Friday, December 9, 2016

How to Avoid a Box Office Disaster

We use analytics to predict baseball, elections, and even pop music. But can an algorithm foretell a movie’s success or failure, even before it’s made?

In his seminal 1983 memoir, Adventures in the Screen Trade, screenwriter William Goldman disclosed what he believed to be “the single most important fact, perhaps, of the entire movie industry.” He wrote it in all caps, twice on the same page, one paragraph apart: "NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING." Below, he narrowed “anything” down: "Nobody, nobody — not now, not ever — knows the least goddam thing about what is or isn’t going to work at the box office."

Goldman quotes a former studio executive, the ironically surnamed David Picker, as saying, "If I had said yes to all the projects I turned down, and no to all the ones I took, it would have worked out about the same." In Goldman’s experience, studio heads were no more effective than mutual-fund managers. Some had hot streaks, but none could keep beating the market. It wasn’t because they were bad at their jobs; it was because their jobs required the wisdom of crowds, not the wisdom of one person. "They’re trying to predict public taste three years ahead and it’s just not possible," Goldman wrote.

It’s hard enough to predict public taste in the present; even the Romans knew there was no accounting for it. Imagine trying to predict what the world will think of an unmade movie’s box office revenue, months before its first dailies. If you were facing that sort of uncertainty, you might want to rely less on the people operating on only feel — especially because, as Blumhouse president of feature films Couper Samuelson told my colleague Chris Ryan this week, "there are fewer and bigger movies being made," which means missing is more costly than ever.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

2015 HIV Surveillance Report

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention published the 2015 HIV Surveillance Report. It is available online at

The HIV Surveillance Report, which CDC has published regularly since 1982, includes detailed information about diagnosed HIV infection in the United States and dependent areas. Together with supplemental reports and analyses published throughout the year, the report provides federal agencies, health departments, nonprofit organizations and other partners the data they need to monitor HIV infections, focus prevention efforts, and allocate resources.

This edition of the report marks an important departure from prior years, made possible by improvements in HIV surveillance methods and data sources. The report presents all diagnosis, death, and prevalence data without statistical adjustments for delays in reporting of cases to CDC. Such adjustments were long needed to compensate for reporting delays of data.

Today, however, reporting of case information is more timely; significantly less time is needed to identify duplicate cases from multiple states; and systems for national data processing have been substantially strengthened, enabling unadjusted data to provide a reliable assessment of the impact of diagnosed HIV infection.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Children of Foreign-Born Parents More Likely to Be College-Educated Than Their Parents

Population Characteristics
Native-born children of a foreign-born parent, also known as the second generation, were more likely to be college-educated and have higher incomes than their parents’ generation, according to a first-ever report from the U.S. Census Bureau. Additionally, this second-generation group surpasses education and income levels of the generations that follow them.
Characteristics of the U.S. Population by Generational Status: 2013 examines differences among the foreign-born or “first generation,” the second generation (native-born with at least one foreign-born parent) and the third-and-higher generation (native-born with two native-born parents) using data from the Current Population Survey. Three quarters of the U.S. population were third-and-higher generation, and the remaining quarter of the U.S. population was made up of approximately equal parts first and second generation.
“The expectation that one’s economic status will improve over one’s parents and grandparents is particularly salient in immigrant communities, in which the first generation often must work harder to overcome numerous cultural and economic challenges,” lead report author Edward Trevelyan said. “This report looks for evidence of such inter­generational mobility.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

IRS Data Book

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Data Book is published annually by the IRS and contains statistical tables and organizational information on a fiscal year basis. The report provides data on collecting the revenue, issuing refunds, enforcing the law, assisting the taxpayer, and the budget and workforce.

With a new online format, this year’s publication makes navigating data on taxpayer assistance, enforcement, and IRS operations easier, with graphic depictions of key areas and quick links to the underlying data. You can view selected summary graphs, key statistics, and descriptions of the tables and the IRS functions they cover.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Renters More Likely to Be Food Insecure Than Homeowners

About 10.5 million American households, or roughly 8.9 percent, reported that in the past month their access to adequate food was limited by a lack of money and other resources, according to new 2015 American Housing Survey statistics released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Census Bureau.
For the first time in its 42-year history, the American Housing Survey included questions on food security status, which allowed HUD to assign households a “food security status” score. Using these categories, about 10.5 million occupied households were classified as having “low” or “very low” food security, which is commonly known as being “food insecure.”
The survey also looked at homeownership, race and having a disability in relation to food security. Results showed that 4.9 percent of homeowners and 15.5 percent of renters were food insecure, meaning they had “low” or “very low” food security.
 “For over 40 years, the American Housing Survey has been America’s premier source of statistics on housing costs and quality,” Katherine O’ Regan said, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research. “Working closely with experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we added food insecurity to this survey to better understand the balance many lower income households face between the cost and quality of their housing and putting food on the table.” 
The Department of Housing and Urban Development in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture included the questions to determine whether the dietary quality or food consumption of household members was reduced or normal eating patterns were disrupted because the household lacked money for food any time during the last month. One adult respondent per household was asked questions about experiences and behaviors that indicate food insecurity, such as being unable to afford balanced meals, cutting the size of meals because of too little money for food, or being hungry because of too little money for food.
The American Housing Survey data is collected every other year by the Census Bureau and is the most comprehensive housing survey in the United States. It covers topics such as housing characteristics, housing costs, home improvements and neighborhood characteristics. In addition to food insecurity, the 2015 American Housing Survey includes three other new topics: the health and safety of homes, the use of housing counseling, and the importance of arts and culture. In addition to these topics, new questions explore the opinions of Americans on petty and major crime, satisfaction with schools, satisfaction with public transportation and risk for flooding or disasters.
Results showed that 16.9 percent of black householders, 19.5 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native householders, and 21.4 percent of Pacific Islander householders were food insecure, all significantly higher than that of white householders, at 7.5 percent.
About 16.6 percent of households with a person with a disability were food insecure, reporting “low” or “very low” food security, as opposed to 6.9 percent of households without a person with a disability.
In addition to the new survey topics, the American Housing Survey covers topics such as physical housing characteristics and financial characteristics. Below are highlights from the 2015 national and metropolitan statistical area level findings among the 118,290,000 occupied units. More information on 25 selected metropolitan areas will be available later this year.
Housing Costs
· The median cost for electricity was $104 per month (renters $82, owners $117), $53 per month for piped gas (renters $42, owners $58), and $133 per month for fuel oil (renters $100, owners $150).
· Median rent was $790 per month. This ranged from $250 for “other units,” such as boats, RVs or vans to $833 for single-unit, attached homes.
. The median monthly cost paid for water was $46 per month.
Financing a Home
· Of the 70.4 million households that purchased or built their homes, 13.2 percent had no down payment; 12.6 percent put 5 percent or less down; 12.9 percent had a down payment of 6 to 10 percent; 18.0 percent put 11 to 20 percent down, 15.2 percent put 21 percent or more down; and 8.4 percent bought the home outright. The rest did not report.
·Of owner-occupied units, 40.9 percent were owned free and clear, 53.6 percent had at least one regular or home-equity lump-sum mortgage only, and 5.0 percent had at least one home equity line of credit. The remainder had reverse mortgages.
·Most homeowners with a regular and/or home-equity mortgage had only one mortgage (95.0 percent), 5.0 percent had two mortgages and less than 1.0 percent had three or more.
· Well over a third, or 38.4 percent, of homeowners with a primary mortgage refinanced. While most, or 71.2 percent, refinanced for a lower interest rate (11.5 million homeowners), others did so to receive cash, 11.7 percent. The median amount of cash received from refinance was $28,000. The median percentage of that spent on home additions, improvements and repairs was 10.0.
Owner Home Improvement
· In a typical year, owners spent a median of $500 on routine maintenance or regular maintenance activities necessary for the preventive care of the structure, property and equipment. Such activities included painting, fixing leaks, repairing fences, cleaning gutters and removing dangerous trees.
· There were 43.9 million households, or 59.0 percent, that performed more than 123.5 million home improvement projects, other than routine maintenance, in the last two years, spending more than $431.1 billion, with a median of $1,200 per job.
· Around one third, or 33.6 percent, of owner-occupied units had at least one home improvement project in the last two years completed for energy efficiency purposes, 6.8 percent did at least one project to improve accessibility for an elderly person or a person with a disability, and 3.5 percent did at least one project to prepare the home for sale.
· Householders of about 18.1 percent of all occupied housing units reported living near a body of water, and 14.4 percent of those reported that the unit was actually on waterfront property. In contrast, nearly 46.0 percent of all seasonal units were near a body of water, 53.5 percent of which were located on waterfront property.
·  Of the 59.8 million housing units in subdivisions (including multiunits and groups of mobile homes), 15.1 percent were located in secured communities with walls or fences, comprising 7.6 percent of all occupied units.
·  Of the 21.8 percent of all occupied housing units with a person age 55 or over, 11.3 percent were located in age-restricted communities. Of the remaining 88.7 percent, 24.4 percent said the majority of their neighbors are age 55 or over.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Eight Poets to Discuss Over the Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving is coming and My Poetic Side decided to provide some dinner talk with the "Eight Poets to Discuss Over the Thanksgiving Table" article.

Danielle Mohlman goes through eight outstanding contemporary poets, sharing some highlights and telling you why you should be reading them. Kate Tempest, Claudia Rankine, Patricia Lockwood and Tracy K. Smith are a few of the featured authors.

You can read the article at

Friday, November 11, 2016

Spotlight on War Poets

Since it is Veterans Day, My Poetic Side is shining a spotlight on some of their favorite war poets. There are seven featured authors, each related to a different war and ordered chronologically, from The American Civil War to the Iraq War.

You can read the full article HERE

Monday, October 31, 2016

Selected Characteristics of the Citizen Voting-Age Population

The U.S. Census Bureau released selected characteristics of the citizen voting-age population from the 2015 American Community Survey for all U.S. states and congressional districts.

These characteristics include selected age groups, sex, race, Hispanic origin, educational attainment, poverty status and household income.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Climate Change Indicators in the United States, 2016

The Earth's climate is changing. Temperatures are rising, snow and rainfall patterns are shifting, and more extreme climate events - like heavy rainstorms and record high temperatures - are already happening. Many of these observed changes are linked to the rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, caused by human activities.

EPA partners with more than 40 data contributors from various government agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations to compile a key set of indicators related to the causes and effects of climate change.'

This report presents 37 indicators, each describing trends related to the causes and effects of climate change. It focuses primarily on the United States, but in some cases, global trends are presented to provide context or a basis for comparison. The online version is updated periodically as new data become available.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Amazon Bans Most Users From Writing Reviews In Exchange For Free, Discounted Items

From The Consumerist

While Amazon has long looked down on reviews that were written in exchange for free or deeply discounted items, these write-ups were allowed so long as they followed the rules: The review must be honest, and the compensation must be fully disclosed. But... a number of compensated reviewers were gaming the system — posting hundreds of reviews a month, almost universally positive, and for products they sometimes couldn’t possibly have used. Now Amazon has announced a nearly full ban on compensated reviews.

There are a number of sites and social media groups that promote these free and discounted items, with the condition that the person receiving the product write an Amazon review within a given timeframe.

Yesterday, Chee Chew, Amazon’s VP of Customer Experience, explained the reason the company had previously tolerated these incentivized reviews is that they were seen as a way for little-known products to build up a base of customer feedback.

However... some reviewers were leaving very questionable reviews. For example, we found multiple reviews for a phone case for a Lumia 650 — all of them positive and many of them referencing how well the case fit onto their device. Problem was, that phone had not yet been released.

See also the story from GeekWire

Friday, September 30, 2016

It’s Time to Cancel Your Forgotten Internet Accounts

From the Wall Street Journal:

Yahoo Inc.’s revelation of a massive 2014 security breach might have reminded you of an old account or two you haven’t logged into for years.

No good comes from leaving details of your identity—alternate email addresses, date of birth and, yes, passwords—floating around the backwaters of the internet. Hackers who find their way into one account, dormant or still in use, can exploit details such as PINs or security-question answers to get into other accounts. That’s right, your old AOL Instant Messenger account could compromise your Facebook account.

It’s best to reduce your overall exposure. Think of it as a pruning exercise.

Before you start shuttering accounts, consider a few things. You might lose access to services you never knew were related. Your Yahoo account, for example, gets you into the popular photo site Flickr. Your Hotmail email address could be your login for Xbox Live, Office 365 or Skype.

Respect the finality of your decision—when you’re out, you’re out. But canceling isn’t always easy.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Corporate Crime Database

[As shared on the BUSLIB business librarian listserv]
Since the beginning of 2010, drug manufacturers, hospital systems, insurers and other healthcare companies have paid nearly $7 billion in fines and settlements to resolve cases in which they were accused of defrauding the federal government. Banks, led by Wells Fargo, account for the second largest portion of False Claims Act penalties, with more than $3 billion in payments. More than one-third of the 100 largest federal contractors have been defendants in such cases during the seven-year period.

These are some of the key findings that emerge from an expansion of Violation Tracker, a database of corporate crime and misconduct produced by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First. It is available to the public for free at

With the addition of more than 750 cases relating to the 150-year-old False Claims Act and similar laws, Violation Tracker now contains a total of 112,000 entries from 30 federal regulatory agencies and all divisions of the Justice Department.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

HP printers stop accepting third party ink en masse

From BoingBoing

On September 13, owners of HP OfficeJet, OfficeJet Pro and OfficeJet Pro X began contacting third-party ink vendors by the thousand, reporting that their HP printers no longer accepted third-party ink.

The last HP printer firmware update was pushed in March 2016, and it appears that with that update (or possibly an earlier one), HP had set a time-bomb ticking in its customers' printers counting down to the date when they'd begin refusing to follow their owners' orders.

HP says that the March update's purpose was "to protect HP's innovations and intellectual property."

See also HP printers start rejecting budget ink cartridges

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Eggo Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat Waffles Recall

The Kellogg Company is voluntarily recalling its Eggo Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat Waffles after routine tests by the company found potential contamination for Listeria. At this time, Kellogg is recalling 10,000 cases of the product distributed in 25 states (CO, CT, DE, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, VA, VT, WI, WY). 
Listeria can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in various age groupsLearn more about the product recall, and package UPC Code. Consumers can discard the product and contact the company for a full refund by email or by calling 1-800-962-1413.
Learn more about food safety and recalls by visting us at

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Unmarried and Single Americans Week: Sept. 18-24, 2016

Unmarried Singles Week
The Buckeye Singles Council started “National Singles Week” in Ohio in the 1980s to celebrate single life and recognize singles and their contributions to society. The week is now widely observed during the third full week of September (Sept. 18-24 in 2016) as “Unmarried and Single Americans Week,” an acknowledgment that many unmarried Americans do not identify with the word “single” because they are parents, have partners or are widowed. In this edition of Facts for Features, unmarried people include those who were never married, widowed or divorced, unless otherwise noted.
Single Life
109 million
The number of unmarried people in America 18 and older in 2015. This group made up 45 percent of all U.S. residents 18 and older. Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2015, Table
The percentage of unmarried U.S. residents 18 and older who were women in 2015; 47 percent were men. Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2015, Table
The percentage of unmarried U.S. residents 18 and older in 2015 who had never been married. Another 24 percent were divorced and 13 percent were widowed. Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2015, Table A1
19 million
The number of unmarried U.S. residents 65 and older in 2015. These seniors made up 18 percent of all unmarried people 18 and older. Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2015, Table A1
The number of unmarried men 18 and older for every 100 unmarried women in the United States in 2015. Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2015, Table
59 million
The number of households maintained by unmarried men and women in 2015. These households comprised 47 percent of households nationwide. Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2015, Table H1
35 million
The number of people who lived alone in 2015. They comprised 28 percent of all households, up from 17 percent in 1970. Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2015, Table H-1, America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 1960 to Present, Table HH-4

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2015

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that real median household income increased by 5.2 percent between 2014 and 2015 while the official poverty rate decreased 1.2 percentage points. At the same time, the percentage of people without health insurance coverage decreased.

Median household income in the United States in 2015 was $56,516, an increase in real terms of 5.2 percent from the 2014 median income of $53,718. This is the first annual increase in median household income since 2007, the year before the most recent recession.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2015 was 13.5 percent, with 43.1 million people in poverty, 3.5 million fewer than in 2014. The 1.2 percentage point decrease in the poverty rate from 2014 to 2015 represents the largest annual percentage point drop in poverty since 1999.

The percentage of people without health insurance coverage for the entire 2015 calendar year was 9.1 percent, down from 10.4 percent in 2014. The number of people without health insurance declined to 29.0 million from 33.0 million over the period.

These findings are contained in two reports: Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015 and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2015. The Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement was conducted nationwide and collected information about income and health insurance coverage during the 2015 calendar year. The Current Population Survey, sponsored jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is conducted every month and is the primary source of labor force statistics for the U.S. population; it is used to calculate the monthly unemployment rate estimates. Supplements are added in most months; the Annual Social and Economic Supplement questionnaire is designed to give annual, national estimates of income, poverty and health insurance numbers and rates.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Empire Center Ranks Local Government Pay

This month, the Empire Center released the newest edition of What They Make, its annual examination of local government payrolls.

Using data from the New York State and Local Retirement System, the report includes the number and average pay of county, village, city and town government employees during the fiscal year ending March 31.

“What They Make lets taxpayers see how their local governments’ payrolls stack up,” said Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center. “Big differences exist, even between neighboring communities, and taxpayers have a right to ask their elected officials why.”

The report lists the 50 highest-paid local government employees in New York (page 5) and the 10 highest-paid employees in each region (pages 6 and 7). The 175,262 records, totaling $9.5 billion in pay, that were analyzed for the report are searchable at SeeThroughNY, the Empire Center’s transparency website.

The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies to make New York a better place to live, work and do business.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

What is the ‘Real’ Unemployment Rate?

From the US Department of Labor:

At the Department of Labor we regularly get questions about what the “real” unemployment rate is. Another way to state these questions might be “What is the measure that truly captures the state of job opportunities?” The answer, it turns out, is there isn’t just one. There is no way to capture the state of something as complex as the U.S. labor market with one number. That is why the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a huge array of measures, which together provide a comprehensive picture of the state of job opportunities.

The “official” unemployment rate is the most well-known. BLS defines a worker as unemployed if they are jobless but actively seeking work. The official unemployment rate is the number of workers who are unemployed divided by the number of workers who are either employed or unemployed. At its peak in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the official unemployment rate reached 10 percent; as of August 2016, it is now down to 4.9.

In BLS publications, the official unemployment rate is referred to as the U-3. Though the U-3 gets the most attention, BLS also publishes five other measures of labor underutilization (U-1, U-2, U-4, U-5, and U-6), each of which measure labor underutilization in a different way. The broadest measure – the U-6 (sometimes referred to in the press as the “underemployment rate”) – includes not just the officially unemployed, but also the “marginally attached” (those who are neither working nor looking for work but who want and are available to work and have looked for work in the past year), and people who are working part-time but want a full-time job. At its peak in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the U-6 was 17.1 percent; it is now down to 9.7 percent.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Census Retiring EasyStats

The Census is Retiring EasyStats. Below is information that maybe helpful for you as Census prepares to retire EasyStats.

• EasyStats will no longer be available on 9/30/16.
• A notice to users was deployed on 8/16 as a pop-up. The notice states the retirement date and offers QuickFacts and AFF as alternatives.
• The notice on the application also features a feedback form for users to leave comments.
• The retirement of the application is a result of a CEDSCI data tools assessment from earlier this year. The assessment looked at consolidating data tools to eliminate redundancy and also streamline our data dissemination offerings on

Friday, August 26, 2016

County Business Patterns (CBP) website has moved

The County Business Patterns (CBP) website has migrated to a new link. The new link is

The old link will no longer work. If you have any old links to the website bookmarked, please update your bookmarks.

CBP is an annual series that provides subnational economic data by industry. This series includes the number of establishments, employment during the week of March 12, first quarter payroll, and annual payroll.

Please feel free to contact the Census Bureau by email at, or by phone at 301-763-2580 if you have any questions.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The 10 most Influential Poets in History

Most of us are inspired by someone when it comes to our job, or any hobbies we engage in. There is always an individual that we look up to, who inspired us to get involved in something, or whom we have studied to get where we are. So, have you ever wondered who inspired some of the most famous poets? What poets did Sylvia Plath study? Where did Jane Austen get her inspiration? Did Allen Ginsberg adopt techniques or styles used from any former poets? We decided to find the answers to these questions.

We conducted extensive research to find out who the top poetry influencers were and studied approximately 250 poets to determine whether they were influenced by any other poets, and, if so, who. We entered more than 1000 influences into our database to come up with our top ten.

Read more at: The 10 most Influential Poets in History - My poetic side

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Choosing a New Church or House of Worship

From Pew Research Center

About half of U.S. adults have looked for a new religious congregation at some point in their lives, most commonly because they have moved. And when they search for a new house of worship, a new Pew Research Center study shows, Americans look first and foremost for a place where they like the preaching and the tone set by the congregation’s leaders.

Fully 83% of Americans who have looked for a new place of worship say the quality of preaching played an important role in their choice of congregation. Nearly as many say it was important to feel welcomed by clergy and lay leaders, and about three-quarters say the style of worship services influenced their decision about which congregation to join. Location also factored prominently in many people’s choice of congregation, with seven-in-ten saying it was an important factor. Smaller numbers cite the quality of children’s programs, having friends or family in the congregation or the availability of volunteering opportunities as key to their decision.

Perhaps as a result of the value they place on good sermons, church leadership and the style of worship services, many people – even in this age of technology – find there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction when seeking information about a new religious home. Fully 85% of those who have looked for a new house of worship say they attended worship services at a church they were considering, and seven-in-ten say they spoke with members of the congregation or to friends or colleagues about their decision. Looking for information online may be growing more common, especially among young people and those who have looked for a congregation recently. But online information still appears to be far less important to potential congregants than experiencing the atmosphere of the congregation firsthand.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Clinton, Trump Supporters Have Starkly Different Views of a Changing Nation

From Pew Research Center

Supporters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump disagree on a range of policy issues, from terrorism to free trade. Yet they also have more fundamental differences over long-term changes in the country and the next generation’s future prospects.

A new national survey finds that Trump supporters overwhelmingly believe that life in America is worse than it was 50 years ago “for people like them.” Fully 81% of registered voters who support Trump say life has gotten worse, compared with just 11% who say it has gotten better (6% say it is about the same).

Most Clinton supporters take the opposite view: 59% say life for people like them has gotten better over the past half-century, while 19% think it has gotten worse and 18% see little change.

The candidates’ supporters have contrasting expectations for the nation’s future. Trump backers are broadly pessimistic – 68% say life for the next generation will be worse than today. Clinton supporters have mixed assessments. Nearly four-in-ten (38%) say life will be better, 28% say it will be about the same and just 30% say it will be worse.

The latest national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted August 9-16 among 2,010 adults, including 1,567 registered voters, finds little change overall in voters’ views of how the nation has changed and its future prospects since March, during the presidential primaries. But the divisions evident in that survey are striking in the context of the general election.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Monitoring of Contract Prisons

From the US Department of Justice

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), which is the component of the Department of Justice (Department) responsible for incarcerating all federal defendants sentenced to prison, was operating at 20 percent over its rated capacity as of December 2015. To help alleviate overcrowding and respond to congressional mandates, in 1997 the BOP had begun contracting with privately operated institutions (often referred to as “contract prisons”), at first on a smaller scale and later more extensively, to confine federal inmates who are primarily low security, criminal alien adult males with 90 months or less remaining to serve on their sentences. As of December 2015, contract prisons housed roughly 22,660 of these federal inmates, or about 12 percent of the BOP’s total inmate population...

In recent years, disturbances in several federal contract prisons resulted in extensive property damage, bodily injury, and the death of a Correctional Officer. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) initiated this review to examine how the BOP monitors these facilities. We also assessed whether contractor performance meets certain inmate safety and security requirements and analyzed how contract prisons and similar BOP institutions compare with regard to inmate safety and security data. We found that, in most key areas, contract prisons incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable BOP institutions and that the BOP needs to improve how it monitors contract prisons in several areas.

From Think Progress

For the most part, however, the report lays out a much more mundane case against private prisons. The private facilities failed, in large part, not because of high profile incidents — but because, compared to their government-run counterparts, they simply weren’t good at running a correctional facility. In this battle between socialism and the free market, socialism clearly won.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Will Your Prescription Meds Be Covered Next Year? Better Check!

From NPR:

The battle continues to rage between drug companies that are trying to make as much money as possible and insurers trying to drive down drug prices. And consumers are squarely in the middle.

That's because, increasingly, prescription insurers are threatening to kick drugs off their lists of approved medications if the manufacturers won't give them big discounts.

CVS Caremark and Express Scripts, the biggest prescription insurers, released their 2017 lists of approved drugs this month, and each also has long lists of excluded medications. Some of the drugs newly excluded are prescribed to treat diabetes and hepatitis. The CVS list also excludes some cancer drugs, along with Proventil and Ventolin, commonly prescribed brands of asthma inhalers, while Express Scripts has dropped Orencia, a drug for rheumatoid arthritis.

Such exclusions can take customers by surprise, says Lisa Gill, an editor at Consumer Reports' "Best Buy Drugs."

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Health and Wellbeing of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youth

Today, CDC released the first nationally representative data on the health risks faced by lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) high school students. These data highlight the need for accelerated action to protect the health and wellbeing of our vulnerable youth.
Findings from the report Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Related Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12 – United States and Selected Sites, 2015 show that LGB students experience physical and sexual violence and bullying at levels multiple times higher than that of their heterosexual peers. For example, LGB students are significantly more likely to report:
  • Being forced to have sex (18% LGB vs. 5% heterosexual)
  • Sexual dating violence (23% LGB vs. 9% heterosexual)
  • Physical dating violence (18% LGB vs. 8% heterosexual)
  • Being bullied at school or online (at school: 34% LGB vs. 19% heterosexual; online: 28% LGB vs. 14% heterosexual)
These experiences can place LGB students at substantial risk for serious outcomes:

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Highest, Lowest Property New York State Tax Rankings Updated

The Empire Center has updated its June report that ranked 2014 property taxes with 2015 data recently released by the state comptroller's office. The report examined effective tax rates that combined school, county, town, city and village taxes.
The highest (and lowest) effective tax rates and tax bills on median-value homes may vary within the communities based on the school district in which they are located. The full details are given in the report.
Users can see the components of their local property taxes and compare property taxes in multiple communities using the Empire Center’s Property Tax Calculator, a tool on, the Center’s transparency website.
Benchmarking NY uses data from the Office of the State Comptroller to calculate effective tax rates–combined county, municipal and school taxes as a percent of market value–for thousands of localities across the state during 2015, excluding only New York City and Nassau County. The complete report, posted here, includes a list of the top and bottom 20 effective tax rates and the top and bottom 20 tax bills on a locality’s median-value home in each of nine regions.
The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies to make New York a better place to live, work and do business.