...which came from contractors
The Justice Department recovered a record-breaking $6 billion from false claims cases in fiscal 2014. And yet, the amount that came from government contractors dropped significantly.
In all, Justice recovered $5.69 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud and false claims against the government during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. That’s compared with $3.8 billion the year before, according to a department announcement Thursday. Of the 2014 total, $3.1 billion came from banks and other financial institutions making false claims for federally insured mortgage and loans. Another $2.3 billion was paid for false claims against federal health care programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid (that total doesn’t include the amount recovered for consumers and state treasuries).
A Texas judge on Monday overturned the 2007 guilty plea of a 30-year woman in the death of her fiance in the crash of a Saturn Ion she was driving.
The car had the defective ignition switch now linked to 35 crash deaths and for which General Motors now has recalled more than 2.5 million cars.
Candice Anderson was driving the Ion in November 2004 when it veered off a rural east Texas road and crashed into a tree. The air bags did not deploy in the crash and her fiance, Gene Mikale Erickson, riding in the passenger’s seat died.
Honda said Monday that an audit showed that it failed to report 1,729 cases in which there were deaths or injuries in its cars over the past 11 years to federal regulators, as required by law.
The automaker blamed errors for the discrepancy that led to fewer than half of the defect-related cases in which it should have reported actually being reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The government uses the data in the Early Warning Reports, or EWRs, to spot defect trends that can lead to recalls.
But Honda says the reporting shortcomings were not a big factor in the case of defective Takata air bags inflators, which have led to at least three deaths. It says that eight Takata air bag failures, involving one death and seven injuries, were not reported, but that NHTSA was informed of them over the years through other channels.
Near runway collisions involving commercial airplanes climbed two-thirds from 2003 to 2013 at U.S. airports to a rate of nearly one per day, as a shift to major hubs led to increased traffic in most of those cities, according to a USA TODAY review of federal data.
The most severe incidents, like a 2011 close call at Chicago Midway International Airport where a departing jet narrowly missed a taxiing Boeing 737 by 62 feet, are down and officials say that shows progress.
There were 341 reported runway incidents – known in the aviation industry as “runway incursions” – involving at least one foreign or domestic commercial flight last year. In six of those incidents, a plane encountered a severe risk of a crash. In the rest, the incidents were less serious but deemed by federal officials to present a collision hazard.
Two statewide legal advocacy groups based in Baltimore were correct in accusing the Housing Authority of Prince George’s County of violating the state open meetings law when its board met in August to approve a new budget without notifying the public.
The groups — Maryland Legal Aid and Maryland Disability Law Center — filed a joint complaint with the attorney general’s open meetings compliance board after learning at the housing authority’s September meeting that the members had voted the previous month on the fiscal 2015 budget and on a consultant’s contract.
In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the board received 32 complaints and issued opinions on 19. Seven of those opinions centered on government agencies failing to properly notify the public of meetings.
During the day, the commissioners approved new recycling initiatives for the county; heard about a proposed alternative to the Cross County Connector, which, as it turns out, may have as many environmental obstacles as its ill-fated predecessor; and agreed to submit a letter to the legislature supporting the Board of Education’s request for its Capital Projects.
Dennis Fleming, chief of Environmental Resources Vehicle Maintenance in Public Works, told the commissioners his office is trying to foster recycling efforts throughout the county and that the project is paying dividends.
The county landfill was originally slated to last until 2005, but in the year 2014 the facility is only at two-thirds of capacity, largely due to the county’s recycling program. Fleming asked the commissioners for permission to use $50,000 for recycling bins at local schools and apartment complexes, which the board approved. Fleming said, “We had such competitive bidding we had money left over.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down amid criticism of the president’s national security team on a series of global issues, including the threat posed by the militant group known as ISIS.
Senior defense officials confirmed to NBC News Monday that Hagel was forced to resign.
The officials say the White House has lost confidence in Hagel to carry out his role at the Pentagon. According to one senior official, “He wasn’t up to the job.”
In Anne Arundel County, the property tax is on the chopping block. In Howard and Harford counties, the stormwater management fee — derided as the “rain tax” — is being targeted.
Even in cash-strapped Baltimore — where a Republican hasn’t been mayor since the 1960s — a new mayoral task force is studying possible tax cuts.
In the aftermath of Republican Larry Hogan’s victory in the governor’s race on an anti-tax message, fiscally conservative politicians from both parties see a carpe diem moment. With their colleagues who champion increased government services reeling, small-government advocates are pressing to cut taxes and fees.
A November 18 Maryland Attorney General Opinion concluded that the local legislative bodies of non-charter counties and municipalities may not make even minor substantive amendments to a draft comprehensive plan submitted by the jurisdiction’s planning commission without first sending the proposed amendments back to the planning commission for its recommendation. The opinion does not affect charter counties or Baltimore City.
The request for the opinion was made by the Town of Mount Airy in 2011 after a dispute between the town council and its planning commission. Mount Airy’s counsel submitted an analysis along with the town’s request that concluded the town council had the ability to make material amendments to the submitted draft comprehensive plan without a recommendation from the town’s planning commission.
NEW: From Grandparent to Grandchild, Maryland Law Requires Seat Belts for All Seats, All Ages
Don’t let Thanksgiving traffic make you late for dinner! Whether traveling through the State to grandma’s house or around the beltway to your favorite shopping centers, 511 can help guide and keep you on course for predictable, informed Thanksgiving holiday travel. The days leading up to and after the holiday bring more cars on Maryland’s roadway network, and 511 can assist with safe travel by informing drivers of major incidents, delays, estimated travel times and weather conditions. Call 511 or visit md511.org for current road conditions; register for my Maryland 511 and receive text messages and emails with updates on your planned route.
While 511 is one ingredient in safe roadway travel, so is following the rules of the road. The State Highway Administration (SHA) reminds Marylanders of newer laws in effect, including no handheld phone use or texting while driving and the requirement for everyone to wear seat belts – all seats, all ages – from grandma to grandchild. As you finalize plans with out of town visitors, please ensure that they are familiar with Maryland’s seat belt law.
Bricks and mortar bank branches appear likely to survive further into the 21st century.
Though the number of branches has dropped off since the Great Recession, there were 94,725 branches nationwide through June, according to an upcoming report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (There are 425,000 ATMs in the U.S., many right outside those branches.)
“The demise of branch banking has been somewhat exaggerated,” FDIC economist Richard Brown told agency’s Advisory Committee on Community Banking.
In its first examination of the limits of free speech on social media, the Supreme Court will consider next week whether, as a jury concluded, Elonis’s postings constituted a “true threat” to his wife and others.
The issue is whether Elonis should be prosecuted for what he says was simply blowing off steam — “therapeutic efforts to address traumatic events,” as his brief to the court says — because what matters is not his intent but whether any reasonable person targeted in the rants would regard them as menacing warnings.
Parties on both sides of the groundbreaking case are asking the court to consider the unique qualities of social media. In this rapidly evolving realm of communication, only the occasional emoticon may signal whether a writer is engaging in satire or black humor, exercising poetic license, or delivering the kind of grim warnings that have presaged school shootings and other acts of mass violence.
President Barack Obama has approved plans to give U.S. military commanders a wider role to fight the Taliban alongside Afghan forces after the current mission ends next month, a senior administration official said.
The decision made in recent weeks extends previous plans by authorizing U.S. troops to carry out combat operations against the Taliban to protect Americans and support Afghanistan’s security forces as part of the new ISAF Resolute Support mission next year.
Obama had announced in May that U.S. troop levels would be cut to 9,800 by the end of the year, by half again in 2015 and to a normal embassy presence with a security assistance office in Kabul by the end of 2016.