Even as vaccines begin to protect the public from the coronavirus (COVID-19), one of the Judiciary’s biggest priorities is ensuring that the air inside courtrooms and hallways remains safe as courts schedule more in-person legal proceedings.
A new U.S. Courts video highlights a simple technique used to protect court users: a smoke test, which makes air currents inside buildings visible. The tests have helped federal courts in New York, the District of Columbia, and Maryland to ensure that employees and the public do not inadvertently inhale air exhaled by someone nearby.
Dr. Rainald Lohner, a professor of fluid dynamics at George Mason University, demonstrates the technique in the video, saying the smoke trails make clear how to keep court users appropriately separated. In-court proceedings were scaled back dramatically because of the pandemic, but courts are beginning to expand courthouse activity, such as jury trials.
In addition to the smoke tests, many courts are pumping greater volumes of outdoor air into buildings, operating special indoor filters, and using plexiglass barriers. Courts also are relying heavily on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure public safety.
- Federal Court Permanently Shuts Down Mississippi Tax PreparerBy Sam NewsMay 14, 2021A federal court in the Northern District of Mississippi has permanently enjoined a Senatobia, Mississippi, tax return preparer from preparing returns for others and from owning, operating, or franchising any tax return preparation business in the future.[Read More…]
- Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken Remarks at a Service of Remembrance for George Pratt ShultzBy Sam NewsOctober 7, 2021
- Promoting Accountability for Those Responsible for Violence Against Protestors in BurmaBy Sam NewsFebruary 23, 2021
- Laredo residents admit to weapons violationsBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsSeptember 1, 2021Two men who resided in [Read More…]
- Companies to Pay for Cleanup of Groundwater at Montrose Superfund Site Following Settlement with Justice Department, EPA and California Department of Toxic Substances ControlBy Sam NewsOctober 5, 2021On Sept. 30, 2021, three settlement agreements were approved by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Under the agreements, Montrose Chemical Corporation of California, Bayer CropScience Inc., TFCF America Inc., and Stauffer Management Company LLC have agreed to pay $77.6 million for cleanup of contaminated groundwater at the Montrose Chemical Corp. Superfund and the Del Amo Superfund Sites in Los Angeles County, California. The companies will also investigate potential contamination of the historic stormwater pathway leading from the Montrose Superfund Site, south of Torrance Boulevard. Another company, JCI Jones Chemicals Inc. will participate in the groundwater cleanup.[Read More…]
- Nuclear Safety: DOE and the Safety Board Should Collaborate to Develop a Written Agreement to Enhance OversightBy Sam NewsOctober 29, 2020The Department of Energy's (DOE) Order 140.1 included provisions inconsistent with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board's (DNFSB) original enabling statute—the statute in place when the order was issued—and with long-standing practices. For example, GAO found that Order 140.1 contained provisions restricting DNFSB's access to information that were not included in the statute. GAO also found Order 140.1 to be inconsistent with long-standing DNFSB practices regarding staff's access to certain National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) meetings at the Pantex Plant in Texas, where nuclear weapons are assembled and disassembled (see fig.). In December 2019, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20 NDAA) amended DNFSB's statute to clarify and confirm DNFSB's authority and long-standing practices between the agencies. DOE replaced Order 140.1 with Order 140.1A in June 2020. National Nuclear Security Administration's Pantex Plant, Located Near Amarillo, Texas DNFSB, DOE, and NNSA officials that GAO interviewed identified concerns with Order 140.1 that GAO found are not addressed under DOE's Order 140.1A. In particular, DOE's Order 140.1A was not part of a collaborative effort to address DNFSB's remaining concerns related to access to information and other regular interagency interactions. For example, DNFSB officials cited concerns that DOE could interpret a provision of DNFSB's statute authorizing the Secretary of Energy to deny access to information in a way that could limit DNFSB access to information to which it has had access in the past. GAO has previously recommended that agencies develop formal written agreements to enhance collaboration. By collaborating to develop an agreement that, among other things, incorporates a common understanding of this provision, DOE and DNFSB could lessen the risks of DNFSB being denied access to information important for conducting oversight. DOE and NNSA officials, as well as contractor representatives involved in operating the facilities, also raised concerns that insufficient training on Order 140.1 contributed to uncertainties about how to engage with DNFSB staff when implementing the order, a problem that GAO found could persist under Order 140.1A. Providing more robust training on Order 140.1A would help ensure consistent implementation of the revised order at relevant facilities. Established by statute in 1988, DNFSB has broad oversight responsibilities regarding the adequacy of public health and safety protections at DOE defense nuclear facilities. In May 2018, DOE issued Order 140.1, a new order governing DOE's interactions with DNFSB. DNFSB raised concerns that the order could affect its ability to perform its statutory mandate. Congressional committee reports included provisions for GAO to review DOE Order 140.1. This report examines (1) the extent to which the order was consistent with DNFSB's original enabling statute and with long-standing practices, as well as actions DOE has taken in light of changes to the statute outlined in the FY20 NDAA; and (2) outstanding areas of concern that DNFSB and DOE identified, and the potential effects of these concerns on how the two agencies cooperate. GAO reviewed legislation and agency documents; visited DOE sites; and interviewed DNFSB, DOE, and NNSA officials and contractor representatives. GAO is making a recommendation to DOE and DNFSB that they collaborate to develop a written agreement, and an additional two recommendations to DOE, including that it develop more robust training on Order 140.1A. DOE and DNFSB agreed to develop a written agreement. DOE agreed with one of the other two recommendations, but did not agree to provide more robust training. GAO maintains that the recommended action is valid. For more information, contact Allison Bawden at (202) 512-3841 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Comoros Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsIn TravelSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
- Data Security: Recent K-12 Data Breaches Show That Students Are Vulnerable to HarmBy Sam NewsOctober 15, 2020A cybersecurity incident is an event that actually or potentially jeopardizes a system or the information it holds. According to GAO's analysis of K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center (CRC) data from July 2016 to May 2020, thousands of K-12 students were affected by 99 reported data breaches, one type of cybersecurity incident in which data are compromised. Students' academic records, including assessment scores and special education records, were the most commonly compromised type of information (58 breaches). Records containing students' personally identifiable information (PII), such as Social Security numbers, were the second most commonly compromised type of information (36 breaches). Financial and cybersecurity experts say some PII can be sold on the black market and can cause students significant financial harm. Breaches were either accidental or intentional, although sometimes the intent was unknown, with school staff, students, and cybercriminals among those responsible (see figure). Staff were responsible for most of the accidental breaches (21 of 25), and students were responsible for most of the intentional breaches (27 of 52), most frequently to change grades. Reports of breaches by cybercriminals were rare but included attempts to steal PII. Although the number of students affected by a breach was not always available, examples show that thousands of students have had their data compromised in a single breach. Responsible Actor and Intent of Reported K-12 Student Data Breaches, July 1, 2016-May 5, 2020 Notes: The actor or the intent may not be discernible in public reports. For this analysis, a cybercriminal is defined as an actor external to the school district who breaches a data system for malicious reasons. Of the 287 school districts affected by reported student data breaches, larger, wealthier, and suburban school districts were disproportionately represented, according to GAO's analysis. Cybersecurity experts GAO spoke with said one explanation for this is that some of these districts may use more technology in schools, which could create more opportunities for breaches to occur. When a student's personal information is disclosed, it can lead to physical, emotional, and financial harm. Organizations are vulnerable to data security risks, including over 17,000 public school districts and approximately 98,000 public schools. As schools and districts increasingly rely on complex information technology systems for teaching, learning, and operating, they are collecting more student data electronically that can put a student's information, including PII, at risk of disclosure. The closure of schools and the sudden transition to distance learning across the country due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic also heightened attention on K-12 cybersecurity. GAO was asked to review the security of K-12 students' data. This report examines (1) what is known about recently reported K-12 cybersecurity incidents that compromised student data, and (2) the characteristics of school districts that experienced these incidents. GAO analyzed data from July 1, 2016 to May 5, 2020 from CRC (the most complete source of information on K-12 data breaches). CRC is a non-federal resource sponsored by an educational technology organization that has tracked reported K-12 cybersecurity incidents since 2016. GAO also analyzed 2016-2019 Department of Education data on school district characteristics (the most recent available), and interviewed experts knowledgeable about cybersecurity. We incorporated technical comments from the agencies as appropriate. For more information, contact Jacqueline M. Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Northern Ohio Health System Agrees to Pay Over $21 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations for Improper Payments to Referring PhysiciansBy Sam NewsJuly 2, 2021Akron General Health System (AGHS), a regional hospital system based in Akron, Ohio, will pay $21.25 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act of improper relationships with certain referring physicians, resulting in the submission of false claims to the Medicare program. AGHS was acquired at the end of 2015 by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation (Clinic) through a full member substitution agreement.[Read More…]
- Department of Justice Files Statement of Interest Challenging New Mexico’s More Stringent COVID-19 Capacity Limits on Private Schools than Public SchoolsBy Sam NewsSeptember 21, 2020The Department of Justice today filed a statement of interest in a New Mexico federal court asserting that the States’ COVID-19 rules limiting private schools to operating at 25% of capacity but allowing public schools to operate at 50% of capacity violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.[Read More…]
- Houston man sent to prison for coercion and enticement via KikBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsMay 2, 2021A 63-year-old Houston [Read More…]
- Defense Health Care: Comprehensive Oversight Framework Needed to Help Ensure Effective Implementation of a Deployment Health Quality Assurance ProgramBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021Overseas deployments expose servicemembers to a number of potential risks to their health and well-being. However, since the mid-1990s, GAO has highlighted shortcomings with respect to the Department of Defense's (DOD) ability to assess the medical condition of servicemembers both before and after their deployments. Following GAO's May 1997 report, Congress enacted legislation (10 U.S.C. 1074f) that required the Secretary of Defense to establish a medical tracking system for assessing the medical condition of servicemembers before and after deployments. GAO was asked to determine (1) whether DOD has established a medical tracking system to comply with requirements of 10 U.S.C. 1074f pertaining to pre- and postdeployment medical examinations, and (2) the extent to which DOD has effectively implemented a deployment health quality assurance program as part of its medical tracking system. In conducting this review, GAO analyzed pertinent documents and interviewed DOD officials.DOD has established a system to comply with the requirements of 10 U.S.C. 1074f to perform predeployment and postdeployment medical examinations through a variety of deployment health activities. For example, DOD's system includes the use of pre- and postdeployment health assessment questionnaires along with reviews of servicemembers' medical records. The pre- and postdeployment health assessment questionnaires ask servicemembers to respond to a series of questions about their current medical and mental health conditions and any medical concerns they might have. Prior to deploying, the predeployment questionnaire and servicemembers' medical records are to be reviewed by a health care provider to confirm whether servicemembers have met applicable deployment health requirements. Also, prior to or after redeploying, the postdeployment questionnaires are to be reviewed by a health care provider, along with servicemembers' medical records, to determine whether additional clinical evaluation or treatment is needed. DOD has established a deployment health quality assurance program as part of its medical tracking system, but does not have a comprehensive oversight framework to help ensure effective implementation of the program. Thus, DOD does not have the information it needs to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of its deployment health quality assurance program. DOD policy specifies four elements of the program: (1) monthly reports on active and reserve component servicemembers' deployment health data from the Army Medical Surveillance Activity (AMSA), (2) quarterly reports on service-specific quality assurance programs, (3) DOD site visits to military installations, and (4) an annual report on the program. DOD guidance requires each of the services to create their own quality assurance programs based on these elements. However, GAO found weaknesses in each of these elements. For example, DOD's policy does not contain specific reporting requirements or performance measures that require AMSA to provide critical information needed to assess departmentwide compliance with deployment health requirements, such as tracking the total number of servicemembers who deploy overseas or return home during a specific time period. Also, DOD does not have quality controls in place to ensure the accuracy or completeness of the information it collects during site visits to military installations. Without a comprehensive oversight framework, DOD is not well-positioned to determine or assure Congress that active and reserve component servicemembers are medically and mentally fit to deploy and to determine their medical and mental condition upon return. Having an effective deployment health quality assurance program is critically important given DOD's long-standing problems with assessing the medical condition of servicemembers before and after their deployments. Such a program has become even more important in the current environment, where active and reserve component servicemembers continue to deploy overseas in significant numbers in support of ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.[Read More…]
- Department of Justice Fiscal Year 2022 Funding RequestBy Sam NewsMay 28, 2021The President today submitted his Budget for Fiscal Year 2022 to Congress, totaling $35.3 billion for the Department of Justice (DOJ).[Read More…]
- State Department Terrorist Designation Reviews and AmendmentsBy Sam NewsJanuary 14, 2021Office of the [Read More…]
- The Lack of Prospects for Free and Fair Election in NicaraguaBy Sam NewsAugust 9, 2021
- Texas Man Sentenced for Hate Crime and Other Charges After Using Dating App to Target Gay Men for Violent CrimesBy Sam NewsOctober 13, 2021Daniel Jenkins, 22, of Dallas was sentenced today for committing violent crimes as part of a conspiracy to target users of the dating app Grindr. Jenkins was sentenced to a federal prison term of 280 months for his involvement in the scheme to target gay men for violent crimes.[Read More…]
- 12th Annual HBCU Foreign Policy ConferenceBy Sam NewsMarch 2, 2021Ned Price, Department [Read More…]
- Issuance of New Executive Order Establishing Sanctions Related to the Crisis in EthiopiaBy Sam NewsSeptember 17, 2021
- United States Returns to Iraq Rare Tablet Bearing Portion of the Epic of GilgameshBy Sam NewsSeptember 23, 2021The United States has returned to the Republic of Iraq a rare cuneiform tablet bearing a portion of the epic of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian poem considered one of the world’s oldest works of literature.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Addresses Violent Threats Against School Officials and TeachersBy Sam NewsOctober 4, 2021Citing an increase in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation’s public schools, today Attorney General Merrick B. Garland directed the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to meet in the next 30 days with federal, state, tribal, territorial and local law enforcement leaders to discuss strategies for addressing this disturbing trend.[Read More…]