IAFC Supports Vaccine Prioritization for First RespondersCDC Tells States to Be Ready to Distribute Vaccines on November 1Can I Get the Coronavirus Twice? Health professionals have staged protests over a lack of adequate personal protective equipment, and early in the pandemic there were at least two confirmed outbreaks at hospitals that sickened dozens of health care professionals. The Health Department said 1,410 doctors, nurses and other hospital employees had died from COVIED-19, while a total of 104,590 medical workers had tested positive for the coronavirus. The government has claimed since March that hospital workers have had all the protective gear they need, but on several occasions hospital employees have blocked streets in Mexico City displaying what they said was ill-fitting, insufficient or substandard gear. Infections among among health care personnel represented about 17% of Mexico’s total 616,900 coronavirus cases, though such workers account for only about 1% of the population. Deaths in the sector were only about 2% of Mexico’s total deaths, and the government said the fact that health care workers died less frequently than other severe cases showed they weren’t particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Only people with severe symptoms are tested in Mexico – 99% of Mexicans have never had a coronavirus test, leading most observers to conclude that the country’s infections are vastly under counted. The Health Department said as many as 12.3% of front-line medical personnel caring for COVID-19 patients got infected, compared to a confirmed infection rate of only about 0.5% for the population as a whole. FILE – In this May 30, 2020 file photo, paramedic coordinator Oscar Becerril decontaminates fellow paramedic Cesar Avila after going out on a night call to pick up a COVID-19 patient, at their base Troya in Iztapalapa, a Mexico City borough. Amnesty International said in a new report issued Wednesday, Sept. 2, that Mexico has the highest COVID-19 death toll among health workers in the world, with the country’s 1,320 confirmed deaths surpassing the United States, the U.K. and Brazil. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File) The government acknowledged that only about 283,000 medical workers had gotten tests so far, probably equivalent to one-third or one-fourth of the country’s health care employees, depending on how that is defined. There are about 650,000 government health care workers in Mexico and nearly that many in the private health care sector. MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexican officials on Thursday downplayed the country’s rate of coronavirus infections and deaths among medical personnel, appearing to dispute reports this week that Mexico had the highest rate in the world. In a report Wednesday, Amnesty International said Mexico leads the world in coronavirus deaths among its health care workers, surpassing the United States at 1,077, the United Kingdom at 649, and Brazil at 634. It said nurses accounted for 42% of those infected, doctors made up 27% and other hospital employees such as technicians, aides and maintenance and cleaning staff were 31%. Related The Pan American Health Organization, for example, reported 2,506 COVID-19 deaths among all health workers in the Americas, and gave the same numbers for Mexico as Amnesty, but listed only 240 deaths for Brazil and 660 for the United States. Officials sought to deflect criticism that medical workers have not had adequate protective gear by saying workers who took leaves from government hospitals during the pandemic were infected at only slightly lower rates than those who remained on duty. However, many of those on leave had outside jobs, probably at other health care facilities, and many took leaves because their age or underlying health conditions made them more vulnerable to developing severe COVID-19 symptoms if infected. The argument appeared to ignore that health care workers are younger in general than other severe cases – almost half of those severely ill from COVID-19 are above retirement age – and that they presumably have better medical knowledge and access to care which tend to improve their chances of survival. Death statistics vary, depending on who each country classifies as a health care worker, how deaths are considered confirmed, and how they are reported.
The Observer received 23 awards at the 2019 annual Indiana Collegiate Press Association (ICPA) awards, including second place in the Division I Newspaper of the Year category and third place for Best Overall Website Design.The News department took home five awards, including first place in the Best News or Feature Story category for senior news writer Gina Twardosz and Managing Editor Mariah Rush’s series about the underrepresentation of Native Americans at Notre Dame.News also took first in Best Non-Deadline News Story for former Editor-in-Chief Kelli Smith’s story about a Notre Dame student who created a crossword which was published in The New York Times. The Observer News department staff won second place for Best Breaking News Reporting for covering Notre Dame’s decision to remove campus-wide dorm access from student ID cards.Former Assistant Managing Editors Mary Steurer and Natalie Weber took second place for Best Continuous Coverage of a Single Story for covering the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and its impact on the 2019 Notre Dame Forum.The News department took second place for Best News Feature Series for a look inside the mental health services and needs of the students at Saint Mary’s College, written by Twardosz and Saint Mary’s News Editor Mia Marroquin. The Sports department received four awards. Former Associate Managing Editor Elizabeth Greason won first place in the Best Sports News Story category for her story about the Notre Dame women’s basketball national championship loss.Former Sports Editor Connor Mulvena won second place in Best Sports Column for his response to critics after his analysis of the problems within the Notre Dame football program. Additionally, Sports writer Jack Concannon won second place for Best Sports News Story for covering an Irish defeat by the Wolverines.Sports also took third place for Best Sports Feature Story for a piece about Ian Book written by former Managing Editor Charlotte Edmonds.The Scene department won four awards. Scene writer Jim Moster took third place for Best Entertainment Column for his dissection of the Area 51 meme. Hanna Kennedy and Ryan Israel, scene writer and Scene Editor, won second and third place respectively for Best Entertainment Story –– Kennedy for her piece about the Snite Museum’s exhibit of Native art, and Israel for a story about a basement concert, part of the department’s “Flashes in the Pan” series.Former Scene Editor Nora McGreevy won first place for Best Review for her piece on ‘Sex Education.’ Viewpoint took home two awards, including first place for Best Opinion Column for columnist Ashton Weber’s reflection on growing up in the church with a priest who had recently been indicted on nine counts of rape. The Viewpoint department staff won third place for Best Podcast for their ‘Episode Three’ in which they discussed the abortion debate.Kerry Schneeman won third place in Best Illustration for an image of Greta Thunberg featured in a Viewpoint column about the 16-year-old activist.The Graphics and Photo departments took home two awards together. Graphics Editor Diane Park and former Photo Editor Anna Mason won first and second place for Best Special Section Front/Cover for the Irish Insiders for Virginia Tech and Virginia, respectively.The Observer also took first place for Best Blog for a discussion of the ‘90s art scene at Saint Mary’s by Moster, Marirose Osborne and Evan McKenna as part of the From the Archives initiative.The Observer Editorial Board won second place for Best Staff Editorial urging the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s administrations to renew their commitment to sexual assault awareness and transparency. The Observer staff also won second place for Best Themed Issue for the 2019 Commencement edition.Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story stated The Observer won 24 awards at the ICPAs. The Observer regrets this error.Tags: Awards, ICPAs, Indiana Collegiate Press Association, The Observer
Star Files Mike Birbiglia in “The New One” at off-Broadway’s Cherry Lane Theatre(Photo: Joan Marcus) Show Closed This production ended its run on Jan. 20, 2019 Mike Birbiglia Related Shows Mike Birbiglia’s The New One View Comments Following an acclaimed off-Broadway run at the Cherry Lane Theatre, Mike Birbiglia’s The New One will move to Broadway’s Cort Theatre this fall. Preview performances will begin on October 25 with the official opening set for November 11, for a limited engagement through January 20, 2019. The New One will mark Birbiglia’s Broadway debut. Tickets are now on sale.Birbiglia said, “I’m so excited to be bringing The New One to The Cort Theatre on Broadway, which is where I saw the great Kenneth Lonergan play This Is Our Youth—which is fitting because this show is about somebody’s youth. Not mine. But somebody’s! I won’t tell you any more than that. The truth is I try not to tell people anything about my new show because, I find, the less you know about the show the more you will enjoy it.”Birbiglia is a comedian, storyteller, director and actor who has performed in front of audiences worldwide, from the Sydney Opera House to Carnegie Hall. His most recent shows, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend and Thank God for Jokes, were both filmed for Netflix. In addition to performing live, Birbiglia is an author and filmmaker who wrote, directed and starred in the films Sleepwalk with Me and Don’t Think Twice. Last year, Birbiglia was honored with the Kurt Vonnegut Award for humor.Written by Birbiglia with additional writing by Jennifer Hope Stein, The New One is directed by Seth Barrish with set design by Beowulf Boritt, lighting design by Aaron Copp and sound design by Leon Rothenberg.
Stone Environmental Inc,Vermont Business Magazine Esri, the global leader in spatial analytics, recognized Stone Environmental this month at the Annual Esri Partner Conference for its exceptional contribution to spatial analysis technology. Stone said in a statement that it is “humbled and excited” to receive the Best Use of Story Maps award for taking data visualization to the next level by using ArcGIS story maps to engage a wide-variety of stakeholders in the revitalization of downtown areas with underserved, abandoned or contaminated brownfield properties. David Healy, Vice President and Senior GIS Applications Specialist of Stone, accepted the award on behalf of Stone’s work on the Bennington Downtown Area-Wide Plan Story Map on March 6, 2017 in Palm Springs, California. David Healy (right) with Esri’s Best Use of Story Maps Award March 2017. Photo courtesy of Stone Environmental”The Bennington Story map is a great extension of Esri’s GIS technology,” said David. “What sets this story apart from others is how it integrates classic story telling with engaging interactive maps, photos and alternative redevelopment scenarios. It was an honor to receive this award in front of over 1,000 global GIS market leaders, and is a testament to our partnership with Esri, which goes back over 20 years. Esri’s recent advancements have now made ArcGIS software useful anywhere, anytime, and on any device.”The Bennington Downtown Area-Wide Plan Story Map(link is external) promotes plans to revitalize downtown Bennington, a mixed-residential and commercial area that once served as an industrial hub and but today remains a former shell of its old self. In 2016, the Town of Bennington and Bennington County Regional Commission (BCRC) engaged in an area-wide planning process to address several vacant and underutilized properties, many with brownfield conditions, and to engage the community and potential partners in redevelopment ideas. Stone worked with team members Greenman Pedersen, Kennedy Advisors, and Centerline Architects to develop the Bennington Downtown Area-Wide Plan(link is external), offering a detailed market study, conceptual redevelopment scenarios, and feasibility analyses. “For any Area Wide Plan to be successful, the community needs to be an active part of the process,” said Daniel Voisin, Director of Environmental Assessment and Remediation at Stone. “In Bennington, we used the story map as a way to build interest in the project by providing an easily navigable platform for community members to find information about the area’s history, setting, resources, and the concept redevelopment plans. It proved to be a key tool to push information to the public.”With the support of the community, a consortium of local business leaders, institutions, and civic-minded investors, the town of Bennington is ready to give downtown revitalization another try. In July 2016, the town announced plans to transform a block of historic buildings into a mixed-use, downtown space with residential housing, office, restaurants, and retail stores.To learn more about how we’re applying leading edge scientific tools, information, and analyses to help our clients solve complex environmental problems, visit Stone’s website (http://www.stone-env.com(link is external))Stone Environmental is small, employee-owned company that provides the scientific tools, information, and analyses to help clients solve complex environmental challenges. Our team of scientists, quality assurance professionals, and engineers work around the globe, and our clients rely on us because of our integrity, expertise, and innovation. Our capabilities include environmental assessment and remediation, water resources management and modeling, data quality assessments, support for agrochemical product stewardship and registration, and geospatial analysis, visualization, and application development. Stone employs over employs over 40 scientists, engineers, modelers, application developers, and project managers. The company’s headquarters is located in Montpelier, Vermont. Remote employees also work out of offices in Mankato, MN, Tallahassee, FL; and Boulder, CO.Source: March 21, 2017 (Montpelier, VT). Stone Environmental
cc: The Honorable Dianne Feinstein Ranking Member Senate Judiciary Committee (link is external) Id. at 7-19; Letter re: DOJ Report at 2-4. (link is external) GAO Report at 29. Charles E. Grassley Patrick J. LeahyChairman MemberSenate Judiciary Committee Senate Judiciary Committee (link is external) See 28 C.F.R. 27.4(f). (link is external) DOJ Report at 16-17. (link is external) Department of Justice Report on Regulations Protecting FBI Whistleblowers (Apr. 2014) [Hereinafter “DOJ Report”], available at: http://www.grassley.senate.gov/sites/default/files/judiciary/upload/Whistleblowers,%2010-21-14,%20DoJ%20Response,%20report%20to%20CEG,%20RW%20request%20for%20release%20of%20PPP19%20report.pdf(link is external). (link is external) DOJ Report at 13; GAO Report at 14, 19 n. 41 (citing Policy Directive 0032D, Non-Retaliation for Reporting Compliance Risks (Feb. 11, 2008) and Policy Directive 0727D Update (Sept. 23, 2014)). (link is external) DOJ Report at 13; U.S. Gov’t Accountability Office, GAO-15-112, Whistleblower Protection: Additional Actions Needed to Improve DOJ’s Handling of FBI Retaliation Complaints 18 (2015) [Hereinafter ‘GAO Report”]. (link is external) 5 U.S.C. § 1221(g)(4) (2012); see also 5 U.S.C. § 1214(h) (2012). (link is external) DOJ Report at 17-18. (link is external) 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(2)(A) (2012) (requiring that final opinions in the adjudication of cases be made available for inspection and copying); see also NLRB v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 421 U.S. 132, 153-54 (1975) (observing that the proactive disclosure provision “represents a strong congressional aversion to ‘secret [agency] law,’ . . . and represents an affirmative congressional purpose to require disclosure of documents which have ‘the force and effect of law’” (quoting H.R. Rep. No. 89-1497, at 7 (1966)); Memorandum from Attorney General Holder on FOIA Guidelines (Mar. 19, 2009), available at http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/ag/legacy/2009/06/24/foia-memo-march2009.pdf(link is external) (“[A]gencies should readily and systematically post information online in advance of any public request.”). (link is external) DOJ Report at 11-12. (link is external) GAO Report at 28. (link is external) DOJ Report at 4-7. (link is external) S. 2390, 114th Cong. (as of April 2016). (link is external) Id. at 13. (link is external) Pub. L. No. 112-199, § 104, 126 Stat. 1465, 1468-69 (inserting “any other any other reasonable and foreseeable consequential damages, and compensatory damages (including interest, reasonable expert witness fees, and costs)” and providing that corrective action “may include may include fees, costs, or damages reasonably incurred due to an agency investigation of the employee, if such investigation was commenced, expanded, or extended in retaliation for the disclosure or protected activity that formed the basis of the corrective action”). (link is external) DOJ Letter at 3-4. (link is external) Letter from Gregory A. Brower, Assistant Director, Office of Congressional Affairs, Federal Bureau of Investigation to Charles E. Grassley, Chairman, U.S. Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary (May 16, 2017); Act of Dec. 16, 2016, Pub. L. No. 114-302 (130 Stat. 1516). (link is external) DOJ Report at 20; 28 C.F.R. 27.4(e)(3). (link is external) 5 U.S.C. § 2303(c) (2012). (link is external) Letter from P. Kadzik to C. Grassley and R. Wyden (Oct. 17, 2014) [Hereinafter “Letter re: DOJ Report”], available at: http://www.grassley.senate.gov/sites/default/files/judiciary/upload/Whistleblowers,%2010-21-14,%20DoJ%20Response,%20report%20to%20CEG,%20RW%20request%20for%20release%20of%20PPP19%20report.pdf(link is external). (link is external) DOJ Report at 12. (link is external) DOJ Report at 20. (link is external) DOJ Report at 11, DOJ Letter at 3. (link is external) Id. (link is external) Letter from Charles E. Grassley, Chairman, U.S. Senate Comm. on the Judiciary, to Sally Q. Yates, Deputy Attorney General, U.S. Dep’t. of Justice (Sept. 29, 2015), available at, https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2015-09-29%20CEG%20to%20DOJ%20(Darin%20Jones%20Follow-Up).pdf(link is external). (link is external) The White House, Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-19 (Oct. 10, 2012), at 5 [Hereinafter “PPD-19”]. Vermont Business Magazine Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) on Wednesday pressed the Justice Department on its progress implementing whistleblower protections at the FBI. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Grassley and Leahy outline a series of concerns about whistleblower protections that have gone unaddressed despite government reports drawing attention to these problems and recommending changes. The Justice Department’s own report(link is external) from 2014 identified “key systemic problems” in protecting FBI whistleblowers under agency’s current regime.“While the Department has taken initial steps to improve the timelines and effectiveness of its whistleblower program, it has failed to implement most of its own recommendations,” the Senators wrote.Grassley and Leahy are inquiring about the Justice Department’s ability to gauge the success of the steps it has already taken to improve its response to whistleblower claims, like its voluntary mediation program and additional attorney work at the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management to process claims. The senators are also seeking information on initiatives the department has yet to undertake to improve whistleblowers’ access to historic data to inform how to properly move forward with their cases. Further, the senators are requesting details on what criteria have been established for granting whistleblower hearings, why the Justice Department does not provide status updates or timelines on pending whistleblower cases, what progress has been made on considering provisions for compensatory damages for whistleblowers who suffer retaliation and other unincorporated practices that could better protect whistleblowers.Grassley and Leahy have long championed whistleblower protections and have coauthored bipartisan legislation like the Whistleblower Protection Act of 2012 and the FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2016.Full text of the letter from Grassley and Leahy follows.September 20, 2017VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION The Honorable Jeff SessionsAttorney GeneralU.S. Department of JusticeWashington, D.C.Dear Attorney General Sessions:In response to Presidential Policy Directive 19 of October 2012 (“PPD-19”),(link is external) the Department of Justice examined the effectiveness of the FBI whistleblower regulations in an April 2014 report (DOJ Report) to President Obama.(link is external) The Department released its report on October 17, 2014, following a request from Senators Grassley and Wyden.(link is external) The DOJ Report outlined the Department’s review of the current regulations, policies, and procedures governing the receipt, investigation, and adjudication of FBI whistleblower complaints.(link is external) The report also analyzed the Department’s handling of those complaints, identified key systemic problems and challenges in protecting FBI whistleblowers under the agency’s current regulations and practices, and suggested eleven recommendations for improvement.(link is external)The DOJ Report, along with a comprehensive review conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), determined that regulatory limits should be expanded regarding who may receive “protected disclosures” from FBI employees.(link is external) The expansion was intended to retain the benefit of channeling on-site disclosures to persons with authority to redress wrongdoing once identified.(link is external) However, the Department did not expand the definition of persons to whom a protected disclosure may be made to include an FBI employee’s immediate supervisor, and therefore, many whistleblower complaints were dismissed when employees followed FBI policy and reported wrongdoing through their chain of command.(link is external) The Congress addressed this issue when it passed the FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act in December 2016, a bill that I co-authored with my colleague, then-Ranking Member Patrick Leahy.(link is external) The FBI WPEA clarified that Congress intended to protect FBI employees for disclosing wrongdoing to supervisors and officers within their chain of command, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), and Members of Congress.(link is external)While the Department has taken initial steps to improve the timeliness and effectiveness of its whistleblower program, it has failed to implement most of its own recommendations. Therefore, I write today to inquire about the status and effectiveness of the Department’s programmatic efforts to improve the whistleblower program as well as the timeline of expected regulatory updates.Program ImprovementsThe DOJ Report noted several changes the Department could enact on its own to improve the whistleblower program for FBI employees, including jumpstarting a mediation program, updating its training, and hiring additional staff. According to the DOJ report, in the spring of 2014, the Department launched a “voluntary mediation program” for FBI whistleblowers.(link is external) The aim of the program is to assist in resolving cases in a timely manner, particularly where the positions of the two parties are not very far apart. The GAO review found that two complainants pursued mediation, though since their cases were still pending, it was too soon to analyze the overall impact of the program.(link is external)The Department also stated its intention to improve training for FBI employees by providing the appropriate information on how to make protected disclosures and increasing employee awareness of the whistleblower program. According to DOJ, the agency has finally updated its training as of August 2017 to reflect the changes in the law that now explicitly protects disclosures to supervisors as well as to the OSC and Congress.(link is external)Lastly, to help improve delays in case processing time, the Department reported that it hired an additional part-time attorney to work on adjudicating reprisal cases at the Department’s Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management (OARM). (link is external) While OARM officials reported that they have reduced overall case processing times, “in good part because of the work of the part-time attorney,”(link is external) no further information was provided about how the Department came to assess the impact of this additional staff assistance.Changes Under Consideration The Department indicated it would explore the possibility of additional changes that did not require formal rulemaking, including, for example, publishing OARM decisions, adjudicating FBI whistleblower reprisal complaints, and holding hearings in reprisal cases.Since the Department does not publish OARM decisions, FBI whistleblowers do not have access to any body of case precedent should they suffer reprisal and choose to seek relief. The FBI, by contrast, can readily draw upon case precedent, which creates a significant imbalance in the fairness of these proceedings. The Department stated in its report that it would consider publicizing decisions, but noted that the process would be difficult due to the presence of law enforcement sensitive and other private information.(link is external) However, in October 2013, the Department provided a publicized decision in response to a motion for public disclosure, and thus, is plainly capable of preparing its decisions for public release. To date, the Department has not published any additional decisions or committed to doing so. Yet, statute, case law, and FOIA guidelines all indicate that the Department should be publishing these decisions consistent with the requirements of FOIA and the practice of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).(link is external) Additionally, the Department has discretionary power over its decision to grant a whistleblower a hearing. In its report, the Department rejected whistleblower advocates’ recommendation to grant whistleblowers hearings in all cases upon request, but agreed to consider whether it should establish a set of criteria to use when deciding whether to grant a hearing or not, such as the need to evaluate the credibility of witnesses.(link is external) Recommended Regulatory AmendmentsThe statutory protections for FBI whistleblowers have always required that the President “provide for the[ir] enforcement . . . in a manner consistent with applicable provisions of sections 1214 and 1221 of . . . title .”(link is external) The Department’s regulations, however, unduly narrowed those provisions when it applied them to the FBI and failed to update those regulations consistent with the enactment of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) of 2012.(link is external) Thus, the WPEA amendments providing for the award of compensatory damages and certain fees and costs for other Title 5 whistleblowers, were not incorporated into the Department’s regulations for FBI employees.(link is external) According to its 2014 Report, the Department supported amending its regulations to provide for compensatory damages in addition to other available relief, but has not acted on that commitment.(link is external) Notably, the Department did not commit to amend its regulations consistent with section 1221(g) (4), also as amended in 2012, which provides for corrective action to “include fees, costs, or damages reasonably incurred due to an agency investigation of the employee, if such investigation was commenced, expanded, or extended in retaliation for the disclosure or protected activity that formed the basis of the corrective action.”(link is external) It is worth noting again, however, that such corrective action has been available since the passage of the WPEA given the statute’s incorporation of those sections. In addition, the Department recommended “formalizing” its mediation program, and its process of referring reprisal findings to the FBI’s Director and Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), to allow for disciplinary action against retaliators,(link is external) and implementing “show cause” orders such as those used in MSPB proceedings for other Title 5 employees to resolve jurisdictional questions more efficiently.(link is external) The Department also stated it would “consider” amending its regulations to level the playing field for FBI whistleblowers who traditionally have been unable to cross examine or depose witnesses relied on by the FBI because they left the Bureau.(link is external)The Committee requires additional, updated information about the status of all efforts to implement the Department’s recommendations and address outstanding issues regarding the FBI whistleblower protection program. Accordingly, please provide written responses to the following questions by October 4, 2017 about the status of all ongoing efforts to address these issues within the FBI whistleblower program.1. What steps has the Department taken to measure the effectiveness of its efforts to improve the resolution of cases and decrease significant delays?a. Please describe whether, and how, the mediation program has affected case processing.b. Please provide the number of cases resolved through mediation since the program began compared to the number of complaints received.c. Has the Department taken steps to obtain and document feedback from parties regarding the mediation program?d. How has the addition of a part-time attorney affected case processing time and quality? e. The Department stated that it is almost “impossible”(link is external) to meet strict deadlines for adjudication due to the voluminous evidentiary records and complexity of these legal disputes, but it would make some procedural changes to decrease case processing times while preserving a degree of flexibility. Please explain any and all procedural changes that have been implemented, as well as the Department’s ongoing efforts to construct more flexible judicial deadlines.2. GAO found that the Department failed to meet basic regulatory requirements for reporting and handling complaints in a timely manner, including acknowledging receipt of complaints, providing regular updates on complaint status, and reasonable grounds for determinations within 240 days. In response, OPR took steps to upgrade its case management system, however, it did not provide a clear implementation plan for systematically tracking investigators’ compliance with regulatory reporting requirements. a. What progress is being made to track and monitor compliance with regulatory requirements within the Department?b. How has OPR tailored its new case management system or otherwise developed an oversight mechanism to capture information on the office’s compliance with regulatory requirements?3. The Department concurred with GAO’s recommendation to provide parties with estimated time frames for returning decisions, however, to date, neither OARM nor the Deputy Attorney General (DAG) regularly provides complainants with time estimates for final decisions. Meanwhile, other federal agencies, including the MSPB and the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, are statutorily required to provide time estimates and complete investigations within specified periods. When asked by the Committee about the Department’s failure to implement this recommendation, DOJ officials claimed that producing reasonable estimates was contingent upon case support and legal review from the Justice Management Division Office of General Counsel (JMD OGC), though DAG previously stated that it was itself responsible for providing time frame estimates.(link is external) According to the GAO report, OIG and OPR were able to provide the first status update within the 90-day time frame, but both offices failed to meet time frames for subsequent status updates.a. Why is the Department unable to provide at least some complainants with case-specific estimates that take into account the specifics of the particular complaint?b. What plans does the Department have to increase and improve communication between investigators and complainants within required time frames?4. The Department rejected whistleblower advocates’ recommendation that OARM grant all hearings upon request, citing witness credibility as the “most directly relevant factor”(link is external) for determining whether a hearing is held. Has the Department finalized a list of criteria to use when evaluating witness credibility? If yes, please provide a copy of those criteria. If not, why not?5. Will the Department publish its decisions in FBI whistleblower cases? Why or why not? If so, when?6. Please describe the steps that the Department has taken to implement each of its proposed regulatory changes.7. While the Department disagreed with whistleblower advocates’ recommendation that administrative law judges are necessary in order to ensure adjudications are impartial, it did agree to consider amending its regulations to “make explicit what has always been implicit regarding the independence and impartiality of OARM determinations.”(link is external) What is the status of this recommendation? How does the Department intend to ensure employees have confidence in the “independence and impartiality of OARM determinations”?Thank you in advance for your cooperation with this request. If you have questions, contact DeLisa Lay of my Committee staff at (202) 224-5225.Sincerely, (link is external) DOJ Report at 18. (link is external) Id.(link is external) Id. at 19.Source: WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee 9.21.2017
The PSNI Global Alliance has added U.K. integrator Visavvi to its worldwide member network of certified solution providers (CSPs). Visavvi, part of the Saville Group, joins PSNI as its newest CSP in the U.K.Chris Miller, executive director at PSNI, said: “With technology changing at an unprecedented pace, and with the arrival of COVID, the reliance on business-critical technology in collaborative environments is higher than ever. The skillset of the people providing and supporting these technologies has never been more important, and we are delighted to welcome Visavvi’s trusted expertise to PSNI’s integrator network.”With key PSNI licensed offices in York, Farnborough, Manchester, Coventry and Belfast, the adoption into the alliance makes Visavvi a truly nationwide PSNI Certified Solutions Provider, able to now call upon PSNI’s considerable global resources when required.Head of global strategy at Visavvi, Elliott Moores, said, “This exciting new partnership will provide us with unprecedented access to a further 188 offices globally across 49 countries and will allow us to add our strengths to continue building this goal of delivering the highest standards of quality, technical knowledge and safe working practices. Our collective passion for delivering true innovation for our enterprise clients is a perfect fit with PSNI’s mantra of ultimate service and quality.”
March 1, 2008 Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Regular News Court workers face furloughs Court workers face furloughs Some could see up to 58 days without pay Senior EditorProposed state budget cuts would have devastating impacts on Florida courts and their ability to resolve cases for citizens, Chief Justice Fred Lewis told a key legislative committee.Lewis testified February 19 that a 5.9 percent additional cut to the courts’ budget, to be concentrated in April, May, and June, would mean “rolling furloughs” of court staff and long delays in handling cases, particularly on the civil dockets.“We’re not down to skin and bones, we’re talking about amputation,” Lewis told the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee. “.. . I recognize the economic hard times. We are willing to be a partner [in state budget cuts] but we do not want to be the sacrificial lambs.”But Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, chair of the committee, said the panel has little choice but to make painful reductions in virtually every area it oversees, including the courts. In polite but firm tones that marked the back and forth exchanges during the meeting, Crist said the committee was given a budget allotment and had no ability to increase that or find other revenue sources.(Two days later, however, Crist bristled that some judges across the state warned the legislative cuts would severely hamper court operations. See story here. State Courts Administrator Lisa Goodner said after both meetings that detailed discussions are continuing with both House and Senate budget staffers.)Crist said the committee’s priority was to avoid cuts to the Department of Corrections that could lead to early releases for prisoners or closing juvenile justice facilities that could lead to the release or lack of places to house juvenile defendants.“Everyone is coming up and saying the same thing, ‘If we have cuts, there’s going to be a crisis,’” Crist said. “Unfortunately, we are faced right now with some significant shortfalls. We can’t print money; this committee doesn’t have taxing authority.. . . We haven’t got enough for the needs.“The recommendations from the staff will not shut the government down, they will not shut the court system down. They will not cause the state not to provide justice. What they will do is shrink the process, things will happen slower. There will be longer lines. . . . It may mean layoffs, it may mean longer dockets, it may mean longer waits for those banks that need to get foreclosures. It may mean a slower process. It won’t mean early release or shutting down juvenile facilities or lowering law enforcement.”Chief Justice Lewis, accompanied by Second District Court of Appeal Chief Judge Stevan Northcutt, chair of the District Court of Appeal Budget Commission, and Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Belvin Perry, chair of the Trial Court Budget Committee, painted a grim picture of what the budget cuts would mean.Lewis said 87 percent of the state’s funding for the courts goes for salaries, so cuts that deep would mean layoffs for court staff. He said on average, circuit court staff would have to have 22 unpaid furlough days in the fourth quarter for the 2007-08 budget year, county court staff (basically, the county judges’ judicial assistants) would have to be furloughed for 58 days — or all but a few days of the fourth quarter — and DCA staff would have to be furloughed for 13 days.Because the courts have constitutional mandates to meet in handling criminal trials, slowdowns would disproportionately affect civil trials, Lewis said, leading to long delays in foreclosures, business disputes, family law cases, and other noncriminal matters.He also said because the court system pays lower salaries than other branches (something the Supreme Court and The Florida Bar have been lobbying to correct), many furloughed employees might find other jobs rather than return from their unpaid leaves.The cuts also mean eliminating civil traffic infraction hearing officers, eliminating trial court mediation programs, and reductions in several other court supporting programs, Lewis said.“I’m here speaking for the entire system. If we lose the stability of the court system, if we lose the respect for the rule of law, and we lose the respect of the citizens. . . we impact everyone across the state, unintentionally,” the chief justice said. “I’m here today pleading for a branch of government, pleading for the life of a branch of government.. . . “We must keep the court system open and it must be administered without denial and it must be administered without delay. The [budget] picture that has been painted will not work for Florida citizens.”Northcutt provided details about how the budget cuts will affect the DCAs. He noted that the only employees the DCAs have other than marshals are law clerks, deputy clerks, and judicial assistants and all of those, other than the marshals, handle every case filed.He said cases involving substantive criminal constitutional and related rights make up 67 percent of the DCA’s workload, although that is not evenly distributed across all the DCAs. In the Fifth and Second DCAs, Northcutt said those types of cases make up 77 percent of the caseload.“Basically if we are furloughing 20 percent of our work force on any given day, that means all we can do is criminal and juvenile cases [in those DCAs],” he said. “There will be no commercial cases, no foreclosure cases, no divorce, no child custody and alimony. . . because we will have no personnel but for criminal and juvenile cases.”He also said the impact could be greater than it appears on paper because the DCAs hear cases with three-judge panels, and when one of those judges has a furloughed employee, it affects the work of the entire panel.Chief Judge Perry noted that 15 judges in the Ninth Circuit last year had 648 jury trials and probably could have increased that by 100 to 200 with more resources. With furloughs, he said the ability to hold that number will be severely impacted.He also warned that criminal defendants, realizing the court system is strained, may not waive their rights to speedy trials for everything from petty theft to first degree murder trials. Courts may also have trouble meeting the deadlines in the Jimmy Ryce statute for the civil commitment of sexual offenders.He noted the cuts would affect court administration, case management, eliminate statewide grand jury costs, and transfer $4.5 million in juror and witness payments from the courts to court clerks, something that would require a statutory change.Perry added that the furloughs would affect court reporters and court interpreters, who must be there to keep transcripts and to interpret for those who cannot speak English.The judicial officials also were there to present their budget requests for 2008-09. But they generally acknowledged that there was little chance of getting additional funds to the court system in what will be another austere budget year.Perry said the circuit courts had been looking for an additional $7.1 million and 65 additional positions. But, he added, “We’ve got bigger fish to fry in trying to maintain what we have.”Crist, after the meeting, acknowledged the budget crisis would continue. Asked specifically about the Supreme Court’s certification on the need for 61 new trial judges, he said, “I don’t think we’re going to be seeing any new certifications for a while.”He also noted that of all the reductions the committee was forced to make, only 8.7 percent were allocated to the court, and he repeatedly said during the meeting that the cuts assigned to the court system were less severe than those assigned to most other executive and legislative branch agencies.Crist said state agencies and the courts had been asked to withhold 4 percent of their budgets through the year in anticipation of further 2007-08 budget cuts that will be made by the legislature during the first week of the 2008 regular session that begins March 4. If the courts had done that, he said, then the impacts would be less severe for the fourth quarter.But Lewis presented information during his talk that showed if the courts had complied with the 4 percent withholding, they would have had to begin layoffs of 400 court employees in January, severely hampering court operations.The February 19 meeting was the first of two (the second was February 21) for the agencies overseen by the committee to report how they will comply with requested cuts and go over their Fiscal Year 2008-09 budget requests.At the initial meeting, the committee only heard from the judiciary and a report from state attorneys. Crist also gave a summary of the budget cuts, in percentages, that the committee is looking for from the agencies it oversees.That included 5.1 percent for public defenders, 5.4 percent for state attorneys, 4 percent for guardians ad litem, 2.1 percent for Juvenile Justice (Crist noted it had already absorbed heavy cuts in the budget-cutting special session last summer), 7.5 percent for the Attorney General, 3.8 percent for the Justice Administrative Commission, and 3.4 percent for the Department of Corrections.Tim Sadbury, staff director for the committee, said the panel also has to make plans based on a recent report that projects a higher than expected growth in the prison populations, now projected to grow by 12,000 over the next three years. He and Crist also said committee staff will continue to work with the courts and affected agencies to refine the budget numbers.On February 22, Goodner, the state courts administrator, said several options were being looked at.“Since [the February 19 meeting], we have had numerous discussions among OSCA staff and both House and Senate staff, going over various scenarios on what the courts might offer that might not impact their salary budgets and creat e the furlough situation,” Goodner said. “They are very aware on what a problem this is for the courts and are actively looking at how to address it.”She predicted, since there were no committee meetings scheduled for the last week of February, that it likely would be during the first week of session before the budget issues are settled.“There’s plenty of activity at the staff level to evaluate where we are and how we might best be able to resolve it,” Goodner said.While Crist remained firm in the meeting that the budget cuts would have to be shared among the courts and agencies under the committee’s jurisdiction, he acknowledged the severity of the cuts and said the legislature might have to consider other long-term solutions, including on the revenue side of the budget.“This state needs to be taking an aggressive approach to look at ways to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share,” he said. “There are a lot of loopholes that could be closed.”Committee Vice Chair Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, said the committee and Senate should do more for court funding, noting the Florida Constitution mandates a court system that is open and functions without delay.“The judiciary is a co-equal branch of government and it should have the resources adequate to meet the needs of the state and at the same time people not be denied access to the courts,” she said. “You’re cutting the meat out of the judiciary, and I’m offended and I’m appalled, and I feel we have got to find another way to solve this problem.”Crist said he sympathized with Joyner’s concerns, but also said, “I’m looking forward to you showing me where in the budget we can make the cuts.”On a related topic, Crist opened the meeting by criticizing a news account that said the committee might consider decertifying some sitting judges to help balance the budget. While all options short of early release and closing juvenile facilities are on the table, he said it was extremely unlikely the committee would reduce the number of judges.“There’s more chance of a meteor hitting the state than that happening,” Crist said.
The Bank of America Charitable Foundation announced $190,000 in housing grants to 10 nonprofits serving the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. This investment will help improve access to affordable housing, preserve neighborhoods, provide financial education and coaching for future homeowners, and support organizations and initiatives that contribute to the success of local communities.The economic recession has had a lasting effect on many, particularly veterans and low- to moderate-income families.“We’re working with community partners to help connect individuals and families to affordable housing as a first step toward long-term financial stability,” said Benito Almanza, Bank of America. “It’s part of our broader efforts to help improve the financial lives of our customers, clients and communities.”Some of the Phoenix nonprofits receiving grants include:Rebuilding Together Valley of the Sun for a program to build wheelchair ramps for elderly and disabled low-income individuals living in mobile homes.Habitat for Humanity to renovate, repair and prepare homes for individuals and families in need.Newtown Community Development Corporation to increase the supply of permanently affordable housing while developing and supporting homebuyers through innovative programs and partnerships.“For many of our neighbors, illness, old age, and poverty have crept upon them and they have become stranded in their homes, no longer able to maneuver the steps outside their doors and unable to afford to have a ramp built,” said Rebuilding Together Valley of the Sun Executive Director Dennis Flynn. “With support from Bank of America, we can extend the Arizona Ramp Project to many more homeowners to help them regain their independence.”Bank of America is also awarding grants to Arizona Housing Alliance, Arizona Housing, Inc., Chicanos Por La Causa, Greater Phoenix Urban League, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Trellis (formerly NHS Phoenix).In addition to more than $22 million in housing grants to more than 650 nonprofits addressing housing needs across the U.S. Bank of America offers assistance and educational support to provide more transparency and clarity about the homebuying process, including working with more than 550 housing counseling agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Chinese researchers who did extensive work on H7N9 viruses from birds and humans found that one of the human strains was highly transmissible by aerosol droplets in ferrets, fueling more concerns that the new virus could spread between people.The potential for aerosol spread is one of the key factors health officials use in gauging a new virus’s pandemic potential, and the new study follows closely on the heels of two others that also found evidence of respiratory droplet transmission in ferrets.The newest findings were reported today in an early online edition of Science by a team based at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, a World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating center.Genetic comparisons produce new cluesScientists ran multiple tests on H7N9 viruses obtained during poultry surveillance and isolated from human cases to get a clearer picture of its pathogenicity, virulence, replication, and transmissibility.They sequenced the genomes of 37 representative H7N9 samples, most of which came from live-poultry markets, and compared them with five human isolates. The hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) genes were highly similar, but they found more diversity in the six internal genes. They also found that the viruses are still capable of frequent reassortment and rapid evolution.When they examined the basic polymerase 2 (PB2) gene for amino acids associated with flu virulence and transmission in mammals, they found that all of the bird and environment samples had the amino acid combination 627E/701D. The human isolates, in contrast, had either the 627K or 701N mutation, both of which are important for virulence and transmission.The group wrote that the findings suggest the mutations may have occurred during replication in humans.Experiments to explore receptor binding, another factor that plays a role in flu virus replication and transmission, identified a 1243V mutation that—similar to the Q226L mutation—may play a key role in exclusive binding to humanlike receptors for two of the avian isolates and two of the human samples.Tests track aerosol transmission, other factorsVirulence and infection tests in birds confirmed that the H7N9 virus was low pathogenic in poultry and that infected chickens shed the virus for up to 7 days.The researchers said this finding suggests that chickens “may be one of the major carriers and spreaders of H7N9 viruses in the live poultry markets.”In tests on mice that were given lethal doses of H7N9, no signs of disease or death were seen in the ones that received viruses isolated from birds, but the animals infected with human isolates lost weight, got very sick, or died. Similarly, the group’s replication tests on mice infected with human strains found higher viral titers in the nasal passages and lungs when compared with animals infected by the bird strains.Replication experiments in ferrets also showed differences between the bird and human H7N9 strains. The group’s pathology tests on ferret lung samples found severe bronchopneumonia and prominent viral antigen expression in the animals infected with three human strains and one of the bird strains. Ferret lungs, though, appeared normal after infection with a poultry H7N9 strain.Aerosol transmission studies involved placing uninfected ferrets in cages adjacent to those housing infected ferrets. The investigators found H7N9 in one ferret exposed to those infected with one of the bird strains and two human strains isolated from some of the first patients in Shanghai. However, the virus was detected in all three ferrets exposed to animals infected with a human H7N9 strain isolated form a patient in Anhui province (AH/1).To assess reproducibility, they repeated the aerosol transmission test with the AH/1 isolate and got the same result.Senior author Hualan Chen, PhD, told CIDRAP News that there was no significant difference in transmission among four of the five viruses they tested in aerosol transmission testing. “The transmission of AH/1 to all three ferrets suggests that the H7N9 virus has great pandemic potential,” she said.The team noted that it’s difficult to pinpoint which amino acid substitution alone makes the virus highly transmissible, but the amino acid differences between the avian viruses and the Anhui virus range from 1 to 27, suggests that only a few changes are needed to make the virus highly transmissible in mammals.”Moreover, these changes can occur easily during replication in humans,” they added.Overall, the team said their tests found that the H7N9 viruses from poultry and humans can bind to human airway receptors and can replicate efficiently in ferrets, and that one human isolate can transmit efficiently among ferrets by aerosol droplets.Chen said she was surprised that all of the viruses tested are able to bind to humanlike receptors and that the PB2 gene of the virus so easily gains mutations during replication in humans that boost its virulence and transmissibility.Experts weigh pandemic potentialShe said the group’s findings are useful for weighing the threat from the virus. “This study suggests that the H7N9 virus is likely to transmit in humans, and immediate action, not only in China, is needed to prevent a possible pandemic caused by such a virus,” Chen said.The ability of the virus to transmit easily in poultry across a large part of China over a brief period points to the importance of control measures in poultry markets, the group said. But stamping out H7N9 will be a big, long-term challenge, because the virus spreads silently in chickens and also spreads to humans.Ian Mackay, PhD, a virologist at the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre at the University of Queensland, told CIDRAP News that the study’s molecular epidemiology component is the largest of its kind to date and adds many more complete H7N9 genomes to the publicly accessible GenBank database. Mackay also authors the Virology Down Under Web site.He noted that the group’s comparison between the human and avian strains found that they differed by less than 4% at the nucleotide level, “Sometimes there are no differences,” he said, noting that the most divergent strains came from the Shanghai region, where 20% of the samples originated.The team’s infection experiments on chickens confirm that H7N9 is a silent spreader and that the birds shed the virus for about a week before their illness resolves, Mackay said.Findings revealed that major differences between H7N9 viruses are at the amino acid level, with the most divergent segment at the PB1 gene. “But it is the PB2 and HA segment that harbors mutations of particular interest to document the journey from infrequent spillover events to sustained human-to-human pandemic-level transmission,” he said.Mackay added: “We know that pandemic potential does not rest solely on one or other amino acid change, but rather a collection of changes. We also don’t know what we don’t know yet.”The Harbin group showed the potential of H7N9 viruses to bind to both avian and human receptors and that human isolates replicated well in the upper airways, a site for efficient transmission, he noted.”The study reinforces that even ‘lowly’ or inefficient transmission—only 33% of ferrets, for example—is still transmission,” Mackay said. “That proportion would lead to a lot of human cases in densely populated or frequented areas.”Those factors might help explain the wide clinical spectrum that has been seen, as well as difficulties in tracking the source and the proportion of patients who get severely ill and die, he said.Zhang Q, Shi J, Deng G, et al. H7N9 influenza viruses are transmissible in ferrets by respiratory droplet. Science 2013 Jun 18 [Abstract]See also:Jul 10 CIDRAP News story “New studies on H7N9 raise pandemic concerns”Virology Down Under Web site
Feds mull new measures to limit Salmonella in chickenWith shortcomings in poultry safety highlighted recently by the Foster Farms Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has multiple efforts under way to make chicken consumption safer, the Washington Post reported yesterday.The report said it’s not clear how likely the USDA would be to ban certain antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella, as it reviews a 2011 petition from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) seeking that step. Industry groups have said eliminating the bacteria isn’t feasible, and USDA officials have raised concern that a ban on Salmonella strains would trigger a legal challenge from the industry, according to the story.Meanwhile, the USDA is planning to set new standards to reduce Salmonella contamination in chicken parts, after finding that lowering the acceptable contamination level in carcasses didn’t reduce the frequency of illness in humans, according to the report. Two years ago the agency did a study and found that 24% of chicken parts had Salmonella contamination, nearly four times the frequency of contamination on whole carcasses, the story said.USDA officials said that same percentage was found at the Foster Farms plants tested during the recent outbreak. As part of the outbreak response, Foster Farms has adopted 23 new processes to reduce Salmonella, which involve applying antimicrobial treatments to chicken parts after processing.The USDA is also airing a proposal that would retool its poultry safety inspection system, which it said could drop Salmonella illness rates by 1.9%, a level that the Government Accountability Office has said might not be realistic.Feb 6 Washington Post report New FDA rule aims to ensure safety, quality of infant formulaAn interim final rule and two draft guidance documents for industry on manufacturing standards for infant formula were issued yesterday by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and will be open for public comment shortly, according to a press release from the agency.The new rule, which will become effective Jul 10, implements remaining provisions of the Infant Formula Act of 1980 and the 1986 amendments to the act. It includes changes to current FDA quality-control procedures, notification, and record and reporting requirements, and it requires Cronobacter and Salmonella testing, among other measures.It will be open for comment for 45 days after publication in the Federal Register, scheduled for Feb 10.Companies currently manufacturing infant formula already comply voluntarily with many of the practices and requirements in the new rule and guidance, says the release.One quarter of newborns are not breastfed at all and rely on formula feeding from birth, and two-thirds receive at least some of their nutrition from formula by the age of 3 months, according to the FDA.”The FDA sets high quality standards for infant formulas because nutritional deficiencies during this critical time of development can have a significant impact on a child’s long-term health and well-being. This rule will help to prevent adulteration in infant formula and ensure infant formula supports normal, physical growth,” stated FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael Taylor.Feb 6 FDA news release with link for public commentFDA page with links to infant formula documents