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USPS OIG — Package Services: Get Ready, Set, Grow!

July 22, 2014 Comments off

Package Services: Get Ready, Set, Grow! (PDF)
Source: U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General

The package delivery market has been growing considerably. Between 2008 and 2013, the U.S. Postal Service experienced a more than 20 percent increase in package volume. The main reason is the growing popularity of e-commerce, particularly online shopping. American businesses and consumers spent more than $68 billion to ship packages domestically in 2013. E-commerce sales in the U.S. alone this year will top $430 billion; global e-commerce will exceed $1.5 trillion.

There is no doubt that packages are growing in importance to the Postal Service’s future. To meet emerging customer demands, the Postal Service needs to position itself for long-term success and broaden its role across the package delivery value chain. The Postal Service has already taken some steps towards enhancing its ability to handle an increase in packages. However, it needs a strategy that includes expanding beyond the traditional postal expertise of last-mile delivery to offer one-stop.

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Defense offsets: From ‘contractual burden’ to competitive weapon

July 22, 2014 Comments off

Defense offsets: From ‘contractual burden’ to competitive weapon
Source: McKinsey & Company

Western defense companies now need to look outside their core markets for growth. In the aftermath of the global economic crisis and over a decade of engagement in southwest Asia, many Western countries have scaled back their defense budgets, favoring instead more targeted spending and austerity plans. In Europe, ministries of defense are downsizing their military operations and procurement programs, and in the United States, the effects of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and sequestration will restrict defense spending through 2021 absent congressional action. By contrast, many countries representing addressable markets in Asia, the Middle East, and South America are investing in defense-modernization programs and over the past few years have increased their defense spending at compound annual growth rates of between 5 and 10 percent.

wefi Reveals Top U.S. Locations for the Best Wi-Fi Connectivity During Summer Travel Season

July 22, 2014 Comments off

wefi Reveals Top U.S. Locations for the Best Wi-Fi Connectivity During Summer Travel Season
Source: wefi

Key travel considerations have changed dramatically as more and more people rely on their mobile devices to stay connected while away from home. With two thirds of Americans planning at least one leisure trip this summer, wefi, the market leader in delivering actionable mobile intelligence and network analytics, today revealed the top U.S. hotels, beaches and airports with the best Wi-Fi connectivity for these road warriors. As evidenced in wefi’s findings, not all destinations provide the same level of connectivity.

wefi collected data from more than 45 million hotspots based on the implementation of its intelligent network selection solution within multiple cable operators throughout the U.S. The metrics are based on a 45-day average of Wi-Fi speeds for each location starting from April 1 to June 15, 2014.

As mobile devices have become more and more essential to people on the road, it’s important to consider places with the best bandwidth connectivity. If traveling by air, consider that the Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Michigan offers the fastest Wi-Fi, closely followed by Denver International Airport in Colorado. For beach-goers, Clearwater Beach, Florida tops the list of beaches with the fastest Wi-Fi, while four of the top nine are located in California.

Marine mammals trace anthropogenic structures at sea

July 22, 2014 Comments off

Marine mammals trace anthropogenic structures at sea
Source: Current Biology

On land, species from all trophic levels have adapted to fill vacant niches in environments heavily modified by humans (e.g. [1] ). In the marine environment, ocean infrastructure has led to artificial reefs, resulting in localized increases in fish and crustacean density [2] . Whether marine apex predators exhibit behavioural adaptations to utilise such a scattered potential resource is unknown. Using high resolution GPS data we show how infrastructure, including wind turbines and pipelines, shapes the movements of individuals from two seal species (Phoca vitulina and Halichoerus grypus). Using state-space models, we infer that these animals are using structures to forage. We highlight the ecological consequences of such behaviour, at a time of unprecedented developments in marine infrastructure.

See: Seals Are Drawn to Offshore Wind Farms (The Atlantic)

Cable is King but Streaming Stands Strong When it Comes to Americans’ TV Viewing Habits

July 22, 2014 Comments off

Cable is King but Streaming Stands Strong When it Comes to Americans’ TV Viewing Habits (PDF)
Source: Harris Interactive

Do you still call it “watching TV” when you’re not actually using a TV to do it? That’s a question that may be coming up more and more today, given the increasing use of streaming as a viewership option. While over three-fourths of U.S. adults (77%) say they regularly watch television shows via either cable (55%) or satellite TV (23%), over four in ten say they regularly watch via streaming (43%) including two-thirds of Millennials (67%).

What’s more, streaming seems to be slowly gaining ground on more traditional modes when it comes to the ways Americans most often watch television programs (though it’s in no danger of overtaking them in the immediate future). At 85%, the percentage of Americans saying they most often watch TV on, well, a TV (live feed, recorded or on demand), sans streaming, is down from 89% in 2012. Streaming, meanwhile, is up from 20% in 2012 to 23% today. This preferential shift is strongest when looking at Millennials, among whom nonstreaming TV preference has declined from 77% to 68% while streaming preference has grown from 41% to 47%.

AU — The arts and culture: a quick guide to key internet links

July 22, 2014 Comments off

The arts and culture: a quick guide to key internet links
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

This Quick Guide provides links to:

  • Australian Government organisations responsible for the arts and culture
  • state and territory government websites
  • regional arts websites
  • non-government organisations websites and
  • international organisations.

It also provides links to a range of organisations by art form:

  • ballet and dance
  • film
  • libraries
  • literature
  • museums and galleries
  • music and opera
  • performing arts education
  • theatre and
  • visual arts.

The Effects of Premium Subsidies on Demand for Crop Insurance

July 21, 2014 Comments off

The Effects of Premium Subsidies on Demand for Crop Insurance
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

Premium subsidies are a major factor in the current success of the Federal crop insurance program. This study measures the change in crop insurance demand across multiple crops and regions following a legislated increase in subsidies. Findings reveal the influence of premium subsidies on participation in the program.

SNAP Error Rates at All-Time Lows; Steady Improvement in Payment Accuracy Reflects Program’s Extensive Quality Control System

July 21, 2014 Comments off

SNAP Error Rates at All-Time Lows; Steady Improvement in Payment Accuracy Reflects Program’s Extensive Quality Control System
Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

The percentage of SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefit dollars issued to ineligible households or to eligible households in excessive amounts fell for the seventh consecutive year in 2013 to 2.61 percent, newly released U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data show. That’s the lowest national overpayment rate since USDA began the current system of measuring error rates in 1981. The underpayment error rate fell to 0.6 percent, also the lowest on record. (See Figure 1.) The combined payment error rate — that is, the sum of the overpayment and underpayment error rates — fell to an all-time low of 3.2 percent.[1] Less than 1 percent of SNAP benefits go to households that are ineligible. In other words, more than 99 percent of SNAP benefits are issued to eligible households.

Impact of San Francisco’s Toy Ordinance on Restaurants and Children’s Food Purchases, 2011–2012

July 21, 2014 Comments off

Impact of San Francisco’s Toy Ordinance on Restaurants and Children’s Food Purchases, 2011–2012
Source: Preventing Chronic Disease (CDC)

Introduction
In 2011, San Francisco passed the first citywide ordinance to improve the nutritional standards of children’s meals sold at restaurants by preventing the giving away of free toys or other incentives with meals unless nutritional criteria were met. This study examined the impact of the Healthy Food Incentives Ordinance at ordinance-affected restaurants on restaurant response (eg, toy-distribution practices, change in children’s menus), and the energy and nutrient content of all orders and children’s-meal–only orders purchased for children aged 0 through 12 years.

Methods
Restaurant responses were examined from January 2010 through March 2012. Parent–caregiver/child dyads (n = 762) who were restaurant customers were surveyed at 2 points before and 1 seasonally matched point after ordinance enactment at Chain A and B restaurants (n = 30) in 2011 and 2012.

Results
Both restaurant chains responded to the ordinance by selling toys separately from children’s meals, but neither changed their menus to meet ordinance-specified nutrition criteria. Among children for whom children’s meals were purchased, significant decreases in kilocalories, sodium, and fat per order were likely due to changes in children’s side dishes and beverages at Chain A.

Conclusion
Although the changes at Chain A did not appear to be directly in response to the ordinance, the transition to a more healthful beverage and default side dish was consistent with the intent of the ordinance. Study results underscore the importance of policy wording, support the concept that more healthful defaults may be a powerful approach for improving dietary intake, and suggest that public policies may contribute to positive restaurant changes.

Ofcom has today published research on consumer attitudes and trends in violence shown on UK TV programmes

July 21, 2014 Comments off

Ofcom has today published research on consumer attitudes and trends in violence shown on UK TV programmes
Source: Ofcom

Ofcom has today published research on consumer attitudes and trends in violence shown on UK TV programmes.

The research supports Ofcom in its role in protecting TV viewers, especially children. It looks at how violence on TV has changed since Ofcom issued guidelines to broadcasters in 2011 to avoid programmes being shown before 9pm that might be unsuitable for children.

The research comprises two separate reports. The first study focused on public attitudes towards violence on TV among people from a range of ages and socio-economic groups.

The second was an analysis of four popular UK soap operas, which looked at instances of violence, or threats of violence, and people’s views on them.

Census Bureau’s 2012 Economic Census Shows U.S. Household Appliance Manufacturing is Down from 2007

July 16, 2014 Comments off

Census Bureau’s 2012 Economic Census Shows U.S. Household Appliance Manufacturing is Down from 2007
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Value of shipments for the nation’s 95 household cooking appliance manufacturing establishments totaled $4.3 billion in 2012, according to the latest 2012 Economic Census statistics released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. This value is down 10.8 percent from $4.9 billion in 2007.

The household cooking appliance manufacturing industry employed 10,324 people in 2012, down 34.0 percent from 15,638 in 2007. Average payroll per employee increased 23.0 percent from $30,199 in 2007 to $37,143 in 2012. The average number of employees per establishment in this industry decreased 20.1 percent, from 136 in 2007 to 109 in 2012.

Other highlights for the household cooking appliance manufacturing industry (NAICS 335221) include:

  • Total value of product shipments decreased 6.7 percent from $4.7 billion in 2007 to $4.4 billion in 2012.
  • Electric household ranges, ovens and surface cooking units comprised 57.2 percent ($2.5 billion) of the total value of product shipments in 2012, while 26.3 percent of units ($1.1 billion) were fueled by gas.

CEOs and Consumers Disconnected on Sustainable Products and Services, Says Accenture, Havas Media report

July 16, 2014 Comments off

CEOs and Consumers Disconnected on Sustainable Products and Services, Says Accenture, Havas Media report
Source: Accenture

Only a third of consumers regularly consider sustainability in their purchasing decisions, according to a global study by Accenture (ACN: NYSE) and Havas Media RE:PURPOSE, which reveals the reasons for the disconnect between business and consumer expectations of sustainable products and services.

The report, “From Marketing to Mattering”, is based on a survey of 30,000 consumers in 20 countries. The study was commissioned in response and as a companion to the UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability, published in 2013, in which two thirds of CEOs admitted that business is not doing enough to address sustainability challenges, similar to the 73 percent of consumers in the latest research that say businesses are failing to take care of the planet and society.

The two studies reveal that, although CEOs see engagement with consumers as the most important single factor motivating them to accelerate progress on sustainability, they are often out of step with what motivates consumers to buy sustainable products and services. 81 percent of CEOs believe that their company’s reputation for sustainability is important to consumers, but the new research shows that less than one-quarter (23 percent) of consumers report that they regularly seek information on the sustainability performance of the brands whose products they purchase.

As result of the disconnect on the importance of a company’s sustainable reputation, only 32 percent of consumers say they ‘often’ or ‘always’ consider sustainability in their purchasing decisions.

Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses

July 16, 2014 Comments off

Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses (PDF)
Source: British Journal of Nutrition

Demand for organic foods is partially driven by consumers’ perceptions that they are more nutritious. However, scientific opinion is divided on whether there are significant nutritional differences between organic and non-organic foods, and two recent reviews have concluded that there are no differences. In the present study, we carried out meta-analyses based on 343 peer-reviewed publications that indicate statistically significant and meaningful differences in composition between organic and non-organic crops/crop-based foods. Most importantly, the concentrations of a range of antioxidants such as polyphenolics were found to be substantially higher in organic crops/ crop-based foods, with those of phenolic acids, flavanones, stilbenes, flavones, flavonols and anthocyanins being an estimated 19 (95% CI 5, 33) %, 69 (95% CI 13, 125) %, 28 (95% CI 12, 44) %, 26 (95% CI 3, 48) %, 50 (95% CI 28, 72)% and 51 (95% CI 17, 86)% higher, respectively. Many of these compounds have previously been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including CVD and neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers, in dietary intervention and epidemiological studies. Additionally, the frequency of occurrence of pesticide residues was found to be four times higher in conventional crops, which also contained significantly higher concentrations of the toxic metal Cd. Significant differences were also detected for some other (e.g. minerals and vitamins) compounds. There is evidence that higher antioxidant concentrations and lower Cd concentrations are linked to specific agronomic practices (e.g. non-use of mineral Nand P fertilisers, respectively) prescribed in organic farming systems. In conclusion, organic crops, on average, have higher concentrations of antioxidants, lower concentrations of Cd and a lower incidence of pesticide residues than the non-organic comparators across regions and production seasons.

A New Partnership: Rail Transit and Convention Growth

July 16, 2014 Comments off

A New Partnership: Rail Transit and Convention Growth (PDF)
Source: American Public Transportation Association

This joint report produced with the U.S. Travel Assocation examines how cities with rail stations connected directly to airport terminals can realize increases in hotel performance. The report compares six cities with direct rail access from their airport terminal to five cities without. The analysis found that from 2006-2013, hotels in the cities with direct rail access brought in 10.9% more revenue per room than hotels in those cities without.

CRS — Low-Income Assistance Programs: Trends in Federal Spending

July 16, 2014 Comments off

Low-Income Assistance Programs: Trends in Federal Spending (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)

This report examines the spending trends of 10 major need-tested benefit programs or groups of programs: (1) health care from Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); (2) the refundable portion of the health insurance tax credit enacted in the 2010 health care reform law; (3) the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); (4) assisted housing; (5) financial assistance for post-secondary students (Pell Grants); (6) compensatory education grants to school districts; (7) the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); (8) the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC); (9) Supplemental Security Income (SSI); and (10) Family Support Payments. The common feature of need-tested programs is that they provide benefits, services, or funding based on a measure of limited financial resources (income and sometimes assets). However, other than that common feature, the programs differ considerably in their target populations, services, and focus.

New From the GAO

July 15, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office

Report

1. Medicaid Payment: Comparisons of Selected Services under Fee-for-Service, Managed Care, and Private Insurance. GAO-14-533, July 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-533
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664783.pdf

Testimonies

1. VA Disability Claims Processing: Preliminary Observations on Accuracy Rates and Quality Assurance Activities, by Daniel Bertoni, director, education, workforce and income security issues, before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. GAO-14-731T, July 14.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-731T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664762.pdf

2. Helium Program: BLM’s Implementation of the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013, by Anne-Marie Fennell, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, House Committee on Natural Resources. GAO-14-751T, July 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-751T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664778.pdf

3. Federal Workforce: Human Capital Management Challenges and the Path to Reform, by Robert Goldenkoff, director, strategic issues, before the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and the Census, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-14-723T, July 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-723T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664773.pdf

Restaurant Menu Labeling Use Among Adults — 17 States, 2012

July 15, 2014 Comments off

Restaurant Menu Labeling Use Among Adults — 17 States, 2012
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Week Report (CDC)

Many persons underestimate the calories in restaurant foods (1). Increased attention has been given to menu labeling (ML) as a way to provide consumers with point-of-purchase information that can help them reduce calorie intake and make healthier dietary choices (1–3). In 2010, a federal law was passed requiring restaurants with 20 or more establishments to display calorie information on menus and menu boards.* The regulations to implement this federal law have not been finalized, but some states and local jurisdictions have implemented their own ML policies, and many restaurants have already begun providing ML. To assess fast food and chain restaurant ML use by state and by demographic subgroup, CDC examined self-reported ML use by adults in 17 states that used the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Menu Labeling optional module in the 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey. Based on approximately 97% of adult BRFSS respondents who noticed ML information at restaurants, the estimated overall proportion of ML users in the 17 states was 57.3% (range = 48.7% in Montana to 61.3% in New York). The prevalence of ML use was higher among women than men for all states; the patterns varied by age group and race/ethnicity across states. States and public health professionals can use these findings to track the use of ML and to develop targeted interventions to increase awareness and use of ML among nonusers.

Twenty-Three Years and Still Waiting for Change — Why It’s Time to Give Tipped Workers the Regular Minimum Wage

July 15, 2014 Comments off

Twenty-Three Years and Still Waiting for Change — Why It’s Time to Give Tipped Workers the Regular Minimum Wage
Source: Economic Policy Institute

Last year marked the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the legislation that established many of the basic labor protections workers enjoy today, such as a 40-hour workweek, overtime protection, and a national minimum wage. There have been periodic amendments to the FLSA over the years, but the 1966 amendments were especially significant. They extended protections to hotel, restaurant, and other service workers who had previously been excluded from the FLSA, but also introduced a new “subminimum wage” for workers who customarily and regularly receive tips. Unlike temporary subminimum wages (such as those for students, youths, and workers in training), the “tip credit” provision afforded to employers uniquely established a permanent sub-wage for tipped workers, under the assumption that these workers’ tips, when added to the sub-wage, would ensure that these workers’ hourly earnings were at least equal to the regular minimum wage. The creation of the tip credit—the difference, paid for by customers’ tips, between the regular minimum wage and the sub-wage for tipped workers—fundamentally changed the practice of tipping. Whereas tips had once been simply a token of gratitude from the served to the server, they became, at least in part, a subsidy from consumers to the employers of tipped workers. In other words, part of the employer wage bill is now paid by customers via their tips.

Today, this two-tiered wage system continues to exist, yet the subsidy to employers provided by customers in restaurants, salons, casinos, and other businesses that employ tipped workers is larger than it has ever been. At the federal level, it currently stands at $5.12 per hour, as employers are required to pay their tipped staff a “tipped minimum wage” of only $2.13 per hour, and the federal regular minimum wage is currently $7.252 Remarkably, the federal tipped minimum wage has been stuck at $2.13 since 1991—a 23-year stretch, over which time inflation has lowered the purchasing power of the federal tipped minimum wage to its lowest point ever.

Proposed federal minimum-wage legislation, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2014—also known as the Harkin–Miller bill—would not only increase the federal regular minimum wage to $10.10, but for the first time in decades would also reconnect the subminimum wage for tipped workers back to the regular minimum wage by requiring the former be equal to 70 percent of the latter. This would be a strong step in the right direction; however, we present evidence that tipped workers would be better off still if we simply eliminated the tipped minimum wage, and paid these workers the full regular minimum wage.

U.S. Breweries are Booming According to Census Bureau

July 15, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Breweries are Booming According to Census Bureau
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The number of U.S. breweries more than doubled — from 398 to 869 — between 2007 and 2012, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released today from the 2012 Economic Census Industry Series. The breweries industry reported $28.3 billion in shipments in 2012, an increase of nearly 33.6 percent since 2007.

Employment in the breweries industry (NAICS 312120) also climbed over the five-year span — rising to 26,077 employees in 2012, up by 3,825 or 17.2 percent, from 22,252 in 2007. While overall employment grew, the average number of employees per establishment was nearly halved, from 56 in 2007 to 30 in 2012. Average payroll per employee changed little between 2007 and 2012, increasing by 4.4 percent over the five-year period.

Consumers’ Use of Nutrition Information When Eating Out

July 15, 2014 Comments off

Consumers’ Use of Nutrition Information When Eating Out
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires that nutrition information be posted in many restaurants and fast food places.To establish a baseline against which to measure changes in the use of on-site nutrition information about food away from home (FAFH), the report examines demographic characteristics and dietary behaviors of FAFH consumers before implementation of the law.

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