Virginia is building the first state-level system for sharing cybersecurity information between the government and private industry to prepare for and respond to hackers. The state’s Information Sharing and Analysis Organization (ISAO) will facilitate the voluntary exchange of information between both sectors; the terms of participation may also include targeted liability protection for companies as well as measures to protect privacy and civil liberties. The federal government is also stepping up efforts to create ISAOs for collaboration between public and private sector entities.
A new program in New York City has built safe houses available free of charge to people suffering from mental health issues. Parachute NYC, a federally funded project, operates voluntary respite centers where those facing a crisis can check in and talk through their issues with staff members who have had their own mental health challenges. Visitors can stay up to 10 nights while they are receiving counseling, but are not administered medication or medical services on site. The goal is to help participants develop relapse-prevention skills and avoid being hospitalized, a more expensive form of treatment.
The EPA is distributing air quality data to the public with the installation of new solar-powered air monitoring stations fitted to park benches in cities around the country. Under the “Village Green” Project, passers-by can access information such as pollutant information, ozone, wind speed, temperature, and humidity, through displays providing minute-by-minute data that also stream online. Officials hope the benches will sensitize citizens to the science of air quality, empowering them to make it a priority in their community.
A growing number of school districts are actively employing metric analysis to improve their school operations, recording and analyzing data points related to bus routes, lunchroom preferences, classroom cleanliness, reading comprehension, photocopier use, disciplinary actions, math competence, and other areas. Armed with the data, schools can adjust their approach accordingly. For example, when the Arlington Independent School District near Dallas noted a drop in the size of its marching and concert bands, it waived instrumental rental fees, and participation rebounded. Although some critics worry about an overreliance on data, advocates observe that data used smartly can be a guidepost for best practices.
In Anoka County, Minnesota, the Sheriff’s Office has a new motor vehicle that allows investigators to download critical information from electronic devices at crime scenes. The state’s first mobile digital forensics lab allows law enforcement to capture photos, videos, texts, and other data and to record interviews. Officers executing search warrants in homes can gather data from a suspect’s house immediately. It is also hoped that witnesses might be more willing to part with their devices if they are only going to be taken to a nearby van for a forensic examination. The mobile unit will be deployed during major law enforcement actions.
On May 1, Connecticut became the first state with a statewide recycling program for used mattresses and box springs. The program, known as Bye Bye Mattress, is administered by the Mattress Recycling Council, a nonprofit organization created by the mattress industry to develop and manage the state's mattress recycling program mandated by law in 2013. The goal is to get old beds off the curb and into the renewable waste stream. Once processed, the mattress materials will be used in the metal industry or as the backings for carpets. The program is financed through a purchase price surcharge and reduces taxpayer outlays in mattress disposal. Similar laws have passed in Rhode Island and California.