Americans Name the 10 Most Significant Historic Events of Their Lifetimes

Americans Name the 10 Most Significant Historic Events of Their Lifetimes. Pew Research Center. December 15, 2016

Shared experiences define what it means to be an American. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were such a unifying event for modern Americans. Nothing else has come close to being as important or as memorable, according to a new survey conducted by Pew Research Center in association with A+E Networks’ HISTORY. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Vulnerable Communities Are Using Innovative Financing to Prepare for Natural Disasters

Vulnerable Communities Are Using Innovative Financing to Prepare for Natural Disasters. Pew Charitable Trusts. Laura Lightbody . November 30, 2016.

Billion-dollar natural disasters used to strike the United States once or twice a year. But since 1980, such events have occurred five to 10 times annually. These catastrophes threaten public safety, disrupt daily activities, and lead to economic losses. In October, Hurricane Matthew left at least 24 dead and caused $6 billion in insured property loss when it hit the southeastern United States. As the numbers and costs continue to climb, homeowners, communities, and the federal government will be challenged to make wise financial investments that will help save lives and lower the costs of future storms. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Obama Leaves Office on High Note, But Public Has Mixed Views of Accomplishments

Obama Leaves Office on High Note, But Public Has Mixed Views of Accomplishments. Pew Research Center. December 14, 2016

With just a few weeks left in Barack Obama’s presidency, Americans’ early judgments of his place in history are more positive than negative. Obama is poised to leave office on a high note: Current assessments of both the president and the first lady are among the most favorable since they arrived in the White House. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Covering Politics in a Post-Truth America

Covering Politics in a Post-Truth America. Brookings Institution. Susan B. Glasser. December 2, 2016

Coverage of American politics, and the capital that revolves around it, is in many ways much better now than ever before—faster, sharper, and far more sophisticated. There are great new digital news organizations for politics and policy obsessives, political science wonks, and national security geeks. We get more reporting and insight live from the campaign trail in a day than we used to get in a month, thanks to Google and Facebook, livestreaming and Big Data, and all the rest. Access to information—by, for, and about the government and those who aspire to run it—is dazzling and on a scale wholly unimaginable when Donald Trump was hawking his Art of the Deal in 1987. And we have millions of readers for our work now, not merely a hyper-elite few thousand.
The media scandal of 2016 isn’t so much about what reporters failed to tell the American public; it’s about what they did report on, and the fact that it didn’t seem to matter. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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International Migration: Key Findings from the U.S., Europe and the World

International Migration: Key Findings from the U.S., Europe and the World. Pew Research Center. Phillip Connor. December 15, 2016

Millions of people have migrated from their homes to other countries in recent years. Some migrants have moved voluntarily, seeking economic opportunities. Others have been forced from their homes by political turmoil, persecution or war and have left their countries to seek asylum elsewhere.
To mark International Migrants Day last Sunday, here are Pew’s key findings about international migration trends. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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U.S. Trade with Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Partners

U.S. Trade with Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Partners. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. James K. Jackson. November 9, 2016

The United States is considering two mega-regional free trade agreements that its participants argue are comprehensive and high-standard: the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) among the United States and 11 other countries, and the U.S.-European Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), still under negotiation. The 12 TPP countries signed the agreement in February 2016, but the agreement must be ratified by each country before it can enter into force. In the United States, this requires implementing legislation by Congress. Discussions of these and other FTAs often focus on trade balances, particularly U.S. bilateral merchandise trade balances with its FTA partner countries, as one way of measuring the success of the agreement. Although bilateral merchandise trade balances can provide a quick snapshot of the U.S. trade relationship with a particular country, most economists argue that such balances serve as incomplete measures of the comprehensive nature of the trade and economic relationship between the United States and its FTA partners. Indeed, current trade agreements include trade in services, provisions for investment, and trade facilitation, among others that are not reflected in bilateral merchandise trade balances.
This report presents data on U.S. merchandise (goods) trade with its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partner countries. The data are presented to show bilateral trade balances for individual FTA partners and groups of countries representing such major agreements as the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement and Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR) relative to total U.S. trade balances. This report also discusses the issues involved in using bilateral merchandise trade balances as a standard for measuring the economic effects of a particular FTA.

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Youth Transitioning from Foster Care: Background and Federal Programs

Youth Transitioning from Foster Care: Background and Federal Programs. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Adrienne L. Fernandes-Alcantara. November 8, 2016

While most young people have access to emotional and financial support systems throughout their early adult years, older youth in foster care and those who are emancipated from care often face obstacles to developing independent living skills and building supports that ease the transition to adulthood. Older foster youth who return to their parents or guardians may continue to experience poor family dynamics or lack supports, and studies have shown that recently emancipated foster youth fare poorly relative to their counterparts in the general population on several outcome measures.
The federal government recognizes that older youth in foster care and those aging out are vulnerable to negative outcomes and may ultimately return to the care of the state as adults, either through the public welfare, criminal justice, or other systems. Under the federal foster care program, states may seek reimbursement for youth to remain in care up to the age of 21. In addition, the federal foster care program has certain protections for older youth. For example, states must annually obtain the credit report of each child in care who is age 14 and older. States must also assist youth with developing what is known as a transition plan. The law requires that a youth’s caseworker, and as appropriate, other representative(s) of the youth, assist and support him or her in developing the plan. The plan is to be directed by the youth, and is to include specific options on housing, health insurance, education, local opportunities for mentors, workforce supports, and employment services. Other protections require states to ensure that youth age 14 and older are consulted about the development and revisions to their case plan and permanency plan, and that the case plan includes a document listing certain rights for these youth.

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Funding and Financing Highways and Public Transportation

Funding and Financing Highways and Public Transportation. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Robert S. Kirk, William J. Mallett. November 1, 2016

For many years, federal surface transportation programs were funded almost entirely from taxes on motor fuels deposited in the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Although there has been some modification to the tax system, the tax rates, which are fixed in terms of cents per gallon, have not been increased at the federal level since 1993. Prior to the recession that began in 2007, annual increases in driving, with a concomitant increase in fuel use, were sufficient in most years to keep revenue rising steadily. This is no longer the case. Although vehicle miles traveled have recently surpassed prerecession levels, future increases in fuel economy standards are expected to reduce motor fuel consumption and therefore fuel tax revenue in the years ahead.
Congress has yet to address the surface transportation program’s fundamental revenue issues, and has given limited legislative consideration to raising fuel taxes in recent years. Instead, since 2008 Congress has financed the federal surface transportation program by supplementing fuel tax revenues with transfers from the U.S. Treasury general fund. The most recent reauthorization act, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act; P.L. 114-94), was enacted on December 4, 2015, and authorized spending on federal highway and public transportation programs through September 30, 2020. The act provided $70 billion in general fund transfers to the HTF to support the programs over the five-year life of the act. This use of general fund transfers to supplement the HTF will have been the de facto funding policy for 12 years when the FAST Act expires at the end of FY2020. The FAST Act did not address funding of surface transportation programs over the longer term. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections indicate that the HTF revenue shortfalls relative to spending will reemerge following expiration of the FAST Act.

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From Doing Better to Doing Enough: Anchoring Corporate Sustainability Targets in Science

From Doing Better to Doing Enough: Anchoring Corporate Sustainability Targets in Science. World Resources Institute. Samantha Putt del Pino et al. October 2016

Sustainability is an increasingly salient business issue as population growth and rising incomes put unprecedented strain on the ecosystems that are essential to human wellbeing. Most companies set environmental performance targets, but they often aim for what is feasible or competitive rather than what is necessary to operate within ecological limits.
Based on work that WRI completed with Mars Incorporated in 2016, this paper explores how companies can anchor sustainability targets in environmental science, ensuring that vital resources remain available for future generations. Rather than provide a definitive methodology, this paper discusses what managers must consider when attempting to set science-based targets for their impact on the climate, land and water. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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