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New From the GAO

August 29, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report
Source: Government Accountability Office

Export-Import Bank: Monitoring of Dual-Use Exports Should Be Improved. GAO-14-719, August 28.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-719
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665477.pdf

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The Federal Debt: All You Need to Know in Three Minutes

August 29, 2014 Comments off

The Federal Debt: All You Need to Know in Three Minutes
Source: Brookings Institution

One of the missions of the new Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution is to improve public—and congressional—understanding of major budget issues confronting the U.S. To that end, we’ve boiled the facts about the outlook for the federal debt down to a three -minute animated video in which I trace the recent ups and downs (yes, downs) of the projections for federal borrowing over the next decade.

It’s tough for people to understand that the debt is a problem—but not now. Yes, we ran up a big debt to fight the recession, but the U.S. economy is not yet fully recovered and the U.S. Treasury is able to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars every month at very low interest rates. The problem lies in the future after the economy and the job market and interest rates return to normal: The trajectory of government borrowing after the economy simply isn’t sustainable. We’re looking for ways to help people understand both the short-term and the long-term picture.

Transporting Crude Oil by Rail: State and Federal Action

August 29, 2014 Comments off

Transporting Crude Oil by Rail: State and Federal Action
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Technological advances such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are driving the increase in oil and natural gas extraction and allowing access to shale resources in Canada and the U.S. that were previously uneconomical to develop.

In fact, the United States became the No. 1 producer of oil in the world in 2014—overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia. The U.S. produced 8.4 million barrels per day of oil in April 2014, which is the highest monthly production volume in more than 25 years—with North Dakota and Texas supplying almost half of the total U.S. crude oil production. The rapid expansion of crude oil production in North America has increased the use of rail, truck, barge and pipeline to carry crude to refineries.

Upon extraction, crude oil is transported to refineries to be processed into useful petroleum products—such as heating oil, diesel fuel or gasoline. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), in 2009 70.2 percent of crude oil and petroleum products were transported by pipeline while 23.1 percent were shipped by oil tankers, 4.2 percent by truck and just 2.6 percent by rail. In 2013, crude oil accounted for just 1.4 percent of the commodities carried by rail. Although oil makes up a small percentage of rail freight, this proportion is increasing rapidly.

What is the Result of States Not Expanding Medicaid?

August 29, 2014 Comments off

What is the Result of States Not Expanding Medicaid?
Source: Urban Institute

In states not expanding Medicaid, 6.7 million residents will remain uninsured in 2016 as a result. These states are foregoing $423.6 billion in federal Medicaid funds from 2013 to 2022, lessening economic activity and job growth. Their hospitals are also losing $167.8 billion in Medicaid revenue. Every comprehensive state-level fiscal analysis that we could find concluded that expansion helps state budgets, generating savings and revenues that exceed increased Medicaid costs. Future federal cuts to ACA’s high federal match rate are unlikely. Of more than 100 federal Medicaid cuts since 1980, just one lowered the federal share of Medicaid spending.

Spillover from the Conflict in Syria: An Assessment of the Factors that Aid and Impede the Spread of Violence

August 29, 2014 Comments off

Spillover from the Conflict in Syria: An Assessment of the Factors that Aid and Impede the Spread of Violence
Source: RAND Corporation

All roads lead to Damascus and then back out again, but in different directions. The financial and military aid flowing into Syria from patrons and neighbors is intended to determine the outcome of the conflict between a loose confederation of rebel factions and the regime in Damascus. Instead, this outside support has the potential to perpetuate the existing civil war and to ignite larger regional hostilities between Sunni and Shia areas that could reshape the political geography of the Middle East. This report examines the main factors that are likely to contribute to or impede the spread of violence from civil war and insurgency in Syria, and then examines how they apply to Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan.

Washington’s Marijuana Legalization Grows Knowledge, Not Just Pot

August 29, 2014 Comments off

Washington’s Marijuana Legalization Grows Knowledge, Not Just Pot
Source: Brookings Institution

Voters in Washington state decided in November 2012 to legalize marijuana in their state, inspired by a campaign that emphasized minimizing the drug’s social costs and tightly controlling the legal recreational market. Joined to this drug policy experiment is a second innovative experiment that emphasizes knowledge: the state will fund and develop tools necessary to understand the impact of legalization on Washington’s law enforcement officials, communities, and public health.

This second reform, though less heralded than the attention-grabbing fact of legalization, is in many ways just as bold. Washington’s government is taking its role as a laboratory of democracy very seriously, tuning up its laboratory equipment and devoting resources to tracking its experiment in an unusually meticulous way, with lessons that extend well beyond drug policy.

Transgender Service: The Next Social Domino for the Army

August 28, 2014 Comments off

Transgender Service: The Next Social Domino for the Army (PDF)
Source: Military Law Review

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was repealed on September 20, 2011. As a result, lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers can now serve openly and are no longer subject to administrative separation based on homosexual acts, homosexual statements, marriage, or attempts to marry a person of the same biological sex. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community championed this historic change. However, a growing, well-funded, organized minority argues that the repeal of DADT was not enough.

The repeal of DADT did not change the prohibition of service for transgender personnel; their service is currently prevented by regulation. In the Army, Army Regulation (AR) 40-501, Standards of Medical Fitness , prohibits servicemembers from serving in the military if they have “a history of, or current manifestations . . . of transsexualism, gender identity disorder to include major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia such as change of sex or a current attempt to change sex . . . .” The medical diagnoses that prevent transgender servicemembers from serving in the military have a close re lationship to the diagnosis criteria found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The most recent edition, the DSM-5, contains revisions to the diagnoses of those who are not conten t with their assigned gender or who identify with the opposite gender. These changes more accurately define the diagnosis, reduce the stigma associated with transgender terminology, and remove the diagnosis from being grouped with sexual dysfunctions. In part, based on these changes, the military’s perception of transgender individuals is also changing.

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