New Kid in Town: Blockchain for Megaprojects?

New Kid in Town: Blockchain for Megaprojects? YaleGlobal. Will Hickey. August 7, 2018

 Blockchain technology promises fast payments combined with secure digital records and elimination of third-party intermediaries and delays. “Any contract, valuation, record or work process that can be digitized can be incorporated into a blockchain, representing enormous strides in processes, efficiency and transparency,” explains Will Hickey for YaleGlobal. “Blockchain technology’s capability to organize a vast number of details associated with a series of transactions may be ideal for managing infrastructure megaprojects throughout the developing world like those associated with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.” Emerging economies could gain a head start in using the technology, similar to how they leaped to smartphones before using landline telephones, and in turn strengthen legal and accounting standards. Blockchain’s rise depends on public acceptance and demand. Other challenges include high electricity needs, data storage capacity and entrenched special interests that may resist transparency and reduced red tape. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Land and Water Conservation Fund: Overview, Funding History, and Issues

Land and Water Conservation Fund: Overview, Funding History, and Issues. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Carol Hardy Vincent. August 17, 2018

 The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act of 1965 was enacted to help preserve, develop, and ensure access to outdoor recreation facilities to strengthen the health of U.S. citizens. The law created the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the U.S. Treasury as a funding source to implement its outdoor recreation goals. The LWCF has been used for three general purposes. First, it has been the principal source of monies for land acquisition for outdoor recreation by four federal agencies—the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Forest Service. Second, the LWCF also funds a matching grant program to assist states in recreational planning, acquiring recreational lands and waters, and developing outdoor recreational facilities. There are two aspects to this “stateside” program: the traditional state grants and the more recent competitive state grants. Under the traditional state grant program, a portion of the appropriation is divided equally among the states, with the remainder apportioned based on need. Each state awards its grant money based on its own outdoor recreation plan and priorities. The competitive state grant program, begun in FY2014, funds recreation projects in urbanized areas meeting certain criteria. Third, beginning in FY1998, LWCF has been used to fund other federal programs with related purposes, such as the Forest Legacy program of the Forest Service and grants under the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

 [PDF format, 24 pages].

Increasingly Indispensable Grandparents

Increasingly Indispensable Grandparents. YaleGlobal. Joseph Chamie. September 4, 2018

 The world has a record-breaking number of grandparents, representing almost 20 percent of the global population. “Today’s grandparents play vital and increasingly indispensable roles in modern family life, contributing to the well-being of generations succeeding them,” explains Joseph Chamie. “During the past half-century, however, their roles have evolved as result of demographic, economic, social and technological changes taking place worldwide.” The proportion of grandparents varies widely among countries with higher numbers of these cherished family members in countries with longer life expectancies and lower fertility rates. For cultural and economic reasons, multi-generation households are becoming more common after a steady decline since the mid-20th century. Such living arrangements allow mutual support, with grandparents helping with childcare and adult children and grandchildren providing elder care. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Real and Imagined Constraints on Euro Area Monetary Policy

Real and Imagined Constraints on Euro Area Monetary Policy. Peterson Institute for International Economics. Working Paper 18-8. Patrick Honohan. August 2018

 Although the European Central Bank (ECB) has been pursuing an aggressively expansionary policy since 2012, previously the ECB was behind the curve in lowering interest rates and making asset purchases to combat the prolonged euro area recession. This paper argues that part of the delay can be attributed to the multi-country nature of the euro area. Over-interpreting the limitations of the ECB’s statutory mandate, some ECB decision makers were wary of being accused of circumventing the prohibition on monetary financing by intervening in the market of the debt of weaker governments. Some were also mesmerized by the relatively strong performance of the German economy in the crisis and attributed the slower post-crisis recovery of most other member states to national policy failures that should not be offset by euro area monetary policy. All of this was exacerbated by the ECB’s adoption of and (at least until 2011) adherence to a seductive but analytically flawed “separation principle,” which misled some of its decision makers into overestimating the adequacy of the monetary expansion that was being applied. The ECB’s toolbox is indeed somewhat limited by its statute, reflecting multi-country considerations, but abandonment of the separation principle should help ensure a more effective, holistic approach to monetary policy design in the future. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 26 pages].

The Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey: A New Data Source for Monitoring the Health and Well-Being of Individuals and Families

The Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey: A New Data Source for Monitoring the Health and Well-Being of Individuals and Families. Urban Institute. Michael Karpman, Stephen Zuckerman, Dulce Gonzalez. August 28, 2018

 In December 2017, the Urban Institute launched the Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey (WBNS) to monitor changes in individual and family health and well-being at a time when policymakers seek significant changes to programs that help low-income families pay for food, health care, housing, and other basic needs. The new annual survey is a key component of the Institute’s From Safety Net to Solid Ground project supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other foundations.

This report describes the design and content of the WBNS. To assess the capacity of the WBNS to produce nationally representative estimates for the nonelderly adult population, we also report findings from a benchmarking analysis in which we compare estimates from the WBNS with estimates from established federal surveys. We find that, despite some discrepancies, most indicators based on data from the WBNS are reasonably consistent with measures from larger federal surveys, suggesting the WBNS data will serve as a credible source of information for analyses of health and well-being within the Safety Net to Solid Ground project. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 23 pages].

Older Americans Act: Overview and Funding

Older Americans Act: Overview and Funding.  Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Kirsten J. Colello, Angela Napili. July 16, 2018

 The Older Americans Act (OAA) supports a wide range of social services and programs for individuals aged 60 years or older. These include supportive services, congregate nutrition services (i.e., meals served at group sites such as senior centers, community centers, schools, churches, or senior housing complexes), home-delivered nutrition services, family caregiver support, community service employment, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, and services to prevent the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older persons. Except for Title V, Community Service Employment for Older Americans (CSEOA), all programs are administered by the Administration on Aging (AOA) in the Administration for Community Living (ACL) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Title V is administered by the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Employment and Training Administration.

 [PDF format, 19 pages].

Data Philanthropy: Unlocking the Power of Private Data for Public Good

Data Philanthropy: Unlocking the Power of Private Data for Public Good. Urban Institute. Brice McKeever et al. July 24, 2018

In the era of big data, private companies are accumulating information at an ever-increasing rate and are using the power of these data to derive greater and more detailed insights about all types of activity. Some companies are leveraging their data assets to improve public services and decision-making through the emerging field of data philanthropy. These companies responsibly share their data with researchers, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and the public to fill knowledge gaps and turn data into insights across a broad range of pressing and timely issues. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 50 pages].

Where the Public Stands on Key Issues That Could Come before the Supreme Court

Where the public stands on key issues that could come before the Supreme Court. Pew Research Center. John Gramlich. August 30, 2018.

 On October 6, the Senate voted  to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, following a contentious confirmation battle. Kavanaugh will replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in July after three decades on the court.

After the Senate’s deliberations over Kavanaugh, here’s a look at where the public stands on some of the major legal, political and social issues that could come before the justices in the years ahead, based on surveys conducted by Pew Research Center. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Congress’s Power over Courts: Jurisdiction Stripping and the Rule of Klein

Congress’s Power over Courts: Jurisdiction Stripping and the Rule of Klein.  Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Sarah Herman Peck. August 9, 2018

  Article III of the Constitution establishes the judicial branch of the federal government. Notably, it empowers federal courts to hear “cases” and “controversies.” The Constitution further creates a federal judiciary with significant independence, providing federal judges with life tenure and prohibiting diminutions of judges’ salaries. But the Framers also granted Congress the power to regulate the federal courts in numerous ways. For instance, Article III authorizes Congress to determine what classes of “cases” and “controversies” inferior courts have jurisdiction to review. Additionally, Article III’s Exceptions Clause grants Congress the power to make “exceptions” and “regulations” to the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction. Congress sometimes exercises this power by “stripping” federal courts of jurisdiction to hear a class of cases. Congress has gone so far as to eliminate a court’s jurisdiction to review a particular case in the midst of litigation. More generally, Congress may influence judicial resolutions by amending the substantive law underlying particular litigation of interest to the legislature.

 [PDF format, 26 pages].

Sourcing Legally Produced Wood: A Guide for Businesses—2018 Edition

Sourcing Legally Produced Wood: A Guide for Businesses—2018 Edition. World Resources Institute.  Ruth Nogueron et al.  August 2018

This publication updates the 2014 version of Sourcing Legally Produced Wood, which provided information on illegal logging and associated trade, public and private procurement policies, export country logging and log export bans, and introductory guidance to the wood products legality legislation in the United States, the EU, and Australia. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 40 pages].