The best of the federal blogosphere

Down on the farm
Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

More and more people are trying to grow their own food, in backyards and on rooftops or terraces. And many people who can't or don't want to go that far are shopping farmers' markets for local produce and meat.

The Agriculture Department's "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" blog reports that the department's Natural Resources Conservation Service is helping people who want to revitalize old farms that have fallen into disuse. The entry focuses on Dina Brewster, a Connecticut resident who restored the farm that her grandparents had established in the 1930s.

With the help of NRCS programs, "Brewster has adopted conservation practices such as crop rotation, cover crops, integrated pest management and a seasonal high tunnel that extends the growing season of her produce well into the winter months," writes blogger Kip Kolesinskas.

It's the mob, see?
The Justice Blog

The Obama administration's new strategy to fight organized crime includes a hefty IT component, but you wouldn't know it from Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement, published as an entry on the Justice Department's blog.

Holder's statement is long on generalities, short on specifics. He notes that "the problem of transnational organized crime networks isn’t new," but thanks to a recent study, "our understanding of what exactly we’re up against has never been clearer or more complete."

That understanding is that "criminal organizations are increasingly sophisticated. They know no borders," he writes. "They threaten the stability of our financial system, and the promise of a competitive marketplace. And their operations are putting far too many American businesses, government institutions, consumers and citizens at risk."

One has to turn to the actual strategy, via a link on Holder's post, to find out that it involves global intelligence and information sharing, and the specific threats targeted include intellectual property theft, which can come "through intrusions into corporate and proprietary computer networks" and can include theft of "movies, music and video games [and]...proprietary designs of high-tech devices and manufacturing processes."

No more X-ray vision for TSA
The TSA Blog

The Transportation Security Administration has some good news for travelers worried about TSA agents ogling — or laughing at — their naked bodies as they appear on the controversial full-body scanners the agency has been using.

Blogger Bob reports that TSA is about to start installing technology that changes the image on the scanner screen from the traveler's body to a vague human outline with the location of suspicious objects highlighted, or a green screen with a big "OK" on it if no unusual readings are detected.

With the new software, the agent will see a generic outline much like the humanoid icons on restroom doors. If the system detects anything suspicious, the agent will see a yellow box superimposed on the relevant part of the body image.

It's only a partial fix, though. TSA uses two kinds of scanners: millimeter wave and backscatter. The new technology is only for the millimeter wave machines. Testing for similar software that will work on the backscatter units is set to start in the fall, Bob reports.  

End of an (Ice) Age
NASA blog

While the world was watching the space shuttle era draw to a close in July, NASA scientists were documenting the end of another, lesser-known scientific mission: ICESCAPE, which stands for Impacts of Climate on Ecosystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment.

For two years, scientists have traveled to the Arctic Ocean to take water samples that will help them study how changes in the Arctic could be altering the ocean's ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

"NASA's Arctic Voyage" blog features a photo gallery from the mission.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.


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    Pilot Class. The author and Barbie Flowers are first row third and second from right, respectively.

    How VA is disrupting tech delivery

    A former Digital Service specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs explains efforts to transition government from a legacy "project" approach to a more user-centered "product" method.

  • Cloud
    cloud migration

    DHS cloud push comes with complications

    A pressing data center closure schedule and an ensuing scramble to move applications means that some Homeland Security components might need more than one hop to get to the cloud.

  • Comment
    Blue Signage and logo of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

    Doing digital differently at VA

    The Department of Veterans Affairs CIO explains why digital transformation is not optional.

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