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Iran Sanctions

Description: There appears to be a growing international consensus to adopt progressively strict economic sanctions against Iran to try to compel it to compromise on its further nuclear development. The U.S. view - increasingly shared by major allies-is that sanctions should target Iran's energy sector, which provides about 80% of government revenues, and try to isolate Iran from the international financial system. U.S. efforts to curb international energy investment in Iran's energy sector began in 1996 with the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA). ISA has been expanded significantly in 2010. This report discusses said expansions, provides background on the ISA, and explores how this Act has affected
Date: October 7, 2010
Creator: Katzman, Kenneth

Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests

Description: This report discusses the current political and economic conditions in Russia, focusing on the impact of Vladimir Putin's leadership and the leadership of his successor/protégé, Dmitriy Medvedev, both of which have steered Russia away from progress toward democratization. The report also discusses the state of the economy since the Soviet collapse in 1999, how the recent global economic downturn has affected Russia, the state of Russia's military, and the current relationship between Russia and the United States.
Date: November 4, 2010
Creator: Nichol, Jim

Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress

Description: This report discusses the relationship between the United States and Japan, including Japanese efforts to support the U.S. in the wake of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks and the two countries' economic ties, especially with regards to the recent economic downturn. This report also discusses the general political atmosphere of Japan, including the recent and ongoing political turmoil in Tokyo.
Date: October 6, 2010
Creator: Chanlett-Avery, Emma; Cooper, William H. & Manyin, Mark E.

The European Parliament

Description: The European Parliament (EP) is one of the three key institutions of the European Union (EU), and the only EU institution whose members are directly elected. This report discusses the construction and history of the EP, its role in functions of the EU as well as internationally, various international supports and criticisms of the EP, and the EP's ties with the U.S. Congress.
Date: November 5, 2010
Creator: Archick, Kristin & Mix, Derek E.

Islam: Sunnis and Shiites

Description: The majority of the world's Muslim population follows the Sunni branch of Islam, and approximately 10%-15% of all Muslims follow the Shiite (Shi'ite, Shi'a, Shia) branch. Shiite populations constitute a majority in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan. Sunnis and Shiites share most basic religious tenets. However, their differences sometimes have been the basis for religious intolerance, political infighting, and sectarian violence. This report includes a historical background of the Sunni-Shiite split and discusses the differences in religious beliefs and practices between and within each Islamic sect as well as their similarities. The report also relates Sunni and Shiite religious beliefs to discussions of terrorism and sectarian violence that may be of interest to Congress.
Date: November 9, 2010
Creator: Blanchard, Christopher M.

Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance

Description: This report discusses the current political state of Afghanistan, as well as the Afghan government. This report also discusses Afghanistan's relationship with the United States, particularly U.S. efforts to urge President Hamid Karzai, to address corruption within the Afghan government. The report also includes discussion of election fraud and corruption in Afghanistan.
Date: October 13, 2010
Creator: Katzman, Kenneth

Iraq: Politics, Elections, and Benchmarks

Description: Iraq's political system, the result of a U.S.-supported election process, has been increasingly characterized by peaceful competition, as well as by attempts to form cross-sectarian alliances. However, ethnic and factional infighting continues, sometimes involving the questionable use of key levers of power and legal institutions. This report discusses the current political climate of Iraq and also explores speculations as to what will happen after U.S. troops completely withdraw from the region at the end of 2011.
Date: October 4, 2010
Creator: Katzman, Kenneth

Unauthorized Alien Students, Higher Education, and In-State Tuition Rates: A Legal Analysis

Description: Currently, federal law prohibits states from granting unauthorized aliens certain postsecondary educational benefits on the basis of state residence, unless equal benefits are made available to all U.S. citizens. This prohibition is commonly understood to apply to the granting of "in-state" residency status for tuition purposes. In the 110th Congress, several bills that would amend this federal law have been introduced. Meanwhile, some states have passed laws aimed at making unauthorized state residents eligible for in-state tuition without violating this provision. This report provides a legal overview of cases involving immigrant access to higher education, as well as an analysis of the legality of state laws that make in-state tuition rates available to illegal immigrants.
Date: September 21, 2010
Creator: Feder, Jody

Navy Aegis Cruiser and Destroyer Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress

Description: The Navy has begun a multi-billion dollar program to modernize its 84 existing Aegis cruisers and destroyers over a period of more than 20 years. This report explores this program in detail, including the reasons for the program and the oversight issues it poses for Congress. This report will be updated as events warrant.
Date: September 28, 2010
Creator: O'Rourke, Ronald

The Kurds in Post-Saddam Iraq

Description: The Kurdish-inhabited region of northern Iraq is relatively peaceful and prospering economically, but the Iraqi Kurds' political autonomy and political strength in post- Saddam Iraq is causing friction with Arab leaders in Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. However, an overall reduction in violence in Iraq, coupled with continued U.S. political influence over the Kurds, is likely to prevent a destabilizing escalation of the Iraqi Kurd-Arab disputes. Also see CRS Report RL31339, Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security, by Kenneth Katzman.
Date: October 1, 2010
Creator: Katzman, Kenneth

Navy Irregular Warfare and Counterterrorism Operations: Background and Issues for Congress

Description: This report discusses the U.S. Navy's efforts in recent years to strengthen its ability to carry out irregular warfare (IW) counterterrorism (CT) activities. Some of the activities and organizations explored in this report are the creation of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), the Navy's riverine force, the Navy Irregular Warfare Office, and the Global Maritime Partnership. The report also discusses what potential oversight issues the Navy's IW and CT activities pose for Congress, including budget priorities.
Date: October 22, 2010
Creator: O'Rourke, Ronald

The European Union: Questions and Answers

Description: This report provides a brief overview of the European Union (EU), an economic and political partnership between 27 sovereign member states. The report describes the formation of the EU, the three main institutions of the EU, and the EU's relationship with the United States.
Date: November 5, 2010
Creator: Archick, Kristin & Mix, Derek E.

China's Currency: An Analysis of the Economic Issues

Description: This report provides an overview of the economic issues surrounding the current debate over China's currency policy. It identifies the economic costs and benefits of China's currency policy for both China and the United States, and possible implications if China were to allow its currency to significantly appreciate or to float freely. It also examines proposed legislation in the 111th Congress that seek to address China's currency policy.
Date: October 1, 2010
Creator: Morrison, Wayne M. & Labonte, Marc

China's Currency: An Analysis of the Economic Issues

Description: This report provides an overview of the economic issues surrounding the current debate over China's currency policy. It identifies the economic costs and benefits of China's currency policy for both China and the United States, and possible implications if China were to allow its currency to significantly appreciate or to float freely. It also examines proposed legislation in the 111th Congress that seek to address China's currency policy.
Date: October 29, 2010
Creator: Morrison, Wayne M. & Labonte, Marc

Navy Irregular Warfare and Counterterrorism Operations: Background and Issues for Congress

Description: The Navy for several years has carried out a variety of irregular warfare (IW) and counterterrorism (CT) activities, and has taken some steps in recent years to strengthen its ability to conduct such activities. Among the most readily visible of the Navy's current IW operations are those being carried out by Navy sailors serving ashore in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Navy's IW and CT activities pose a number of potential oversight issues for Congress, including the definition of Navy IW activities, specific Navy IW budget priorities, and how much emphasis to place on IW and CT activities in future Navy budgets.
Date: September 28, 2010
Creator: O'Rourke, Ronald

U.S. Military Casualty Statistics: Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom

Description: This report presents difficult-to-find statistics regarding U.S. military casualties in Operation New Dawn (OND), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF, Afghanistan), including those concerning post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), amputations, evacuations, and the demographics of casualties. Some of these statistics are publicly available at the Department of Defense's (DOD's) website, while others have been obtained through contact with experts at DOD. Daily updates of total U.S. military casualties in OND, OIF, and OEF can be found at the DOD's website, at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf.
Date: September 28, 2010
Creator: Fischer, Hannah

DOD Leases of Foreign-Built Ships: Background for Congress

Description: The Department of Defense (DOD) in recent years has leased some foreign-built cargo ships for total periods, including options and renewals, of almost 10 years -- a length of time that some observers argue effectively circumvents a legal requirement that U.S. military ships be built in U.S. shipyards. These observers, particularly the American Shipbuilding Association (ASA), have proposed reducing the current five-year legal limit on ship leases to two years for foreign-built ships. DOD has opposed the idea, arguing that its ship leases are the most cost-effective way to meet its needs for the ships in question. This report briefly discusses this issue, as well as related legislation.
Date: September 28, 2010
Creator: O'Rourke, Ronald

Obstruction of Congress: An Abridged Overview of Federal Criminal Laws Relating to Interference with Congressional Activities

Description: This report briefly discusses obstruction of justice, specifically regarding Congressional activities. Obstruction of justice is defined as the frustration of governmental purposes by violence, corruption, destruction of evidence, or deceit. This is an abridged version of CRS Report RL34304, Obstruction of Congress: A Brief Overview of Federal Law Relating to Interference with Congressional Activities, by Charles Doyle, without the footnotes, quotations, or citations to authority found in the longer report.
Date: November 5, 2010
Creator: Doyle, Charles

Veterans' Benefits: Pension Benefit Programs

Description: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers several pension benefit programs for veterans as well as their surviving spouses and dependent children. The most current pension programs available (for those meeting the eligibility criteria on or after January 1, 1979) are the Improved Disability Pension for certain low-income veterans and the Improved Death Pension for certain low-income surviving spouses or children of veterans. There is also a special pension for Medal of Honor recipients. This report describes these programs, including the eligibility criteria and current benefit levels. This report will be updated as needed to reflect legislative activity and changes to benefits or eligibility requirements.
Date: October 18, 2010
Creator: Scott, Christine & Davis, Carol D.

Disability Retirement for Federal Employees

Description: This report briefly discusses sick leave policies for federal civilian employees, as well as disability benefits available under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA).
Date: September 30, 2010
Creator: Isaacs, Katelin P.

The Federal Food Safety System: A Primer

Description: The combined efforts of the food industry and the regulatory agencies often are credited with making the U.S. food supply among the safest in the world. Nonetheless, many food-related health issues persist. At issue is whether the current U.S. regulatory system has the resources and structural organization to protect consumers from these dangers. Also at issue is whether the federal food safety laws themselves, first enacted in the early 1900s, have kept pace with the significant changes that have occurred in the food production, processing, and marketing sectors since then.
Date: September 22, 2010
Creator: Johnson, Renée

Defense Acquisition: Use of Lead System Integrators (LSIs) -- Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress

Description: Some in Congress have expressed concern about the government's use of private-sector lead system integrators (LSIs) for executing large, complex, defense-related acquisition programs. LSIs are large, prime contractors hired to manage such programs. Supporters of the LSI concept argue that it is needed to execute such complex acquisition efforts, and can promote better technical oversight and innovation. This report discusses both the praise for and criticisms of the LSI concept, as well as related legislation.
Date: October 8, 2010
Creator: Grasso, Valerie Bailey

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Description: This report discusses the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a free trade agreement that includes nations on both sides of the Pacific. Original members of the TPP were Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore. The United States, Australia, Peru, and Vietnam have committed themselves to joining and expanding this group. This report discusses similar trade partnerships, the importance of Asia to U.S. trade and security interests, and U.S. participation in the TPP.
Date: November 1, 2010
Creator: Fergusson, Ian F. & Vaughn, Bruce