Independent government commission charged by the legislature with setting and enforcing standards for specific industries in the private sector. The concept was invented by the U.S. government in 1887, and regulatory agencies exist almost exclusively in the U.S. The theory is that a commission of experts on the industry being regulated is better equipped to regulate it than the legislature or executive departments. Designed to operate with a minimum of executive or legislative supervision, agencies have executive, legislative, and judicial functions, and their regulations have the force of law. Important regulatory agencies include the Food and Drug Administration, OSHA, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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Organization that gathers, writes, and distributes news to newspapers, periodicals, radio and television broadcasters, government agencies, and other users. It does not publish news itself but supplies news to subscribers, who, by sharing costs, obtain services they could not otherwise afford. All the mass media depend on agencies for the bulk of the news they carry. Some agencies focus on special subjects or on a local area or nation. Many news agencies are cooperatives, with members providing news from their area to a pool for general use. The largest news agencies are United Press International, Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.
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Specialized organization that supplies information on the creditworthiness and financial strength of business firms. The first such agency, the Mercantile Agency, was founded in New York City in 1841. It provided information to businesses that were expanding nationally and were unable to assess the credit history of prospective customers in distant locations. It changed its name to R. G. Dun & Co. after 1859 and merged with the Bradstreet Co. in 1933 to form Dun & Bradstreet, Inc., the best-known mercantile agency. Mercantile agencies may provide information on all types of business firms or may limit their investigations to firms in a particular line of trade or a particular region. Most agencies provide both general and special reports. General reports, issued periodically on all firms investigated by the agency, assign a rating to the firm's financial statement and creditworthiness. Special reports containing more detailed information are issued to clients of the agency on request. Seealso credit bureau.
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In law, a relationship in which one party (the agent) acts on behalf of and under the control of another (the principal) in dealing with third parties. It has its roots in ancient servant-master relations. Agency becomes a legal issue when the agent injures or wrongs a third party. In Anglo-American law, principals are bound by and liable for the acts of such agents as stockbrokers, business agents, contractors, real-estate agents, lawyers, union representatives, managing partners, and private detectives. Seealso regulatory agency.
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U.S. intelligence agency responsible for cryptographic and communications intelligence and security. Established in 1952 by a presidential directive (not by law), it has operated largely without Congressional oversight. Its director has always been a general or an admiral. Its mission includes the protection and formulation of codes, ciphers, and other cryptology as well as the interception, analysis, and solution of coded transmissions. It conducts research into all forms of electronic transmission and operates listening posts around the world for the interception of signals. Though its budget and the number of its employees is secret, the NSA is acknowledged to be far larger than the Central Intelligence Agency, possessing financial resources that rival those of the world's largest companies.
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International organization officially founded in 1957 to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Based in Vienna, its activities include research on the applicability of nuclear energy to medicine, agriculture, water resources, and industry; provision of technical assistance; development of radiation safeguards; and public relations programs. Following the Persian Gulf War, IAEA inspectors were called on to certify that Iraq was not manufacturing nuclear weapons. The IAEA and its director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2005.
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Western European space and space-technology research organization headquartered in Paris. It was founded in 1975 from the merger of the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO) and the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO), both established in 1964. Members are Austria, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Canada, through a special cooperative agreement, participates in some projects. The ESA developed the Ariane series of space launch vehicles, and it supports a launch facility in French Guiana. It has launched a system of meteorological satellites (Meteosat) as well as the Giotto space probe, which examined the nucleus of Halley's Comet, and Hipparcos, a satellite that measured the parallaxes, positions, and proper motions of more than 100,000 stars. It is also a participant in the construction of the International Space Station.
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U.S. government agency that sets and enforces national pollution-control standards. It was established by Pres. Richard Nixon (1970) to supersede a welter of confusing and ineffective state environmental laws. Its early accomplishments include banning the use of DDT (1972), setting deadlines for the removal of lead from gasoline (1973), establishing health standards for drinking water (1974), and monitoring fuel efficiency in automobiles (1975). The EPA's enforcement was in large part responsible for a decline of one-third to one-half in most air-pollution emissions in the U.S. from 1970 to 1990, and during the 1980s the pollution standards index improved by half in major cities; water quality and waste disposal also improved significantly. The EPA also oversees the cleanup of abandoned waste sites through Superfund. Its existence has resulted in heightened awareness and concern for the environment worldwide.
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Principal intelligence and counterintelligence agency of the U.S., established in 1947 as a successor to the World War II-era Office of Strategic Services. The law limits its activities to foreign countries; it is prohibited from gathering intelligence on U.S. soil, which is a responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Officially a part of the U.S. Defense Department, it is responsible for preparing analyses for the National Security Council. Its budget is kept secret. Though intelligence gathering is its chief occupation, the CIA has also been involved in many covert operations, including the expulsion of Mohammad Mosaddeq from Iran (1953), the attempted Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba (1961), and support of the Nicaraguan contras in the 1980s.
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Mixture of herbicides. It contains approximately equal amounts of esters of 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) and 2,4,5-T (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid) and trace amounts of dioxin. About 13 million gallons were sprayed by U.S. military forces onto Vietnam's forests and crops during the Vietnam War, with the dual purpose of destroying cover for enemy movements and destroying food sources. Exposure to Agent Orange has been blamed for an abnormally high incidence of miscarriages, skin diseases, cancers, birth defects, and malformations among Vietnamese and of cancers and other disorders in U.S., Australian, and New Zealand servicemen and their families.
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