Friday, May 13, 2016

Transparency in government research

Recently, Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, lifted policies from the previous administration that muzzled the government’s communication with the press and importantly, in my view, silenced government scientists and researchers.

Essentially, scientists and researchers working for the government were prohibited from talking with journalists under Stephen Harper’s regime. A reporter would either have to seek information from the communications office or undergo a burdensome process before getting interview approval. Even then, scientists and researchers were often equipped with scripted talking points.

Access to researchers is important in the world of journalism. In order for us to report accurate information, it is best to go directly to the source. When roadblocks get in the way, we get a watered-down version that fits the narrative of the owner of the information. In this case, the government. Basically, they are writing our story for us.

Transparency in government research is essential for journalists, not to mention citizens to ensure regulations based on that research are truly warranted.

The buzz phrase of the month in Canada now – “transparent government is a good government.”

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A government bureau that’s really here to help?

If you’ve listened to any of the presidential debates, you have heard them talk about “Dodd-Frank,” the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. In response to the recession suffered in the 2007-2008 financial crisis years, the U.S. Congress passed the act in 2010.

One of the things Dodd-Frank did was to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This bureau is an independent government agency tasked with making sure the banks and financial service providers – from payday loan cheats to we-finance-anyone tricksters – operate fairly.

Since it began in 2011, this bureau known as the CFPB claims it has helped return $4 billion to American consumers as a result of its enforcement actions.

It’s set up to be more than a complaint bureau. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB can take action against institutions or individuals engaged in unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices that violate federal consumer financial laws. And now the bureau wants even sharper teeth.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Here come the driverless trucks -- not

What’s all this fuss over self-driving trucks?

You’re forgiven if you think your job is about to disappear, especially if you follow the news. It can seem like driverless trucks will be passing you on I-80 next Tuesday.
 
Consider the trucking press. In April alone Transport Topics ran four stories about autonomous trucks or platooning. Fleet Owner Magazine ran four, and Heavy Duty Trucking ran five.

Transport Topics reported Google had joined Ford, Volvo (the Chinese-owned car division), plus smartphone-based car services Uber and Lyft to lobby in D.C. for driverless vehicles.

Transport Topics and Heavy Duty Trucking magazine described an ambitious platooning demonstration in Europe, featuring six platoons of two or three trucks apiece, each representing a truck manufacturer -- DAF Trucks (owned by Paccar), Daimler Trucks, Iveco, MAN Truck & Bus (owned by Volkswagen), Scania, and Volvo Group. Each platoon had its own starting point, and all converged in the Dutch port of Rotterdam. Scania had the longest trip, over 900 miles from Stockholm, Sweden.

Hey, Land Line is hardly ignoring the subject. In fact a Land Line contributing editor, our own Suzanne Stempinski, is one of the few people anywhere licensed to drive an autonomous truck, and she actually drove Daimler’s demonstration model in Nevada last year. I write about the subject myself from time to time. But I do take a very different view from some prophets.