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Archive for May, 2012

The Rise of Diabetes Prevalence in the Arab Region

May 31, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Open Journal of Epidemiology
Introduction:
Arab populations have many similarities and dissimilarities. They share culture, language and religion but they are also subject to economic, political and social differences. The purpose of this study is to understand the causes of the rising trend of diabetes prevalence in order to suggest efficient actions susceptible to reduce the burden of diabetes in the Arab world.
Method:
We use principal component analysis to illustrate similarities and differences between Arab countries according to four variables: 1) the prevalence of diabetes, 2) impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), 3) diabetes related deaths and 4) diabetes related expenditure per person. A linear regression is also used to study the correlation between human development index and diabetes prevalence.
Results:
Arab countries are mainly classified into three groups according to the diabetes comparative prevalence (high, medium and low) but other differences are seen in terms of diabetes-related mortality and diabetes related expenditure per person. We also investigate the correlation between the human development index (HDI) and diabetes comparative prevalence (R = 0.81).
Conclusion:
The alarming rising trend of diabetes prevalence in the Arab region constitutes a real challenge for heath decision makers. In order to alleviate the burden of diabetes, preventive strategies are needed, based essentially on sensitization for a more healthy diet with regular exercise but health authorities are also asked to provide populations with heath- care and early diagnosis to avoid the high burden caused by complications of diabetes.
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New From the GAO

May 31, 2012 Comments off

New GAO ReportsSource: Government Accountability Office

1. DOD Strategic Communication: Integrating Foreign Audience Perceptions into Policy Making, Plans, and Operations. GAO-12-612R, May 24.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-612R

2. Inspectors General: HUD Office of Inspector General Resources and Results. GAO-12-618, May 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-618
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/591273.pdf

3. Managing for Results: GAO’s Work Related to the Interim Crosscutting Priority Goals under the GPRA Modernization Act. GAO-12-620R, May 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-620R

4. Mental Health and Substance Use: Treatment Exclusions in Employers’ Health Insurance Coverage. GAO-12-761R, May 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-761R

5. Human Rights: State Department Followed an Extensive Process to Prepare Annual Country Reports. GAO-12-561R, May 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-561R

6. Force Structure: Army and Marine Corps Efforts to Review Nonstandard Equipment for Future Usefulness. GAO-12-532R, May 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-532R

7. Observations on the Coast Guard’s and the Department of Homeland Security’s Fleet Studies. GAO-12-751R, May 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-751R

8. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief: Agencies Can Enhance Evaluation Quality, Planning, and Dissemination. GAO-12-673, May 31.
http://www-dev.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-673
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/591285.pdf

Roughly two-thirds of labor force participation rate’s drop due to cyclical changes, new EPI paper finds

May 31, 2012 Comments off

Roughly two-thirds of labor force participation rate’s drop due to cyclical changes, new EPI paper finds
Source: Economic Policy Institute

The labor force participation rate – the share of working-age people who either have a job or are jobless but actively seeking work – has dropped more than two percentage points since 2007. Roughly two-thirds of this drop is due to the weak job opportunities in the Great Recession and its aftermath, a new Economic Policy Institute paper finds. The remainder is the result of long-run demographic trends. In other words, two-thirds of the labor force participation rate’s recent decline is cyclical, and one-third of it is structural.

In Labor force participation: Cyclical versus structural changes since the start of the Great Recession, EPI economist Heidi Shierholz explains that the cyclical decline in the labor force participation rate means that there are nearly four million workers “missing” from the labor force. These missing workers would be in the labor market if job prospects were strong.

AAAS Report Shares Strategies to Recruit New Generation of Highly Qualified Science and Mathematics Teachers

May 31, 2012 Comments off

AAAS Report Shares Strategies to Recruit New Generation of Highly Qualified Science and Mathematics Teachers
Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science

s U.S. science test scores stagnate, a new report by AAAS shows how high-quality science and mathematics teachers can be recruited and trained to help reverse this trend.

The report describes the innovative strategies used by the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program, which trains science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) undergraduate majors and STEM professionals to become K-12 teachers. The program has found new ways to recruit, prepare, and support these new teachers by offering them a chance to work in after-school programs, mentoring them with the help of local educators, and providing funding for research projects of their own.

Now a decade old, the program’s successes are being scrutinized as part of a national conversation on how to improve science education.

Improvements are urgently needed, education experts say. Results from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science test, which were released on 10 May, show that only a third of eighth-graders who took the test scored at or above the proficient level for their grade.

All Commercial Real Estate Sectors Continue to Improve, Multifamily Strong

May 31, 2012 Comments off

All Commercial Real Estate Sectors Continue to Improve, Multifamily Strong
Source: National Association of Realtors

Shaking off a prolonged impact from the recession, fundamentals are gradually improving in all of the major commercial real estate sectors, according to the National Association of Realtors® quarterly commercial real estate forecast. The apartment rental sector has fully recovered and is growing.

The findings also are confirmed in NAR’s recent quarterly Commercial Real Estate Market Survey, which collects data from members about market activity.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said new jobs are the key. “Ongoing job creation, which is at a higher level this year, is fueling an underlying demand for commercial real estate space, assisted by a steady increase in consumer spending,” he said. “The pattern shows gradually declining commercial vacancy rates, with consequential but generally modest rent growth.”

Yun expects the economy to add 2 to 2.5 million jobs both this year and in 2013, on the heels of 1.7 million new jobs in 2011, assuming a new federal budget is passed before the end of the year. “Although we need even stronger job growth, by far the greatest impact of job creation is in multifamily housing, where newly formed households striking out on their own have increased demand for apartment rentals – this is the sector with the lowest vacancy rates and strongest rent growth, which is attracting many investors.”

Rising apartment rents also are having a positive impact on home sales because many long-time renters now view homeownership as a better long-term option, Yun noted.

An Overview of Court Challenges to Campaign Finance & Disclosure Laws Nationwide

May 31, 2012 Comments off

An Overview of Court Challenges to Campaign Finance & Disclosure Laws Nationwide
Source: Campaign Legal Center

The rush of litigation challenging campaign finance and disclosure laws continues nationwide in the wake of Citizens United. For your reference, the Campaign Legal Center has updated a summary document of recent cases of interest at the federal, state and municipal level. The summary provides a brief description of pending and recently decided cases, and the Legal Center’s involvement in those cases.

The most recent summary of litigation produced by the Legal Center is always available on our Court Cases of Interest page directly beneath the “Active Court Cases of Interest.”

The General Age of Leadership: Older-Looking Presidential Candidates Win Elections during War

May 31, 2012 Comments off
Source:  PLoS ONE
As nation-state leaders age they increasingly engage in inter-state militarized disputes yet in industrialized societies a steady decrease in testosterone associated with aging is observed – which suggests a decrease in dominance behavior. The current paper points out that from modern societies to Old World monkeys increasing both in age and social status encourages dominant strategies to maintain acquired rank. Moreover, it is argued this consistency has shaped an implicit prototype causing followers to associate older age with dominance leadership. It is shown that (i) faces of older leaders are preferred during intergroup conflict and (ii) morphing U.S. Presidential candidates to appear older or younger has an overriding effect on actual election outcomes. This indicates that democratic voting can be systematically adjusted by activating innate biases. These findings appear to create a new line of research regarding the biology of leadership and contextual cues of age.

See: Older-looking presidential candidates preferred during wartime (EurekAlert!)

The Three Amigos: How Income Inequality in Mexico is different than Canada and the U.S.

May 31, 2012 Comments off

The Three Amigos: How Income Inequality in Mexico is different than Canada and the U.S.
Source: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

An examination of income inequality in North America reveals that Mexico is the only part of the continent where the middle class has been gaining from growth, according to a new study by internationally respected economist Lars Osberg, Dalhousie University professor and CCPA Research Associate.

Mexico’s middle class has benefited from urbanization, greater female employment, improved education and better social programs. Although similar trends in Canada and the U.S. maintained growth in middle class incomes until the 1970s, Osberg says, they have since run out of steam. Globalization, technological advances, a drop in unionized work, and a deregulated labour market have contributed to stagnant real incomes for most in Canada and the U.S. since the 1980s.

Meanwhile, income growth at the top has accelerated in both Canada and the U.S.

Diagnostic History and Treatment of School-aged Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Special Health Care Needs

May 31, 2012 Comments off

Diagnostic History and Treatment of School-aged Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Special Health Care Needs
Source: National Center for Health Statistics

Key findings
Data from the 2011 Survey of Pathways to Diagnosis and Services

  • The median age when school-aged children with special health care needs (CSHCN) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were first identified as having ASD was 5 years.
  • School-aged CSHCN identified as having ASD at a younger age (under age 5 years) were identified most often by generalists and psychologists, while those identified later (aged 5 years and over) were identified primarily by psychologists and psychiatrists.
  • Nine out of 10 school-aged CSHCN with ASD use one or more services to meet their developmental needs. Social skills training and speech or language therapy are the most common, each used by almost three-fifths of these children.
  • More than one-half of school-aged CSHCN with ASD use psychotropic medication.

Financing Transit Systems Through Value Capture: A Bibliography

May 31, 2012 Comments off

Financing Transit Systems Through Value Capture: A Bibliography (PDF)
Source: Victoria Transport Policy Institute

This paper summarizes the findings of more than 100 studies concerning the impacts transit service has on nearby property values, and the feasibility of capturing a portion of the incremental value to finance transit improvements. The results indicate that proximity to transit often increases property values enough to offset some or all of transit system capital costs.

Antitrust: European Competition Network report shows competition enforcement across the EU benefits all parts of the food sector

May 31, 2012 Comments off

Antitrust: European Competition Network report shows competition enforcement across the EU benefits all parts of the food sector
Source: European Competition Network

The European Competition Network (ECN) has published a report showing that active enforcement of competition law in the food sector across Europe, in particular at the processing and manufacturing levels, has benefitted farmers, suppliers and consumers. The report shows that the food sector has been a priority of competition authorities in Europe over the last few years and that their action has intensified since the food price crisis broke out in 2007. The ECN brings together the European Commission and the national competition authorities of the 27 Member States.

The report provides detailed information on how competition works in the food sector on the basis of the most recent activities carried out by both the European Commission and the national competition authorities in this area (see MEMO/12/373)

From 2004 to 2011, European competition authorities have investigated more than 180 antitrust cases, taken close to 1.300 merger decisions and undertaken more than 100 monitoring actions. The largest number of cases concerned processing and manufacturing and, to a lesser extent, retail levels. More than 50 cartels involving price fixing, market and customer allocation, and the exchange of sensitive business information have been prohibited, as have exclusionary practices that worked against farmers or suppliers.

In their market monitoring activities competition authorities have analysed how food markets are working. Much of this work has shown that there were many explanations for unfavourable market developments other than lack of competition among market players.

Competition authorities have also called for regulatory reform such as the amendment or repeal of laws hindering the development of retail stores and the adoption of codes or laws to address unfair commercial practices.

Finally, competition authorities have invited producers to increase efficiencies and strengthen their position in the value chain through, among other things, the creation of cooperatives.

New From the GAO

May 30, 2012 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Press Release
Source: Government Accountability Office

+ Reports

1. Securities Regulation: Opportunities Exist to Improve SEC’s Oversight of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.  GAO-12-625, May 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-625
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/591220.pdf
Podcast - http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/591197

2. VA Administrative Investigations: Improvements Needed in Collecting and Sharing Information.  GAO-12-483, April 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-483
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/590547.pdf

3. Tribal Law and Order Act:  None of the Surveyed Tribes Reported Exercising the New Sentencing Authority, and the Department of Justice Could Clarify Tribal Eligibility for Certain Grant Funds.  GAO-12-658R, May 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-658R

4. Indigent Defense: Surveys of Grant Recipients, Select Tribes, and Indigent Defense Providers, an E-supplement to GAO-12-569.  GAO-12-661SP, May 2012.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-661SP

5. GAO Schedule Assessment Guide: Best Practices for project schedules.  GAO-12-120G, May 2012.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-120G

+ Press Release

1. How Long Will This Project Really Take? GAO Issues Draft Schedule Assessment Guide; Second Volume in Series to Help Manage Government Projects, May 30.
http://www.gao.gov/press/schedule_assessment_2012may30.htm

Corporate Social Responsibility and Access to Finance

May 30, 2012 Comments off

Corporate Social Responsibility and Access to Finance (PDF)
Source: Harvard Business School Working Papers

In this paper, we investigate whether superior performance on corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies leads to better access to finance. We hypothesize that better access to finance can be attributed to a) reduced agency costs due to enhanced stakeholder engagement and b) reduced informational asymmetry due to increased transparency. Using a large cross-section of firms, we find that firms with better CSR performance face significantly lower capital constraints. Moreover, we provide evidence that both of the hypothesized mechanisms, better stakeholder engagement and transparency around CSR performance, are important in reducing capital constraints. The results are further confirmed using an instrumental variables and a simultaneous equations approach. Finally, we show that the relation is driven by both the social and the environmental dimension of CSR.

State Tobacco Revenues Compared with Tobacco Control Appropriations — United States, 1998–2010

May 30, 2012 Comments off

State Tobacco Revenues Compared with Tobacco Control Appropriations — United States, 1998–2010
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

In 1999, CDC published Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control (1), which outlined the elements of an evidence-based state tobacco control program and provided a recommended state funding range to substantially reduce tobacco-related disease, disability, and death. Best Practices recommended that states invest a combined $1.6–$4.2 billion annually in such programs and subsequently updated that recommendation to $3.7 billion annually in 2007 (2). To analyze states’ historical investments in tobacco control and calculate the amount of funding necessary to achieve Best Practices recommendations, CDC tracked data from 1998 to 2010. During this period, states collected $243.8 billion in total tobacco revenues from tobacco industry settlement payments and cigarette excise taxes. State and federal appropriations for tobacco control totaled $8.1 billion, whereas CDC’s Best Practices recommended funding of at least $29.2 billion ($1.6 billion for 9 years plus $3.7 billion for 4 years). For the entire study period, the ratio of state tobacco revenues to state and federal tobacco control appropriations was approximately 30 to 1 ($243.8 billion to $8.1 billion); in 2010, the ratio was approximately 37 to 1 ($23.96 billion to $0.64 billion). If states allocated funding for tobacco control at Best Practices levels, they could achieve larger and more rapid reductions in smoking and associated morbidity and mortality (2,3).

Dual Employment: Regulating Public Jobs for Legislators – 50 State Table

May 30, 2012 Comments off
Source:  National Conference of State Legislators

Many state legislators balance their public office with other employment. If they work in another public sector job, they may face regulations that address the type of jobs they may have. Dual employment─also known as double dipping─is the practice of drawing two government incomes. Through constitutional provisions and statutes, states may curb other public sector employment opportunities. Some states exempt teachers from dual employment provisions. This table is intended to provide general information and does not necessarily address all aspects of this topic. Because the facts of each situation may vary, this information may need to be supplemented by consulting legal advisors.

Isolated Capital Cities, Accountability and Corruption: Evidence from US States

May 30, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Harvard University (Kennedy School of Government)

We show that isolated capital cities are robustly associated with greater levels of corruption across US states. In particular, this is the case when we use the variation induced by the exogenous location of a state’s centroid to instrument for the concentration of population around the capital city. We then show that different mechanisms for holding state politicians accountable are also affected by the spatial distribution of population: newspapers provide greater coverage of state politics when their audiences are more concentrated around the capital, and voter turnout in state elections is greater in places that are closer to the capital. Consistent with lower accountability, there is also evidence that there is more money in state-level political campaigns in those states with isolated capitals. We find that the role of media accountability helps explain the connection between isolated capitals and corruption. In addition, we provide some evidence that this pattern is also associated with lower levels of public good spending and outcomes.

See: Researchers Find Link Between Isolated State Capitals, Corruption (NPR)

CBO — Assessing the Short-Term Effects on Output of Changes in Federal Fiscal Policies

May 30, 2012 Comments off

Assessing the Short-Term Effects on Output of Changes in Federal Fiscal Policies (PDF)
Source: Congressional Budget Office

Changes in federal fiscal policies can have both short-term and long-term effects on output. The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the short-term effects focuses on the impact on the demand for goods and services. That impact can be decomposed into direct effects and indirect effects: Direct effects consist of changes in purchases of goods and services by federal agencies and by the people and organizations who are recipients of federal payments or payers of federal taxes; indirect effects enhance or offset the direct effects. The indirect effects can be summarized by a demand multiplier, defined as the total change in gross domestic product per dollar of direct effect on demand. This paper presents the ranges of demand multipliers that CBO uses in its analyses and reviews evidence on the size of those multipliers.

The Disappearing Middle Class: Implications for Politics and Public Policy

May 30, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Claremont McKenna College (CMC Senior Theses)
America is divided. The income inequality gap between the richest and the poorest citizens has been widening for years: “since 1993, more than half of the nation’s income growth has been captured by the top 1 percent of earners, families who in 2008 made $368,000 or more.”2 In addition, the top one percent of families in America, in terms of wealth, now hold more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. The widening gap can be attributed to the ever-rising income levels of those at the top, while the average American’s income has remained relatively stagnant. As costs for family essentials— such as housing, health care, and education—continue to rise, maintaining the lifestyle of a middle class American becomes more difficult.
But what does being middle class mean? The majority of Americans define themselves as middle class, regardless of their wealth. The number of Americans that 6 affiliate with the middle class alludes to the idea that it cannot be defined simply by level of income, number of assets, type of job, etc. The middle class is a lifestyle as much as it is a group of similarly minded people, just as it is a social construct as much as it is an economic construct. Yet as the masses fall away from the elite, and changes continue to reshape the occupational structure of the job market—due to globalization in a technological age; many have begun to question whether or not the middle class—and, by extension, the American way of life—will be able to survive.
This thesis will examine the validity of such concerns as well as provide possible solutions to the problem. The first part of the paper will look at the class structure in America during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The second part will provide the reader with a model of the current middle class. The third part will analyze the factors that are changing the American middle class. The fourth part will look at current projected outcomes as well as possible policy solutions. And lastly, the fifth part will discuss the implications for the future of the middle class.

The psychiatric profile of the U.S. patient population across age groups

May 30, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Open Journal of Epidemiology
Introduction:
As the U.S. population undergoes continuous shifts the population’s health profile changes dynamically resulting in more or less expression of certain psychiatric disorders and utilization of health-care resources. In this paper, we analyze national data on the psychiatric morbidity of American patients and their summated cost in different age groups.
Methods:
The latest data (2009) on the number of hospital discharges and national bill (hospital charges) linked with psychiatric disorders were extracted from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS).
Results:
National data shows that mood disorders are the largest diagnostic category in terms of percentage of psychiatri-crelated discharges in the 1 – 17 years age group. The proportion decreases gradually as age progresses while delirium, dementia, amnestic and other cognitive disorders increase exponentially after 65 years of age. Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders as well as alcohol and substance-related disorders peak in the working age groups (18 – 64 years). From an economic point of view, mood disorders in the 18 – 44 age group has the highest national bill ($5.477 billion) followed by schizophrenic and other psychotic disorders in the same age group ($4.337 billion) and mood disorders in the 45 – 64 age group ($4.310 billion). On the third place come schizophrenic and other psychotic disorders in the 45 – 64 age group ($3.931 billion).
Conclusion:
This paper illustrates the high cost of psychiatric care in the U.S., especially the large fraction of healthcare money spent on working-age patients suffering from mood disorders. This underlines psychiatric cost-efficiency as a vital topic in the current healthcare debate.

NOAA predicts a near-normal 2012 Atlantic hurricane season

May 30, 2012 Comments off

NOAA predicts a near-normal 2012 Atlantic hurricane season
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Conditions in the atmosphere and the ocean favor a near-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this season, NOAA announced today from Miami at its Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, and home to the Hurricane Research Division.

For the entire six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says there’s a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms (with top winds of 39 mph or higher), of which four to eight will strengthen to a hurricane (with top winds of 74 mph or higher) and of those one to three will become major hurricanes (with top winds of 111 mph or higher, ranking Category 3, 4 or 5). Based on the period 1981-2010, an average season produces 12 named storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

See also: NOAA predicts near-normal Eastern Pacific hurricane season
See also: NOAA expects below-normal Central Pacific hurricane season

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