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Good to Know…Week of November 21, 2011


THE GREAT RECESSION
The Great Recession and Its Impact on Americans
The Great Recession has impacted virtually every American. In recent months, the Pew Research Center released a series of reports that document the wealth gap between whites and minorities, childhood poverty among Hispanics, the trend towards more Americans moving in with relatives because of the down economy, and the sharp decline in fertility rates, also linked to the state of the economy.

To read these reports, go to: PewSocialTrends.org

How We’re Doing as Europe Falters
In the tenth “How We’re Doing” Index, Alan Berube and Domenico Lombardi examine intensifying concerns about the U.S. economy and potentially damaging ripple effects from the eurozone crisis. Leaders at both the national and local levels in the United States, they say, need to expand relationships with faster-growing foreign markets to accelerate economic recovery and sustain growth.

To read this analysis, go to: Brookings.edu

HEALTH CARE
Clinical Trials Are a Mess: How to Get Needed Vaccines Out Faster
The global health community has been abuzz with news that the new malaria vaccine, which has been in the development phase for over two decades, appears to greatly reduce the risk of malaria in children in Africa. Yet this exciting success story is just one of nearly 90 promising new medicines, vaccines, and diagnostic techniques stuck in the tangled clinical trials process.

To read this article, go to: TheAtlantic.com

Indiana Places a Big Bet on Consumer-Driven Health Insurance
One thing Mitch Daniels believes with absolute conviction is that consumers need to pay more of the cost of their health care. He has written it in a flurry of op-ed articles in newspapers and journals all over the country. If patients have to reach a little deeper into their wallets, the Indiana governor insists, they will think twice about paying for the same diagnostic test a second time or going to the emergency room on the weekend for convenience.

To read this article, go to: Stateline.org

Health Insurance Premiums Soar in all 50 States
A state-by-state analysis finds that from 2003 to 2010, premiums for family coverage increased an average of 50 percent. At that rate, the average family premium would balloon to nearly $24,000 by 2020, according to the study, which was conducted by The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit health policy foundation.

To read this article, go to: KaiserHealthNews.org

Medicaid Savings Contribute to $18 Billion in Waste Reductions
Cuts to wasteful spending helped the federal government save more than $18 billion during fiscal year 2011, the Obama administration announced Tuesday. A substantial piece of those savings came from an effort to avoid improper payments in the state-run Medicaid programs.

To read this article, go to: Governing.com

Florida’s Push for Specific Waiver in Health-care Law Could Have Big Implications
At issue is a regulation requiring insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical costs. Florida, a swing state with voters skeptical of the health-reform law, is pushing back. The state wants the Obama administration to waive the spending requirement for Florida insurers, a move that critics say would roll back a crucial consumer protection in the health-reform law.

To read this article, go to: WashingtonPost.com

Whatever Court Rules, Major Changes in Health Care Likely to Last
No matter what the Supreme Court decides about the constitutionality of the federal law adopted last year, health care in America has changed in ways that will not be easily undone. Provisions already put in place, like tougher oversight of health insurers, the expansion of coverage to one million young adults and more protections for workers with pre-existing conditions are already well cemented and popular.

To read this article, go to: NYTimes.com

Mayo: Smoking Bans Cut Cardiac Events 45%
The incidence of heart attacks and sudden deaths has fallen nearly in half since smoking bans took effect in southeastern Minnesota, according to new research from the Mayo Clinic.

To read this article, go to: StarTribune.com

HHS Announces New Grants For Innovative Care Programs
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is making up to $1 billion in funding available to public and private organizations to develop innovative strategies for improving health care while lowering costs.

To read this article, go to: Governing.com

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
U.N. Panel Finds Climate Change Behind Some Extreme Weather Events
At least some of the weather extremes being seen around the world are consequences of human-induced climate change and can be expected to worsen in coming decades, a United Nations panel reported on Friday.

To read this article, go to: NYTimes.com

10 States Take U.S. EPA to Court over Air Quality Standards
Ten states petitioned a federal court Tuesday to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to release new air quality standards related to fine particles, as required under the Clean Air Act.

To read this article, go to: Governing.com

What Can U.N. Climate Talks in Durban Deliver?
The United Nations, the International Energy Agency and others say global pledges to curb carbon pollution won’t prevent the planet heating up beyond two degrees Celsius, a threshold scientists say risks wilder weather, crop failures, melting ice caps and major floods.

To read this article, go to: Reuters.com

TRANSPORTATION
Feds Short of Disaster Funds to Rebuild Roads
It has been three months since Tropical Storm Irene washed out roads all across Vermont, but in the town of Roxbury, it is still difficult to get around. Two bridges on the main road through the town of 700 are still out, and are not expected to be repaired until the middle of December.

To read this article, go to: Stateline.org

TELEWORK
Exposed: The Dark Side of Telework
Despite the benefits telework promises–from slashing costs to ramping up productivity–many are cynical about this increasingly common way of working, saying managers are turning a blind eye to those who violate the new privileges and policies. Are federal agencies oblivious to the pitfalls of this new way of working? FCW readers seem to think so.

To read this article, go to: FCW.com

GSA Begins Major Telework Push
Top government officials have unveiled a new telework policy that aims to eventually empower the entire workforce to be more mobile and agile for the 21st century economy.

To read this article, go to: FCW.com

SOCIAL MEDIA
Why Americans Use Social Media
Two-thirds of online adults (66%) use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or LinkedIn. These internet users say that connections with family members and friends (both new and old) are a primary consideration in their adoption of social media tools. Roughly two thirds of social media users say that staying in touch with current friends and family members is a major reason they use these sites, while half say that connecting with old friends they’ve lost touch with is a major reason behind their use of these technologies.

To read this article, go to: PEWResearch.org

PUBLIC WORKFORCE
Businesses Penalized for State Unemployment Insurance Debt
Employers in 20 states will have to shell out more in taxes next year as a penalty for the states not paying back federal loans that kept unemployment programs afloat during the recession.

To read this article, go to: Stateline.org

Survey: Federal Employee Satisfaction Declines
The nonprofit Partnership for Public Service on Wednesday released its annual rankings of large and small agencies and announced the results of a survey that found governmentwide employee satisfaction and commitment dipped this year from a score of 65 points in 2010 to 64 points out of a possible 100. Sixty-four points still is 5.7 percent higher than the score in 2003, when the group first published its rankings.

To read this article, go to: GovExec.com

TECHNOLOGY
TSA Puts Off Safety Study of X-ray Body Scanners
The head of the Transportation Security Administration has backed off a public commitment to conduct a new independent study of X-ray body scanners used at airport security lanes around the country.

To read this article, go to: ProPublica.org

Europe Bans X-Ray Body Scanners Used at U.S. Airports
The European Union on Monday prohibited the use of X-ray body scanners in European airports, parting ways with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which has deployed hundreds of the scanners as a way to screen millions of airline passengers for explosives hidden under clothing.

To read this article, go to: ProPublica.org

Are Mobile Devices Already Making PIV Cards Obsolete?
In the current budget-constrained, always-on mobile environment, a premium is being put on consumer devices that enable employees to access enterprise resources. But what about the requirement that Personal Identity Verification cards be used to authenticate logical access? How will cards be accommodated on smart phones and other handheld devices?

To read this article, go to: GCN.com

Lab’s Behavioral System Can Catch Insider Threats
Researchers at the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory are developing a tool to identify malicious insiders and stop them from sending sensitive information outside the enterprise.

To read this article, go to: GCN.com

Booz Allen Identifies 9 Ways IT is Transforming Healthcare
As healthcare moves into a new era of efficiency, effectiveness and improved patient outcomes through health information technology, consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton has identified the top nine ways health IT is transforming healthcare. Among the changes with the greatest impact are reduced medical errors and faster emergency care.

To read this article, go to: HealthcareITNews.com

Lawmakers Lambast OPM for Jobs Site Glitches, Slow Retirement Processing
Lawmakers took the Office of Personnel Management to task for glitches in its relaunched USAJobs website and for inadequate federal worker retirement claims processing, during a House oversight panel hearing on Tuesday.

To read this article, go to: GovExec.com

EDUCATION
State Student Loan Programs Look to Fill Financial Aid Gap
The Student Access Loan, offered for the first time this fall, is designed to be Georgia’s aid of last resort for students who have exhausted their other federal and state options. Georgia is among six states that recently have unveiled new student-loan programs designed to help students pay for expenses beyond the amount financial aid and family support can cover.

To read this article, go to: Stateline.org

Congress Blocks New Rules on School Lunches
The rules, proposed last January, would have cut the amount of potatoes served and would have changed the way schools received credit for serving vegetables by continuing to count tomato paste on a slice of pizza only if more than a quarter-cup of it was used. The rules would have also halved the amount of sodium in school meals over the next 10 years.

To read this article, go to: NYTimes.com

INTERESTING…
$166,382 – The Rising Age Gap in Economic Well-Being
Households headed by older adults have made dramatic gains in economic well-being relative to those headed by younger adults over the past quarter century, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of a wide array of government data.

To read this article, go to: PEWResearch.org

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