Help Solve the Mystery - For Whom Were the Fired U.S. Attorneys Pushed Aside?

The nation's capital has been in an uproar this week over the U.S. attorney firings controversy. Both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees held hearings Tuesday on the matter, where six of eight former U.S. attorneys (all fired in late 2006) testified that they had been the target of complaints, telephone calls and threats from either a high-ranking Justice Department official or members of Congress in the days and weeks preceding their abrupt dismissals. The replacements for the attorneys are rumored to be political appointees with little prosecutorial experience.

The story dates back to March 2006, when President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act. The bill included a provision (inserted by a staffer to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) at the request of the Justice Department) allowing the DOJ to appoint U.S. attorneys indefinitely without a presidential nomination or Senate confirmation (previously, this type of appointment could last only a maximum of 120 days). In late 2006, the administration fired eight U.S. attorneys, insisting each dismissal was motivated by performance.

OpenCongress: Making citizens the "insiders"

The Sunlight Foundation has taken yet another big step in making government information more accessible to the public. This week, Sunlight launched OpenCongress, an exciting sister project of Congresspedia aimed at providing citizens with a user-friendly avenue to follow the nitty-gritty details of Congress. OpenCongress will track legislation, committees, member fundraising, and what the mainstream media and bloggers are saying about Congress. We believe the project is a great complement to our own project, as providing this wealth of data will help the citizen journalists on Congresspedia do more effective reporting. Together the narrative, citizen-generated content and the hard data combine to give the fullest picture of what Congress is up to.

Here’s the Sunlight Foundation’s Executive Director Ellen Miller to further explain the new project:

Embracing Wikis to Turn College Students into Public Scholars (Using Congresspedia)

Under the old, "broadcast" model of journalism and academia, undergraduate students were generally limited to consuming the scholarship of others while their own research and writing was largely confined to practice exercises. Now Congresspedia is engaging students in the new, participatory model of media and society by publishing their writing on the wiki rather than having it collect dust in a file drawer somewhere. As part of this project (our Student Editor Program), I met last week with the students of Prof. Phil Tajitsu Nash's Asian Pacific Americans and American Public Policy class at the University of Maryland. Prof. Nash's students are engaged in a fascinating research project on the movement for redress for Japanese Latin Americans who were put in internment camps during World War II. Despite enduring similar conditions to US-based Japanese Americans, they were exempted from the redress bill President Reagan signed in the 1980s.

Truth Voted Down in UK PR Ethics Debate

A majority of 350 people attending a debate on PR ethics voted against the team supporting the proposition that PR practitioners have a responsibility to tell the truth. The debate was hosted by the PR industry trade publication PR Week. The director of communications for the Church of England, Peter Crumpler, was disappointed with the result. "Truth and integrity have to be the cornerstones of our profession if we are to have any credibility with the media and the wider world," he said.


Participatory Democracy: Rate Your Senators' and Representative's Web Pages

The Sunlight Foundation, the Center for Media and Democracy's partner in Congresspedia, has been doing some really interesting participatory journalism lately. Their current project is to get citizens to rate the websites of their members of Congress for transparency and accountability. So far 294 members have been rated and, in the wake of members like Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) posting their daily schedules online, the bar is getting higher for what citizens expect. The best part is that when the results are all in, we're going to post them on every member's Congresspedia profile so it can become part of their permanent record.

Here's the Sunlight Foundation's Bill Allison to explain the effort and how you can participate:

Edelman's Contract for Ousted Thai Leader Worth $300k

The global PR firm Edelman's six-month-long contract to help build international support for Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a September 2006 military coup, has been revealed as being worth $300,000. The contract is via Thaksin's law firm, Baker Botts.



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