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State of the Union, OxyContin, Appalachia: RAND Weekly Recap

February 8, 2019

This week, we discuss President Trump's second State of the Union address; the public-health impacts of reformulating OxyContin; what might happen at the next Trump-Kim summit; improving road safety for autonomous vehicles; filling STEM jobs in Appalachia; and work-life balance in Europe.

Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi listen as President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union address in Washington, February 5, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi listen to President Donald Trump's second State of the Union address in Washington, February 5, 2019

Photo by Leah Millis/Reuters

State of the Union: Insights from RAND

President Trump's second State of the Union address focused largely on border security. But the speech touched on several other policy challenges, including the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, criminal justice reform, and infrastructure. To help shed light on some of these issues, we've rounded up insights from RAND's objective and nonpartisan research, analysis, and expertise.

A needle used for shooting heroin and other opioids litters the ground on a sidewalk in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 26, 2017, photo by Charles Mostoller/Reuters

A needle used for shooting heroin and other opioids is found on a sidewalk in Philadelphia, October 26, 2017

Photo by Charles Mostoller/Reuters

Reformulating OxyContin Linked to Rise in Hepatitis C Infections

To discourage drug abuse, the pain medicine OxyContin was reformulated in 2010, making it difficult to crush or dissolve. Unfortunately, this led to a large rise in hepatitis C infections as drug abusers switched from OxyContin to injectable heroin. That's according to a new RAND study. The findings show how efforts to address the opioid crisis can have unintended consequences.

President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un walk together before their working lunch during their summit at the Capella Hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, Singapore, June 12, 2018, photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un walk together before their working lunch during their summit in Sentosa, Singapore, June 12, 2018

Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

High Stakes at the Trump-Kim Summit

It's hard to predict the outcome of the second U.S.–North Korea summit later this month, says RAND's Bruce Bennett. Ideally, President Trump would insist that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un begin to denuclearize. If Kim agreed, the next step would be for him to freeze weapon production in exchange for U.S. concessions, then surrender some weapons for disassembly. But if Kim keeps stalling, then serious tensions could follow, says Bennett.

A road work sign on California Highway 101 north warns, "be prepared to stop"

Barbara Rich/Getty Images

How to Make Roads Safer for Autonomous Vehicles

No matter how much developers test autonomous vehicles, there will always be unforeseen circumstances on the road. Modifying roadways to be more forgiving could help, says RAND's Laura Fraade-Blanar. Enhanced lane divisions, roundabouts, and lowering speed limits are all ways to accommodate human error. That's true whether the human is a driver behind a steering wheel or an AV developer behind a computer.

A vocational training school

kali9/Getty Images

Filling STEM Jobs in Appalachia

The tristate region of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia needs more workers with STEM skills to fill jobs in the energy sector. But a new RAND report finds a disconnect between the skills employers want and what degree programs are emphasizing. There are steps both educators and employers can take to help fill these positions. A closer partnership between the two stakeholders is key.

Father working at home with baby

Maskot/Getty Images

A Look at Work-Life Balance in Europe

RAND's Barbara Janta and colleagues recently analyzed survey data about quality of life in Europe. They found big differences across the continent in how employees describe their work-life balance. It's important for employers to be aware of this issue, says Janta. Harmony between work and home may help improve the well-being of children and adults. It could even promote a more prosperous society.

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