Laws and regulations

  • Chemical facilities safetySecurity at U.S. chemical plants, and monitoring that security, still fall short

    Security experts, citing a critical Senate report, are warning that the effort by industry and the government to secure U.S. chemical facilities against terrorist attacks has so far been lackluster at best. The Senate report, sponsored by former Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), found that after eight years and $595 million dollars spent on efforts to further chemical plant security, there had been only thirty-nine compliance inspections of the 4,011 national facilities at risk. In any event, the current chemical facility security policies apply only to a fraction of the facilities which produce, store, or transport toxic materials around the country. The experts hope that H. R. 4007, which reformed and renewed the 2007 Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), and which became Public Law No: 113-254 on 18 December 2014, will improve and accelerate the security work needed at U.S. chemical facilities.

  • ImmigrationSpouses of H-1B visa holders may apply for their own work permits

    As the White House works to lift an injunction placed by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen to prevent the issuing of temporary work permits and deferred deportation to some undocumented parents of American citizens and permanent residents, the Obama administration said on Tuesday that it will move forward with another immigration reform measure it announced last November. Beginning 26 May, spouses of foreign tech workers who hold H-1B visas will be able to apply for work permits of their own.Silicon Valley leaders applauded the measure.

  • TerrorismJudgment against Palestinian Authority for supporting terrorism unlikely to be collected

    On Monday, a jury in Manhattan found the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) liable for their role in knowingly supporting six terror attacks in Israel between 2002 and 2004, in which Americans were killed and injured. The case was brought under the Antiterrorism Act of 1991, which allows American citizens who are victims of international terrorism to sue in U.S. courts and collect triple the amount of damages awarded by the courts. The judgment on Monday granted $655.5 million to the plaintiffs. Legal analysts, however, question whether victims and families of victims will actually get any money from the ruling.

  • DronesFAA proposes rules for integrating drones into U.S. airspace

    In an effort to integrate UAVs, or drones, into U.S. airspace, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to allow small commercial drones weighing up to fifty-five pounds to fly within sight of their remote pilots during daylight hours, according to the agency’s proposal for governing commercial drone flights. The drones must remain below 500 feet in the air and not exceed 100 mph.Industry advocates warned that drone research could move overseas if the U.S. government fails to quickly accept the widespread use of commercial drones.

  • Terrorism Illinois mother of four to stay in jail until she goes on trial for supporting terrorism

    A federal judge has refusedto release 34-year old mother of four, Mediha Medy Salkicevic, a Bosnian native residing in Schiller Park, Illinois, accused of conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists and providing material support to terrorists including the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Iraq. Salkicevic is member of a 6-person ring scheduled to go on trial in St. Louis on charges of providing material support to terrorist organization.

  • Dirty linenFlorida under-age sex scandal continues to reverberate

    Six years after financier Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to charges involving soliciting prostitution from girls as young as 14-years of age, the case has resurfaced with recent allegations that late last year, Britain’s Prince Andrew and American politicians, business people, and society high-flyers had sex with a 17-year old girl paid for by Epstein. Virginia Roberts, one of four women who claimed to have been victimized by Epstein, has submitted a 23-page affidavit detailing dates and locations of the times Epstein forced her and other women to have sex with his friends.

  • Public healthMeasles outbreak sparks bid to strengthen California vaccine law

    By Jenny Gold

    State lawmakers in California introduced legislation Wednesday that would require children to be fully vaccinated before going to school, a response to a measles outbreak that started in Southern California and has reached 107 cases in fourteen states. California is one of nineteen states that allow parents to enroll their children in school unvaccinated through a “personal belief exemption” to public health laws. The outbreak of measles that began in December in Anaheim’s Disneyland amusement park has spread more quickly in communities where many parents claim the exemption.

  • PrivacyEmergence of the Internet of Things significantly weakens privacy protection

    Researchers are urging consumers to take a proactive approach to ensure Internet privacy, particularly with companies that use and share Internet data to influence consumer behavior. They warn that privacy “approaches that rely exclusively on informing or ‘empowering’ the individual are unlikely to provide adequate protection against the risks posed by recent information technologies.”Those emerging risks include information compiled by Internet-connected appliances, cars, and health monitors.

  • Infrastructure protectionU.S. yet to develop a strategy to secure nation’s critical infrastructure

    For years, the U.S. government has warned federal and state agencies about the threat posed by hackers who may target computer systems responsible for operating nuclear plants, electric substations, oil and gas pipelines, transit systems, chemical facilities, and drinking water facilities. In February 2013, President Barack Obama issued a directive stating, “It is the policy of the United States to strengthen the security and resilience of its critical infrastructure against both physical and cyber threats.” Two years later the federal government has yet to develop or adopt a consensus on how to secure America’s critical infrastructure from cyber criminals.

  • ImmigrationThousands of undocumented immigrants see court hearings delayed to 2019 or later

    Thousands of undocumented immigrants seeking legalization through the U.S. court system have had their hearings canceled, and may have to wait until 2019 or later before an immigration judge hears their case. The surge in cancellations began late last summer when the Justice Department prioritized the roughly 60,000 Central American immigrants, specifically women and children, who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.

  • ImmigrationIn U-Visa limbo: Undocumented immigrants who are victims of crimes

    Many immigrants who are victims of crimes, along with their close family members, remain at risk and are denied the opportunity to live and work in the United States as long as Congress fails to increase the number of U-visaswhich immigration authorities can grant per year. Congress established the program in 2000 as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Actto provide an incentive for immigrant victims to report crimes to law enforcement without fear of deportation. Applicants must allege that they have been the victim of a serious crime and provide a certification form signed by law enforcement confirming the applicant’s help or potential help in investigating the crime. USCIS, which processes the applications in the order they were received, has not evaluated any applications submitted after December 2013.

  • Coastal infrastructureProjects using federal funds to adopt siting, building codes informed by sea-level rise

    Following remarks about climate change in his recent State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama issued an executive orderlast week directing federal, state, and local government agencies, using federal funds, to adopt stricter building and siting standards to reflect scientific projections that future flooding will be more intense and frequent due to climate change. Already, post-Superstorm Sandy, FEMA and (HUD) developed updated elevation standards for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and Rhode Island based on climate change projections, and required any approved projects to reflect those projections or local elevation requirements if they were tougher.

  • CybersecurityPatriot Act’s reauthorization an obstacle for cyber information sharing bill

    Recent cyber hacking incidents have persuaded lawmakers to pass a cyber information sharing bill which will help protect U.S. private sector networks. Business groups and federal intelligence agencies insist that information exchange is critical to protecting the nation’s cyber infrastructure. One of the hurdles to passing such a bill is that by 1 June, Congress must reauthorize sections of the Patriot Act which are the basis for the NSA’s most controversial surveillance programs. Many lawmakers consider NSA reform to be essential before they can support the White House’s cybersecurity proposal, which would allow cyber information sharing between the public and private sector.

  • TerrorismOBL’s assistant on trial in New York for 1998 bombing of U.S. Nairobi embassy

    Yesterday’s jury selection in a Manhattan courtroom brought tears to the eyes of many victims of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. Khalid al-Fawwaz, alleged assistant to Osama Bin Laden, will stand trial for his part in helping plan the attack and for operating an al-Qaeda media office in London between 1994 and the time of his arrest. Prosecution of those involved in the 1998 attack has been slow, but progress has been made. Six men involved in the bombing were sentenced to life sentences in November 1998, several other participants of the attack have been killed abroad, including Bin Laden, but four remain at large.

  • CybersecurityProposed changes to CFAA, RICO would criminalize cybersecurity research: Critics

    Cybersecurity professionals are concerned that the White House’s proposed changes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, could criminalize cybersecurity research. The legislative proposals would make accessing public documents illegal if the documents’ owner would not have approved; create stricter punishments for anyone convicted of a cybercrime; and would allow the government to seize assets connected to cybercrimes. The White House also proposes upgrading hacking to a “racketeering” offense.