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September 11, 2013 Comments off

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The Forecasting Power of Consumer Attitudes for Consumer Spending

January 24, 2015 Comments off

The Forecasting Power of Consumer Attitudes for Consumer Spending
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

The widely studied Reuters/Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment is constructed from the answers to five questions from the more comprehensive Reuters/Michigan Surveys of Consumers. Yet little work has been done on what predictive power the information taken from this more thorough compilation of consumer attitudes and expectations may have for forecasting consumption expenditures. The authors construct a limited set of real-time summary measures for 42 questions selected from these broader Surveys corresponding to three broad economic determinants of consumption—income and wealth, prices, and interest rates, and then use regression analysis to evaluate and test the ability of these summary measures to predict future changes in real consumer expenditures, even when controlling for current and future fundamentals. They explain a nontrivial portion of consumption and other real activity forecast errors from professional forecasts. This is consistent with these measures’ ability to predict consumption even when conditioning on a broader set of fundamentals as well as professional forecasters’ judgmental forecast adjustments.

TSA 2014 Year in Review

January 23, 2015 Comments off

TSA 2014 Year in Review
Source: Transportation Security Administration (DHS)

Every day, transportation security officers interact with nearly two million travelers across the United States with a single goal in mind – ensuring the safety and security of the traveling public.

We want to share with you examples of the continued vigilance of TSA officers in protecting our nation’s transportation systems, including some of the most unusual items discovered at checkpoints.

TSA had a busy year in 2014, screening more than 653 million passengers in 2014 (about 1.8 million per day), which is 14.8 million more passengers than last year.

2,212 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, averaging more than six firearms per day. Of those, 2,212 (83 percent) were loaded. Firearms were intercepted at a total of 224 airports; 19 more airports than last year.

There was a 22 percent increase in firearm discoveries from last year’s total of 1,813.

Opioid Prescription Claims Among Women of Reproductive Age — United States, 2008–2012

January 23, 2015 Comments off

Opioid Prescription Claims Among Women of Reproductive Age — United States, 2008–2012
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

Prescription opioid use in the United States has become widespread (1), and studies of opioid exposure in pregnancy suggest increased risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes, including neonatal abstinence syndrome and birth defects (e.g., neural tube defects, gastroschisis, and congenital heart defects) (2,3). The development of birth defects often results from exposures during the first few weeks of pregnancy, which is a critical period for organ formation. Given that many pregnancies are not recognized until well after the first few weeks and half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned (4), all women who might become pregnant are at risk. Therefore, it is important to assess opioid medication use among all women of reproductive age. CDC used Truven Health’s MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters and Medicaid data* to estimate the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed by outpatient pharmacies to women aged 15–44 years. During 2008–2012, opioid prescription claims were consistently higher among Medicaid-enrolled women when compared with privately insured women (39.4% compared with 27.7%, p<0.001). The most frequently prescribed opioids among women in both groups were hydrocodone, codeine, and oxycodone. Efforts are needed to promote interventions to reduce opioid prescriptions among this population when safer alternative treatments are available.

The creative wealth of nations : how the performing arts can advance development and human progress

January 23, 2015 Comments off

The creative wealth of nations : how the performing arts can advance development and human progress (PDF)
Source: World Bank

Cultural activities are increasingly noted as drivers of meaningful development. But they have yet to gain a prominent place in the architecture of development strategy. The performing arts, discussed here, exhibit direct effects on social progress and economic growth through trade in music, movies, and temporary work permits for artists, for example. Indirect contributions may also include environmental stewardship, tourism, nation branding, social inclusion, cultural democracy, and shifting cultural behaviors. These direct and indirect contributions are not well documented. As such, how is the creative or cultural sector a crucial part of the wealth of nations, and how could the World Bank Group better leverage the performing arts in its development strategy? This discussion provides a broad snapshot, from arts education, to social inclusion, to international trade in services. Key constraints include: the paucity of data and the difficulty of measuring cultural activities, the challenge of intellectual property, and the unclear benefits of cultural tourism. Part I sets the stage. Part II then provides policy options to foster the performing arts as a promising engine for development. Suggestions include: 1. expanding direct involvement in artistic projects, 2. increa sing the use of performing arts to address social issues, 3. collecting data, 4. promoting intellectual property training programs, 5. supporting digital platforms in the developing world that advance indigenous music, and 6. funding studies on such areas as cultural tourism. Progress still needs to be made in the discussion of the diverse ways that the performing arts can contribute to meaningful development.

Relief in Sight? States Rethink the Collateral Consequences of Criminal Conviction, 2009 – 2014

January 23, 2015 Comments off

Relief in Sight? States Rethink the Collateral Consequences of Criminal Conviction, 2009-2014
Source: Vera Institute of Justice

For millions of Americans, the legal and life-restricting consequences of a criminal conviction continue even after they’ve repaid their debt to society as barriers to voting, housing, jobs, education, and a raft of social services limit their ability to provide for their families and successfully reenter society. In recognition of the damaging effects these collateral consequences can have, 41 states have enacted legislation since 2009 that allows certain individuals to move beyond their convictions. This report reviews that legislative activity, discusses the limitations of current approaches, and offers recommendations to states and localities considering similar reforms.

The Wages of Sinistrality: Handedness, Brain Structure, and Human Capital Accumulation

January 23, 2015 Comments off

The Wages of Sinistrality: Handedness, Brain Structure, and Human Capital Accumulation (PDF)
Source: Journal of Economic Perspectives

In this paper, I argue that the phenomenon of handedness can provide insight into some of the issues surrounding economists’ recent exploration of early biological and environmental influences on people’s long-run outcomes. I review prior research showing that left- and right-handed individuals have different brain structures, particularly with regard to language processing. Using five datasets from the United States and the United Kingdom, I show that, consistent with prior research, both maternal left-handedness and poor infant health increase the likelihood of a child being left-handed. Thus, handedness can be used to explore the long-run effects of differential brain structure generated in part by genetics and in part by poor infant health.

Lefties exhibit economically and statistically significant human capital deficits relative to righties, even conditional on infant health and family background. Compared to righties, lefties score a tenth of a standard deviation lower on measures of cognitive skill and, contrary to popular wisdom, are not overrepresented at the high end of the distribution. Lefties have more emotional and behavioral problems, have more learning disabilities such as dyslexia, complete less schooling, and work in occupations requiring less cognitive skill. Differences between left- and right-handed siblings, which offer a way of controlling for qualities of family upbringing, are similar in magnitude. Interestingly, lefties with left-handed mothers show no cognitive deficits relative to righties. Some of these facts have been documented previously, though not across the range of datasets used here.

Lefties also have 10–12 percent lower annual earnings than righties, roughly equivalent to the return to a year of schooling in these samples. A large fraction of this gap can be explained by observed differences in cognitive skills and emotional or behavioral problems. Lefties work in more manually intensive occupations than do righties, further suggesting that their primary labor market disadvantage is cognitive rather than physical. This paper is the first to document these patterns.

CIA — Studies in Intelligence Volume 58, Number 4 (December 2014)

January 23, 2015 Comments off

Studies in Intelligence Volume 58, Number 4 (December 2014)
Source: Central Intelligence Agency

In Memoriam: Jack Downey [PDF 94.2KB**]
Ambassador Donald Gregg

Inside the Inferno
*Counterterrorism Professionals Reflect on Their Work [PDF 311.1KB**]
Dr. Ursula M. Wilder

By the Numbers
*The IC’s Struggle to Express Analytic Uncertainty in the 1970s [PDF 306.0KB**]
James Marchio

GIMIK and SKIFF
*A Tale of Two Semi-Submersible Submarines [PDF 469.9KB**]
Jim Anderson, LCDR USNR (ret), and Dirk A.D. Smith

INTELLIGENCE IN PUBLIC LITERATURE AND FILM
A Most Wanted Man: the Movie [PDF 75.2KB**]
Reviewed by James Burridge and John Kavanagh

A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination [PDF 77.7KB**]
Reviewed by Thomas G. Coffey

Russian Roulette: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin’s Plot for Global Revolution [PDF 118.6KB**]
Reviewed by J.R. Seeger

Mission R&AW [PDF 76.3KB**]
Reviewed by Ryan Shaffer, Ph.D.

Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf [PDF 152.6KB**]
Compiled and reviewed by Hayden Peake

*Books Reviewed in Studies in Intelligence in 2014 [PDF 86.5KB**]

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