Sunday, June 18, 2017

Don’t Spoil Summer Fun by Forgetting Safety

Heat Exhaustion or Heat Stroke graphic
 "The U.S. Forest Service has 193 million acres of beautiful national forests and grasslands for all of us to visit and summer is a great time to do get outside and enjoy them. The water is more comfortable for a swim, the weather is warmer, and in most places, the kids are out of school.
However, the most enjoyable months of the year for many can also be the most dangerous simply because more time in the great outdoors means more risk for injury or illness. Everything from sunburn to animal attacks can sour a chance for a wonderful experience.
One of the most obvious summer dangers to your health and safety is the sun—especially during summer. It warms the summer days we enjoy, sure. It also increases the risk of heatstroke and everything from sun burn to skin cancer, unless we protect ourselves...."
Summer safety

Security Officer's Log of the Watergate Office Building Showing Entry for June 17, 1972

"During the early hours of June 17, 1972, Frank Wills was the security guard on duty at the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC.. This log shows that at 1:47 a.m. he called the police, who arrested five burglars inside the Democratic National Committee Headquarters. Investigation into the break-in exposed a trail of abuses that led to the highest levels of the Nixon administration and ultimately to the President himself. President Nixon resigned from office under threat of impeachment on August 9, 1974..".

Friday, June 16, 2017

Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2017

"In 2016, the armed forces of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began implementing the sweeping organizational reforms that President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders unveiled in 2015. This reorganization is the latest phase in China’s long-term military modernization program, which China’s leaders have characterized as essential to achieving great power status and what President Xi calls the “China Dream” of national rejuvenation. The leadership portrays a strong military as critical to advancing China’s interests, preventing other countries from taking steps that would damage those interests, and ensuring that China can defend itself and its sovereignty claims..."
China military report

Thursday, June 15, 2017

President Trump’s Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement Raises Legal Questions: Part 1

"On June 1, President Trump announced his long-anticipated decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement—an international agreement intended to reduce the effects of climate change by maintaining global temperatures “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels[.]” As analyzed in this earlier report and live CRS seminar, historical practice suggests it is within the President’s constitutional authority to withdraw from the Paris Agreement without first receiving congressional or senatorial approval. However, legal questions remain as to how the Trump Administration will implement the withdrawal and what role the United States will play in future international climate meetings. This two-part Sidebar series analyzes legal questions arising from the President’s announcement..."
Paris Agreement

Special Counsels, Independent Counsels, and Special Prosecutors: Options for Independent Executive Investigations

"Under the Constitution, Congress has no direct role in federal law enforcement and its ability to initiate appointments of any prosecutors to address alleged wrongdoings by executive officials is limited. While Congress retains broad oversight and investigatory powers under Article I of the Constitution, criminal investigations and prosecutions have generally been viewed as a core executive function and a responsibility of the executive branch. Historically, however, because of the potential conflicts of interest that may arise when the executive branch investigates itself (e.g., the Watergate investigation), there have been calls for an independently led inquiry to determine whether officials have violated criminal law. In response, Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have used both statutory and regulatory mechanisms to establish a process for such inquiries. These responses have attempted, in different ways, to balance the competing goals of independence and accountability with respect to inquiries of executive branch officials.

Under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, Congress authorized the appointment of “special prosecutors,” who later were known as “independent counsels.” Under this statutory scheme, the Attorney General could request that a specially appointed three-judge panel appoint an outside individual to investigate and prosecute alleged violations of criminal law. These individuals were vested with “full power and independent authority to exercise all investigative and prosecutorial functions and powers of the Department of Justice” with respect to matters within their jurisdiction. The independent counsel provisions included sunset provisions, but were reauthorized regularly until 1992, when Congress allowed the law to expire. Although it was again reauthorized in 1994, debate over the scope, cost, and effect of the investigations (perhaps most notably the Iran-Contra investigation and the Whitewater investigation) resulted in the law’s expiration and nonrenewal in 1999..."
Special Counsels

Availability of Legislative Measures in the House of Representatives (The “Three-Day Rule”)

"House rules govern the length of time legislative measures must be available to Members before being considered on the floor. For measures reported from committee, the committee report must have been available for three calendar days, excluding weekends and legal holidays unless the House is in session on such days. Conference reports must also have been available for three calendar days, and special rules for considering measures for one legislative day. Bills and joint resolutions that have not been reported by committee, and therefore are not accompanied by a written report, also may not be considered on the House floor unless the measure has been available for at least three calendar days, again excluding weekends and legal holidays unless the House is in session on such days. Committee reports, unreported bills and joint resolutions, conference reports and joint explanatory statements are considered available under these rules if they are publicly available in electronic form on a website designated by the Committee on House Administration for this purpose, .."
The "Three-Day-Rule"

Your Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Benefits

"Imagine your child is experiencing anxiety and depression and has suicidal thoughts. Or you are recovering from an eating disorder and need treatment at a residential facility. Then you’re told you have to pay deductibles and copayments that your workplace health coverage normally covers for other medical claims.  Before you know it, these out-of-pocket costs are adding up to thousands of dollars you just don’t have. 
Unfortunately, these are real scenarios that benefits advisors at the Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration have heard about recently.
But the good news for these workers – and you − is that a federal law called the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act provides protections. In most cases, the financial requirements (such as copayments, deductibles, coinsurance or out-of-pocket maximums) and treatment limitations in a health plan must be comparable for both physical and mental health/substance addiction benefits.
In these two cases, our benefits advisors contacted the workers’ benefit plans to make sure that they complied with the act. And both employer-provided plans agreed to pay the benefits to which the workers are legally entitled.."
Mental health & substance abuse

By the Numbers: Spending Habits of Older Americans

"It’s no secret that people’s needs and spending habits change over time. For Older Americans Month, we took a look into the data to highlight some of the spending changes.  Check out these Consumer Expenditure Survey fast facts and see how your spending stacks up to those of the older generation:
  • Older households are more apt to be homeowners (79 percent) than younger households (57 percent). Please note: By “older households,” we mean those with a reference person (often the principal homeowner or renter) 65 years and older, and by “younger households” we mean those with a reference person under 65 years.
  • Housing is the greatest expense, both in dollar amount ($15,529) and as a share of the household budget (34.8 percent) among older households.
  • Older and younger households are similar in that 85 percent of older households and 88 percent of younger households own or lease at least one vehicle.
  • Transportation expenses among older households, however, are lower in dollar amount ($6,846) and as a share of the household budget (15.3 percent) compared with younger households ($10,310 and 17.4 percent, respectively). That’s probably because older households have fewer earners and would be less likely to have job-related transportation costs.
  • Because older households have fewer earners, pensions and Social Security costs are much lower in dollar amount ($2,401) and as a share of the household budget (5.4 percent) among older households compared with younger households ($7,118 and 12 percent).
  • Out-of-pocket healthcare expenses are higher in dollar amount ($5,766) and as a share of the household budget (12.9 percent) among older households compared with younger households ($3,912 and 6.6 percent)...."

Older Americans and spending

Friday, June 9, 2017

Department of Justice Issues Statement on Testimony of Former FBI Director James Comey

"In response to testimony given today by former FBI Director James Comey, Department of Justice Spokesman Ian Prior issued the following statement:
  • Shortly after being sworn in, Attorney General Sessions began consulting with career Department of Justice ethics officials to determine whether he should recuse himself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.
Those discussions were centered upon 28 CFR 45.2, which provides that a Department of Justice attorney should not participate in investigations that may involve entities or individuals with whom the attorney has a political or personal relationship. That regulation goes on to define “political relationship” as:
“[A] close identification with an elected official, a candidate (whether or not successful) for elective, public office, a political party, or a campaign organization, arising from service as a principal adviser thereto or a principal official thereof ***”..."
Department of Justice statement on Former FBI Director James Comay

Thursday, June 8, 2017

2016 Congressional Research Service Annual Report

"FY2016 was an exciting and historical year for the Library, as Dr. Carla Hayden was nominated and confirmed as the 14th Librarian of Congress after the retirement of her predecessor Dr. James H. Billington. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) welcomed and looked forward to working with Dr. Hayden to continue to fulfill its unique mission to provide authoritative, confidential, nonpartisan, and objective research and analysis to Congress. This report highlights CRS’s legislative support and the management initiatives undertaken to bolster our services during the fiscal year,,,"
Congressional Research Service

FY2018 Budget Documents: Internet and GPO Availability

"Every year the President submits a series of volumes to Congress containing the President’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. The President’s submission is required on or after the first Monday in January, but no later than the first Monday in February (31 U.S.C. §1105(a)). However, incoming presidential Administrations do not generally release multivolume budget sets in February. This year the President released a Budget Blueprint on March 16, 2017, and a full budget submission on May 23, 2017.

This report provides brief descriptions of the budget volumes and related documents, together with Internet addresses, Government Publishing Office (GPO) stock numbers, and prices for obtaining print copies of these publications. It also explains how to find the locations of government depository libraries, which can provide both printed copies for reference use and Internet access to the online versions. This report will be updated as events warrant..."
2018 Federal Budget

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Elder Abuse Prevention

"Prevent elder abuse. June 15th is World Elder Abuse Prevention Day
Elder abuse is a significant public health problem. Each year, hundreds of thousands of adults over the age of 60 are abused, neglected, or financially exploited. Elder abuse, including neglect and exploitation, is experienced by 1 out of every 10 people, ages 60 and older, who live at home. This statistic is likely an underestimate because many victims are unable or afraid to disclose or report the violence.
The following six types of maltreatment occur among persons over the age of 60.
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Financial abuse
See Elder Abuse Definitions for more detailed information...."
Elder abuse

Improving Health and Quality of Life After Cancer

"While cancer survivors are living longer after their diagnosis, at least one-third of the more than 15 million survivors in the United States face physical, mental, social, job, or financial problems related to their cancer experience. These psychosocial and physical concerns may affect family members, friends, and others who provide comfort and care to survivors.
Through data, translation, and partnership, CDC works to address these and other challenges faced by cancer survivors and improve survivors’ health and quality of life.

Physical Health Concerns

Some behaviors, experiences, or other factors increase some survivors’ risk of having their first cancer come back, getting a new cancer, and having other health problems. Factors that increase such risks for cancer survivors include—

Life after cancer

Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease

"Hand, foot, and mouth disease is common in infants and young children. It usually causes fever, painful sores in the mouth, and a rash on the hands and feet. Most infected people recover in a week or two. Wash your hands often and practice good hygiene to reduce your risk of infection.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease, or HFMD, is a contagious illness that is caused by different viruses. It is common in infants and children younger than 5 years old, because they do not yet have immunity (protection) to the viruses that cause HFMD. However, older children and adults can also get HFMD. In the United States it is more common for people to get HFMD during spring, summer, and fall.

What Are the Symptoms of HFMD?

Symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease often include the following:
  • Fever
  • Reduced appetite
  • Sore throat
  • A feeling of being unwell
  • Painful sores in the mouth that usually begin as flat red spots
  • A rash of flat red spots that may blister on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and sometimes the knees, elbows, buttocks, and/or genital area..."
Hand, foot, mouth disease

Radiation in Medicine: Medical Imaging Procedures

"Medical imaging tests are non-invasive procedures that allow doctors to diagnose diseases and injuries without being intrusive. Some of these tests involve exposure to ionizing radiation, which can present risks to patients. However, if patients understand the benefits and risks, they can make the best decisions about choosing a particular medical imaging procedure.
Most people have had one or more medical imaging tests. Imaging procedures are medical tests that allow doctors to see inside the body in order to diagnose, treat, and monitor health conditions. Doctors often use medical imaging procedures to determine the best treatment options for patients. The type of imaging procedure that your doctor may suggest will depend on your health concern and the part of the body that is being examined. Some common examples of imaging tests include:
If your doctor suggests x-rays or other medical imaging tests, you should consider the following:
  • Medical imaging tests should be performed only when necessary.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends discussing the benefits and risks of medical imaging procedures with your doctor..."
    Radiation and medical imaging

Fungal Infections – 10 Questions to Protect Your Health

"Have you wondered about your chances of getting a fungal infection? Here are 10 questions you can use to understand fungal infections, learn how you can get sick, and know what you need to do to stay healthy.
Fungi are everywhere. There are an estimated 1.5 million different species of fungi on Earth, but only about 300 of those are known to make people sick. Fungal infections are often caused by microscopic fungi that are common in the environment. Fungi live outdoors in soil and on plants and trees as well as on many indoor surfaces and on human skin.
Mild fungal skin infections can look like a rash and are very common. For example, ringworm is a skin infection that’s caused by a fungus, not a worm! Fungal infections in the lungs can be more serious and often cause symptoms that are similar to other illnesses, such as the flu or tuberculosis. Fungal meningitis and bloodstream infections are less common than skin and lung infections but can be life-threatening. Because the symptoms of fungal infections can be similar to other illnesses, proper diagnosis and treatment are often delayed. The more you know about fungal infections and your chances of getting one, the better prepared you can be to protect your health...."
Fungal infectionsl

Celebrating 97 Years of Advocacy for Working Women

"First created during World War I to study women’s employment during and after the war, the Women’s Bureau became a permanent federal government fixture in 1920. Ninety-seven years later, the Bureau remains the sole federal agency designed to advocate on behalf of working women.
Since its inception, the bureau has supported innovative policies and programs designed to address emerging issues affecting working women and create a positive environment for working women and their families.
Women have made great progress over the course of the bureau’s 97-year history, as seen in higher education levels and higher earnings. As it has for nearly a century, the Women’s Bureau will continue working to address the challenges working women experience and raise awareness on key issues and developments affecting women in the workforce
Tracie Sanchez is a policy analyst for the Women’s Bureau.
Editor's note: Photo credits clockwise from top left - Library of Congress, U.S. Labor Department, Library of Congress, Library of Congress and the National Archives

Working Women

Monday, June 5, 2017

Public Draft for the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices

Acting Register Karyn Temple Claggett has released a revised draft of the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition. This draft is the first update to the Compendium since it was released in December 2014. Public comments on this draft may be submitted from June 1, 2017, to June 30, 2017 using the comment box below.

The draft will become effective on July 3, 2017. Until then, the December 2014 version of the Compendium remains in effect..."


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

"The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for a network of underwater parks encompassing more than 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington state to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa. The network includes a system of 13 national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments...."
National Marine Sanctuaries

The Condition of Education: 2017

"The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data related to education in the United States and other nations. It fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report full and complete statistics on the condition of education in the United States; conduct and publish reports and specialized analyses of the meaning and significance of such statistics; assist state and local education agencies in improving their statistical systems; and review and report on education activities in foreign countries.

NCES activities are designed to address high-priority education data needs; provide consistent, reliable, complete, and accurate indicators of education status and trends; and report timely, useful, and high-quality data to the U.S. Department of Education, the Congress, the states, other education policymakers, practitioners, data users, and the general public. Unless specifically noted all information contained herein is in the public domain..."
Condition of Education

The Fifth Amendment in Congressional Investigations

"Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn recently invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against selfincrimination in response to a subpoena issued by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for documents related to the Committee’s ongoing investigation into possible Russian involvement in the 2016 election. As noted in this previous Sidebar, this is neither the first, nor is it likely to be the last time that a witness in a congressional investigation invokes the Fifth Amendment as justification for not complying with a committee subpoena.

As a general matter, witnesses may invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege during a congressional investigation with regard to testimony or documents that are: (1) testimonial (“relate[s] a factual assertion”); (2) self-incriminating (any disclosures that tends to show guilt or that furnishes any “link in the chain of evidence” needed to prosecute); and (3) compelled (not voluntarily given). Oral testimony given pursuant to a subpoena and in response to committee questioning almost always qualifies as testimonial and compelled. Therefore, the central inquiry is typically whether the responsive testimony would be “incriminating.” The Supreme Court has taken a broad view of what constitutes incriminating testimony, holding that the privilege protects any statement “that the witness reasonably believes could be used in a criminal prosecution or could lead to other evidence that might so be used.” Even a witness who denies any criminal wrongdoing can refuse to answer questions on the basis that he might be “ensnared by ambiguous circumstances.”..."
Fifth Amendment

What's the Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI)?

"The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015, requires us to remove Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from all Medicare cards by April 2019. A new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will replace the SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) on the new Medicare cards for Medicare transactions like billing, eligibility status, and claim status. You can find more details in our 11/1/16 SSNRI Open Door Forum slides
We currently use an SSN-based HICN to identify people with Medicare and administer the program. We’ve used the HICN with our business partners:
Under the new system, for each person enrolled in Medicare, we’ll:
  • Assign a new MBI
  • Send a new Medicare card..."

Social Security Numbers

Friday, May 26, 2017

Gypsy Moths Want to Devour Your Favorite Destinations

"Memorial Day Weekend means hitting the road for many of us – vacations, camping, or even moving to a new home. But watch out for an invasive pest that also enjoys new destinations—the destructive gypsy moth. Gypsy moth caterpillars can defoliate, weaken and kill more than 300 different species of trees and shrubs. Since 1970, more than 83 million acres have been defoliated by the gypsy moth in the U.S.
This destructive insect is always interested in a free ride to new locales where its caterpillars can feast.  And Americans are on the move in May—that’s why it’s National Moving Month—giving gypsy moths plenty of opportunities to spread.
Residential moves account for 85 percent of all new gypsy moth infestations, and approximately 40 million Americans will relocate their households this year. Slowing the movement of the gypsy moth is the reason the U.S. Department of Agriculture asks homeowners to inspect for and remove gypsy moth egg masses from household goods before they move from an infested area to a non-infested area..."
Gypsy moths

How Consumer Price Index Data Impacts You

"Every month, Debi Bertram, an economic assistant in our Philadelphia region, checks the price of milk at a local grocery store. She also goes to several stores to check the prices of items such as toothpaste, sports equipment and appliances. You may not know Debi – or any of the men and women who collect data for the Bureau of Labor Statistics – but their findings have a real impact on your life.
Among other things, they’re used for making changes in the federal income tax structure and providing cost-of-living wage adjustments for millions of American workers. Additionally, the president, Congress and the Federal Reserve Board use trends in that data to inform fiscal and monetary policies.
How does it work? BLS data collectors visit or call thousands of locations across the country, from grocery stores to doctors’ offices, to get the prices of about 80,000 different items every month. That data helps BLS compile the Consumer Price Index, which measures the average change over time in prices consumers pay for a market basket of goods and services. It is the key measure of consumer inflation in the U.S. economy..."

Consumer Price Index

New Tool Compares County Criminal Juistice Statistics for Wisconsin and other states

(Via WisBlawg..
"Earlier this week, the nonprofit Measures for Justice launched an amazing new data portal “to assess and compare the criminal justice process from arrest to post-conviction on a county-by-county basis. The data set comprises measures that address three broad categories: Fiscal Responsibility, Fair Process, and Public Safety.”
According to The Marshall Project:
The project, which has as its motto “you can’t change what you can’t see,” centers on 32 “core measures”: yardsticks to determine how well local criminal justice systems are working. How often do people plead guilty without a lawyer? How often do prosecutors dismiss charges? How long do people have to wait for a court hearing? Users can also slice the answers to these questions in different ways, using “companion measures” such as race and political affiliation.
Just six states are included so far, but fortunately for us, Wisconsin is one of them.  The others are Washington, Utah, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida..."
Criminal justice statistics 

The South Is Home to 10 of the 15 Fastest-Growing Large Cities

"Ten of the 15 fastest-growing large cities were located across the South in 2016, with four of the top five in Texas, according to new population estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Conroe, Texas (near Houston), was the fastest-growing large city (population of 50,000 or more) between 2015 and 2016 at 7.8 percent, making its growth rate more than 11 times the nation’s growth rate of 0.7 percent. Some of the other fastest-growing cities were: Frisco, Texas (6.2 percent); McKinney, Texas (5.9 percent); Greenville, S.C. (5.8 percent); and Georgetown, Texas (5.5 percent).
“Overall, cities in the South continue to grow at a faster rate than any other U.S region,” said Amel Toukabri, a demographer in the Census Bureau’s population division. “Since the 2010 Census, the population in large southern cities grew by an average of 9.4 percent. In comparison, cities in the West grew 7.3 percent, while cities in the Northeast and Midwest had much lower growth rates at 1.8 percent and 3.0 percent respectively.”
Four cities in the West — Bend, Ore.; Buckeye, Ariz.; Lehi, Utah; and Meridian, Idaho — were among the top 15 fastest growing. Only one city in the Midwest, Ankeny, Iowa, topped the list while no cities in the Northeast were among the nation’s fastest growing.
The statistics released today  cover all local governmental units, including incorporated places (such as cities and towns), minor civil divisions (such as townships) and consolidated cities (government units for which the functions of an incorporated place and its parent county have merged).
Later this summer, the Census Bureau will release additional population estimates by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin for the nation, states and counties..."
Cities population changes

Transit and Ground Passenger Transportation Increased in 2015

" Nonemployer businesses, establishments without paid employees, in the Transit and Ground Passenger Transportation subsector (North American Industry Classification System (NAICS 485) increased by 59.4 percent from 362,445 in 2014 to 577,809 in 2015, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics released today. Receipts in this subsector increased 21.9 percent from $11.7 billion in 2014 to $14.3 billion in 2015.
Examples of the Transit and Ground Passenger Transportation subsector include rideshares, taxi and limousine services, chartered bus, school bus and special needs transportation. The Transit and Ground Passenger Transportation subsector had the largest increase within the Transportation and Warehousing sector (NAICS 48-49).
“The Transportation and Warehousing sector reached 1.5 million nonemployer establishments in 2015 leading all sectors in both rate of change (with a 22.2 percent increase) and number of establishments gained (277,383),” said Jenny Tran, chief of the Business Statistics branch. “By comparison, when looking across all sectors covered, the number of establishments rose by 494,466 or 2.1 percent to 24.3 million from 2014 to 2015.”..."
Transportation statistics

Children in a democracy. A migratory family living in a trailer in an open field

"Dorothea Lange, whose photographs of the unemployed and migratory farm workers became synonymous with the Great Depression, was born on May 26, 1895. The caption of this photo reads "On Arizona Highway 87, south of Chandler. Maricopa County, Arizona. Children in a democracy. A migratory family living in a trailer in an open field. No sanitation, no water. They came from Amarillo, Texas. Pulled bolls near Amarillo, picked cotton near Roswell, New Mexico, and in Arizona. Plan to return to Amarillo at close of cotton picking season for work on WPA." 

The photo is one of a series taken for an agricultural "Community Stability and Instability" study by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Taken by Dorothea Lange and Irving Rusinow, the photographs are a record of pre-World War II rural life and social institutions. Of particular interests are images of African Americans in Alabama and Georgia and migrant laborers hired to work in cotton fields in Arizona and California..." 
Dorothea Lange photography