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Archive for April, 2011

Immediate Reductions in EIA’s Energy Data and Analysis Programs Necessitated by FY 2011 Funding Cut

April 28, 2011 Comments off

Immediate Reductions in EIA’s Energy Data and Analysis Programs Necessitated by FY 2011 Funding Cut
Source: Energy Information Administration

The final fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget provides $95.4 million for the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), a reduction of $15.2 million, or 14 percent, from the FY 2010 level.

“The lower FY 2011 funding level will require significant cuts in EIA’s data, analysis, and forecasting activities,” said EIA Administrator Richard Newell. “EIA had already taken a number of decisive steps in recent years to streamline operations and enhance overall efficiency, and we will continue to do so in order to minimize the impact of these cuts at a time when both policymaker and public interest in energy issues is high,” he said.

EIA must act quickly to realize the necessary spending reductions during the present fiscal year, which is already more than half over. The changes in products and services identified below reflect initial steps to reduce the cost of EIA’s program. Additional actions are being evaluated and may result in further adjustments to EIA’s data and analysis activities in the near future.

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America’s Rental Housing: Meeting Challenges, Building on Opportunities

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America’s Rental Housing: Meeting Challenges, Building on Opportunities
Source: Harvard University, Joint Center for Housing Studies
From press release (PDF):

The Great Recession pushed the number of renters paying more than half their income for housing to record levels, according to a new report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS). Released today at an event held at the Newseum in Washington, DC, the report “America’s Rental Housing: Meeting Challenges, Building on Opportunities” finds that even prior to the recession, long-term increases in rents and utility costs combined with falling renter incomes put strain on many renters’ budgets. The Great Recession made matters worse, increasing the cost burden on once-secure working and middle class Americans.

Today, one in four renters, or 10.1 million households, spends more than half their income on rent and utilities. Another quarter of renters, 26.2%, spends 30%-50% of their income on rent and utilities.

While severe housing cost burdens are still concentrated among those in the bottom fifth of the household income distribution, over the last decade the number of renters even in the next two higher quintiles facing such burdens increased by one million households. In addition, more lower-middle income renters (56%, up from 38%) and more middle income renters (23%, up from 10%) are paying 30-50% of income for rent and utilities.

“In the last decade, rental housing affordability problems went through the roof,” said Eric S. Belsky, Managing Director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and an author of the study. “And these affordability problems are marching up the income scale. In real terms, it means more people have less money to spend on household necessities such as food, health care, or savings.”

As the economy begins to gain traction, rental housing is likely to lead the housing recovery as the troubled homeowner market and demographic trends push up the number of renters. Vacancy rates are falling and rents are showing a return to growth in many mar- kets around the country. But what is good news for the housing industry could further erode rental housing affordability.

Who Benefits from Religion?

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Who Benefits from Religion? (PDF)
Source: Harvard Business School Working Papers

Many studies have documented the benefits of religious involvement. Indeed, highly religious people tend to be healthier, live longer, and have higher levels of subjective well-being. While religious involvement offers clear benefits to many, in this paper we explore whether it may also be detrimental to some. Specifically, we examine in detail the relation between religious involvement and subjective well-being. We first replicate prior findings showing a positive relation between religiosity and subjective well-being. However, our results also suggest that this relation may be more complex than previously thought. While fervent believers benefit from their involvement, those with weaker beliefs are actually less happy than those who do not ascribe to any religion—atheists and agnostics. These results may help explain why—in spite of the well-documented benefits of religion—an increasing number of people are abandoning their faith. As commitment wanes, religious involvement may become detrimental to well-being, and individuals may be better off seeking new affiliations.

Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report, 2011

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Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report, 2011 (PDF)
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The current childhood obesity epidemic is the result of many factors and may not be resolved by any single action. Rather, resolution of the childhood obesity epidemic will require concerted action across many sectors and settings such as child care facilities, communities, and schools. The 2011 Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report highlights selected behaviors, environments, and policies that affect childhood obesity through support of healthy eating. These indicators represent opportunities for action. Specific action steps and resources are detailed in the National Action Guide at http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/.

The environments to which children are exposed in their daily lives – schools, child care facilities, and their communities – can influence the healthfulness of their diets. With the high prevalence of childhood obesity in the U.S., supporting healthy food environments is a key strategy to reach the public health goals of reducing childhood obesity and improving nutrition. National and state-specific information is reported in the Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report for both behavioral indicators and policy and environmental indicators. Indicators selected for this report had data available for most states. However, individual states may have additional information collected through state-wide surveys and/or policies or regulations enacted outside the monitoring period that can augment the data in this report and thus be used to further inform decision makers. On a state and local level, parents, school and child care staff, health professionals, state officials, and community members play a role in supporting policy and environmental change to ensure children and their families can choose more healthful foods.

Emergence of the new geopolitical risk-oil price paradigm

April 28, 2011 Comments off

Emergence of the new geopolitical risk-oil price paradigm (PDF)
Source: Deloitte

Oil companies are now being challenged in ways that weren’t as readily apparent even four years ago. Recent events in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) demonstrate that political and economic risk should be high on management’s agenda.

Spoiled Milk: An Experimental Examination of Bias Against Mothers Who Breastfeed

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Spoiled Milk: An Experimental Examination of Bias Against Mothers Who Breastfeed
Source: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

Drawing from the objectification literature, three experiments tested the hypothesis that breastfeeding mothers are the victims of bias. In Study 1, participants rated a woman who had breastfed as incompetent. Study 2 replicated these effects and deter- mined that the bias was specific to conditions that sexualized the breast. In Study 3, participants interacted with a confederate in which attention was drawn to her as a mother, as a mother who breastfeeds, as a woman with sexualized breasts, or in a neutral condition. Results showed the breastfeeding confederate was rated significantly less competent in general, in math and work specifically, and was less likely to be hired compared to all other conditions, except for the sexualized breast condition. Importantly, the breastfeeding mother emphasis and the sexualized breast emphasis resulted in equally negative evaluations. Results suggest that although breastfeeding may be economical and healthy, the social cost is potentially great.

Hat tip: Sloan Work and Family Research Network

Gross Domestic Product, 1st quarter 2011 (advance estimate)

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Gross Domestic Product, 1st quarter 2011 (advance estimate)
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in the first quarter of 2011 (that is, from the fourth quarter to the first quarter) according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 3.1 percent.

The Bureau emphasized that the first-quarter advance estimate released today is based on source data that are incomplete or subject to further revision by the source agency (see the box on page 3). The “second” estimate for the first quarter, based on more complete data, will be released on May 26, 2011.

The increase in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), private inventory investment, exports, and nonresidential fixed investment that were partly offset by negative contributions from federal government spending and state and local government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

The deceleration in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected a sharp upturn in imports, a deceleration in PCE, a larger decrease in federal government spending, and decelerations in nonresidential fixed investment and in exports that were partly offset by a sharp upturn in private inventory investment.

+ Full release and tables (PDF)

Child and Adolescent Health and Health Care Quality: Measuring What Matters

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Child and Adolescent Health and Health Care Quality: Measuring What Matters
Source: Institute of Medicine

Health and health care quality measures can provide valuable information about the health status of children and adolescents, as well as the outcomes associated with medical care, policy, and social programs. Despite the fact that the U.S. government currently supports hundreds of data sets and measures through federal surveys and administrative data systems, the United States lacks robust national- and state-level information about the health status or health care quality of children and adolescents, particularly in areas that could provide guidance to policy makers and health care providers.

In the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, Congress directed the IOM and the National Research Council (NRC) to evaluate the state of efforts to measure child and adolescent health and the quality of their health care services. The IOM found that the lack of standardization between data sets, as well as the lack of information on physical and social environments, limits researchers’ ability to accurately assess the data. To help overcome these barriers, the IOM recommends that HHS provide leadership on standardization in key data areas and guide other improvements to measurement. In addition, the IOM recommends a stepwise approach (see Figure) for improving data sources and measures of health and health care quality for children and adolescents. The approach is designed to stimulate and support collaborative efforts among federal and state agencies and key stakeholder groups.

+ Report Brief (PDF)

Read full report for free online. (National Academies Press)

Global status report on noncommunicable diseases 2010

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Global status report on noncommunicable diseases 2010
Source: World Health Organization

This report sets out the statistics, evidence and experiences needed to launch a more forceful response to the growing threat posed by noncommunicable diseases. While advice and recommendations are universally relevant, the report gives particular attention to conditions in low- and middle-income countries, which now bear nearly 80% of the burden from diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. The health consequences of the worldwide epidemic of obesity are also addressed.

The report takes an analytical approach, using global, regional and country-specific data to document the magnitude of the problem, project future trends, and assess the factors contributing to these trends. As noted, the epidemic of these diseases is being driven by powerful forces now touching every region of the world: demographic ageing, rapid unplanned urbanization, and the globalization of unhealthy lifestyles. While many chronic conditions develop slowly, changes in lifestyles and behaviours are occurring with a stunning speed and sweep.

Rsearch Review — Draft — Transition of Care for Acute Stroke and Myocardial Infarction Patients From Hospitalization to Rehabilitation, Recovery, and Secondary Prevention

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Transition of Care for Acute Stroke and Myocardial Infarction Patients From Hospitalization to Rehabilitation, Recovery, and Secondary Prevention (PDF)
Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

A total of 62 articles representing 44 studies were included for data abstraction. Transition of care interventions were grouped into four categories: (1) hospital-based preparation for discharge was the initial stage in the transition of care process, (2) patient and family education interventions were started during hospitalization but were continued at the community level, (3) community-based models of support followed hospital discharge, and (4) chronic disease management models of care assumed the responsibility for long-term care. Early supported discharge after stroke was associated with reduced total hospital length of stay without adverse effects on functional recovery, and specialty care after MI was associated with reduced mortality. Because of several methodological shortcomings, most studies did not consistently demonstrate that any specific intervention resulted in improved patient- or system-based outcomes. There was inconsistency in the definition of what constituted a component of transition of care compared to “standard care.” Standard care was poorly defined, and nearly all studies were underpowered to demonstrate a statistical benefit. The endpoints varied greatly from study to study. Nearly all the studies were single-site based, and most (26 of 44) were conducted in countries with national health care systems quite different from that of the U.S., therefore limiting their generalizability.

UK — Safe management of healthcare waste

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Safe management of healthcare waste
Source: Department of Health

This guidance manual is the second edition and updates the 2006 Health Technical Memorandum (HTM) 07-01. This manual was produced in partnership with DH, Defra and Department for Transport and with the full support and co-operation of the Regulators (Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executives) and the Devolved Administrations.

It has been produced as a best practice guide to the management of healthcare waste. The key changes include: an update to statutory requirements; a focus on the waste hierarchy through procurement practices; a drive to address the carbon impact related to waste; the integration of new sector guides on GPs, dental practices, and community pharmacies; an emphasis on practical advice through case study examples (in particular on offensive waste streams), and more by way of staff training material; and, a review of terminology used for healthcare, clinical and non-clinical wastes.

Please note that due to the current review of estates related guidance documents, the Manual no longer displays the HTM 07-01 prefix on the front cover, but in recognition of its links in other documents, reference is retained in the Information Reader Box. This manual is likely to be updated over time.

+ Full Document (PDF)

Best of British Business receive Queen’s Awards for Enterprise

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Best of British Business receive Queen’s Awards for Enterprise
Source: Department for Business Innovation & Skills

A total of 156 Queen’s Awards have been announced this year. Overall, 102 companies have won awards for international trade, 44 for innovation and 10 for sustainable development. The standard of applications has been extremely high this year with 20% of companies applying receiving awards, double last year’s amount. In addition, 11 individuals have received The Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion (QAEP) for their inspiring efforts to encourage UK entrepreneurship.

Winning firms cover a vast range of business sectors. These include: architecture and design, building and construction, motoring and transport, electronics and technology, manufacturing and engineering, law and finance, tourism and leisure, medical and pharmaceuticals, food and drink, oil and gas, media and marketing, metals, plastics and packaging, safety and surveillance, printing, recycling, logistics, utilities and more.

They range from enterprising small businesses with as few as two employees to household names such as Yeo Valley Farms (Production) Ltd, BBC Research and Development and The National Archive. There is one multiple Award winner this year, in the International Trade and Innovation categories: RealVNC Limited, for its remote access software for computers and mobile devices.

Winners of The Queen’s Awards can expect a company visit by a Royal representative during the year to present a crystal bowl and an invitation to attend a special reception at Buckingham Palace in July. They can also use The Queen’s Award Emblem in advertising, marketing and on packaging for a period of five years as a symbol of their quality and success.

The Institutional Framework for Doing Sports Business: Principles of EU Competition Policy in Sports Markets

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The Institutional Framework for Doing Sports Business: Principles of EU Competition Policy in Sports Markets
Source: Research Papers in Economics

The competition rules and policy framework of the European Union represents an important institutional restriction for doing sports business. Driven by the courts, the 2007 overhaul of the approach and methodology has increased the scope of competition policy towards sports associations and clubs. Nowadays, virtually all activities of sports associations that govern and organize a sports discipline with business elements are subject to antitrust rules. This includes genuine sporting rules that are essential for a league, championship or tournament to come into existence. Of course, ‘real’ business or commercial activities like ticket selling, marketing of broadcasting rights, etc. also have to comply with competition rules. Regulatory activities of sports associations comply with European competition rules if they pursuit a legitimate objective, its restrictive effects are inherent to that objective and proportionate to it. This new approach offers important orientation for the strategy choice of sports associations, clubs and related enterprises. Since this assessment is done following a case-by-case approach, however, neither a blacklist of anticompetitive nor a whitelist of procompetitive sporting rules can be derived. Instead, conclusions can be drawn only from the existing case decisions – but, unfortunately, this leaves many aspects open. With respect to business activities, the focus of European competition policy is on centralized marketing arrangements bundling media rights. These constitute cartels and are viewed to be anticompetitive in nature. However, they may be exempted from the cartel prohibition on efficiency and consumer benefits considerations. Here, a detailed list of conditions exists that centralized marketing arrangements must comply with in order to be legal. Although this policy seems to be well-developed at first sight, a closer look at the decision practice reveals several open problems. Other areas of the buying and selling behavior of sports associations and related enterprises are considerably less well-developed and do not provide much orientation for business. The author would like to thank Arne Feddersen and the participants of the 2nd European Conference on Sports Economics (German Sports University Cologne, 2010) for valuable comments on earlier versions of this paper.

Census Bureau Reports State Retirement Systems Assets Fall $641 Billion in 2009

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Census Bureau Reports State Retirement Systems Assets Fall $641 Billion in 2009
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The nation’s state retirement systems totaled $2.0 trillion in holdings and assets in 2009, a loss of $641.3 billion (24.0 percent) from $2.7 trillion in 2008, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This follows a $152.2 billion loss the previous year. (See Table 1).

These large decreases are mostly attributed to a $484.9 billion decrease in earnings on investments between 2008 and 2009, following a loss of $439.8 billion the previous year. Retirement systems have substantial investments in financial markets and consequently earnings are dependent on changes in market performance.

These new data come from the 2009 Annual Survey of Public-Employee Retirement Systems, which reports the annual financial activity for the nation’s 222 state administered public employee retirement systems, including cash and security investments holdings, securities, receipts and payments. Data are shown for the nation and individual states. For the first time, this data set will also include actuarial liability data, which projects the total obligation required to cover costs for providing pensions to former and present employees.

+ Detailed tables

Economic Survey of New Zealand 2011

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Economic Survey of New Zealand 2011
Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

The recovery stalled in 2010, despite record terms of trade and support from policy stimulus. Households, businesses and farmers are attempting to repair over extended balance sheets in the aftermath of a property boom. The effects of two damaging earthquakes will further retard the recovery and make the outlook highly uncertain.

The recession has highlighted the need for structural reforms. With the property boom of the past decade financed by private sector borrowing from abroad through the banking system, net foreign liabilities have accumulated to levels that make the economy vulnerable to sharp changes in investor sentiment. The economy now faces the challenge of a combination of high external deficits and international debt, an overvalued exchange rate, a heavy cost of capital and unbalanced growth.

+ Overview (PDF)

Full report available for purchase.

Probable Zoonotic Leprosy in the Southern United States

April 27, 2011 Comments off

Probable Zoonotic Leprosy in the Southern United States
Source: New England Journal of Medicine

Wild armadillos and many patients with leprosy in the southern United States are infected with the same strain of M. leprae. Armadillos are a large natural reservoir for M. leprae, and leprosy may be a zoonosis in the region.

CBO — Linking the Readiness of the Armed Forces to DoD’s Operation and Maintenance Spending

April 27, 2011 Comments off

Linking the Readiness of the Armed Forces to DoD’s Operation and Maintenance Spending
Source: Congressional Budget Office

Spending for operation and maintenance (O&M) supports the military services’ day-to-day activities, such as training military units, maintaining equipment, recruiting service members, operating military bases, and providing administrative services. DoD typically cites the readiness of military units to perform their missions in wartime as the primary justification for its O&M budget requests to the Congress. DoD, however, has not been able to clearly identify the relationship between the department’s O&M spending and the readiness of military units. Nor has the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO’s) analysis—which used historical data to attempt to establish statistical relationships between O&M spending and readiness for selected units—yielded a well-defined linkage. Those efforts were not fruitful, largely because the information needed to determine that linkage—effective measures of readiness and detailed data on spending—is not readily available or may not, in fact, exist.

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Who Are the Entrepreneurs: The Elite or Everyman?

April 27, 2011 Comments off

Who Are the Entrepreneurs: The Elite or Everyman?
Source: University of California eScholarship

We trace the social positions of the men and women who found new enterprises from the earliest years of one industry’s history to a time when the industry was well established. Sociological theory suggests two opposing hypotheses. First, pioneering entrepreneurs are socially prominent individuals from fields adjacent to the new industry and later entrepreneurs are from an increasingly broad swath of society. Second, the earliest entrepreneurs come from the social periphery while later entrepreneurs include more industry insiders and members of the social elite. To test these hypotheses, we study the magazine industry in America over the first 120 years of its history, from 1741 to 1860. We find that magazine publishing was originally restricted to industry insiders, elite professionals, and the highly educated, but by the time the industry became well established, most founders came from outside publishing and more were of middling stature – mostly small-town doctors and clergy without college degrees. We also find that magazines founded by industry insiders remained concentrated in the three biggest cities, while magazines founded by outsiders became geographically dispersed. Finally, we find that entrepreneurship evolved from the pursuit of a lone individual to a more organizationally-sponsored activity; this reflects the modernization of America during this time period. Our analysis demonstrates the importance of grounding studies of entrepreneurship in historical context. Our analysis of this “old” new media industry also offers hints about how the “new” new media industries are likely to evolve.

International Evidence on Food Consumption Patterns: An Update Using 2005 International Comparison Program Data

April 27, 2011 Comments off

International Evidence on Food Consumption Patterns: An Update Using 2005 International Comparison Program Data
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service

In a 2003 report, International Evidence on Food Consumption Patterns, ERS economists estimated income and price elasticities of demand for broad consumption categories and food categories across 114 countries using 1996 International Comparison Program (ICP) data. This report updates that analysis with an estimated two-stage demand system across 144 countries using 2005 ICP data. Advances in ICP data collection since 1996 led to better results and more accurate income and price elasticity estimates. Low-income countries spend a greater portion of their budget on necessities, such as food, while richer countries spend a greater proportion of their income on luxuries, such as recreation. Low-value staples, such as cereals, account for a larger share of the food budget in poorer countries, while high-value food items are a larger share of the food budget in richer countries. Overall, low-income countries are more responsive to changes in income and food prices and, therefore, make larger adjustments to their food consumption pattern when incomes and prices change. However, adjustments to price and income changes are not uniform across all food categories. Staple food consumption changes the least, while consumption of higher-value food items changes the most.

+ Summary (PDF)
+ Full Report (PDF)

State Department Travel Warning: Uzbekistan

April 27, 2011 Comments off

State Department Travel Warning: Uzbekistan
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens that the potential for a terrorist attack or localized civil disturbance still exists in Uzbekistan. The Department of State continues to urge U.S. citizens in Uzbekistan to exercise caution when traveling in the region. This supersedes the Travel Warning dated July 22, 2010, to provide information on potential border area hazards.

The U.S. government continues to receive information that indicates terrorist groups may be planning attacks, possibly against U.S. interests, in Uzbekistan. Supporters of terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, al-Qaida, the Islamic Jihad Union, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement are active in the Central Asian region. Members of these groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and have attacked U.S. government interests in the past, including the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent in 2004, and may attempt to target U.S. government or private American interests in Uzbekistan. In the past, these groups have conducted kidnappings, assassinations, and suicide bombings.

Uzbek authorities maintain a high level of alert and aggressive security measures to thwart terrorist attacks. High security at official facilities may lead terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets. These may include facilities where U.S. citizens and other foreigners congregate or visit, such as residential areas, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels, outdoor recreation events, and resorts. The U.S. Embassy in Tashkent continues to employ heightened security precautions. U.S. citizens should report any unusual activity to local authorities and then inform the Embassy.

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