Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Remarks by the President in Eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney

Read the full text of President Barack Obama's eulogy of South Carolina Senator Clementa Pinckney in Charleston, South Carolina, June 26, 2015
Senator Clementa Pinckney eulogy

Saturday, June 27, 2015

3 Options to Consider if You Can’t Afford Your Student Loan Payment

"The U.S. Department of Education offers a number of affordable repayment options for borrowers who are struggling to pay back their student loans. The important thing to remember about all the options below is that it’s completely free to apply! Also, if you ever have questions or need FREE advice about your student loans, you can alwayscontact your Department of Education loan servicer..."
Student loans

Urine (Not Chlorine) Causes Red Eyes in Pools

"For many, a trip to the local swimming pool also results in red, itchy eyes. So what’s the reason behind eye irritation? Brace yourself — the answer is grosser than you might think. According to The Washington Post’s Ariana Eunjung Cha, the answer isn’t chlorine. It’s urine.
This nasty little bombshell was tucked in the Centers for Disease Control’s annual healthy swimming report. Though also shares less horrifying information like the number of pools in the United States (309,000 public pools, 10.4 million residential ones), the CDC also reports that a pool’s telltale “chlorine” smell — and red, stinging eyes after swimming — are caused by “pee, poop, sweat, and dirt from swimmers’ bodies.”
In fact, chlorine is still a culprit. Cha writes that when urine and chlorine mix, the combination turns chlorine into an ammonia derivative called chloramine, which has a distinctive smell, a reputation for causing respiratory problems, and a telltale effect on eyes..."
Urine in pools

Jumping Worms Have Invaded Wisconsin

"A new resident has made its home among the cheeseheads, and it is not welcome.  The invasive jumping worm (Amynthas sp.) now inhabits five of Wisconsin’s counties, and the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is looking to the public for help in stemming its spread, as Breann Schossow reports for Wisconsin Public Radio.

Wisconsin is home to many non-native earthworms, which arrived with the state’s first settlers, but the jumping worm has become a unique case for a few reasons. Originally from East Asia, the worms cause problems in how they digest leaf litter and poop out soil. Most earthworms eat soil, so what’s the big deal with this one? As Bernie Williams, an invasive species specialist with the Wisconsin DNR, told Schossow, jumping worms are total overachievers..."
Jumping worms and Wisconsin

EEOC Issues Updated Pregnancy Discrimination Guidance

"The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued an update of its Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues (Guidance), along with a question and answer document and a fact sheet for small businesses.  All are available on the EEOC's website at http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/enforcement_guidance.cfm.
The updates to the Guidance are limited to several pages about the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Young v. UPS, issued in March 2015. The updated Guidance reflects the Supreme Court's conclusion that women may be able to prove unlawful pregnancy discrimination if the employer accommodated some workers but refused to accommodate pregnant women. The Court explained that employer policies that are not intended to discriminate on the basis of pregnancy may still violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) if the policy imposes significant burdens on pregnant employees without a sufficiently strong justification..."

Pregnancy discrimination

Syria Country Analysis Brief: 2015

"Syria's energy sector has encountered a number of challenges as a result of conflict and subsequent sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union. Damage to energy infrastructure—including oil and natural gas pipelines and electricity transmission networks—hindered the exploration, development, production, and transport of the country's energy resources.

Syria, previously the eastern Mediterranean's leading oil and natural gas producer, has seen its production fall to a fraction of pre-conflict levels. Syria is no longer able to export oil, and as a result, government revenues from the energy sector have fallen significantly. Prior to the current conflict, when Syria produced 383,000 barrels per day (b/d) of oil and 316 million cubic feet per day (Mmcf/d) of natural gas, Syria's oil and gas sector accounted for approximately one fourth of government revenues..."

Convictions in Federal Hate Crime Cases Since FY 2010

 "Since federal hate crime legislation was passed in 2009, there have been a total of 29 such federal convictions, accrding to the case-by-case information analyzed bythe Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). Of these, a guilty pleas was entered for 25 defendants; the remaining four were convicted after a jury trial. The average prison sentence was 101 months or over 8 years, The median prison sentence --half got more, half got less-- was just 4 years (48 months).."
Hate crime 


"Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The petitioners, 14 same-sex couples and two men whose same-sex partners are deceased, filed suits in Federal District Courts in their home States, claiming that respondent state officials violate the Fourteenth Amendment by denying them the right to marry or to have marriages lawfully performed in another State given full recognition. Each District Court ruled in petitioners’ favor, but the Sixth Circuit consolidated the cases and reversed.
Held: The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State. Pp. 3–28. (a) Before turning to the governing principles and precedents, it is appropriate to note the history of the subject now before the Court. Pp. 3–10.
(1) The history of marriage as a union between two persons of the opposite sex marks the beginning of these cases. To the respondents, it would demean a timeless institution if marriage were extended to same-sex couples. But the petitioners, far from seeking to devalue marriage, seek it for themselves because of their respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities, as illustrated by the petitioners’ own experiences..."
Supreme Court and same sex marriage


"The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act grew out of a long history of failed health insurance reform. In the 1990s, several States sought to expand access to coverage by imposing a pair of insurance market regulations—a “guaranteed issue” requirement, which bars insurers from denying coverage to any person because of his health, and a “community rating” requirement, which bars insurers from charging a person higher premiums for the same reason. The reforms achieved the goal of expanding access to coverage, but they also encouraged people to wait until they got sick to buy insurance. The result was an economic “death spiral”: premiums rose, the number of people buying insurance declined, and insurers left the market entirely. In 2006, however, Massachusetts discovered a way to make the guaranteed issue and community rating requirements work—by requiring individuals to buy insurance and by providing tax credits to certain individuals to make insurance more affordable. The combination of these three reforms—insurance market regulations, a coverage mandate, and tax credits—enabled Massachusetts to drastically reduce its uninsured rate.

The Affordable Care Act adopts a version of the three key reforms that made the Massachusetts system successful. First, the Act adopts the guaranteed issue and community rating requirements. 42 U. S. C. §§300gg, 300gg–1. Second, the Act generally requires individuals to maintain health insurance coverage or make a payment to the IRS, unless the cost of buying insurance would exceed eight percent of that individual’s income. 26 U. S. C. §5000A. And third, the Act seeks to make insurance more affordable by giving refundable tax credits to individuals with household incomes between 100 per cent and 400 percent of the federal poverty line..."
Affordable Care Act

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014

"On the first Sunday in August, the terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) descended on the towns and villages that are the ancient home of the Yezidi people, one of many small ethno-religious minorities that has lived for centuries in the diverse lands encompassed by Iraq and the Levant. They attacked and killed hundreds of men, women, and children simply because of their faith. Some were shot in the back while fleeing; others were buried alive. Thousands of women were taken captive as sex slaves. The bodies of many of the victims were later found in mass graves. Escapees undertook a week-long journey on foot that ended atop a desolate mountain in the area of Sinjar in northwestern Iraq. Defenseless, lacking food or water, and besieged by ISIL, the remaining survivors of the Yezidi community faced terrible atrocities and what President Obama called “a potential act of genocide.” Kurdish forces, aided by U.S. airstrikes, forged a path to safety. ISIL’s advance through Iraq and Syria claimed many other victims – Christians, Turkomans, Shabak, Shia and Sunni Muslims – as it resurrected, as a core tenet of its ideology, the most terrifying practices of medieval warfare and conquest. While our reports continue to focus on the behavior of governments – which bear responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in their territories – the year 2014 will be remembered as much for atrocities committed by non-state actors.

The brutality of these actors is one of the notable trends in the 2014 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. - See more at: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper..."
Human Rights Country Reports

Today we begin to share the story of your complaints

"Every day, we hear directly from the American public about your experiences in the consumer financial marketplace. We hear from consumers in their own words about the pain of having a home in foreclosure, the frustration of trying to correct an inaccurate credit report, or their helplessness in dealing with an abusive debt collector.
Today, for the first time, we are making consumers’ complaint narratives – the heart and soul of the complaints we receive – public. These narratives are important because they tell the story of what happened in the consumers’ own words. Making these consumer narratives public, amplifies the voice of the consumer..."
Consumer finance complaints

Questionable Billing and Geographic Hotspots Point to Potential Fraud and Abuse in Medicare Part D

"Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in this country. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared prescription drug abuse an epidemic.
That year alone, over 1.4 million emergency department visits were caused by improper use of pharmaceuticals. In 2012, over 700,000 inpatient hospitals stays were related to the overuse of opioids. Opioids have a potential for abuse and are controlled substances.

 Drug diversion—the redirection of prescription drugs for an illegal purpose—is another serious problem. Examples of drug diversion include the use of drugs for recreational purposes or the illegal resale of drugs. Although the diversion of controlled substances is of particular concern, the diversion of noncontrolled substances is becoming more common and fraud related to these drugs can present a significant financial loss to Medicare.  Examples of noncontrolled substances include respiratory and antipsychotic medications.
Medicare fraud

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

HHS launches GIS-based tool for health disaster readiness

"The HHS emPOWER Map, an interactive online tool, launched today to aid community health agencies and emergency management officials in disaster preparedness as they plan ahead to meet the emergency needs of community residents who rely on electrically powered medical and assistive equipment to live independently at home.
The new tool is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) in its ongoing efforts to support community resilience and build national health security..."
Health disasters

Adapting To Climate Change in Coastal Parks

"Over the next century, warming global temperatures will present many challenges for the National Park Service (NPS) and public land managers. Rising sea level will be one of the most obvious and most challenging impacts of this warming. Even a minor increase in sea level will have significant effects on coastal hazards, natural resources and assets within national parks. To begin addressing these issues, the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS) at Western Carolina University (WCU) has partnered with NPS to begin an assessment of the level of exposure that park owned assets will face during a period of rising sea level.
The first phase of this collaborative project between WCU and NPS has focused on identifying NPS assets that may be threatened by a future 1 m rise in sea level within 40 coastal units. A 1 m rise in sea level can be expected to occur in the next 100 to 150 years. Many of the assets identified are already vulnerable to existing coastal hazards (erosion and storms)..."
Climate change and parks

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Budgetary and Economic Effects of Repealing the Affordable Care Act

"What Would Be the Major Effects of Repealing the ACA?
CBO and JCT estimate that repealing the ACA would have several major effects, relative to the projections under current law:
 Including the budgetary effects of macroeconomic feedback, repealing the ACA would increase federal budget deficits by $137 billion over the 2016–2025 period (see Table 1). That estimate takes into account the proposal’s impact on federal revenues and direct (or mandatory) spending, incorporating the net effects of two components:
• Excluding the effects of macroeconomic feedback—as has been done for previous estimates related to the ACA (and most other CBO cost estimates)—CBO and JCT estimate that federal deficits would increase by $353 billion over the 2016–2025 period if the ACA was repealed.
• Repeal of the ACA would raise economic output, mainly by boosting the supply of labor; the resulting increase in GDP is projected to average about 0.7 percent over the 2021–2025 period. Alone, those effects would reduce federal deficits by $216 billion over the 2016–2025 period, CBO and JCT estimate, mostly because of increased federal revenues
Affordable Care Act

The 2015 Long-Term Budget Outlook

"The long-term outlook for the federal budget has worsened dramatically over the past several years, in the wake of the 2007–2009 recession and slow recovery. Between 2008 and 2012, financial turmoil and a severe drop in economic activity, combined with various policies implemented in response to those conditions, sharply reduced federal revenues and increased spending. As a result, budget deficits rose: They totaled $5.6 trillion in those five years, and in four of the five years, they were larger relative to the size of the economy than they had been in any year since 1946. Because of the large deficits, federal debt held by the public soared, nearly doubling during the period. It is now equivalent to about 74 percent of the economy’s annual output, or gross domestic product (GDP)—a higher percentage than at any point in U.S. history except a seven-year period around World War II..."
Federal budget

Persons with Disabilities: Labor Force Characteristics-- 2014

"In 2014, 17.1 percent of persons with a disability were employed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 64.6 percent. The ratio for persons with a disability declined by 0.5 percentage point from 2013 to 2014, while the ratio for those with no disability increased by 0.6 percentage point. The unemployment rate of persons with a disability edged down to 12.5 percent from 2013 to 2014, while the rate for those without a disability declined to 5.9 percent..."
Disability data

Preventing Melanoma

"Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US. In 2011, there were more than 65,000 cases of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. Melanoma can spread to other parts of the body and causes over 9,000 deaths every year. People who die of melanoma lose an average of 20 years of life expectancy. Melanoma can be caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from sun or sources such as indoor tanning. Without additional prevention efforts, melanoma will continue to increase in the next 15 years. Communities and policy makers play a major role in these skin cancer prevention efforts.
Communities and policymakers can:
  • Increase shade at playgrounds, public pools, and other public spaces.
  • Promote sun protection in recreation areas, including the use or purchase of hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses.
  • Encourage employers, childcare centers, schools, and colleges to educate employees and students about sun safety and skin protection.
  • Restrict the availability and use of indoor tanning by minors...:


Notes from our Attic: A Curator’s Pocket History of the CIA

"History can be studied in more than one way. You can learn about facts and ideas from books. You can search for the documents that the books are based on. You can take the material approach: go to the places where history was made, perhaps join a group of re-enactors, and absorb the atmosphere. Or you can go to a museum. Museums are where you discover history by studying things, that is, artifacts, in context. What we do here is tell the story of the Central Intelligence Agency through a selection of the artifacts collected by the CIA Museum, often called “The Best Museum You’ve Never Seen” because we display our artifacts in their true CIA context—but only staff and official visitors to the CIA Headquarters compound can see them. This is part of an initiative to share our treasures with a wider audience. Because we are interpreting history through artifacts, our catalog is a little different from other forms of history that start with a narrative and may or may not use photographs and maps to illustrate a story. We start with what we have in the collection and use artifacts to reconstruct the history of the Agency. The result is more impressionistic and less linear than other histories, but we hope it will be just as memorable and informative..."
CIA history

Country Reports on Terrorism 2014

"Country Reports on Terrorism 2014 is submitted in compliance with Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f (the "Act"), which requires the Department of State to provide to Congress a full and complete annual report on terrorism for those countries and groups meeting the criteria of the Act. The report was published April 2015.
Beginning with the report for 2004, it replaced the previously published Patterns of Global Terrorism..."


EIA Country Analysis: Iran

"Iran holds some of the world's largest deposits of proved oil and natural gas reserves, ranking as the world's fourth-largest and second-largest reserve holder of oil and natural gas, respectively. Iran also ranks among the world's top 10 oil producers and top 5 natural gas producers. Iran produced almost 3.4 million barrels per day (b/d) of petroleum and other liquids in 2014 and an estimated 5.7 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of dry natural gas in 2013.
The Strait of Hormuz, off the southeastern coast of Iran, is an important route for oil exports from Iran and other Persian Gulf countries. At its narrowest point, the Strait of Hormuz is 21 miles wide, yet an estimated 17 million b/d of crude oil and refined products flowed through it in 2013 (roughly 30% of all seaborne traded oil and almost 20% of total oil produced globally). Liquefied natural gas (LNG) volumes also flow through the Strait of Hormuz. Approximately 3.7 Tcf of LNG was transported from Qatar via the Strait of Hormuz in 2013, accounting for more than 30% of global LNG trade.
Iran oil data

2013 American Housing Survey Factsheets

Find selected housing data on the nation and 25 of the largest American cities.
Housing survey facts

Friday, June 19, 2015

Health Care Fraud Takedown

"More than 240 individuals—including doctors, nurses, and other licensed professionals—were arrested this week for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $712 million in false billings.
The arrests, which began Tuesday, were part of a coordinated operation in 17 cities by Medicare Fraud Strike Force teams, which include personnel from the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and local law enforcement. The Strike Force’s mission is to combat health care fraud, waste, and abuse...."
Health care fraud

Keep Your Cool in Hot Weather

"Now is the time to prepare for the high temperatures that kill hundreds of people every year. Extreme heat caused 7,415 heat-related deaths in the United States from 1999 to 2010 . Heat-related deaths and illness are preventable, yet annually many people succumb to extreme heat.
Take measures to stay cool, remain hydrated and to keep informed. Getting too hot can make you sick. You can become ill from the heat if your body can't compensate for it and properly cool you off. The main things affecting your body's ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather are:
  • High humidity. When the humidity is high, sweat won't evaporate as quickly, which keeps your body from releasing heat as fast as it may need to.
  • Personal factors. Age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use can play a role in whether a person can cool off enough in very hot weather..."
    Extreme heat

China’s Economic Rise: History, Trends, Challenges, and Implications for the United States

"Prior to the initiation of economic reforms and trade liberalization 35 years ago, China maintained policies that kept the economy very poor, stagnant, centrally-controlled, vastly inefficient, and relatively isolated from the global economy. Since opening up to foreign trade and investment and implementing free market reforms in 1979, China has been among the world’s fastest-growing economies, with real annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaging nearly 10% through 2014. In recent years, China has emerged as a major global economic power. It is now the world’s largest: economy (on a purchasing power parity basis), manufacturer, merchandise trader, and holder of foreign exchange reserves.
The global economic crisis that began in 2008 greatly affected China’s economy. China’s exports, imports, and foreign directly investment (FDI) inflows declined, GDP growth slowed, and millions of Chinese workers reportedly lost their jobs. The Chinese government responded by implementing a $586 billion economic stimulus package and loosening monetary policies to increase bank lending. Such policies enabled China to effectively weather the effects of the sharp global fall in demand for Chinese products. However, the Chinese economy has slowed in recent years. Real GDP fell from10.4% in 2010 to 7.8% in 2012, to 7.4% in 2014.The IMF projects that over the next six years China’s real annual GDP growth will average 5.9%..."
China and economics

Invasive Species: Issues in Brief

"For the first few centuries after the arrival of Europeans in North America, plants and animals of many species were sent between the two continents. The transfer of non-natives consisted not only of intentional westbound species ranging from pigs to dandelions but also of intentional eastbound species, such as gray squirrels and tomatoes. And for those centuries, the remaining non-native species crossing the Atlantic, uninvited and often unwelcome, were ignored if they were noticed at all. They were joined by various species arriving deliberately or accidentally from Asia and Africa. The national focus on invasive species arose in the 19th century, primarily owing to losses in agriculture (due to weeds or plant diseases), the leading industry of the time. A few recently arrived invasive species, and estimates of adverse economic impacts exceeding $100 billion annually, have sharpened that focus..."
Invasive species

NHTSA announces all Vehicle Identification Numbers under the Takata air bag recall are loaded into the agency’s search system

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced today that all vehicle identification numbers affected by the massive Takata air bag recall are loaded into the agency’s search system. The recall involves 11 auto manufacturers and roughly 34 million vehicles.
“An informed consumer is one of our strongest allies in ensuring recalled vehicles are repaired, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “NHTSA’s VIN search tool at safercar.gov makes it easy for consumers to check if their vehicle is affected by the recall, and to take action in getting the air bags replaced.”..."
Takata air bag Recalls

2013 American Housing Survey Factsheets

Find the latest metropolitan housing statistics on the physical condition of owner-occupied and renter -occupied units.In addition, data is presented on mortgage payments, property insurance, real estate taxes, and electricity,
Housing statistics

State Estimates of Adolescent Cigarette Use and Perception of Risks of Smoking: 2012 and 2013

"Cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke causes more than 443,000 deaths every year, and another 8.6 million people suffer from a serious illness related to smoking.1 According to the Surgeon General, if current trends continue, 5.6 million U.S. youths who are currently younger than 18 years of age will die prematurely during adulthood because of their smoking.2 Thus, cigarette smoking imposes substantial health and financial costs on our nation and its states.3 Preventing adolescents from starting to smoke may be the most effective way to reduce the health and economic burden of tobacco-related disease in the future. Between 1991 and 2013, there was a significant linear decrease in the prevalence of cigarette use among high school students from 27.5 to 15.7 percent.4 It is useful to state policymakers and prevention specialists to assess whether the decline in smoking occurred across all states among adolescents aged 12 to 17..."
Smoking and adolescents

Cybersecurity Issues for the Bulk Power System

"In the United States, it is generally taken for granted that the electricity needed to power the U.S. economy is available on demand and will always be available to power our machines and devices. However, in recent years, new threats have materialized as new vulnerabilities have come to light, and a number of major concerns have emerged about the resilience and security of the nation’s electric power system. In particular, the cybersecurity of the electricity grid has been a focus of recent efforts to protect the integrity of the electric power system.
The increasing frequency of cyber intrusions on industrial control (IC) systems of critical infrastructure continues to be a concern to the electric power sector. Power production and flows on the nation’s electricity grid are controlled remotely by a number of IC technologies. The National Security Agency (NSA) reported that it has seen intrusions into IC systems by entities with the apparent technical capability “to take down control systems that operate U.S. power grids, water systems and other critical infrastructure.”..."


Your Health and Our Environment: How Can We Protect Both?

"On Tuesday, the White House will convene a Summit to bring together health and medical professionals, academics, and other stakeholders to empower people and communities with the information and tools they need to protect public health in the face of climate change..."
Public health and climate

President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Shooting in South Carolina

"Last night, a gunman opened fire at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people including pastor and state senator Clementa Pinckney. The Department of Justice is opening a hate crime investigation into this tragedy. 
The President delivered the following statement from the White House Briefing Room:..."
Charleston Shooting

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Final Determination Regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils

" Based on the available scientific evidence and the findings of expert scientific panels, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA or we) has made a final determination that there is no longer a consensus among qualified experts that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), which are the primary dietary source of industrially-produced trans fatty acids (IP-TFA) are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for any use in human food. This action responds, in part, to citizen petitions we received, and we base our determination on available scientific evidence and the findings of expert scientific panels establishing the health risks associated with the consumption of trans fat..."
Hydrogenated Oils

An elaborate system of elevators and trap doors lifted ferocious beasts onto the Colosseum floor

"It is the 1st century AD and 50,000 screaming ancient Romans are crammed into the tight seats of the Colosseum, then officially called the "Flavian Amphitheater." As the din of the rowdy crowd grows louder, the gladiators in the arena brace themselves for what's about to come. All of sudden, the spectators erupt as wild beasts emerge from trap doors in the Colosseum’s floor. Lions, wolves, leopards and bears arise out of seemingly hidden holes in the ground. Swords are raised and fangs are flashed as the bloody, gruesome battle between man and beast begins.
Nearly 2,000 years later, the Colosseum remains an iconic structure and symbol of Rome. While gladiatorial games haven't happened here in over a millennium, a new addition to the already immensely popular Colosseum historical site allows visitors an extra glimpse into the past. In early June, the Superintendent of Archaeological Sites in Rome and the Minister of Culture of Italy officially unveiled a nearly exact replica of the lift and trap-door system that transported ferocious beasts from the passageways and dens under the Colosseum, known as the hypogeum, up to the arena..."
Roman Colosseum

Ten Sentenced in Hate Crime Case

"In Jackson, Mississippi, in the early morning hours of June 26, 2011, a 47-year-old African-American man—James Craig Anderson—was severely beaten and then intentionally run over with a pickup truck in an unprovoked attack by a group of white teenagers from nearby suburbs. Some of the teens yelled racial epithets during this horrific incident, a random act of hate crime violence that resulted in Anderson’s death.
The FBI’s Jackson Field Office opened an investigation, and it wasn’t long before we were able to piece together a conspiracy among at least 10 individuals who—on a half-dozen or so different occasions—made and carried out plans to target, harass, and hurt African-Americans in Jackson, specifically those they believed were homeless or under the influence of alcohol because they thought that such individuals would be less likely to report the assault..."
Hate crime

Monday, June 15, 2015


The National Archives is making available a facsimile of a telegram from Jackie Robinson to President John F. Kennedy on the death of Medgar Edgars and selected other Robinson correspondence.
Jackie Robinson and civil rights


"Pollinators need your help! There is increasing evidence that many pollinators are in decline.  However, there are some simple things you can do at home to encourage pollinator diversity and abundance...:
Pollinator Brochure: Attracting Pollinators to your Garden.
  Attracting Pollinators to your Garden


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Oil exploration in the U.S. Arctic continues despite current price environment

"Alaska's crude oil production has declined from 1.8 million barrels per day (MMb/d) in 1991 to 0.5 MMb/d in 2014, and it is expected to continue declining through 2040. Almost 75% of Alaska's crude oil production from 1990 to 2012 was from the Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk River fields in the central North Slope, which respectively produced 4.9 billion and 1.7 billion barrels of crude oil over this period.
Crude oil production in Alaska is sensitive to the challenging environment—including variable ice conditions and limited time without ice coverage—as well as pipeline economics. However, recent conditional approval granted to Royal Dutch Shell to begin exploratory drilling in the Burger Prospect in the Chukchi Sea may help to offset future declines in crude oil production from other state and federally managed resources in the region.."
Oil exploration in U.S. Arctic

Declassified Documents Related to 9/11 Attacks

"Today, CIA has released to the public declassified versions of five internal documents related to the Agency’s performance in the lead-up to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The documents can be found at CIA’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) online reading room at http://www.foia.cia.gov/collection/declassified-documents-related-911-attacks.

The first of these documents is a redacted version of the 2005 CIA Office of Inspector General (OIG) Report on Central Intelligence Agency Accountability Regarding Findings and Conclusions of the Report of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001. In 2005, then-CIA Director Porter Goss issued a public statement on the OIG report. In 2007, CIA publicly released a redacted executive summary of the report along with a statement from then-Director Michael Hayden. In response to FOIA requests for the full 2005 OIG report, CIA and other agencies conducted an extensive review of the nearly 500-page document in order to release information that no longer needed to be protected in the interests of national security...:

911 attacks

Friday, June 12, 2015

HHS selects nine regional Ebola and other special pathogen treatment centers

"To further strengthen the nation’s infectious disease response capability, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has selected nine health departments and associated partner hospitals to become special regional treatment centers for patients with Ebola or other severe, highly infectious diseases.
The nine awardees and their partner hospitals are:
  • Massachusetts Department of Public Health in partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts
  • New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in partnership with New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation/HHC Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City
  • Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in partnership with Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Georgia Department of Public Health in partnership with Emory University Hospital and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta/Egleston Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Minnesota Department of Health in partnership with the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Texas Department of State Health Services in partnership with the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in Galveston, Texas
  • Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with Nebraska Medicine - Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska
  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in partnership with Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado
  • Washington State Department of Health in partnership with Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital in Spokane, Washington.."
Ebola centers

Measuring America: How Ready Are We?

Measuring America: How Ready Are We?
As part of the 2013 American Housing Survey, Americans were asked how prepared they are for disasters.
Emergency preparedness

2015 White House Conference on Aging

"2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. The 2015 White House Conference on Aging is an opportunity to recognize the importance of these key programs as well as to look ahead to the issues that will help shape the landscape for older Americans for the next decade.
In the past, conference processes were determined by statute with the form and structure directed by Congress through legislation authorizing the Older Americans Act. To date, Congress has not reauthorized the Older Americans Act, and the pending bill does not include a statutory requirement or framework for the 2015 conference.."
Conference on Aging

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Arthritis and Quality of Life

"A new CDC study of adults aged 18 years or older reports that having multiple chronic conditions was associated with poorer outcomes for important life domains (i.e., social participation restriction, serious psychological distress, and work disability). Having arthritis as one of those multiple chronic conditions made things even worse. Because arthritis is a common condition (affects more than 1 of 5 adults) and often occurs with other chronic conditions, it is important to highlight the possible role of arthritis when discussing the negative effects of having multiple chronic conditions and the interventions needed to address those impacts..."

USA FREEDOM Act Reinstates Expired USA PATRIOT Act Provisions but Limits Bulk Collection

"Following a contentious debate and passage in the Senate, the USA FREEDOM Act (H.R. 2048) was signed into law on June 2, 2015. The new law contains eight titles, spanning a range of national security topics from reauthorizing expired investigative authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) to enhancing criminal prohibitions against maritime and nuclear terrorism. But, the legislative history and debate surrounding the Act indicate that the principal focus of the legislation was to address the bulk collection of telephone metadata by the National Security Agency (NSA) under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act..."
USA Freedom Act

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

"Since Israel’s founding in 1948, successive U.S. Presidents and many Members of Congress have demonstrated a commitment to Israel’s security and to maintaining close U.S.-Israel cooperation. Common perceptions of shared democratic values and religious affinities have contributed to the strong bilateral ties. The question of Israel’s security regularly influences U.S. policy considerations regarding the Middle East, and Congress provides active oversight of executive branch dealings with Israel and other actors in the region. Israel is a leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid and a frequent purchaser of major U.S. weapons systems. By law, U.S. arms sales cannot adversely affect Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over other countries in its region. The two countries signed a free trade agreement in 1985, and the United States is Israel’s largest trading partner..."

A look at pay at the top, the bottom, and in between

"Policymakers and the public have given much attention to economic inequality in the past few years. In general terms, inequality refers to the differences between people with the highest levels of wealth, income, or earnings and those with the lowest levels. How big are these differences? Have they grown over time? What other ways do these groups differ besides how much money they earn?

This Spotlight on Statistics looks at measures of earnings and wages. The Spotlight examines how these measures have changed over time and how they differ within a geographic area, industry, or occupation. The Spotlight also looks at how participation in employee benefit plans differs across wage categories. Finally, the Spotlight looks at how people in different income or earnings categories spend their time and their money..."
Wages and pay

Avian Influenza

"Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways (or migratory bird paths). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in a few backyard and commercial poultry flocks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections to be low. No human cases of these HPAI H5 viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada, or internationally.

USDA has both an international and a domestic role in controlling the spread of avian influenza (AI) and reducing its effects on both agriculture and public health. USDA is aware of and prepared for the emergence of new types of AI virus. The nature of the influenza virus is such that mutations occur easily. Therefore, new strains can occur naturally at any time within avian hosts. The concern is whether the changes would impart the potential to cause severe disease or increase transmissibility between birds or mammals. Regardless of these changes, the USDA plans that are currently in place, which include surveillance, reporting, biosecurity, movement control, vaccination and depopulation, can be adjusted and applied to effectively control any new virus outbreak..."
Avian Influenza

Find Summer Meals in Your Community

"Nutritious free meals are available for children and teens 18 and younger at many locations throughout the nation throughout the summer while school is out of session. Use the mapping tool below to find a site near you. New sites will be added as the school year ends and throughout the summer. Please check back often for updated information..."  
Summer food

NASA releases detailed global climate change projections

"NASA has released data showing how temperature and rainfall patterns worldwide may change through the year 2100 because of growing concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere.
The dataset, which is available to the public, shows projected changes worldwide on a regional level in response to different scenarios of increasing carbon dioxide simulated by 21 climate models. The high-resolution data, which can be viewed on a daily timescale at the scale of individual cities and towns, will help scientists and planners conduct climate risk assessments to better understand local and global effects of hazards, such as severe drought, floods, heat waves and losses in agriculture productivity..."
Climate change

Monday, June 8, 2015

There Is No Global Warming Hiatus After All

"Did global warming take a breather in the early 21st century? Not at all, according to fresh analysis of temperature data that incorporates more information and better methods for parsing historical trends.

In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an assessment report that found what appeared to be a halt in the pace of warming. The rate at which surface temperatures rose between 1998 and 2012 was only about a third to a half that seen between 1951 and 2012. This was termed the “hiatus,” and climate change skeptics jumped on the result as evidence that there was no reason to worry.

Earlier this year, though, scientists at NASA and the National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration declared that 2014 was the warmest year since 1880. And now researchers have found that the record temperatures, when combined with better analysis methods, have eliminated any evidence of a pause in global warming.."Global warming

Stop Calling Flibanserin "Female Viagra

"A drug to treat low libido in women is on track for approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Yesterday afternoon, an advisory panel voted to recommend approval of the drug in question, flibanserin, Rob Stein reports for NPR. While the FDA doesn't have to follow their advice, most of the time they do.

Though some have questioned the drug’s effectiveness, flibanserin has been nicknamed by many media outlets as "Viagra for women." But, there's one key problem with that characterization: The two drugs work in completely different ways.
Viagra works by increasing blood flow to the genitals. In contrast, flibanserin's target lies in the brain, as Clare Wilson reports for New Scientist. In animal studies, it increases levels of two neurotransmitter molecules in the brain: dopamine, which controls the brain's reward pathways, and norepinephrine, the hormone that helps the brain focus in stressful situations. At the same time, the drug causes a decrease in levels of serotonin, the so-called "happiness" hormone. Researchers aren't entirely sure why this combination of chemical levels results in an increased libido, but studies suggest that it does..."

NASA Will Lose Contact With Mars for 14 Days This Month

"Call it a planned pause: about every 26 months, Mars passes behind the sun, cutting off communication with Earth. This "solar conjunction" is an issue for NASA, which runs five active Mars-related missions. Discovery News’ Ian O’Neill describes how the agency is prepping for the next blackout, which will take place from June 7 to 21. 
During the blackout, the agency will avoid sending commands to its two rovers, Curiosity and Opportunity, and its three orbiters, Reconnaissance, Odyssey and MAVEN. 
“It’s really helpful to have been through this before,” Nagin Cox, a systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement about the blackout. He notes that though it will be the first conjunction for the MAVEN spacecraft, all of the other missions have been through this before — seven times for Odyssey, six for Opportunity and five for Opportunity..."Mars

Does Dieting Actually Make Your Stomach Shrink?

"Swimsuit season is shockingly near, tempting many of us to sample from the diverse buffet of contemporary diets that promise to melt away lingering belly fat. Countless diets make sweeping claims—from flushing away toxins to curbing appetite. But can dieting actually shrink the size of your stomach, making you want to eat less? And for that matter, does overeating stretch your stomach and encourage gluttony? These questions have divided scientists for decades, but recent research is beginning to bring new insights to the controversial subject.
Even before dinner is server, the digestion process has already begun. In anticipation of a meal, saliva builds up in your mouth, while acid and enzymes accumulate in the stomach to help break down food. The stomach muscles also relax to prepare for the impending bombardment in a process called gastric accommodation. For the average adult, this natural “stretchiness” is far more important than baseline volume in determining how full someone gets from a given intake of food. As you eat more, your stomach volume can increase more than five-fold to house all the chow. After the food passes through the digestive tract, however, the stomach returns to its original size..."

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Farmers Markets: Important Sales Outlets for Organic Farmers

"Across the nation, farmers markets continue to be great places for communities to gather, shop for fresh, healthy food, and get to know local farmers and ranchers. Farmers markets are also important outlets for the sale of organic agricultural products.

In fact, more than 40 percent of organic operations report direct sale to consumers. As consumer demand for organic and local food increases, farmers markets offer important opportunities for organic producers to enter new markets and grow their business.

The National Organic Program(NOP)- part of the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service(AMS)-plays a critical role in the continued growth of organic agriculture by  ensuring the integrity of certified organic products. We do this by developing clean standards, overseeing the certification o organic operations, and ensuring compliance with the USDA organic Regulations..."
Farmers markets

Let’s Stop Summer Hunger

"During the school year, more than 21 million children rely on free and reduced school meals, but during the summer, only 3.8 million participate in the USDA’s summer meals program. This means that too many kids are at risk of hunger because they are out of school. For many students, school meals provide for over half of their daily calories during the school year, which means that providing these children with access to healthy meals is a big priority.
To help prevent summer hunger, the USDA partners with schools, local governments, and community organizations to provide free meals to children during the summer.
This means that any child under the age of 18 can go to a designated summer meal site and eat for free. But we need your help in ensuring that no child goes hungry this summer. During Summer Food Service Program Kick Off Week, observed June 1- 5, our colleagues at USDA want to invite everyone to help spread the word about this important program..."
Summer hunger