Laws and regulations

  • EbolaStates’ waste disposal laws limit hospitals’ Ebola-related disposal options

    As U.S. hospitals prepare their staff for the possibility of admitting Ebola patients, many are concerned with the laws governing the disposal of Ebola-contaminated medical waste. Protective gloves, gowns, masks, medical instruments, bed linens, cups, plates, tissues, towels, and even pillowcases used on a single Ebola patient treated in a U.S. hospital will generate roughly eight 55-gallon barrels of medical waste each day. The CDC recommends autoclaving or incinerating the waste as a way to destroy the microbes, but California and at least seven other states prohibit burning infected waste.

  • CybersecurityFBI wants Congress to mandate backdoors in tech devices to facilitate surveillance

    In response to announcements by Appleand Googlethat they would make the data customers store on their smartphones and computers more secure and safer from hacking by law enforcement, spies, and identity thieves, FBI director James Comey is asking Congress to order tech companies to build their devices with “backdoors,” making them more accessible to law enforcement agencies.Privacy advocates predict that few in Congress will support Comey’s quest for greater surveillance powers.

  • Real IDMost states are complying with Real ID, but a few lag behind

    Forty U.S. states and some territories have adopted the Real ID Actrequirements for state driver’s licenses and identification cards, mandated by the federal government. Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New York, Oklahoma, and Washington are still considered noncompliant as of October 2014. DHS announced a phased enforcement of the Real ID Act in 2013, and residents of non-complying states are already facing restrictions – such as having to present a passport or birth certificate in order to enter restricted areas in federal facilities or nuclear power plants. These restrictions will only tighten between now and January 2016.

  • HazmatDebate continues over releasing Pennsylvania crude oil shipment information

    Shipment of crude oil by rail in the United States has increased from 800,000 barrels a day in 2012 to 1.4 million in 2014. In western Pennsylvania, over seventy-five million gallons of crude oil are passing through Allegheny and Westmoreland counties to refineries in Philadelphia. Release of the recently classified rail transport records by Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) was a result of a federal mandate ordering railway companies to share information on interstate shipments of crude oil with state emergency management officials.Railway companies claim that releasing the information threatens security and is commercially sensitive.

  • CrimeExperts urge caution in relying upon eyewitness identifications in criminal cases

    A new report from the National Research Council recommends best practices that law enforcement agencies and courts should follow to improve the likelihood that eyewitness identifications used in criminal cases will be accurate. Science has provided an increasingly clear picture of the inherent limits in human visual perception and memory that can lead to errors, as well as the ways unintentional cues during law enforcement processes can compromise eyewitness identifications, the report says.

  • ImmigrationIn U.S. criminal courts, non-citizens face harsher sentencing than citizens

    Non-Americans in the U.S. federal court system are more likely to be sentenced to prison and for longer terms compared to U.S. citizens, according to a new study. The researchers analyzed U.S. federal district court data from 1992 to 2008 for this study. In 2008, for example, 96 percent of convicted non-citizens received a prison sentence, compared to 85 percent of U.S. citizens. The researchers said that the issue of punishment disparities between citizens and non-citizens is a growing concern as the number of non-citizens in the United States — estimated at more than twenty-two million — continues to grow.

  • Terrorism financingA first: Jury finds bank guilty of financing terrorism

    In a major development on the terrorism financing front, a U.S. jury found Arab Bank Plc liable for providing material support to Hamas and ordered the bank to compensate nearly 300 Americans who are either victims or relatives of victims of at least two dozen attacks tied to Hamas in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

  • IslamAnti-Islamic posters to be displayed on NYC buses, subway stations

    An advocacy group has purchased $100,000 worth of advertising space on a hundred New York City buses and two subway stations to display anti-Islamic messages and images. The campaign features six posters, including one of James Foley, the American journalist beheaded by ISIS in August, and another of Adolf Hitler. In 2012 the MTA rejected the group ad purchase, but a court ruled that the posters were “political” in nature, and therefore covered by the First Amendment.

  • ImmigrationImmigration hearings hampered by remote technology glitches, raising constitutional issues

    The are currently nearly 400,000 pending deportation cases, shared among just 230 immigration judges in fifty-nine courtrooms. Immigration cases in the southern United States are encountering increasing delays and hardships due to the necessity of having to rely on wireless and mobile technology in order to have proper communication in the courtroom. Some even worry that the problems with the systems in place, including interpreters using teleconference equipment to translate large statements at a time, may be used in appeals on grounds that it is unconstitutional.

  • CybersecurityProgram aiming to facilitate cyberthreat information sharing is slow to take off

    President Barack Obama’s 2013 executive orderto improve critical infrastructure cybersecurity allows DHS to expand an information-sharing program, once restricted to Pentagoncontractors, to sixteencritical infrastructure industries. The Enhanced Cybersecurity Servicesprogram transmits cyber threat indicators to selected companies so they may prepare their network protection systems to scan for those indicators. A DHS inspector general (IG) reportreleased on Monday has found that just about forty companies from three of the sixteen industries — energy, communications services, and defense — are part of the program. Moreover, only two ISPs are authorized to receive the indicators.

  • ImmigrationImmigration judge says changes needed in “fast-tracking” immigration cases

    While the Obama administration cites evidence that the surge of migrant children from Central America is declining, a leading immigration judge is arguing that the Department of Justice (DOJ) process of “fast-tracking” the cases — often without any legal representation for the defendant — is padding the numbers and also creating other problems of its own.

  • ImmigrationImmigration cases clog immigration courts across the country

    The highly publicized mass immigration of Central American children into the United States — roughly 57,000 over a little under a year — many court systems are facing a crisis as the number of judges, lawyers, and juries available cannot keep up with demand. Across the United States, that caseload reached 375,373 trials last month — an average of 1,500 per each of the country’s 243 immigration judges. Some rescheduled cases are being pushed back as late as 2017.

  • BiolabsThe number of labs handling deadly germs grows, and so do calls for regulating lab safety

    The number of labs handling dangerous pathogens continues to grow, and so does the number of accidents involving dangerous pathogens. The number of reported accidents involving dangerous microbes grew rapidly from just sixteen in 2004 to 128 in 2008, and 269 in 2010, the last year reported.Experts note that currently there is no single federal agency responsible for assessing overall laboratory needs — instead, departments and agencies only assess the needs for labs relative to their respective missions.

  • ImmigrationAppeals Court blocks Arizona’s order denying driver’s licenses to “dreamers”

    A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked an August 2012 executive order issued by Arizona’s Republican governor Jan Brewer which denies driver’s licenses and other public benefits to young immigrants who are allowed to remain in the United States under a 2012 Obama administration policy.

  • Law-enforcement technologySupreme Court cites NIST guidelines in ruling on cell phone searches

    As digital technology transforms twenty-first century life, questions about privacy rights abound. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on one such question in late June: if you are arrested, can the police search your cell phone without first obtaining a warrant? No, according to the 25 June 2014 ruling in Riley v. California. “Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans ‘the privacies of life,’ … The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority.