Justice Department Warns About Fake Unemployment Benefit Websites

The Department of Justice has received reports that fraudsters are creating websites mimicking unemployment benefit websites, including state workforce agency (SWA) websites, for the purpose of unlawfully capturing consumers’ personal information.

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    The Justice Department today announced that former Stockton, California resident Satish Kartan, 46, was sentenced today to188 months in prison for forced labor violations. In addition, U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. ordered $15,657 be paid in restitution to three victims, in part to cover their back wages and other losses.
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    Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you all for joining us. I’m Katie Sullivan, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice. I’m thrilled to be here today with the outstanding U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Scott Brady. I’m also very pleased to be joined by Dr. Mary Ellen Glasgow, Dean of the Duquesne School of Nursing, and Dr. Alison Colbert, Associate Professor in the Duquesne School of Nursing. You’ll hear from each of them in just a moment. I also want to introduce my wonderful colleague, Jessica Hart, the Director of the Office for Victims of Crime, which is part of my agency.
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  • Laboratory Safety: FDA Should Strengthen Efforts to Provide Effective Oversight
    In U.S GAO News
    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken steps intended to improve safety at its laboratories, including those that work with hazardous biological agents. Specifically, FDA created the Office of Laboratory Safety (OLS) in 2017 as a safety oversight body for all FDA laboratories. Establishment of FDA's Office of Laboratory Safety (OLS) Note: Prior to March 2019, OLS was referred to as the Office of Laboratory Science and Safety. In coordination with FDA's operating divisions—known as centers—OLS has standardized safety policies, incident reporting, inspections, and safety training. However in creating OLS, FDA did not implement key reform practices that could have helped ensure OLS's effectiveness. For example, FDA's centers and OLS did not reach a shared understanding of OLS's roles and responsibilities—a key practice for effective agency reforms. Although senior agency leaders were involved in developing OLS's strategic plan, disagreements about OLS's role raised by center directors at that time still remain. For example, center directors told GAO that OLS's mission should not include science, laboratory quality management, or inspections. Conversely, the director of OLS said OLS remains committed to its mission as envisioned in the strategic plan, which includes these areas of responsibility. FDA officials said they plan to update the plan in 2021, which presents an opportunity for FDA to address areas of disagreement. In its current form, FDA's laboratory safety program also does not meet the key elements of effective oversight identified in GAO's prior work. For example, The oversight organization should have clear authority to ensure compliance with requirements. However, as part of a 2019 reorganization, FDA placed the OLS director at a lower level than the center directors. Also, OLS does not directly manage the center safety staff responsible for ensuring the implementation of safety policies that OLS develops. As a result, OLS has limited ability to access centers' laboratories—in part because they cannot inspect them unannounced—or to ensure compliance with safety policies. The oversight organization should also be independent from program offices to avoid conflict between program objectives and safety. However, OLS depends on the centers for much of its funding and has had to negotiate with the centers annually for those funds, which can allow center directors to influence OLS priorities through the funding amounts they approve. FDA has not assessed potential independence risks from using center funds for OLS. Without taking steps to do so, FDA's laboratory safety program will continue to compete with the centers' mission objectives and priorities. In 2014, FDA discovered improperly stored boxes of smallpox virus, posing a risk to individuals who might have been exposed. This raised concerns about the oversight of FDA's laboratories that conduct research on hazardous biological agents. In 2016, GAO made five recommendations to improve FDA's laboratory safety, four of which the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had not fully implemented as of July 2020. GAO was asked to examine FDA's efforts to strengthen laboratory safety. This report examines FDA's efforts since GAO's 2016 report to improve safety in its laboratories that work with hazardous biological agents. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed FDA documents; assessed FDA's safety oversight practices against key reform practices and oversight elements GAO identified in prior work; and interviewed FDA officials, including staff and senior leaders at OLS and the three centers that work with hazardous biological agents. GAO is making five recommendations to FDA, including to resolve disagreements over roles and responsibilities, to provide OLS with the authority and access to facilities necessary to oversee laboratory safety, and to take steps to assess and mitigate any independence risks posed by how OLS is funded. HHS agreed with all five recommendations. For more information, contact Mary Denigan-Macauley at (202) 512-7114 or deniganmacauleym@gao.gov.
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    Good afternoon and thank you for joining us.  Today, we are pleased to announce that the Department of Justice and the National Railroad Passenger Corporation — better known as Amtrak — have reached a comprehensive settlement agreement to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”).  Through this agreement, Amtrak has committed to fix inaccessible passenger rail stations across the Country and to pay $2.25 million to passengers with disabilities who have been denied equal access to Amtrak stations between 2013 and today.
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  • VA Construction: VA Should Enhance the Lessons-Learned Process for Its Real-Property Donation Pilot Program
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has received one real property donation through a partnership pilot program authorized by the Communities Helping Invest through Property and Improvements Needed for Veterans Act of 2016 (CHIP-IN Act) and is planning for a second. This Act authorized VA to accept donated real property—such as buildings or facility construction or improvements—and to contribute certain appropriated funds to donors that are entering into donation agreements with VA. Under VA's interpretation, its ability to contribute to such funds is limited to major construction projects (over $20 million). The first CHIP-IN project—an ambulatory care center in Omaha, Nebraska—opened in August 2020. Pending requested appropriations for a second CHIP-IN project, VA intends to partner with another donor group to construct an inpatient medical center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (See figure.) Other potential donors have approached VA about opportunities that could potentially fit the CHIP-IN pilot, but these project ideas have not proceeded for various reasons, including the large donations required. VA officials told us they have developed a draft legislative proposal that seeks to address a challenge in finding CHIP-IN partnerships. For example, officials anticipate that a modification allowing VA to make funding contributions to smaller projects of $20 million and under would attract additional donors. Completed Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Ambulatory Care Center in Omaha, NE, and Rendering of Proposed Inpatient Facility in Tulsa, OK VA has discussed and documented some lessons learned from the Omaha project. For example, VA officials and the Omaha donor group identified and documented the benefits of a design review software that helped shorten timeframes and reduce costs compared to VA's typical review process. However, VA has not consistently followed a lessons-learned process, and as a result, other lessons, such as the decision-making that went into developing the Omaha project's donation agreement, have not been documented. Failure to document and disseminate lessons learned puts VA at risk of losing valuable insights from the CHIP-IN pilot that could inform future CHIP-IN projects or other VA construction efforts. VA has pressing infrastructure demands and a backlog of real property projects. VA can accept up to five real property donations through the CHIP-IN pilot program, which is authorized through 2021. GAO previously reported on the CHIP-IN pilot program in 2018. The CHIP-IN Act includes a provision for GAO to report on donation agreements entered into under the pilot program. This report examines: (1) the status of VA's efforts to execute CHIP-IN partnerships and identify additional potential partners and (2) the extent to which VA has collected lessons learned from the pilot, among other objectives. GAO reviewed VA documents, including project plans and budget information, and interviewed VA officials, donor groups for projects in Omaha and Tulsa, and selected non-profits with experience in fundraising. GAO compared VA's efforts to collect lessons learned with key practices for an overall lessons-learned process. GAO is making two recommendations to VA to implement a lessons-learned process. Recommendations include documenting and disseminating lessons learned from CHIP-IN pilot projects. VA concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or vonaha@gao.gov.
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    Charges were unsealed today against a former official at Citgo Petroleum Corporation, a Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA).
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    Online child sexual exploitation is a global crime that demands a continued global response. 
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    The Justice Department announced today that it reached an agreement with the Gates Chili Central School District in Rochester, New York, to resolve the department’s lawsuit alleging disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
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  • VA Police: Actions Needed to Improve Data Completeness and Accuracy on Use of Force Incidents at Medical Centers
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) policy on use of force states that police officers must use the minimal level of force that is reasonably necessary to gain control of a situation and should only utilize physical control methods on an individual when the force is justified by the individual's actions. To guide officers, VA developed a Use of Force Continuum Scale to define and clarify the categories of force that can be used. Categories of Force on the VA’s Use of Force Continuum Scale According to VA policy, all police officers must receive training on the VA's use of force policy when hired and biannually thereafter. Officers are trained—through classroom lectures and scenarios that emphasize effective communication techniques—to use the minimal level of force to deescalate a situation. Officers record use of force incidents electronically and the chief of police decides which, if any, use of force incidents need to be investigated in accordance with VA guidance. Chiefs of Police at the six facilities GAO visited conducted investigations in a similar manner, by reviewing evidence and comparing an officer's action with the VA's use of force policy to determine whether actions were justified. While most investigations are conducted at the local level, VA headquarters may also run investigations for certain incidents, such as when it receives a complaint against an officer. VA police officers record incidents in a database, Report Executive, but GAO's analysis indicates that VA data on use of force incidents are not sufficiently complete and accurate for reporting numbers or trends at medical centers nationwide. For example, GAO found that 176 out of 1,214 use of force incident reports did not include the specific type of force used. Further, Report Executive does not track incidents by individual medical centers. By addressing these limitations, VA can more effectively monitor use of force trends by type of force or medical facility, among other variables, to understand the VA's use of force incidents nationwide. GAO also found that VA does not systematically collect or analyze use of force investigation findings from local medical centers, limiting its ability to provide effective oversight. Specifically, there is no policy requiring Chiefs of Police to submit all investigations on use of force to VA headquarters, and VA does not have a database designed to collect and analyze data on use of force investigations. Collecting and analyzing such data nationwide would allow VA to better assess the impact of its deescalation policies and improve the agency's oversight efforts. About 5,000 VA police officers are responsible for securing and protecting 138 VA medical centers across the country. These officers are authorized to investigate crimes, make arrests, and carry firearms. The Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 included a provision that GAO assess aspects of the VA police services. This report addresses (1) what the VA's policies are on the use of force by police officers at medical centers, and what training officers receive on the use of force; (2) how VA records and investigates use of force incidents at medical centers; and (3) the extent to which VA sufficiently collects and analyzes use of force data at medical centers. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed VA policies, procedures, and training materials on the use of force and interviewed VA officials at headquarters and six local medical centers, selected to represent varying size and locations. GAO reviewed VA data on use of force incidents recorded from May 10, 2019, through May 10, 2020—the most recent full year data were available. GAO is making five recommendations, including that VA improve the completeness and accuracy of its use of force data; implement a tool to analyze use of force incidents at medical centers nationwide; ensure that medical centers submit all use of force investigations to VA headquarters; and analyze the use of force investigation data. The VA concurred with each of GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Gretta L. Goodwin at (202) 512-8777 or goodwing@gao.gov.
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  • Steel and Aluminum Tariffs: Commerce Should Improve Its Exclusion Request Process and Economic Impact Reviews
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Commerce (Commerce) has a four-phase process to review companies' requests to be excluded from having to pay Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs. Commerce ensures an exclusion request is complete, accepts public input, evaluates materials submitted, and issues a final decision. Between March 2018 and November 2019, Commerce received over 106,000 requests; it rejected over 19,000 of them prior to decision due to incorrect or incomplete information. Although rejections may delay relief for requesters and can increase work for Commerce, the agency has not identified, analyzed, or taken steps to fully address the causes of these submission errors. In deciding exclusion requests, Commerce examines objections from steel and aluminum producers to find whether the requested products are reasonably available domestically in a sufficient amount. Commerce may also decide exclusion requests based on national security issues, but has not done so. While Commerce approved two-thirds of exclusion requests, it most often denied requests that had technical errors or where a domestic producer had objected. Commerce did not decide about three quarters of requests within its established timeliness guidelines, as shown in the figure, taking more than a year to decide 841 requests. Commerce took steps to improve timeliness, such as streamlining the review process for some requests and creating a new submission website, but continues not to meet guidelines and had a backlog of 28,000 requests as of November 2019. Until Commerce takes additional steps, companies will continue to encounter delays in obtaining relief. Most Steel and Aluminum Exclusion Decisions Did Not Meet the Department of Commerce's Established Timeliness Guidelines from March 2018 to November 2019 Commerce has not documented the results from any reviews of the tariffs' impacts or assigned responsibility for conducting regular reviews. GAO found evidence of changes in U.S. steel and aluminum imports and markets. For example, imports covered by the tariffs declined after an initial surge and prices dropped after significant increases in earlier years. Evaluating whether the tariffs have achieved the intended goals and how they affect downstream sectors requires more in-depth economic analysis. Without assigning responsibility for conducting regular reviews and documenting the results, Commerce may be unable to consistently assess if adjustments to the tariffs are needed. Citing national security concerns over excess global supply of steel and aluminum, in March 2018 the President placed tariffs on the import of some products using Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. At the President's direction, Commerce established a process to provide relief, or exclusion, from the tariffs. GAO was asked to review Commerce's Section 232 tariff exclusion process. This report assesses (1) the process Commerce uses to decide exclusion requests and to what degree it has accepted submitted requests; (2) what criteria and factors affected Commerce's decisions; (3) how often Commerce met established guidelines for the timely resolution of requests; and (4) the extent to which Commerce reviewed the impacts of the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, as directed. GAO analyzed Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security and International Trade Administration records from March 2018 to November 2019, as well as data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Homeland Security, and spoke with agency officials. GAO recommends that Commerce (1) identify, analyze, and respond to factors in the process that may cause submission errors; (2) take steps to improve timeliness of exclusion request decisions and address the backlog; and (3) assign responsibility for reviewing the tariffs' impact and document the results. Commerce concurred with all three recommendations. For more information, contact Kimberly Gianopoulos at (202) 512-8612 or GianopoulosK@gao.gov .
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    In U.S GAO News
    This is the Arabic language highlights associated with GAO-21-332, which issued on Monday, March 29. لماذا أجرى مكتب مساءلة الحكومة ھذه الدراسة قدمت الحكومة الأمريكية منذ عام 1993 أكثر من 6.3 مليار دولار على شكل مساعدات ثنائية للفلسطينيين في الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة. ووفقا للوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية ووزارة الخارجية الأمريكية، تم إيقاف تمويل صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي (ESF) منذ يناير/ كانون الثاني 2019 بسبب مجموعة من الإجراءات السياساتية والقانونية. إن الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية مسؤولة بشكل رئيسي عن إدارة المساعدات المقدمة من صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي للضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة وضمان الامتثال لسياساته وإجراءاته الخاصة بمكافحة الإرهاب. تتضمن قوانين التخصيص للسنوات المالية 2015-2019 أحكاماً لمكتب مساءلة الحكومة لمراجعة استخدامات أموال صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي الخاصة ببرنامج الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة. كما طُلِبَ من مكتب مساءلة الحكومة مُراجعة كيف يؤثر وقف هذه المساعدات على موارد التوظيف في الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية. يدرس هذا التقرير (1) حالة مساعدات صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي المقدمة من الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية للبرنامج في السنوات المالية 2015-2019، وذلك اعتباراً من 30 سبتمبر/ أيلول 2020؛ (2) الخطوات التي اتخذتها الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية تجاه المشاريع الجارية ومستويات التوظيف عندما توقفت مساعدات صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي؛ (3) مدى امتثال الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية لسياساتها وإجراءاتها الخاصة بمكافحة الإرهاب للسنوات المالية 2015-2019. وقد راجع مكتب مساءلة الحكومة القوانين وسياسات الوكالة وإجراءاتها ووثائقها وبياناتها وقام بتقييم عيّنة قابلة للتعميم من 245 من الجهات الفرعية الحاصلة على المنح للتأكد من الامتثال لسياسات واجراءات الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية الخاصة بمكافحة الإرهاب. النتائج التي توصل إليها مكتب مساءلة الحكومة قدمت الحكومة الأمريكية مساعدات للفلسطينيين في الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة لتعزيز السلام في الشرق الأوسط منذ عام 1993، جزئيا من خلال البرامج التي تُديرها الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية ويمولها صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي. وقد توقف هذا التمويل منذ 31 يناير/ كانون الثاني 2019. وبحلول 30 سبتمبر/ أيلول 2020، كانت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية قد انفقت معظم أموال صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي التي تم تخصيصها لبرنامج الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة في السنوات المالية 2015-2019. على وجه التحديد، انفقت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية 487.3 مليون دولار من أصل 540.4 مليون دولار من مساعدات صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي للبرنامج في السنتين الماليتين 2015 و2016. وأعادت إدارة الرئيس ترامب برمجة الـ 230.1 مليون دولار التي كانت مخصصة للسنة المالية 2017 لبرامج أخرى ولم تخصص مبالغ للسنتين الماليتين 2018 و2019. وأعلنت السلطة الفلسطينية في شهر ديسمبر/ كانون الأول 2018 بأنها لن تقبل المساعدة بعد 31 يناير/ كانون الثاني 2019 بسبب مخاوف لديها بشأن قانون توضيح مكافحة الإرهاب (Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act) لعام 2018. ووفقاً لمسؤولين من وزارة الخارجية الأمريكية والوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية فإن القانون يتضمن أحكاماً يمكن أن تجعل الجهات المتلقية للمساعدات من صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي خاضعة لدعاوى قضائية أمريكية. وفي شهر يناير/ كانون الثاني 2021، أعلنت إدارة الرئيس بايدن نيتها إستئناف تقديم المساعدات الأمريكية للبرامج في الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة. اتخذت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية عدة خطوات بشأن المشاريع الجارية ومستويات التوظيف في بعثتها في الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة بعد توقف تقديم المساعدة للبرنامج اعتبارا من 31 يناير/ كانون الثاني 2019. وقد أوقفت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية 27 مشروعاً جارياً. كما توقفت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية عن إعادة شغل الوظائف المصرح بها في بعثتها في الضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة، واقترحت تخفيضا في قوة العمل، ووضعت حوالي 50 موظفا في مَهام مؤقتة لأنشطة أخرى. ووفقا للوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية، فإنه اعتبارا من شهر مايو/ أيار 2019، طلبت لجان الكونجرس من الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية تعليق تخفيض الوظائف المُخطط له انتظاراً لاستمرار المداولات. وفي حين أن الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية لم تنهِ عمل موظفيها، إلا أن عدد موظفي البعثة انخفض بنسبة 39 بالمئة من ديسمبر/ كانون الأول 2017 وحتى سبتمبر/ أيلول 2020 بسبب مُغادرة الموظفين للبعثة وعمليات النقل والاستقالات. تُحدد سياسات وإجراءات مكافحة الإرهاب للوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية والخاصة بالضفة الغربية وقطاع غزة ثلاثة متطلبات لمُتلقي التمويل من صندوق الدعم الاقتصادي: الفحص بالنسبة للعديد من الجهات غير الأمريكية التي تتلقى المساعدات، وشهادات مكافحة الإرهاب لمُتلقي المِنَح أو الاتفاقيات التعاونية، وأحكام إلزامية تهدف لمنع الدعم المالي للإرهاب في جميع مِنَح المساعدات للجهات الرئيسية والفرعية. توصل مكتب مساءلة الحكومة إلى أنه بالنسبة للسنوات المالية 2015-2019، امتثلت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية بشكل كامل لجميع المتطلبات الثلاثة عند منح المساعدات للجهات الرئيسية، غير أنها لم تتأكد بشكل متسق من إمتثال الجهات الفرعية الحاصلة على المساعدات. بالإضافة لذلك، أظهر تحليل مكتب مساءلة الحكومة لعيّنة المنح الفرعية القابلة للتعميم ومراجعات الامتثال الخاصة بالوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية وجود فجوات في الامتثال لمتطلبات الفحص والأحكام الإلزامية على مستوى المنح الفرعية. فعلى سبيل المثال، توصل التحليل الذي أجراه مكتب مساءلة الحكومة لمُراجعات الامتثال الخاصة بالوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية إلى أن 13 من أصل 86 تقريراً كان فيها حالة أو أكثر من عدم قيام الجهة الرئيسية الحاصلة على المنح بتضمين الأحكام الإلزامية، والتي تُغطي 420 من المنح 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الامتثال للمتطلبات قبل تقديم المنح للجهات الفرعية، و (2) إجراء مراجعات الامتثال بعد منح المساعدات في وقت يسمح بإجراء التصحيحات قبل إنتهاء المنحة. وقد وافقت الوكالة الأمريكية للتنمية الدولية على هذه التوصيات. هذه نسخة بلغة أجنبية لتقرير صدر في مارس/ آذار2021. أﻧﻈﺮ اﻟﻮﺛﯿﻘﺔ21-332-GAO. ﻟﻠﻤﺰﯾﺪ ﻣﻦ اﻟﻤﻌﻠﻮﻣﺎت،ﯾﺮُ ﺟﻰ اﻻﺗﺼﺎل ﺑـ ﻻﺗﯿﺸﺎ ﻟﻮف Latesha Love ﻋﻠﻰ رﻗﻢ اﻟﮭﺎﺗﻒ: 4409-512 (202)، أو ﻣﻦ ﺧﻼل اﻹﯾﻤﯿﻞ: lovel@gao.gov
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    Why This Matters Contact tracing can help reduce transmission rates for infectious diseases like COVID-19 by identifying and notifying people who may have been exposed. Contact tracing apps, notably those using proximity tracing, could expedite such efforts. However, there are challenges, including accuracy, adoption rates, and privacy concerns. The Technology What is it? Contact tracing is a process in which public health officials attempt to limit disease transmission by identifying infected individuals, notifying their "contacts"—all the people they may have transmitted the disease to—and asking infected individuals and their contacts to quarantine, if appropriate (see fig. 1). For a highly contagious respiratory disease such as COVID-19, a contact could be anyone who has been nearby. Proximity tracing applications (apps) can expedite contact tracing, using smartphones to rapidly identify and notify contacts. Figure 1. A simplified depiction of disease transmission. Through contact tracing, an infected individual’s contacts are notified and may be asked to quarantine. (In reality, some contacts may not become infected, and some of those infected may not show symptoms.) How does it work? In traditional contact tracing, public health officials begin by identifying an infected individual. They then interview the individual to identify recent contacts, ask the individual and their contacts to take containment measures, if appropriate (e.g., a 14-day quarantine for COVID-19), and coordinate any needed care and testing. Proximity tracing apps may accelerate the process by replacing the time-consuming interviews needed to identify contacts. Apps may also identify more contacts than interviews, which rely on interviewees' recall and on their being acquainted with their contacts. Public health authorities provide the apps, often using systems developed by companies or research groups. Users voluntarily download the app for their country or region and opt in to contact tracing. In the U.S., state or local public health authorities would likely implement proximity tracing apps. Proximity tracing apps detect contacts using Bluetooth, GPS, or a combination of both. Bluetooth-based apps rely on anonymous codes shared between smartphones during close encounters. These codes contain no information about location or user identity, helping safeguard privacy. The apps allow public health authorities to set a minimum time and distance threshold for someone to count as a contact. Contact tracing can be centralized or decentralized. With a centralized approach, contacts identified by the app are often saved to a government server, and an official notifies contacts of possible exposure. For a decentralized approach, contact data are typically stored on the user's device at first. When a user voluntarily reports infection, the user's codes are uploaded to a database that other app users' phones search. Users who have encountered the infected person then receive notifications through the app (see fig. 2). Figure 2. Bluetooth-based proximity tracing apps exchange information, notify contacts exposed to an infected person, and provide follow-up information. How mature is it? Traditional contact tracing is well established and has been an effective infectious disease response strategy for decades. Proximity tracing apps are relatively new and not as well established. Their contact identifications could become more accurate as developers improve app technology, for example by improving Bluetooth signal interpretation or using information from other phone sensors. Opportunities Reach more people. For accurate COVID-19 contact tracing using traditional methods, public health experts have estimated that the U.S. would require hundreds of thousands of trained contact tracers because of the large number of infections. Proximity tracing apps can expedite and automate identification and notification of the contacts, reducing this need. Faster response. Proximity tracing apps could slow the spread of disease more effectively because they can identify and notify contacts as soon as a user reports they are infected. More complete identification of contacts. Proximity tracing apps, unlike traditional contact tracing, do not require users to recall or be acquainted with people they have recently encountered. Challenges Technology. Technological limitations may lead to missed contacts or false identification of contacts. For example, GPS-based apps may not identify precise locations, and Bluetooth apps may ignore barriers preventing exposure, such as walls or protective equipment. In addition, apps may overlook exposure if two people were not in close enough proximity long enough for it to count as a contact. Adoption. Lower adoption rates make the apps less effective. In the U.S., some states may choose not to use proximity tracing apps. In addition, the public may hesitate to opt in because of concerns about privacy and uncertainty as to how the data may be used. Recent scams using fake contact tracing to steal information may also erode trust in the apps. Interoperability. Divergent app designs may lead to the inability to exchange data between apps, states, and countries, which could be a problem as travel restrictions are relaxed. Access. Proximity tracing apps require regular access to smartphones and knowledge about how to install and use apps. Some vulnerable populations, including seniors, are less likely to own smartphones and use apps, possibly affecting adoption. Policy Context and Questions Although proximity tracing apps are relatively new, they have the potential to help slow disease transmission. But policymakers will need to consider how great the benefits are likely to be, given the challenges. If policymakers decide to use proximity tracing apps, they will need to integrate them into the larger public health response and consider the following questions, among others: What steps can policymakers take to build public trust and encourage communities to support and use proximity tracing apps, and mitigate lack of adoption by some populations? What legal, procedural, privacy, security, and technical safeguards could protect data collected through proximity tracing apps? What can policymakers do to improve coordination of contact tracing efforts across local, state, and international jurisdictions? What can policymakers do to expedite testing and communication of test results to maximize the benefits of proximity tracing apps? 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  • High-Performance Computing: NNSA Could Improve Program Management Processes for System Acquisitions
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) analysis of alternatives (AOA) process for its $600 million El Capitan HPC acquisition did not fully follow agency policy that states that AOA processes should be consistent with GAO best practices, where possible, and any deviations must be justified and documented. According to GAO best practices, a reliable AOA process should meet four characteristics: it should be comprehensive, well documented, unbiased, and credible. As seen in the table, the AOA process for El Capitan partially met one of these characteristics and minimally met the other three. NNSA did not justify or document the deviations from these best practices, as required by NNSA policy. GAO also found that the AOA process was conducted by the contractor that manages the El Capitan acquisition program, contrary to agency policy and guidance stating that AOAs should be conducted by an independent entity. Without following AOA best practices where possible; justifying and documenting any deviations; and ensuring AOA processes are conducted by an independent entity, as required, NNSA cannot be assured of a reliable assessment of options for meeting critical mission needs. Extent to Which the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Met the Characteristics of a Reliable Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) Process AOA characteristic GAO assessment Example of deviation Comprehensive Partially met Cost estimates are incomplete and did not follow best practices. Well documented Minimally met The alternatives' descriptions are not detailed enough for a robust analysis. Unbiased Minimally met NNSA had a predetermined solution, acquiring an HPC system, before performing the AOA process. Credible Minimally met The selection criteria appear to have been written for the preferred alternative. Source: GAO analysis of NNSA information. | GAO-21-194 GAO found that, in the second year of the El Capitan acquisition program's 5-year acquisition life cycle, NNSA has fully implemented selected key practices related to program monitoring and control. However, NNSA has only partially implemented key practices related to requirements management. Specifically, El Capitan program officials did not update and maintain acquisition program documents to include current requirements. NNSA officials stated that once the program developed its program plan early in the program's life cycle, they did not require the program to update and maintain that program plan. However, NNSA's own program management policy requires programs to update program documents throughout the duration of the program. Without updating and maintaining El Capitan program documents to include current requirements, NNSA officials may be limited in their ability to ensure that all mission requirements are met. Why GAO Did This Study NNSA is responsible for maintaining the nation's nuclear stockpile. To analyze the performance, safety, and reliability of nuclear weapons, it acquires high-performance computing (HPC) systems to conduct simulations. The latest system, El Capitan, is expected to be fully deployed by March 2024. The committee report accompanying the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019, includes a provision for GAO to review NNSA's management of its Advanced Simulation and Computing program. This report examines, among other things, (1) the extent to which NNSA's AOA process for the El Capitan acquisition met best practices and followed agency policy and guidance and (2) the extent to which NNSA is implementing selected acquisition best practices in carrying out the El Capitan acquisition program. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed NNSA officials and laboratory representatives involved in carrying out the AOA and acquisition processes.
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  • Sam’s Test Record for Drupal Testing
    In U.S GAO News
    This is Sam's Test Record for Drupal Testing.
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