central and Eastern Europe, the Warsaw Pact was signed in May 1955 in Warsaw, Poland, as a mutual defense treaty between eight Cold War communist states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw Pact members included the U.S.S.R. plus Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovak Republic, German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Hungary, Poland, and Romania.

The Warsaw Pact Wartime Statutes: Instruments of Soviet Control (CIA Declassified Book and DVD) ISBN: 9780160920615Soviet military planning for conflict in Europe after World War II from the outset harnessed East European military capabilities to Soviet military purposes. This “operational subordination” of the member states’ military is thoroughly analyzed in The Warsaw Pact Wartime Statutes: Instruments of Soviet Control (Book and DVD) whose book and accompanying DVD include a wealth of newly declassified Central Intelligence Agency documents covering the Warsaw Pact period.

ISBN 9780160920608 The Warsaw Pact, Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance: Soviet-East European Military Relations in Historical Perspective; Sources and Reassessments (CIA Declassified Book and DVD)Another book and DVD set from the same series, The Warsaw Pact, Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance: Soviet-East European Military Relations in Historical Perspective; Sources and Reassessments (Book and DVD), is a collection of hundreds of recently declassified documents designed to take stock of where we are twenty years after the collapse of East European Communism. It includes sensitive Soviet and Warsaw Pact military journals from 1961 to 1984, recently uncovered in newly opened archives across former Warsaw Pact nations, providing a view into Warsaw Pact military strategy.

At the conclusion of World War 2, the Soviet Union was a major player in the world and again an adversary. The period roughly from 1947 to 1991 was known as the Cold War, in which the powers in the Eastern Bloc (the Soviet Union and its allies in Warsaw Pact) were lined up against the Western Bloc (the U.S. and NATO allies). Watching the Bear: Essays on CIA's Analysis of the Soviet Union- ISBN 9780160679544It was referred to as a “cold” war because there were no major world wars or direct conflicts between the two sides, although there were significant regional wars in Korea and Vietnam. Watching the Bear: Essays on CIA’s Analysis of the Soviet Union focuses on the organizational evolution of the CIA’s analysis of the Soviet economic, political, military, and scientific and technological developments during the Cold War. Interestingly, it also assesses the extent to which Western analyses of the Soviet Union may have influenced the USSR’s policy making process.

In addition to watching the West, Soviet leadership had a constant struggle to keep its own member states in line, particularly as some began to chafe under the communist system.

For example, many remember the Czechoslovak crisis from January 1968, when Alexander Dubcek was elevated to the post of First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Under Dubcek, the Czech communist leadership had embarked on a radical program of dramatic liberalization of the Czechoslovak political, economic, and social order that was not approved by Moscow. Strategic Warning & the Role of Intelligence: The CIA and Strategic Warning; TheIn Strategic Warning & the Role of Intelligence: The CIA and Strategic Warning; The 1968 Soviet-Led Invasion of Czechoslovakia (Book and DVD), the Central Intelligence Agency’s Information Management Services reviewed, redacted, and released hundreds of documents related to the 1968 Czechoslovak-Soviet crisis, creating this fascinating book. The accompanying DVD has over 500 documents and 2,000 pages of recently declassified material about the crisis.

Détente Era

During the period of 1967 to 1979, there was an easing of Cold War tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Referred to as détente, the era was a time of increased trade and cooperation with the Soviet Union and the signing of the SALT treaties, but relations cooled again with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan until the fall of the Soviet Union and the founding of the Russian Federation.

Book Cover Image for Soviet-American Relations: The Detente Years, 1969-1972The best overview of this important period can be found in Soviet-American Relations: The Détente Years, 1969-1972. With a foreword by Henry A. Kissinger, this unprecedented joint documentary publication presents the formerly top-secret record of how the United States and Soviet Union moved from Cold War to détente during 1969 to 1972. Published side-by side are both the U.S. and Soviet accounts of meetings between Henry Kissinger and Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin, the so-called Kissinger-Dobrynin confidential back channel, related documents, and the full Soviet and U.S. record of the first Moscow Summit between President Richard Nixon and Soviet Secretary General Leonid Brezhnev. The Soviet documents are being released in the volume for the first time anywhere.

The Foreign Relations of the United States series fondly known as FRUS has a number of terrific titles about the U.S. relations with the Soviet Union. Foreign Relations of the United States series at http://bookstore.gpo.govOne volume in particular, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume XXXIV, National Security Policy, documents U.S. national security policy in the context of the Vietnam War and the changing Cold War strategic balance between the United States and the Soviet Union. Another volume in the series, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, V. XV, Soviet Union, June 1972-August 1974, includes numerous direct personal communications between President Nixon and Soviet Leader Brezhnev covering a host of issues, including clarifying the practical application of the SALT I and AMB agreements, arms control, the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, commercial relations and most-favored-nation status, the emigration of Soviet Jews, and the Jackson-Vanik amendment to Title IV of the 1974 Trade Act which denied most favored nation status to certain countries with non-market economies that restricted free emigration, such as the Soviet Union.

ISBN 9780160895593 Rockets and People: NASA History Series Volume IV: The Moon Race (from a Soviet rocket designer's perspective) One of the crowning achievements of Russia and the Soviet Union has been its space program. From the launching of Sputnik that triggered the space race to participation in the International Space Station, Russians are justifiably proud of their “stellar” accomplishments. This pride is borne out in the fascinating book Rockets and People: Volume IV: The Moon Race. In this book translated from its original Russian version to English, the famous Russian spacecraft designer Boris Chertok— who worked under the legendary Sergey Korolev— continues his fascinating memoirs about the history of the Soviet space program, this time covering 1968 to 1974, the peak years of the Soviet human lunar program.

The Russian Federation

Today, Russia or the Russian Federation continues to be a major power, politically, militarily and economically.  But since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation has continued to have issues with insurgencies and disagreements among its population. Book Cover Image for Breaking the Mold: Tanks in the CitiesBreaking the Mold: Tanks in the Cities (in Paperback and as an eBook) provides an up-to-date analysis of the utility of tanks and heavy armored forces in urban combat from across the world, and includes an analysis of the Russian use of tanks in quelling the insurgency in the Chechen Republic (Chechnya) in 1995.

No longer a communist nation, Russia today still has a number of social welfare programs that differ from the rest of Europe. The Social Security Programs Throughout the World series highlights the principal features of social security programs in more than 170 countries. Social Security Programs Throughout the World: Europe 2012Now included in the most recent European edition, Social Security Programs Throughout the World: Europe 2012, Russian social security programs are analyzed and compared to other nations in Europe.

9781584874492_Russian-Military-Today-and-TomorrowAnd finally, The Russian Military Today and Tomorrow: Essays in Memory of Mary FitzGerald includes essays by top U.S. and Russian analysts to assess current Russian military thinking on warfare, giving insight into the Russia of today.

They say one must study history to understand where we are today and where we are heading. This listing is just a smattering of the many thoughtful publications about Russia and the Soviet Union that can add to your understanding of where this major power has been, where it is today and perhaps, where it might go in the future.

How can I get these publications about Russia and the Soviet Union?

  • Shop Online Anytime: You can buy any of these eBooks or print publications—with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide— from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore website at http://bookstore.gpo.gov:
  • Order by Phone: You may also Order print editions by calling our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for one of these publications in a nearby Federal depository library. (Librarians: You can find the records for most of these titles in the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications or CGP.)

About the author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


“Are you Ready?” for Extreme Cold and Other Natural and Man-made Disasters

January 23, 2014

Image below: Graph depicts how variations in the polar vortex affect weather in the mid-latitudes. Courtesy: National Science Foundation

Polar-vortex-fall-to-winter-chartAs the United States shivers under the Arctic Express, Polar Vortex, Polar Cyclone, Polar Low, Circumpolar Whirl or whatever name you call it (I just call it FREEZING!!!!) with snow, ice, and some of the most extreme cold conditions in decades, Americans will be happy to know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has help available in the form of its extremely useful new disaster preparedness guide, Are You Ready?: An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness.

FEMA Are You Ready?: An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness ISBN: 9780160920745Intended as both a reference source as well as a step-by-step manual, this easy-to-follow guide has been designed to help Americans “learn how to protect themselves and their families against all types of hazards”.

According to the FEMA authors:

The focus of the content is on how to develop, practice, and maintain emergency plans that reflect what must be done before, during, and after a disaster to protect people and their property. Also included is information on how to assemble a disaster supplies kit that contains the food, water, and other supplies in sufficient quantity for individuals and their families to survive following a disaster in the event they must rely on their own resources.

The guide advises on planning before a disaster, responding during a disaster, and recovering after a disaster and is organized into the following sections: Why Prepare, Part 1 Basic Preparedness, Part 2 Natural Hazards, Part 3 Technological Hazards, Part 4 Terrorism, and Part 5 Recovering from Disaster.

Each chapter has specific tips on preparation, what to do during the particular disaster, instructions for what to do afterwards, and where to go for more information, including links for free publications.

Disasters and emergencies cover the gamut in three areas:

a)      Natural Hazards, including: Floods, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Thunderstorms and Lightning, Winter Storms and Extreme Cold,  Extreme Heat, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Landslides and Debris Flow (Mudslide), Tsunamis, Fires and Wildfires;

b)      Technological Hazards, including:  Hazardous Materials Incidents, Household Chemical Emergencies, and Nuclear Power Plants

c)      Terrorism, including: General terrorist threats, Explosions, Biological Threats, Chemical Threats, Nuclear Blast, and Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD).

Are You Ready?… for Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

FEMA-Are-You-Ready_page-80-Winter-Storms-and-Extreme-ColdAs I was concerned about the extreme cold, I turned to Part 2, Natural Hazards, Section 2.5 Winter Storms and Extreme Cold.

In the preparation part, I found useful terminology such as the difference between sleet and freezing rain, protective measures and supplies to gather, tips on how to winterize my car (e.g., have you cleaned your car battery terminals and used gasoline additives to keep water out of your fuel lines?) and how to dress for the winter weather (did you know mittens are warmer than gloves?).

FEMA-Are-You-Ready_page-83-Winter-Dress-for-ColdDuring a winter storm, “Are you ready?” gives more advice, such as what to do if a blizzard traps you in the car and how to watch for signs of hypothermia.

[Signs of hypothermia]… include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first, and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.

Other Useful Information in “Are You Ready?”

In addition to information on specific types of emergencies, the guide includes a number of other very useful resources.

Assembling a Disaster Supplies Kit:  A whole chapter is devoted to assembling a good general disaster supplies kit for multiple locations: home, work and vehicle.

Practice Makes Perfect: Advice on how to practice and maintain your emergency plan is under Section 1.6.

General Evacuation Guidelines:  Tells what to do to prepare your home if you have to evacuate, such as utility shut-off and safety, reviewing and securing of insurance and vital records, and so on.

Special Needs: Information on how to do disaster planning to accommodate someone with disabilities is included.

Pets: Caring for pets in emergencies is not forgotten, either.

FEMA Hazard Maps: It highlights how to get free hazard maps from FEMA in your area by accessing FEMA’s Hazard Mapping Portal.

Homeland-Security-Threat-Assessments-Color-MatrixWarning Systems and Signals: The guide explains different national alert systems such as the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio (NWR), as well as the Homeland Security Advisory System with its Threat Conditions thermometer.

Quizzes: The guide even includes some quizzes such as the Terrorism Knowledge Check on page 172 that asks such questions as:

What would you do, if you were at work and…

a. there was an explosion in the building?

b. you received a package in the mail that you considered suspicious?

c. you received a telephone call that was a bomb threat?

Mental Health Issues: Tips are included on how to recognize if children vs. adults may need crisis counseling or stress management assistance as well as how to ease disaster-related stress (such as attending memorial services). For children, guidelines are included by age range of common reactions to traumatic events, along with tips on how adults can reassure children after a disaster.

For additional information about Federal mental and medical emergency resources, read our previous blog post: “Help is Just a Call, Click or Page Away: Federal Disaster Helplines & Emergency Medical Resources.”

Family Forms: The guide is customizable to you and your family with forms to fill out for your own emergency plans. Included is a form for you to use to fill out information as you collect it from your local authorities on possible hazards and emergencies in your community, the Risk Level and how to reduce your risk, along with a “Community and Other Plans” form to use to record answers from your local officials about your community’s disaster and emergency plans.  Also included is a form to draw and to record your family’s specific evacuation route and another to record your Family Communications Plan.

Checklists and Appendices: The guide also includes some handy appendices: Appendix A: Water Conservation Tips, Appendix B: Disaster Supplies Checklist, and the all-important Appendix C: Family Communications Plan.

Preparedness Websites: One is a list of Disaster Public Education Websites from both the Federal Government such as FEMA’s own Ready.gov site (www.ready.gov), as well as non-Governmental sites, like the Institute for Business and Home Safety, www.ibhs.org.

Disaster Recovery Assistance: Finally, advice and resources for getting disaster recovery assistance are covered in the Are You Ready? guide, too.

FEMA Are You Ready?: An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness ISBN: 9780160920745How can I get a copy ofAre You Ready?: An In-Depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness”?

Whether you live near an active volcano; in Tornado Alley or a Hurricane Zone; in wildfire, mudslide or flood-prone areas; or just want to be prepared for any emergency—natural or man-made—this guide will help you save the day!

  • MULTIPLE COPIES: FEMA recommends having a completed guide for each location for your family members: home, work or school, and your vehicle(s). Fill out the customizable sections in each copy with your relevant family, workplace and community information.
  • Shop Online: You can buy this publication from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov by:
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Digital: Find a PDF version on the FEMA site.
  • Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for it in a nearby Federal depository library.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Federal Favorites: Our Best Selling Books of 2013

January 16, 2014

Ahhh…. It’s that time of the year again: Awards season! From the Golden Globes to the Academy Awards, red carpets abound with interviews of movie stars and other celebrities boasting about their best work during the past year.

We at the US Government Bookstore want to make sure our star publications and Federal agency publishers get their moment in the limelight, too. So, we are pleased to announce the winning publications that you, our readers, chose through your purchases over the past year: The US Government Bookstore Best Sellers of 2013!

Top-Government Books and Best-Sellers-of-2013 from the GPO US Government Online BookstoreHere are some of the more notable books, eBooks, posters and more that were winners in your eyes over the past year:

ART & TRAVEL

National Park System (Wall Map Poster)Americans love our national parks, so it’s no surprise the National Park System Wall Map Poster was a big hit.

Humanities-Magazine-2014-01Humanities is a bimonthly magazine published by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) which covers NEH sponsored research in the humanities and NEH programs and projects, as well as information on recent and upcoming NEH grants.

HISTORY

With the 150th anniversary and reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg last summer, The Gettysburg Campaign, June-July 1863 was a smash success (Read our post “Gettysburg, America’s Bloodiest Battle” for more information).

Perennial favorite Underground Railroad: Official Map and Guide (Read our post “The Underground Railroad Leaves its Tracks in History”) was joined by two publications commemorating 50th anniversaries:

Book Cover Image for Statistical Abstract of the United States 2012 (Paperback)Finally, the Statistical Abstract of the United States, the last official edition published in 2012 by the U.S. Census Bureau, contains a standardized summary of all official key statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States (Read our post: “Statistical Abstract and Print Mashups in a Digital Age”).

TREES & FORESTS

Book Cover Image for The Little AcornI won’t be going out on a limb to say that our customers definitely wanted to hug trees this year, as books about Trees & Forests topped the lists. Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down? and The Little Acorn are extremely popular books for children explaining about the uses and life cycle of trees.

Image for Timber Management Field BookHow to Prune Trees and How To Recognize Hazardous Defects in Trees for amateur and professional gardeners, landscapers and foresters alike, and the Timber Management Field Book serves as the most popular reference handbook for forestry professionals.

(Read our posts “Oh, say, can you tree? American Christmas tree traditions,” “Pruning Trees” and “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax Inspires Kids to Hug a Tree” for more information on these titles.)

BUSINESS AND LAW

A Basic Guide to Exporting for Small & Medium-Sized Businesses (10th Revised)International business entrepreneurs and would-be exporters have made A Basic Guide to Exporting: The Official Government Resource for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses a best-seller every year (Read our posts: “Exporting Made Simple and “Government eBooks Made Easy– and Sometimes Free” for more information).

Copyright Law of the United States in U.S. Code as of 12/2011Protecting intellectual property and privacy were extremely hot topics in 2013, making the Copyright Law of the United States and Related Laws and the Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974, 2012 Edition (extremely popular last year (Read our post: “The Privacy Act: What the Government Can Collect and Disclose about Youfor more information).

TRANSPORTATION AND NAVIGATION

TAstronomical Almanac for the Year 2014 and Its Companion the Astronomical Almanahe latest versions of the annual best-selling Astronomical Almanac for the Year 2014 (Combined Print plus Online Edition) and The Nautical Almanac for the Year 2014 are critical tools to aid commercial and private navigation by both air or water (Read our post: “Navigating by the Moon, Planets, and Starsfor more information).

Specifically for maritime navigation, Navigation Rules, International-Inland contains the latest international regulations for preventing Book Cover Image for FAA Safety Briefingcollisions at sea as well as the U.S. Inland Navigation Rules which have been in effect for all inland waters, including the Great Lakes.

The FAA Safety Briefing magazine provides updates on major Federal Aviation Administration rule changes and proposed changes, as well as refresher information on flight rules, maintenance air worthiness, avionics, accident analysis, and other aviation topics.

CITIZENSHIP AND CIVICS

Preparing to become a United States citizen and reaffirming knowledge of the American system of Government is extremely popular with our customers, and this year was no exception. Top civics and citizenship publications for 2013 included the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence (Pocket Edition) and materials for preparing for the U.S. Naturalization Test to become a United States citizen—

(Read our posts: “Quiz and History for Bill of Rights Day December 15”, “Quiz: Are you smarter than an 8th grade Civics student?”, and “Notable Documents 2009: Civics Flash Cardsfor more information on these products.)

Another patriotic publication that proved popular (Do you like the alliteration?:-) was Our Flag, which briefly describes the history of the American flag and sets forth the practices and observances appropriate to the display of Old Glory, was a top-seller.Book Cover Image for How Our Laws Are Made

The Congressional book, How Our Laws Are Made, provides citizens with a basic outline of the numerous steps of our Federal law-making process from the source of an idea for a legislative proposal through to its publication as a statute and becoming the “law of the land”.

HEALTH

Watching our weight and eating better were definitely on the minds of Americans this year as Diet & Nutrition books and posters were best sellers, including:

Book Cover Image for Special Operations Forces Medical HandbookHealthcare professionals turned often to the U.S. Government Bookstore for Physician References & Medical Handbooks, Medical & Health Research, and Military & Emergency Medicine publications in 2013. Top on the list were copies of the new Healthcare Law, as well as the Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook.

But also important were publications used to improve the quality of healthcare research and patient care and safety. These included the ORI: Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research  (also available in Packages of 50) which provides guidelines for Public Health Service-funded researchers, as well as the TeamSTEPPS patient care and safety training materials for healthcare personnel, such as the TeamSTEPPS Instructor Guide (Binder Kit) and TeamSTEPPS Pocket Guide that should be handed out to all healthcare personnel who attend TeamSTEPPS training.

SECURITY AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

Emergency management personnel and first responders responded strongly to the many great safety and emergency response publications on the U.S. Government Bookstore.  These books and pocket guides topped their “must have” list in 2013:

Specifically for dealing with Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) and Chemical-Biological-Radiological-Nuclear-Explosive (CBRNE) incidents, clean-up and response were these best-selling guides:

The importance of radio communications was underscored by the popularity of the United States Frequency Allocations: The Radio Spectrum Chart (Poster) of all assigned frequencies and the National Interoperability Field Operations Guide which contains radio guidelines for establishing or repairing emergency communications in a disaster area.

GOVERNMENT

Every year, the publications containing the President’s proposed Federal Budget for the upcoming fiscal year are on our best sellers list, and the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget publications followed this tradition. (Note: Stay tuned! The new Fiscal Year 2015 Budget publications will be coming out soon from the White House).

United States Government Manual 2013 lists all federal agenciesThe U.S. Government Manual, the ultimate handbook of all Federal agencies, was a hit as it is every year. Now you can get the new edition: United States Government Manual 2013 (Read about it on our Blog post:  “Understand How the U.S. Government is Organized”).

Other “Best of the Best” Government titles include:

How can I get these “Best-selling Books of 2013”?

  • Shop Online: You can purchase these publications from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov by clicking on the individual links above in this blog post. You may also click here to shop our entire “Best Sellers of 2013” collection.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for one of these publications in a nearby Federal depository library.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is also Promotions and Ecommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public. Assistance provided by Stephanie Jaeger, Sales & Marketing Coordinator for GPO’s Sales & Marketing Division that markets GPO’s publishing services to the Federal sector.


Understand How the U.S. Government is Organized

January 13, 2014

The United States Government Manual 2013

United States US Government Manual 2013 ISBN: 9780160919510 Available from http://bookstore.gpo.gov/products/sku/069-000-00216-1?ctid=38The Government Manual is an essential guide to the United States Federal Government, where one can find the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and information on every U.S. Government agency. This official handbook on the Federal Government is published annually by the National Archives and Record Administration’s Office of the Federal Register.

Two years ago, Government Book Talk featured the Government Manual with the post “Browsing the Government Manual”. Here, we will take another look at this ultimate resource on the U.S. Government.

The 2013 Government Manual begins with the country’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and then goes on to profile each agency, quasi-official agency, international organization in which the United States participates, board, commission, and committee found in the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive branches of the U.S. Government. The profiles include:

  • Organizational charts
  • List of principal officials
  • Summary statement of the agency’s purpose and role in the Federal Government
  • Brief history of the agency, including its legislative or executive authority
  • Description of its programs and activities
  • Information on consumer activities, contracts and grants, employment, publications, and contact information.

This organizational structure is beneficial for large executive branch agencies that have several departments each with their own mission and function.  For example, 20 pages of the manual are devoted to the nearly 40 different divisions, offices, and bureaus that make up the Department of Justice, which seems complex but pales in comparison to the Department of Defense and its behemoth structure.

The Government Manual concludes with the History of Agency Organization Structures. This section of the manual is arguably the highlight of this publication, as it provides a history of the lifetime and timeline of each agency as the U.S. Government grows with the country. For example, the Bureau of Immigration was created in 1891 as a branch of the Department of Treasury and cycled through to the Department of Commerce and Labor, the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, and finally, after losing its name but keeping its functions, landed in the newly established Department of Homeland Security in 2002.

The Government Manual is not only a great resource on the United States Federal government and its functions, but also a goldmine of new information and interesting facts that are not commonly known about the U.S. Government and the country’s history.  So, if you would like  to understand how the U.S. Government is organized, then this is the book for you!

How can I get a copy of “The United States Government Manual 2013”?

About the Author: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs. Additional content provided by Stephanie Jaeger, Sales & Marketing Coordinator for GPO’s Sales & Marketing Division and is responsible for marketing GPO’s publishing services to the Federal sector.


Take Notice: The 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar

January 9, 2014

2014-NCTC-Counterterrorism-Calendar-spiral-boundIf you didn’t catch the Washington Post “In the Loop” article by Al Kamen this week entitled “Counter terror calendar 2014 is out!,” you’ll be pleased to know that yes, the 2014 edition of the National Counterterrorism Center’s annual Counterterrorism Desk Calendar is now available for ordering on the U.S. Government Bookstore.

Image: Cover of the 164-page 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar from the National Counterterrorism Center depicts the 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon. Photo Credit: David L. Ryan / Boston Globe.

The goal behind the Counterterrorism Calendar is to educate and inform both professionals– first responders, military, intelligence, law enforcement and other counterterrorism personnel– as well as civilians about the threats of international terrorism and how to prevent, respond or mitigate these threats against the United States both at home and abroad.

History of U.S. Government Inviting Citizen Involvement in Domestic Security

Since its founding, America has had a history of inviting its citizens to participate in its own defense. Even with the danger of British sympathizers turning them in, brave revolutionaries posted recruiting posters on behalf of the Continental Congress such as the one below that invited Americans to “Take Notice” and help General Washington and the Continental Army defend against “the hostile designs of foreign enemies.”

revolutionary-war-take-notice-recruiting-posterImage: This Revolutionary War recruiting poster urged brave and able-bodied young men to “take notice” and join forces with General Washington and the Continental Army in the fight against “foreign enemies,” in this case, the British. Photo Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS

In World War 2, the Federal Government issued numerous similar domestic campaigns reminding citizens that it was their civic duty to “defend America” and inviting citizens to help support the war industry and to be vigilant against spies, saboteurs and other actions by the enemy both at home and abroad.

Defend-American-Freedom It's Everybody's-Job- World War II 2 propaganda poster for civilian workersImage: U.S. Government World War II propaganda poster urging civilians to participate in the war effort. Source: University of North Texas Digital Library

Today, the war is a War on Terror, and the U.S. Government still needs involvement and vigilance of its citizens and allies, whether in the United States or abroad, to identify and protect against terrorists.

The 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar

Under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Counterterrorism Center or NCTC serves as the primary organization in the U.S. government for integrating and analyzing all intelligence possessed or acquired by the U.S. government about international terrorism, including data from U.S. Federal agencies like the CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency, and the FBI as well as other domestic and international sources.

First published in a spiral-bound daily planner format in 2003, just two years after the World Trade Center attacks, the Counterterrorism or CT Calendar from the NCTC is published annually. According to the NCTC, their 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar:

…provides information on known terrorist groups, individual terrorists, and technical information on topics such as biological and chemical threats.This edition, like others since the Calendar was first published in daily planner format in 2003, contains many features across the full range of issues pertaining to international terrorism: terrorist groups, wanted terrorists, and technical pages on various threat-related topics.

Features of the Calendar

In addition to serving as a desk calendar / event planner, the 164-page 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar also serves as a tutorial on international terrorism and a gallery of “most wanted” terrorists.

The right-hand page of the planner has the event planner dates along with key historical events of significance to terrorists that might be used to plan future terrorist activities. For example, on January 8, 1998, terrorist Ramzi Ahmed Yousef was sentenced to life plus 240 years for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

On the left-hand pages are photos, maps and/or data on terrorists and terrorist organizations around the world, from Africa and the Middle East to Europe and the Americas.

Map-Somalia-based-al-Shabaab-terror-attacksImage: Map denoting locations of major terrorist incidents likely committed by the Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahidin—commonly known as al-Shabaab, a “clan-based insurgent and terrorist group” operating in and around Somalia. Source: NCTC 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar

“Terrorism tutorial” information ranges from cultural—details about the Islamic Calendar; the spelling of Arabic names and terms; lists of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), and logos used— to technical –  information about Chemical-Biological-Radiological-Nuclear-Explosive (CBRNE) weapons commonly used by terrorists, from suicide bombs to sarin gas, and how to detect and mitigate them.  For example, who among us would recognize the terrorist threat from these innocent-looking beans?

Castor-beans-used-to-make-ricinImage: Photo of castor beans from which the deadly toxin ricin is extracted. Ricin is poisonous if inhaled, injected, or ingested. Source: NCTC 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar

“Wanted” Terrorists

Providing the real drama of the calendar are the full-page “Wanted” poster-style pages of an individual terrorist, complete with photo (if available), aliases, his terrorist activities, the reward offered, and how to report information about him.

One of the largest rewards, $25 Million, is offered for information leading to the capture of Ayman al-Zawahiri, also known as “The Teacher” or “The Doctor” who is a physician and the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. According to the CT Calendar:

“This organization opposes the secular Egyptian Government and seeks its overthrow through violent means. Al-Zawahiri is believed to have served as an advisor and doctor to Usama Bin Ladin. He has been indicted for his alleged role in the August 7, 1998, bombings of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. The embassy bombings killed 224 civilians and wounded over 5,000 others.”

Wanted-page-of-terrorist-Ayman-al-Zawahiri-of-Egyptian-Islamic-JihadImage: Extract from the “wanted” page of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaida leader and founder of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Source: NCTC 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar

Civilian Involvement

Finally, the NCTC carries on the civilian involvement tradition by including instructions for citizens of the U.S. and other countries on how they can help fight terrorism. Pages on” Indicators of False Travel Documents”, “Radicalization”, and how U.S. residents can report suspicions are provided. Additionally, the  Rewards for Justice (RFJ) Program is described in detail, wherein the U.S. Secretary of State may offer rewards for information that prevents or favorably resolves acts of international terrorism against US persons or property worldwide.

On the last page is a Bomb Threat Call Procedures form with valuable details of questions to ask and information to note about the caller, such as his or her voice (accent, age, tone, language) and background sounds. Did you note if the caller was clearing his throat or had an accent? Were there sounds of machinery in the background? What kind? Any and all details could help law enforcement.

Aspects-to-note-about-Bomb-Threat-CallerImage: Table from the Bomb Threat Call Procedures form. Source: Page 160 of the 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar.

Forewarned is Forearmed

Like the tradition of the best Government civilian campaigns since the founding of the Nation, the National Counterterrorism Center’s annual Counterterrorism Calendar is simultaneously meant to alert and inform us, making both civilians and professionals alike aware of the very real dangers around us and educating us on what—and whom—to look for. With the cover photo depicting the 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon– where ordinary citizens were instrumental in identifying and locating the terrorists responsible– the importance of having an informed and involved citizenry has never been clearer.

How can I get a copy of the National Counterterrorism Center’s 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar?

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Oh, say, can you tree? American Christmas tree traditions

December 17, 2013

Victorian German style Christmas Xmas tree1899To anyone who enjoys Christmas trees, we say “Wie treu sind deine Blätter!” This means “how faithful are your branches”, a line from “O Tannenbaum,” the German Christmas carol. “O Tannenbaum” (Oh Christmas Tree)* was originally a folk song from Germany that’s been translated to English and sung here in the United States for years. In fact, Nat King Cole sang a classic version in German if you’re ever interested in hearing the original version. A bit of trivia: *The tune for “O Tannenbaum” is also used for the state song of Maryland—if you’re from there, or went to university there, you might have heard the state song if you haven’t heard the holiday version! Just like they got us hooked on the song about evergreens, Germany was instrumental in getting us hooked on the decorated Christmas tree tradition as well.

German immigrants really started the modern craze for Christmas trees that came to the United States in the early 1800s. Queen Victoria, who helped set fashions for the Western world in the mid to late 1800s, helped the trend along with her family Christmas tree (which she may have learned about from her German husband, Albert). (Image above depicts a Victorian era Christmas celebration.)

The evergreen tree is likely a Yule custom carried over and remade from Celtic and/or Scandinavian pagans. Regardless of the origins of the custom of bringing an evergreen into your dwelling place during the year’s darkest days, this much is for sure: having a Christmas tree is now a tried and true American holiday tradition.

Since Christmas trees have become more secular and are so popular, the Christmas tree industry is a huge business in the United States. In 2007, Americans spent over $460 million on cut trees. The Federal government wants to support this industry, and people’s holiday happiness.

TREE AND FIRE SAFETY

To help people keep their holidays safe, the Federal government publishes a number of Christmas tree fire safety publications, such as the U.S. Fire Safety Administration’s (USFA) Christmas/Christmas Tree Fires and December and Holiday Fires.

FEMA-USFA-holiday-fire-safety-infographicImage: US Fire Safety Administration’s Winter Holiday Fire Safety infographic.

According to the USFA, fire deaths increase by 50% between December 24 and 26, and injuries during that period increase by 61%.  As the USFA pointed out, “In residential structure fires where the ignition point is a Christmas tree or other holiday decoration, the fire is typically more severe in every measurable way (p.2)”. For tips on avoiding Christmas tree fires, and to view a video on proper Christmas tree safety, take a look at USFA’s Holiday & Christmas Tree Fire Safety Outreach Materials. You’ll be able to increase your awareness and look out for your family’s welfare while continuing to enjoy your household decorations.

CUTTING YOUR OWN TREE FROM A NATIONAL FOREST

If you and/or your family enjoy going out to pick a tree and cut it, you might be able to pick one up from a national forest. For example, the Federal government has harvested all of the Capitol Christmas trees from national forests. In fact, the 2009 tree was a blue spruce that came from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

Certain forests have designated areas where it is possible to cut Christmas trees, once you have paid for your cutting permit. Contact your local national forest for its policies; you’re especially likely to find Christmas tree cutting areas in the West. Some national forests post their Christmas tree maps online. You can download Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Soldotna, Alaska: Christmas Tree Cutting Areas and Maps of 2013 Cutting Areas in the Apache and Sitgreaves National Forests. You’ll be pulling your tree from a prestigious tree-growing area, if you do decide to get a permit from a national forest.

The trees are for personal use only, and Forest Service allows only one tree per household. Permits for the trees are quite cheap, compared to what I paid at my local Washington, DC, area hardware store. You do have to factor into the cost a bit more money for the gas it takes to haul a tree out of the forest and get it home. However, some experiences, such as holiday traditions spent together with family and friends, are priceless.

PLANTING AND CARING FOR YOUR LIVE TREE

Why-would-anyone-cut-a-tree-down? by US Forest Service ISBN: 9780160916267Some families buy live Christmas trees then plant them when the holidays are over, while others use a cut tree for the holidays then plant a new tree in the spring as a symbol of renewal.

To explain to children the need for cutting trees as well as the value of this renewable resource, the Forest Service has published the best-selling publication “Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down?” It is full of explanations of need to remove trees for fire management and helping prevent overcrowding, and gives instructions on how to plant a tree as well.

How-to-Prune-Trees How-to-Recognize-Defects-in-TreesTo care for your live tree once it’s planted, be sure to check out How to Prune Trees to keep your tree looking and growing its best.

And the useful How To Recognize Hazardous Defects in Trees will help you identify problems in a tree that could be detrimental to its health.

FAMOUS WASHINGTON, DC AREA CHRISTMAS TREES

Here in the Nation’s capital, there are a number of famous Christmas trees.

National Christmas Tree and the Pathway of Peace

Since 1923, the United States has held a tradition of having a National Christmas Tree lighting in Washington, DC, starting with President Coolidge lighting the “First National Christmas Tree.” Starting in 1954, a “Pathway of Peace,” 56 smaller, decorated trees representing all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia were planted surrounding the National Christmas Tree. They stay decorated through New Year’s Day.

2012-National-Tree_Pathway-of-PeaceImage: 2012 National Christmas Tree and Pathway of Peace on Ellipse behind the White House. Credit: National Park Service

Today, the annual lighting ceremony on the Ellipse—the grassy area south of the White House— is usually televised with tickets given by lottery in advance, with celebrities and the President and First Family doing the honors of lighting the National Christmas Tree and kicking off the season.

The Capitol Christmas Tree

The annual Capitol Christmas Tree lighting held on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol has been an American tradition since 1964 and is a great holiday event that you don’t want to miss. However, the official practice of lighting the “Capitol Christmas Tree” did not start until 1968 according to the Architect of the Capitol.

2013-Capitol-Xmas-TreeImage: 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree. Image source: Architect of the Capitol.

The Capitol Christmas Tree should not to be confused with the National Christmas Tree, which is planted near the White House and lighted every year by the President and First Lady. The Speaker of the House officially lights the Capitol Christmas Tree.

“Yule” Scream for the Norwegian Embassy Tree

A lesser known but charming Capital City tradition comes from Norway. Since 1996, the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C. has given a Christmas tree to the American people as a symbol of friendship between the United States and Norway. The lighted tree is usually decorated with both U.S. and Norwegian flags, and can be found in DC’s Union Station train station. As explained by the Norwegian ambassador in the annual lighting ceremony attended by high-level U.S. military  and Government officials as guests, the gift of the Norway-US friendship tree also express Norway’s gratitude for the assistance received from the United States during and after World War II.

Tusen-takk-Amerika or Thank you, America banner from the Norwegian Embassy's 2013 Friendship Christmas Tree at Union Station in Washington, DC. Photo copyright: Michele BartramImage: Norwegian Embassy’s “Thank you, America” (Tusen Takk, Amerika!) banner at base of the Norwegian-US Friendship Xmas tree at Washington, DC’s Union Station in 2013. Image credit: Michele Bartram

From a distance, all you see are the 20,000 lights and the American and Norwegian flags cascading up the 32-foot tree. Upon closer inspection, this year’s visitors found 700 little reflective screaming faces on ornaments Norwegian-Embassy-Tree-Edvard-Munch-Scream-ornament-2013 from the Norwegian Embassy's 2013 Friendship Christmas Tree at Union Station in Washington, DC. Photo copyright: Michele Bartramdepicting Norwegian artist Edward Munch’s infamous “Scream” painting—placed on the tree by the humorous Norwegians in honor of 2013’s 150th anniversary of Munch’s birth.

In a way, [the “Scream”] symbolizes all the angst in preparing for an excellent Christmas,” said Norwegian Ambassador Kare Aas to the Washington Post with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Image: Edvard Munch “Scream” 2013 ornament and flag of Norway on the Norwegian Embassy Friendship Christmas Tree. Image credit: Michele Bartram

Just taking a drive around the National Mall on a December night, seeing the National Christmas Tree and the Pathway of Peace, the national menorah, the Capitol Christmas Tree, and the Norway-US Friendship Tree can put you in more of a holiday mood.

GIFTS FOR UNDER YOUR TREE

Incidentally, if you’re still looking for holiday gifts to go under your tree, GPO’s U.S. Government Bookstore has loads of gift suggestions on their Gift Guides & Calendars page. Or give an eBook for a great last-minute gift to anyone around the world.

Hanukkah is past this year and there are only a few days left before Christmas day, but then again, there are always gift opportunities on Hogmanay, New Year’s Day, and Three King’s Day (Los Reyes Magos)/ Epiphany, too!

HOW CAN YOU GET THE PUBLICATIONS LISTED HERE?

And remember, worldwide standard SHIPPING IS FREE on the U.S. Government Bookstore website, so shop away!

  • Shop Online: Download the free publications listed by clicking on the links in the article above.
    You can purchase the print and ebook publications mentioned from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov by clicking on the individual links above in this blog post or the links below:

  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for one of these publications in a nearby Federal depository library.

About the author(s): Adapted and expanded by Government Book Talk Editor-in-Chief and the US Government Printing Office (GPO) Promotions & Ecommerce Manager, Michele Bartram, from an original blog post by Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP). Happy holidays from us both!


Quiz and History for Bill of Rights Day December 15

December 13, 2013

Bill-of-Rights-Founding-Father-President-James-Madison-statue-AP-PhotoImage: James Madison statue in front of Bill of Rights. AP Photo.

We celebrate Bill of Rights Day on December 15 every year in the midst of the bustling holiday season. Although it’s not a Federal holiday, it’s definitely a day for American citizens to commemorate the freedoms we enjoy by law. And no, the right to shop—while popular in America— is not listed in the Bill of Rights!

History of the Bill of Rights

The Founding Fathers drafted the United States Constitution during the First Constitutional Convention, held from May through September 1787 in Philadelphia. The completed draft constitution, sent to the States for ratification in September 1787, did not include any mention of individual rights. The framers’ focus was largely on structuring a strong government, and getting that structure put into place. Without such a structure, the Founding Fathers feared the country’s collapse into chaos or new attacks from outsiders. They left the issue of individual rights without adding it to the Constitution during that meeting.

As a result of this omission, Edmund Randolph, George Mason, and Elbridge Gerry refused to sign the Constitution on principle. Maryland delegates Luther Martin and John Francis Mercer reportedly walked out of the Convention, at least in part because the draft did not include a Bill of Rights. In September, Randolph, Mason and Gerry joined in asking for a second constitutional convention to address the issue of personal rights. All three men advocated strongly for a bill of rights throughout most of the constitutional convention. The people ultimately adopted the Constitution, sans any bill of rights, on September 17, 1787. Eleven states ratified it and it went into effect in 1789.

Founding Father James Madison was a delegate from Virginia who had been a key actor and speaker at the First Constitutional Convention. He had held onto the idea of the individual freedoms as discussed at that Convention. Although Federalist Madison was originally a skeptic about needing a Bill of Rights, like Randolph, Mason and Gerry he came to believe that the inclusion of personal rights was imperative to be added to the United States Constitution.

quote-enlightened-statesmen-will-not-always-be-at-the-helm-President-James-MadisonImage courtesy IZQuotes.

In Madison’s view, the value of a listing of rights was:

  • in part educational for the populace under this new form of Government,
  • in part as a vehicle that might be used to rally people against a future oppressive Government when “less enlightened statesmen” may be in power,
  • and finally–in an argument borrowed from Thomas Jefferson–Madison argued that a declaration of rights would help install the judiciary as “guardians” of individual rights against the Legislative and Executive branches of the Federal Government.

Thus, while serving in the first U.S. House of Representatives, Madison framed and introduced the Bill of Rights as legislative articles to amend the Constitution on June 8, 1789.

He used as a model George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights, written in May 1776, and also based his legislative articles in part on the English Bill of Rights (1689), the Magna Carta and other documents.

Painting-Adoption-of-VA-Declaration-of-RightsImage: This painting, The Adoption of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, depicting the adoption of the Virginia Declaration of Rights by the fifth Virginia Revolutionary Convention was made by Jack Clifton in 1974. It now hangs in the Virginia State Capitol. Courtesy: Virginia Memory online exhibit of the Library of Virginia.

What rights are in Bill of Rights?

Painting-of-James-Madison-reading-Bill-of-Rights-to-First-CongressMadison included in his articles a list of rights of the individual, such as free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, free assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and others, as well as some limits on government powers.

Image on the right: Madison reading his Bill of Rights to Congress. Courtesy: University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

On August 21, 1789, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted Madison’s articles, proposed them in a joint resolution of Congress on September 25, 1789, and finally ratified them on December 15, 1791.

The Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and is a key “fundamental document” of the United States Federal government.

Cartoon of the Bill of Rights depicting the first 10 Amendments to the US Constitution. From a 1971 Teacher's Guide transparency for "Young Citizen"

Image: Bill of Rights depicted in cartoon format from 1971 Young Citizen teacher’s guide transparency. Courtesy: Syracuse University. CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE and for teacher printable version.

  • First Amendment:  Freedom of Religion, Speech, and Press, the Right to Assemble Peaceably and to Petition the Government “for a redress of grievances.
  • Second Amendment: Right to Keep and Bear Arms- “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
  • Third Amendment: Quartering of Troops- “No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
  • Fourth Amendment: Search and Seizure- “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
  • Fifth Amendment: Grand Jury, Double Jeopardy, Self-Incrimination, Due Process
  • Sixth Amendment: Criminal Prosecutions – Right to  a speedy public trial by an impartial jury, to confront witnesses and to counsel for defense.
  • Seventh Amendment: Common Law Suits –Right to a Trial by Jury
  • Eighth Amendment: No Excessive Bail or Fines or Cruel and Unusual Punishment- “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
  • Ninth Amendment: Non-Enumerated Rights or “Rule of Construction of the Constitution”-  “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
  • Tenth Amendment: States’ Rights- Rights not explicitly delegated to the Federal Government in the Constitution are reserved to the States or to the People.

Where can you learn more about the Bill of Rights?

US-Constitution-and-Declaration-of-Independence-Pocket-Guide_I9780160891847 Buy at the US Government Online Bookstore http://bookstore.gpo.gpvIf you want to learn more about the Bill of Rights, an excellent place to start would be reading the source document, the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence; the GPO U.S. Government Bookstore sells a handy Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence Pocket Edition. The full text of the ten amendments of the Bill of Rights is there for you to read and study.

US Citizenship and Immigration Service Civics Flash Cards for the US Naturalization Test ISBN-9780160904608 Available from GPO's US Government Bookstore a http://bookstore.gpo.govImage courtesy Citizenship Guru.

Kids in school, or adults wanting to revisit the fundamentals they learned in civics classes, can learn a lot from the Civics Flash Cards for the U.S. Naturalization Test (English Version)—and obviously the target audience, U.S. residents who want to become American citizens, will benefit from studying these, too.

Spanish-Civics-Flash-Cards-for-US-naturalization-test Tarjetas de Educación Cívica ISBN 9780160902048 Available from the US Government Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.govIf you’re more comfortable reading en español, you can study using the same flash cards in Spanish: Tarjetas de Educación Cívica para el Exámen de Naturalización to cover the same material.

You can also listen to the same questions in English on the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) website. (I didn’t see them offered in Spanish on their site, though.) If you’re cramming for the naturalization or a civics exam, listening to the questions is excellent reinforcement for your study plan.

Mini-Quiz from the Citizenship Test

Civics-Flash-Cards-Question-38If you’ve already read this post, or studied the Constitution, you will probably ace questions #1 and #2 of the United States naturalization test for citizenship:

  1. “What is the supreme law of the land?”
  2. “What does the Constitution do?”
  3. “What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?” (Bonus points if you get the answer to this question #5 correct!)

(Answers: 1- The Constitution. 2- Sets up the government; Defines the government; Protects basic rights of Americans. 3- The Bill of Rights, of course! )

For even more challenging questions based on the U.S. Citizenship test, take our fun Quiz: Are you smarter than an 8th grade Civics student?

In-depth civics questions can be answered by the capsule summary answers to the questions in Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lesson for the Naturalization Test 2013 (Book Plus CD). Students need to know the principles and background behind the answers, not just the answers themselves, obviously.

Question six asks, “What is ONE right or freedom from the First Amendment?” The text lists the possible answers, and then relates the reasons for the guarantee of those freedoms. The authors explain freedom of expression as follows:

“The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights protects a person’s right to freedom of expression. Freedom of expression allows open discussion and debate on public issues. Open discussion and debate are important to democracy.”

You’ll definitely have a thorough grounding in the basics of American Federal government by the time you’re done with the lesson.

The Right to Exercise… Your Rights, That Is

Exercise your right to open discussion by reading some of these documents, and talking to friends about them. If you are a school student, maybe you’ll have an opportunity to write about the Bill of Rights or the freedoms the Bill of Rights guarantee.

1963-2013-Civil-Rights-logoIn this year, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of three significant events from the Civil Rights movement— the March on Washington for Rights and Freedom, the murder of African-American civil rights activist Medgar Evers who was involved in efforts to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi, and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama— it’s a good time to reflect on our civil rights and liberties, and how lucky we are to have them.

Image: Civil Rights Movement 50th Anniversary logo. Courtesy: City of Birmingham, Alabama

How can you obtain official publications that explain the Bill of Rights and other documents of American rights?

About the author(s): Adapted by Government Book Talk Editor-in-Chief and the US Government Printing Office (GPO) Promotions & Ecommerce Manager, Michele Bartram, from an original blog post by Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP). Happy holidays from us both!


Rebuilding after the floods: FEMA shares lessons learned after Sandy

October 28, 2013

This week marks the one-year anniversary of Superstorm or Hurricane Sandy. The destruction and devastation is still felt by many people on the East Coast as they rebuild and recover from this historic superstorm.

Damaged-homes-Superstorm-Sandy-GazetteImage: In this Oct. 31, 2012 file photo, a view from the air shows the destroyed homes left in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in Seaside Heights, N.J. New Jersey got the brunt of Sandy, which made landfall in the state and killed six people. Photo Credit: Mike Groll, Associated Press

Sandy is only one storm among many that have caused Americans agony in recent years. As recently as last month, catastrophic flooding damaged Colorado, and we never know what is coming in the future – when the next natural disaster will strike.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is responsible for providing aid to those affected by natural disasters, which includes resources like fact sheets and publications for consumers and local and state governments  on how to prepare for and recover from devastating floods.

Road-damage-Colorado-floods-2013Image: A flood-wrecked road in Colorado, September 16, 2013. Photo credit:  KUSA.

Hazard Mitigation Field Book – Roadways

Hazard-Mitigation-Field-Book_Flooded-Roadways_9780160902031One of the biggest problems immediately after a disaster like Hurricane Sandy is the impact of flooding on the infrastructure, particularly roads, that prevent emergency responders and local officials from getting in to the flooded areas to assess the damage, or construction personnel from getting materials in to rebuild.

Hazard Mitigation Field Book: Roadways focuses on ways for municipalities to lessen the impact of flooding on roadways. This FEMA roadway damage field guide helps state and local governments rapidly assess various flood-caused roadway hazards and identify the best hazard mitigation (HM) solutions for the situation. It also includes case studies and general design guidance to help prevent damage to and around roadways through engineering and construction practices.

The information is very technical— focusing on the various problems that can result from flooded roadways and how to fix, prevent and reduce the impact of the problems. FEMA is encouraging governments to be proactive and repair substandard infrastructure rather than getting stuck in a disaster-rebuild-disaster cycle that is often costly and does not fix the problem. But while the intended audience for this publication is local and state governments, it contains useful information for any concerned citizen. Hazard Mitigation Field Book: Roadways is available both in Spiral-bound Print and as an ePub eBook.

Home Builder’s Guide to Coastal Construction

Home-builders-guide-coastal-construction_9780160914133Home Builder’s Guide to Coastal Construction is comprised of 37 fact sheets broken down by ten topics related to residential coastal construction. The fact sheets are designed with photographs, drawings, charts and diagrams presenting the information in a user-friendly way. FEMA shares best practices and the reasoning behind them in order to improve the performance of buildings subject to flood and wind forces in coastal environments. Many of the fact sheets also include a list of additional resources on the topic.

This guide is a great resource for those who already sustained damage and need advice on how to rebuild while also renovating and improving your existing coastal residence.

Building contractors, realtors and others in the construction industry who work with homes in hurricane or typhoon-prone areas should take special note as Home Builder’s Guide to Coastal Construction includes the newest building codes and recommendations for flood, storm and hurricane resistant construction learned from recent disasters.

[NOTE: For New Jersey residents, here is a Rebuilding After Sandy Fact Sheet about new state building requirements for coastal construction which refers to homes declared "substantially damaged buildings" (see below).]

Other Flood Publications

Answers-to-Questions-about-Substantially-Damaged-Buildings_064-000-00048-9A good companion book to the Home Builder’s Guide is the Answers to Questions About Substantially Damaged Buildings (Paperback) and eBook version which provides information on FEMA regulations and policy on substantial improvement as it applies to damaged structures.

Floods-The-Awesome-Power_9780160814181Floods: The Awesome Power is a consumer guide sold in a package of 25 from NOAA’s National Weather Service that explains flood-related hazards, and suggests life-saving actions you can take.

Prevention is Worth A Gallon of Cure

One year ago, Americans along the East Coast were evacuating and seeking shelter from Hurricane Sandy, and one month ago Coloradoans were under water. With each natural disaster there are lessons learned that can hopefully make a difference in preventing tragedy for when the next one strikes. Whether you live on the Atlantic, Pacific or Gulf Coast, or any flood-prone area, these valuable publications can help communities and homeowners rebuild and hopefully lessen the impact for when the damage is done.

HOW DO I OBTAIN THESE FLOOD-RELATED PUBLICATIONS?

You can find these Federal flood and flood control publications through any of these methods:

  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Go to a Library: GPO provides copies of these publications to Federal Depository libraries worldwide. Find them in a library near you.

About the Author: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs. Additional content provided by Government Book Talk Editor: Michele Bartram, Promotions & eCommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division.


September 11 Tales of Heroes and Tough Lessons

September 11, 2013

9-11 Decade of Remembrance Twin Towers and Pentagon Logo designed by David McKenzie at the Government Printing OfficeThere are certain moments and events that are etched in our national consciousness. Ask any American who was alive in the 60’s where he or she was when John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King was assassinated and you will hear a stirring personal story. For our generation, it was September 11, 2001.

Image: September 11 Decade of Remembrance logo with World Trade Center Twin Towers surrounded by a figure representing the Pentagon. Created by David McKenzie with the Government Printing Office for the U.S. Government Bookstore.

I was right across from the Twin Towers twelve years ago today, getting ready to board a ferry for my daily commute from New Jersey across the Hudson River into Manhattan, when I saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center right across from me. So, too, I cried with a group of strangers as we stood on the ferry platform and watched in horror as the first tower fall, saw the dust cloud rise and felt the earth—and the world—tremble.

America and Americans have changed since that day… twelve years ago today. We have since heard stirring stories of heroes and sacrifice, and learned many grim lessons that are still affecting both policy and people today.

Many of these stories of heroism, missed opportunities, and resulting actions have been painstakingly and faithfully chronicled by a wide array of Federal agencies, ensuring the sacrifices and lessons are not forgotten.

Responding to the Tragedies

Both in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, we saw how first responders and medical personnel rushed to save lives. These excellent publications tell the stories of the heroes from that day:

  • 008-000-01049-8Pentagon 9/11 (10th Anniversary Edition) (Paperback) includes a foreword by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and provides the most comprehensive account available of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and aftermath, including unprecedented details on the impact on the Pentagon building and personnel and the scope of the rescue, recovery, and care-giving effort.
  • 008-000-01048-0Attack on the Pentagon: The Medical Response to 9/11 not only tells the personal stories from medical personnel responding to the attack on the Pentagon, but also provides insight from MEDCOM officers detailed to New York to support National Guard troops guarding ground zero’s perimeter. It also includes the Army’s involvement in the recovery of deceased attack victims at the Pentagon and the work of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in identifying human remains at Dover Air Force Base. In addition, the roles of military and civilian hospital staffs and of military environmental health and mental health specialists in taking care of attack victims and their families are also examined.

Tough Lessons

The single must-read for every American about September 11 is the official version of The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. This publication lists the findings of the National 9/11 Commission, listing all the painful errors made leading up to the terrorist attacks and outlining specific recommendations for international, national, state and local changes in policy and procedures that the panel of experts felt needed to be implemented to ensure a similar attack never happened again. This seminal publication has served to inform all subsequent policies and legislation since 9/11. It is available in print or as an eBook.

911-commission-report

Image: Launch of the 9/11 Commission Report. Courtesy: CSMonitor.com

The Senate, Select Committee on Intelligence, and House, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence examined the intelligence failures leading up to 9/11 and jointly published the results in United States Congressional Serial Set, Serial No. 14750: Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activity Before and After Terrorists Attacks of September 11, 2001 With Errata.

027-001-00097-1Additional insights into the causes of and responses to terrorism can be gleaned from Terrorism Research and Analysis Project (TRAP): A Collection of Research Ideas, Thoughts, and Perspectives, V. 1. This publication provides the findings from the post-9/11 FBI Terrorism Research and Analysis Project (TRAP) Symposium. TRAP is a leading research consortium made up of international/domestic academics and law enforcement officers, and is a working group sponsored by the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. In it, these counter-terrorism experts provide a better understanding of the causes of terrorist activity and possible government response tactics to mitigate terrorist actions.

064-000-00029-2As we watch the new World Trade Center going up in New York, we can be assured that builders are incorporating architectural and construction lessons learned from the World Trade Center Building Performance Study: Data Collection, Preliminary Observations, and Recommendations.

Policy and Legislative Response

United States Congressional Serial Set, Serial No. 14924, House Report No. 724, 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act, Pts. 1-6 outlines the specific legislative changes enacted by Congress, providing both background and justifications for them along with attribution.

A print copy of the law itself can be purchased here: Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, Public Law 110-53 along with the details of the various committee conferences contributing to it in Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 1, July 25, 2007.

Defending the Homeland since 9/11

041-001-00657-5National Strategy for Homeland Security (October 2007) provides the common framework outlined by the George W. Bush Administration to guides, organize and unify the United States’ homeland security efforts.

008-000-01068-4A new publication from the Air Force Reserve called Turning Point 9.11: Air Force Reserve in the 21st Century, 2001-2011 tells the story of how the Air Force Reserve responded to 9/11 and have contributed to the security of the United States in a post-September 11 world.

050-012-00440-4In a similar vein, Rogue Wave: The U.S. Coast Guard on and After 9/11 chronicles the involvement of the U.S. Coast Guard on that fateful day and the evolving role in national and world security since.  Part of the Coast Guard 9/11 response is told in this touching video about the boatlift to evacuate people from lower Manhattan is told in a video narrated by Tom Hanks entitled: BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience.”

A touching video about the boatlift to evacuate people from lower Manhattan on 9/11 (September 11) is told in a video narrated by Tom Hanks entitled: BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience. Click on the image above or this link to view the “Boatlift” video.

The upcoming U.S. Army War College Guide to National Security Issues, Volume 2: National Security Policy and Strategy provides a summarized look at the national security curriculum now taught to our nation’s top military and civilian leaders by the U.S. Army War College. Revised with the lessons learned from the years since 9/11, this publication includes a chapter on ”Securing America From Attack: The Defense Department’s Evolving Role After 9/11.”

How can I obtain these Federal 9/11 publications?

  • Shop Online: Print Editions of these 9/11-related publications may be ordered from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov, by clicking on the links above in this blog post or shopping our Terrorism & 9/11 History collection under our US & Military History category.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy copies of these publications at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Find them in a Library: Find these publications in a federal depository library.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Radio 101: Operating Two-Way Radios Every Day and in Emergencies

July 10, 2013

When-all-else-fails-amateur-radioTwo-way radio communication may seem like a thing of the past with smart phones and the availability of more advanced technology. However, with the recent frequency of natural disasters, storms, and other emergency situations, more attention is being paid to radios as a reliable form of communication and a possible back-up communication option, including amateur radio operators.

Image courtesy: Decatur County Amateur Radio Club

For example, the Times of India reports that the recent monsoon flooding disaster in the northern India state of Uttarakhand in July 2013 has prompted officials in other flood-prone regions to establish Amateur Radio facilities to provide emergency communication.

What are two-way radios and how do they work?

Two-way-radioImage: Amateur radio equipment. Image courtesy of the American Radio Relay League.

According to Wikipedia,

A two-way radio is a radio that can both transmit and receive (a transceiver), unlike a broadcast receiver which only receives content. A two-way radio (transceiver) allows the operator to have a conversation with other similar radios operating on the same radio frequency (channel).

Two-way radios are available in mobile, stationary base and hand-held portable configurations. Hand-held radios are often called walkie-talkies or handie-talkies.

Radio 101

9780160910012A recent training publication produced by the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health called Radio 101: Operating Two-Way Radios Every Day and in Emergencies provides training materials on how to operate two-way radios. Included are an instructor’s guide, a DVD with a power point presentation and a student handbook. These training materials practice what they preach, in that they are brief, straightforward and concise– just as two-way radio conversations need to be.

While many of the scenarios used throughout the training materials apply to miners and situations where miners would need to use two-way radios, the information is generic enough that it is applicable to any emergency.

Two-way Tips

The information provided in the training materials seems like common sense, but there are a few important tips to consider when using two-way radio communication in an emergency situation:

  • Less is more. Be brief and efficient; know what you are going to say before using the radio so you do not tie up the channel while you are thinking of what to say.
  • Don’t mind your manners.  It is not necessary to be polite, saying “please” and “thank you.”
  • Repetition rocks. Repeat back information you receive to confirm that you heard the correct information.
  • No privacy policy. Be aware that conversations are not private on these open channels and may be heard by others picking up your frequency. However, this downside is a big plus in emergency broadcasts and SOS situations where the operator wants as many people possible to be listening in to be able to pick up and relay his message.

License to Help

To operate an amateur two-way radio in the United States requires taking a test and obtaining a license from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is the national association for amateur radio (also called ham radio with operators being called “hams”) in the US and “provides hams and non-hams the resources to learn, get licensed, and help others on the air.

Amateur-Radio-Emergency-ServiceAlready have your amateur radio license and want to help your community? Check out the ARRL’s Public Service page for training, resources, manuals and more. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes.

Recently, the American Radio Relay League hosted their national Field Day where amateur radio clubs across the country gathered locally to test their radio equipment and practice communication strategies in the event of an emergency. Learn more about Field Day.

Rules of the Radio

Together with the Radio 101 training guide, two-way radio operators who want to learn the “rules of the radio” often buy the latest United States Frequency Allocations: The Radio Spectrum Chart (shown below). This poster shows through color codes the parts of the radio spectrum that are allocated to each type of radio service, including amateur (ham) radio, commercial radio and television broadcasting, radio navigation, mobile, satellite, and others.

9780160908958Finally, the definitive sources of radio regulations, frequencies and procedures can be found in the Manual of Regulations and Procedures for Federal Radio Frequency Management and the Code of Federal Regulations Title 47 (FCC Rules and Regulations).

It is important to be prepared in any situation and not rely on only one form of communication. Thus, it is comforting to know that amateur radio operators are working on behalf of their communities to help during emergency situations.

HOW DO I OBTAIN these radio-related publications?

About the Authors: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs. Additional content was provided by Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram, Promotions & eCommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division.


The Privacy Act: What the Government Can Collect and Disclose about You

June 28, 2013

Privacy is the watchword in the news these days. With the revelations in recent weeks about far-reaching domestic surveillance programs by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other Federal agencies that were expanded under the Patriot Act, Americans are scrambling to determine what privacy rights they have to information collected by the Federal Government.

Overview-of-the-Privacy-Act-of-1974-2012-Edition-9780160914461Thus, the timing is ideal to review a biennial publication, Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974 (2012 Edition), available in print from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore.

The Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974 provides a valuable function to consumers, the media, Government and members of the legal profession by not only providing the current text of the Privacy Act and all its subsequent amendments, but also by consolidating the current regulations and updates, interpreting the Act’s provisions and giving detailed legal analysis of the latest court decisions that have decided challenges to how the Privacy Act has been enacted by various White House Administrations and Federal Agencies since the Act was passed.

What is covered by the Privacy Act?

The Privacy Act of 1974 established a “Code of Fair Information Practice that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personally identifiable information about individuals that is maintained in systems of records by federal agencies.”

The Privacy Act protects certain federal government records pertaining to individuals. In particular, the Act covers “systems of records” that an agency maintains and retrieves by an individual’s name or other personal identifier, such as your social security number.  (For clarification, a “system of records” refers to a group of records or a file under the control of a particular Federal agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifier assigned to the individual.)

With the advent of wide-spread use of computers and databases by the Federal Government, the Privacy Act was amended through the Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988, which added certain protections for the subjects of Privacy Act records whose records are used in automated matching programs, such as the establishment of Data Integrity Boards at each agency.

Privacy Act Requirements

But what rights do individuals have under the Privacy Act? According to the Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974 (2012 Edition), it gives individuals the right to review records about themselves, to find out if these records have been disclosed, and to request corrections or amendments of these records, unless the records are legally exempt.

From reading the publication, it seems the Act also requires that a Federal Government agency must:

  • give the public notice of their systems of records by publishing them in the Federal Register (also available as a subscription from GPO);
  • follow strict record-keeping requirements;
  • request the written consent of the subject individual for disclosure of their personal information– “unless the disclosure is pursuant to one of twelve statutory exceptions;” and
  • provide individuals with a means  by which they can access and amend (review and correct) records stored about them.

Your-Right-to-Federal-Records-2011-coverYour Right to Federal Records

For information about your rights to “discover, access and amend” Government records about you and frequently asked questions and answers about the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), you might want to check out the free publication, “Your Right to Federal Records available from the GSA’s Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC).

You may also be interested in learning more about the Freedom of Information Act by reading the Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, also published by the Justice Department and available in print from GPO.

Scope Issues

The Privacy Act does NOT apply to data collected about persons outside the United States, nor does it protect the privacy of your records that are maintained by the private sector, such as your credit report, bank account and medical records or even local or state government records like your driver’s license. Since many Americans today assumed that the battle to keep this non-Federal data private was already lost, it was comforting to discover that there is still a measure of privacy in data kept about you by the Federal Government.

And finally, while The Privacy Act does apply to the records of every “individual,” it nevertheless only applies to records held by an “agency.” Thus, any records ”held by courts, executive components, or non-agency government entities are not subject to the provisions in the Privacy Act and there is no right to these records.”  The Overview covers many questions about scope.

Exemptions and Exceptions

The most fascinating part of reading the publication to me– and timely considering the current news cycle– was to learn that there are situations where the Government is not legally required to follow the Privacy Act . According to the Overview, there are currently Twelve Exceptions to the “No Disclosure Without Consent” Rule of the Act and Ten Exemptions to the Privacy Act altogether where Federal agencies are not required to disclose records. 

Two of the ten exemptions outlined by the Overview are the “General Exemptions,” which apply to records about individuals maintained by

1)      the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and

2)      law enforcement agencies– or a component thereof— that primarily perform criminal law enforcement duties, “including police efforts to prevent, control, or reduce crime or to apprehend criminals.”

New proposed exemptions are offered all the time by subsequent Congresses and Administrations, such as the George W. Bush Administration’s agreement signed with the European Union in 2007 to share an airline’s Passenger Name Record as well as the utilize the Automated Targeting System.

Protecting-your-privacy

The questions about what constitute personally identifying data; what legal exemptions and exceptions apply; and how the Privacy Act has been interpreted over time by Federal Agencies, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Federal courts make up a good part of the Overview.

With post-9/11 security concerns driving Agencies’ desire for more information coupled with rapidly evolving technologies that enable greater collection and analysis of data, the publishers of the Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974 will certainly be kept very busy in upcoming years reporting on and analyzing new privacy regulations and court decisions that will follow.

How Can I Obtain These Privacy Publications?

Anyone concerned with the laws governing what the Federal Government is collecting and disclosing about individuals in the United States—and how much individuals can learn about it—should read this important publication.

  • Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974 (2012 Edition) in Print
    • Shop Online: Buy a print edition on the GPO U.S. Government Online Bookstore NOW ON SALE!!
    • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
    • Visit our Retail Store: Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
    • Find it in a Library: Search for it in a Federal Depository Library.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


People Get Ready, There’s a Storm Coming

May 29, 2013

Hopefully, you’ve never had to live through a hurricane or a tornado. I count myself lucky to have escaped the worst of the major weather events; living in an area that gets spent hurricanes is bad enough.

nhpwBanner2013If you live near the Atlantic Coast, as I do, you do need to worry about hurricanes. You want to remember June 1 as a significant date. It’s the start of the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to October 1. For that reason, NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) kicks off National Hurricane Preparedness Week every year before the season starts. If you can’t leave home to avoid being in the path of hurricanes, the next best thing you can do is be prepared.  Make plans for getting through a storm: family communication plans and buddy plans. Build your disaster kit.

After my family and I lived through a man-made disaster, we made an evacuation plan so we know how we’ll try to reach safety. You should talk with your family about emergency strategies. Having plans for a storm or disaster doesn’t mean you’ll be able to use them, but you’ll be far better off than if you don’t have a plan. Go through checklists you can find at www.ready.gov and find out everything you can to be organized.

Hurricanes: Information and Activity Booklet

For further children’s activities and tutorials, there’s Hurricanes: Information and Activity Booklet, designed for ages nine and older. The slim volume describes the history of the word “hurricane”, as well as the reasons NOAA attaches personal names to each hurricane. The work also explains hurricane wind scales, defines hurricanes and typhoons, and much more.

Of special note are the accompanying pictures of some of recent history’s most destructive storms—Irene, Dora, Kenneth, Rick, Katia and of course, Katrina—help students understand how colossal they are. The photos show the storms nestled up against landmasses that they overshadow. If you could not visualize how large and fearsome these storms were before, you’d know it after you saw their photos. The informative graphics, puzzles, tests and quizzes provided will give children a good basic understanding of hurricanes.

katrina_in_gulf_2005-08-28Image: NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Katrina, taken on Aug. 28, 2005, at 11:45 a.m. EDT, a day before the storm made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast. While in the Gulf of Mexico, Katrina’s winds peaked near 175 miles per hour. Credit: NOAA

After studying both Hurricanes and Watch Out-Storms Ahead!, your kids should be as intellectually prepared as they can be.

Ready…Set…Prepare!

ReadySetPrepareYou’ll want to pick up a copy of Ready…Set…Prepare! [for Ages 4-7] Reading it will help your kids learn how to help your family prepare for storms in a more practical sense. FEMA designed this activity book to teach kids ages four to seven how to prepare for disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

Two cartoon kid characters—Angela and Mario, along with their emergency expert friends Bright Shinely and Newser—learn what they, too, can do to help their families prepare for disasters. (Parents and teachers of Dora and Diego fans, take note: these characters will seem eerily familiar. ;-)

Each chapter gives the basic facts about evacuation plans, family communication plans, pet care plans, and the types of disasters. Practical lists are scattered throughout that may help adults as much as children, such as a disaster supply kit list. Fun exercises to color and flashcards to cut out with the child’s recently acquired scissoring skills are also included.

Ready-Set-Prepare_ages-8-11Your children will find some solid entertainment packed in with the lessons included in this book. They are likely to wind up exhorting you to get your emergency plan together—and what could be better than that? Getting yourself and the little people in your life ready for an emergency is one of the best things you could do to protect your most precious assets.

FEMA created another version of Ready…Set…Prepare! [for Ages 8-11]. This contains more sophisticated activities and lessons for the older elementary schooler to prepare for emergencies.

Watch Out…Storms Ahead! Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book

owlie-skywarn_coverAn important part of making these plans is educating the children in your life—your children, your students, etc. If you are working with school-aged children, a good place to start is the excellent picture/activity book, Watch Out-Storms Ahead! Owlie Skywarn’s Weather Book. This volume is a joint publication of NOAA, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the American Red Cross, and it covers tornadoes, lightning, floods and winter storms as well as hurricanes.

The book shows children what they can do to help their families get ready. There are quizzes, warnings, preparation and evacuation tips, and statistics that will help kids understand the importance of being prepared. Since the pictures are black and white, your kids can color them too. Throw this book and a packet of crayons in your disaster kit.

Sample question from the quiz: “A hurricane [blank] means a hurricane is expected within 36 hours and winds could reach 74 mph or more.” (answer: Warning)

How can I obtain these publications?

About the author: Our guest blogger is Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP). (Article is adapted from an original  post in the FDLP Community site blog by Government Book Talk Editor, Michele Bartram, GPO Promotions & Ecommerce Manager.)


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