Treasury seeks extension of search powers

The Treasury Department is seeking to renew a provision put in place by the Patriot Act that allows federal authorities to search the records of financial institutions.

The provision allows Treasury to “search their records to determine whether they have maintained an account or conducted a transaction with a person that a federal law enforcement agency has certified is suspected, based on credible evidence, of engaging in terrorist activity or money laundering.”

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The Patriot Act, passed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, gave the Treasury Department the authority to conduct searches of banks’ transactions in order to “promote the prevention, detection and prosecution of international money laundering and the financing of terrorism.” Treasury delegated the task to its Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

The rule put forward by Treasury would renew a 2010 amendment that expands the Patriot Act powers to state, municipal and foreign law enforcement. However, the notice says the requester must have proof the money laundering suspicion is “significant” and other avenues of investigation have not yielded results.

The Federal Register document, released on Dec. 13, states that the program “has yielded significant investigative benefits for law enforcement users in terrorist financing and/or significant money laundering cases.” 

Public comment on the reauthorization is due by Feb. 13, 2013.

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is making a move to connect combat-based traumatic brain injuries to other illnesses. 

Connecting traumatic brain injuries with five other medical conditions, including seizures, depression, hormone deficiencies and Parkinson’s disease, allows for the diseases to be covered by Veterans Affairs healthcare.

The VA is proposing to amend regulations regarding the illnesses that might result after a traumatic brain injury, which is commonly sustained during combat situations. The acknowledgement comes after an agency review of a report by the Institute of Medicine that studied long-term consequences of mild, moderate and severe traumatic brain injuries.

The Institute of Medicine, within the National Academy of Sciences, gives the highest possible ranking of evidentiary support of the link between traumatic brain injuries and seizures, depression, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and illnesses caused by hormone deficiencies as a result of chemical changes in the brain. 

The majority of the associations were found when traumatic brain injuries were diagnosed as “moderate to severe,” with the exception of depression and suicide, which could occur with mild brain trauma. The study showed that those who incurred moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries were 50 percent more likely to experience depression or mood disorders for the first three years after the injury.

The determinations for mild, moderate and severe brain trauma are measured in several ways, including the length of a loss of consciousness and “alteration of mental state,” and the length of amnesia after the traumatic incident. 

CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants to update decompression tables for tunnel workers to improve safety standards. 

Tunneling workers — also known as caisson workers — often work in spaces that are highly pressurized to keep water out and safeguard against unstable soil. 

Current tables for tunneling workers are out of date and only account for removing the necessary nitrogen in the body at pressures less than 36 pounds per square inch (psi). At present, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) standards allow for worksites to have pressures up to 50 psi.

When a worker in an underground project goes from the pressurized environment to the surface too quickly, bubbles — most often composed of nitrogen — can form inside the body. 

The resulting disorder, known as decompression sickness or “the bends,” is also a problem for scuba divers.