September 28, 2021

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Local woman guilty of disaster fraud

13 min read
A 46-year-old Houston resident has admitted to fraudulently obtaining more than $7,000 in disaster relief

Read full article at: https://www.justice.gov May 12, 2021

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    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found While the Department of Defense (DOD) approaches its full-rate production decision point (which would formally authorize DOD's transition from development to full production), the F-35 program is producing nearly 25 percent of the total planned aircraft in low-rate initial production before satisfying the criteria for full-rate production. As it approaches this major milestone, the program has taken steps to but has not fully addressed a number of challenges, even though GAO recommended that it do so, such as the need to: resolve critical deficiencies with the aircraft; ensure critical manufacturing processes are mature; address supply chain issues that strain production and sustainment; and take steps to ensure reliability and maintainability goals are met. Compounding these production issues is the fact that the program has not completed operational testing on the aircraft to ensure warfighters get the capabilities they require, primarily due to increasing delays with the aircraft simulator. In August 2020, the program office determined the simulator—to be used to replicate complex test scenarios that could not be accomplished in real-world environment testing—did not fully represent F-35 capabilities and could not be used for further testing until fixed. Since then, program officials have been developing a new plan to ensure the simulator works as intended. Until this happens, the full-rate production date remains undetermined (see figure). F-35 Operational Test Schedule and Key Events through 2021, as of June 2021 At the same time that the program is resolving risks with the baseline program, DOD is encountering similar cost and schedule increases with its F-35 modernization effort. In the 3 years of Block 4 capability development, the total estimated cost of Block 4 increased from $10.6 billion to $14.4 billion. This increase is, in part, a recognition of all costs, past and future, estimated to be required to complete the effort. As GAO recommended in May 2020, DOD now reports all Block 4 costs, not just those associated with the near term. While DOD added another year to the Block 4 schedule, in March 2021 GAO found the remaining development time frame is not achievable. Unless the F-35 program accounts for historical performance in the schedule estimates, the Block 4 schedule will continue to exceed estimated time frames and stakeholders will lack reliable information on when the modernized capabilities will be delivered. Why GAO Did This Study The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program began development in 2001 and remains DOD's most expensive weapon system program. Currently, the program is more than 8 years delayed and $165 billion over original cost expectations. As the program progresses toward completing operational testing of the aircraft's baseline capabilities, it still faces risks. DOD is also 3 years into an effort, called Block 4, to modernize the F-35 aircraft's capabilities. Block 4 is loosely based on Agile software development processes. With this approach, DOD intends to incrementally develop, test, and deliver small groups of new capabilities every 6 months. This testimony discusses acquisition-related risks in the F-35 program. It is based largely on findings in GAO's March 2021 and May 2020 annual reports (GAO-21-226; GAO-20-339) on F-35 acquisition.
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  • Exposure Notification: Benefits and Challenges of Smartphone Applications to Augment Contact Tracing
    In U.S GAO News
    Why GAO Did This Study With the emergence and rapid global spread of COVID-19, smartphone apps have been developed to supplement manual contact tracing, which is a public health measure used to slow the spread of infectious disease. GAO was asked to conduct a technology assessment of exposure notification apps. This report discusses (1) the benefits of exposure notification apps; (2) the current level of deployment in the U.S.; (3) challenges affecting their use; and (4) policy options that may help address these challenges for future use. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed agency documentation, met with officials from several federal agencies, and conducted a review of technical and policy literature. GAO also interviewed representatives from companies involved in the development of exposure notification apps, public health organizations, federally funded research and development centers, and academic researchers. In addition, GAO analyzed information from a selection of states. GAO is identifying policy options in this report. GAO received technical comments on a draft of this report from five federal agencies and five organizations included in the review, which it incorporated as appropriate. What GAO Found Exposure notification applications (apps)—which determine the proximity of users and notify people who have been in close contact with another user who was likely infectious—are expected to enhance the speed and reach of contact tracing and help slow the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19. As of June 2021, almost half (26/56) of U.S. states, territories, and the District of Columbia had deployed an app for COVID-19, all using a system developed jointly by Google and Apple (see figure). In the absence of a national app, states independently launched apps, resulting in a staggered rollout over 10 months beginning in August 2020. Map of deployment of exposure notification apps by U.S. states and territories, as of June 2021 Reported app development costs for selected states varied, ranging from no cost (provided by a nonprofit organization) to $700,000. Marketing costs for selected states ranged from $380,000 to $3.2 million. Reported app download levels in the selected states ranged from 200,000 to more than 2 million, as of June 2021. GAO identified several challenges limiting app use and the ability of states and others to determine whether the apps were effective: Accuracy of measurements Technical limitations to measuring distance and exposure can result in inaccurate exposure notifications. Privacy and security concerns The public may lack confidence that its privacy is being protected, in part, due to a lack of independent privacy and security assessments and a lack of federal legal protections. Adoption States have faced challenges attracting public interest in downloading and using an exposure notification app. Verification code delays States faced challenges in promptly providing people who tested positive for COVID-19 with a verification code necessary to notify other close contacts of potential exposure using the app. Evidence of effectiveness Limited data are available to evaluate the effectiveness of the apps. Source: GAO. | GAO-21-104622 GAO developed the following four policy options that could help address challenges related to exposure notification apps. The policy options identify possible actions by policymakers, which may include Congress, other elected officials, federal agencies, state and local governments, and industry. See below for details of the policy options and relevant opportunities and considerations. Policy Options to Help Address Challenges of Exposure Notification Apps for Future Use   Opportunities Considerations Research and Development (report page 41) Policymakers could promote research and development to address technological limitations. Research on technological limitations could help increase accuracy, encouraging users to download and use the apps. Research on technologies and architectures other than those used by U.S. states could lead to improvements. Partnerships with technology companies could spur innovation and help with integrating improvements. The research needed may be costly. Improvements may not be cost-effective, since existing apps may already be sufficiently accurate. Research may result in apps that are not functional for the next pandemic, since the current apps were developed for COVID-19. Privacy and Security Standards and Practices (report page 42) Policymakers could promote uniform privacy and security standards and practices for exposure notification apps. Uniform standards and best practices could help address real and perceived risks to the public’s data, potentially increasing adoption. Standards developed by a broad coalition of stakeholders could increase the likelihood of stakeholder agreement and buy-in. Policymakers would need to balance the need for privacy and security with the costs of implementing standards and practices. Implementation of privacy requirements may need to be flexible, since jurisdictions could use different approaches. Standards and practices could be challenging to oversee and enforce. Best Practices (report page 43) Policymakers could promote best practices for approaches to increasing adoption and to measure the effectiveness of exposure notification apps. Best practices could help authorities better promote app adoption. Best practices could help state public health authorities by providing information on procedures and potential approaches for distributing verification codes in a timely manner. Best practices could help public health authorities establish a more rigorous way to measure the extent of app use and any resulting improvements in notifying exposed people. Best practices could require consensus from many public- and private-sector stakeholders, which can be time- and resource-intensive. Current best practices may have limited relevance to a future pandemic. In some cases, stakeholders may lack sufficient information or the experience to develop best practices. National Strategy (report page 44) Policymakers could collaborate to enhance the pandemic national strategy and promote a coordinated approach to the development and deployment of exposure notification apps. Enhanced national coordination that builds on the underlying infrastructure and lessons learned from COVID-19 could prompt faster deployment of apps in the future. A future national marketing campaign with cohesive and coherent messaging could result in wider adoption. Policymakers could recommend a national app that public health authorities could decide to use based on their individual needs. A national app could add more functions by integrating exposure notification capabilities with test scheduling and vaccine delivery coordination. A coordinated national approach would likely have associated costs and require sustained funding during the pandemic. Coordination of groups with divergent perspectives and interests may pose challenges to defining outcomes, measuring performance, and establishing a leadership approach. It is unclear whether potential users would be more or less likely to trust a national exposure notification app than one developed by a state government. Source: GAO. | GAO-21-104622 For more information, contact Karen L. Howard at (202) 512-6888 or howardk@gao.gov or Vijay A. D’Souza, at (202) 512-6240, dsouzav@gao.gov.
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  • Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel D. Brownback On the 2020 Ministerial to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief and the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance Ministers’ Forum
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    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced the unsealing of a federal indictment charging Haji Najibullah, a/k/a “Najibullah Naim,” a/k/a “Abu Tayeb,” a/k/a “Atiqullah” with six counts related to the 2008 kidnapping of an American journalist and two Afghan nationals. Najibullah, 44, was arrested and transferred to the United States from Ukraine to face the charges in the indictment. Najibullah will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla.
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  • Offshore Oil and Gas: Updated Regulations Needed to Improve Pipeline Oversight and Decommissioning
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of the Interior's (Interior) Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) does not have a robust oversight process for ensuring the integrity of approximately 8,600 miles of active offshore oil and gas pipelines located on the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico. Specifically, BSEE does not generally conduct or require any subsea inspections of active pipelines. Instead, the bureau relies on monthly surface observations and pressure sensors to detect leaks. However, officials told us that these methods and technologies are not always reliable for detecting ruptures. In response to a pair of significant oil leaks in 2016 and 2017, BSEE partnered with industry to improve subsea leak detection, but the technologies identified remain relatively new and cannot be retrofitted to a majority of pipelines. According to BSEE, the bureau's regulations are outdated and do not address how pipelines should be inspected, the complexities of deep water pipeline operations, and changes in technological standards. BSEE has long recognized the need to improve its pipeline regulations, and in 2007 issued a proposed rule that cited the need to enhance safety and protect the environment, but this effort stalled. The 2007 proposed rule addressed offshore pipeline integrity, including new requirements regarding pipeline inspection and subsea leak detection technologies. Since 2013, BSEE has noted plans to update its pipeline regulations but has made limited progress in the interim. Without taking actions to develop, finalize, and implement updated regulations to address identified oversight gaps, BSEE will continue to be limited in its ability to ensure the integrity of active pipelines. BSEE does not have a robust process to address the environmental and safety risks posed by leaving decommissioned pipelines in place on the seafloor due to the cumulative effects of oversight gaps before, during, and after the decommissioning process. First, BSEE does not thoroughly account for such risks during the review of decommissioning applications. This has contributed to BSEE and its predecessors authorizing industry to leave over 97 percent (about 18,000 miles) of all decommissioned pipeline mileage on the Gulf of Mexico seafloor since the 1960s. Generally, pipelines must be removed from the seafloor. BSEE, however, may allow pipelines to be decommissioned-in-place if certain criteria are met. Such a high rate of approval indicates that this is not an exception, however, but rather that decommissioning-in-place has been the norm for decades. Second, BSEE does not ensure that operators meet decommissioning standards, such as cleaning pipelines, because they do not observe any pipeline decommissioning activities, inspect pipelines after their decommissioning, or verify most of the pipeline decommissioning evidence submitted. Third, BSEE does not monitor the condition and location of pipelines following their decommissioning-in-place, which reduces its ability to mitigate any long-term risks, such as pipeline exposure or movement. Additionally, if pipelines decommissioned-in-place are later found to pose risks, there is no funding source for removal. As discussed above, BSEE has made limited progress in updating what it acknowledges are outdated pipeline regulations. Without taking actions to develop, finalize, and implement updated pipeline regulations, BSEE will continue to be limited in its ability to ensure that its pipeline decommissioning process addresses environmental and safety risks. Why GAO Did This Study The offshore oil and gas industry has installed approximately 40,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines in federal offshore waters since the 1940s. BSEE is responsible for enforcing standards and regulations for oil and gas operations—including the oversight of active pipelines and their decommissioning—to enhance environmental protection and safety. As pipelines age, they are more susceptible to damage from corrosion, mudslides, and seafloor erosion, which can result in leakage of oil and gas into the ocean. Additionally, hurricanes can move pipelines extensive distances, which may damage subsea habitat, impede access to sediment resources, and create navigational and trawling hazards. GAO was asked to review BSEE's management of offshore oil and gas pipelines. This report examines BSEE's processes for (1) ensuring active pipeline integrity and (2) addressing safety and environmental risks posed by decommissioning. GAO reviewed regulations, procedures, and other documents and data related to BSEE's pipeline management processes. GAO also interviewed BSEE officials and those from other agencies with offshore responsibilities.
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    In Crime News
    Thank you for inviting me to address the National Farmers Union. I bring greetings from the Attorney General. In defining the Justice Department’s top priorities, the Attorney General has placed reinvigorating antitrust enforcement at the center of the department’s focus on “Ensuring Economic Opportunity and Fairness.”
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    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program (USTP) has entered into a settlement agreement with global consulting firm McKinsey & Company (McKinsey) requiring McKinsey to forego payment of fees in the Westmoreland Coal bankruptcy case pending in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas (Westmoreland Case). 
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  • Dark Web Child Pornography Facilitator Sentenced to 27 Years in Prison for Conspiracy to Advertise Child Pornography
    In Crime News
    A dual national of the United States and Ireland was sentenced yesterday to 324 months, or 27 years, in federal prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release for conspiracy to advertise child pornography.
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  • Former Managing Director and Two Former Loan Officers Plead Guilty for Roles in Widespread Bank-Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    The former managing director of residential lending and two former loan officers of a financial institution headquartered in Southfield, Michigan, pleaded guilty to participating in a years-long scheme to originate fraudulent residential-mortgage loans through the bank’s low-documentation Advantage Loan Program.
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  • U.S. Trustee Program Announces Streamlined Forms for Completing Chapter 11 Financial Reports
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program (USTP) announced today the publication of a final rule in the Federal Register that streamlines the financial reports required under the Bankruptcy Code to be filed with the bankruptcy court by the vast majority of business and individual debtors in chapter 11 bankruptcy, including in the largest reorganization cases.
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