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The Effects of Phytosanitary Regulations on U.S. Imports of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

July 9, 2014 Comments off

The Effects of Phytosanitary Regulations on U.S. Imports of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

Trade agreements have reduced tariff rates and worked to restrain the arbitrary use of nontariff measures, including sanitary and phytosanitary measures, since the 1980s. U.S. imports of fruits and vegetables have risen steadily during this period as more country-commodity combinations have been approved for importation to the United States.

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How frequently do private businesses pay workers?

July 9, 2014 Comments off

How frequently do private businesses pay workers?
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payday is a highly anticipated day for any worker no matter when it takes place. How frequently workers get paid and how many paydays there are per year could affect their decisions as consumers, such as if and when they decide to purchase particular goods and services. If so, then the length of the workers’ pay period may have an impact on the velocity of money—that is, the number of times $1 is spent to purchase goods and services. Also, how frequently a worker is paid could play into his or her borrowing and saving choices.

From the employer perspective, the length of a business’ pay period is associated with the business’ costs and cash flows. Processing payroll, mailing checks, and paying the banking fees charged for a direct deposit are all costs that may incline businesses to pay their workers less frequently. However, most states set a minimum limit on how frequently employees are paid.

This Beyond the Numbers article analyzes pay frequencies, or lengths of pay periods, that private businesses use in the United States, as collected by the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey. Data of this nature are not published in any standard Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, the Bureau) source, but are available upon request. The article also explains why the CES program collects such data.

Mind and Body Practices for Fibromyalgia

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Mind and Body Practices for Fibromyalgia
Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Fibromyalgia syndrome is a common and chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain, diffuse tenderness, fatigue, and a number of other symptoms that can interfere with a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. It is estimated that fibromyalgia affects 5 million American adults. Most people with fibromyalgia—between 80 and 90 percent—are women. However, men and children also can have the disorder, which is often associated with other syndromes. The causes of fibromyalgia are unknown, but there are probably a number of factors involved. Recently, researchers have focused on abnormalities in processing of pain by the central nervous system.

Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose and treat. Current diagnostic criteria are available from the American College of Rheumatology. Treatment often involves an individualized approach that may include both pharmacologic therapies (prescription drugs, analgesics, and NSAIDs) and nonpharmacologic interventions such as exercise, muscle strength training, cognitive behavioral therapy, movement/body awareness practices, massage, acupuncture, and balneotherapy.

New From the GAO

July 8, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Littoral Combat Ship: Deployment of USS Freedom Revealed Risks in Implementing Operational Concepts and Uncertain Costs. GAO-14-447, July 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-447
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664669.pdf

2. Bulk Fuel Pricing: DOD Needs to Reevaluate Its Approach to Better Manage the Effect of Market Fluctuations. GAO-14-595, July 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-595
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664651.pdf

3. Electronic Health Records: Fiscal Year 2013 Expenditure Plan Lacks Key Information Needed to Inform Future Funding Decisions. GAO-14-609, July 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-609
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664646.pdf

4. Software Licenses: DOD’s Plan to Collect Inventory Data Meets Statutory Requirements. GAO-14-625, July 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-625
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664664.pdf

5. Afghanistan: Kabul Embassy Construction Costs Have Increased and Schedules Have Been Extended. GAO-14-661R, July 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-661R

In Pursuit of Health Equity: Comparing U.S. and EU Approaches to Eliminating Disparities

July 8, 2014 Comments off

In Pursuit of Health Equity: Comparing U.S. and EU Approaches to Eliminating Disparities
Source: Urban institute

Researchers compare and contrast the U.S. public policy approach to tackling the problem of health disparities with the European approach in this paper. They begin by providing an overview of the ways in which the issue of health disparities has been framed in American and European policy discourse. They next compare how health disparities have been addressed in policy statements produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and by the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union. In so doing, they seek to illuminate implicit choices that stand to have a bearing on the outcomes of these initiatives.

Drowsy Driving and Risk Behaviors — 10 States and Puerto Rico, 2011–2012

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Drowsy Driving and Risk Behaviors — 10 States and Puerto Rico, 2011–2012
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

Findings in published reports have suggested that drowsy driving is a factor each year in as many as 7,500 fatal motor vehicle crashes (approximately 25%) in the United States (1,2). CDC previously reported that, in 2009–2010, 4.2% of adult respondents in 19 states and the District of Columbia reported having fallen asleep while driving at least once during the previous 30 days (3). Adults who reported usually sleeping ≤6 hours per day, snoring, or unintentionally falling asleep during the day were more likely to report falling asleep while driving compared with adults who did not report these sleep patterns (3). However, limited information has been published on the association between drowsy driving and other risk behaviors that might contribute to crash injuries or fatalities. Therefore, CDC analyzed responses to survey questions regarding drowsy driving among 92,102 respondents in 10 states and Puerto Rico to the 2011–2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) surveys. The results showed that 4.0% reported falling asleep while driving during the previous 30 days. In addition to known risk factors, drowsy driving was more prevalent among binge drinkers than non-binge drinkers or abstainers and also more prevalent among drivers who sometimes, seldom, or never wear seatbelts while driving or riding in a car, compared with those who always or almost always wear seatbelts. Drowsy driving did not vary significantly by self-reported smoking status. Interventions designed to reduce binge drinking and alcohol-impaired driving, to increase enforcement of seatbelt use, and to encourage adequate sleep and seeking treatment for sleep disorders might contribute to reductions in drowsy driving crashes and related injuries.

CRS — Domestic Federal Law Enforcement Coordination: Through the Lens of the Southwest Border

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Domestic Federal Law Enforcement Coordination: Through the Lens of the Southwest Border (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Federally led law enforcement task forces and intelligence information sharing centers are ubiquitous in domestic policing. They are launched at the local, state, and national levels and respond to a variety of challenges such as violent crime, criminal gangs, terrorism, white-collar crime, public corruption, even intelligence sharing. This report focuses on those task forces and information sharing efforts that respond to federal counterdrug and counterterrorism priorities in the Southwest border region. More generally, the report also offers context for examining law enforcement coordination. It delineates how this coordination is vital to 21st century federal policing and traces some of the roots of recent cooperative police endeavors.

CRS — The U.S. Secret Service: History and Missions (updated)

July 8, 2014 Comments off

The U.S. Secret Service: History and Missions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The U.S. Secret Service has two missions—criminal investigations and protection. Criminal investigation activities have expanded since the inception of the Service from a small anticounterfeiting operation at the end of the Civil War, to now encompassing financial crimes, identity theft, counterfeiting, computer fraud, and computer-based attacks on the nation’s financial, banking, and telecommunications infrastructure, among other areas. Protection activities, which have expanded and evolved since the 1890s, include ensuring the safety and security of the President, Vice President, their families, and other identified individuals and locations.

Wireless Substitution: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, July–December 2013

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Wireless Substitution: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, July–December 2013 (PDF)
Source: National Center for Health Statistics

Preliminary results from the July–December 2013 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicate that the number of American homes with only wireless telephones continues to grow. Two in every five American homes (41.0%) had only wireless telephones (also known as cellular telephones, cell phones, or mobile phones) during the second half of 2013—an increase of 1.6 percentage points since the first half of 2013 and 2.8 percentage points since the second half of 2012. However, these increases are smaller than those observed in previous years. This report presents the most up-to-date estimates available from the federal government concerning the size and characteristics of these populations.

CRS — Aliens’ Right to Counsel in Removal Proceedings: In Brief

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Aliens’ Right to Counsel in Removal Proceedings: In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The scope of aliens’ right to counsel in removal proceedings is a topic of recurring congressional and public interest. This topic is complicated, in part, because the term right to counsel can refer to either (1) the right to counsel of one’s own choice at one’s own expense, or (2) the right of indigent persons to counsel at the government’s expense. A right to counsel can also arise from multiple sources, including the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), other federal statutes, and federal regulations. Further, in some cases, courts have declined to recognize a “categorical” right to counsel, applicable to all aliens in removal proceedings, but have found that individual aliens could potentially have a right to counsel on a case-by-case basis because of their specific circumstances.

Young First-Time Mothers Less Likely to be Married, Census Bureau Reports

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Young First-Time Mothers Less Likely to be Married, Census Bureau Reports
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The percentage of young first-time mothers who are married is dropping, according to Fertility of Women in the United States: 2012, a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In the early 1990s, at least half of all first births to mothers younger than age 23 occurred in marriage. Since 2005, more young mothers were cohabiting (38 percent) than were married (24 percent) at the time of their first birth. However, the majority of all women continue to have their first child within marriage.

Fertility of Women in the United States: 2012 uses data from the 2012 American Community Survey and the 2012 Current Population Survey. The report examines women’s marital status at the time of their first births, the completed fertility of women up to age 50 and the fertility patterns of young women. Fertility patterns are shown by race, ethnicity, age, citizenship and employment status, as well as state of residence.

CRS — Membership in the United Nations and Its Specialized Agencies

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Membership in the United Nations and Its Specialized Agencies (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since the United Nations (U.N.) was established in 1945, the U.S. government, including many Members of Congress, has maintained an ongoing interest in the criteria and process for membership in the United Nations and its specialized agencies. The United Nations currently has 193 member states and two observer non-member states—the Holy See (Vatican) and “Palestine.”

CIA — Style Manual & Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications (8th Ed; 2011)

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Style Manual & Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications (PDF)
Source: Central Intelligence Agency (via National Security Counselors)

Good intelligence depends in large measure on clear, concise writing. The information CIA gathers and the analysis it produces mean little if we cannot convey them effectively. The Directorate of Intelligence and the Agency as a whole have always understood that. Both have been home, from their earliest days, to people who enjoy writing and excel at it.

The Style Manual and Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications is an essential reference for the officers of our Directorate. Now in its eight edition, it reflected an enduring commitment to the highest standards of care and precision.

This guide is designed to be helpful and convenient, sensible in organization, and logical in content. It contains, among other changes, a revised list of accepted acronyms and new tips on word usage. The world is not static. Nor is the language we employ to assess it.

CFPB — Community partnership guidebook for libraries: How libraries can build relationships to create financial education programs for their communities

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Community partnership guidebook for libraries: How libraries can build relationships to create financial education programs for their communities (PDF)
Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
From website:

We want to partner with libraries interested in helping patrons make more informed decisions about money. The information below can be used to build and promote financial education programs in your library. Plus, we’ve included lists of materials you can order or link to from your website.

Department of State Announces Online Publication of 2013 Digest of United States Practice in International Law

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Department of State Announces Online Publication of 2013 Digest of United States Practice in International Law
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Department of State is pleased to announce the release of the 2013 Digest of United States Practice in International Law, covering developments during calendar year 2013. The Digest provides the public with a record of the views and practice of the Government of the United States in public and private international law. The official edition of the 2013 Digest is available exclusively on the State Department’s website at: http://www.state.gov/s/l/c8183.htm. Past Digests covering 1989 through 2012 are also available on the State Department’s website. The Digest is edited by the Office of the Legal Adviser.

The Digest traces its history back to an 1877 treatise by John Cadwalader, which was followed by multi-volume encyclopedias covering selected areas of international law. The Digest later came to be known to many as “Whiteman’s” after Marjorie Whiteman, the editor from 1963-1971. Beginning in 1973, the Office of the Legal Adviser published the Digest on an annual basis, changing its focus to documentation current to the year. Although publication was temporarily suspended after 1988, the office resumed publication in 2000 and has since produced volumes covering 1989 through 2012. A cumulative index covering 1989-2006 was published in 2007, and an updated edition of that index, covering 1989-2008, was published in 2010.

USGS Release: Large Rivers in U.S. are Becoming Less Acidic

July 8, 2014 Comments off

USGS Release: Large Rivers in U.S. are Becoming Less Acidic
Source: USGS (Science for the Total Environment)

Several large rivers in the U.S. are less acidic now, due to decreasing acidic inputs, such as industrial waste, acid mine drainage, and atmospheric deposition.

A USGS study showed that alkalinity, a measurement of a river’s capacity to neutralize acid inputs, has increased over the past 65 years in 14 of the 23 rivers assessed in the U.S.

Reduced acidity levels were especially common in rivers in the Northeast, such as the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers; the Midwest, such as the Illinois and Ohio Rivers; and the Missouri River in the Great Plains.

“Long-term monitoring of streamflow and water-quality is essential to track how changes in climate and land use are impacting rivers and how riverine inputs may impact valuable commercial and recreational fisheries in estuaries across the Nation,” said William Werkheiser, associate director for water. “Increasing alkalinity levels in large rivers across the country since 1945 is a positive trend.”

If It Prints, It Ships: 3D Printing and the Postal Service

July 8, 2014 Comments off

If It Prints, It Ships: 3D Printing and the Postal Service (PDF)
Source: U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General

Highlights

  • 3D printing is in the initial stages of transforming major parts of our economy, such as aerospace and healthcare. It also promises to revolutionize the way consumers get customized goods by making them cheaper and more accessible.
  • Prominent industry forecasts show the 3D printing market exploding over the next several years.
  • 3D printing could lead to an increase in packages delivered by the Postal Service worth $485 million in new annual revenue, based on analysis of commercial package volume data.
  • Emerging 3D printing businesses could use the ubiquitous first- and last-mile postal network to connect with their customers.
  • The Postal Service could partner with 3D printing businesses, perhaps using excess space in postal facilities, to help streamline the fast delivery of 3D printed goods.

CRS — Foreign Holdings of Federal Debt

July 7, 2014 Comments off

Foreign Holdings of Federal Debt (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Federal debt represents, in large measure, the accumulated balance of federal borrowing of the U.S. government. The portion of gross federal debt held by the public consists primarily of investment in marketable U.S. Treasury securities. Investors in the United States and abroad include official institutions, such as the U.S. Federal Reserve; financial institutions, such as public banks; and private individual investors.

CRS — Salaries of Members of Congress: Recent Actions and Historical Tables (updated)

July 7, 2014 Comments off

Salaries of Members of Congress: Recent Actions and Historical Tables (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Congress is required by Article I, Section 6, of the Constitution to determine its own pay. Prior to 1969, Congress did so by enacting specific legislation. From 1789 through 1968, Congress raised its pay 22 times using this procedure. Members were initially paid per diem. The first annual salaries, in 1815, were $1,500. Per diem pay was reinstituted in 1817. Congress returned to annual salaries, at a rate of $3,000, in 1855. Specific legislation may still be used to raise Member pay, as it was most recently in 1982, 1983, 1989, and 1991; but two other methods—including an automatic annual adjustment procedure and a commission process—are now also available.

CRS — Regular Vetoes and Pocket Vetoes: An Overview

July 7, 2014 Comments off

Regular Vetoes and Pocket Vetoes: An Overview (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The veto power vested in the President by Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution has proven to be an effective tool for the chief executive in his dealings with Congress. Since the founding of the federal government in 1789, 37 of 44 Presidents have exercised their veto authority a total of 2,564 times. Congress has overridden these vetoes on 110 occasions (4.3%). Presidents have vetoed 83 appropriations bills, and Congress has overridden 12 (14.5%) of these vetoes.

President Barack H. Obama has vetoed two bills since taking office in 2009: H.J.Res. 64, an FY2010 appropriations measure, and H.R. 3808, the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act of 2010. These vetoes occurred during the 111th Congress. President Obama has not vetoed any legislation since then.

This report will be updated as events warrant.

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