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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.

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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.

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.

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.

US: Terrorism Prosecutions Often An Illusion

July 24, 2014 Comments off

US: Terrorism Prosecutions Often An Illusion
Source: Human Rights Watch

The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.

The 214-page report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,” examines 27 federal terrorism cases from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement. It documents the significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as overly aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement.

Enterprising States 2014: Re-Creating Equality and Opportunity

July 23, 2014 Comments off

Enterprising States 2014: Re-Creating Equality and Opportunity
Source: U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has released its annual Enterprising States study, offering an in-depth look at the free enterprise policies being implemented to promote economic growth at the state and local levels.

Now in its fifth edition, the Enterprising States study measures state performance overall and across five policy areas important for job growth and economic prosperity. Those five areas include:

  • Talent Pipeline
  • Exports and International Trade
  • Technology and Entrepreneurship
  • Business Climate
  • Infrastructure

The 2014 report relates these policies and practices to the need for collaboration between education, workforce development, and economic development to positively combat the nation’s growing skills gap.

2014 Multicultural Population Quick Facts

July 22, 2014 Comments off

2014 Multicultural Population Quick Facts
Source: AARP Research

This set of fact sheets provides a one-page snapshot of 50+ African American and Hispanic populations in select metropolitan markets.

Each fact sheet includes information on the population size, education, employment, income, grandparents living with grandchildren, food insecurity and buying power. Hispanic/Latino fact sheets also include data on citizenship status and English language use.

Data points are based on the most recent available from cited sources and represent the 50+ population unless otherwise indicated.

67 Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities Nationwide in First Half of 2014

July 22, 2014 Comments off

67 Law Enforcement Officer Fatalities Nationwide in First Half of 2014
Source: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

Today the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund issued a new report stating that 67 officers have been killed in the line of duty during the first half of 2014—a 31 percent increase over the same period last year.

Of these 67 officers, 26 were killed in traffic-related incidents; 25 were killed by gunfire; and 16 died due to job-related illnesses and other causes.

Key Facts

  • Traffic-related incidents were once again the leading cause of officer fatalities, with 26 officers killed in the first half of 2014—a 37 percent increase over the same period last year.
  • Firearms-related fatalities spiked to 25 in the first half of this year—a 56 percent increase over the first six months of 2013. Investigating suspicious persons or situations was the leading circumstance of fatal shootings, with six officer fatalities; followed by ambushes, with five officer fatalities.
  • Sixteen officers died due to other causes in the first half of 2014, the same as the number reported during the same time last year. Job-related illnesses, such as heart attacks, increased 62 percent in the first half of 2014, with 13 officer fatalities compared to eight during the same period last year.
  • California led all states with eight officer fatalities; followed by Florida, New York, Texas and Virginia each with four peace officer fatalities.

Return on Educational Investment: 2014 — A District-by-District Evaluation of U.S. Educational Productivity

July 21, 2014 Comments off

Return on Educational Investment: 2014 — A District-by-District Evaluation of U.S. Educational Productivity
Source: Center for American Progress

In 2011, the Center of American Progress released the first-ever attempt to evaluate the productivity of almost every major school district in the country. That project developed a set of relatively simple productivity metrics in order to measure the achievement that a school district produces relative to its spending, while controlling for factors outside a district’s control, such the cost of living and students living in poverty.

The findings of that first report were worrisome and underscored the fact that the nation suffers from a productivity crisis. The data suggested that low productivity might cost the nation’s school system billions of dollars a year. What’s more, too few states and districts tracked the bang that they received for their education buck.

In this updated report, CAP uses these same metrics to once again examine the productivity of the nation’s school districts. We embarked on this second evaluation for a number of reasons. In many areas, education leaders continue to face difficult budget choices, and more than 300,000 education-related jobs have been lost since the start of the Great Recession. At the same time, the advent of the new, more rigorous Common Core standards will demand that far more from educators, including better, tougher exams. In short, many educators are being asked to do more with less.

But still, school productivity has not become part of the reform conversation, and with this project, our hope is to shine a light on how productivity differs across districts, as well as to identify key areas of reform. Moreover, for the first time, we conducted a special analysis of educational fiscal practices, diving deep into state budgeting approaches. We believe that if our education system had a more robust way of tracking expenditures, it could do more to increase productivity. Together with this report, we have also released analysis by CAP Senior Policy Analyst Robert Hanna on twin districts. Hanna’s analysis looks more closely at the programs and practices of more effective districts.

Entombed: Isolation in the US Federal Prison System

July 17, 2014 Comments off

Entombed: Isolation in the US Federal Prison System
Source: Amnesty International

The USA stands virtually alone in the world in incarcerating thousands of prisoners in longterm or indefinite solitary confinement, defined by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as “the physical and social isolation of individuals who are confined to their cells for 22 to 24 hours a day”. More than 40 US states are believed to operate “super-maximum security” units or prisons, collectively housing at least 25,000 prisoners. This number does not include the many thousands of other prisoners serving shorter periods in punishment or administrative segregation cells – estimated to be approximately 80,000 on any given day.

While US authorities have always been able to segregate prisoners for their own protection or as a penalty for disciplinary offences, super-maximum security facilities differ in that they are designed to isolate prisoners long-term as an administrative control measure. It is a management tool that has been criticized by human rights bodies, and is being increasingly challenged by US penal experts and others, as costly, ineffective and inhumane.

Unsafe and Harassed in Public Spaces: A National Street Harassment Report

July 17, 2014 Comments off

Unsafe and Harassed in Public Spaces: A National Street Harassment Report
Source: Stop Street Harassment

In 2014, SSH commissioned a 2,000-person nationally representative survey in the USA with firm GfK. The survey found that 65% of all women had experienced street harassment. Among all women, 23% had been sexually touched, 20% had been followed, and 9% had been forced to do something sexual.

Among men, 25% had been street harassed (a higher percentage of LGBT-identified men than heterosexual men reported this) and their most common form of harassment was homophobic or transphobic slurs (9%).

IIHS issues recommendations on used vehicles for teens after research finds many aren’t driving the safest ones

July 17, 2014 Comments off

IIHS issues recommendations on used vehicles for teens after research finds many aren’t driving the safest ones
Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Many teenagers are driving vehicles that don’t offer good crash protection and lack important safety technology, new research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows. To help guide parents toward safer choices, IIHS has compiled its first-ever list of recommended used vehicles for teens.

IIHS is known for its ratings of new vehicles, but for many families, a 2014 TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ isn’t in the budget. In a national phone survey conducted for IIHS of parents of teen drivers, 83 percent of those who bought a vehicle for their teenagers said they bought it used.

With that reality in mind, the Institute has compiled a list of affordable used vehicles that meet important safety criteria for teen drivers (see below). There are two tiers of recommended vehicles with options at various price points, ranging from less than $5,000 to nearly $20,000, so parents can buy the most safety for their money, whatever their budget.

At What Cost? How Community Colleges that Do Not Offer Federal Loans Put Students at Risk

July 16, 2014 Comments off

At What Cost? How Community Colleges that Do Not Offer Federal Loans Put Students at Risk
Source: Institute for College Access and Success

In 2013-14, nearly one million community college students across the nation were denied access to federal student loans, the safest and most affordable way to borrow for college. Our issue brief includes national and state-by-state analyses of loan access by race/ethnicity and urbanicity, and takes an in-depth look at North Carolina, California, and Georgia.

Impact of Finances 50+ Training Classes on Individuals’ Financial Behaviors

July 15, 2014 Comments off

Impact of Finances 50+ Training Classes on Individuals’ Financial Behaviors
Source: AARP Research

AARP Foundation, in collaboration with Charles Schwab Foundation, designed and disseminated a financial capability curriculum targeted to the 50+ age group to approximately 11 organizations nationwide. Classes were offered beginning in September 2012 through December 2013. Approximately 2,775 people participated in these classes.

The purpose of the report is to evaluate the impact of the financial training by:

  • Comparing behaviors relating to key financial topics before and after participating in the class
  • Determining whether desired financial behaviors increased after participating in the class

A pre-test post-test evaluation methodology was designed by AARP in which financial behaviors, including behaviors around spending, saving, budgeting, investing, handling debt, etc., were measured prior to training and at two follow-up time points (3- and 6-month post training). Analysis of respondents’ financial behaviors pre- and post-training reveals notable findings on the impact of the training classes:

1. Participants’ levels of anxiety about their financial situations decreased significantly from before to after the training, with the proportion “very worried” dropping by 36% (from 22% to 14%) from pre-training to six months post-training, while those “not very/not at all worried” increased 24% (from 34% to 42%) during the same time period.

2. Participant scores on the Financial Management Behavior Scale (FMBS) measured at three points in time show that there was a statistically significant improvement in average scale scores pre- and post-training.

3. Looking at other discrete indicators of change in financial behaviors, most significant post-training (6-month) change was found in the following “positive” behaviors:

  • calculating net worth
  • reducing financial fees
  • reducing spending and/or increasing earnings
  • prioritizing debt payment
  • reviewing credit card statement

Likewise, frequency of some “negative” behaviors declined significantly 6 months post, including:

  • being overdrawn
  • being contacted by a collector
  • taking out a payday loan

4. Developing a clear financial goal was a major accomplishment for those who took the training, with a 50% improvement rate in participants setting a goal. Among those with a defined goal, the proportion with an Action Plan increased 40% by the end of the study period.

No Time to Waste: Evidence-Based Treatment for Drug Dependence at the United States Veterans Administration Department of Veterans Affairs

July 13, 2014 Comments off

No Time to Waste: Evidence-Based Treatment for Drug Dependence at the United States Veterans Administration Department of Veterans Affairs
Source: Human Rights Watch

The 39-page report states that more than one million US veterans take prescription opioids for pain, and nearly half of them use the drugs “chronically,” or beyond 90 days. Alcohol and drug dependence is strongly associated with homelessness and mental health conditions including post-traumatic stress syndrome and depression, psychological conditions that affect 40 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in VA care. Drugs or alcohol are involved in 1 of 3 Army suicides, and the VA estimates that 22 veterans commit suicide each day.

Summer Fun: How Much Hotter Will Your City Be?

July 11, 2014 Comments off

Summer Fun: How Much Hotter Will Your City Be?
Source: Climate Central

If it feels hot to you now in the dog days of this summer, imagine a time when summertime Boston starts feeling like Miami and even Montana sizzles.

Thanks to climate change, that day is coming by the end of the century, making it harder to avoid simmering temperatures.

Summers in most of the U.S. are already warmer than they were in the 1970s. And climate models tell us that summers are going to keep getting hotter as greenhouse gas emissions continue. What will this warming feel like? Our new analysis of future summers illustrates just how dramatic warming is going to be by the end of this century if current emissions trends continue unabated.

Higher Education, Library Principles to Preserve Network Neutrality

July 10, 2014 Comments off

Higher Education, Library Principles to Preserve Network Neutrality
Source: EDUCAUSE

On July 10, 2014, EDUCAUSE joined other leading higher education and library associations (listed below) in proposing a set of network neutrality principles for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to use in developing new regulations to preserve the “open Internet.” These groups urged the FCC to adopt these principles in light of a recent court decision vacating two of the key network neutrality rules previously in place, which they believe creates an opportunity for Internet providers to block or degrade (e.g., arbitrarily slow) certain Internet traffic, or prioritize certain services, while relegating the online content and services of colleges, universities, and libraries to the “slow lane.” The groups argue that new network neutrality rules based on these principles will ensure that the Internet remains a vital, vibrant platform for teaching, learning, research, and community support and engagement.

The organizations endorsing the principles are:

American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)
American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)
American Council on Education (ACE)
American Library Association (ALA)
Association of American Universities (AAU)
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU)
Association of Research Libraries (ARL)
Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA)
EDUCAUSE
Modern Language Association (MLA)
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU)

EWG’s 2014 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

July 10, 2014 Comments off

EWG’s 2014 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce
Source: Environmental Working Group

Two-thirds of produce samples in recent government tests had pesticide residues. Don’t want to eat bug- and weed-killers? EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce helps you shop smart. We highlight the cleanest and dirtiest conventionally-raised fruits and vegetables. If a conventionally grown food you want tests high for pesticides, go for the organic version instead. And remember – the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh risks of pesticide exposure. Dirty Dozen™ Plus highlights hot peppers and leafy greens – kale and collard greens – often tainted with unusually hazardous pesticides.

Human Rights Campaign Foundation 2014 Corporate Equality Index

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Human Rights Campaign Foundation 2014 Corporate Equality Index (PDF)
Source: Human Rights Campaign

Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2014 Corporate Equality Index is the national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.

In the 2014 CEI report, 304 major businesses — spanning nearly every industry and geography — earned a top score of 100 percent and the distinction of “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.”

AARP — African American/Black Social Issues Study

July 8, 2014 Comments off

African American/Black Social Issues Study
Source: AARP

This study examined the importance of key social issues facing African-Americans/ Blacks who are age 50 or older. It also gauged their optimism in regard to these social issues.

Key findings from the study show:

  • Access to high quality health care and having a financially secure retirement are the most important issues facing age 50+ African-Americans/Blacks age 50 and older.
  • The respondents are more optimistic that the country is moving in the right direction in regard to access to high quality health care.
  • There is less optimism that the country is moving in the right direction in regard to having a financially secure retirement.
  • Respondents age 75 and older are more optimistic than those ages 50-64 that the country is moving in the right direction about having a financially secure retirement.
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