Archive for September, 2011

16th Century Music Books Online

Some of the oldest printed music books in the world, many too fragile to be handled, have been rendered into their digital versions. They are searchable by composer, title, date, and subject. More than 300 volumes are available at Early Music Online.

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Updated Comprehensive Benefits Review

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has just issued its annual National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States. Three separate groups are examined: private industry, civilian, and state and local workers. The benefit types reviewed include retirement, leave, and health care, among others. The tables detail the proportion of each benefit paid by both the employer and employee. Geographical and income breakdowns are also available.

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What is Listeria?

Listeria is a serious infection usually caused by eating food containing the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. This has been in the press of late because of the multiple deaths caused by eating cantaloupe infected with this bacterium. More information, including statistics, prevention, who is at risk, etc can be found at the Center for Disease Control’s Listeriosis page. You’ll also be directed to articles from its publication MMWR highlighting previous outbreaks as well as to its investigation update. Multistate foodborne outbreaks are also detailed. Food safety is obviously in everyone’s best interests so you have to wonder why Republicans have cut funding to food safety programs.

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New Reports on Health Insurance

While New Jersey workers await the release of lower-cost options for health insurance, two major reports, just released, make for sobering reading. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s Employer Health Benefits: 2011 Annual Survey reports that: “The average annual premiums in 2011 are $5,429 for single coverage and $15,073 for family coverage. Since 2010, average premiums increased 8% for single coverage and 9% for family coverage.”(10) And the Northeast has the highest premiums in the country. The report includes dozens of variations and may help people make informed decisions if and when lower-cost options are ever made available in the state.  A research brief from the RAND Corporation – How Does Growth in Health Care Costs Affect the American Family? – shows how increasing health care costs have nearly doubled between 1999 and 2009, leaving families with only a net gain of $95 per month during that decade. The conclusion reached is that:  “… over the past decade, health care cost growth has consumed a large share of the disposable income of the average American family. Heavy spending on government health care programs is also adding to the federal budget deficit. These sobering facts provide further evidence that lowering health care costs is one of the most important challenges of our times.” As a sidebar to this discussion, 49.9 million people in this country have no health insurance according to Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States:2010 from the Census Bureau.

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Governor Christie’s Speech at the Ronald Reagan Library

Here is the video as well as the transcript.

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Which Country Has the Fastest Internet?

Well, it certainly is not the United States which stands at 26th in the world. How about South Korea, followed by Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Latvia? These are the results based on work done by Pando Networks, a leading game delivery provider. How is this possible? According to the CEO of Pando, it is the the product of “infrastructural development and favorable geography.” The power point presentation of the report can be found here; it includes the twelve fastest and twelve slowest cities in the world as well as the fastest internet connections by ISPs. In a breakdown by The New York Times, New Jersey is the second-fastest state in the nation.

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Members Named to State Teacher Evaluation Committee

The New Jersey Department of Education has published the list of appointed members to the statewide panel responsible for advising the department on the implementation of a pilot program (EE4NJ, Excellent Educators for New Jersey) that will evaluate teacher effectiveness in eleven school districts this year. Among the members is Belinda Stokes, principal of Snyder High School in Jersey City. Additional information can be found at: newjerseynewsroom and NJ Spotlight.

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Most Corrupt Members of Congress

Here’s a list no politican wants to be on. This report  from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington singles out 14 members of Congress for scandalous behavior ranging from lying on campaign finance forms to trying to influence a judge; another 5 make the “dishonorable mention” list for their lack of ethical behavior. Each individual entry is comprised of a heavily documented indictment against the Congressperson. Thankfully, no one from New Jersey is on the list. Previous reports are also available.

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50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps

Established by President Kennedy via Executive Order 10924, initially headed up by his brother-in-law Sargent Shriver, the Peace Corps has sent thousands of volunteers around the world to assist developing countries as teachers, technical advisers, and advocates. (We have had the pleasure of meeting some of these goodwill ambassadors during our travels.) The New York Times has a Topics section on this organization. Other informative sites include: The Peace Corps: Current Issues; The Peace Corps Fiftieth Anniversary Web Site; Peace Corps Digital Library containing volunteer stories and photos as well as speeches and Congressional reports and legislation; History of the Peace Corps which is a collection of primary sources; Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project; and Peace Corps Journals, an online repository of current stories, commentaries, and observations by in-country volunteers. Additional reports, monographs, and Congressional hearings are available courtesy of HathiTrust. “Peace Corps, the toughest job you’ll ever love.”

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Videos of the Republican Debates

The recent Republican debates can be viewed in their entirety at CNN’s 2012 Election Central. The full debates, plus highlights and commentaries are available. This CNN site offers a wealth of information, detailing the candidates’ positions on various hot-button topics such as health care, the economy, and immigration. When the field finally narrows down, CNN will also cover the Presidential debates.

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International Economic Sources

Here are some the best web sites freely available.  The World Bank provides loans and advice to developing countries throughout the world; you can search by country, which will provide country briefings, explanations of in-country projects, and additional data, or you can search its acclaimed World Development Report, a thematically structured annual publication, or consult its World Development Indicators, a fifty-year compilation of hundreds of tables for over 200 countries. The International Monetary Fund’s goals are to preserve financial stability and foster economic cooperation. To those ends, it issues reports on the well-being of country economies as well as publishing the World Economic Outlook that details economic concerns on global, regional, and national levels. The OECD publishes its Economic Survey series for each member state; these reports examine the economic landscape of each country and address ways of correcting the challenges they face. While the reports are not accessible without a subscription, the executive summary provides a great deal of valuable information. The OECD also puts out Going for Growth that outlines immediate economic problems and how to ameliorate them. The United Nations Statistical Division has, among other valuable data sets, both National Accounts Main Aggregates Database that can be arranged by country and the UN Statistical Yearbook, a repository of social, economic, and environmental statistics that can be broken down by country. The European Union has the Eurostat Yearbook; the Asian Development Bank has Key Indicators; the African Development Bank has its Statistics Pocketbook; and the Statistical Abstract of the United States contains dozens of relevant tables. We would be remiss in our duties if we did not mention the State Department’s Background Notes which discuss various countries’ economic condition, US Commercial Service’s Country Commercial Guides, and the CIA’s World Factbook that presents a full rendering of a country’s economy in statistics.  And do not forget the International Economic Statistics Database from the St Louis Federal Reserve or the central bank websites (valuable information, but not always in English) or international statistical agencies (almost all in English).

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2011 National Hispanic Heritage Month

Much data on Hispanics in this country are available through this Census Bureau Facts for Features page. Other valuable resources include: Biography.com, Smithsonian Institution, Celebrate Hispanic Heritage (from Scholastic), Hispanic Properties/Heritage in the National Parks (National Park Service), Hispanic Heritage (from Gale, including biographies and timelines), the Library of Congress (numerous links to collections), EDSITEment (provides a guide to many important sites), and Infoplease.

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Bill Gates is Still Rich

This far from surprising observation is bolstered by The Forbes 400: The Richest People in America. Gates heads the list with a personal worth of $59 billion; the second place belongs to Warren Buffet with a meager $39 billion. A brief profile accompanies each individual named.  This list can be manipulated by industry, category, and state.

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Crime in the United States 2010

This annual comprehensive FBI report shows that reported crime is down once again. An overview of this is available as are previous volumes in this series back to 1995 . With this report, you can sort at national, regional, state, county, or city levels. Another annual report available from the FBI is Hate Crime Statistics.

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Delays in New Health Benefit Plans for New Jersey Workers

According to these newspaper reports, the promised lower-cost health plans that state employees were to have the opportunity to choose have been stalled. It would appear state employees will have to utilize the existing plans that have increased in price by more than 10%. You can read about this situation in The Bergen Record and the Asbury Park Press.

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New Jersey Travel Guides

Published by the New Jersey Tourism Office, these guides can either be downloaded or ordered in print. They include a general guide to the state, as well as guides geared to specific audiences: African American. Asian, or Latino. In addition, there are booklets for eco-toursim, golf, lighthouses,  and New Jersey historic sites. Many of these guides are full of useful information, such as museums, restaurants, and historical landmarks. You might also want to visit the Travel Guides section of The New York Times for its take on New Jersey and the rest of the world.

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Complete List of 2011 Emmy Award Winners

Please come here for the full list of nominees and winners. Biographical information on nominees and winners is found at emmys.com; more can be found at biography.com and and the television section of  IMDb. EmmyTVLegends provides interviews with the movers and shakers of television from actors/actresses to producers, writers, and directors. And don’t forget to visit the Encyclopedia of Television.

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Online State Encyclopedias – Minnesota

The 19th one we have found, MNOPEDIA, offers the reader articles dealing with all aspects of Minnesota. Though still in beta, there is enough information here to satisfy most readers. The articles can be accessed either by index or topic. “Expert essays” are more extended treatments, such as How Cities and Towns Shaped the State; most articles have links both in the main text and the bibliography. The links in some cases lead to the Minnesota History magazine, whose online content is freely available from 1915-2005. Most entries are accompanied by overviews or chronologies. or “turning points.” A fascinating read is Traveling Libraries.

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Need to Find a Research Topic?

Besides asking your librarians who are veritable repositories of knowledge from the mundane to the esoteric, we suggest you try Times Topics from The New York Times. Arranged alphabetically are literally thousands of research topics ranging from “Abdullah, King of Saudi Arabia” to “Zoloft (Drug).” Each entry allows you access for free to articles published in paper from 1981 to the present. And many entries provide you with so much more. For example, the entry on Libya gives you not only hundreds of newspaper articles, but it also contains an essay replete with links, slideshows, timelines, a blog on Libya, articles from newspapers from around the world, and links to outside authoritative sources such as the CIA and the BBC. The same is true with the biographical entries; the one on Mubarak, Hosni has extensive features including a lengthy, updated profile, timeline, transcript of speeches, videos, and external links to additional information. If you need something on capital punishment or same sex marriage or global warming or terrorism or offshore drilling or thousands of other subjects, Times Topics is a good place to start. A subset of this is called Science Topics where the focus is strictly on scientific features such as air pollution or genetic engineering. And for medical news, please go to the Times Health Guides where you can find 3000+ topics ranging from autism to zinc in diet; all the topics are reviewed by medical specialists. Other places to consult, while not as extensive, include: BBC-Special Reports, CNN: Special Coverage and Hot Topics, Washington Post: Special Reports, and  The Economist: Special Reports. For a more local flavor, try The Star-Ledger: Special Projects and Asbury Park Press: Investigative Special Reports

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2011 SAT Reports Released

The College Board has just released the SAT results for the 2011 tests. New Jersey’s report is available, as are all the other states. The national aggregate report is also accessible. A troubling aspect for this year’s release is that the reading scores are the lowest on record. Education Week has an informative article as does the Washington Post.

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