From the daily archives: Thursday, June 24, 2010

Calexico, Calif. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Calexico, Calif., downtown port of entry arrested two female U.S. citizens after they discovered 18 pounds of liquid methamphetamine concealed inside the windshield washer reservoir of the sport utility vehicle in which they entered the country.

At about 2 p.m. on June 22, the 50-year-old and 29-year-old residents of Atwater, Calif., arrived at the Calexico downtown port of entry driving a black 2004 Chevy Trail Blazer. During the vehicle primary examination a narcotics detector dog alerted to the front right side of the vehicle. Officers then escorted the driver, passenger and vehicle to the secondary lot for further investigation.

An intensive inspection in the engine area led officers to the discovery of the liquid methamphetamine, which has a street value of $189,000. Both the driver and passenger were arrested and booked into the Imperial Country Jail pending arraignment. CBP seized the vehicle and narcotic.

Port Director Billy Whitford praised his CBP officers for a job well done. However, he said, they must remain cognizant of the different tactics smugglers are employing.

“I am very pleased with the performance of our CBP officers,” he said. “This is a good example of why our vigilance must never waver; criminals are attempting more creative means of smuggling narcotics.”


Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced a $173 million settlement with six manufacturers of Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) computer chips who “conspired in an illegal global scheme to fix prices.”

DRAM is a common form of memory chip that stores information temporarily for quick access. It is found in desktop computers, laptops, servers, printers and networking equipment such as routers and hubs. DRAM sales to major electronic manufacturers, including Dell, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard, exceed $5 billion a year in the United States and $17 billion worldwide.

“These companies conspired in an illegal global scheme to fix prices on chips used in computer equipment sold to consumers, schools and government offices,” Brown said. “The large price tag of this settlement should serve as a warning that we will crack down on any manufacturers around the world that choose to gouge consumers through illegal price-fixing schemes.”

Brown and 32 other state attorneys general participated in the settlement. In July 2006, the multi-state group, led by California, filed a complaint in federal district court alleging that California’s consumers, state agencies, universities and local governments were forced to pay illegally inflated prices for products containing DRAM chips.

The DRAM manufacturers named in the lawsuit include the American companies Micron Technology, Inc. and NEC Electronics America, Inc., as well as foreign companies Infineon Technologies A.G. in Germany; Hynix Semiconductor, Inc. in South Korea; Elpida Memory Inc. in Japan; Mosel-Vitelic Corp. in Taiwan; and their American subsidiaries.

Brown’s investigation revealed that from 1998 to 2002, the salespeople and upper management of all the companies held frequent meetings, made telephone calls and initiated other contacts in which they exchanged confidential information and agreed to charge customers illegally inflated prices on DRAM chips.

The result of this collusion was to keep DRAM prices artificially high instead of letting market forces operate freely through competition.

The U.S. Justice Department called the scheme “one of the largest cartels ever discovered.” As a result of a federal investigation, four companies ¬– Samsung, Hynix, Infineon, and Elpida – and 12 individuals have pleaded guilty to criminal price-fixing.

In October 2008, Brown filed a second lawsuit in state court in San Francisco on behalf of 96 local California government entities, including cities, counties, school districts, special districts, and the University of California, all of which had purchased computer equipment containing DRAM chips.

The settlement announced today requires the companies to refrain from illegal price-fixing and to conduct extensive employee-compliance training. The settlement must be approved by the court.

The defendants agreed to resolve both lawsuits, as well as lawsuits by private plaintiffs, by paying $173 million over two years plus interest to the affected consumers, schools and government offices. Samsung and another company, Winbond, reached settlement for $113 million in 2007.

“The settlement money is welcome,” Brown said, “but the illegal overcharging never should have happened in the first place. Especially when times are tight, schools and government agencies can’t afford to be ripped off by companies that violate our anti-trust laws to keep profits high.”

The other states participating in the settlement are Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Copies of the complaints are attached.

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Urging Californians to get vaccinated now, Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), warned today that the state is on pace to suffer the most illnesses and deaths due to pertussis, also known as whooping cough, in 50 years.

“Whooping cough is now an epidemic in California,” Horton said. “Children should be vaccinated against the disease and parents, family members and caregivers of infants need a booster shot.”

As of June 15, California had recorded 910 cases of pertussis, a four-fold increase from the same period last year when 219 cases were recorded. Five infants — all under three months of age — have died from the disease this year. In addition, 600 more possible cases of pertussis are being investigated by local health departments.

Pertussis is cyclical. Cases tend to peak every two to five years. In 2005, California recorded 3,182 cases and seven deaths.

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease. Unimmunized or incompletely immunized young infants are particularly vulnerable. Since 1998, more than 80 percent of the infants in California who have died from pertussis have been Hispanic.

The pertussis vaccine is safe for children and adults. Pertussis vaccination begins at two months of age, but young infants are not adequately protected until the initial series of three shots is complete at 6 months of age. The series of shots that most children receive wears off by the time they finish middle school. Neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis provides lifetime immunity.

Pregnant women may be vaccinated against pertussis before pregnancy, during pregnancy or after giving birth. Fathers may be vaccinated at any time, but preferably before the birth of their baby. CDPH encourages birthing hospitals to implement policies to vaccinate new mothers and fathers before sending newborns home. CDPH is providing vaccine free of charge to hospitals.

Others who may have contact with infants, including family members, healthcare workers, and childcare workers, should also be vaccinated. Individuals should contact their regular health care provider or local health department to inquire about pertussis vaccination.

A typical case of pertussis in children and adults starts with a cough and runny nose for one-to-two weeks, followed by weeks to months of rapid coughing fits that sometimes end with a whooping sound. Fever is rare.

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