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CRS — Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs (September 12, 2014)

September 19, 2014 Comments off

Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Congress has enacted a series of legislative provisions since 2006 to enable certain Iraqi and Afghan nationals to become U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs). These provisions make certain Iraqis and Afghans who have worked as translators or interpreters, or who were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan, eligible for special immigrant visas (SIVs). Special immigrants comprise a category of permanent employment-based admissions under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). While the special immigrant category is unique, it does bear some similarities to other admission categories that are authorized by other sections of the INA, including refugees and Amerasian children.

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CRS — Protection of Trade Secrets: Overview of Current Law and Legislation (September 5, 2014)

September 19, 2014 Comments off

Protection of Trade Secrets: Overview of Current Law and Legislation (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

A trade secret is confidential, commercially valuable information that provides a company with a competitive advantage, such as customer lists, methods of production, marketing strategies, pricing information, and chemical formulae. (Well-known examples of trade secrets include the formula for Coca-Cola, the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the algorithm used by Google’s search engine.) To succeed in the global marketplace, U.S. firms depend upon their trade secrets, which increasingly are becoming their most valuable intangible assets.

However, U.S. companies annually suffer billions of dollars in losses due to the theft of their trade secrets by employees, corporate competitors, and even foreign governments. Stealing trade secrets has increasingly involved the use of cyberspace, advanced computer technologies, and mobile communication devices, thus making the theft relatively anonymous and difficult to detect. The Chinese and Russian governments have been particularly active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage with respect to U.S. trade secrets and proprietary information.

In contrast to other types of intellectual property (trademarks, patents, and copyrights) that are governed primarily by federal law, trade secret protection is primarily a matter of state law. Thus, trade secret owners have more limited legal recourse when their rights are violated.

HHS OIG — Medicare Part B Prescription Drug Dispensing and Supplying Fee Payment Rates Are Considerably Higher Than the Rates Paid by Other Government Programs

September 19, 2014 Comments off

Medicare Part B Prescription Drug Dispensing and Supplying Fee Payment Rates Are Considerably Higher Than the Rates Paid by Other Government Programs
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General

Medicare Part B would have saved millions of dollars in 2011 if dispensing fees for inhalation drugs administered through durable medical equipment and supplying fees for immunosuppressive drugs associated with an organ transplant, oral anticancer chemotherapeutic drugs, and oral antiemetic drugs used as part of an anticancer chemotherapeutic regimen had been aligned with the rates that Part D and State Medicaid programs paid. Part B paid $132.9 million in dispensing and supplying fees. We estimated that if Part B rates had been the same as the average Part D rates, Part B would have paid dispensing and supplying fees of $22 million, a savings of $110.9 million. We also estimated that if Part B rates had been the same as the average State Medicaid program rates, Part B would have paid dispensing and supplying fees of $26.6 million, a savings of $106.3 million.

We recommended that CMS amend current regulations to decrease the Part B payment rates for dispensing and supplying fees to rates similar to those of other payers, such as Part D and Medicaid. CMS did not concur with our recommendation and requested that OIG conduct a study to identify the specific activities involved with dispensing inhalation drugs and supplying oral drugs under Part B and collect information about the actual costs that are directly associated with dispensing these Part B drugs. We maintain that pharmacies are overpaid for dispensing drugs under Part B when compared with what they are paid for dispensing the same drugs under Part D and Medicaid.

New — National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

September 19, 2014 Comments off

National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (PDF)
Source: White House

The discovery of antibiotics in the early 20th century fundamentally transformed human and veterinary medicine. Antibiotics now save millions of lives each year in the United States and around the world. The rise of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains, however, represents a serious threat to public health and the economy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that annually, at least two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths are caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the United States alone.1 If the effectiveness of antibiotics (drugs that kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria) is lost, we will no longer be able to reliably and rapidly treat bacterial infections, including bacterial pneumonias, foodborne illnesses, and healthcareassociated infections. As more strains of bacteria become resistant to an ever-larger number of antibiotics, our drug choices have become increasingly limited and more expensive and, in some cases, nonexistent. In a world with few effective antibiotics, modern medical advances such as surgery, transplants, and chemotherapy may no longer be viable due to the threat of infection.

The National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria identifies priorities and coordinates investments: to prevent, detect, and control outbreaks of resistant pathogens recognized by CDC as urgent or serious threats, including carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), ceftriaxoneresistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Clostridium difficile, which is naturally resistant to many drugs used to treat other infections and proliferates following administration of antibiotics (Table 1); to ensure continued availability of effective therapies for the treatment of bacterial infections; and to detect and control newly resistant bacteria that emerge in humans or animals. This National Strategy is the basis of a 2014 Executive Order on Combating Antibiotic Resistance, as well as a forthcoming National Action Plan that directs Federal agencies to accelerate our response to this growing threat to the nation’s health and security. The National Action Plan will be informed by a report approved by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) on July 11, 2014.

New From the GAO

September 19, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Federal Real Property: DHS and GSA Need to Strengthen the Management of DHS Headquarters Consolidation. GAO-14-648, September 19.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-648
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665943.pdf

2. DOD Joint Bases: Implementation Challenges Demonstrate Need to Reevaluate the Program. GAO-14-577, September 19.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-577
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665963.pdf

3. Fish Stock Assessments: Prioritization and Funding. GAO-14-794R, September 19.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-794R

Testimony

1. Federal Real Property: DHS and GSA Need to Strengthen the Management of DHS Headquarters Consolidation, by David C. Maurer, director, homeland security and justice, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-14-864T, September 19.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-864T

Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2013

September 19, 2014 Comments off

Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2013
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that in 2013, the poverty rate declined from the previous year for the first time since 2006, while there was no statistically significant change in either the number of people living in poverty or real median household income. In addition, the poverty rate for children under 18 declined from the previous year for the first time since 2000. The following results for the nation were compiled from information collected in the 2014 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2013 was 14.5 percent, down from 15.0 percent in 2012. The 45.3 million people living at or below the poverty line in 2013, for the third consecutive year, did not represent a statistically significant change from the previous year’s estimate.

Median household income in the United States in 2013 was $51,939; the change in real terms from the 2012 median of $51,759 was not statistically significant. This is the second consecutive year that the annual change was not statistically significant, following two consecutive annual declines.

The percentage of people without health insurance coverage for the entire 2013 calendar year was 13.4 percent; this amounted to 42.0 million people.

Federal Reserve Board publishes report containing summary information on debit card transactions in 2013

September 19, 2014 Comments off

Federal Reserve Board publishes report containing summary information on debit card transactions in 2013
Source: Federal Reserve Board

The Federal Reserve Board on Thursday published a report containing summary information on the volume and value, interchange fee revenue, certain issuer costs, and fraud losses related to debit card transactions in 2013. The report is the third in a series to be published every two years pursuant to section 920 of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA).

The Board’s Regulation II (Debit Card Interchange Fees and Routing), which implements this provision of the EFTA, provides that a debit card issuer subject to the interchange fee standard (a covered issuer) may not receive an interchange fee that exceeds 21 cents plus 5 basis points multiplied by the value of the transaction, plus a 1-cent fraud-prevention adjustment, if eligible. The interchange fee standard does not apply to debit card issuers with consolidated assets of less than $10 billion, certain government-administered debit cards, and certain prepaid cards. The interchange fee standard became effective on October 1, 2011.

As in prior years, covered issuers’ costs of authorizing, clearing, and settling (ACS) debit card transactions, excluding issuer fraud losses, varied greatly across respondents in 2013, with the median issuer having an average ACS cost of 14.9 cents and the issuer at the 75th percentile having an average ACS cost of 42.2 cents. Issuers with the highest debit card transaction volume generally had the lowest ACS costs per transaction as reflected in an overall average of 4.4 cents per transaction, down from 5 cents per transaction in 2011. Conversely, issuers with the smallest debit card programs generally had the highest ACS costs per transaction.

The Board estimated debit-card fraud losses to all parties (merchants, cardholders, and issuers) to be $1.57 billion in 2013, with an average loss of approximately 8 basis points as a share of transaction value, up slightly from 2011. The median covered issuer’s average fraud loss as a share of transaction value was 5 basis points, up slightly from 4.7 basis points in 2011. The median covered issuer had average fraud prevention and data security costs of slightly more than 1.4 cents per transaction.

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