September 22, 2021

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Last defendant convicted in nationwide synthetic narcotics distribution

12 min read

Read full article at: https://www.justice.gov September 7, 2021

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    In Crime News
    A federal district court in Cincinnati, Ohio, sentenced an Atlanta, Georgia, man to 57 months in prison today for tax evasion. This sentence included an enhancement for failing to report income from drug trafficking.
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  • [Protests of EPA Contract Award for Automotive Emissions Testing]
    In U.S GAO News
    A firm protested the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) rejection of its bid and subsequent contract award for automotive emissions testing, contending that EPA unreasonably evaluated the bidders' relative past performance and erroneously eliminated its bid from the competitive range. GAO held that: (1) EPA reasonably evaluated the bidders' past performance; and (2) the protester untimely filed its comments on EPA's report on the supplemental protest more than 5 days after receiving the report. Accordingly, the initial protest was denied and the supplemental protest was dismissed.
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    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found COVID-19 presented risks to Medicaid home- and community-based services (HCBS) programs, where providers help beneficiaries with daily activities, such as bathing, dressing, and eating. To maintain access to services and prevent disease spread, all states received approval for temporary changes to their HCBS programs from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), within the Department of Health and Human Services. These changes enabled selected states to limit in-person contact to reduce the spread of the disease, but also led to new challenges to ensuring beneficiary health and welfare. Examples of Temporary Changes to States' Medicaid Home- and Community-Based Services Due to COVID-19, as of December 2020 CMS focused on supporting states' implementation of temporary changes and conducted limited oversight of the effects of the changes. CMS's Pandemic Plan establishes the need for monitoring to make mid-course corrections and conducting evaluations after the pandemic to inform future emergency response. CMS relied on states to monitor during the emergency. CMS has no procedures for monitoring temporary changes during an emergency. Instead, states had the primary responsibility to monitor the effects of temporary changes during the COVID-19 emergency, according to CMS officials. CMS provided limited guidance to states on monitoring the changes, and did not request that states share any data, such as COVID-19 infections or deaths, with CMS. Without developing monitoring procedures in advance of future public health emergencies, CMS is unlikely to conduct necessary monitoring. CMS's plan for evaluating after the emergency is unclear. CMS officials told GAO that they intend to evaluate temporary changes made to HCBS programs, but had not developed plans to do so. Officials said they will continue to review regular state reporting on steps taken to ensure the overall quality of HCBS programs. However, this reporting may not provide useful information for evaluating how temporary changes affected access to HCBS or the prevention of disease spread, and some reports are not due for more than 3 years. Without a full evaluation, CMS may miss opportunities to better prepare for future emergencies. Why GAO Did This Study During emergencies, including COVID-19, CMS may approve certain temporary changes to states' Medicaid programs to ensure access to care. These changes are critical to beneficiaries who rely on HCBS to perform daily activities, such as eating, and who may face greater risk of COVID-19. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing COVID-19 monitoring and oversight efforts. In addition, GAO was asked to examine temporary changes to Medicaid in response to COVID-19. This report (1) describes temporary changes to Medicaid HCBS programs, including selected states' experience in making these changes; and (2) examines CMS's monitoring and evaluation of the effects of those changes. GAO reviewed documentation of temporary changes approved by CMS and relevant CMS policies, procedures, and analyses. GAO also interviewed Medicaid officials from CMS and six states selected based on variation in Medicaid expenditures and geographic region. GAO assessed CMS's monitoring and evaluation activities using CMS's Pandemic Plan and federal internal control standards.
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    In U.S GAO News
    Since 2012, utilities have taken steps to improve grid resilience to severe hurricanes, such as (1) implementing storm hardening measures to enable the grid to better withstand the effects of hurricanes; (2) adopting technologies to enhance operational capacity and help quickly restore service following disruptions; and (3) participating in mutual aid programs with other utilities and training and planning exercises. For example, utilities have implemented storm hardening measures that include elevating facilities and constructing flood walls to protect against storm surges. Utilities have also adopted technologies that enhance communication capabilities and monitor systems to detect, locate, and repair sources of disruptions. However, these utilities reported challenges justifying grid resilience investments to obtain regulatory approval, and some utilities have limited resources to pursue such enhancements. Example of Hurricane Resilience Improvement: Elevated Substation Various federal agencies can provide funding for efforts to enhance grid resilience to hurricanes, including the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). However, eligibility for most federal funding for grid resilience, including some USDA and FEMA funding, is limited to publicly owned utilities and state, tribal, and local governments. The Department of Energy (DOE) does not provide direct funding for grid resilience improvements, but it has efforts under way, including through its National Laboratories, to provide technical assistance and promote research and collaboration with utilities. DOE has also initiated preliminary efforts to develop tools for resilience planning, including resilience metrics and other tools such as a framework for planning, but DOE does not have a plan to guide these efforts. Without a plan to guide DOE efforts to develop tools for resilience planning, utilities may continue to face challenges justifying resilience investments. In addition, DOE lacks a formal mechanism to inform utilities about the efforts of its National Laboratories. Such a mechanism would help utilities leverage existing resources for improving grid resilience to hurricanes. Hurricanes pose significant threats to the electricity grid in some U.S. coastal areas and territories and are a leading cause of major power outages. In recent years, hurricanes have impacted millions of customers in these areas. Adoption of technologies and other measures could improve the resilience of the grid so that it is better able to withstand and rapidly recover from severe weather; this could help mitigate the effects of hurricanes. This report examines (1) measures utilities in selected states have adopted to enhance grid resilience following major hurricanes since 2012 and any challenges utilities face funding such measures; and (2) federal efforts to support the adoption of measures to enhance grid resilience to hurricanes and any opportunities that exist to improve these efforts. For this report, GAO assessed agency and industry actions; reviewed relevant reports, policies, and documents; and interviewed federal, industry, and local officials. GAO recommends that DOE (1) establish a plan to guide its efforts to develop tools for resilience planning, and (2) develop a mechanism to better inform utilities about grid resilience efforts at the National Laboratories. DOE agreed in principle with these recommendations, but its proposed actions do not fully address GAO's concerns. For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or ruscof@gao.gov.
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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    In Crime News
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    In Crime News
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