Government

  • Implementing new food safety measure hampered by lack of funding

    Roughly forty-eight million Americans have food-borne illness each year, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 128,000 of them are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. The cost of treatment and lost income is $15 billion a year or more, according to data from the Agriculture Department.When Congress passed the 2010 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new powers to prevent food outbreaks, however, it failed adequately to fund the agency, thereby diminishing its ability to implement new regulations and inspection powers on food producers and foreign suppliers.

  • Do you know where your data is?

    Bitglass, a data protection company, undertook an experiment aiming to gain better understanding of what happens to sensitive data once it has been stolen. In the experiment, stolen data traveled the globe, landing in five different continents and twenty-two countries within two weeks. Overall, the data was viewed more than 1,000 times and downloaded forty-seven times; some activity had connections to crime syndicates in Nigeria and Russia. “This experiment demonstrates the liquidity of breached data, underscoring the importance of discovering data breaches early,” said Nat Kausik, Bitglass CEO.

  • Chlorine attacks continue in Syria with no prospect of Assad being brought to account

    For more than a year, there have been numerous reports of chemical weapons attacks in Syria. This includes reported incidents which occurred in late March, as thousands of Syrians fled the city of Idlib in the face of a government-rebel stand-off. According to witnesses, chemical weapons were used. UN resolutions condemning the use of chemical weapons, however, do not imply immediate action to stop such use. The use of chlorine as a weapon in Syria thus goes on — and there is so far little evidence that the world’s major powers have the wherewithal to bring those responsible to justice. Continued geopolitical wrangling over Syria leaves those documenting the continuation of war crimes there almost completely powerless to stop what is happening. For now, the best we can hope for is that relevant organizations are allowed to continue to gather evidence for future trials —– and that pressure is put on all states to prosecute suspected perpetrators. This is to ensure that those who are committing such atrocities know that they will eventually be held to account.

  • As the drought worsens, California’s conservation measures fall short

    As the drought worsens, California is doing a poor job of conserving water. Water use has declined by only 2.8 percent in February compared with the same time in 2013. Some Southern Californians are actually increasing their water use. “These are sobering statistics — disheartening statistics, considering how hard we have been working on this,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of California’s water control board, which reported the findings. “We are very concern about these numbers. They highlight the need for further action.”

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  • House Democrats write court in support of Obama’s immigration executive order

    On Monday, 181 Democratic House members filed a joint amicus brief, telling the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuitthat the executive branch has the authority to make certain policy changes on immigration matters. Specifically, they noted that that the enforcement of immigration laws and the deferral of certain deportations are within the discretion of the executive branch. The lawmakers added that the White House is often better positioned than Congress to determine how to adjust immigration laws.

  • Rwanda: how to deal with a million genocide suspects

    Twenty-one years ago — on 7 April 1994 — the genocide that would kill up to one million people in Rwanda began. Another million individuals would be implicated as perpetrators, leaving Rwandans and many others to ask: how does a country begin to bring so many suspects to justice? In 2002, the Rwandan government created the gacaca — or “grass” in the country’s official language of Kinyarwanda — court system to tackle this enormous problem. Based on a traditional form of community dispute resolution, the gacaca courts functioned for ten years — until 2012. In total, an estimated one million people were tried within the gacaca courts. By Western legal standards, the gacaca courts had serious limitations. That said, the system’s ability to prosecute a massive number of suspected perpetrators in a devastated post-genocide environment is an accomplishment in itself. In fact, other countries could perhaps learn from the goal of integrating punitive responses (like prison sentences) with more restorative ones (like community service).

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  • Calif. business leaders: State’s worsening water situation threatens economic havoc

    California’s drought outlook is alarming to the point that Governor Jerry Brown recently announced the first-ever mandatory restrictions on water usage, aimed at reducing the state’s urban water use by 25 percent. For much of its history, California has measured up to its challenges while maintaining a healthy economy. Business leaders in the state say that the time has come for California once again to take bold actions to ensure a sustainable future. “We have a choice between protecting our economy by protecting our environment — or allowing environmental havoc to create economic havoc,” said former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who now co-chairs the Risky Business Project.Driscoll’s CEO Miles Reiter agrees: “The state of California has to deal with groundwater, or we’re going to ruin this state,” he said.

  • DHS seeking license plate readers (LPRs) technology -- again

    A year after privacy concerns led DHS to recall its solicitation for bids by private companies to help the department create a national license-plate database which would allow unlimited access to information obtained from commercial and law enforcement license plate readers (LPRs), the agency has renewed its solicitation on the basis that privacy concerns raised by civil liberties groups and lawmakers could be addressed and managed.

  • Canada delays national counter-terrorism program, so provinces launch own initiatives

    Canada’s national anti-terrorism program, which aims to identify signs of radicalization in young people and then connect them with social services, has been long-delayed, leading some communities to institute programs of their own with outside assistance.

  • U.S. says its counterterrorism strategy in Somalia is working, but critics disagree

    President Barack Obama has referred to his strategy against al-Shabaab militants in Somalia as a model of success for his administration’s low-investment, light-footprint approach to counterterrorism. Under his administration’s policies, U.S. drones have killed several of the group’s leaders, and African Union (AU) troops, backed by the U.S. military, have forced al-Shabaab fighters to flee large swaths of territory. Critics of this approach now say that last week’s massacre of 148 people at Garissa University College in Kenya by al-Shabaab militants, demonstrates the limits of Obama’s approach to counterterrorism.

  • DHS FY2015 preparedness grants total $1.6 billion

    Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson last week announced the release of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Notices of Funding Opportunity for nine DHS preparedness grant programs totaling more than $1.6 billion. “The grants reflect the Department’s focus on implementation of an all-of-nation, whole-community approach to the building, sustainment, and delivery of those core capabilities essential to achieving a secure and resilient nation,” DHS says.

  • Kenya appears to be drifting toward a violent break-up

    As Kenya is trying to cope with the grief following last Thursday’s al-Shabaab massacre of 148 Christian students at Garissa University in north-east Kenya, analysts and scholars are focused on the implications of the attack for the future of Kenya. These analysts say that the intensifying terror campaign by the Islamist al-Shabaab may gradually, but inexorably, deepens the religious divisions in Kenya, a country which was once seen as an island of stability and progress in a volatile region. Since independence in 1963, successive Kenyan governments have purposefully neglected the Muslim north-east, a region mired in debilitating poverty and lack of opportunity. As is the case with Boko Haram in north-east Nigeria, al-Shabaab, too, is exploiting regional grievances and the sense of alienation to establish itself as the champion of the marginalized Muslim communities in the north-east. Since 2011, the central government has begun to allocate more funds to development projects in the north-east, but the steady departure of thousands of Christians, many of them professionals – teachers, medical personnel, engineers, agronomists – from the dangerous north-east for safer places in central and south Kenya, has undermined these efforts.

  • N.C. scientific panel completes sea-level rise forecast draft

    In January, the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission advisory science panel completed its draft copy of sea-level rise forecasts for five regions along the North Carolina coast over the next thirty years. That draft copy has now been released for a public comment period that will last through 31 December, before being finalized in early 2016 and delivered to the state’s General Assembly by 1 March 2016.According to the 43-page draft report, by 2045, the seas will rise between 6.5 and 12.1 inches at Duck, between 4.8 and 11.6 inches at the Oregon Inlet Marina, between 4.9 and 9.3 inches at Beaufort, between 4.1 and 8.5 inches at Wilmington, and between 4.0 and 8.5 inches at Southport.

  • $500 million, 5-year plan to help Miami Beach withstand sea-level rise

    Miami Beach is investing up to $500 million in a new five-year plan to fortify its coastline against flooding caused by sea-level rise. Between seventy to eighty pumps that will be installed to drain the streets of water as it comes in. Additionally, the city is planning to raise roadways and sidewalks by 1.5 to 2 feet along the western side, which faces the Biscayne Bay. Florida is already seen as one of the most vulnerable states to climate change. Over the past 100 years, sea levels along the coast have risen 8 to 9 inches and are expected to rise by between three and seven inches within the next fifteen years, according to federal government projections.

  • P5+1, Iran agree on parameters of an agreement over Iran's nuclear program

    A couple of hours ago, the P5+1 and Iran announced the parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran’s nuclear program. These elements form the foundation upon which the final text of the JCPOA will be written between now and 30 June, and State Department says that they “reflect the significant progress” which has been made in discussions between the P5+1, the European Union, and Iran. Many important implementation details are still to be negotiated, and State stressed that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” The number of centrifuges in the hands of Iran will be reduced from the 19,000 they currently have to 6,104 – all of which older, first-generation IR-1 centrifuges – and 5,060 of them will be used to enrich uranium. For the next fifteen years, Iran will not enrich uranium beyond 3.67 percent.