• Health Care Reform, Political Psychology, and Putin | Picks of the Week

    Health Care Reform

    GAO report details flaws behind $840M O-Care website rollout | The Hill

    Part of the Solution: Pre-Baccalaureate Healthcare Workers in a Time of Health System Change | The Brookings Institution

    Health care reform is a perennial issue in America. Reforming the US health care system – which represents 1/7 of the nation’s economy – presents numerous challenges for public officials. Under the best of circumstances, the presence of entrenched stakeholders (e.g., hospitals, insurers, physicians, pharmaceutical manufacturers, etc.) makes it difficult to achieve meaningful reform. Alas, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act was far from ideal in 2013, and continued challenges remain as the administration prepares to implement a mandate for employers to provide coverage in the coming months.

    As we approach the one year anniversary of the botched rollout of the ACA signup in October, supporters of reform must turn their attention to rebuilding public confidence. Without trust – and faith – in public officials’ ability to successfully implement reform, the twice-delayed employer mandate is also likely to face a chilly reception from the business community. In addition, questions about the value-added of state operated health insurance exchanges will also continue to appear, as oversight agencies and investigative reports unpack the causes and consequences of the website woes in 2013.

    The business of health care also featured prominently in reports this week, as a Brookings Institution report underscored the fact that the health care industry is a job-creating machine. At a time when much of the economy remains stuck in neutral, health care institutions provide a wide range of opportunities, particularly for entry-level workers without a college education. The business community and the public will be watching carefully in the coming months as the second phase of ObamaCare implementation takes hold. – Bob Hackey, Visiting Fellow for Health Policy

    New Pell Center Study Charts a Path to Cybersecurity Professionalization

    Study Recommends Cybersecurity Professional Group | Providence Journal

    New Study Promotes Creation of Professional Association to Address Cybersecurity Workforce Shortfall | Fierce Government IT

    Pell Study Calls for Professional Cybersecurity Association | Providence Business News

    In my new study released this week by the Pell Center at Salve Regina University, I argue that the current cybersecurity ecosystem is failing to meet the wide variety of cyber threats we face today. With more threats than there are professionals to handle them, I outline why a national cybersecurity association would solidify the field as a profession, support individuals engaged in it, establish clear professional standards, create proper education and training requirements, and serve the public good. Numerous studies have identified the skill gaps and the varying cyber-related educational programs and initiatives that currently exist, but we have no unifying strategy to prioritize all these existing cybersecurity initiatives, no basic standards to assure that someone claiming special skills actually has them, and no single organization that can take ownership of the field. In other words, there is no focal point or center of gravity around which to organize.  My study charts a path to professionalize the field by establishing and sustaining such a professional group, which is deemed critical to standards, status, and successful efforts to secure the nation’s infrastructure.

    In order to achieve this goal, we need an overarching organizational framework to develop, manage, and oversee the training, education, certification, and continuous professional development of a qualified cybersecurity workforce along a career continuum. This framework would also help guide leaders across society in harnessing the right people with the right knowledge, skills, and abilities to the right challenges in a rapidly-evolving environment.  Counterparts in other fields–like the American Medical Association and American Bar Association–offer blueprints for how to professionalize the cybersecurity industry.

    The study was lauded by experts and field practitioners alike. Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) stressed the need “not only to improve our standards of cyber protection, but also to develop a workforce of highly skilled individuals,” and praised “the Pell Center for its continued focus on improving cybersecurity.” James Lewis, Director of the CSIS Strategic Technologies Program, concurred with the study’s conclusions and asserted that “if you think about professionals in any field, they need to have the right skills and competencies, and they have to be able to show that the possess them.” Michael Assante, former President of the National Board of Information Security Examiners and member of the Council on CyberSecurity, stated that “professionalization will require an organized effort; we cannot wait for the field to figure itself out.” He continued: the nation’s increasing reliance on secure, reliable, and safe cyber systems cannot afford to “wait for some ‘natural’ progression in the pursuit of clear competency and performance standards for cyber professionals.”

    The full report, “Professionalization of Cybersecurity” is available to download here.- Francesca Spidalieri, Fellow for Cyber Leadership

    Political Psychology

    Why people have different political orientations, political division

    Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are…Conservative | Mother Jones

    More hype about political attitudes and neuroscience | The Washington Post

    Differences in negativity bias underlie variations in political ideology | Cambridge Journals

    Writing in Mother Jones, science writer Chris Mooney summarizes a body of recent psychology research that examines the link between a person’s political outlook and their emotional and even physiological response to various kinds of stimuli, such as images that include blood or spiders. The brief version of a key finding is that conservatives appear to be more responsive to and more focused on these “negative” stimuli than liberals are. A post this week in the Washington Post’s political science blog “The Monkey Cage” takes exception to some presentational aspects of the Mother Jones piece, but acknowledges that the substance of the article, and of the scientific paper it is based on (in the important journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences), are intriguing and potentially important. As Americans work (or struggle) to figure out how to have constructive dialog about important questions that face us as a society – or as cities, states, etc. – it is worth bearing in mind that political differences often aren’t about things like facts. Instead, they are often based on deep-seated differences in how we see the world. Understanding more about the nature of these differences may be a helpful step towards more civil dialog. As the psychologists point out in the abstract to their scientific paper, “identifying differences across ideological groups is not tantamount to declaring one ideology superior to another.” And science writer Mooney hopefully offers that this type of scientific understanding of our differences may lead to “a better way of acting in politics that leads to less dysfunction and less gridlock.”- Joseph Grady, Senior Fellow for Public Policy

    Russian President Vladimir Putin

    Why nothing will dent Vladimir Putin’s soaring popularity at home | The Guardian

    Sanctions Have Little Effect On Putin’s Incredible Popularity In Russia | Business Insider

    As Sanctions Pile Up, Russians’ Alarm Grows Over Putin’s Tactics | The New York Times

    President Obama this week announced a new round of sanctions on Russia in response to the country’s continued involvement in the crisis in Ukraine and its support of pro-Russian separatists in the Eastern European country. This announcement came just hours after the European Union agreed for the first time to impose economic sanctions on Russia, measures that were coordinated with the United States.

    Despite these sanctions and allegations of Russia’s involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists, Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to suffer any marked decrease in his popularity at home. Two of the following articles cite a Pew Center poll conducted on July 18 (days before flight MH17 was shot down) showing Putin’s popularity to be higher than ever with an 83% approval rating. Business Insider rightly suggests that the Pew poll may not be accurately reflect favorability of Putin, as many Russian respondents may have responded favorably out of fear of oppression from their government. Another poll, published this week by the independent Russian pollster Levada (viewed as well-respected by Western media) found that 82% of Russians thought that MH17 was brought down by either a Ukrainian fighter plane or a missile. Only 3% of those surveyed thought that pro-Russian insurgents were to blame. With the majority of Russians perceiving that the Kremlin had no involvement in the downing of the aircraft, it is very likely that President Putin’s approval ratings in his country remain intact or have possibly increased over the past week.

    The Guardian article explains how Putin’s popularity at home can be traced, in large part, to the Russian media, much of which is state-run. The New York Times suggests that Russians are alarmed by Putin’s recent tactics. However, you have to consider that there is little room for dissent in Russian politics. Some lawmakers may disagree with President Putin and may be concerned for the future of their country but most would be very reluctant to go against their president and his political machine. –Carolyn Deady, Fellow for Global Challenges

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