Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Home Foreclosure Help

To provide foreclosure alternatives the federal government has created According to a May 14, 2009 press release, these alternatives "provide incentives for servicers and borrowers to pursue short sales and deeds-in-lieu (DIL) of foreclosure in cases where the borrower is generally eligible for a MHA modification but does not qualify or is unable to complete the process, which helps prevent costly foreclosures and minimizes the damage that foreclosures impose on borrowers, financial institutions and communities." To help consumers determine eligibility for the program, the Making Home Affordable web site includes self assessment tools. The site also warns consumers to beware of foreclosure rescue scams and links to tips for avoiding mortgage modification scams and foreclosure rescue scams.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Biological Lab Safety

The Defense Science Board (DSB) which provides independent advice to the Secretary of Defense just released its final report about safety in DoD (Department of Defense) biological labs. When comparing DoD labs with those of similar size in government, industry, and academia, the report found that DoD labs were as good or better. The labs also exceeded recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the DSB task force also found that "a determined adversary cannot be prevented from obtaining very dangerous biological materials intended for nefarious purposes, if not from DoD laboratories, then from other sources." Therefore, the task force recommended improvements in seven areas:
  • Cyber Red Team (computer systems security)
  • Monitoring Activities
  • Biological Personnel Reliability Program
  • Overseas Regulations
  • Compliance Inspections
  • BSAT (Biological Select Agents and Toxins) Transport
  • Public Education and Relations
  • Wednesday, May 20, 2009

    GAO Report - Alleged Abuse at Schools & Treatment Centers

    On May 19, 2009 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a 62 page report entitled Seclusions and Restraints: Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Centers. The one page highlights version of the GAO's testimony before the House Committee on Education and Labor gives background and examples about the use of restraints and seclusions in public and private schools that resulted in abuse or death. To prepare the report, GAO reviewed federal and state laws about the use of restraints and seclusions in schools, examined allegations of abuse from the past twenty years, and looked at police reports, autopsies, and school policies of closed cases. GAO personnel also interviewed parents, attorneys, and school officials and searched to find the current employment status of staff involved in the cases.

    GAO found the following common themes in the 10 cases of restraint or seclusion they examined that resulted in either a criminal conviction, a civil or administrative liability finding, or a large financial settlement:
    • they involved children with disabilities who were restrained and secluded often in cases where they were not physically aggressive and their parents did not give consent
    • restraints that block air to the lungs can be deadly
    • teachers and staff in the cases were often not trained on the use of seclusions and restraints
    • teachers and staff from at least 5 of the 10 cases continue to be employed as educators.
    The highlights version of the report also contains a chart with details about four of the ten cases.

    Monday, May 11, 2009

    Banks' Stress Test

    According to a Board of Governors' press release dated May 7, 2009, the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation made public the results of a comprehensive assessment of the financial conditions of the nation's 19 largest bank holding companies (BHCs). Called the Supervisory Capital Assessment Program (SCAP), the assessment identified "potential losses, resources available to absorb losses, and resulting capital buffer needed for the 19 participating BHCs."

    The SCAP complements the Treasury's Capital Assistance Program (CAP) whose function is to make capital available to financial institutions "as a bridge to private capital in the future."

    Both the Overview of Results (333 KB PDF)and a statement by Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben S. Bernanke are available.

    Thursday, May 07, 2009

    U.S. Nuclear Strategy

    The Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States has released its final report about U.S. nuclear strategy. Entitled America's Strategic Posture: The Final Report of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United, the executive summary's introduction states that in preparing its report the Commission addressed the following questions:

    • What factors in the external security environment should inform U.S. policy and strategy?
    • How has U.S. nuclear and strategic policy evolved since the end of the Cold War?
    • What role should nuclear weapons and U.S. strategic military capabilities more generally (including missile defense) play today in U.S. military strategy and national security strategy?
    • How should U.S. forces be postured? How many nuclear weapons are “enough?”
    • How can political instruments be used to shape the security environment? What can arms control contribute? How can nonproliferation be strengthened?
    • What is the most efficient and effective way to maintain a safe, secure,
      and reliable deterrent?

    Monday, May 04, 2009

    Terrorism Reports

    Two new annual reports about terrorism are now available.