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Where Will the Next U.S. Earthquake Hit?

To help make the best decisions to protect communities from earthquakes, new U.S. Geological Survey maps display how intense ground shaking could be across the nation.

The USGS recently updated its U.S. National Seismic Hazard Maps, which reflect the best and most current understanding of where future earthquakes will occur, how often they will occur, and how hard the ground will likely shake as a result.

16 States at High Risk

All states have some potential for earthquakes, but 42 of the 50 states have a reasonable chance of experiencing damaging ground shaking from an earthquake in 50 years (the typical lifetime of a building). Scientists also conclude that 16 states have a relatively high likelihood of experiencing damaging ground shaking. These states have historically experienced earthquakes with a magnitude 6 or greater.

The hazard is especially high along the west coast, intermountain west, and in several active regions of the central and eastern United States, such as near New Madrid, Missouri, and near Charleston, South Carolina. The 16 states at highest risk are Alaska, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

While these overarching conclusions of the ...

Why Government Fails So Often

Public administration scholars often write about what’s working in the public sector, hoping to help people who work for government agencies improve their programs’ performance.

As government has grown, another strain of writing has emerged, devoted to analyzing public sector failures and their causes. Eric Patashnik’s 2008 book, Reforms at Risk and Phillip Howard’s The Rule of Nobody, published earlier this year, are two examples, as is a new paper by Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University. They are now joined by another volume straightforwardly titled Why Government Fails So Often and How it Can Do Better by Peter H. Schuck, an emeritus professor of law at Yale University who worked for the now defunct Department of Health Education and Welfare during the Carter administration.

Schuck’s book includes a chapter about federal programs he deems successful, and a chapter about the civil service, but most of his analysis focuses on programs that could be seen as failing. The dozens of domestic programs he covers serve the interests of some, he acknowledges, but often inefficiently, and with unintended consequences, and at immense cost. Schuck advocates incremental change to improve government performance.

It ...

Can Creativity Be Learned?

At 2 a.m. on June 16, 1816, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin awoke with a fright.

Mary was 18 years old and spending her summer at the Villa Diodati at Lake Geneva with her stepsister Claire Clairmont and the writers Lord Byron and John William Polidori. Her future husband, Percy Shelley, was staying nearby. They had intended to spend the summer swimming and sunbathing, but a year earlier, Mount Tambora, a massive volcano in Indonesia, had erupted, dispersing nearly 1.5 million metric tons of dust into the atmosphere, blocking the sun, and sharply decreasing temperatures worldwide. It had such devastating effects on global weather patterns that 1816 came to be known as “The Year Without a Summer.”
Although the inclement weather foiled the group’s outdoor plans, the four of them contented themselves with indoor activities and took to reading scary stories, most notably fromFantasmagoriana, a French anthology of German ghost stories.

“It proved a wet, ungenial summer, and incessant rain often confined us for days to the house,” Mary Shelley wrote, in her introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein; Or the Modern Prometheus. “But,” she added, “Some volumes of ghost stories, translated from the German into French ...

Hey Boss, People Aren’t Machines

"People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel." —Maya Angelou

Some executives see their organization as a machine with people as gears. They implement rigid processes to establish control and are disappointed when people respond by expecting to be told what to do in new situations. Effective leaders on the other hand see their organization as a collage of individual dreams connected by a higher purpose. Their conversations motivate and inspire as well provide direction.

Why do I make such an obvious point? Because too many executives devalue people and their ideas. With laser-like precision, they tell people what to do, how to do it, and when it must be done. By way of illustration, consider the following conversation between James, a sales manager trying to increase sales in a flat economy, and Susan his top salesperson:

James: "Be in the office at 8 a.m. every Monday this month to telemarket new clients in your area. No excuses, just be here."

Susan: "In 20 years as a top sales rep, I've had more success pursuing referrals than with telemarketing. I connect far better with ...

Three Trends That Will Revolutionize Federal IT

We’ve all heard about federal technology project disasters. Many of these disasters are caused by ill-defined and constantly changing requirements, a lack of a solid understanding of who the customer is, a contracting culture that at times incentivizes performers to bill hours rather than create a solution, and lots of cases of mission creep. The response has been to insert new levels of accountability and new processes. In many cases, these steps have simply added additional costs without really solving the core issue.

However, there is hope. We are entering a new era where at least three trends will lower costs and improve the quality of the solutions for the government: Software solutions are unbundling; new platforms are lowering costs; and Application Programming InterfacesOpen Source Software and the communities that form around them are initiating an era of continuous improvement.

  1. Solution Unbundling. Traditionally, software and the infrastructure needed to support it were expensive. In response, buyers wanted to concentrate their costs to achieve maximum savings. That meant buying enterprisewide software that encompassed multiple functions. Unfortunately, the more features and functionality you pack into a product, the lower your chances are of maximizing each one. So you had to ...