Saturday, December 31, 2016

DHS Releases End of Year Fiscal Year 2016 Statistics

"Today the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released its end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 statistics.  These statistics reflect the Department’s immigration enforcement efforts prioritizing convicted criminals and threats to public safety, border security and national security.
Overall, in FY 2016, the Department apprehended 530,250 individuals nationwide and conducted a total of 450,954 removals and returns. The U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) reported 415,816 apprehensions nationwide, compared to 337,117 in FY 2015; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 114, 434 individuals, compared to 125,211 in FY 2015. Although apprehensions by the USBP in FY 2016 increased from FY 2015, they remain a fraction of the number of apprehensions routinely observed from the 1980s through 2008.  In addition, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) identified 274,821 inadmissible individuals at ports of entry, compared to 253,509 in FY 2015. ICE removed or returned 240,255 individuals in FY 2016, compared to 235,413 in FY 2015..."
Homeland Security statistics

Friday, December 30, 2016

GRIZZLY STEPPE – Russian Malicious Cyber Activity

"This Joint Analysis Report (JAR) is the result of analytic efforts between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This document provides technical details regarding the tools and infrastructure used by the Russian civilian and military intelligence Services (RIS) to compromise and exploit networks and endpoints associated with the U.S. election, as well as a range of U.S. Government, political, and private sector entities. The U.S. Government is referring to this malicious cyber activity by RIS as GRIZZLY STEPPE.

Previous JARs have not attributed malicious cyber activity to specific countries or threat actors. However, public attribution of these activities to RIS is supported by technical indicators from the U.S. Intelligence Community, DHS, FBI, the private sector, and other entities. This determination expands upon the Joint Statement released October 7, 2016, from the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security..."
Russian cyber activity

Department of State Actions in Response to Russian Harassment

"The State Department today declared persona non grata 35 Russian officials operating in the United States who were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic or consular status. The Department also informed the Russian Government that it would deny Russian personnel access to two recreational compounds in the United States owned by the Russian Government.
The Department took these actions as part of a comprehensive response to Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and to a pattern of harassment of our diplomats overseas that has increased over the last four years, including a significant increase in the last 12 months. This harassment has involved arbitrary police stops, physical assault, and the broadcast on State TV of personal details about our personnel that put them at risk. In addition, the Russian Government has impeded our diplomatic operations by, among other actions: forcing the closure of 28 American corners which hosted cultural programs and English-language teaching; blocking our efforts to begin the construction of a new, safer facility for our Consulate General in St. Petersburg; and rejecting requests to improve perimeter security at the current, outdated facility in St. Petersburg...."
State Department and Russian harassment

The Administration’s Response to Russia: What You Need to Know

"Today, President Obama authorized actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at our election.

Today, President Obama authorized a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election in 2016. Russia’s cyber activities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in U.S. democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the U.S. government. These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated..."
U.S. sanctions of Russia

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Social Security Bulletin Archives

Find the full text of the Social Security Bulletin covering the years 1938- 2016.
Social Security Bulletin

U.S. and World Population Clock

Use the U.S. and World population clocks to find update to date data on populations in the United States and the world as a whole.
Population clocks

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Guide to Law Online

"The Guide to Law Online, prepared by the Law Library of Congress Public Services Division, is an annotated guide to sources of information on government and law available online. It includes selected links to useful and reliable sites for legal information..."
Online law resource

Friday, December 23, 2016

Intel Committee Releases Declassified Snowden Report

"The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence today released a declassified version of its investigative report on Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who fled to China and then Russia after stealing an estimated 1.5 million classified documents. The report, including redactions for classified information, was the result of a two-year inquiry into Snowden’s background, likely motivations, and methods of theft, as well as the damage done to U.S. national security as a result of his actions. The report was completed in September 2016 and submitted to the Intelligence Community for a declassification review.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said, “I’m gratified that, with the completion of the declassification review, the American people can now get a fuller account of Edward Snowden’s crimes and the reckless disregard he has shown for U.S. national security, including the safety of American servicemen and women. It will take a long time to mitigate the damage he caused, and I look forward to the day when he returns to the United States to face justice.”   
Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff said, Snowden and his defenders claim that he is a whistleblower, but he isn't, as the Committee's review shows.  Most of the material he stole had nothing to do with Americans’ privacy, and its compromise has been of great value to America's adversaries and those who mean to do America harm. Whistleblowers are important to proper oversight and we will protect them from retaliation, and those who engage in civil disobedience are willing to stay and face the consequences.”..."
Snowden report

Thursday, December 22, 2016

U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians

"Since the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the U.S. government has committed more than $5 billion in bilateral economic and non-lethal security assistance to the Palestinians, who are among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid. Successive Administrations have requested aid for the Palestinians in apparent support of (1) promoting the prevention or mitigation of terrorism against Israel; (2) fostering stability, prosperity, and self-governance in the West Bank that may aid Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic prospects; and (3) meeting humanitarian needs. The long-term utility of U.S. aid in encouraging regional stability and Palestinian economic and political selfsufficiency might depend to some extent on progress toward a political solution that addresses Palestinian national aspirations and Israeli security demands..."
Palestinian foreign aid

Restrictions on Lobbying the Government: Current Policy and Proposed Changes

"During the 2016 presidential campaign, President-elect Donald Trump proposed a series of ethics measures, including several lobbying-related provisions. They are:

 extending "cooling off" periods on lobbying the government for five years after government   service;
 "instituting a five-year ban on lobbying by former Members of Congress and their staffs";

 expanding the definition of a lobbyist to cover former government officials who engage in strategic consulting;

and issuing a "lifetime ban against senior executive branch officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government."

President-elect Trump's ethics plan shares some features with past efforts to restrict Administration officials' future lobbying activities (the "revolving door") by adjusting "cooling off" periods—a period of time a former government official is restricted from contacting their former employer on particular matters they might have worked on in government. These previous efforts include a 1993 executive order issued by President Bill Clinton (E.O. 12834) and a 2009 executive order issued by President Barack Obama (E.O. 13490), and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) of 2007. The executive orders supplemented existing statutory revolving door and "cooling off" period requirements..."

The Federal Food Safety System: A Primer

"Numerous federal, state, and local agencies share responsibilities for regulating the safety of the U.S. food supply. Federal responsibility for food safety rests primarily with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). FDA, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for ensuring the safety of all domestic and imported food products (except for most meats and poultry). FDA also has oversight of all seafood, fish, and shellfish products. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulates most meat and poultry and some egg products. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified as many as 15 federal agencies, including FDA and FSIS, as collectively administering at least 30 laws related to food safety. State and local food safety authorities collaborate with federal agencies for inspection and other food safety functions, and they regulate retail food establishments.//"
Federal food safety

HUD Issues Fair Housing Guidance Regarding Local Nuisance Ordinances

"HUD’s Office of General Council issued guidance on applying fair housing standards to the enforcement of local nuisance and crime-free ordinances. The guidance primarily focuses on the impact these ordinances may have on domestic violence victims, but also apply to victims of other crimes and to those in need of emergency services who may be subjected to discrimination prohibited by the Fair Housing Act. The guidance also describes how local and state governments and public housing agencies receiving HUD funds should consider these ordinances when conducting their assessments of fair housing under the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulations.
On August 17, 29 senators, led by Senator Al Franken (D-MN), sent a letter to HUD Secretary Juli├ín Castro urging HUD to provide written guidance regarding how local nuisance ordinances may violate the Fair Housing Act and the Violence Against Women Act (see Memo, 8/22).
Housing and nuisance ordinances

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Stopping Terror Finance: Securing the U.S. Financial Sector

"Terrorist financing describes a form of financial crime in which an individual or entity solicits, collects, or provides funds “with the intention that [these funds] may be used to support terrorist acts or organizations.”1 While terrorists can benefit from big donations of deep-pocketed financiers sympathetic to their cause, terrorist financing often involves relatively small-dollar amounts and itself is just a subset melting into the larger stream of all financial crime occurring in the international financial system. The threat to national security from terrorist financiers is real, so while U.S. policymakers have long recognized the idea that “following the money” through the retail banking system can help combat terrorism and related forms of illicit finance, new financing technologies have arisen since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks that require constant renewal of detection and disruption methods..." 
Terrorist finances


"As part of the Obama Administration’s effort to prevent and end homelessness, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today awarded a record $1.95 billion in grants to nearly 7,600 homeless assistance programs across throughout the nation, including Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  HUD’s Continuum of Care grants provide critically needed support to local programs on the front lines of serving individuals and families experiencing homelessness. View a complete list of all the state and local homeless projects awarded funding.

This year, HUD continued to challenge state and local planning organizations called “Continuums of Care” to support their highest performing local programs that have proven most effective in meeting the needs of persons experiencing homelessness in their communities.  Many of these state and local planners also embraced HUD’s call to shift funds from existing underperforming projects to create new ones that are based on best practices that will further their efforts to prevent and end homelessness..."

Homeless housing

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Burden of TB in the United States

"Although tuberculosis (TB) is preventable and curable, many people in the United States still suffer from this disease. Persons with TB disease can be found in every state; in rural areas and cities; and in schools, workplaces, and many other places where people are in close contact. TB bacteria usually attack the lungs, but can also attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. As a result, two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection and TB disease. If not diagnosed and treated properly, TB disease can be fatal. One of CDC’s roles in addressing TB in the United States is to collect surveillance data and use that data to influence strategies to eliminate TB.."

Law Enforcement Use of Cell-Site Simulation Technologies: Privacy Concerns and Recommendations

"Advances in emerging surveillance technologies like cell-site simulators – devices which transform a cell phone into a real-time tracking device – require careful evaluation to ensure their use is consistent with the protections afforded under the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The United States’ military and intelligence agencies have developed robust and sophisticated surveillance technologies for deployment in defense against threats from foreign actors. These technologies are essential to keeping America safe.

Increasingly though, domestic law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels are using surveillance technologies in their every-day crime-fighting activities. In the case of cellsite simulators, this technology is being used to investigate a wide range of criminal activity, from human trafficking to narcotics trafficking, as well as kidnapping, and to assist in the apprehension of dangerous and violent fugitives..."
Cell site simulation

Clean Water Act Approved Jurisdictional Determinations

"This website presents information on approved jurisdictional determinations (JDs) made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Water Act since August 28, 2015. Users are able to search, sort, map, view, and download approved JDs from both agencies using different search parameters (e.g., by year, State, watershed). Corps approved JD forms can be found on the Corps JD public interface...."
Clean water

National Marine Sanctuaries – Value Added for Communities and the Blue Economy

"If you were asked to draw a picture of the U.S. economy, what color would you use? Perhaps green, the color of money? How about the portion of the economy that is supported by our ocean and coasts? BLUE! 
Now think about what it feels like to be surrounded by blue seas – perhaps while casting out a line and peacefully waiting to feel the tug of a fish. Do you see that huge ocean liner on the horizon? Ever wonder which U.S. port it’s headed for? That ship, your boat, the fuel you used to get out there, the fishing rod in your hands – it’s all part of the “blue” or ocean economy. Including industries like maritime commerce, offshore mineral extraction, fishing, and coastal tourism, this ocean economy amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars in goods and services, and it supports millions of jobs each year..."
National marine sanctuaries

No Kids in the House: A Historical Look at Adults Living Without Children

"Over the last 50 years, the percentage of adults living without children has climbed 19 percentage points from 52.5 percent in 1967 to 71.3 percent today based on an analysis of Current Population Survey data.
The Current Population Survey holds a wealth of information on the state of American families. We know that the population is aging, and that fertility is not as high as it was some decades ago, but how does this affect the composition of the group of adults who do not live with children in their home? In this blog, we highlight the historical changes among adults who do not have children in the home using data from CPS.
A higher proportion of all adults live without children in their home now than in 1967.
Among the 64.7 million adults living without children in 1967, 59 percent shared their household with a spouse. Another 11 percent identified as an adult child of the householder, and 14 percent as living in some other arrangement, such as with a boarder or roommate. Another 14 percent lived alone and less than 1 percent lived with an unmarried partner..."
Adults without children

Monday, December 19, 2016

Precision Medicine: What Does it Mean for Your Health?

"Precision medicine, sometimes called personalized medicine, is an approach for protecting health and treating disease that takes into account a person’s genes, behaviors, and environment. Interventions are tailored to individuals or groups, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach in which everyone receives the same care. But what does this mean and how can precision medicine protect your health?
You might have heard the term "precision medicine" and wondered how it relates to you. Precision medicine is about finding your unique disease risks and treatments that will work best for you. Here are some ways that a precision medicine approach can protect your health:

A Holiday Get Together: Cooking for Friends and Family

"The holidays are a time for celebrating with family and friends. Office parties, holiday buffets and potluck dinners offer great opportunities to exchange gifts and goodwill. But if food is not properly handled, they can also be a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria that causes foodborne illnesses. Following the recommendations below will help keep foodborne bacteria off of your menu.
Shopping for Your Feast
  • Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods when placing them in your shopping cart, packing them in grocery bags and storing them in your refrigerator.
  • Buy cold foods last and plan to drive directly home from the grocery store. Take a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs for perishables and always refrigerate food within two hours (one hour if the surrounding temperature is above 90 °F)...."
    Holiday cooking

Saturday, December 17, 2016

NOAA's 2016 Arctic Report Card: Visual highlights

"Now in its 11th year, the Arctic Report Card, released today at the annual American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco, is a peer-reviewed report that brings together the work of 61 scientists from 11 nations who report on air, ocean, land and ecosystem changes. It is a key tool used around the world to track changes in the Arctic and how those changes may affect communities, businesses and people. Below are a collection of maps and other images highlighting some of this year's key findings..."
Arctic Region

Jobseeker or Worker

Looking for a job? Take a look at these resources from the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job search tools

Friday, December 16, 2016

Consumption of Combustible and Smokeless Tobacco — United States, 2000–2015

"Combustible and smokeless tobacco use causes adverse health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease and multiple types of cancer (1,2). Standard approaches for measuring tobacco use include self-reported surveys of use and consumption estimates based on tobacco excise tax data (3,4). To provide the most recently available tobacco consumption estimates in the United States, CDC used federal excise tax data to estimate total and per capita consumption during 2000–2015 for combustible tobacco (cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, pipe tobacco, small cigars, and large cigars) and smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco and dry snuff). During this period, total combustible tobacco consumption decreased 33.5%, or 43.7% per capita. Although total cigarette consumption decreased 38.7%, cigarettes remained the most commonly used combustible tobacco product. Total noncigarette combustible tobacco (i.e., cigars, roll-your-own, and pipe tobacco) consumption increased 117.1%, or 83.8% per capita during 2000–2015. Total consumption of smokeless tobacco increased 23.1%, or 4.2% per capita. Notably, total cigarette consumption was 267.0 billion cigarettes in 2015 compared with 262.7 billion in 2014. These findings indicate that although cigarette smoking declined overall during 2000–2015, and each year from 2000 to 2014, the number of cigarettes consumed in 2015 was higher than in 2014, and the first time annual cigarette consumption was higher than the previous year since 1973. Moreover, the consumption of other combustible and smokeless tobacco products remains substantial. Implementation of proven tobacco prevention interventions (5) is warranted to further reduce tobacco use in the United States..."Tobacco consumption

Census Bureau Releases 2015 Income and Poverty Estimates for All Counties

"Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released the latest findings from its Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates program. The program provides the only up-to-date, single-year income and poverty statistics for all counties and school districts — roughly 3,140 counties and over 13,000 school districts nationally.
The tables provide statistics on the number of people in poverty, the number of children younger than age 5 in poverty (for states only), the number of children ages 5 to 17 in families in poverty, the number of children younger than age 18 in poverty, and median household income. At the school district level, estimates are available for the total population, the number of children ages 5 to 17 and the number of children ages 5 to 17 in families in poverty.
These findings are a combination of the latest data from the American Community Survey with aggregate data from federal tax records, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance ProgramBureau of Economic AnalysisSupplemental Security Incomedecennial censuses and the Population Estimates Program..."Income and poverty

2017 Economic Report of the President

"As the 2017 Economic Report of the President goes to press, the United States is eight years removed from the onset of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Over the two terms of the Obama Administration, the U.S. economy has made a remarkable recovery from the Great Recession. After peaking at 10.0 percent in October 2009, the unemployment rate has been cut by more than half to 4.6 percent as of November 2016, below its pre-recession average. Real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita recovered fully to its pre-crisis peak in the fourth quarter of 2013, faster than what would have been expected after such a severe financial crisis based on historical precedents. As of the third quarter of 2016, the U.S. economy was 11.5 percent larger than at its peak before the crisis. As of November 2016, the economy has added 14.8 million jobs over 74 months, the longest streak of total job growth on record. Since private-sector job growth turned positive in March 2010, U.S. businesses have added 15.6 million jobs. Real wage growth has been faster in the current business cycle than in any since the early 1970s. Meanwhile, from 2014 to 2015, median real household income grew by 5.2 percent, the fastest annual growth on record, and the United States saw its largest one-year drop in the poverty rate since the 1960s..."
Economic Report of the President

How Carbon Dioxide is Affecting Marine Life and Our Oceans

"Carbon dioxide isn’t just causing shifts in our earth’s climate. About one fourth of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the air from the burning of fossil fuels to power our homes and cars ultimately ends up in the ocean, causing a change called ocean acidification. U.S. West Coast shellfish growers have already felt the impacts, and those in other regions recognize that change is in motion and want to understand potential impacts and how best to adapt.

Seawater rich in CO2 is deplete of a key building block shellfish like oysters, clams and mussels need to grow and maintain shells. These shellfish are particularly vulnerable when they are very young and just forming their shells. This higher-CO2, more-acidic water can lead to increased mortality among these young shellfish. NOAA and partners are working with shellfish growers around our nation to provide the tools that are needed to rise to this challenge..."Carbon dioxide and marine life

Prevent Illness from C. perfringens

"lostridium perfringens (C. perfringens) is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the United States. CDC estimates C. perfringens causes nearly 1 million cases of foodborne illness each year.
Find out more about this germ and steps you can take to prevent illness.

What is C. perfringens?

C. perfringens bacteria can be found on raw meat and poultry, in the intestines of animals and humans, and in the environment. Some strains produce a toxin that causes diarrhea.

What are common food sources of C. perfringens?

Meat and poultry are common sources of C. perfringens infections. C. perfringens infection can result when certain foods, such as large roasts or big pots of stew, are not kept at proper holding temperatures before serving. Outbreaks tend to happen in places that serve large groups, such as hospitals, school cafeterias, prisons, and nursing homes, or at events with catered food..."
C. perfringens

What's in a name

"Despite the nation’s growing racial and ethnic diversity, the five most frequent American surnames in 2010 remained the same as in 2000 and were mainly reported by whites and blacks.
Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown and Jones were the most common last names, according to a Census Bureau analysis of the 2010 Census.
However, the growing Hispanic population has pushed surnames reported by Hispanics up the rankings since 2000. Garcia was the sixth most common name, up from eighth in 2000. Two more Hispanic surnames are in the top 10 — Rodriguez and Martinez.
Census respondents reported about 6.3 million surnames in 2010. Of these, only 11 were reported more than a million times each. The vast majority — 62 percent — were reported only once..."Personal names

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Drinking Water Contamination in Flint, Michigan, Demonstrates a Need to Clarify EPA Authority to Issue Emergency Orders to Protect the Public

"This report is an EPA OIG Management Alert. To avoid future public health harm through drinking water contamination, the EPA needs to clarify for its employees how its emergency authority can and should be used to intervene in a public health threat.
Report Materials

Collaboration Is Key to Producing Timely School District Poverty Estimates

"Many factors play a role in a child’s educational success, and it is the mission of the U.S. Department of Education to promote excellence in education and ensure equal access. To help achieve this goal, the Department of Education plans to provide over $15 billion in federal funds to qualifying Title I school districts for the next school year. These funds will improve the academic achievement of children living in poverty. To identify school districts with children in poverty, the Department of Education partners with the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) program. The SAIPE program produces the only source of single-year statistics of childhood poverty for the nation’s more than 13,000 public school districts..."
School poverty data

Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas: Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources in the United States

"This final report provides a review and synthesis of available scientific information concerning the relationship between hydraulic fracturing activities and drinking water resources in the United States.

The report is organized around activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle and their potential to impact drinking water resources.  The stages include: (1) acquiring water to be used for hydraulic fracturing (Water Acquisition), (2) mixing the water with chemical additives to prepare hydraulic fracturing fluids (Chemical Mixing), (3) injecting the hydraulic fracturing fluids into the production well to create fractures in the targeted production zone (Well Injection), (4) collecting the wastewater that returns through the well after injection (Produced Water Handling), and (5) managing the wastewater via disposal or reuse methods (Wastewater Disposal and Reuse)..."
Hydraulic fracking

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Improper Payments Legislation: Key Provisions, Implementation, and Selected Proposals in the 114th Congress

"As Congress searches for ways to generate savings, reduce the deficit, and fund federal programs, it has held hearings and passed legislation to prevent and recover improper payments. Improper payments—which exceeded $137 billion in FY2015—are payments made in an incorrect amount, payments that should not have been made at all, or payments made to an ineligible recipient or for an ineligible purpose. The total amount of improper payments may be even higher than reported because several agencies have yet to determine improper payment amounts for all of their programs.

In 2002, Congress passed the Improper Payments Information Act (IPIA; P.L. 107-300; 116 Stat. 2350), which established an initial framework for identifying, measuring, preventing, and reporting on improper payments at each agency. That same year, Congress also passed legislation, the Recovery Audit Act (P.L. 107-107; Section 831; 115 Stat. 1186), which required agencies that awarded more than $500 million annually in contracts to establish programs to recover overpayments to contractors..."
Improper payments legislation

The Trump-Tsai Call and the United States' "Unofficial" Relationship with Taiwan

"President-elect Donald J. Trump's telephone call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on December 2, 2016, and subsequent Tweets, broke precedent. No previous U.S. president or president-elect is known to have spoken directly to a president of Taiwan, which officially calls itself the Republic of China (ROC), since the United States broke diplomatic relations with the ROC and established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC) on January 1, 1979. The call has raised questions about whether Trump was simply taking "a very modest step toward providing Taiwan with some measure of dignity, respect and reassurance," or whether the call may presage a drive for greater "officiality" in the unofficial U.S. relationship with Taiwan. Some analysts believe the latter could risk precipitating a crisis with the PRC, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan, an island democracy of 23.5 million people. The PRC has vowed to use force if necessary to prevent Taiwan's "secession."..."
Trump-Tsai call

Monday, December 12, 2016

Gun Control: FY2017 Appropriations for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Other Initiatives

"The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the lead federal agency charged with administering and enforcing federal laws related to firearms and explosives commerce. ATF is also responsible for investigating arson cases with a federal nexus, and criminal cases involving the diversion of alcohol and tobacco from legal channels of commerce. As an agency within the Department of Justice (DOJ), ATF is funded through an annual appropriation in the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act.

The Administration’s FY2017 budget request included $1.306 billion for ATF. This amount was $66.1 million above the FY2016 appropriation. This proposed increase included $11.8 million in technical and base adjustments to anticipate inflation and other variable costs and $54.3 million in budget enhancements..."
Gun control appropiations

2015 NIBRS Crime Data Released

"Today, the FBI released details on more than 5.6 million criminal offenses reported by law enforcement to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) in 2015. This latest Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s report, National Incident-Based Reporting System 2015, offers a wide range of information about victims, known offenders, and relationships between the two for 23 categories comprised of 49 offenses..."
Criminal offenses

EEOC Issues Publication on the Rights of Job Applicants and Employees With Mental Health Conditions

"The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued a resource document that explains workplace rights for individuals with mental health conditions under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
Depression, PTSD, & Other Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace: Your Legal Rights explains that job applicants and employees with mental health conditions are protected from employment discrimination and harassment based on their conditions. They may also have a right to reasonable accommodations at work. Reasonable accommodations are work adjustments that can help individuals to perform their jobs and remain employed. The resource document also answers questions about how to get an accommodation, some types of accommodations, restrictions on employer access to medical information, confidentiality, and the role of the EEOC in enforcing the rights of people with disabilities.
EEOC charge data shows that charges of discrimination based on mental health conditions are on the rise. During fiscal year 2016, preliminary data shows EEOC resolved almost 5,000 charges of discrimination based on mental health conditions, obtaining approximately $20 million for individuals with mental health conditions who were unlawfully denied employment and reasonable accommodations..."
Job rights and mental health

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2017 to 2026

"The Congress faces an array of policy choices as it confronts the challenges posed by the amount of federal debt held by the public—which has more than doubled relative to the size of the economy since 2007—and the prospect of continued growth in that debt over the coming decades if the large annual budget deficits projected under current law come to pass (see Figure 1-1). To help inform lawmakers, the Congressional Budget Office periodically issues a compendium of policy options that would help to reduce the deficit.1 This edition reports the estimated budgetary effects of various options and highlights some of the advantages and disadvantages of those options.

This volume presents 115 options that would decrease federal spending or increase federal revenues over the next decade (see Table 1-1 on page 6)..."
Federal deficit

Studying Birds as Indicators of Ecosystem Health

"How can you tell where a tiny forage fish like the sand lance spends its days? Look at what’s eating it.
Popular recreational and commercial fishing species such as Atlantic cod, halibut, flounder and monkfish rely on sand lance as a staple of their diets. These forage fish are also on the menus for predators like humpback whales and many kinds of seabirds, including the great shearwater. However, sand lance are moderately vulnerable to changes in ocean and climate patterns, especially warming seas and ocean acidification. "The numbers of these forage fish (sand lance) fluctuate and have been relatively low in the past few years," explains David Wiley, research coordinator for Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Over the past several years, sanctuary scientists have been studying great shearwater populations to better understand the availability of food like the sand lance throughout the sanctuary..."
Birds and ecosystem health

Thursday, December 8, 2016

‘Tis the Season to Decorate Safely

"During November and December 2015, there were six fatalities and an estimated 14,000 injuries treated in hospital ERs nationwide, due to holiday decorations. That’s an average of about 230 injuries per day during the holiday season!
Falls, lacerations, back strains and ingestion of foreign objects were among the top holiday decorating-related injuries last season. To prevent decorating disasters, CPSC counts down the 12 Ways to Celebrate Safely:
12. Take special care with sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations. Lacerations were among the top reported decoration–related injuries last year.
11. Avoid trimmings that resemble food or candy that may tempt a child to mouth or swallow them.
10. Place decorations with small removable parts that can pose a choking hazard to young children out of reach.
9. Purchase only holiday light sets that bear the marking of a safety testing laboratory.
8. Examine new and old light sets for damage. Discard sets with cracked or broken sockets, frayed or exposed wires, and loose connections.
7. Keep burning candles in sight and away from places where kids and pets can knock them over..."

Holiday decoration

FDR's December 8, 1841 Annotated Draft of "Day of Infamy" Speech

Here you may read an annotated copy of President Theodore Roosevelt's  "Day of Infamy" speech. The speech was delivered to a joint session of Congres on December 8, 1941  leading to a declaration of war against Japan.
Day of Infamy

The Electoral College Has Been Divisive Since Day One

"The Electoral College polarized Americans from its inception. Created by the framers of the Constitution during the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, the College was put forth as a way to give citizens the opportunity to vote in presidential elections, with the added safeguard of a group of knowledgeable electors with final say on who would ultimately lead the country, another limit on the burgeoning nation’s democratic ideals.
The story of the Electoral College is also one of slavery—an institution central to the founding of American democracy. The bulk of the new nation’s citizenry resided in cities like Philadelphia and Boston in the North, leaving the South sparsely populated by farmers, plantation owners, other landholders, and, of course, enslaved laborers. This disparity in the population distribution became a core element of the legislative branch, and in turn, the Electoral College..."
Electoral College

FTC Providing Over $88 Million in Refunds to AT&T Customers Who Were Subjected to Mobile Cramming

The Federal Trade Commission is providing over $88 million in refunds to more than 2.7 million AT&T customers who had third-party charges added to their mobile bills without their consent, a tactic known as “mobile cramming.” The refunds to consumers relate to 2014 settlements with AT&T, and the companies behind two of the cramming schemes, Tatto and Acquinity.

The refunds represent the most money ever returned to consumers in a mobile cramming case. Through the FTC’s refund program, nearly 2.5 million current AT&T customers will receive a credit on their bill within the next 75 days, and more than 300,000 former customers will receive a check. The average refund amount is $31..."

Mobile cramming

Travel to Hot Climates

"Planning your next trip to a tropical climate like in the Caribbean? Pack your swimsuit and sunscreen, and follow these tips to prevent heat illness and injury when traveling in a hot climate.
It's winter time across the United States, and many travelers are looking to vacation in tropical areas to escape the cold temperatures at home. But traveling in hot climates can make you sick, especially if you are not accustomed to the heat. For most travelers who choose to relax on the beach or by the pool, heat illness and injury pose only a slight risk. However, people at highest risk are the elderly, young children, and people with chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. But even young and healthy people can get sick from heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather. Dehydration, for example, makes people most susceptible to heat illness..."
Hot climates

Presidential Transition Guide to Federal Human Resources Management Matters

"The Office of the Executive Secretariat oversees Presidential Transition to ensure a smooth transition for both incoming and outgoing Administrations. OPM roles and responsibilities for Presidential Transition include conducting background investigations for lower-level positions and providing guidance to agencies as they prepare for thousands of departing/incoming political appointees; submitting a list of all presidential appointments to candidates after the conventions; collecting information for Plum Book; and submitting quarterly reports to Congress on requests by agencies to appoint political appointees or former political appointees to nonpolitical civil service positions..."
Presidential transition

A Comparison of Rural and Urban America: Household Income and Poverty

" The U.S. Census Bureau today released data that show that nationally, rural Americans have lower median household incomes than urban households, but people living in rural areas have lower poverty rates than their urban counterparts. According to the 2015 American Community Survey, median household income for rural households was $52,386, about 4.0 percent lower than the median for urban households, $54,296. About 13.3 percent of people in rural areas lived in families with incomes below the official poverty thresholds. The poverty rate for people in urban areas was 16.0 percent. Income inequality, as measured by the Gini index, was lower for rural households than urban households...."
Rural vs Urban America income

Homes on the Range: Homeownership Rates Are Higher in Rural America

"For decades, homeownership rates have been an important indicator of the health of housing markets all across the United States. Communities use these data to recognize the changing landscape of their housing markets by analyzing patterns in the percentage of owner-occupied housing units compared  to all occupied units. Homebuilders, financial institutions and realtors all depend on homeownership data to determine what type of housing to build, finance and sell to prospective homebuyers. While last decade’s housing crash and Great Recession altered the economy and conditions of housing markets throughout the nation, studies have shown that most Americans continue to believe homeownership is both desirable and attainable..."
Rural homeownership

Rurality Matters

"Today, about 60 million residents of the United States live in areas designated as rural by the U.S. Census Bureau. So, what exactly does rural look like? “Rural” can span from the less-populated towns outside of large and small city centers to remote areas in the mountains, plains, and deserts across the nation.
Counties can be a mixture of urban and rural areas. To understand the characteristics of rural residents in different rural settings, we categorized the 3,142 counties in the U.S. into three levels of rurality based on the percentage of the population living in the rural areas of the county. We used the 2010 definition of urban and rural as determined by the decennial census population. The counties were delineated as mostly urban (less than 50.0 percent of the county population lived in rural areas), mostly rural (50.0 to 99.9 percent lived in rural areas), and completely rural (100.0 percent lived in rural areas). Based on these county categories, we identified 704 counties as completely rural, meaning all 5.3 million people lived in rural areas (see Figure 1)..."

Life Off the Highway: A Snapshot of Rural America

"We are a nation of communities. The 2011-2015 American Community Survey statistics released today helps tell the story of us all — each city, town and neighborhood. This year we are taking a detour down a road driven by only one in five Americans. We are exploring what the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics can tell us about the 60 million people who live in rural America. Rural areas can take on varying characteristics affected by regional differences across the country. The rural population is not the same everywhere except in its distinction of not being urban. American Community Survey statistics are the only source of annual data for some rural residents, and are vital for local decision making by elected officials, city and county planners, and businesses. Today, the Census Bureau released several products highlighting selected characteristics of the rural population of America..."
Rural life

A Glance at the Age Structure and Labor Force Participation of Rural America

"Rural America is older than urban America. The median age of all people living in rural areas is 43 years, compared with 36 years for urban areas. We know that age is an underlying factor driving many phenomena, such as labor force participation, educational attainment and earnings. With the release of the 5-year American Community Survey this year, we are exploring rural-urban relationships such as these.
When looking at the populations of both rural and urban America, we find a distribution with two peaks, baby boomers in their 50s and 60s forming one, and “millennials” in their late teens and twenties forming the second (Figure 1). While there are more people in the millennial generation in urban areas, baby boomers form the higher peak in rural areas..."
Age and rural america

Monday, December 5, 2016

Plum Book

"Every four years, just after the Presidential election, the "United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions" is published. It is commonly known as the Plum Book and is alternately published between the House and Senate.
The Plum Book has a listing of over 7,000 civil service leadership and support positions (filled and vacant) in the Legislative and Executive branches of the Federal Government that may be subject to noncompetitive appointments. These positions include agency heads and their immediate subordinates, policy executives and advisors, and aides who report to these officials. Many positions have duties which support Administration policies and programs. The people holding these positions usually have a close and confidential relationship with the agency head or other key officials..."
Plum Book