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Archive for July, 2012

Country Analysis Brief: Egypt

July 31, 2012 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Egypt

Source: Energy Information Administration

Egypt is the largest oil producer in Africa that is not a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and the second largest natural gas producer on the continent, following Algeria. Egypt also plays a vital role in international energy markets through the operation of the Suez Canal andSuez-Mediterranean (SUMED) Pipeline, important transit points for oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments from African and Persian Gulf states to Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. Fees collected from operation of these two transit points are significant sources of revenue for the Egyptian government.

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2012 Deloitte Survey of U.S. Employers: Opinions about the U.S. Health Care System and Plans for Employee Health Benefits

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2012 Deloitte Survey of U.S. Employers: Opinions about the U.S. Health Care System and Plans for Employee Health Benefits (PDF)

Source: Deloitte

From press release:

U.S. employers are concerned about continued rising health care costs; however, they are unaware of solutions that could improve the safety and quality of care, and simultaneously reduce cost. While employer-sponsored health benefits are not likely to disappear, changes that shift financial risk to employees are certain.

These are among key findings in Deloitte’s 2012 survey of employers with 50+ workers offering health benefits. The survey explores employers’ opinions about the U.S. health care system, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and anticipated strategies for employee health benefits coverage and cost containment. Participants include C-suite executives and human resource (HR) professionals.

Medicines for Treating Depression: A Review of the Research for Adults

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Medicines for Treating Depression: A Review of the Research for Adults

Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Antidepressants are only one kind of medicine used to treat depression. They are the most common medicine used for this condition. Your doctor may prescribe other types of medicines to treat depression. This summary will review only the research on antidepressants. It does not review research on non-medicine therapies. The research studies also did not look at patients with bipolar disorder, substance abuse, bulimia nervosa, or schizophrenia.

New From the GAO

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New GAO Reports and Testimony

Source: Government Accountability Office

+ Reports

1. Coast Guard: Legacy Vessels’ Declining Conditions Reinforce Need for More Realistic Operational Targets. GAO-12-741, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-741
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/593162.pdf

2. Modernizing the Nuclear Security Enterprise: NNSA’s Reviews of Budget Estimates and Decisions on Resource Trade-Offs Need Strengthening. GAO-12-806, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-806
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/593153.pdf

3. Strategic Weapons: Changes in the Nuclear Weapons Targeting Process Since 1991. GAO-12-786R, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-786R

+ Testimony

1. Privacy: Federal Law Should Be Updated to Address Changing Technology Landscape, by Gregory C. Wilshusen, director, information security issues, before the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-12-961T, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-961T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/593147.pdf

Harkin: Report Reveals Troubling Realities of For-Profit Schools

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Harkin: Report Reveals Troubling Realities of For-Profit Schools

Source: Senator Tom Harkin

Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, unveiled a report on the findings of the Committee’s two-year investigation of the for-profit higher education industry. The report outlines widespread problems throughout the sector, as evidenced by the thousands of pages of never-before-released internal documents that education companies submitted to the Committee at Harkin’s request.

“In this report, you will find overwhelming documentation of overpriced tuition, predatory recruiting practices, sky-high dropout rates, billions of taxpayer dollars spent on aggressive marketing and advertising, and companies gaming regulations to maximize profits. These practices are not the exception — they are the norm; they are systemic throughout the industry, with very few exceptions,” Harkin said.

“Justice Louis Brandeis famously said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. As a result of this investigation, a wide range of Americans – including taxpayers, prospective students and their families – are waking up to the troubling realities of this industry. I hope that for-profit colleges will be moved by this final report to reform and focus on students’ success instead of just their financial aid dollars. But that will not be enough — real, bold legislative reforms are critical. We need to know how every student is faring. We need to ensure that resources intended for education are spent productively. We need colleges to provide the services that students need to succeed. And for companies so reliant on taxpayer revenues, we need to start requiring they demonstrate results for students, not just shareholders.”

Exchanging People for Money: Remittances and Repatriation in Central America

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Exchanging People for Money: Remittances and Repatriation in Central America (PDF)
Source: Bread for the World Institute

Immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras sent home more than $10 billion in remittances in 2011— almost all of it from the United States. Remittances comprised 17 percent of GDP in Honduras, 16 percent in El Salvador, and 10 percent in Guatemala and they dwarf both foreign direct investment and overseas development assistance. Remittances reduce poverty and help millions of families that receive them obtain food, clothing, education, housing, and health care, but they can also create dependence on the diaspora. Their greatest potential— fueling productive investment that generates jobs and income and reduces immigration pressure—is often untapped. In addition to the flow of money back to Central America, in recent years the number of immigrants returning from the United States to their home countries has increased. During fiscal year 2011, the United States deported a record 396,906 unauthorized immigrants, including more than 76,000 Central Americans. Central American governments are unprepared for these returned migrants. Many deportees end up re-migrating to the United States because of the lack of opportunities in their native countries.

A Roadmap to End Global Hunger

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A Roadmap to End Global Hunger
Source: World Food Program USA

The Roadmap for Continued U.S. Leadership to End Global Hunger celebrates the U.S. role in responding to humanitarian crises and alleviating chronic hunger. To ensure U.S. programs to fight global hunger continue to positively impact the lives of millions of people in need, the Roadmap outlines six recommendations for future action.

2012 State Sales Tax Holidays

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2012 State Sales Tax Holidays

Source: Federation of Tax Administrators

Chart includes links to relevant pages for each state.

Best Global Green Brands 2012

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Best Global Green Brands 2012
Source: Interbrand

Though “green” was once the province of empty promises, the world’s most valuable green brands have earned their place in our report, which examines how leading brands perform in the arena of sustainability and how their environmentally conscious efforts are perceived by the public. These two critical halves—performance and perception—make up the whole of a green company: one that operates sustainably and has built a positive image that can be leveraged to strengthen brand value.

The best green brands are vital, relevant, powerful and pioneering. They are profitable, ethical, and ecologically responsible. They have a proven record of performance, strive to operate with transparency and they practice what they preach when it comes to sustainability. The best green brands show us what is possible.

After evaluating the world’s top brands on the basis of their performance as well as the public’s perception of their green credentials, Interbrand and Deloitte have carefully ranked—and wholeheartedly applaud—the 50 Best Global Green Brands that are featured in this report. These strong, highly innovative brands are paving the way to a new era of stability, prosperity and confidence—and they embody our greatest hopes for the future.

Work 3.0: The Next Generation Model for a Smarter Business

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Work 3.0: The Next Generation Model for a Smarter Business (PDF)
Source: Mitel

Today’s world of business is increasingly fast-paced, competitive, technology-led and global.

Cultural, technological and physical elements are working together to drive a rapid pace of change like never before. From demand for more freedom in the way we work and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, to technology innovation and the increasing adoption of new devices, platforms and applications, to the breaking down of international and regional barriers.

This paper explores the four critical elements that form today’s working world – technology, physical location, working culture and business markets. It brings together fresh research revealing the demands and requirements of today’s workforce, opinion from leaders in technology and innovation, alongside insights from analysts and experts in workplace psychology and modern architecture.

We reveal how the interplay between technology, location, culture and business is transforming where, when and how we work. For workers, it means taking control of their working lives; choosing their devices and technologies, and how, where and when they want to work. Traditional commuting patterns will be eradicated and a culture will evolve that supports multi-faceted careers. Self-discipline and adjusting to reduced ‘live’ face-to-face interaction will be critical and the education system will be tasked with preparing new generations of workers to adapt to a far less restrictive working culture.

For businesses, the resulting cost savings and productivity boom, with virtually limitless access to a global pool of talent, will dramatically improve operations and drive business growth. The new landscape will become fertile for start-ups, as traditional overheads such as real estate and staff become ‘virtual’ and can be scaled up or down almost instantly.

Trusting and managing remote workforces will become central to HR policies, alongside equipping staff with the tools and workspaces they need to collaborate effectively both remotely and face-to-face; and this will be underpinned by a robust technological infrastructure.

For vendors, the workplace revolution brings a huge new market opportunity, but the ‘one size fits all’ single vendor model will become obsolete. Businesses will be populated with interoperable best-in-class technologies. This will drive a fundamental shift in vendor models to contribute to an ultimate solution, working alongside other vendors, rather than competing on an all-ornothing basis. Some of the biggest vendors in the networking and software world today will have to adapt in order to succeed in this more dynamic, open model.

See: The Changing Real Estate of the Office Building (The Atlantic: Cities)

New From the GAO

July 30, 2012 Comments off

New GAO Reports

Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Commercial Space Launches: FAA Should Update How It Assesses Federal Liability Risk. GAO-12-899, July 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-899
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/593105.pdf

2. World Health Organization: Reform Agenda Developed, but U.S. Actions to Monitor Progress Could be Enhanced. GAO-12-722, July 23.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-722
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592843.pdf

3. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Improved Oversight of State Eligibility Expansions Needed. GAO-12-670, July 26.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-670
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/593071.pdf

The Book of the States 2012

July 30, 2012 Comments off

The Book of the States 2012

Source: Council of State Governments

State revenue collections in the 2011 fiscal year grew by 6.4 percent and state general fund spending increased by 4 percent following two straight years of decline. The 2011 tax revenues are just $26.6 billion under the peak reached in 2008 and are just shy of the 2007 collections. Meanwhile, the challenges facing states in many programs continue to grow. State spending on Medicaid programs, for instance, is expected to increase nearly 50 percent from 2010 to 2012. Those are just a few examples of information and data found in the 2012 edition of The Book of the States, The Council of State Governments’ annual almanac of information about the states.

International Religious Freedom Report for 2011

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International Religious Freedom Report for 2011

Source: U.S. Department of State

To think, believe, or doubt. To speak or pray; to gather or stand apart. Such are the movements of the mind and heart, infinitives that take us beyond the finite. Freedom of religion, like all freedoms of thought and expression, are inherent. Our beliefs help define who we are and serve as a foundation for what we contribute to our societies. However, as the 2011 International Religious Freedom Report documents, too many people live under governments that abuse or restrict freedom of religion. People awaken, work, suffer, celebrate, raise children, and mourn unable to follow the dictates of their faith or conscience. Yet, under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, governments have committed to respect freedom of religion. As President Barack Obama said, they ought to "bear witness and speak out" when violations of religious freedom occur.

With these reports, we bear witness and speak out. We speak against authoritarian governments that repressed forms of expression, including religious freedom. Governments restricted religious freedom in a variety of ways, including registration laws that favored state-sanctioned groups, blasphemy laws, and treatment of religious groups as security threats. The report focuses special attention on key trends such as the impact of political and demographic transitions on religious minorities, who tended to suffer the most in 2011; the effects of conflict on religious freedom; and the rising tide of anti-Semitism. Impacted groups, to name just a few, included Baha’is and Sufis in Iran; Christians in Egypt; Ahmadis in Indonesia and Pakistan; Muslims in a range of countries, including in Europe; Tibetan Buddhists, Christians, and Uighur Muslims in China; and Jews in many parts of the world.

Public-Sector Aviation: Graduate Research Award Papers, 2010-2011

July 30, 2012 Comments off

Public-Sector Aviation: Graduate Research Award Papers, 2010-2011

Source: Transportation Research Board

TRB’s Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 2266 consists of 10 graduate research award papers that examine the interaction of high-speed rail and aviation; prediction of potential cracking of airfield rigid pavements; predictors of home-based trips for the Atlanta, Georgia airport; and dynamic airspace configuration.

This issue of the TRR also explores transitioning the U.S. air transportation system to higher fuel costs; transportation systems planning for high-speed rail; sustainable paving material for airfields; airline frequency competition in airport congestion pricing; risk assessment of bird–aircraft strikes at commercial airport; and analysis of taxiway aircraft traffic.

The Graduate Research Award Program in Public-Sector Aviation Issues is managed by TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program and sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration. The program is designed to encourage applied research on airport and related aviation system issues and to foster the next generation of aviation community leaders.

Goldilocks and the Two Mobile Devices: Going Beyond All-Or-Nothing Access to a Device’s Applications

July 30, 2012 Comments off

Goldilocks and the Two Mobile Devices: Going Beyond All-Or-Nothing Access to a Device’s Applications
Source: Microsoft Research

Most mobile phones and tablets support only two access control device states: locked and unlocked. We investigated how well all-or-nothing device access control meets the need of users by interviewing 20 participants who had both a smartphone and tablet. We find all-or-nothing device access control to be a remarkably poor fit with users’ preferences. On both phones and tablets, participants wanted roughly half their applications to be available even when their device was locked and half protected by authentication. We also solicited participants’ interest in new access control mechanisms designed specifically to facilitate device sharing. ; Fourteen participantsa majority (14 out of 20) preferred these controls to existing security locks alone. Finally, we gauged participants’ interest in using face and voice biometrics to authenticate to their mobile phone and tablets; participants were surprisingly receptive to biometrics, given that they were also aware of security and reliability limitations.

Racial and Ethnic Differences in Receipt of Unemployment Insurance Benefits During the Great Recession

July 30, 2012 Comments off

Racial and Ethnic Differences in Receipt of Unemployment Insurance Benefits During the Great Recession
Source: Urban Institute

The Great Recession hit black workers harder; the unemployment rate was higher for non-Hispanic black than for non-Hispanic white or Hispanic workers, and black unemployed workers had the lowest receipt of Unemployment Insurance benefits, 23.8 percent compared to whites’ 33.2 percent. Differences persist even after controlling for education, past employment, and reasons for unemployment.

GovCloud: The future of government work

July 30, 2012 Comments off

GovCloud: The future of government work
Source: Deloitte
From press release:

According to GovCloud: The future of government work, a report launched today by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL), today’s government is being asked to solve the problems of the 21st century with a workforce and managerial structure designed for a different era. The report offers a potential alternative framework, the GovCloud model, which is a collaborative teaming environment that supports shared services, workplace flexibility, and scalable, on-demand capabilities.

“The GovCloud model represents a dramatic departure from the status quo,” says Paul Macmillan, Global Industry Leader, Public Sector, DTTL. “The concept would use a cadre of government-wide workers to help small agencies adapt to evolving circumstances and thereby leverage changes in work, workers, workplaces, processes, and technologies.”

Just as cloud computing is revolutionizing the way businesses and governments use technology, GovCloud has the potential to transform how governments organize their workforces, according to the report. GovCloud would allow on-demand access to shared resources by having workers reside in a central talent pool—or “cloud”—accessible by numerous agencies. Cost efficiencies would be optimized since each individual agency would not have to maintain and manage a large workforce. And GovCloud would be dynamically scalable, with resources that could be quickly shifted from low-need to high-need programs without hiring new workers or setting up new departments or agencies.

Global Commission on HIV and the Law: HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health

July 30, 2012 Comments off

Global Commission on HIV and the Law: HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health (PDF)
Source: United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
From press release (PDF):

Punitive laws and human rights abuses are costing lives, wasting money and stifling the global AIDS response, according to a report by the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, an independent body of global leaders and experts. The Commission report, “HIV and the Law: Risks, Rights and Health,” finds evidence that governments in every region of the world have wasted the potential of legal systems in the fight against HIV. The report also concludes that laws based on evidence and human rights strengthen the global AIDS response – these laws exist and must be brought to scale urgently.

Bad laws should not be allowed to stand in the way of effective HIV responses,” said Helen Clark, United Nations Development Programme Administrator. “In the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, Member States committed to reviewing laws and policies which impede effective HIV responses. One of the key contributions of the Commission’s work has been to stimulate review processes and change in a number of countries.”

The Global Commission on HIV and the Law—comprising former heads of state and leading legal, human rights and HIV experts—based its report on extensive research and first-hand accounts from more than 1,000 people in 140 countries. The Commission, supported by the United Nations Development Programme on behalf of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, found that punitive laws and discriminatory practices in many countries undermine progress against HIV.

For example, laws and legally condoned customs that fail to protect women and girls from violence deepen gender inequalities and increase their vulnerability to HIV. Some intellectual property laws and policies are not consistent with international human rights law and impede access to lifesaving treatment and prevention. Laws that criminalise and dehumanise populations at highest risk of HIV— including men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people and injecting drug users—drive people underground, away from essential health services and heighten their risk of HIV. Laws that criminalise HIV transmission, exposure or non-disclosure of HIV status discourage people from getting tested and treated.

A Primer for Mental Health Practitioners Working With Youth Involved in the Juvenile Justice System

July 30, 2012 Comments off

A Primer for Mental Health Practitioners Working With Youth Involved in the Juvenile Justice System (PDF)
Source: Technical Assistance Partnership for Child and Family Mental Health

Many mental health practitioners were trained in programs or at a time when very little attention was paid during the course of training to youth involved in the juvenile justice system. For a variety of reasons, general clinical training does not ordinarily equip a mental health practitioner to operate within the juvenile justice context. Practitioners who have been trained within more recently developed programs with a “forensic” emphasis may be more familiar with adults within the criminal justice system than with juveniles, more focused upon technical assessments, such as competency to stand trial, than upon youth-specific developmental and functional assessments, or relatively unfamiliar with the emerging literature regarding youth with mental health needs who have had contact with the juvenile justice system or penetrated to its deeper end programs.

This paper provides an overview for mental health practitioners who provide professional services to youth who are involved with the juvenile justice system. This overview emphasizes emerging research and practices, the emerging conceptualization of trauma and its implications for youth involved with the juvenile justice system, and implications for policy and practice. While primarily intended for mental health professionals working within system of care communities or interested in developing a system of care collaboration in their area, this paper is relevant for any mental health practitioner providing professional services to youth involved or at risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system. It is also relevant for juvenile court and juvenile justice professionals whose work brings them into contact with youth with significant mental health needs.

Suicides, Australia, 2010

July 30, 2012 Comments off

Suicides, Australia, 2010
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Suicide is a major public health issue. Although death by suicide is relatively uncommon (approximately 1.6% of all deaths), the human costs are substantial and can impact broadly across communities. As such, suicide prevention is a key focus for both government agencies and non-government organisations.

Over recent years there have been two government enquiries which have made recommendations on improving suicide data. The Senate report – ‘The Hidden Toll: Suicide in Australia’, was released in June 2010. This report highlighted issues with data quality and availability, focussing especially on under-reporting of suicide deaths. The House of Representatives report – ‘Before it’s too late’ was released in July 2011. This report made specific recommendations on extending the scope of social and demographic data that is routinely collected on suicide deaths, and the availability of disaggregated data for research purposes.

The ABS has responded to challenges concerning the quality of suicide data through the implementation of new coding guidelines, and a three year revisions program for coroner certified deaths (see Chapter 2 for more information). This revisions process allows time for coroners to investigate potential suicide deaths and make a determination on whether the death was as a result of intentional self-harm.

In terms of expanding the availability of data on suicide, there were several additional data items, the importance of which were highlighted by the House of Representatives report – ‘Before it’s too late’, including ethnicity, culture, geography, educational attainment, employment status and socio-economic status. Many of these data items are not captured in current datasets, and the viability of collection in the future will need further investigation. However, additional information that can be publicly reported is available in current datasets. This information can provide further insight into the impacts of suicide across particular segments of the Australian community, and is presented in this report.

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