Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises
Source: National Research Council
Climate is changing, forced out of the range of the past million years by levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases not seen in the Earth’s atmosphere for a very, very long time. Lacking action by the world’s nations, it is clear that the planet will be warmer, sea level will rise, and patterns of rainfall will change. But the future is also partly uncertain — there is considerable uncertainty about how we will arrive at that different climate. Will the changes be gradual, allowing natural systems and societal infrastructure to adjust in a timely fashion? Or will some of the changes be more abrupt, crossing some threshold or “tipping point” to change so fast that the time between when a problem is recognized and when action is required shrinks to the point where orderly adaptation is not possible?
Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change is an updated look at the issue of abrupt climate change and its potential impacts. This study differs from previous treatments of abrupt changes by focusing on abrupt climate changes and also abrupt climate impacts that have the potential to severely affect the physical climate system, natural systems, or human systems, often affecting multiple interconnected areas of concern. The primary timescale of concern is years to decades. A key characteristic of these changes is that they can come faster than expected, planned, or budgeted for, forcing more reactive, rather than proactive, modes of behavior.
Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change summarizes the state of our knowledge about potential abrupt changes and abrupt climate impacts and categorizes changes that are already occurring, have a high probability of occurrence, or are unlikely to occur. Because of the substantial risks to society and nature posed by abrupt changes, this report recommends the development of an Abrupt Change Early Warning System that would allow for the prediction and possible mitigation of such changes before their societal impacts are severe. Identifying key vulnerabilities can help guide efforts to increase resiliency and avoid large damages from abrupt change in the climate system, or in abrupt impacts of gradual changes in the climate system, and facilitate more informed decisions on the proper balance between mitigation and adaptation. Although there is still much to learn about abrupt climate change and abrupt climate impacts, to willfully ignore the threat of abrupt change could lead to more costs, loss of life, suffering, and environmental degradation. Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change makes the case that the time is here to be serious about the threat of tipping points so as to better anticipate and prepare ourselves for the inevitable surprises.
New GAO Reports and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Modernizing the Nuclear Security Enterprise: NNSA’s Budget Estimates Do Not Fully Align with Plans. GAO-14-45, December 11.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659612.pdf
2. Indian Health Service: Opportunities May Exist to Improve the Contract Health Services Program. GAO-14-57, December 11.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659603.pdf
3. Dodd-Frank Regulations: Agencies Conducted Regulatory Analyses and Coordinated but Could Benefit from Additional Guidance on Major Rules. GAO-14-67, December 11.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659587.pdf
4. Defense Management: Actions Needed to Ensure National Guard and Reserve Headquarters are Sized to Be Efficient. GAO-14-71, November 12.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/658979.pdf
5. Financial Audit: Office of Financial Stability (Troubled Asset Relief Program) Fiscal Years 2013 and 2012 Financial Statements. GAO-14-172R, December 11.
6. Small Business Lending Fund: Treasury Should Ensure Evaluation Includes Methods to Isolate Program Impact. GAO-14-135, December 11.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659594.pdf
1. Reverse Auctions: Guidance is Needed to Maximize Competition and Achieve Cost Savings, by Michele Mackin, director, acquisition and sourcing management, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and the Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce, House Committee on Small Business. GAO-14-200T, December 11.
Options for Reducing the Deficit: Revenues
Source: Congressional Budget Office
CBO recently published Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2014 to 2023. That report is now available in a fully digital version, so users can search the options according to major budget category, budget function, and major program category. The report included 36 options for raising revenues (apart from options primarily involving health); they are listed at the bottom of this post with estimates of their budgetary savings.
Not All Recommended Fraud Safeguards Have Been Implemented in Hospital EHR Technology
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General
WHY WE DID THIS STUDY
Electronic health records (EHRs) replace traditional paper medical records with computerized recordkeeping to document and store patient health information. Experts in health information technology caution that EHR technology can make it easier to commit fraud. ONC, which coordinates the adoption, implementation, and exchange of EHRs, contracted with RTI International (RTI) to develop recommendations to enhance data protection; increase data validity, accuracy, and integrity; and strengthen fraud protection in EHR technology. This study determined how hospitals that received EHR Medicare incentive payments, administered by CMS, had implemented recommended fraud safeguards for EHR technology.
HOW WE DID THIS STUDY
We administered an online questionnaire to the 864 hospitals that received Medicare incentive payments as of March 2012. The questionnaire focused on the presence of features and capabilities in Certified EHR Technology based on the RTI-recommended safeguards regarding audit functions, EHR user authorization and access, and EHR data transfer. We also conducted onsite structured interviews with hospital staff and observed a demonstration of the hospitals’ Certified EHR Technology in eight hospitals. Finally, we conducted structured surveys with four EHR vendors and asked them the extent to which they had incorporated recommended fraud safeguards into their products.
WHAT WE FOUND
Nearly all hospitals with EHR technology had RTI-recommended audit functions in place, but they may not be using them to their full extent. In addition, all hospitals employed a variety of RTI-recommended user authorization and access controls. Nearly all hospitals were using RTI-recommended data transfer safeguards. Almost half of hospitals had begun implementing RTI-recommended tools to include patient involvement in anti-fraud efforts. Finally, only about one quarter of hospitals had policies regarding the use of the copy-paste feature in EHR technology, which, if used improperly, could pose a fraud vulnerability.
WHAT WE RECOMMEND
We recommend that audit logs be operational whenever EHR technology is available for updates or viewing. We also recommend that ONC and CMS strengthen their collaborative efforts to develop a comprehensive plan to address fraud vulnerabilities in EHRs. Finally, we recommend that CMS develop guidance on the use of the copy-paste feature in EHR technology. CMS and ONC concurred with all of our recommendations.
FTC Issues FY 2013 National Do Not Call Registry Data Book
Source: Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission today issued the National Do Not Call Registry Data Book for Fiscal Year 2013. The FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry lets consumers choose not to receive telemarketing calls. In its fifth year of publication, the Data Book contains a wealth of information about the Registry for FY 2013 (from October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013), including:
- The number of active registrations and consumer complaints since the Registry began in 2003;
- FY 2013 complaint figures by month and type;
- FY 2013 registration and complaint figures for all 50 states and the District of Columbia by population;
- Rankings of the number of Do Not Call registrations by state population;
- The number of entities accessing the Registry by fiscal year; and
- An appendix on registration and complaint figures by state and area code.
According to the Data Book, at the end of FY 2013, the Do Not Call Registry contained 223,429,112 actively registered phone numbers, up from 217,568,284 at the end of FY 2012. In addition, the number of consumer complaints about unwanted telemarketing calls received decreased from 3,840,569 during FY 2012 to 3,748,655 during FY 2013.
U.S. Army Contracting Command Did Not Obtain Fair and Reasonable Prices for Communications Equipment (Project No. D2013-D000AT-0083.000)
U.S. Army Contracting Command Did Not Obtain Fair and Reasonable Prices for Communications Equipment (Project No. D2013-D000AT-0083.000)
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General
We determined whether the U.S. Army Contracting Command (ACC) obtained fair and reasonable prices for communications equipment procured from Datron World Communications, Inc. (Datron). Specifically, we reviewed 37 contract actions, valued at approximately $328 million for 127 items, on contract W15P7T-09-D-D212 and identified 75 items with associated commercial sales, valued at approximately $219 million.
Contracting officers did not obtain fair and reasonable prices for communications equipment procured from Datron to support the Afghan National Security Forces. Specifically, contracting officers did not conduct sufficient pre- or post-award price analysis. Additionally, contracting officers did not obtain the most favored customer price on 40 of 75 commercial sales items. This occurred because the contracting officers did not:
- verify that proposed prices were fair and reasonable in accordance with the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement before awarding the contract;
- adequately review price changes as authorized by the contract; or
- enforce the most favored customer clause and obtain sales data in accordance with contract requirements.
As a result, ACC potentially overpaid up to $3.3 million for communications equipment purchased for the Afghan National Security Forces.
The Director of Contracting, ACC–Aberdeen Proving Ground should:
- establish quality control procedures to verify that contracting officers perform analysis to verify prices are fair and reasonable and obtain nongovernment sales information annually from the contractor to validate ACC received the lowest price,
- obtain reseller agreements to verify they were valid and initiate action to recover any overpayment, and
- review the actions of the contracting officers and, as appropriate, initiate corrective measures and actions to hold personnel accountable.
Management Comments and Our Response
Comments from the Director of Contracting, ACC-Aberdeen Proving Ground, addressed Recommendations 1, 2, 3, and 5 but did not address the specifics of Recommendation 4. Due to actions taken since draft report issuance, we revised Recommendation 4. Therefore, we request additional comments be provided on the revised recommendation.
Intimate Partner Violence: Attributes Of Victimization, 1993–2011
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics
Presents data on trends in nonfatal intimate partner violence among U.S. households from 1993 to 2011. Intimate partner violence includes rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault by a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend. This report focuses on attributes of the victimization such as the type of crime, type of attack, whether the victim was threatened before the attack, use of a weapon by the offender, victim injury, and medical treatment received for injuries. The report also describes ways these attributes of the victimization may be used to measure seriousness or severity of the incident. Data are from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which collects information on nonfatal crimes reported and not reported to the police. The NCVS is a self-report survey administered every six months to persons age 12 or older from a nationally representative sample of U.S. households.
- From 1994 to 2011, the rate of serious intimate partner violence declined 72% for females and 64% for males.
- Nonfatal serious violence comprised more than a third of intimate partner violence against females and males during the most recent 10-year period (2002–11).
- An estimated two-thirds of female and male intimate partner victimizations involved a physical attack in 2002–11; the remaining third involved an attempted attack or verbal threat of harm.
- In 2002–11, 8% of female intimate partner victimizations involved some form of sexual violence during the incident.
- About 4% of females and 8% of males who were victimized by an intimate partner were shot at, stabbed, or hit with a weapon in 2002–11.
FBI Releases 2012 Hate Crime Statistics
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation
According to statistics released today by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 5,796 criminal incidents involving 6,718 offenses were reported in 2012 as being motivated by a bias toward a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, or physical or mental disability. The statistics, published by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program in Hate Crime Statistics, 2012, provide data about the offenses, victims, offenders, and locations of the bias-motivated incidents reported by law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. Due to the unique nature of hate crime, however, the UCR Program does not estimate offenses for the jurisdictions of agencies that do not submit reports.
FBI Releases Annual Crime Statistics from the National Incident-Based Reporting System
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation
Today, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released its second compilation of annual data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). The report, NIBRS 2012, presents core tables about incident and offense data submitted by a third of the nation’s law enforcement agencies that participate in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, as well as a new series of tables with agency-level data. The report also furnishes a series of tables about sex offenses and another new series of tables with data about arrestees.
Although NIBRS data are not yet nationally representative and the UCR Program does not estimate offenses for agencies that did not submit NIBRS data, NIBRS 2012 shows the rich, diverse scope of incident-based reporting overall. The 32 core tables present data for 22 offense categories, victims, offenders, relationships, locations, time of day, weapon use, drug and alcohol involvement, and gang involvement. They also distinguish attempted versus completed offenses, as well as the number of clearances by incidents. The agency-level tables (presented by state) show the number of offenses reported by each agency that fully participated in the UCR Program via the NIBRS. The 24 tables about sex offenses provide details—e.g., victim, offender, and victim-to-offender relationship data—not collected elsewhere in the UCR Program for sex offenses.
New to the annual compilation, the arrestees table series covers the demographics of arrestees—e.g., age, sex, and race—as well as noteworthy facts such as the arrestees’ use of weapons, the disposition of juvenile arrestees, and the type of arrest (on-view, taken into custody, or summoned/cited) by arrest offense category.
Personal Vehicles Entered the United States Nearly 96 Million Times in 2012
Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics
Personal vehicles entered the United States nearly 96 million times in 2012, 33.1 million from Canada, and 62.7 million from Mexico, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS). Border crossings also included 10.7 million trucks, 320 thousand buses, and 37 thousand trains in 2012 (Table 1).
BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, released the data as part of the ninth annual update of the North American Transportation Statistics (NATS) Online Database. A product of the North American Transportation Statistics Interchange, the NATS Online Database contains comparable transportation-related data available from the United States, Canada, and Mexico in a one-stop online resource.
The database covers the following subject areas: demographics, transportation, the economy, transportation safety, transportation’s impact on energy and the environment, domestic and international freight activity, domestic and international passenger travel, transportation infrastructure, and vehicles. The NATS Online Database is co-sponsored by BTS, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the federal-level transportation and statistical agencies of Canada and Mexico.
Sustaining the Metropolis: Light Rail Transit and Streetcars for Super Cities
Source: Transportation Research Board
TRB’s Transportation Research Circular E-C177: Sustaining the Metropolis: Light Rail Transit and Streetcars for Super Cities summarizes the presentations made at a November 2012 conference that focused on introducing the concept of light rail transit (LRT) in North America.
TIGTA: IRS Must Do More To Reduce Fraud Involving Employer Identification Numbers
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has developed processes to authenticate individuals applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), it needs to do more to prevent fraud committed using stolen EINs, according to a new report publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
The IRS issues EINs to identify taxpayers’ business accounts. Individuals attempting to commit tax refund fraud steal or falsely obtain an EIN to file tax returns that report false income and withholding. TIGTA’s report found that such fraud could top $11.4 billion in potentially fraudulent refunds over a five-year period.
The overall objective of TIGTA’s review was to assess the IRS’s processes for issuing EINs and identifying stolen or falsely obtained EINs used to report income and withholding.
TIGTA found that the IRS has developed processes to both authenticate individuals applying for an EIN and ensure that there is a valid business reason to obtain an EIN. However, TIGTA identified 767,071 Tax Year 2011 electronically filed individual tax returns with refunds based on falsely reported income and withholding. Of the 285,670 EINs used on these tax returns:
+ 277,624 were stolen EINs used to report false income and withholding on 752,656 tax returns with potentially fraudulent refunds issued totaling more than $2.2 billion.
+ 8,046 were falsely obtained EINs used to report false income and withholding on 14,415 tax returns with potentially fraudulent refunds issued totaling more than $50 million.
The IRS has developed a number of processes to prevent fraudulent refunds claimed using stolen and falsely obtained EINs. However, the IRS does not have the third-party Form W-2 information needed to make significant improvements in its detection efforts. Nonetheless, the IRS does maintain data that could increase its ability to detect tax returns with false income and withholding associated with stolen or falsely obtained EINs.
Rubella and Congenital Rubella Syndrome Control and Elimination — Global Progress, 2000–2012
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)
Rubella virus usually causes a mild fever and rash in children and adults.* However, infection during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or infants with congenital malformations, known as congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) updated guidance on the preferred strategy for introduction of rubella-containing vaccine (RCV) into national routine immunization schedules with an initial wide-age-range vaccination campaign that includes children aged 9 months–15 years (1). WHO also urged all member states to take the opportunity offered by accelerated measles control and elimination activities as a platform to introduce RCVs (1). The Global Measles and Rubella Strategic Plan (2012–2020) published by the Measles Rubella Initiative partners in 2012 and the Global Vaccine Action Plan endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 2012 include milestones to eliminate rubella and CRS in two WHO regions by 2015, and eliminate rubella in five WHO regions by 2020. This report summarizes the global progress of rubella and CRS control and elimination during 2000–2012. As of December 2012, a total of 132 (68%) WHO member states had introduced RCV, a 33% increase from 99 member states in 2000. A total of 94,030 rubella cases were reported to WHO in 2012 from 174 member states, an 86% decrease from the 670,894 cases reported in 2000 from 102 member states. The WHO Region of the Americas (AMR) and European Region (EUR) have established rubella elimination goals of 2010 and 2015, respectively. AMR has started to document the elimination of measles, rubella, and CRS; in EUR, rubella incidence has decreased significantly, although outbreaks continue to occur.
CDC releases new findings and prevention tools to improve food safety in restaurants
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Increased awareness and implementation of proper food safety in restaurants and delis may help prevent many of the foodborne illness outbreaks reported each year in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers identified gaps in the education of restaurant workers as well as public health surveillance, two critical tools necessary in preventing a very common and costly public health problem.
The research identifies food preparation and handling practices, worker health policies, and hand-washing practices among the underlying environmental factors that often are not reported during foodborne outbreaks, even though more than half of all the foodborne outbreaks that are reported each year are associated with restaurants or delis. Forty-eight million people become ill and 3,000 die in the United States.
New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office
2. Rail Safety: Improved Human Capital Planning Could Address Emerging Safety Oversight Challenges. GAO-14-85, December 9.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659537.pdf
3. Reverse Auctions: Guidance Is Needed to Maximize Competition and Achieve Cost Savings. GAO-14-108, December 9.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659531.pdf
4. Fiscal Year 2013 Agreed-Upon Procedures: Excise Tax Distributions to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund and the Highway Trust Fund. GAO-14-162R, December 9.
Definitions of Domestic Violence
Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway
This factsheet provides both civil and criminal definitions of domestic violence. The definition often varies depending on the context in which the term is used. A clinical or behavioral definition is “a pattern of assaultive and/or coercive behaviors, including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion, that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners.” Legal definitions across the States generally describe specific conduct or acts that are subject to civil and criminal actions, and the specific language used may vary depending on whether the definition is found in the civil or criminal sections of the State’s code. Summaries of laws for all States and U.S. territories are included.
Emerging Energy Industries and Rural Growth
Source: USDA Economic Research Service
This report builds on findings from recent studies led by U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service researchers investigating the economic effects of the emerging energy industries—unconventional natural gas extraction, wind power development, and corn-based ethanol production—in rural areas of the United States in the last decade.
Estimating the Incidence of Rape and Sexual Assault
Source: National Research Council
The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) measures the rates at which Americans are victims of crimes, including rape and sexual assault, but there is concern that rape and sexual assault are undercounted on this survey. BJS asked the National Research Council to investigate this issue and recommend best practices for measuring rape and sexual assault on their household surveys. Estimating the Incidence of Rape and Sexual Assault concludes that it is likely that the NCVS is undercounting rape and sexual assault. The most accurate counts of rape and sexual assault cannot be achieved without measuring them separately from other victimizations, the report says. It recommends that BJS develop a separate survey for measuring rape and sexual assault. The new survey should more precisely define ambiguous words such as “rape,” give more privacy to respondents, and take other steps that would improve the accuracy of responses. Estimating the Incidence of Rape and Sexual Assault takes a fresh look at the problem of measuring incidents of rape and sexual assault from the criminal justice perspective. This report examines issues such as the legal definitions in use by the states for these crimes, best methods for representing the definitions in survey instruments so that their meaning is clear to respondents, and best methods for obtaining as complete reporting as possible of these crimes in surveys, including methods whereby respondents may report anonymously.
Rape and sexual assault are among the most injurious crimes a person can inflict on another. The effects are devastating, extending beyond the initial victimization to consequences such as unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, sleep and eating disorders, and other emotional and physical problems. Understanding the frequency and context under which rape and sexual assault are committed is vital in directing resources for law enforcement and support for victims. These data can influence public health and mental health policies and help identify interventions that will reduce the risk of future attacks. Sadly, accurate information about the extent of sexual assault and rape is difficult to obtain because most of these crimes go unreported to police. Estimating the Incidence of Rape and Sexual Assault focuses on methodology and vehicles used to measure rape and sexual assaults, reviews potential sources of error within the NCVS survey, and assesses the training and monitoring of interviewers in an effort to improve reporting of these crimes.
Automated Victim Notification: Landscape of the United States (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice
This issue brief is the result of a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) National Institute of Justice (NIJ ) – funded evaluation of the Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification (SAVIN) program administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). Funded in fall 2009, the purpose of this evaluation was to explore the implementation and operation of automated victim notification ( AVN ) systems in supporting victims of crime.
This issue brief provides an overview of the characteristics of AVN systems across the United States.