Celebrating International Women’s Day

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Every year on March 8th, the United States joins the world in recognizing International Women’s Day by celebrating the leadership, strength, and courage of women and girls. The United States recognizes the reality that the equitable participation of women in social, political, and economic life is critical to the peace and prosperity of our collective community.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented an unexpected challenge to the safety and prosperity of women and girls in the last year. From an increased risk of domestic abuse during stay-at-home orders to increased economic and employment insecurity, women and girls have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Despite this disparity, women have led on the frontlines of this pandemic including as unpaid caregivers, healthcare workers, teachers, and other essential personnel, and continued to advocate for the dignity and rights of all people, building lasting change that will benefit their communities for years to come.

I have the great pleasure of celebrating International Women’s Day this year by hosting the 15th annual International Woman of Courage (IWOC) Award ceremony. The recipients of this year’s award demonstrate that courageous women inspire a better world. These women have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership while advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment – often at great personal risk and sacrifice. We know that when women are empowered, they are agents of positive change. I am so proud to commemorate the great work of each of this year’s IWOC awardees and especially honored that the First Lady will be joining us for the occasion.

The United States is dedicated to ensuring that gender equality and women’s empowerment are central tenets of our foreign policy and national security. Today, like every day, we stand firmly in our commitment to women’s empowerment and gender equality at home and around the globe. The United States is prepared to support and advance the health, economic, political, and human rights of every woman and girl, because when women are empowered, we are all better for it.

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    A California man pleaded guilty today to sexual abuse and admitted to the abusive sexual contact of numerous women, as well as photographing and recording dozens of nude and partially nude women without their consent during his career as a U.S. government employee
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  • Electricity Grid Resilience: Climate Change Is Expected to Have Far-reaching Effects and DOE and FERC Should Take Actions
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Climate change is expected to have far-reaching effects on the electricity grid that could cost billions and could affect every aspect of the grid from generation, transmission, and distribution to demand for electricity, according to several reports GAO reviewed. The type and extent of these effects on the grid will vary by geographic location and other factors. For example, reports GAO reviewed stated that more frequent droughts and changing rainfall patterns may adversely affect hydroelectricity generation in Alaska and the Northwest and Southwest regions of the United States. Further, transmission capacity may be reduced or distribution lines damaged during increasing wildfire activity in some regions due to warmer temperatures and drier conditions. Moreover, climate change effects on the grid could cost utilities and customers billions, including the costs of power outages and infrastructure damage. Examples of Climate Change Effects on the Electricity Grid Since 2014, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have taken actions to enhance the resilience of the grid. For example, in 2015, DOE established a partnership with 18 utilities to plan for climate change. In 2018, FERC collected information from grid operators on grid resilience and their risks to hazards such as extreme weather. Nevertheless, opportunities exist for DOE and FERC to take additional actions to enhance grid resilience to climate change. For example, DOE identified climate change as a risk to energy infrastructure, including the grid, but it does not have an overall strategy to guide its efforts. GAO's Disaster Resilience Framework states that federal efforts can focus on risk reduction by creating resilience goals and linking those goals to an overarching strategy. Developing and implementing a department-wide strategy that defines goals and measures progress could help prioritize DOE's climate resilience efforts to ensure that resources are targeted effectively. Regarding FERC, it has not taken steps to identify or assess climate change risks to the grid and, therefore, is not well positioned to determine the actions needed to enhance resilience. Risk management involves identifying and assessing risks to understand the likelihood of impacts and their associated consequences. By doing so, FERC could then plan and implement appropriate actions to respond to the risks and achieve its objective of promoting resilience. Why GAO Did This Study According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, changes in the earth's climate are under way and expected to increase, posing risks to the electricity grid that may affect the nation's economic and national security. Annual costs of weather-related power outages total billions of dollars and may increase with climate change, although resilience investments could help address potential effects, according to the research program. Private companies own most of the electricity grid, but the federal government plays a significant role in promoting grid resilience—the ability to adapt to changing conditions; withstand potentially disruptive events; and, if disrupted, to rapidly recover. DOE, the lead agency for grid resilience efforts, conducts research and provides information and technical assistance to industry. FERC reviews mandatory grid reliability standards. This testimony summarizes GAO's report on grid resilience to climate change. Specifically, the testimony discusses (1) potential climate change effects on the electricity grid; and (2) actions DOE and FERC have taken since 2014 to enhance electricity grid resilience to climate change effects, and additional actions these agencies could take. GAO reviewed reports and interviewed agency officials and 55 relevant stakeholders.
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    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced that Senior Judge William K. Sessions III sentenced Brian Folks, 45, to 270 months in prison today.
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  • United States Citizen Who Joined ISIS Charged With Material Support Violations
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    An indictment and arrest warrant were unsealed today in the federal court of the District of Columbia charging Lirim Sylejmani, a Kosovo-born naturalized U.S. citizen, with conspiring to provide, providing, and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization, and receiving training from ISIS, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2339B and 2339D. 
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  • Former Cancer Center President Indicted For Participation In Long-Running Antitrust Conspiracy
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury returned an indictment against Dr. William Harwin, founder and former President of Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute LLC (FCS), for conspiring to allocate medical and radiation oncology treatments for patients in Southwest Florida, the Department of Justice announced today.
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  • State Department Employee and Spouse Plead Guilty to Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods from U.S. Embassy
    In Crime News
    A U.S. Department of State employee and his spouse pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods. The guilty pleas took place before U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane, who has scheduled sentencing for March 18, 2021, for both defendants.
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  • District Court Orders Illinois Sprouts And Soybean Products Company To Comply With Food Safety Rules
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    A federal court permanently enjoined a Chicago firm from preparing and distributing adulterated sprouts and soybean products in violation of federal law, the Department of Justice announced today.
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  • North Carolina Tax Preparer Sentenced to Prison for Defrauding IRS and Co-Conspirator Pleads Guilty
    In Crime News
    A North Carolina return preparer was sentenced today to 22 months in prison for conspiring to defraud the IRS and one of her co-conspirators pleaded guilty on Wednesday for her role in the scheme.
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  • Aviation Services: Information on Airports Exercising Their Right as the Sole Provider of Fuel
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Based on GAO's survey, 588 of the nearly 2,000 airports responding to the survey reported exercising their proprietary exclusive right (the right to be the sole service provider) for aviation fuel services. While airports are generally prohibited from granting an exclusive right to any party to provide aviation services, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has determined that an airport can be the exclusive provider of such services, thereby precluding other parties from providing those services at the airport. Most (567) of these airports are general aviation airports—airports that have no scheduled commercial service or have scheduled service but fewer than 2,500 passenger boardings per year. The 588 airports are located in 45 of the 48 contiguous states and in all of the FAA regions covering these states. Location of Airports that Reported Using the Proprietary Exclusive Right on GAO Survey, by Federal Aviation Administration Region Note: An airport sponsor may elect to provide any or all of the aeronautical services at its airports and be the exclusive provider of those services. This is known as the proprietary exclusive right. GAO's survey and interviews with selected airports found most airports that report exercising their proprietary exclusive right do so based largely on attracting users to the airport, providing a high level of reliable customer service, and generating airport revenue. Over 90 percent of the 588 airports responded that attracting users to the airport and generating revenue were very important or somewhat important to their decision to provide fuel service. Further, officials from 17 of the 26 airports GAO interviewed explained that the resulting revenue was a main factor in their decision to provide fuel service. For example, one airport manager said the revenue allows the airport to invest in capital projects, such as building hangars, to help attract users to the airport. The revenue can also help an airport become as financially self-sustaining as possible, which is a requirement to receive federal airport grants. Airports also cited providing consistent customer service as a key factor in exercising their proprietary exclusive right. For example, one airport manager GAO spoke to said complaints about the former private fuel provider's customer service and prices prompted the airport to become the sole service provider. Why GAO Did This Study FAA, through federal airport grants, helps fund airports' capital development and is responsible for overseeing airports' compliance with federal requirements incorporated in airport grant agreements. Under these agreements, airports are generally not allowed to grant exclusive rights to any person or entity to provide aeronautical services—such as fuel—on airport grounds. FAA has determined, however, that airports themselves can opt to be the exclusive provider of such services by exercising their proprietary exclusive right. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 included a provision for GAO to examine airports that have exercised their proprietary exclusive right. This report addresses what is known about the number and characteristics of airports that are currently exercising their proprietary exclusive right to provide fuel and the factors airports consider when deciding whether to exercise this right to provide fuel. GAO reviewed relevant federal statutes, FAA policies and guidance, airport documents and websites, and conducted a web survey of all 3,010 public use airports in the contiguous United States. GAO interviewed officials at a non-generalizable sample of 26 airports that self-identified as exercising their proprietary exclusive right and at 10 airports that are not exercising their proprietary exclusive right, selected based on a mix of characteristics, including the amount of fuel sales. GAO also interviewed FAA compliance staff at headquarters and regional offices. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or krauseh@gao.gov.
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  • FBI Report on Crime Shows Decline in Violent Crime Rate for Third Consecutive Year
    In Crime News
    Today, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released its 2019 edition of Crime in the United States, which showed that violent crime decreased nationwide for the third consecutive year.  After decreases in both 2017 and 2018, the violent crime rate dropped an additional one percent this past year and the property crime rate decreased 4.5 percent.
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  • Engineering Firm And Its Former Executive Indicted On Antitrust And Fraud Charges
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    A federal grand jury in Raleigh, North Carolina returned an indictment charging Contech Engineered Solutions LLC and Brent Brewbaker, a former executive at the company, for participating in long-standing conspiracies to rig bids and defraud the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NC DOT), the Department of Justice announced.
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