The best of the federal blogosphere

Harrison Ford walks the red carpet
Transportation Department
Jan. 7, 2011

Actor Harrison Ford has never nabbed an Oscar, but then again George Clooney has never won the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy.

Randy Babbitt, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, presented the 2010 trophy to Ford last month at the Wright Memorial Dinner hosted by the Aero Club of Washington, writes Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at the "Fast Lane" blog.

Ford, a pilot, was honored for his extensive work encouraging kids to take an interest in aviation. He served as chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program, through which volunteer pilots offer many kids their first opportunity to fly.

Ford has flown with more than 300 kids, LaHood writes. “I can’t imagine how exciting it must have been for them to have Han Solo and Indiana Jones himself piloting their very first flight.”

Body scans: The big picture
Transportation Security Administration
Jan. 5, 2011

Contrary to rumor, the Transportation Security Administration did not scale back the use of the controversial whole-body scanners during the holiday travel season, writes TSA’s Blogger Bob.

Apparently, some people were suspicious because they did not see the Advanced Imaging Technology systems in action during their travels. They suspected TSA opted to stick with traditional scanning at many airports in hopes of keeping the security lines moving.

In fact, the AIT machines — 486 so far — are deployed at only 78 of the 450-plus airports in which TSA operates, according to Blogger Bob. The machines are periodically shut down for maintenance, and some systems will sit idle until security officers are fully trained.

So if the busy travel season passed relatively painlessly, it was “thanks to our hard-working officers and prepared passengers,” he writes.

ISPs: Change you can believe in?
Federal Communications Commission
Dec. 6, 2010

The folks at the Federal Communications Commission are wondering why so many people have been changing their Internet service providers.

According to a recent national survey, 38 percent of Internet users have chosen to switch ISPs in the past three years, writes Joel Gurin, chief of FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.

The numbers might be deceiving. Many respondents said they would switch except for the costs involved, which can include a deposit, an installation fee and, in some cases, an early termination fee.

But FCC officials are seeking more information on how users decide whether to switch. For example, 49 percent of respondents said they made the change to get a better connection, but many users also indicated they weren’t sure of their broadband speed.

“This survey, together with earlier data we’ve reported, underscores how much consumers need clear information to help them make smart choices about Internet service,” Gurin writes.

We the people: A historical perspective
Census Bureau
Jan. 4, 2011

Although recent decades have brought a major shift in immigration patterns, the size of the foreign-born population of the United States relative to the rest of the country has not changed dramatically in the past 150 years, according to the Census Bureau.

When the bureau first began collecting data on place of birth in 1850, immigrants made up 10 percent of the U.S. population. That rose to 15 percent by 1890, but now stands at 12 percent, notes the "Random Samplings" blogger.

The big change has been in the countries of origin, particularly in the second half of the 20th century. In 1960, 75 percent of foreign-born U.S. residents came from Europe, compared with 16 percent in 2000. In the same period, the percent of immigrants from Latin America increased from 6 percent to 51 percent.

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