Archive for September, 2013

What Happens if the Federal Government Shuts Down?

If the government does indeed close, will mail still be delivered, are food stamps still available, what about Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid payments? Has this happened before? For how long? Just what is the debt ceiling? Some CRS reports can help with these questions:  Government Shutdown: Operations of the Department of Defense During a Lapse in Appropriations; Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects; Federal Funding Gaps: A Brief Overview; and The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases. In addition-  66 questions and answers about the government shutdown (USA Today),  8 Things to Know About a Government Shutdown (NPR),  and Government shutdown: Get up to speed in 20 questions (CNN) – will give you a good idea of what will be closed (national museums and parks, most of NASA) and what will remain open (government hospitals and the FBI).

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Online Primary Sources for American History: Public Papers of the Presidents

The Public Papers of the President of the United States is an ongoing series that publishes the papers and speeches of the president along with other documents such as addresses to the nation, executive orders, interviews, and proclamations. It has been in existence since 1957 when President Truman’s papers started appearing.(More of its history.) There are previous collections of papers, but they were not necessarily printed by the federal government (aka the National Archives). However, these older volumes, back to 1789, are also available here. Due to the careful editing of these works, there is a time lag; the second volume for President Obama’s 2009 year has just come out. To keep up-to-date with presidential papers, one can use the Compilation of Presidential Documents that, as of this writing, is current through September 13.

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World Broadband Statistics 2013

The State of Broadband 2013: Universalizing Broadband, issued by the International Telecommunication Union and UNESCO, gives us an updated look into worldwide use of the Internet. Accompanied by numerous insights, figures, boxes, tables, and annexes, this report lists what countries have national broadband plans, addresses filtering technologies and freedom of expression online, and examines the global growth of broadband, among other topics. For those statistically inclined, there are lists of fixed/mobile broadband penetration ranked by country, percentage of households with Internet access, and percentage of individuals using the Internet, again arranged by country. Eighteen key findings are listed separately.

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What You Need to Know About Obamacare

As October 1 approaches, here are some helpful sites to answer your questions or provide guidance: Health Reform: Seven Things You Need to Know (Consumer Reports); 4 steps to getting covered in the Health Insurance Marketplace (healthcare.gov); Health coverage for you and your family (healthcare.gov); Health Reform (including state exchange profiles, Kaiser Family Foundation); Here’s what you need to know when Obamacare kicks in…(Medlineplus); Obamacare (FactCheck.org); and What You Need to Know About the Obamacare Marketplaces (PBS).

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National Security Reports – September 2013 Update

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Updated Cybersecurity Resource Guide

This report – Cybersecurity: Authoritative Reports and Resources – was originally published in April 2012; this newer version is current through September 17, 2013. The format is the same; it is just that this is more current. A valuable resource.

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Online Constitutions of the World

At last count, Constitute contained 177 countries’ constitutions. A real great feature of this site is the ability to search through these documents thematically by employing 350 topic headings. Find out which constitutions define the power of a supreme court (101 do) or guarantee the rights of the disabled (29 do). The results then give the full text of the article or section germane to the topic searched. As far as we can tell, all the documents are in English. An excellent site for comparative coverage. Constitution Finder also lists modern constitutions, but it allow provides access to previous versions; for example, you can review the prior five editions of the Afghanistan constitution. Many of the texts are in English

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Economic Crisis – September 2013 Update

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International Labor Statistics

The Databook on International Labour Statistics from the Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training contains over 140 tables on a wide variety of socioeconomic topics. The figures focus mainly on industrialized economies; i.e., Sweden, Japan, United States, Brazil, India, etc. This can be supplemented by using Charting International Labor Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; and Labordoc from the International Labour Organization.

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The Fastest and Slowest Internet in the United States

Gizmodo has just released A Map of Who’s Got the Best (and Worst) Internet Connections in America. This interactive map shows that speed is a function of income, the higher the income in a congressional district, the faster the speed; population density matters less because while rural areas have slower speeds (it is expensive for cable companies to put in the infrastructure in under-populated areas), urban areas suffer from heavy use which slows speeds. (For those interested, please read this June 2013 NITA report – Broadband Availability Beyond the Rural/Urban Divide.) The national average is 18.2 Mbps; the fastest connection is in Ephrata, Washington with a speed of 85.5Mbps, while the slowest is in Fort Defiance, Arizona at 1.5 Mbps. A list of 5690 ranked locations is here; Jersey City comes in at 1372 with 21.73 Mbps with eight New Jersey municipalities in the top 50. A digital divide still exists as is evident in the ranking of Vermont’s capital of Montpelier; it places 4816 with a speed of 8.99 Mbps. Even its commercial center of Burlington ranks only 2804 with a speed of 16.60 Mbps.

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What Contributes to Employee Wellbeing?

Disengaged workers are not as productive or positive as their engaged colleagues. There are many reasons for this condition, ranging from the boss-from-hell to the lack of clearly defined objectives/expectations. The Gallup 2013 State of the American Workplace survey concentrates on employee engagement, and what companies can do to foster it. As it points out: “Engaged employees have well-defined roles in the organization, make strong contributions, are actively connected to their larger team and organization, and are continuously progressing.”(27) This report is not just for the profit sectors, the education industry could easily follow some of the recommendations in this report. Survey questions, charts, and strategies are included.

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Most Corrupt Lawmakers in Congress

CREW’s Most Corrupt Members of Congress 2013 has just been released. Seventeen members of Congress have either engaged in serious misconduct or other transgressions. The methodology is explained and the charges are reviewed along with references. Unfortunately, New Jersey is represented on this list. Previous reports from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington are available as well.

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New Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Statistics Released at the State Level

The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey has released three reports examining the above topics. Household Income 2012 presents data at the national, state levels along with the 25 largest metropolitan areas. Comparisons are made for 2000 and 2012. New Jersey’s median income dropped 3.4% between 2000 and 2012. Poverty: 2002-1012 profiles the same above government entities. New Jersey is one of just a few states with a poverty level under 11%. And Mitigating the Loss of Private Insurance With Public Coverage for the Under-65 Population 2008-2012 shows the erosion of private health insurance over time; fully 14.5% of New Jerseyans are without coverage.

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International Education Statistics, Part 2

Want to find national reports written by the various ministries of education from around the world? How about comprehensive educational reports supplemented with data from other sources pertaining to these various countries? What about national policies for education? Guiding principles? Curriculum plans promulgated from the national levels? UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education is a great starting point. Going back to the 1930s, participants at the International Conference on Education prepared national reports on the state of their educational systems. These reports, mostly in English are available online, in most cases back decades. These documents form the core for the World Data on Education project that concentrates on each country with additional information culled from appropriate in-country agencies. Again, almost all the reports are in English, and even if they aren’t, the charts/tables are easily recognized for what they are. Each profile lists the major laws dealing with education,, includes a flowchart or table of organization of the national education system, a breakdown of instructional time, qualifications for teachers, and a list of supplemental resources, many of them linked. This present 7th edition offers information for 2010/2011; most countries are present with their reports.

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics offers a wealth of information on education. It publishes the annual Global Education Digest; each volume in the series revolves around a specific topic. The 2012 edition addresses school dropouts (or “school leavings”). The information is current through 2010, and the numerous tables make for easy comparisons among countries. UIS also has informative country and regional profiles, fact sheets on key issues, and a large documents library of apposite material.

Another reliable source is contained in the OECD Education at a Glance 2013, a huge compendium of statistics and tables on topics not covered in any of the above sites. It covers OECD countries as well as other G20 countries. Base data range from 2009 to 2011. Country notes from the main volume have been extracted, and other country-specific documents are readily accessible.

The World Bank presents its own numbers in its EdStats: Education Statistics portal. This is comprised of numerous country profiles containing dozens of learning indicators. The site contains a current blog as well as global analyses as data visualizations.

International test-taking results/statistics are widely followed/quoted in the media and other educational outlets. Here are the results for the three major international tests: Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS); Program for International Student Assessment (PISA); and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS). Dozens of countries have partaken in these evaluations over the years, and the results can be quite eye-opening.

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Undergraduate Use of Technology

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2013, the tenth annual report in this series, focuses of how undergraduates use information technology as well as their experiences with it. Among the findings are:

Students recognize the value of technology but still need guidance when it comes to better using it for academics.

Students prefer blended learning environments while beginning to experiment with MOOCs.

Students are ready to use their mobile devices more for academics, and they look to institutions and instructors for opportunities and encouragement to do so.

Students value their privacy, and using technology to connect with them has its limits. (Executive summary)

The report is replete with charts, statistics, and timelines. The ubiquitous MOOC is discussed, the use of badges is explored, and the role of face-to-face interaction is examined. A lot of data is compressed into this document. Previous reports are also available.  A MUST read.

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American Artists: Online Interviews and Papers

The Smithsonian Institution’s magnificent Archives of American Art contains wonderful treasures. We will highlight two of them: oral history interviews and digitized collections of papers. The former site is comprised of hundreds of interviews with those connected with the arts, from administrators to educators to painters. There is a brief biographical note, collection summary, and transcript appended to each entry; in certain cases, an audio excerpt is also available. Currently, the latter site houses 110 artists’ collections online; these range from the letters of Albert Bierstadt to Charles Scribner’s Sons Art Reference Department. Hundreds of thousands of documents/texts/images, etc. are freely available. GREAT resources for art history or history researchers.

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Native North American Languages Spoken at Home

This 2011 Census Bureau report – Native North American Languages Spoken at Home in the United States and Puerto Rico: 2006-2010 – shows that 372,000 people speak a native tongue at home; of that number, 170,000 speak Navaho. Three states account for a majority of these speakers: Alaska, Arizona, and New Mexico. A more in-depth exploration of native language speakers (along with other “foreign” languages) can be found at Ethnologue.

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Educational and Cultural Institutions in the Digital Age

This short work by the Secretary of the Smithsonian G. Wayne Clough – Best of Both Worlds: Museums, Libraries, And Archives in the Digital Age – highlights the responsibilities cultural and educational institutions have in disseminating their collections so that all individuals, regardless of their background, can benefit from our national treasures. “Certainly the challenges of digital transformation are formidable, but if museums, archives, and libraries can learn different behaviors, they can take on a new and elevated role. By combining the strengths of our physical collections with the potential afforded by digital technology, we can truly offer the best of both world.”(3)

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BBC World Book Club

The BBC’s World Book Club is a monthly podcast where leading authors get to discuss their favorite book and answer questions from listeners and the studio audience. The latest episode features Neil Gaiman talking about American Gods. This program spans the world: interviews with Maya Angelou, John Grisham, Gunter Grass, and Amit Chaudhuri are some of the notables here. The program also features special presentations, such as discussions on the Great Gatsby, Great Expectations, and Pride and Prejudice. Originally a half an hour in length, each episode now lasts almost an hour. This is a delight for book lovers (you know who you are).

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Promises and Pitfalls of MOOCs

San Jose State University partnered with Udacity, a MOOC provider, to present three online math courses. These preliminary results shed a great deal of light on the promises and pitfalls of MOOCs. The methodologies are discussed, the parameters are examined, and progress, or lack thereof, is documented. Inside Higher Ed has an informative article on this report.

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