CQ Researcher

 

Reforming Veterans' Health Care

Can the troubled VA system be fixed?

Nov. 21, 2014

The Veterans Affairs Department struggles to recover from revelations that some VA facilities forced vets to wait months for care and that some officials concealed the delays. Recently appointed Secretary Robert McDonald vows to streamline the department to better serve its 6.6 million patients. But critics complain the former Procter & Gamble CEO has been too slow to fire poor executives, and they worry about his lack of medical and government experience. Despite its problems, the VA has conducted Nobel Prize research and delivered quality care to most of its patients.

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Global Hunger

Can the planet feed itself in 2050?

Aug. 8, 2014

Agricultural technology has enabled food supplies to outstrip population growth, decreasing the number of hungry people. But food shortages and undernourishment remain huge problems in developing countries. Developed countries and humanitarian organizations have become adept at providing emergency relief and promoting better agricultural practices. But the outlook remains murky. Experts expect an expanding population and growing affluence to increase the demand for food, even as climate change hampers production.

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Polarization in America

Does partisan conflict threaten democracy?

Feb. 28, 2014

 

Americans are familiar with no-compromise political warfare that led to government shutdown and threatened default on the national debt. While partisanship is nothing new, some social scientists fear the current wave is undermining national unity and even democracy. Within within the parties, Republicans witness battles between traditional conservatives and those further right and some liberal Democrats try to push their party further left. Polarization is not limited to politics, either. People increasingly live near like-minded neighbors. And researchers are discovering left/right preferences about what to drink, where to shop and how to be entertained.

 

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Big Data and Privacy

Should use of personal information be restricted?

Oct. 25, 2013

 

Big data — the collection and analysis of enormous amounts of information  — is leading to huge advances in such fields as astrophysics, medicine, social science, business and crime fighting. And big data is growing exponentially: But the use of big data — including Tweets, Facebook posts and web-browsing histories — is controversial because of its potential to erode individual privacy, especially by governments conducting surveillance operations and companies marketing products.

 

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Science and Religion

Can their conflicts be resolved?

March 22, 2013

A century-and-a-half after Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution, scientists and people who read the Bible literally remain locked in battle. They are divided over a wide range of issues, from evolution to stem-cell research to homosexuality. Despite court rulings against the practice, some activists promote teaching creationism in public schools. A controversial group of “New Atheist” scientists stridently advocates the total elimination of religion from society. But other scientists — some religious, others not — argue that there is no inherent conflict between science and faith.

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Social Media and Politics
Do Facebook and Twitter influence voters?
By Tom Price
Oct. 12, 2012

 

Social media became major battlegrounds in the 2012 elections. Candidates used the platforms to organize supporters, raise funds, bypass traditional news media, send messages unfiltered to the public, target niche audiences, contact hard-to-reach voters,  and carry out many campaign tasks at much lower cost. Optimists hoped for a more level political playing field. Others worried that campaigns’ ability to compile personal information on line threatened voters’ privacy.

 

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Alcohol Abuse

Can underage drinking be curbed?
By Tom Price
June 8, 2012

Americans are abusing alcohol less than in the past with one exception: college students, who drink more and binge-drink more often than nonstudents of similar age. And alcohol continues to extract a high toll from those who abuse it at any age, killing 80,000 Americans a year and draining more than $220 billion from the economy. To combat alcohol abuse, many educational institutions, community organizations and government agencies are stepping up efforts to promote abstinence among the young and responsible drinking by adults who do imbibe.

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Journalism Standards in the Internet Age
Are the news media sacrificing ethics online?

By Tom Price

Oct. 8, 2010

Press critic A.J. Liebling once wrote that freedom of the press belongs "only to those who own one.” A half-century later, everyone with an Internet connection owns a virtual press. And many scorn the standards that have guided America's mainstream media. Operators of some news-like websites unabashedly repeat rumors and throw accuracy to the wind. Vile, anonymous reader comments on mainstream media websites mock civility. Serious journalists wonder which standards will prevail.

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Future of Journalism
Will newspapers' decline weaken democracy?
By Tom Price

March 27,  2009

 

Newspapers across the country are declining in circulation, advertising and profitability. Some are turning off their presses and moving onto the Internet or ceasing to publish altogether. Others are reducing or closing Washington and state-capital bureaus and shrinking their total news output. Many journalists, scholars, political activists and government officials worry that the collapse of newspapers will leave citizens  unable to obtain sufficient information for effective self-government. Others hope that newspapers will find a new and productive life online.

 

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Political Conventions

Have they outlived their usefulness?
By Tom Price
Aug. 8, 2008

Both parties share a fundamental goal for their national conventions: to produce TV shows that boost their candidates. Delegates seem to have nothing to do but cheer. “Why bother to hold them?” the critics ask. Convention supporters argue the gatherings are needed in case a nomination isn't settled beforehand. The conventions make decisions about party rules. And conventions are the one time the parties become truly national organizations, with activists from around the country mingling face-to-face.

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Science in America
Are we falling behind?

By Tom Price
Jan. 11, 2008

Many American leaders warn that a shortage of scientists is jeopardizing the nation's world leadership in technology, along with its military supremacy and high standard of living. In the short term, they propose importing more high-tech workers from overseas. Long term, they say, the U.S. must improve pre-college education, produce more college graduates in math and science, and increase investment in research and development. Others argue the alarm is a scare tactic by employers who want to pay the imported workers low wages.

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Cyberpolitics
Do computers and the Internet enhance democracy?

By Tom Price
Sept. 17, 2004

This is the year cyberpolitics came of age. Building his organization online, Howard Dean sped to an early lead for the Democratic presidential nomination. Despite his ultimate failure, others emulated his tactics, raising record  campaign cash from small donors in the process. MoveOn.org  became one of the most prominent political players, amassing $30 million  and claiming 3 million members. Exploiting other information technology, political organizations mined computer databases as never before.

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