Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Federal Government’ Category

U.S. Birth Rate Hits New Low In ‘09, Cesareans Peak

by Lindsay Crocker February 3rd, 2011

SUMMARY: The U.S. crude birth rate – live births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 – reached an historic low of 13.5 in 2009. The birth rate for all age groups decreased in 2009 except for women aged 40-44 years. The birth rate for U.S. teenagers fell to historic lows. The birth rate for unmarried women declined by almost 4 percent, but children born to unmarried women now represent a higher percentage of total births than in 2008. The rate of cesarean deliveries rose to 32.9 percent in 2009, setting a record high in the U.S. Rates of preterm births and low birthweight showed a slight decline in 2009 after their steep rise from the 1980s to 2006.

BACKGROUND: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) collects data each year regarding birth rates and selected maternal and infant health characteristics. This includes data on age, race, origin, and marital status as well as information regarding rates of preterm deliveries, low birth rate, and cesarean deliveries. These annual reports highlight trends in these categories by comparing the current data to data from previous years. The data in this report is based on 99.95 percent of registered vital records from 2009.

KEY LINK: “Births: Preliminary Data For 2009,”National Vital Statistics Report, National Center For Health Statistics, U.S. Centers For Disease Control, 12/21/10

KEY FINDINGS:

  • The Crude Birth Rate (live births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years) declined by four percent since 2008 to 13.5 per 1,000 in 2009. It is the lowest birth rate ever recorded in the history of the U.S.
  • The General Fertility Rate (GFR) for women between the ages of 15 and 44 declined by three percent since 2008. This is a reverse in a recent trend of increasing GFR from 2006 to 2008.
  • The 2009 U.S. teenage birth rate for teenagers aged 15-19 years decreased by six percent since 2008. This marked the lowest teenage birth rate in the U.S. since 1940.
  • In 2009 the birth rate for women aged 20-24 years fell seven percent and the number of births per woman also decreased, down by four percent from 2008 levels.
  • The rate for women aged 25-29 fell four percent when compared to 2008 birth rates.
  • The birth rate for women aged 30-34 years dropped by two percent, and rates for women aged 35-39 years also dropped, down 1% from 2008 rates.
  • The birth rate for women aged 40-44 rose three percent. This is the only age group with a higher birth rate when compared to 2008 rates. This is also the highest birth rate for this age group recorded in the U.S. since 1967.
  • The birth rate for women aged 45-49 years was unchanged (i.e. not statistically different).
  • The birth rate for unmarried women declined by almost four percent. This is the first decline in this category on record since 2002. However, the proportion of all births to unmarried women increased. This means that unmarried women are having proportionally more children when compared to married women than they were in 2008.
  • The cesarean delivery rate was 32.9 percent in 2009. This is an increase of 2% from 2008. It is the highest rate in U.S. history.
  • The preterm birth rate showed a small decline from 2008 levels. This is the third straight year of decline after rates of preterm infants rose by more than one-third from 1981 to 2006.
  • The low birthweight rate (LBW) also showed a small decline in 2009, continuing a trend of slight decline since 2006. This small drop comes after LBW increased more than 20 percent between the mid 1980s and 2006.

Wildlife Refuge Locator: Online Guide To Washington, U.S.

by Matt Rosenberg January 28th, 2011

SUMMARY: A U.S. government online compendium provides convenient access on a state-by-state basis to official Web pages of national wildlife refuges. The Web guide to these facilities may be used for day-trip and vacation planning, as background information for visitors, and a research resource. In Washington state, there are 23 national wildlife refuges featuring a wide range of habitats and species.

BACKGROUND: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge Locator is an online map-based interface allowing users to click on any of the 50 states for a map-based aggregation of links to official USFWS Web pages of national wildlife refuges in those state. We take a look here at what the database tells us about national wildlife refuges in Washington state.

KEY LINK: National Wildlife Refuge Locator, Washington State, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Drumheller Channels, Columbia National Wildlife Refuge

USER INSTRUCTIONS: From the National Wildlife Refuge Locator hub, which displays a map of all 50 states, click directly on Washington. That will take you to the Locator’s Washington state map page. There, click directly on the typed name of any refuge (not the nearby map dot). You will arrive at a page with an overview of the site, a description of its location and a shortcut to Google Maps for more precise location data and customized directions. Each overview page includes a link to the refuge’s full Web site, for further information.

KEY FINDINGS

Washington State has 23 National Wildlife Refuges. Most, though not all, have sections which are open to visitors for hiking and respectful observation of species and natural environments. Overviews of several follow.

Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge on the Olympic Peninsula features a 5.5-mile long spit which can be hiked to the end, where a lighthouse and museum are open to visitors. The refuge gained protected status in 1915 at the behest of President Woodrow Wilson. It has been visited by some 250 recorded species of birds, 41 land mammal and eight marine mammal species. Black Brant geese proliferate in April, and harbor seals give birth to pups at the end of the spit. The refuge is especially popular with families, and is accessed by a short hike through a wooded area.

Willapa National Wildlife Refuge is considered an especially unspoiled estuary. It has more than 260 square miles of water surfaces and varied ecosystems such as salt marshes, tideflats, old growth forest, and coastal dunes and beaches. Brown pelicans, marbled murrelets, bald eagles and great blue herons are on view.

The Julia Butler Hansen Refuge For The Columbia White-Tailed Deer comprises 5,600 acres along the Columbia River in Washington and Oregon. It includes pastures, forested tidal swamps and marshes. In addition to the namesake deer, it is home to wintering birds, elk, river otter, painted turtles, red-legged frogs, nesting eagles and osprey.

Columbia National Wildlife Refuge features cliffs, canyons, lakes and sagebrush grasslands. It was carved out by long-ago fires, ice, floods and volcanic activity, and sits amidst the Drumheller Channelled Scablands, which include the dramatically eroded Drumheller Channels, named a National Natural Landmark. Among bird species prevalent are mallard ducks, Canada geese and tundra swans.

Recent Vehicle Recalls Include Saab, Honda, GM Light Trucks, Ducati Cycles, Salem And Keystone Trailers

by Matt Rosenberg January 24th, 2011

SUMMARY: The U.S. federal government’s database of vehicle safety recalls shows that manufacturer reports to date in January, 2011 of needed recalls have included up to 4,400 Saab 9-3s made in the second half of 2010; up to 25,751 2011 GM light trucks (12 different varieties); up to 2,277 2010 Honda Accords and CR-Vs, up to 1,196 2010 Ducati MTS 1200S motorcycles; smaller numbers of Daimler trucks made in 2009; and 2010-2011 Keystone and 2009-2011 Salem travel trailers. The defects cited by manufacturers in most of these recalls could cause either a sudden vehicle stall or loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash. Further details below, under “Key Findings.”

BACKGROUND: Federal law requires manufacturers of passenger and commercial vehicles, vehicle parts and passenger restraints to notify the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration if they discover defects in their products which could compromise passenger safety. The recall notices are accessed through the NHSTA’s Safercar.gov Web site. Owners of vehicles potentially at risk are typically advised to visit dealers for inspections to determine if their vehicles require repairs, which are almost always performed free of charge.

USING THE DATABASE: At safercar.gov, under “Safety Recalls,” use the first pull-down menu on the upper right (“select type”) to select recalls by vehicle (model year, make and model), child restraints, tires, equipment, recall Campaign ID #; or by recalls since yesterday, recalls since the 1st of the current month, or recalls from previous months.

Drilling down by vehicle (model year, make and model) will bring you to a page with a summary of the recall and a “document search” tab in the lower left corner which yields the original recall notification letter from the manufacturer to the NHTSA, and sometimes other documents as well. These letters typically have additional information not found in the summary files.

You can also subscribe to the NHTSA’s safety recall e-mail notification system.

KEY LINK: Vehicle safety recalls notices since the 1st of the month, from Safercar.gov, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as of 1/24/11.

KEY FINDINGS:

  • On 1/17/11, Saab reported a planned recall of up to 4,400 Saab 9-3s made between 6/10 and 12/10. Some original fuel pumps can seize, prompting an engine stall which heightens the risk of a crash. Saab plans to contact the owners of the affected vehicles and replace the pumps free of charge. (Manufacturer’s letter of notification to NHTSA).
  • On 1/14/11, Forest River reported that on up to 209 of its Salem travel trailers, the bottom leaf spring amy rotate out of position and make contact with the tire, causing a tire blow out without warning and a loss of vehicle control which could result in property damage “and/or personal injury or death.” The recall was to begin in January, with dealers to perform corrective repairs for no charge. (Manufacturer’s letter of notification to to NHTSA).
  • On 1/6/11, General Motors reported that on up to 26,751 different light trucks, spread across 12 different 2011 GM models, rear axle cross pins weren’t correctly heat-treated and thus could fracture and shift out of position, causing the rear axle to lock and the driver to lose control of the vehicle and crash without warning. The models are Cadillac (Escalade, Escalade ESV 1500, Escalade EXT 1500), Chevrolet (Avalanche 1500, Colorado, Silverado 1500, Suburban 1500, Tahoe); GMC (Canyon, Sierra 1500, Yukon, Yukon XL 1500). Dealers will install new rear axle cross pins of affected models, free of charge. the recall campaign is to begin on or before 1/25/11. (Manufacturer’s letter of notification to NHTSA).
  • On 1/7/11, Daimler Trucks of North America reported that up to 366 of its Freightliner Business Class M2 trucks manufactured between 8/25/09 and 9/3/09 have inboard seat anchor plates which may not hold the seat belt apparatus in place, increasing the risk of the seat belt not working as intended, and the risk of injury. The safety recall is to begin on or before 3/11/11. Daimler Trucks will replace the part free of charge. (Manufacturer’s letter of notification to NHTSA).
  • On 1/5/11, Ducati reported that up to 1,196 of its 2010 MTS 1200S motorcycles could stall, increasing the risk of crash, if the driver downshifts or maneuvers with the clutch disengaged and the engine at idle. Ducati will repair the affected cycles by re-flashing the electronic control units free of charge. (Original Safety Defect And Non-Compliance Report from manufacturer to NHTSA).
  • On 1/6/11 Honda reported that up to 2,277 2010 Accords and CR-Vs could stall, increasing the risk of a crash, due to a potential failure of the engine harness wiring connector. Dealers will replace the part on affected units free of charge. (Manufacturer’s letter of notification to NHTSA).
  • On 1/4/11, Keystone RV Company reported that up to 1,086 of their 2010-2011 Cougar, Laredo and Outback travel trailers could separate from the hitch ball on the tow vehicle due to lacking a necessary indentation on the hitch coupler, possibly causing property damage and/or vehicle crash. Owners should inspect their hitch coupler and if it is not stamped correctly, the dealer will replace it free of charge. (Manufacturer’s letter of notification from to NHTSA).

South Kirkland Transit-Oriented Mixed-Use Project Advancing; But Fate Still Uncertain

by Andrew Hart January 18th, 2011

SUMMARY: The cities of Kirkland and Bellevue have approved an agreement outlining principles to guide the development of the South Kirkland Park and Ride into a regional transit, commercial and housing hub intended to boost transit usage and model the benefits of transit-oriented development. Following upcoming public hearings and final amendments to the development plan, a $6.25 million federal grant could be released and would help cover some of the costs of adding 250 new parking spaces to the current 600 spaces which are at capacity now. 200 housing multifamily housing units are also planned, and 12,500 square feet of commercial space. If private and perhaps non-profit investors can partner on the housing, then the expanded parking component of the development plan can be fully funded; otherwise, not. Demand for commuter parking at the transit hub is likely to increase as tolling begins this spring on the nearby State Route 520 bridge, and then reconstruction of the bridge follows.

“Protect Democracy – Audit The Fed”

by Administrator January 17th, 2011

By Ramsey Ramerman

“We give government our tax dollars with few strings attached. But one “string” – the most important string – is that we insist on having the right to know how our money is spent. This string is attached by transparency laws. The people’s “right to know” is how We the People can maintain at least some control over how government spends our money.

One such string was contained in the Wall Street reform bill passed by Congress last year. An audit provision required the Federal Reserve to disclose that it loaned $9 trillion to private banks and corporations during the 2008-09 bailout – more than four times the United States’ annual tax revenue – including more than $1 trillion to foreign banks.

These are the taxpayers’ dollars, so taxpayers have a right to know how the Federal Reserve makes its decisions – all of its decisions, not just those made during the bailout.”

Read the full guest op-ed in The Everett Herald.

Audit Targets Testing Of U.S. Army’s Body Armor

by Matt Rosenberg January 11th, 2011

SUMMARY: Ballistic testing by oversight personnel of the U.S. Army’s Interceptor Body Armor vest components for five of six contracts, and quality surveillance procedures on four of the contracts, were not performed properly, according to an audit by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Inspector General.

Interceptor Body Armor

As performed in the specified instances, the ballistic testing and quality surveillance could provide only limited confirmation that the vest components provided the promised degree of protection.

BACKGROUND: A request from Congressman Louise Slaughter of New York led to audits of quality testing procedures for six Department of Defense contracts valued at $434 million with Point Blank Body Armor, Inc. of Pompano Beach, Florida for their Interceptor Body Armor. It is a modular system with an outer tactical vest, ceramic plates, and components which increase the coverage area. By stopping or slowing bullets or fragments, the body armor is intended to the number and severity of wounds and increase the likelihood of survival for combat personnel.

KEY DOCUMENT: Ballistic Testing And Product Quality Surveillance For The Interceptor Body Armor – Vest Components Need Improvement,” Inspector General, U.S. Department of Defense, 1/3/11

KEY FINDINGS:

  • On two contracts the Army’s Program Manager for Soldier Equipment lowered testing requirements after three tests of the Interceptor Body Armor vest components did not demonstrate a minimum standard of protection.
  • On five contracts the program manager waived a test of body armor vest components to gauge their performance after a simulated aging process.
  • Of 900 “lots,” or large batches of the body armor vest components delivered under those five contracts, 560 were classified as having met the lot acceptance test, but proper random sampling was not used and 207 of those lots were actually approved by contractor personnel, conflicting with regulations prohibiting contractors from performing an inherently government client function.
  • 340 more lots did not undergo lot acceptance tests because the materials had been previously approved or the program manager did not require insertion of new ballistics panels.
  • The audit states, “..if the ballistic testing requirements are not implemented in accordance with contract requirements, the Army cannot assure that the vest components meet the contract requirements, which were developed to provide an appropriate level of protection for the warfighter.”
  • The audit recommends that materials testing waivers should be justified and approved in writing; that risk assessment be re-done on the 560 lots; and that Defense Contract Management Agency Orlando, Florida personnel should provide training on a random sample generator tool so that valid random sample evaluations of materials can be regularly conducted during the course of lot acceptance tests.

Terrorism Preparedness Grant For Snohomish County

by Matt Rosenberg December 13th, 2010

SUMMARY: The Snohomish County Council is in the process of approving the county’s receipt of a $1.895 million federal grant to enhance preparedness for possible terrorist attacks in Snohomish County involving chemical, biological, nuclear or explosive devices. The money would be used for improvements to the county sheriff’s helicopter, the county’s back-up emergency operations center, for a Heavy Rescue Apparatus vehicle, SWAT counter-terrorism training of sheriff’s officers, and medical, logistics and cross-jurisdictional terrorism response planning.

A Heavy Rescue Apparatus vehicle

BACKGROUND: On 12/27/10, according to the meeting agenda, the Snohomish County Council ’s Law and Justice/Human Services committee will consider a recommendation from County Executive Aaron Reardon the the county council receipt for use in calendar year 2011 of a $1,895,010 Urban Area Security Initiative terrorism preparedness grant to Snohomish County from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, delivered through the Washington State Military Department.

These DHS grants are provided nationally for key urban areas considered to be higher-priority terrorism targets and to strengthen response capabilities to attacks involving chemical, biological, nuclear or explosive devices. Recipients in Washington state are the cities of Seattle and Bellevue and the counties of Snohomish, King and Pierce.

KEY LINK: Proposed Motion 10-587 agenda packet for Snohomish County Council Law and Justice/Human Services Committee meeting, regarding Urban Area Security Initiative grant.

KEY PROVISIONS:

  • If the committee and then the county council approve the grant, the funds will be used for several purposes.
  • Purchase, install and test airframe engine equipment to improve the performance of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s helicopter.
  • Purchase and test a Heavy Rescue Apparatus for the Snohomish County Technical Rescue Force for use in the event of an attack involving chemical, biological, nuclear or explosive devices or weapons of mass destruction.
  • Purchase, install and test new generator wiring and an extended regional fiber optic network – both for Snohomish County’s back-up Emergency Operations Center.
  • Conduct medical operations and logistics planning in order to be fully prepared to manage resources, and patient movements, identify facilities and prioritize equipment to be used, in the event of a terrorist attack.
  • Do Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) counter-terrorist training and exercises for county sheriff’s personnel.
  • Coordinate with other urban areas and state to meet needs of vulnerable groups and heighten awareness of community response priorities in the event of a terrorist attack.

U.S. Mint: The Cost Of A Penny Is 1.6 Cents

by Matt Rosenberg December 11th, 2010

SUMMARY: In its 2009 annul report, the U.S. Mint included a chart showing the costs from 2007 through 2009 of manufacturing and initial distribution of its different coin denominations. It costs more than half-again as much to make and produce a penny than it is worth: 1.6 cents per penny. Costs of producing and distributing a nickel exceed its value only fractionally. Making and distributing dimes and quarters are considerably less than their face value.

KEY LINK: U.S. Mint 2009 Annual Report, 5/10

KEY FINDINGS: The following chart from the annual report shows the costs of manufacturing and initial distribution of different coin denominations versus their face value, over the last three years. Overall, the amount by which per-coin cost for the penny and nickel have been exceeding face value, has decreased from 2007 through 2009.