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Exergy and the City: The Technology and Sociology of Power (Failure)

December 16, 2014 Comments off

Exergy and the City: The Technology and Sociology of Power (Failure)
Source: Journal of Urban Technology

Blackouts—the total loss of electrical power—serve as a reminder of how dependent the modern world and particularly urban areas have become on electricity and the appliances it powers. To understand them we consider the critical nature of electrical infrastructure. In order to provide general patterns from specific cases, a large number of blackouts have been analyzed. Irrespective of cause, they display similar effects. These include measurable economic losses and less easily quantified social costs. We discuss financial damage, food safety, crime, transport, and problems caused by diesel generators. This is more than just a record of past failures; blackouts are dress rehearsals for the future in which they will appear with greater frequency and severity. While energy cannot be destroyed, exergy—the available energy within a system—can be. Exergy is concerned with energy within an “environment;” in this case a city. The bottom line is simple: no matter how “smart” a city may be, it becomes “dumb” when the power goes out.

The Economic Benefits from Air Transport in the UK

December 16, 2014 Comments off

The Economic Benefits from Air Transport in the UK
Source: Oxford Economics

This study, commissioned by leading players from the aviation and tourism sectors and published at the Annual Conference & Exhibition of the Airport Operators Association (AOA), the trade body for UK airports, on 10 November, shows that all three elements of the sector made a significant contribution to the UK economy.

It brings together data for airlines, airports and other ground-based infrastructure and aerospace manufacturing. It shows that aviation provides substantial economic benefits to the UK economy and its citizens, some of which are unique and essential to the operation of a modern economy.

Free registration required.

New From the GAO

December 12, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Health Care: Information on Coverage Choices for Servicemembers, Former Servicemembers, and Dependents. GAO-15-4, December 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-4
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667487.pdf

2. Hurricane Sandy: FEMA Has Improved Disaster Aid Verification but Could Act to Further Limit Improper Assistance. GAO-15-15, December 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-15
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667470.pdf

3. VA Health Care: Improvements Needed in Monitoring Antidepressant Use for Major Depressive Disorder and in Increasing Accuracy of Suicide Data. GAO-15-55, November 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-55
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666841.pdf

4. College-and-Career Readiness: States Have Made Progress in Implementing New Standards and Assessments, but Challenges Remain. GAO-15-104R, December 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-104R

5. Grants Management: Programs at HHS and HUD Collect Administrative Cost Information but Differences in Cost Caps and Definitions Create Challenges. GAO-15-118, December 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-118
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667506.pdf

6. Grant Program Consolidations: Lessons Learned and Implications for Congressional Oversight. GAO-15-125, December 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-125
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667482.pdf

7. Aviation Security: Rapid Growth in Expedited Passenger Screening Highlights Need to Plan Effective Security Assessments. GAO-15-150, December 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-150
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667464.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/667489

8. Medicaid: Federal Funds Aid Eligibility IT System Changes, but Implementation Challenges Persist. GAO-15-169, December 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-169
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667485.pdf

9. Missile Defense: Cost Estimating Practices Have Improved, and Continued Evaluation Will Determine Effectiveness. GAO-15-210R, December 12.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-210R

Driver Assistance Systems and the Transition to Automated Vehicles: A Path to Increase Older Adult Safety and Mobility?

December 12, 2014 Comments off

Driver Assistance Systems and the Transition to Automated Vehicles: A Path to Increase Older Adult Safety and Mobility?
Source: Public Policy & Aging Report

Transitions in driving roles occur throughout one’s life-time. As medical conditions accrue, they can sporadically or permanently limit driving (Owsley, 2004). Women frequently cease driving earlier than men, and often while still fit to drive (Alsnih & Hensher, 2003; Siren, Hakamies-Blomqvist, & Lindeman, 2004). Widowhood can increase older women’s need to drive (Braitman & Williams, 2011) at a time when this is particularly challenging. On the other hand, even as adults age, they are becoming increasingly economically able to purchase new vehicles (Coughlin, 2009). As a consequence of both the increased numbers and economic independence of older adults, innovations in personal mobility that mitigate the burdens of age will grow in value over the coming decades. A move toward new urbanism, including improved public transit systems and walkable streets and sidewalks, is an admirable vision that would help meet the growing needs of many older adults. However, it will require, at considerable cost, rebuilding or retrofitting the existing infrastructure at a rate that is not likely to meet the needs of today’s aging boomers.

Fully automated or driverless cars, by contrast, represent a path that promises to enhance the mobility options of older adults within the existing infrastructure. However, many consumers do not clearly understand that while the basic building blocks of these systems are available today in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), fully automated or driverless vehicles are still on the distant horizon. For the foreseeable future, automated vehicle technologies, including ADAS, will continue to rely on a “responsible” driver to oversee the technology, capable of resuming control and having the foresight to make many (yet to be defined) strategic operational decisions. But because of their transformative promise and heavy news coverage, the prospect of automated cars has become a source of great hope for many. Some believe that fully automated cars, capable of navigating the roadways while the “operator” reads a paper or takes a nap, will be available within a few years. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Instead, there is work to be done to increase the awareness and education necessary to spur the purchasing of ADAS available today, which will support many older drivers’ mobility and safety needs.

Who’s On Board 2014: Mobility Attitudes Survey

December 11, 2014 Comments off

Who’s On Board 2014: Mobility Attitudes Survey
Source: TransitCenter

In 2013, advocates, planners, and policymakers were abuzz with the 10.7 billion rides taken on transit, an all-time U.S. record. Yet the discussion focused too much on the sheer number of rides, without a deep look at the riders themselves, and particularly the changing attitudes that are propelling recent ridership increases. TransitCenter commissioned this survey to take that deeper look.

We now have a snapshot into perceptions of transit and neighborhoods in 2014. As Millennials take center stage in American life and the Baby Boom generation confronts retirement, both the transit and real estate industries will have to adjust.

Nationwide Shipment of Goods Reaches $13.8 Trillion, Census Bureau Reports

December 11, 2014 Comments off

Nationwide Shipment of Goods Reaches $13.8 Trillion, Census Bureau Reports
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The total value of U.S. shipments reached $13.8 trillion in 2012, an increase of $2.2 trillion since the previous Commodity Flow Survey was conducted in 2007, according to the latest estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. While the total value increased 18.5 percent over that five-year span, the nationwide shipment of goods declined by 1.2 billion tons to 11.3 billion tons or about 9.9 percent.

For the first time, the 2012 Commodity Flow Survey included information on temperature- controlled shipments. Mixed-freight items that include food for grocery and convenience stores as well as supplies for restaurants and food chains accounted for 187.7 million tons of temperature-controlled shipments valued at $529.3 billion.

The Commodity Flow Survey is conducted every five years as part of the Census Bureau’s economic census. The survey, a partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, is the primary source of national, state and selected metropolitan areas statistics on domestic freight shipments. It provides information on the origin and destination, value, weight, mode of transportation, distance and ton-miles of commodities shipped.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Legitimate Weapon Systems or Unlawful Angels of Death?

December 11, 2014 Comments off

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Legitimate Weapon Systems or Unlawful Angels of Death?
Source: Pace International Law Review

Since the invasion of Afghanistan, the United States has utilized Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to locate, surveil and kill members of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and its associated forces. Such killings have decimated the leadership of these groups and disrupted their operations. However, there are collateral effects from UAV killings including civilian deaths. These deaths increase resentment and hatred toward the US, which is channeled by terrorist groups to recruit new members and for local support. Moreover, targeted killings outside a combat zone have political and diplomatic consequences. This paper argues that the current uses of UAV are legal under international and domestic law. However, it proposes amended targeting criteria, greater transparency and increased checks on the executive branch for future use of UAVs.

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