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CDC Director Releases After-Action Report on Recent Anthrax Incident; Highlights Steps to Improve Laboratory Quality and Safety

July 16, 2014 Comments off

CDC Director Releases After-Action Report on Recent Anthrax Incident; Highlights Steps to Improve Laboratory Quality and Safety
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report today that reviews the early June incident that involved the unintentional exposure of personnel to potentially viable anthrax at the CDC’s Roybal Campus. The report identifies factors found to have contributed to the incident; and highlights actions taken by the agency to address these factors and prevent future incidents. Based on a review of all aspects of the June incident, CDC concluded that while it is not impossible that staff members were exposed to viable B. anthracis, it is extremely unlikely that this occurred. None of the staff who was potentially exposed has become ill with anthrax.

While finalizing this report, CDC leadership was made aware that earlier this year a culture of non-pathogenic avian influenza was unintentionally cross-contaminated at the CDC influenza laboratory with the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of influenza and shipped to a BSL-3 select-agent laboratory operated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). There were no exposures as a result of that incident. The CDC influenza laboratory is now closed and will not reopen until adequate procedures are put in place. Further investigation, review, and action is underway.

As a result of these two incidents, CDC is issuing, effective immediately, a moratorium on the movement (i.e., transfer inside or outside the agency) of biological materials (i.e., infectious agents, active or inactivated specimens) from BSL3 or BSL-4 facilities. The moratorium will remain in place pending review by an advisory committee.

See also: CDC Media Statement on Newly Discovered Smallpox Specimens

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Categories: Uncategorized

Contraction of Online Response to Major Events

June 26, 2014 Comments off

Contraction of Online Response to Major Events
Source: PLoS ONE

Quantifying regularities in behavioral dynamics is of crucial interest for understanding collective social events such as panics or political revolutions. With the widespread use of digital communication media it has become possible to study massive data streams of user-created content in which individuals express their sentiments, often towards a specific topic. Here we investigate messages from various online media created in response to major, collectively followed events such as sport tournaments, presidential elections, or a large snow storm. We relate content length and message rate, and find a systematic correlation during events which can be described by a power law relation—the higher the excitation, the shorter the messages. We show that on the one hand this effect can be observed in the behavior of most regular users, and on the other hand is accentuated by the engagement of additional user demographics who only post during phases of high collective activity. Further, we identify the distributions of content lengths as lognormals in line with statistical linguistics, and suggest a phenomenological law for the systematic dependence of the message rate to the lognormal mean parameter. Our measurements have practical implications for the design of micro-blogging and messaging services. In the case of the existing service Twitter, we show that the imposed limit of 140 characters per message currently leads to a substantial fraction of possibly dissatisfying to compose tweets that need to be truncated by their users.

Geo-located Twitter as proxy for global mobility patterns

June 18, 2014 Comments off

Geo-located Twitter as proxy for global mobility patterns (PDF)
Source: Cartography and Geographic Information Science (via MIT Senseable City Lab)

Pervasive presence of location-sharing services made it possible for researchers to gain an unprecedented access to the direct records of human activity in space and time. This article analyses geo-located Twitter messages in order to uncover global patterns of human mobility. Based on a dataset of almost a billion tweets recorded in 2012, we estimate the volume of international travelers by country of residence. Mobility profiles of different nations were examined based on such characteristics as mobility rate, radius of gyration, diversity of destinations, and inflow–outflow balance. Temporal patterns disclose the universally valid seasons of increased international mobility and the particular character of international travels of different nations. Our analysis of the community structure of the Twitter mobility network reveals spatially cohesive regions that follow the regional division of the world. We validate our result using global tourism statistics and mobility models provided by other authors and argue that Twitter is exceptionally useful for understanding and quantifying global mobility patterns.

TIGTA — IRS in Compliance with Requirements for Donating, Recycling Unneeded Computers

June 18, 2014 Comments off

IRS in Compliance with Requirements for Donating, Recycling Unneeded Computers
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
From email:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) needs to improve its processes for disposing of unneeded computers, printers, and servers, according to a report publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

TIGTA reviewed the accuracy of the disposal asset inventory and the IRS’s actions taken or planned to fulfill General Services Administration (GSA) requirements.

While the IRS is complying with GSA requirements to recycle or donate used information technology (IT) equipment, TIGTA found several areas for improvement. According to the report, the IRS needs to: improve documentation to ensure compliance with media sanitization guidelines; report any IT equipment that cannot be located to the Computer Security Incident Response Center as required; and improve documentation of disposal actions.

The IRS disposed of 63,031 desktop computers and 44,734 laptops between 2009 and 2012 through a combination of recycling and donating to schools. However, it does not effectively track which equipment is recycled or donated, making it difficult to measure compliance with GSA requirements.

TIGTA made eight recommendations to improve documentation of the removal of all data from IT equipment before it is donated and the equipment’s final destination, and the reporting of lost or stolen equipment. The IRS agreed with TIGTA’s recommendations and is taking actions to implement them.

Infographic Profiles State Government Tax Collection Trends

June 10, 2014 Comments off

Infographic Profiles State Government Tax Collection Trends
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

A new “Measuring America” infographic focuses on the sources of state tax revenue and on the 2012-2013 changes for each state. The infographic draws on the state tax collection statistics previously released on April 8 (http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/governments/cb14-62.html).

state_tax_900

Categories: Uncategorized

The career prospects of overeducated Americans

June 3, 2014 Comments off

The career prospects of overeducated Americans (PDF)
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research (preliminary draft)

In this paper we analyze career dynamics for the large share of U.S. workers who have more schooling than their peers in the same occupation. We use data from the NLSY79 combined with the CPS to analyze transitions into and out of overeducated employment, together with the corresponding effects on wages. Overeducation is a fairly persistent phenomenon at the aggregate and individual levels, with 66% of workers remaining overeducated after one year. Overeducation is not only more common, but also more persistent among blacks and low-AFQT individuals. Further, the hazard rate out of overeducation drops by about 60% during the first 5 years spent overeducated. However, the estimation of a mixed proportional hazard model suggests that this is attributable to selection on unobservables rather than true duration dependence. Finally, overeducation is associated with lower current as well as future wages, which points to the existence of scarring effects.

Categories: Uncategorized

DHS OIG — Semiannual Report to Congress

June 3, 2014 Comments off

Semiannual Report to Congress (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General

This report, as you will see, contains some impressive numbers:

  • We initiated 238 and closed 380 investigations. We were responsible for 81 arrests, 45 indictments, 56 convictions, and 16 personnel actions. This led to $33 million in recoveries, fines, and restitutions.
  • In our 58 management and disaster relief fund reports, we identified $88.6 mill ion in questioned costs. We also issued 7 reports identifying $8.9 million in funds that could be put to bett er use.

These figures, which we are required to report, show that our office easily pays for itself, but they do not reflect our full contribution to the Department and the American people. We made 325 recommendations to improve Department programs and operations in which we identified waste and vulnerabilities. For example:

  • DHS components allowed certain employees to drive government vehicles to and from work, but did not ensure that such use is justified
  • In CBP’s acquisition of its Advanced Training Center, it did not develop and execute a multi-million dollar interagency agreement according to Federal, departmental, and component requirements.
  • CBP also approved millions of dollars worth of contract modifications without ensuring they were needed and reasonable.
  • FEMA gave inaccurate advice to its sub-grantees about requirements for spending Federal disaster relief money.DHS has had significant challenges in complying with Federal computer security requirements.

We cannot place a dollar figure on the value of these audits, but there is little question that, if our recommendations are followed, the Department can save hundreds of millions per year and more effectively execute its mission.

Categories: Uncategorized

Survey of Doctorate Recipients, 2010 (data tables)

May 10, 2014 Comments off

Survey of Doctorate Recipients, 2010
Source: National Science Foundation

  • Doctoral scientists and engineers: 2010
  • Employed doctoral scientists and engineers: 2010
  • Occupations of doctoral scientists and engineers: 2010
  • Median annual salaries of full-time employed doctoral scientists and engineers: 2010
  • Postdoctoral appointments of doctoral scientists and engineers: 2010
Categories: Uncategorized

CRS — Chemical Facility Security: Issues and Options for the 113th Congress (updated)

March 11, 2014 Comments off

Chemical Facility Security: Issues and Options for the 113th Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has statutory authority to regulate chemical facilities for security purposes. The 113th Congress extended this authority through January 15, 2014. Congressional policymakers have debated the scope and details of reauthorization and continue to consider establishing an authority with longer duration. Some Members of Congress support an extension, either short- or long-term, of the existing authority. Other Members call for revision and more extensive codification of chemical facility security regulatory provisions. Questions regarding the current law’s effectiveness in reducing chemical facility risk and the sufficiency of federal chemical facility security efforts exacerbate the tension between continuing current policies and changing the statutory authority.

Categories: Uncategorized

2008-2012 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample Files Now Available

March 6, 2014 Comments off

2008-2012 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample Files Now Available
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) files for the 2012 American Community Survey five-year statistics are now available for users to create their own tabulations. The files contain a 5 percent sample of the housing unit universe while protecting the confidentiality of survey respondents. The files show population and housing characteristics down to Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMAs), which are areas containing no fewer than 100,000 residents. Users can create tabulations through their own tabulation systems or through the Census Bureau data tool DataFerrett.

Categories: Uncategorized

Trade-Offs in Immigration Enforcement

January 31, 2014 Comments off

Trade-Offs in Immigration Enforcement (PDF)
Source: Migration Policy Institute

Policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic confront significant constraints in addressing the population of unauthorized migrants, not least with respect to insufficient resources to tackle illegal migration and legal frameworks that protect individuals regardless of their residence status. This report explores the trade-offs that policymakers face with respect to comprehensive enforcement efforts, which often have adverse consequences in related policy domains, such as public health and safety.

Categories: Uncategorized

SSRN — Top Papers of 2013

January 8, 2014 Comments off

Top Papers of 2013
Source: Social Science Research Network

2014 is right around the corner and it’s about that time to highlight our most downloaded papers from the past year. These articles covered it all – organ transplants, game theory, asset management, government surveillance and privacy and beyond.

Categories: Uncategorized

2013 Audit of the CFPB’s Information Security Program

December 11, 2013 Comments off

2013 Audit of the CFPB’s Information Security Program (PDF)
Source: Federal Reserve Board, Office of Inspector General
From Executive Summary (PDF)

Overall, we found that the CFPB has taken multiple steps over the past year to develop, document, and implement an information security program that is consistent with FISMA requirements. The CFPB has also taken several actions to strengthen its information security program in the 11 areas outlined in DHS’s 2013 FISMA reporting guidance for IGs. We found that the CFPB’s information security program is generally consistent with the requirements outlined in DHS’s FISMA reporting guidance for IGs in 6 out of 11 information security areas: identity and access management, incident response and reporting, risk management, plan of action and milestones, remote access management, and contractor systems.

Categories: Uncategorized

CRS — Legislative Actions to Repeal, Defund, or Delay the Affordable Care Act (updated)

December 6, 2013 Comments off

Legislative Actions to Repeal, Defund, or Delay the Affordable Care Act (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Congress is deeply divided over implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the health reform law enacted in March 2010.1 Since the ACA’s enactment, lawmakers opposed to specific provisions in the ACA, or to the entire law, have debated implementation of the law on numerous occasions and considered multiple bills to repeal, defund, delay, or otherwise amend the law. Most of the legislative activity on these ACA-related bills has taken place in the House. The legislation has included stand-alone bills as well as provisions in broader, often unrelated measures that would (1) repeal the ACA in its entirety and, in some cases, replace it with new law; (2) repeal, or by amendment restrict or otherwise limit, specific provisions in the ACA; (3) eliminate appropriations provided by the ACA and rescind all unobligated funds;2 (4) replace the mandatory appropriations for one or more ACA programs with authorizations of (discretionary) appropriations, and rescind all unobligated funds; and (5) block or otherwise delay implementation of specific ACA provisions. A few bills containing provisions to amend the ACA that have attracted sufficiently broad and bipartisan support have been approved in both the House and the Senate and signed into law.

Categories: Uncategorized

Think Tank Review — November 2013

December 5, 2013 Comments off

Think Tank Review — November 2013 (PDF)
Source: Central Library of the General Secretariat of the EU Council

Welcome to issue 8 of the Think Tank Review compiled by the Council Library. It references papers published in October 2013. As usual, we provide the link to the full text and a short abstract.

Medicare Improperly Paid Millions of Dollars for Prescription Drugs Provided to Unlawfully Present Beneficiaries During 2009 Through 2011

October 31, 2013 Comments off

Medicare Improperly Paid Millions of Dollars for Prescription Drugs Provided to Unlawfully Present Beneficiaries During 2009 Through 2011
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General

Federal health care benefits are not allowable for services provided to unlawfully present beneficiaries. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has specifically implemented a policy that bars Federal payments for health care services provided to unlawfully present beneficiaries in Medicare Parts A and B. Furthermore, an individual is eligible for Part D benefits if he or she is entitled to Medicare benefits under Part A or enrolled in Part B and lives in the service area of a Part D plan. Thus, Federal law prohibits Part D payments for prescription drugs provided to unlawfully present beneficiaries.

CMS did not have a policy addressing payments for unlawfully present beneficiaries under Medicare Part D that was equivalent to the existing policy that covers payments for these beneficiaries under Parts A and B. Without such a policy, CMS incorrectly treated unlawfully present beneficiaries as eligible for Part D benefits and did not prevent Part D payments on behalf of them. Of the prescription drug event (PDE) records submitted by Part D sponsors for calendar years 2009 through 2011, CMS inappropriately accepted 279,056 PDE records with unallowable gross drug costs totaling $29.0 million on behalf of 4,139 unlawfully present beneficiaries and used those records to make its final payment determinations to sponsors.

Because CMS did not have such a policy, it did not have internal controls to identify and disenroll unlawfully present beneficiaries and to automatically reject PDE records associated with them.

We recommended that CMS (1) resolve improper Part D payments made for prescription drugs provided to unlawfully present beneficiaries, (2) develop and implement controls to ensure that Medicare does not pay for prescription drugs for unlawfully present beneficiaries, and (3) identify and resolve improper payments made for prescription drugs provided to unlawfully present beneficiaries for periods after the period of this review but before implementation of policies and procedures. CMS concurred with our first two recommendations but did not concur with our third recommendation. Although CMS did not concur with our third recommendation, we maintain that once CMS has begun the process of recovering improper payments, it should continue and resolve any improper payments that were incurred after the period of this review until system changes are in place that would effectively prohibit the coverage of these beneficiaries under Medicare Part D.

Holding the Fort: Nonprofit Employment During a Decade of Turmoil

October 9, 2013 Comments off

Holding the Fort: Nonprofit Employment During a Decade of Turmoil (PDF)
Source: Johns Hopkins University (Center for Civil Studies)

This report presents previously unavailable data on year-to-year changes in employment in private, nonprofit establishments in the United States from January 2000 through June 2010, with a special focus on how nonprofit employment fared during the 2007-2009 recession.

A Framework for Restructuring the Military Retirement System

August 7, 2013 Comments off

A Framework for Restructuring the Military Retirement System
Source: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College

The current military retirement system has been integral to sustaining the All Volunteer Force (AVF). Mounting federal budget challenges, however, have raised concern that the program may become fiscally unsustainable. While several restructuring proposals have emerged, none have considered the implications of these changes to the broader issue of manning an AVF. Changes to the existing system could create military personnel shortfalls, adversely affect servicemember and retiree well-being, and reduce public confidence in the Armed Forces. With the right analytical framework in place, however, a more holistic system restructuring is possible, one that avoids these negative effects while significantly reducing costs. A comprehensive framework is provided, as well as a proposal that stands to benefit both servicemembers in terms of value and the military in terms of overall cost savings.

Categories: Uncategorized

U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Proved Reserves

August 1, 2013 Comments off

U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Proved Reserves
Source: Energy Information Administration

In 2011, oil and gas exploration and production companies operating in the United States added almost 3.8 billion barrels of crude oil and lease condensate proved reserves, an increase of 15 percent, and the greatest volume increase since the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) began publishing proved reserves estimates in 1977 (Table 1). Proved reserves of crude oil and lease condensate increased by 2.9 billion barrels in 2010, the previous record. Proved reserves of U.S. wet natural gas1 rose by 31.2 trillion cubic feet in 2011 to a new record high of 348.8 trillion cubic feet. Though this increase was lower than the 33.8 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) added in 2010, it was only the second year since 1977 that natural gas net reserves additions surpassed 30 Tcf.

Categories: Uncategorized

CRS Memorandum: The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force: Background in Brief

July 24, 2013 Comments off

CRS Memorandum: The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force: Background in Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This memorandum responds to your request for information on presidential utilization of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF; P.L. 107-40; 50 U.S.C. § 1541 note), enacted in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, to justify and undertake military and other action. It contains very brief discussions of the relevant provisions of the AUMF, and the use of U.S. armed forces and other actions initiated under AUMF authority. Material in this memorandum may be used in other Congressional Research Service (CRS) products.

Note: Response to request for information from Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA13)

Categories: Uncategorized
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