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Archive for September, 2011

Current Cigarette Smoking Prevalence Among Working Adults — United States, 2004–2010

September 30, 2011 Comments off

Current Cigarette Smoking Prevalence Among Working Adults — United States, 2004–2010
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

Cigarette smoking is among the most important modifiable risk factors for adverse health outcomes and a major cause of morbidity and mortality (1). Current cigarette smoking prevalence among all adults aged ≥18 years has decreased 42.4% since 1965, but declines in current smoking prevalence have slowed during the past 5 years (declining from 20.9% in 2005 to 19.3% in 2010) and did not meet the Healthy People 2010 (HP2010) objective to reduce cigarette smoking among adults to ≤12% (1–3). Targeted workplace tobacco control interventions have been effective in reducing smoking prevalence and exposure to secondhand smoke (4,5); therefore, CDC analyzed National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data for 2004–2010 to describe current cigarette smoking prevalence among currently working U.S. adults by industry and occupation. This report describes the results of that analysis, which found that, overall, age-adjusted cigarette smoking prevalence among working adults was 19.6% and was highest among those with less than a high school education (28.4%), those with no health insurance (28.6%), those living below the federal poverty level (27.7%), and those aged 18–24 years (23.8%). Substantial differences in smoking prevalence were observed across industry and occupation groups. By industry, age-adjusted cigarette smoking prevalence among working adults ranged from 9.7% in education services to 30.0% in mining; by occupation group, prevalence ranged from 8.7% in education, training, and library to 31.4% in construction and extraction. Although some progress has been made in reducing smoking prevalence among working adults, additional effective employer interventions need to be implemented, including health insurance coverage for cessation treatments, easily accessible help for those who want to quit, and smoke-free workplace policies.

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Associations between pre-pregnancy obesity and asthma symptoms in adolescents

September 30, 2011 Comments off

Associations between pre-pregnancy obesity and asthma symptoms in adolescents
Source: Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health

What is already known on this subject

  • The increased and high prevalence of children’s asthma symptoms, worldwide, is unexplained.
  • Rapidly changing environmental factors that go beyond genetic predisposition are likely to explain the increase in asthma prevalence.

What this study adds

  • Prenatal exposure to maternal overweight and obesity is an important risk of asthma symptoms later in life through to adolescence, after controlling for numerous relevant confounders.
  • Our results suggest that maternal overweight and obesity prior to pregnancy may programme the risk of asthma symptoms in their adolescent offspring and be a new target for prevention of adolescents’ asthma and wheeze if the associations are causal.

See: Overweight Mothers Increase Asthma Risk for Their Children (Science Daily)

New From the GAO

September 30, 2011 Comments off

New GAO Reports (PDFs)
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Streamlining Government: Key Practices from Select Efficiency Initiatives Should Be Shared Governmentwide.  GAO-11-908, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-908
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11908high.pdf
Podcast available - http://www.gao.gov/podcast/watchdog_episode_74.html

2. Decennial Census: Census Bureau and Postal Service Should Pursue Opportunities to Further Enhance Collaboration.  GAO-11-874, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-874
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11874high.pdf

3. Veterans Disability Benefits: Clearer Information for Veterans and Additional Performance Measures Could Improve Appeal Process.  GAO-11-812, September 29.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-812
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11812high.pdf

4. Defense Logistics: Department of Defense Has Enhanced Prepositioned Stock Management but Should Provide More Detailed Status Reports.  GAO-11-852R, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-852R

5. Climate Monitoring: NOAA Can Improve Management of the U.S. Historical Climatology Network.  GAO-11-800, August 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-800
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11800high.pdf

6. Energy Star: Providing Opportunities for Additional Review of EPA’s Decisions Could Strengthen the Program.  GAO-11-888, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-888
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11888high.pdf

SPLC Study Finds that More than Half of States Fail at Teaching the Civil Rights Movement

September 30, 2011 Comments off

SPLC Study Finds that More than Half of States Fail at Teaching the Civil Rights Movement
Source: Southern Poverty Law Center

Though the civil rights movement is one of the defining events of U.S. history, most states fail when it comes to teaching the movement to students, a first-of-its-kind study released today by the Southern Poverty Law Center has found.

The study – Teaching the Movement: The State of Civil Rights Education 2011 – examined state standards and curriculum requirements related to the study of the modern civil rights movement for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It was conducted by the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance program and includes a forward by noted civil rights activist and historian Julian Bond.

The study compared the requirements in state standards to a body of knowledge that reflects what civil rights historians and educators consider core information about the civil rights movement. It found that:

  • A shocking number of states – 35 – received grades of “F.”
  • Sixteen states, where local officials set specific policies and requirements for their school districts, have no requirements at all for teaching about the movement.
  • Only three states received a grade of “A” – Alabama, New York and Florida – and even these states have considerable room for improvement.
  • Generally speaking, the farther from the South – and the smaller the African-American population – the less attention paid to the movement.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Top 20 Games to Watch – Gamers Make Their Holiday Wish Lists

September 30, 2011 Comments off

Top 20 Games to Watch – Gamers Make Their Holiday Wish Lists
Source: Nielsen

Which video game titles top gamers’ wish lists this year? Nielsen’s Top 20 Games to Watch reveals the most anticipated games of the 2011 holiday season, with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 the most coveted among active U.S. gamers. The list was developed by examining a variety of consumer measures from Nielsen’s Video Game Tracking survey, including the top five titles active gamers are considering for purchase.

To help narrow the focus of this analysis, Nielsen filtered the field to those titles releasing on at least one of the three major consoles (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii) during the timeframe of late August to late November. This year’s list underscores the various interests of gamers—as well as the strength of video game brands. All but one of the Top 20 titles stem from a franchise, with brands such as Madden NFL and The Legend of Zelda dating back more than 20 years. Deep Silver’s Dead Island represents the lone new IP included on this year’s list.

Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, an expected juggernaut for this holiday season, is desired by more than one quarter (27%) of active gamers. Microsoft’s Gears of War 3 and EA’s Madden NFL 12 follow closely behind; both titles were selected by nearly one out of every five (19%) active gamers. Apart from Gears of War 3 for Xbox 360, other platform exclusives expected to resonate strongly with consumers in the coming months include Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for Wii and Sony’s Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception for PS3.

U.S. Postal Inspection Service Annual Report FY 2010

September 30, 2011 Comments off

U.S. Postal Inspection Service Annual Report FY 2010 (PDF)
Source: U.S. Postal Inspection Service

U .S . Postal Inspectors across the country safeguard every element of the postal system— including the hundreds of thousands of postal employees who process and deliver the mail and the millions of customers who use it . Postal Inspectors protect thousands of postal facilities and millions of dollars in postal assets—including vehicles, equipment, products, and revenue streams. In the past fiscal year, Postal Inspectors initiated more than 6,000 investigations and arrested over 6,000 suspects for crimes involving the mail or against the Postal Service.

The Postal Inspection Service continues to meet its overall goal of assuring the security of the Postal Service . About 46 percent of Inspectors’ arrests in FY 2010 related to mail theft—a total of 2,775 suspects . Postal Inspectors arrested approximately 1,000 suspects on mail fraud charges, and analysts prepared 76,955 responses to mail fraud complaints . Revenue-protection efforts by Postal Inspectors over the past year identified in excess of $110 million in postal revenue losses. I was proud to attend a DOJ press conference this past year with Attorney General Eric Holder and representatives from other law enforcement agencies to announce the results of Operation Broken Trust.

Our contribution to this 3½-month sweep targeting fraudulent investment schemes covered 37 mail fraud cases, including 11 Ponzi schemes, affecting more than 36,000 postal customers who suffered $600 million in losses . Results like this demonstrate the viability of our work in increasing the trust and confidence of postal customers through our investigations of fraudulent activity involving the mail

The Level and Nature of Autistic Intelligence II: What about Asperger Syndrome?

September 30, 2011 Comments off

The Level and Nature of Autistic Intelligence II: What about Asperger Syndrome?
Source: PLoS ONE

A distinctively uneven profile of intelligence is a feature of the autistic spectrum. Within the spectrum, individuals with Asperger syndrome differ from patients with autism in their early speech development and in being less likely to be characterized by visuospatial peaks. While different specific strengths characterize different autistic spectrum subgroups, all such peaks of ability have been interpreted as deficits: isolated, aberrant, and irreconcilable with real human intelligence. This view has recently been challenged by findings of autistic strengths in performance on Raven’s Progressive Matrices (RPM), an important marker of general and fluid intelligence. We investigated whether these findings extend to Asperger syndrome, an autistic spectrum subgroup characterized by verbal peaks of ability, and whether the cognitive mechanisms underlying autistic and Asperger RPM performance differ. Thirty-two adults with Asperger syndrome displayed a significant advantage on RPM over Wechsler Full-Scale and Performance scores relative to their typical controls, while in 25 children with Asperger syndrome, an RPM advantage was found over Wechsler Performance scores only. As previously found with patients with autism, children and adults with Asperger syndrome achieved RPM scores at a level reflecting their Wechsler peaks of ability. Therefore, strengths in RPM performance span the autistic spectrum and imply a common mechanism advantageously applied to different facets of cognition. Autistic spectrum intelligence is atypical, but also genuine, general, and underestimated.

See: The Level and Nature of Autistic Intelligence II: What About Asperger Syndrome? (Science Daily)

The Mortgage Market in 2010: Highlights from the Data Reported under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act

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The Mortgage Market in 2010: Highlights from the Data Reported under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (PDF)
Source: Federal Reserve Board

This article presents a number of key findings from a review of the data that mortgage lending institutions reported for 2010 under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). The article documents home-purchase lending activity reflected in the HMDA data and discusses how the ending of the government’s first-time homebuyer tax credit program during the year may have affected such lending. It also documents refinance lending activity and explores factors that may have muted such lending during 2010. In addition, the article closely examines patterns of lending across different racial or ethnic and income groups and across areas that differ in terms of housing market distress. Finally, it describes the federal government’s role in the mortgage market over the past several years and investigates how upcoming changes in loan limits might affect this role and the mortgage market going forward.

Acute Illnesses Associated With Insecticides Used to Control Bed Bugs — Seven States, 2003–2010

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Acute Illnesses Associated With Insecticides Used to Control Bed Bugs — Seven States, 2003–2010
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

The common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, is a wingless, reddish-brown insect that requires blood meals from humans, other mammals, or birds to survive (1). Bed bugs are not considered to be disease vectors (2,3), but they can reduce quality of life by causing anxiety, discomfort, and sleeplessness (4). Bed bug populations and infestations are increasing in the United States and internationally (3,5). Bed bug infestations often are treated with insecticides, but insecticide resistance is a problem, and excessive use of insecticides or use of insecticides contrary to label directions can raise the potential for human toxicity. To assess the frequency of illness from insecticides used to control bed bugs, relevant cases from 2003–2010 were sought from the Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risks (SENSOR)-Pesticides program and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH). Cases were identified in seven states: California, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, New York, Texas, and Washington. A total of 111 illnesses associated with bed bug–related insecticide use were identified; although 90 (81%) were low severity, one fatality occurred. Pyrethroids, pyrethrins, or both were implicated in 99 (89%) of the cases, including the fatality. The most common factors contributing to illness were excessive insecticide application, failure to wash or change pesticide-treated bedding, and inadequate notification of pesticide application. Although few cases of illnesses associated with insecticides used to control bed bugs have been reported, recommendations to prevent this problem from escalating include educating the public about effective bed bug management.

Measuring Labour Markets in Canada and the United States 2011

September 30, 2011 Comments off

Measuring Labour Markets in Canada and the United States 2011
Source: Fraser Institute

This study examines the performance of labour markets in Canada and the United States based on a number of factors that help identify healthy, high-performing labour markets.

The first section, an index of labour market performance, measures the 60 jurisdictions across five indicators from 2006 to 2010: average total employment growth, average private-sector employment growth, average unemployment rate, average duration of unemployment, and average labour productivity. These five indicators yield an overall score for labour-market performance.

Alberta ranked first on the labour-market performance index with an overall score of 9.0 out of 10, owing to its top scores on employment growth and private-sector employment growth, second-place score in duration of unemployment, and top-10 placement in average unemployment rate. Three Canadian provinces besides Alberta are in the top 10: Saskatchewan (2nd overall, score of 8.4), Manitoba (4th, score of 7.2), and British Columbia (6th, score of 7.0)

While Canada’s two largest provinces Quebec (12th) and Ontario (16th) rank in the top 20, they continue to grapple with sluggish labour markets with overall scores of 5.8 and 5.5. Indeed, their rankings are more a reflection of poor labour market performance in the United States than robust performance at home.

The second section of the study, labour-market characteristics and regulation, examines four key aspects of labour markets that contribute to their performance: public-sector employment levels, minimum wages, unionization levels, and labour-relations laws.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Measuring the Fiscal Performance of Canada’s Premiers, 2011

September 30, 2011 Comments off

Measuring the Fiscal Performance of Canada’s Premiers, 2011
Source: Fraser Institute

The recession of 2008-09 and the following global economic uncertainty have drawn people’s attention to the importance of sensible fiscal policy. With many Canadian governments currently mired in debt, sound fiscal policy is needed now more than ever to ensure the country’s long-term economic success. Sound fiscal policy requires that political leaders prioritize, not simply increase, government spending; ensure balanced budgets; and avoid imposing a tax burden so heavy that it becomes a disincentive for people to work hard, save, invest, and be entrepreneurial. The economic record shows clearly that these factors are necessary for a return to stable economic growth and prosperity.

This Fraser Alert is designed to help Canadians hold their provincial political leaders accountable for the relative performance of their fiscal policies. In this second edition of Measuring the Fiscal Performance of Canada’s Premiers, we provide an objective, empirical assessment of how Canada’s premiers have managed the public finances of their provinces and whether they have pursued sound, long-term economic policies.

+ Full Document (PDF)

UK — BIS discussion paper: executive pay

September 30, 2011 Comments off

BIS discussion paper: executive pay (PDF)
Source: Department for Business Innovation & Skills

Responses by 25 November 2011. Seeks views on wide-ranging proposals on how to link executive pay more closely to company performance. Aims to build a stronger understanding of the issues. Published in conjunction with a consultation on narrative reporting that includes proposals on the reporting of executive pay (URN 11/945).

Reported road casualties in Great Britain: annual report 2010

September 30, 2011 Comments off

Reported road casualties in Great Britain: annual report 2010
Source: Department for Transport

This publication presents detailed statistics about the circumstances of personal injury accidents, including the types of vehicles involved, the resulting casualties and factors which may contribute to accidents. In addition to detailed tables there are six articles containing further analysis on specific road safety topics.

Most of the statistics in the publication are based on information about accidents reported to the police. However, other sources such as mortality, survey and hospital data are also used as well as population and traffic data to provide a wider context.

UK — Port freight statistics: 2010 final figures

September 30, 2011 Comments off

Port freight statistics: 2010 final figures
Source: Department for Transport

This publication presents final detailed statistics on freight handled by major UK ports. It updates and expands on provisional statistics published in June. These outputs replace the port freight statistics previously published in the Maritime Statistics compendium. A look-up table cross-referencing tables from Maritime Statistics and other printed publications with the new web tables is available with the tables below.

EU — An effective and humane return policy: 8 Member States have yet to comply with the Return Directive

September 30, 2011 Comments off

An effective and humane return policy: 8 Member States have yet to comply with the Return Directive
Source: European Commission

Today the European Commission asked 8 Member States to ensure full compliance with EU rules on the return or removal of irregular migrants. So far Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden and The Netherlands have not notified the Commission of national measures implementing the 2008 ‘Return’ Directive. Member States were required to transpose the provisions of the Directive by 24 December 2010 and their failure to do so is jeopardizing the efficiency and fairness of the common return procedure and undermining the EU’s migration policy.

Despite letters sent by the Commission on 27 January 2011, the 8 Member States mentioned have still not informed the Commission of having adopted the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to entirely comply with the Directive. The Commission therefore decided to send them reasoned opinions (in accordance with Article 258 of the TFEU). In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer the Member States concerned to the EU’s Court of Justice and request that the Court impose financial sanctions.

The Return Directive provides for clear, transparent and fair common rules concerning return, removal, detention and re-entry, which take into full account the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms of the persons concerned. In the past, Member States’ legislation and practice in the field of return have differed widely. The Return Directive lays down a binding common legal frame for a European return policy and guarantees that all returns are carried out in a humane and dignified manner.

This also is the first EU legal instrument to provide for a common catalogue of specific rights for irregular migrants. Notably, the Return Directive extends the right to non-refoulement to any illegally staying person, where before this right was only guaranteed for asylum seekers.

The Directive is one element of a comprehensive and balanced EU migration policy, which also includes measures for organising legal migration and for combating those who engage in trafficking in human beings and economic exploitation of migrants.

+ EU law: Commission acts to ensure that European legislation is fully and properly implemented

NZ — 2010 National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) Annual Report Released

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2010 National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) Annual Report Released
Source: Biosecurity New Zealand (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry)

Notification of the numbers of animals used in research, testing and teaching were released today in the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) Annual Report.

A total of 242 149 animals were reported in 2010, a decrease of 18.5% compared to the previous year and the lowest number reported since the introduction of the Animal Welfare Act 1999. However, NAEAC Chairperson Dr Virginia Williams says that the rolling three year average is a truer reflection of animal use because of the way animal statistics are reported. This average is down 0.5% from 2009 and 2.9% from 2008.

The principal purposes of use were for husbandry and veterinary research; basic biological research; and testing the safety and efficiency of animal health products. The animals most commonly used were rodents, farm animals, and fish.

“A drop in the number of animals experiencing high or very high impact manipulations – down just over 19% – is always gratifying” says Dr Williams. “As a Committee, we are committed to the Three Rs – the reduction, refinement and replacement of the use of animals in life sciences. A significant aspect of our activity throughout the year involved supporting efforts to have the Three Rs embodied into practices that use animals.”

+ Full Report (PDF)

Selected Characteristics of Australian Business, 2009-10

September 30, 2011 Comments off

Selected Characteristics of Australian Business, 2009-10
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

This is the final release from the 2009-10 Business Characteristics Survey (BCS) and presents summary data for a selection of topics including nature of business ownership, collaborative arrangements, franchising agreements, performance measures, barriers, government financial assistance, finance sought, innovation, business use of information technology, skills, markets and competition. Data included are additional to those outputs from the BCS released earlier this year in Summary of IT Use and Innovation in Australian Business, 2009-10 (cat. no. 8166.0) and Business Use of Information Technology, 2009-10 (cat. no. 8129.0).

Retirees and Those Near Retirement Have Different Views of Golden Years

September 29, 2011 Comments off

Retirees and Those Near Retirement Have Different Views of Golden Years
Source: Harvard School of Public Health

One in four retirees think life in retirement is worse than it was before they retired, according to a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health released today. The poll shows stark differences between what pre-retirees think retirement will be like, and what retirees say is actually the case.

“Those of us over 50 and working are optimistic about our future health and health care, but that optimism is not necessarily shared by those who have already retired,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Many people who have already retired say their health is worse, and they worry about costs of medical treatment and long-term care. Insights from the poll can help policy-makers and others think about how to meet the needs of aging Americans. There are changes we can make to our health care system, finances, and communities that might help ensure that our retirement years will be as fulfilling as we hope.”

The poll focuses on views and experiences related to retirement among people over age 50, including not only people who have retired, but also people who plan to retire (“pre-retirees”) and those who do not plan to do so. It was conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health.

+ Summary (PDF)
+ Complete poll findings (PDF)

2011 Health Confidence Survey: Most Americans Unfamiliar With Key Aspect of Health Reform, and Is There a Future for Retirement?

September 29, 2011 Comments off

2011 Health Confidence Survey: Most Americans Unfamiliar With Key Aspect of Health Reform, and Is There a Future for Retirement?
Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute

THE LATEST HCS: Findings from the 2011 Health Confidence Survey (HCS) demonstrate that, despite the passage of health reform a year ago, most Americans are unfamiliar with health insurance exchanges, a key aspect of the health reform law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, or PPACA). Furthermore, dissatisfaction with the American health care system remains widespread; while confidence regarding various aspects of today’s health care system is not high, it has neither fallen nor increased as a result of passage of health reform.

EBRI’S 68TH POLICY FORUM: This article summarizes the presentations and discussions at the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s May 12, 2011, policy forum, on the topic: “Is There a Future for Retirement?” This was EBRI’s 68th policy forum and was attended by about 120 policy and professional experts.

+ Full Document (PDF)

New From the GAO

September 29, 2011 Comments off

New GAO Reports (PDFs)
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Warfighter Support: Improved Cost Analysis and Better Oversight Needed over Army Nonstandard Equipment.  GAO-11-766, September 29.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-766
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11766high.pdf

2. United Nations: Improved Reporting and Member States’ Consensus Needed for Food and Agriculture Organization’s Reform Plan.  GAO-11-922, September 29.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-922
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11922high.pdf

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