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September 11, 2013 Comments off

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Do Coastal Building Codes Make Stronger Houses?

July 22, 2014 Comments off

Do Coastal Building Codes Make Stronger Houses? (PDF)
Source: Cato Institute

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which provides federal flood insurance to property owners in participating communities, is currently $24 billion in debt. The shortfall has long been foreseen by policymakers because the insurance is underpriced, effectively subsidizing property owners of coastal properties. Congress attempted to curtail that subsidy with the 2012 Biggert–Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which was intended to put the burden of flood risk squarely on property owners rather than taxpayers. However, beneficiaries of the subsidies rallied against the legislation, and earlier this year both houses of Congress passed, and President Obama signed, legislation delaying the 2012 subsidy reform.

Communities that participate in the NFIP must adopt the program’s building code, which incorporates minimum building standards set forth by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Economists have theorized that building codes associated with the provision of subsidized insurance may create moral hazard by inducing risk taking. That is, the acquisition of insurance against some contingency is associated with a decreased incentive to avoid or prevent the insured loss because policyholders do not bear the full consequences of their actions. Independent of any insurance provision, moral hazard can also result from a false perception of safety if building codes are not effective.

This article examines the effectiveness of the NFIP’s building code in reducing damages to barrier island property in a hurricane. We determine whether similarly located properties fare better or worse in a hurricane based on the code regime under which they were constructed. We use data from Lee County, Fla., where 2004’s Hurricane Charley made landfall. Our findings raise questions about the optimal scale of code design, and about unintended consequences from building code changes.

Today’s Rising Terrorist Threat and the Danger to the United States: Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of The 9/11 Commission Report

July 22, 2014 Comments off

Today’s Rising Terrorist Threat and the Danger to the United States: Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of The 9/11 Commission Report
Source: Bipartisan Policy Center

Ten years ago today, we issued The 9/11 Commission Report, the official report of the devastating attacks of September 11, 2001. As we wrote in that report, we were acutely mindful of the responsibility we bore to the American people—and the families of the victims—to provide the most complete account possible of the events leading up to that terrible day. We used what we learned from that awful history to make recommendations as to how to make America safer. Most of those recommendations have been enacted into law or adopted as policy.

A decade later, we are struck by how dramatically the world has changed. In the United States, federal, state, and local authorities have implemented major security reforms to protect the country. Overseas, the United States and allies went on the offensive against al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Ten years ago, many feared that al Qaeda would launch more catastrophic attacks on the United States. That has not happened. While homegrown terrorists struck Fort Hood and the Boston Marathon, with tragic results, and while major attempted attacks on aviation have been disrupted, no attack on a scale approaching that of 9/11 has taken place.

Making Effective Fixed-Guideway Transit Investments: Indicators of Success

July 22, 2014 Comments off

Making Effective Fixed-Guideway Transit Investments: Indicators of Success
Source: Transportation Research Board

TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Report 167: Making Effective Fixed-Guideway Transit Investments: Indicators of Success provides a data-driven, indicator-based model for predicting the success of a fixed-guideway transit project. The handbook and final research report make up Parts 1 and 2 of TCRP Report 167, and the spreadsheet tool is available separately for download.

Chinese Military Modernization and Force Development: Chinese and Outside Perspectives

July 22, 2014 Comments off

Chinese Military Modernization and Force Development: Chinese and Outside Perspectives
Source: Center for Strategic & International Studies

The goal behind this report is not to present the authors’ view of the balance, but rather to provide the basis for an unclassified dialogue on the military developments in China, including the size and structure of the country’s current and planned military forces. It draws on official US, Chinese, and other Asian official reporting, as well as the work of other scholars and the data bases developed by the IISS and Jane’s in an effort to compare different views of Chinese strategy and military developments, and is meant to provide US, Chinese, and other analysts with a better basis for understanding Western estimates of the changes in Chinese force strength and force quality.

The United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) face a critical need to improve their understanding of how each is developing its military power and how to avoid forms of military competition that could lead to rising tension or conflict between the two states. This report focuses on China’s military developments and modernization and how they are perceived in the UIS, the West, and Asia. It utilizes the unclassified data available in the West on the trends in Chinese military forces. It relies heavily on the data in the US Department of Defense (DoD) Report to Congress on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, particularly the 2013 and 2014 editions.

It relies heavily on the annual military balances compiled by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), though a range of sources are included. It should be noted that this report focuses on Chinese forces, and therefore presents only one side of the US and Chinese balance and the security situation in Asia. It also draws upon a Burke Chair report entitled The Evolving Military Balance in the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia, looking at the bilateral US-Chinese balance in more detail.

Accordingly, it focuses on the actual changes taking place in Chinese forces, and it provides a detailed analysis detailed analysis of the trends in Chinese military forces since 1985, examining how the often-conflicting trends in outside sources interact with reporting on Chinese military spending and strategy. It also shows that important changes are taking place in US strategy and that these changes must be considered when evaluating Chinese actions.

Use of St. John’s Wort in Potentially Dangerous Combinations

July 22, 2014 Comments off

Use of St. John’s Wort in Potentially Dangerous Combinations
Source: Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

Objectives:
The objective of this study was to assess how often St. John’s wort (SJW) is prescribed with medications that may interact dangerously with it.

Design:
The study design was a retrospective analysis of nationally representative data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.

Settings:
The study setting was U.S. nonfederal outpatient physician offices.

Subjects:
Those prescribed SJW between 1993 and 2010 were the subjects.

Outcome Measures:
The outcome measures were medications co-prescribed with SJW.

Results: Twenty-eight percent (28%) of SJW visits involved a drug that has potentially dangerous interaction with SJW. These included selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, benzodiazepines, warfarin, statins, verapamil, digoxin, and oral contraceptives.

Conclusions:
SJW is frequently used in potentially dangerous combinations. Physicians should be aware of these common interactions and warn patients appropriately.

New From the GAO

July 22, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Small Business Administration: Office of Advocacy Needs to Improve Controls over Research, Regulatory, and Workforce Planning Activities. GAO-14-525, July 22.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-525
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664930.pdf

2. Managing for Results: Enhanced Goal Leader Accountability and Collaboration Could Further Improve Agency Performance. GAO-14-639, July 22.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-639
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664922.pdf

3. Telecommunications: FCC Should Improve the Accountability and Transparency of High-Cost Program Funding. GAO-14-587, July 22.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-587
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664940.pdf

Testimony

1. Large Partnerships: Growing Population and Complexity Hinder Effective IRS Audits, by James R. White, director, strategic issues, before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-14-746T, July 22.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-746T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664918.pdf

Parents’ Income is a Poor Predictor of SAT Score

July 22, 2014 Comments off

Parents’ Income is a Poor Predictor of SAT Score
Source: Open Differential Psychology

Parents’ annual income lacks statistical significance as a predictor of state SAT scores when additional variables are well controlled. Spearman rank correlation coefficients reveal parents’ income to be a weaker predictor of average SAT scores for each income bracket within each state than parents’ education level as a predictor of average SAT scores for each education level within each state. Multiple linear regression of state SAT scores with covariates for sample size, state participation, year, and each possible combination of ordinal variables for parents’ income, parents’ education, and race shows income to lack statistical significance in 49% of the iterations with greater frequency of insignificance among iterations with higher explained variance. Cohen’s d comparisons of the yearly individual SAT advantage of having educated parents show a fairly consistently increasing positive relationship over time, whereas similar analysis of the yearly individual SAT advantage of having high-income parents shows variability somewhat coinciding with the business cycle.

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