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Archive for June, 2011

New From the GAO

June 30, 2011 Comments off

New GAO Reports, Correspondences and Testimonies (PDFs)
Source: Government Accountability Office

+ Reports

1.  Race to the Top:  Reform Efforts Under Way and Information Sharing Could Be Improved.  GAO-11-658, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-658
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11658high.pdf

2.  Medicaid and CHIP:  Most Physicians Serve Covered Children but Have Difficulty Referring Them for Specialty Care.  GAO-11-624, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-624
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11624high.pdf

3.  Defense Centers of Excellence:  Limited Budget and Performance Information on the Center for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.  GAO-11-611, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-611
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11611high.pdf

4.  Defense Infrastructure:  The Enhanced Use Lease Program Requires Management Attention.  GAO-11-574, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-574
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11574high.pdf

5.  Public Transportation:  Washington Metro Could Benefit from Clarified Board Roles and Responsibilities, Improved Strategic Planning.  GAO-11-660, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-660
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11660high.pdf

+ Correspondence

1.  The U.S. Government Is Establishing Procedures for a Procurement Ban against Firms that Sell Iran Technology to Disrupt Communications but Has Not Identified Any Firms.  GAO-11-706R, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-706R

2.  Department of State Overseas Comparability Pay.  GAO-11-772R, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-772R

3.  Military Uniforms:  Issues Related to the Supply of Flame Resistant Fibers for the Production of Military Uniforms.  GAO-11-682R, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-682R

4.  Defense Logistics:  DOD Input Needed on Implementing Depot Maintenance Study Recommendations.  GAO-11-568R, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-568R

+ Testimony

1.  Operational Contract Support:  Actions Needed to Address Contract Oversight and Vetting of Non-U.S. Vendors in Afghanistan, by William Solis, director, defense capabilities and management, before the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.  GAO-11-771T, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-771T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11771thigh.pdf

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Central America: crime and violence eating up small business profits

June 30, 2011 Comments off

Central America: crime and violence eating up small business profits
Source: World Bank

Crime and violence have gotten so bad in most of Central America — reaching epidemic levels according to World Health Organization criteria — that the Bank realizes development efforts won’t take hold until citizen security improves. Beyond the trauma and suffering of individual victims, crime and violence carry staggering economic costs at the national level –as much as 8 percent of GDP, which is more than what countries typically spend on social programs in this region, according to a recent World Bank report.

This week, Central American governments received more than US$1.5 billion in pledges from the World Bank, the United States and other multilaterals, which no doubt will contribute to build up the region’s defenses against the scourge of crime and violence.

But a lot more needs to be done.

From our perspective and that of many others present at the Conference, rich people in these countries have to be willing to step up to the plate and pay more taxes. Today, Central American countries have the lowest tax rates in the hemisphere.

In an opinion column published by the Guatemalan daily El Periódico, World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean Region, Pamela Cox, stressed the need for “Central America’s leaders and wealthiest citizens … to signal their commitment by making additional domestic fiscal efforts.”

Otherwise, the governments’ ability to attend to other social needs will continue to suffer, as security demands require more and more public resources. And, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during her speech at the Conference, “security cannot be funded on the backs of the poor.”

+ Full Report (PDF)

Research Cites 225,000 Lives Lost and US$4 Trillion in Spending on Post-9/11 Wars

June 30, 2011 Comments off

Research Cites 225,000 Lives Lost and US$4 Trillion in Spending on Post-9/11 Wars
Source: Watson Institute for International Studies (Brown University)

Nearly 10 years after the declaration of the War on Terror, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan have killed at least 225,000 people, including men and women in uniform, contractors, and civilians. The wars will cost Americans between $3.2 and $4 trillion, including medical care and disability for current and future war veterans, according to a new report by the Eisenhower Research Project at the Watson Institute. If these wars continue, they are on track to require at least another $450 billion in Pentagon spending by 2020.

The Costs of War report by this major multi-university research project reveals costs that are far higher than recognized. Its findings are being released at a critical juncture. As Project Co-Director and Institute Professor Catherine Lutz puts it: “Knowing the actual costs of war is essential as the public, Congress, and the President consider the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan and other issues including the deficit, security, public investments, and reconstruction.”

The project has posted its extensive findings, graphically illustrated, at costsofwar.org, to spur public debate about America at war.

The Costs of War report, compiled by more than 20 economists, anthropologists, lawyers, humanitarian personnel, and political scientists, is the first comprehensive analysis of this decade of war and its costs – human and economic, direct and indirect, U.S. and international, and often uncounted or undercounted.

The long road to recovering stolen assets… made more navigable

June 30, 2011 Comments off

The long road to recovering stolen assets… made more navigable
Source: World Bank/United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

The recent upheavals in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere have put asset recovery in the spotlight. Indeed, as the citizens of these countries look towards the future, recovering wealth that former public officials are alleged to have acquired illegally remains a main concern.

But as their asset recovery practitioners will soon find out, it is by no means a straightforward process. Corruption, which is estimated to cost the world’s poorest people as much as $40 billion per year, is often a difficult offense to prove. Jurisdictions where these funds are deposited require proof of an offense or a nexus to criminal activity before the assets can be returned to the jurisdiction from which they were stolen.

To help explain why it can be so difficult to recover money that has been lost through corruption, my colleagues and I at the StAR Initiative – a partnership of the World Bank Group and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – consulted with over 50 international asset recovery practitioners to identify the Barriers to Asset Recovery. We found several key obstacles that make it difficult to trace, freeze, recover and return assets lost to corruption and other related offenses:

  • Asset recovery is a complex process. The legal tools and procedures used by jurisdictions are not all the same. Law enforcement, prosecutors and investigating magistrates have to know how to navigate the laws of other countries and be prepared for a lengthy campaign.
  • Not all available tools are used to their full potential. Many practitioners simply do not have the specialized training, skills and experience that would permit them to use asset recovery tools effectively, or to choose the appropriate strategy. Informal assistance – or simply talking to colleagues in another jurisdiction directly without formal mutual legal assistance procedures – is rarely utilized to its full potential. The tools in the United Nations Convention against Corruption, signed by 140 states, are also under used.
  • Trust is essential, but hard to establish. These are often sensitive, high profile cases, so practitioners need to be able to trust their counterparts and believe that they won’t make inappropriate public statements or inhibit the case for political reasons. Trust, however, takes time to build, especially when one isworking with people from different cultures and legal systems, which are halfway across the world. The reality is that often these cases require urgent action to freeze assets before they can be moved.
  • Preventative measures often fail. Anti-money laundering measures that should intercept stolen assets are not fully or effectively implemented. If corrupt leaders and officials never had the chance to deposit stolen assets into a foreign financial system in the first place, there would be no need for recovery!

+ Full Report

Gas Flaring Reductions Avoid 30 Million Tons of Carbon Dioxide Emissions in 2010

June 30, 2011 Comments off

Gas Flaring Reductions Avoid 30 Million Tons of Carbon Dioxide Emissions in 2010
Source: World Bank

Reductions in gas flaring in several countries helped bring down flaring to 134 billion cubic meters (bcm) worldwide in 2010, a 13-bcm drop from 2009, according to the latest satellite estimates. This nine-percent global reduction was achieved even as global crude oil production rose by two million barrels a day over the same period, says the World Bank-led Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership (GGFR).

The latest drop in 2010 is revealed in new flaring estimates based on satellite data gathered by scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The 13-bcm decline — led by flaring drops of 11.4 bcm in Russia and 1.2 bcm in Kazakhstan — is roughly equivalent to 30 million tons of CO2 emissions, or to taking almost six million cars off the road. These two countries have made important investments in associated gas utilization projects.

Until concerted action to reduce gas flaring began after the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, the practice — associated with oil production — added about 400 million tons of CO2 emissions each year.

+ Estimated Flared Volumes from Satellite Data, 2006-2010 (chart)

FinCEN Attributes Increase in Suspicious Activity Reports Involving Mortgage Fraud to Repurchase Demands

June 30, 2011 Comments off

FinCEN Attributes Increase in Suspicious Activity Reports Involving Mortgage Fraud to Repurchase Demands
Source: Financial Crimes Enforcement Network

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) today, in its First Quarter 2011 Mortgage Loan Fraud (MLF) analysis, reported that the number of MLF suspicious activity reports (SARs) rose to 25,485 up 31 percent from 19,420 in the first quarter of 2010. FinCEN attributes the increase to large mortgage lenders conducting additional reviews after receiving demands to repurchase poorly performing mortgage loans. In the first quarter of 2011, 86 percent of MLF SARs reported activities which occurred more than two years prior to the filing of the SARs.

The analysis also found that California dominated the top mortgage fraud rankings. Miami dropped to the sixth most reported area after five years in the top two ranks.

+ Full Report (PDF)

HIV/AIDS At 30: A Public Opinion Perspective

June 30, 2011 Comments off

HIV/AIDS At 30: A Public Opinion Perspective
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

As the HIV/AIDS epidemic marks its thirtieth year, the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted its eighth large-scale national survey of Americans on HIV/AIDS.

Key findings include:

  • Black Americans, and particularly young blacks, express much higher levels of concern about HIV infection than whites.
  • Reported HIV testing rates are flat since 1997, including among some key groups at higher risk.
  • Thirty years into the epidemic, there is a declining sense of national urgency and visibility of HIV/AIDS.
  • At the same time, after nearly a decade of decline, the share of Americans who say they are personally “very concerned” about becoming infected ticked up for the first time in this year’s survey.
  • Many Americans still hold attitudes that may stigmatize people with HIV/AIDS, but such reported attitudes have declined in recent years.
  • Despite continuing economic problems, more than half of Americans support increased funding for HIV/AIDS, and fewer than one in ten say the federal government spends too much in this area.
  • Media, which includes radio, television, newspapers and online sources, is the top information source on HIV across racial/ethnic groups and for younger and older adults alike.
  • Three-quarters of Americans could not name an individual who stands out as a national leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and no person who was mentioned makes it into double digits.
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