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Updated: 10 hours 31 min ago

2017 World Press Freedom Index – tipping point

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 23:19

“The 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reflects a world in which attacks on the media have become commonplace and strongmen are on the rise. We have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms – especially in democracies…RSF’s latest World Press Freedom Index highlights the danger of a tipping point in the state of media freedom, especially in leading democratic countries. (Read our analysis entitled Journalism weakened by democracy’s erosion.) Democracies began falling in the Index in preceding years and now, more than ever, nothing seems to be checking that fall.  The obsession with surveillance and violations of the right to the confidentiality of sources have contributed to the continuing decline of many countries previously regarded as virtuous. This includes the United States (down 2 places at 43rd), the United Kingdom (down 2 at 40th), Chile (down 2 at 33rd), and New Zealand (down 8 at 13th)…”

Categories: Research

How Libraries Became Public

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 23:14

Barbara Fister, April 26, 2017 – “Of all of our cultural institutions, the public library is remarkable. There are few tax-supported services that are used by people of all ages, classes, races, and religions. I can’t think of any public institutions (except perhaps parks) that are as well-loved and widely used as libraries. Nobody has suggested that tax dollars be used for vouchers to support the development of private libraries or that we shouldn’t trust those “government” libraries. Even though the recession following the 2008 crash has led to reduced staff and hours in American libraries, threats of closure are generally met with vigorous community resistance. Visits and check-outs are up significantly over the past ten years, though it has decreased a bit in recent years. Reduced funding seems to be a factor, though the high point was 2009; library use parallels unemployment figures – low unemployment often means fewer people use public libraries. A for-profit company that claims to run libraries more cheaply than local governments currently has contracts to manage only sixteen of over 9,000 public library systems in the U.S. Few public institutions have been so impervious to privatization…”

Categories: Research

How to Break Your Smartphone Addiction

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 23:02

“When people talk about addiction, the first thing that comes to mind are illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. But in the mobile era, behavioral addiction is much more prevalent and pervasive — and the culprit is the ubiquitous smartphone. Adam Alter, a marketing and psychology professor at New York University, says it’s an addiction by design — and one that’s insidiously hard to break. In his new book, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, he explains how humans are hardwired for addiction and offers suggestions on how to break the habit. He discussed his findings on the Knowledge@Wharton show, which airs on SiriusXM channel 111.”

Categories: Research

U.S. Study Shows Widening Disconnect with Nature, and Potential Solutions

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 22:58

Yale 360 Environment: “A survey of 12,000 adults and children in the United States has shown that many people have lost a close connection with nature, although a wide cross-section of respondents expressed a desire to close that gap. The study, conducted by the public relations and marketing firm DJ Case and Associates in conjunction with state and federal wildlife and park agencies, underlines what many people have intuitively known for years: that the increasing use of computers, smart phones, televisions, and other technology, coupled with a growing movement from rural areas, is pulling many Americans away from the natural world. “It is increasingly normal to spend little time outside,” the report states. The study, The Nature of Americans National Report, found that more than half of adults reported spending five hours or less in nature each week, and being satisfied with this small amount of time spent outdoors. Parents of children 8 to 12 years old said that their children spend three times as many hours with computers and televisions each week as they do playing outside….”

Categories: Research

Success of decades-long federal program to clean up Chesapeake Bay threatened by EPA $73M funding cut

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 22:55

Yale Environment 360 – “President Donald Trump’s first budget would eliminate all of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s $73 million in annual funding for restoring Chesapeake Bay. It is a radical break with decades of federal policy that ironically comes just when investment in the nation’s largest estuary appears to be paying off. “After decades the bay is finally turning around,” says Walter Boynton, a University of Maryland researcher. “Time to double down, build on the momentum, spend more, not less.” Boynton has been studying the bay since early signs of decline 45 years ago mobilized the likes of U.S. Senator Charles Mathias, EPA Administrator Russell Train, Interior Secretary Rogers Morton, and community leader Arthur Sherwood, who started the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. All were Republicans, Boynton notes.“Now we have robust science that tells us we are slowly but surely succeeding,” he says. “How cool for [Trump]to seize on this and say, ‘We’ve taken one of the world’s most productive ecosystems, that was just a mess, and made it great again. Huge victory.’” The reality is far grimmer. Trump’s budget would zero out direct EPA support for the Chesapeake restoration that began in 1983, and for similar projects in other world-class water resources from the Great Lakes to Puget Sound. This is a break with federal priorities that stretch back to President Ronald Reagan, who in 1984 declared the bay a “national treasure…”

Categories: Research

Recent Developments in Patent Law (Spring 2017)

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 22:47

Lemley, Mark A. and Laupheimer, Madeleine and Yoon, James, Recent Developments in Patent Law (Spring 2017) (April 27, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2959553

“This paper summarizes the significant developments in patent law in the twelve months ending in April 2017. “

Categories: Research

U.S. Anti-Semitic Incidents Spike 86 Percent So Far in 2017 After Surging Last Year

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 20:17

ADL (Anti-Defamation League) Report: “Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. surged more than one-third in 2016 and have jumped 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017, according to new data from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). In its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, ADL reports that there has been a massive increase in the amount of harassment of American Jews, particularly since November, and a doubling in the amount of anti-Semitic bullying and vandalism at non-denominational K-12 grade schools. In 2016, there was a 34 percent year-over-year increase in incidents – assaults, vandalism, and harassment — with a total of 1,266 acts targeting Jews and Jewish institutions. Nearly 30 percent of these incidents (369) occurred in November and December. The surge has continued during the first three months of 2017, with preliminary reports of another 541 incidents, putting this year on pace for more than 2,000 incidents. Americans of all faiths have felt the increase and in a poll ADL released earlier this month a majority said they are concerned about violence in the U.S. directed at Jews…”

Categories: Research

Pew – Searching for News – The Flint water crisis

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 20:11

“During the long saga of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan – an ongoing, multilayered disaster that exposed about 100,000 residents to harmful contaminants and lead and left them even as of early 2017 advised to drink filtered or bottled water – local and regional audiences used online search engines as a way to both follow the news and understand its impact on public and personal health. A new Pew Research Center study, based on anonymized Google search data from Jan. 5, 2014, through July 2, 2016, delves into the kinds of searches that were most prevalent as a proxy for public interest, concerns and intentions. The study also tracks the way search activity ebbed and flowed alongside real world events and their associated news coverage. The study begins in 2014, when officials switched the source of municipal drinking water from the Detroit city water system to the Flint River. The study period covers ensuing events that included bacteria-related “boil water” advisories, studies showing elevated lead levels in children’s blood and tap water samples, government-issued lead warnings, bottled-water distribution, declarations of emergency, the filing of criminal charges, a Democratic presidential candidate debate in Flint and a visit to the city by President Barack Obama. The data, based on nearly 2,700 different search terms associated with the crisis, reveal that residents of Flint were searching for information about their water before the government recognized the contamination and before local and regional news media coverage intensified beyond a handful of stories related to the initial switch of the water supply. And, while news was the first type of information people searched for, questions about personal and public health implications soon came to the forefront. The politics of the water crisis – which involved the governor of Michigan, the city of Flint and several agencies – did not resonate as a local search topic until Obama reacted, when the story spread nationally…”

Categories: Research

Estimates of U.S. Population by Age and Sex: April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2016

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 20:07

“A downloadable file containing estimates of the resident U.S. population by single year of age and sex is available on the Population and Housing Unit Estimates webpage at <www.census.gov/programs-surveys/popest.html>.  In the coming months, the U.S. Census Bureau will release 2016 population estimates for cities and towns, as well as national, state and county population estimates by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin.”

Categories: Research

U.S. Manufacturing: Federal Programs Reported Providing Support and Addressing Trends

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 20:06

U.S. Manufacturing: Federal Programs Reported Providing Support and Addressing Trends, GAO-17-240: Published: Mar 28, 2017. Publicly Released: Apr 27, 2017.

“GAO identified 58 programs in 11 federal agencies that reported providing support to U.S. manufacturing by fostering innovation through research and development, assisting with trade in the global marketplace, helping job seekers enhance skills and obtain employment, and providing general financing or business assistance. Twenty-one of these programs reported using all of their obligations in fiscal year 2015 to support U.S. manufacturing. For these 21 programs, obligations of each program ranged from $750,000 to $204 million in fiscal year 2015, the most recent full year of data. Twenty-six other programs reported using funding to support manufacturing—in addition to other sectors—and provided ranges of estimates for the obligations directly supporting manufacturing. The remaining 11 programs either did not provide an estimate of their support to manufacturing or reported no program obligations in fiscal year 2015. GAO also identified nine tax expenditures that can provide benefits to manufacturers, amounting to billions of dollars in incentives for both the manufacturing sector and other sectors of the economy.

Most (51) of the 58 programs reported addressing trends toward an increase in advanced manufacturing (e.g. activities using automation, software, or cutting edge materials), the need for a higher-skilled workforce, and more global trade competition for U.S. manufacturers by providing funds and resources, sharing information, and promoting coordination. Survey responses from the 58 programs indicated that more than two-thirds of them are addressing the shift toward advanced manufacturing, approximately half are taking steps to address increased globalization and competition, and fewer than half are addressing the need for a higher skilled workforce.

Forty-four of the 58 programs reported having performance goals or measures related to the support of manufacturing, but agencies that comprise an interagency group have not identified the information they will collect from agencies and use to report progress in supporting advanced manufacturing. Ten of the 11 agencies that administer programs GAO reviewed participate in a federal interagency initiative to coordinate activities and report on progress in the area of advanced manufacturing. The Subcommittee on Advanced Manufacturing—co-chaired by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and that coordinates advanced manufacturing efforts—supports the updating and reporting on a National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing. The plan, which was published in 2012, identifies objectives and potential measures that could be used to assess progress. The subcommittee plans to report in 2018 on progress in achieving the strategic plan’s objectives, as required by the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2014. However, OSTP has not worked with the subcommittee member agencies to identify the information needed to report progress in achieving the strategic objectives, such as what measures will be used. While subcommittee officials said the subcommittee does not provide top-down direction to federal agencies on how to measure effectiveness, specifying the information it will collect from federal agencies would better position it to report consistent and comprehensive information on the progress in achieving the plan’s objectives.”

Categories: Research

Cybersecurity: Critical Infrastructure Authoritative Reports and Resources

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 22:24

CRS – Cybersecurity: Critical Infrastructure Authoritative Reports and Resources, Rita Tehan, Information Research Specialist, April 21, 2017.
“Cybersecurity: Critical Infrastructure Authoritative Reports and Resources Congressional Research Service Summary Critical infrastructure is defined in the USA PATRIOT Act (P.L. 107-56, §1016(e)) as“ systems and assets, physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health and safety, or any combination of those matters.” Presidential Decision Directive 63, or PDD-63,identified activities whose critical infrastructures should be protected: information and communications; banking and finance; water supply; aviation, highways, mass transit, pipelines, rail, and waterborne commerce; emergency and law enforcement services; emergency, fire, and continuity of government services; public health services; electric power, oil and gas production;and storage. In addition, the PDD identified four activities in which the federal government controls the critical infrastructure: (1) internal security and federal law enforcement; (2) foreign intelligence; (3) foreign affairs; and (4) national defense.In February 2013, the Obama Administration issued PPD-21, Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience, which superseded HSPD-7 issued during the George W.Bush Administration.PPD-21 made no major changes in policy, roles and responsibilities, or programs, but did order an evaluation of the existing public-private partnership model, the identification of baseline data and system requirements for efficient information exchange, and the development of a situational awareness capability. PPD-21 also called for an update of the National Infrastructure Protection Plan, and a new Research and Development Plan for Critical Infrastructure,to be updated every four years.This report serves as a starting point for congressional staff assigned to cover cybersecurity issues as they relate to critical infrastructure. Much is written about protecting U.S. critical infrastructure, and this CRS report directs the reader to authoritative sources that address many of the most prominent issues. The annotated descriptions of these sources are listed in reverse chronological order with an emphasis on material published in the past several years. The report includes resources and studies from government agencies (federal, state, local, and international), think tanks, academic institutions, news organizations, and other sources.”

Categories: Research

WaPo – Tracking how many key positions Trump has filled so far

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 22:03

“The Post and Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, are tracking more than 500 key executive branch nominations through the confirmation process. These positions include Cabinet secretaries, deputy and assistant secretaries, chief financial officers, general counsel, heads of agencies, ambassadors and other critical leadership positions. These are a portion of the roughly 1,200 positions that require Senate confirmation. The Senate can only act on nominations that have been formally submitted by the Trump administration. Those marked “awaiting nomination” above have been announced but not yet submitted, while those marked “formally nominated” are awaiting action by the Senate.”

Categories: Research

Daunting concept of species triage for countless endangered animals

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 20:03

Outside – “Professor Leah Gerber is one of the country’s leading proponents of what’s called species triage, a practice where conservationists use data and models to figure out how to spend our limited endangered species dollars as efficiently and effectively as possible. The practice has been used by governments in Australia and New Zealand, but it’s never made it to the United States. The goal is to save as many species as possible—even if it means calling it quits for creatures like the monk seal. “There’s a level of discomfort with this, but we have to face hard choices,” she says.”

Categories: Research

CA Top Three Spots in Employment Growth Among Large Counties

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 19:32

“San Francisco, Riverside and San Bernardino led the nation in annual employment growth among the top 50 U.S. counties with the most employees, according to new U.S. Census Bureau economic statistics released today. Overall, these 50 counties accounted for 34.6 percent of employment of all establishments defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). San Francisco County, first for the second year in a row, saw its employment grow 6.6 percent from 2014 to 2015, up 37,843 employees to 611,140 employees. The information sector (NAICS 51), up 13.3 percent to 64,223 employees, led growth in that county. San Francisco also led the top 10 largest counties in annual payroll increase, climbing 12.1 percent to $59.3 billion. Riverside County saw its employment grow 4.9 percent, up 25,284 employees to 540,169 employees in 2015. San Bernardino County’s employment grew 4.4 percent, up 24,396 employees to 578,755 employees in 2015. Santa Clara County’s employment grew 3.8 percent, up 36,807 employees to 999,906 employees in 2015.”

Categories: Research

Estimates of U.S. Population by Age and Sex

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 19:30

“A downloadable file containing estimates of the resident U.S. population by single year of age and sex is available on the Population and Housing Unit Estimates webpage at <www.census.gov/programs-surveys/popest.html>. In the coming months, the U.S. Census Bureau will release 2016 population estimates for cities and towns, as well as national, state and county population estimates by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin.”

Categories: Research

DATA Act: OIG Reports Help Identify Agencies’ Implementation Challenges

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 19:26

DATA Act: Office of Inspector General Reports Help Identify Agencies’ Implementation Challenges, GAO-17-460: Published: Apr 26, 2017. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 2017: “As of January 31, 2017, 30 Offices of Inspector General (OIG) had completed Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act) readiness reviews for their respective agencies, most of which were completed from June 2016 through November 2016. GAO noted variations across the type of reviews conducted, standards used, and scope of work. For example, 16 OIG reviews focused on agencies’ implementation actions to organize and design changes as recommended in the Department of the Treasury’s (Treasury) DATA Act Implementation Playbook, while others included additional implementation steps. The OIGs reported varying expectations for agencies’ readiness to meet DATA Act requirements. For 26 of the 30 agencies, the OIGs reported challenges similar to those previously reported in agencies’ implementation plans and by GAO, such as systems integration issues and lack of resources. Agencies have continued their implementation efforts since the OIG reviews.”

Categories: Research

GPO releases digital Congressional Record from 1961-1970

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 22:27

The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) partners with the Library of Congress to release the digital version of the bound Congressional Record from 1961-1970 on GPO’s govinfo (www.govinfo.gov). This release covers debates and proceedings of the 87th thru the 91st Congresses. Spanning approximately 380,000 Congressional Record pages, this era covers historical topics such as:

  • The Administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and the first two years of the Administration of President Richard M. Nixon
  • The Civil Rights Era
  • The Vietnam War
  • The Space Program and Moon Landing
  • Legislation of the Great Society and the War on Poverty, including:

Civil Rights Act of 1964
Voting Rights Act of 1965
Fair Housing Act of 1968
Medicare and Medicaid
Economic Opportunity Act of 1964
Immigration Act of 1965
Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
Endangered Species Act of 1966
Public Broadcasting Act of 1967

“This latest digital release of the Congressional Record now gives the public easy access to the historic debates of Congress from the 1960s via smartphones, tablets, laptops, and personal computers,” said GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks. “GPO is honored to partner with the Library of Congress to continue to meet the needs of Congress and the American people.”

Categories: Research

CRS – Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Background and Summary

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 22:09

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Background and Summary. Baird Webel, Coordinator, Specialist in Financial Economics. April 21, 2017. [via FAS]
Beginning in 2007, U.S. financial conditions deteriorated, leading to the near-collapse of the U.S. financial system in September 2008. Major commercial banks, insurers, government-sponsored enterprises, and investment banks either failed or required hundreds of billions in federal support to continue functioning. Households were hit hard by drops in the prices of real estate and financial assets, and by a sharp rise in unemployment. Congress responded to the crisis by enacting the most comprehensive financial reform legislation since the 1930s.Then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner issued a reform plan in the summer of 2009 that served as a template for legislation in both the House and Senate. After significant congressional revisions, President Obama signed H.R. 4173, now titled the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203), into law on July 21, 2010. Perhaps the major issue in the financial reform legislation was how to address the systemic fragility revealed by the crisis. The Dodd-Frank Act created a new regulatory umbrella group chaired by the Treasury Secretary—the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC)—with authority to designate certain financial firms as systemically important and subjecting them and all banks with more than $50 billion in assets to heightened prudential regulation. Financial firms were also subjected to a special resolution process (called “Orderly Liquidation Authority”) similar to that used in the past to address failing depository institutions following a finding that their failure would pose systemic risk.The Dodd-Frank Act made other changes to the regulatory structure. It created the Office of Financial Research to support FSOC. The act consolidated consumer protection responsibilities in a new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB). It consolidated bank regulation by reassigning the Office of Thrift Supervision’s (OTS’s) responsibilities to the other banking regulators. A federal office was created to monitor insurance. The Federal Reserve’s emergency authority was amended, and its activities were subjected to greater public disclosure and oversight by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Other aspects of Dodd-Frank addressed particular sectors of the financial system or selected classes of market participants. Dodd-Frank required more derivatives to be cleared and traded through regulated exchanges, reporting for derivatives that remain in the over-the-counter market, and registration with appropriate regulators for certain derivatives dealers and large traders. Hedge funds were subject to new reporting and registration requirements. Credit rating agencies were subject to greater disclosure and legal liability provisions, and references to credit ratings were required to be removed from statute and regulation. Executive compensation and securitization reforms attempted to reduce incentives to take excessive risks. Securitizers were subject to risk retention requirements, popularly called “skin in the game.” It made changes to bank regulation to make bank failures less likely in the future, including prohibitions on certain forms of risky trading (known as the “Volcker Rule”). It created new mortgage standards in response to practices that caused problems in the foreclosure crisis. This report reviews issues related to financial regulation and provides brief descriptions of major provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act,along with links to CRS products going in to greater depth on specific issues. It does not attempt to track the legislative debate in the 115th Congress.”

Categories: Research

States Investing the Most and Least in Children

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 20:01

Wall St 24/7: “Most Americans agree that it is important to provide children with ample opportunities for success, regardless of where they live. To this end, state and local government budgets include provisions for children’s basic education, health care, social services, and other support programs. Still, children receive widely varying amounts of resources depending largely on their state of residence — this is the conclusion of “Unequal Playing Field? State Differences in Spending on Children in 2013,” a report released Tuesday by nonprofit research organization Urban Institute. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 states investing the most in their children, and the 10 states investing the least…”

Click here to see the states investing the most (and least) in their children.

Categories: Research

Gallup – Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace After Trump Election

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 19:58

Ella Washington and Frank Newport, April 25, 2017: “The election of Donald Trump resulted in highly visible expressions of concern and tensions among a number of specific groups of the U.S. population, leading to questions about the possible impact on issues of worry and inclusion in the workplace. To help answer these questions, we asked workers nationwide a series of questions about inclusion and worry. Given the U.S. media discussion about diversity issues, including the Women’s March on Washington the day after the presidential inauguration and the immigration and travel ban policies from the White House, we were also interested in measuring whether companies had been communicating with their employees about diversity and inclusion issues. Published reports had indicated that a number of larger companies had engaged in this type of communication…”

Categories: Research

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