January 19, 2022

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Release of American Hostages Held in Yemen

10 min read

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Today, we join with all Americans in welcoming the release of two U.S. citizens from Houthi custody in Yemen.

My deepest condolences go out to the family of a third American who died while in captivity, but whose remains are being repatriated.

I would like to thank Sultan Haitham bin Tariq of Oman, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia for their diplomatic efforts.  I also want to commend the tenacious diplomacy of our embassies in the region who helped facilitate this release.

Today’s news is the latest affirmation that President Trump remains committed to bringing every American held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad back home.  This Administration will not rest until they are all reunited with their families.

News Network

  • Acting Associate Attorney General Matthew Colangelo Delivers Remarks at Listening Session on Environmental Crime Victims
    In Crime News
    Good Afternoon. Kris, thank you for the kind introduction. Thank you all for joining us this afternoon for this opportunity to exchange ideas about how to better serve victims of environmental crime. We are honored to be joined by so many knowledgeable and dedicated professionals working on behalf of crime victims and the environment, federal and state law enforcement, academic experts, and representatives of organizations.
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  • Elder Justice: HHS Could Do More to Encourage State Reporting on the Costs of Financial Exploitation
    In U.S GAO News
    Most state Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies have been providing data on reports of abuse to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including data on financial exploitation, although some faced challenges collecting and submitting these data. Since states began providing data to HHS's National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System (NAMRS) in 2017, they have been voluntarily submitting more detailed data on financial exploitation and perpetrators each year (see figure). However, some APS officials GAO interviewed in selected states said collecting data is difficult, in part, because victims are reluctant to implicate others, especially family members or other caregivers. APS officials also said submitting data to NAMRS was challenging initially because their data systems often did not align with NAMRS, and caseworkers may not have entered data in the system correctly. HHS has provided technical assistance and grant funding to help states address some of these challenges and help provide a better picture of the prevalence of the various types of financial exploitation and its perpetrators nationwide. Number of States That Provide Data on Financial Exploitation and Perpetrators to NAMRS Studies estimate some of the costs of financial exploitation to be in the billions, but comprehensive data on total costs do not exist and NAMRS does not currently collect cost data from APS agencies. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found actual losses and attempts at elder financial exploitation reported by financial institutions nationwide were $1.7 billion in 2017. Also, studies published from 2016 to 2020 from three states—New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—estimated the costs of financial exploitation could be more than $1 billion in each state alone. HHS does not currently ask states to submit cost data from APS casefiles to NAMRS, though officials said they have begun to reevaluate NAMRS with state APS agencies and other interested parties, including researchers, and may consider asking states to submit cost data moving forward. Adding cost data to NAMRS could make a valuable contribution to the national picture of the cost of financial exploitation. Recognizing the importance of these data, some APS officials GAO interviewed said their states have developed new data fields or other tools to help caseworkers collect and track cost data more systematically. HHS officials said they plan to share this information with other states to make them aware of practices that could help them collect cost data, but they have not established a timeframe for doing so. Elder financial exploitation—the fraudulent or illegal use of an older adult's funds or property—has far-reaching effects on victims and society. Understanding the scope of the problem has thus far been hindered by a lack of nationwide data. In 2013, HHS worked with states to create NAMRS, a voluntary system for collecting APS data on elder abuse, including financial exploitation. GAO was asked to study the extent to which NAMRS provides information on elder financial exploitation. This report examines (1) the status of HHS's efforts to compile nationwide data through NAMRS on the extent of financial exploitation and the challenges involved, and (2) what is known about the costs of financial exploitation to victims and others. GAO analyzed NAMRS data from fiscal year 2016 through 2019 (the most recent available); reviewed relevant federal laws; and interviewed officials from HHS, other federal agencies, elder abuse prevention organizations, and researchers. GAO also reviewed APS documents and spoke with officials in eight states, selected based on their efforts to study, collect, and report cost data; and reviewed studies on financial exploitation. GAO recommends that HHS (1) work with state APS agencies to collect and submit cost data to NAMRS, and (2) develop a timeframe to share states' tools to help collect cost data. HHS did not agree with the first recommendation, but GAO maintains that it is warranted, as discussed in the report. HHS agreed with the second recommendation. For more information, contact Kathryn A. Larin at (202) 512-7215 or larink@gao.gov.
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  • Probation Official Charged with Child Pornography Offenses
    In Crime News
    A Pennsylvania man made his initial appearance today after being charged in an indictment with multiple child pornography offenses.
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  • Pineville Man Charged with Forced Labor and Transporting a Minor with Intent to Engage in Criminal Sexual Activity
    In Crime News
    Darnell Fulton, 36, was charged today in a multiple count indictment with charges including forced labor, conspiracy, and transportation of a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, announced Eric S. Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, and David C. Joseph, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana. 
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  • Proposing Changes to the Department’s Policies on Gender on U.S. Passports and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Justice Department Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Cincinnati, Ohio Landlord
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced that landlord John Klosterman and his wife, Susan Klosterman, will pay $177,500 to resolve a Fair Housing Act lawsuit alleging that John Klosterman sexually harassed female tenants since at least 2013 at residential properties the couple owned in Cincinnati, Ohio. 
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  • Government Obtains Settlement for Injunctive Relief and Millions in Consumer Redress from MyLife.com and CEO Jeffrey Tinsley
    In Crime News
    Online background report company MyLife.com Inc. (MyLife) and its founder and chief executive officer, Jeffrey Tinsley, have agreed to pay $21 million in consumer redress and to injunctive relief that would require them to comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act), the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), the Restore Online Shoppers Confidence Act (ROSCA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in all current and future business activities.
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  • Warfighter Support: Independent Expert Assessment of Army Body Armor Test Results and Procedures Needed Before Fielding
    In U.S GAO News
    The Army has issued soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan personal body armor, comprising an outer protective vest and ceramic plate inserts. GAO observed Preliminary Design Model testing of new plate designs, which resulted in the Army's awarding contracts in September 2008 valued at a total of over $8 billion to vendors of the designs that passed that testing. Between November and December 2008, the Army conducted further testing, called First Article Testing, on these designs. GAO is reporting on the degree to which the Army followed its established testing protocols during these two tests. GAO did not provide an expert ballistics evaluation of the results of testing. GAO, using a structured, GAO-developed data collection instrument, observed both tests at the Army's Aberdeen Test Center, analyzed data, and interviewed agency and industry officials to evaluate observed deviations from testing protocols. However, independent ballistics testing expertise is needed to determine the full effect of these deviations.During Preliminary Design Model testing the Army took significant steps to run a controlled test and maintain consistency throughout the process, but the Army did not always follow established testing protocols and, as a result, did not achieve its intended test objective of determining as a basis for awarding contracts which designs met performance requirements. In the most consequential of the Army's deviations from testing protocols, the Army testers incorrectly measured the amount of force absorbed by the plate designs by measuring back-face deformation in the clay backing at the point of aim rather than at the deepest point of depression. Army testers recognized the error after completing about a third of the test and then changed the test plan to call for measuring at the point of aim and likewise issued a modification to the contract solicitation. At least two of the eight designs that passed Preliminary Design Model testing and were awarded contracts would have failed if measurements had been made to the deepest point of depression. The deviations from the testing protocols were the result of Aberdeen Test Center's incorrectly interpreting the testing protocols. In all these cases of deviations from the testing protocols, the Aberdeen Test Center's implemented procedures were not reviewed or approved by the Army and Department of Defense officials responsible for approving the testing protocols. After concerns were raised regarding the Preliminary Design Model testing, the decision was made not to field any of the plate designs awarded contracts until after First Article Testing was conducted. During First Article Testing, the Army addressed some of the problems identified during Preliminary Design Model testing, but GAO observed instances in which Army testers did not follow the established testing protocols and did not maintain internal controls over the integrity and reliability of data, raising questions as to whether the Army met its First Article Test objective of determining whether each of the contracted designs met performance requirements. The following are examples of deviations from testing protocols and other issues that GAO observed: (1) The clay backing placed behind the plates during ballistics testing was not always calibrated in accordance with testing protocols and was exposed to rain on one day, potentially impacting test results. (2) Testers improperly rounded down back-face deformation measurements, which is not authorized in the established testing protocols and which resulted in two designs passing First Article Testing that otherwise would have failed. Army officials said rounding is a common practice; however, one private test facility that rounds told GAO that they round up, not down. (3) Testers used a new instrument to measure back-face deformation without adequately certifying that the instrument could function correctly and in conformance with established testing protocols. The impact of this issue on test results is uncertain, but it could call into question the reliability and accuracy of the measurements. (4) Testers deviated from the established testing protocols in one instance by improperly scoring a complete penetration as a partial penetration. As a result, one design passed First Article Testing that would have otherwise failed. With respect to internal control issues, the Army did not consistently maintain adequate internal controls to ensure the integrity and reliability of test data. In one example, during ballistic testing, data were lost, and testing had to be repeated because an official accidentally pressed the delete button and software controls were not in place to protect the integrity of test data. Army officials acknowledged that before GAO's review they were unaware of the specific internal control problems we identified.
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  • Comparative Effectiveness Research: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and HHS Continue Activities and Plan New Efforts
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO found that the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)—a federally funded, nonprofit corporation—and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have continued to perform comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) activities required by law since our prior report issued in 2015. CER evaluates and compares health outcomes, risks, and benefits of medical treatments, services, or items. The requirements direct PCORI and HHS to, among other things, fund CER and disseminate and facilitate the implementation of CER findings. GAO's analysis of PCORI and HHS documents show that they allocated a total of about $3.6 billion for CER activities and program support during fiscal years 2010 through 2019 from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund (Trust Fund). Specifically, PCORI allocated about $2 billion for research awards and another $542 million for other awards, to be paid over multiple years. HHS allocated about $598 million for activities such as the dissemination and implementation of CER findings. PCORI and HHS also allocated about $470 million for program support. PCORI and HHS Allocations for Comparative Clinical Effectiveness Research (CER) Activities, Fiscal Years 2010 through 2019 aTotals may not add up due to rounding. bPCORI and HHS allocated $457 million and $13 million for program support, respectively. PCORI assessed the effectiveness of its activities using performance measures and targets. Since fiscal year 2017, when early CER projects were completed, PCORI officials reported that the institute met its performance targets, such as an increased number of research citations of its CER findings in news and online sources. HHS described accomplishments or assessed the effectiveness of its dissemination and implementation activities. PCORI and HHS officials told GAO they are planning comprehensive evaluations of their CER dissemination and implementation activities as part of their strategic plans for the next 10 years. The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) authorized establishment of PCORI to conduct CER and improve its quality and relevance. PPACA also established new requirements for HHS to, among other things, disseminate findings from federally funded CER and coordinate federal programs to build data capacity for this research. To fund CER activities, PPACA established the Trust Fund, which provided a total of about $3.6 billion to PCORI and HHS for CER activities during fiscal years 2010 through 2019. The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, added new CER requirements and extended funding at similar levels through fiscal year 2029. PPACA and the Appropriations Act 2020 included provisions that GAO review PCORI and HHS's CER activities. This report describes (1) the CER activities PCORI and HHS carried out to meet legislative requirements, (2) how PCORI and HHS allocated funding to those CER activities, and (3) PCORI and HHS efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of their CER dissemination and implementation activities, such as changes in medical practice. GAO reviewed legislative requirements and PCORI and HHS documentation and data for fiscal years 2010-2019. GAO also interviewed PCORI and HHS officials and obtained information from nine selected stakeholder groups that were familiar with PCORI's or HHS's CER activities. These groups included payer, provider, and patient organizations. GAO incorporated technical comments from PCORI and HHS as appropriate. For more information, contact John Dicken at (202) 512-7114 or dickenj@gao.gov.
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  • Afghanistan Reconstruction: Progress Made in Constructing Roads, but Assessments for Determining Impact and a Sustainable Maintenance Program Are Needed
    In U.S GAO News
    The Afghan government, the United States, and other donors consider road reconstruction a top development priority for Afghanistan. Almost 20 percent of the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) $5.9 billion in assistance to Afghanistan has been for roads. The Department of Defense (Defense) has committed about $560 million for roads, of which Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) funds account for over half. GAO examined (1) the status of road reconstruction and challenges affecting project implementation, (2) U.S. agencies' efforts to evaluate the impact of road projects, and (3) efforts to develop a sustainable road maintenance program. GAO reviewed U.S. and Afghan governments' planning, evaluation, and funding documents and interviewed relevant stakeholders in Afghanistan.The United States and other donors have completed construction of several regional and national highways since 2002, but the status of other roads is uncertain and various challenges have delayed construction. The Afghan government and international donors planned to complete the high-priority regional highways by the end of 2008, and as of February 2008, about 60 percent of these roads were built. USAID has completed its portion, but completion of other portions is not expected until late 2009. Donors have committed to construct over 30 percent of national highways, which connect provincial capitals to the regional highways, and only USAID has completed portions of these highways. Detailed information on the status of provincial and rural roads is lacking. Although Defense reported committing CERP funds for 1,600 kilometers of roads, data on the roads were incomplete and Defense has not reported information on these roads to USAID, as required. Poor security, project implementer limitations, and starting construction with limited planning have contributed to project delays and cost increases. U.S. agencies have not conducted sound impact evaluations to determine the degree to which projects achieved the objective of economic development. Limitations of USAID's funding, data collection, and frameworks to assess results have impeded its ability to evaluate project impact. Defense has not conducted any impact evaluations and lacks clear guidance on project evaluation. However, agency officials have noted some anecdotal examples of road construction impact, such as reduced travel times and increased commerce. Moreover, no other donor has performed impact evaluations. A sustainable road maintenance program has not been established, although it is a goal of the Afghan government and international donors. The Afghan government's support of this goal has been limited due to factors such as a lack of resources and a fragmented institutional organization. As a result, international donors have agreed to temporarily fund road maintenance to protect their investments. While USAID plans to maintain about 1,500 kilometers of roads it built, it did not meet its 2007 target to maintain 100 kilometers of reconstructed roads.
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Yang Man-Hee of Seoul Broadcasting System
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Justice Department Settles with Donut Shop Franchise to Resolve Immigration-Related Discrimination Claims
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it reached a settlement with SV Donuts Inc. LLC (SV Donuts), a Maryland corporation that owns two Dunkin Donuts store franchises. The settlement resolves a claim that the company discriminated against a lawful permanent resident because of his immigration status by not allowing him to choose which valid documentation to present to show his permission to work.
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  • Comments Invited on Regulations for Bankruptcy Trustee Payments
    In U.S Courts
    The bench, bar, and public have been asked to provide comments on proposed interim regulations for the administration of a new payment for trustees serving in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases under the Bankruptcy Administration Improvement Act of 2020. The comment period runs from Aug. 30, 2021 to Sept. 17, 2021.
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  • ANZAC Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Man Pleads Guilty to Directing COVID-Relief Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A Wisconsin man pleaded guilty today for his role in fraudulently obtaining over $1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
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  • Ascension Michigan to Pay $2.8 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations
    In Crime News
    Ascension Michigan and related hospitals, Providence Park Hospital, St. John Hospital and Medical Center, St. John Macomb Oakland Hospital and Ascension Crittenton Hospital (collectively, Ascension Michigan), all located in Michigan, have agreed to pay $2.8 million to resolve claims that they violated the False Claims Act by submitting or causing the submission of false claims for payment to federal health care programs related to alleged medically unnecessary procedures performed by a gynecologic oncologist (the “Doctor”).
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  • Federal Court Permanently Shuts Down Michigan Tax Preparer
    In Crime News
    A federal court in the Eastern District of Michigan has permanently enjoined a Detroit-area tax return preparer from preparing federal income tax returns for others and from owning or operating any tax return business in the future.
    [Read More…]
  • North Carolina Man Sentenced for COVID-19 Relief Fraud Schemes
    In Crime News
    A North Carolina man was sentenced today to 63 months in prison for perpetrating three fraud schemes between March and July 2020 connected to the COVID-19 pandemic, through which he defrauded consumers and the federal government’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL), created to assist small business owners during the pandemic.
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  • Emergency Watershed Protection: Assistance Program Helps Meet Post-Disaster Needs and Could Be Improved with Additional Guidance
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides assistance to project sponsors (e.g., state, local, or tribal governments) through the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program using a process that includes assessing damage, overseeing implementation of projects, and reimbursing project costs. To be eligible for the EWP program, a project must address damage that poses a threat to life or property (see figure), and the benefits of the project must generally outweigh the costs. NRCS officials said that if a site meets these conditions, the agency generally approves it. If NRCS has insufficient EWP funds, an approved project may be waitlisted until the agency receives additional funds from Congress. Flood Damage to Homes in Colorado, 2013 Sponsors and other stakeholders generally described the EWP program as an important program that helps sponsors respond to disasters, but they also identified challenges, including the clarity of program guidance for sponsors. For example, many stakeholders identified areas where guidance was limited or unclear, including guidance related to the steps and forms needed for sponsors to request assistance. Some said it would be helpful to have such guidance, so potential sponsors can quickly learn key policies and procedures, such as time frames for applying for assistance and project time limits. Some NRCS state offices have developed guides to help sponsors understand program requirements, but NRCS does not have a national sponsor guide for the EWP program. As of October 2021, NRCS officials said that they were in the process of developing a national sponsor guide, which they anticipated issuing in 2022. However, from GAO's review of NRCS documents and discussions with NRCS officials, it is not clear whether the guide will address the challenges identified by stakeholders GAO interviewed. As NRCS continues developing its national sponsor guide, it should ensure that the guide clarifies these areas to help NRCS and sponsors better achieve their objectives of protecting life and property after a natural disaster. Why GAO Did This Study Hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and other natural disasters can damage watersheds, creating threats to life and property. According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, extreme weather events in the United States are becoming more frequent and intense, in part due to climate change, which GAO has reported poses a significant fiscal risk to the federal government. USDA's EWP program provides technical and financial assistance to help project sponsors relieve imminent threats to life and property created by natural disasters. Congress appropriated over $1.3 billion to the EWP program from fiscal years 2015 through 2020. GAO was asked to review the EWP program. This report (1) describes the process through which USDA provides assistance under the EWP program and (2) examines stakeholder perspectives on the EWP program, including any challenges and opportunities for improvement. GAO reviewed statutes, regulations, program guidance, and other documents. GAO also interviewed USDA officials and sponsors and other stakeholders in six states selected, among other reasons, because they received the most EWP funds from fiscal years 2015 through 2019.
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  • Senior Administration Officials On the Upcoming U.S.-Mexico High-Level Security Dialogue
    In Crime Control and Security News
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