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Next Phase of DHS Campaign to Stop Fentanyl Will Focus on Interdiction and Supply Chain Disruption - U.S. Department of Homeland Security
WASHINGTON –– Following the success of Operations Blue Lotus and Four Horsemen, which stopped nearly 10,000 pounds of fentanyl during their two-month run and led to 284 arrests in those two months, today the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the next phase of its surge campaign to target and prevent fentanyl from entering the United States. The next two Operations, “Artemis” and “Rolling Wave,” will consist of multidisciplined interagency jump teams at strategic locations with an enhanced focus on disrupting the supply chain used in the development and movement of fentanyl.
Operation Artemis, led by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), will leverage intelligence and investigative information derived from Operation Blue Lotus to target the fentanyl supply chain and interdict items required in the production of fentanyl. This work will be supported by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Concurrently, Operation Rolling Wave will surge inbound inspections at Southwest Border checkpoints, covering every sector and leveraging predictive analysis and intelligence sharing.
HSI will continue surging resources to Ports of Entry, where 90 percent of fentanyl is trafficked primarily in cars and trucks, while also increasing its coordination of operations to target the fentanyl supply chain under Blue Lotus 2.0. CBP will run a parallel intelligence and analysis operation, Operation Argus, to provide trade-focused analysis in support of Blue Lotus 2.0 and Artemis.
“The intelligence and investigative work being conducted by DHS Agencies and with our federal partners to disrupt the fentanyl supply chain is unprecedented,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “These operations build on the success of Operations Blue Lotus and Four Horsemen, which from March through May prevented nearly 10,000 pounds of fentanyl from entering the United States and yielded invaluable insights into criminal networks. Cartels have been producing synthetic drugs for years, and the DHS workforce is unwavering in its dedication to stopping them. In the past two years, DHS seized more fentanyl than in the previous five years combined, and these operations are an example of how we are broadening that effort.”
These operations build on a tremendous amount of work across DHS:
1. DHS has initiated major investigative and enforcement operations targeting fentanyl, its chemical precursors, and the supply chain.
2. HSI and CBP previously established Border Enforcement Security Taskforce (BEST) units at CBP’s international mail facilities (IMFs), express consignment hubs, land border ports of entry, and international airports.
3. DHS investment in non-intrusive inspection technology (NII), including the deployment of Multi Energy Portals (MEP) in the cargo environment that are significantly expanding our ability to screen traffic through Ports of Entry.
“The men and women of CBP, together with our partners, are working on the front lines of the fight against fentanyl – aggressively targeting and disrupting drug trafficking organizations at the source,” said CBP Acting Commissioner Troy A. Miller. “The new operations will build on the successful pairing of law enforcement partnerships and technological advancements to keep these devastating drugs out of our communities.”
“The incredible efforts and outcomes of Homeland Security Investigations special agents during Operation Blue Lotus was just the beginning of this ongoing fight against the opioid epidemic,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tae D. Johnson. “HSI is continuing this fight against transnational criminal organizations head-on, utilizing every investigative resource available, together with our partners to disrupt and dismantle these illicit narcotics supply chains.”
HSI has also deployed additional dedicated teams to every Special Agent in Charge (SAC) office throughout the country performing fentanyl investigation operations, including work to identify transnational criminal organization networks and to target dark web vendors. HSI is also bolstering support for ongoing initiatives including Operations Hydra, which uses computer-based analytic tools to go after TCO chemical supplies; Pelican Bones, which includes a focus on financial tools used by criminal organizations; and Chain Breaker, which targets equipment needed to manufacture pills; as well as additional personnel deployed at express consignment facilities.
In addition to their disruption of fentanyl smuggling, these operations are also designed to continue to improve interagency cooperation and strengthen regional partnerships, shared intelligence, and coordinated operations.
DHS will announce the results of the operations in the coming weeks.
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Federal Register Notices:
• Antidumping or Countervailing Duty Investigations, Orders, or Reviews: Large Diameter Welded Pipe From Greece: Preliminary Results of Antidumping Duty Administrative Review; 2021-2022
• Sulfanilic Acid From India: Rescission of Countervailing Duty Administrative Review; 2022
• Determination of Sales at Less Than Fair Value: Paper File Folders From the Socialist Republic of Vietnam: Amended Preliminary Determination of Less-Than-Fair-Value Investigation
• Antidumping or Countervailing Duty Investigations, Orders, or Reviews: Large Diameter Welded Pipe From Greece: Preliminary Results of Antidumping Duty Administrative Review; 2021-2022
• Sulfanilic Acid From India: Rescission of Countervailing Duty Administrative Review; 2022
• Determination of Sales at Less Than Fair Value: Paper File Folders From the Socialist Republic of Vietnam: Amended Preliminary Determination of Less-Than-Fair-Value Investigation
• Antidumping or Countervailing Duty Investigations, Orders, or Reviews: Carbon and Alloy Steel Cut-to-Length Plate From the Republic of Korea: Preliminary Results of Antidumping Duty Administrative Review; 2021-2022
• Antidumping or Countervailing Duty Investigations, Orders, or Reviews: Carton-Closing Staples From China: Final Results of Sunset Review and Revocation of Order
• Antidumping or Countervailing Duty Investigations, Orders, or Reviews: Gas Powered Pressure Washers From China and Vietnam; Scheduling of the Final Phase of Countervailing Duty and Antidumping Duty Investigations
• Antidumping or Countervailing Duty Investigations, Orders, or Reviews: Certain Steel Racks and Parts Thereof From the People's Republic of China: Amended Final Results of Antidumping Duty Administrative Review, 2020-2021
• Certain Carbon Steel Butt-Weld Pipe Fittings From the People's Republic of China: Preliminary Results of Covered Merchandise Inquiry
• Investigations; Determinations, Modifications, and Rulings, etc.: Multilayered Wood Flooring From China; Determination
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Minnesota CBP Stops Passenger Carrying 83 pounds of Unapproved Meat - U.S. Customs & Border Protection
MINNEAPOLIS – At Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, last week a passenger arriving from South Africa was referred to Agriculture Secondary Inspection where U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) discovered 83 pounds of beef biltong.
When the passenger arrived, he notified the CBP Officer that he wanted to declare the beef biltong in his luggage. When CBP Agriculture Specialists (CBPAS) x-rayed 5 of the traveler’s bags, they discovered organic anomalies. The inspection revealed 83 pounds of curried and dried beef. The passenger requested that the meat not be seized because it cost over $2,000. CBPAS informed him that cured and dried beef from South Africa was restricted due to animal diseases, including Foot and Mouth Disease, and it would be seized and destroyed via steam sterilization.
The most common items seized are pork and beef sausages, plants, plant materials, seeds for planting, and fruit. Chief CBP Agriculture Specialist, Lauren Lewis said, “during certain holidays and seasons, there is a significant increase in beef and pork, and we work closely with the traveling public to inform them of certain products that cannot enter the country due to animal diseases.”
“Minnesota’s CBP agriculture specialists are focused on their mission to prevent entry of prohibited items from entering into the United States,” said LaFonda D. Sutton-Burke, Director, Field Operations, Chicago Field Office. “This seizure clearly shows how critical their role is in preventing diseases from entering the United States.”
CBP recommends that people who wish to import plant materials, animal materials and other agricultural items consult the CBP Information Center section on the CBP website or call (877) 227-5511. In addition, when traveling to the United States, travelers should always declare all items acquired abroad to CBP officers to avoid civil or criminal penalties and reduce the risk of introducing pests and disease to the United States.
"Our nation's food supply is constantly at risk to diseases not known to occur in the United States,” said Augustine Moore, Area Port Director, Minneapolis. “This interception highlights the vigilance and dedication that our CBP Agriculture Specialists demonstrate, daily. They ensure that the United States is safe from harmful diseases that could affect our food supply.”
CBP's border security mission is carried out at 328 ports of entry. Please visit CBP Ports of Entry to learn more about how CBP’s Office of Field Operations secures our nation’s borders. Learn more about CBP at www.CBP.gov.
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FTC Puts Online Marketplaces on Notice About Their Responsibilities Under the New INFORM Consumers Act - Federal Trade Commission
Act will go into effect nationwide on June 27, 2023; Commission warns businesses to be in compliance on day one
The Federal Trade Commission has sent letters to 50 online marketplaces nationwide notifying them about their obligation to comply with the new Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act – or the INFORM Consumers Act – as soon as it takes effect on June 27.
“The INFORM Consumers Act requires online marketplaces to protect consumers from counterfeit, unsafe, and stolen goods by verifying their high-volume third-party sellers’ identities, and making it easier for consumers to report suspicious marketplace activity,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The Commission will enforce the Act to the fullest extent possible and will collaborate with our state partners to hold online marketplaces accountable.”

The letters announced today enclose a copy of the act, highlight the responsibilities the act places on online marketplaces, and urge that businesses carefully review the statute and take all steps necessary to fully comply by June 27. In the letters, FTC staff also urge online marketplaces to communicate with their third-party sellers about the information the act requires to be collected, verified, and disclosed.

Finally, the letters emphasize that a violation of the act may be treated as a violation of an FTC rule, and thus noncompliant online marketplaces may face enforcement that could result in civil penalties of $50,120 per violation. The letters are informational and the FTC is not publicly releasing the names of the recipients.
Understanding Compliance Obligations
As part of the FTC’s effort to fully inform the public about the provisions of the INFORM Consumers Act and to put businesses on notice of their obligations as of June 27, it has developed business education materials that are available on the agency’s website. “Informing Businesses About the INFORM Consumers Act,” summarizes how online marketplaces can comply with the act when it goes into effect at the end of the month with links to the act itself.
The lead staff attorneys on this matter are Carl Settlemyer and Tiffany Woo in the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and protect and educate consumers. Learn more about consumer topics at consumer.ftc.gov, or report fraud, scams, and bad business practices at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Follow the FTC on social media, read consumer alerts and the business blog, and sign up to get the latest FTC news and alerts.
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United States Seeks Mexico's Review of Alleged Denial of Workers’ Rights at Mexican Garment Facility - U.S. International Trade Representative
For the fifth time in 2023, and tenth time overall, the United States has sought Mexico’s review under the USMCA’s Rapid Response Labor Mechanism.
WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today announced that the United States has asked Mexico to review whether workers at an Industrias del Interior (INISA) garment facility in the state of Aguascalientes, are being denied the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. The request, which was made in response to a petition, marks the tenth time the United States has formally invoked the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism (RRM) in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), and the first time the United States has done so in the garment sector.

“This announcement demonstrates again the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to using the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism to safeguard the rights of workers and the promises enshrined in the USMCA,” said Ambassador Katherine Tai. “Today’s action highlights the United States’ focus in ensuring workers in all sectors have freedom of association and collective bargaining rights. As in previous matters, we look forward to working closely with the Government of Mexico to address the issues present in this case.”

“Employer interference in union internal affairs and coercion of workers to sidestep newly elected union leadership is unacceptable,” said Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs Thea Lee. “The Mexican government has indicated its support for full implementation of the labor reform. Working together, we can address the issues in this case and protect the rights of workers.”

In connection with the U.S. request, Ambassador Tai has directed the Secretary of the Treasury to suspend the final settlement of customs accounts related to entries of goods from the facility.

Background

The United States Trade Representative and the Secretary of Labor co-chair the Interagency Labor Committee for Monitoring and Enforcement (ILC). On May 12, the ILC received an RRM petition from the Frente Auténtico del Trabajo (FAT), a Mexican labor organization, and the Sindicato de Industrias del Interior, a union representing workers at the facility. The petition alleged that INISA, which manufactures denim garments, is committing acts of employer interference by coercing workers to accept the company’s proposed collective bargaining agreement revisions and intervening in the union’s internal affairs. The petition also alleged INISA is failing to bargain in good faith with the union. The ILC reviews RRM petitions that it receives, and the accompanying information, within 30 days.

The ILC determined that there is sufficient, credible evidence of a denial of rights enabling the good faith invocation of enforcement mechanisms. As a result, the United States Trade Representative has submitted a request to Mexico that Mexico review whether workers at the INISA facility are being denied the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Mexico has ten days to agree to conduct a review and, if it agrees, 45 days from today to complete the review.

A copy of the request for review can be found here.

A copy of the letter to the Secretary of the Treasury can be found here.

Information about previous requests can be found here.
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FTC Takes Action Against Amazon for Enrolling Consumers in Amazon Prime Without Consent and Sabotaging Their Attempts to Cancel - Federal Trade Commission
Complaint outlines details of company’s knowing failure to address non-consensual subscriptions and cancellation trickery
The Federal Trade Commission is taking action against Amazon.com, Inc. for its years-long effort to enroll consumers into its Prime program without their consent while knowingly making it difficult for consumers to cancel their subscriptions to Prime.
In a complaint filed today, the FTC charges that Amazon has knowingly duped millions of consumers into unknowingly enrolling in Amazon Prime. Specifically, Amazon used manipulative, coercive, or deceptive user-interface designs known as “dark patterns” to trick consumers into enrolling in automatically-renewing Prime subscriptions.
Amazon also knowingly complicated the cancellation process for Prime subscribers who sought to end their membership. The primary purpose of its Prime cancellation process was not to enable subscribers to cancel, but to stop them. Amazon leadership slowed or rejected changes that would’ve made it easier for users to cancel Prime because those changes adversely affected Amazon’s bottom line.
“Amazon tricked and trapped people into recurring subscriptions without their consent, not only frustrating users but also costing them significant money,” said FTC Chair Lina M. Khan. “These manipulative tactics harm consumers and law-abiding businesses alike. The FTC will continue to vigorously protect Americans from “dark patterns” and other unfair or deceptive practices in digital markets.”
For now, the FTC’s complaint is significantly redacted, though the FTC has told the Court it does not find the need for ongoing secrecy compelling. Nevertheless, the complaint contains a number of allegations related to the company’s decision not to make changes to prevent nonconsensual enrollment in Prime and the difficulties consumers faced in attempting to unsubscribe from the service. Specifically, the complaint charges that Amazon used so-called “dark patterns” to cause consumers to enroll in Prime without their consent, in violation of the FTC Act, and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act.
During Amazon’s online checkout process, consumers were faced with numerous opportunities to subscribe to Amazon Prime at $14.99/month. In many cases, the option to purchase items on Amazon without subscribing to Prime was more difficult for consumers to locate. In some cases, the button presented to consumers to complete their transaction did not clearly state that in choosing that option they were also agreeing to join Prime for a recurring subscription.
The FTC charges that Amazon put in place a cancellation process designed to deter consumers from successfully unsubscribing from Prime. Previous reporting about the process in the media has noted that Amazon used the term “Iliad” to describe the process, which the reporting cites as an allusion to Homer’s epic poem set over twenty-four books and nearly 16,000 lines about the decade-long Trojan War.
Consumers who attempted to cancel Prime were faced with multiple steps to actually accomplish the task of cancelling, according to the complaint. Consumers had to first locate the cancellation flow, which Amazon made difficult. Once they located the cancellation flow, they were redirected to multiple pages that presented several offers to continue the subscription at a discounted price, to simply turn off the auto-renew feature, or to decide not to cancel. Only after clicking through these pages could consumers finally cancel the service.
The complaint notes that Amazon was aware of consumers being nonconsensually enrolled and the complex and confusing process to cancel Prime that the company’s executives failed to take any meaningful steps to address the issues until they were aware of the FTC investigation. In the complaint, the FTC also alleges that Amazon attempted to delay and hinder the Commission’s investigation in multiple instances.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 3-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.
The staff attorneys on this matter are Jonathan Cohen, Olivia Jerjian, Max Nardini, and Evan Mendelson of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and protect and educate consumers. Learn more about consumer topics at consumer.ftc.gov, or report fraud, scams, and bad business practices at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Follow the FTC on social media, read consumer alerts and the business blog, and sign up to get the latest FTC news and alerts.
 
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