Attorney General William P. Barr today directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule the execution of Orlando Cordia Hall, who was sentenced to death after kidnapping, raping, and murdering a 16-year-old girl in 1994.
In September 1994, Hall and several accomplices ran a marijuana trafficking operation out of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. After a failed drug transaction involving $4,700, Hall and his accomplices went to the Arlington, Texas, home of a man they believed had reneged on the deal. The man’s 16-year-old sister, Lisa Rene, answered the door. Although she was simply an innocent bystander, Hall and his accomplices kidnapped her at gunpoint, and Hall raped her in the car. Hall’s accomplices subsequently drove her to a motel in Arkansas, where they raped her several more times. Hall and his accomplices then took her to a park where they had dug a grave. There, they beat her over the head with a shovel, soaked her with gasoline, and buried her alive.
In October 1995, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas found Hall guilty of, among other offenses, kidnapping resulting in death, and unanimously recommended a death sentence, which the court imposed. Hall’s convictions and sentences were affirmed on appeal more than 20 years ago, and his initial round of collateral challenges failed nearly 15 years ago. In 2006, Hall received a preliminary injunction from a federal district court in Washington, D.C., based on his challenge to the then-existing federal lethal-injection protocol. That injunction was vacated by the district court on Sept. 20, 2020, making Hall the only child murderer on federal death row who is eligible for execution and not subject to a stay or injunction. Hall’s execution is scheduled for Nov. 19, 2020, at U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute, Indiana.
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- Data Center Optimization: Agencies Report Progress and Billions Saved, but OMB Needs to Improve Its Utilization GuidanceBy Sam NewsMarch 4, 2021The 24 agencies participating in the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) continue to report progress toward meeting OMB's goals for closing data centers and achieving the related cost savings. According to data submitted by the 24 agencies, almost all of them met or planned to meet their closure and cost savings goals for fiscal years 2019 and 2020. As of August 2020, the agencies reported that they expected to achieve 230 data center closures, resulting in $1.1 billion in savings, over the 2-year period. Agencies expected to realize a cumulative total of $6.24 billion in cost savings and avoidances from fiscal years 2012 through 2020. However, agencies have excluded approximately 4,500 data centers from their inventories since May 2019 due to a change in the definition of a data center. Specifically, in June 2019, OMB narrowed the definition of a data center to exclude certain facilities it had previously identified as having potential cybersecurity risks. GAO reported that each such facility provided a potential access point, and that unsecured access points could aid cyber attacks. Accordingly, GAO recommended that OMB require agencies to report those facilities previously reported as data centers so that visibility of the risks of these facilities was retained. However, OMB has not taken action to address the recommendation. Overall, GAO has made 125 recommendations since 2016 to help agencies meet their DCOI goals, but agencies have not implemented 53. The 24 agencies reported varied progress against OMB's data center optimization targets for fiscal year 2020 (see figure). Agency-Reported Progress towards Meeting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Data Center Optimization Targets, as of August 2020 Notes: Virtualization measures the number of servers and mainframes serving as a virtual host. Advanced energy metering counts data centers with metering to measure energy efficiency. A metric is not applicable if an agency does not have any agency-owned data centers or if its remaining centers are exempted from optimization by OMB. In June 2019, OMB revised the server utilization metric to direct agencies to develop their own definitions of underutilization, and then count their underutilized servers. As a result, agencies adopted widely varying definitions and were no longer required to report actual utilization, a key measure of server efficiency. In December 2014, Congress enacted federal IT acquisition reform legislation known as FITARA, which included provisions related to ongoing federal data center consolidation efforts. OMB's federal Chief Information Officer launched DCOI to build on prior data center consolidation efforts and improve federal data centers' performance. FITARA included a provision for GAO to annually review agencies' data center inventories and strategies. This report addresses (1) agencies' progress on data center closures and the related savings that have been achieved, and agencies' plans for future closures and savings; (2) agencies' progress against OMB's data center optimization targets; and (3) the effectiveness of OMB's metric for server utilization and how the agencies are implementing it. To do so, GAO reviewed the 24 DCOI agencies' data center inventories as of August 2020, their reported cost savings documentation and data center optimization strategic plans, and OMB's revised utilization metric. GAO reiterates that agencies need to address the 53 recommendations previously made to them that have not yet been implemented. GAO is making one new recommendation to OMB to revise its server utilization metric to more consistently address server efficiency. OMB had no comments on the report and the recommendation directed to the agency. Of the 24 DCOI agencies, five agreed with the information in the report, six did not state whether they agreed or disagreed, and 13 had no comments. For more information, contact Carol C. Harris at (202) 512-4456 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Vaccine Development: Capabilities and Challenges for Addressing Infectious DiseasesBy Sam NewsNovember 16, 2021What GAO Found Vaccines protect people from disease by preparing the body to respond to an infection. Vaccinations are a key part of individual and community health, but vaccine development remains complex and costly. Innovative technologies and approaches, such as those identified in this report, may enhance the nation’s ability to respond to infectious disease. For example, reverse vaccinology and next-generation platforms—combined with existing research—helped researchers develop some COVID-19 vaccines more quickly and effectively. However, key challenges may hinder the adoption of these innovative technologies and approaches. Some promising technologies face issues and challenges such as inherent technical limitations and high cost. For example, organ chips may facilitate testing, but they are not yet able to replicate many of the complex functions of the human immune system. Similarly, single-use systems may increase the flexibility of vaccine manufacturing facilities, but may require extensive testing to ensure that they do not negatively affect the resulting vaccine. Further, economic challenges may hinder vaccine development. Experts attribute underinvestment in vaccines to market failures (i.e. market interactions that fall short of what would have been socially beneficial). For example, vaccines benefit those who are vaccinated, and, to some degree, those who are not. This additional benefit is not captured in the price, which reduces return on vaccine investment. GAO identified 9 policy options that may help address challenges hindering the adoption of vaccine development technologies and approaches or economic challenges. These policy options involve possible new actions by policymakers, who may include Congress, federal agencies, state and local governments, academic and research institutions, and industry. See below for details for some of the policy options and relevant opportunities and considerations. Selected Policy Options to Address Challenges in Vaccine Development Opportunities Considerations Prioritize infectious disease pathogens (report page 21) Policymakers could collaborate across sectors (e.g., government, academia, researchers, industry, and nonprofit organizations) to prioritize infectious disease pathogens with pandemic potential for vaccine R&D. For example, policymakers could develop a working group to prioritize pathogens with pandemic potential and work more closely with international organizations to prioritize vaccine development as well as develop monoclonal antibodies. Prioritizing pathogens with pandemic potential could improve strategic vaccine R&D decision-making and help focus resources on developing and adopting key technologies and approaches that most effectively address those pathogens. Appropriately matching the technologies and approaches to the prioritized potential pandemic pathogens then leveraging technologies may help address certain technical limitations and cost. With greater leadership and strategic partnerships, policymakers could more quickly address threats to the U.S. population. As new threats are identified, priorities may change, which may cause uncertainty for vaccine developers. Policymakers may have different priorities based on their respective missions. There may be disagreements as to which key technologies should be prioritized and used, resulting in the need for policymakers to weigh the potential advantages and disadvantages associated with various options. Improve preparedness (report page 21) Policymakers could provide support for public-private partnerships to strategically address potential pandemic pathogens identified as priorities. These partnerships could, for example, develop and test vaccine candidates that may provide protection from pathogens with pandemic potential. This early development could provide a coordinated foundation that can be mobilized in an emergency. Such an approach could speed vaccine development as well as potentially reduce risk for vaccine researchers and developers concerning questions of safety, efficacy, and manufacturability. The lack of certainty of the commercial market and government funding for vaccines against pathogens with pandemic potential may be too risky for the private sector to undertake. Further support development of data standards (report page 32) Policymakers could further support coordinated efforts to obtain the views of all stakeholders and to develop standards for health data and their use in clinical trials. Integrating researchers’ needs into the standards development process could better ensure the necessary data are available. Access to high-quality data in a standardized format may allow streamlined patient recruitment for clinical trials. Expanding access to patient heath data requires attention to ensure privacy. Developing and implementing standardized data formats and IT infrastructure is time-consuming and costly. Improve preparedness (report page 41) Policymakers could provide support for public/private partnerships to strategically develop manufacturing capacity to respond to surge requirements. To maintain this capacity, partnerships could manufacture prototype vaccine candidates against high-priority pathogens. Manufacturing, testing, and stockpiling vaccines could be mobilized in an emergency and more rapidly mitigate future pandemics. By leveraging strategic partnerships, policymakers could take steps to increase the availability of vaccines to more quickly address threats to the U.S. population. May require new resources or reallocation of resources from other efforts. There may be a risk that the vaccines manufactured, tested, and stockpiled against prioritized pathogen classes miss certain pandemic pathogens. The stockpiled vaccines would need to be regularly replenished prior to expiration. Evaluate factors that inhibit vaccine investment and mechanisms to increase it (report page 54) Policymakers could collaborate across sectors, such as government, academia, and industry, to conduct a systematic evaluation of factors that inhibit developers from investing in new vaccines. A clear understanding of the range of factors discouraging vaccine investment would provide the basis for effectively addressing those factors. Collaboration between policymakers and other stakeholders to obtain all relevant viewpoints can be time-consuming and it may be hard to reach a consensus. Source: GAO. | GAO-22-104371 Why GAO Did This Study The CARES Act included a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report discusses technologies, approaches, and associated challenges for vaccine (1) research and development, (2) testing, and (3) manufacturing, as well as (4) the economic factors that affect vaccine investment. GAO conducted literature searches including scholarly articles and government reports relevant to these four areas. GAO interviewed stakeholders and experts with a diverse set of perspectives on the science, administration, and economics of vaccine development. GAO also convened a 3-day meeting of 22 experts with expertise in at least one area related to our four objectives with assistance from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. GAO received technical comments on a draft of this report from 1 federal agency and 9 participants at its expert meeting, which it incorporated as appropriate. GAO is identifying policy options in this report. For more information, contact Karen L. Howard at (202) 512-6888 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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- Bank Secrecy Act: Views on Proposals to Improve Banking Access for Entities Transferring Funds to High-Risk CountriesBy Sam NewsDecember 16, 2021What GAO Found Money transmitters and nonprofits that transfer funds to recipients in countries at high risk for money laundering or terrorist financing have reported bank account closures and delays or denials of requests to transfer funds. These banking access challenges can affect the provision of financial support and humanitarian aid in areas experiencing political conflicts or natural disasters. Bank representatives told GAO they limit or deny services to money transmitters and nonprofits largely because of their efforts to comply with Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering (BSA/AML) regulations. For instance, they cited the high costs of conducting the due diligence necessary to ensure funds distributed in high-risk countries are not used for illicit purposes. They noted that these countries often lack adequate and transparent frameworks for countering money laundering and terrorist financing. Bank representatives also cited heightened scrutiny they receive from regulators when banking higher-risk money transmitters and nonprofits and uncertainty about regulatory expectations for conducting due diligence. Among the representatives of banks, money transmitters, nonprofits, and federal agencies with whom GAO spoke, views varied on the best ways to address money transmitters' and nonprofits' banking access challenges. These industry stakeholders and federal agency staff discussed the benefits, limitations, and other considerations associated with several proposals commonly cited in relevant literature to improve banking access for money transmitters and nonprofits. For example: Know-your-customer utilities refer to centralized sources of customer information (e.g., documentation of their licensing or internal controls) that banks can access to conduct their BSA/AML due diligence. Some industry stakeholders said use of these utilities for money transmitter or nonprofit information could lower banks' general compliance costs—particularly if the utilities provided analysis of customer risks that banks could rely on to satisfy their due diligence requirements. However, among other limitations, these utilities would not solve key due diligence challenges associated with the lack of transparency in some high-risk countries, according to some stakeholders and federal agency staff. An enhanced federal role in facilitating fund transfers could be useful in emergency humanitarian cases in countries where the high risk of money laundering or terrorist financing generally impedes banking services, according to several stakeholders and some federal banking regulator staff. For example, a U.S. agency with a physical presence in a particularly high-risk country could serve as the intermediate recipient of funds, with responsibility for distributing the funds to the intended beneficiaries. However, staff from the Department of the Treasury said such federal involvement could have unintended consequences. For example, if the U.S. government were to make it easier to transfer funds to countries considered high risk because they lack proper governance, it could reduce those countries' motivation to enact fundamental government reforms to lower their risk levels. Why GAO Did This Study Some money transmitters (a type of nonbank financial institution) and nonprofit charitable organizations transfer funds to foreign countries' populations in need, such as areas experiencing conflicts or humanitarian crises. These organizations need bank accounts and other bank services to make these fund transfers. However, banks may be reluctant to provide these services when recipients of funds are in countries at high risk for money laundering or terrorist financing. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 included a provision for GAO to identify options to address this issue. This report discusses banking access challenges reported by U.S. money transmitters and nonprofits that transfer funds to recipients in high-risk countries and the drivers of these challenges, and stakeholder views on proposals for increasing banks' willingness to serve these customers, among other objectives. GAO reviewed academic, industry, international organization, and think tank literature, as well as documentation from federal banking regulators and Treasury. GAO also interviewed agency staff, industry associations, and experts and held five discussion groups with representatives of banks, money transmitters, and nonprofits, which were selected to reflect a range of sizes and geographic areas served. For more information, contact Michael E. Clements at (202) 512-8678 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
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