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CRS — Water Infrastructure Financing: Proposals to Create a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) Program

June 5, 2014 Comments off

Water Infrastructure Financing: Proposals to Create a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) Program (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Policy makers have recently been considering several legislative options to help finance water infrastructure projects, including projects to build and upgrade wastewater and drinking water treatment systems. This report examines one particular option being debated, creation of a “Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act,” or WIFIA, program. Although several other approaches have also been proposed, much of the recent legislative and policy attention has been on WIFIA. In the 113th Congress, House and Senate conferees have included a WIFIA pilot program in H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014, or WRRDA. The conference report adopts WIFIA provisions from Senate-passed S. 601 with some additions and modifications. H.R. 3080 as passed by the House did not include similar provisions.

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Alert — GameOver Zeus P2P Malware

June 5, 2014 Comments off

GameOver Zeus P2P Malware
Source: US-CERT

GameOver Zeus (GOZ), a peer-to-peer (P2P) variant of the Zeus family of bank credential-stealing malware identified in September 2011, [1] uses a decentralized network infrastructure of compromised personal computers and web servers to execute command-and-control. The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), is releasing this Technical Alert to provide further information about the GameOver Zeus botnet.

See also: GameOver Zeus Botnet Disrupted (FBI)

CRS — Fish and Wildlife Service: Compensation to Local Governments

June 5, 2014 Comments off

Fish and Wildlife Service: Compensation to Local Governments (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Many counties are compensated for the presence of federal lands within their boundaries because these lands are exempt from local taxes. Counties with lands under the primary jurisdiction of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are compensated through the National Wildlife Refuge Fund (NWRF). Counties have argued that the program is underfunded; in some instances, counties raise lack of funding as an argument against the establishment of new refuges. At the same time, some hold that budget constraints argue for a reduction in the program. Congress has begun to examine the program for possible changes.

New From the GAO

June 5, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Maritime Critical Infrastructure Protection: DHS Needs to Better Address Port Cybersecurity. GAO-14-459, June 5.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-459
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663824.pdf

2. Fusion Energy: Actions Needed to Finalize Cost and Schedule Estimates for U.S. Contributions to an International Experimental Reactor. GAO-14-499, June 5.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-499
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663833.pdf

CRS — EPA’s Proposed Wood Stove / Wood Heater Regulations: Frequently Asked Questions

June 5, 2014 Comments off

EPA’s Proposed Wood Stove / Wood Heater Regulations: Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

On January 3, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released proposed emission standards for new residential wood heaters, the most common of which are wood stoves, pellet stoves, hydronic heaters, and forced air furnaces. The proposal, which would revise standards for wood stoves and pellet stoves and establish standards for other types of wood heaters for the first time, appeared in the Federal Register on February 3. This began a public comment period that is scheduled to run until May 5, 2014.

According to EPA, smoke from wood heaters contributes “hundreds of thousands of tons” of fine particles to the air throughout the country each year, accounting for nearly 25% of all area source air toxics cancer risks and 15% of non-cancer respiratory effects. In many areas, in wintertime, wood heaters are the largest source of particulate air pollution; yet many heater types are not currently subject to any federal emission standard.

The proposed rule would only gradually reduce this pollution, because it would apply only to new heaters (not those already in use) and it would give the industry a five-year grace period before its most stringent standards would take effect. Wood heaters can last for 40 years or more, so it will be decades before the full health benefits of the rule would be attained.

CRS — Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards

June 5, 2014 Comments off

Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

On March 3, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized new (“Tier 3”) emission standards for light duty (and some larger) motor vehicles. Light duty vehicles include cars, SUVs, vans, and most pickup trucks. Phase-in of the standards will begin with Model Year 2017. By the time Tier 3 is fully implemented in Model Year 2025, the standards for light duty vehicles will require reductions of about 80% in tailpipe emissions of non-methane organic gases and nitrogen oxides (both of which contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone) and of about 70% in tailpipe emissions of particulates. Ozone and particulates are the most widespread air pollutants in the United States. Both contribute to respiratory illness and premature mortality. EPA estimates that implementation of the standards will reduce premature mortality by 770 to 2,000 persons annually, as well as providing reductions in hospital admissions, lost work days, school absences, and restricted activity days for persons with respiratory illness. Assigning monetary values to these benefits, EPA estimates the annual benefits at between $6.7 billion and $19 billion in 2030.

Easier Commutes and Cheaper Housing are Increasing as Main Reasons for Moving, Census Bureau Reports

June 5, 2014 Comments off

Easier Commutes and Cheaper Housing are Increasing as Main Reasons for Moving, Census Bureau Reports
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Among the 36 million people 1 year and over who moved between 2012 and 2013, 5 percent said the most important reason for moving was to be closer to work or for an easier commute, while another 8 percent cited the desire for cheaper housing, according to a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. The most common reasons for moving in 2013 were “wanted new or better home/apartment,” “other housing reason” and “other family reason.”

The report, Reason for Moving: 2012 to 2013, presents an in-depth look at 19 reasons why people changed residences during the previous year and is the Census Bureau’s first on this topic since 2001.

CRS — The Northeast Heating Oil Supply, Demand, and Factors Affecting Its Use

June 5, 2014 Comments off

The Northeast Heating Oil Supply, Demand, and Factors Affecting Its Use (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The United States’ exports and imports of refined petroleum products include distillate fuel oil— the general category for heating oil. In 2013, distillate fuel oil imports exceeded 56.4 million barrels, up from the previous year’s 46.2 million barrels. However, distillate fuel imports have been declining. Overall, some 6.9 million households rely on heating oil nationally. The number of overall household users, however, has declined from 8.7 million in 2006-2007, and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects a 3% decline for 2013-2014. By and large, the greatest demand for home heating oil is in the Northeast United States, where some 5.5 million households relied on it for primary space heating during the winter of 2012-2013, consuming 645.5 gallons per household on average (compared to 766.4 gallons by Midwest households).

In response to the near doubling of heating oil prices in some Northeastern states during the winter of 1999-2000, which raised the concern of many Northeastern lawmakers, Congress authorized 2 million barrel Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve (NHHOR) in the Energy Policy Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-469). As an emergency stockpile of government-owned heating oil, Congress intended NHHOR to meet roughly 10 days of demand by the Northeastern states at the time. Currently, NHHOR stands at under 1 million barrels, split between Groton, CT (400,000 barrels), and Revere, MA (500,000 barrels).

CRS — The Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI): Budget Authority and Request, FY2010-FY2015

June 5, 2014 Comments off

The Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI): Budget Authority and Request, FY2010-FY2015 (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The United States supports international financial assistance for global climate change initiatives in developing countries. Under the Obama Administration, this assistance has been articulated primarily as the Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI), a platform within the President’s 2010 Policy Directive on Global Development. The GCCI aims to integrate climate change considerations into U.S. foreign assistance through a range of bilateral, multilateral, and private sector mechanisms to promote sustainable and climate-resilient societies, foster low-carbon economic growth, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and land degradation. The GCCI is implemented through programs at three “core” agencies: the Department of State, the Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Most GCCI activities at USAID are implemented through the agency’s bilateral development assistance programs. Many of the GCCI activities at the Department of State and the Department of the Treasury are implemented through international organizations, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Least Developed Country Fund and Special Climate Change Fund, as well as multilateral financial institutions such as the Global Environment Facility, the Clean Technology Fund, and the Strategic Climate Fund. The GCCI is funded through the Administration’s Executive Budget, Function 150 account, for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.

CRS — Genetically Engineered Salmon

June 5, 2014 Comments off

Genetically Engineered Salmon (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

If approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Atlantic salmon would be the first genetically engineered (GE) animal to be marketed in the United States for human consumption. Genetic engineering techniques are used by scientists to insert genetic material from one organism into the genome of another organism. Genetically engineered salmon have been modified to grow more quickly and use feed more efficiently. However, some are concerned that, in this rapidly evolving field, current technological and regulatory safeguards are inadequate to protect the environment and ensure that these products are safe to be used as food.

Preventing Norovirus Outbreaks; Food service has a key role

June 5, 2014 Comments off

Preventing Norovirus Outbreaks; Food service has a key role
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Norovirus often gets attention for outbreaks on cruise ships, but those account for only about 1% of all reported norovirus outbreaks. Norovirus is very contagious, and outbreaks can occur anywhere people gather or food is served. People with norovirus usually vomit and have diarrhea. Some may need to be hospitalized and can even die. Infected people can spread norovirus to others through close contact or by contaminating food and surfaces. Food service workers who have norovirus can contaminate food and make many people sick. In norovirus outbreaks for which investigators reported the source of contamination, 70% are caused by infected food workers.

Former Blue Angels’ CO Reprimanded at Admiral’s Mast (includes link to full report)

June 4, 2014 Comments off

Former Blue Angels’ CO Reprimanded at Admiral’s Mast
Source: U.S. Navy (U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs)

At an Admiral’s Mast proceeding on June 2, a former commanding officer of the U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron – the Blue Angels – was found guilty of violating Uniform Code Military Justice articles 92 (failure to obey an order or regulation) and 133 (conduct unbecoming of an officer) by fostering a hostile command climate, failing to stop obvious and repeated instances of sexual harassment, condoning widespread lewd practices within the squadron, and engaging in inappropriate and unprofessional discussions with his junior officers.

As a result, Capt. Gregory McWherter was given non-judicial punishment in the form of a punitive letter of reprimand.

Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm. Harry Harris Jr., convened the Admiral’s Mast after an investigation he ordered found McWherter allowed his officers and senior enlisted personnel to engage in inappropriate and sexually harassing behavior that significantly contributed to an unprofessional command climate during his second command tour as the Blue Angels commanding officer from May 2011 to November 2012.

The investigation concluded that McWherter witnessed, condoned, and encouraged behavior that, while juvenile and sophomoric in the beginning, ultimately and in the aggregate, became destructive, toxic, and hostile. According to the investigation, at no time did the behavior lead to sexual assault.

Melatonin: What You Need To Know

June 4, 2014 Comments off

Melatonin: What You Need To Know
Source: National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine

What’s the Bottom Line?

How much do we know about melatonin supplements?
Researchers have conducted many studies on whether melatonin supplements may help people with various sleep disorders; however, important questions remain about its usefulness, how much to take and when to take it, and long-term safety.

What do we know about the usefulness of melatonin supplements?
Melatonin supplements may help some people with certain sleep disorders, including jet lag, sleep problems related to shift work, and delayed sleep phase disorder (one in which people go to bed but can’t fall asleep until hours later), and insomnia.

What do we know about the safety of melatonin supplements?
Melatonin supplements appear to be safe when used short-term; less is known about long-term safety.

2013 Characteristics of New Housing

June 4, 2014 Comments off

2013 Characteristics of New Housing
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Using data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction, this report provides annual statistics on the characteristics of new privately owned residential structures in the four U.S. regions. The report includes characteristics such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the type of exterior wall material, the buyer’s source of financing and the structure’s square footage.

This year’s release includes an interactive graphic with a pictorial representation of the single-family characteristics.

New From the GAO

June 4, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Export Promotion: Trade Agencies Should Enhance Collaboration with State and Local Partners. GAO-14-393, May 21.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-393
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663363.pdf

2. DHS Intelligence Analysis: Additional Actions Needed to Address Analytic Priorities and Workforce Challenges. GAO-14-397, June 4.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-397
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663793.pdf

3. Education Grants: Promise Neighborhoods Promotes Collaboration but Needs National Evaluation Plan. GAO-14-432, May 5.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-432
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663000.pdf

Testimonies

1. Maritime Security: Progress and Challenges with Selected Port Security Programs, by Stephen L. Caldwell, director, homeland security and justice, before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-14-636T, June 4.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-636T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663783.pdf

2. Consumer’s Location Data: Companies Take Steps to Protect Privacy, but Practices Are Inconsistent, and Risks May Not Be Clear to Consumers, by Mark L. Goldstein, director, physical infrastructure issues, before the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, Senate Committee on the Judiciary. GAO-14-649T, June 4.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-649T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/663786.pdf

Immigration and the Rural Workforce

June 4, 2014 Comments off

Immigration and the Rural Workforce
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

Inflows of immigrants of all skill categories have long augmented the nation’s labor force. At present, several labor-intensive U.S. industries including construction, hotels, restaurants, and agriculture, employ a large number of foreign-born workers, not all of whom are legally authorized to work in this country. ERS research has examined the characteristics of the farm labor force and studied the implications of possible changes in immigration policy on farm labor markets. This research is summarized below, along with background information on immigration as it relates to farms and rural communities…

CBP — Use of Force Policy, Guidelines and Procedures Handbook

June 4, 2014 Comments off

Use of Force Policy, Guidelines and Procedures Handbook (PDF)
Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

A. General Guidelines

1. CBP policy on the use of force by Authorized Officers/Agents is derived from constitutional law, as interpreted by federal courts in cases such as Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989) and Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985), federal statutes and applicable DHS and CBP policies.

2. Authorized Officers/Agents may use “objectively reasonable” force only when it is necessary to carry out their law enforcement duties.

3. The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force is based on the totality of circumstances known by the officer/agent at the time of the use of force and weighs the actions of the officer/agent against the rights of the subject, in light of the circumstances surrounding the event. Reasonableness will be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer/agent on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.

4. The calculus of reasonableness embodies an allowance for the fact that law enforcement officers/agents are often forced to make split-second decisions – in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving – about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.

5. A use of force is “necessary” when it is reasonably required to carry out the Authorized Officer’s/Agent’s law enforcement duties in a given situation, considering the totality of facts and circumstances of such particular situation. A use of deadly force is “necessary” when the officer/agent has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer/agent or to another person.

6. An Authorized Officer/Agent may have to rapidly escalate or de-escalate through use of force options, depending on the totality of facts and circumstances of the particular situation.

7. Based on the totality of circumstances, different officers/agents may have different responses to the same situation, any of which may be both reasonable and necessary. The level of force applied must reflect the totality of circumstances surrounding the situation, including the presence of imminent danger to the officer/agent or others.

8. If feasible, and if to do so would not increase the danger to the officer/agent or others, a verbal warning to submit to the authority of the officer/agent shall be given prior to the use of force. If a particular situation allows for the issuance of a verbal warning, the officer/agent:
a. Should have a reasonable basis to believe that the subject can comprehend and comply with the warning; and
b. Allow sufficient time between the warning and the use of force to give the subject a reasonable opportunity to voluntarily comply with the warning.

9. Following any incident involving the use of force, Authorized Officers/Agents shall seek medical assistance for any person who appears, or claims to be, injured.

See also: DHS OIG — CBP Use of Force Training and Actions To Address Use of Force Incidents (PDF; redacted)

NTIA Seeks Comment on Big Data and the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

June 4, 2014 Comments off

NTIA Seeks Comment on Big Data and the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights
Source: National Telecommunications and Information Administration

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is seeking public comment on how developments related to “big data” impact the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

Today, NTIA issued a Request for Comments on how issues raised by big data impact the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, the Obama Administration’s framework for privacy protections released in February 2012. Today’s action was called for in the White House’s big data and privacy working group report on how big data is transforming the way we live and work. Counselor to the President John Podesta convened senior government officials, including U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, to conduct the wide-ranging review of big data and privacy, and the group presented its findings to President Obama on May 1.

“As recommended in the big data and privacy working group report, the Commerce Department is taking the lead in examining big data issues and their impact on the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and our economy,” Secretary Pritzker said. “The Obama administration takes personal privacy very seriously, and we must ensure the necessary privacy protections along with big data developments. Today’s request for comments is part of our continuing dialogue among government, business, consumers, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders about maximizing the benefits and minimizing the risks of big data.”

“As the White House’s big data report notes, there are many potential societal benefits from the use of big data,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling. “We are now asking the public to help us assess how big data might impact the protections called for in the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.”

Cross-Cultural Competence in the Department of Defense: An Annotated Bibliography

June 4, 2014 Comments off

Cross-Cultural Competence in the Department of Defense: An Annotated Bibliography (PDF)
Source: Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences

Given the current operational context, research both inside and outside the DoD has increasingly focused its efforts on better understanding the factors that contribute to effective cross-cultural performance. Of particular interest is the role cross-cultural competence (3C) plays in Service members’ ability to navigate cultural environments, as well as the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities that military training should be targeting to improve performance-related outcomes. Over the past ten years, numerous studies and theoretical pieces have been developed that explore these issues as they relate to both military and general populations. This annotated bibliography represents an initial attempt to gather this collection of work into a single, comprehensive review to be used as a reference for those conducting research in this domain. Annotations hail from a number of different disciplines, including military psychology, organizational psychology, anthropology, and sociology, and range in content from theoretical to empirical studies, efforts at model building and computer technologies for understanding, and various methods for teaching and assessing 3C.

See also: Soldier Development Following Negative Cross-Cultural Experiences: An Integrated Review of the Literature (PDF)

U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance to Improve Educational Outcomes of Children and Youth in Foster Care

June 4, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance to Improve Educational Outcomes of Children and Youth in Foster Care
Source: U.S. Department of Education

Today the U.S. Department of Education is releasing resources to emphasize and support the needs of foster care students. In addition to new guidance, ED has launched a dedicated web page, Students in Foster Care, and issued a joint letter with the U.S. Department of Health Human Services to education authorities about increasing educational stability for children and youth in foster care.

The guidance released today will make it easier for caseworkers, child welfare agencies and tribal organizations responsible for the placement and care of children and youth in foster care to have direct access to their education records. The guidance provides states with information to implement the Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA), an amendment to The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It also details the amendment’s impact on the confidentiality provisions in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The guidance will help states improve educational and developmental outcomes for students in foster care by providing authorized agencies with access to the records they need to meet the early intervention or educational needs of the students.

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