Thursday, February 25, 2010

New NASA Web Page Sheds Light on Science of a Warming World
"Will 2010 be the warmest year on record? How do the recent U.S. "Snowmageddon" winter storms and record low temperatures in Europe fit into the bigger picture of long-term global warming? NASA has launched a new web page to help people better understand the causes and effects of Earth's changing climate.

The new "A Warming World" page hosts a series of new articles, videos, data visualizations, space-based imagery and interactive visuals that provide unique NASA perspectives on this topic of global importance.

The page includes feature articles that explore the recent Arctic winter weather that has gripped the United States, Europe and Asia, and how El Nino and other longer-term ocean-atmosphere phenomena may affect global temperatures this year and in the future. A new video, "Piecing Together the Temperature Puzzle," illustrates how NASA satellites monitor climate change and help scientists better understand how our complex planet works.

The new web page is available on NASA's Global Climate Change Web site at:

http://climate.nasa.gov/warmingworld"
FTC Issues Report of 2009 Top Consumer Complaints
"FTC Issues Report of 2009 Top Consumer Complaints
New Video Details How to File a Complaint
The Federal Trade Commission today released a report listing top complaints consumers filed with the agency in 2009. It shows that while identity theft remains the top complaint category, identity theft complaints declined 5 percentage points from 2008.

The FTC is releasing a new animated video showing how people can file a complaint, and offers examples of what complaints the FTC handles. To watch the video, visit http://ftc.gov/multimedia/video/scam-watch/file-a-complaint.shtm (also available in Spanish at http://ftc.gov/multimedia/video/scam-watch/file-a-complaint_es.shtm).

The report breaks out complaint data on a state-by-state basis and also contains data about the 50 metropolitan areas reporting the highest per capita incidence of fraud and other complaints. In addition, the 50 metropolitan areas reporting the highest incidence of identity theft are noted.

The top complaints were:

Rank Category No. of Complaints Percentages
1 Identity Theft 278,078 21%
2 Third Party and Creditor Debt Collection 119,549 9%
3 Internet Services 83,067 6%
4 Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales 74,581 6%
5 Foreign Money Offers and Counterfeit Check Scams 61,736 5%
6 Internet Auction 57,821 4%
7 Credit Cards 45,203 3%
8 Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries 41,763 3%
9 Advance-Fee Loans and Credit Protection/Repair 41,448 3%
10 Banks and Lenders 32,443 2%
11 Credit Bureaus, Information Furnishers and Report Users 31,629 2%
12 Television and Electronic Media 26,568 2%
13 Health Care 25,414 2%
14 Business Opportunities, Employment Agencies and Work-at-Home Plans 22,896 2%
15 Computer Equipment and Software 22,621 2% "
Overdraft Rules for Debit and ATM Cards
"Bank account overdraft fees can be a source of unexpected costs for consumers. A new online Federal Reserve Board publication will help consumers better understand rules that provide additional protection when a debit card or automated teller machine (ATM) transaction causes an account to be overdrawn.

Federal Reserve Board rules that take effect on July 1, 2010, prohibit financial institutions from charging overdraft fees for ATM and one-time debit card transactions unless a consumer consents, or opts in, to the overdraft service for those types of transactions. What You Need to Know: New Overdraft Rules for Debit and ATM Cards provides an explanation of how the rules will affect existing and new account holders. It contains basic information about types and typical costs of overdraft services and defines common terms consumers may encounter in communications from their bank about overdrafts.

Under the Board's rules, financial institutions must provide consumers a notice that explains the financial institution's overdraft services, including the fees associated with the service, and the consumer's choices. Institutions will soon begin providing these notices, and this publication will help consumers understand how to use the information to make the best choices regarding overdraft services..."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Administrator Jackson Sends Letter to Senators
"U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson issued a letter responding to a letter sent to her the evening of February 19 by eight U.S. Senators asking about the agency’s plans for 2010.

In the letter, the administrator outlines several of the decisions she has made for 2010-2011:

No facility will be required to address greenhouse gas emissions in Clean Air Act permitting of new construction or modifications before 2011.

For the first half of 2011, only facilities that already must apply for Clean Air Act permits as a result of their non-greenhouse gas emissions will need to address their greenhouse gas emissions in their permit applications.

EPA is also considering a modification to the rule announced in September requiring large facilities emitting more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year to obtain permits demonstrating they are using the best practices and technologies to minimize GHG emissions. EPA is considering raising that threshold substantially to reflect input provided during the public comment process.

EPA does not intend to subject smaller facilities to Clean Air Act permitting for greenhouse gas emissions any sooner than 2016."
Policies for Increasing Economic Growth and Employment in the Short Term
Testimony. Statement of Douglas W. Elmendorf, Director Congressional Budget Office, prepared for the Joint Economic Committee, February 23, 2010.
FTC Amends Free Credit Reports Rule To Help Consumers Steer Clear of ‘Free’ Offers that Cost Money
"Starting April 1, advertising for “free credit reports” will require new disclosures to help consumers avoid confusing “free” offers – which often require consumers to spend money on credit monitoring or other products or services – with the no-strings-attached credit reports available at AnnualCreditReport.com, or 877-322-8228.

The Federal Trade Commission’s Free Credit Reports Rule will require new prominent disclosures in advertisements for “free credit reports.” For example, any Web site offering free credit reports must include a disclosure, across the top of each page that mentions free credit reports, which states:

THIS NOTICE IS REQUIRED BY LAW. Read more at FTC.GOV.
You have the right to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com
or 877-322-8228, the ONLY authorized source under federal law..."
Estimated Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on Employment and Economic Output From October 2009 Through December 2009
"The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) contains a variety
of provisions intended to boost economic activity and employment in the United States.
Section 1512(e) of the law requires the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to comment on
the reports filed by certain recipients of funding under ARRA that detail how many jobs were
created or retained through funded activities. This CBO report fulfills that requirement. It
also provides CBO’s estimates of ARRA’s overall impact on employment and economic output
in the last quarter of calendar year 2009. Those estimates—which CBO considers more comprehensive
than the recipients’ reports—are based on evidence from similar policies enacted in
the past and various economic models..."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Putting Americans in Control of Their Health Care (President Obama's health care proposal)
"What will the President's proposal mean for you?
Take a few minutes to find out what health insurance reform would mean for you and your family. To begin, select which one describes your situation:

"I have insurance through my work."
"I own a small business."
"I have Medicare."
"I do not have insurance."
"I buy my own insurance.""
Administrator Jackson Unveils Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan
"U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has released an action plan to guide the Obama Administration’s historic efforts to restore the Great Lakes. The action plan, which the administrator unveiled at a Sunday meeting with governors from the Great Lakes states, lays out the most urgent threats facing the Great Lakes and sets out goals, objectives and key actions over the next five years to help restore the lakes.

“We have an historic opportunity to restore and protect these waters. This action plan outlines our strategy to protect the environmental, human health, and economic interests of the millions of people who rely on the Great Lakes,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “We’re committed to creating a new standard of care that will leave the Great Lakes better for the next generation.”..

Monday, February 22, 2010

Credit Cards, New Rules
"The Federal Reserve's new rules for credit card companies mean new credit card protections for you. Here are some key changes you should expect from your credit card company beginning on February 22, 2010.

What your credit card company has to tell you

When they plan to increase your rate or other fees. Your credit card company must send you a notice 45 days before they can increase your interest rate;
change certain fees (such as annual fees, cash advance fees, and late fees) that apply to your account; or make other significant changes to the terms of your card.

If your credit card company is going to make changes to the terms of your card, it must give you the option to cancel the card before certain fee increases take effect. If you take that option, however, your credit card company may close your account and increase your monthly payment, subject to certain limitations.

For example, they can require you to pay the balance off in five years, or they can double the percentage of your balance used to calculate your minimum payment (which will result in faster repayment than under the terms of your account).

The company does not have to send you a 45-day advance notice if
you have a variable interest rate tied to an index; if the index goes up, the company does not have to provide notice before your rate goes up; your introductory rate expires and reverts to the previously disclosed "go-to" rate; your rate increases because you are in a workout agreement and you haven’t made your payments as agreed..."
Estimating Median House Prices
"Nondisclosure laws and other factors have hindered the production and release of median home price in many areas across the country. This paper attempts to fill the gaps and develops a simple approach to estimating median prices for a geographically complete set of areas. The methodology begins by aggregating mortgage-level data from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration, and First American CoreLogic. Redundant observations are removed from the aggregate data and median home prices are calculated from the resulting dataset. Using county recorder data obtained for several hundred counties across the United States, the methodology
then estimates the relationship between the calculated median prices and medians determined from the recorder data. The paper illustrates how this relationship can then be used to extrapolate median home values for areas for which recorder data are unavailable. Because one
potential application of this approach would be to support the setting of conforming loan
limits in high-cost areas, which are calculated as a function of median prices, actual 2009
high-cost-area conforming loan limits are then compared to the loan limits that would
have been in effect had the approach been used to set the limits. The paper also briefly
discusses the application of the basic methodology to estimating a national average home
price, a statistic important for the setting of the national conforming loan limit."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE ISSUES SUBPOENA FOR TOYOTA DOCUMENTS
"House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-NY) and Ranking Member Darrell Issa (R-CA) issued a subpoena today for “all documents relating to Toyota motor vehicle safety and Toyota’s handling of alleged motor vehicle defects and related litigation” in the possession of Dimitrios Biller, who served as the National Managing Counsel for Toyota’s American operation from 2003-2007.

“The Committee is conducting a comprehensive, fact-based investigation with the intent of collecting and analyzing as much relevant information as possible,” Towns and Issa said in a joint statement. “The only way we can ensure that the safety needs of American drivers are being met is to examine, in a bipartisan fashion, exactly who knew what and when, and if appropriate and immediate action was taken to mitigate any danger to the American public.”

Earlier this month, news reports surfaced regarding accusations Biller had made regarding Toyota’s efforts to hide “evidence of safety defects from consumers and regulators, and fostered a culture of ‘hypocrisy and deceit.’” As ABC News reported, Biller was quoted as saying. “You have to understand that Toyota in Japan does not have any respect for our legal system…they did not have any respect for our laws.” Biller has claimed that his accusations are verifiable based on documents that are in his possession.

Toyota had filed an injunction preventing Biller from disclosing those documents, however, the Oversight Committee’s subpoena supersedes the injunction and Biller plans to fully cooperate with the subpoena."
Sebelius Unveils New Report on Requested Premium Increases in States Across the Country
"U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today unveiled a new report, Insurance Companies Prosper, Families Suffer: Our Broken Health Insurance System. The report highlights health insurance premium increases in states across the country and comes shortly after Anthem Blue Cross announced plans to raise rates on its California customers by as much as 39 percent, even after its parent company took in a profit of $2.7 billion in the previous quarter. The complete report is available at www.HealthReform.gov.

“Over the last year, America’s largest insurance companies have requested premium increases of 56 percent in Michigan, 24 percent in Connecticut, 23 percent in Maine, 20 percent in Oregon, and 16 percent in Rhode Island, to name just a few states,” said Sebelius. “Premium increases have left thousands of families that are already struggling during the economic downturn with an unpleasant choice between fewer benefits, higher premiums, or having no insurance at all. Hard-working families deserve better.”

The report examines requested insurance premium increases and notes:

Anthem of Connecticut requested an increase of 24 percent last year, which was rejected by the state.
Anthem in Maine had an 18.5 percent premium increase rejected by the state last year as being “excessive and unfairly discriminatory” – but is now requesting a 23 percent increase this year.
In 2009 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan requested approval for premium increases of 56 percent for plans sold on the individual market.
Regency Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon requested a 20 percent premium increase.
UnitedHealth, Tufts and Blue Cross requested 13 to 16 percent rate increases in Rhode Island.
Rates for some individual health plans in Washington increased by up to 40 percent until Washington State imposed stiffer premium regulations..."
Justice Department and FBI Announce Formal Conclusion of Investigation into 2001 Anthrax Attacks
"The Justice Department, FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service today announced that the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, which killed five individuals and sickened 17 others, has formally concluded.

Earlier today, representatives of the FBI and Justice Department provided a 92-page investigative summary along with attachments to victims of the attacks, relatives of the victims and appropriate committees of Congress. This document sets forth a summary of the evidence developed in the "Amerithrax" investigation, the largest investigation into a bio-weapons attack in U.S. history. As disclosed previously, the Amerithrax investigation found that the late Dr. Bruce Ivins acted alone in planning and executing these attacks.

The investigative summary and the attachments are now accessible to the public and have been posted to the Justice Department Web site at www.usdoj.gov/amerithrax under the Freedom of Information Act. In addition, roughly 2,700 pages of FBI documents related to the Amerithrax case are now accessible to the public and have been posted to the FBI website at http://foia.fbi.gov/foiaindex/amerithrax.htm under the Freedom of Information Act..."
Obama Administration Details Healthy Food Financing Initiative
"The Obama Administration today released details of an over $400 million Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which will bring grocery stores and other healthy food retailers to underserved urban and rural communities across America. The initiative was announced today in Philadelphia by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The two cabinet members appeared with First Lady Michelle Obama, who recently launched the Let's Move! campaign to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation. The initiative is a partnership between the Departments of Treasury, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services.

The Healthy Food Financing Initiative will promote a range of interventions that expand access to nutritious foods, including developing and equipping grocery stores and other small businesses and retailers selling healthy food in communities that currently lack these options. Residents of these communities, which are sometimes called "food deserts" and are often found in economically distressed areas, are typically served by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer little or no fresh produce. Lack of healthy, affordable food options can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer...

To help community leaders identify the food deserts in their area, USDA recently launched a Food Environment Atlas "www.ers.usda.gov/FoodAtlas/". This new online tool allows for the identification of counties where, for example, more than 40 percent of the residents have low incomes and live more than one mile from a grocery store.."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Internet Use in the United States, Oct. 2009
Find data on internet use by individuals and household as of October 2009. In addition, historical statistics are provided for "households with a computer at home" and "household with internet use at home" from 1984-2009.
Contemporary Global anti-Semitism: a report provided to the United States Congress
"The U.S. Department of State’s January 2005 Report on Global Anti-Semitism surveyed anti-Semitic
incidents throughout the world. The annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the annual Report on International Religious Freedom include country-by-country assessments of the nature and extent of acts of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incitement. The Offce of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism contributes to the anti-Semitism sections of these annual surveys, pursuant to the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act. Both reports have revealed that incidents of anti-Semitism have become more frequent in recent years.

Consistent with the U.S. Department of State’s commitment to assess and counter anti-Semitism, this report is provided to the U.S. Congress to further assess contemporary anti-Semitism by exploring anti-Semitic themes and practices.

This report is meant to be used as a resource for increasing understanding of and informing public
discourse about contemporary forms of anti-Semitism and for shaping policies to combat anti-Semitism worldwide..."
Insurance and Regulatory Reform in the 111th Congress
"In the aftermath of the recent financial crisis, broad financial regulatory reform legislation has been advanced by the Obama Administration and by various Members of Congress. Under the
McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945, insurance regulation is generally left to the individual states.
For several years prior to the financial crisis, some Members of Congress have introduced
legislation to federalize insurance regulation along the lines of the regulation of the banking
sector, although none of this legislation has reached the committee markup stage.

The financial crisis, particularly the role of insurance giant AIG and the smaller monoline bond
insurers, changed the tenor of the debate around insurance regulation, with increased emphasis on
the systemic importance of insurance companies. While it could be argued that insurer
involvement in the financial crisis demonstrates the need for full-scale federal regulation of
insurance, to date the broad financial regulatory reform proposals have not included language
implementing such a system. Instead, broad reform proposals have tended to include the creation
of a somewhat narrower federal office focusing on gathering information on insurance and setting
policy on international insurance issues. Legislation proposed by the Obama Administration,
Representative Paul Kanjorski (H.R. 2609 as incorporated into H.R. 4173), Representative
Spencer Bacchus (H.Amdt. 539 to H.R. 4173), and Senator Christopher Dodd (committee print of
the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2009), all contain slightly differing versions of such an office..."
The debt Limit: History and Recent Increases
"Total debt of the federal government can increase in two ways. First, debt increases when the
government sells debt to the public to finance budget deficits and acquire the financial resources
needed to meet its obligations. This increases debt held by the public. Second, debt increases
when the federal government issues debt to certain government accounts, such as the Social
Security, Medicare, and Transportation trust funds, in exchange for their reported surpluses.
This increases debt held by government accounts. The sum of debt held by the public and debt
held by government accounts is the total federal debt. Surpluses generally reduce debt held by
the public, while deficits raise it.

A statutory limit has restricted total federal debt since 1917 when Congress passed the Second
Liberty Bond Act. Congress has raised the debt limit eight times since 2001. Deficits each year
since 2001 and the persistent increases in debt held by government accounts repeatedly raised
the debt to or near the limit in place at the time. Congress raised the limit in June 2002,
and by December 2002 the U.S. Department of the Treasury asked Congress for another increase, which was passed in May 2003. In June 2004, the Treasury asked for another debt limit increase. After Congress recessed in mid-October 2004 without acting, the Secretary of the Treasury told
Congress that the actions he was taking to avoid exceeding the debt limit would suffice only
through mid-November. Congress approved a debt limit increase in a post-election session, which
the President signed on November 19, 2004..."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Racial disparities persist in the diagnosis of advanced breast cancer and colon cancer in the United States
"The incidence of advanced breast cancer diagnosis among black women remained 30 percent to 90 percent higher compared to white women between 1992 and 2004, according to new findings by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. In addition, the disparity in the incidence of advance colorectal cancer actually widened over this time period as rates fell among whites but increased slightly among blacks..."
Central Intelligence Agency Freedom of Information Act Annual Report, 2009
Provides information on how to request information from the CIA via the Freedom of Information Act.
ReadyAmerica
"Launched in February 2003, Ready is a national public service advertising (PSA) campaign designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural and man-made disasters. The goal of the campaign is to get the public involved and ultimately to increase the level of basic preparedness across the nation.

Ready and its Spanish language version Listo ask individuals to do three key things: (1) get an emergency supply kit, (2) make a family emergency plan, and (3) be informed about the different types of emergencies that could occur and their appropriate responses.

The campaign’s messages have been distributed through: television, radio, print, outdoor and Web (PSAs) developed and produced by The Advertising Council; brochures; www.Ready.gov and www.Listo.gov Web sites; toll-free phone lines 1-800-BE-Ready and 1-888-SE-Listo; and partnerships with a wide variety of public and private sector organizations."

Monday, February 15, 2010

EEOC Issues New Data on Job Patterns in Private Sector
"The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has posted extensive new data on job patterns in the private sector, as part of the Obama Administration’s Open Government Initiative.

The EEOC posted 11 new aggregate data sets from the most recent edition of its report Job Patterns for Minorities and Women in Private Industry, commonly known as the EEO-1 survey, on www.Data.gov. The EEO-1 raw data extracts for 2008 may be downloaded at http://www.data.gov/catalog/raw/category/0/agency/119/filter/2008/type//sort//page/1/count/25.

The EEOC also posted the data on a new Open Government page, which it launched today. That page, on the EEOC’s web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/open/, offers a one-stop location for EEOC statistics and other performance-related materials, and will soon also provide tools for the public to interact with the EEOC about information the agency provides and work it does. The page will eventually carry the agency’s comprehensive Open Government Plan.

“Posting the latest aggregate EEO-1 survey results on Data.gov is the first step in what will be a larger EEOC effort to advance the President’s goal of opening up our government and providing greater access to agency information and operations,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “We look forward to working with stakeholders as we create and implement our Open Government plan.”.."
Initiative to Reduce Unnecessary Radiation Exposure from Medical Imaging
"Like all medical procedures, computed tomography (CT), fluoroscopy, and nuclear medicine imaging exams present both benefits and risks. These types of imaging procedures have led to improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of numerous medical conditions. At the same time, these types of exams expose patients to ionizing radiation, which may elevate a person’s lifetime risk of developing cancer. As part of a balanced public health approach, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seeks to support the benefits of these medical imaging exams while minimizing the risks.

Through the Initiative to Reduce Unnecessary Radiation Exposure from Medical Imaging, FDA is advocating the universal adoption of two principles of radiation protection: appropriate justification for ordering each procedure, and careful optimization of the radiation dose used during each procedure. Each patient should get the right imaging exam, at the right time, with the right radiation dose.

In support of this goal, FDA will use our regulatory authority and also collaborate with others in the Federal government and the healthcare professional community to:

Promote safe use of medical imaging devices;
Support informed clinical decision making; and
Increase patient awareness..."
FCC RELEASES NEW CENSUS TRACT-LEVEL DATA ON HIGH-SPEED INTERNET SERVICES
"The Federal Communications Commission today released the first High-
Speed Services for Internet Access report to be based on the new census tract-based Form 477
data collection requirements.

The FCC has collected information from facilities-based broadband service providers since 2000.
In 2008, the FCC released orders implementing significant improvements to its data collection.
As part of the improvements, providers of fixed-location Internet access connections faster than
200 kilobits per second (kbps) report connection counts at the census tract level as well as the
state level. All reporting providers, including mobile wireless providers, report connection
counts for an increased number of upload and download speed tiers. Therefore, for the first time,
this report summarizes information about fixed-location Internet access connections in 3,232
counties and 66,287 census tracts and in 72 combinations of upload and download advertised
transmission speeds. Additionally, the report summarizes information about subscribers with
full Internet access at transmission speeds above 200 kbps as part of their mobile wireless service
package..."
Statement of Douglas W. Elmendorf Director Policies for Increasing Economic Growth and Employment in the Short Term
"The United States has just suffered through the most severe recession since the 1930s.
The economy’s output is currently about 6 percent below CBO’s estimate of potential
gross domestic product (GDP)—the output the economy would produce if its resources were fully employed. At 9.7 percent, the unemployment rate is about twice what it was in December 2007. Since that time, employers shed about 8.4 million jobs. Moreover, if employment had grown during that period at the same rate at which it grew from 1990 to 2007, millions of additional jobs would have been added to the economy. All told, the recession has lowered employment by about 11 million
jobs relative to what it would otherwise be.

The good news is that the economy appears to be starting to recover. Real (inflationadjusted)
GDP grew during the second half of 2009, after having fallen 3.7 percent since the recession began in the fourth quarter of 2007. Severe economic downturns often sow the seeds of robust recoveries. During a slump in economic activity, consumers defer purchases, especially for housing and durable goods, and businesses postpone capital spending and try to cut inventories. Once demand in the economy picks up, the disparity between the desired and actual stocks of capital assets and consumer durable goods widens quickly, and spending by consumers and businesses can accelerate
rapidly. Although CBO expects that the current recovery will be spurred by that dynamic, in all likelihood the recovery will also be dampened by a number of factors. Those factors include the continuing fragility of some financial markets and institutions; declining support from fiscal and monetary policy; and limited increases in households’ spending because of slow income growth, lost wealth, and a large number of vacant houses..."
NOAA Launches Landmark Climate.gov Portal
"NOAA is also unveiling today a new Web site – http://www.climate.gov – that serves as a single point-of-entry for NOAA’s extensive climate information, data, products and services. Known as the NOAA Climate Portal, the site addresses the needs of five broadly-defined user groups: decision makers and policy leaders, scientists and applications-oriented data users, educators, business users and the public.

Highlights of the portal include an interactive “climate dashboard” that shows a range of constantly updating climate datasets (e.g., temperature, carbon dioxide concentration and sea level) over adjustable time scales; the new climate science magazine ClimateWatch, featuring videos and articles of scientists discussing recent climate research and findings; and an array of data products and educational resources.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

NATIONAL DISASTER RECOVERY FRAMEWORK -Draft- February 5, 2010
"The National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) draft outlines how community 2 recovery is supported on a national level. The framework builds on scalable, 3 flexible, and adaptable coordinating structures to align key roles and 4 responsibilities, linking local, state, tribal and federal governments, the private 5 sector, and voluntary, faith-based and community organizations that play vital roles 6 in recovery. It captures resources, capabilities, and best practices for recovering 7 from disaster, recognizing that significant challenges can confront all recovery 8 efforts, from a relatively localized event to a large-scale disaster that demands 9 substantial resources. Once finalized, this Draft NDRF is intended to be the 10 companion document to the National Response Framework (NRF) issued in January 11 2008.

In September 2009, the President charged the Department of Homeland Security 14 (DHS) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to establish a 15 Long-Term Disaster Recovery Working Group, composed of more than 20 federal 16 departments, agencies and offices, to provide operational guidance for recovery 17 organizations, as well as to make recommendations for improving the nation’s 18 approach to disaster recovery..."
Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States
"Members of Congress:
On behalf of the National Science and Technology Council, the U.S. Global Change Research Program is pleased to transmit to the President and the Congress this state of knowledge report: “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States.” This report summarizes the science of climate change and the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future.

As our nation strives to develop effective policies to respond to climate change, it is critical to have the latest and best scientific information to inform decision making. More than a year in the making, this report provides that information. It is the first report in almost a decade to provide an extensive evaluation of climate change impacts on the United States at the regional level.

An expert team of scientists operating under the authority of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, assisted by communication specialists, wrote the document. The report was reviewed and revised based on comments from experts and the public in accordance with the Information Quality Act guidelines issued by the Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration..."
2010 Economic Report of the President
"The Economic Report of the President is an annual report written by the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors. It overviews the nation's economic progress using text and extensive data appendices. The Economic Report of the President is transmitted to Congress no later than ten days after the submission of the Budget of the United States Government. Supplementary reports can be issued to the Congress which contain additional and/or revised recommendations. Documents are available in ASCII text and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF), with many of the tables also available for separate viewing and downloading as spreadsheets in xls and comma delimited formats."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Understanding China’s Political System
"Opaque and shrouded in secrecy, China’s political system and decision-making processes are mysteries to many Westerners. At one level, China is a one-party
state that has been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since 1949. But
rather than being rigidly hierarchical and authoritarian, which is often the assumption, political power in China now is diffuse, complex, and at times highly competitive. Despite its grip on power, the Party and its senior leaders (the Politburo and its Standing Committee) are not always able to dictate policy
decisions as they once did. Instead, present-day China’s political process is
infused with other political actors that influence and sometimes determine policy.

Three other main actors co-exist with the Party at the top of China’s political system. Chief among these is the muscular state government bureaucracy, whose structures closely parallel the Party’s throughout China, operating in a largely separate but interlocking way to implement and administer state business. Another
key institution is the People’s Liberation Army, operating again largely separately and with a tenuous distinction between civilian, military, and Party leadership.
Completing the top political institutions is the National People’s Congress, constitutionally the highest organ of state power but in practice the weakest of
the top political institutions..."
African American Members of the United States Congress: 1870-2009
"There are 42 African American Members serving in the 111th Congress, 41 in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate. President Barack Obama served in the Senate until he resigned on November 16, 2008. There have been 125 African American Members of Congress: 119 have been elected to the House; five have been elected to the Senate; and one has been appointed to the Senate. There have been 98 Democrats: 95 in the House, three in the Senate; and 27 Republicans: 24 in the House, three in the Senate.

The number of African American Members has steadily increased since the first
African Americans entered Congress in 1870. There were fewer than 10 Members until the 91st Congress (1969-1971). In the 98th Congress (1983-1985), the number surpassed 20 for the first time and then jumped to 40 in the 103rd Congress (1993-1995). Since the 106th Congress (1999-2001), the number has remained between 39 and 43 serving at any one time.

The first African American Member of Congress was Hiram Rhodes Revels (R-MS), who served in the Senate in the 41st Congress (1870-1871). The first African American Member of the House was Joseph H. Rainey (R-SC), who also served in the 41st Congress..."
Laos: Background and U.S. Relations
"The United States and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR) cooperate in important areas despite ideological differences and U.S. concerns about alleged human rights abuses against the ethnic Hmong minority. The U.S. government has gradually upgraded its relations with the communist state, which has strong ties to Vietnam and growing economic linkages with China. Major areas of U.S. assistance and bilateral cooperation include de-mining and counter-narcotics programs, strengthening the country’s regulatory framework and trade capacity, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, the recovery of Americans missing in action during the Vietnam War, and military education and training. In 2008, the United States and Laos exchanged defense
attach├ęs the first time in over 30 years. The U.S. government has embarked upon a policy of economic engagement with the LPDR as a means of influencing the future direction of Lao policy...

Major U.S. policy considerations include urging the Lao government to accept independent, international monitoring of the resettlement of former Lao-Hmong insurgents and Hmong returnees from Thailand; urging the Thai government not to forcibly repatriate Hmong determined to be political refugees; increasing assistance for de-mining activities in Laos; granting trade preferences or tariff relief for Lao products, particularly garments; and developing programs for sustainable management of the Mekong River."
Charitable Contributions for Haiti’s Earthquake Victims
"On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti. As of January 20, 2010, 72,000 had been confirmed dead with hundreds of thousands more in need of assistance. The earthquake has left an estimated 1.5 million Haitians homeless. Congress has passed legislation with the goal of promoting charitable donations for the earthquake victims in Haiti. Similar action was taken following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2005 Gulf Coast Hurricanes, when Congress enacted legislation to promote charitable giving to organizations providing aid to victims of these
natural disasters.

On January 20, 2010, the House passed the Haiti Assistance Income Tax Incentive Act (HAITI Act; H.R. 4462), a bill to accelerate the income tax benefits for charitable cash contributions for the relief of earthquake victims. The Senate introduced companion legislation (S. 2936) on January 20, 2010, but passed the identical House legislation H.R. 4462 on January 21, 2010. If enacted, the HAITI Act would allow taxpayers making charitable contributions of cash made to organizations providing aid to earthquake victims after January 11, 2010, and before March 1, 2010, to take the associated charitable deduction on their 2009 income tax returns. A similar
provision, discussed in greater detail below, was adopted under P.L. 109-1 following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates that the HAITI Act would result in revenue losses of approximately $2 million over the 10-year budget window spanning FY2010 through FY2019.."
Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder
"Starting in late 2006, commercial migratory beekeepers along the East Coast of the United States began reporting sharp declines in their honey bee colonies. Because of the severity and unusual circumstances of these colony declines, scientists named this phenomenon colony collapse disorder (CCD). Reports indicate that beekeepers in most states have been affected. Overall, the number of managed honey bee colonies dropped an estimated 35.8% and 31.8% in the winters of 2007/2008 and 2006/2007, respectively. Preliminary loss estimates for the 2008/2009 winter are reported at 28.6%. To date, the precise reasons for colony losses are not yet known.

Honey bees are the most economically valuable pollinators of agricultural crops worldwide. Scientists at universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) frequently assert that bee pollination is involved in about one-third of the U.S. diet, and contributes to the production of a wide range of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, forage crops, some field crops, and other specialty crops. The monetary value of honey bees as commercial pollinators in the United States is estimated at about $15-$20 billion annually..."
U.S. Periods of War
"Many wars or conflicts in U.S. history have federally designated “periods of war,” dates marking their beginning and ending. These dates are important for qualification for certain veterans’ pension or disability benefits. Confusion can occur because beginning and ending dates for “periods of war” in many nonofficial sources are often different from those given in treaties and other official sources of information, and armistice dates can be confused with termination dates. This report lists the beginning and ending dates for “periods of war” found in Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations, dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It also lists and differentiates other beginning dates given in declarations of war, as well as termination of hostilities dates and armistice and ending dates given in proclamations, laws, or treaties. This report will be updated when events warrant. For additional information, see CRS Report RL31133, Declarations of War and Authorizations for the Use of Military Force: Historical Background and Legal Implications."
Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2009
"This report provides estimates of the number of unauthorized immigrants residing in the United States as of January 2009 by period of entry, region and country of origin, state of residence, age, and gender. The estimates were obtained using the “residual” methodology employed for estimates of the unauthorized population in 2008 (see Hoefer, Rytina, and Baker, 2009). The unauthorized resident population is the remainder or “residual” after estimates of the legally resident foreign-born population – legal permanent residents (LPRs), asylees, refugees, and nonimmigrants – are subtracted from estimates of the total foreign-born population. Data to estimate the legally resident population were obtained primarily from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) while the American Community Survey (ACS) of the U.S. Census Bureau was the source for estimates of the total foreign-born population.

In summary, DHS estimates that the unauthorized immigrant population living in the United States decreased to 10.8 million in January 2009 from 11.6 million in January 2008. Between 2000 and 2009, the unauthorized population grew by 27 percent. Of all unauthorized immigrants living in the United States in 2009, 63 percent entered before 2000, and 62 percent were from Mexico..."
Presidential Memorandum -- Establishing a Task Force on Childhood Obesity
"Across our country, childhood obesity has reached epidemic rates and, as a result, our children may live shorter lives than their parents. Obesity has been recognized as a problem for decades, but efforts to address this crisis to date have been insufficient. My Administration is committed to redoubling our efforts to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation through a comprehensive approach that builds on effective strategies, engages families and communities, and mobilizes both public and private sector resources.

Nearly one third of children in America are overweight or obese -- a rate that has tripled in adolescents and more than doubled in younger children since 1980. One third of all individuals born in the year 2000 or later will eventually suffer from diabetes over the course of their lifetime, while too many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma. Without effective intervention, many more children will endure serious illnesses that will put a strain on our health-care system. We must act now to improve the health of our Nation's children and avoid spending billions of dollars treating preventable disease..."
Terrorist Watchlist Checks and Air Passenger Prescreening
"Considerable controversy continues to surround U.S. air passenger prescreening and terrorist watchlist checks. In the past, such controversy centered around diverted international flights and misidentified passengers. Another issue surfaced on Christmas Day 2009, when an air passenger attempted to ignite an explosive device on a Detroit-bound flight from Amsterdam. Although U.S. counterterrorism officials reportedly had created a record on the air passenger in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), which is maintained at the National Counterterrorism
Center (NCTC), it does not appear that the NCTC ever nominated him for entry into the U.S. government’s consolidated Terrorist Screening Database, which is maintained at the Terrorist Screening Center. Therefore, he would not have been placed on watchlists used by front-line, air passenger prescreening agencies, principally the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP)..."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Women in the United States Congress: 1917-2009
"A record 93 women currently serve in the 111th Congress: 76 in the House (59 Democrats and 17 Republicans) and 17 in the Senate (13 Democrats and 4 Republicans). Ninety-five women were initially elected to the 111th Congress. Since the 111th Congress convened, two of these—Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Representative Hilda Solis (D-CA)—resigned to take cabinet positions in the administration of President Obama, and a third, Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), resigned to become Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.
Also, Representative Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) resigned from the House when she
was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Senator Clinton, and Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) was elected in July 2009 to fill the seat vacated by Representative
Solis.

The first woman elected to Congress was Representative Jeannette Rankin (R-MT, 1917-1919, 1941-1943). The first woman to serve in the Senate was Rebecca Latimer Felton (D-GA). She was appointed in 1922 and served for only one day.

A total of 260 women have served in Congress, 170 Democrats and 90 Republicans. Of these women, 222 (145 Democrats, 77 Republicans) have served only in the House of Representatives; 30 (19 Democrats, 11 Republicans) have served only in the Senate; and 8 (6 Democrats, 2 Republicans) have served in both houses. These figures include one Delegate each from Guam, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands..."
Membership of the 111th Congress: A Profile
"This report presents a profile of the membership of the 111th Congress. Statistical information is included on selected characteristics of Members, including data on party affiliation, average age and length of service, occupation, religious affiliation, gender, ethnicity, foreign births, and military service.

Currently, in the House of Representatives, there are 262 Democrats (including five Delegates and the Resident Commissioner), 178 Republicans, and one vacant seat. The Senate has 57 Democrats; 2 Independents, who caucus with the Democrats; and 41 Republicans.

The average age of Members of both Houses of Congress at the beginning of the 111th Congress was 58.2 years; of Members of the House, 57.2 years; and of Senators, 63.1 years. The overwhelming majority of Members have a college education. The dominant professions of Members are public service/politics, business, and law. Protestants collectively constitute the majority religious affiliation of Members. Roman Catholics account for the largest single religious denomination, and numerous other affiliations are represented.

The average length of service for Representatives at the beginning of the 111th Congress was 11.0 years (5.5 terms); for Senators 12.9 years ( 2.2 terms)."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Growing America’s Fuel An Innovation Approach to Achieving the President’s Biofuels Target
"Vision. New jobs and greater economic vitality in rural America, increased energy independence, reduced economic vulnerability to volatile oil prices and uncertain supplies, technological and industrial leadership in renewable biofuels, and reduced global warming pollution – all will be achieved by fulfilling the President’s commitment to meeting Congressional biofuels goals.

Strategy. Supporting the existing biofuels industry, while accelerating the commercial and sustainable establishment of the advanced biofuels industry, by using the best skill and knowledge across many Federal departments, as well as public-private partnerships."
The Next Challenge in Healthcare Preparedness: Catastrophic Health Events
"...The Center’s analysis of the current system for a national response to CHEs revealed several major challenges:
• Many hospitals and other healthcare organizations do not yet participate in fully functional healthcare coalitions, which are necessary to CHE response.
• Most existing coalitions do not yet have the ability to share information, resources, and decision making with neighboring coalitions during a CHE.
• There are inadequate systems to perform the necessary triage, immediate treatment, and transport of patients outside of the immediate area stricken by a CHE.
• Existing plans and resources for patient transport are grossly inadequate for moving the expected numbers of patients.
• There is not enough guidance on the crisis standards of care that will be necessary throughout all stages of a CHE.
• There is no plan that sufficiently outlines healthcare roles, responsibilities, and actions during the response to a CHE..."
Al Qaeda and Affiliates: Historical Perspective, Global Presence, and Implications for U.S. Policy
"Al Qaeda (AQ) has evolved into a significantly different terrorist organization than the one that perpetrated the September 11, 2001, attacks. At the time, Al Qaeda was composed mostly of a core cadre of veterans of the Afghan insurgency against the Soviets, with a centralized leadership structure, made up mostly of Egyptians. Most of the organization’s plots either emanated from the top or were approved by the leadership. Some analysts describe pre-9/11 Al Qaeda as akin to a corporation, with Osama Bin Laden acting as an agile Chief Executive Officer issuing orders and
soliciting ideas from subordinates...

Understanding the origins of Al Qaeda, its goals, current activities, and prospective future pursuits is key to developing sound U.S. strategies, policies, and programs. Appreciating the adaptive nature of Al Qaeda as a movement and the ongoing threat it projects onto U.S. global security interests assists in many facets of the national security enterprise; including, securing the homeland, congressional legislative process and oversight, alignment of executive branch resources and coordination efforts, and prioritization of foreign assistance..."
Metropolitan Transportation Planning
"Federal law requires state and local governments to designate a metropolitan planning organization (MPO) in each urbanized area with a population of 50,000 or more to help plan surface transportation infrastructure and services. There are currently 381 MPOs nationwide. Despite some strengthening of their authority over the years, MPOs have generally remained subordinate to state departments of transportation (DOTs) in the planning and selecting (“programming”) of projects using federal surface transportation funds. Moreover, it can be argued that at the metropolitan level MPOs are subordinate to local governments that own and operate many elements of the transportation system, and also control land use planning and zoning..."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Statement of Dennis C. Blair, Directory of National Intelligence before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, February 2, 2010
"Chairman Feinstein, Vice Chairman Bond, Members of the Committee, thank you for the
invitation to offer the Intelligence Community’s assessment of threats to US national security. I
am pleased to be accompanied today by the Directors of the Central Intelligence Agency,
Defense Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Acting Assistant
Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research.

The strategic landscape has changed considerably for US interests over the past year. We
see some improvements, but also several entrenched problems and slow progress in some areas
for the foreseeable future. Several large-scale threats to fundamental US interests will require
increased attention, and it is on one of these threats that I will focus our initial discussion."
Understanding the Economy: State-by-State Snapshots
"The Joint Economic Committee released a report entitled “Understanding the Economy: State-by-State Snapshots,” (Part 2) which provides easy access to the major economic indicators in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the areas of jobs, unemployment, personal earnings and housing.

Key economic statistics for each state include:

• Jobs created or lost since the start of the recession;
• Jobs saved or created by the Recovery Act;
• Unemployment rates;
• Per capita earnings; and,
• The condition of the housing sector."
To view state-by-state reports, click on the individual state below..

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Privacy Impact Assessment for the Office of Operations Coordination and Planning Haiti Social Media Disaster Monitoring Initiative
"The Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS), National Operations Center (NOC), has launched a Haiti Social Media Disaster Monitoring Initiative (Initiative) to assist the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and its components involved in the response, recovery, and rebuilding effort resulting from the recent earthquake and after-effects in Haiti. The NOC is using this vehicle to fulfill its statutory responsibility to provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture for the federal Government, and for those state, local, and tribal governments, as appropriate, assisting with the response, recovery, and rebuilding effort in Haiti. OPS may also share information with international partners and the private sector where necessary and appropriate for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The NOC is only monitoring publicly available online forums, blogs, public websites, and message boards to collect information used in providing situational awareness and to establish a common operating picture. OPS will not set up user accounts to access any information. While this Initiative is not designed to collect personally identifiable information (PII), OPS is conducting this Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) because the Initiative could potentially involve information received in an identifiable form. This PIA is effective for 90 days and will be reviewed and updated at that time. Should the requirements for the Initiative change before this expiration date, OPS and the Privacy Office will immediately update this PIA..."
New One-Stop Source for Scientific Information about U.S. Oceans and Waters
"A one-stop source for biogeographic information collected from U.S. waters and oceanic regions is now available from the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) Program.

The OBIS-USA website offers a unique combination of tools, resources, and biodiversity information to aide scientists, resource managers and decision makers in the research and analyses critical to sustaining the nation’s valued marine ecosystems.

OBIS-USA was established in 2006 in cooperation with the U.S. National Committee for the Census of Marine Life a committee composed of renowned marine community leaders. OBIS-USA – a partnership of state, federal and scientific organizations -- is the United States’ contribution to the International Ocean Biogeographic Information System, an effort led by the Census of Marine Life to provide “open access” to global biodiversity data on the myriad of marine life that inhabits the ocean.

“The world’s ocean is critically important, not only because of how it influences the climate, but also because it provides the resources for commercial, recreational, cultural, scientific, conservation, and national security activities,”” said John Mosesso, OBIS-USA co-lead. “At the same time, the ocean is threatened by a variety of changes, including warming temperatures, increasing ocean acidity, invasion by non-native species, overharvesting, and loss of habitat for species of concern.”

OBIS-USA provides data and functional tools to address key questions and information needs related to scientific understanding of sustainable and resilient ecosystems, marine spatial planning, climate change, ocean acidification, invasive species, and managing the nation’s fisheries. To address these ocean threats requires access to critical information on marine biodiversity, Mosesso noted..."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Budget of the United States, FY 2011
"Supporting Middle Class Families

Having steered the economy back from the brink of a depression, the Administration is committed to moving the Nation from recession to recovery by sparking job creation to get millions of Americans back to work and building a new foundation for the long-term prosperity for all American families. To do this, the 2011 Budget makes critical investments in the key areas that will help to reverse the decline in economic security that American families have experienced over the past decade with investments in education, clean energy, infrastructure, and innovation.

But even as we meet the challenge of the recession and work to build an economy that works for all American families, we must also change the way Washington does business – ending programs that don’t work, streamlining those that do, cracking down on special interest access, and bringing a new responsibility to how tax dollars are spent. The President’s Budget takes the steps to help jumpstart job creation, works to strengthen the economic security of American families, and makes the tough choices to put our Nation back on the path to fiscal responsibility..."
SECOND RECIPIENT REPORTING PERIOD: 10/01/09 -- 12/31/09
"The Recovery Act requires recipients of Recovery awards to report on how they have used the money. For the most recent reporting period – October 1 through December 31, 2009 – recipients began filing reports on January 1, 2010"