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Archive for April, 2011

Promoting Early Language and Literacy Development

April 30, 2011 Comments off

Promoting Early Language and Literacy Development (PDF)
Source: Zero to Three

Positive early language and literacy development can give children a window to the world, helping to ensure that each child can seize his or her potential for future success. During the first 3 years of life, the brain undergoes its most dramatic development and children acquire the ability to think, speak, learn, and reason. When this early development is not nurtured, the brain’s architecture is affected and young children begin to fall behind. Many low-income children arrive at school already behind in communication and language, a disadvantage that only persists over time.

Parents and early childhood professionals play a critical role in the development of a child’s early literacy skills. By supporting them in this role, we reap significant dividends throughout a child’s entire scholastic career.

The literacy gap hinders our nation’s ability to create the workforce needed to compete in the global market and ensure future prosperity. Sound policy should be grounded in the fact that young children’s language and literacy development begins long before they walk through the door of a kindergarten classroom. The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provides an opportunity to begin early in addressing the lagging literacy skills of students in the United States, through sound policy and practice.

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OECD — Doing Better for Families

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Doing Better for Families
Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
From press release:

Poverty in households with children is rising in nearly all OECD countries. Governments should ensure that family support policies protect the most vulnerable, according to the OECD’s first-ever report on family well-being.

Doing Better for Families says that families with children are more likely to be poor today than in previous decades, when the poorest in society were more likely to be pensioners.

Download the underlying data in Excel

 The share of children living in poor households has risen in many countries over the past decade, to reach 12.7% across the OECD. One in five children in Israel, Mexico, Turkey, the United States and Poland live in poverty. (The OECD defines poor as someone living in a household with less than half the median income, adjusted for family size).

+ Chapter 1. Families are changing (PDF)

Individual country reports also freely available. Full report available for purchase.

STEM Vital Signs

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STEM Vital Signs
Source: Change the Equation

The push for higher standards in K-12 education has been underway for the better part of two decades. But even as some states have created clearer and more rigorous academic standards, many have lowered the bar on their state tests. The result? Too many states are lulling parents and their children into a false sense of security at a time when all students need a much stronger foundation in math and science to thrive in a global economy.

This must change. Change the Equation created “Vital Signs” reports on the condition of STEM learning in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to help measure state performance—and dig deeper into the nation’s education challenges. We aim to arm both business leaders and state leaders with the information they need to make the case for truly high expectations for our nation’s students.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Individual state reports also available.

The State of Preschool 2010

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The State of Preschool 2010
Source: National Institute for Early Education Research

The 2010 State Preschool Yearbook is the eighth in a series of annual reports profiling state-funded prekindergarten programs in the United States. This latest Yearbook presents data on state-funded prekindergarten during the 2009-2010 school year. The first report in this series focused on programs for the 2001-2002 school year and established a baseline against which we may now measure progress over nine years. Tracking these trends is essential, since changes in states’ policies on preschool education will influence how successfully America’s next generation will compete in the knowledge economy.

The 2010 Yearbook is organized into three major sections. The first section offers a summary of the data, and describes national trends for enrollment in, quality of, and spending on preschool. The second section presents detailed profiles outlining each state’s policies with respect to preschool access, quality standards, and resources for the 2009-2010 program year. In addition to providing basic program descriptions, these state profiles describe unique features of a state’s program and recent changes that can be expected to alter the future Yearbook statistics on a program. Profile pages are again included for states without state-funded programs. A description of our methodology follows the state profiles. The last section of the report contains appendices, which are available online only. The appendices include tables that provide the complete 2009-2010 survey data obtained from every state, as well as Head Start, child care, U.S. Census, and special education data.

Safety of Probiotics Used to Reduce Risk and Prevent or Treat Disease

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Safety of Probiotics Used to Reduce Risk and Prevent or Treat Disease
Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Objectives: To catalog what is known about the safety of interventions containing Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, and/or Bacillus strains used as probiotic agents in research to reduce the risk of, prevent, or treat disease.

Data Sources: We searched 12 electronic databases, references of included studies, and pertinent reviews for studies addressing the safety of probiotics from database inception to August 2010 without language restriction.

Review Methods: We identified intervention studies on probiotics that reported the presence or absence of adverse health outcomes in human participants, without restriction by study design, participant type, or clinical field. We investigated the quantity, quality, and nature of adverse events.

Results: The search identified 11,977 publications, of which 622 studies were included in the review. In 235 studies, only nonspecific safety statements were made (“well tolerated”); the remaining 387 studies reported the presence or absence of specific adverse events. Interventions and adverse events were poorly documented.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Occupational Highway Transportation Deaths — United States, 2003–2008

April 30, 2011 Comments off

Occupational Highway Transportation Deaths — United States, 2003–2008
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

Highway transportation crashes are the leading cause of fatal injuries in the United States for both workers and the general population (1,2). Prevention of work-related highway transportation deaths, and highway transportation deaths in general, are long-standing public health priorities (1,3). To assess trends and help guide the prevention of occupational highway transportation deaths, CDC analyzed data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) for 2003–2008 (2).

A total of 8,173 workers died from highway transportation incidents during 2003–2008, representing 24% of all fatal occupational injuries for the period. The annual average fatality rate for workers was 0.9 highway transportation deaths per 100,000 workers; that rate decreased an average of 2.8% annually during the period. Workers employed in the trucking industry accounted for the greatest number (2,320) and highest rate of highway transportation deaths (19.6 per 100,000 workers). Public health, highway safety, labor, and state agencies; highway designers; and transportation-related associations need to work together to implement effective interventions to reduce the risk for highway transportation deaths for all workers. Employers should adopt, communicate, and enforce safety policies designed to reduce highway transportation deaths (e.g., requiring the use of safety belts in fleet vehicles, restricting cellular telephone use while driving, and allowing for adequate travel time), and ensure these policies are followed by employees.

Interagency Working Group Seeks Input on Proposed Voluntary Principles for Marketing Food to Children

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Interagency Working Group Seeks Input on Proposed Voluntary Principles for Marketing Food to Children
Source: Federal Trade Commission

In an effort to combat childhood obesity – the most serious health crisis facing today’s youth – a working group of four federal agencies today released for public comment a set of proposed voluntary principles that can be used by industry as a guide for marketing food to children.

Led by former Sen. Sam Brownback and Sen. Tom Harkin, Congress directed the Federal Trade Commission, together with the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to establish an Interagency Working Group of federal nutrition, health, and marketing experts to develop recommendations for the nutritional quality of food marketed to children and adolescents, ages 2 to 17. The working group seeks public comment on the proposed voluntary nutrition and marketing principles it has developed. After public comment, the working group will make final recommendations in a report to Congress. This is not a proposed government regulation.

The proposed voluntary principles are designed to encourage stronger and more meaningful self-regulation by the food industry and to support parents’ efforts to get their kids to eat healthier foods. While the goals they would set for food marketers are ambitious and would take time to put into place, the public health stakes could not be higher. One in three children is overweight or obese, and the rates are even higher among some racial and ethnic groups.

+ Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children: Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles to Guide Industry Self-Regulatory Efforts and Request for Comments (PDF)
+ Statement of the Commission Concerning the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children: Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles to Guide Industry Self-Regulatory Efforts (April 2011) (PDF)
+ Food for Thought: Interagency Working Group Proposal on Food Marketing to Children

The Grass is Indeed Greener in India and China for Returnee Entrepreneurs: America’s New Immigrant Entrepreneurs – Part VI

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The Grass is Indeed Greener in India and China for Returnee Entrepreneurs: America’s New Immigrant Entrepreneurs – Part VI
Source: Social Science Research Network

Our previous research had documented that 52% of Silicon Valley’s startups were founded by immigrants; that immigrants were contributing to 25% of WIPO PCT applications filed from the U.S.; the backlog of skilled immigrants waiting for permanent resident visas had increased to over 1 million people. We predicted a reverse brain drain, and followed this up with interviews with returnees and foreign students in the U.S.

This research goes one step further. This is based on a survey of returnee entrepreneurs to India and China. We wanted to learn learn how the entrepreneurship landscape in India and China compares to the U.S.; why these entrepreneurs returned; what their perceptions of the entrepreneurial climate in their home countries were; what the advantages and disadvantages of working in India and China were over working in the U.S; and what types of ties they maintained to the U.S.

2011 Pension Funding Study

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2011 Pension Funding Study
Source: Milliman

The companies surveyed in the Milliman Pension Funding Study reported a record $59.4 billion in contributions to their defined benefit pension plans in 2010. But even when coupled with investment gains, the contributions were offset by an increase in liabilities generated by a decrease in discount rates, and the funded status of the plans improved by just $12.4 billion for the year.

+ Full Document (PDF)

See also: Pension Funding Index

Violence in the City: Understanding and Supporting Community Responses to Urban Violence

April 30, 2011 Comments off

Violence in the City: Understanding and Supporting Community Responses to Urban Violence
Source: World Bank

For millions of people around the world, violence, or the fear of violence, is a daily reality. Much of this violence concentrates in urban centers in the developing world. Cities are now home to half the world’s population and expected to absorb almost all new population growth over the next 25 years. In many cases, the scale of urban violence can eclipse those of open warfare; some of the world’s highest homicide rates occur in countries that have not undergone a war, but that have serious epidemics of violence in urban areas. This study emerged out of a growing recognition that urban communities themselves are an integral part of understanding the causes and impacts of urban violence and of generating sustainable violence prevention initiatives.

The study used a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods to understand how urban residents experience and cope with high levels of violence every day, and to develop strategic orientations for how to better support existing initiatives. The study found a variety of coping mechanisms, most of which were individual-level strategies to avoid victimization such as staying at home more, changing routes to school or work, or simply “doing nothing.” Many strategies actually undermine long-term prevention, including strategies like joining a vigilante group or militia, or using other extra-legal forms of justice. Recommendations from the study focus on creating the basic conditions that urban communities need to be able to come together collectively to address violence, from upgrading basic infrastructure, to better harnessing the energies of youth and increasing coordination across levels and sectors of government and civil society.

+ Full Report (PDF)

In U.S., Negative Views of the Tea Party Rise to New High

April 29, 2011 Comments off

In U.S., Negative Views of the Tea Party Rise to New High
Source: Gallup

About half of Americans, 47%, now have an unfavorable image of the Tea Party movement, the highest since it emerged on the national scene.

2010-2011 Trend: Overall Opinion of the Tea Party Movement

Gallup began tracking Americans’ views of the Tea Party in March 2010, when 37% had a favorable and 40% an unfavorable view. Those views stayed roughly the same through January of this year, but have now turned somewhat more negative. The April 20-23 USA Today/Gallup poll finds favorable opinions of the Tea Party movement dropping to 33%, from 39% in January, and unfavorable opinions rising to 47% from 42%. Twenty percent of Americans say they haven’t heard of the Tea Party or have no opinion of it.

I-131 Dose-Response for Incident Thyroid Cancers in Ukraine Related to the Chornobyl Accident

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I-131 Dose-Response for Incident Thyroid Cancers in Ukraine Related to the Chornobyl Accident
Source: Environmental Health Perspectives

Background: Current knowledge about Chornobyl-related thyroid cancer risks comes from ecological studies based on grouped doses, case-control studies and studies of prevalent cancers.

Objective: To address this limitation, we evaluated the dose-response for incident thyroid cancers using measurement-based individual iodine-131 (I-131) thyroid dose estimates in a prospective analytic cohort study.

Methods: The cohort consists of individuals < 18 years on April 26, 1986, who resided in three contaminated oblasts (states) of Ukraine and underwent up to four thyroid screening examinations between 1998 and 2007 (N = 12,514). I-131 thyroid doses were estimated based on individual radioactivity measurements taken within two months after the accident, environmental transport models and interview data. Excess radiation risks were estimated using Poisson regression models.

Results: There were 65 incident thyroid cancers diagnosed during the 2nd-4th screenings and 73,004 person-years of observation. The dose-response was consistent with linearity on relative and absolute scales, although the excess relative risk model (ERR) described data better than the excess absolute risk (EAR) model. The ERR per Gy was 1.91 (95% CI: 0.43-6.34) and EAR per 104 PY per Gy was 2.21 (95% CI: 0.04 – 5.78). The ERR per Gy varied significantly by oblast of residence, but not by time since exposure, use of iodine prophylaxis, iodine status, sex, age, or tumor size.

Conclusions: I-131-related thyroid cancer risks persisted for two decades following exposure with no evidence of decrease during the observation period. The radiation risks, while smaller, are compatible with those of retrospective and ecological post-Chornobyl studies.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

UK — The economic impact of the Royal Wedding

April 29, 2011 Comments off

The economic impact of the Royal Wedding
Source: Pricewaterhouse Coopers

An extensive survey of UK adults reveals the economic impact of the Royal Wedding. PwC conducted the research as part of an ongoing project to monitor the economic impact of large events in the capital in the run up to the Olympic Games next year.

  • Some 550,000 people will experience the event in person in the Westminster environs, nearly a million plan to watch it in on big screen and over twenty million will favour the convivial experience of huddling round a television. Half a million will watch it on the internet and 51,000 will watch it on a mobile phone.
  • 295,000 Londoners travel into Central London to experience the event.
  • Time off: Over six million adults will be taking extra holidays to make the most of the confluence of Easter, the bank holidays and the Royal Wedding. Workers from London (17%) and the West Midlands (17%) being the most likely to do this, while employee from the South West (7%) and Scotland (9%) the least likely.
  • Economic benefit: PwC calculates the commercial benefit to London from visitors’ expenditure to be £107 million.

U.S. Men Have Higher Systolic, Diastolic Blood Pressure Than Women

April 29, 2011 Comments off

U.S. Men Have Higher Systolic, Diastolic Blood Pressure Than Women (PDF)
Source: National Center for Health Statistics

Mean systolic blood pressure was 122 mm Hg for all adults aged 18 and over; it was 116 mm Hg for normotensive adults, 130 mm Hg for treated hypertensive adults, and 146 mm Hg for untreated hypertensive adults. Mean diastolic blood pressure was 71 mm Hg for all adults 18 and over; it was 69 mm Hg for normotensive adults, 75 mm Hg for treated hypertensive adults, and 85 mm Hg for untreated hypertensive adults. There was a trend of increasing systolic blood pressure with increasing age. A more curvilinear trend was seen in diastolic blood pressure, with increasing then decreasing means with age in both men and women. Men had higher mean systolic and diastolic pressures than women. There were some differences in mean blood pressure by race or ethnicity, with non-Hispanic black adults having higher mean systolic and diastolic blood pressures than non-Hispanic white and Mexican-American adults, but these differences were not consistent after stratification by hypertension status and sex.

Integrated national-scale assessment of wildfire risk to human and ecological values

April 29, 2011 Comments off

Integrated national-scale assessment of wildfire risk to human and ecological values
Source: U.S. Forest Service

The spatial, temporal, and social dimensions of wildfire risk are challenging U.S. federal land management agencies to meet societal needs while maintaining the health of the lands they manage. In this paper we present a quantitative, geospatial wildfire risk assessment tool, developed in response to demands for improved risk-based decision frameworks. The methodology leverages off recent and significant advancements in wildfire simulation models and geospatial data acquisition and management. The tool is intended to facilitate monitoring trends in wildfire risk over time and to develop information useful in prioritizing fuels treatments and mitigation measures. Wildfire risk assessment requires analyzing the likelihood of wildfire by intensity level, and the magnitude of potential beneficial and negative effects to valued resources from fire at different intensity levels. This effort is designed to support strategic planning by systematically portraying how fire likelihood and intensity influence risk to social, economic, and ecological values at the national scale. We present results for the continental United States, analyze high risk areas by geographic region, and examine how risk evaluations changes under different assumptions with sensitivity analysis. We conclude by discussing further potential uses of the tool and research needs.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

Transmitting Electricity in an Increasingly Complex Energy Market: A Legislative Update

April 29, 2011 Comments off

Transmitting Electricity in an Increasingly Complex Energy Market: A Legislative Update
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

The United States’ transmission infrastructure will need significant upgrades in the coming 2 decades. While population growth and new consumer devices are increasing electricity demand, distributed energy and smart grid technologies are drastically changing how electricity is delivered. A recent study conducted by The Brattle Group estimates that, by 2030, industry needs to invest $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion in total infrastructure, including about $298 billion for transmission and $582 billion for distribution.

Transmission upgrades will need to account for the increasingly important role of renewable energy in many states, since the best renewable resources are often located far from cities where the electricity is needed. Siting, regional coordination, and cost-recovery challenges often challenge transmission development. Many states are working to address these issues through a variety of policies.

NOAA — Through a Fish’s Eye: The Status of Fish Habitats in the United States 2010

April 29, 2011 Comments off

Through a Fish’s Eye: The Status of Fish Habitats in the United States 2010
Source: NOAA Fisheries and the National Fish Habitat Board
This report is the result of a nationwide assessment of human effects on fish habitat in the rivers and estuaries of the United States, developed by the public/private partnership of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan.

We examine not only the threats to rivers, estuaries, and other aquatic habitats, but also the major sources of these threats, including pollution; urban development; agriculture; barriers to migration; and climate change. Some of the successful, ongoing efforts to address these threats to habitat are also featured within its pages.

This report provides an important picture of the challenges and opportunities facing fish and those engaged in fish habitat protection and restoration efforts. It also illustrates the need for strategic use of limited resources though partnerships—such as the Fish Habitat Partnerships established under the National Fish Habitat Action Plan—to identify the most effective use of funds and help the nation as a whole make progress in fish habitat conservation.

+ Full Report (PDF)

New From the GAO

April 29, 2011 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Correspondence
Source: Government Accountability Office
29 April 2011

Reports

1. Private Pensions: Some Key Features Lead to an Uneven Distribution of Benefits. GAO-11-333, March 30.  Highlights

2. VA Health Care: Need for More Transparency in New Resource Allocation Process and for Written Policies on Monitoring Resources. GAO-11-426, April 29.  Highlights

Correspondence

1. Management Report: Opportunities for Improvement in the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Internal Controls and Accounting Procedures. GAO-11-398R, April 29.

Just Released — Digest of Education Statistics, 2010

April 29, 2011 Comments off

Digest of Education Statistics, 2010
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

The 46th in a series of publications initiated in 1962, the Digest’s primary purpose is to provide a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of American education from prekindergarten through graduate school. The Digest contains data on a variety of topics, including the number of schools and colleges, teachers, enrollments, and graduates, in addition to educational attainment, finances, and federal funds for education, libraries, and international comparisons.

See also: Mini-Digest of Education Statistics, 2010

This publication is a pocket-sized compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of American education from kindergarten through graduate school. The statistical highlights are excerpts from the Digest of Education of Statistics, 2010.

Improving Effective Surgical Delivery in Humanitarian Disasters: Lessons from Haiti

April 29, 2011 Comments off

Improving Effective Surgical Delivery in Humanitarian Disasters: Lessons from Haiti
Source: PLoS Medicine

The humanitarian response to major disasters is often marred by duplication and fragmentation, resulting in insufficient resources and services reaching the victims [1]. This is particularly critical when it comes to surgical care in mass disasters, both because the impact of surgical services on mortality requires a rapid response, and because surgical teams are often the most difficult to recruit.

In response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) deployed the largest surgical team in the organization’s 40-year history: in 10 weeks, over 55,000 patients were treated and over 4,000 surgical interventions performed. The overall combined response was perhaps one of the largest non-conflict humanitarian surgical efforts in human history. However, the delivery of care was fraught with supply delays, a lack of appropriately experienced surgeons and anesthesiologists, and challenges in coordinating with other agencies—governmental, military, and non-governmental—whose priorities and motives did not always agree. We highlight some challenges from this recent experience and propose some ways forward to support an effective surgical humanitarian response to future major disasters.

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