Laws and regulations

  • Nebraska city free to enforce ordinance banning renting to undocumented immigrants

    In response to the increasing numbers of Latino immigrants in the town of Fremont, Nebraska, city leaders proposed in 2010 an ordinance which would ban renting to undocumented immigrants. The public outrage that followed led immigrant rights groups to request the U.S. Supreme Court to review and strike down the ordinance because it may interfere with federal immigration laws.

  • Cybersecurity bill not likely before a crisis proves its necessity

    A recent simulation, with 350 participants from congressional staffs, the cybersecurity sector, and the U.S. military, examined whether or not Congress was capable of passing a comprehensive cybersecurity legislation to protect the country’s critical infrastructure from debilitating cyberattacks. The simulation participants concluded that Congress is not likely to act unless there is a major cyber crisis, and that until such crisis occurs, smaller measures, such as the president’s voluntary cybersecurity framework, are the best that can be hoped for.

  • Wisconsin silent about cell phone tracking by state police

    The Wisconsin Department of Justice(DOJ) is refusing to acknowledge that it has deployed Stingray technology to track Wisconsin residents’ cellphones, despite reports claiming the state has used the technology during previous investigations. The state also denied a public records request made in April seeking details on how often Stingray technology is used, how data is stored and shared, and how often warrants are obtained.

  • Court dismisses case against U.S. charities supporting West Bank settlers

    U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman has ruled that plaintiffs describing themselves as residents of “Occupied Palestine” cannot proceed with claims that five U.S.-based organizations have funded attacks against Palestinians. The thirteen men and women — two Americans, ten Palestinians, and one Greek — argued that a portion of the territory where they reside is “within the internationally recognized borders of the future Palestinian state.”Furman deemed the allegation “entirely conclusory.”

  • California bill banning use of antibiotics in livestock withdrawn

    The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionreports that 23,000 people die every year from infections that cannot be cured, often due to overuse of antibiotics which creates drug resistant bugs. Last Wednesday, California Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) withdrew proposed legislation which would ban the sale of meat and poultry fed on nontherapeutic antibiotics. He lacked sufficient support from fellow legislators.

  • Gerry Adams arrest: peace process in Northern Ireland can’t take much more pressure

    The arrest last week of Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams for questioning relating to the 1972 murder of Jean McConville threatens to undermine an established peace process in Northern Ireland, a process where the Rubicon has already been crossed, involving political sacrifice on all sides. Last December, following negotiations with all sides to the conflict, U.S. diplomat Richard Haass proposed a way to deal with outstanding issues in the peace process, a proposal which saw the past firmly on the agenda. The Adams arrest contradicts the Haass proposal, as it continues with the eclectic and incoherent approach to dealing with the open issues from a painful past. The Haass proposals may not be perfect, but experience from other countries shows that no perfect mechanism for dealing with the past exists. The key question now is not how to get to something better. It is a choice between Northern Ireland having a dedicated thought-through forum in which to contend with the past, or being forced to make do with political and legal institutions that were not designed to deal with it. The peace process has come too far, with both sides sacrifices to get this far. Its achievements should not be treated so carelessly.

  • U.S. should significantly reduce incarceration rate: study

    There has been an unprecedented and internationally unique rise in U.S. state and federal prison populations, from 200,000 inmates in 1973 to 1.5 million in 2009. This increase occurred because of policy decisions such as mandatory sentencing, long sentences for violent and repeat offenses, and intensified criminalization of drug-related activity. Given the minimal impact of long prison sentences on crime prevention and the negative social consequences and burdensome financial costs of U.S. incarceration rates, which have more than quadrupled in the last four decades, the United States should revise current criminal justice policies to significantly reduce imprisonment rates, says a new report from the National Research Council. The dramatic rise in prison population “not serving the country well,” the report says.

  • More crude oil shipments by rail mean more accidents, but security measures lag

    American rail companies have long operated under federal laws, making it difficult for local officials to gather information on cargo and how rail companies select their routes. An increase in the number of trains transporting crude oil, accompanied by a series of derailments and explosions, has highlighted the dangers of transporting hazardous substances by rail.In February, the Department of Transportation announced that railroads had voluntarily agreed to apply the same routing rules to oil trains that they currently apply to other hazardous materials. Critics say more needs to be done.

  • Vermont mandates labeling of foods containing GMOs

    On Wednesday, legislators in Vermont passed a billrequiring the labeling of foods which contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), making the state the first in the United States to pass such a law without contingencies. Proponents of the law, and of similar attempts across the country, hailed the legislative approval as a victory. About twenty other states have pending measures regarding labeling GMO-based foods, but the biotech and food industries have been lobbyingfederal legislators to prevent such measures.

  • Britons worry that new EU food inspection rules would risk U.K. food safety

    The European Food Safety Authority(EFSA) in June will introduce a new Europe-wide food inspection regime, arguing that there is a need to modernize the food inspection process. The EFSA plans to reduce seventy pieces of detailed regulation down to a framework of five overarching laws to “reduce the burden on business.”Among other things, the new rules will replace laws that list diseases banned from the meat supply with a more general requirement on safety, health, and welfare. The EFSA claims that many of the diseases and parasites inspectors currently find are harmless to humans and are not considered major animal diseases. U.K. consumer advocates, meat inspectors, and veterinarians say the new rules threaten the safety of the U.K. food supply.

  • Federal judge: terrorism victims may seize Iranian-owned $500 million mid-Manhattan tower

    Federal Judge Katherine Forrest on Friday ruled that the Iranian companies which own the 650 Fifth Avenue building in Manhattan must forfeit the property – evaluated between $500 and $700 million — to victims of terrorism who hold billions of dollars in judgments against Iran. The claimants include families who lost relatives in the 9/11 attacks and the 1983 Beirut bombing, in both of which Iran was implicated. The Iranian owners have vowed to appeal, but legal experts say the building assets could possibly be distributed while the challenge is pending.

  • More stringent climate policies mean hard choices for coal plant operators

    Limiting climate change to 2°C means shutting down coal power plants — an unpopular proposition for coal power companies. A new study shows, however, that delaying climate policies could prove even worse for power plant owners. The reason: new power plants being built now, especially in China and India, are built to run for 30-50 years, paying off only after years of operation. Stringent climate policies, however, could make the cost of emission so high that coal power generation is no longer competitive, leaving new power plants sitting idle and their owners and investors with huge losses — a problem known as stranded capacity.

  • Critics: administration does not deport deportation-eligible undocumented immigrants

    A recent report by the Center for Immigration Studies(CIS), a Washington, D.C. nonprofit calling for more restrictive immigration policies, says that in 2013, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported fewer than 195,000 illegal immigrants despite receiving more than 720,000 notices on immigrants who could be eligible for deportation. Moreover, 68,000 immigrants released from pending deportation cases had criminal convictions on their records, the report stated. Pro-immigration advocates say the figures are misleading. “CIS is essentially asserting that a legal-permanent resident or a recently naturalized citizen with a broken tail light should be charged by ICE and removed from the country although there is no basis in law for such action,” said Benjamin Johnson of the American Immigration Council.

  • Michigan terrorism case hinges on informant’s testimony

    Mohammad Hassan Hamdan of Dearborn Heights, Michigan was arrested on Sunday, 16 March 2014, at Detroit Metro Airport by FBI agents who claim that Hamdan told an undercover informant of his plans to travel to Lebanon to join Hezbollah as a fighter supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Hamdan’s family and defense attorney note that the informantis a friend of Hamdan’s ex-girlfriend, and that he is receiving an immigration benefit for his services, two facts that should make the information he provides suspect.

  • Judge rebukes Sheriff Arpaio, his deputy for mocking, defying court orders

    Grant Murray Snow, District Judge for the United States District Court for Arizona, earlier this week rebuked Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County and chief deputy Jerry Sheridan for defying and mocking Snow’s order, issued last year, to stop targeting Latinos during routine patrols, traffics stops and work raids. “Whether or not the sheriff likes it, there is a distinction in immigration law that was not understood by the population and, with all due respect to you, it is not understood by the sheriff, which is that it is not a criminal violation to be in this country without authorization,” Judge Snow said pointedly.