Archive for February, 2012

The American Mosque 2011 – Basic Characteristics of the American Mosque, Attitudes of Mosque Leaders

February 29, 2012 Comments off

The American Mosque 2011 – Basic Characteristics of the American Mosque, Attitudes of Mosque Leaders (PDF)Source: Council on American-Islamic Relations
From press release:

A comprehensive study of mosques and the attitudes of mosque leaders in the United States released today indicates that the number of American mosques increased 74 percent since 2000 and that Islamic houses of worship are ethnically-diverse institutions led by officials who advocate positive civic engagement.

The report’s major findings include:

  • The number of mosques and mosque participants continues to show significant growth, from 1,209 mosques in 2000 to 2,106 in 2011. New York and California have the largest number of mosques. Seventy-six percent of mosques were established since 1980.
  • Mosque leaders overwhelmingly endorse Muslim involvement in American society. More than 98 percent of mosque leaders agree that Muslims should be involved in American institutions and 91 percent agree that Muslims should be involved in politics.
  • The vast majority of mosque leaders do not feel that American society is hostile to Islam.
  • The majority of mosque leaders (56 percent) adopt a flexible approach to interpretation of Quran and Sunnah (the normative practice of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad) that takes into account the overall purposes of Islamic law and modern circumstances.
  • The vast majority (87 percent) of mosque leaders disagree that "radicalism" is increasing among Muslim youth. Many mosque leaders say the real challenge for them is not radicalism and extremism among the youth, but how to attract and keep them close to the mosque.
  • Mosques remain an extremely diverse religious institution. Only a tiny minority of mosques (3 percent) have just one ethnic group that attends that mosque. South Asians, Arab-Americans and African-Americans remain the dominant ethnic groups, but significant numbers of Somalis, West Africans and Iraqis now worship at mosques nationwide.
  • The number of mosques in urban areas is decreasing, while the number of mosques in suburban areas is increasing. In 2011, 28 percent of mosques were located in suburbs, up from 16 percent in 2000.
  • The conversion rate per mosque has remained steady over the past two decades. In 2011, the average number of converts per mosque was 15.3. In 2000 the average was 16.3 converts per mosque.
  • Shia mosques are also expanding in number. Some 44 percent of all Shia mosques were established in the 1990s.

Consumers Rely on OTC Cough Medicines to Stay Productive at Work, School

February 29, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Consumer Healthcare Products Association
The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) today released the following statement regarding a new survey from the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI) finding that the majority of adult consumers and parents in the United States rely on accessible, affordable over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines to treat themselves and their families’ cough symptoms. CMPI’s Cough Medicine Consumer Insights national survey found that 68 percent of adult consumers agreed that OTC cough medicines allow them to stay productive at work and school, and 60 percent of parents reported that these medicines allowed their children to stay productive at school.

Cough Medicine Consumer Insights National Survey

Presidential Memorandum — Proposed Revised Habitat for the Spotted Owl: Minimizing Regulatory Burdens

February 29, 2012 Comments off

Presidential Memorandum — Proposed Revised Habitat for the Spotted Owl: Minimizing Regulatory Burdens
Source: White House

Today, compelled by court order, the Department of the Interior (Department) proposed critical habitat for the northern spotted owl. The proposal is an initial step in gathering important information that will inform a final decision on what areas should be designated as critical habitat for the spotted owl, based on a full evaluation of all key criteria: the relevant science, economic considerations, the impact on national security, and a balancing of other factors.

Executive Order 13563 of January 18, 2011 (Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review), explicitly states that our “regulatory system must protect public health, welfare, safety, and our environment while promoting economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation” (emphasis added). Consistent with this mandate, Executive Order 13563 requires agencies to tailor “regulations to impose the least burden on society, consistent with obtaining regulatory objectives” (emphasis added). Executive Order 13563 also requires agencies to “identify and consider regulatory approaches that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice” while selecting “those approaches that maximize net benefits.” To the extent permitted by law, our regulatory system must respect these requirements.

Quieter Cars and the Safety of Blind Pedestrians, Phase 2: Development of Potential Specifications for Vehicle Countermeasure Sounds — Final Report

February 29, 2012 Comments off

Quieter Cars and the Safety of Blind Pedestrians, Phase 2: Development of Potential Specifications for Vehicle Countermeasure Sounds — Final Report (PDF)
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

This project performed research to support the development of potential specifications for vehicle sounds, (i.e., audible countermeasures) to be used in vehicles while operating in electric mode in specific low speed conditions. The purpose of the synthetic vehicle sound is to alert pedestrians, including blind pedestrians, of vehicle presence and operation. The project developed various options and approaches to specify vehicle sounds that could be used to provide information at least equivalent to the cues provided by ICE vehicles, including speed change. Acoustic data from a sample of ICE vehicles was used to determine the sound levels at which synthetic vehicle sounds, developed as countermeasures, could be set. Psychoacoustic models and human-subject testing were used to explore issues of detectability, masking, and recognition of ICE-like and alternative sound countermeasures. Data were used to develop potential options that could be pursued to develop specifications for synthetic vehicle sounds. Project results indicate that vehicle detectability could potentially be met through various options including: recording(s) of actual ICE sounds; synthesized ICE-equivalent sounds; alternative, non-ICE-like sounds designed for detectability; and a hybrid of the options listed above.

Evaluation of Camera Use to Prevent Crime in Commuter Parking Facilities: A Randomized Controlled Trial

February 29, 2012 Comments off

Evaluation of Camera Use to Prevent Crime in Commuter Parking Facilities: A Randomized Controlled Trial (PDF)
Source: Urban Institute (National Criminal Justice Reference Service)

Recent research on the use of public surveillance cameras in high-crime areas supports the lack of impact found in this evaluation, finding that cameras are most likely to have an impact when they are highly concentrated, actively monitored, and well integrated into law enforcement crime control and investigative activities (La Vigne et. al 2011). These are critical factors that both current and future investors in camera systems should consider when implementing or expanding camera systems. It is equally important for law enforcement agencies to understand that technology is only as good as the manner in which it is employed. If it is employed minimally or is not well integrated into other policing functions, it is unlikely to yield a significant impact on crime. On a positive note, camera systems such as those implemented by MTP need not have a large impact on crime in order to be cost-effective, suggesting that an enhanced version of this type of intervention—cameras with surveillance capabilities—merits consideration by those aiming to prevent car crimes in parking facilities.

FRB — Beige Book (2/29/12)

February 29, 2012 Comments off

Beige Book (2/29/12)Source: Federal Reserve Board

Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts suggest that overall economic activity continued to increase at a modest to moderate pace in January and early February. Activity expanded at a moderate pace in the Cleveland, Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco Districts. St. Louis noted a modest pace of growth and Minneapolis characterized the pace of growth as firm. Economic activity rose at a somewhat faster pace in the Philadelphia and Atlanta Districts, while the New York District noted a somewhat slower pace of expansion. The Boston and Richmond Districts, in turn, noted that economic activity expanded or improved in most sectors.

Manufacturing continued to expand at a steady pace across the nation, with many Districts reporting increases in new orders, shipments, or production and several Districts indicating gains in capital spending, especially in auto-related industries. Activity in nonfinancial services industries remained stable or increased. Reports of consumer spending were generally positive except for sales of seasonal items, and the sales outlook for the near future was mostly optimistic. Tourism remained strong in some reporting Districts, but declined in the Minneapolis and Kansas City Districts because of reduced snowfall. Residential real estate market conditions improved somewhat in most Districts, with several reports of increased home sales and some reports of increased construction. Commercial real estate markets also showed positive results in some Districts. Banking conditions generally improved across the Districts. Agricultural conditions were mixed, while extraction activity generally increased.

Hiring increased slightly across several Districts, and contacts in a variety of industries faced difficulties finding skilled workers. Wage pressures were generally contained, and prices of final goods remained stable, although contacts in some Districts anticipate passing rising input prices through to consumer prices.

New From the GAO

February 29, 2012 Comments off

New GAO Report Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Uncertain Political and Security Situation Challenges U.S. Efforts to Implement a Comprehensive Strategy in Yemen. GAO-12-432R, February 29.

Why Access Matters: The Community College Student Body

February 29, 2012 Comments off

Why Access Matters: The Community College Student Body
Source: American Association of Community Colleges

More and more Americans today acknowledge the value of community colleges to students and community partners. An important reason for this awakening, among many others, rests on the growing realization that reported rates of success for students at community colleges are understated and misleading. In addition, the increasing focus on public returns on investment may be incentivizing colleges and universities to be more discerning about whom they enroll. Needless to say, these changes do not bode well for college access.

With the growing attention the public is paying to community colleges, it is important to remember just whom community colleges serve, noting what is distinctive and what has changed about this population. In this brief, I consider the unique variety of students who are drawn to and served by community colleges.

The magnitude of access is generally understood at the level of fall enrollments. For institutions that enroll students year-round, however, more students access higher education than is commonly realized. At community colleges, for example, referencing unduplicated year-round enrollments increases the number of students accessing higher education by 56%. The magnitude of access is increased even further when noncredit students are included.

Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies

February 29, 2012 Comments off

Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies
Source: U.S. Department of Education

Key Findings

  • Forty-six states have bullying laws and 45 of those laws direct school districts to adopt bullying policies. However, three of the 46 states prohibit bullying without defining the behavior that is prohibited.
  • Thirty-six states include provisions in their education codes prohibiting cyberbullying or bullying using electronic media. Thirteen states specify that schools have jurisdiction over off-campus behavior if it creates a hostile school environment.
  • Forty-one states have created model bullying policies, 12 of which were not mandated to do so under law. Three other states, including Hawaii, Montana, and Michigan, also developed model policies in the absence of state bullying legislation.
  • Among the 20 school district bullying policies reviewed in this study, districts located in states with more expansive legislation produced the most expansive school district policies. However, several school districts in states with less expansive laws also substantially expanded the scope and content of their policies beyond the minimum legal expectations.

Federal Communications Commission: Digital Textbook Playbook

February 29, 2012 Comments off

Federal Communications Commission: Digital Textbook Playbook (PDF)
Source: Federal Communications Commission

The Digital Textbook Playbook is a guide to help K-12 educators and administrators advance the conversation toward building a rich digital learning experience. This Playbook offers information about determining broadband infrastructure for schools and classrooms, leveraging home and community broadband to extend the digital learning environment, and understanding necessary device considerations. It also provides lessons learned from school districts that engaged in successful transitions to digital learning.

This Playbook is the output of the Digital Textbook Collaborative, a joint effort of industry stakeholders, school nonprofit leaders to encourage collaboration across the ecosystem, accelerate the development of digital textbooks and improve the quality and penetration of digital learning in K-12 public education. The collaborative was convened by the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Education and builds upon the FCC’s National Broadband Plan and the Department of Education’s National Education Technology Plan.

Health-insurance Coverage for Low-wage Workers, 1979-2010 and Beyond

February 29, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Center for Economic and Policy Research
This paper uses data from the Current Population Surveys for 1980 through 2011 to review trends in health-insurance coverage rates for low-wage workers (defined as workers in the bottom fifth of the wage distribution in each survey year). In 2010, over 38 percent of low-wage workers lacked health insurance from any source, up from 16 percent in 1979. The biggest reason for the decline in coverage is the erosion of employer-provided health insurance, either through a worker’s own employer or as a dependent on another family member’s employer-provided policy. Over the last three decades, the role of public insurance in providing coverage for low-wage workers has increased, though not nearly enough to offset the declines in private insurance. In 2010, about 10 percent of low-wage workers had coverage through Medicaid, double the share in 1979. While a great deal of uncertainty still surrounds the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its likely impact on employers and workers, reasonable estimates based on consensus projections suggest that the ACA will have a substantial positive effect on health-insurance coverage rates for low-wage workers. Even so, the ACA will likely leave an important share of low-wage workers, especially low-wage Latino, African American, and Asian workers, as well as many immigrant workers, without coverage. At the same time, if the ACA is blocked – in the courts or in Congress – there is every indication that coverage rates for low-wage workers will continue their long, steady decline.

More Than a Job: Final Results from the Evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities Transitional Jobs Program

February 29, 2012 Comments off

More Than a Job: Final Results from the Evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities Transitional Jobs Program (PDF)
Source: MDRC

This report presents the final results of the evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO). CEO is one of four sites in the Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ Demonstration and Evaluation Project, sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor. MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan social and education policy research organization, is leading the evaluation, in collabora- tion with the Urban Institute and other partners.

Based in New York City, CEO is a comprehensive employment program for former prisoners — a population confronting many obstacles to finding and maintaining work. CEO provides temporary, paid jobs and other services in an effort to improve participants’ labor market prospects and reduce the odds that they will return to prison. The study uses a rigorous random assignment design: it compares outcomes for individuals assigned to the program group, who were given access to CEO’s jobs and other services, with the outcomes for those assigned to the control group, who were offered basic job search assistance at CEO along with other services in the community.

The three-year evaluation found that CEO substantially increased employment early in the follow-up period but that the effects faded over time. The initial increase in employment was due to the temporary jobs provided by the program. After the first year, employment and earnings were similar for both the program group and the control group.

CEO significantly reduced recidivism, with the most promising impacts occurring among a sub- group of former prisoners who enrolled shortly after release from prison (the group that the program was designed to serve). Among the subgroup that enrolled within three months after release, program group members were less likely than their control group counterparts to be arrested, convicted of a new crime, and reincarcerated. The program’s impacts on these outcomes represent reductions in recidivism of 16 percent to 22 percent. In general, CEO’s impacts were stronger for those who were more disadvantaged or at higher risk of recidivism when they enrolled in the study.

The evaluation includes a benefit-cost analysis, which shows that CEO’s financial benefits out-weighed its costs under a wide range of assumptions. Financial benefits exceeded the costs for taxpayers, victims, and participants. The majority of CEO’s benefits were the result of reduced criminal justice system expenditures.

Medicare Advantage Organizations’ Identification of Potential Fraud and Abuse

February 29, 2012 Comments off

Medicare Advantage Organizations’ Identification of Potential Fraud and Abuse
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General

Why We Did This Study

The Medicare Advantage (MA) program has become a significant part of Medicare in both cost and enrollment. MA organizations offer plans under Medicare Part C that cover services a beneficiary would receive under Medicare Parts A and B; many plans also offer prescription drug coverage under Part D. MA organizations’ efforts to identify and address potential fraud and abuse are crucial to protecting the integrity of the MA program. Prior to this report, no study had examined potential fraud and abuse identified by MA organizations. CMS requires MA organizations to have compliance plans that include measures to detect, correct, and prevent fraud, waste, and abuse. However, CMS does not require MA organizations to report the results of their efforts to identify and address potential fraud and abuse incidents.

How We Did This Study

We collected and reviewed data from 170 of 188 MA organizations that offered plans in 2009. These MA organizations represented 4,547 plans nationwide and accounted for 94 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in MA plans in 2009. We collected and summarized the numbers of potential fraud and abuse incidents, inquiries, corrective actions, and referrals related to these plans in 2009. We also categorized the types of potential fraud and abuse incidents and corrective actions that MA organizations reported.

What We Found

Nineteen percent of MA organizations did not identify any potential fraud and abuse incidents related to their Part C health benefits and Part D drug benefits in 2009. MA organizations that identified potential fraud and abuse in 2009 reported between 1 incident and 1.1 million incidents. Three MA organizations identified 95 percent of the total 1.4 million reported incidents. Differences in the way organizations defined and detected potential fraud and abuse may account for some of the variability in the number of incidents they identified. While CMS requires MA organizations to initiate inquiries and corrective actions where appropriate, not all MA organizations took such steps in response to incidents they identified. Overall, MA organizations sent 2,656 referrals of potential fraud and abuse incidents to other entities for further investigation in 2009.

What We Recommend

Our findings indicate that MA organizations lack a common understanding of key fraud and abuse program terms and raise questions about whether all MA organizations are implementing their programs to detect and address potential fraud and abuse effectively.

Therefore, we recommend that CMS:

(1) Ensure that MA organizations are implementing programs to detect, correct, and prevent fraud, waste, and abuse, as required in their compliance plans, so that all potential Part C and Part D fraud and abuse incidents are identified;

(2) Review MA organizations to determine why certain organizations reported especially high or low volumes of potential Part C and Part D fraud and abuse incidents and inquiries;

(3) Develop specific guidance for MA organizations on defining potential Part C and Part D fraud and abuse incidents and inquiries;

(4) Require MA organizations to report to CMS aggregate data related to their Part C and Part D antifraud, waste, and abuse activities;

(5) Ensure that all MA organizations are responding appropriately to potential fraud and abuse incidents; and

(6) Require MA organizations to refer potential fraud and abuse incidents that may warrant further investigation to CMS or other appropriate entities.

CMS concurred with our first, third, and fifth recommendations. CMS did not concur or concurred in part with our second, fourth, and sixth recommendations.

Housing Landscape 2012: Nearly a quarter of working households spend more than half of income on housing

February 29, 2012 Comments off

Housing Landscape 2012: Nearly a quarter of working households spend more than half of income on housing
Source: Center for Housing Policy

A new study by the Center for Housing Policy confirms that falling home prices have not solved the housing affordability problems of the nation’s working households. In fact, the Center’s Housing Landscape 2012 report found that the share of working households paying more than half their income for housing rose significantly between 2008 and 2010 for both renters and owners. This annual report explores the latest Census data from 2008 to 2010 on housing costs and income, including housing cost burden data from the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Among other conclusions, Housing Landscape 2012 finds that nearly one in four working households in the U.S. spends more than half of total income on housing.

Housing cost burden for working households grew over the two-year period studied largely due to falling incomes and rising rental housing costs. Report author Laura Williams says rents rose due to increased demand for rental housing which has outstripped supply, partly due to the crisis on the homeownership side of the market.

FDA announces safety changes in labeling for some cholesterol-lowering drugs

February 28, 2012 Comments off

FDA announces safety changes in labeling for some cholesterol-lowering drugs
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Important safety changes to the labeling for some widely used cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins are being announced today by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

These products, when used with diet and exercise, help to lower a person’s “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol). The products include: Lipitor (atorvastatin), Lescol (fluvastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin), Altoprev (lovastatin extended-release), Livalo (pitavastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), Crestor (rosuvastatin), and Zocor (simvastatin). Combination products include: Advicor (lovastatin/niacin extended-release), Simcor (simvastatin/niacin extended-release), and Vytorin (simvastatin/ezetimibe).

“We want health care professionals and patients to have the most current information on the risks of statins, but also to assure them that these medications continue to provide an important health benefit of lowering cholesterol,” said Mary Parks, M.D., director for the Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology Products in the Office of Drug Evaluation II in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

The changes to the statin labels are:

  • The drug labels have been revised to remove the need for routine periodic monitoring of liver enzymes in patients taking statins. FDA now recommends that liver enzyme tests should be performed before starting statin therapy, and as clinically indicated thereafter. FDA has concluded that serious liver injury with statins is rare and unpredictable in individual patients, and that routine periodic monitoring of liver enzymes does not appear to be effective in detecting or preventing this rare side effect. Patients should notify their health care professional immediately if they have the following symptoms of liver problems: unusual fatigue or weakness; loss of appetite; upper belly pain; dark-colored urine; yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes.
  • Certain cognitive (brain-related) effects have been reported with statin use. Statin labels will now include information about some patients experiencing memory loss and confusion. These reports generally have not been serious and the patients’ symptoms were reversed by stopping the statin. However, patients should still alert their health care professional if these symptoms occur.
  • Increases in blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) have been reported with statin use. The FDA is also aware of studies showing that patients being treated with statins may have a small increased risk of increased blood sugar levels and of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus. The labels will now warn healthcare professionals and patients of this potential risk.
  • Health care professionals should take note of the new recommendations in the lovastatin label. Some medicines may interact with lovastatin, increasing the risk for muscle injury (myopathy/rhabdomyolysis). For example, certain medicines should never be taken (are contraindicated) with Mevacor (lovastatin) including drugs used to treat HIV (protease inhibitors) and drugs used to treat certain bacterial and fungal infections.

Dover Port Mortuary Independent Review Subcommittee Final Report – February 2012

February 28, 2012 Comments off

Dover Port Mortuary Independent Review Subcommittee Final Report – February 2012
Source: Defense Health Board (DoD)

The United States has a long and proud tradition of honoring its war dead. Consistent with the supreme sacrifice of the Fallen, our Nation must sustain the trust of its Service Members and their families by ensuring that the Fallen are accorded the highest degree of honor, dignity, and reverence, now and in the future.

In 2009, employees of the Dover Port Mortuary (DPM) alleged wrongdoing at the facility involving handling and disposition of human remains returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. Specifically, these individuals described improper preparation of remains of a deceased Marine; improper handling and transport of remains with possible contagious disease; improper handling and transport of fetal remains of military dependents; and improper handling of cases of missing portions of remains.

Several Service-level investigations ensued as did a review of those investigations by the Office of Special Counsel, resulting in numerous corrective actions and personnel changes at the facility. In fall 2011, senior Department of Defense (DoD) leadership asked the Defense Health Board (DHB) to conduct an independent assessment of the current overall operations of DPM, the effectiveness of changes identified or taken to date, and the means by which those changes are examined for continued effectiveness. Specifically, the DHB subcommittee was asked to focus on the policies, procedures, and processes currently in place at DPM. The subcommittee did not focus its review on disciplinary or retaliatory personnel actions that followed these investigations, which were the subject of another review.

CRS — Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress

February 28, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region. On January 12, 2009, the George W. Bush Administration released a presidential directive, called National Security Presidential Directive 66/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 25 (NSPD 66/HSPD 25), establishing a new U.S. policy for the Arctic region.
Record low extent of Arctic sea ice in 2007 focused scientific and policy attention on its linkage to global climate change, and to the implications of projected ice-free seasons in the Arctic within decades. The Arctic has been projected by several scientists to be perennially ice-free in the late summer by the late 2030s.
The five Arctic coastal states—the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, and Denmark (of which Greenland is a territory)—are in the process of preparing Arctic territorial claims for submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The Russian claim to the enormous underwater Lomonosov Ridge, if accepted, would reportedly grant Russia nearly onehalf of the Arctic area. There are also four other unresolved Arctic territorial disputes.
The diminishment of Arctic ice could lead in coming years to increased commercial shipping on two trans-Arctic sea routes—the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage. Current international guidelines for ships operating in Arctic waters are being updated.
Changes to the Arctic brought about by warming temperatures will likely allow more exploration for oil, gas, and minerals. Warming that causes permafrost to melt could pose challenges to onshore exploration activities. Increased oil and gas exploration and tourism (cruise ships) in the Arctic increase the risk of pollution in the region. Cleaning up oil spills in ice-covered waters will be more difficult than in other areas, primarily because effective strategies have yet to be developed.
Large commercial fisheries exist in the Arctic. The United States is currently meeting with other countries regarding the management of Arctic fish stocks. Changes in the Arctic could affect threatened and endangered species. Under the Endangered Species Act, the polar bear was listed as threatened on May 15, 2008. Arctic climate change is also expected to affect the economies, health, and cultures of Arctic indigenous peoples.
Two of the Coast Guard’s three polar icebreakers—Polar Star and Polar Sea—have exceeded their intended 30-year service lives and are currently not operational. The possibility of increased sea traffic through Arctic waters also raises an issue concerning Arctic search and rescue capabilities. On May 12, 2011, representatives from the member states of the Arctic Council signed an agreement on cooperation on aeronautical and maritime search and rescue in the Arctic.
The Arctic has increasingly become a subject of discussion among political leaders of the nations in the region. Although there is significant international cooperation on Arctic issues, the Arctic is also increasingly being viewed by some observers as a potential emerging security issue. In varying degrees, the Arctic coastal states have indicated a willingness to establish and maintain a military presence in the high north. U.S. military forces, particularly the Navy and Coast Guard, have begun to pay more attention to the region.

New From the GAO

February 28, 2012 Comments off

New GAO Reports and TestimoniesSource: Government Accountability Office

+ Reports

1. 2012 Annual Report: Opportunities to Reduce Duplication, Overlap and Fragmentation, Achieve Savings, and Enhance Revenue. GAO-12-342SP, February 28.
Podcast –

2. Follow-up on 2011 Report: Status of Actions Taken to Reduce Duplication, Overlap, and Fragmentation, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue. GAO-12-453SP, February 28.

+ Testimonies

1. More Efficient and Effective Government: Opportunities to Reduce Duplication, Overlap and Fragmentation, Achieve Savings, and Enhance Revenue, by Comptroller General of the United States, Gene L. Dodaro, before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. GAO-12-449T, February 28.

2. Cybersecurity: Challenges to Securing the Modernized Electricity Grid, by Greg C. Wilhusen, Director, Information Security Issues, and David C. Tremble, Director, Natural Resources and Environment, before the House Energy And Commerce Committee: Oversight And Investigations Subcommittee. GAO-12-507T, February 28.
Highlights –

Transcript: Annual Threat Assessment — Statement Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, United States Senate February 16, 2012

February 28, 2012 Comments off

Transcript: Annual Threat Assessment — Statement Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, United States Senate, February 16, 2012
Source: Defense Intelligence Agency
By Ronald L. Burgess, Jr., Lieutenant General, USA; Director, Defense Intelligence Agency

Good morning, Chairman Levin, Ranking Member McCain, and members of the committee. Thank you for this opportunity to testify and for your continued support of the dedicated men and women of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), many of whom are forward-deployed directly supporting U.S. and allied military forces in Afghanistan and around the world.

The United States faces a complex security environment marked by a broad spectrum of dissimilar threats, including rising regional powers and highly adaptive and resilient transnational terrorist networks. This testimony reflects DIA’s best analysis, based on the Agency’s worldwide human intelligence, technical intelligence, counterintelligence, and document and media exploitation capabilities, along with information from DIA’s Intelligence Community (IC) partners, international allies, and open sources.

Download as PDF.

Zachary Chesser: A Case Study in Online Islamist Radicalization and Its Meaning for the Threat of Homegrown Terrorism

February 28, 2012 Comments off

Zachary Chesser: A Case Study in Online Islamist Radicalization and Its Meaning for the Threat of Homegrown Terrorism (PDF)
Source: Majority and Minority Staff, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
From press release:

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee issued a staff report Monday detailing the internet radicalization of a homegrown terrorist to violent Islamist extremism and the inadequacy of U.S. policy to counter online radicalization.

The report presents a classic case study of how quickly online radicalization can occur compared to the traditional process of face to face contact between an aspirant and an established terrorist group.

In the case of Zachary Chesser, a young Virginia man now serving 25 years on terrorism related charges, the trajectory from high school graduate to incarcerated felon occurred in just two years.

“Chesser represents a growing breed of young Americans who have such comfort and facility with social media that they can self radicalize to violent Islamist extremism in an accelerated time period, compared to more traditional routes to radicalization,” the report said.

Chesser’s “prolific online writings and written correspondence with Committee staff provide a window into his thinking, and in turn, may shed light on the thinking of other like-minded individuals who may follow in his destructive path of radicalization toward violent Islamist extremism.”

Committee staff corresponded with Chesser over a three-month period from August through October 2011 and included four of those hand-written letters in the report.


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