The best of the federal blogosphere

A Case Study in Hidden Dangers
Transportation Department
June 15, 2010

The Transportation Department’s "Fast Lane" blogger couldn’t let this opportunity go by.

In early June, a work crew installing utility poles in Cleburne, Texas, struck a natural gas pipeline, triggering a violent explosion that killed one worker and injured several others. The next day, a similar pipeline rupture killed two workers in Darrouzett, Texas.

The tragedies might have been avoided if the utility crews had called DOT’s 811 hotline to check on the presence of underground pipelines, the blogger writes. “America has a vital transportation system that remains virtually invisible to most of us: the network of 2.3 million miles of pipelines criss-crossing this nation just beneath the surface.”

According to DOT, 38 people were killed and 158 injured because of digging-related pipeline accidents from 2000 to 2009.

A Lesson in Leadership from Hole Eight
June 13, 2010

NASA Chief Information Officer Linda Cureton, fresh from a strategic planning retreat with her senior management team, reflects on a lesson in leadership that is often forgotten.

The issue is how to manage a team of people responsible for managing their own teams. As Cureton learned, thanks to a golf-themed team-building exercise — specifically, on hole eight — senior leaders often forget that they need a collective strategy to guide everyone’s efforts. Her team excelled in the course exercise, but only if viewed in isolation.

The problem is that it’s possible to have outstanding performance by individual teams while lacking coherent management across an organization.

“Leaders today who are facing extremely difficult problems with complex solutions that need more than their individual heroics to prevail,” Cureton writes. “They need a high-performing team of senior leaders who have a group focus, shared direction, and who know how to harness their collective strength to solve their most difficult problems.”

The Fight Against Human Trafficking
State Department
June 14, 2010

The State Department’s "DipNote" blogger pays tribute to people around the world who have taken a stand against human trafficking.

According to the department’s 10th annual “Trafficking in Persons Report,” released June 14, an estimated 12.3 million adults and children around the world are in forced labor, bonded labor or prostitution. In 2009, 4,166 cases were prosecuted successfully, the report states.

For example, Christine Sabiyumva, commander of the National Police's Women and Children's Brigade in Burundi, has personally conducted searches for human traffickers and children in prostitution, while also spearheading investigations and public awareness campaigns.

And Sattaru Umapathi, who is an anti-human trafficking officer at the Crime Investigation Department for Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, has been involved in rescue operations across India and helped bring about convictions of traffickers.

A Blogger Lands in Trouble
Amherst, Mass., School Committee
June 8, 2010

Many elected officials, especially at the state and local level, use blogging as a way to keep constituents informed and share ideas and views with them. However, questions have arisen in at least one community about whether such an online forum violates open-meeting laws that require officials to deliberate and conduct government business only during scheduled meetings that are open to the public.

Catherine Sanderson, a member of the regional school committee in Amherst, Mass., defends her use of a blog to interact with the public in response to a fellow committee member who questioned the fairness and legality of blogs such as Sanderson's in a local newspaper column. One of his concerns is that when other committee members read the blog, they are in effect exchanging information outside a legal public meeting.

Sanderson disagrees. “The point of the open-meeting law is to make sure that people don't discuss issues in secret,” she writes. "Blogs are the opposite of secret."

Other members of the school committee have requested guidance from the local assistant district attorney on the legality of the blogs. That opinion hasn't been issued.



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