Project America: Issue of the Day
Issue of the Day

H1N1 Flu May Separate Students and Teachers This Fall
Published: August 20th, 2009

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more communities may be affected by both the H1N1 Swine Flu and the ordinary seasonal flu in the coming months than last spring, and every post-secondary/secondary institution needs to have an action plan in place.  The CDC suggests flu-preventive hygiene, students and staff getting the vaccine once it becomes available, “self-isolation” or “flu buddy” system, and eliminating requirements for a doctor’s note to prove an illness.

The CDC recommends using the internet in keeping students and teachers connected if the flu season becomes too severe.  Public schools in the United States with access to the Internet reached 100% in 2003, compared with 35% in 1994. Public schools have made continued progress in expanding Internet access into instructional rooms, with 94% of public school instructional rooms having Internet access, as of 2005 reporting, compared with 3% in 1994.

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Rate of Death Increases for 25-34 Year Olds
Published: August 19th, 2009

The data from the final Centers for Disease Control report on deaths in 2006 has concluded its analysis of the mortality patterns in 2006.  The data suggest a decline in the age-adjusted death rate to a record historical low, thus increasing life expectancy from 2005 to 2006.

The results show that there were 2,426,264 deaths in the US at an age-adjusted death rate of 776.5 deaths per 100,000 standard populations, a decrease of 2.8% from 2005 and a record low historical figure.  Life expectancy at birth rose 0.3 years from 77.4 years in 2005 to a record 77.7 years in 2006. Infant mortality rate in 2006 was 6.69 deaths per 1,000 live births.  Age-specific death rates increased for those aged 25-34 years, but decreased for: 5-14 years, 35-44 years, 45-54 years and beyond.  The 15 leading causes of death in 2006 remained the same as in 2005 with heart disease and cancer continuing to be the leading and second-leading causes of death, together accounting for almost half of all deaths.

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White House Proposes Increase Spending for Cyber Security
Published: August 18th, 2009

It has been known for a while now that the future of war or conflict will involve information or cyber warfare.  A non-profit US Cyber Consequences Unit studied the cyber tactics used against the country of Georgia during its military conflict with Russia last year.  Cyber attacks in August 2008 shut down the web sites of critical Georgian government agencies, the media and banks.  The US-CCU expects this model to be used again in future conflicts.  The report suggests that an international organization be created to provide risk advisories and international cyber-response forces to assistance member states in the form of advice and setting up permanent operations, plus cyber-response exercises to thwart future attacks.

Overall, spending for Defense as a percentage of the federal budget has trended upwards since 2002 at a rate of 0.7 percentage points a year to 21.7%.  For cyber security, President Obama called for $355 million in spending for the DHS intelligence and warning mission area, up from the $294 million fiscal 2009 budget.   As of 2008, there were increases in a majority of mission areas except Domestic Terrorism and Catastrophic Threats.

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President Intends to Submit UN Treaty for Ratification
Published: August 17th, 2009

Recently, President Obama announced his intentions to sign and submit to the Senate for ratification an international human rights treaty. In the past the US has ratified only three of 26 international human rights treaties, given reluctance from some in Congress.  The treaty in question is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and it has been signed by 141 nations including Yemen and Sudan, ratified by 60 countries.  Historically, the US created the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, yet as the UN contemplated a treaty for the disabled in 2001, Bush-era diplomats declared disability a domestic issue.

In the US, there are 37.8 million disabled; the greatest group facing disability is the group 16-64 years of age followed closely by the group 65 and over.  Many believe that by signing the Disability Teaty, the US will put its reputation and influence behind it, and thus more will adhear to its provisions.  Worldwide, there are 650 million people living with a disability; 85% live in developing nations.

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GM Volt Boast of 230 MPG
Published: August 14th, 2009

General Motors has kicked up its campaign for the new Chevy Volt, which is part of their strategy to address increasing fuel efficiency standards facing car makers and demand from buyers today.  The Volt, which is expected to be available late next year, can be plugged into a normal household outlet and travel exclusively on electricity for 40 miles.  After that, a small gasoline motor kicks in. The headline making the rounds is that the Volt will get 230 mpg for city driving only and assumes that the driver is operating mainly on electricity.  A freeway number has not been released so far and GM states that it will be “fairly significantly lower…yet greater than 100 mpg.” The US Environmental Agency has yet to verify GM’s 230 mpg claim.

Plug-in electric cars may, at some point in the future, add significant demand to the grid.  The time gap will allow for an improvements to the grid; today the net generation of electricity depends upon coal and natural gas generation.  Without adding more renewable energy in electricity generation, plug-in electrics will simply shift carbon emissions from source to another, one that may or may not be more efficient, in particular when energy loss during transmission is taken into consideration.

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More People Aged 25-34 Are Taking the GED
Published: August 13th, 2009

The demand for high school equivalency credentials has increased with the economic downturn reports the American Council on Education.  In 2008, the number of adults who took the GED test rose to nearly 777,000, with an improved overall passing rate of 72.6%.  The increase continued in 41 U.S. states in the beginning of 2009.  Of those states, 22 have increased greater than 10%, with Louisiana and New Hampshire is seeing near 40% jumps in testing.  Yet, just as the increases have coincided with the economic downturn, the adult education service has to compete with other social programs for decreased or frozen state budgets.  President Obama wants the US to lead the world in the proportion of college graduates by 2020; the GED testing service Interim Executive Director Bruce Briggs states that the GED service will be vital to reach that goal.

The number of test takers has been recovering slowly from the meteoric high the GED service experienced in 2001 of 1.07 million test takers and its subsequent drop to 603,019 in 2002.  However, the percentage distribution of GED test takers has remained relativly consistent with the largest group by far consisting of those 19 years old and under, with the 25-29 and 30-34 year olds increasing the most between 2006 and 2007 by 0.3 and 0.6% respectivly.

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Angola Becomes Africa’s Largest Petroleum Producer
Published: August 11th, 2009

As part of a seven-nation trip, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraged Angola to continue reforms and pledged to boost trade ties with the war ravaged country.  Angola recently surpassed Nigeria as Africa’s largest petroleum producer, and the country supplies vast amounts of petroleum and liquid natural gas to the US market.  Clinton’s visit comes as the US competes for energy resources in Africa and as Angola recently eclipsed Saudi Arabia as the leading source of crude oil for China.  China has a history of investing billions without political reform, yet Secretary Clinton urged Angola to build upon successful legislative elections by adopting a new constitution, prosecuting human rights abuses, and electing a president.  Also, Clinton urged the Angolans to create greater accountability and transparency in the petroleum sector, which accounts for nearly 60% of the country’s gross domestic product.

The total consumption of liquid fuels and other petroleum products is projected to decrease by 650,000 billion barrels a day in 2009 due to the economic downturn, which amounts to a decrease of 3.3% over 2008.  The United States consumes petroleum as a source of energy at a steady range of 150-100 trillion kilowatt hours (KWh) a year according to the Energy Information Administration.  This is significantly down from the late 1960’s-1989 where the peak was measured at 360 trillion kWh.

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Recovery Act Offers New Opportunities for Grant Seekers
Published: August 10th, 2009

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Education has conducted an analysis of 41 audits and 13 investigations that took place during 2003-2009.  The data suggest that there are various weaknesses in the administration of grants by state and local education agencies.  Due to the Recovery Act, agencies will receive increases in funding, and the OIG has recommended that Departments enhance the guidance or grant requirements, fraud awareness and prevention.

Also, a new feature on will help users find and apply for all grant funding available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  This includes a series of webinars and links including topics like Introduction to and the Recovery Act, Finding Recovery Act Opportunities and Registration to Submit Recovery Act Opportunities.  All in an effort to release Recovery funding quicker and create jobs faster.

Federal research and grant funding for all but the life sciences and engineering have remained relatively steady since 1980, increasing only with the rate of inflation.  The life sciences have gained the most and had spiked after 2000 to reach $30 billion as of 2004, declining to $27 billion in 2007.  The engineering sector has not lost any steam, gaining in the last 10 years to hit $10 billion. With the Recovery Act, many fields will see more funding, although it will be a while before the figures are published and results are analyzed.

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Fewer Americans Are Filling Their Prescriptions
Published: August 7th, 2009

The conclusion of a study conducted by Wolters Kluwer Health suggests that fewer Americans are filling their drug prescriptions.   In the beginning of 2008, patients neglected to fill 6.8% of non-generic prescriptions, a 22% increase from 2007.  The reason cited by the report was the increase in patients’ out of pocket costs and co-pays.  Plus, since 1999 health insurance premiums have risen 120%, compared to the cumulative inflation of 44%.  Further, in 2008, employer health insurance premiums increased by 5.0 percent – two times the rate of inflation—to $12,700 for an employer health plan for a family of four and $4,700 for single coverage.

Higher consumer prescription costs and insurance refusal to pay for some non-generic drugs have left many with the decision to drop their prescription drug treatments.  A study by the Oregon Health and Science University found that a slight $2 to $3 co-payment reduced Medicaid patients prescription drug use by 17%.  Also, a study by Integrated Benefits Institute regarding arthritis suffers in 17 organizations found that with higher co-pays for medicines—as much as $18,000 a year for arthritis medicine—led many to abandon their drug use, costing their employers $17.2 million in lost business productivity.

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“Test Score Optional” Schools Aim for Diversity as Scores Decline
Published: August 6th, 2009

According to the Fair-Test, a non-profit that studies the merit of standardized test, 815 colleges and universities in the US admit numerous students without test scores.  This type of admission acts on the belief that “test scores do not equal merit.” Many have started to rely on high school classroom performance as a better way of forecasting academic success in college and beyond.  “Test score optional” schools state that their applicant pools and classes have become more diverse without loss of academic quality.  These schools experience greater diversity because the ‘optional’ schools gain qualified minority, low-income, first-generation, female and other students that are not discouraged from applying.  Yet, critics also point out that some SAT reporting schools with the ‘optional’ policy inflate their average SAT scores by not adding the ‘optional’ scores after students are admitted.

After 1967, the SAT scores of both males and females decreased until 1980, after which they rebounded up until 2000 where many started to level.  Presently, the SAT scores of both males and females have either flat lined or have started to decrease since 2005. As of 2007, all scores are down: for their verbal portion, males have averaged a score of 504, females 502.  As for the math section, there is a widening gap as males had a high average of 533 while females averaged 499.

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