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Archive for October, 2011

New From the GAO

October 31, 2011 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1.  Financial Crisis: Review of Federal Reserve System Financial Assistance to American International Group, Inc.  GAO-11-616, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-616
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11616high.pdf

2.  USDA’s Application of Administrative PAYGO to Its Mandatory Spending Programs.  GAO-11-921R, September 29.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-921R

3.  Private Health Insurance:  Implementation of the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program.  GAO-11-875R, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-875R

4.  Aviation Security: TSA Has Taken Steps to Enhance Its Foreign Airport Assessments, but Opportunities Exist to Strengthen the Program.  GAO-12-163, October 21.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-163
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d12163high.pdf

5.  National Export Initiative: U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service Should Improve Performance and Resource Allocation Management.  GAO-11-909, September 29.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-909
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11909high.pdf

6.  Language and Culture Training: Opportunities Exist to Improve Visibility and Sustainment of Knowledge and Skills in Army and Marine Corps General Purpose Forces.  GAO-12-50, October 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-50
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1250high.pdf

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Polarization, immigration, education: What’s behind the dramatic decline in youth employment?

October 31, 2011 Comments off

Polarization, immigration, education: What’s behind the dramatic decline in youth employment?
Source: Federal Reserve Board

Since the beginning of the recent recession, the employment-population ratio for high-school age youth (16-17 years old) has fallen by nearly a third, to its lowest level ever. However, this recession has exacerbated a longer-run downward trend that actually began in the 1990s and accelerated in the early 2000s. There is little research regarding why teen employment has fallen. Some earlier work emphasized labor supply explanations related to schooling and education, such as an increased emphasis on college preparation (Aaronson, Park, and Sullivan 2006), while others have argued that adult immigrants have crowded out teens, at least in part because adult immigrants and native teens tend to be employed in similar occupations (Sum, Garrington, and Khatiwada 2006, Camarota and Jensenius 2010, Smith 2012). This paper presents updated trends in teen employment and participation across multiple demographic characteristics, and argues that, in addition to immigration, occupational polarization in the U.S. adult labor market has resulted in increased competition for jobs that teens traditionally hold. Testing various supply and demand explanations for the decline since the mid-1980s, I find that demand factors can explain at least half of the decline unexplained by the business cycle, and that supply factors can explain much of the remaining decline.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

Why We Can’t Wait: Taking Action to Reduce Prescription Drug Shortages

October 31, 2011 Comments off

Why We Can’t Wait: Taking Action to Reduce Prescription Drug Shortages
Source: White House

Sometimes the most important component of a patient’s treatment is the type of medication they receive and the consistency at which they receive it. For some Americans, a change in their treatment regimen or a substitution of a medication can seriously threaten their ability to get better.

Between 2005 and 2010, the number of prescription drug shortages nearly tripled. While the FDA successfully prevented 137 drug shortages between January 1, 2010 and September 26, 2011, prescription drug shortages continue to threaten the health and safety of the American people. Today, too many people are waiting for their prescription to become available. Some are forced to switch from the medication they prefer, while others go without their medicine altogether. In some cases, drug shortages can even force people to stop a course of treatment before it finishes.

We cannot control the factors that cause these drug shortages. But we are committed to doing our part to counteract them. Which is why President Obama signed an Executive Order today that will lead to earlier FDA notification of any impending shortages for certain prescription drugs. Early notification can help prevent a shortage from becoming a crisis by allowing hospitals, doctors and manufacturers to take action to ensure medications remain available.

In addition, the President’s Executive Order will call on FDA to work with the Justice Department to examine whether “gray market” profiteers are responding to potential drug shortages either by hoarding medications or charging exorbitant prices. In recent months, we’ve heard reports of enormous markups such as a blood pressure medicine usually priced at $26 being sold for $1,200. And under this Executive Order, the Justice Department will watch the market closely to make sure companies are not exploiting drug shortages to raise their profits at the expense of patients.

+ Executive Order — Reducing Prescription Drug Shortages
+ Economic Analysis of the Causes of Drug Shortages (Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation)
+ A Review of FDA’s Approach to Medical Product Shortages (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

2011 Market Survey of Long-Term Care Costs

October 31, 2011 Comments off

2011 Market Survey of Long-Term Care Costs
Source: MetLife Mature Market Institute

Key Findings

  • The national average daily rate for a private room in a nursing home rose 4.4% from $229 in 2010 to $239 in 2011.
  • The national average monthly base rate in an assisted living community rose 5.6% from $3,293 in 2010 to $3,477 in 2011.
  • The national average daily rate for adult day services rose 4.5% from $67 in 2010 to $70 in 2011.
  • The national average hourly rates for home health aides ($21) and homemakers ($19) were unchanged from 2010.

+ Full Report (PDF)

U.S. Neighborhood Income Inequality in the 2005-2009 Period (ACS-16)

October 31, 2011 Comments off

U.S. Neighborhood Income Inequality in the 2005-2009 Period (ACS-16)
Source: U.S Census Bureau

Presents analysis of household income inequality using statistics from the 2005-2009 American Community Survey for the nation, states, metropolitan areas, places and census tracts. The Gini index is used for analysis of all these areas. Included is an analysis of the characteristics of census tracts associated with higher or lower inequality. (Census tracts and places with fewer than 50 interviews in the five-year period under study are excluded from the analysis.) Internet address: <http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acs-16.pdf>.

Why Johnny Can’t Opt Out: A Usability Evaluation of Tools to Limit Online Behavioral Advertising

October 31, 2011 Comments off

Why Johnny Can’t Opt Out: A Usability Evaluation of Tools to Limit Online Behavioral Advertising
Source: CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon University

We present results of a 45-participant laboratory study investigating the usability of tools to limit online behavioral advertising (OBA).We tested nine tools, including tools that block access to advertising websites, tools that set cookies indicating a user’s preference to opt out of OBA, and privacy tools that are built directly into web browsers. We interviewed participants about OBA, observed their behavior as they installed and used a privacy tool, and recorded their perceptions and attitudes about that tool. We found serious usability flaws in all nine tools we examined. The online opt-out tools were challenging for users to understand and configure. Users tend to be unfamiliar with most advertising companies, and therefore are unable to make meaningful choices. Users liked the fact that the browsers we tested had built-in Do Not Track features, but were wary of whether advertising companies would respect this preference. Users struggled to install and configure blocking lists to make effective use of blocking tools. They often erroneously concluded the tool they were using was blocking OBA when they had not properly configured it to do so.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

See: Internet Privacy Tools Are Confusing, Ineffective for Most People (Science Daily)

Self-Reported Gun Ownership in U.S. Is Highest Since 1993

October 31, 2011 Comments off

Self-Reported Gun Ownership in U.S. Is Highest Since 1993
Source: Gallup

Forty-seven percent of American adults currently report that they have a gun in their home or elsewhere on their property. This is up from 41% a year ago and is the highest Gallup has recorded since 1993, albeit marginally above the 44% and 45% highs seen during that period.

U.S. Gun Households, 1991-2011

The new result comes from Gallup’s Oct. 6-9 Crime poll, which also finds public support for personal gun rights at a high-water mark. Given this, the latest increase in self-reported gun ownership could reflect a change in Americans’ comfort with publicly stating that they have a gun as much as it reflects a real uptick in gun ownership.

Republicans (including independents who lean Republican) are more likely than Democrats (including Democratic leaners) to say they have a gun in their household: 55% to 40%. While sizable, this partisan gap is narrower than that seen in recent years, as Democrats’ self-reported gun ownership spiked to 40% this year.

LGBT Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities: Stories from the Field

October 31, 2011 Comments off

LGBT Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities: Stories from the Field
Source: National Senior Citizens Law Center

Until now, there has been little information available about the opinions and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults in long-term care settings.

While most LGBT elders would prefer to receive long term services and supports at home, traditional support systems may be limited or unavailable and alternatives such as assisted living or nursing homes may be necessary

Here you will find video stories and dozens of personal comments capturing varied experiences with long-term care of LGBT older adults, their loved ones, advocates, and the providers who care for them.

You will also find an overview of legal rights, a list of helpful resources as well as a place to share your own story.

Why Employers Will Continue to Provide Health Insurance: The Impact of the Affordable Care Act

October 31, 2011 Comments off

Why Employers Will Continue to Provide Health Insurance: The Impact of the Affordable Care Act
Source: Urban Institute

The Congressional Budget Office, the Rand Corporation, and the Urban Institute have estimated that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will leave employer-sponsored coverage largely intact; in contrast, some economists and benefit consultants argue that the ACA encourages employers to drop coverage thereby making both their workers and their firms better off (a “win–win” situation). This brief’s analysis shows that no such “win–win” situation exists and that employer-sponsored insurance will remain most workers’ primary source of coverage. Analysis of three issues-the terms of the ACA, worker characteristics, and the fundamental economics of competitive markets-supports this conclusion.

+ Full Document (PDF)

The Talent Management and Rewards Imperative for 2012: Leading Through Uncertain Times

October 31, 2011 Comments off

The Talent Management and Rewards Imperative for 2012: Leading Through Uncertain Times (PDF)
Source: Towers Watson

Despite a volatile economy and high unemployment, almost 60% of North American companies are having trouble attracting critical-skill employees, an increase over 2010. In addition, organizations will continue to face strong pressure to manage costs in the coming year as they experience slow growth in productivity and sales.

These are some of the top findings of the 2011/2012 Towers Watson North American Talent Management and Rewards Survey, conducted in early summer 2011. Findings also showed that a majority of employers are responding to the economy by expecting employees to work longer hours than before the recession and sharply decreasing the rate of increase of merit budgets.

This report focuses on trends in reward and talent management programs, accompanied by our related insights to drive effective design and delivery. We encourage you to consider these concepts in the broader context of your organization’s EVP and total rewards strategy.

Note: To put employer views in context, this report sometimes compares responses to this survey with responses to an unpublished 2011 survey of over 10,000 full-time employees in North America on topics such as total rewards, communication and other work-related issues.

Social Protection Floor for a Fair and Inclusive Globalization

October 31, 2011 Comments off

Social Protection Floor for a Fair and Inclusive Globalization
Source: International Labour Organization

In many ways the power of the social protection floor lies in its simplicity. The floor is based on the idea that everyone should enjoy at least basic income security sufficient to live, guaranteed through transfers in cash or in kind, such as pensions for the elderly and persons with disabilities, child benefits, income support benefits and/or employment guarantees and services for the unemployed and working poor. Together, in cash and in kind transfers should ensure that everyone has access to essential goods and services, including essential health services, primary education, housing, water and sanitation.

This report, prepared under the guidance of Ms Michelle Bachelet and members of the Advisory Group, shows that the extension of social protection, drawing on social protection floors, can play a pivotal role in relieving people of poverty and deprivation. It can in addition help people adapt their skills to overcome the constraints that block their full participation in a changing economic and social environment, contributing to improved human capital development and stimulating greater productive activity. The report also shows how social protection has helped to stabilize aggregate demand in times of crisis and to increase resilience against economic shocks, contributing to accelerate recovery towards more inclusive and sustainable development paths.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2011

October 31, 2011 Comments off

Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2011
Source: United Nations (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific)

I am pleased to present the Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2011, which consists of the present publication and an accompanying online booklet, The region@your fingertips, and database (www.unescap.org/stat/data/). The Yearbook provides decision makers, researchers and the general public with a snapshot of the Asia-Pacific region, including figures on population, education, labour, health and public services, the environment, inequality, plus the state of the economy and the new “global economy” – indicating where people are migrating, trading, travelling, communicating; and other important questions. Data are presented or the 58 regional ESCAP member States, as well as world, regional, subregional and economic aggregates, for comparison.

The Yearbook presents current trends and emerging topics in Asia and the Pacific, grouped around the themes of people, the environment, the economy and connectivity. It provides the international and regional community with key indicators, objective analyses of the current trends and emerging issues, along with data and charts. To maximize comparability across countries, subregions and regions, country-level data are sourced from international agencies that produce and compile data following international statistical standards.

Do Remittances Reduce Aid Dependency?

October 31, 2011 Comments off

Do Remittances Reduce Aid Dependency?
Source: International Monetary Fund

Aid has been for decades an important source of financing for developing countries, but more recently remittance flows have increased rapidly and are beginning to dwarf aid flows. This paper investigates how remittances affect aid flows, and how this relationship varies depending on the channel of transmission from remittances to aid. Buoyant remittances could reduce aid needs when human capital improves and private investment takes off. Absent these, aid flows could still drop as remittances may dampen donors’ incentive to scale up aid. Concurrently, remittances could be positively associated with aid if migrants can influence aid policy in donor countries. Using an instrumental variable approach with panel data for a sample of developing countries from 1975-2005, the baseline results show that remittances actually increase aid dependency. However, a refined model controlling for the channels of transmission from remittances to aid reveals that remittances lead to lower aid dependency when they are invested in human and physical capital rather than consumed.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

UK — Transport Statistics: Road Freight Statistics 2010

October 30, 2011 Comments off

Transport Statistics: Road Freight Statistics 2010
Source: Department for Transport

This release presents statistics on domestic activity of GB-registered Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) and the international activity of UK-registered HGVs. This information is collected through the Department’s three continuous surveys of road freight activity, the Continuing Survey of Road Goods Transport Great Britain (CSRGT GB), the Continuing Survey of Road Goods Transport Northern Ireland (CSRGT NI) and the International Road Haulage Survey (IRHS).

An additional release presents some broader economic, environmental and safety statistics for the road freight industry, from Department for Transport sources, and data from other Departments such as the Office for National Statistics.

Health Canada Offers Practical Advice on Safe Cell Phone Use

October 30, 2011 Comments off

Health Canada Offers Practical Advice on Safe Cell Phone Use
Source: Health Canada

The issue:
The number of cell phone users in Canada rose from 100,000 in 1987 to more than 24 million by the end of 2010. With their growing popularity, questions have been raised about their safety. Cell phones emit low-levels of radiofrequency (RF) energy. The RF electromagnetic energy given off by cell phones is a type of non-ionizing radiation. It is similar to the type of energy used in AM/FM radio and TV broadcast signals.

Cell phones in Canada must meet regulatory requirements that limit human exposure to RF energy. Health Canada has developed guidelines for safe human exposure to RF energy.

Who is affected:
There are a small number of epidemiology studies that have shown brain cancer rates might be elevated in long-term/heavy cell phone users. Other epidemiology studies on cell phone users, laboratory studies and animal cancer studies have not supported this association. The International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) recent classification of RF energy as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” is an acknowledgement that limited data exists that suggests RF energy might cause cancer. At present, the scientific evidence is far from conclusive and more research is required.

Health Canada reminds cell phone users that they can take practical measures to reduce RF exposure. The department also encourages parents to reduce their children’s RF exposure from cell phones since children are typically more sensitive to a variety of environmental agents. As well, there is currently a lack of scientific information regarding the potential health impacts of cell phones on children.

What consumers can do:

  • Limit the length of cell phone calls
  • Replace cell phone calls with text messages or use “hands-free” devices
  • Encourage children under the age of 18 to limit their cell phone usage

+ Health Canada’s Radiofrequency Exposure Guidelines

Policing licensed premises in the Australian Capital Territory

October 30, 2011 Comments off

Policing licensed premises in the Australian Capital Territory
Source: Australian Institute of Criminology

There is an old joke that says that an Australian’s definition of a drinking problem is being in a situation where you can’t get a drink. This reflects Australia’s well-established reputation for being a community where the consumption of alcohol, frequently at excessive and harmful levels, is associated with many forms of entertainment and participation in social events. In other words, the association between alcohol consumption and the enjoyment of social activity is a deeply embedded cultural phenomenon.

However, the evidence relating to the range of individual and social harms associated with alcohol misuse is strong. In 2007, one in four Australians were a victim of alcohol-related verbal abuse, 13 percent were put in fear and 4.5 percent of Australians aged 14 years or older had been physically abused by someone under the influence of alcohol (AIHW 2008). The rates of physical and verbal abuse by a person affected by alcohol are more than twice the rate for other drug types. Alcohol-related crime and disorder also has a significant adverse impact upon the perceptions of safety among the broader community.

At the same time, Australia also has a substantial reputation for developing and implementing innovative policy approaches to trying to reduce the harms associated with excessive alcohol use and violence in particular. Many of these initiatives have been focused on regulatory responses that target licensed premises and liquor outlets. Licensed premises are a high-risk setting for alcohol-related violence, with a large proportion of assaults occurring in or within very close proximity to hotels and nightclubs. Furthermore, both patrons and staff of licensed premises are at a heightened risk of becoming involved in a violent incident compared with other locations.

Over the years, police and liquor regulatory authorities, often in partnership with liquor licensees, have committed significant effort and resources to efforts to improve the overall safety of drinking venues and the overall amenity of the nearby community. Unfortunately, often what has been missing from such efforts has been any systematic assessment of their relative effectiveness and methods for sharing the lessons learned.

This report is part of an attempt to redress this knowledge deficit. Undertaken in close partnership with Australian Capital Territory Policing (ACTP), the project was a detailed study of the effectiveness of a series of policing measures implemented by the ACTP over several months to reduce and prevent alcohol-related violence in and around licensed premises and entertainment precincts in the ACT.

As with similar studies previously conducted here and overseas, the project found mixed results in relation to effectiveness. However, the project was able to help identify and explain what things were working and why, thereby providing a series of evidence-based recommendations for future policing in this area, many of which it is pleasing to note have already been adopted by ACTP.

Reforms are essential for Brazil to build on recent success, says OECD

October 30, 2011 Comments off

Reforms are essential for Brazil to build on recent success, says OECD
Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

The Brazilian economy has made a rapid recovery from the global economic crisis, but further reforms are necessary to boost long-term growth, spur investment and further reduce poverty, according to the OECD’s latest Economic Survey of Brazil.

“Sound economic policies have helped Brazil weather the global financial crisis, but even more remarkable is the unprecedented progress being made on social goals including poverty reduction and inequality,” said the OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurría. “We believe Brazil can achieve still higher, and more inclusive, growth over the medium term, provided policymakers meet the key challenges facing the economy by building momentum for further reforms.”

The report projects that GDP growth will slow to less than 4 percent over the coming two years, which is below trend rates of 4.5 percent annually, but well above the average for OECD countries.

Restraining inflation, currently above the upper end of Brazil’s 2.5-6.5% target range, without exerting upward tension on the exchange rate is the most immediate macroeconomic challenge. The use of various policy measures to smooth exchange rate volatility – including those that temporarily restrain short-term capital inflows – are understandable given the uncertainty facing the global economy, but Brazil should rely more prominently on fiscal consolidation, the report says.

Spending cuts announced earlier this year, combined with the establishment of budget surplus targets for the coming three years, are welcome, and the government should continue in this direction, the OECD said. The Bolsa Familia cash transfer programme has been highly successful in the fight against child poverty, and should be maintained and even extended.

+ Economic Survey of Brazil

Overview, working papers, data available for free download. Full report available for purchase.

Country Analysis Brief: Australia

October 30, 2011 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Australia
Source: Energy Information Administration

Australia has considerable petroleum, natural gas and coal reserves and is one of the few countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that is a significant net hydrocarbon exporter, exporting about two-thirds of its total energy production. Australia was the world’s largest coal exporter and, according to Cedigaz, the fourth largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2010, after Qatar, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Australia is a net importer of crude oil and refined petroleum products, but a net exporter of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Hydrocarbon exports accounted for 34 percent of total commodity export revenues in its fiscal year 2009-2010.
Australia’s stable political environment, substantial hydrocarbon reserves, and proximity to Asian markets make it an attractive place for foreign investment.
Map of Australia

Spotlight on Statistics: Automobiles

October 29, 2011 Comments off

Spotlight on Statistics: Automobiles
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The U.S. automobile industry can be viewed as both a barometer and beneficiary of American growth and economic achievement. Supporting that view is the fact that the automobile industry affects industries that manufacture steel, glass, plastics, and rubber, as well as those that refine and sell gasoline, build roads, and maintain, repair, and sell motor vehicles.

Motor vehicles also affect our daily lives. In 2010, on an average day, 67.6 percent of the civilian noninstitutional population aged 15 and over drove; those who drove spent on average 1 hour and 18 minutes driving.

More Poor Kids in More Poor Places: Children Increasingly Live Where Poverty Persists

October 29, 2011 Comments off

More Poor Kids in More Poor Places: Children Increasingly Live Where Poverty Persists
Source: Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire

The authors of this brief examine child poverty rates using decennial census data from 1980, 1990, and 2000, as well as American Community Survey five-year estimates between 2005 and 2009, to identify those counties where child poverty has persisted. They find persistent child poverty in nearly twice as many U.S. counties as those that report high persistent poverty across all age groups. In all, 342 counties have experienced persistently high levels of poverty across all age groups during the past twenty-nine years. In contrast, more than 700 counties experienced persistent child poverty over the same period. Rural areas are disproportionately likely to have persistent high child poverty; 81 percent of counties with persistent child poverty are nonmetropolitan while only 65 percent of all U.S. counties are nonmetropolitan. Overall, 26 percent of rural children reside in counties whose poverty rates have been persistently high. This compares with 12 percent of urban children. Counties with persistent child poverty cluster in Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, other areas of the Southeast, parts of the Southwest, and in the Great Plains. The authors comment that the overwhelming urban focus of welfare programs means policymakers often overlook needy families in rural areas. In addition to the high unemployment and low education levels that they document in the brief, the physical and social isolation associated with rural poverty create problems different from those in densely settled urban areas. They conclude that the reductions in government spending likely to result from the Great Recession, coupled with two decades of the devolution of policymaking responsibility from the federal to the state level (and occasionally to municipal governments), may have significant implications for children and fragile families in these persistently poor rural counties.

+ Full Report (PDF)

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