Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good morning. Good afternoon, Mr. President.
STAFF: Good afternoon. The president will be here – two seconds.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Minister, good to see you.
FOREIGN MINISTER ONYEAMA: Good to see you too, Secretary. Excellent. Looking well. Congratulations also on your appointment and everything.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you so much. And so great to be reconnected with you. I appreciated our conversation on the phone of some weeks ago, and so good to be working with you again, Geoffrey.
Mr. President, very nice to see you, sir. (Inaudible.)
PRESIDENT BUHARI: Thank you very much. (Laughter.).
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So good to see you again.
PRESIDENT BUHARI: Thank you. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I have such strong and good memories of our first meeting in Abuja six years ago, when you were gracious enough to receive me, and it really is very, very good to see you again. Given our shared democratic values, our wide-ranging bilateral relationship, and very rich people-to-people ties, I’m especially pleased to be able to make Nigeria part of my first visit, virtual visit, to Africa as Secretary of State and thank you so much to you and your team for making this visit such a good one. And I really wish we could be meeting in person again in Abuja. I look forward to the day when that’s possible but meanwhile, thank you for your virtual hospitality. I also want to thank my friend the foreign minister for joining today and for our good conversations and I’m so pleased to be working with him again.
Your Excellency, Mr. President, our relations have been strong for 60 years, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to work with you and your team on building on that foundation and charting a shared vision to guide our strategic partnership for the coming years. I look forward to discussing our cooperation in responding to a challenge to all of humanity, COVID-19, as well as our sustained efforts to strengthen global health security, so we’re better prepared for the next disease outbreak. I also hope to discuss how we can build our economies back even better and stronger after the pandemic, growing them and making them more equitable. Investing and protecting the most vulnerable communities in our countries I think contributes to our goal of building a lasting security for Americans and for Nigerians.
And of course, another challenge we face is the climate crisis. We were very grateful to you for being able to participate in the leaders summit last week that President Biden convened. We look forward to exploring ways that we can work together even more closely to reduce emissions and adapt to the inevitable changes to come. Our binational commission between the United States and Nigeria gives us and gives our governments the chance to evaluate every year the progress that we’ve made toward our joint goals: strengthening democratic institutions; promoting economic diversification and trade; expanding our security cooperation. We’re very much looking forward to the BNC later this year and the chance it offers to improve our cooperative effort.
So thank you again for the very warm welcome. Thank you for hosting us, and I very much look forward to hearing from you and then at some point in the future hopefully seeing you in person again.
PRESIDENT BUHARI: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary of State. Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I want to congratulate your Excellency on your appointment as Secretary of State of the United States and wish you a very successful tenure.
Nigeria attaches great importance to the relations with the United States. Let me in this connection express appreciation to President Joe Biden for his welcome and recent decision to appeal the immigration – to repeal the immigration restriction known as the Muslim ban on travel and visas for citizens predominantly from Muslim nations and African countries, including Nigeria.
I also wish to congratulate the United States for rejoining the World Health Organization and Paris Agreement on climate change. The leadership of the United States in these two organizations is crucial for international community. This action is a demonstration of the United States commitment in championing and supporting international organization with the aim to build a better world for all.
In this regard, Nigeria remains resolute in our commitment to supporting global efforts as enshrined in the Paris Agreement on climate change, which seeks to limit global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The convening of the climate change summit last week by President Biden is a strong indication of the renewed interest of the United States to the Paris Agreement.
The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impact it more negatively by existing conflicts, negative pressures in the Sahel, Central Africa, and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad region. Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and our security forces remain resolutely committed to continue them and addressing their root causes.
The support of important and strategic partners like United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concern, cooperation, and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.
In this connection and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, the Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region, and the Sahel weighing heavily on Africa underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart in Germany to Africa, and near the theater of operations.
On the part of Nigeria, I renew calls for enhanced collaboration in all forms with our friends and strategic partners to work together for greater security for all – the most significant condition for overcoming these existential challenges.
Thank you again, Mr. Secretary of State, for this meeting, and kindly extend my best wishes to President Biden. Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much, Mr. President. And I will certainly do so. Thank you.
PRESIDENT BUHARI: Thank you.
Greetings I’m Sam.
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- Department Press Briefing – March 19, 2021By Sam NewsMarch 19, 2021Jalina Porter, Principal [Read More…]
- William M. Kelly, M.D., Inc And Omega Imaging, Inc. Agree To Pay $5 Million To Resolve Alleged False Claims For Unsupervised And Unaccredited Radiology ServicesBy Sam NewsSeptember 9, 2020William M. Kelly Inc. and Omega Imaging Inc., together, operate 11 radiology facilities in Southern California, have agreed to pay the United States $5 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act (FCA) by knowingly submitting claims to Medicare and the military healthcare program, TRICARE, for unsupervised radiology services and services provided at unaccredited facilities, the Department of Justice announced today.[Read More…]
- Prescription Drugs: Department of Veterans Affairs Paid About Half as Much as Medicare Part D for Selected Drugs in 2017By Sam NewsJanuary 14, 2021GAO found that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) paid, on average, 54 percent less per unit for a sample of 399 brand-name and generic prescription drugs in 2017 as did Medicare Part D, even after accounting for applicable rebates and price concessions in the Part D program. GAO also found that 233 of the 399 drugs in the sample were at least 50 percent cheaper in VA than in Medicare, and 106 drugs were at least 75 percent cheaper. Only 43 drugs were cheaper in Medicare than in VA. The percent difference in price between the two programs was greater on average for generic drugs. Specifically, VA's prices were 68 percent lower than Medicare prices for the 203 generic drugs (an average difference of $0.19 per unit) and 49 percent lower for the 196 brand-name drugs (an average difference of $4.11 per unit). Average Per-Unit Net Prices Paid by Department of Veterans Affairs and Medicare Part D for Selected Drugs, 2017 Note: GAO's sample of 399 drugs included the top 100 brand-name and generic drugs in Medicare Part D in 2017, by: (1) highest expenditures; (2) highest utilization (by quantities dispensed); and (3) highest cost-per use. Per-unit prices are weighted to reflect differences in utilization in the two programs. Medicare prices reflect expenditures after accounting for rebates and other price concessions. While there are many factors that impact prices in the complex drug market, GAO identified several key program features that may contribute to the consistent price differential between VA and Medicare Part D. For example, Medicare's beneficiaries are divided among numerous prescription drug plans, which each negotiate drug prices with manufacturers. In contrast, VA is a single integrated health system with a unified list of covered drugs—thereby possibly strengthening its bargaining position when negotiating. In addition, VA has access to significant discounts defined by law, and can then negotiate further for lower prices. These discount prices are not available to Medicare Part D plans. GAO provided a draft of this product to HHS and VA for comment. Both agencies provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. In 2017, combined, Medicare Part D and VA accounted for approximately $105 billion in prescription drug sales—nearly one-third of total U.S. expenditures—and covered nearly 52 million individuals. The two programs use different methods to pay for prescription drugs. Medicare reimburses Part D plan sponsors, which in turn pay pharmacies to dispense drugs. VA primarily uses a direct purchase approach to acquire drugs from manufacturers. GAO was asked to examine differences in the amounts major federal programs paid for prescription drugs. This report: (1) compares average unit prices for prescription drugs in Medicare Part D to those in the VA; and (2) describes factors affecting prices in the two programs. GAO analyzed (1) CMS data for Medicare Part D payments to retail pharmacies as well as rebates and other price concessions Part D plans received and (2) VA drug purchasing data. These data were from 2017, the most recent data available at the time of GAO's analysis. To select a sample of drugs GAO identified the top 100 brand-name and 100 generic drugs in Medicare Part D in 2017 for three categories: (1) highest expenditure, (2) highest utilization, and (3) highest cost-per use. In total, this yielded 399 non-duplicate drugs (203 generic and 196 brand-name), which represented 44 percent of Medicare Part D spending in 2017. GAO compared weighted average unit prices for these drugs. GAO interviewed CMS and VA officials, and reviewed academic and government reports to understand factors that may affect prices in the two programs. For more information, contact John Dicken at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Commercial Shipping: Information on How Intermodal Chassis Are Made Available and the Federal Government’s Oversight RoleBy Sam NewsMarch 8, 2021What GAO Found Containerized shipping—performed by oceangoing vessels using standardized shipping containers—accounted for approximately 60 percent of all world seaborne trade, which was valued at approximately $12 trillion in 2017. At a port, shipping containers are placed on "intermodal chassis" (chassis), standardized trailers that carry shipping containers and attach to tractors for land transport. Multiple entities are involved in the movement of shipping containers, including intermodal equipment providers (IEP) (which own and provide chassis for a fee); ocean carriers (which transport cargo over water); and motor carriers (which transport shipping containers over land via chassis). Four distinct models are used in the U.S. to make chassis available to motor carriers (see table), each with benefits and drawbacks according to the entities GAO interviewed. While chassis are generally provided to motor carriers using one of these four models, more than one model may be available at a port. Chassis Provisioning Models Model 1: Single chassis provider An individual intermodal equipment provider (IEP) owns chassis that are directly provided to shippers or motor carriers. Model 2: Motor carrier-controlled A motor carrier owns or is responsible for a chassis that it has procured under a long-term lease. Model 3: Gray pool A single manager, often a third party, oversees the operations of a pool that is made up of chassis contributed by multiple IEPs. Model 4: Pool-of-pools Each IEP manages its respective chassis fleet, but each allow motor carriers to use any chassis among the fleets and to pick up and drop off chassis at any of the IEPs’ multiple locations. Source: GAO. | GAO-21-315R Entities GAO interviewed identified multiple benefits and drawbacks to each of the chassis provisioning models. Regarding benefits, for example, both the single chassis provider model and the motor carrier-controlled model allow IEPs and motor carriers to have direct control over the maintenance and repair of their chassis, something these entities potentially lose under other chassis provisioning models. Further, the gray pool and the pool-of-pools models can resolve many of the logistical concerns regarding the availability of chassis, leading to operational efficiencies for port operators and the ability of motor carriers to choose whatever chassis they wish. Regarding drawbacks, cost considerations were identified in some cases. For example, under the single chassis provider model, two IEPs told us that while an expected part of the business, repositioning chassis to ensure there is a sufficient supply of chassis where they are needed can be costly to the IEPs. The federal government provides oversight of chassis safety but has a limited economic oversight role regarding chassis. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) employs several inspection methods to help oversee chassis safety and compliance with regulations. For example, inspectors perform roadside inspections on commercial vehicles, including chassis, in operation. FMCSA also performs investigations of individual IEPs to oversee chassis safety. While one stakeholder GAO spoke with stated that FMCSA should consider maintaining safety ratings for IEPs—as is currently done for motor carriers—FMCSA officials told us that the current processes provide sufficient information to select IEPs for investigation. The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) oversees ocean carriers that provide service to and from the U.S. and works to ensure a competitive and reliable ocean transportation supply system. Entities may file complaints with FMC to allege violations of the Shipping Act of 1984, as amended. One such complaint was filed in August 2020, in which the complainants allege, among other things, that although ocean carriers do not own chassis, they still control the operation of chassis pools at ports. An initial decision on this complaint is expected in August 2021. None of the entities GAO spoke with identified additional actions they would like for FMC to take regarding chassis. Why GAO Did This Study Senate Report 116-109—incorporated by reference into the explanatory statement accompanying the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020—contained a provision for GAO to study intermodal chassis. Within the U.S., some entities have expressed concerns about chassis, including limited availability of chassis in some circumstances, as well as the age and safety of chassis. This report describes selected stakeholders' views on: (1) the ways in which chassis are made available for the movement of shipping containers and the benefits and drawbacks of those models, and (2) the federal government's role in the chassis market. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed relevant reports on chassis provisioning and federal oversight. GAO interviewed representatives from FMC, FMCSA, five industry associations, and the three largest intermodal equipment providers. GAO also interviewed three ocean carriers, five port operators, and a motor carrier selected, in part, for their large number of container movements. The information obtained from these interviews provides a broad perspective of relevant issues but is not generalizable to all entities. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s call with KRG Prime Minister BarzaniBy Sam NewsApril 25, 2021
- Atlanta Tax Professionals Plead Guilty to Promoting Syndicated Conservation Easement Tax Scheme Involving More Than $1.2 Billion in Fraudulent Charitable DeductionsBy Sam NewsDecember 21, 2020Stein Agee of Canton, Georgia, and Corey Agee of Atlanta, Georgia, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge W. Carleton Metcalf and pleaded guilty for their roles in a wide-ranging abusive tax scheme to defraud the IRS, announced United States Attorney R. Andrew Murray for the Western District of North Carolina, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, and Commissioner Charles Rettig of the IRS.[Read More…]
- Veterans Community Care Program: Improvements Needed to Help Ensure Timely Access to CareBy Sam NewsSeptember 30, 2020In a September 2020 report, GAO found that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) established an appointment scheduling process for its new Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP) but did not specify allowable wait times for some key steps in the process. Further, GAO found that VA had not established an overall wait-time performance measure—that is, the maximum amount of time it should take for veterans to receive care from community providers. In 2013, GAO recommended that VA establish a wait-time measure under a prior VA community care program, and in 2018 again recommended that VA establish an achievable wait-time goal to receive care under the VCCP. VA has not implemented these recommendations. Potential Allowable Wait Time to Obtain Care through the Veterans Community Care Program Note: This figure illustrates potential allowable wait times in calendar days for eligible veterans who are referred to the Veterans Community Care Program through routine referrals (not urgent), and have VA medical center staff—Referral Coordination Team (RCT) and community care staff (CC staff)—schedule the appointments on their behalf. Given VA's lack of action over the prior 7 years in implementing wait-time measures for various community care programs, GAO believes that Congressional action is warranted requiring VA to establish such an overall measure for the VCCP. This should help to achieve timely health care for veterans. GAO found additional VCCP challenges needing VA action: (1) VA uses metrics that are remnants from the previous community care program and inconsistent with the time frames established in the VCCP scheduling process. (2) Few community providers have signed up to use the software VA intends for VA medical center (VAMC) staff and community providers to use to electronically share referral information with each other. (3) Select VAMCs faced challenges scheduling appointments in a timely manner and most did not have the full amount of community care staff VA's staffing tool recommended. In June 2019, VA implemented its new community care program, the VCCP, as required by the VA MISSION Act of 2018. This new program replaced or consolidated prior community care programs. Under the VCCP, VAMC staff are responsible for community care appointment scheduling. This statement summarizes GAO's September 2020 report. It describes for the VCCP: (1) the appointment scheduling process that VA established for veterans, (2) the metrics VA used to monitor the timeliness of appointment scheduling, (3) VA's efforts to prepare VAMC staff for appointment scheduling, and (4) VA's efforts to determine VAMC staffing needs. In performing that work, GAO reviewed VA documentation, such as guidance, referral timeliness data, and VAMC community care staffing data; conducted site visits to five VAMCs; and interviewed VA and VAMC officials. In its September 2020 report, GAO recommended that Congress consider requiring VA to establish an overall wait-time measure for the VCCP. GAO also made three recommendations to VA, including that it align its monitoring metrics with the VCCP appointment scheduling process. VA did not concur with this recommendation, but concurred with the other two. GAO maintains that all recommendations are warranted. For more information, contact Sharon M. Silas at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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- Medtronic to Pay Over $9.2 Million To Settle Allegations of Improper Payments to South Dakota NeurosurgeonBy Sam NewsOctober 29, 2020Minnesota-based medical device maker Medtronic USA Inc. has agreed to pay $8.1 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by paying kickbacks to induce a South Dakota neurosurgeon to use certain Medtronic products, the Department of Justice announced today. Medtronic also agreed to pay an additional $1.11 million to resolve allegations that it violated the Open Payments Program by failing to accurately report payments it made to the neurosurgeon to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).[Read More…]
- The United States and United Kingdom: Reaffirming Our AllianceBy Sam NewsMay 2, 2021
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- South Carolina Man Sentenced for Making a Bomb Threat to a Clinic and Lying to the FBIBy Sam NewsSeptember 23, 2020Rodney Allen, 43, of Beaufort, South Carolina, was sentenced today in federal court in Jacksonville, Florida, to 24 months in prison. Allen previously pleaded guilty to one count of intimidating and interfering with the employees of an abortion clinic by making a bomb threat and one count of making false statements to a Special Agent with the FBI.[Read More…]
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- Venezuela: Additional Tracking Could Aid Treasury’s Efforts to Mitigate Any Adverse Impacts U.S. Sanctions Might Have on Humanitarian AssistanceBy Sam NewsFebruary 8, 2021The Venezuelan economy's performance has declined steadily for almost a decade and fallen steeply since the imposition of a series of U.S. sanctions starting in 2015. For example, the economy declined from negative 6.2 percent gross domestic product growth in 2015 to negative 35 percent in 2019 and negative 25 percent in 2020. The sanctions, particularly on the state oil company in 2019, likely contributed to the steeper decline of the Venezuelan economy, primarily by limiting revenue from oil production. However, mismanagement of Venezuela's state oil company and decreasing oil prices are among other factors that have also affected the economy's performance during this period. U.S. agencies have sought input from humanitarian organizations to identify the potential negative humanitarian consequences of sanctions related to Venezuela and taken steps to mitigate these issues. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Department of State (State) have solicited input from U.S.-funded humanitarian organizations on challenges they face, including the impact of sanctions. The U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and State have also taken steps to mitigate negative consequences. For example, Treasury issued licenses permitting various types of humanitarian assistance transactions in Venezuela (see figure). Treasury also maintains a call center and email account through which organizations can receive assistance with compliance issues or other challenges related to sanctions. While Treasury officials told GAO they respond to individual inquiries, Treasury does not systematically track and analyze information from these inquiries to identify trends or recurrent issues. Without collection and analysis of this information, Treasury and its interagency partners may be limited in their ability to develop further actions to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not disrupt humanitarian assistance. U.S. Humanitarian Assistance Supplies for Venezuelans U.S. sanctions related to Venezuela have likely had a limited impact, if any, on the U.S. oil industry. Despite an overall lower supply of oil in the U.S. market from the loss of Venezuelan crude oil due to sanctions, crude oil and retail gasoline prices in the U.S. have not increased substantially. Many other factors in addition to the sanctions simultaneously affected the oil market and the price of crude oil and retail gasoline prices, including production cuts in January 2019 by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and decreased demand for energy during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to industry officials to whom GAO spoke, U.S. refineries have adjusted to these changes by shifting to alternative sources and types of crude oil. Venezuela has been experiencing an economic, political, and humanitarian crisis. The U.S. government has imposed sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company, government, and central bank, among others, in response to activities of the Venezuelan government and certain individuals. Treasury and the Department of State lead the implementation of the sanctions program, and USAID is primarily responsible for implementing humanitarian assistance for Venezuelans. GAO was asked to review U.S. sanctions related to Venezuela. This report examines: (1) how the Venezuelan economy performed before and since the imposition of sanctions in 2015; (2) the steps U.S. agencies have taken to identify and mitigate potential negative humanitarian consequences of sanctions related to Venezuela; and (3) what is known about the impact of U.S. sanctions related to Venezuela on the U.S. oil industry. GAO analyzed economic indicators, reviewed documents, interviewed agency officials, and spoke with representatives from selected humanitarian organizations and the U.S oil industry. GAO recommends that Treasury systematically track inquiries made to its call center and email account, including the specific sanctions program and the subject matter of the inquiry to identify trends and recurring issues. Treasury concurred with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Kimberly Gianopoulos at (202) 512-8612 or GianopoulosK@gao.gov.[Read More…]
- The Bank of Nova Scotia Agrees To Pay $60.4 Million in Connection with Commodities Price Manipulation SchemeBy Sam NewsAugust 19, 2020The Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), a Toronto, Canada-based global banking and financial services firm, has entered into a resolution with the Department of Justice to resolve criminal charges related to a price manipulation scheme involving thousands of episodes of unlawful trading activity by four traders in the precious metals futures contracts markets.[Read More…]
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- U.S. Taxpayer in Panama Papers Investigation Sentenced to PrisonBy Sam NewsSeptember 21, 2020A former U.S. resident and taxpayer was sentenced in the Southern District of New York to four years in prison for wire fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, false statements, and other charges.[Read More…]
- Federal Research: Agencies Need to Enhance Policies to Address Foreign InfluenceBy Sam NewsDecember 17, 2020U.S. research may be subject to undue foreign influence in cases where a researcher has a foreign conflict of interest (COI). Federal grant-making agencies can address this threat by implementing COI policies and requiring the disclosure of information that may indicate potential conflicts. GAO reviewed five agencies—which together accounted for almost 90 percent of all federal research and development expenditures at universities in fiscal year 2018—and found that three have agency-wide COI policies, while two do not (see figure). The three agencies with existing policies focus on financial interests but do not specifically address or define non-financial interests, such as multiple professional appointments. In the absence of agency-wide COI policies and definitions on non-financial interests, researchers may not fully understand what they need to report on their grant proposals, leaving agencies with incomplete information to assess the risk of foreign influence. GAO found that, regardless of whether an agency has a conflict of interest policy, all five agencies require researchers to disclose information—such as foreign support for their research—as part of the grant proposal that could be used to determine if certain conflicts exist. Elements of Conflict of Interest (COI) Policies at Agencies with the Most Federal Research Expenditures at Universities Based on a review of university documents, GAO found that all 11 of the universities in its sample have publicly available financial and non-financial COI policies for federally funded research. These policies often align with the financial COI policies or requirements of the grant-making agencies. All five agencies have mechanisms to monitor and enforce their policies and disclosure requirements when there is an alleged failure to disclose required information. All agencies rely on universities to monitor financial COI, and most agencies collect non-financial information such as foreign collaborations, that can help determine if conflicts exist. Agencies have also taken actions in cases where they identified researchers who failed to disclose financial or non-financial information. However, three agencies lack written procedures for handling allegations of failure to disclose required information. Written procedures for addressing alleged failure to disclose required information help agencies manage these allegations and consistently apply enforcement actions. In interviews, stakeholders identified opportunities to improve responses to foreign threats to research, such as harmonizing grant application requirements. Agencies have begun to address such issues. The federal government reportedly expended about $42 billion on science and engineering research at universities in fiscal year 2018. Safeguarding the U.S. research enterprise from threats of foreign influence is of critical importance. Recent reports by GAO and others have noted challenges faced by the research community to combat undue foreign influence, while maintaining an open research environment that fosters collaboration, transparency, and the free exchange of ideas. GAO was asked to review federal agency and university COI policies and disclosure requirements. In this report, GAO examines (1) COI policies and disclosure requirements at selected agencies and universities that address potential foreign threats, (2) mechanisms to monitor and enforce policies and requirements, and (3) the views of selected stakeholders on how to better address foreign threats to federally funded research. GAO reviewed laws, regulations, federal guidance, and agency and university COI policies and requirements. GAO also interviewed agency officials, university officials, and researchers. GAO is making nine recommendations to six agencies, including that grant-making agencies address non-financial conflicts of interest in their COI policies and develop written procedures for addressing cases of failure to disclose required information. Five agencies agreed with GAO's recommendations. The National Science Foundation neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO's recommendation, but identified actions it plans to take in response. For more information, contact Candice N. Wright at (202) 512-6888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Florida Escort Pleads Guilty to Underreporting IncomeBy Sam NewsDecember 16, 2020A Fort Lauderdale, Florida, escort pleaded guilty today to filing a false corporate tax return, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Ariana Fajardo Orshan.[Read More…]
- Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Defraud the IRSBy Sam NewsMarch 5, 2021A Maryland tax return preparer pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to defraud the United States and aiding in the preparation of a false tax return. According to court documents and statements made in court, Anita Fortune, 56, of Upper Marlboro, provided return preparation services under multiple business names, including Tax Terminatorz Inc. Fortune prepared and filed returns using co-conspirators’ electronic filing identification numbers and identifiers, which they provided in exchange for fees and office space. For the tax years 2011 to 2018, Fortune and her associates fraudulently reduced their clients’ tax liabilities and increased their refunds by adding fictitious or inflated itemized deductions and business losses to the clients’ returns. In total, Fortune caused a tax loss to the IRS of $189,748.[Read More…]
- Reaffirming the Unbreakable U.S.-Japan AllianceBy Sam NewsMarch 14, 2021
- Additional Restrictions on the Issuance of Visas for People’s Republic of China Officials Engaged in Human Rights AbusesBy Sam NewsDecember 21, 2020
- Justice Department Acts To Shut Down Fraudulent Websites Exploiting The Covid-19 PandemicBy Sam NewsAugust 12, 2020The United States Department of Justice announced today that it has obtained a Temporary Restraining Order in federal court to combat fraud related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The enforcement action, filed in Tampa, Florida, is part of the Justice Department’s ongoing efforts prioritizing the detection, investigation, and prosecution of illegal conduct related to the pandemic. The action was brought based on an investigation conducted by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in coordination with the Vietnam Ministry of Public Security.[Read More…]
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- U.S. Seeks to Recover More Than $300 Million in Additional Assets Traceable to Funds Allegedly Misappropriated from Malaysian Sovereign Wealth FundBy Sam NewsSeptember 16, 2020The Justice Department announced today the filing of civil forfeiture complaints seeking the forfeiture and recovery of more than $300 million in additional assets allegedly associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.[Read More…]
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- Vermont Man Charged with Hiring Person to Kidnap and Kill a Man in a Foreign Country, and Producing and Receiving Child PornographyBy Sam NewsSeptember 15, 2020A federal grand jury in the District of Vermont returned a third superseding indictment today against a Burlington man for conspiring to kidnap and kill a man in a foreign country, murder for hire, and five child pornography offenses.[Read More…]
- Chemical Assessments: Annual EPA Survey Inconsistent with Leading Practices in Program ManagementBy Sam NewsJanuary 19, 2021The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program has not produced timely chemical assessments, and most of its 15 ongoing assessments have experienced delays. As we reported in March 2019, the IRIS Program has taken some actions to make the assessment process more transparent, such as increasing communication with EPA offices and releasing supporting documentation for review earlier in the draft development process, but the need for greater transparency in some steps of the assessment process remains. Specifically, the IRIS Program does not publicly announce when assessment drafts move to certain steps in their development process or announce reasons for delays in producing specific assessments. Without such information, stakeholders who may be able to help fill data and analytical gaps are unable to contribute. This could leave EPA without potential support that could help overcome delays. Delays of Milestones by Quarter for a Selection of the Integrated Risk information System's Assessments in Development 2019 - 2024 In mid-2018, EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) instituted changes to the way it solicits nominations for chemical assessments prepared by the IRIS Program but did so without providing sufficient guidance or criteria, raising questions about its ability to meet EPA user needs. For example, ORD issued a new survey to EPA program and regional offices but did not provide them with guidance for selecting chemicals for nomination, and ORD did not make explicit the criteria it was using for selecting nominations to include in the IRIS Program's list of assessments in development. Furthermore, despite a significant decline in survey participation between 2018 and 2019, EPA did not indicate whether the agency has assessed the quality of information generated by the survey. Leading program management practices state that agency management should internally communicate the necessary, quality information to achieve the entity's objectives and should monitor and evaluate program activities. Without evaluating the quality of the information produced by the survey, ORD cannot know if the survey is achieving its intended purpose and whether ORD has the information necessary to meet user needs. EPA's IRIS Program prepares chemical toxicity assessments that contain EPA's scientific position on the potential human health effects of exposure to chemicals; at present, the IRIS database contains more than 570 chemical assessments. In March 2019, GAO reported on the IRIS Program's changes to increase transparency about its processes and methodologies, including the use of systematic review. However, GAO also found that EPA decreased the number of ongoing assessments in December 2018 from 22 to 13 and continued to face challenges in producing timely assessments. This report evaluates (1) EPA's progress in completing IRIS chemical assessments since 2018; and (2) EPA's recent actions to manage the IRIS Program, and the extent to which these actions help the Program meet EPA user needs. GAO reviewed and analyzed EPA documents and interviewed officials from EPA; GAO also selected three standards for program management, found commonalities among them, and compared ORD's management of the IRIS Program against these leading practices. GAO is making five recommendations, including that EPA provide more information publicly about where chemical assessments are in the development process; and issue guidance for selecting chemicals for nomination and criteria for selecting nominations for assessment. EPA partially agreed with two of our recommendations and disagreed with the other three. For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gómez at (202) 512-3841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Cabo Verde Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
- Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David R. Stilwell on the Secretary’s Travel to Japan, Mongolia, and the Republic of KoreaBy Sam NewsOctober 2, 2020David R. Stilwell, [Read More…]
- Auto-Parts Manufacturing Company Sentenced in Worker Death CaseBy Sam NewsNovember 9, 2020JOON LLC, d/b/a AJIN USA (Ajin), an auto-parts manufacturing company, was sentenced in federal court today in Montgomery, Alabama, after pleading guilty to a charge related to the death of a machinery operator.[Read More…]
- Largest U.S. Seizure of Iranian Fuel from Four TankersBy Sam NewsAugust 14, 2020The Justice Department today announced the successful disruption of a multimillion dollar fuel shipment by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization that was bound for Venezuela. These actions represent the government’s largest-ever seizure of fuel shipments from Iran.[Read More…]
- Antigua and Barbuda’s National DayBy Sam NewsNovember 1, 2020
- Federal Research Grants: OMB Should Take Steps to Establish the Research Policy BoardBy Sam NewsFebruary 3, 2021As of January 2021, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had not established the Research Policy Board as required by the 21st Century Cures Act. The act requires OMB to establish the Board within 1 year of the December 13, 2016 enactment of the act. The Board is to provide information on the effects of regulations related to federal research requirements. OMB stated that it had not established the Board because of issues with the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) and other federal agencies’ full participation in the Board’s potential activities to develop or implement a modified approach to indirect cost policies. According to OMB, “the Board would necessarily delve into issues related to compliance burden and indirect cost reimbursement to entities that receive federal funding for research.” Specifically, OMB pointed to a statutory provision appearing in annual appropriations bills that it believes prohibits HHS and other agencies from taking action on issues that could implicate certain indirect cost provisions. According to OMB, this provision could, if continued in future bills, “complicate or even possibly prohibit HHS from participating in major elements of the Board’s process.” OMB stated that, without representation of a major research agency such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is part of HHS, “OMB would not be equipped to meet the statutory goals of the Board.” However, HHS stated in October 2020 that the indirect cost provision would not prohibit NIH’s participation on the Board and that the department was not aware of any other appropriations law provision that would prohibit such participation. GAO has no basis to disagree with HHS’s position. The 21st Century Cures Act does not specifically direct the Board to examine issues related to indirect costs, and we identified other issues that may fall within the scope of the Board’s activities. For example, the act specifies five activities that the Board may conduct, including creating a forum for the discussion of research policy or regulatory gaps, and identifying regulatory process improvements and policy changes. The Board could consider examining these or other issues related to streamlining and harmonizing regulations and reducing administrative burden in federally funded research in accordance with the 21st Century Cures Act. By not having established the Board, OMB is missing opportunities for the Board to provide information on the effects of regulations related to requirements for federally funded research, and to make recommendations to harmonize and streamline such requirements. Further, OMB has limited time to establish the Board and the Board may have insufficient time to complete its work before the Board is set to terminate on September 30, 2021. The 21st Century Cures Act requires OMB to establish an advisory committee, to be known as the Research Policy Board, that is responsible for making recommendations on modifying and harmonizing regulation of federally funded research to reduce administrative burden. The Board is to consist of both federal and non-federal members and include not more than 10 members from federal agencies, including officials from OMB, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), HHS, the National Science Foundation, and other departments and agencies that support or regulate scientific research, as determined by the OMB Director. The 21st Century Cures Act includes a provision for GAO to conduct an independent evaluation of the Board’s activities. This report examines the steps OMB has taken to establish the Board as required by the 21st Century Cures Act. GAO reviewed written responses and other information from OMB, HHS, and OSTP; the 21st Century Cures Act and other laws related to the Board and its establishment; relevant reports on issues related to administrative burden; and related documents such as memoranda and agency guidance. GAO submitted a draft report containing the results of its evaluation to Congress on December 10, 2020. Congress should consider extending the period of authorization for the Research Policy Board, giving OMB additional time to establish the Research Policy Board and complete its statutory mission under the 21st Century Cures Act. GAO recommends that OMB establish the Research Policy Board as mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act and report to Congress on the Board’s activities. OMB did not agree or disagree with this recommendation. We maintain that the evidence in this report shows the need for our recommendation. For more information, contact John Neumann at (202) 512-6888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- High Ranking MS-13 Gang Member Facing Federal Firearms Charges After Nightclub ShootingBy Sam NewsNovember 9, 2020A criminal complaint was unsealed Nov. 6 charging the local leader of an MS-13 Gang clique with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Don Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee.[Read More…]
- Czech Republic Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to the [Read More…]
- Alabama Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty to Filing False Tax ReturnsBy Sam NewsOctober 15, 2020A Birmingham, Alabama, tax return preparer pleaded guilty to aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false tax return, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Prim F. Escalona.[Read More…]
- Ready-Mix Concrete Company Admits to Fixing Prices and Rigging Bids in Violation of Antitrust LawsBy Sam NewsJanuary 4, 2021Argos USA LLC, a producer and seller of ready-mix concrete headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia, was charged with participating in a conspiracy to fix prices, rig bids, and allocate markets for sales of ready-mix concrete in the Southern District of Georgia and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.[Read More…]
- Houthi Attacks on Saudi ArabiaBy Sam NewsFebruary 28, 2021Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
- Disarmament Law and Morality: A CritiqueBy Sam NewsNovember 13, 2020Dr. Christopher Ashley [Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Republic of Korea President Moon Jae-in Before Their MeetingBy Sam NewsMarch 18, 2021
- Drinking Water: EPA Could Use Available Data to Better Identify Neighborhoods at Risk of Lead ExposureBy Sam NewsDecember 18, 2020GAO's statistical analysis indicates that areas with older housing and vulnerable populations (e.g., families in poverty) have higher concentrations of lead service lines in the selected cities GAO examined. By using geospatial lead service line data from the selected water systems and geospatial data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS), GAO identified characteristics of neighborhoods with higher concentrations of lead service lines. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) guidance for water systems on how to identify the location of sites at high-risk of having lead service lines has not been updated since 1991 and many water systems face challenges identifying areas at risk of having lead service lines. By developing guidance for water systems that outlines methods for identifying high-risk locations using publicly available data, EPA could better ensure that public water systems test water samples from locations at greater risk of having lead service lines and identify areas with vulnerable populations to focus lead service line replacement efforts. (See figure for common sources of lead in home drinking water.) Common Sources of Lead in Drinking Water within Homes and Residences EPA has taken some actions to address the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act requirement, which include developing a strategic plan regarding lead in public water systems. However, EPA's published plan did not satisfy the statutory requirement that the agency's strategic plan address targeted outreach, education, technical assistance, and risk communication undertaken by EPA, states, and public water systems. For example, the plan does not discuss public education, technical assistance or risk communication. Instead, EPA's plan focused solely on how to notify households when EPA learns of certain exceedances of lead in their drinking water. Moreover, EPA's plan is not consistent with leading practices for strategic planning. For example, EPA's plan does not set a mission statement or define long-term goals. Developing a strategic plan that meets the statutory requirement and fully reflects leading practices for strategic planning would give EPA greater assurance that it has effectively planned for how it will communicate the risks of lead in drinking water to the public. Lead in drinking water comes primarily from corrosion of service lines connecting the water main to a house or building, pipes inside a building, or plumbing fixtures. As GAO reported in September 2018, the total number of lead service lines in drinking water systems is unknown, and less than 20 of the 100 largest water systems have such data publicly available. GAO was asked to examine the actions EPA and water systems are taking to educate the public on the risks of lead in drinking water. This report examines, among other things: (1) the extent to which neighborhood data on cities served by lead service lines can be used to focus lead reduction efforts; and (2) actions EPA has taken to address WIIN Act requirements, and EPA's risk communication documents. GAO conducted a statistical analysis combining geospatial lead service line and ACS data to identify characteristics of selected communities; reviewed legal requirements and EPA documents; and interviewed EPA officials. GAO is making four recommendations, including that EPA develop (1) guidance for water systems on lead reduction efforts, and (2) a strategic plan that meets the WIIN Act requirement. EPA agreed with one recommendation and disagreed with the others. GAO continues to believe the recommendations are warranted, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gómez at (202) 512-3841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- South Carolina Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to ISISBy Sam NewsNovember 24, 2020In San Antonio today, 34-year-old Kristopher Sean Matthews (aka Ali Jibreel) admitted to conspiring to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham/Syria (aka ISIS), announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Gregg N. Sofer for the Western District of Texas, and FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division.[Read More…]
- On the Loss of Life Due to Significant Flooding in Central VietnamBy Sam NewsOctober 22, 2020
- Antitrust Division Announces Updates To Civil Investigative Demand Forms And Deposition ProcessBy Sam NewsSeptember 10, 2020Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division announced today that the Antitrust Division has implemented two uniform updates to its Civil Investigative Demand (CID) forms and deposition process:[Read More…]
- U.S.-Kenya Strategic ConsultationsBy Sam NewsOctober 21, 2020
- Organ Transplants: Changes in Allocation Policies for Donated Livers and LungsBy Sam NewsNovember 4, 2020The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) develops allocation policies in the United States to determine which transplant candidates receive offers for organs, such as livers or lungs, that are donated from deceased donors. In July 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which oversees OPTN, directed it to change the liver allocation policy to be more consistent with federal regulations. The liver allocation policy changed in February 2020 from a system that, in general, offered donated livers first to the sickest candidates within the fixed boundaries of a donation service area or region to a system based on a candidate's level of illness and distance from the donor hospital. The current liver allocation policy offers livers first to the sickest candidates within 500 nautical miles of the donor hospital using a series of distance-based concentric circles, called acuity circles. The processes used to develop the liver and lung allocation policies had various similarities and differences. For example, while the current liver allocation policy, the 2017 liver allocation policy, and the current lung allocation policy each had public comment periods, the length of these comment periods varied—25 days for the current liver allocation policy; two separate 62-day and 64-day periods for the 2017 liver allocation policy; and 61 days (retroactive) for the current lung allocation policy. In addition, the current lung allocation policy resulted in part from a federal district court order directing HHS to initiate emergency review of the policy. However, the 2017 liver allocation policy—that was approved but never implemented—resulted from a 2012 OPTN Board directive to reduce geographic disparities in organ allocation. HHS oversight of OPTN's processes were similar for all three allocation policies and included reviewing the proposed changes to the policies to ensure compliance with federal regulations, according to HHS officials. Timeline of Selected Events Related to Three Organ Allocation Policies Organ transplantation is the leading form of treatment for patients with severe organ failure. OPTN, a nonprofit entity that was established in 1984 under the National Organ Transplant Act, manages the nation's organ allocation system. In 2019, 32,322 organs were transplanted from deceased donors in the United States. Nevertheless, as of July 2020, close to 110,000 individuals remained on waiting lists for donor organs. Previously, donated livers and lungs were generally offered first to the sickest candidates in donation service areas. However, livers and lungs are now generally offered first to the sickest candidates based on distance. GAO was asked to review the changes to the liver and lung allocation policies. This report describes (1) changes to the liver allocation policy, and (2) similarities and differences in the processes OPTN used to change the liver and lung allocation policies, and federal oversight of these processes, among other things. GAO reviewed documents, including those related to the current liver and lung allocation policies, and the 2017 liver allocation policy; interviewed HHS officials and OPTN members; reviewed the National Organ Transplant Act and its implementing regulations; and conducted a literature review of studies published from January 2017 through April 2020 in peer-reviewed and other publications. HHS and the United Network for Organ Sharing (the contractor serving as OPTN) provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact James Cosgrove at (202) 512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Designating Officials and Entities in Connection with the Military Coup in BurmaBy Sam NewsFebruary 11, 2021
- Justice Department Settles with Indiana School District to Resolve Disability Discrimination Investigation into School Seclusion and Restraint PracticesBy Sam NewsDecember 31, 2020The Justice Department today announced a settlement agreement with the North Gibson School Corporation in Princeton, Indiana, to address and prevent the discriminatory secluding and restraining of students with disabilities.[Read More…]
- Spitzer Telescope Reveals the Precise Timing of a Black Hole DanceBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020The recently retired [Read More…]
- Judiciary Seeks New Judgeships, Reaffirms Need for Enhanced SecurityBy Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsMarch 16, 2021The Judicial Conference of the United States, the Judiciary’s policy-making body, today addressed two of its most pressing issues – a proposal to add 79 new judgeships for courts across the country and initiatives to improve both personal and courthouse security.[Read More…]
- Secretary Pompeo’s Remarks to the PressBy Sam NewsMarch 5, 2020
- Apply for Preclearance ExpansionBy Sam NewsSeptember 30, 2020Preclearance [Read More…]
- Some Courts Slow Reopening Plans as COVID Cases RiseBy Sam NewsIn U.S CourtsJuly 16, 2020At a time when some states are backtracking on plans to restore business and government operations, a number of federal courts also are slowing plans to reopen courthouse doors as coronavirus (COVID-19) case numbers escalate in many states. In recent weeks, federal courts, especially in Sun Belt “hot spot” states, have issued orders extending courthouse closures, postponement of jury trials, and the use of video and teleconferencing for most or all proceedings. Most of the orders cited rising COVID-19 numbers.[Read More…]