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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.

CRS — The Federal Trade Commission’s Regulation of Data Security Under Its Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices (UDAP) Authority (September 11, 2014)

September 18, 2014 Comments off

The Federal Trade Commission’s Regulation of Data Security Under Its Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices (UDAP) Authority (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Federal Trade Commission Act established the Federal Trade Commission (FTC or Commission) in 1914. The protection of consumers from anticompetitive, deceptive, or unfair business practices is at the core of the FTC’s mission. As part of that mission, the FTC has been at the forefront of the federal government’s efforts to protect sensitive consumer information from data breaches and regulate cybersecurity. As the number of data breaches has soared, so too have FTC investigations into lax data security practices. The FTC has not been delegated specific authority to regulate data security. Rather, the FTC has broad authority under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act) to prohibit unfair and deceptive acts or practices.

CRS — Delayed Federal Grant Closeout: Issues and Impact (September 12, 2014)

September 18, 2014 Comments off

Delayed Federal Grant Closeout: Issues and Impact (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Federal outlays for grants to state and local governments have grown from $15.4 billion in 1940 (in constant FY2009 dollars) to $509.7 billion in 2013 (in constant FY2009 dollars). The number of congressionally authorized grant programs has also increased over time, with over 2,179 congressionally authorized grant programs currently being administered by federal agencies. Recently, congressional interest has focused on the efficient and effective management of federal grant programs. A recent congressional hearing evaluated the impact of alleged inefficient grant management which, according to a GAO report, resulted in more than $794 million in undisbursed federal grant funds in expired grant accounts. GAO concluded that federal agencies needed to improve the timeliness of federal grant closeouts to address the undisbursed funds issue. However, there may be underlying causes, other than inefficient grant management, that might help to explain why undisbursed funds may end up in expired grant accounts. Furthermore, it is possible, if not likely, that the estimated amount of undisbursed funds in expired grant accounts may be inflated. While the undisbursed grant funds identified by GAO represent significantly less than 1% of annual outlays for grants to state and local governments, the existence of undisbursed grant funds in expired grant accounts is an indicator of a systemic grants management challenge; suggesting a lack of coordination between the financial and program management of federal grants.

CRS — Legislative Actions to Repeal, Defund, or Delay the Affordable Care Act (September 12, 2014)

September 18, 2014 Comments off

Legislative Actions to Repeal, Defund, or Delay the Affordable Care Act (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report summarizes legislative actions taken to repeal, defund, delay, or otherwise amend the ACA since the law’s enactment. The information is presented in three appendices. Table A-1 in Appendix A summarizes the authorizing legislation to amend the ACA that has been approved by both chambers and enacted into law. Table B-1 in Appendix B summarizes the ACA provisions in authorizing legislation that passed the House in the 112th Congress (2011-2012) but was not approved by the Senate. It also lists the ACA-related legislation that the House has passed to date in the 113th Congress (2013-2014), but which has not been taken up by the Senate. Table C-1 in Appendix C summarizes the ACA-related provisions in enacted annual appropriations acts for each of FY2011 through FY2014. Also included is a brief overview of all the ACA-related provisions added to appropriations bills considered, and in most cases reported, by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees since FY2011.

To help provide context for the information presented in the appendices, the report continues with some background on the core provisions of the ACA. That is followed by an overview of the law’s impact on federal spending. This report is updated periodically to reflect legislative and other developments. A companion CRS report summarizes administrative actions taken by CMS and the IRS to delay, extend, or otherwise modify implementation of certain ACA provisions.

CRS — Diplomatic and Embassy Security Funding Before and After the Benghazi Attacks (September 10, 2014)

September 18, 2014 Comments off

Diplomatic and Embassy Security Funding Before and After the Benghazi Attacks (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report presents a history and analysis of the requested and actual funding for diplomatic/embassy security since FY2008—what actually became available for the Department of State to spend after rescissions, sequestration, and transfers. It also provides funding data that was requested by the Administration, passed by the House of Representatives, passed by the Senate, and enacted by Congress for the two accounts that provide the bulk of the funding: the Worldwide Security Protection (WSP) and Worldwide Security Upgrades (WSU). Combined, these two subaccounts in most years comprise more than 90% of the funding available for diplomatic/embassy security.

This report will continue to track diplomatic/embassy security appropriations and will be updated as changes occur.

“Dark Pools” In Equity Trading: Significance and Recent Developments, CRS Insights (August 27, 2014)

September 16, 2014 Comments off

“Dark Pools” In Equity Trading: Significance and Recent Developments, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Dark pools are relatively recent and controversial electronic stock trading alternatives to traditional exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), and now account for about 15% of overall trading volume. A dark pool is a type of alternative trading system (ATS), a broker-dealer who matches the stock trading orders of multiple buyers and sellers outside of exchanges. Orders sent to dark pools to buy or sell certain stocks are not publicly displayed. When they emerged in the late 1990s, that opacity attracted the pools’ initial clients, institutional investors (such as pension and mutual funds), who used it to conceal large trading interests, thus helping to reduce the risk of the market moving against their trades. Quote concealment is a legacy of a regulation adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 1998, Regulation ATS, which allowed ATSs with less than an average 5% share of the trading volume to not publicly display their quotes. This contrasts with the “lit” venues, Nasdaq and the exchanges, which do.

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