Wait up...

24/7, no longer weekly or even daily, the constant ticker-tape of RSS feeds and news aggregators both enrich and stress our faculties to weigh the right amount of contextual information. Seemingly trusting the subconscious 90 percent, we query, evaluate and decide. The ellipsis is perhaps the punctuation for the 21st Century. We know there's always more, but this will do in the meantime...

So, end-of-year ruminations to lend a logic to the serendipity of our searches, and from a library's point of view, a great opportunity to ponder the lists.

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and their, What Was–and Wasn't on the Public's Mind…, is a good lead-off to a linked look backwards: the Schiavo backlash; the death of Rosa Parks; medicare, social security and pensions; the natural and the man-made high gas prices. Catch your breath and consider the public opinions framing this year's news.

Happy New Year.



Internet: not quite Mars nor Venus

American men and women both embrace the Internet for its efficiency and as a gateway to information. According to the latest PEW Internet & American Life survey, while gender dynamics on the Net vary, usage rate is equaling. Men are still more intense users, quick to embrace new Net technologies, and tend to see the Net as a destination for recreation, to organize, and to conduct transactions. The survey finds that women are the more enthusiastic communicators on the Net, viewing the Net more as a textured environment than a tech experience, and tend "to penetrate deeper into areas where they have the greatest interest," finding more satisfaction than men with their online activities.

How Women and Men Use the Internet

(available in pdf, 815 KB, from PEW)



CA Telecom Bill of Rights

 The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has proposed a Telecommunications Consumer Bill of Rights, Government Technology reported Dec. 27. The proposal includes a special Telecommunications Consumer Fraud Unit at the PUC, which would be the country's first; an extensive consumer education campaign in multiple languages; and a statement of rights and freedom of choice principles regardless of the company or type of service a consumer chooses.

CPUC Commissioner Susan P. Kennedy stated:
With traditional regulation it takes years to bring a case against a company that is ripping off consumers--that won't work in today's fast-paced telecom world. This proposal gives the PUC the tools to protect consumers against fraud in real-time, and provides consumers with the tools they need to protect themselves.


Hawaii LRB Study : Cell Phones & Collisions

 The Hawaii Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) has published the first of three new studies requested by the 2005 Hawaii Legislature. House Concurrent Resolution No. 294, S.D. 1, adopted by the Legislature in the 2005 Regular Session, requested the Bureau to conduct a review of existing studies and statistics on the causal relationship between wireless telephone use while operating a motor vehicle and increased motor vehicle-related accidents. The LRB report finds that "a statistical association, not necessarily a causal relation, exists between cellular telephone use while operating a motor vehicle and motor vehicle collisions." Similar studies and their conclusions were reported in FR here and here.

Cell Phone Use And Motor Vehicle Collisions: A Review Of The Studies
(available in pdf, 265 KB, from LRB)

Fact Sheet (available in html)


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

From CNN to ABC, 'tis the season where Christmas news is holiday newspeak. Merry Christmas! and Happy Holidays! become battlecries in an unwinnable crusade of word warriors and language moralists. Even (especially?) Google attempts an inoffensively bland cat and mouse iconoclasm.

Wikipedia offers an interesting treatment of Political correctness, its perspective and linguistic background, the debate and overflowing confusion of etymology and semantics, history and meaning.



Electronic voting machines (DREs)

Also on Dec. 14, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a study on the direct recording electronic voting machine, or DRE. Most voting systems in the U.S. use computers in some way, CRS reports, and the most computerized is the DRE where votes are recorded directly onto computer memory devices. DREs have been used since the early 1990s but concerns about their security and reliability sharply increased from 2003 because of two factors: (1) DREs provide the only voting system that meets the requirements of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA, PL 107-252, PDF, 212KB, 66p., from GPO) to permit the disabled to vote, and (2) potential security problems were publicized. CRS feels there has been confusion about what the problems of DREs are, and this confusion can lead to misperceptions of the issues and the options to resolve them. Closely linked with the use of DREs is the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT), and this study addresses both.

For earlier FR posts on electronic voting, see here, here, and here.

The Direct Recording Electronic Voting Machine (DRE) Controversy: FAQs and Misperceptions, CRS report, RL 33190
(available in PDF, 96KB, 20p., from Open CRS)

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Split the 9th Circuit?

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a report Dec. 14 on current legislation in Congress to split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. "The nation's largest in geography, population, and caseload, the Ninth Circuit on occasion has been noted for its controversial rulings," CRS observes in its opening summary.

On Nov. 18, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (HR 4241, PDF, 1.36MB, 830p., from GPO) which, among its many provisions, seeks to split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals into two circuits - a new Ninth and a Twelfth Circuit (HR 4241, Title V, Subtitle D, p. 519). The new 9th would include four of the current 11 jurisdictions: California, Guam, Hawaii, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The 12th would comprise the remaining seven: Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Seven bills have been introduced in the current Congress proposing to split the 9th Circuit, but with its passage on Nov. 18, HR 4241 has become the focal point regarding the split, notes CRS.

(An AP story on Dec. 9 reported that Hawaii's two senators oppose the court split.)

Proposals in the 109th Congress to Split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, CRS report, RL33189
(available in PDF, 116KB, 29p., from Open CRS)

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Don't dial and drive

 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a research brief on the increase in cell phone use while driving. Statistics from the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) results found,
The 2005 rate translates into 974,000 vehicles on the road at any given daylight moment being driven by someone on a hand-held phone. It also translates into an estimated 10 percent of vehicles in the typical daylight moment whose driver is using some type of phone, whether hand-held or hands-free.
The 2005 survey found the incidence of drivers speaking with headsets almost doubled and it is estimated that "0.2 percent of drivers were dialing phones, checking PDAs, or otherwise manipulating some hand-held device while driving in 2005." Following these statistics, NHTSA's recommends:
The primary responsibility of the driver is to operate a motor vehicle safely. The task of driving requires full attention and focus. Cell phone use can distract drivers from this task, risking harm to themselves and others. Therefore, the safest course of action is to refrain from using a cell phone while driving.
Currently three states (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut) and the District of Columbia ban the use of hand-held phones while driving.

Driver Cell Phone Use in 2005 - Overall Results
(available in pdf, 368 KB, from NHTSA)

Adult Literacy

 The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released Thursday its assessment of adult literacy in the U.S., a report the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) calls, "the most comprehensive look at the state of literacy among the U.S. population since 1992."

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) in its press release noted,
five percent of U.S. adults, about 11 million people, were termed "nonliterate" in English, meaning interviewers could not communicate with them or that they were unable to answer a minimum number of questions.
and overall,
found little change between 1992 and 2003 in adults' ability to read and understand sentences and paragraphs or to understand documents such as job applications.
The assessment defines literacy as "using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one's goals, and to develop one's knowledge and potential." NAAL uses three categories to define English-language literacy: prose (e.g., understanding newspaper articles), document (e.g., understanding prescription drug labels) and quantitative (e.g., computing and comparing the cost per ounce of food items).

A First Look at the Literacy of America's Adults in the 21st Century
(The National Assessment of Adult Literacy, available in pdf, 1.7MB, from NCES)

Key Concepts and Features of the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy
(describes the assessment's key features and data types and reviews key elements carried over from the 1992 assessment; available in pdf, 1.6MB, from NCES)



Readying IDEA children for preschool

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the primary federal education law for children with disabilities. Part C of IDEA covers children from birth to age 3 and requires states to provide certain early intervention services. Part C is administered by the U.S. Dept. of Education's (Education) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report yesterday on how well states are implementing Part C and transitioning children from Part C to Part B, which covers children from age 3 who then become eligible for preschool programs. To help states provide a more seamless transition, GAO recommends that Education give states more guidance on transition planning and services. Hawaii was one of seven states where GAO conducted site visits for this study.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Education Should Provide Additional Guidance to Help States Smoothly Transition Children to Preschool, GAO-06-26
     Full report (PDF, 4.37MB, 41p.)
     Highlights (PDF, 88KB, 1p.)
     Abstract (HTML)

IDEA '97 Law & Regs ((available in various formats, including PDF for the law (368KB, 143p.), from the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) via a link from the OSEP site))

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Cool site...eCycling

States are having to contend with a deluge of discarded electronic equipment, Stateline.org reported Dec. 12, and a majority of them have introduced legislation to deal with such e-waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides an informative web site on this subject, eCycling, which covers the reuse or recycling of consumer electronics. Among its several links, eCycling offers region-specific information and lists donation, recycling, and manufacturers programs.

Relevant to this, in November the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued Electronic Waste: Strengthening the Role of the Federal Government in Encouraging Recycling and Reuse, GAO-06-47, (PDF, 1.18MB, 62p.). GAO found that economic and regulatory factors discourage the reuse and recycling of e-waste and recommended Congressional and agency measures to address these barriers.


California sunshine energy

Associated Press (AP) reported Tuesday on the California Solar Initiative proposal "to install panels to produce 3,000 megawatts of solar energy on 1 million homes, businesses and public buildings over 11 years."

After his "Million Solar Roofs" initiative died in legislature over union labor costs, Gov. Schwarzenegger bypassed the Legislature asking the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to sponsor the initiative. After a 30-day public comment period, CPUC is expected to vote on it next month. The initiative would increase rebates offered to homes, businesses, farms, schools and other public buildings that install rooftop solar panels from the current $400 million to $3.2 billion using an additional surcharge over 11 years starting in 2006.

Revised Joint Staff Proposal To Implement A California Solar Initiative
(available in pdf, 200KB, from the California Public Utilities Commission)

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Volcanoes trail network

 West Hawaii Today reported Sunday on the proposed 350 miles of trails on the mid-elevation slopes of Mauna Loa. Based on a newly released feasibilty study by Kamehameha Schools, the National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, the Hawaii Tourism Authority, and private landowners, the plan would cost up to $50 million and take at least five years to create.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin in a Friday story reported Rob Shallenberger of The Nature Conservancy as saying that, "The final system would be comparable to the 2,160-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail and, like it, might receive national designation, or it might be administered under the state Na Ala Hele system."

Mauna Loa Trail System Feasibility Study

(available as pdf section downloads from The Nature Conservancy)

Hawaii Natural Heritage Program (MLTS map)

Updated County of Hawaii Data Book

The 23rd Edition of the County of Hawaii Data Book (2004) has been released online by the county's Department of Research and Development. The Data Book's Preface states,
(The Databook) is intended to serve as a convenient collection of statistics on the social, economic and political organization of the County. It concentrates local data in a single, convenient reference source and may be used both as a statistical reference and as a guide to other statistical publications and sources.
Offered in the readable Word and PDF formats, the Data Book is accessed by section (e.g. Education, Law Enforcement, Government Finances and Employment, etc.) from the online Table of Contents page. Most areas were updated as of November 2005. The Organizational Chart of the County of Hawaii was last updated December 7, 2005.

2004 County of Hawaii Data Book
(published by the Hawaii County Department of Research and Development)


Community-based long-term care

One-third of state Medicaid budgets go to long-term care, and Medicaid takes up 20 percent of state budgets, reports Stateline.org in a Dec. 8 article on states seeking alternatives to nursing-home care. As Congress considers cutbacks in Medicaid, states are looking to community-based care, which is about one-third the cost of institutional care, for their aged.

The article cites Vermont as a leader in giving its seniors the kind of care they want, balancing Medicaid expenditures between nursing homes and community care. After overcoming federal barriers to home-care options, Vermont is now able to serve three times as many elders as it did before.

Not only is community care cheaper, most people prefer it. Nora Dowd Eisenhower, Secretary of Pennsylvania's Dept. of Aging, commented on the shift to community-based long-term care:
The boomers are aging. They're sophisticated consumers that want to change the way long-term care is delivered. Governors across the country are challenged to come up with strategies for controlling the mounting fiscal burden of long-term care. It's going to happen.

Wi-Fi courtesy of your city

Small cities, low-cost Wi-Fi - OK. Big cities, low-cost Wi-Fi - not OK? Government Technology (Nov. 2005) reports on the growing controversy of large municipalities establishing their own wireless networks. Private telecommunications companies claim that they cannot match the low prices for subscribers set by government. Early on, small communities created their own Wi-Fi networks because the big companies weren't interested in them. Now Philadelphia and San Francisco, and other cities, have announced wireless intitiatives, and major telephone and cable companies are counterattacking. There has been legislative activity at the state level to restrict municipalities from creating wireless broadband networks (a sidebar in the article lists 14 such states).

The battle has moved to Congress, GovTech continues. Two bills, of opposing viewpoints, have been introduced in the House and Senate. HR 2726, the Preserving Innovation in Telecom Act of 2005 (PDF, 32KB, 3p., from GPO), prohibits municipal governments from offering telecommunications services "except to remedy market failures by private enterprise to provide such services." Counter-legislation was introduced with S 1294, the Community Broadband Act of 2005 (PDF, 32KB, 3p., from GPO), "to preserve and protect the ability of local governments to provide broadband capability and services."

Meanwhile, the article notes, Philadelphia is proceeding with its network, having selected EarthLink to deploy Wi-Fi over 135 square miles, to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2006.



Food pushers

The Institute of Medicine released a report Tuesday on marketing effects on children's diets. According to its press notice, the study:
  • Describes the state of food and beverage marketing to children and youth and the impact of this exposure on their diets and health
  • Develops a framework and indicators for various stakeholders to guide the development of effective marketing and advertising strategies that foster healthy food choices among children and youth
  • If feasible, provides estimated costs of implementation strategies and benchmarks to guide future evaluation.
Written for parents, food retailers, media, government, and schools, and requested by Congress, the Institute's study finds that "current food and beverage marketing practices puts children's long-term health at risk."

Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity? (2006)

(available as an Open Book from The National Academies Press (NAP) - see mission for information on format)

A 35 p Executive Summary available in pdf, 615KB



Older workers - a better future?

As millions of baby boomers age, longer life spans and falling birth rates pose serious challenges to workers, employers, and the economy. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) yesterday released a report on the implications of an aging workforce on the nation's productivity, public benefits (Social Security and Medicare), and retirement and health programs. At the same time, many older Americans face less secure retirements. GAO found that these looming problems could be mitigated if employers had policies to hire and retain older workers and if older workers who wanted to work were given viable options to do so. GAO recommends that the Dept. of Labor (DOL) mount a high-profile public awareness campaign to help employers and employees better plan for the future and to bridge the gap between their respective needs.

OLDER WORKERS: Labor Can Help Employers and Employees Plan Better for the Future, GAO-06-80.
     Full report (PDF, 9.98MB, 60p.)
     Highlights (PDF, 76KB, 1p.)
     Abstract (HTML)

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Ten trends - Part 2

The Council of State Governments (CSG) has issued Trends in America, Navigating Turbulence to Success (PDF, 1.67MB, 49p.), the second in its Trends in America series. (The first was covered in FR here.) Navigating reports on state responses to the 10 "change drivers" described in the first book. Some examples: for an aging society, to contain health care costs and provide caregiving options; in the information revolution, to provide more services online for increasingly computer-literate citizens; in resource management, to encourage energy conservation and deal with e-waste (discarded electronic products).

Rep. Marcus Oshiro is one of the Voices of Leadership (p. 41) in the report, for a statement on the change driver of Growth Dynamics. Rep. Oshiro describes Hawaii's Legacy Land Act of 2005 (HB1308, CD1, which became Act 156, SLH 2005) that earmarks 10 percent of conveyance taxes for a special land conservation fund.



To states: invest in education and get rich

"Every additional dollar that the state invests in getting a cohort of 18-year-olds in and through college, it will gain an additional net return on that investment of $3 - an amount that, over the lifetime of a cohort of 18-year-olds, will translate to a windfall of $3 billion to the state in additional net tax revenue." UC Berkeley Survey Research Center (SRC) further believes these gains are large enough "to substantially improve the economic viability of the state (Ca)."

The SRC study which documents the financial benefits to California from increased higher education support also reports the opposite is true, namely, that if state officials do not act to increase the number of students getting through four-year universities, "any short term savings will soon turn into long-term costs."
...we expect that high school graduation rates and college going rates will increase, and demands on state support for education will climb commensurately. California will have to invest in community colleges and universities in the short run, but both the state and its residents will benefit handsomely from this additional support in the long run.
According to the press release in UC Berkeley News, "The report is an independent assessment of the costs and benefits of investing in education reviewed by more than a dozen academics and policy analysts."

Return on Investment: Education Choices and Demographic Change in California's Future
(available in PDF, 2.2 MB, available from UC Berkeley Survey Research Center)

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Just in...Developmental disabilities

 The State of the States in Developmental Disabilities, 2005 evaluates state trends in 2002-04 in services and funding for persons with mental retardation and related developmental disabilities (MR/DD). Topics covered in Part I include: General trends in MR/DD spending, Community services and supports, Public and private institutions, Fiscal effort in the states, and Demand for services and supports. Part II consists of 4-page statistical profiles of each state.

The study was carried out at the University of Colorado's Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, where the State of the States Developmental Disabilities Project is located, and was funded in part by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities (ADD) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). (HV1570.5 U5 B72 2005)

The State of the States in Developmental Disabilities (This site provides an e-mail link to receive a copy of the report)

A smoker's promise?

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids issues regular assessments of states' promise to use tobacco settlement funds - "expected to total $246 billion over 25 years" - to confront the public health problem caused by tobacco use in the U.S. According to Campaign's web site Wednesday, states "are still failing to keep this promise even as they collect record amounts of tobacco-generated revenue from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes and despite an improvement in the overall financial condition of most states."

Campaign ranked Hawaii in the second level of states which "committed substantial funding for tobacco prevention programs." (The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommended Hawaii spend $10.78 million on tobacco use prevention. Hawaii's actual spending was $5.80 million.) Only four states ranked in the first tier, funding prevention programs meeting CDC's minimum recommendation.

An Associated Press story reports that only Colorado has passed legislation forcing the state to spend tobacco tax or settlement money on prevention programs. The article further writes:
The industry spends $15.4 billion marketing tobacco products, nearly 28 times the amount of state spending on tobacco prevention, the report said. Industry representatives declined to confirm or deny that number.
A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement Seven Years Later
   Full report, pdf, 1.1MB
   Executive Summary & Key Finding, pdf, 132KB
   State Rankings, pdf, 80KB

See the Campaign's Special Reports page for more related material.

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