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Port of Virginia Prepares for Potential Work Stoppage

Port of Virginia  /

Norfolk -- The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) and its operating company, Virginia International Terminals (VIT), have started the process of preparing the state-owned cargo terminals in the Hampton Roads Harbor for a strike.
Earlier in August contract negotiations between the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance concluded without an agreement of any sort. As a result The Port of Virginia has started preparing for a work stoppage that, at this point, is scheduled to begin Oct. 1.
In summary, the focus of the plan is to move as much cargo through the port as reasonably possible up to the strike deadline.
"Our goal will be to do everything we can to ensure that all cargo is delivered prior to Oct. 1," said Joseph A. Dorto, VIT's president and CEO. "When we resume operations, VIT will do all possible to ensure our customers are taken care of in a timely and efficient manner. The goal is to maintain a high level of service to our customers so that there is minimal disruption to their business."
To date, VPA and VIT officials have been holding regular conference calls with cargo owners to craft a strategy for moving as much cargo as possible between now and Oct. 1. Those calls will continue on a weekly basis.
"We believe our customers will immediately make plans to shift a portion of their cargo to West Coast ports – from 10 to 15 percent," Dorto said. "The effect of this will not be felt here until October as cargo on the water today will still move to Virginia."
Next week VPA and VIT will convene a meeting of critical port stakeholders to seek input and discuss what will happen in the event of a work stoppage and what will take place once labor returns to the terminals. Those stakeholders include: labor, the ocean carriers, US Coast Guard, US Customs and Border Protection, operations, motor carriers, harbor pilots and tug companies.
Some of the planning discussing will include:

• Extended gate hours at the terminals.

• Working with the railroads to schedule trains and hours of operation.

• Developing an informational hotline that would be put in place during a strike.

• Developing a communications strategy employing the VPA's multiple messaging platforms that would be used to push out the most up-to-date information.

CBP Surveys Isaac's Damage on Critical Infrastructure

U.S. Customs & Border Protection /

Hammond, La. —As soon as Hurricane Isaac gave way to the sun appearing in the horizon two Office of Air and Marine UH-60 Blackhawks and one A-Star helicopter landed at the New Orleans Air and Marine Branch, August 31, a mere two days after the storm was categorized as a hurricane.

While nearly all the ports in the impact area have since resumed operations, the helicopters and their crews were sent up to survey the aftermath. The crews arrived from the Houston and Miami Air and Marine Branches.

“The unique capabilities of CBP Blackhawk teams are critical when a natural disaster strikes,” said Francisco “Chi-Chi” Rodriguez, Director of the New Orleans Air and Marine Branch. “Equipped with state-of-the art technologies, the UH-60s are an enormous aerial resource that allows CBP to effectively respond to special emergency operations and missions.”

Their first assignment was to conduct aerial surveys on CBP critical infrastructure in the gulf region after the 16 inches of rain that Hurricane Isaac dumped in some areas, made ground transportation to remote facilities impossible. 

Accompanying their mission was Port of New Orleans Assistant Port Director Mark Choina, who was able to survey the full impact of the ground assessments. “The aerial survey helped ensure that our resumption of operations is safely and effectively implemented,” Choina said.

This joint Office Air and Marine and Field Operations mission included assessments of the worst hit areas.

Rodriguez expressed his appreciation for the support provided by the Miami and Houston Air and Marine Branches and to every flight crew member. “Each one executed their mission safely and professionally,” Rodriguez said. “Also, we are very appreciative of both the Miami and Houston directors of Air Operations who were exceptionally supportive and flexible.”

 Hong Kong Jewelry Exporter Pleads Guilty to Customs Fraud

Supplier to cable shopping network faces nearly $2 million in fines and restitution

U.S. Customs & Border Protection /

Anchorage, Alaska – A Hong Kong-based jewelry exporter pleaded guilty Friday to customs fraud charges and faces nearly $2 million in fines and restitution in a scheme discovered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) officers and import specialists working in Anchorage Alaska. CBP's Regulatory Audit Unit confirmed and expanded initial findings which were then investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

“This case is an excellent example of the exceptional skill level and commodity expertise of our CBP officers and import specialists. Detecting and prosecuting fraudulent commercial importations are crucial to protecting consumers as well as the economy of the United States,” said Brian J. Humphrey, Director, Field Operations San Francisco.

Fai Po Jewelry (H.K.) Co., LTD, admitted to intentionally submitting false invoices to the government in connection with the importation of merchandise in order to avoid paying more than $1 million in customs duties. The company was also ordered to pay an $800,000 criminal fine and restitution of $1,017,737. Additionally, the company was ordered to pay the cost of the investigation in the amount of $144,324 and was placed on three years’ probation.

HSI special agents working with CBP officers and import specialists found that from early 2007 to late 2009, Fai Po enclosed false invoices in their direct shipments to U.S. purchaser ShopNBC while sending the actual full value invoice to the purchaser by email. Fai Po advised the purchaser to ignore the invoice enclosed in the shipment because it was there only to avoid customs clearance issues.

Since Fai Po was acting as both the exporter and importer, the company was responsible for customs duties, not the U.S. purchaser. The purchaser paid the higher amount listed on the true invoice, while Fai Po declared to the government the lower value on the fraudulent invoice. The purchaser was not aware of Fai Po’s scheme and didn’t receive any benefit from it.

“A few deliberate pen strokes on a customs declaration form amounted to the theft of more than $1 million from the American people,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of HSI Seattle, who oversees investigations in Alaska. “The defendant apparently believed its actions would go unnoticed, but it didn’t count on CBP’s ability to detect this anomaly or HSI’s commitment to holding those who commit customs fraud accountable.”

The fraud was detected by CBP when an audit revealed a discrepancy between the actual value of the gold jewelry shipment and what was stated on the fraudulent invoices.

Under the terms of probation, Fai Po is required to appoint a responsible corporate officer who will be required to prepare and submit quarterly reports to the U.S. Probation Office to ensure that no similar conduct occurs in the future.

Baltimore CBP Intercepts First in Port Nesting Whitefly

U.S. Customs & Borer Protection /

Baltimore – A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist confirmed Wednesday that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists at Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport discovered a new pest in the Baltimore area when they intercepted fly pupae of, Paraleyrodes bondari, or Nesting Whitefly while inspecting leaves found inside of a travelers luggage on June 3.

According to USDA, Nesting Whiteflies could pose a significant agriculture threat because they can seriously injure host crop plants. Their needle-like mouths suck nutrients from the plant and cause wilting, yellowing, stunting of growth, leaf drop, and even death. 

“CBP agriculture specialists take their job of detecting foreign invasive plants and plant pests very seriously,” said Jonathan Mobley, Acting CBP Port Director for the Port of Baltimore. “This is another example of our agriculture specialist performing a thorough inspection and finding a new potential threat to the U.S. agriculture industry.”

The fly pupae were discovered on Bitter leaves being carried by a passenger from Nigeria via London. CBP seized the contaminated Bitter leaves and forwarded specimens of the pupae to a USDA - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) - Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) entomologist for identification. The remaining Bitter leaves were then destroyed by incineration.

CBP agriculture specialists work closely with USDA’s APHIS and PPQ to protect our nation’s agriculture resources against the introduction of foreign plant pests and animal diseases.

CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection. On a typical day, they inspect tens of thousands of international air passengers, and air and sea cargoes nationally being imported to the United States, and seize 4,291 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 470 insect pests.

For more on the USDA APHIS and PPQ program, please visit the APHIS website. ( USDA APHIS and PPQ program )

To learn more about CBP agriculture specialists, please visit the Agriculture page. (  Agriculture Specialist)

New Law Cracks Down on Prescription Drug Abuse‏

U.S. Senator Dean Skelos / 

In communities all across our State, the abuse of prescription drugs has skyrocketed in recent years -- destroying the lives, health and well-being of far too many young New Yorkers.  

 I am pleased to say that here in New York, we are fighting back to save lives, prevent tragedies, and help keep our kids safe.

On Monday, August 27, Governor Cuomo announced that he has signed into law an important new measure that will crack down on prescription drug abuse in New York State.  Known as the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, or I-STOP, this landmark legislation includes the following provisions:

  • It creates a modernized and improved real time Prescription Monitoring Program that practitioners and pharmacists can securely and easily access, allowing them to view their patients' controlled substance histories;
  • It requires e-prescribing, making New York a national leader by being one of the first states to move from paper prescriptions to a system mandating electronic prescribing; and
  • It updates controlled substance schedules to align New York’s Controlled Substances Act with Federal Law and changes the schedules for hydrocodone compounds and tramadol to reduce abuse.

In addition, the new law establishes a Safe Disposal Program to increase the options available to safely dispose of unused controlled substances and prevent people who abuse prescription painkillers from obtaining them from friends or relatives.

The I-STOP prescription drug reform law will help make our state a national leader in curbing prescription drug abuse and most importantly help to address the very real issues that our communities are facing with this wide-spread epidemic.  If you would like more information on this program, please click HERE

CPSC Mobile - Product Recalls

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission /

When you're buying and using products, safety comes first. And now, with this product recalls application, you have vital safety information available whenever and wherever you need it - right on your mobile phone.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Food and Drug Administration, and Department of Agriculture monitor the safety of thousands of products and issue hundreds of recall announcements each year of millions of products.

Now, those recalls are right at your fingertips, thanks to's  RECALLS.GOV mobile application. Whether you're at your child's day care center or a yard sale, whether you're at a store or at home, you can now type a product's name into your phone and learn immediately whether that product has been recalled because of a safety concern. You can also see photos of recalled products and learn what to do with recalled products in your home.

Stay informed, stay safe, check for product recalls.

 FTC to Return Money to Victims of Allegedly Deceptive Drug Price Claims by CVS Caremark

Federal Trade Commission /

The FTC will provide refunds to nearly 13,000 consumers who paid significantly more for their drugs than they expected based on allegedly deceptive pricing claims made by CVS Caremark. Consumers eligible for refunds will receive all of the amount they overpaid for the drugs.

In January 2012, the FTC charged CVS Caremark misrepresented the prices of certain Medicare Part D prescription drugs – including drugs used to treat breast cancer symptoms and epilepsy – at CVS and Walgreens pharmacies. The claims caused many seniors and disabled consumers to pay significantly more for their drugs than they expected and pushed them into the "donut hole" – a term referring to the coverage gap where none of their drug costs are reimbursed – sooner than they anticipated or planned. The settlement barred the deceptive claims and required CVS Caremark to pay $5 million to reimburse affected Medicare Part D consumers for the price discrepancy.

Beginning on September 4, a redress administrator for the FTC, Rust Consulting, Inc., began mailing checks to victims of the deceptive conduct. The checks will be valid for 60 days from the date they are issued and must be cashed by then.

Consumers who have questions can call a toll-free hotline at 1-888-773-8392.

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