Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Press Availability

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Amman, Jordan

St. Regis Hotel

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Let me start with a few words before taking some questions.  And let me start, first of all, by congratulating the people of Jordan on the 75th anniversary of the kingdom’s independence this week.  I’d very much like to thank His Majesty King Abdullah for a very warm welcome today and a very good conversation.  Our time in Jordan has been brief, but we had very broad-ranging and very substantive discussions at the palace today.

Jordan’s recent contributions to help bring an end to the conflict in Israel demonstrate the kingdom’s enduring role as a force for peace in the region, which is one of the reasons our relationship is so strong and so vital.  His Majesty King Abdullah’s leadership has been crucial on this run, as it has been in so many other areas where Jordan and the United States work together, including efforts to promote stability, economic opportunity, and justice across the region.

Jordan is more than a strategic partner to America.  It’s a friend.  And friends stand by one another in challenging times, and I know this past period has been difficult on Jordan, as it has been on many of us.  Both of our nations are now grappling with how we can grow our economies so that they can deliver real opportunities for our people.  The fact that Jordan is doing this while continuing to show considerable generosity to people who came here fleeing violence and persecution is a reflection of the country’s character and the big hearts of the Jordanian people.

As you know, President Biden asked me to make this trip, and I’ve kept him updated on our progress throughout.  Securing the ceasefire was important, particularly because of the devastating toll violence took on families on both sides.  But we see the ceasefire not as an end, but as a beginning, something to build on.  Earlier today, I discussed how we can do this with President al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Shoukry in Cairo.  Egypt played a crucial role in brokering the ceasefire.  It’s already committed $500 million to the reconstruction effort in Gaza.  We talked about that.

We also discussed Egypt’s water needs and the importance of finding a diplomatic solution to issues around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that meet the legitimate needs of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia.  I commended Egypt for its leadership in urging Libya’s legislature to keep elections on track for December, and we agreed on the need for all foreign forces to leave Libya.  I also underscored the importance that President Biden places on human rights, and we agreed to engage in a constructive dialogue on these issues in Egypt.

Here today in Amman, my conversation with His Majesty touched on, again, a range of topics, including the urgent work we need to do together to meet humanitarian and reconstruction needs in Gaza while ensuring that the Palestinian people, not Hamas, benefit from this assistance.  We discussed Jordan’s essential role as a custodian of Muslim holy places and the importance of preserving the historic status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites.  Jordan also plays a vital role in the West Bank.  As the U.S. re-engages with the Palestinian people and reopens our consulate in Jerusalem, we’ll have a lot of work to do together as well.

Our meetings today in Cairo and Amman, indeed this whole trip, reflect a fundamental reality.  If we want to avoid a return to the harrowing violence of recent weeks, the countries of this region need to help and support one another.  In the coming days, I’ll be consulting broadly with Gulf countries and other partners to ensure we all contribute to recovery, stability, and the reduction of tensions.

We covered a fair bit of ground in a short trip, but I think one thing is very clear from the many conversations that I’ve had:  The aspirations of people in every place we visit – Palestinians, Israelis, Egyptians, Jordanians – are remarkably similar.  They want security for themselves and their loved ones.  They want opportunity.  They want greater equity.  They want their leaders to deliver on their most fundamental needs.  They want their rights to be respected.  They want to live with dignity.  These are the aspirations we all have, including Americans; indeed, they’re universal.  As people in this region make hard choices and do hard work to meet these goals, the United States will stand with them.

And with that, I’m happy to take some questions.

MR PRICE:  We’ll turn to Nike Ching.

QUESTION:  Good evening, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good evening.

QUESTION:  How are you?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  We understand you had a very busy schedule today, so thank you for talking to the press.  On the human rights issue with regard to your meeting with – earlier today with President Sisi, are Americans or other detainees being released by Egypt soon?  How did the discussion come about, or was there a discussion to prompt the release?  And if I may, why not include a meeting with human rights defenders in Egypt in the original schedule?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.  We had a lengthy discussion and exchange on human rights today in the meeting with President al-Sisi, which followed on President Biden’s conversation with President al-Sisi some days ago.  And a couple of things.  First, with regard to Americans who are detained, first let me say that we remain deeply saddened by the needless death in custody of Mustafa Kassem.  We’ve seen, I think, just in the last hours the Freedom Initiative and the good-faith work that it’s doing to put a light on this important issue.  I certainly raised this in my meeting today, and we’ll continue to do so until Americans are reunited with their families.

More broadly, I think you know that President Biden takes the issue of human rights and our commitment to human rights very seriously.  Indeed, he’s asked us to put it at the heart of our foreign policy, and that’s exactly what we’re doing, and that was reflected in the conversations that we had today.

Oh, and I’m sorry, as to – with regard to meetings, look, we had unfortunately in Egypt, and also here in Amman, a very compressed time to work with.  And I had an opportunity, as you know, when I was in Ramallah, to meet with civil society leaders, including some remarkable people who are working on human rights.  I expect that in the future and on future trips, I’ll have an opportunity to do more of that.  We just had, unfortunately, in Cairo, a very, very tight time and only were able to do meetings with the government.

MR PRICE:  Saleh Khawaldeh from Petra News Agency.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Your Excellency, what’s the next U.S. step for dealing with the conflict after the ceasefire, especially after the – President Biden’s statement that the two-state solution is the only solution?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.  The most urgent thing is humanitarian assistance for the people in Gaza, and particularly water, sanitation, electricity.  We all have to come together to answer those immediate needs.  Beyond that, reconstruction, rebuilding.  And we had very good conversations over the course of the last couple of days with the Palestinian Authority, with Israel, with Egypt, and we were also in conversation with the United Nations about that effort, and we’ve already contributed significant sums.  The Egyptians have contributed a very significant sum to the rebuilding process.  So we will start to engage in that as well.

But more broadly than that, what we want to see and what we’re working on is steps that all sides can take to reduce tensions and to build both some more trust and more hope going forward.  And as that takes shape and as that hopefully moves forward, then I think we’re – we can see the possibility of conditions developing in which it will be more possible to actually advance on the prospect of two states.  But most urgently, again, is dealing with the immediate needs of people and then taking the necessary steps that I think can create better conditions in which we can try to move forward on two states.

MR PRICE:  Tracy Wilkinson, please.

QUESTION:  Yes, hi, thank you.  You had very long meetings today with both President Sisi and King Abdullah.  So I just wondered if you could give a little more detail about the kinds of steps you talked about them taking – Egypt, for example – beyond just reconstruction, but maintaining the ceasefire, keeping it in check.  You mentioned the money that Egypt is going to contribute to reconstruction, but what other concrete steps are they prepared to take?  For example, we’ve seen Israel has already relaxed some of the fishing restrictions on Gaza.  What in that kind of vein might Egypt take?  Jordan – King Abdullah for a long time has been very upset about restrictions that Israel is putting on access to al-Aqsa.  Have you been able to reassure him or convey any reassurances from Israel that that will be less of an issue in the future?

And then finally, a human rights question to follow up on the human rights issue with President Sisi.  This administration came in saying that human rights would be the core value of your foreign policy.  Do you feel at all like President Sisi thinks that maybe now that you need him for Gaza, he is somehow inoculated against your demands for improving the human rights situations in Egypt?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Great, thank you.  There are a number of things that everyone involved is looking at, and I think will be doing to address the – some of the needs that I’ve described.  And in particular when it comes to Gaza, there has to be – and we’re working on this – a process to, in a very deliberate way, evaluate exactly what is required, what needs to be rebuilt, and then how do we most effectively go about doing that.  And that is going to involve the United Nations, that’s going to involve Israel, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority.

And so we’re working to put together the right process, the right mechanism to do that.  And it really does start with assessing exactly what’s needed and then how to address the need.  And again, just to make the clear distinction, we have – and this is already moving – urgent humanitarian requirements, as I’ve said, particularly water, electricity, sanitation.  That’s already moving forward with different things moving into Gaza as we speak.

With regard to some of the flashpoints that contributed to the events of the last couple of weeks, we discussed those in some detail, to include the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount, to include the evictions of Palestinians who’ve been living in homes for decades, even generations, to include a number of other issues of incitement to violence, payments to prisoners who – or their families, who are engaged or been engaged in acts of terrorism.  We cover all of those and more and shared our strongly held view that it’s really incumbent on all sides to, again, avoid taking steps that could potentially reignite this cycle of violence, and longer-term would make the efforts to pursue a two-state solution even more challenging than they already are.  So we certainly shared that.

And again, to come back to human rights, I think the fact that, as I said, we had a lengthy exchange on that with President al-Sisi as a reflection of the fact that it remains very much on the agenda with Egypt.  And my own exchange followed one that President Biden had with President al-Sisi when they spoke on the phone.

MR PRICE:  Final question from Priyanka Navani from Roya TV.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good evening.

QUESTION:  Good evening.  Thank you so much for being here, and welcome to Jordan.  Yesterday during a press conference with Netanyahu, you reaffirmed President Biden’s support for the idea that Palestinians and Israelis should both be able to leave – live, sorry – securely and safely.  And actually you just underscored that very point, that Palestinians should be able to live safely, in your speech.  But yesterday in your press conference, you said that the U.S. would be contributing more money to the Iron Dome, and then you said also that Palestinians – you would be expanding trade and investment in Palestine.  So I’m just wondering:  Why not commit to building infrastructure in Palestine that would keep Palestinians safe?  Maslow’s hierarchy would indicate that safety would be more of a priority than trade and investment.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  A few things there.  As we announced yesterday, the United States is in the process of providing more than $360 million of assistance to the Palestinian people.  That includes nearly $40 million in new assistance and that’s directed primarily to support the humanitarian efforts in the West Bank and Gaza.  The new assistance includes nearly 33 million for UNRWA in support of the West Bank and Gaza operations, an additional five and a half million, again, for humanitarian partners.

And all of this will support humanitarian organizations in the first instance to provide what’s needed immediately, and that’s the emergency shelter, food, relief items, health care, mental health, et cetera.  But beyond that, working with Congress, the State Department, USAID intend to provide about 75 million in additional development and economic assistance over the next year that can support relief, recovery, and indeed, infrastructure in the West Bank as well as in Gaza.  It will help advance private sector growth, which is really critical to bringing jobs to people who need them, as well as access to basic needs, services, like health care, like food.  And there are additional programs as well.  This is on top of about $250 million in economic, development, and security and humanitarian assistance that we announced before recent events, back in March and April.

And that’s where you get to a total of about $360 million for the Palestinian people.  All of this does go to building things – some concrete things, some programmatic things, all of which are designed to bring more hope, but also, concretely, more prospects, more opportunity for Palestinians.  And some of that need will include infrastructure.  This is critical because so much of this is, in the first instance, doing everything we can to improve in material ways the lives that people are living.  That’s where I think it starts.  That’s where you try to build hope as well as opportunity.  And that, both in a literal sense when it comes to infrastructure and in a broader sense, is the foundation, I believe, upon which maybe we can build something even better.

So there’s a lot that’s already in the works.  It’s going to take some time to see the effect, to see the impact, but it is moving forward.  Thank you.

MR PRICE:  Thank you very much.

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    As of June 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) required consumers nationwide to use the Lifeline National Verifier (Verifier), a centralized process and data system, to check their eligibility for Lifeline. Because consumers who participate in certain federal benefits programs qualify for discounted phone and internet service through Lifeline, the Verifier checks state and federal benefits databases to verify consumers' eligibility. The Verifier also includes a manual review process for consumers to submit documents proving their eligibility if they cannot be found in a database. As of November 2020, the Verifier had connections with databases in 20 states and 2 federal agencies. GAO found that although consumers in states without state database connections had the same likelihood of actually meeting eligibility requirements as consumers in states with such connections, they were less likely to be found eligible for Lifeline through the Verifier (see figure). Average Eligibility Determination for New Lifeline Applicants in States with and without State Database Connections to the Lifeline National Verifier, June 2018 through June 2020 FCC coordinated with state and federal stakeholders to implement the Verifier. However, stakeholders told GAO that many eligible consumers are not aware of the Verifier or Lifeline. Consumers may lack this awareness because FCC's consumer education planning did not always align with key practices, such as developing consistent, clear messages and researching target audiences. As a result, eligible consumers may not apply for Lifeline. Moreover, while FCC originally envisioned tribal governments and organizations assisting residents of tribal lands with the Verifier, it has not provided them with quality information to effectively do so. Although FCC reported that the Verifier is meeting its goal of improving the consumer experience, GAO found that the manual review process, which FCC used to determine the eligibility of more than half of applicants in many states, is challenging for consumers. However, FCC does not collect complete information on consumers' experience with this process, and thus is limited in its ability to identify and address the challenges consumers face. Such challenges likely contributed to eligible consumers giving up on their applications. For example, we found that more than two-thirds of applicants who underwent manual review between June 2018 and June 2020 did not complete their applications. FCC's Lifeline program discounts phone and internet service for eligible low-income consumers. In 2019, FCC authorized $982 million in support for 6.9 million eligible consumers. FCC created the Verifier with the stated goals of reducing fraud and costs and improving the consumer experience. The Verifier includes an online application, connections to state and federal benefits databases, and a standardized manual review process. GAO was asked to review FCC's implementation of the Verifier. This report examines: (1) the status of the Verifier; (2) FCC's coordination with stakeholders and efforts to educate consumers and facilitate tribal stakeholders' involvement; and (3) the extent to which the Verifier is meeting its goals. GAO reviewed FCC orders and documentation; analyzed Verifier performance and Lifeline subscriber data; interviewed FCC and other agency officials, and selected industry, state, tribal, and consumer stakeholders; and surveyed state officials. Stakeholders were selected to obtain a variety of non-generalizable viewpoints. GAO is making six recommendations, including that FCC develop a consumer education plan, provide quality information to tribal organizations, and collect information on consumers' experience with the manual review process. FCC agreed to take steps to address all of GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202)-512-2834 or vonaha@gao.gov.
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  • Justice Department Warns Taxpayers to Avoid Fraudulent Tax Preparers
    In Crime News
    With less than one month left in this year’s tax season, the Department of Justice urges taxpayers to choose their return preparers wisely. Return preparer fraud is one of the IRS’ Dirty Dozen Tax Scams. Unscrupulous preparers who include errors or false information on a customer’s return could leave a taxpayer open to liability for unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest.
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  • Two Louisiana Return Preparers Plead Guilty to Tax Fraud Conspiracy
    In Crime News
    Two Louisiana tax preparers pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to defraud the United States, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
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  • Interagency Council on Homelessness: Governance Responsibilities Need Further Clarification
    In U.S GAO News
    The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) consists of representatives from 19 federal agencies—including a Chair and Vice-Chair—on its governing Council and a full-time staff led by an Executive Director. The Executive Director has led most day-to-day operations, including hiring and managing staff, preparing budget requests, working with private-sector groups, drafting strategic plans, developing performance goals, and drafting agendas for the Council's quarterly meetings. Council members have quarterly meetings to discuss and consider homelessness issues and review the efforts of the Executive Director and USICH staff. Actions taken at Council meetings held from December 2017 through March 2020 included electing the Chair and Vice-Chair, appointing the Executive Director, and approving the USICH strategic plan and activities of interagency working groups. USICH staff also informed the Council of their performance results during the quarterly meetings. Some roles and responsibilities for the governance of USICH, such as the types of matters that require Council approval, are not fully defined or documented. Recent Council Chairs told GAO they generally did not have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities and generally based them on their predecessors' activities. For example, the 2019 Chair stated he saw his responsibilities as preparing and chairing quarterly Council meetings and acting as the Council's external spokesperson, but there were no written procedures detailing these responsibilities. The 2019 Chair also stated that he had no involvement in overseeing the USICH budget or operations, staff, and interagency working groups. Standards of Internal Control for the Federal Government state that for an entity's objectives to be achieved the responsibilities and delegations of authority should be clearly established. At its quarterly meeting held in March 2020, the Council approved a charter that addresses voting mechanics, performance evaluations for the Executive Director, and the authority of the Executive Director to oversee personnel. But the charter does not fully clarify the Council's responsibilities in other areas, such as the responsibilities of the Council Chair, types of matters that would require approval by Council vote, and actions that are within the Executive Director's delegated authority. Additional clarity and documentation in these areas may assist the Council in securing a fuller understanding of its oversight role and responsibilities. The mission of USICH is to coordinate the federal response to homelessness and create partnerships with the private sector and state and local governments to reduce and end homelessness. The joint explanatory statement related to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 includes a provision for GAO to review the management and governance structure of USICH, including the Council's ability to oversee the Executive Director and USICH operations. This report (1) describes the structure and practices for USICH operations and (2) evaluates the extent to which roles and responsibilities for the governance of USICH have been defined and documented. GAO focused primarily on the 2017–2020 time frame and analyzed agency documentation (such as Council meeting transcripts, and USICH's strategic plan and performance reports) and interviewed Council members, current and former Executive Directors, and staff from member agencies. GAO is recommending that the Council further clarify and document its roles and responsibilities for matters requiring the Council's approval, the role of the Council Chair, and actions within the Executive Director's delegated authority. The Council concurred with the recommendation. For more information, contact Alicia Puente Cackley, (202) 512-8678, cackleya@gao.gov.
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  • Justice Department Settles with Amtrak to Resolve Disability Discrimination Across its Intercity Rail System
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced that it reached an agreement with Amtrak, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, to resolve the department’s findings of disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the agreement Amtrak will fix inaccessible stations and pay $2.25 million to victims hurt by its inaccessible stations.
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  • Operation Legend: Case of the Day
    In Crime News
    A Bates City, Missouri, man was charged in federal court after law enforcement officers seized nearly two dozen firearms and illegal drugs from his residence.
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  • Antitrust Division Supports Modernizing Merger Filing Exemptions For Certain Investments
    In Crime News
    On Monday, September 21, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim concurred in the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Federal Register publication of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to revise the premerger notification rules (the Rules) that implement the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act (HSR).
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  • Attorney General Announces Task Force to Combat COVID-19 Fraud
    In Crime News
    U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today directed the establishment of the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance enforcement efforts against COVID-19 related fraud.
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  • Medical Device Maker Merit Medical To Pay $18 Million To Settle Allegations Of Improper Payments To Physicians
    In Crime News
    Medical device maker Merit Medical Systems Inc. (MMSI), of South Jordan, Utah, has agreed to pay $18 million to resolve allegations that the company caused the submission of false claims to the Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE programs by paying kickbacks to physicians and hospitals to induce the use of MMSI products, the Department of Justice announced today. 
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  • Former Deputy Jailer Sentenced to 48 Months for Violating the Civil Rights of an Inmate
    In Crime News
    ​​​​​​​A former Shelby County Deputy Jailer, William Anthony Carey, 31, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gregory F. VanTatenhove to serve 48 months in federal prison for violating the civil rights of an inmate in his custody.
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Defense Reform: DOD Has Made Progress, but Needs to Further Refine and Formalize Its Reform Efforts
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense (DOD) has made progress in establishing valid and reliable cost baselines for its enterprise business operations and has additional efforts ongoing. DOD's January 2020 report responding to section 921 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 addressed most of the key requirements from that section but also had some limitations, which DOD acknowledged. For example, the baselines included only labor and information technology costs because DOD's financial data do not attribute costs to other specific activities required under section 921. However, DOD officials told GAO they have developed and are continuing to refine baselines for all of the department's enterprise business operations, such as financial and human resource management, to enable DOD to better track the resources devoted to these operations and the progress of reform. While still in progress, this effort shows promise in addressing the weaknesses in DOD's section 921 report and in meeting the need for consistent baselines for DOD's reform efforts that GAO has previously identified. GAO found that DOD's reported savings of $37 billion from its reform efforts and a Defense-Wide Review to better align resources are largely reflected in its budget materials; however, the savings were not always well documented or consistent with the department's definitions of reform. Specifically: DOD had limited information on the analysis underlying its savings estimates, including (1) economic assumptions, (2) alternative options, and (3) any costs of taking the actions to realize savings, such as opportunity costs. Therefore, GAO was unable to determine the quality of the analysis that led to DOD's savings decisions. Further, some of the cost savings initiatives were not clearly aligned with DOD's definitions of reform, and thus DOD may have overstated savings that came from its reform efforts rather than other sources of savings, like cost avoidance. For example, one initiative was based on the delay of military construction projects. According to DOD officials, this was done to fund higher priorities. But if a delayed project is still planned, the costs will likely be realized in a future year. Without processes to standardize development and documentation of savings and to consistently identify reform savings based on reform definitions, decision makers may lack reliable information on DOD's estimated reform savings. In coordinating its reform efforts, DOD has generally followed leading practices for collaboration, but there is a risk that this collaboration may not be sustained in light of any organizational changes that Congress or DOD may make. This risk is increased because the Office of the Chief Management Officer (OCMO) and other offices have not formalized and institutionalized these efforts through written policies or agreements. Without written policies or formal agreements that define how organizations should collaborate with regard to DOD's reform and efficiency efforts, current progress may be lost, and future coordination efforts may be hindered. DOD spends billions of dollars each year to maintain key business operations. Section 921 of the NDAA for FY 2019 established requirements for DOD to reform these operations and report on their efforts. DOD has also undertaken additional efforts to reform its operations in recent years. Section 921 called for GAO to assess the accuracy of DOD's reported cost baselines and savings, and section 1753 of the NDAA for FY 2020 called for GAO to report on the OCMO's efficiency initiatives. This report assesses the extent to which DOD has (1) established valid and reliable baseline cost estimates for its business operations; (2) established well-documented cost savings estimates reflecting its reforms; and (3) coordinated its reform efforts. GAO assessed documents supporting costs, savings estimates, and coordination efforts; interviewed DOD officials; observed demonstrations of DOD's reform tracking tools; and assessed DOD's efforts using selected criteria. GAO is making three recommendations—specifically, that DOD establish formal processes to standardize development and documentation of cost savings; ensure that reported savings are consistent with the department's definition of reform; and formalize policies or agreements on its reform efforts. DOD concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Elizabeth Field at (202) 512-2775 or fielde1@gao.gov.
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  • Statement by Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division on Veterans Day
    In Crime News
    The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and its Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative would like to wish a happy Veterans Day to our soldiers, both past and present. We owe you our thanks, but more than that, we owe you our freedom. As the head of the Civil Rights Division, I am entrusted with enforcing laws that protect the rights of the brave men and women of our nation’s armed forces, and the veterans who have served in the past. Enforcement of these very important federal civil rights laws helps ensure that these men and women can continue to safeguard our freedom. 
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  • Puerto Rico: Perspectives on the Potential to Expand Air Cargo Operations
    In U.S GAO News
    Cargo was flown by air between more than 97 countries within the selected regions of Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the U.S. that may affect air cargo expansion in Puerto Rico. However, according to Department of Transportation (DOT) and European Union data, most international air cargo transportation was concentrated at a handful of countries and at airports in these regions. For example, four countries in Europe accounted for 72 percent of the U.S.-European Union air cargo transported, by weight. Likewise for airports, Miami International Airport accounted for 70 percent of air cargo transported between the U.S. and Latin America. Worldwide, cargo-only carriers transported on average 13.8 billion pounds of air cargo to and from the U.S. from 2016 through 2018. Of that cargo, two of the selected regions—Latin America and Europe—when combined accounted for 46 percent. Air Cargo Transported by Cargo-Only Airlines between the U.S. and Global Regions, Average Weight in Millions of Pounds, 2016 through 2018 Based on interviews with industry stakeholders and studies reviewed. GAO identified four factors that are generally associated with an airport's ability to attract air cargo traffic: (1) an airport's geographical location; (2) its proximity to transportation networks; (3) its supporting airport infrastructure and resources; and (4) the governmental and regulatory environments. For example, an airport located near businesses that generate large volumes of both inbound and outbound cargo that could be transported by air may be an important geographic factor for air carriers. Puerto Rican government and industry stakeholders GAO spoke with said that increased air cargo would benefit its airports and lead to positive effects on the Puerto Rican economy. For example, officials noted that expansion of air cargo operations could increase the use of underutilized airports and create opportunities for existing industry—such as the pharmaceutical, medical device, and aerospace industries—and help develop new ones. Puerto Rican and industry stakeholders had varying perspectives on the potential for Puerto Rico's expanding its air cargo operations. For example, some stakeholders said Puerto Rico's geographic location may allow it to serve as a refueling and cargo distribution point, particularly for flights between Europe and Latin America, while others said the island may be too close to some Latin American destinations to serve that purpose. Whether and to what extent Puerto Rico can increase air cargo operations depends on how air carriers weigh the various factors discussed above. Puerto Rico's economy has been in decline for much of the last 15 years and was devastated by hurricanes in 2017. Puerto Rico has sought to increase air cargo and passenger traffic at its international airports as a means to bolster and diversify its economy. Specifically, Puerto Rico seeks to serve as a transshipment point for transferring cargo between air carriers flying from Europe to Latin America. Air cargo, whether carried in the holds of passenger aircraft or by cargo-only aircraft, is an important component of global trade. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 includes a provision for GAO to study the international air cargo transportation services among the United States and the African, Latin American, and European regions and the potential expansion of air cargo operations in Puerto Rico. This report addresses (1) what is known about air cargo operations between these world regions; (2) factors affecting the development of air cargo markets; and (3) Puerto Rican officials' and selected industry stakeholders' views on the economic effect and potential of expanding air cargo operations in Puerto Rico. GAO analyzed DOT and European air cargo data for flights between the U.S. and the selected regions for 2016 through 2018 (the latest available data). GAO also interviewed officials from DOT, and stakeholders from Puerto Rico and the air-cargo industry, selected based on prior GAO work and stakeholder mission. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or krauseh@gao.gov.
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  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud After Their Meeting
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim Delivers Remarks at Virtual MOU Signing Ceremony with Korean Prosecution Service
    In Crime News
    It is with great pleasure that I sign this Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of the Department of Justice alongside my good friend, Prosecutor General Yoon. Enhancing the ties between our agencies has been an important priority for me during my tenure as Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division. While only a few years ago we knew comparatively little about one another, our relationship has quickly blossomed into a strong and enduring friendship. I am extremely pleased that we have succeeded in developing important and lasting ties between our agencies, as underscored by our signing of this Memorandum of Understanding today.
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  • Former Georgia Supervisory Correctional Officer Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Offenses for Assaulting Inmates
    In Crime News
    A former supervisory correctional officer at the Valdosta State Prison (VSP) in Valdosta, Georgia, pleaded guilty today to violating the civil rights of two inmates during two separate incidents.
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    In Justice News
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  • Update to Secretary Pompeo’s Travel to Asia
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Powers Delivers Remarks at Cartel Working Group Plenary: Big Data and Cartelization, 2020 International Competition Network Annual Conference
    In Crime News
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