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The Legal Needs of Emerging Online Media: The Online Media Legal Network after 500 Referrals

April 18, 2014 Comments off

The Legal Needs of Emerging Online Media: The Online Media Legal Network after 500 Referrals
Source: Digital Media Law Project

Since December 2009, the DMLP has operated the Online Media Legal Network, a free attorney referral service for independent, online journalists and journalism organizations. The OMLN has served as a fundamental part of the legal support structure for online journalism, assisting more than 260 clients with over 500 separate legal matters.

As a result of that experience, the DMLP has been in a unique position to observe the nature of these new journalism ventures and their legal needs. This report collects these observations, including the following:

  • Those who have sought help from the OMLN overwhelmingly create their own original content, rather than aggregate the content of others. Many also provide support services to other journalists, platforms for users to talk to one another, or tools to access primary source information.
  • While some clients report on niche issues, many more are focused on reporting news of general interest, either to the public at large or local audiences. Non-profit clients show a greater focus on reporting on social issues such as health and education than for-profit or individual clients.
  • OMLN clients show significant evidence of forward planning. They are more often proactive than reactive to legal issues, frequently seeking assistance with intellectual property, content liability, and corporate questions before crises occur.
  • Individual clients not employed by an organization, and those clients who reported on businesses or to consumer audiences, sought help defending against legal threats more often than other clients. This indicates a particular need for greater litigation assistance among these categories.
  • The advice sought by OMLN clients with regard to intellectual property matters shows a near-perfect balance between protecting their own content and using the content of others.
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Foreign Agriculture Service — Guide to the Foreign Service Officer Selection Process

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Guide to the Foreign Service Officer Selection Process (PDF)
Source: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service

The United States Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) is one of the U.S. Government’s four Foreign Affairs Agencies under the Foreign Service Act of 1980. Chartered in 1953, FAS is a small agency with a global mission and presence. FAS is responsible for a broad range of programs, activities and tasks designed to carry out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s statutory responsibility to promote U.S. agricultural interests overseas. The core mission of FAS is to facilitate trade and international cooperation, which are critical to the vitality of the U.S. agricultural sector. Staff includes about 850 people stationed in Washington, about 160 Foreign Agricultural Affairs Officers, and 350 locally employed staff overseas. Foreign Service officers represent the interests and needs of American agriculture at U.S. diplomatic missions abroad.

If you are interested in a Foreign Service career at FAS, there is plenty of opportunity, but entry is a competitive process that takes place only once every 12-24 months depending on the needs of the service.

CRS — Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Related Non-Tariff Barriers to Agricultural Trade

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Related Non-Tariff Barriers to Agricultural Trade (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures are the laws, rules, standards, and procedures that governments employ to protect humans, animals, and plants from diseases, pests, toxins, and other contaminants. Examples include meat and poultry processing standards to reduce pathogens, residue limits for pesticides in foods, and regulation of agricultural biotechnology. Technical barriers to trade (TBT) cover technical regulations, product standards, environmental regulations, and voluntary procedures relating to human health and animal welfare. Examples include trademarks and patents, labeling and packaging requirements, certification and inspection procedures, product specifications, and marketing of biotechnology. SPS and TBT measures both comprise a group of widely divergent standards and standards-based measures that countries use to regulate markets, protect their consumers, and preserve natural resources.

According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), SPS and TBT measures have become more prominent concerns for agricultural exporters and policy makers, as tariff-related barriers to trade have been reduced by various multilateral, regional, and bilateral negotiations and trade agreements. The concerns include whether SPS and TBT measures might be used to unfairly discriminate against imported products or create unnecessary obstacles to trade in agricultural, food, and other traded goods. Notable U.S. trade disputes involving SPS and TBT measures have included a European Union (EU) ban on U.S. meats treated with growth-promoting hormones and also certain pathogen reduction treatments, and an EU moratorium on approvals of biotechnology products, among other types of trade concerns with other countries. Foreign countries have also objected to various U.S. trade measures.

CRS — Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Library)

The Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers (TAAF) program provides technical assistance and cash benefits to producers of agricultural commodities and fishermen who experience adverse economic effects caused by increased imports. Congress first authorized this program in 2002, and made significant changes to it in the 2009 economic stimulus package (P.L. 111-5). The 2009 revisions were intended to make it easier for commodity producers and fishermen to qualify for program benefits, and provided over $200 million in funding through December 2010. Subsequently, P.L. 112-40 (enacted in October 2011) authorized $202.5 million through December 2013. No program activity occurred, because Congress did not appropriate funds.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is required to follow a two-step process in administering TAAF program benefits. First, a group of producers must be certified eligible to apply. Second, a producer in a certified group must meet specified requirements to be approved to receive technical assistance and cash payments.

CRS — Farm Commodity Provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79)

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Farm Commodity Provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill (P.L. 113-79) (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Library)

The farm commodity program provisions in Title I of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79, the 2014 farm bill) include three types of support for crop years 2014-2018:

+ Price Loss Coverage (PLC) payments, which are triggered when the national average farm price for a covered commodity (e.g., wheat, corn, soybeans, rice, and peanuts) is below its statutorily fixed “reference price”;

+ Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) payments, as an alternative to PLC, which are triggered when crop revenue is below its guaranteed level based on a multiyear moving average of historical crop revenue; and

+ Marketing Assistance Loans (MALs), which offer interim financing for the loan commodities (covered crops plus several others) and, if prices fall below loan rates set in statute, additional low-price protection, sometimes paid as loan deficiency payments (LDPs).

CRS — Air Quality Issues and Animal Agriculture: A Primer

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Air Quality Issues and Animal Agriculture: A Primer (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

From an environmental quality standpoint, much of the public and policy interest in animal agriculture has focused on impacts on water resources, because animal waste, if not properly managed, can harm water quality through surface runoff, direct discharges, spills, and leaching into soil and groundwater. A more recent issue is the contribution of air emissions from animal feeding operations (AFOs), enterprises where animals are raised in confinement. This report provides background on the latter issue.

CRS — U.S. Crude Oil Export Policy: Background and Considerations

April 17, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Crude Oil Export Policy: Background and Considerations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

During an era of oil price controls and following the 1973 Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries oil embargo, Congress passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA), which directs the President “to promulgate a rule prohibiting the export of crude oil” produced in the United States. Crude oil export restrictions are codified in the Export Administration Regulations administered by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)—a Commerce Department agency. The President has some powers to allow certain crude oil exports if an exemption is determined to be in the national interest.

CRS — Table Egg Production and Hen Welfare: Agreement and Legislative Proposals

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Table Egg Production and Hen Welfare: Agreement and Legislative Proposals/strong> (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The United Egg Producers (UEP), the largest group representing egg producers, and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the largest animal protection group, have been adversaries for many years over the use of conventional cages in table egg production. In July 2011, the animal agriculture community was stunned when the UEP and HSUS announced that they had agreed to work together to push for federal legislation to regulate how U.S. table eggs are produced. The agreement between UEP and HSUS called for federal legislation that would set cage sizes, establish labeling requirements, and regulate other production practices. As part of the agreement, HSUS agreed to immediately suspend state-level ballot initiative efforts in Oregon and Washington.

CRS — Bee Health: Background and Issues for Congress (updated)

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Bee Health: Background and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Bees, both commercially managed honey bees and wild bees, play an important role in global food production. In the United States alone, the value of insect pollination to U.S. agricultural production is estimated at $16 billion annually, of which about three-fourths is attributable to honey bees. Worldwide, the contribution of bees and other insects to global crop production for human food is valued at about $190 billion. Given the importance of honey bees and other bee species to food production, many have expressed concern about whether a “pollinator crisis” has been occurring in recent decades.

Offshore Oil and Gas Governance in the Arctic: A Leadership Role for the U.S.

April 15, 2014 Comments off

Offshore Oil and Gas Governance in the Arctic: A Leadership Role for the U.S.
Source: Brookings Institution

The Arctic is changing and increasingly drawing the world’s interest, with the potential for vast reserves of offshore oil and gas constituting arguably the most attractive, yet challenging prospect in the region.

As the U.S. prepares to assume chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015, this policy brief is designed to inform the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. Government of the current state of oil and gas governance in the Arctic, and to address the following questions:

  • How can the U.S. elevate the Arctic region as a priority national interest?
  • How can the U.S. lead in strengthening offshore oil and gas governance in the Arctic?

AARP Online Travel Study

April 15, 2014 Comments off

AARP Online Travel Study
Source: AARP Research

Those who are 50 or older take about six non-business related overnight trips of at least 50 miles from home per year.

Are you ready for the resource revolution?

April 15, 2014 Comments off

Are you ready for the resource revolution?
Source: McKinsey & Company

Meeting increasing global demand requires dramatically improving resource productivity. Yet technological advances mean companies have an extraordinary opportunity not only to meet that challenge but to spark the next industrial revolution as well.

Emerging Arctic Explored in New CFR InfoGuide

April 14, 2014 Comments off

Emerging Arctic Explored in New CFR InfoGuide
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has released a new interactive guide examining the economic opportunities and environmental risks emerging in the Arctic. Climate change, technological advances, and a growing demand for natural resources are driving a new era of development in the Arctic region. Many experts assert that Arctic summers could be free of sea ice in a matter of decades, opening the region up to hundreds of billions of dollars in investment, most notably in energy production and shipping.

Payment Choice and the Future of Currency: Insights from Two Billion Retail Transactions

April 14, 2014 Comments off

Payment Choice and the Future of Currency: Insights from Two Billion Retail Transactions
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

This paper uses transaction-level data from a large discount chain together with zip-code-level explanatory variables to learn about consumer payment choices across size of transaction, location, and time. With three years of data from thousands of stores across the country, we identify important economic and demographic effects; weekly, monthly, and seasonal cycles in payments, as well as time trends and significant state-level variation that is not accounted for by the explanatory variables. We use the estimated model to forecast how the mix of consumer payments will evolve and to forecast future demand for currency. Our estimates based on this large retailer, together with forecasts for the explanatory variables, lead to a benchmark prediction that the cash share of retail sales will decline by 2.54 percentage points per year over the next several years.

New From the GAO

April 14, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report
Source: Government Accountability Office

Petroleum Refining: Industry’s Outlook Depends on Market Changes and Key Environmental Regulations. GAO-14-249, March 14.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-249
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/661714.pdf

Debt Use by U.S. Farm Businesses, 1992-2011

April 14, 2014 Comments off

Debt Use by U.S. Farm Businesses, 1992-2011
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

This report presents data on debt-use patterns by farm businesses and explores key trends over 20 years.

Do You Live in a Food Desert?

April 11, 2014 Comments off

Do You Live in a Food Desert?
Source: Walk Score

A food desert is a neighborhood without access to healthy food. Why does this matter? Living in a food desert can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

Walk Score helps you make more informed decisions about where to live, like finding an apartment within walking distance of a grocery store.

Many cities are making access to healthy food part of their general plans. For example, Washington D.C.’s sustainability plan sets a goal of having 75% of residents within a 5 minute walk of healthy food.

But how many people can walk to a grocery store in 5 minutes?

Today, we’re announcing a new ranking of the best and worst U.S. cities for access to food based on our database of local places and our Travel Time API and ChoiceMaps technology.

Secretary of Energy Advisory Board — Task Force Report on FracFocus 2.0 (March 28, 2014)

April 11, 2014 Comments off

Secretary of Energy Advisory Board — Task Force Report on FracFocus 2.0 (March 28, 2014) (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Energy (Energy Advisory Board)

This report presents the findings and recommendations for the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) Task Force on FracFocus. This Task Force report builds upon and extends the 2011 SEAB Subcommittee report on the environmental impacts of unconventional gas production.

The Task Force believes that the FracFocus experience to date demonstrates the ease of disclosure of chemicals added to fracturing fluid for companies, the value of this disclosure for the public, and the importance of public confidence in the quality and accessibility of the FracFocus chemical registry data. It has accomplished a good deal and shows the capacity to make improvements at modest additional cost. FracFocus has greatly improved public disclosure quickly and with a significant degree of uniformity.

The Task Force recommends a number of actions that will further improve the effectiveness of the FracFocus disclosure of chemical additives and improve transparency for regulators, operating companies, and the public. Recommendations are made for improving the accuracy and completeness of registry submissions. In addition, the Task Force believes that an independent audit to assess the accuracy and compliance of the process will be useful for all stakeholders.

CRS — Access to Broadband Networks: The Net Neutrality Debate (updated)

April 11, 2014 Comments off

Access to Broadband Networks: The Net Neutrality Debate (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Library)

As congressional policymakers continue to debate telecommunications reform, a major point of contention is the question of whether action is needed to ensure unfettered access to the Internet. The move to place restrictions on the owners of the networks that compose and provide access to the Internet, to ensure equal access and non-discriminatory treatment, is referred to as “net neutrality.” While there is no single accepted definition of “net neutrality,” most agree that any such definition should include the general principles that owners of the networks that compose and provide access to the Internet should not control how consumers lawfully use that network, and they should not be able to discriminate against content provider access to that network.

A major focus in the debate is concern over whether it is necessary for policymakers to take steps to ensure access to the Internet for content, services, and applications providers, as well as consumers, and if so, what these steps should be. Some policymakers contend that more specific regulatory guidelines may be necessary to protect the marketplace from potential abuses which could threaten the net neutrality concept. Others contend that existing laws and policies are sufficient to deal with potential anti-competitive behavior and that additional regulations would have negative effects on the expansion and future development of the Internet.

The January 2014 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit (Verizon Communications Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission, D.C. Cir., No.11-1355) upholding the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) authority to use Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to regulate broadband providers, but striking down the specific anti-blocking and nondiscrimination rules of the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order has focused attention on the issue. Three measures (H.R. 3982, H.R. 4070, and S. 1981) have been introduced in direct response to the January 2014 court decision, and subsequent FCC action. A consensus on the net neutrality issue has remained elusive. Some Members of Congress support FCC regulation of broadband providers, others feel that the regulation of the Internet is not only unnecessary, but harmful. It is anticipated that the issue of access to broadband networks will be of continued interest to policymakers.

Survey Says… Health Plans Advance Retail Capabilities

April 11, 2014 Comments off

Survey Says… Health Plans Advance Retail Capabilities
Source: Deloitte

“Retail” is a hot topic in the health insurance industry today for good reasons. From the creation of health insurance marketplaces, to the continued growth in Medicaid and Medicare, to the defined contribution movement and the rise of private exchanges, the sale and delivery of health insurance is requiring an increasing focus on the individual consumer. In this context, Deloitte Consulting launched the Health Plan Retail Capabilities Benchmarking Survey to expand our understanding of the industry’s current capabilities and future investment priorities to serve the most dramatically changing segment of the health insurance market – the commercial individual market.

Forty-six health plans participated in an online survey in late 2013. Respondents represented approximately 60 percent of the commercial individual marketplace spanning national, regional, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, provider-sponsored, established and new-entrant plans. Analysis of the survey data reveals three themes:

  1. Product, pricing and consumer experience capabilities top health plan’s priority investment list
  2. Near term investment plans focus on regulatory requirements and retention capabilities but widen the aperture to consumer insight, consumer experience and channel in the longer term,
  3. Technology investments in transparency, mobility, CRM and analytics are fundamental to supporting desired business capabilities.
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