Archive for June, 2012

Supreme Court Upholds the “Affordable Care Act”

Shortly after 10am today, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the ACA, stipulating that the mandate for purchasing individual insurance is constitutional as a tax. A great deal of background information is here. C-SPAN has live coverage and SCOTUSblog is providing real-time analysis and commentary. Here is the text of the opinion.

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Who Owns the News

Did you ever wonder what companies own the newspapers and magazines you read, the TV you watch, or the online news that you view? If so, then Who Owns the News Media is where you need to be. This interactive site allows you to run through media holdings by company, type of media (newspapers, online, local TV, and so on), revenue, circulation, unique visitors etc. Where available, company profiles are supplied. What is striking to us is the number of privately-owned companies in this sector. (“Privately-held” means, among other things, that there is less public information available on a company.) A review of major events in media ownership accompanies this feature. Other useful sites include  Columbia Journalism ReviewWho Owns What; and  What’s Wrong With the News from FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting).

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What is Executive Privilege?

This term has been in the news of late as President Obama has declared that  Justice Department documents in the “Fast and Furious” operation are protected by “executive privilege.” As quoted in this New York Times article: “The president’s move to invoke executive privilege was the first time that he had asserted his secrecy powers in response to a Congressional inquiry. It elevated a fight over whether Mr. Holder must turn over additional documents about the gun case into a constitutional struggle over the separation of powers.” While not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, there are certain perogatives given to the President. As Professor Michel Dorf, a specialist in constitutional law, states in this NPR piece: “…it’s all part of the same constellation of claims that presidents have made that in virtue of the separation of powers they are entitled to certain protections from the processes or the courts that ordinary people are not entitled to.” It is rarely used and at times this adversarial relationship between the executive and legislative branches must by adjudicated by the third branch of government. Additional information can be found:  Presidential Claims of Executive Privilege: History, Law, Practice and Recent Developments (CRS);  Politics of Executive Privilege  and Congressional Access to National Security Information both by Louis Fisher, Specialist in Constitutional Law, Law Library, Library of Congress; When Presidents Invoke Executive Privilege (PBS); What is Executive Privilege? (Associated Press); The Presidential Aegis: Demands for Papers (CRS Annotated Constitution); Secrecy and Separated Powers: Executive Privilege Revisited (Iowa Law Review); and Symposium: Executive Privilege and the Clinton Presidency (William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal).

 

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Tenure Reform Bills in the New Jersey Legislature

There are currently two bills concerning tenure reform: one in the Assembly – An Act concerning school district employees, revising various parts of the statutory law, and supplementing chapter 6 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes (Bill A3036) and one in the Senate – Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act (Bill S1455). Each one alters the process of awarding tenure as well as the removal of tenure. The NJEA has commented on both bills (here for the Senate bill and here for the Assembly bill), and you can read its proposal for tenure reform – Tenure and the Pathway to Success. New Jersey School Boards Association has its own opinion.  NJ Spotlight provides insightful analysis, as always. Additional reportage is at: The Bergen Record, The Star-Ledger, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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New Jersey Local/Municipal Public Sector Contracts

For those interested in finding out what contracts local municipalities have negotiated with various unions; i.e. police, town employees, or what local boards of education have arrived at with teacher unions, this site, Public Sector Contracts, from the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission should prove a useful starting point. By law, employers are required to submit a copy of the final negotiated contracts with their respective public sector unions to PERC. Sortable by county, employer, employer type, or employee organization,  the contracts are available full text. Past and present contracts are accessible, but their chronological arrangement leaves a lot to be desired. Highlights from current teacher contracts can be found at this site: Teacher Contract Settlements from the New Jersey School Boards Association. Listed there are Settlement Rates in Perspective (since April 2010); Settlement Rate Percentage Increases by County (spanning 2011/2012 – 2013/2014); Health Insurance Cost Containments (since January 2011); and Work Time Changes (since April 2011).

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Disease as a National Security Issue

Diseases cross boundaries, disrupt entire sectors, and are contributory causes to many conflicts. Diseases are recognized as a foreign policy issue that must be addressed by the United States. Three new CRS reports detail the U.S. commitment to controlling/preventing/eradicating three diseases: U.S. Response to the Global Threat of Malaria: Basic FactsU.S. Response to the Global Threat of Tuberculosis: Basic Facts ; and U.S. Response to the Global Threat of HIV/AIDS: Basic Facts. Each report includes a description of the disease, global statistics, regional distribution, key U.S. legislation, U.S. global programs along with the responsible U.S. agencies/departments and their major global partners, and key issues. The reports are succinct but replete with figures and tables of great value.

 

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Where in the World Are U.S. Combat Forces Deployed?

According to this Presidential letter to Congress, the United States has combat forces spread throughout the world, from the obvious locales; i.e. Afghanistan,  to areas we may not normally think too much about – Central Africa.

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The Vanishing Arctic

This special issue of The Economist – The Melting North – makes for grim reading indeed. The northern polar cap is melting at an unprecedented rate and alien species are encroaching this territory. Graphs and charts supplement this section, and it is accompanied by a source list, some of which are directly accessible in full text online. The report ends with these words: “… the worst outcomes of a warmer Arctic can still be avoided. The shrinking ice cap may find a new equilibrium. Most of the permafrost may remain frozen. But the Arctic will nonetheless be radically changed, to the detriment of a unique polar biome. This much is already inevitable.” Some recent work on climate change include: A Brief History of Climate Change and Conflict (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists); Insights from past millennia into climatic impacts on human health and survival (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences);  Sea level rise, storms, and global warming’s threat to the U.S. coast (Climate Central); and The Heat is On: U.S. Temperature Trends (Climate Central).

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Online Primary Sources for the War of 1812

The burning of Washington. The surrender of Detroit. The writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Naval battles on oceans and lakes. The death of Tecumseh. The rise of The Prophet. The last time a foreign army was on United States soil. The launching pad for presidential careers. These and so much more form the War of 1812 which,  by the way, lasted for 32 months. Its bicentennial is June 18, so we thought it appropriate to spend some time with this topic. Initially, we were just going to list primary sources, but since so many know so little about this war, we have decided to open this entry with some informative secondary sources. The Smithsonian Magazine has special coverage on this conflict while PBS has an excellent two-hour video replete with re-enactors and interviews with distinguished historians and writers. Essays exploring the various perspectives –  native American, British, Canadian –  accompany the video along with other topical writings and a  guide to the battlefields and historic sites rounds out this presentation. Digitalhistory provides a brief yet informative summation of the war’s main events. The National Park Service presents The War of 1812 Bicentennial with links and lesson plans. Some additional secondary sources of interest are: A British View of the War of 1812 from Naval History Magazine; dozens of articles and biographies from The Canadian Encyclopedia; more biographies from The Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online as well as a quite informative section on the war itself; Border Troubles and Indian-Anglo Conflict in the War of 1812, a podcast symposium from the Newberry Library; African American History at War of 1812 Sites from Cultural Resource Management; Sea Power in its Relations to the War of 1812 by Alfred Thayer Mahan; Naval War of 1812 by Theodore Roosevelt; War of 1812 from American Military History;  The War of 1812: A Resource Bibliography; The War of 1812: Still a Forgotten Conflict? from The Journal of Military History; and the various online state encyclopedias. And consult this publication series: the U.S Army Campaigns of the War of 1812.

PRIMARY SOURCES: AMERICAN

This Library of Congress site – A Guide to the War of 1812 – gives access to such primary sources as the Annals of Congress and the American State Papers. While it does guide you to the Papers of James Madison, there are no transcriptions available. And since the ongoing book publishing project is still not available to the public for free, this older nine-volume work, The Writings of James Madison, will prove of assistance. The multi-volume The Documentary History of the Campaigns upon the Niagara Frontier in 1812-1814, edited by E.A. Cruikshank is still invaluable as is his Documents Relating to the Invasion of Canada and the Surrender of Detroit, 1812. The Historical Register of the United States for the years 1812-1814 provides verbatim source documentation concerning the War of 1812. The Ohio Fundamental Documents site provides access to the Transcriptions of the War of 1812 in the Northwest (which includes William Henry Harrison’s correspondence with the War Office) as well as a Short Chronology. The naval aspects of this war are admirably covered in The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History that also includes British sources as well. The Battle of Lake Erie: A Collection of Documents provides contemporary sources by the participants themselves. And this 1814 Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Distinguished Officers in the American Navy includes three pieces by Washinton Irving. Official letters of the military and naval officers of the United States, during the war with Great Britain in the years 1812, 13, 14, & 15  and Collection of the official accounts, in detail, of all the battles fought by sea and land… augment research with original sources. The Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections (MPHC) is a goldmine of information; for example, ” This section [a selection of material from various volumes dealing with native Americans during the War of 1812] is composed of a large number of primary sources, such as speeches made by Native Americans and letters of British and American military commanders, as well as several secondary sources.” Almost 300 reproductions of prints concerning this war are available. UPDATE (3-12-14): Additional primary/secondary materials for the American “side” is available – Online Primary Sources for American History: The War of 1812.

PRIMARY SOURCES: BRITISH

Select British Documents of the War of 1812 is a four-volume work published by the Champlain Society that is devoted to bringing Canadian historical documents to light. The Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, already mentioned, provides information as well, especially volume 15 – Copies of papers on file in the Dominion archives at Ottawa, Canada, pertaining to
the relations of the British government with the United States during the period of the war of 1812. And the Wisconsin Historical Collections also yield British-related sources on this war, especially volumes 12,19, and 20. Contemporary reportage from the British perspective can be found in the [London] Gazette (which can be searched back t0 1665) and Hansard (record of speeches and debates in Parliament back t0 1803). And mention must be made of the Naval Chronicle, that forty-volume work published during the Napoleonic Wars, the time period during which the War of 1812 occurred.

PRIMARY SOURCES: CANADIAN

Archives Canada: War of 1812 contains extracts of original source material from the Canadian side. And Early Canadiana Online gives access to hundreds of Canadian publications on this war. The Library and Archives Canada has released thousands of pages of governmental records; i.e., muster rolls. 1812; the war, and its moral: a Canadian chronicle is a Canadian-based rendition of this conflict.

Here is a link to dozens of writings on the war published between 1812 and 1819. And selected diplomatic documents are readily available.

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Social Security Programs Around the World

The Social Security Administration maintains an international section that examines social security/pension programs of every country. Every six months, in cooperation with the International Social Security Administration, one of four regional comprehensive reports is issued that delves into the workings of overseas programs. The four areas are: Europe, Asia and the Pacific, Africa, and The Americas. In addition, monthly updates focus on more recent developments in foreign countries; the March 2015 issue deals with pension/early retirement/retirement/pension financing in the Slovak Repubic, Australia, and Bolivia. The country index supplies access to previous reports, some going back to 1950. With the economic crisis having as one of its foci pensions, you can readily access what each country has in the way of social security programs/protections/provisions for both public and private sector workers.

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The Digital Divide in the United States

This report from the Department of Commerce – Exploring the Digital Nation: Computer and Internet Use at Home – shows quite clearly the different adoption rates of household broadband service. The more affluent the household, the greater the presence of this service; white and Asian households have higher adoption rates; and households with school-age children also score higher. Breakdowns also show differences among age groups, and urban vs rural. Utah ranks highest with 80% of households opting for broadband access, while Mississippi brings up the rear at 52%; New Jersey is at 73%. Additional information can be found at the Digital Divide section of the Pew Internet & American Life Project; Broadband Internet Access and the Digital Divide: Federal Assistance Programs (CRS); Closing Digital Divide, Expanding Digital Literacy (NPR); and F.C.C Push to Expand Net Acces Gains Help (The New York Times).

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Immigrant and Immigration Statistics

These figures culled from various agencies by the Migration Policy Institute provide an in-depth look at various topics pertaining to immigration.(You should also read its very informative monthly newsletter that discusses so many pertinent subjects; i.e. Senior Immigrants in the United States and Country Profiles.)  Arranged in an FAQ format,  statistics are supplemented with charts and definitions. A great deal of data is presented in a readable and understandable format. This information can be used while perusing Immigration Reform Issues in the 111th Congress (CRS); Immigration (New York Times); Immigration and Economic Stagnation: An Examination of Trends 2000 to 2010 (Center for Immigration Studies); Immigration Studies (RAND Corp.); Immigration (Brookings Institution); Immigration (Council on Foreign Relations);  New Americans in the Garden State (Immigration Policy Center); and Immigration Policy in the United States: An Update (Congressional Budget Office).

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Hundreds of Thousands of New York City Photos Available Online

The New York City Municipal Archives Online Gallery features almost 1,000,000 photos from its various collections. There are numerous collections from which one can select; among the largest repositories are the tax photos of every property in the city. These are updated photos used for tax appraisals and were taken in the 1980s. A word of caution here: we looked up our parents’ house in Brooklyn and the house photographed is not where we grew up. Close but not the place we spent our formative years. Another great source is contained within the Cities & Buildings section of the New York Public Library. Several of the collections in this section ( At Home in Brooklyn; Changing New York; and Photographic Views of New York City, 1870s-1970s) explore New York City. And do not overlook these important repositories: Photographs of New York City and Beyond (from the New-York Historical Society with over 23,000 photos dating mainly from 1839-1945, can search via keyword, subject, or date); Photographs (from the Museum of the City of New York, over 140,000 photos sortable/searchable using various access points); OldNYC: Mapping Historical Photos from the NYPL (over 40,000 photos from the above collections overlaid on a map of the city);  Architecture and Interior Design for 20th Century America (from the Library of Congress, over 29,000 images mostly of the Northeast, especially of NYC); and New York Architecture (can be searched by neighborhood). As an added bonus, peruse this highly informative site from Columbia University: New York Real Estate Brochure Collection “The collection consists of over 9,200 advertising brochures, floor plans, price lists, and related materials that document residential and commercial real estate development in the five boroughs of New York and outlying vicinities from the 1920s to the 1970s.”

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Access to 300,000+ Research Theses from Europe

More than 400 hundred universities from 23 European countries have banded together to provide free access to over 300,000 research theses through Dart-Europe. You can limit your search by language, year, university, or collection. One of our interests is naval or maritime history; inputting these search terms yielded doctoral dissertations from the universities of Glasgow, Leicester, and Birmingham. Theses are continually added (you can see new ones pop up on the home page as they are added) and another feature lists the most frequently downloaded works in the last seven days.  The oldest one we can find dates from 1602 out of Uppsala University; the most recent are hundreds from 2012. For those wanting free access to non-U.S. research dissertations, this should be a consideration.

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“Something Wicked This Way Comes” – Ray Bradbury Dies at 91

For those of us who grew up reading and cherishing his work, Ray Bradbury’s death signals to some of us the demise of our youth. His work spanned the decades and genres, forcing us to confront our own fears and prejudices. Our office contains several of his works, each of which we remember with fondness. He was a champion of reading, libraries, and books. Biographical and other information can be found in: The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction; NEA; Los Angeles Times; Times Topics – Ray Bradbury; io9; Locus;  PBS NewsHour; and Washington Post (with a photo gallery). Interviews are here and dozens of YouTube interviews and conversations are available. Bradbury did a lengthy interview in the Spring 2010 issue of The Paris Review. Excerpts from some of his books are here. President Obama issued a statement on his passing. And what may be his last piece, Take Me Home, is in the June 6, 2012 issue of The New Yorker.

“Rocket summer. The words passed among the people in the open, airing houses. Rocket summer. The warm desert air changing the frost patterns on the windows, erasing the art work. The skis and sleds suddenly useless.” – from The Martian Chronicles, chapter 1.

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Health Statistics for the United States

Health, United States, 2011 is the latest annual compilation of health statistics for this country. It is produced by the National Center for Health Statistics that has derived its facts, figures, charts, and tables from a wide variety of governmental sources. The Special Feature of this volume is on Socioeconomic Status and Health. Also included are special topics on race/ethnicity as well as state data. 151 Trend Tables follow certain health indicators over time to provide longitudinal information.

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Economic Crisis – June 2012 Update

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2011 New Jersey School Report Cards Released

All schools in New Jersey(including charter and vocational schools) have had their latest “report cards” just released, two months late and with a restructuring of how New Jersey measures expenditures. See how your district has fared against state averages and in the case of standardized tests, DFG statistics. Additional indicators reported include student mobility, language diversity at home, per pupil expenditures, administrative salaries, and median salaries and years of experience for administratiors and faculty,  among others. More information can be found at The Bergen Record, The Star-Ledger, and NJ Spotlight

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