Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Librarians Vs. The Patriot Act

Can't help laughing at what the FBI thought librarians were up to...
Once called the "library provision," Section 215 of the Patriot Act forced libraries to become headliners in the battle waged to protect American freedoms. Producer Karen Duffin tells the origin story of the clash that began over a decade ago.
Source: "On the Media"

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A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America

While both states and the federal government invest in early learning, these efforts have fallen short of what is needed to ensure that all children can access a high-quality early education that will prepare them for success. 
Significant new investments in high-quality early education are necessary to help states, local communities, and parents close the readiness gap that exists between disadvantaged children and their more advantaged peers.
Source: U.S. Department of Education

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Strengthening Trust Between Police and the Public in an Era of Increasing Transparency

Events in recent months have focused national attention on profound fractures in trust between some police departments and the communities they are charged with protecting. Though the potential for such fractures is always present given the role of police in society, building and maintaining trust between police and the public is critical for the health of American democracy. However, in an era when information technology has the potential to greatly increase transparency of police activities in a variety of ways, building and maintaining trust is challenging. Doing so likely requires steps taken by both police organizations and the public to build understanding and relationships that can sustain trust through tragic incidents that can occur in the course of policing — whether it is a citizen's or officer's life that is lost. This paper draws on the deep literature on legitimacy, procedural justice, and trust to frame three core questions that must be addressed to build and maintain mutual trust between police and the public: (1) What is the police department doing and why? (2) What are the results of the department's actions? and (3) What mechanisms are in place to discover and respond to problems from the officer to the department level? Answering these questions ensures that both the public and police have mutual understanding and expectations about the goals and tactics of policing, their side effects, and the procedures to address problems fairly and effectively, maintaining confidence over time.
Souce: RAND Corporation

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The Processing and Treatment of Mentally Ill Persons in the Criminal Justice System: A Scan of Practice and Background Analysis

Mentally ill offenders possess a unique set of circumstances and needs. However, all too often, they cycle through the criminal justice system without appropriate care to address their mental health. Their recurring involvement in the criminal justice system is a pressing concern. This report provides a national landscape on the processing and treatment of mentally ill individuals in the criminal justice system. It also highlights challenges involved in the reintegration of mentally ill offenders into society, the diversity of policies and protocols in state statutes to address such challenges, and promising criminal justice interventions for mentally ill offenders.
Source: Urban Institute

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Global Publics Back U.S. on Fighting ISIS, but Are Critical of Post-9/11 Torture

The rise of ISIS has generated strong concerns in nations around the world, and a new Pew Research Center survey finds broad global support for American military efforts against the terrorist group. And unlike the Iraq War a decade ago, the current U.S. air campaign in Iraq and Syria is backed by majorities in America’s European allies and endorsed by publics in key Middle Eastern nations.

Source: Pew Research Center

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Raising Lower-Level Wages: When and Why It Makes Economic Sense

As the United States emerges from the Great Recession, concern is rising nationally over the issues of income inequality, stagnation of workers’ wages, and especially the struggles of lower-skilled workers at the -bottom end of the wage scale. While Washington deliberates legislation raising the minimum wage, a number of major American employers—for example, Aetna and Walmart—have begun to voluntarily raise the pay of their own lowest-paid employees.

In this collection of essays, economists from the Peterson Institute for International Economics analyze the potential benefits and costs of widespread wage increases, if adopted by a range of US private employers. They make this assessment for the workers, the companies, and for the US economy as a whole, including such an initiative’s effects on national competitiveness. These economists conclude that raising the pay of many of the lowest-paid US private-sector workers would not only reduce income inequality but also boost overall productivity growth, with likely minimal effect on employment in the current financial context. 
Source: Peterson Institute of International Economics

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EFF Report Charts Companies on Next Frontier of User Privacy — Annual Survey Delves Deeper into Practices of Apple, Google, Twitter, and More

Our digital lives are leaving data trails through social networking sites, email providers, Internet service providers, and mobile apps. But which companies fight the hardest to protect their customers from government data grabs of this sensitive information? Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released its fifth annual “Who Has Your Back” report, charting tech companies’ commitment to the next frontier of user privacy.

“Who Has Your Back” evaluates 24 companies, awarding up to five stars in categories like “tell users about government data requests” and “publicly disclose the company’s data retention policies.” Nine companies earned stars in every category available to them: Adobe, Apple, CREDO, Dropbox, Sonic, Wickr, Wikimedia,, and Yahoo. 

Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation

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The Behavioral Economics Guide 2015

Introduction by Dan Ariely
Part 1 – Editorial
  • Behavioral Science: Theory and Practice
  • Selected Behavioral Economics Concepts
Part 2 – Resources
  • TED Talks on Behavioral Science
  • Scholarly Journals with Behavioral Economics Content
  • Postgraduate Programs in Behavioral Economics and
    Behavioral/Decision Science
  • Other Resources
Part 3 – Applied Perspectives
Behavioral Science in Practice
Appendix – Author and Contributing Organization Profiles

Measuring Think Tank Performance: Updated with 2014 Data

In 2013, our CGD colleagues Julia Clark and David Roodman designed a low-cost quantitative approach to ranking think tank performance. We applied their methodology in early 2015 to produce an updated ranking of US and international development think tanks on the basis of 2014 data. The rankings aim to provide a transparent and objective method of assessing the influence of select think tanks. We use citations in traditional and new media as well as academe to evaluate think tanks’ ability to garner public attention. Thus, the rankings are best understood as an indicator of public profile. While policy impact is hard if not impossible to measure, the strength of a think tank’s public profile is likely to be a good marker of its influence and potential for impact: ideas need to be noticed to be adopted (Clark and Roodman, 2013). Our methodology helps reduce the biases inherent in expert-perception based rankings and provides think tanks with clear strategies based on concrete metrics to improve their performance. In addition, by incorporating the size of a think tank, in terms of operating expenses, our rankings benefit from an added efficiency (‘bang-for-your-buck’) dimension that other approaches lack. The comparison of rankings between 2013 and now indicates considerable continuity of the measured public profile over time, with only moderate changes in aggregate rankings; although there is more variability in individual indicators. 

Source: Center for Global Development

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Identifying Technology and Other Needs to More Effectively Acquire and Utilize Digital Evidence

This report describes the results of a National Institute of Justice (NIJ)-sponsored research effort to identify and prioritize criminal justice needs related to digital evidence collection, management, analysis, and use. With digital devices becoming ubiquitous, digital evidence is increasingly important to the investigation and prosecution of many types of crimes. These devices often contain information about crimes committed, movement of suspects, and criminal associates. However, there are significant challenges to successfully using digital evidence in prosecutions, including inexperience of patrol officers and detectives in preserving and collecting digital evidence, lack of familiarity with digital evidence on the part of court officials, and an overwhelming volume of work for digital evidence examiners. Through structured interaction with police digital forensic experts, prosecuting attorneys, a privacy advocate, and industry representatives, the effort identified and prioritized specific needs to improve utilization of digital evidence in criminal justice. Several top-tier needs emerged from the analysis, including education of prosecutors and judges regarding digital evidence opportunities and challenges; training for patrol officers and investigators to promote better collection and preservation of digital evidence; tools for detectives to triage analysis of digital evidence in the field; development of regional models to make digital evidence analysis capability available to small departments; and training to address concerns about maintaining the currency of training and technology available to digital forensic examiners.
Source: RAND Corporation

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Early Childhood Education by MOOC: Lessons From Sesame Street

Sesame Street is one of the largest early childhood interventions ever to take place. It was introduced in 1969 as an educational, early childhood program with the explicit goal of preparing preschool age children for school entry. Millions of children watched a typical episode in its early years. Well-designed studies at its inception provided evidence that watching the show generated an immediate and sizeable increase in test scores. In this paper we investigate whether the first cohorts of preschool children exposed to Sesame Street experienced improved outcomes subsequently. We implement an instrumental variables strategy exploiting limitations in television technology generated by distance to a broadcast tower and UHF versus VHF transmission to distinguish counties by Sesame Street reception quality. We relate this geographic variation to outcomes in Census data including grade-for-age status in 1980, educational attainment in 1990, and labor market outcomes in 2000. The results indicate that Sesame Street accomplished its goal of improving school readiness; preschool-aged children in areas with better reception when it was introduced were more likely to advance through school as appropriate for their age. This effect is particularly pronounced for boys and non-Hispanic, black children, as well as children living in economically disadvantaged areas. The evidence regarding the impact on ultimate educational attainment and labor market outcomes is inconclusive.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research

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Orphan Works and Mass Digitization: A Report of the Register of Copyrights

The Copyright Office is reviewing the problem of orphan works under U.S. copyright law in continuation of its previous work on the subject and to advise Congress on possible next steps for the United States. The Office has long shared the concern with many in the copyright community that the uncertainty surrounding the ownership status of orphan works does not serve the objectives of the copyright system. For good faith users, orphan works are a frustration, a liability risk, and a major cause of gridlock in the digital marketplace. The issue is not contained to the United States. Indeed, a number of foreign governments have recently adopted or proposed solutions.
Source: U.S. Copyright Office

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Agencies Release Guide on LGBT Discrimination Protections for Federal Workers

From the Press Release:
...four Federal Government agencies with roles in ensuring fairness in the federal workplace released a guide on the rights and processes available to applicants and employees who allege sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination. The guide is being reissued after more than a decade and has been substantially revised to reflect major developments in the law.

The guide provides federal workers with a description of employee rights and agency responsibilities under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, and other agency and union procedures. It also offers a comparison table showing differences between procedures available at the EEOC and OSC. The goal of the publication is to assist LGBT employees make more informed choices about how best to pursue their individual claims when they believe they have suffered from discrimination.

This resource guide is a general introduction to the possible avenues available for addressing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 
Source: Office of Personnel Management
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Fact Sheet: Protecting Students from Abusive Career Colleges

Over the past six years, the Education Department has taken unprecedented steps to hold career colleges accountable for giving students what they deserve: a high-quality, affordable education that prepares them for their careers. The Department established tougher regulations targeting misleading claims by colleges and incentives that drove sales people to enroll students through dubious promises. The Department has cracked down on bad actors through investigations and enforcement actions. The Department also issued “gainful employment” regulations, which will help ensure that students at career colleges don’t end up with debt they cannot repay. The Department will continue to hold institutions accountable in order to improve the value of their programs, protect students from abusive colleges, and safeguard the interests of taxpayers. 

Source: U.S. Department of Education

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Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Investment Climate Statements 2015

Investment Climate Statements provide country-specific information and assessments prepared by U.S. embassies and diplomatic missions abroad on investment laws and practices in those countries. Select a report below to learn about the investment climate in that economy.

Link to page for downloading country-specific reports

Central Asia in a Reconnecting Eurasia: U.S. Policy Interests and Recommendations

Today, with combat operations in Afghanistan winding down, U.S. policy toward the states of Central Asia is transitioning to a third era. The United States now has an opportunity to refashion its approach to the region. In doing so, it should capitalize on trends already underway, in particular the expansion of trade and transit linkages, to help integrate Central Asia more firmly into the global economy, while also working to overcome tensions both within the region itself and among the major neighboring powers with interests in Central Asia. Central Asia in a Reconnecting Eurasia: U.S. Policy Interests and Recommendations examines the full scope of U.S. national interests in Central Asia and puts forward the broad outlines of a strategy for U.S. engagement over the coming years. 

Source: Central and Stratigic International Studies

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Top Languages Spoken by English Language Learners Nationally and by State

While the languages spoken by English Language Learner (ELL) students in the United States are very diverse, Spanish is the most common first or home language, spoken by 71 percent of ELL students. This fact sheet, drawing upon data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2013 American Community Survey (ACS) and the U.S. Department of Education, describes the home languages spoken by ELL students at national and state levels.

Chinese was the second most common language spoken in ELL students' homes representing 4 percent of ELLs, followed by Vietnamese (3 percent) and French/Haitian Creole (2 percent). A language other than Spanish was the top language spoken by ELLs in five states: Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, and Vermont. In 19 states and the District of Columbia, more than three-quarters of all ELL students spoke Spanish.
Source: Migration Policy Institute

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Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2014

This report analyzes results of the Board’s second Survey of Household Economics and Decision making, conducted in October 2014, and compares them with results from the previous year’s survey. The survey aims to capture a snapshot of the financial and economic well-being of U.S. households, as well as to monitor their recovery from the Great Recession and identify perceived risks to their financial stability.

Source: Federal Reserve Board

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Department of State and Foreign Operations Appropriations: A Fact Sheet on Legislation, FY1995-FY2015

Congress currently appropriates foreign affairs funding through annual Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations.1 Prior to FY2008, however, Congress provided funds for the Department of State and international broadcasting within the Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies appropriations (CJS) and separately provided foreign aid funds within Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs appropriations. The transition between the different alignments occurred in the 109th Congress with a change in appropriations subcommittee jurisdiction. For that Congress, the House of Representatives appropriated State Department funds separately from foreign aid, as in earlier Congresses, but the Senate appropriated State and foreign aid funds within one bill—the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations. By the 110th Congress, funding for both the Department of State and foreign aid were aligned into the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations in both the House and Senate.
Source: Congressional Research Service

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Is There a Research Basis for Requiring Trigger Warnings?

With current concern over incidents of sexual assault on America’s college campuses and with veterans returning to American universities in significant numbers after more than a decade of war in the Middle East, there has been a growing debate over how universities should protect students who may be coping with post – traumatic stress disorder from further injury. Some have argued that faculty should be required to provide “trigger warnings” in course syllabi, alerting students in advance to course content that might be disturbing to traumatized individuals.

Creating a duty by faculty to foresee and warn against possible emotional distress as a reaction to literature or art or ot her course materials raises serious concerns about academic freedom. However, would such warnings help to protect traumatized individuals from further trauma — or those around them from violent reactions to trauma triggers? Research suggests that identifying potential trauma triggers is far more difficult than looking for explicit depictions of violence or rape. Even seemingly neutral images associated with past trauma may evoke painful or violent responses. Before creating a new duty to foresee and warn against trauma triggers, policy make r s need to consider whether research and clinical experience indicate that the utility of trigger warnings would outweigh their chilling effect on free speech and robust scholarly inquiry.
Source: 31st Annual Symposium in Forensic Psychology

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New Eurostat flagship publication - Facts and views about quality of life in the EU - A multi-dimensional measurement of well-being

Traditionally official statistics describe economic and social developments by using indicators such as GDP. However, today it is widely accepted that GDP alone is not enough to show how well or badly people are doing. Quality of life is indeed a broader concept which includes a full range of factors which people value in life and their subjective assessments of these factors.

Quality of life in Europe — facts and views presents different aspects of people's well-being combining for the first time objective indicators with subjective evaluation of individuals' situations and covering various aspects of quality of life. The indicators are analysed together with different elements affecting quality of life such as educational level, activity, health status or family and financial situation. The emphasis in this publication has been placed on the data collected through the 2013 ad-hoc module on subjective well-being, which was added to the statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC). Data are presented for the European Union and its Member States as well as for the EFTA countries. Quality of life in Europe — facts and views provides an overview of the wealth of information that is available on Eurostat's website and within its online databases.
Source: Eurostat

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