Fright night

U.N.: Global Warming Gases on Rise Again "'This means that industrialized countries will need to intensify their efforts to implement strong policies which reduce greenhouse gas emissions,' said Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. climate treaty secretariat, referring to taxes on carbon-based fuels, energy-efficiency regulations and other steps." (AP)

Budgets Falling in Race to Fight Global Warming "...research into energy technologies by both government and industry has not been rising, but rather falling." (New York Times)

Warned of costs, world seeks way to fight warming "On Monday, the most comprehensive review of the economics of climate change warned that costs of inaction in fighting global warming could cause an economic downturn on a scale associated with world wars or the 1930s depression...The White House Council on Environmental Quality called the report 'another contribution' to an 'abundance of economic analysis' on the issue of climate change. And OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo said the report had 'no foundations in either science or economics.'" (Reuters)

Damage to Coral Reefs Threatens Tourism "'You cannot separate the environment and the economy. They are one,' said Billy Causey, a regional director of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's marine sanctuaries...Studies show greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels are increasing the ocean's acidity, making it harder for coral to grow and reproduce." (AP)


GAO Chief Warns Economic Disaster Looms "If the United States government conducts business as usual over the next few decades, a national debt that is already $8.5 trillion could reach $46 trillion or more, adjusted for inflation. " (AP)



National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has issued a report on the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest of eight agencies comprising the Public Health Service (PHS) under the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS). According to the report, Congress doubled the NIH budget over five years, from FY1998 to FY2003, but thereafter there has been low or no growth, and FY2007 funding is level with FY2006.

CRS notes Congress's high interest in NIH and attributes it to such reasons as:
  • The NIH budget is the largest of federal civilian R&D spending.
  • NIH has garnered increasing attention with scientific advances; the earlier doubling of its budget has drawn greater scrutiny.
  • NIH's last major reauthorization was in 1993, although its statutory basis, the Public Health Service Act (pdf, 1476pp/5.03MB), has been amended since then.
Other areas of concern for Congress and the research community include: restrictions on types of research funded, conflict-of-interest regulations for NIH scientists, and developing policies for free public access to journal articles from NIH research. See Washington Post stories: Oct. 30, 2006; April 2, 2005; March 21, 2005; March 1, 2005; and May 13, 2004.

H.R. 6164 (pdf, 60pp/136kB), the NIH Reform Act of 2006, was passed by the House on Sept. 26, 2006.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH): Organization, Funding, and Congressional Issues, CRS Report RL33695, October 19, 2006 (pdf, 44pp/200kB, from Open CRS)


Spoiling election day

As reported Wednesday in The Washington Post (WP), electionline.org published their preview of the 2006 elections warning of widespread potential voting problems. Since the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) took effect to
assist in the administration of Federal elections and to otherwise provide assistance with the administration of certain Federal election laws and programs, to establish minimum election administration standards for States and units of local government with responsibility for the administration of Federal elections...
electionline.org finds that confusion, controversy, and machine and human error predict problems around the country, and will "combine with numerous high-stakes races to create the possibility of confusion on or after Election Day."

The report singles out the failures of voting machines and statewide voter databases, disputed rules for registration drives, challenged voter ID laws, and voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPATs) as contributing to a year in which the election process has changed "more than in any year since the disputed 2000 Presidential election."
The Nov.7 election promises to bring more of what voters have come to expect since the 2000 election - a divided body politic, an election system in flux and the possibility - if not certainty - of problems at polls nationwide.
The preview includes: a listing of states to watch; a chart of voting machines used by states; state VVPATs requirements; voter-verification requirements; status of state voter registration databases; and state absentee voting and provisional voting practices.

Election Preview 2006: What's Changed, What Hasn't, and Why
(October 2006, pdf, 75pp/3.1MB)

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No more nursing homes

"We are never going to build another nursing home," says Patrick Flood, commissioner of Vermont's Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL). "It is an outdated model."
Mr. Flood was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article (Oct. 23, A1) on Vermont's pioneering program to offer its elderly and physically disabled the long-term setting of their choice.

The program, "Choices for Care," is a Medicaid Section 1115 waiver demonstration project. Where previously the only Medicaid choice was institutional care, now there is equal entitlement to home and community-based services. In an Oct. 5 press release, Vermont Governor Jim Douglas stated of the program begun in the fall of 2005, "On the first anniversary of this waiver, all signs point to success. Our push for this waiver was driven by the belief that more people will choose to have their needs met in their own homes and communities rather than in institutions."

Vermont also publishes an annual 10-year forecast of long-term care needs reflecting the state's changing demographics and trends. Its latest report details the implementation of "Choices for Care."

Choices for Care (October 2005, pdf, 25pp/168kB)

2005-2015: Shaping the Future of Long Term Care and Independent Living (May 2006, pdf, 45pp/268kB)


Hawaii Admin Rules Table of Statutory Sections Implemented

The 2006 edition of the Hawaii Administrative Rules Table of Statutory Sections Implemented has recently been published by the Hawaii Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) and includes all of the rules of Hawaii state government agencies filed with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor in the Hawaii Administrative Rules format prior to May 1, 2006. All prior versions of the Table are superseded. This publication also contains a partial directory of the State's administrative rules listing all of the chapters organized under each of the titles of the Hawaii Administrative Rules.

Caveat: This table contains no references to rules that have not been converted to the Hawaii Administrative Rules format, or that are exempt from the Hawaii Administrative Procedure Act , Chapter 91, Hawaii Revised Statutes (pdf).

Hawaii Administrative Rules 2006 Table Of Statutory Sections Implemented And Directory 2006 Supplement To 2001 Cumulative Edition
(2006, pdf, 144pp/335kB)

See also:
Hawaii Administrative Rules Directory, 2001 Cumulative Edition.
(2001, pdf, 527pp/1.3MB)

LRB Note, 02-11, Administrative Agency Rules (2002, pdf, 4pp/24kB)

Online access to Hawaii Administrative Rules

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Easier credit, greater risk

"More Home Loans Go Sour," the Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 19 (D1), as easier mortgage standards are leading to increasing delinquencies. At the end of the third quarter, according to the article, mortgage delinquencies were at their highest level since 2003.

The article also noted the Oct. 18 release of a report from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) that found credit standards easing for the third year. In a news release, OCC announced the publication of its report which surveyed the 73 largest national banks over a 12-month period ending March 31, 2006.

The primary findings of the OCC report:
  • Competitive pressures have led to a third consecutive year of eased credit underwriting standards. Examiners report that national banks have eased underwriting standards for both commercial and retail credit products.
  • Demand for bank loans from nonbank investors has influenced underwriting terms for leveraged loans and pushed credit spreads lower. The easing of standards for leveraged loans has extended more broadly to other types of commercial credit.
  • While current loan performance and overall loan quality remain sound, credit risk is increasing due to the continued weakening of underwriting standards.

Survey of Credit Underwriting Practices 2006 (pdf, 472KB, 39p., from OCC)


Energy stats

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently updated its statistical report on energy supply and consumption in the U.S. The report begins with an overview of total energy consumption, then presents detailed analyses of trends and statistics for oil, electricity, natural gas, and coal.

On gasoline prices, the report comments:
A significant and not often noted fact is that, like many commodities, the long-term trend in gasoline prices, adjusted for inflation and excluding temporary surges, has been down. As shown in Figure 8, the real price of gasoline peaked in 1980, then fell precipitously in the mid-1980s. The surge in prices since the summer of 2004 brought the price close to the peak of 1980 (in real dollars).
The statistics are largely from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the Dept. of Energy (DOE).

Energy: Selected Facts and Numbers, CRS Report RL31849, October 6, 2006 (pdf, 184KB, 30p., from Open CRS)

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Rating the examiners

Reported in the New York Times (NYT), the consumer advocacy organization founded by Ralph Nader, Public Citizen, publishes online a report evaluating state medical boards web sites.
The report, based on a survey conducted by Public Citizen's Health Research Group, graded state medical board Web sites for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In 14 states where the licenses of medical doctors and doctors of osteopathy are overseen by different boards, Public Citizen evaluated each board separately, resulting in a total of 65 boards. Outside experts in the field of physician discipline helped devise a weighting scale for the different elements.
Public Citizen found that since Massachusetts in 1996 became the first state to require information regarding their medical board and its actions against physician misconduct be available on the Internet, almost all states "now provide some form of information online." Quality of content and the degree of usability were used to rank the boards web sites. Public Citizen also found most sites "seriously deficient in providing this important information for patients."

The findings are published in a searchable database. The database can generate individual profiles of state boards or comparison reports of all states by ranking factors (e.g., rank and score, types of physician-identifying information, disciplinary actions taken by hospitals, etc.).

The Hawaii Board of Medical Examiners offers information through the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' (DCCA) Professional and Vocational Licensing Search. Out of the 65 boards evaluated, Hawaii ranked a low 45, with a score of 38.7 out of 100, providing no information on hospital disciplinary actions, malpractice information, federal disciplinary actions, or conviction information.

2006 Report on Doctor Disciplinary Information on State Web Sites
- a Survey and Ranking of State Medical and Osteopathic Board Web Sites.
(Oct. 17, 2006, online database, provided by Public Citizen)

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Recent GAO reports


NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT: Education Actions Needed to Improve Implementation and Evaluation of Supplemental Educational Services, GAO-06-1121T, September 21, 2006
     Highlights (pdf, 59KB, 1p.) Full testimony (pdf, 494KB, 27p.)
     Discusses Supplemental Educational Services (SES) in schools receiving Title I funds.


GUARDIANSHIPS: Little Progress in Ensuring Protection for Incapacitated Elderly People, GAO-06-1086T, September 7, 2006
     Highlights (pdf, 60KB, 1p.) Full testimony (pdf, 188KB, 17p.)
     Updates a 2004 GAO report.


ALTERNATIVE MORTGAGE PRODUCTS: Impact on Defaults Remains Unclear, but Disclosure of Risks to Borrowers Could Be Improved, GAO-06-1112T, September 20, 2006
     Highlights (pdf, 60KB, 1p.) Full testimony (pdf, 564KB, 16p.)

ALTERNATIVE MORTGAGE PRODUCTS: Impact on Defaults Remains Unclear, but Disclosure of Risks to Borrowers Could Be Improved, GAO-06-1021, September 19, 2006
     Highlights (pdf, 60KB, 1p.) Full report (pdf, 1.6MB, 64p.)
     Report and testimony discuss risks of interest-only, adjustable rate mortgages for less sophisticated borrowers.

Social Security

SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM: Implications of Different Indexing Choices, GAO-06-804, September 14, 2006
     Highlights (pef, 56KB, 1p.) Full report (pdf, 1MB, 74p.)
     Analyzes the role of indexing in Social Security's long-term solvency as well as income adequacy and benefit equity.

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Pharmaceutical R&D

Perceptions that the pace of new-drug develoment has slowed and that the pharmaceutical industry is highly profitable have sparked concerns that significant problems loom for future drug development.
The foregoing spurred a recent study by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) which looks at the current state of pharmaceutical R&D, how it is affected by complex economic forces, and how efficiently new drugs are delivered.

CBO also examines the following related issues:
  • What explains the cost of developing new drugs?
  • Does federal investment in R&D stimulate or displace private investment?
  • Has the drug industry's innovative performance declined?
  • How profitable are drug firms,and how do profits affect the amount and type of R&D that companies conduct?
According to the study, R&D costs vary depending on the type of drug being developed, the highest generally being for a new molecular entity (NME), rather than a modification of an existing drug. A recent estimate for an NME is $800 million, but that amount factors in failed projects and forgone investments and reflects research strategies related to expected revenues.

Research and Development in the Pharmaceutical Industry (pdf, 596KB, 65p.), October 2006

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FTC - T is for Tech

November 6-8, 2006, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will host hearings on Protecting Consumers in the Next Tech-ade. The Commission encourages participation by "consumers, government regulators, industry members, technologists, consumer advocates, academics, law enforcement officials and other interested members of the public."
The hearings will provide an opportunity to examine changes that have occurred in marketing and technology over the past decade, and to garner experts' views on coming challenges and opportunities for consumers, businesses, and governmental bodies.
To provide continuous coverage of the hearings, the FTC launched their FTC Tech-ade Blog focusing on the new technologies and developing business practices especially impacting the consumer. The blog will offer interviews with hearing participants and tech experts and will provide live coverage of the hearings. The blog includes full blog interactive features allowing comments.

The hearings will run three days on the campus of The George Washington University and is open to the public, with a final day on November 9 open only to law enforcers and government officials. A sampling of topics include:
  • How Will We Communicate in the Next Tech-ade?
  • Social Networking
  • User-generated Content
  • Benefits to Consumers of Living in an Instant Information Culture
  • RFID Technology
  • New Products - New Challenges
  • How to Make Sense of it All - Consumers' Perspective
The full agenda of workshops may be viewed on the Tech-ade site.

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Cool site...NOAA photos

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) presents a vast (20,000+ images) photo library.

Go to Image collections to select from 20 different categories, from the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) album / catalog, to Beginnings and Endings ("sunrises, sunsets, moonbeams and moonshine").

Two informative sites:
  • Damage Assessment Restoration Program (DARP)
    brings together restoration scientists and managers and a legal team to ensure that natural resource losses are compensated for and that injured marine resources are restored after oil spills, toxic releases or ship groundings.
  • Shoreline Data Explorer
    provides high-resolution digital shoreline from multi-temporal surveys of our nation's coastline.


Upper limit in the depths

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requested The National Academies' Ocean Studies Board (OSB) examine "the impacts of fishing on non-target resources and habitat." Finding more severe changes than anticipated to "the genetic structure and age composition of fished stocks, as well as decreasing the diversity of marine communities," the panel concluded:
  • Identifying and understanding these potential impacts and interactions will be essential for developing future management actions.
  • Fisheries management strategies currently employed in the United States generally do not take into account ecosystem effects and multi-species interactions.
  • New governance and management instruments that create stewardship incentives among user groups should be evaluated and considered for adoption in the United States for multi-species fisheries management.
  • Promoting Better Stewardship of the Marine Environment Fisheries management structures should ensure that a broad spectrum of social values is included in policy and management decisions.
  • Research should also be conducted on how ecosystem management objectives can be incorporated into incentive-based governance mechanisms.
  • There is an additional need for a repository and data management system for ecosystem-level research that will allow access to data through multiple-user portals.

The panel further finds, "Seventy-six percent of the world's stocks are fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted," with few resources remaining for future development of new sustainable fisheries.
Whether the unwanted, negative influences of fishing on marine food webs and communities can be reversed is generally unknown.

Dynamic Changes in Marine Ecosystems: Fishing, Food Webs, and Future Options (2006, NAP Open Book, 154pp)

See also, FR post, Offshore aquaculture

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Recent GAO reports

Disaster Management

CATASTROPHIC DISASTERS: Enhanced Leadership, Capabilities, and Accountability Controls Will Improve the Effectiveness of the Nation's Preparedness, Response, and Recovery System, GAO-06-618, September 6, 2006
     Highlights, (pdf, 60KB, 1p.) Full report (pdf, 2.7MB, 147p.)
     Reviews lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina.


ELECTIONS: DOD Expands Voting Assistance to Military Absentee Voters, but Challenges Remain, GAO-06-1134T, September 28, 2006
     Highlights (pdf, 64KB, 1p.) Full testimony (pdf, 424KB, 26p.)
     Covers the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP).


AGRICULTURAL CONSERVATION: USDA Should Improve Its Process for Allocating Funds to States for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, GAO-06-969, September 22, 2006
     Highlights (pdf, 60KB, 1p.) Full report (pdf, 892KB, 62p.)
     Hawaii's EQIP funding for FY2006 is $7.5 million.

CLIMATE CHANGE: Federal Agencies Should Do More to Make Funding Reports Clearer and Encourage Progress on Two Voluntary Programs, GAO-06-1126T, September 27, 2006
     Highlights (pdf, 64KB, 1p.) Full testimony (pdf, 464KB, 21p.)
     The two voluntary programs are Climate Leaders and Climate VISION.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: Many Factors Affect the Length of Time to Recover Select Species, GAO-06-730, September 6, 2006
     Highlights (pdf, 57KB, 1p.) Full report (pdf, 726KB, 77p.)
     Covers 31 species nearing recovery.

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Public reality checks

Public Agenda is a nonpartisan, research organization, an "explorer of public opinion" through surveys, pollings, education and civic engagement, whose mission is to:
  • Help citizens understand complex problems
  • Involve those who are normally excluded from policy debates
  • Promote productive public and leadership dialogue
  • Create momentum for change by building common ground, managing differences and creating new partnerships
Public Agenda 2006 reports include their "Reality Check" series, publications examining public opinion on important issues. The most recent reports focus on education, professional and public attitudes toward the learning experience and standards and procedures.

The Insiders: How Principals and Superintendents See Public Education Today (2006, pdf, 29pp/372kB) - "Superintendents are substantially less likely than classroom teachers to believe that too many students get passed through the system without learning."

Is Support for Standards and Testing Fading? (2006, pdf, 31pp/283kB) - "...five years into the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act and over a dozen years into the so-called standards movement in American education, the public now sees these reforms as 'necessary, but not sufficient.'"

A Fresh Look at Public Attitudes About Libraries in the 21st Century (2006, pdf, 84pp/1.06MB) - "Americans prize public library service and see libraries as potential solutions to many communities' most pressing problems..."

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Offshore aquaculture

"(S)tates have an important role to play" in offshore aquaculture legislation, according to a recent editorial in Science magazine (Sept. 8, 2006). The author, Rosamond Naylor, of the Center for Environmental Sciences and Policy (CESP) at Stanford University, cites as an example of such a state law, California's recently enacted Sustainable Oceans Act (pdf, 88KB, 7p.), which "sets high environmental standards for marine finfish production in state waters and could help shape national legislation."

In contrast to California's law, Naylor calls attention to the National Offshore Aquaculture Act of 2005 (pdf, 92KB, 41p.), S. 1195, which allows for offshore aquaculture in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and which she believes does not provide needed protection for the marine environment. S. 1195 was introduced by Hawaii's Sen. Daniel Inouye and Alaska's Sen. Ted Stevens on June 8, 2005. S. 1195 did not cross over to the House but Naylor feels it "likely" that the bill will appear again.

Naylor states:
Facilitating aquaculture development in federal waters of the EEZ (3 to 200 miles offshore) could result in substantial commercial benefits. But at what cost to sustainable fisheries, wild fish populations, and marine ecosystems remain sticky questions for legislation.
One amendment to S. 1195, Senate Amendment 769, permits a coastal state to opt out of aquaculture development in the EEZ off its shores. However, Naylor maintains,
Without a clear legal standard for environmental and resource protection within the bill, marine fisheries and ecosystems are vulnerable to further decline.

See Federal and Hawaii web sites on aquaculture:

The NOAA Aquaculture Program, under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. Dept of Commerce (Commerce), formulated the Offshore Aquaculture Act of 2005.

The Center for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture (CTSA) is one of five aquaculture centers established by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA). The Hawaii center is located at Makapu'u, Oahu.

The state of Hawaii established the Aquaculture Development Program (ADP) within its Dept. of Agriculture (DOA).