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Animal transportation networks

September 24, 2014 Comments off

Animal transportation networks
Source: Journal of the Royal Society Interface

Many group-living animals construct transportation networks of trails, galleries and burrows by modifying the environment to facilitate faster, safer or more efficient movement. Animal transportation networks can have direct influences on the fitness of individuals, whereas the shape and structure of transportation networks can influence community dynamics by facilitating contacts between different individuals and species. In this review, we discuss three key areas in the study of animal transportation networks: the topological properties of networks, network morphogenesis and growth, and the behaviour of network users. We present a brief primer on elements of network theory, and then discuss the different ways in which animal groups deal with the fundamental trade-off between the competing network properties of travel efficiency, robustness and infrastructure cost. We consider how the behaviour of network users can impact network efficiency, and call for studies that integrate both network topology and user behaviour. We finish with a prospectus for future research.

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Infrastructure 2014: Shaping the Competitive City

September 22, 2014 Comments off

Infrastructure 2014: Shaping the Competitive City (PDF)
Source: Urban Land Institute

How do real estate developers and investors — who could pursue opportunities regionally, nationally, or internationally—think about infrastructure? How do city leaders use infrastructure investments to position their cities for real estate investment and economic development? What role does infrastructure play relative to other economic development strategies? And are public and private perceptions and priorities aligned—or do they diverge, and in what ways?

To provide answers, researchers for Infrastruc – ture 2014 crafted a series of survey questions and asked high-level public officials and private real estate leaders to weigh in. Nearly 250 public sector leaders in local and regional government and over 200 senior-level private developers, in – vestors, and real estate advisers responded to the survey. About 86 percent of survey respondents were based in the United States, with the balance located in countries across the globe.

Nearly every city aspires to grow, and high- quality infrastructure—infrastructure that is well maintained, reliable, safe, resilient, and customer friendly—contributes to well-functioning, growth-primed cities—cities that attract new residents and retain existing ones.

Infrastructure—the physical facilities and systems that support economic activity—is often seen as a driver of real estate and development, especially by those who are in the business of pro – viding it. But do the people actually building and investing in real estate agree? The Infrastructure 2014 survey tells us “yes”—and a number of other interesting things as well.

New From the GAO

September 22, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Identity Theft: Additional Actions Could Help IRS Combat the Large, Evolving Threat of Refund Fraud. GAO-14-633,August 20.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-633
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665367.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/665529

2. Oil and Gas Transportation: Department of Transportation Is Taking Actions to Address Rail Safety, but Additional Actions Are Needed to Improve Pipeline Safety. GAO-14-667, August 21.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-667
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665403.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/665350

3. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Procedures for Reporting Certain Financial Management Information Should Be Improved. GAO-14-697, September 22.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-697
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665984.pdf

4. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Some Privacy and Security Procedures for Data Collections Should Continue Being Enhanced. GAO-14-758, September 22.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-758
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666001.pdf

5. Bureau of Prisons: Management of New Prison Activations Can Be Improved. GAO-14-709, August 22.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-709
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665416.pdf

6. Army Corps of Engineers: The Corps Needs to Take Steps to Identify All Projects and Studies Eligible for Deauthorization. GAO-14-699, August 21.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-699
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665394.pdf

New From the GAO

September 15, 2014 Comments off

New From the GAO
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Critical Infrastructure Protection: DHS Action Needed to Enhance Integration and Coordination of Vulnerability Assessment Efforts. GAO-14-507, September 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-507
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665787.pdf

2. EPA Regulations and Electricity: Update on Agencies’ Monitoring Efforts and Coal-Fueled Generating Unit Retirements. GAO-14-672, August 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-672
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665324.pdf

Transporting Crude Oil by Rail: State and Federal Action

August 29, 2014 Comments off

Transporting Crude Oil by Rail: State and Federal Action
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Technological advances such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are driving the increase in oil and natural gas extraction and allowing access to shale resources in Canada and the U.S. that were previously uneconomical to develop.

In fact, the United States became the No. 1 producer of oil in the world in 2014—overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia. The U.S. produced 8.4 million barrels per day of oil in April 2014, which is the highest monthly production volume in more than 25 years—with North Dakota and Texas supplying almost half of the total U.S. crude oil production. The rapid expansion of crude oil production in North America has increased the use of rail, truck, barge and pipeline to carry crude to refineries.

Upon extraction, crude oil is transported to refineries to be processed into useful petroleum products—such as heating oil, diesel fuel or gasoline. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), in 2009 70.2 percent of crude oil and petroleum products were transported by pipeline while 23.1 percent were shipped by oil tankers, 4.2 percent by truck and just 2.6 percent by rail. In 2013, crude oil accounted for just 1.4 percent of the commodities carried by rail. Although oil makes up a small percentage of rail freight, this proportion is increasing rapidly.

Public-private partnerships: The reenergizing of US infrastructure

August 22, 2014 Comments off

Public-private partnerships: The reenergizing of US infrastructure
Source: IBISWorld

In August, the Highway Trust Fund, which provides federal funding for highways, roads and mass-transit systems, was expected to run out of money. Since the fund relies on a federal gas tax that is not indexed to inflation and has therefore not increased since 1993, its ability to finance infrastructure projects has eroded. Although lawmakers across party lines scrambled to extend the fund’s lifetime, disagreements over revenue sources prevented any serious development. On July 15th, 2014, just two weeks before the Department of Transportation would be forced to cut funding for major projects, the US House of Representatives passed a $10.8 billion short-term fix to extend the fund into May 2015.

Protracted political gridlock is just one of the many challenges burdening public infrastructure in the United States. Underfunding and underinvestment, crippled state and municipal budgets and delayed maintenance and repair have also contributed to the country’s glaring infrastructure deficit. Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) grades the nation’s major infrastructure industries according to factors like capacity and funding. In 2013, the average grade for these industries was a D+. By comparison, solid waste management received a B-, while aviation, dams, roads, transit, inland waterways, wastewater, hazardous waste and even drinking water all earned dismal Ds. According to the ASCE, based on current investment trends in public infrastructure, the country will develop a $1.1 trillion gap between projected infrastructure funding and expenses by 2020. To make matters worse, this deficit could widen to $4.7 trillion by 2040.

Success of public-private enterprise

In response to these challenges, state governments are increasingly experimenting with public-private partnerships (PPPs) to finance new infrastructure projects or maintain existing assets. PPPs are financing tools whereby a joint venture between public and private sector participants executes the delivery of a public-purpose project. The degree to which a private enterprise is involved varies according to the risk and responsibilities that the partner assumes. The government usually claims residual ownership rights, while the private firm finances the construction, maintenance or operation of the project, collecting revenue during a contract period. For example, in transportation, a PPP contract can range from a private contract fee service agreement, which transfers only project management into private hands, to design-build-finance-operate-maintain concessions, which transfer all activities to the private partner. The degree of private involvement is captured in the PPP spectrum, allowing for greater flexibility in adapting to specific project objectives and needs. Typically, a PPP concession begins at the state level and PPP legislation is required to define qualifying projects, create the framework for concession terms and impose rules of accountability.

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.

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