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Saturday, March 10, 2012

CHANGE OF COMMAND IN PACIFIC


The following excerpt is from a Department of Defense e-mail:

Pacific Command Change of Command
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Camp Smith, Hawaii, Friday, March 09, 2012

Thank you very much, General Dempsey.  Good morning, ladies and gentleman.  It's a great honor to be able to be here.  It's always a delight to visit this beautiful state of Hawaii, rain and all.  Rain here is not the same as it is elsewhere: there's a different flavor to it.

As you may know, Marty and I have spent the last few weeks in hearings up on Capitol Hill.  Fortunately, as Catholics, we believe that after spending a certain amount of time in Purgatory, you're entitled to be able to go to Heaven.  Sam Locklear, you may not be Saint Peter, but this about as close to Heaven as you'll get.  Sam, Pamela, Bob, Donna, my great Chairman, distinguished guests, Neil Abercrombie, it's great to see you here.  Neil and I served in the Congress for a period of time.  I always enjoyed that.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: what a great honor to be able to participate in this kind of change of command.  This is one of my great honors to have this opportunity every time we do this with a combatant command.  Hawaii is not just a beautiful place.  It happens to be a historic place of service and sacrifice.

I had the opportunity to visit the U.S.S. Arizona this morning, and I've done that before; with my family, and I had the chance to go there with President Clinton when we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the end of World War II.  I've also had the opportunity to do it with a number of friends.  So, I've done it before.  But each time I do it, it was deeply moving experience to be thinking of the brave service members stationed here, stationed on that ship, on this island, and who gave their lives for their country on that fateful day some 70 years ago.  That sacred memorial reminds all of us who have a special duty to protect this country, to protect America that we must always remain vigilant and aware of potential storm clouds on the horizon, and we must never, never lower our guard.  I can't think of a more critical time when the nation needs its very best.  Its very best in military experience, in military leadership, in military advice, to be able to confront the challenges and the threats that we face in the world today.

That's why it's truly an honor to join all of you here today to pay tribute to Admiral Willard for his many decades of distinguished service to our nation, to welcome Sam Locklear as he assumes command of Pacific Command, and to recognize the many achievements of the men and women of this, the oldest and largest of our regional commands we have in the U.S. military.

I'd first like to express my thanks to the families of both of these very fine naval officers.  I thank Admiral Willard's family, and particularly his wife, Donna, who in addition to enduring the difficulties of being the spouse of a service member for over thirty-eight years, has done so much for Navy spouses.  And I thank Admiral Locklear's family, his wife Pamela, and their family.  All of whom have provided the support and been willing to go through the pain of long absences and have always been there to be able to support the sacrifices they have made.  We appreciate your support and your sacrifices.  These jobs are tough and they demand a great deal of sacrifice.  But none of us could do these jobs without the love and support of our families.

This has to be a team effort, and every family is part of that team.  We simply could not do the job of defending America without you.  That support is central to the strength of our armed forces.  It underpins everything we do and, indeed, the very security of this nation depends on that love, that sacrifice, that team effort.  And so today I want to honor these two special families for the love and sacrifice and support they've provided these two very special men.
Admiral Willard brings to a close a remarkable nearly four-decade career as a naval aviator. It has taken him to every corner of the globe, and to almost every level of command, from a fighter squadron to command of the mighty 7th Fleet, and now the Pacific Command.  A proven and very effective leader, he's also served back in Washington on the Joint Staff.  A Naval Academy graduate, early in his career he flew the venerable F-14 "Tomcat," and went on to serve as the operations and executive officer of the Navy's elite Top Gun fighter school. 
Now I've liked Bob from the very moment I met him – he's a brilliant and accomplished military officer, he always offers very deep insights into the most pressing security challenges.

But most importantly  he and I share a passion for movies.  I express my passion by watching a lot of films. And the distances I travel, I always like to be accompanied by Ben Hur, Master  & Commander, Gladiator, Casablanca, and just about any movie with John Wayne. 

Bob, on the other hand, lives a life right out of the movies.  Let me give you a few examples.  Since his early days in the Navy, I'm told that he's gone by the call sign "Rat," in honor of the movie Willard.  Bob also achieved a bit of fame when he served as the aerial coordinator for the movie Top Gun and had a cameo flying a Soviet MiG against Maverick and Goose.  Now I hear there are rumors that they are thinking about making a Top Gun sequel, which has me wondering whether Bob has a plan to reprise his role and do it in retirement.  Bob, I've gotta warn you about taking this on at your age... you might be writing checks your body can't cash.

Bob's accomplishments, his strategic vision, and his very plain spoken manner made him an outstanding leader here in the Asia-Pacific.  This strategically vital theater is important; this pivotal moment in history when America's future, in many ways, depends on the peace and prosperity of the Asia Pacific region.  It is a region filled with incredible opportunities for this nation – in the realm of political, economic, and security relationships that could significantly impact on the security and stability of our future.

And when I look across the world at the threats and challenges we face as a nation, from terrorism to natural disasters, the proliferation of weapons of nuclear destruction, rogue nations and rising powers in the Pacific, this region has them all.  Merely operating in the vast expanse of the Asia-Pacific poses daunting operational and logistical challenge.  Challenges to being able to deploy and sustain our forces.  Yet no matter what the challenge, no matter how daunting a calamity, no matter how tense the stand-off between nations, PACOM has always delivered, has always been there when our allies needed them most, and has always excelled.

In this region, we don't just need a great warrior.  We also happen to need in a commander, a great diplomat.  Bob demonstrated the power of relationships, how to turn those relationships into partnerships, and how to turn those partnerships into alliances, and how to turn those alliances into true and lasting friendships.  He has strengthened long-standing alliances with old friends like Australia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.  He's built new partnerships with countries like Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.  The United States has long been the security partner of choice in the Pacific region – and thanks to Bob's leadership of PACOM, our country's important role as a Pacific power has not only endured, it has grown stronger.

We have stayed vigilant and committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea during a time of transition on that Peninsula.  We've reassured our friends and allies that we are committed to the Pacific by enhancing our presence across Asia.  We have established new rotational deployments of our Marines in Australia, we have forward stationed our Littoral Combat Ships in Singapore, and we are exploring options for enhancing cooperation with the Philippines.  PACOM has also worked to restore and build those very important mil-to-mil relationships with China.  Under Admiral Willard's leadership, and thanks to the commitment, dedication, and hard work of the more than 300,000 men and women of PACOM are being strongly led.  We have made clear that we are a Pacific power and we will be there as a partner, as an ally, and as a friend.

 As a major part of our Pacific family nothing confirms that family relationship more than with Japan.  As we approach the one-year anniversary of Operation Tomodachi, our relief operations in response to the Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear emergency, we approach it with respect and thanks for men and women of PACOM and the leadership of Admiral Willard in those operations.  I had the opportunity to visit Japan last year, and I heard directly from the Japanese people the gratitude that they had for our personnel who were involved in that massive undertaking, who were delivering supplies, who were conducting search and rescue, and evacuating the injured.  PACOM helped Japan, a true friend, to stand back up and stand back strongly after they had been knocked down.  In doing so this entire command, the team operating under an extraordinary leader, made all Americans very proud.  You brought great honor and great distinction to our great military, Bob, and I thank you for that.

Bob, this Department, and this country, owes you and Donna an extraordinary debt for your tireless efforts to ensure that our men and women in uniform got what they needed to accomplish their missions.  Donna, I especially want to thank you for your many years of service and support of our Navy spouses and for helping the families of those you led, the families that you were part of.

It is our good fortune to that the military has a great bench, and it is our good fortune that we have another great leader, Admiral Sam Locklear who will take charge at PACOM.  Admiral Locklear has served as the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe while he concurrently served as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa and NATO's Commander of the Allied Joint Force Command Naples.  His leadership of Allied efforts in Libya puts him in good standing to come to this region and manage its complexities, competing interests, the many nations that are part of our family in the Pacific, and to do that with the same even-keeled approach for which he's known.
In my former capacity I believe I participated in almost in all of the meetings with the President on Libya.  And even though there was a lot of concern at that time that this operation was going to work, whether or not these countries could come together, whether or not they could operate together, whether or not they could develop targets, whether or not they could hit those targets, I have to tell you that because of Sam Locklear's leadership he brought NATO together.  He brought them together for a successful operation that took down Qadhafi and freed the Libyan people.  This was an incredibly complex mission and it took an awful lot of leadership to make it work; eighteen countries were involved in that operation.  And yet, he did it with distinction, with honor, and cool leadership. And yet Sam has always handled these kinds of situations with that same coolness, calmness, and sense of control, and in doing that, helped accomplish the mission.

Last October, I had the opportunity to visit Admiral Locklear in Naples.  I had a chance to visit that operation center and again, I can't tell you how remarkable it was to be there and see how that operation was put together.  I'm confident that he is prepared to handle one of the military's most demanding jobs with the same coolness, calmness, and sense of control.  His past experiences will serve him well as he takes command.  Pamela, I know you're going to have to endure another hardship tour here in this rough spot, going from Naples to Honolulu.  But take it from a fellow Italian, a glass of wine, a little pasta, and you'll be fine.  We wish Admiral Locklear and we wish his wife Pamela all success in this new command.

Bob and Donna, I wish you the very best as you begin this next chapter in your lives.
In closing, let me note that these changes of command make me very proud of the military and of our country.  It is not just the millions of young men and women who take the oath who fight, and yes die, for America.  It's also the very strong and capable leaders like Admiral Willard and Admiral Locklear to lead them into battle.  This morning when I was at the USS Arizona, I had the opportunity to preside over the re-enlistments of some of our servicemen, members of a new greatest generation of Americans, a generation willing to carry forth the legacy of serving and fighting for this great country, fighting for a better world. They are the ones who carry the torch forward, carry the torch that their forefathers fought for at Pearl Harbor and in the great campaigns of the Pacific War and in every war.  The torch of freedom, torch of courage, the torch of duty.
They had a great leader in Bob Willard, they now have a great new leader in Sam Locklear.  May God bless them, God bless this command, and God bless the United States of America."
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DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME BEGINS

Senate Sergeant at Arms Charles Higgins turns forward the Ohio Clock for the first Daylight Saving Time, while Senators LOOK ON, SENATE HISTORICA OFFICE1918

ABOVE COURTESY U.S. SENATE WEBSITE

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT REMARKS ON SPACE ENVIRONMENT


The following excerpt is from the U.S. State Department:
Sustaining the Space Environment for the Future
Remarks Frank A. Rose
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance American Center
Hanoi, Vietnam
March 8, 2012
I am pleased to join you here today to discuss space, its importance to our daily lives, and the need for international cooperation to maintain the long-term sustainability of the space environment. I’ll explain what I mean by that during the course of my talk. Of course, I speak from an American perspective, but I am also here to gain a better understanding of Vietnam’s interests in space.

As we’ve just discussed, space plays a vital role in almost every aspect of our daily lives worldwide. Space systems enable us to communicate around the world; facilitate financial operations; enhance weather forecasting and environmental monitoring; and enable navigation globally and locally on highways and streets in personal automobiles. Space also expands our scientific frontier; warns us of natural disasters; and helps us monitor arms control treaties and increase stability among nations.

Just as our use of space has evolved in the past fifty-five years since the first satellite, Sputnik, was launched from Earth, the space environment has also been transformed by actors and their actions. When the space age began, the opportunities to use space were available to only a few nations, and there were limited consequences for irresponsible behavior or accidents. Today, space is the domain of a growing number of satellite operators; approximately 60 nations and government consortia operate satellites, including Vietnam, as well as numerous commercial and academic satellite operators. This great transformation of the space environment has greatly benefited the global economy and has brought people around the world closer together, but it also presents challenges.

While it is becoming increasingly easier to access, as well as to benefit from, space is also becoming increasingly congested. Many countries and space operators have great plans to increase their space capabilities in the near future. Vietnam, for example, plans to put approximately 14 satellites into orbit by 2020, a feat which will make Vietnam the fastest growing space power in Southeast Asia. However, decades of space activity have littered Earth’s orbit with debris. As the world continues to increase its activities in space, the possibility of collisions in space also increases. This situation means we need to think carefully through how we can all operate there safely and responsibly so that we can ensure that your generation, and the generations that follow you, can also benefit from space as well. The interconnected nature of space capabilities and the world’s growing dependence on them mean that irresponsible acts in space can have damaging consequences for all of us.

You’re probably wondering how a big, seemingly empty environment like space could be so crowded that we worry about collisions. While it’s true that a lot of space is relatively empty, most of our operations are conducted close to Earth, including the operations of Vietnam’s communication satellite Vinasat 1. It is this environment that is becoming increasingly congested. The U.S. Department of Defense tracks roughly 22,000 objects in various orbits, of which only 1,100 are active satellites. That’s about 6000 metric tons of debris orbiting the Earth, and these numbers do not include the hundreds of thousands of pieces of debris smaller than 10 centimeters that are too small to track, but just as potentially deadly to satellites and manned spaceflight when traveling at speeds of up to 17,000 kilometers an hour.

Some pieces of debris are simply “dead” satellites or pieces of the rockets that got them there, but others are the results of accidents or mishaps, such as from the 2009 collision between two satellites. Some debris, however, is the result of intentionally destructive events, such as China’s test in space of an anti-satellite weapon in 2007. Experts warn that the current quantity and density of man-made debris significantly increases the odds of future damaging collisions. Unless the international community addresses these challenges, the environment around our planet will become increasingly hazardous to human spaceflight and satellite systems, which would create damaging consequences for all of us.
The international community is more reliant on space than ever and the long-term sustainability of our space activities is at serious risk from space debris, as I just described, and from irresponsible actors and their actions. Irresponsible acts against space systems would not just harm the space environment, but would also disrupt services that the citizens, companies, and militaries around the world depend on. Ensuring the long-term sustainability, stability, safety, and security of the space environment is in the vital interests of the United States and the entire global community.

Improving the long-term sustainability and stability of space begins first with enhancing our shared situational awareness and understanding of what is in space, sharing information to avoid collisions of space objects, and working internationally to minimize the problems of orbital debris. To that end, the United States works with other nations, commercial entities, and intergovernmental organizations to improve our shared ability to rapidly detect, warn of, characterize, and attribute natural and man-made disturbances to space systems. Such improvements illustrate the ongoing commitment of the United States to promoting the safety of flight for all space-faring nations.

The United States also collaborates with industry and foreign nations to improve space object databases and warn of dangerous approaches between orbiting objects that could potentially lead to collisions. This is particularly important given collisions such as the February 2009 collision between a privately operated Iridium communications satellite and an inactive Russian military satellite, as well as a lot of near-collisions. To help prevent future collisions, the United States has improved its capacity to analyze objects in space and to predict potential hazards to spacecraft. The United States also provides notifications to other government and commercial satellite operators when U.S. space analysts predict that an operator’s satellite may pass within a close distance of another spacecraft or space debris.

To address the growing problem of orbital debris, the United States has expanded its engagement within the United Nations and with other governments and non-governmental organizations. The United States has adopted international standards to minimize debris that are stricter than the U.N. Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines. We are also working to develop stricter international and industry standards to slow down the accumulation of debris in space, and to develop and implement international “best practices” of responsible behavior in space that will put us all on a more sustainable path.

Finally, the United States is also pursuing pragmatic transparency and confidence-building measures – or TCBMs – to strengthen stability in space and promote safe and responsible operations in space. TCBMs are a means by which governments can address challenges and share information with the aim of creating mutual understanding and reducing tensions. Through TCBMs we can address areas such as orbital debris, space situational awareness, and collision avoidance, as well as undertake activities that will help to increase familiarity and trust and encourage openness among space actors.

Perhaps one of the most beneficial TCBMs for ensuring sustainability and security in space could be the adoption of “best practice” guidelines or a “code of conduct.” On January 17th of this year, the United States announced that it had decided to join with the European Union and other spacefaring nations to develop an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. In the Asia-Pacific Region, both Japan and Australia have also endorsed developing such an International Code of Conduct. In her statement announcing the decision, Secretary of State Clinton said,

“The long-term sustainability of our space environment is at serious risk. […] Unless the international community addresses these challenges, the environment around our planet will become increasingly hazardous to human spaceflight and satellite systems, which would create damaging consequences for all of us.”

The United States views the European Union’s draft Code of Conduct as a good foundation for working with other spacefaring nations to develop a non-legally binding International Code. An International Code of Conduct, if adopted, would help prevent mishaps, misperceptions, and mistrust in space by establishing guidelines to reduce the risks of debris-generating events and to avoid the danger of collisions. As more countries field space capabilities, it is in all of our interests to work together to establish internationally-accepted “best practices” to ensure that the safety and sustainability of space is protected.

Today, the world is increasingly inter-connected through space, and we are increasingly dependent on space systems. The risks associated with irresponsible actions in space mean that ensuring the long-term sustainability and stability of the space environment is in the vital interest of the entire world community. As the U.S. National Space Policy says, “All nations have the right to use and explore space, but with this right also comes responsibility. […] [I]t is the shared interest of all nations to act responsibly in space to help prevent mishaps, misperceptions, and mistrust.” The United States calls on governments around the world to work together to adopt approaches for responsible activity in space in order to preserve this right for the benefit of future generations.
Thank you very much.”



BRIGHT FEATHERS MAY HAVE BEEN IMPORTANT FOR DISPLAY IN DINOSAURS


The following excerpt is from the National Science Foundation website:

March 8, 2012
The detailed feather pattern and color of Microraptor--a pigeon-sized, four-winged dinosaur that lived about 120 million years ago--had a glossy iridescent sheen.
Its tail was narrow and adorned with a pair of streamer feathers, suggesting the importance of display in the early evolution of feathers, say scientists reporting the findings in this week's issue of the journal Science.

By comparing the patterns of pigment-containing organelles from a Microraptor fossil to those in modern birds, the scientists determined that the dinosaur's plumage was iridescent with a glossy sheen like the feathers of a modern crow.

The new fossil is the earliest record of iridescent color in feathers.
A reconstruction of Microraptor will help scientists approach the controversy of how dinosaurs began the transition to flight.

"Specifying the color and iridescence of feathers in avian dinosaurs was not possible 20 years ago," says H. Richard Lane, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research.

"This development, in combination with the arrangement of tail feathers, is leading to a deeper understanding of the early development of avian plumage signalling. "
Since it was discovered as the first four-winged dinosaur in 2003, Microraptor has been at the center of questions about the evolution of feathers and flight.
Scientists have proposed aerodynamic functions for various feathery features such as its tail, forewing shape and hind limbs.

Once thought to be a broad, teardrop-shaped surface, or with a shape more like that of a paper airplane meant to help generate lift, Microraptor's tail fan is actually much narrower with two elongate feathers off its tip.

The researchers believe the tail feathering may have been ornamental, and likely evolved for courtship and other social interactions and not as an adaptation for flight.

"Most aspects of early dinosaur feathering continue to be interpreted as fundamentally aerodynamic, optimized for some aspect of aerial locomotion," says Julia Clarke, a paper co-author and paleontologist at The University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin).

"Some of these structures were clearly ancestral characteristics that arose for other functions and stuck around, while others may be linked to display behaviors or signaling of mate quality," she says.

Feather features were shaped by early locomotor styles, Clarke believes. "But, as any birder will tell you, feather colors and shapes may also be tied with complex behavioral repertoires and, if anything, may be costly in terms of aerodynamics."
Modern birds use feathers for many different things, ranging from flight to thermoregulation to mate-attracting displays, says Matt Shawkey, a paper co-author and biologist at the University of Akron.

"Iridescence is widespread in modern birds, and is frequently used in displays," says Shawkey. "The evidence that Microraptorwas largely iridescent suggests that feathers were important for display even relatively early in their evolution."

The feather color displayed by many modern birds is partially produced by arrays of pigment-bearing organelles called melanosomes, about a hundred of which can fit across a human hair.

Generally found in a round or cigar-like shape, a melanosome's structure is constant for a given color. Iridescence arises when narrow melanosomes are organized in stacked layers.
After a breakthrough by Jakob Vinther of UT-Austin in 2009, paleontologists started analyzing the shape of melanosomes in well-preserved fossilized feather imprints.
By comparing these patterns to those in living birds, scientists can infer the color of dinosaurs that lived many millions of years ago.

Paleontologists deduced that Microraptor was iridescent when Shawkey discovered that melanosomes in the most common iridescent feathers were uniquely narrow.
Information on the feather color of a variety of dinosaurs has recently come to light.
The first color map of an extinct dinosaur showed black-and-white spangles, red coloration and grey body color in a species called Anchiornis.

Based on the new data from Microraptor and other findings, a complex color repertoire that includes iridescence is likely ancestral to a group of dinosaurs called Paraves that originated at least 140 million years ago.
It includes dinosaurs like Velociraptor as well as Archaeopteryx,Anchiornis and living birds.

"This study gives us an unprecedented glimpse of what this animal [Microraptor] looked like when it was alive," says Mark Norell, paper co-author and paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).
Clarke, Norell and an AMNH team, including AMNH researchers Mick Ellison and Rui Pei, worked closely to analyze the bony anatomy and digital overlays of the feathering in the new specimen and in eight previously described Microraptorspecimens.
The scientists studied feathering, and melanosome shape and density, from a Microraptor fossil.

To come to their conclusions, the researchers worked closely with Quanguo Li, Ke-Qin Gao and Meng Qingjin at the Beijing Museum of Natural History.

The samples and preservation of melanosomes were assessed by Vinther and compared to a database of melanosomes from a variety of modern birds assembled by Shawkey and Liliana D'Alba at the University of Akron.

Along with NSF, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Natural Science Foundation of China, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Human Resources, and the Beijing Academy of Science and Technology also funded the research.”

SECRETARY OF STATE CLINTON'S REMARKS IN KOREA

The following excerpt is from a State Department e-mail:

Remarks With Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan After Their Meeting
Remarks Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of StateTreaty Room
Washington, DC
March 9, 2012
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good morning, and welcome to the State Department. It’s always a pleasure to have Foreign Minister Kim back in Washington. And I also have the honor of greeting incoming Ambassador Choi, who presented his credentials at the State Department this morning. I look forward to working with him as well.

We have been consulting very closely and coordinating on a range of issues now for several years. And the reason is obvious: Korea is economic, political, and strategic leader, not only in the Asia Pacific, but around the world. That’s why President Lee speaks of a global Korea, and it’s why the United States and Korea are building a global partnership.

Today, once again, we discussed ways that we are strengthening our alliance, which is a lynchpin of America’s strategic engagement in the Asia Pacific. We spoke about our recent diplomacy with North Korea. And I want to be very clear: Any effort by anyone to drive a wedge between the United States and the Republic of Korea will fail. We consult closely on all aspects of our diplomacy. This will not change.
The minister and I also discussed the importance of coordinating closely with Japan, and we asked our teams to hold a trilateral meeting soon.

Of course, we went over the recent agreement by the DPRK to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests, nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment. The North also agreed to the return of IAEA inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities, and to confirm the disablement of the five-megawatt reactor and associated facilities. This is a modest step in the right direction, and we will be watching closely and judging North Korea’s leaders by their actions.

We also discussed the United States’ announcement that we would provide 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance for the most vulnerable populations in North Korea. Our team just met in Beijing with North Korean officials to discuss the administrative details of this program, and we are working to move it forward soon.
This is an important time for our critical partnership. In just six days, our free trade agreement will take effect, opening up new opportunities for jobs and commerce between our people. We believe that this agreement will create tens of thousands of jobs in both of our countries. And later this month, President Obama will travel to Seoul for the Nuclear Security Summit, where we will continue our efforts to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands.

So on these and all the other issues on which we work together, I want to thank the foreign minister for another very productive meeting. Thank you, sir.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I thought we weren’t going to do English. I thought we were just going to do Korean. Yeah, thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no no. You’re not going to translate me. We’re just going to translate the minister.

INTERPRETER: Great, great.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I would’ve stopped between – I would’ve never have subjected you to that. (Laughter.)

MR. KIM: (In Korean.)

FOREIGN MINISTER KIM: (Via interpreter) Good morning, everyone. I would like to express my special gratitude to Secretary Clinton for her invitation and warm hospitality. Today, as Secretary Clinton just mentioned, we had a very fruitful consultation on a wide range of issues. The ROK-U.S. alliance, considered to be in its best ever shape, has been the cornerstone of peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia for the last 60 years based on our common values and convictions, namely free democracy and market economy.

Secretary Clinton and I both recognized that the ROK-U.S. strategic alliance has been broadening and deepening itself since the adoption of our joint vision for the alliance in 2009, and we reaffirmed that our strategic alliance will be expanding its role in dealing with the issues on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia as well as global issues on the basis of our common values.

With regard to the North Korea nuclear issue, I reaffirmed my government’s position that we welcomed the result of the U.S.-DPRK discussions that took place in Beijing last month, and appreciated the close ROK-U.S. coordination that was intact throughout the dialogue process between Washington and Pyongyang. Furthermore, we shared the view that the outcome of the recent Beijing discussions is a meaningful first step towards resolving the North Korea nuclear issue, and underscored that faithful implementation of the necessary measures such as moratorium on Yongbyon nuclear activities and the return of IAEA inspectors is important. Secretary Clinton emphasized that there will not be a fundamental improvement of relations between Washington and Pyongyang without an improvement of inter-Korean relations. And we both agreed that dialogue should be promoted and relations should be improved between the two Koreas.
I mentioned that North Korea’s recent denunciations of the South are an attempt to render influence on the elections and the domestic politics of the ROK, and that they have relevance to North Korea’s own internal situations. Secretary Clinton shared this view and we agreed to continue our close communication on this situation within North Korea. Secretary Clinton and I agreed that continued coordination between the ROK and the U.S. will be the single most important factor in the coming discussions on the resumption of the Six-Party Talks, and we agreed to communicate closely at each level through channels such as the ROK-U.S. summit meeting that is scheduled to take place during the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit.

Also, the KORUS FTA, which will take effect next week, has upgraded our alliance to a higher level. Secretary Clinton and I agreed to cooperate toward early realization of the tangible benefits that KORUS FTA will bring to us, such as job creation, expansion of trade, and sharpening of our competitiveness. We also agreed, based on such a comprehensive strategic alliance and going beyond the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia, that the ROK and the U.S. will further strengthen our cooperation in global issues such as nonproliferation, including the Iranian nuclear issue, nuclear security, terrorism, development cooperation, human rights, and environment. In particular, we are working together for the success of the second Nuclear Security Summit to be held in Seoul this month, building upon the accomplishments we had at the last Washington summit.

Furthermore, Secretary Clinton and I shared the view that for a sustained development of the relationship between our two countries, support from the people of both nations is vital, and that both governments will make active efforts to this end. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Minister.

MS. NULAND: We have time for two questions today. We’ll start with Mr. Choi from KBS.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My name is Choi Kyoosik from KBS. My question goes to Secretary Clinton with regard to the North Korean refugee issue. With regard to the situation that is going on in China, there are concerns arising in the international community. The Chinese Government considers the North Korean defectors as economic migrants, and they are repatriating them with – regardless of how they enter China. I would like to ask Secretary Clinton if the U.S. Government considers the North Korean defectors as refugees under the international agreements, and also I would like to ask if – what are the short-term and long-term policies of the U.S. Government with regard to this issue.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. Let me begin by saying that the United States shares the concerns by both the government and the people of the Republic of Korea about the human rights situation in North Korea and the treatment of North Korean refugees. We urge every country to act according to international obligations. And those international obligations regarding the treatment of refugees are prescribed in the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and the 1967 protocol.

We believe that refugees should not be repatriated and subjected once again to the dangers that they fled from. The treatment of North Korean refugees is an issue on which we have ongoing engagement with our partners, both in Korea and in China. We had Ambassador Davies raise our concerns about the North Korean refugees detained in China with senior Chinese officials when he was last in China in February. And we urge all countries in the region to cooperate in the protection of North Korean refugees within their territories. We continue to work with
international organizations in order to protect these refugees and to find durable, permanent solutions for them.

MS. NULAND: Last question. ABC, Luis Martinez.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Do you want – does she want to translate – I think yeah. I think our young woman here will translate me.

MS. NULAND: Okay.

QUESTION: I’ll just (inaudible) ask question. Okay.

MS. NULAND: Well, each –

PARTICIPANT: (In Korean.)

MS. NULAND: This is our last question. ABC, Luis Martinez.

QUESTION: Mr. Minister, Madam Secretary, as part of your discussions today, did you discuss a waiver on the Iranian oil sanction that are upcoming? And Madam Secretary, what is the progress of the talks with Japan on the similar waiver? And if I could ask – also ask you about – are you both optimistic that the Six-Party Talks will actually resume?
And switching to Syria, Madam Secretary --

SECRETARY CLINTON: Wait a minute. (Laughter.) I think two questions is your limit today. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay, Madam. Well, if I could, just a brief one on Syria: Four generals have defected to Turkey today. Is this a sign that the Assad regime is unraveling?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. It’s Friday. (Laughter.) I want to begin by saying we are deeply gratified by the support that we have received from the Republic of Korea in building a global coalition to pressure Iran to change course. And we share the concerns of our Congress that the international community needs to take even stronger steps to stop the flow of cash to the Iranian regime from its oil sector. In that context, we have been working very closely with the Republic of Korea on ways that it can look for alternatives to Iranian oil and oil products.

Our goal is simple. We want the Iranian regime to feel the full weight of the international community from these measures, and to demonstrate unequivocally to them that the world is united against their efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. No country understands the threat of nuclear weapons from a neighbor better than the Republic of Korea.

And so we are continuing our very close, expert engagement. We’re not only talking with our friends like the Republic of Korea, but also oil producing partners about boosting production to shore up price stability and offer alternative avenues of supply. And I would be the first to say, we recognize the difficult decisions and even the sacrifices that we are asking from other countries in order to increase this pressure on Iran. Reigning in a dangerous government is not easy. That’s why we are so closely cooperating with respect to our approach toward North Korea, but also with our unified international approach toward Iran. We’ve got to stay united, and we have no better partner and ally than our friends in Korea. And so I think we will just continue our work together. We’re making progress and I think that is our assessment at this time.
With respect to Syria, we continue to hear about defections. There were reports today of four generals defecting. We continue to urge the Syrian army not to turn their weapons against their own people – defenseless civilians, women, and children. We continue to urge the international community to come together to take action; first, to provide humanitarian relief; and second, to work toward a political transition that would have a change in leadership to one that would respect the rights and dignity of the Syrian people.
I’ve made several calls today regarding the upcoming Arab League meeting in Cairo. I talked with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a few days ago about our hope that Russia will play a constructive role in ending the bloodshed and working toward a political transition in Syria, and I will be following up and meeting with him in New York on Monday. So we have an intense effort going on, and we are supporting the Arab League and their continuing leadership.
Thank you.

QUESTION: (In Korean.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t have a way to translate that. Thank you.

QUESTION: Okay.

SECRETARY CLINTON: We can provide a Korean readout to any Korean reporter.

FOREIGN MINISTER SUNG-HWAN: (Via interpreter) As for our Republic of ROK as well, we are participating in the sanctions on Iran, and we’ll keep discussing the specific measures to do that as well in the future. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all for your patience and have a good weekend.”



ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER SAYS "PROTECTING AMERICAN CONSUMERS IS TOP PRIORITY"

The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

“Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the Consumer Protection Working Group Summit Washington, D.C. ~ Friday, March 9, 2012
As prepared for delivery

Thank you, Mike [Bresnick], for that kind introduction – and for your leadership as Executive Director of the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.   It’s a pleasure to join you – and so many dedicated colleagues and essential partners – as we begin today’s important discussions.

Thank you all – especially our distinguished panelists – for being part of this historic Summit.  I can think of no better way to commemorate – and raise awareness about – Consumer Protection Week, than for this group of stakeholders, experts, and advocates to join forces in examining the challenges we face – and identifying the solutions that the American people deserve.

In this conversation, I’m especially grateful for the commitment and engagement of the members of the Consumer Protection Working Group – a newly-formed initiative that’s operating as part of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.   In particular, I would like to recognize Director [Michael] Blume, of the Consumer Protection Branch, and all of the Group’s co-chairs: Assistant Attorney General Tony West, of the Civil Division, and soon to be Acting Associate Attorney General; Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte of the Central District of California; Director [David] Vladeck, of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection; and Kent Markus, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Director of Enforcement.

Today, as the Working Group gathers for the second time since its inaugural meeting in February, I want to express my gratitude for your leadership of this effort – and for your dedication to protecting the health, safety, and economic security of consumers across the country.   These are goals – and responsibilities – that we all share.   And each one of us has a role to play in fulfilling them.

For me, and for today’s Department of Justice, protecting American consumers is a top priority.  And, as we’ve rededicated ourselves to this work in recent years, we’ve also learned some essential lessons.   Primarily, that fully understanding the threats consumers face – and protecting their interests in a comprehensive way – is not something that the Justice Department can achieve on its own.   We cannot simply prosecute our way out of this problem.  So we need your help.   We need your perspectives and expertise.   We need your talents and determination.   And that’s precisely what today is all about.

Earlier this afternoon, we kicked off an important – and, in many ways, unprecedented – conversation between this Working Group’s leaders and key consumer advocates.   We talked about strategies for enhancing our civil and criminal enforcement of consumer fraud crimes; increasing public awareness about common schemes – and ways to report them – so that ordinary citizens have the knowledge they need to fight back; and building on the momentum we’ve established in the fight against consumer fraud.

As a result of discussions like this one – and thanks to the strong partnerships we’ve forged with federal law enforcement officials, regulatory agencies, and key state and local authorities – we’ve been able to gain access to the wide array of tools and the extraordinary depth of experience we will need not just to continue the work that’s underway – but to bring this fight to the next level.

Especially in these times of great economic challenge, I recognize that the need to move aggressively to combat these crimes has never been more important.   And that’s why I’m proud to report that our nation’s Department of Justice – and so many of the consumer groups represented here – have responded to these threats not with despair, but with resolve – and decisive action.

During the last fiscal year, the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch achieved an astounding 95 percent conviction rate.   They recovered over $900 million in criminal and civil fines.   And they obtained sentences totaling over 125 years of imprisonment against more than 30 individuals.

These achievements build on the remarkable success of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which has helped secure convictions against those responsible for a wide variety of consumer scams – including telemarketing schemes, fraudulent job training and referral services, and even an enterprise that generated over $75 million in loss and victimized 350,000 small businesses by placing unauthorized charges on people’s phone bills.

Since last April – when I established a new part of the Task Force known as the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group – we’ve also been focused on identifying civil or criminal violations in the oil and gasoline markets, and ensuring that American consumers are not harmed by unlawful conduct.   This Working Group’s latest meeting was held at the Justice Department just this morning – and its members discussed a variety of topics, including the role of speculators in the market; recent reports and enforcement matters by various Working Group members – such as the FTC and the New York State Attorney General’s Office; as well as ways to improve information sharing between Working Group members and partners; and where we go from here.

I can also report that one of the Working Group’s members – the Federal Trade Commission – is currently conducting an investigation, with assistance from other Working Group members, into whether gas prices have been affected by any antitrust violation or market manipulation by refiners, oil producers, transporters, marketers, physical or financial traders, or others.  Working Group members stand ready to act if the FTC learns anything that implicates the laws they enforce.

The Task Force has also been at the forefront of the Administration’s efforts to seek justice for those who were devastated by the recent financial crisis.   Since 2009, we’ve helped bring charges, secure convictions, and obtain prison sentences of up to 60 years in a variety of cases charging securities fraud, bank fraud, and investment fraud.   Using criminal enforcement tools where possible – and civil penalties and sanctions where necessary – we’ve made great strides in holding individuals and institutions accountable for the reckless, inappropriate, and often unlawful conduct that helped contribute to the financial crisis.   And – by employing a similar collaborative approach – we’ve even been able to make history.

In January, the Departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development, other agencies, and 49 state attorneys general came together to achieve a landmark $25 billion agreement with the nation’s top five mortgage servicers – the largest joint federal-state settlement on record.  This will provide significant assistance to struggling homeowners and communities.   And it will serve as a model for what we can accomplish when we work together – across federal agencies, state boundaries, and party lines – and through another new Task Force component known as the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group.

Now, we can all be encouraged by the achievements that have characterized the past few years.  But there is perhaps no better illustration of the progress we’ve made than our groundbreaking work to combat health-care fraud.   Over the last fiscal year alone, the Department and its partners were able to recover nearly $4.1 billion in funds that were stolen or taken improperly from federal health-care programs – the highest amount ever recovered in a single year.   And over the last three years, for every dollar we spent fighting against health-care fraud, we’ve returned an average of seven dollars to the U.S. Treasury, the Medicare Trust Fund, and others.

These numbers are stunning.   There’s no question that we should all be proud of the results that have already been achieved.   Although health care fraud won’t be a focal point of this Working Group, this ongoing work will continue to augment our latest consumer protection efforts.   But I also know that this is no time to be satisfied – and we cannot afford to become complacent.

That’s why we must – and will – continue to seek new avenues for communication and collaboration with partners like each of you.   With the assistance and expertise of the friends and allies gathered here today, and through discussions like those that will take place this afternoon – on issues ranging from fraud targeting the elderly, to common tax schemes, to business opportunity fraud – we will develop comprehensive strategies and implement innovative new solutions for preventing and combating consumer fraud in the years ahead.

To put it simply: my colleagues and I are counting on you.   American consumers are depending on you.   And I look forward to all that we will accomplish together.

Thank you.

HUBBLE PANCHROMATIC VISION OF GALAXY CENTAURUS A


“Resembling looming rain clouds on a stormy day, dark lanes of dust crisscross the giant elliptical galaxy Centaurus A. Hubble's panchromatic vision, stretching from ultraviolet through near-infrared wavelengths, reveals the vibrant glow of young, blue star clusters and a glimpse into regions normally obscured by the dust. The warped shape of Centaurus A's disk of gas and dust is evidence for a past collision and merger with another galaxy. The resulting shockwaves cause hydrogen gas clouds to compress, triggering a firestorm of new star formation. These are visible in the red patches in this Hubble close-up. At a distance of just over 11 million light-years, Centaurus A contains the closest active galactic nucleus to Earth. The center is home for a supermassive black hole that ejects jets of high-speed gas into space, but neither the supermassive black hole or the jets are visible in this image. This image was taken in July 2010 with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration Acknowledgment: R. O'Connell (University of Virginia) and the WFC3 Scientific Oversight Committee”

The above picture and excerpt are from the NASA website: 

NASA SAYS WORLD WILL NOT END ON 12-21-12

The following excerpt is from the NASA website:

12-21-2012 Just Another Day03.07.12 ›   The issue with Dec. 21, 2012 and the predicted disasters that some folks think will come, probably started with the so-called end of the Mayan calendar.

Their calendar does not end on Dec. 21, 2012. It's just the end of the cycle and the beginning of a new one.

It's just like on Dec. 31st, our calendar comes to an end but a new calendar for the next year begins on Jan. 1st.

Niburu is suppose to be a planet that's four times the size of the Earth. It's going to get very close to the Earth and cause all kinds of disasters.

So this enormous planet is suppose to be coming toward Earth, but if it were, we would've seen it long ago and if it were invisible somehow, we would've seen the affects of this planet on neighboring planets.

Thousands of astronomers who scan the night skies on a daily basis have not seen this.

And then there's folks who think that NASA astronomers are actually hiding this information so as to prevent panic from the populous.

Can you imagine thousands of astronomers who observe the skies on a nightly basis keeping the same secret from the public for several years?

Some folks think there's going to be a solar storm associated with Dec. 21st of 2012.

Now, solar storms do exist. The sun's activity goes through a cycle that reaches a maximum every eleven years.

The next solar maximum when you might expect enhanced solar activity will take place actually in May of 2013.

It's supposed to be fairly mild solar activity maximum and there's no evidence that there's going to be any solar storms.

And then we have planetary alignments. There's a planetary alignment.

The sun, the Earth and some of the planets are aligned and this is going to cause some tidal effects on the Earth that's going to be catastrophic.

Well, first of all, there are no planetary alignments in December of 2012 and even if there were, there are no tidal effects on the Earth as a result.

The only two bodies in the solar system that can affect the Earth's tides are the moon, which is very close, and the sun, which is massive and also fairly close.

But the other planets have a negligible effect on the Earth. One of the myths for Dec. 21, 2012 is that the Earth's axes are going to somehow shift.

The rotation axis can't shift because of the orbit of the moon around the Earth stabilizes it and doesn't allow it to shift.

The magnetic field does shift from time to time but the last time it did was 740,000 years ago and it doesn't do that sort of a shift but every half million years or so.

But there's no evidence that's going to happen in December and even if it were to be shifting, it takes thousands of years to do so.

And even if it did shift it's not going to cause a problem on the Earth apart from the fact that we're going to have to recalibrate our compasses.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Since the beginnning of recorded time, there have been literally hundreds of thousands of predictions for the end of the world and we're still here.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology



U.S. REP. EXPLAINS VOTING NO ON DRAFT REVOLUTION REGARDING PALESTINIAN WOMEN

The following excerpt is from a U.S. State Department e-mail: 

"Explanation of Vote by John Sammi, Deputy U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council, at the Commission on the Status of Women on a Draft Resolution on the Situation of, and Assistance to, Palestinian Women
John F. Sammis
United States  Deputy Representative to ECOSOC
U.S. Mission to the United Nations New York, NY
March 9, 2012
AS DELIVERED
Madam Chair,
We take the floor to express our disappointment with this resolution and to explain our vote against it. The United States, along with many of our international partners, remains committed to supporting the Palestinian people, including Palestinian women, in practical and effective ways. Our deep interest in improving humanitarian conditions is reflected in our ongoing support of vital programs that continue to break ground in integrating gender into the public reform and development process, and in creating environments that enable Palestinian women to advance and lead.

The United States is the largest bilateral donor to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides education, healthcare, and social and relief services to five million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza. The U.S. government contributed more than $249 million to UNRWA in 2011, and we have contributed $55 million in 2012 thus far. The United States also contributes significant amounts to bilateral assistance and to other UN programs that assist Palestinian women and the entire Palestinian population.
We remain concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, including reports that Hamas authorities have undertaken efforts to limit women's freedom of movement and ability to appear in public, and that enforcement of "ethical" crimes in Gaza appears to be on an upward trend. We reiterate our support for additional efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of Gazans and will continue to work with the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and international partners to improve the lives of ordinary people.

In light of this, we remain troubled at this body's insistence on including political elements and one-sided condemnations that detract from the real challenges at hand. We implore this Commission to refocus its energy toward our shared goals, as this resolution is unhelpful to all involved.

President Obama laid out in May 2011 his vision for a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which would involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.
Madam Chair,
Our goal remains a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in the Middle East. We are working closely with the Quartet on our shared goal - resumed direct negotiations between the parties in fulfillment of the goals outlined by the Quartet last September. Only through direct negotiations can the parties address and resolve their differences and achieve lasting peace, and we support all efforts that move us in that direction.

Thank you, Madam Chair.”

Friday, March 9, 2012

U.S. EXPORTED $180.8 BILLION IN GOODS AND SERVICES IN JANUARY 2012

The following excerpt is from an Export-Import Bank e-mail:

"U.S. EXPORTS HIT MORE THAN $180 BILLION IN JANUARY


WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States exported $180.8 billion in goods and services in January 2012, an increase of  more than $1 billion over December 2011, according to data released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) of the U.S. Commerce Department.

Exports of goods and services over the last twelve months totaled $2.118 trillion, which is more than 34 percent above the level of exports in 2009. Over the last twelve months, exports have been growing at an annualized rate of 15.3 percent when compared to 2009, a pace greater than the 15 percent required to double exports by the end of 2014.
"The Brookings Institute yesterday released the report, “Export Nation 2012,” and it confirmed that exports are leading the way toward economic recovery,” said Fred P. Hochberg, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank). 

The Brookings report also found sales grew by more than 11 percent in 2010, the fastest growth since 1997. In terms of job creation, the number of U.S. total export-supported jobs increased by almost 6 percent in 2010, even as the overall economy was still losing jobs. Further, large metropolitan areas powered the nation’s export growth – the largest metro areas produced almost 65 percent of the U.S. export sales in 2010.

Over the last twelve months, the major export markets with the largest annualized increase in U.S. goods purchases were Turkey (40.7 percent), Panama (37.9 percent), Argentina (34.0 percent), Honduras (32.9 percent), Chile (30.2 percent), Hong Kong (30.2 percent), Peru (29.0 percent), South Africa (27.6 percent), Brazil (26.7 percent), and Guatemala (25.6 percent).
In the first quarter of fiscal year 2012, Ex-Im Bank approved $4.26 billion in authorizations, supporting approximately 37,000 American jobs. Over $789 million in export financing was authorized for small businesses, and the number of small business customers increased by 10% over the same quarter in 2011.

ABOUT EX-IM BANK
Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that helps create and maintain U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing at no cost to American taxpayers. In the past five years, Ex-Im Bank has earned for U.S. taxpayers nearly $1.9 billion above the cost of operations. The Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working capital guarantees, export-credit insurance and financing to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services."

VOICE OF AMERICA CELEBRATES 70TH ANNIVERSARY


The following excerpt is from a U.S. State Department e-mail:

“Voice of America 70th Anniversary
Remarks Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State Washington, DC
March 8, 2012
For seventy years, the Voice of America has been a trusted source of news and information for millions around the world. Since its birth, VOA has consistently adapted to our rapidly changing world – growing from a radio broadcast service into a vibrant multimedia network that employs every medium there is, from television to Twitter. Still, it remains as true to its mission today as it was in 1942.

In parts of the world where the voice of freedom is muted or muffled, you have stood at the front lines of the struggle for a free media. At times, you risk your lives, or even sacrifice them. Earlier this year, we lost a Pakistani correspondent who, despite multiple threats on his life, dedicated himself to giving his audience fair and accurate reports from his corner of the world. Today, we pay tribute to Mukarram and other members of the VOA family whom we have lost over the years.

We are proud of you and grateful for your work. Time and time again, you defy foreign governments that seek to stifle your signal, piercing through Iron Curtains and electronic ones, for the sake of illuminating the enduring strength of our democratic values. So as you mark your 70th anniversary, I congratulate all of you who have built this worldwide network into what it is today. Thank you for being the Voice of America.”

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON MEETS WITH LIBYAN PRIME MINISTER ELKEIB

The following excerpt is from a Department of State e-mail:
“Remarks With Prime Minister Elkeib After Their Meeting
Remarks Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State Treaty Room
Washington, DC
March 8, 2012
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, everyone. I just have to express that it is not only an honor, but a personal pleasure to welcome the prime minister of a free Libya on his visit to Washington, where he’s had excellent consultations in the White House meeting with, among others, the President, and an excellent presentation before the UN Security Council yesterday in New York. Just think, this time last year, the United States was working to build an international coalition of support for the Libyan people, and today we are proud to continue that support as the people of Libya build a new democracy that will bring about peace and prosperity and protect the rights and dignity of every citizen.

The prime minister and I had a very productive, comprehensive discussion about the many issues Libya is facing. We do not underestimate how challenging the road ahead will be. We are aware of that. We’ve been on the path to democracy for more than 235 years, and we know that there are potholes and pitfalls along the way. Qadhafi spent 42 years hollowing out Libya’s institutions, ruling through intimidation and division, but after his defeat, over the last four months, the prime minister and this interim government have provided essential and effective leadership and they’ve begun the hard work of putting Libya back together. We’ve seen progress in each of the three key areas of democratic society – building an accountable, effective government; promoting a strong private sector; and developing a vibrant civil society. And we will stand with the people of Libya as it continues this important work.

On the governance front, the interim leadership has established an inclusive election law and set up a supreme elections commission with the goal of holding constitutional assembly elections this June. This is a critical first step that will pave the way for a new constitution grounded in democratic principles. We fully support the elections commission as it works to meet its deadlines and ultimately elect a fully democratic parliament that can begin delivering results for the Libyan people. We’re also encouraged by the prime minister’s and the government’s commitment to promoting human rights and the rule of law, and we are offering help to the government as they continue investigating allegations of human rights violations. They realize and we applaud their commitment to ending this kind of violence in the new free Libya.

We also know there are problems with border security, with integrating militias, with working toward national reconciliation, and on all of these and more, we are working with our Libyan partners. At the same time, on the economic front, business is picking up. Libya has exceeded everyone’s expectations in resuming oil production. The United States and the UN have removed almost all restrictions on doing business, and we are encouraging American companies to look for opportunities inside Libya. We also are supporting the booming new civil society that is developing in Libya. I was delighted when I visited Tripoli to go to the university, to talk with young people, to meet with others who are fighting for women’s rights and human rights in their country.

Our Middle East Partnership Initiative and USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives are working with many civil society groups. And the UN support mission in Libya is playing a valuable role. We’re exploring ways to promote partnerships and exchanges in the health field with a particular emphasis on continuing to assist the war wounded. We’re looking at establishing a U.S.-Libya higher education task force with the goal of expanding academic and student exchanges. And I am pleased that we will begin providing visa services at Embassy Tripoli for Libyan Government officials. We want to get permanent facilities, but obviously in the short term, we want to set up shop and begin to reach out in the most important way – on a people-to-people basis to the Libyans.

So Mr. Prime Minister, I and our government look forward to working with you and the Libyan people as you continue to make progress on behalf of a new, free, democratic Libya.

PRIME MINISTER ELKEIB: Madam Secretary of State, thank you very much for your kind words and for hosting me today and my team. On behalf of the Libyan people, I extend our deepest appreciation to the American people and leadership and say, simply and deeply, thank you. I also thank Dr. – President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Ambassador Rice for having been a tremendous support and for their strong leadership in supporting the Libyan revolution, which has been so successful that it did indeed impress everybody. We Libyans are very proud of our young men and women who brought freedom to our country after 42 years of a brutal regime that nobody felt would disappear in eight months. So we do thank our friends and partners so much for having been there when we needed them.

We have come here today to find ways on how we can work and how we can better work together. One of the things that I did request help with from Madam Secretary was the remnant of the past regime. They have been a nuisance and have been – they have been causing problems and we need them back to give them proper justice. And we also need the funds they have stolen from the Libyan people to come back to Libya. So we look forward to help in that area from the U.S. and from everybody else who can help us here. It’s very important to us.

During the revolution, the Libyan people demonstrated time and time again great courage and resilience. Our citizen army of teachers and mechanics, lawyers, students, professors, our sons and daughters suffered great losses along with the civilian population, but with great bravery and unfortunately too much in terms of losses. But however, in the end, we succeeded in making the dream of a free Libya a reality, and we’ll keep it that way.
We also, in a direct fashion and I hope Madam Secretary would forgive me for having done that, requested help with our wounded young men with very difficult cases. And the response was very positive, and we cannot thank you enough for that. Libyans are putting the same energy and determination that fueled the revolution into establishing a new Libya that has a positive contribution, maybe in a small way, at least, to the environment around it and to the world around it. And we are determined to do that. Libya needed the facelift and the revolution has given it to her. We are looking for a new Libya founded on the principles of democratic governance and rule of law and dedicated to improving the quality of life for the Libyan citizens. And we call on our friends and partners who helped us to become free to also help us meet the aspirations of our people.

We had a very productive meeting today that focused on a number of areas of mutual interest and future opportunities for cooperation between our two countries. The Libyan Government is fully committed to holding free, fair, and transparent elections in June, and we look for continued support from the U.S. and our partners in that area. Now that the war of liberation of Libya is almost over – after we get those remnants of the past regime, it will be over – now that we are – the war is almost over, the U.S. private sector can help play an important role in rebuilding Libya and enabling us to meet our aspirations for peace, prosperity, and high quality of life. And we are determined to do that.
In the past year, the dynamics between the U.S. and Libya has been dramatically transformed for the better. We look forward to the continued strengthening of this relationship as Libya moves forward with its democratic transition and rebuilding its economy.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, sir.

MS. NULAND: We have time to take two questions today. We’ll start with Reuters, Andy Quinn.

QUESTION: Good morning. My questions will focus on Libya, if I may. Mr. Prime Minister, first for you, at the United Nations yesterday, the Russian Ambassador to the Security Council accused Libya of running camps to arm and train Syrian rebels. I’m hoping you can respond directly to this accusation. And also to discussion of these calls for autonomy in Benghazi and concern that this is going to threaten the future of the Libyan revolution, can you address that, please?
And for Madam Secretary, I’m wondering if you can tell us if you received any new assurances on the Megrahi case in your discussions today.
And both of you, if you could discuss what lessons Syria’s rebels should take from the Libyan experience. Thank you.

MS. NULAND: That was four questions.

SECRETARY CLINTON: It was four questions. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

PRIME MINISTER ELKEIB: Excuse me. On the Syrian issue, we, I believe, were the first country to recognize the Syrian Transitional Council, and we did it because we felt that the Syrian cause is a good cause. It’s people who are voicing their voice, raising their voice, asking for freedom. As far as training camps, unless this is something that is done without government permission, which I doubt, I’m not aware of any.

Concerning the East, the issue of a group of not more than few thousand trying to create a state, I can tell you this is democracy in practice; that is simply that. I know the person who is appointed by this small group. I know him very well, he’s actually a friend, and I have respect for him as a result of his past. I disagree with the approach not because it’s an opinion that people are sharing with others but because it has to be toward a constitution that we are about to create, that this issue should be raised.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Andy, I, of course, raised the Megrahi Pan Am 103 issue as I do whenever I meet with Libyan officials. You know where I stand. I believe that Megrahi should still be behind bars. And we know that Libya faces a multitude of challenges, but at the same time they have assured us that they understand the sensitivities of this case, and they will give the matter the consideration it deserves. We will continue to fight for justice for all the victims of Qadhafi and his regime. And in this particular case, the U.S. Department of Justice has an open case, and it will remain open while we work together on it.

Finally, with respect to Syria, I think what we saw coming out of Libya with the unity and the vision that the Transitional National Council presented to the world with the close linkage between the civilian representatives and the fighters for freedom, they presented a unified presence that created an address as to where to go to help them, a lot of confidence in their capacities on the ground, their commitment to the kind of inclusive democracy that Libya is now building. And we are working closely with the Syrian opposition to try to assist them to be able to present that kind of unified front and resolve that I know they feel in their own – on their behalf is essential in this struggle against the brutal Assad regime.

MS. NULAND: Last question is (inaudible) Lachlan.

QUESTION: Good morning to both of you. Madam Secretary, if I may on Iran, the P-5+1 issued at the IAEA a statement calling for Iran to open up the facility at Parchin. Do you consider that a condition for the talks to go ahead? And how confident are you that Iran will come to these talks seriously discussing the nuclear concerns you have?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Lachlan, I think that what we have demonstrated consistently through the P-5+1 is that the international community is united. We are united in our concerns and condemnation of Iran’s actions that violate their international obligations, and we are united in continuing to press the Iranian regime to come to the diplomatic forum that the P-5+1 offers. So as the president made clear in his remarks just a few days ago, we continue to believe we have space for diplomacy. It is obviously coupled with very strong pressure in the form of the toughest sanctions that the international community’s ever imposed.

We want to begin discussions with Iran. They insist that their nuclear program is purely peaceful and if that’s the case, then openness and transparency, not only with the P-5+1 but also with the IAEA and the Security Council and the international community, is essential. That’s why we want to respond as we did, positively, to the letter that came from the Iranians. I would also draw your attention to the statement that China released today in Vienna on behalf of the P-5+1 with regard to our expectations that access to Parchin and other Iranian sites will be provided. So we are hoping that the Iranians will come to the table prepared to have the kind of serious and sincere discussion we have been looking for, for several years. We think it is even more pressing and imperative today than it has been in the past and we would like to see diplomatic progress, which we support.
Thank you all very much."




FORMER COCA-COLA BOTTLING CO. EXECUTIVE IS CHARGED WITH INSIDER TRADING


The following excerpt was from the SEC website:

“SEC Charges Former Executive at Coca-Cola Bottling Company with Insider Trading
Washington, D.C., March 8, 2012 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a former executive at a Coca-Cola bottling company with insider trading based on confidential information he learned on the job about potential upcoming business with The Coca-Cola Company.

The SEC alleges that Steven Harrold, who was a Vice President at Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., purchased company stock in his wife’s brokerage account after learning that his company had agreed to acquire The Coca-Cola Company’s bottling operations in Norway and Sweden. The stock price jumped 30 percent when the deal was announced publicly the following day, enabling Harrold to make an illicit $86,850 profit.
“Harrold deliberately flouted the federal securities laws and specific company restrictions in his purchases and trades of Coca-Cola Enterprises stock,” said Rosalind R. Tyson, Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office. “His employer entrusted him with critical nonpublic information, and Harrold shattered that trust to bottle up extra cash.”

Coca-Cola Enterprises is one of the world’s largest marketers, producers and distributors of Coca-Cola products, and its stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the stock symbol CCE. The Coca-Cola Company (ticker symbol: KO) develops and sells its products and syrup concentrate to Coca-Cola Enterprises and other bottlers.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Harrold was regularly in possession of sensitive, confidential information as an executive at CCE. On numerous occasions, Harrold signed non-disclosure agreements requiring him to keep confidential any information he learned about acquisitions being considered. Harrold also periodically received blackout notices prohibiting him from trading in company stock for a defined period in which he was likely to be in possession of confidential information.

The SEC alleges that Harrold, who lives in Los Angeles and London, was informed in early January 2010 that CCE was considering the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Company’s Norwegian and Swedish bottling operations. He signed a non-disclosure agreement requiring him to maintain the confidentiality of any nonpublic information he learned about the potential transaction. Harrold also received an e-mail from CCE’s legal counsel informing him that he was subject to a blackout period and was prohibited from trading in CCE stock “until further notice.”

Nevertheless, the SEC alleges that Harrold purchased 15,000 CCE shares in his wife’s brokerage account on Feb. 24, 2010, the day before the announcement of the transaction with The Coca-Cola Company. The insider trading was based on certain confidential information that Harrold learned in the days leading up to the announcement, including that the transaction was internally valued at more than $800 million and was viewed as creating significant positive growth opportunities for CCE.

The SEC’s complaint charges Harrold with violating Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5(a) and (c) thereunder. The complaint seeks a final judgment ordering Harrold to pay a financial penalty and disgorge his ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest, preventing him from serving as an officer or director of a public company, and permanently enjoining him from future violations of those provisions of the federal securities laws.
The SEC acknowledges the assistance of FINRA in this matter.

APOLLO 9 TESTING OF ORBITAL DOCKING





"This image, taken on March 6, 1969, shows the Apollo 9 Command and Service Modules docked with the Lunar Module. Apollo 9 astronaut Dave Scott stands in the open hatch of the Command Module, nicknamed "Gumdrop," docked to the Lunar Module "Spider" in Earth orbit. His crewmate Rusty Schweickart, lunar module pilot, took this photograph from the porch of the lunar module. Inside the lunar module was Apollo 9 commander Jim McDivitt. The crew tested the orbital rendezvous and docking procedures that made the lunar landings possible. Image Credit: NASA "

The picture and excerpt above are from the NASA website:

ISAF COMMANDER CONDEMNS TERRORIST ATTACK IN AFGHANISTAN'S SPIN BOLDAK DISTRICT


The following excerpt is from a Department of Defense American Forces Press Service e-mail:



"ISAF Commander Condemns Spin Boldak Murders

From an International Security Assistance Force News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, March 8, 2012 - The commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan joined Afghan President Hamid Karzai in condemning yesterday's terrorist attack in the Spin Boldak district of Afghanistan's Kandahar province that killed four people and wounded eight others, military officials reported.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones who mourn this evening, and we wish for a quick recovery of those who were injured," Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen said after yesterday's attack. "More innocent Afghans died today at the hands of the insurgency."

Two children and a woman were among those killed when a motorcycle loaded with explosives detonated in a crowd.

"The blatant murdering of Afghan civilians must stop, and the Taliban leadership needs to hold their own members accountable for their actions against the innocent," Allen said. ISAF service members will continue to work with Afghan security forces "to identify these enemies of the Afghan people, and hold them to account," the general added."

SEC CHARGES CEO OF PENNY STOCK COMPANY OF PUMP-AND-DUMP SCHEME


The following excerpt is from the Securities and Exchange Commission website:

“Washington, D.C., March 7, 2012 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a Las Vegas-based food and beverage company and its CEO with conducting a fraudulent pump-and-dump scheme, and charged several consultants for their illegal sales of company shares into the markets.

The SEC alleges that Prime Star Group Inc. under the direction of CEO Roger Mohlman issued false and misleading press releases that touted lucrative agreements for the company’s food and beverage products. For example, Prime Star falsely claimed in a March 2010 press release that it had entered in a distribution agreement with another company in the beverage business valued at up to $16 million annually. Furthermore, certain Prime Star reports filed with the SEC understated the company’s net losses or overstated its cash balance.

The SEC suspended trading in Prime Star in June 2011 due to questions about the adequacy and accuracy of information about the company.
“Prime Star and Mohlman used backdated consulting agreements and forged attorney opinion letters as a means to issue millions of shares to the consultants who then dumped them on unsuspecting investors,” said Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office. “The SEC will persist in its efforts to stamp out microcap fraud schemes.”

Since the beginning of fiscal year 2011, the SEC has filed more than 50 enforcement actions for misconduct related to penny stocks, and issued more than 65 orders suspending the trading of suspicious microcap issuers. Microcap stocks are issued by the smallest of companies and tend to be low priced and trade in low volumes. Many penny stock companies do not file financial reports with the SEC, so investing in them entails many risks. The SEC has published a microcap stock guide for investors and an Investor Alert about avoiding microcap fraud perpetrated through social media.
The SEC’s complaint against Prime Star and Mohlman alleges that they fraudulently issued free-trading

Joshua Konigsberg of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
The SEC alleges that Prime Star and Mohlman pumped the stock by exaggerating the company’s operations and contracts in a series of press releases issued in October 2009 and March 2010. For instance, they issued an October 14 press release claiming Prime Star’s subsidiary Wild Grill Foods had received purchase orders for more than $1.25 million of seafood products. Mohlman was quoted saying, “Prime Star Group is thrilled at the growth of this business unit. We will continue to grow the Wild Grill brand, its domestic distribution, and have begun exploring international opportunities for distribution abroad.” However, in reality, Prime Star’s just-established Wild Grill subsidiary had no operations and there were no purchase orders.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Prime Star’s press releases coincided with the illegal issuance of millions of unregistered shares of Prime Star stock to the purported business consultants from August 2009 to March 2010. Although Prime Star had a class of shares registered pursuant Section 12(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, that section does not permit transfers of those shares. To transfer Prime Star stock in compliance with the securities laws, Mohlman, Prime Star and the consultants had to either register an offering of the company’s shares or meet an exemption to the offering registration requirement. However, they did neither.

The SEC alleges that Mohlman and Prime Star’s fraudulent promotional activities caused Prime Star’s stock price and trading volume to increase markedly. For instance, on March 16, a prior day press release caused trading volume to spike to more than 16 million shares, which was 10 times more than the previous day’s trading volume. Prime Star’s stock price plummeted the following day.

The SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Nevada alleges Prime Star and Mohlman violated Sections 5(a), 5(c), and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The complaint also alleges that Prime Star violated Sections 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act and Rules 12b-20, 13a-1 and 13a-13 thereunder. The complaint further alleges that Mohlman violated Section 13(b)(5) of the Exchange Act and Rules 13a-14, 13b2-1 and 13b2-2 thereunder and aided and abetted Prime Star’s violations of Sections 10(b), 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act and Rules 10b-5, 12b-20, 13a-1 and 13a-13 thereunder. The SEC also alleges Section 5(a) and 5(c) violations against Colon, Morera, Rivera, DC International Consulting, Carson, Gullatt, The Stone Financial Group, and Konigsberg.

One of the consultants — Konigsberg — has agreed to settle the SEC’s charges without admitting or denying the allegations by consenting to the entry of a judgment that would enjoin him from future violations of Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act. The SEC is seeking penalties and disgorgement plus prejudgment interest against the other consultants and Mohlman as well as an officer and director bar against Mohlman, penny stock bars against Mohlman, Colon, Morera, Rivera, Carson, and Gullatt, and permanent injunctions against all defendants. Separately, the Commission instituted administrative proceedings to determine whether the registration of each class of Prime Star securities should be revoked or suspended based on its failure to file required periodic reports.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Julie Russo, Elisha Frank, and Karaz Zaki of the Miami Regional Office, and Edward McCutcheon is leading the SEC’s litigation.”

Thursday, March 8, 2012

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED UNEMPLOYMENT ROSE BY 8,000 LAST WEEK


The following excerpt is from the Department of Labor website:
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE WEEKLY CLAIMS REPORT
          SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending March 3, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 362,000, an increase of 8,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 354,000. The 4-week moving average was 355,000, an increase of 250 from the previous week's revised average of 354,750.
The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.7 percent for the week ending February 25, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate.
The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending February 25, was 3,416,000, an increase of 10,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 3,406,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,417,500, a decrease of 27,500 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,445,000.
UNADJUSTED DATA
The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 365,754 in the week ending March 3, an increase of 31,513 from the previous week. There were 407,299 initial claims in the comparable week in 2011.
The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.1 percent during the week ending February 25, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 3,979,563, an increase of 97,038 from the preceding week. A year earlier, the rate was 3.6 percent and the volume was 4,460,146.
The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending February 18 was 7,387,648, a decrease of 111,222 from the previous week.
Extended benefits were available in Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin during the week ending February 18.
Initial claims for UI benefits by former Federal civilian employees totaled 1,136 in the week ending February 25, a decrease of 133 from the prior week. There were 2,286 initial claims by newly discharged veterans, a decrease of 176 from the preceding week.
There were 27,150 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending February 18, a decrease of 1,520 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 41,594, a decrease of 576 from the prior week.
States reported 2,929,210 persons claiming EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits for the week ending February 18, an increase of 24,377 from the prior week. There were 3,600,522 claimants in the comparable week in 2011. EUC weekly claims include first, second, third, and fourth tier activity.
The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending February 18 were in Alaska (6.5), Rhode Island (4.6), Montana (4.5), Wisconsin (4.5), Idaho (4.4), Oregon (4.4), Pennsylvania (4.4), New Jersey (4.2), Puerto Rico (4.2), Massachusetts (4.0), and Michigan (4.0).
The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending February 25 were in Massachusetts (+3,475), Rhode Island (+1,275), New Jersey (+1,274), Connecticut (+1,186), and Michigan (+564), while the largest decreases were in California (-4,531), Pennsylvania (-2,238), Texas (-1,535), New York (-1,321), and Florida (-1,124).