Today is the 222nd anniversary of the signing of the US Constitution, and, as we observed last year, also the 147th anniversary of the battle of Antietam, the single bloodiest day for American armed forces in all of America’s history. Victory at Antietam assured Lincoln’s promulgation of the Emancipation Proclamation on the following New Years Day.
Stop by the library today for a free copy of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence – and be sure to join us this Saturday from 10 until 2 for our celebration of Constitution Week and Citizenship Day.
For more information on the Constitutional Convention and its creation see A More Perfect Union at the National Archives website. You can also find high-resolution images of the Constitution and much more at the same site.
The Brookings Institution has issued the second in what is intended to be a series of quarterly evaluations tracking economic recession and recovery in America’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. Brookings’ MetroMonitor for the second quarter of this year is a 21-page report which examines employment, unemployment, output, home prices and foreclosure rates for each of the nation’s major metropolitan areas, including that of Wichita and its surrounding area.
Wichita ranks in the middle twenty of the one hundred metropolitan areas in terms of overall performance during the recession, neither among the best nor among the worst. Despite a significant moderation of the rate of decline in the second quarter for the nation as a whole, however, Wichita, which had ranked among the 20 strongest metro areas in employment (at 20th), was among the twenty weakest in terms of percent change in employment from the first to the second quarters, losing jobs at a faster rate than previously. Although weakening, Wichita continued to rank among the second strongest cohort of metropolitan areas for unemployment rate through June.
Despite such relatively positive employment numbers, Wichita’s performance in Gross Metropolitan Product, a measure of area output, was much less hopeful, with a ranking of 91st with a 7.5% decline from the peak quarter through June, and 94th with a further decline of 1.2% by the end of the second quarter.
In sharp contrast, Wichita was the second best of all 100 metro areas for housing prices, trailing only Houston, with a positive change in the housing price index of 4.2%. For all areas as whole, prices fell by 4.4%.
For more than two decades, Pew Research surveys have monitored the credibility Americans accord to the news media, their assessment of media accuracy and reliability and the degree of bias in media reporting. In their most recent survey, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press characterizes the results in Press Accuracy Rating Hits Two Decade Low, a 7-page summary of their findings, which are reported in greater detail in the full 26-page report:
“Just 29% of Americans say that news organizations generally get the facts straight, while 63% say that news stories are often inaccurate. In the initial survey in this series about the news media’s performance in 1985, 55% said news stories were accurate while 34% said they were inaccurate. That percentage had fallen sharply by the late 1990s and has remained low over the last decade.
“Similarly, only about a quarter (26%) now say that news organizations are careful that their reporting is not politically biased, compared with 60% who say news organizations are politically biased. And the percentages saying that news organizations are independent of powerful people and organizations (20%) or are willing to admit their mistakes (21%) now also match all-time lows.
“Republicans continue to be highly critical of the news media in nearly all respects. However, much of the growth in negative attitudes toward the news media over the last two years is driven by increasingly unfavorable evaluations by Democrats. On several measures, Democratic criticism of the news media has grown by double-digits since 2007. Today, most Democrats (59%) say that the reports of news organizations are often inaccurate; just 43% said this two years ago. Democrats are also now more likely than they were in 2007 to identify favoritism in the media: Two-thirds (67%) say the press tends to favor one side rather than to treat all sides fairly, up from 54%. And while just a third of Democrats (33%) say news organizations are “too critical of America,” that reflects a 10-point increase since 2007.
“The partisan gaps in several of these opinions, which had widened considerably over the past decade, have narrowed.”
The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released its annual survey of Criminal Victimization, 2008. The survey reports annual estimates of personal and property victimization, including the year-to-year change from 2007 and trends for the ten-year period from 1999 through 2008. As described by the Bureau, “the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) collects information on nonfatal crimes, reported and not reported to the police, against persons age 12 or older from a nationally representative sample of US households. During 2008, 42,093 households and 77,852 individuals were interviewed twice for the NCVS. The report includes data on violent crimes (rape/sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault), property crimes (burglary, motor vehicle theft and property theft), and personal theft (pocket picking and purse snatching), and the characteristics of victims of these crimes.”
Among the important points emphasized by the survey is the observation that, although the incidence of violent crimes in 2008 was statistically unchanged from the previous year, over the ten year period, the violent crime rate declined by 41% and the property crime rate fell by 32%.
“The stock market lost 56 percent of its value between September 30, 2007, and March 9, 2009. These losses reduced the retirement savings of American households. Recently, however, a good portion of these losses has been reversed. Equities gained 53 percent between March 9, 2009 and August 31, 2009.”
The Urban Institute offers a brief fact sheet answering the question How is the Financial Crisis Affecting Retirement Savings?
The net assessment is “that retirement accounts are well off their lows. These accounts gained approximately $1.5 trillion (29 percent) between March 9, 2009 and August 31, 2009.”
For the second year in a row, a national survey of mortgage closing costs has found Kansas to be the second least expensive market in the nation. According to a national survey by Bankrate.com, Kansas was edged out only by Nevada this year, and North Carolina last year. Here’s how Bankrate.com describes their survey and its results:
“Bankrate.com researchers gathered closing-cost information from at least four lenders in 50 states and the District of Columbia. In California, researchers also collected data separately for Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“Researchers requested a good faith estimate for a $200,000 loan, assuming a 20 percent down payment and good credit.”
The results of the survey are displayed in a table which “ranks the states, from most expensive closing costs to least expensive, by average closing costs charged by the lending industry for a mortgage in each state. Your costs will be higher than shown here because the most highly variable costs are not included: taxes, other government fees and escrow fees.
“In 2008, Bankrate surveyed 56 areas, including three in California (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento), two in Illinois (Chicago and Springfield), and two in New York (New York City and Buffalo). In 2009, Bankrate surveyed one area in 49 states, two areas in California (Los Angeles and San Francisco) and the District of Columbia.”
This past week, NASA released a series of Spectacular First Images from the Rejuvenated Hubble Space Telescope — vivid proof that the space shuttle repair mission last May was a resounding success.
From the utterly frivolous and sublimely ridiculous, to the eminently practical and utilitarian, HowCast has thousands of how-to videos. Many of them are excellent, others of at best doubtful value, but the collection as a whole is clearly a resource you can find yourself using again and again. Arranged into 25 categories (3,587 how-to videos in Careers and Education, including Job Hunting, for instance; 5,891 on Crafts and Hobbies; 474 on First Aid and Safety; 3,535 on Health and Nutrition; 9,946 on Food and Drink), there’s something for nearly every interest.
Whether or not cell phone usage causes negative health effects through the emission of radiation is an open question. The evidence for deleterious effects is limited at best. Yet many people have expressed concern about as yet undocumented possibilities. If you’re looking for a way to be prudent, minimizing your exposure while the research continues, you may be interested in this listing of more than a thousand currently available cell phones, ranked from lowest to highest emissions. The information has been gleaned from publicly available information by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization which seeks “to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment.”
For more information on the topic, you might wish to read Lori Bongiorno’s discussion of Cell Phones and Radiation: Ten Best and Ten Worst in The Conscious Consumer blog on Yahoo.