Federal blog watch: Haiti, Chile and the NCAA

A look at some of the best blog posts from federal Web sites in recent weeks

Dispatch from Chile
Air Force Live
March 19, 2010

Amid the general reports of relief efforts that followed the massive Feb. 27 earthquake in Chile, Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Hanson at Air Force Public Affairs provides a window into the story of an Air Force medical team that set up a remote hospital in a particularly hard-hit area of that country.

The existing 190-bed regional hospital near Angol, a town of 110,000 people several hours' drive from the devastated city of Concepcion, was deemed structurally unsound after the 8.8-magnitude earthquake. The Air Force Expeditionary Medical Support team worked with Chilean soldiers for three and a half days to build a field hospital in Angol equipped with two operating rooms and 40 beds.

More than 60 Air Force medics then worked side-by-side with 50 Chilean medical professionals during a two-week operational period to provide patient care, including several surgeries. The Air Force formally turned over the facility to Chilean officials when they departed March 26, said Col. Byron Mathewson, commander of U.S. military forces deployed to Chile in support of earthquake relief operations.

A science team with a humanitarian mission
Office of the Science and Technology Policy
March 22, 2010

Kate Moran, a senior policy analyst, provides an account of a recent research expedition that doubled as a humanitarian mission to Haiti.

A marine geologist named Cecilia McHugh assembled a team aboard the Research Vessel Endeavor just days after the January quake. Her goal was to study the impact of the quake on the ocean floor, hoping to get a better understanding of the geological dynamics of the region. The expedition was remarkable in that it came together so quickly. It normally takes months to pull together such missions.

But it was also remarkable because the research team had a second objective: deliver 40 large tents that had been donated by children’s charity Plan USA. Also, before leaving the area, the Endeavor performed sonar surveys of an area where Haiti might build a new port, replacing the existing one, which is likely irreparable because of large amounts of earthquake-related wreckage.

Rock and roll lessons learned
AIDS.gov
March 23, 2010

Two staffers from the AIDS.gov team share some tips they have picked up by observing the innovative online efforts by the planners at the legendary South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas.

The first lesson is to take an iterative approach to development, writes Jeremy Vanderlan, AIDS.gov Web developer, and Cathy Thomas, AIDS.gov’s technical director. Rather than spend a long time trying to perfect an application, the goal was to develop it quickly and give the audience a chance to try it out.

“At SXSW, we heard that it can be valuable to release something online that is not yet perfect in the eyes of its creators but is valuable enough to allow the public to interact with it and provide feedback,” they write.

The AIDS.gov team also realized the value of providing users with information relevant to their location. For example, users looking for testing and treatment services need the ability to narrow the search to their specific area.

The Blind Side of March Madness
Education Department
March 26, 2010

Education Secretary Arne Duncan took a guest-turn on ESPN.com last month to shine a light on the underside of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

In this year’s tournament, which concluded April 5, 12 of the 65 teams failed to graduate 40 percent of their players, Duncan writes in the blog post, which was also posted on Ed.gov. And players already get plenty of wiggle room, having six years to graduate under NCAA rules.

Duncan is also concerned about the disparity in the graduation rates of white and black players. He notes that five teams in the tournament have had 20 percent or fewer of their black players graduate, and two teams — Maryland and California — have had none graduate among the players who entered the schools between 1999 and 2002.

“The majority of schools are running clean programs with high standards,” he writes. “But with so many examples of success, why tolerate the small number of schools and coaches who fail to set high expectations?” 

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