Friday, July 31, 2009

Federal Reserve Board Beige Book, July 2009
"Reports from the 12 Federal Reserve Districts suggest that economic activity continued to be weak going into the summer, but most Districts indicated that the pace of decline has moderated since the last report or that activity has begun to stabilize, albeit at a low level. Five Districts used the words "slow", "subdued", or "weak" to describe activity levels; Chicago and St. Louis reported that the pace of decline appeared to be moderating; and New York, Cleveland, Kansas City, and San Francisco pointed to signs of stabilization. Minneapolis said the District economy had contracted since the last report..."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

County Business Patterns, 2007.
"United States businesses with employees added more than 100,000
establishments in 2007, bringing the total number to 7.7 million and adding
more than 650,000 employees to their payrolls. Overall, employees of
businesses in the United States earned more than $5 trillion in annual
payroll in
2007, up from $4.8 trillion in 2006.

These economic numbers come from County Business Patterns: 2007, an
annual report that contains data covering establishments with paid
employees at the national and state levels, and in more than 3,100
counties. An establishment is a single physical location at which business
is conducted or services or industrial operations are performed. The report
provides data on the number of establishments, employees, and quarterly and
annual payroll for most of the 1,100 industries identified by the North
American Industry Classification System..."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

U.S. Newspaper Industry in Transition
"The U.S. newspaper industry is suffering through what could be its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Advertising revenues are plummeting due to the severe economic downturn, while readership habits are changing as consumers turn to the Internet for free news and information. Some major newspaper chains are burdened by heavy debt loads. In the past year, seven major newspaper chains have declared bankruptcy, several big city papers have shut down, and many have laid off reporters and editors, imposed pay reductions, cut the size of the physical newspaper, or turned to Web-only publication.

As the problems intensify, there are growing concerns that the rapid decline of the newspaper industry will impact civic and social life. Already there are fewer newspaper reporters covering state capitols and city halls, while the number of states with newspapers covering Congress full time has dwindled to 23 from the most recent peak of 35 in 1985..."
EMPLOYEE BENEFITS IN THE UNITED STATES, MARCH 2009
"While about 70 percent of workers in private industry had access to employer provided medical care benefits in March 2009, only 25 percent of the lowest wage earners – those with average hourly wages in the lowest 10 percent of all private industry wages – had such access, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. By contrast, nearly all workers with hourly wages in the highest 10 percent of all private industry wages had access to medical care benefits. (See table 2.) A worker with access to medical care benefits is defined as having an employer-provided medical plan available for use, regardless of the worker’s decision to enroll or participate in the plan. These data are from the National Compensation Survey (NCS), which provides comprehensive measures of occupation earnings, compensation cost trends, and incidence and provisions of employee benefit plans. Farm and private household workers, the self-employed,
and Federal government workers are excluded from the survey..."
THE ECONOMIC EFFECTS OF HEALTH CARE REFORM ON SMALL BUSINESSES AND THEIR EMPLOYEES
"Small businesses play an important role in the U.S. economy and are a strong driver of job growth and innovation. But small businesses are severely disadvantaged by the current U.S. health care system relative to their larger counterparts. A new report by the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) examines the challenges faced by smaller firms under the current health care system, and the likely impacts of health care reform on small businesses and the workers they employ. Key findings of the report include the following:

Small businesses are crucial to the economy.

Small businesses are an important source of job growth in the United States. Firms with fewer than 20 employees accounted for approximately 18 percent of private sector jobs in 2006, but nearly 25 percent of net employment growth from 1992 to 2005.
Small businesses account for a large majority of jobs in start-ups, a key source of innovation and economic growth..."
Download full report

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New York Leads in Per-Pupil Public Education Spending at Nearly $16,000, Census Bureau Reports
"Public schools in New York spent $15,981 per pupil in 2007, which was more than any other state or state equivalent, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. (See Table 11.) New Jersey ($15,691) and the District of Columbia ($14,324) had the next-highest spending. States spending the least per pupil were Utah ($5,683), Idaho ($6,625) and Tennessee ($7,113).

On average, each state spent $9,666 per pupil in 2007, a 5.8 percent increase over 2006. Of total public school financing, state governments contributed 47.6 percent, followed by local sources, which contributed 44.1 percent, and federal sources, which made up the remaining 8.3 percent. (See Table 5.)..."

Public Education Finances, 2007
Disability.gov
"In conjunction with the 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. Department of Labor has re-named and re-launched DisabilityInfo.gov as Disability.gov. Available at http://www.disability.gov, the site offers comprehensive information about programs and services to better serve more than 50 million Americans with disabilities, their family members, veterans, employers, educators, caregivers and anyone interested in disability-related information.

The new Web site integrates content from 22 federal agencies and will be managed by the Labor Department. The former DisabilityInfo.gov site was revamped with social media tools to encourage interaction and feedback, and new ways to organize, share and receive information. Visitors can sign up for personalized news and updates, participate in online discussions and suggest resources for the site. New features include a Twitter feed, Really Simple Syndication feeds, a blog, social bookmarking and a user-friendly way to obtain answers to questions on such topics as finding employment and job accommodations. Additional tools will be added during the months ahead..."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Federal Domestic Spending Increases 9.3 Percent in FY ’08
" The federal government obligated nearly $2.79 trillion in domestic spending for fiscal year 2008, up 9.3 percent from 2007, according to a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s equivalent to a total of $9,184 per person living in the United States. Entitlement programs Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security comprised 48 percent of all federal spending, accounting for $1.35 trillion. Of that amount, $659 billion went to Social Security. The one-year increase in spending for these three programs was approximately $359 for every person in the United States.

Federal per capita spending was highest for Virginia ($15,256), Maryland ($13,829) and Alaska ($13,730). States that had the lowest federal per capita spending were Utah ($6,255), Nevada ($6,638) and Wisconsin ($7,132).

Published annually since 1983, these statistics are presented in two publications — Consolidated Federal Funds Report: 2008, which describes the distribution of federal funds by department and agency, and by state and county — and Federal Aid to States: 2008, which shows federal grants to state and local governments. These reports do not include interest paid on the federal debt and foreign aid. Additionally, because the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed by Congress in 2009, monetary obligations from that legislation are also not included in these reports..."
Unmanned aircraft take on increased importance
"The U.S. military's expanded overseas use of unmanned aircraft highlights the increased importance of such aerial platforms to current and future military operations, senior Air Force officers said here July 23.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan announced July 23 will serve as a template for how the Air Force will look in 2047 - the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force -- Gen. William M. Fraser III, the Air Force's vice chief of staff, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.

"The future of our systems is really now," General Fraser said. "The Air Force today looks dramatically different than it did 35 years ago when I first came aboard on active duty."

The flight plan, he explained, lays out the Air Force's "vision for maximizing our efforts in unmanned aerial systems" today and in the future..."
LAWMAKERS RESPOND TO REPORT ON FORMALDEHYDE IN FEMA TRAILERS
"A report released Thursday by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Inspector General found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) did not act quickly or effectively when it became aware that trailers housing survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita may have had elevated levels of formaldehyde. In a letter sent to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, a bipartisan group of lawmakers asked him to implement the report’s recommendations without delay and report back to Congress in 90 days.

The report, FEMA Responses to Formaldehyde in Trailers (OIG-09-83), was required by an amendment passed by the Senate to the DHS Appropriations Act for FY 2008 that was sponsored by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn; Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery Chairman Mary Landrieu, D-La; Committee Members Mark Pryor, D-Ark, Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo; and Senator John Kerry, D-Mass.
The report details how FEMA spent a year deciding how best to ventilate the trailers, only to come to the same conclusion that had been reached long before, and how FEMA dragged its feet on testing the occupied trailers, acting only after senior DHS management became involved. Even after the decision was made to begin testing, FEMA caused months of delay by failing to promptly produce the necessary paperwork and telling the contractor to hold off on testing until it had decided how to respond publicly to the test results. Because of these missteps, FEMA did not have test results of formaldehyde levels in occupied trailers until almost two years after becoming aware of potential problems..."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What is the Car Allowance Rebate System?
"The CAR Allowance Rebate System (CARS) is a $1 billion government program that helps consumers buy or lease a more environmentally-friendly vehicle from a participating dealer when they trade in a less fuel-efficient car or truck. The program is designed to energize the economy; boost auto sales and put safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles on the nation's roadways.

Consumers will be able to take advantage of this program and receive a $3,500 or $4,500 discount from the car dealer when they trade in their old vehicle and purchase or lease a new one. Consumers you do not need to register anywhere or at anytime for this program. However, to find out eligibility requirements click here.

What is NHTSA doing to guard against fraud? Click here for more information. Allegations of fraud may be reported by calling our toll-free 24-hour hotline at 1-800-424-9071."
Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2009
"This report updates the 2008 recommendations by CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) regarding the use of influenza vaccine for the prevention and control of seasonal influenza (CDC. Prevention and control of influenza: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices [ACIP]. MMWR 2008;57[No. RR-7]). Information on vaccination issues related to the recently identified novel influenza A H1N1 virus will be published later in 2009. The 2009 seasonal influenza recommendations include new and updated information. Highlights of the 2009 recommendations include 1) a recommendation that annual vaccination be administered to all children aged 6 months--18 years for the 2009--10 influenza season; 2) a recommendation that vaccines containing the 2009--10 trivalent vaccine virus strains A/Brisbane/59/2007 (H1N1)-like, A/Brisbane/10/2007 (H3N2)-like, and B/Brisbane/60/2008-like antigens be used; and 3) a notice that recommendations for influenza diagnosis and antiviral use will be published before the start of the 2009--10 influenza season. Vaccination efforts should begin as soon as vaccine is available and continue through the influenza season. Approximately 83% of the United States population is specifically recommended for annual vaccination against seasonal influenza; however, <40% of the U.S. population received the 2008--09 influenza vaccine. These recommendations also include a summary of safety data for U.S. licensed influenza vaccines. These recommendations and other information are available at CDC's influenza website (http://www.cdc.gov/flu); any updates or supplements that might be required during the 2009--10 influenza season also can be found at this website. Vaccination and health-care providers should be alert to announcements of recommendation updates and should check the CDC influenza website periodically for additional information."
Obesity Prevalence Among Low-Income, Preschool-Aged Children --- United States, 1998--2008
"Childhood obesity continues to be a leading public health concern that disproportionately affects low-income and minority children (1). Children who are obese in their preschool years are more likely to be obese in adolescence and adulthood (2) and to develop diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, asthma, and sleep apnea (3). One of the Healthy People 2010 objectives (19-3) is to reduce to 5% the proportion of children and adolescents who are obese (4). CDC's Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System (PedNSS) is the only source of nationally compiled obesity surveillance data obtained at the state and local level for low-income, preschool-aged children participating in federally funded health and nutrition programs. To describe progress in reducing childhood obesity, CDC examined trends and current prevalence in obesity using PedNSS data submitted by participating states, territories, and Indian tribal organizations during 1998--2008. The findings indicated that obesity prevalence among low-income, preschool-aged children increased steadily from 12.4% in 1998 to 14.5% in 2003, but subsequently remained essentially the same, with a 14.6% prevalence in 2008. Reducing childhood obesity will require effective prevention strategies that focus on environments and policies promoting physical activity and a healthy diet for families, child care centers, and communities..."

Friday, July 24, 2009

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION RELEASES DATA ON LOCAL TELEPHONE COMPETITION
"The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today released new
data on local telephone service competition in the United States. Twice a year, all incumbent local
exchange carriers (incumbent LECs) and competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) are
required to report basic information about their local telephone service, and all facilities-based
mobile telephony providers are required to provide information about their subscribers, pursuant
to the FCC’s local telephone competition and broadband data gathering program (FCC Form 477).
Statistics released today reflect data as of June 30, 2008.
Summary Statistics
· End-user customers obtained local telephone service by utilizing approximately 124.6
million incumbent LEC switched access lines, 30.0 million CLEC switched access lines,
and 255.3 million mobile telephony service subscriptions at the end of June 2008.
· Of the 30.0 million CLEC end-user switched access lines, 9.4 million lines were provided
over coaxial cable connections. The 9.4 million lines represent about 71% of the 13.1
million end-user switched access lines that CLECs reported providing over their own local
loop facilities.
· Mobile telephony service providers reported 255.3 million subscribers at the end of June
2008, which is 17.0 million, or 7%, more than a year earlier. About 8% of these
subscribers were billed by mobile telephony service resellers.
· There was at least one CLEC serving customers in 82% of the nation’s Zip Codes at the
end of June 2008. About 97% of United States households resided in those Zip Codes.
Moreover, multiple carriers reported providing local telephone service in the major
population centers of the country.
· The 30.0 million lines reported by CLECs is about 19% of the 154.7 million total end-user
switched access lines reported for the end of June 2008.
· CLECs reported 12.4 million (or 14%) of the 89.6 million lines that served residential end
users and 17.7 million (or 27%) of the 64.7 million lines that served business, institutional,
and government customers."
New Resource Available to Help Decision-Makers Choose Cost Effective Substance Abuse Prevention Programs
"Communities can better develop comprehensive prevention strategies based on their unique needs and characteristics and use cost-benefit ratios to help guide their decisions with the help of a new publication released today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Frances Harding, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, made the announcement today at the 5th Annual Prevention Leadership Academy held in Chicago, Illinois.

Substance Abuse Prevention Dollars and Cents: A Cost Benefits Analysis is designed to help policymakers and other stakeholders use the results of cost-benefit analysis as an information tool for decision making and for selecting the substance abuse prevention programs that best apply available resources toward addressing their needs.

Among the key factors analyzed in the publication are:
· Extent of substance abuse among youth
· Costs of substance abuse to the nation and to states
· Cost savings that could be gained if effective prevention policies, programs, and services were implemented nationwide
· Programs and policies that are most cost beneficial

In addition, the report summarizes existing estimates of the costs of substance abuse and its damaging consequences and how these costs may be avoided by early prevention programs. For example, on the average, the return on investment in school-based prevention services ranged between $7.70 and $36 per dollar invested, with an average savings estimate of $18..."
Manure Use for Fertilizer and for Energy: Report to Congress
"The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to evaluate the role of animal manure as a source of fertilizer, and its other uses. About 5 percent of all U.S. cropland is currently fertilized with livestock manure, and corn accounts for over half of the acreage to which manure is applied. Expanded environmental regulation through nutrient management plans will likely lead to wider use of manure on cropland, at higher production costs, but with only modest impacts on production costs, commodity demand, or farm structure. There is widespread interest in using manure as a feedstock for energy production. While current use is quite limited, expanded government support, either direct or indirectly, could lead to a substantial increase in manure use as a feedstock. However, current energy processes are unlikely to compete with fertilizer uses of manure, because they leave fertilizer nutrients as residues, in more marketable form, and because manure-to-energy projects will be most profitable in regions where raw manure is in excess supply, with the least value as fertilizer."
FDA and Public Health Experts Warn About Electronic Cigarettes
"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced that a laboratory analysis of electronic cigarette samples has found that they contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze.

Electronic cigarettes, also called “e-cigarettes,” are battery-operated devices that generally contain cartridges filled with nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. The electronic cigarette turns nicotine, which is highly addictive, and other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user.

These products are marketed and sold to young people and are readily available online and in shopping malls. In addition, these products do not contain any health warnings comparable to FDA-approved nicotine replacement products or conventional cigarettes. They are also available in different flavors, such as chocolate and mint, which may appeal to young people.

Public health experts expressed concern that electronic cigarettes could increase nicotine addiction and tobacco use in young people. Jonathan Winickoff, M.D., chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Tobacco Consortium and Jonathan Samet, M.D., director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Southern California, joined Joshua Sharfstein, M.D., principal deputy commissioner of the FDA, and Matthew McKenna, M.D., director of the Office of Smoking and Health for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to discuss the potential risks associated with the use of electronic cigarettes..."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Secretary Napolitano Releases Report on Department’s Progress Fulfilling 9/11 Commission Recommendations
"Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today marked the fifth anniversary of the issuance of the 9/11 Commission Report by releasing a progress report outlining advancements in the Department’s capabilities to protect against and respond to acts of terrorism and other threats.

The report details the progress the Department has made on a range of 9/11 Commission recommendations—providing examples of new policies, initiatives and grants while reflecting DHS’ focus on enhanced science and technology, efficiency and fiscal responsibility and reinvigorated coordination with state, local, tribal and international partners.

“The 9/11 Commission’s recommendations have in many ways set the course for the Department’s efforts to combat security threats,” said Secretary Napolitano. “We have answered these challenges by building an agency far better equipped to combat terrorism, and we will continue to expand these capabilities as we move forward in our mission to keep America safe and secure.”

On Friday, Secretary Napolitano will meet with members of the National Security Preparedness Group—a bipartisan coalition of national security experts including former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge and co-chaired by former 9/11 Commission Chair Thomas H. Kean and Vice Chair Lee H. Hamilton..."
Detention Policy Task Force Issues Preliminary Report
"The Department of Justice and Department of Defense today announced that the Detention Policy Task Force, which was created pursuant to Executive Order 13493, has issued a preliminary report on military commissions and a process for the determination of prosecution forum for trials of suspected terrorists. A copy of the report is attached. As authorized by the Executive Order, the Attorney General and Secretary of Defense have also decided to extend by six months the period in which the Task Force will conduct its work and submit a final report.

The Attorney General and Secretary of Defense serve as Co-Chairs of the Detention Policy Task Force and have been represented on the Task Force by their designees. Other Task Force participants include designees of the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to the Executive Order, the Task Force’s mission is "to conduct a comprehensive review of the lawful options available to the Federal Government with respect to the apprehension, detention, trial, transfer, release, or other disposition of individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations, and to identify such options as are consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice." The Executive Order directs the Detention Policy Task Force to provide a report to the President within 180 days of the date of the Order, (by July 21, 2009), "unless the Co-Chairs determine that an extension is necessary.".."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Americans with Disabilities Act And the Rights of Persons with HIV/AIDS To Obtain Occupational Training and State Licensing
Questions and Answers on the Americans with Disabilities Act in regards to HIV/AIDS, occupational training and licensing.
FTC Testifies on Importance of Competition and Antitrust Enforcement to Lower-Cost, Higher-Quality Health Care
"The Federal Trade Commission today told the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance of the Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation that competition and the agency’s antitrust enforcement improves health care in the United States in two ways – first, by preventing or stopping anticompetitive agreements to raise prices and second, by helping to spur innovation that improves care and expands consumer access.

The testimony was presented by Richard A. Feinstein, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, and described the relationship between competition and antitrust enforcement, on one hand, and lower health care costs and increased health care quality on the other. According to Feinstein, the FTC has been the “cop on the beat” for the past 30 years in stopping
practices that are likely either to increase health care costs or to limit competition that could improve the quality of health care.

For example, the FTC has prevented anticompetitive agreements among health care providers to fix the prices they charge to a health insurance plan, conduct likely to raise prices without improving care. The Commission’s efforts also have helped assure that new and potentially more efficient ways of delivering and financing health care services can arise and compete in the marketplace.

The FTC has consistently opposed legislative proposals to exempt certain types of conduct, such as price-fixing, from antitrust scrutiny. At the same time, the agency has provided guidance on how health care providers can collaborate in ways consistent with the antitrust laws, as such collaborations have the potential to reduce cost and improve quality..."
Iran's Economic Conditions: U.S. Policy Issues
"The Islamic Republic of Iran, a resource-rich and labor-rich country in the Middle East, is a central focus of U.S. national security policy. The United States asserts that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and that Iran’s uranium enrichment activities are for the development of nuclear weapons. To the extent that U.S. sanctions and other efforts to change Iranian state policy target aspects of Iran’s economy as a means of influence, it is important to evaluate Iran’s economic
structure, strengths, and vulnerabilities.

Since 2000, Iran has enjoyed broad-based economic growth. However, strong economic
performance has been hindered by high levels of inflation and unemployment and low levels of foreign investment. Some contend that President Ahmadinejad’s expansionary monetary and fiscal policies have worsened unemployment, inflation, and poverty in Iran. Iran’s economic growth is expected to slow in 2009..."
Geospatial Information and Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Current Issues
and Future Challenges

"Geospatial information is data referenced to a place—a set of geographic coordinates—which can often be gathered, manipulated, and displayed in real time. A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer system capable of capturing, storing, analyzing, and displaying geographically referenced information. In recent years consumer demand has skyrocketed for geospatial information and for tools like GIS to manipulate and display geospatial information. Global Positioning System (GPS) data and their integration with digital maps has led to the popular handheld or dashboard navigation devices used daily by millions. The federal government and policy makers increasingly use geospatial information and tools like GIS for producing floodplain maps, conducting the Census, mapping foreclosures, and responding to natural hazards such as wildfires and hurricanes. For policy makers, this type of analysis can
greatly assist in clarifying complex problems that may involve local, state, and federal government, and affect businesses, residential areas, and federal installations."
Achievement Gaps: How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress
"In 2007, mathematics scores for both Black and White public school students in grades 4 and 8 nationwide, as measured by the main NAEP assessments of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), were higher than in any previous assessment, going back to 1990. This was also true for Black and White fourth-graders on the NAEP 2007 Reading Assessment. For grade 8, reading scores for both Black and White students were higher in 2007 than in the first reading assessment year, 1992, as well as the most recent previous assessment year, 2005..."
Employment-Based Health Coverage and Health Reform: Selected Legal Considerations
"It is estimated that nearly 170 million individuals have employer-based health coverage. As part of a comprehensive health care reform effort, there has been support (including from the Obama Administration) in enacting comprehensive health insurance reform that retains the employerbased system. This report presents selected legal considerations inherent in amending two of the primary federal laws governing employer-sponsored health care: the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC)."
Characteristics of Public School Districts in the United States: Results from the 2007-08 Schools and Staffing Survey
"This report presents selected findings from the school district data file of the 2007-08 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). SASS is a nationally representative sample survey of public, private, and Bureau of Indian Education-funded (BIE) K-12 schools, principals, and teachers in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The public school sample was designed so that national-, regional-, and state-level elementary, secondary, and combined public school estimates can be made. Public schools include both traditional public and public charter schools. The School District data file includes responses from school districts to the School District Questionnaire along with the "district items" taken from the Public School Questionnaire (With District Items) completed by the subset of public schools that were not associated with "traditional" school districts. These schools include state-run schools, traditional public schools in single-school districts, and independent charter schools."
Judge Sonia Sotomayor: Analysis of Selected Opinions
"...This report provides an analysis of selected opinions authored by Judge Sotomayor during her tenure as a judge on the Second Circuit. Discussions of the selected opinions are grouped according to various topics of legal significance.

As a group, the opinions belie easy categorization along any ideological spectrum. However, it is possible to draw some conclusions regarding Judge Sotomayor’s judicial approach, both within some specific issue areas and in general.

Perhaps the most consistent characteristic of Judge Sotomayor’s approach as an appellate judge has been an adherence to the doctrine of stare decisis, i.e., the upholding of past judicial precedents. Other characteristics appear to include what many would describe as a careful application of particular facts at issue in a case and a dislike for situations in which the court might be seen as oversteping its judicial role.

It is difficult to determine the extent to which Judge Sotomayor’s style as a judge on the Second Circuit would predict her style should she become a Supreme Court justice. However, as has been the case historically with other nominees, some of her approaches may be enduring characteristics."
Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food—Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences: Report to Congress
"This report fills a request for a study of food deserts—areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food—from the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. The report summarizes findings of a national-level assessment of the extent and characteristics of food deserts, analysis of the consequences of food deserts, lessons learned from related Federal programs, and a discussion of policy options for alleviating the effects of food deserts. Overall, findings show that a small percentage of consumers are constrained in their ability to access affordable nutritious food because they live far from a supermarket or large grocery store and do not have easy access to transportation."
DRUG CONTROL: U.S. Counternarcotics Cooperation with Venezuela Has Declined
"Hundreds of metric tons of cocaine flow annually from South America toward the United States, threatening the security and wellbeing of U.S. citizens. Since 2000,
the United States has provided about $8 billion to countries in the region to disrupt drug trafficking. Most of this assistance went to Colombia to reduce illicit drug production and improve security. In March 2009, the Department of State reported that Venezuela had become a major transit route for cocaine out of Colombia, with a more than fourfold increase in cocaine flow between 2004 and
2007. We determined (1) what is known about cocaine trafficking through Venezuela, (2) what is known about Venezuelan support for Colombian illegal armed groups, and (3) the status of U.S and Venezuelan counternarcotics cooperation since 2002..."
Congressional Pictorial Directory: 111th Congress
"The 111th Congressional Pictorial Directory provides a color photograph of each member of the House of Representatives and the Senate for the 111th Congress. It also includes information about a Member of Congress' length of service, political party affiliations, and Congressional district. Also contains pictures of the President, Vice President, and House and Senate officers and officials."
Competition in the Health Care Marketplace
Hearing. Thursday, July 16, 2009.
Testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announces the following Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance Subcommittee.
An Aging World: 2008
"...One purpose of this report, then, is to look at past, current, and projected numbers, proportions, and growth rates of older populations. Older populations also have increased because of worldwide improvements in health services, educational status, and economic development. The characteristics of older people are likely to be increasingly heterogeneous within nations. A second purpose of An Aging World: 2008 is to summarize socioeconomic statistics for both developed and developing nations. Comparable data are included for as many as 52 nations when the categories
are reasonably consistent. In 2008, these 52 nations (Appendix Table B-1) contained 77 percent of the world’s total population and are referred to as “study countries” at various points in the text..."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Birdwatchers No Featherweights in Contributions to Economy
"A new report released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows one of every five Americans watches birds, and in doing so, birdwatchers contributed $36 billion to the U.S. economy in 2006, the most recent year for which economic data are available. The report – Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis –shows that total participation in birdwatching is strong at 48 million, and remaining at a steady 20 percent of the U.S. population since 1996.

Participation rates vary, but are generally greater in the northern half of the country. The five top states with the greatest birding participation rates include Montana (40 percent), Maine (39 percent), Vermont (38 percent), Minnesota (33 percent) and Iowa (33 percent)..."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sixteen Percent Of High-Impact, High-Tech Firms Founded By Immigrant Entrepreneurs
"Sixteen percent of high-impact, high-tech firms have at least one immigrant founder, according to a study released today by the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Although these firms are concentrated in states with large immigrant populations, in most other respects they resemble high-impact, high-tech firms founded by native-born entrepreneurs.

Moreover, these immigrant entrepreneurs are highly educated and appear to be strongly rooted in the United States. Roughly 55 percent of the foreign-born founders hold a masters degree or a doctorate. In addition, they are more than twice as likely as native-born founders to hold a doctorate. Furthermore, 77 percent of the foreign-born high-tech entrepreneurs are American citizens and, on average, they have lived over 25 years in the United States. Two-thirds of them received their college degrees here, as well..."
Differences in Prevalence of Obesity Among Black, White, and Hispanic Adults --- United States, 2006--2008
"Obesity is associated with increased health-care costs, reduced quality of life, and increased risk for premature death (1,2). Common morbidities associated with obesity include coronary heart disease, hypertension and stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer (1,2). As of 2007, no state had met the Healthy People 2010 objective to reduce to 15% the prevalence of obesity among U.S. adults (3,4). An overarching goal of Healthy People 2010 is to eliminate health disparities among racial/ethnic populations. To assess differences in prevalence of obesity among non-Hispanic blacks, non-Hispanic whites, and Hispanics, CDC analyzed data from Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) surveys conducted during 2006--2008. Overall, for the 3-year period, 25.6% of non-Hispanic blacks, non-Hispanic whites, and Hispanics were obese. Non-Hispanic blacks (35.7%) had 51% greater prevalence of obesity, and Hispanics (28.7%) had 21% greater prevalence, when compared with non-Hispanic whites (23.7%). This pattern was consistent across most U.S. states. However, state prevalences varied substantially, ranging from 23.0% (New Hampshire) to 45.1% (Maine) for non-Hispanic blacks, from 21.0% (Maryland) to 36.7% (Tennessee) for Hispanics, and from 9.0% (District of Columbia [DC]) to 30.2% (West Virginia) for non-Hispanic whites. Given the overall high prevalence of obesity and the significant differences among non-Hispanic blacks, non-Hispanic whites, and Hispanics, effective policies and environmental strategies that promote healthy eating and physical activity are needed for all populations and geographic areas, but particularly for those populations and areas disproportionally affected by obesity..."
President's Malaria Initiative
"The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) represents an historic five-year expansion of U.S. Government (USG) resources to fight malaria in the region most affected by the disease. The President committed an additional $1.2 billion in malaria funding to this Initiative with the goal of reducing malaria-related deaths by 50 percent in 15 focus countries. This will be achieved by expanding coverage of highly effective malaria prevention and treatment measures to 85 percent of the most vulnerable populations – children under 5 years of age and pregnant women. This package of high-impact interventions includes insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs), indoor residual spraying (IRS) with insecticides, intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women (IPTp), and artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). Read Fast Facts About PMI [PDF, 599KB]..."
NIH and Wikimedia Foundation Collaborate to Improve Online Health Information
"The National Institutes of Health and the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that operates the Wikipedia® online encyclopedia, are joining forces to make health and science information more accessible and reliable. This collaboration is the first of its kind for both organizations.

"NIH works to ensure that the information it provides on science and health is of the highest quality and reaches the widest audience," said John Burklow, NIH associate director for communications and public liaison. "We look forward to this opportunity to collaborate with the Wikimedia Foundation and participate in a resource that is used by millions of people around the world."

On July 16, NIH will host Wikimedia staff and volunteers working in the sciences for an all-day event on its Bethesda campus. Participants will learn about the philosophy and mechanics of Wikipedia and will begin what is hoped to be a long-term dialogue aimed at improving public knowledge about health, science, and medicine. The international foundation has never before worked with a federal agency or a health sciences institution...

After the Wikipedia Academy, NIH subject matter experts will be able to contribute to Wikipedia and also help develop best practices for future sessions. Instructions about how to contribute, including video of the Wikipedia Academy at NIH, will be available on the NIH and the Wikipedia websites for scientists across the country."
New Roadside Survey Shows Steady Decline in Alcohol Levels, while Driver Drug Use is Detected
"A new roadside survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirms a continuing decline in the percentage of legally intoxicated drivers

In 1973, 7.5 percent of drivers had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. In the latest survey, that figure had fallen to 2.2 percent. A BAC of .08 or higher is now above the legal limit in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Previous roadside surveys conducted by NHTSA have measured only alcohol. But the 2007 survey used new screening techniques that detected other substances as well and in the future may help show the extent of drug impairment among drivers.

The survey found 16.3 percent of nighttime weekend drivers were drug positive. The survey focused on weekend nighttime drivers and found that the drugs used most commonly by drivers were: marijuana (8.6 percent); cocaine (3.9 percent); and over-the-counter and prescription drugs (3.9 percent)..."
Gang of Four” Congressional Intelligence Notifications
"“Gang of Four” intelligence notifications generally are oral briefings of certain particularly sensitive non-covert action intelligence activities, including principally, but not exclusively, intelligence collection programs, that the Intelligence Community typically limits to the chairmen and ranking members of the two congressional intelligence committees, and at times, but not always, to their respective staff directors.

Gang of Four notifications are not based in statute but have constituted a practice generally accepted by the leadership of the intelligence committees and that is employed when the Intelligence Community believes a particular intelligence activity to be of such sensitivity that a restricted notification is warranted in order to reduce the risk of disclosure, inadvertent or otherwise. Intelligence activities viewed as being less sensitive typically are briefed to the full membership of each committee.

In either case—whether a given briefing about non-covert action intelligence activities is limited to the Gang of Four, or provided to the full membership of the intelligence committees—the current statute conditions the provision of any such information on the need to protect from unauthorized disclosure classified information relating to sensitive intelligence sources and methods or other exceptionally sensitive matters..."
PREPARING THE WORKERS OF TODAY FOR THE JOBS OF TOMORROW
"In this report, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) presents a projection of potential developments in the U.S. labor market over the next five to ten years and discusses the preparations necessary to develop the 21st century workforce. We discuss the skills that will likely be most relevant in growing occupations, the value and limitations of our current post-high school education and training systems, and the characteristics of a more effective education and training structure.

At an aggregate level, the data indicate that the economy of 2016 will resemble the economy of 2008, with several important shifts that have implications for employment.

* Health care is forecasted to remain a large source of job growth in the labor market. The long-term trend toward more employment in health care is expected to continue, with many health care occupations, including medical records and health information technicians, registered nurses, clinical laboratory technicians, and physical therapists, expected to grow.
* The decades-long decline in the share of workers that are employed in manufacturing is expected to moderate. Some industries within manufacturing – such as aerospace and pharmaceuticals – are projected to create many jobs.
* The construction industry is projected to eventually recover and add jobs in the coming decade. This rebuilding would generate a demand for skilled workers such as electricians and plumbers..."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

House Democrats’ Health Reform Proposal: Preliminary Analysis of Major Provisions Related to Insurance Coverage
"CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) worked together to produce a preliminary analysis of the major provisions related to health insurance coverage that are contained in draft legislation called the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, which was released today by several House committees. Among other things, those provisions would establish a mandate for most legal residents to obtain insurance, significantly expand eligibility for Medicaid, and set up insurance “exchanges” through which certain individuals and families could receive federal subsidies to substantially reduce the cost of purchasing that coverage. The analysis issued today does not take into account other parts of the proposal that would raise taxes or reduce other spending (particularly in Medicare) in an effort to offset the federal costs of the coverage provisions..."
FTC Testifies About Crackdown on Scams Tied to the Economic Downturn
"The Federal Trade Commission testified before the U.S. Senate today on the agency’s campaign to crack down on scammers who are trying to take advantage of the economic downturn to push a variety of scams, such as phony job-placement and debt-reduction services, get-rich-quick schemes, and bogus government grants.

David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance that the Commission is taking steps to protect consumers, who are especially vulnerable to these “financial distress” scams during tough economic times.

"Opportunistic fraudsters have quickly adapted their schemes and sales pitches to take advantage of consumers during the economic downturn, with some capitalizing on the economic stimulus package. They use come-ons that offer the lure of free government grant money, guaranteed job placement, investments promising recession-proof income, access to credit cards, or debt-relief services,” Vladeck told the subcommittee.

In response to the rise in financial distress scams, on July 1, 2009, the Commission announced “Operation Short Change,” a joint initiative with 14 states, the Department of Justice, and other agencies that included more than 120 law enforcement actions, Vladeck testified. As part of this operation, the FTC brought eight new cases against companies that have conned consumers, and took action in seven additional cases earlier this year challenging similar misconduct. The new cases include one against the marketers of the widely publicized get-rich-quick schemes called “John Beck’s Free & Clear Real Estate System,” “John Alexander’s Real Estate Riches in 14 Days,” and “Jeff Paul’s Shortcuts to Internet Millions.” The Commission alleged that these schemes alone, promoted on the Internet and through misleading infomercials, have duped hundreds of thousands of consumers out of about $300 million. .."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and All-Hazard Warnings
"The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is built on a structure conceived in the 1950’s when overthe- air broadcasting was the best-available technology for widely disseminating emergency alerts. It is one of several federally managed warning systems. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) jointly administers EAS with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in cooperation with the National Weather Service (NWS), an organization within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NOAA/NWS weather radio system has been upgraded to an all-hazard warning capability. Measures to improve the NOAA network and the new Digital Emergency Alert System (DEAS) are ongoing. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), working with the Association of Public Television Stations, is implementing a
program that will disseminate national alert messages over digital broadcast airwaves, using satellite and public TV broadcast towers. This program, referred to as the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), is part of the Department’s response to an Executive Order requiring the Secretary of Homeland Security to meet specific requirements for an alert system as part of U.S. policy..."
Emergency Communications: The Future of 911
"Today’s 911 system is built on an infrastructure of analog technology that does not support many of the features that most Americans expect are part of an emergency response. Efforts to splice newer, digital technologies onto this aging infrastructure have created points of failure where a call can be dropped or misdirected, sometimes with tragic consequences. Callers to 911, however,
generally assume that the newer technologies they are using to place a call are matched by the same level of technology at the 911 call center. This is not the case. For example, except for some work-around solutions, Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs)—the call centers—cannot receive text messages. Technology to supply accurate location information for wireless calls is useless unless the systems receiving and processing the call have matching capability.
Modernizing the system to provide the quality of service that approaches the expectations of its users will require investments in new technologies. The general consensus is that these new technologies, collectively referred to as Next Generation 911 or NG9-1-1, should incorporate Internet Protocol (IP) standards. An IP-enabled emergency communications network that supports 911 will facilitate interoperability and system resilience; improve connections between 911 call
centers, provide more robust capacity; and offer flexibility in receiving calls.

Grants and loans, authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1), to support broadband deployment could be awarded for public safety. Thus, plans to expand broadband access across the nation can be meshed with plans to develop IP-enabled internetworks to meet emergency communications needs, including state-of-the-art 911 connectivity..."
Effects of Changes to the Health Insurance System on Labor Markets
"In the United States, health insurance coverage is linked to employment in ways that can affect both wages and the demand for certain types of workers. That close linkage can also affect people’s decisions to enter the labor force, to work fewer or more hours, to retire, and even to work in one particular job or another.

Changes to the health insurance system could affect labor markets by changing the cost of insurance offered through the workplace and by providing new options for obtaining coverage outside the workplace. For example:

Requiring employers to offer health insurance—or pay a fee if they do not—is likely to reduce employment, although the effect would probably be small.

Providing new subsidies for health insurance that decline in value as a person’s income rises could discourage some people from working more hours.

Increasing the availability of health insurance that is not related to employment could lead more people to retire before age 65 or choose not to work at younger
ages. But it might also encourage other workers to take jobs that better match their skills, because they would not have to stay in less desirable jobs solely to maintain
their health insurance..."
2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress
"he U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today issued its 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, a national study that explores changes in homelessness nationwide. HUD's assessment concludes that while overall homelessness in America held fairly steady from 2007 to 2008, the number of homeless families, particularly those living in suburban and rural areas, increased.

In addition to the annual report, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced that HUD will, for the first time ever, begin measuring homelessness on a quarterly basis to gain a better understanding of the impact of the current economic crisis on homelessness. The first "Homeless Pulse Project" for the first quarter of 2009 is now available..."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Obesity Among U.S. Adults Continues to Rise
"The proportion of U.S. adults who are obese increased to 26.1 percent in 2008 compared to 25.6 percent in 2007. The data come from CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a state-based phone survey that collects health information from adults aged 18 and over.

In six states – Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia – adult obesity prevalence was 30 percent or more. Thirty-two states, including those six, had obesity prevalence of 25 percent or more. Only one state, Colorado, had a prevalence of obesity less than 20 percent. But no state showed a significant decrease in obesity prevalence from 2007 to 2008.

More than 400,000 U.S. adults were surveyed in the 2008 BRFSS, which is the world’s largest telephone health survey. To assess obesity prevalence, survey respondents are asked to provide their height and weight, which is used to calculate their body mass index (BMI). A person is considered obese if they have a BMI of 30 or above..."

"New 8th Edition of "To Walk the Earth in Safety" Shows Continued United States Progress in Clearing Landmines and Destroying Conventional Weapons

"The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) has released the 8th Edition of “To Walk the Earth in Safety,” a report summarizing the accomplishments of the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program, the world’s largest such operation.

In 2008, the Department of State provided $123.1 million in mine clearance and weapons destruction assistance to 35 countries. Among the report’s success stories is Cambodia, where U.S. humanitarian mine action has contributed to a 72 percent decline in explosives-related casualties, a trend which should continue in the coming years.

PM/WRA recently celebrated the destruction of 1.3 million light weapons since 2001, a major milestone in reinforcing peace and the rule of law, while also destroying since 2003 over 30,000 man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) missiles, which pose a threat to global aviation when in the hands of terrorists or insurgents.

This year, PM/WRA’s Public-Private Partnership program has also increased to more than 60 members, in the United States and other countries, primarily non-governmental organizations, foundations, and civic and educational groups, which reinforce global mine action efforts..."
Late HIV Testing --- 34 States, 1996--2005
"Without effective antiretroviral therapy, most persons infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) will progress to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in approximately 10 years (1). Testing, diagnosis, and medical care soon after HIV infection and before developing AIDS can prevent unnecessary morbidity and mortality and reduce further HIV transmission. Persons who receive an AIDS diagnosis concurrently or soon after receiving their initial HIV diagnosis (e.g., ≤3 years) represent missed opportunities for prevention and treatment (2). A Healthy People 2010 developmental objective is to increase the proportion of new HIV infections diagnosed before progression to AIDS.* To characterize late HIV testing, CDC examined data from 1996--2005 from 34 states† with confidential name-based HIV and AIDS reporting (the most recent data available) to determine the percentage of persons who received an AIDS diagnosis ≤3 years after receiving their initial HIV diagnosis. The results indicated that, within 1 year of their HIV diagnosis, 38.3% of patients had received an AIDS diagnosis; another 6.7% received an AIDS diagnosis from 1 to 3 years after their HIV diagnosis. Compared with whites, greater percentages of persons of all other racial/ethnic populations received an AIDS diagnosis ≤3 years after their initial HIV diagnosis. These findings underscore the need for comprehensive HIV testing programs that include both routine screening of persons aged 13--64 years and more frequent testing for persons at increased risk and, therefore, in greater need of periodic HIV testing.

HIV infection and AIDS are notifiable health conditions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories. Although all states have had AIDS reporting since the early 1980s, states have implemented HIV infection reporting over time; national HIV surveillance§ with uniform reporting was not implemented fully until 2008. CDC regards data from states with confidential, name-based, HIV surveillance systems sufficient to monitor trends and estimate risk behaviors for HIV infection after 4 years of reporting (3). The HIV and AIDS diagnosis data in this report were obtained from the 34 states with such reporting since December 2003..."
America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2009
"..America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2009 is a compendium of indicators illustrating both the promises and the difficulties confronting our Nation's young people. The report presents 40 key indicators on important aspects of children's lives. These indicators are drawn from our most reliable statistics, easily understood by broad audiences, objectively based on substantial research, balanced so that no single area of children's lives dominates the report, measured regularly so that they can be updated to show trends over time, and representative of large segments of the population rather than one particular group.

This year's report continues to present key indicators grouped by the seven sections identified in the restructured 10th anniversary report (2007): family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health. The report incorporates several modifications that reflect the Forum's ongoing efforts to improve its quality and comprehensiveness: updates to data sources and substantive expansions or clarifications have been made for several indicators; a regular indicator on adolescent depression has been added, addressing an ongoing data gap on the mental heath of children; and a special feature, Children with Special Health Care Needs, has been included..."
FED INFO-E-Newsletter
Consumer information newsletter from the Federal Citizen Information Center
Canada: Country Analysis
"Canada has considerable natural resources and is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of energy. In 2006, Canada produced 19.3 quadrillion British Thermal Units (Btu) of total energy, the fifth-largest amount in the world. Since 1980, Canada’s total energy production has increased by 87 percent, while its total energy consumption has increased by only 44 percent. Almost all of Canada’s energy exports go to the United States, making it the largest source of U.S. energy imports. Canada is consistently among the top sources for U.S. oil imports, and it is the largest source of U.S. natural gas and electricity imports. Recognizing the importance of the energy trade between the two countries, both participate in the North American Energy Working Group, which seeks to improve energy integration and cooperation between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico."
Iraq: U.S. Casualties
"he following casualty data were compiled by the Department of Defense (DOD), as tallied from the agencys press releases. Table 1 provides statistics on fatalities during Operation Iraqi Freedom, which began on March 19, 2003, and is ongoing, as well as on the number of fatalities since May 1, 2003, plus statistics on those wounded, but not killed, since March 19, 2003. Statistics may be revised as circumstances are investigated and as all records are processed through the U.S. militarys casualty system. More frequent updates are available at DODs website at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/ under Casualty Update. A detailed casualty summary that includes data on deaths by cause, as well as statistics on soldiers wounded in action, is available at DODs website at http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/CASUALTY/castop.htm. Table 1. Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. Fatalities and Wounded as of June 25, 2009, 10 a.m. EST Fatalities March 19, 2003, to the Present May 1, 2003, to the Present Wounded March 19, 2003, to the Present Hostile 3,455 3,337 In actiona 31,368 Non-hostile 863 829 Not Returned to Duty 13,809 Total 4,318 4,166..."
Tunisia: Current Issues
"Tunisia has a stable, highly authoritarian government led by President Zine ben Ali, who was elected to a fourth term on October 24, 2004 and will run for a fifth term in October 2009. Ben Alis Constitutional Democratic Rally party controls parliament, state and local governments, and most political activity. There are significant limitations on human rights but marked advancements for women and girls. Tunisia has experienced occasional attacks by Islamist terrorists, and Tunisian expatriates have been arrested in Europe and North America on terrorism-related charges. Tunisia is a non-oil-exporting, middle-class country with a diverse, growing economy, and high unemployment. U.S.-Tunisian relations today largely emphasize cooperation in terrorism, although Tunisia would like greater focus on trade."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

FDA Safety and Consumer Protections Are Often Less Stringent Than Comparable EPA Protections for Tap Water
"Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I am pleased to be here today to discuss the quality and safety of bottled water and its environmental impacts. Over the past decade, the per capita consumption of bottled water in the United States has more than doubled—from 13.4 gallons per person in 1997 to 29.3 gallons per person in 2007. With this increase have come several concerns, raised by public interest groups in recent years, over bottled water’s quality and safety. For example, water quality testing conducted by some of these groups, and others, has shown that bottled water does not necessarily have lower levels of contamination than tap water. Furthermore, bottled water’s potential environmental impact has also come under scrutiny. Several organizations have raised concerns about a low recycling rate for plastic water bottles, the amount of energy used to manufacture and transport the product, and the impact of groundwater extraction on local resources. My testimony is based on our June 2009 report,1 which is being publicly released today and addresses three issues: (1) the extent to which federal and state authorities regulate the quality of bottled water to ensure its safety, (2) the extent to which federal and state authorities regulate the accuracy of labels or claims regarding the purity and source of bottled water, and (3) the environmental impacts of bottled water..."
U.S. Obesity Trends 1985–2008
"Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. BMI is calculated from a person’s weight and height and provides a reasonable indicator of body fatness and weight categories that may lead to health problems. Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

During the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. In 2008, only one state (Colorado) had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-two states had a prevalence equal to or greater than 25%; six of these states (Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia ) had a prevalence of obesity equal to or greater than 30%..."
NEW RATINGS FOR AMERICAS HOSPITALS NOW AVAILABLE ON HOSPITAL COMPARE WEB SITE
"Important new information was added today to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Hospital Compare Web site that reports how frequently patients return to a hospital after being discharged, a possible indicator of how well the facility did the first time around. The site is www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov.

On average, 1 in 5 Medicare beneficiaries who are discharged from a hospital today will re-enter the hospital within a month. Reducing the rate of hospital readmissions to improve quality and achieve savings are key components of President Obama’s health care reform agenda.

"The President and Congress have both identified the reduction of readmissions as a target area for health reform," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "When we reduce readmissions, we improve the quality of care patients receive and cut health care costs."

With the update announced today, Hospital Compare will provide better data on the previously posted mortality rates for individual hospitals, as well as the new data on 30-day readmissions for heart attack, heart failure, and pneumonia. Previously, Hospital Compare had provided only mortality rates for these three conditions..."
Administration’s Regulatory Reform Agenda Moves Forward:Legislation for Strengthening Investor Protection Delivered to Capitol Hill
"Continuing its push to establish new rules of the road and make the financial system more fair for consumers and investors, the Administration today delivered proposed legislation to strengthen the SEC's authority to protect investors. The legislation outlines steps to establish consistent standards for all those who provide investment advice about securities, to improve the timing and the quality of disclosures, and to require accountability from securities professionals. The legislation would also establish a permanent Investor Advisory Committee to keep the voice of investors present at the SEC..."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

2009 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey
"The preliminary estimate of total ducks from the 2009 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey was 42 million, which is 13 percent greater than last year’s estimate and 25 percent greater than the 1955-2008 average, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today.

The Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey samples more than two million square miles of waterfowl habitat across the north-central and northeastern United States, south-central, eastern, and northern Canada, and Alaska. The survey estimates the number of ducks on the continent's primary nesting grounds.

Overall, habitat conditions for breeding waterfowl in 2009 were better than conditions in 2008. The total pond estimate (Prairie Canada and United States combined) was 6.4 million. This was 45 percent above last year’s estimate of 4.4 million ponds and 31 percent above the long-term average of 4.9 million ponds..."
U.S. DOT Proposes New Tire Fuel Efficiency Ratings for American Consumers
"The U.S. Department of Transportation today proposed a new, consumer-friendly replacement tire label which would include, for the first time, information about the tire’s impact on fuel economy and CO2 emission reductions. Tires with lower rolling resistance – and proper inflation pressure - can contribute to improved fuel economy.

In addition to the new fuel efficiency ratings, the proposal by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also would provide consumers with two other key pieces of tire performance information - wet weather traction and tread wear. All three ratings would be prominently displayed on a removable label attached to the replacement tire at the point of sale.

The new, three-tiered ratings also will appear on safercar.gov to help consumers in compare ratings as they shop for new tires..."
U.S. - Japan Investment Initiative 2009 Report
"The U.S. Department of State and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) of Japan released today the United States – Japan 2009 Investment Initiative Report.

Since 2001, the United States-Japan Investment Initiative has served as a forum for bilateral cooperation on issues related to foreign direct investment (FDI) in both countries. FDI is a critical contributor to the economic prosperity of both countries and, despite the current economic downturn, Japan and the United States continue to attract FDI inflows.

This year's Investment report details the climate for FDI in each country and the work of the bilateral Investment Working Group. Among the subjects the Working Group discussed during the past year are:

1. Ongoing efforts by the Japanese government to promote FDI in Japan, including the revised Program for Acceleration of Foreign Direct Investment in Japan;
2. Regulatory frameworks to review FDI that are of potential national security concern;
3. The deliberations of METI's Corporate Value Study Group and Corporate Governance Study Group;
4. The status of U.S. and Japanese negotiations with third countries on Bilateral Investment Treaties and trade agreements with investment provisions..."
National Institutes of Health Guidelines on Human Stem Cell Research
"SUMMARY: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is hereby publishing final "National Institutes of Health Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research" (Guidelines).

On March 9, 2009, President Barack H. Obama issued Executive Order 13505: Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells. The Executive Order states that the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the Director of NIH, may support and conduct responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research, to the extent permitted by law.

These Guidelines implement Executive Order 13505, as it pertains to extramural NIH-funded stem cell research, establish policy and procedures under which the NIH will fund such research, and helps ensure that NIH-funded research in this area is ethically responsible, scientifically worthy, and conducted in accordance with applicable law. Internal NIH policies and procedures, consistent with Executive Order 13505 and these Guidelines, will govern the conduct of intramural NIH stem cell research.

EFFECTIVE DATE: These Guidelines are effective on July 7, 2009..."
Judge Sonia Sotomayor: Analysis of Selected Opinions, June 19, 2009
"In May 2009, Supreme Court Justice David Souter announced his intention to retire from the Supreme Court. Several weeks later, President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to fill his seat. To fulfill its constitutional “advice and consent” function, the Senate will consider Judge Sotomayor’s extensive record – compiled from years as a lawyer, prosecutor, district court judge, and appellate court judge – to better understand her legal approaches and judicial philosophy.

This report provides an analysis of selected opinions authored by Judge Sotomayor during her tenure as a judge on the Second Circuit. Discussions of the selected opinions are grouped according to various topics of legal significance.

As a group, the opinions belie easy categorization along any ideological spectrum. However, it is possible to draw some conclusions regarding Judge Sotomayor’s judicial approach, both within some specific issue areas and in general.

Perhaps the most consistent characteristic of Judge Sotomayor’s approach as an appellate judge has been an adherence to the doctrine of stare decisis, i.e., the upholding of past judicial precedents. Other characteristics appear to include what many would describe as a careful application of particular facts at issue in a case and a dislike for situations in which the court might be seen as oversteping its judicial role..."
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses
"President Obama has said his Administration shares the goals of the previous Administration to contain Iran’s strategic capabilities and regional influence, but the Obama Administration has formulated approaches to achieve those goals that differ from those of its predecessor—in particular through expanded direct diplomatic engagement with Iran. This effort has begun to be put in practice with messages to the Iranian people by President Obama, and through a growing
number of invitations to and contact with Iranian diplomats at multilateral meetings, including those on Iran’s nuclear program. The Administration also has de-emphasized policies that have angered Iranian leaders including: ratcheting up international sanctions, efforts to promote democracy in Iran, and the potential for U.S. military action. In May 2009, President Obama said his Administration might renew the previous focus on sanctioning and pressuring Iran if, by the
end of 2009, Iran does not show signs of willingness to compromise. Bills in the 111th Congress, such as H.R. 2194 and S. 908, would tighten U.S. sanctions on Iran by amending the Iran Sanctions Act to penalize sales to Iran of gasoline.

Before Iran’s June 12, 2009, presidential elections, there was debate over whether the new approaches would yield clear results. The U.S. strategy has been further complicated by the allegations of a “stolen election” by the challengers to declared election winner, incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the large protests held to demand a new vote. Administration officials say that U.S. goals have not been altered by the election and President Obama, while criticizing Iran’s use of violence against protesters, has not announced any changes in policy toward Iran. Congress has passed resolutions that express solidarity with the demonstrators and condemn the regime’s repression of them..."
FBI Releases 2008 Bank Crime Statistics
"Today the FBI released bank crime statistics for calendar year 2008. Between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2008, there were 6,700 robberies of financial institutions*, as well as 121 burglaries and 28 larcenies reported. This represents 6,849 reported violations of the Federal Bank Robbery and Incidental Crimes Statute.

“While the statistics released today show a slight decrease from the 6,933 reported violations in 2007, we recognize that these crimes take a serious financial toll on the community,” said Assistant Director Kevin Perkins, FBI Criminal Investigative Division. "The FBI remains committed to working with local authorities and bank officials to catch bank bandits and prevent bank crimes from occurring.""
View full report.
FBI Issues 2008 Mortgage Fraud Report
"According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2008 Mortgage Fraud Report, released today, mortgage fraud Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) referred to law enforcement increased 36 percent to 63,713 during fiscal year (FY) 2008, compared to 46,717 reports in FY 2007. While the total dollar loss attributed to mortgage fraud is unknown, financial institutions reported losses of at least $1.4 billion, an increase of 83.4 percent from FY 2007.

“Mortgage fraud hurts borrowers, financial institutions, and legitimate homeowners,” said Assistant Director Kevin Perkins, FBI Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI, in conjunction with our law enforcement, regulatory, and industry partners, continues to diligently pursue perpetrators of mortgage fraud schemes.”"
View full report

Friday, July 3, 2009

Agencies Publish Final Rules and Guidelines to Promote Accurate Reports About Consumers
"The federal financial regulatory agencies and the Federal Trade Commission yesterday published final rules and guidelines to promote the accuracy and integrity of information furnished to credit bureaus and other consumer reporting agencies, and widely used to determine consumers' eligibility for credit, employment, insurance, and rental housing.

As required by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Trade Commission, National Credit Union Administration, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and Office of Thrift Supervision are publishing these final rules and guidelines, with an effective date of July 1, 2010.

Under the rules, entities that furnish information about consumers to consumer reporting agencies generally must include a consumer's credit limit in the information provided. The federal agencies are also publishing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to identify possible additions to the information that furnishers must provide to consumer reporting agencies, such as the account opening date.

Also, under the rules, if a consumer believes his or her credit report includes inaccurate information, the consumer may submit a dispute directly to the entity that provided the information to the consumer reporting agency, and that entity must investigate the dispute. The rules do not change a consumer's ability to submit a dispute to a consumer reporting agency or a furnisher's duty to investigate a dispute referred by a reporting agency."
Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.
"U.S. farmers have adopted genetically engineered (GE) crops widely since their introduction in 1996, notwithstanding uncertainty about consumer acceptance and economic and environmental impacts. Soybeans and cotton genetically engineered with herbicide-tolerant traits have been the most widely and rapidly adopted GE crops in the U.S., followed by insect-resistant cotton and corn. This data product summarizes the extent of adoption of herbicide-tolerant and insect–resistant crops since their introduction in 1996. Three tables devoted to corn, cotton, and soybeans cover the 2000-09 period by State. See more on the extent of adoption..."
Food Security Assessment 2008-2009
"Food security in 70 developing countries is projected to deteriorate over the next decade, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service. After rising nearly 11 percent from 2007 to 2008, the number of food-insecure people in the developing countries analyzed by ERS researchers is estimated to rise to 833 million in 2009, an almost 2-percent rise from 2008 to 2009. Despite a decline in food prices in late 2008, deteriorating purchasing power and food security are expected in 2009 because of the growing fi nancial defi cits and higher infl ation that have occurred in recent years. Food-insecure people are defi ned as those consuming less than the nutritional target of 2,100 calories per day per person."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

LC Trace Bullets: Environmental Science Projects
"Environmental issues are important to today’s youth and this interest is reflected in their science fair projects. Science Fair administrators estimate an increase in the number of environmental projects with 40% of all projects directly relating to the environment. These projects highlight growing concerns about sustainability, climate change, and the effects of pollution on air, water, and vegetation. They also serve to educate the student’s peers and others about the environment.

This guide provides sources to assist middle school students and teachers in planning, preparing, and executing environmental science fair projects and updates Environmental Science Projects (TB 97-6). Sources in other areas of science are listed in Science Fair Projects (LC Science Tracer Bullet 07-6). More specialized titles are listed in Space Science Projects (LC Science Tracer Bullet 06-3) and Science Projects in Biology (LC Science Tracer Bullet 93-6). Not intended to be a comprehensive bibliography, this guide is designed--as the name of the series implies--to put the reader “on target.”"
IT Dashboard
"The IT Dashboard provides the public with an online window into the details of Federal information technology investments and provides users with the ability to track the progress of investments over time. The IT Dashboard displays data received from agency reports to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), including general information on over 7,000 Federal IT investments and detailed data for nearly 800 of those investments that agencies classify as "major". The performance data used to track the 800 major IT investments is based on milestone information displayed in agency reports to OMB called "Exhibit 300s" Agency CIOs are responsible for evaluating and updating select data on a monthly basis, which is accomplished through interfaces provided on the website."
Recovery Act Funding Community Health Centers
"Nearly $3 billion in Recovery Act funding will support the expansion, improvement, and renovation of community health centers and other programs that serve patients in communities across the country to better serve the nation’s most vulnerable families."
The Special Immigrant Nonminister Religious Worker Program
"As mandated in the Special Immigrant Nonminister Religious Worker Program Act, we examined United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations, published in November 2008, designed to decrease benefit fraud. We concluded that USCIS has taken steps that can reasonably be expected to reduce fraud in special immigrant nonminister petitions, but that it is not possible to determine the exact amount of fraud reduction attributable to the new regulations.

Adjudicators find nonminister petitions challenging, but the regulation has provided important tools, like an attestation requirement for petitioning organizations, to help identify fraudulent cases. Adjudicators said that the new process provides effective fraud deterrence.

USCIS managers said that more subtle fraud is expected to persist. We are making 5 recommendations to facilitate enhancements to the existing regulatory scheme..."
Who Marries and When? Age at First Marriage in the United States: 2002
"During the latter half of the 20th century, there were notable increases in the age at first marriage among Americans and related increases in the proportion of unmarried and never-married adults (1,2). Research finds that, in comparison with unmarried persons, married persons tend to exhibit greater physical, emotional, and economic wellbeing, although the association may vary by outcome, sex, and other factors (3–5). Children in households with two married parents differ from those in other types of households on measures such as child achievement, but the causal processes are complex (4,6,7). Given the potential benefits of marriage, concerns over a decline in marriage have prompted a great deal of attention as well as investment in marriage promotion programs, such as the Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy Marriage Initiative (8). This report highlights what we know about the incidence and timing of first marriage among women and men 15–44 years of age in the United States, based on data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) conducted in 2002."
Annual Report to Congress on White House Staff
"Today, the White House publicly disclosed its Annual Report to Congress on White House Staff.

Since 1995, the White House has been required to deliver a report to Congress listing the title and salary of every White House Office employee. Consistent with President Obama's commitment to transparency, this report is being publicly disclosed on our website as it is transmitted to Congress. In addition, this report also contains the title and salary details of administration officials who work at the Office of Policy Development, including the Domestic Policy Council and the National Economic Council -- along with White House Office employees.

You can download the report as a pdf.."
Post 9/11 GI Bill eligibility criteria released
"Manpower’s Plans and Policy Division released Marine Administrative Message 389-09 on June 29, listing eligibility criteria for the Post -9/11 GI Bill, which takes effect August 1.

The Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008, signed into law on June 30, 2008, by former President George W. Bush, expands education benefits to service members who served on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001.

The new program will include coverage of tuition and fees, an improved basic allowance for housing, a $1,000 stipend for books or the opportunity to transfer these benefits to a dependent. Also, service members will not have to pay into the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which was required to receive the Montgomery GI Bill. Individuals who paid the $1,200 for the MGIB are eligible for the Post 9/11 GI Bill and will receive their money back upon depletion of the 36 months of benefits.

Active duty or reserve service members who collectively served at least 90 days on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001, will be considered for determining the individual’s eligibility for the new benefits. Individuals honorably discharged for a service-connected disability who served 30 consecutive days after Sept. 10, 2001, may also establish eligibility.

For service members who don’t have much active duty service after 9/11, the Montgomery GI Bill is still a viable option and possibly better suited for their needs. Individuals who wish to use the MGIB will have to request it when starting class..."
Nearly 44 Million in United States Without Health Insurance in 2008
"An estimated 43.8 million Americans had no health insurance in 2008, approximately 2.8 million more than in 1997, according to new data from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

The report, “Health Insurance Coverage: Early Release of Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, 2008,” presents the latest insurance estimates for the United States.

The report also contains new estimates of health insurance coverage for the 20 largest states, and shows Massachusetts had the lowest percentage of uninsured individuals under age 65 (3.4 percent) in 2008. In contrast, approximately 1 in 4 persons under age 65 lacked coverage in Florida and Texas, and 1 in 5 lacked coverage in Arizona, California and Georgia. Nationally, 16.7 percent of those under age 65 were uninsured in 2008..."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New Orleans was Nation’s Fastest-Growing City in 2008 Population Getting Closer to Pre-Katrina Levels
" The population of New Orleans grew 8.2 percent in 2008, faster than any other large city in the U.S., according to population estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. As of July 1, 2008, the population of New Orleans was 311,853, up from 210,768 in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina but still below the pre-hurricane level of 484,674 based on the 2000 Census.

“As the 2010 Census approaches, these population estimates provide a sense of the population trends throughout the decade,” said Tom Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau’s acting director.

Round Rock, Texas, a city north of Austin, was the second fastest-growing city (8.16 percent) in the nation from 2007 to 2008.

All in all, four of the 10 fastest-growing large cities were in Texas, including McKinney (north of Dallas, ranking fifth), Killeen (north of Austin, ninth) and Fort Worth (10th). North Carolina had a pair of cities in the top 10 fastest growing — Cary (west of Raleigh, third) and Raleigh (eighth) — as did California (Roseville, north of Sacramento, which ranked sixth and Irvine, in Orange County, seventh). Fourth-place Gilbert, Ariz., completed the list..."
America's Container Ports: Freight Hubs That Connect Our Nation to Global Markets
"This report provides an overview of the movement of maritime freight handled by the nation’s container seaports in 2008 and summarizes trends in maritime freight movement since 1995. It covers the impact of the recent U.S. and global economic downturn on U.S. port container traffic, trends in container throughput, concentration of containerized cargo at the top U.S. ports, regional shifts in cargo handled, vessel calls and capacity in ports, the rankings of U.S. ports among the world’s top ports, and the number of maritime container entries into the United States relative to truck and rail containers. The report also presents snapshots of landside access to container ports, port security initiatives, and ongoing maritime environmental issues..."