Archive for June, 2011

2011 New Jersey July 4th Celebrations

A long list of celebrations for northern, central, and southern New Jersey is here.

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New Jersey Beach Conditions for 2011

New Jersey ranks second-highest in the nation with regards to the lack of bacteria-caused beach closings according to the National Resources Defense Council’s Testing the Waters 2011.  However, that doesn’t mean the beaches are pristine, it just means that New Jersey’s beaches are less worse than others. Beaches are listed by county and give the frequency of testing, the total number of samples, the percentage of samples that exceed state limits, and the number of advisory/closing days.

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2010 Worldwide Climate Report

This annual report  -  State of the Climate in 2010 – presents extensive reportings and observations from around the world and places them in historical context. This almost 300 page report is replete with maps, charts. and figures. A highlights document distills most of the major findings; the report itself can be searched by chapters – chapter 7 covers North America. Previous years are accessible here. For a more local flavor, visit the Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist (on the left side of the page look for the “NJ” section where climate information is found with some records going back to 1895.) For those wanting to peruse older volumes (1890 to 1905) from the New Jersey Weather Service, please visit here.

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President Obama’s Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal Speech

Both a transcript and a video of the speech are here. Analysis can be found at: NPR, The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, PBS, and the Los Angeles Times.

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New Jersey Really Is the Garden State

As was mentioned in 1855:  “The wealth of New Jersey lies in her lands, in the happy and convenient location of her territory, in its capability of improvement, and its proximity to markets.” (Jacob Miller. An Address Delievered before the New-Jersey State Agricultural Society.) And this can be proven by the recent release of over 2000 digitized images from the NJ Department of Agriculture held by the State Archives. You can search by full text, pre-selected subjects or corporate names, location, photographer, or year. (If you type “1899″ in the “latest year” box, you’ll retrieve 165 images predating 1900.) All the images have linked subjects as well. For those wishing to know more about farming in this state, a great place for statistics is the Historical Census Publications site of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Starting in 1840 and lasting until 1950, the Census Bureau included various and numerous questions on farm production and value. A one-volume compendium of statistics, with a separate narrative chapter on native American and colonial farming is New Jersey Agriculture: Historical Facts and Figures (1943); while more current numbers can be found here. Also, the Statistical Abstract of the United States has a separate section centered on agriculture; New Jersey is mentioned in some of the tables contained therein. Additional information can be found in: Kimberly Sebold. From Marsh to Farm: the Landscape Transformation of  Coastal New Jersey.(National Park Service, 1992); New Jersey Agriculture: A Bibliography (Rutgers, 2008); New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station; and books on New Jersey agricultural history.

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Congressional Salaries Since 1789

This informative CRS report, in discussing recent salaries adjustments and denials, also provides a handy listing of what Congressional pay has looked like over the course of 200+ years. Another CRS report of value is the Salaries of Members of Congress: Congressional Votes 1990-2010. These two reports cover the salaries of Congress but do not discuss other appropriations given to each member; for that, you need to peruse Congressional Salaries and Allowances (again from CRS). In this document, gentle reader, you will find that each Representataive is given an average allowance of $1.5 million for district office staffing and the like, while Senators are alloted an average of $3.34 million. You can see the amount of money paid to staff by visiting this site from Legistorm; a history on Congressional staffing can be found here. You can also visit the Statement of Disbursements from the House of Representatives which is available within 60 days of the end of each calendar quarterly.

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U.S. Life Expectancy Falls Behind in World Rankings

Despite spending more per capita on healthcare than any country in the world, the United States ranks only 38th on the list for life expectancy.  This information is contained in the report Falling behind: Life expectancy in U.S. counties from 2000-2007 in an international context. According to the data (a link to which is found at the bottom of this page), life expectancies vary widely across the country; i.e.,  people in the South and Appalachia live the shortest lives, while  Bergen County ranks as the 22nd highest county as far as life expectancy goes. The tables are broken down by state, county, sex, and race over a span of 20 years, along with a “years behind” category (“This means that some counties have a life expectancy today that nations with the best health outcomes had in 1957.”)

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Text of Senate President Sweeney’s Benefits Bill

The 124-page bill that is being acted upon in the Assembly today can be read here. Some salient points in understandable English are listed here. Those who wish to listen to the proceedings today can go here.

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Complete “Pentagon Papers” Now Online

The full version of this historic document has now been made available. More than a third of the material has never been released before. More information is found at: PBS, NPR, The Pentagon Papers and Daniel Ellsberg (video and transcript of this NY Times panel discusssion), The Guardian, Politico, and The New York Times.

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Health Insurance Premiums and Employee Contributions

This newly released report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, should form part of the discussion that is currently underway in many states and municipalities. This research brief traces the changes in premiums and employee contributions from 2001 through 2009. Percentages figures and dollar amounts are given for comparative purposes. Specific 2010 figures for state/local workers can be found here

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Students’ Insufficient Knowledge of American History

In the light of Sarah Palin’s recent reinterpretation of American history, The Nation’s Report Card: U.S. History 2010 presents a disturbing trend – the lack of fundamental knowledge of U.S. history. As it now stands, less that 50% of high school seniors taking this assessment scored at or above the basic level while only 12% were termed proficient. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated: “The history scores released today show that student performance is still too low.” His following comments would seem to partly blame NCLB with its emphasis on reading math, and science to the detriment of history, art, drama, and music. Of course, so much has been written on NCLB that it is impossible to fully explore this assessment process here. However, for some recent analysis, please read: Thomas Dee and Ben Jacob. “The Impact of No Child Left Behind on Students, Teachers, and Schools,” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity (Fall 2010): 149-207; and the just-released Michael Hout and Stuart Elliott, eds.  Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education. (National Academies Press, 2011.) Additional reportage on this dismal showing can be found at: Education Week, U.S. News and World Report, The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Wasington Post.

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What Charities in New Jersey Have Lost Federal Tax-Exempt Status?

Thousands, according to the IRS. Lists for all 50 states are available. Information provides the name of organization, last known address, EIN number, date of revocation of tax-exempt status, and the date it was posted on irs.gov. You can use the “find” command to limit by  municipality.

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Search Sarah Palin’s Emails When She Was Governor

All 12,000+ emails (over 24,000 pages)  have been digitized and are available for searching at this site; additional information is here.

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NJ Assembly Stalls Brokered Benefits/Pension Bill

According to various news sources, the announced deal between Governor Christie and Senate President Sweeney has hit a roadblock in the Assembly. For information, please consult: nj.com (with links to previous coverage); Wall Street Journal (which also covers the pension proposals in NY State); the Bergen Record; NJ101.5; NJ Spotlight; and NJN (at about the 1:00 mark).

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List of New Jersey Schools Closing Early Due to Excessive Heat

Go to NJ12.com or New Jersey 101.5 for a statewide list.

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First Mention of AIDS

On the 30th anniversary of the first description on AIDS, the first publications on the disease did not mention AIDS or HIV. This article from the June 5, 1981 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report details the occurrence of Pnemocystis Pneumonia among five homosexual men in Los Angeles. This is followed up in the mainstream press with a New York Times article from July 3, 1981 examining a rare cancer – diagnosed as Kaposi’s Sarcoma – among 41 homosexuals in New York City and San Francisco; one of the medical investigators called this outbreak “rather devastating.” The term “AIDS” does not appear until the September 24, 1982 issue of MMWR. This HIV Surveillance from June 3, 2011 provies a timeline as well as current statistics broken down by age group, transmission vector, race, and sex.

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New Jersey Counties Top Highest Property Tax List

New Jersey has the dubious honor of placing seven counties in the top ten list of highest property taxes paid over a five-year span according to the Tax Foundation. Using statistics garnered from the American Community Survey, the foundation reviewed almost 3000 counties’ records for this lengthy tabulation. Interactive tables allow county breakdowns over 1 or 3 or 5 years.

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Economic Crisis – June 2011 Update

The 2007-09 Recession and Employment (special issue of Monthly Labor Review); Derivatives Regulation in the 111th Congress (CRS); Review of Crisis Programs (IMF); World’s Banking Industry Faces Massive Upheaval (The Economist); Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse (U S Senate. Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs); Congressional Hearings on the Financial Crisis (hundreds of links, from Pew); and Global Imbalances and the Financial Crisis: Link or No Link? (Bank for International Settlements);

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