Data Surfer

Sites you need to see

As a postscript to my recent blog about the Census report on foreign-born people, take a look at the recent Department of Homeland Security estimate of the population of unauthorized immigrants living in the nation as of January 2008. The unauthorised resident number "is the remainder or 'residual' after estimates of the legally resident foreign born population -- legal permanent residents (LPRs), asylees, refugees, and nonimmigrants --are subtracted from estimates of the total foreign-born population".

The 2008 national estimate is 11.6 million unauthorized immigrants (an increase of 390,000 since 2000). DHS breaks out this figure by period of entry, country of origin, state of residence, age and gender.  Approximately 7.03 million (or 61 percent) of the group come from Mexico. And California is the top resident state with 2.58 million (or 25 percent) of the total unauthorized immigrants. Texas follows with 1.68 million (or 14 percent).

President Obama unveiled his 2010 federal budget plan that anticipates a record deficit of $1.75 trillion. To put this in historical context, it's helpful to look at past annual deficits as a percentage of the nation's gross domestic product. Such figures are available back to 1930 (see Table 1.2). Not surprisingly, World War II caused the biggest deficits in relation to the overall economy (30.3 percent in 1943).

Today, we're nowhere near that level, but there's growing concern about the size of projected deficits in the coming years. The Brookings Institution just released a report warning that the combination of ailing economy and stimulus spending will balloon the annual deficit up to at least 1$ trillion for the next ten years. That means, according to Brookings, the deficit/GDP ratio will stay between 7-9 percent during that period, the largest ratio since the 40s. 

February 25, 2009
Check up on your doctor

wilkes.jpgCan you trust your doctor? That question will be addressed by an expert panel at a town hall meeting tonight at the McGeorge School of Law. The program "gets to the heart of the relationship and opens the door to a discussion that will demystify medical care and answer questions about how your physician makes decisions. In the end, you'll feel empowered to talk to your doctor and be more confident in your medical care." Capital Public Radio and The Bee are the sponsers and Bee Columnist Dr. Michael Wilkes is the moderator.

Trust is an essential aspect of medicine. So it's good to know there's a place to find out if your doctor has ever been disciplined. The California Medical Board provides a free online database where you can see any board actions or citations, hospital discipline, felonies or malpractice settlements over $30,000. Note that complaints to the board, board investigations, or misdemeanors not resulting in board action, are not included in the database. In addition, the record also shows the doctor's medical school, year graduated, and whether his/her license is valid.

Incidentally, the American Medicial Association has a web directory where you can browse doctors by name or specialty. DoctorFinder includes most licensed medical and osteopathic physicians in the United States and its possessions. You can narrow searches to a specific city or ZIP code. The resulting record shows office address, phone, specialty and any specialty certifications. 

With the stock market dropping yesterday to its lowest point since 1997, it's an opportune moment to look at some online historic information on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), the second-oldest stock market index in the world (the oldest being the Dow Jones Transportation Average). What would become the preeminent market indicator debuted in May 26, 1896. And despite its name, it tracks companies from several sectors, including financial services, techonology, retail and entertainment.

Yahoo! Finance is one place you can get free tabular data on the Dow's daily, weekly and monthly movements back to October 1928. The price chart, which includes the open, high, low, close and volume, is easily downloaded into an Excel spreadsheet format.

For history fans, the Dow Jones Company maintains an impressive web site on the DJIA, complete with a Dow FAQ, trivia, milestone data, component company information and interative timeline. The timeline is essentially a fever chart of Dow prices annotated with brief commentaries on the historical events that impacted -- and were impacted by -- the stock market. Worth looking with.  

Last Thursday the U.S. Census Bureau released 2007 demographic data on foreign-born people in the nation, states and cities. Its analysis includes breakdowns by country of origin, age, educational attainment, employment, occupation, income, poverty, English language ability and year of entry.

A couple factoids about the foreign-born in the United States:
*From which country do people with the most bachelor or higher degrees come from? (India)
*From which countries are newcomers most likely to come from? (Somalia and Kenya)

Here are the top ten countries of origin for the foreign-born in the nation, state and region:

United States Population
Total Foreign Born 38,059,555
Mexico 11,738,537
Philippines 1,701,126
India 1,501,782
China (excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan) 1,363,645
El Salvador 1,104,390
Vietnam 1,100,833
Korea 1,042,580
Cuba 983,454
Canada 830,388
Dominican Republic 755,539
California Population
Total Foreign Born 10,024,352
Mexico 4,427,671
Philippines 797,452
Vietnam 441,589
El Salvador 428,127
China (excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan) 421,192
Korea 322,628
India 294,202
Guatemala 237,703
Iran 192,202
Taiwan 164,170
Canada 129,372
Sacramento MSA Population
Total Foreign Born 361,231
Mexico 108,289
Philippines 31,987
India 20,179
China (excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan) 18,163
Vietnam 16,810
Ukraine 15,661
Laos 12,582
Thailand 7,930
El Salvador 7,343
Korea 6,558

geocode.jpgIn Internet-speak, a "mashup" is a web application that integrates two or more kinds of information into a new, useful resource. Mashups often use interactive maps to pinpoint various content (data, text, images, even videos) associated with a specific location.

Newspapers have started to "geocode" their stories to help readers browse the news closest to their homes. The Bee, for example, maps articles refering to places in the region. You can zoom in for a close look at your neighborhood and you can set the time period from a minimum of one week to a maximum of six months. (CrimeMapper is another ongoing Bee service that geocodes reported crimes in the region.)

Washington Post's Time-Space takes the idea a step further by including a time scale in their interactive world map of news, photos, commentary and video. As you slide the time gizmo back and forth, the distribution of news content in various countries changes day-by-day, hour-by-hour. The site includes AP reports as well as Post articles and photos.

In this Internet age, the definition of "news" is being stretched to include types of information not produced by professional journalists. Things like blog entries, press releases, crime logs, home sales and foreclosures, restaurant inspections and reviews, building permits, amateur photos and videos, etc. EveryBlock attempts to aggregate and geocode a variety content for "hyperlocal" browsing down to the neighborhood level. The web site thinks of itself as a "news feed" that can be viewed in an interactive map. EveryBlock currently covers 11 American cities -- the closest being San Francisco. You can search the content by address, ZIP or name of neighborhood.

Some of the coolest examples of map-mashups were developed by entrepreneur Dave Troy. Troy has married the live output of Twitter (short text postings), Flickr (photos) and YouTube (videos) with maps that continously update. The resulting sites -- Twittervision, Flickrvision and Spinvision -- are dynamic maps that display the latest tweets, photos and videos produced anywhere in the world. And because of their immediacy, these three sites are sometimes quicker to report breaking news than professional media. Last year's Chinese earthquake, for example, was known to Twittervision watchers before anyone else outside the quake zone.     

Steroid use in sports continues to be a concern in the wake of Alex Rodriguez's admission and the release last year of George Mitchell's Report to the Baseball Commissioner on the illegal use of performance-enhancing substances by players.

Such revelations renew fears about the example steroid use by professional athletes sets for teenagers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control tracks performance drug use in high schools, as part of its ongoing Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). The survey covers a range of activities including sexuality, tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs, injuries, violence, exercise, and diet. It also estimates the percentage of students who have taken steroid pills or shots without a doctor's prescription one or more times during their life. The latest national figures (2007) say 3.9 percent of students reported they illegally used steroids at least once. The data goes back to 1991, and the Healthy Youth! web site lets you slice data by gender, race, grade and reporting year.

Congress is working out the final details of a $789 billion plan to jump-start the nation's economy, which is intended to save between 3-4 million jobs. More than 10 percent of those jobs could come to California. The Obama Administration won't predict how much money would go to individual states, but guesses that 90 percent of the new jobs would come out of the private sector.

Stimulus Watch is a non-governmental web site whose mission is "to help the new administration keep its pledge to invest stimulus money smartly, and to hold public officials to account for the taxpayer money they spend." It does this by databasing information about "shovel ready" projects that have been proposed by local governments. These projects are not part of the current recovery legislation, but might be candidates for federal funding once the bill passes. What Stimulus Watch asks of readers is to examine projects that interest them and to vote and/or comment about their value on the site.

You call up local projects by browsing for a particular city/state, federal program or general keyword. The search results include a project description, cost, number of jobs created and the reader votes (up or down). There are currently 30 Sacramento proposals that would generate a total of 8,875 jobs at a total of $2.8 billion. The most popular idea is the $150 million "Folsom dam raise and early release improvements". The least popular proposal is a $500 million affordable housing plan by the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency.

Although the Congress has pushed back the deadline for conversion to digital television broadcasting, hundreds of stations will shut down their analog signals on February 17 as initially planned. The FCC released a list of stations in each market that are dropping analog. Stations in our region are listed below.

City Network Callsign Licensee
Ceres N/A KBSV Bet-Nahrain, Inc.
Modesto Univision KUVS-TV Kuvs License Partnership, G.P.
Sacramento NBC KCRATV Hearst-Argyle Stations, Inc.
Sacramento The CW Network KMAX-TV Sacramento Television Stations Inc.
Sacramento N/A KSPX Paxson Sacramento License, Inc.
Sacramento Fox KTXL Channel 40, Inc.
Sacramento PBS KVIE Kvie, Inc.
Sacramento ABC KXTV Kxtv, Inc.
Stockton CBS KOVR Sacramento Television Stations, Inc.
Stockton MNT KQCA Hearst-Argyle Stations, Inc.
Stockton Telefutura KTFK-TV Telefutura Sacramento Llc

About 17.7 percent of Americans live in homes that receive television only through over-the-air broadcasts. The media research firm A.C. Nielsen has been tracking households who are still unprepared for the digital switchover. According to Nielsen, 5.8 million households (5.1 percent of all homes) are unprepared. Their stats are broken down by age, race and market. The Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto region has the 7th largest percentage of unprepareded households (7.1 percent). Albuquerque is first (12.6 percent).

Incidentally, the FCC recently published its 13th annual report on competition in the delivery of video programming. The 208 page document is filled with interesting market data on cable, satellite, broadband and broadcast companies. Though conventional cable continues to dominate with nearly 70 percent of TV households, satellite and other delivery systems are steadily gaining market share.   

Bee data guy Phillip Reese has posted a series of charts showing the fastest growing and fastest shrinking job sectors in the Sacramento 4-county region. Not unexpectedly, the growth areas are in healthcare and education. The sectors hemoraging the most jobs are construction, retail, food service, banking and car sales.

Reese gleaned this data from the California Employment Development Department web site, which is well endowed with labor market information that's easy to access (including stats on unemployment, wages, prices, taxable sales, layoffs, occupations, as well as industries). The EDD has an online interactive database by which you can customize searches of industry sector job numbers. The system takes you through a series of drop-down lists where you modify the results by geography (state, MSA and county), time period (monthly or yearly back to 1990) and specific industry. What you get is a table showing the number of job for the desired time period, places and industries. The table can be downloaded into an Excel spreadsheet for further massaging. 

gore.jpgIf you're a podcast addict like me, you're always on the lookout for interesting audio and video programs to fill your portable media player. After awhile, stuff like "Ask a Ninja" and the "Onion News" only satisfies so much. Then you yearn for something more intellectually nourishing. And fortunately there's a growing selection of free quality content available on the Internet. The producers are usually organizations like universities, think tanks, bookstores and public forums (such as San Francisco's  Commonwealth Club). The formats are typically classes, lectures, interviews and panel discussions. The speakers are generally writers, scientists, academics, political leaders and others who have something worthwhile to say.

Finding good programs is getting much easier. I particularly like, an aggregator of spoken word content that let's you browse through hundreds of videos by broad topic (economy, culture, politics, technology, etc.), geography (Europe, Africa, North America, etc.), partner organization (Cato Institute, UC New York Public Library, etc.) and speaker. There's also a keyword search engine for more narrow searches. You can watch streaming videos right on the web site or download the video or audio files for transfer to a portable device like the iPod. The range of content is broad and deep, and the speakers are first rate. New programming is distributed through the iTunes Store as free podcasts.

iTunes also carries university-produced multimedia content in a separate channel called iTunes U. This is place to sample classes, lectures, concerts and other events sponsored by some the nation's leading colleges (including CSUS, UC Davis, UC Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, Harvard and others).

Speaking of universities, there's a new online hub just for free video courses led by professors at top schools. Academic Earth lectures are browseable by subject, university or instructor. The number of videos is somewhat small, but the quality of the current content bodes well for future growth.

I ought to mention the impressive amount of quality material on YouTube, the goliath of video aggregation. Using Google's Advanced Video Search you can hunt for lectures, interviews, panels and documentaries by keywords such as speaker name, subject and sponsoring group. Many organizations who distribute content online via podcast or web page streaming have created YouTube channels to reach an extended audience. One of them is UCTV, the broadcasting arm of the University of California system, whose YouTube channel, UCtelevision, delivers the best of its educational and enrichment programming for the general public.

I'm sure I've only skimmed the surface of mulitimedia sources on the internet. If you know of others, share it with this blog's readers by adding a comment below.

budget.jpgAt the same time the governor and legislative leaders struggle with California's budget shortfall, the federal government wants to assist states with money from the proposed stimulus bill. For an overview of all the states' financial health, the National Conference of State Legislatures recently released its Update on State Budget Gaps: FY 2009 & FY 2010. According to the report, states had to address a cumulative $40 billion gap when preparing their FY 2009 budgets and an additional $47.4 billion that surfaced since the budgets were completed. Now states face a projected FY 2010 shortfall of $84.3 billion--an amount that is likely to grow.

Accompanying the NCSL report are five easy-to-read, color-coded maps that help us compare California's fiscal situation to the rest of the nation. Two maps label the states' FY 2009 and 2010 budget gaps as a percent of each state's general fund. The other three show the projected performance (above, at or below target) of each state's personal income, sales and corporate income tax revenues. In general, California is among the states with the most serious budget problems.

GKI Foods, a Michigan candy maker, is recalling all its products containing peanuts. That's the latest in the salmonella outbreak tied to peanut butter and peanut paste made by the Peanut Corporation of America at its Georgia plant. PCA doesn't sell directly to consumers but its potentially contaminated peanuts are used by more than 100 companies in the manufacture of food products, such as cookies, crackers, cereal, candy and ice cream.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has created a helpful web site filled with up-to-date news and other information on the salmonella situtation. For consumers there's a concise FAQ on the disease and the current recalls. You'll also find a searchable database with which you can find recalled products by brand name, UPC code or generic food type (e.g., crackers, brownies, etc.). You can also browse and sort the complete recall list with this Excel spreadsheet.

  drought2.jpgWith California experiencing a third season of abnormally low precipitation, water experts are fearing the state is entering into its worst drought in modern history. A new Bee graphic shows that much of California is currnetly affected by severe drought conditions.

Drought Monitor, a University of Nebraska service, is a good source of maps that track dry conditions across the United States. The maps are color-coded for five levels of severity, ranging from "D0" (abnormally dry) to D4 (exceptional drought). As of Jan. 27 much of the western part of the country was in a drought, including sections of northern California and south-central Texas that suffer with at least D3 dryness. In addition to the current static map, there are 6-week and 12-week animations illustrating change over time. 

Drought Monitor also allows you to call up drought statistics by region and state. These figures tell you what percentage of land area is experiencing various levels of drought. An historic table for California contains weekly readings of the extent of drought back to January 2000. The data indicates that at least 50 percent of the state's land area has suffered from dry conditions for more than three years.

About Data Surfer

It's all about information -- statistics, documents and data of all types that help us understand the world, make informed decisions and monitor government. It's about empowering citizens with tools and sources so they can conduct their own investigative research. This blog is a place to discuss information that's available on the Internet. What's relevant, useful, valid and accurate -- and what's not.

We know the Sacramento region is home to knowledgeable people who use online information in their respective fields. We want to hear from you. Please tell us what you think of the data we use in stories and post on The Bee's website. And share tips about online resources you think are valuable to this blog's readers. Post comments on this blog or contact Pete Basofin directly at

June 2010

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