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New From the GAO

August 21, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report
Source: Government Accountability Office

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Enhanced Detection Tools and Reporting Could Improve Efforts to Combat Recipient Fraud. GAO-14-641, August 21.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-641
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665382.pdf

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Gap Between Higher- and Lower-Wealth Households Widens, Census Bureau Reports

August 21, 2014 Comments off

Gap Between Higher- and Lower-Wealth Households Widens, Census Bureau Reports
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Median net worth increased between 2000 and 2011 for households in the top two quintiles of the net worth distribution (the wealthiest 40 percent), while declining for those in the lower three quintiles (the bottom 60 percent), according to new statistics released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. The result was a widening wealth gap between those at the top and those in the middle and bottom of the net worth distribution. Each quintile represents 20 percent, or one-fifth, of all households.

DOE — 2013 Distributed Wind Market Report (August 2014)

August 21, 2014 Comments off

2013 Distributed Wind Market Report
Source: U.S. Department of Energy

In 2013, 30.4 megawatts (MW) of new distributed wind capacity was added, representing nearly 2,700 units across 36 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). Since 2003, nearly 72,000 wind turbines have been deployed in distributed applications across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the USVI, totaling 842 MW in cumulative capacity. The 83% decline from 2012 to 2013 of distributed wind capacity additions is in line with the 92% decline from 2012 to 2013 in overall U.S. wind capacity deployed.

To compensate for weaker domestic sales, U.S. small wind turbine manufacturers shifted their focus to growing international markets. Exports from U.S.-based small wind turbine manufacturers increased 70% from 8 MW in 2012 to 13.6 MW in 2013. U.S. small wind turbines were exported to more than 50 countries in 2013, with top export markets identified as Italy, UK, Germany, Greece, China, Japan, Korea, Mexico, and Nigeria. In 2013, 76% of U.S. manufacturers’ new small wind sales capacity went to non-U.S. markets, a substantial increase from 57% in 2012.

The purpose of this report is to quantify and summarize the 2013 U.S. distributed wind market to help plan and guide future investments and decisions by industry, utilities, state and federal agencies, and other interested parties. Distributed wind is defined in terms of technology application based on a wind project’s location relative to end-use and power-distribution infrastructure, rather than on turbine or project size. While the distributed wind market includes wind turbines and projects of many sizes, this report breaks the market into two segments when appropriate: wind turbines up through 100 kW (in nominal capacity) referred to in this report as “small wind,” and wind turbines greater than 100 kW used in distributed applications.

Transferability of Postsecondary Credit Following Student Transfer or Coenrollment

August 21, 2014 Comments off

Transferability of Postsecondary Credit Following Student Transfer or Coenrollment
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

This statistical analysis report provides an in-depth examination of the transfer of credit among postsecondary education institutions using longitudinal data from the 2004/09 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:04/09).

Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2013

August 21, 2014 Comments off

Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2013 (PDF)
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

In 2013, the overall unemployment rate for the United States was 7.4 percent; however, the rate varied across race and ethnicity groups. The rates were highest for Blacks (13.1 percent) and for American Indians and Alaska Natives (12.8 percent) and lowest for Asians (5.2 percent) and for Whites (6.5 percent). The jobless rate was 9.1 percent for Hispanics, 10.2 percent for Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, and 11.0 percent for people of Two or More Races.

Labor market differences among the race and ethnicity groups are associated with many factors, not all of which are measurable. These factors include variations across the groups in educational attainment; the occupations and industries in which the groups work; the geographic areas of the country in which the groups are concentrated, including whether they tend to reside in urban or rural settings; and the degree of discrimination encountered in the workplace.

Estimating Bicycling and Walking for Planning and Project Development: A Guidebook

August 21, 2014 Comments off

Estimating Bicycling and Walking for Planning and Project Development: A Guidebook
Source: Transportation Research Board

TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 770: Estimating Bicycling and Walking for Planning and Project Development: A Guidebook contains methods and tools for practitioners to estimate bicycling and walking demand as part of regional-, corridor-, or project-level analyses.

The products of the research include a guidebook for practitioners on a range of methods for estimating bicycling and walking activity and a CD-ROM containing a GIS Walk Accessibility Model, spreadsheets, and the contractor’s final report, which documents the research and tools that operationalize the methods described in the guidebook.

Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition (Public Draft Released August 19, 2014)

August 21, 2014 Comments off

Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition
Source: U.S. Copyright Office

Maria A. Pallante (Register of Copyrights and Director) has released a public draft of the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition (the “Third Edition”). The first major revision in more than two decades, the draft presents more than 1200 pages of administrative practices and sets the stage for a number of long-term improvements in registration and recordation policy. It will remain in draft form for 120 days pending final review and implementation, taking effect on or around December 15, 2014.

Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) Minutes (August 20, 2014)

August 21, 2014 Comments off

Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) Minutes
Source: Federal Reserve Board

The Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Open Market Committee on Wednesday released the attached minutes of the Committee meeting held on July 29-30, 2014.

The minutes for each regularly scheduled meeting of the Committee ordinarily are made available three weeks after the day of the policy decision and subsequently are published in the Board’s Annual Report. The descriptions of economic and financial conditions contained in these minutes are based solely on the information that was available to the Committee at the time of the meeting.

Consumer Cash Usage: A Cross-Country Comparison with Payment Diary Survey Data

August 20, 2014 Comments off

Consumer Cash Usage: A Cross-Country Comparison with Payment Diary Survey Data
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

We measure consumers’ use of cash by harmonizing payment diary surveys from seven countries. The seven diary surveys were conducted in 2009 (Canada), 2010 (Australia), 2011 (Austria, France, Germany, and the Netherlands), and 2012 (the United States). Our paper finds cross-country differences — for example, the level of cash use differs across countries. Cash has not disappeared as a payment instrument, especially for low-value transactions. We also find that the use of cash is strongly correlated with transaction size, demographics, and point-of-sale characteristics such as merchant card acceptance and venue.

DHS OIG — Implementation Status of the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services Program

August 20, 2014 Comments off

Implementation Status of the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services Program (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General

The National Protection Programs Directorate (NPPD) is primarily responsible for fulfilling the DHS national, nonͲlaw enforcement cybersecurity missions. Within NPPD, the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications is responsible for the implementation of the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program. Our overall objective was to determine the effectiveness of the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program to disseminate cyber threat and technical information with the critical infrastructure sectors through commercial service providers.

NPPD has made progress in expanding the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program. For example, as of May 2014, 40 critical infrastructure entities participate in the program. Additionally, 22 companies have signed memorandums of agreement to join the program. Further, NPPD has established the procedures and guidance required to carry out key tasks and operational aspects of the program, including an inͲdepth security validation and accreditation process. NPPD has also addressed the privacy risk associated with the program by developing a Privacy Impact Assessment. Finally, NPPD has engaged sector-specific agencies and government furnished information providers to expand the program, and has developed program reporting and metric capabilities to monitor the program.

Although NPPD has made progress, the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program has been slow to expand because of limited outreach and resources. In addition, cyber threat information sharing relies on NPPD’s manual reviews and analysis, which has led to inconsistent cyber threat indicator quality.

USPS OIG — Geo-Fence Technology in Delivery Operations

August 20, 2014 Comments off

Geo-Fence Technology in Delivery Operations (PDF)
Source: U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General

Background
The U.S. Postal Service is developing and pilot testing the Delivery Management System to improve carrier efficiency during street delivery. This system combines Global Positioning System data and other data from various systems to allow supervisors to see “at a glance” the location of each carrier and whether they are ahead of or behind their scheduled delivery time. These scheduled delivery times are based on each routes’ base evaluation and the associated Managed Service Point scan times on each route.

This system will also include geo-fence technology to assist supervisors in monitoring delivery operations. Geo-fence technology is a system based on the concept of virtual geographic zones. Should a carrier deviate from his or her designated geographic zone during street delivery, an alert is sent to the supervisor in an email or text message. The geo-fence component of the pilot program was expected to begin in July 2014. There are seven planned test sites consisting of one delivery unit in each of the seven Postal Service areas of operation.

Our objective was to assess the Postal Service’s efforts to implement geo-fence technology in delivery operations.

What the OIG Found
The Postal Service’s planned use of geo-fence technology in the delivery environment is a proactive way to increase carrier visibility to aid street management.

However, we identified an inaccuracy in the Delivery Management System. Specifically, projected scan times are not adjusted for authorized route deviations when carriers are assigned deliveries on portions of additional routes. This occurs because the Postal Service has not updated the Delivery Management System for these authorized route deviations. Management planned to address this scan variance issue in April 2014; but, as of June 2014, had not finalized the adjustments.

Inaccurate scan variance data may cause supervisors to react to carrier delays that are actually justified based on their daily delivery assignment.

What the OIG Recommended
We recommended the vice president, Product Information, modify the Delivery Management System software to capture adjustments for time and location projections when carriers are assigned deliveries on more than one route prior to nationwide implementation of the Delivery Management System.

Economic Characteristics of Households in the United States: 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Quarters 2012

August 20, 2014 Comments off

Economic Characteristics of Households in the United States: 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Quarters 2012
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

This collection of seven tables for each quarter comes from the Survey of Income and Program Participation. The tables that examine the role of government-sponsored benefit programs and the labor market among the nation’s people and households within the economic climate of each quarter of 2012. Specifically, the tables present statistics on average monthly income, participation in government-sponsored social welfare or social insurance programs, and labor force activity during each period.

Ebola: 2014 Outbreak in West Africa – CRS In Focus (August 8, 2014)

August 20, 2014 Comments off

Ebola: 2014 Outbreak in West Africa – CRS In Focus (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

An ongoing outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), the largest, most persistent ever documented, and the first in West Africa, began in March 2014 in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia (the “affected countries”) and has spread to Nigeria. More people have contracted and died from EVD in this outbreak than in any single prior outbreak. In the current outbreak, the case fatality rate (the estimated percentage of infected persons dying) is about 55%; past outbreak rates have ranged between 41% and 88%.

Prior human EVD outbreaks had occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Sudan, and Uganda, primarily in rural and forested areas (Figure 2). The current outbreak is more geographically extensive and cases are emerging in both urban and rural settings. Health experts are accelerating efforts to contain the outbreak, as transmission in densely populated urban areas may be far more difficult to control and lead to higher death tolls. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), from March through August 6, Ebola was known or suspected to have infected 1,779 persons and caused 961 deaths; of these, 1,134 cases had been confirmed in laboratories.

The Role of Oil Price Shocks in Causing U.S. Recessions

August 20, 2014 Comments off

The Role of Oil Price Shocks in Causing U.S. Recessions
Source: Federal Reserve Board

Although oil price shocks have long been viewed as one of the leading candidates for explaining U.S. recessions, surprisingly little is known about the extent to which oil price shocks explain recessions. We provide a formal analysis of this question with special attention to the possible role of net oil price increases in amplifying the transmission of oil price shocks. We quantify the conditional recessionary effect of oil price shocks in the net oil price increase model for all episodes of net oil price increases since the mid-1970s. Compared to the linear model, the cumulative effect of oil price shocks over the course of the next two years is much larger in the net oil price increase model. For example, oil price shocks explain a 3 percent cumulative reduction in U.S. real GDP in the late 1970s and early 1980s and a 5 percent cumulative reduction during the financial crisis. An obvious concern is that some of these estimates are an artifact of net oil price increases being correlated with other variables that explain recessions. We show that the explanatory power of oil price shocks largely persists even after augmenting the nonlinear model with a measure of credit supply conditions, of the monetary policy stance and of consumer confidence. There is evidence, however, that the conditional fit of the net oil price increase model is worse on average than the fit of the corresponding linear model, suggesting much smaller cumulative effects of oil price shocks for these episodes of at most 1 percent.

Prevalence of Coronary Heart Disease or Stroke Among Workers Aged <55 Years — United States, 2008–2012

August 20, 2014 Comments off

Prevalence of Coronary Heart Disease or Stroke Among Workers Aged <55 Years — United States, 2008–2012
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

Cardiovascular disease accounts for one in three deaths in the United States each year, and coronary heart disease and stroke account for most of those deaths (1). To try to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched the Million Hearts initiative, promoting proven and effective interventions in communities and clinical settings. In workplace settings, cardiovascular disease can be addressed through a Total Worker Health program, which integrates occupational safety and health protection with health promotion. To identify workers likely to benefit from such a program, CDC analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) for the period 2008–2012 to estimate the prevalence of a history of coronary heart disease or stroke (CHD/stroke) among adults aged <55 years by selected characteristics, employment status, occupation category, and industry of employment. The results of that analysis showed that 1.9% of employed adults aged <55 years reported a history of CHD/stroke, compared with 2.5% of unemployed adults looking for work, and 6.3% of adults not in the labor force (e.g., unemployed adults who stopped looking for work, homemakers, students, retired persons, and disabled persons). Workers employed in service and blue collar occupations were more likely than those in white collar occupations to report a history of CHD/stroke. Two industry groups also had significantly higher adjusted prevalence ratios (aPRs) for CHD/stroke: Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services* and Accommodation and Food Service.† Workers in these occupation and industry groups might especially benefit from a Total Worker Health approach to reducing the risk for CHD/stroke.

Parents Projected to Spend $245,340 to Raise a Child Born in 2013, According to USDA Report

August 20, 2014 Comments off

Parents Projected to Spend $245,340 to Raise a Child Born in 2013, According to USDA Report (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its annual report, Expenditures on Children and Families, also known as the Cost of Raising a Child. The report shows that a middle – income family with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend about $245,340 ($304,480 adjusted for projected inflation * ) for food, housing, childcare and education, and other child – rearing expenses up to age 18. Costs associated with pregnancy or expenses occurred after age 18, such as higher education, are not included.

While t his represents an overall 1.8 p ercent increase from 2012, the percent ages spent on each expenditure category remain the same . As in the past, the costs by location are lower in the urban South ($230,610) and rural ($193,590) regions of the country. Families in t he urban Northeast incurred the highest costs to raise a child ($282,480).

USPS OIG — Competition Advocate – Audit Report

August 19, 2014 Comments off

Competition Advocate – Audit Report (PDF)
Source: U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General

Background
The U.S. Postal Service established the competition advocate (advocate) on January 28, 2011. The advocate promotes competition by helping contracting officials develop effective ways to obtain best value in contracting and issuing an annual report on noncompetitive purchase activity. The advocate must review noncompetitive requests for contractual actions (steps to create or modify a contract) greater than $1 million. The advocate does not approve or deny noncompetitive purchases but offers feedback to contracting officers (CO) on how to increase competition, including how to transition work to internal resources and research potential suppliers. COs are supposed to consider this feedback when evaluating whether the Postal Service should compete a contract. The advocate does not decide appeals by contractors.

What the OIG Found
We could not determine the advocate’s impact in promoting contract competition because the Postal Service does not have metrics to measure advocate performance. For example, for 35 of the 74 contractual actions, the advocate provided feedback on ways to increase competition, but there are no metrics to determine the impact of this feedback. Without such metrics, the Postal Service cannot accurately gauge the advocate’s success in promoting competition. In addition, the advocate did not review requests for 12 of the 74 contractual actions, totaling about $40 million. This occurred because there is no process to ensure that the advocate reviews all applicable requests. These actions were awarded without an opportunity for the advocate to suggest ways to promote competition.

Further, COs did not document their consideration of the advocate’s comments on requests for two contractual actions, totaling about $2.8 million. This occurred because Postal Service policy does not explicitly state how the CO should document responses to the advocate’s comments.

What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management develop metrics to gauge the impact of the advocate, reiterate the requirement to obtain the advocate’s review of applicable requests, and establish a process to verify that the advocate reviewed all applicable noncompetitive actions. We also recommended management clarify how COs should address the advocate’s feedback.

HHS OIG — Nursing Facilities’ Compliance with Federal Regulations for Reporting Allegations of Abuse or Neglect

August 19, 2014 Comments off

Nursing Facilities’ Compliance with Federal Regulations for Reporting Allegations of Abuse or Neglect
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General

WHY WE DID THIS STUDY
To protect the well-being of residents, nursing facilities must comply with Federal regulations to develop and implement written policies related to reporting allegations of abuse, neglect, mistreatment, injuries of unknown source, and misappropriation of resident property (allegations of abuse or neglect). Further, allegations of abuse or neglect must be reported to the facility administrator or designee and the State survey agency within 24 hours. Results of investigations of these allegations must be reported to the same authorities within 5 working days. Nursing facilities must also notify owners, operators, employees, managers, agents, or contractors of nursing facilities (covered individuals) annually of their obligation to report reasonable suspicions of crimes.

HOW WE DID THIS STUDY
This study included a: (1) review of sampled nursing facilities’ policies related to reporting allegations of abuse or neglect, (2) review of sampled nursing facilities’ policies related to reasonable suspicions of crimes, and (3) survey of administrators from those sampled facilities. It also included an examination of a random sample of allegations of abuse or neglect identified from the sampled nursing facilities, and a review of documentation related to those sampled allegations of abuse or neglect.

WHAT WE FOUND
It is both required and expected that nursing facilities will report any and all allegations of abuse or neglect to ensure resident safety. We found that 85 percent of nursing facilities reported at least one allegation of abuse or neglect to OIG in 2012. Additionally, 76 percent of nursing facilities maintained policies that address Federal regulations for reporting both allegations of abuse or neglect and investigation results. Further, 61 percent of nursing facilities had documentation supporting the facilities’ compliance with both Federal regulations under Section 1150B of the Social Security Act. Lastly, 53 percent of allegations of abuse or neglect and the subsequent investigation results were reported, as Federally required.

WHAT WE RECOMMEND
We recommend that CMS ensure that nursing facilities: (1) maintain policies related to reporting allegations of abuse or neglect; (2) notify covered individuals of their obligation to report reasonable suspicions of crimes; and (3) report allegations of abuse or neglect and investigation results in a timely manner and to the appropriate individuals, as required. CMS concurred with all three of our recommendations.

Reasons for Emergency Room Use Among U.S. Children: National Health Interview Survey, 2012

August 19, 2014 Comments off

Reasons for Emergency Room Use Among U.S. Children: National Health Interview Survey, 2012
Source: National Center for Health Statistics

Key findings
Data from the National Health Interview Survey, 2012

  • In 2012, children with Medicaid coverage were more likely than uninsured children and those with private coverage to have visited the emergency room (ER) at least once in the past year.
  • About 75% of children’s most recent visits to an ER in the past 12 months took place at night or on a weekend, regardless of health insurance coverage status.
  • The seriousness of the medical problem was less likely to be the reason that children with Medicaid visited the ER at their most recent visit compared with children with private insurance.
  • Among children whose most recent visit to the ER was for reasons other than the seriousness of the medical problem, the majority visited the ER because the doctor’s office was not open.

Projections of Education Statistics to 2022 (Forty-first Edition)

August 19, 2014 Comments off

Projections of Education Statistics to 2022 (PDF)
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

This edition of Projections of Education Statistics provides projections for key education statistics, including enrollment, graduates, teachers, and expenditures in elementary and secondary public and private schools, as well as enrollment and degrees conferred at postsecondary degree-granting institutions. Included are national data on enrollment and graduates for the past 15 years and projections to the year 2022. Also included are state-level data on enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools and public high schools from 2004, with projections to 2022. This report is organized by the level of schooling with sections 1, 2, 3, and 4 covering aspects of elementary and secondary education and sections 5 and 6 covering aspects of postsecondary education.

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