Archive for November, 2012

Interviews with Music Industry Legends

From jazz to gospel, rock to folk, over two hundred interviews were conducted with such luminaries as Artie Shaw, Tom Jones, Sting, and Tina Turner. The first batch of  twenty-five have been made public featuring Graham Nash, Herbie Hancock, and Tony Bennett; the rest will be released over time. This disclaimer is attached to the collection by the Library of Congress: “Some contain adult language and touch on mature themes such as drug use and sexuality. They are presented as part of the record of our culture. They are historical documents which reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of the time in which they were recorded. The Library of Congress does not endorse the views expressed in these recordings, which may contain content offensive to users.”

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Governor Christie Releases Damage Assessment of Sandy – $37B

In a press release issued yesterday, Governor Christie tallied the amount of damage Sandy caused to New Jersey and also included additional funds for mitigation. The press release includes an itemized breakdown of the damage assessment. NJTV has a report on this development, and Governor Christie’s YouTube channel has the complete news conference.

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What Does a Congressperson Do?

We vote people into the House or Senate, they go to Washington, and then what do they actually do? What roles, duties, functions, responsibilities does a member of Congress have? Would you be surprised to find out that there are no set rules or guidelines that spell out what a Congressperson is supposed to do? But this CRS report – Roles and Duties of a Member of Congress: Brief Overview – will give us some insight into how members of Congress discharge their various roles as legislator, advocate, constituent representative, committee member,  leader, and office manager. Additional CRS reports of interest include: Congressional Staff: Duties and Functions of Selected Positions and Casework in a Congressional Office: Background, Rules, Laws, and Resources.

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New Jersey Charter Schools Outperform Their Public School Peers

That is the gist of a report from Stanford University’s Center for Research in Education Outcomes (CREDO). The report – Charter School Performance in New Jersey – states that “…the analysis shows that students in New Jersey charter schools on average make larger learning gains in both reading and mathematics.”(4-5) The methodology is presented (7-10) as well as the differences in student populations between charter schools and TPS(traditional public schools)(11-14). The charter schools in Newark are singled out for their overall superior numbers while the four other major clusters of charter schools in Camden, Jersey City, Paterson and Trenton do not fare as well.(16) Table 7 presents a “summary of statistically significant findings for average learning gains” of charter school students; the results are overwhelmingly positive for charter schools.(38) A good overview of this report can be found at NJ Spotlight (a favorite site of ours); School Finance 101 zeros in on the Newark results; Commissioner Cerf  issued a statement touting the results; and The Star-Ledger contains a story on this as does NJ101.5, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Education Week.

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World Energy Statistics

Published by the International Energy Agency, Key World Energy Statistics “…contains timely, clearly-presented data on the supply, transformation and consumption of all major energy sources.”(3) Therefore, information is presented on the production, export and import of biofuels, hydro, coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear energies. Graphs and charts accompany the breakdowns. Selected indicators for each country in the world follow in a separate section, which is in turn followed by a glossary of terms. Compare this to the 2009 Energy Statistics Yearbook from the UN or the International Energy Statistics section of the US Energy Information Administration.

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Hamlyn Lectures

The Hamlyn Lectures  is an annual event at which distinguished legal scholars and jurors discuss specific aspects of the law. The lectures normally go beyond a single day; more than a few span three days. These foremost practitioners have been delivering these lectures since 1949, and the published versions of these presentations are available freely online from 1949-2004. Such legal giants as Glanville Williams, Erwin Griswold, and Lord Denning are among those who have lectured. For anyone interested in the development of law during the past century, these lectures provide a remarkable treasure trove of considered opinion from the best legal minds around. A little digging  has resulted in some more recent lectures being available: 2005 Lecture – Can Human Rights Survive?; 2006 Lecture – The Sovereignty of Law – the European Way; 2010 Lecture – Lawyers and the Public Good (large excerpt in Google Books); 2011 Lecture – The Rule of Law and the Measure of Property; and the 2012 Lecture – The Future of the Criminal Courts (YouTube).

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Letter from America

Spanning the decades from the 1940s to the 2000s, the British journalist Alistair Cooke explained the United States to the United Kingdom and ultimately to ourselves in a series of weekly radio broadcasts on the BBC called Letter from AmericaListen to his letter the day after JFK was killed; read his original script with emendations for his letter on Thanksgiving. The BBC has provided us with 900 of his original broadcasts, searchable by date and theme. Boston University holds 2500 of his scripts, searchable in many ways. These two repositories provide us with a powerful portal to our past as interpreted by an outsider who eventually fell in love with America. Additional biographical information on Cooke can be found at: BBC, PBS, and The New York Times. Here is a C-SPAN video with the author of the first authorized biography of Cooke. And lastly, listen to In Alistair Cooke’s Footsteps, an hour-long broadcast from the BBC.

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Metropolitan Museum of Art Online Publications

MetPublications is the access point to the, at the time of this writing, 674 volumes of monographs, collection catalogs, and exhibition catalogs published by the Met since 1964. Almost 300 of these volumes are available in their entirety online. There are various searches available: author, title, collection, theme, keyword, etc. Every book entry includes “… a description and table of contents for almost every title, as well as information about the authors, reviews, awards, and links to related Met bibliographies by author, theme, or keyword.” One of the links that many books have is to the excellent Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History developed by the Met. And even if the book is not online, a substantial portion can be previewed through Google Books. (A link is provided in the book’s description.) This is the beginning of an ambitious project to make accessible all of its publications back to 1870. While we wait for that to transpire, the Internet Archive has online versions of hundreds of pre-1964 volumes (primarily before 1923)  available.

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Online Primary Sources for American History: The Origins of the CIA

There are few extensive compilations of primary documents pertaining to the development and early years of the CIA. Here are some volumes from the CIA that will help: On the Front Lines of the Cold War: Documents on the Intelligence War in Berlin, 1946 to 1961; Assessing the Soviet Threat: The Early Cold War Years; Venona: Soviet Espionage and the American Response, 1939-1957; and Central Intelligence: Origin and Evolution. The Foreign Relations of the United States, an ongoing project that currently totals 450+ volumes (1861-1960 here; 1952 to present here), has included intelligence reports in its various volumes, but the editors of this series decided to gather intelligence-related documents into separate retrospective volumes. Its Background to the Release of Documents on the Origins of the Intelligence Community provides an excellent overview to this project. To date, three relevant volumes with hundreds of documents have been released: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1945-1950, Emergence of the Intelligence Establishment; The Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950-1955, The Intelligence Community, 1950-1955; and Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954, Guatemala (the CIA’s role in deposing the elected president of Guatemala). Related, recently published FRUS volumes include: FRUS, 1969-1976, Volume XXXII, SALT 1, 1969-1972, and FRUS, 1969-1976, Volume XXXIV, National Security Policy, 1969-1972.

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Maps of London

Almost 1200 maps of London and its immediate surroundings are found at the Crace Collection of Maps of London hosted by the British Library. The maps go from 1570 to 1860 and show the remarkable development of the city, and its ability to recover from such a disaster as the Great Fire of 1666 (as described by Samuel Pepys:” We stayed till, it being darkish, we saw the fire as only one entire arch of fire from this to the other side of the bridge, and in a bow up the hill, for an arch of above a mile long. It made me weep to see it. The churches, houses, and all on fire and flaming at once, and a horrid noise the flames made, and the cracking of houses at their ruin.” Diary, Sunday, 2 September 1666) Every map is accompanied by a description and other data as well as having a zoomable feature that allows you to “blow up” the map’s details. For example, the 1854 map of what would become to be called the London Zoo can be enlarged so you can actually see the shadows that the mapmaker created for this map! There is an informative introduction by the curator as well as an overall description and arrangement scheme of the collection. For those wanting to seek out additional maps, you can visit the David Rumsey Map Collection for historical representations and the Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection for more recent items.

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Diversity of Religions in the 113th Congress

Faith on the Hill: The Religious Composition of the 113th Congress from Pew reveals the religious diversity of the upcoming Congress. Among some of the highlights: the first Buddhist elected to the Senate; the first Hindu in Congress; and the first member to declare “none” as her religion. Catholics have seen the greatest increase  – to 30%  – while Jews have declined to 6%. The umbrella designation of Protestant is well-represented in the Republican Party where they make up 70% of that party’s religious background; less than 50% of Democrats declare themselves Protestant. Tables, charts, and religious statistics for selected Congresses back to 1961 are included. In addition, there is a file on the religious affiliation of each Congressperson.

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How Companies Around the World Use Social Media

This survey involves 17 different countries, including the United States. Experts in each country were asked a series of identical questions on the use of social media in recruitment, disciplining and dismissal, protecting the business, and legal proceedings. For example:  Can a prospective employer ask for your Facebook password? Can your company monitor your use of social media sites during work hours? Can your company dismiss you for using social media sites during work or after work? The answers may surprise you!

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BP Pleads Guilty in Deepwater Horizon Catastrophe

BP has acknowledged its culpability in the criminal phase of the Deepwater Horizon case. In return for a plea bargain and payment of a $4 billion fine, BP has pled guilty to 11 felony manslaughter charges, 1 felony obstruction of Congress, and violations of the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Act. The New York Times has an overview of the entire Deepwater Horizon incident; NPR has also been following this as has C-SPAN.

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2012 European Health Statistics

Health at a Glance: Europe 2012 has just been released. “This second edition of Health at a Glance: Europe presents a set of key indicators of health status, determinants of health, health care resources and activities, quality of care, health expenditure and financing in 35 European countries, including the 27 European Union member states, 5 candidate countries and 3 EFTA countries.” Please compare to Health, United States, 2011 and World Health Statistics 2012.

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Facts and Figures for Thanksgiving 2012

How many places in the United States are named Turkey or Plymouth? Where do most of our live turkeys come from? Which country supplies us with the most sweet potatoes? These and other questions are all answered in this Census Bureau Thanksgiving Day: Nov.22, 2012 Facts for Feature item. And the National Geographic has some additional tidbits as well.

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Diagnosed Diabetes Rises by 89% in New Jersey Since 1995

This report contained in the CDC’s Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report, details the phenomenal rise in cases of diabetes throughout the United States. New Jersey’s rate, while higher than the median rate of 62% for the Northeast, pales in comparison to Oklahoma where the incidence of diagnosed diabetes has risen 227%. Of all the sections of the country, the Northeast has the lowest rate, while the South has the highest rate at 104%. Not coincidentally, the 2012 F as in Fat Report shows that the South has a preponderance of states with high obesity rates, and state median income statistics from the Census Bureau reveal that most Southern states rank at the lower end of the scale.

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Biographies of the New Members of the 113th Congress

Biographical information on the newly-elected members of both the House and Senate are presented by The Hill. Roll Call also contains biographies as well as photos of each new lawmaker.

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Biographies of China’s New Leaders

The new leaders of the Politburo Standing Committee have been selected for their five-year terms. Their biographies are here from Brookings; Reuters also has biograhical information as does the BBC, The Washington Post and the Parliamentary Library of Australia.  The Changing of the Guard from The New York Times provides biographies, links, and a comprehensive timeline. (UPDATE: This hearing from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission should be of value – China’s New Leadership and Implications for the United States.)

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Affordable Care Act: FAQ for 2013

From Kaiser Health News, this is a primer on what you can expect from ACA starting next year.

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Which Polling Firms Did Best in 2012 Presidential Election?

Actually, the question revolves more around which polling organizations utilized newer technologies and approaches versus those that used the older method of placing random phone calls to landlines. This report, Which Polls Fared Best (and Worst) in the 2012 Presidential Race?, shows that those companies that employed updated technologies and social media were more accurate in predicting the eventual outcome of the election than those that just used the older models of polling. Dozens of firms and polls were examined for this report. Other reports of interest are: Poll Accuracy in 2012 Presidential Election (Fordham); The Evolution of Election Polling in the United States (Public Opinion Quarterly, 2011); and Robo-Polls: Taking Cues from Traditional Sources? (Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions).

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