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Archive for November, 2011

New From the GAO

November 30, 2011 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office

+ Reports

1.  Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program:  Additional Improvements to Fraud Prevention Controls Are Needed.  GAO-12-152R, October 26.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-152R

2.  Private Health Insurance:  Early Indicators Show that Most Insurers Would Have Met or Exceeded New Medical Loss Ratio Standards.  GAO-12-90R, October 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-90R

3.  Earned Import Allowance Program for Haiti.  GAO-12-204R, November 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-204R

4.  Medicare Advantage: Enrollment Increased from 2010 to 2011 while Premiums Decreased and Benefit Packages Were Stable.  GAO-12-93, October 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-93
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1293high.pdf

5.  Mental Health and Substance Use:  Employers’ Insurance Coverage Maintained or Enhanced Since Parity Act, but Effect of Coverage on Enrollees Varied.  GAO-12-63, November 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-63
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1263high.pdf

+ Testimonies

1.  Recovery Act:  Status of Science-Related Funding, by Frank Rusco, director, Natural Resources and Environment, before the Subcommittee on Investigations And Oversight, House Committee on Science, Space, And Technology .  GAO-12-279T, November 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-279T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d12279thigh.pdf

2.  Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program: Additional Improvements to Fraud Prevention Controls Are Needed, by Gregory D. Kutz, director, forensic audits and investigative service, before the Subcommittees on Economic Opportunity and Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.  GAO-12-205T, November 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-205T

3.  Veterans Administration Procurement:  Protests Concerning Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Preferences Sustained, by Ralph O. White, managing associate general counsel, before the Subcommittees on Oversight And Investigation and Economic Opportunity, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.  GAO-12-278T, November 30
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-278T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d12278thigh.pdf

4.  Compact of Free Association: Proposed U.S. Assistance to Palau for Fiscal Years 2011-2024, by David Gootnick, director, International Affairs and Trade, before the Subcommittee on Asia And The Pacific, House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  GAO-12-249T, November 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-249T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d12249thigh.pdf

5.  Small Business Administration: Progress Continues in Addressing Reforms to the Disaster Loan Program, by William B. Shear, director, financial markets and community investment, before the House Committee on Small Business.  GAO-12-253T, November 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-253T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d12253thigh.pdf

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What Can Be Done About the Latino College Male Student Crisis for America’s Overall Well-Being and Economic Future?

November 30, 2011 Comments off

What Can Be Done About the Latino College Male Student Crisis for America’s Overall Well-Being and Economic Future?
Source: Institute for Higher Education Policy

It has been well documented that the future of our nation’s Latino male college student population is in peril. Postsecondary attendance and attainment numbers for Latino males continue to decline relative to their female peers. Unfortunately, this crisis has largely gone underexamined and unacknowledged by policymakers and education leaders. To help avoid the impending implications that are sure to come in response—along with safeguarding the future economic prosperity of America and securing the well-being of our rapidly growing Latina/o communities—the Institute for Higher Education Policy’s (IHEP) Pathways to College Network today introduced a “Blueprint for Action” to provide model program examples and action steps to best support Latino males to and through college and into the workforce.

The blueprint was released in a new brief, Men of Color: Ensuring the Academic Success of Latino Males in Higher Education, and it addresses three main stages:

  1. Planning and Development: Actions to take in the initial program development stage;
  2. Resource Development and Sustainability: Select steps needed to create a strong financial base and sustainable resources for continued work; and
  3. Outreach and Communications: Points of importance to sustain community buy-in and subsequent efforts to reverse the educational trends of Latino males.

+ Full Report (PDF)

NCES Releases Report on Distance Education Courses in Public School Districts: 2009-10

November 30, 2011 Comments off

NCES Releases Report on Distance Education Courses in Public School Districts: 2009-10
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

This report provides national estimates about distance education courses in public school districts. The estimates presented in this report are based on a district survey about distance education courses offered by the district or by any of the schools in the district during the 2009-10 school year.

+ Full Report (PDF)

NGA, NASBO Say States Facing ‘Big Squeeze’ According to Latest Fiscal Survey

November 30, 2011 Comments off

NGA, NASBO Say States Facing ‘Big Squeeze’ According to Latest Fiscal Survey

Source: National Governors Association

While the overall fiscal condition of states has improved from the depths of the recession, the Fall 2011 Fiscal Survey of States, released today by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), shows that states are facing a ‘big squeeze’ from both local and federal governments. The combination of the effects of the economic downturn, tepid economic growth and the expiration of Recovery Act and other federal funds has severely impeded the growth of state resources. Additionally, spending on Medicaid is expected to consume an increasing share of state budgets and grow much more rapidly than state revenue growth, resulting in slow or no growth in education, transportation or public safety.

Overall, state 2012 enacted budgets include nearly $667 billion in general fund expenditures, a 2.9 percent increase compared to $648 billion in general fund spending in 2011. Despite the second year with an increase, total enacted general fund spending in 2012 is still $21 billion less than the pre-recession high of $687 billion in 2008.

At the same time, local government revenues have been severely impacted by the decline in housing values. Many local governments, including school districts, rely heavily on property taxes to support their activities. These jurisdictions have been pressing states for more local assistance.

+ Full Report (PDF)

‘Public Opinion on the Future of Employment-Based Health Benefits: Findings From the 2011 Health Confidence Survey,’ and ‘How Do Financial Literacy and Financial Behavior Vary by State?’

November 30, 2011 Comments off

‘Public Opinion on the Future of Employment-Based Health Benefits: Findings From the 2011 Health Confidence Survey,’ and ‘How Do Financial Literacy and Financial Behavior Vary by State?’
Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute

Public Opinion on the Future of Employment-Based Health Benefits: Findings From the 2011 Health Confidence Survey

CONFIDENCE IN AVAILABILITY OF EMPLOYMENT-BASED COVERAGE FALLING: Over the long-term, public confidence that employers and unions will continue to offer health coverage has fallen. In 2011, 57 percent of individuals with employment-based coverage were extremely or very confident that their employer or union would continue to offer health coverage, down from 68 percent in 2000. Most of the erosion in confidence occurred between 2000 and 2002.

FAMILIARITY WITH INSURANCE EXCHANGES LACKING: The vast majority of the population, 62 percent, reported that they were not at all familiar with health insurance exchanges, a key provision in the health reform law of 2010 (PPACA). However, the public does have opinions about the oversight of them: A majority of the population is not confident in the ability of the federal or state governments to run the exchanges, and 42 percent are not confident in private insurers’ ability to run them.

How Do Financial Literacy and Financial Behavior Vary by State?

ROLE OF STATES: This study uses relatively new data to show the difference in financial literacy and financial behavior across states. After controlling for the effect of individual demographic characteristics, most bottom-ranked states have a statistically significant effect on their residents’ financial literacy and almost all states have a statistically significant effect on their residents’ financial behavior. This suggests that there might be something going on at the state level whereby individual financial literacy and financial behavior are being shaped not only by individual demographic characteristics but also by the state in which people live.

TOP-RANKED STATES: New Hampshire and Alaska top the financial literacy and the financial behavior rankings, respectively. Minnesota, Idaho, Washington, Colorado, Wisconsin, Utah, and Maryland also appear in the top 15 of both rankings.

BOTTOM-RANKED STATES: Louisiana and West Virginia are at the bottom of the financial literacy and the financial behavior rankings, respectively. Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio, Kentucky, Texas, and Indiana also appear in the bottom 15 of both rankings.

+ Full Document (PDF)

Beauty and Productivity: The Case of the Ladies Professional Golf Association

November 30, 2011 Comments off

Beauty and Productivity: The Case of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (PDF)Source: Research Papers in Economics

There is much evidence that attractive looking workers earn more than average-looking workers, even after controlling for a variety of individual characteristics. The presence of such beauty premiums may influence the labor supply decisions of attractive workers. For example, if one unit of a product by an attractive worker is more rewarded than that by her less attractive coworker, the attractive worker may put more effort into improving her productivity. We examine this possibility by analyzing panel data for individual female golfers participating in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour. We find that attractive golfers record lower average scores and earn more prize money than average-looking players, even when controlling for player experience and other variables related to their natural talents. This finding is consistent with the notion that physical appearance is associated with individual workers’ accumulation of human capital or skills. If the human capital of attractive workers is at least partly an outcome of favoritism toward beauty, then the premium estimates obtained by many previous studies may have been downwardly biased.

When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions

November 30, 2011 Comments off

When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions (PDF)
Source: Political Behavior (forthcoming)

An extensive literature addresses citizen ignorance, but very little research focuses on misperceptions. Can these false or unsubstantiated beliefs about politics be corrected? Previous studies have not tested the efficacy of corrections in a realistic format. We conducted four experiments in which subjects read mock news articles that included either a misleading claim from a politician, or a misleading claim and a correction. Results indicate that corrections frequently fail to reduce misperceptions among the targeted ideological group. We also document several instances of a “backfire effect” in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.

Research Brief: Black Workers and the Public Sector

November 30, 2011 Comments off

Research Brief: Black Workers and the Public Sector (PDF)
Source: Center for Labor Research and Education (University of California-Berkeley)

The standoff in Wisconsin highlights the fiscal crisis facing state and local governments across the country. Required by law to balance their budgets, politicians in state legislatures, school boards, and city councils are faced with the choices of cutting public services and laying off workers, raising revenue, or some combination of the two. They are deciding these choices in an economic context where the Great Recession caused the deficits and any deficit-reduction option exerts a drag on the recovery. Since January 2009, state and local governments have laid off 429,000 workers. As governments contemplate additional layoffs, it is important to note that few commentators have examined the racial implications of this reduction in government employment.

How Would GASB Proposals Affect State and Local Pension Reporting?

November 30, 2011 Comments off

How Would GASB Proposals Affect State and Local Pension Reporting?
Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

States and localities account for pensions in their financial statements according to standards laid out by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). Under these standards, state and local plans generally follow an actuarial model and discount their liabilities by the long-term yield on the assets held in the pension fund, roughly 8 percent. Most economists contend that the discount rate should reflect the risk associated with the liabilities and, given that benefits are guaranteed under most state laws, the appropriate discount factor is closer to the riskless rate. The point is not that liabilities should be larger or smaller, but rather that the discount rate should reflect the nature of the liabilities; the characteristics of the assets backing the liabilities are irrelevant…

+ Full Document (PDF)

New From the GAO

November 29, 2011 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

+ Report

1. Cybersecurity Human Capital: Initiatives Need Better Planning and Coordination.  GAO-12-8, November 29.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-8
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d128high.pdf

+ Reissued Product

1. Financial Audit: Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Fiscal Years 2011 and 2010 Financial Statements.   GAO-12-161, November 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-161
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d12161high.pdf

Nonpharmacologic Interventions for Treatment-Resistant Depression in Adults

November 29, 2011 Comments off

Nonpharmacologic Interventions for Treatment-Resistant Depression in Adults
Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Our review suggests that comparative clinical research on nonpharmacologic interventions in a TRD population is early in its infancy, and many clinical questions about efficacy and effectiveness remain unanswered. Interpretation of the data is substantially hindered by varying definitions of TRD and the paucity of relevant studies. The greatest volume of evidence is for ECT and rTMS. However, even for the few comparisons of treatments that are supported by some evidence, the strength of evidence is low for benefits, reflecting low confidence that the evidence reflects the true effect and indicating that further research is likely to change our confidence in these findings. This finding of low strength is most notable in two cases: ECT and rTMS did not produce different clinical outcomes in TRD, and ECT produced better outcomes than pharmacotherapy. No trials directly compared the likelihood of maintaining remission for nonpharmacologic interventions. The few trials addressing adverse events, subpopulations, subtypes, and health-related outcomes provided low or insufficient evidence of differences between nonpharmacologic interventions. The most urgent next steps for research are to apply a consistent definition of TRD, to conduct more head-to-head clinical trials comparing nonpharmacologic interventions with themselves and with pharmacologic treatments, and to delineate carefully the number of treatment failures following a treatment attempt of adequate dose and duration in the current episode.

Home Study Requirements for Prospective Foster Parents

November 29, 2011 Comments off

Home Study Requirements for Prospective Foster Parents
Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway

This product presents State laws and policies for licensing or approving family foster homes. A licensed family is one that is approved by the State to provide care for children and that meets basic standards of safety set by law and regulation. These standards reduce predictable risks to the health, safety, and well-being of children in out-of-home care. The goal of foster care is to provide a safe, stable, nurturing environment until the child is able to return home or until a permanent family is found for the child.

Brain enlargement is associated with regression in preschool-age boys with autism spectrum disorders

November 29, 2011 Comments off

Brain enlargement is associated with regression in preschool-age boys with autism spectrum disorders (PDF)Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Autism is a heterogeneous disorder with multiple behavioral and biological phenotypes. Accelerated brain growth during early childhood is a well-established biological feature of autism. Onset pattern, i.e., early onset or regressive, is an intensely studied behavioral phenotype of autism. There is currently little known, however, about whether, or how, onset status maps onto the abnormal brain growth. We examined the relationship between total brain volume and onset status in a large sample of 2- to 4-y-old boys and girls with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) [n = 53, no regression (nREG); n = 61, regression (REG)] and a comparison group of age-matched typically developing controls (n = 66). We also examined retrospective head circumference measurements from birth through 18 mo of age. We found that abnormal brain enlargement was most commonly found in boys with regressive autism. Brain size in boys without regression did not differ from controls. Retrospective head circumference measurements indicate that head circumference in boys with regressive autism is normal at birth but diverges from the other groups around 4–6 mo of age. There were no differences in brain size in girls with autism (n = 22, ASD; n = 24, controls). These results suggest that there may be distinct neural phenotypes associated with different onsets of autism. For boys with regressive autism, divergence in brain size occurs well before loss of skills is commonly reported. Thus, rapid head growth may be a risk factor for regressive autism.

Ten Years of Fragile States: What Have We Learned?

November 29, 2011 Comments off

Ten Years of Fragile States: What Have We Learned?
Source: Brookings Institution

Ten years ago this month, the World Bank established a taskforce to examine how the development community, and the bank in particular, should approach fragile states. This project took on special significance in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, as Western governments awoke to the threats posed by weak and unstable countries, and expressed a new willingness to engage with them.

The taskforce was led by Paul Collier and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, then two of the World Bank’s leading lights and today considered among the world’s foremost development experts. Their report had a profound influence both in shaping how fragility is perceived through a development lens and in defining the emerging fragile states paradigm.

This is not to say that thinking on fragile states has stalled over the past decade. On the contrary, the intervening years have been a period of rapid learning. Many more studies and strategies have been written, not least by the World Bank itself, which is currently in the process of rolling out policy reforms informed by the groundbreaking 2011 World Development Report on conflict, security and development. A supporting set of institutions has sprouted, built around the g7+ group of fragile states and the network of donors with whom they partner, resulting in more honest dialogue, the sharing of experience, and the agreement of shared objectives, norms and metrics of progress. These have tended to build upon the taskforce’s initial insights rather than challenge them.

Looking back at the taskforce’s report, there is much that remains salient and even prescient. For instance, the report frames the development agenda for fragile states around a narrow prioritization of reforms, starting with security, stability and the rule of law; emphasizes the attainment of feasible, quick wins; and advocates looking beyond government channels for service delivery.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

Why Prices Don’t Respond Sooner to a Prospective Sovereign Debt Crisis

November 29, 2011 Comments off

Why Prices Don’t Respond Sooner to a Prospective Sovereign Debt Crisis
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

We compare the dynamics of inflation and bond yields leading up to a sovereign debt crisis in settings where asset markets are frictionless to other settings with financial frictions. As compared with the case with frictionless asset markets, an asset market structure with financial frictions generates a significant delay in the response of prices to news about a future debt crisis. With complete markets, prices jump in response to news about the possibility of a future debt crisis. However, when short selling of government bonds is restricted, some agents can’t act on their beliefs, and prices don’t respond to the news. Instead, prices only move in periods immediately prior the crisis.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CESC) and Youth Homelessness

November 29, 2011 Comments off

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CESC) and Youth Homelessness
Source: National Alliance to End Homelessness

CSEC is A Growing Problem
It is commonly estimated that 100,000 children are victims of commercial sexual exploitation each year. Futher, there is evidence that the number of children being exploited is increasing. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reports there is an increase in the online solicitation and “grooming” of children for CSEC, the incidence and violence of online pornography involving children, and online advertisements of children available for prostitution.

CSEC may be growing in part because it is highly lucrative. DOJ reports CSEC is growing in popularity because it conveys greater financial gains with fewer risks than the drug trade and other illegal activities. It is also challenging for law enforcement to combat. Solicitation of prostitution is moving from city streets to online forums and pimps move children frequently between cities. It is difficult, therefore, to identify children victimized by CSEC and when children are identified they are more likely to be arrested for prostitution than those who solicited or exploited them.

CSEC and Human Trafficking
Children who are victims of CSEC and youth over 18 who engage in sexual acts as a result of coercion, fraud, or force are also considered to be victims of human trafficking under federal statute. This applies to children and youth engaged in pornography, sexual entertainment industries, “survival sex” (trading sex to meet youth’s basic needs for food and shelter), and prostitution. Children are considered to be victims of trafficking even when they seem to be engaging willingly in sexual acts. CSEC is the most common form of human trafficking of U.S. citizens and runaway and homeless youth are often its victims.

+ Full Document (PDF)

New From the GAO

November 28, 2011 Comments off

New GAO ReportSource: Government Accountability Office

Next Generation Air Transportation: Collaborative Efforts with European Union Generally Mirror Effective Practices, but Near-Term Challenges Could Delay Implementation

GAO-12-48, Nov 28, 2011

Summary (HTML) Highlights Page (PDF) Full Report (PDF) E-Report

Stray Dogs and Virtual Armies: Radicalization and Recruitment to Jihadist Terrorism in the United States Since 9/11

November 28, 2011 Comments off

Stray Dogs and Virtual Armies: Radicalization and Recruitment to Jihadist Terrorism in the United States Since 9/11
Source: RAND Corporation
From press release:

Despite al Qaeda’s increasing use of the Internet to attempt to radicalize and recruit homegrown terrorists in the United States, the turnout has been tiny and mostly inept, according to a new study from the RAND Corporation.

“America’s homegrown jihadist terrorists have not shown great determination or very much competence,” said Brian Michael Jenkins, the study’s author and senior adviser to the president of RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “A careful analysis of these cases shows that the United States must remain vigilant, but not overreact.”

A total of 176 Americans have been indicted, arrested or otherwise identified as jihadist terrorists or their supporters since Sept. 11, 2001. Those 176 people were involved in 82 cases, 20 of which were disclosed in 2010, versus 15 in 2009.

Working alone or with others, these so-called “homegrown terrorists” planned actions, implemented terrorist activities or contributed financial or other material support to others’ terrorist activities. Some became radicalized in the United States and then traveled abroad to conduct terrorist activities against the United States or other countries.

However, Jenkins notes that few of the 32 jihadist plots hatched by U.S.-based terrorists since 9/11 got much beyond the discussion stage. Only 10 developed anything resembling an operational plan that identified a specific target and created the means of attack. Of those 10, six were the subject of U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation stings.

“When provided with bombs, they were willing to act, but only two actually tried to build devices on their own, and only one of these actually built an incendiary device, which failed to function,” Jenkins said. “In a country where guns are readily available, only two—and the only two to succeed—actually obtained guns and used them to kill Americans.”

Al Qaeda is relying heavily on the Internet to recruit Americans with a plethora of English-language websites and even an online magazine, Inspire, that promotes individual, violent jihad. However, Jenkins says the Internet engagement with jihad may be taking the place of actual engagement for many of these would-be terrorists. Suicide missions and martyrdom for American jihads are rarely contemplated, a factor that is said to have disappointed Osama bin Laden.

Most of the would-be jihadists were Muslims, but Jenkins notes that they are only a tiny portion of the U.S.-based Muslim population, several thousand of whom serve in the U.S. armed forces.

Supporting Brain Development in Traumatized Children and Youth

November 28, 2011 Comments off

Supporting Brain Development in Traumatized Children and Youth (PDF)
Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway

This bulletin summarizes what child welfare professionals can do to support the identification and assessment of the impact of maltreatment and trauma on brain development; how to work effectively with children, youth, and families to support healthy brain development; and how to improve services through cross-system collaboration and trauma-informed practice.

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