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Social media freedom in Turkey

August 27, 2014 Comments off

Social media freedom in Turkey
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

After a two-month ban, the Turkish government restored access to the video-sharing website YouTube in June 2014. This move was necessary to comply with a Constitutional Court (CC) ruling, which judged blocking the site as a breach of freedom of expression. In April Turkey’s highest court had ruled in a similar case, overturning the controversial ban on the micro-blogging site Twitter. While Turkish Prime Minister (PM) Erdogan criticized the judgment fiercely, Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement, commended the CC for “safeguard[ing] rule of law and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms”.

The two social media court cases illustrate the widening gap between an increasingly authoritarian government and the judiciary in Turkey.

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EU — Organic production and labelling of organic products

August 27, 2014 Comments off

Organic production and labelling of organic products
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

This note seeks to provide an initial analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the European Commission’s Impact Assessment (IA) accompanying the above proposal which was adopted on 24 March 2014.

The general problem identified is that the overall objective of the current EU political and legislative framework to ensure the sustainable development of organic production, is not being met. Over the last ten years, the organic market has been characterised by dynamic development driven by strong growth in demand. The global market for organic food expanded fourfold between 1999 and 2011, yet the area under organic production in the EU only doubled in the decade 2000-2010. According to the IA, neither internal supply, nor the legislative framework, has kept up with this market expansion, resulting in lost opportunities for EU producers. Moreover, the IA considers that the continued growth of the organic market might itself be at threat from possible erosion of consumer confidence, due to the watering down of some EU organic production rules, with excessive use of exceptions, and cases of fraud in the control system and the import regime. In addition, the development of private schemes has led to confusion, with a multiplication of logos competing with the EU organic logo. The entire regulatory framework is extremely complex and difficult to understand for operators, producers, consumers and public authorities, and will become more so with the foreseen implementation of a compliance regime for control bodies in non-recognised third countries from 2014. There is significant administrative burden linked notably to the management of the exceptions by national administrations and to the control of business operators.

Consult, Command, Control, Contract: Adding a Fourth “C” to NATO’s Cyber Security

August 26, 2014 Comments off

Consult, Command, Control, Contract: Adding a Fourth “C” to NATO’s Cyber Security
Source: Centre for International Governance Innovation

The lines between civilian and military are increasingly blurred, creating ambiguity under international law when private contractors engage in offensive cyber-security operations on behalf of states. These private security companies (PSCs) are being contracted for cyber security to engage in offensive cyber operations, but states should not contract PSCs for offensive cyber operations. The next instalment of the 2014 Jr. Fellows Policy Briefs recognizes the benefits of cyber-security contracting and maintains that a transparent distinction should be established between PSCs and state militaries, whereby private actors would only be involved in defensive and supportive operations. The authors address the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to implement a contracting protocol that delineates appropriate classifications for the tasks and personnel required for private cyber-security contracts. They conclude that establishing an oversight organization and submitting a proposal to the International Law Commission to consider the roles of private security actors would create greater transparency and accountability for contracting.

Audit Report — Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Biosafety Laboratories

August 26, 2014 Comments off

Audit Report — Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Biosafety Laboratories (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General

Background
In response to the increase in infectious diseases and the threat of bioterrorism, the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories perform research with biological agents. To conduct this biological research, the Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) operate multiple laboratory facilities in accordance with various biosafety levels (BSL) established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The BSLs classify the containment level and risk associated with biological agents depending on the threat the agents pose to personnel and the environment. For example, BSL-1 is for low-risk agents; BSL-2 is for medium-risk agents; and BSL-3 is for those agents that cause serious and potentially lethal infections. Department and NNSA sites primarily perform BSL-1 and BSL-2 research; however, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) operates a facility with three BSL-3 laboratories while Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is considering opening a facility with two BSL-3 laboratories. Extensive biological research is performed at LLNL and LANL for other Government agencies through the Department’s Work for Others (WFO) program.

In our report on Coordination of Biological Select Agent Activities at Department of Energy Facilities (DOE/IG-0695, July 2005), we reported that the Department had not developed a plan for construction and operation of its BSL-3 laboratories. Thus, it lacked assurance that capabilities were not being duplicated unnecessarily. As a result of our prior work and Presidential actions to streamline Government and reduce costs, we initiated this audit to determine whether NNSA managed its biosafety laboratories effectively. We limited our review to biosafety laboratories located at LLNL and LANL.

Results of Audit
We found that NNSA was considering a $9.5 million expansion of its BSL-3 and BSL-2 laboratory capabilities at LANL that may not be the most effective use of resources. Specifically, NNSA identified the development of a BSL-3 facility at LANL as its preferred alternative for meeting biosafety laboratory needs even though it had not fully considered the need for and cost effectiveness of additional capacity. Nor, had it developed a sound basis for measuring the utilization of existing facilities – a critical factor in determining the need for additional capacity. Despite the lack of information on the need for additional capacity and current laboratory utilization rates, LANL was also considering building a new BSL-2 facility.

In particular, NNSA proposed development of a facility with two BSL-3 laboratories at LANL. Additionally, LANL is in the early planning stage for constructing a new BSL-2 facility. The estimated cost to open LANL’s new BSL-3 and to construct/open BSL-2 capabilities was about $1.5 million and $8 million, respectively. Given current budget realities, plans to develop additional capabilities without fully demonstrating a need may not be prudent.

Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence’

August 26, 2014 Comments off

Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence’
Source: Pew Research Center Internet Project

Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms did not provide new outlets for the discussion of the Snowden-NSA revelations. People who thought their social media friends disagreed with them were less likely to discuss the issues in person and online.

Rural Employment Trends in Recession and Recovery

August 26, 2014 Comments off

Rural Employment Trends in Recession and Recovery
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

This report examines the effects of the recent major recession, and gradual recovery, on employment and unemployment trends, with an emphasis on rural America.

The “Militarization” of Law Enforcement and the Department of Defense’s “1033 Program”, CRS Insights (August 20, 2014)

August 26, 2014 Comments off

The “Militarization” of Law Enforcement and the Department of Defense’s “1033 Program”, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Recent clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson, MO, have raised questions about the “militarization” of law enforcement. Such concerns have focused almost exclusively on the expanding role of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. Congress has also turned its attention to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) “1033 Program” and what role it might play in the militarization of law enforcement.

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