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NAR Identifies Best Purchase Markets for Aspiring Millennial Homebuyers

July 25, 2014 Comments off

NAR Identifies Best Purchase Markets for Aspiring Millennial Homebuyers
Source: National Association of REALTORS®

First-time homebuyers have been largely absent from the housing market in the current economic recovery, but some metropolitan areas – particularly in the Midwest and West – are well positioned to see increases in home-buying from the Millennial generation in upcoming years, according to new research by the National Association of Realtors®.

NAR analyzed current housing conditions, job creation and population trends in metropolitan statistical areas1 across the U.S. to determine the best markets for aspiring, leading edge Millennial2 homebuyers. Austin, Texas and Salt Lake City were identified as top standouts for Millennials for having a young adult population with solid job growth rates and still relatively affordable home prices. Seven of the 10 metro areas recognized are in the Midwest and West.

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When Doctors Don’t Listen: Sample Worksheet Towards Your Diagnosis Before You Go to the Doctor

July 25, 2014 Comments off

Sample Worksheet Towards Your Diagnosis Before You Go to the Doctor (PDF)
Source: When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests (book, by Dr. Leana Wen and Dr. Josh Kosowsky)

General Tips

  • Use your own words, as if you are speaking to a family member
  • Being your own advocate will save your life.
  • Speak up! Interrupt if you do not feel like you are not being heard.

An Imperative for Consumer Companies to Go Green

July 25, 2014 Comments off

An Imperative for Consumer Companies to Go Green
Source: Boston Consulting Group

Goods labeled organic, natural, ecological, and fair trade are no longer a niche in the food, personal-care, and household products sectors. These goods have entered mainstream retailers and become a large part of the market, with a broad base of consumers now purchasing them. In an otherwise stagnant industry, these “responsible consumption” (RC) products represent a major area of profitable growth.

The Boston Consulting Group has worked with market research company Information Resources Inc. to analyze point-of-sale data from nearly all retail chains in the U.S. (grocery, convenience, department, and wholesale-club stores). Not only do RC products account for 15 percent of all sales in these chains but also sales have grown about 9 percent annually in the past three years—making up 70 percent of total growth. Similar turnover and growth levels are expected across developed markets. Global surveys point to future growth as well, as most consumers intend to expand the number of categories in which they seek out RC products.

Most of this growth, however, is going not to A brands—the major product brands—but to specialty brands and to both specialty and conventional retailers. Most A-brand manufacturers, in fact, have weak or nonexistent offerings in this area. Continued inaction may cost A brands one-third of their current consumers over the next few years.

While A brands bring major scale and distribution advantages to the table, consumers are less likely to trust them when it comes to RC products. To build trust while leveraging these advantages, A brands can either acquire a specialty brand and grant it considerable autonomy or build an RC brand internally with external validation. A third option is to embrace “responsible” criteria for the entire A brand. Any of these options is preferable to maintaining a wait-and-see approach.

Country Analysis Brief: Algeria

July 25, 2014 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Algeria
Source: Energy Information Administration

Algeria is the leading natural gas producer in Africa, the second-largest natural gas supplier to Europe outside of the region, and is among the top three oil producers in Africa. Algeria became a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1969, shortly after it began oil production in 1958. Algeria’s economy is heavily reliant on revenues generated from its hydrocarbon sector, which account for about 30% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), more than 95% of export earnings, and 60% of budget revenues, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Principal Attrition and Mobility: Results From the 2012–13 Principal Follow-up Survey

July 25, 2014 Comments off

Principal Attrition and Mobility: Results From the 2012–13 Principal Follow-up Survey
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

The Principal Follow-up Survey (PFS), first conducted in school year 2008-09, is a component of the 2011-12 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). The 2012-13 PFS was administered in order to provide attrition rates for principals in K-12 public and private schools. The goal was to assess how many principals in the 2011-12 school year still worked as a principal in the same school in the 2012-13 school year, how many had moved to become a principal in another school, and how many had left the principalship.

The Productivity of Public Charter Schools

July 25, 2014 Comments off

The Productivity of Public Charter Schools
Source: University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform

People often wish to know how much “bang they get for their buck.” This calculation is often referred to as productivity and is measured either as cost effectiveness or return on investment (ROI). This report represents the first-ever national study tying funding to student achievement and measuring the productivity of public charter schools relative to traditional public schools. It was crafted by six researchers with more than 70 years of collective experience in the field of public finance and school funding.

Post-9/11 vets fight suicide, mental health issues

July 25, 2014 Comments off

Post-9/11 vets fight suicide, mental health issues
Source: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

The newest generation of combat veterans is struggling with integration into civilian life, confronted by suicidal thoughts, mental-health issues, unemployment and the inability to get timely assessments of their disability claims.

Yet post-9/11 veterans who have used the Department of Veterans Affairs health-care system generally have a favorable impression of the medical services provided, according to a nationwide survey of 2,089 members of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

The survey puts hard statistics on a variety of pressing issues Iraq and Afghanistan veterans face on the home front, he said.

The survey was conducted during a three-week period early this year, prior to public disclosures of secret wait lists and mismanagement at the Phoenix VA hospital and at facilities across the country.

The survey is the sixth and most comprehensive that the organization has conducted, IAVA Research Director Jackie Maffucci said. The research was conducted online and was composed of about 200 questions, with respondents answering only questions relevant to their experiences.

State and Local Government Workforce: 2014 Trends

July 25, 2014 Comments off

State and Local Government Workforce: 2014 Trends
Source: Center for State & Local Government Excellence

Local and state governments continue their hiring trend although their workforces are still smaller since the 2008 economic downturn; recruitment and retention continue to be challenges; and pressure on benefits continues, particularly health care.

Approaches for Establishing Fraud Risk Assessment Programs and Conducting Fraud Audit Risk Assessments Within the Department of Defense

July 25, 2014 Comments off

Approaches for Establishing Fraud Risk Assessment Programs and Conducting Fraud Audit Risk Assessments Within the Department of Defense
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General

Objective
The objective of the review was to identify approaches for establishing fraud risk assessment programs and conducting fraud risk assessments within the DoD. The review focused on various DoD activities including procurement, retail, and financial operations.

What We Found
We identified numerous innovative approaches for conducting fraud risk assessments. Of the 33 DoD organizations we interviewed,* 13 were conducting entity-wide risk assessments, 26 were conducting fraud risk assessments when performing audit-related work, 23 were providing fraud awareness training, and 3 were concentrating on internal control evaluations.

DoD entities are encouraged to modify any of the described approaches to suit their specific mission, size, and fraud vulnerabilities. The approaches were developed through research and interviews with 100 subject matter experts representing DoD organizations, academic institutions, private companies, and nonprofit organizations.

Fraud risk assessment approaches developed by the Marine Corps Nonappropriated Funds Audit Service; Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Audit Division; and the Army Audit Agency are highlighted within this report. Additionally, entity-wide fraud risk assessment approaches developed by the DoD Investigative Organizations; Naval Exchange Service Command, Office of Internal Audit; and the Naval Sea Systems Command Office of the Inspector General are also discussed in detail. The report also contains information on auditor and entity-wide fraud risk assessment approaches developed by external DoD organizations.

We used documentation obtained from the subject matter experts to develop example documents included in the report Appendixes. Example documents include audit organization fraud risk assessment policies, financial statement audit fraud interview questionnaire, and an entity-wide fraud risk assessment report. The report also provides information on auditor fraud brainstorming and interviewing techniques and DoD fraud case study examples.

Management Comments and Our Response
We have incorporated draft report comments received from the Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command; Naval Audit Service; Defense Health Agency; Defense Information Systems Agency, Office of the Inspector General; Air Force Office of Special Investigations; and Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. No further comments are required.

Guidelines for Digital Newspaper Preservation Readiness

July 25, 2014 Comments off

Guidelines for Digital Newspaper Preservation Readiness
Source: Educopia Institute

Libraries and other cultural memory organizations curate a substantial body of digital newspaper content. The genesis of these collections is often a series of iterative and cumulative digitization and born-digital acquisitions with idiosyncratic and ad-hoc data storage structures that vary radically in their file types, structures, and metadata. These institutions have limited resources to expend on the normalization or restructuring of their legacy digital content.

The NEH-funded Chronicles in Preservation project has produced a set of Guidelines that explicitly differentiate between the essential and the optimal in preservation readiness activities and that document the incremental steps that institutions may take to move from the essential to the optimal level of preservation readiness for their digital newspapers.

If institutions believe that they are incapable of readying their content for preservation according to emerging standards and guidelines, they may not take any action at all. If they instead can engage in an incremental process that allows them to begin preserving content now, while slowly and steadily building toward an optimal level of preservation readiness, they will be more likely to participate in preservation activities now.

CRS — Social Security: The Lump-Sum Death Benefit

July 25, 2014 Comments off

Social Security: The Lump-Sum Death Benefit (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

When a worker who is insured by Social Security and living with a spouse dies, the spouse is entitled to a lump-sum death benefit of $255. If there is no such spouse, the payment can be made to a surviving child who is receiving or is eligible to receive benefits based on the deceased person’s work. In the majority of deaths, however, no payment is made.

The death benefit used to be a more important part of Social Security, but the payment has been fixed at $255 for the past four decades, during which inflation has eroded its value. At the same time, the real value of other Social Security benefits has increased. Total federal spending on lump-sum death benefits is now about $200 million, only 0.03% of the total Social Security benefits.

Although the benefit was once linked to burial expenses and is sometimes still referred to as a “funeral benefit,” it no longer has any legal connection with funeral expenses.

Some proposals would have targeted the death benefit to those with the greatest need, increased the benefit, or eliminated it.

CRS Insights — District of Columbia: Marijuana Decriminalization and Enforcement; Issues of Home Rule and Congressional Oversight

July 25, 2014 Comments off

CRS Insights — District of Columbia: Marijuana Decriminalization and Enforcement; Issues of Home Rule and Congressional Oversight (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Decriminalization of marijuana in the District is one of several issues that have engendered controversy and congressional intervention. Like the controversies surrounding the District’s medical marijuana initiative, needle exchange, and abortion services, the District’s marijuana decriminalization act pits the principle of home rule against Congress’s constitutional authority and prerogative to intervene in District affairs.

Supporters of the law point to the shift in public opinion surrounding the legalization of marijuana use; noting that the majority of the country favors legalization. They also note that the act is intended to address the racial disparities in marijuana arrest rates in the District. According to a committee report accompanying the legislation, blacks accounted for 90% of the marijuana arrests in the District despite evidence that they use marijuana at a rate comparable to use by whites. Supporters note that a single arrest for marijuana possession has a significant impact on future employment and career prospects.

Opponents of the law argue that enforcement will be problematic given the unique status of the District as the Nation’s Capital. On the one hand, possession of a small quantity of marijuana on non-federal lands would be reduced to a misdemeanor punishable by a small fine. On the other hand, possession of that same quantity of marijuana on federal lands, including the Mall, the National Zoo, and Rock Creek Park could be prosecuted, at the discretion of the Department of Justice, as a federal offense and subject the offender to six months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine, given that marijuana is defined as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. §811). The matter of enforcement is further complicated by the presence of 32 federal law enforcement agencies that provide assistance to the District’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) through cooperative agreements that expand the area of jurisdiction an agency’s law enforcement personnel may patrol with the power to arrest.

CRS — Unlawfully Present Aliens, Higher Education, In-State Tuition, and Financial Aid: Legal Analysis

July 25, 2014 Comments off

Unlawfully Present Aliens, Higher Education, In-State Tuition, and Financial Aid: Legal Analysis (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The existence of a sizable population of “DREAMers” in the United States has prompted questions about unlawfully present aliens’ eligibility for admission to public institutions of higher education, in-state tuition, and financial aid. The term DREAMer is widely used to describe aliens who were brought to the United States as children and raised here but lack legal immigration status. As children, DREAMers are entitled to public elementary and secondary education as a result of the Supreme Court’s 1982 decision in Plyler v. Doe. There, the Court struck down a Texas statute that prohibited the use of state funds to provide elementary and secondary education to children who were not “legally admitted” to the United States because the state distinguished between these children and other children without a “substantial” goal, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Once DREAMers complete high school, however, they may have less access to public higher education. Plyler’s holding was limited to elementary and secondary education, and the Court’s focus on the young age of those whom Texas denied a “basic education” has generally been taken to mean that measures denying unlawfully present aliens access to higher education may be subject to less scrutiny than the Texas statute was. Thus, several states have adopted laws or practices barring the enrollment of unlawfully present aliens at public institutions of higher education. In addition, Congress has enacted two statutes that restrict unlawfully present aliens’ eligibility for “public benefits,” a term which has generally been construed to encompass in-state tuition and financial aid. The first of these statutes, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA, P.L. 104-193) bars the provision of “state and local public benefits” to unlawfully present aliens unless the state enacts legislation that “affirmatively provides” for their eligibility. The second, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA, P.L. 104-208) bars states from providing “postsecondary education benefits” to unlawfully present aliens based on their residence in the state unless all U.S. citizens or nationals are eligible for such benefits, regardless of their state of residence.

CRS — “Black Boxes” in Passenger Vehicles: Policy Issues

July 25, 2014 Comments off

“Black Boxes” in Passenger Vehicles: Policy Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

An event data recorder (EDR) is an electronic sensor installed in a motor vehicle that records certain technical information about a vehicle’s operational performance for a few seconds immediately prior to and during a crash. Although over 90% of all new cars and light trucks sold in the United States are equipped with them, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing that all new light vehicles have EDRs installed in the future. Under previously adopted NHTSA rules, these devices have to capture at least 15 types of information related to the vehicle’s performance in the few seconds just before and immediately after a crash serious enough to result in deployment of airbags.

EDRs have the potential to make a significant contribution to highway safety. For example, EDR data showed that in several cases a Chevrolet Cobalt’s ignition switch turned the engine off while the car was still moving, causing the car to lose power steering and crash; the data directly contributed to the manufacturer’s decision to recall 2.6 million vehicles. EDR data could also be used, sometimes in conjunction with other vehicle technologies, to record in the few seconds before an accident such data as driver steering input, seat occupant size and position, and sound within a car.

The privacy of information collected by EDRs is a matter of state law, except that federal law bars NHTSA from disclosing personally identifiable information. The privacy aspects of EDRs and the ownership of the data they generate has been the subject of legislation in Congress since at least 2004. The House passed a floor amendment to the transportation appropriations bill in 2012 that would have prohibited use of federal funds to develop an EDR mandate. This provision was not enacted. The Senate passed two EDR-related provisions in its surface transportation reauthorization bill (S. 1813) in 2012, mandating EDRs on new cars sold after 2015 and directing a Department of Transportation study of privacy issues. The provisions were not included in the final bill.

First OECD PISA financial literacy test finds many young people confused by money matters

July 25, 2014 Comments off

First OECD PISA financial literacy test finds many young people confused by money matters
Source: OECD

Around one in seven students in the 13 OECD countries and economies that took part in the first OECD PISA international assessment of financial literacy are unable to make even simple decisions about everyday spending, and only one in ten can solve complex financial tasks.

Some 29 000 15 year-olds in 18 countries and economies* took part in the test, which assessed the knowledge and skills of teenagers in dealing with financial issues, such as understanding a bank statement, the long-term cost of a loan or knowing how insurance works.

Shanghai-China had the highest average score in financial literacy, followed by the Flemish Community of Belgium, Estonia, Australia, New Zealand, the Czech Republic and Poland.

The gender gap in financial literacy was much smaller than in OECD PISA tests in maths or reading, with there being no significant difference between the performance of boys and girls, except in Italy.

But the inequality gap mirrors that in key school subjects: more socio-economically advantaged students scored much higher than less-advantaged students on average across participating OECD countries and economies. Non-immigrant students also performed slightly better than immigrant students from a similar socio-economic status. The gap between the two groups is larger than the OECD average in the Flemish Community of Belgium, Estonia, France, Slovenia and Spain.

The survey also revealed that skills in mathematics and reading are very closely related to financial literacy. However, high proficiency in one of these subjects does not always signal strong performance in financial literacy.
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UK — The Olympic and Paralympic legacy: Inspired by 2012 – second annual report

July 25, 2014 Comments off

The Olympic and Paralympic legacy: Inspired by 2012 – second annual report
Source: Cabinet Office

This report describes the activities which took place in the second year since the Games to build a lasting legacy across a number of commitments, namely sport and healthy living, the regeneration of east London, bringing communities together, the Paralympic legacy and economic growth.

The report includes a foreword by the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London, and an assessment of progress by Lord Sebastian Coe, the Prime Minister’s Olympic & Paralympic Legacy Ambassador.

Perception of Weight Status in U.S. Children and Adolescents Aged 8–15 Years, 2005–2012

July 24, 2014 Comments off

Perception of Weight Status in U.S. Children and Adolescents Aged 8–15 Years, 2005–2012
Source: National Center for Health Statistics

Key findings
Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005–2012

  • About 30% of children and adolescents aged 8–15 years in the United States misperceive their weight status. Weight status misperception is more common among boys (32.3%) than girls (28.0%).
  • About one-third of Mexican-American (34.0%) and non-Hispanic black (34.4%) children and adolescents misperceive their weight status compared with non-Hispanic white children and adolescents (27.7%).
  • Approximately 81% of overweight boys and 71% of overweight girls believe they are about the right weight.
  • Nearly 48% of obese boys and 36% of obese girls consider themselves to be about the right weight.

The Web of Wealth: Resiliency and Opportunity or Driver of Inequality

July 24, 2014 Comments off

The Web of Wealth: Resiliency and Opportunity or Driver of Inequality (PDF)
Source: Institute on Assets and Social Policy (Brandeis University)

Families often help each other out financially. A brother lends a few hundred dollars to cover a late household bill. A grandparent puts $1,000 away each year into a college fund for their grandchildren. A parent writes a $10,000 check for their adult child’s first home down payment. In the short-term, financial help limits those in the network from economic collapse or a serious decline in their standard of living. Over the long-term, extended family financial support can provide a steppingstone to better opportunities, such as going to college, starting a business, or purchasing a home. Financial transfers can also be much larger, fundamentally changing a family’s lot in life. These large financial transfers often arrive in the form of inheritance upon the death of a relative. This network of extended family financial assistance is a “web of wealth” that, in the U.S., profoundly shapes individual family members’ social and economic trajectories beyond their own achievements in work and education.

A web of wealth depends on the financial resilience and affluence of its members. Some wealth webs are packed with prosperous individuals. Others have fewer wealthy members whose resources get spread thin within the network. Many family webs have no wealth, especially low-income, African American, and other family of color networks. Across generations, historic policies have contributed to this inequitable wealth distribution. A legacy of slavery and racism has produced limited access and opportunities especially for African Americans to build wealth, while the federal government has invested in the wealth building of the wealthiest Americans. The consequences are stark. Families without a web of wealth to draw on have less household resilience in facing financial disruptions. By contrast families situated in strong wealth webs are able to remain resilient in the face of financial disruptions and can leverage opportunities for upward mobility.

Inequality in the distribution of wealth webs helps reproduce and exacerbate inequities. For example, a child born into a wealthy family is 6.3 times more likely to end up a wealthy adult than a child born into a poor family.1 Racial inequities are also perpetuated. One study found that twelve percent of the racial wealth gap could be explained by differences in receipt of family financial transfers.

This brief explores these themes in greater depth. It describes the relative infrequency of extended family financial assistance, the inequities in its distribution, and the consequences for household wealth holding. It looks at how families use resources from the web of wealth, why families do not have access to a web of wealth, and what they do in its absence to maintain well-being and leverage opportunity. Finally, the brief proposes policy solutions to ensure that families without a web of wealth are able to access the same opportunities as those situated in well-resourced family networks.

DOL — Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Frequently Asked Questions

July 24, 2014 Comments off

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Labor

WOIA authorizes key employment and training programs and the American Job Center (referred to as One-Stop Center in the law) service delivery system to help workers acquire the tools and skills they need to be successful and to connect employers to the skilled workers they need. WIOA aligns the “core” programs to provide coordinated, comprehensive services. The core programs are: (1) Adult, Dislocated Worker and Youth formula programs administered by DOL; (2) the Adult Education and Literacy programs administered by the Department of Education (ED); (3) Wagner-Peyser Employment Service program administered by DOL; and (4) and the programs under title I of the Rehabilitation Act that provide services to individuals with disabilities administered by the ED. Other programs administered by DOL that are authorized under title I of WIOA include: Job Corps, YouthBuild, Indian and Native American programs, Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker programs, and evaluation and multistate projects.

Two Decades After Emergency Contraceptive Pills Became Available, Few Women Use Them

July 24, 2014 Comments off

Two Decades After Emergency Contraceptive Pills Became Available, Few Women Use Them
Source: Guttmacher Institute

In many developing countries, most women have never heard of or used emergency contraceptive pills, according to “Knowledge and Use of Emergency Contraception: A Multicountry Analysis,” by Tia Palermo of Stony Brook University. Although the method can help women avoid unplanned pregnancies, in every country surveyed but Colombia, fewer than 50% of women have ever heard of it and fewer than 6% have ever used it. In general, the more educated women were or the wealthier they were, the more likely they were to have known about or used emergency contraception.

The researchers analyzed national survey data from 2000–2010 of women aged 15–49 in 45 countries in four regions.Women’s knowledge and use of the method varied widely within each region. In Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, Colombia had the highest proportions of women who knew about the method (66%) and had used it (12%), while Haiti had the lowest (13% and 0.4%, respectively).

Wide ranges in knowledge and use were also seen in the other three regions. In Africa, women’s awareness of emergency contraception ranged from 2% in Chad to 40% in Kenya and use ranged from less than 0.1% in Chad to 4% in Ghana. In Asia, awareness ranged from 3% of women in Timor-Leste to 29% in the Maldives, and use ranged from a low of 0.1% (Cambodia, Nepal and Timor-Leste) to 0.9% (Pakistan). In Eastern Europe and West Asia, Ukraine had the highest rates of awareness and use (49% and 6%, respectively), while Azerbaijan had the lowest (5% and 0.5%).

According to the authors, rates of emergency contraception use in the countries studied tended to be much lower than in countries where the method has been on the market longer, such as France and the United States (17% and 11%, respectively). The exceptionally high levels of knowledge and use found in Colombia, reflect, among other things, a commercial sector that makes nine brands of emergency contraceptive pills easily available.

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