Week in Review

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Senate passes Natural Resources Management Act, European Union agrees to change its copyright law, and more…

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  • The U.S. Senate passed the Natural Resources Management Act in a bipartisan vote. The bill would establish more than 1 million acres of new conservation areas. It would also renew the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses funds from offshore oil leases to protect these areas. The bill will now go to the U.S. House of Representatives for approval.
  • The European Union (EU) agreed to revamp its copyright law, which it said would “adapt copyright rules to today’s world,” where platforms “have become the main gateways to access creative works and press articles.” The law would allow news organizations to seek payment from companies such as Google, which displays previews of news stories on its Google News platform. Google lobbied against its adoption, reportedly stating that Google News is “not a revenue-generating product” and that the law could force the company to shut down its News platform in Europe.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual enforcement report. Susan Bodine, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, stated that a “strong” enforcement program “is essential to achieving positive public health and environmental outcomes,” and she emphasized the agency’s focus on site cleanup and reducing childhood exposure to lead. The data, however, showed that EPA assessed significantly fewer penalties, conducted fewer inspections, and initiated fewer civil cases in 2018 than in any other year this decade.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warning and advisory letters to 17 companies marketing dietary supplements that claimed to treat Alzheimer’s disease. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated that the claims were “unproven” and could “delay proper medical care” for consumers who are misled by the supplements’ claims. FDA also announced a broad, new effort intended to “strengthen regulation of dietary supplements” this past week.
  • The U.S. Department of the Treasury clarified its rules governing Venezuelan bond trading following new sanctions levied against Venezuela in January. The Treasury Department’s latest guidance clarified how to remove money from Venezuelan investments according the sanctions’ rules. The guidance also stated that U.S. persons are allowed to keep their existing holdings in Venezuelan assets.
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai repeated his call for telephone service providers to implement caller ID authentication. He described caller ID as a “significant step towards ending the scourge of spoofed robocalls” and threatened that the FCC “will have to consider regulatory intervention” should service providers delay implementation.
  • President Trump issued an executive order calling for greater commitment to artificial intelligence (AI) development. The order highlighted several “strategic objectives,” including establishing technical and international standards that “minimize vulnerability” and promote “public trust” in AI systems, increasing investment in research, and emphasizing computer science education and technology skills training for “the next generation” of American workers.
  • In a 54-45 vote, the U.S. Senate confirmed William Barr as attorney general, replacing acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker. Barr previously served as attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush, and reportedly stated that he would respect Justice Department regulations specifying that Robert Mueller’s investigative report should remain confidential.
  • President Donald J. Trump nominated Michael Eric Wooten to serve as the administrator for the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) within the Office of Management and Budget. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Wooten would direct OFFP’s efforts to “promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness” in government spending when procuring essential goods and services. Wooten currently serves as a senior advisor within the Federal Student Aid office of the U.S. Department of Education.


  • Use of new tobacco products such as vape pens and e-cigarettes has risen sharply among youths despite the regulatory power granted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, wrote Roseann B. Termini of Widener University’s Delaware Law School in a forthcoming article for the Seton Hall Legislative Journal. Termini argued that FDA’s delay in implementing regulations such as graphic warning images on tobacco products, along with the Act’s failure to consider electronic tobacco devices, are responsible for the rise in use. She suggested that FDA use comprehensive guidance documents—which would not be legally binding—or declaratory orders—which would the legal force of a formal rule—to curtail youth tobacco use.
  • In a recent paper, Cayrua Chaves Fonseca of Spain’s Center for Monetary and Financial Studies found that Santa Monica, California’s Home-Sharing Ordinance has not succeeded in reducing residential rent prices. The ordinance, which Chaves Fonseca described as one of “the strictest home-sharing regulations currently in place,” was passed out of a concern that Airbnb rentals were crowding out rentals for long-term tenants. But Chaves Fonseca concluded that, although the ordinance has succeeded in pushing out Airbnb listings, it has not achieved its “central goal” of reducing long-term rental rates.
  • An independent report entitled The Cairncross Review advanced several recommendations to preserve the quality of journalism in the United Kingdom, with special emphasis on the impact of online news platforms. Among several other suggestions, the report recommended focused government involvement to support public-interest news providers and establish “regulatory supervision” of online news platforms.