October 21, 2021

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Man who shot bank teller in the head gets life…and more

16 min read
A 28-year-old Harlingen man has been ordered to federal prison for life for robbing a bank with a dangerous weapon

Read full article at: https://www.justice.gov September 30, 2021

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  • Next Generation Combat Vehicles: As Army Prioritizes Rapid Development, More Attention Needed to Provide Insight on Cost Estimates and Systems Engineering Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    The four efforts within the Next Generation Combat Vehicles (NGCV) portfolio all prioritize rapid development, while using different acquisition approaches and contracting strategies. Some of the efforts use the new middle-tier acquisition approach, which enables rapid development by exempting programs from many existing DOD acquisition processes and policies. Similarly, the efforts use contracting strategies that include both traditional contract types as well as more flexible approaches to enable rapid development of technology and designs. Vehicles of the Next Generation Combat Vehicles Portfolio The two programs within the portfolio that recently initiated acquisitions—Mobile Protected Firepower and Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle—have taken some steps to mitigate risks in cost and technology consistent with GAO's leading practices. The Army's use of the middle-tier approach for these efforts may facilitate rapid development, but the programs could benefit from additional application of GAO's leading practices. For example, the programs identified some risks in their cost estimates, but because each presented a single estimate of the total cost—referred to as a point estimate—these estimates do not fully reflect how uncertainty could affect costs. Similarly, the programs took some steps to mitigate technical risk by limiting development to 6 years or less and incrementally introducing new technologies, steps consistent with GAO's leading practices. However, by delaying key systems engineering reviews, the programs took some steps not consistent with leading practices, which could increase technical risk. While trade-offs may be necessary to facilitate rapid development, more consistent application of GAO's leading practices for providing cost estimates that reflect uncertainty and conducting timely systems engineering reviews could improve Army's ability to provide insight to decision makers and deliver capability to the warfighter on time and at or near expected costs. The Army has taken actions to enhance communication, both within the Army and with Department of Defense stakeholders, to mitigate risks. Within the Army, these actions included implementing a cross-functional team structure to collaboratively develop program requirements with input from acquisition, contracting, and technology development staff. Program officials also coordinated with other Army and Department of Defense stakeholders responsible for cost and test assessment, even where not required by policy, to mitigate risk. The Army views the NGCV portfolio as one of its most critical and urgent modernization priorities, as many current Army ground combat vehicles were developed in the 1980s or earlier. Past efforts to replace some of these systems failed at a cost of roughly $23 billion. In November 2017, the Army began new efforts to modernize this portfolio. GAO was asked to review the Army's plans for modernizing its fleet of ground combat vehicles. This report examines (1) the acquisition approaches and contracting strategies the Army is considering for the NGCV portfolio, (2) the extent to which the Army's efforts to balance schedule, cost, and technology are reducing acquisition risks for that portfolio, and (3) how the Army is communicating internally and externally to reduce acquisition risks. GAO reviewed the acquisition and contracting plans for each of the vehicles in the portfolio to determine their approaches; assessed schedule, cost, and technology information—where available—against GAO's leading practice guides on these issues as well as other leading practices for acquisition; and interviewed Army and DOD officials. GAO is making three recommendations, including that the Army follow leading practices on cost estimation and systems engineering to mitigate program risk. In its response, the Army concurred with these recommendations and plans to take action to address them. For more information, contact Jon Ludwigson at (202) 512-4841 or ludwigsonj@gao.gov.
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  • Judge Rya Zobel to Receive 2020 Devitt Award
    In U.S Courts
    Senior U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel, who grew up in Nazi Germany and later became the first woman to serve as director of the Federal Judicial Center, is the recipient of the 2020 Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award.
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  • Oman Travel Advisory
    In Travel
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  • Briefing with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services Rachel Arndt, Bureau of Consular Affairs On the State Department’s Passport Services
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  • Department of Justice Issues Annual Report to Congress on its Work to Combat Elder Fraud and Abuse
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice issued its Annual Report to Congress on its Activities to Combat Elder Fraud and Abuse. The report summarizes the department’s extensive elder justice efforts from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.
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  • COVID-19: Defense-Wide Working Capital Fund Cash Management and Defense Logistics Agency Pandemic Response
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Three Department of Defense (DOD) agencies, including the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), use the Defense-Wide Working Capital Fund (DWWCF) to fund their operations and then deposit the proceeds from sales of goods and services to their customers back into the fund. DOD received $500 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) for the DWWCF in order to position the agency to respond to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. GAO found: DOD Actions Helped Maintain DWWCF Balances within Targeted Ranges. Several transactions increased the DWWCF cash balances. In particular, the DWWCF received nearly $600 million in allotments from appropriations from January 2020 through January 2021, including $500 million from the CARES Act. DLA, which uses the DWWCF to fund operations, such as providing consumable items and fuel to its military customers and other federal agencies, also received $2 billion in advance billings from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from April 2020 through September 2020. DOD officials said they also took actions that had the effect of mitigating the extent to which DWWCF cash balances exceeded the targeted upper cash requirement. DOD transferred $241 million to military services' working capital funds and reduced fuel prices by 20 percent, among other things. DLA officials said that they expect the $3.6 billion cash balance to decline as advance-billed orders are filled and fuel prices recover. DLA Responded to a Surge in Medical Materials Demand during the Pandemic. From March 2020 through May 2021, DLA executed about 31,000 contract actions marked as COVID-19–related, resulting in $3.67 billion in contract obligations. DLA officials said FEMA and HHS became DLA's largest customers for COVID-19–related items during the pandemic. COVID-related procurements included test kits, gloves, N95 respirators, hand sanitizers, surgical masks, ventilators, and protective gowns, among other things. DLA Did Not Plan for Pandemic Support, but It Tracked Performance and Identified Lessons Learned. DLA officials told GAO they were not tasked with planning to support civilian agencies in a pandemic, and they had not developed plans for supporting other federal agencies during a pandemic prior to the current pandemic. However, DLA continued to monitor and measure its medical supply chain performance during the pandemic using previously established measures, which showed that its performance decreased during the pandemic. Officials from DLA and from its customer agencies attributed this decrease to difficulties experienced by vendors in responding to medical material demand during the global pandemic. DLA Increased Medical Contracting and Reduced Contracting in Some Other Areas. GAO's analysis found that DLA obligated $40.1 billion on contracts from March 2020 through February 2021, a decrease of more than $2.0 billion (4.8 percent) as compared with the same 12-month period prior to the pandemic. DLA obligations increased in 64 of 134 product service groups, with the largest increases occurring in the medical, dental, and veterinary equipment and supplies; firefighting, rescue, and safety equipment and environmental protection equipment and materials; and instruments and laboratory equipment groups. DLA obligations decreased in 69 of 134 product service groups, with the largest decreases occurring in the fuels, lubricants, oils and waxes and the aerospace craft components and accessories product service groups.  Of the 11,832 DLA vendors used during this period, GAO found that DLA obligations related to 6,208 (52.5 percent) decreased, 4,960 (41.9 percent) increased, and 664 (5.6 percent) had no change. DLA obligations related to vendors providing medical, dental, and veterinary equipment and supplies had the largest increases, and obligations related to those providing fuels, lubricants, oils, and waxes and those providing aerospace components had the largest decreases. The decreases did not significantly alter the proportion of DLA contracting obligations going to vendors in three primary socioeconomic groups (small disadvantaged, women–owned, and minority–owned). Why GAO Did This Study This report responds to a request from the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee that GAO review DOD's management of the DWWCF cash balance and DLA's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is part of GAO's body of work in response to the CARES Act. This report provides information on: (1) actions DOD took from October 2018 through March 2021 to maintain the DWWCF cash balance between its targeted upper and lower cash requirements; (2) the effects of the pandemic on DLA's supply chain management activity, including medical supplies, starting in March 2020; (3) DLA's planning to support a pandemic event and tracking of its performance in meeting customer needs from March 2020 through June 2021; and (4) changes in DLA's contracting activity, by type of product and individual vendor, from March 2019– February 2020 and March 2020–February 2021. GAO reviewed DWWCF cash balances and budget estimates; DLA readiness reports and performance measures; and federal contracting data; and interviewed officials of DLA and its customers. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or fielde1@gao.gov.
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  • Justice Department, EPA and the State of Indiana Reach Clean Air Act Settlement with Lone Star Industries
    In Crime News
    Lone Star Industries Inc, a subsidiary of Italian company Buzzi Unicem, has agreed to upgrade and optimize pollution control equipment and procedures at its cement manufacturing facility in Greencastle, Indiana, to resolve Clean Air Act (CAA) violations brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
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  • New York Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to File False Returns
    In Crime News
    A resident of Newburgh, New York, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to defraud the United States, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.
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  • Facing Long Post-Hurricane Recovery, Court in La. Gets Help From Friends
    In U.S Courts
    Hurricane Laura has left a lasting impact on the Western Louisiana community of Lake Charles, and the federal courthouse could be closed a year or more. Despite the disarray, courts in New Orleans, Texas, and even Alaska have reached out to support the court’s staff in getting back on their feet.  
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  • Malware Author Pleads Guilty for Role in Transnational Cybercrime Organization Responsible for more than $568 Million in Losses
    In Crime News
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  • Science & Tech Spotlight: Air Quality Sensors
    In U.S GAO News
    Why This Matters Air quality sensors are essential to measuring and studying pollutants that can harm public health and the environment. Technological improvements have led to smaller, more affordable sensors as well as satellite-based sensors with new capabilities. However, ensuring the quality and appropriate interpretation of sensor data can be challenging. The Technology What is it? Air quality sensors monitor gases, such as ozone, and particulate matter, which can harm human health and the environment. Federal, state, and local agencies jointly manage networks of stationary air quality monitors that make use of sensors. These monitors are expensive and require supporting infrastructure. Officials use the resulting data to decide how to address pollution or for air quality alerts, including alerts during wildfires or on days with unhealthy ozone levels. However, these networks can miss pollution at smaller scales and in rural areas. They generally do not measure air toxics—more localized pollutants that may cause cancer and chronic health effects—such as ethylene oxide and toxic metals. Two advances in sensor technologies may help close these gaps. First, newer low-cost sensors can now be deployed virtually anywhere, including on fences, cars, drones, and clothing (see fig. 1). Researchers, individuals, community groups, and private companies have started to deploy these more affordable sensors to improve their understanding of a variety of environmental and public health concerns. Second, federal agencies have for decades operated satellites with sensors that monitor air quality to understand weather patterns and inform research. Recent satellite launches deployed sensors with enhanced air monitoring capabilities, which researchers have begun to use in studies of pollution over large areas. Figure 1. There are many types of air quality sensors, including government-operated ground-level and satellite-based sensors, as well as low-cost commercially available sensors that can now be used on a variety of platforms, such as bicycles, cars, trucks, and drones. How does it work? Low-cost sensors use a variety of methods to measure air quality, including lasers to estimate the number and size of particles passing through a chamber and meters to estimate the amount of a gas passing through the sensor. The sensors generally use algorithms to convert raw data into useful measurements (see fig. 2). The algorithms may also adjust for temperature, humidity and other conditions that affect sensor measurements. Higher-quality devices can have other features that improve results, such as controlling the temperature of the air in the sensors to ensure measurements are consistent over time. Sensors can measure different aspects of air quality depending on how they are deployed. For example, stationary sensors measure pollution in one location, while mobile sensors, such as wearable sensors carried by an individual, reflect exposure at multiple locations. Satellite-based sensors generally measure energy reflected or emitted from the earth and the atmosphere to identify pollutants between the satellite and the ground. Some sensors observe one location continuously, while others observe different parts of the earth over time. Multiple sensors can be deployed in a network to track the formation, movement, and variability of pollutants and to improve the reliability of measurements. Combining data from multiple sensors can increase their usefulness, but it also increases the expertise needed to interpret the measurements, especially if data come from different types of sensors. Figure 2. A low-cost sensor pulls air in to measure pollutants and stores information for further study. How mature is it? Sensors originally developed for specific applications, such as monitoring air inside a building, are now smaller and more affordable. As a result, they can now be used in many ways to close gaps in monitoring and research. For example, local governments can use them to monitor multiple sources of air pollution affecting a community, and scientists can use wearable sensors to study the exposure of research volunteers. However, low-cost sensors have limitations. They operate with fewer quality assurance measures than government-operated sensors and vary in the quality of data they produce. It is not yet clear how newer sensors should be deployed to provide the most benefit or how the data should be interpreted. Some low-cost sensors carry out calculations using artificial intelligence algorithms that the designers cannot always explain, making it difficult to interpret varying sensor performance. Further, they typically measure common pollutants, such as ozone and particulate matter. There are hundreds of air toxics for which additional monitoring using sensors could be beneficial. However, there may be technical or other challenges that make it impractical to do so. Older satellite-based sensors typically provided infrequent and less detailed data. But newer sensors offer better data for monitoring air quality, which could help with monitoring rural areas and pollution transport, among other benefits. However, satellite-based sensor data can be difficult to interpret, especially for pollution at ground level. In addition, deployed satellite-based sensor technologies currently only measure a few pollutants, including particulate matter, ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide. Opportunities Improved research on health effects. The ability to track personal exposure and highly localized pollution could improve assessments of public health risks. Expanded monitoring. More dense and widespread monitoring could help identify pollution sources and hot spots, in both urban and rural areas. Enhanced air quality management. Combined measurements from stationary, mobile, and satellite-based sensors can help officials understand and mitigate major pollution issues, such as ground-level ozone and wildfire smoke. Community engagement. Lower cost sensors open up new possibilities for community engagement and citizen science, which is when the public conducts or participates in the scientific process, such as by making observations, collecting and sharing data, and conducting experiments. Challenges Performance. Low-cost sensors have highly variable performance that is not well understood, and their algorithms may not be transparent. Low-cost sensors operated by different users or across different locations may have inconsistent measurements. Interpretation. Expertise may be needed to interpret sensor data. For example, sensors produce data in real time that may be difficult to interpret without health standards for short-term exposures. Data management. Expanded monitoring will create large amounts of data with inconsistent formatting, which will have to be stored and managed. Alignment with needs. Few of the current low-cost and satellite-based sensors measure air toxics. In addition, low-income communities, which studies show are disproportionally harmed by air pollution, may still face challenges deploying low-cost sensors. Policy Context and Questions How can policymakers leverage new opportunities for widespread monitoring, such as citizen science, while also promoting appropriate use and interpretation of data? How can data from a variety of sensors be integrated to better understand air quality issues, such as environmental justice concerns, wildfires, and persistent ozone problems? How can research and development efforts be aligned to produce sensors to monitor key pollutants that are not widely monitored, such as certain air toxics? For more information, contact Karen Howard at (202) 512-6888 or HowardK@gao.gov.
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  • Briefing with Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Sung Kim and Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs David F. Helvey on the Secretaries’ Upcoming Trip to Japan and Republic of Korea
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • United States Announces Nearly $180 Million in Humanitarian Assistance for the Rakhine State/Rohingya Refugee Crisis
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  • Physician Pleads Guilty in Medicaid Fraud Conspiracy
    In Crime News
    A California man pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
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