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Department of State Announces Online Publication of 2013 Digest of United States Practice in International Law

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Department of State Announces Online Publication of 2013 Digest of United States Practice in International Law
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Department of State is pleased to announce the release of the 2013 Digest of United States Practice in International Law, covering developments during calendar year 2013. The Digest provides the public with a record of the views and practice of the Government of the United States in public and private international law. The official edition of the 2013 Digest is available exclusively on the State Department’s website at: http://www.state.gov/s/l/c8183.htm. Past Digests covering 1989 through 2012 are also available on the State Department’s website. The Digest is edited by the Office of the Legal Adviser.

The Digest traces its history back to an 1877 treatise by John Cadwalader, which was followed by multi-volume encyclopedias covering selected areas of international law. The Digest later came to be known to many as “Whiteman’s” after Marjorie Whiteman, the editor from 1963-1971. Beginning in 1973, the Office of the Legal Adviser published the Digest on an annual basis, changing its focus to documentation current to the year. Although publication was temporarily suspended after 1988, the office resumed publication in 2000 and has since produced volumes covering 1989 through 2012. A cumulative index covering 1989-2006 was published in 2007, and an updated edition of that index, covering 1989-2008, was published in 2010.

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CRS — Foreign Holdings of Federal Debt

July 7, 2014 Comments off

Foreign Holdings of Federal Debt (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Federal debt represents, in large measure, the accumulated balance of federal borrowing of the U.S. government. The portion of gross federal debt held by the public consists primarily of investment in marketable U.S. Treasury securities. Investors in the United States and abroad include official institutions, such as the U.S. Federal Reserve; financial institutions, such as public banks; and private individual investors.

CRS — Unaccompanied Alien Children: An Overview

July 7, 2014 Comments off

Unaccompanied Alien Children: An Overview (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The number of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) arriving in the United States has reached alarming numbers that has strain the system put in place over the past decade to handle such cases. UAC are defined in statute as children who lack lawful immigration status in the United States, who are under the age of 18, and who are without a parent or legal guardian in the United States or no parent or legal guardian in the United States is available to provide care and physical custody. Two statutes and a legal settlement most directly affect U.S. policy for the treatment and administrative processing of UAC: the Flores Settlement Agreement of 1997; the Homeland Security Act of 2002; and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.

Several agencies in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) share responsibilities for the processing, treatment, and placement of UAC. DHS Customs and Border Protection apprehends and detains UAC arrested at the border while Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) handles the transfer and repatriation responsibilities. ICE also apprehends UAC in the interior of the country and is responsible for representing the government in removal proceedings. HHS is responsible for coordinating and implementing the care and placement of UAC in appropriate custody.

Energy markets are reshaping the global geopolitical landscape and increasing interdependencies among nations, according to Deloitte report

July 2, 2014 Comments off

Energy markets are reshaping the global geopolitical landscape and increasing interdependencies among nations, according to Deloitte report
Source: Deloitte

The ripple effects of the North American energy boom from major importer to soon-to-be exporter are being felt across the Middle East, Russia, and China. This trend will result in new sources of supply, increase competition, reshape the global geopolitical landscape, and create greater interdependencies among nations, according to the Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL) 2014 Oil and Gas Reality Check report.

The report focuses on expansion and contraction on a number of fronts: the waxing and waning of dominance among suppliers; the progression into globalization from regionalization in energy markets; the growing shares of some fuels and the declining roles of others in the global energy mix; and, the opening and closing of borders in response to geopolitical concerns.

Limiting Armed Drone Proliferation

June 30, 2014 Comments off

Limiting Armed Drone Proliferation
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

The Obama administration should pursue a strategy that places clear limits on its own sale and use of armed drones lest these weapons proliferate and their use becomes widespread. These are the central findings of a new report by CFR Douglas Dillon Fellow Micah Zenko and Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow Sarah Kreps.

Although only five countries have developed armed drones—the United States, Britain, Israel, China, and Iran—several other countries have announced their own programs. “India reports that it will soon equip its drones with precision-guided munitions and hopes to mass-produce combat drones to conduct targeted strikes in cross-border attacks on suspected terrorists.Rebuffed by requests to procure U.S. armed drones, Pakistan said it will develop them indigenously or with China’s help to target the Taliban in its tribal areas.” The report also notes that “Turkey has about twenty-four types of drones in use or development, four of which have been identified as combat drones,” while Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Sweden “have collaborated on the Neuron, a stealth armed drone that made its first demonstration flight in December 2012.”

Zenko and Kreps lay out several reasons why armed drones are unique in their ability to destabilize relations and intensify conflict. Unmanned aircraft reduce the threshold for authorizing military action by eliminating pilot casualty, potentially increasing the frequency of force deployment. Because there is no onboard pilot, drones are less responsive to warnings that could defuse or prevent a clash. Furthermore, countries may fire on a manned fighter plane, mistaking it for an armed drone, which could increase the likelihood of conflict.

Understanding Political Islam

June 30, 2014 Comments off

Understanding Political Islam
Source: Cato Institution

The tragic events in Iraq, where the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is currently mounting an offensive against the government of the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, certainly appears to be consistent with Blair’s concern—namely that “the battles of this century … could easily be fought around the questions of cultural or religious difference.” But to what extent do Blair’s claims reflect the experience of political transitions throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)?

The rise of political Islam into prominence poses important questions both for people in the MENA region and for policymakers in the West. Since 9/11, the thrust of Western foreign and security policy toward the MENA region has aimed at containing radical forms of Islam. In practice, that often meant cozying up to authoritarian regimes, as long as they were secular, since these were seen as superior to their theocratic alternatives. When the Egyptian military brought down President Mohamed Morsi in early July 2013, there was a sense of relief among many in Washington.

EU — Think Tank Review — Issue 14/2014

June 30, 2014 Comments off

Think Tank Review — Issue 14/2014
Source: General Secretariat of the Council of the EU (Central Library)

The June Think Tank Review is out, referencing papers published in May 2014.

As could be expected, a large share of the think tank papers published last May were devoted to the European elections. We found analyses of rising parties, maps of the networks among anti-EU parties, assessments of the impact of the top candidates and views on social media in the campaign. Partly related to the elections, we also found several papers elaborating on surveys and opinion polls. In addition, most EU think tanks and the major political foundations had papers on the Banking Union compromise reached in March.

Among the other focal points this month: energy policy and gas supply, the 10th anniversary of the 2004 enlargement, and the UK relationship with the EU. On the latter, we note a project at the German Council on Foreign Relations with views from various Member States. Among the many papers on migration and asylum, we note a series of case studies on migrants’ outcome on national labour markets. In the external relations section, Ukraine features prominently once again, with many think tanks putting forward wide-ranging measures for the country, from deployment of a joint stabilization force to constitutionally-sanctioned neutrality.

Recommendations And Report Of The Stimson Task Force On US Drone Policy

June 26, 2014 Comments off

Recommendations And Report Of The Stimson Task Force On US Drone Policy
Source: Stimson Center

Few recent national security developments have been as controversial as the increased US reliance on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more colloquially known as “drones.” While UAVs have multiple peaceful and commercial applications, heated debates about the use of lethal UAV strikes away from traditional, territorially bounded battlefields have tended to crowd out a broader and more nuanced discussion of US UAV policy. This report represents a preliminary effort to offer analysis and recommendations that could help shape and guide US UAV policy going forward. It looks at the military and national security benefits of UAV technologies, analyzes our current approaches to UAV development and export, and seeks to contextualize the strategic questions relating to the use of lethal UAVs outside traditional battlefields. Ultimately, it offers eight detailed recommendations for overhauling UAV strategy; improving oversight, accountability and transparency; developing forward-looking international norms relating to the use of lethal force in nontraditional settings; and devising sound UAV export control and research and development policies.

New From the GAO

June 25, 2014 Comments off

New From the GAO
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Information Security: Additional Oversight Needed to Improve Programs at Small Agencies. GAO-14-344, June 25.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-344
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664420.pdf

2. Aviation Safety: Additional Oversight Planning by FAA Could Enhance Safety Risk Management. GAO-14-516, June 25.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-516
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664401.pdf

3. Traffic Safety: Alcohol Ignition Interlocks Are Effective While Installed; Less Is Known about How to Increase Installation Rates. GAO-14-559, June 20.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-559
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664282.pdf

4. Diplomatic Security: Overseas Facilities May Face Greater Risks Due to Gaps in Security-Related Activities, Standards, and Policies. GAO-14-655, June 25.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-655
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664423.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/664325

Testimonies

1. Export-Import Bank: Status of GAO Recommendations on Risk Management, Exposure Forecasting, and Workload Issues, by Mathew J. Scirè, director, financial markets and community investment, before the House Committee on Financial Services. GAO-14-708T, June 25.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-708T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664379.pdf

2. Medicare Fraud: Further Actions Needed to Address Fraud, Waste, and Abuse, by Kathleen M. King, director, health care, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Energy and Commerce. GAO-14-712T, June 25.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-712T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664382.pdf

What Explains the Volume and Composition of Trade? Industrial Evidence from a Panel of Countries

June 24, 2014 Comments off

What Explains the Volume and Composition of Trade? Industrial Evidence from a Panel of Countries
Source: OECD

This paper quantifies the importance of different determinants of trade at the industry level using a sample of 54 OECD and non-OECD economies. The empirical methodology extends the approach of previous empirical studies to explicitly quantify the impact that trading partners’ factor endowments and policies have on bilateral trade, and to analyse the effect of tariffs on the volume and composition of trade. We find that distance, common language, common border and regional trade agreements are important determinants of overall trade, and that factor endowments, policies and institutions, of both the exporter and its trading partners, are main determinants of what and where a country exports. By contrast, we find that trade policies based on tariffs on imported goods not only generate negative spillovers to trading partners by reducing their exports, but they are also likely to reduce exports of countries that impose the tariffs, in particular in industries that rely more on intermediate goods.

2014 Global Peace Index

June 24, 2014 Comments off

2014 Global Peace Index (PDF)
Source: Institute for Economics & Peace

+ The ten countries most likely to deteriorate in peace in the next two years are Zambia, Haiti, Argentina, Chad, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nepal, Burundi, Georgia, Liberia and Qatar
+ Global violence impacted the global economy by US$9.8 trillion or 11.3% of GDP in the last year, an increase of US$179 billion YOY, through upward revisions of China’s military expenditure and the number and intensity of internal conflicts
+ Syria displaces Afghanistan as the world’s least peaceful nation while Iceland maintains its status as the most peaceful country in the world
+ Georgia showed the largest improvement in peace levels, while South Sudan experienced the largest drop and now ranks as the third least peaceful country

World Refugee Day: Global forced displacement tops 50 million for first time in post-World War II era

June 24, 2014 Comments off

World Refugee Day: Global forced displacement tops 50 million for first time in post-World War II era
Source: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The UN refugee agency reported today on World Refugee Day that the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people.

UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report, which is based on data compiled by governments and non-governmental partner organizations, and from the organization’s own records, shows 51.2 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2013, fully 6 million more than the 45.2 million reported in 2012.

This massive increase was driven mainly by the war in Syria, which at the end of last year had forced 2.5 million people into becoming refugees and made 6.5 million internally displaced. Major new displacement was also seen in Africa – notably in Central African Republic and South Sudan.

FDI in U.S. Metro Areas: The Geography of Jobs in Foreign-Owned Establishments

June 23, 2014 Comments off

FDI in U.S. Metro Areas: The Geography of Jobs in Foreign-Owned Establishments
Source: Brookings Institution

This paper advances the understanding of foreign direct investment (FDI)—that is to say, the U.S operations of foreign companies— in U.S. metro areas. It presents new data on jobs in foreign-owned establishments (FOEs) across the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas between 1991 and 2011.

Global flows in a digital age

June 23, 2014 Comments off

Global flows in a digital age
Source: McKinsey & Company

Global flows have been a common thread in economic growth for centuries, since the days of the Silk Road, through the mercantilist and colonial periods and the Industrial Revolution. But today, the movement of goods, services, finance, and people has reached previously unimagined levels. Global flows are creating new degrees of connectedness among economies—and playing an ever-larger role in determining the fate of nations, companies, and individuals; to be unconnected is to fall behind.

Flows of goods, services, and finance reached $26 trillion in 2012, or 36 percent of global GDP, 1.5 times the level in 1990. Now, one in three goods crosses national borders, and more than one-third of financial investments are international transactions. In the next decade, global flows could triple, powered by rising prosperity and participation in the emerging world and by the spread of the Internet and digital technologies. Our scenarios show that global flows could reach $54 trillion to $85 trillion by 2025, more than double or triple their current scale.

A new McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, Global flows in a digital age: How trade, finance, people, and data connect the world economy, examines the inflows and outflows of goods, services, finance, and people, as well as the data and communication flows that underlie them all, for 195 countries around the world.

CRS — The Evolution of Cooperative Threat Reduction: Issues for Congress

June 23, 2014 Comments off

The Evolution of Cooperative Threat Reduction: Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The United States uses a number of policy tools to address the threat of attack using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons. These include a set of financial and technical programs known, variously, as cooperative threat reduction (CTR) programs, nonproliferation assistance, or, global security engagement. Congress has supported these programs over the years, but has raised a number of questions about their implementation and their future direction.

Over the years, the CTR effort shifted from an emergency response to impending chaos in the Soviet Union to a broader program seeking to keep CBRN weapons away from rogue nations or terrorist groups. It has also grown from a DOD-centered effort to include projects funded by the Department of Defense (DOD), the State Department, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Together, these agencies sought nearly $1.65 billion for these programs in FY2014.

Although initially focused on the former Soviet Union, these programs now seek to engage partners around the world. The United States has used its funding and expertise to help secure or destroy dangerous weapons and materials in nations that experience civil strife or regime collapse, such as in Libya, and to prevent their spread outside a conflict’s borders, such as with Syria’s neighboring countries. U.S. cooperation with Russia is narrowing, with many of the CTR projects in Russia winding down after the June 2013 expiration of the Memorandum of Understanding that governed DOD’s cooperation with Russia. The two countries will continue to cooperate on some areas of nuclear security with a bilateral protocol under the Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Program in the Russian Federation Agreement (MNEPR).

Publication of U.S. Department of State Data on ForeignAssistance.gov

June 20, 2014 Comments off

Publication of U.S. Department of State Data on ForeignAssistance.gov
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Department of State is pleased to announce its first release of foreign assistance obligation and disbursement data on ForeignAssistance.gov. This is a significant milestone for both the Department and the U.S. Government, and delivers on key U.S. commitments in the U.S. National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership, a network of 64 countries and civil society organizations dedicated to improving transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement, as well as commitments to the multi-stakeholder International Aid Transparency Initiative. With the addition of the Department of State’s financial data, users can access the website to examine detailed foreign assistance spending for nine agencies through ForeignAssistance.gov.

ForeignAssistance.gov serves as a mechanism for users to view foreign assistance data from across the U.S. Government and provides a wide variety of stakeholders with a tool to analyze, examine, research, and track U.S. Government foreign assistance investments. Foreign aid transparency can help recipient governments and interested stakeholders ensure more efficient use of aid, coordination among donors, and reduce opportunities for waste, duplication, and corruption.

New From the GAO

June 20, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office

Report

1. Tobacco Product Regulation: Most FDA Spending Funded Public Education, Regulatory Science, and Compliance and Enforcement Activities. GAO-14-561, June 20.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-561
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664278.pdf

Testimony

1. Export Controls: NASA Management Action and Improved Oversight Needed to Reduce the Risk of Unauthorized Access to Its Technologies, by Belva Martin, director, acquisition and sourcing management, before the Subcommittees on
Space and Oversight, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. GAO-14-690T, June 20.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-690T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664274.pdf

Just Released — Trafficking in Persons Report 2014

June 20, 2014 Comments off

Trafficking in Persons Report 2014
Source: U.S. Department of State

“We each have a responsibility to make this horrific and all-too-common crime a lot less common. And our work with victims is the key that will open the door to real change—not just on behalf of the more than 44,000 survivors who have been identified in the past year, but also for the more than 20 million victims of trafficking who have not.

As Secretary of State, I’ve seen with my own two eyes countless individual acts of courage and commitment. I’ve seen how victims of this crime can become survivors and how survivors can become voices of conscience and conviction in the cause.

This year’s Trafficking in Persons Report offers a roadmap for the road ahead as we confront the scourge of trafficking.” — John F. Kerry, Secretary of State

Strengthening Refugee Protection and Meeting Challenges: The European Union’s Next Steps on Asylum

June 20, 2014 Comments off

Strengthening Refugee Protection and Meeting Challenges: The European Union’s Next Steps on Asylum
Source: Migration Policy Institute

While great progress has been made towards creation of a Common European Asylum System (CEAS) that establishes shared standards for refugee protection in the European Union (EU), important obstacles to its full and effective operation remain. The evolving global context of conflict and displacement, highlighted by the Syria crisis, failures by many States to protect their citizens, and mixed migration more broadly will continue to throw up new challenges in the asylum domain in the years ahead for the European Union and Member States, requiring robust systems and policies that can be adapted to meet them.

At the end of June 2014, the European Council, comprising the heads of state and government of the European Union’s 28 Member States, will adopt strategic guidelines for the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) area, including asylum. The guidelines, which will define the way forward on the JHA portfolio for the 2014-20 period, have the potential to offer clear direction for the further development of asylum policy and cooperation at the EU level. To achieve this, however, the guidelines will need to address key priorities in practical and principled terms, and accommodate widely differing perspectives among Member States, EU institutions, and other stakeholders. Looking beyond the guidelines, European policymakers will need to explore the ways in which these priorities can be translated into action. The Migration Policy Institute Europe and the International Migration Initiative of the Open Society Foundations, through their ongoing project on the future of asylum in the European Union, are examining a number of the current challenges as well as possible ways to address them.

U.S. food aid reform 101: fact sheet

June 18, 2014 Comments off

U.S. food aid reform 101: fact sheet (PDF)
Source: Bread for the World Institute

Despite increasing demand for food assistance, particularly among vulnerable women and children, funding for FFP is declining. More people are in need of assistance than ever, especially as the lasting effects of drought are felt in places like Africa and refugees are fleeing fragile states. Making every food-aid dollar count is both a responsible use of taxpayer money and a moral imperative.

Food-aid reform efforts reflect a more responsive approach to global food assistance in a time of declining budgets. New, more efficient food-aid programs continue to buy American-grown commodities while adding the option to be flexible in using local and regional food purchases and cash vouchers for food where appropriate. In the recently passed bipartisan farm bill and the current fiscal year funding bill, efforts to make food aid more efficient were recognized by Congress. Unfortunately, the progress we’ve made to reform food aid is at risk.

The House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would keep 2 million people from receiving lifesaving food aid. This bill takes critical food-aid dollars away from hungry people to pay for the increased cost of transporting food. This subsidy to the world’s largest shipping companies was quietly inserted as a provision in the Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill for fiscal year 2015. This provision has nothing to do with the U.S. Coast Guard and is a blatant attempt by special interests to line their own pockets while more people overseas go hungry.

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