January 25, 2022

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Penitas city manager pleads guilty

11 min read
A 38-year-old McAllen resident has pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with bribery and bankruptcy fraud

Read full article at: https://www.justice.gov November 10, 2021
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  • Defense Budget: DOD Has Adopted Practices to Manage Within the Constraints of Continuing Resolutions
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found GAO found that the Department of Defense (DOD) and the military services' obligations and acquisitions are limited during a Continuing Resolution (CR), but they have some practices in place to minimize the effects. Specifically, GAO found that for selected appropriations' accounts for fiscal years 2017 through 2020, the military services tended to obligate, (i.e., make a legal commitment to pay for goods or services), a lower percentage of their total annual obligations in the first quarter of the fiscal year—when DOD is most likely to be operating under a CR—as compared with the other quarters (see figure). Military Services' Average Obligations by Quarter of Operation and Maintenance Appropriations, Fiscal Years 2017–2020 Note: Percentages may not add due to rounding. Although DOD officials reported acquisitions were constrained by CR provisions that restrict starting new programs and production rate increases, the programs GAO reviewed were able to avoid delays or cost increases during the fiscal years with CRs. The military services have instituted some practices to minimize the effects of CRs, including initiating service contract start dates after the first quarter of the fiscal year and postponing nonessential purchases and training to later in the fiscal year. DOD officials stated both that the repetition and incremental planning required during a CR is not an effective or efficient way to operate, but that preparing for and operating under CRs have become routine in nature. GAO identified three activities directly related to preparing for and operating under CRs—developing legislative anomaly proposals (i.e., requests for authority beyond the standard CR provisions), creating spending plans for various CR scenarios, and adjusting contracts to reflect CR funding availability. DOD civilian hiring generally slowed during CRs. GAO's analysis of DOD civilian hiring data from fiscal year 2017 through 2020 found that, on average, fewer civilian personnel were hired per day during CRs than during non-CR periods. For fiscal years 2017, 2018, and 2020, DOD hired on average about 200 civilians per day during CR periods as compared with about 250 people per day during non-CR periods. Why GAO Did This Study For 11 of the past 12 fiscal years, DOD has operated under a CR for some part of the fiscal year. CRs provide funding for agencies to continue operating when Congress has not enacted its regular appropriation acts before the beginning of the new fiscal year. From fiscal years 2010 through 2021—with the exception of fiscal year 2019 during which there was no CR—DOD has operated under CRs ranging from 76 to 216 days. DOD officials have stated publicly that delays in knowing when and how much funding will ultimately be available for the fiscal year hampers the military services' ability to accomplish key mission requirements and carry out management functions. The conference report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to review the effects of CRs on DOD. This report examines, among other things, (1) the effects of constraints on the military services' spending and acquisitions during CRs, and what practices they use to minimize these effects; (2) how DOD personnel prepare for and operate under CRs; and (3) DOD's hiring of civilian personnel during CRs. GAO reviewed DOD's CRs, the military services' quarterly obligation reports, and DOD civilian personnel hiring data for fiscal years 2017 through 2020; obtained information from DOD and military service financial management officials; and interviewed officials from a nongeneralizable sample of major defense acquisition programs and other defense organizations. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or FieldE1@gao.gov.
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  • Louisiana Marketer Sentenced in More Than $180 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A Louisiana marketer was sentenced today to 30 months in prison in the Southern District of Mississippi for his role in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud TRICARE and private insurance companies by paying kickbacks to distributors for the referral of medically unnecessary prescriptions. TRICARE is the health care program for uniformed service members, retirees and their families. The conduct resulted in more than $180 million in fraudulent billings, including more than $50 million paid by federal health care programs. 
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  • [Protest of Contract Award]
    In U.S GAO News
    A firm protested the award of a contract by a firm which the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) hired to operate a computer complex. The protester contended that: (1) it should not have been excluded from the competitive range; (2) the acceptance of the awardee's proposal effected a material change in the solicitation; and (3) neither NASA nor its contractor obtained a Delegation of Procurement Authority from the General Services Administration prior to issuing the request for proposals and contracting with the awardee. The contractor stated that the protester's proposal was unacceptable because it lacked technical information, was deficient, and could not be evaluated. The protester stated that it should have been included in the competitive range because its proposal took no exceptions to the technical requirements. In addition, it contended that it should not have been excluded for informational deficiencies because the solicitation cautioned offerers against submitting elaborate proposals. GAO found that the contractor's decision to exclude the protester from the competitive range was reasonable. Although the solicitation cautioned against overly elaborate proposals, this did not excuse offerers from discussing their proposals in detail. GAO found that Federal regulations required neither NASA nor its contractor to obtain a Delegation of Procurement Authority. Finally, GAO did not find it necessary to resolve the question of the awardee's cost proposal because, even if the allegation were correct, the protester would not have been entitled to an amendment dealing with cost proposals since it was excluded from the competitive range on the basis of its technical proposal. Accordingly, the protest was denied.
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  • Federal Contracting: Senior Leaders Should Use Leading Companies’ Key Practices to Improve Performance
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Each year, federal agencies spend over $500 billion to buy a wide variety of products and services, ranging from cutting-edge military aircraft to common office supplies. Given the amount of federal funds spent and the missions these contracts support, it is critical that agencies' procurement leaders manage their organizations effectively. However, GAO found procurement leaders at six of the federal government's largest agencies did not consistently use key practices that leading companies use to improve the performance of their procurement organizations (see figure). Procurement Leaders at the Federal Agencies GAO Reviewed Did Not Consistently Use Leading Companies' Key Practices to Improve Performance Note: GAO's assessment of procurement leaders' collaboration when developing performance metrics reflects the extent to which they collaborated with end users. Link performance metrics to strategic goals. Procurement leaders at all the agencies in GAO's review linked their performance metrics to their agencies' strategic goals. These leaders stated that doing so helps ensure acquisition personnel are focused on the right things to support their agency's mission. These statements are consistent with statements from procurement leaders at leading companies. Collaborate with internal stakeholders, particularly end users, when developing performance metrics. When they were developing performance metrics, procurement leaders at all six of the agencies in GAO's review collaborated with other members of the procurement community. However, only the procurement leaders at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) collaborated with end users, such as technical experts from installation centers. One procurement leader said he did not collaborate with end users when he developed performance metrics because too much end user influence could lead to suboptimal results, but leaders do not have to cede control when they collaborate with end users. End users can help procurement leaders increase the usefulness and use of performance information in program management and policy, and corporate procurement leaders told GAO that collaboration with end users during the development and implementation of performance metrics increases coordination and improves performance at the strategic level. Use outcome-oriented performance metrics to manage procurement organizations. GAO found the leaders at all six of the agencies reviewed rely primarily on process-oriented metrics (such as small business utilization rates) when managing their procurement organizations. These leaders cited various reasons for not implementing metrics that are more outcome-oriented. For example, two leaders stated they did not use outcome-oriented performance metrics because of unreliable data. Three of the leaders, however, are working to improve data that can facilitate outcome-oriented assessments. Additionally, procurement leaders at most of the agencies GAO reviewed have ongoing or planned efforts to use performance metrics to measure at least one of the four procurement outcomes identified as important by corporate procurement leaders. These outcomes include (1) cost savings/avoidance, (2) timeliness of deliveries, (3) quality of deliverables, and (4) end-user satisfaction. For example, the Air Force's senior procurement leader has used a cost savings/avoidance metric to manage the Air Force's procurement organizations, and as of March 2021, the Air Force leader had identified $2.38 billion in cost savings and avoidance. Additionally, the Army's senior procurement leader told GAO that she began to pursue outcome-oriented metrics in late 2020, after GAO provided her an interim assessment comparing Army practices to private sector practices. GAO has previously reported that using a balanced set of performance measures, including both process- and outcome-oriented measures—and obtaining complete and reliable performance information—can help federal agencies identify improvement opportunities, set priorities, and allocate resources. Why GAO Did This Study Federal agencies face significant, long-standing procurement challenges that increase the risk of waste and mismanagement. GAO was asked to review key procurement practices in the private sector and assess whether federal agencies could adopt them. This report examines key practices that leading companies use to improve the performance of their procurement organizations, and the extent to which procurement leaders at selected federal agencies use those practices. GAO interviewed senior procurement leaders at seven leading companies, and experts from four professional associations and five academic institutions. GAO selected these individuals based on literature reviews and conversations with knowledgeable officials. GAO compared key practices they identified to those used at six federal agencies selected based on the dollar value and number of their procurement actions, among other factors. GAO analyzed documentation on each agency's procurement management practices, and interviewed the agencies' senior procurement leaders. The federal government does not have generally accepted definitions for outcome-oriented and process-oriented metrics. For the purposes of this report, GAO defined outcome-oriented metrics as those metrics that measure the results of organizations' procurement activities. GAO defined process-oriented metrics as those metrics that measure the type or level of procurement activities conducted.
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  • Chronic Health Conditions: Federal Strategy Needed to Coordinate Diet-Related Efforts
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found According to the latest federal data available, selected chronic health conditions linked to diet are prevalent, deadly, and costly. These diet-related conditions include cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke), cancer, diabetes, and obesity. For example, 2018 federal data show: Prevalence. Forty-two percent of adults had obesity—or approximately 100 million U.S. adults. Mortality. Cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes accounted for half of all annual deaths in the U.S. (about 1.5 million deaths). People living in southern states, men, and Black Americans had disproportionately higher mortality rates than those living in other regions, women, and other races. Cost. Government spending, including Medicare and Medicaid, to treat cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes accounted for 54 percent of the $383.6 billion in health care spending to treat these conditions. The increase in certain diet-related conditions over time indicates further potential threats to Americans' health. For example, the prevalence of obesity among adults was 19 percent higher in 2018 than in 2009. GAO identified 200 federal efforts related to diet—fragmented across 21 agencies—for reducing Americans' risk of chronic health conditions. The efforts fall into four categories (see table). Federal Agencies' Efforts to Address Diet as a Factor of Chronic Health Conditions Categories Number of efforts Examples of activities Total efforts 200   Research 119 Collect and monitor data, conduct or fund studies, review research to develop guidelines on healthy eating Education and clinical services 72 Inform program beneficiaries, counsel health care patients, inform the public with mass communication Food assistance and access 27 Provide food or assistance in purchasing food, improve community access to healthy food Regulatory action 6 Issue requirements or recommendations for food producers, manufacturers, and retailers Source: GAO analysis of agency information. | GAO-21-593 Note: Effort numbers do not add up to 200 because some efforts fall into multiple categories. Agencies have taken some actions to coordinate, such as by establishing interagency groups. However, they have not effectively managed fragmentation of diet-related efforts or the potential for overlap and duplication. Such fragmentation has impacted the agencies' ability to achieve certain outcomes. For example, according to agency officials and nonfederal stakeholders, agencies have not fully addressed important gaps in scientific knowledge where research is sparse, including on healthy diets for infants and young children. A federal strategy for diet-related efforts could provide sustained leadership and result in improved, cost-effective outcomes for reducing Americans' risk of diet-related chronic health conditions. Why GAO Did This Study Many chronic health conditions are preventable, yet they are leading causes of death and disability in the United States. In addition, people with certain chronic health conditions are more likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19 than people without them. Poor diet is one prominent risk factor for chronic health conditions, alongside tobacco use, physical inactivity, and others. Numerous federal agencies have a role in addressing diet and its link to chronic health conditions. GAO was asked to review diet-related chronic health conditions and federal efforts to address them. This report examines (1) federal data on prevalence, mortality, and costs of selected diet-related chronic health conditions; (2) federal diet-related efforts to reduce Americans' risk of chronic health conditions; and (3) the extent to which federal agencies have coordinated their efforts. GAO selected conditions with established scientific links to diet. GAO then analyzed federal data on prevalence, mortality, and health care spending; reviewed agency documents; interviewed officials from 21 federal agencies with a role in diet, as well as nonfederal stakeholders; and compared agency actions with selected leading practices for collaboration, which GAO has identified in prior work.
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    In Crime News
    Good afternoon, everyone.  First, I would like to thank Amie Ely and the wonderful team at NAAG for all of their amazing work, and for hosting this event on such an important topic.  Thank you as well to everyone in the audience for taking the time to join virtually for what should be a truly interesting conversation.  Perhaps it’s fitting that we are having a discussion — via webcam — that highlights the importance of digital evidence.
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