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Foreign Intelligence Gathering Laws

February 27, 2015 Comments off

Foreign Intelligence Gathering Laws
Source: Law Library of Congress

This report contains information on laws regulating the collection of intelligence in the European Union, United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, and Sweden. The report details how EU Members States control activities of their intelligence agencies and what restrictions are imposed on information collection. All EU Member States follow EU legislation on personal data protection, which is a part of the common European Union responsibility.

Roundup of Recent Congressional Research Service Reports About the Middle East

February 27, 2015 Comments off

Roundup of Recent Congressional Research Service Reports About the Middle East (PDFs)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

CRS — U.S. Farm Income Outlook for 2015 (February 18, 2015)

February 25, 2015 Comments off

U.S. Farm Income Outlook for 2015 (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

According to USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), national net farm income—a key indicator of U.S. farm well-being—is forecast at $73.6 billion in 2015, down 32% from last year’s level of $108.0 billion. The 2015 forecast would be the lowest since 2009. Net cash income is projected down 22.4% in 2015 to $89.4 billion.

The forecast for lower net farm income and net cash income is primarily a result of the outlook for lower crop and livestock receipts—down a combined 6.3%. The fall in cash receipts comes despite record corn and soybean harvests in 2014, as commodity prices plunged in the last half of 2014 and are expected to remain at substantially lower levels compared with the period of 2012- 2014, when prices for many major program crops experienced record or near-record highs.

Government payments are projected up by 15% to $12.4 billion, which partially offsets the $25.8 billion decline in crop and livestock receipts. The 2014 farm bill (Agricultural Act of 2014; P.L. 113-79) eliminated direct payments of nearly $5 billion per year and replaced them with a new suite of price and revenue support programs. In particular, the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program replaced the previous Counter-Cyclical Price (CCP) program, but with a set of reference prices based on substantially higher support levels for most program crops. Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) relies on a five-year moving average price trigger in its payment calculation, but also adopts the PLC reference price as the minimum guarantee in years when market prices fall below it. The higher relative support levels of PLC and ARC are expected to trigger payments of $6.2 billion in 2015.

Copyright and the Music Marketplace

February 25, 2015 Comments off

Copyright and the Music Marketplace (PDF)
Source: U.S. Copyright Office

Few would dispute that music is culturally essential and economically important to the world we live in, but the reality is that both music creators and the innovators that support them are increasingly doing business in legal quicksand. As this report makes clear, this state of affairs neither furthers the copyright law nor befits a nation as creative as the United States.

The Copyright Office has previously highlighted the outmoded rules for the licensing of musical works and sound recordings as an area in significant need of reform. Moreover, the Office has underscored the need for a comprehensive approach to copyright review and revision generally. This is especially true in the case of music licensing—the problems in the music marketplace need to be evaluated as a whole, rather than as isolated or individual concerns of particular stakeholders.

While this view is hardly a surprising one for the U.S. Copyright Office, it is no simple matter to get one’s arms around our complex system of music licensing, or to formulate potential avenues for change. For this reason, in early 2014, the Office undertook this study—with all industry participants invited to participate—to broadly consider the existing music marketplace.

This report is the result of that effort. In addition to identifying the shortcomings of the current methods of licensing music in the United States, it offers an in‐depth analysis of the law and industry practices, as well as a series of balanced recommendations to improve the music marketplace.

CRS — Water Quality Issues in the 114th Congress: An Overview (January 21, 2015)

February 24, 2015 Comments off

Water Quality Issues in the 114th Congress: An Overview (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Congressional Research Service)

Much progress has been made in achieving the ambitious goals that Congress established in 1972 in the Clean Water Act (CWA) to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. However, long-standing problems persist, and new problems have emerged. Water quality problems are diverse, ranging from pollution runoff from farms and ranches, city streets, and other diffuse or “nonpoint” sources, to toxic substances discharged from factories and sewage treatment plants.

There is little agreement among stakeholders about what solutions are needed, whether legislation is required to address the nation’s remaining water pollution problems, or whether regulatory authorities should be reduced. For some time, efforts to comprehensively amend the CWA have stalled as interests have debated whether and exactly how to change the law. Congress has instead focused legislative attention on enacting narrow bills to extend or modify selected CWA programs, but not comprehensive proposals.

CRS — The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): In Brief (January 16, 2015)

February 24, 2015 Comments off

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which mandates that U.S. transportation fuel must contain a minimum volume of biofuel, is a federal statutory requirement. The mandated minimum volume increases annually, and can be met using both corn-starch ethanol and advanced biofuels. In order for a biofuel to be applied toward the mandate, it must meet certain environmental and biomass feedstock criteria. A variety of factors (e.g., infrastructure, technology, weather, the “blend wall,” and federal assistance) have led to challenges, including delays by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in setting the annual volume standards and a lack of cellulosic biofuel production. Further, it is not clear how declining oil and gasoline prices will impact the biofuel industry. Challenges in implementing the RFS have led to investigations of the RFS by some in Congress, and to court rulings. More specifically, the 113th Congress held seven hearings where the RFS or renewable fuels was the focus or a recurring topic of discussion, and since 2010 there have been five legal challenges regarding EPA’s administration of the RFS. Because of concerns about the implementation and feasibility of the RFS, some Members of Congress have questioned whether it is time to amend or repeal the RFS, or to maintain the status quo.

This report provides a basic description of the RFS, including some of the widely discussed issues.

Post-9/11 Evolution of the United States’ Defining of the Terrorist Threat from Al Qaeda, CRS Insights (January 20, 2015)

February 24, 2015 Comments off

Post-9/11 Evolution of the United States’ Defining of the Terrorist Threat from Al Qaeda, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda-related entities have increased in number and become more diffuse; with these changes there has been an evolution in how the United States defines the terrorist threat. How the threat has evolved could influence consideration of new authorities and policies in the 114th Congress.

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