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Saturday, July 7, 2012

AFGHANISTAN TO BE MAJOR NON-NATO ALLY



FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Major Non-NATO Ally Status for Afghanistan
Fact Sheet Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC
July 7, 2012
On May 2, 2012, President Obama and President Karzai signed the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. As part of this agreement, the United States pledged to designate Afghanistan a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA). Following the entry into force of the Strategic Partnership Agreement on July 4, President Obama signed the MNNA designation for Afghanistan on July 6. Afghanistan is the first country to be designated an MNNA since 2004.

MNNA designation provides a long-term framework for our security and defense cooperation. It reinforces the strong bilateral defense relationship between the United States and Afghanistan by helping support aligned defense planning, procurement, and training. Only a limited number of countries have this special status. MNNA qualifies a country for certain privileges supporting defense and security cooperation but does not entail any security commitment to that country.

Some of the privileges of MNNA status include eligibility for training, loans of equipment for cooperative research and development, and ultimately Foreign Military Financing for commercial leasing of certain defense articles. While the United States and the international community already provide significant security assistance to Afghanistan, in the long-term as Afghanistan takes on greater financial responsibility for its own security, MNNA status will be a critical catalyst for maintaining effective Afghan National Security Forces and building a robust peace-time security relationship between Afghanistan and the United States.

MNNA status is a symbol of the strong relationship between Afghanistan and the United States based on mutual respect and shared interests. It is a significant example of the United States’ long-term commitment to Afghanistan and our close cooperation.

GENERAL TAKES UP RAPTOR FIGHTER


FROM:  AMERICAN FORCES PRESS SERVICE
Air Force Staff Sgt. Joshua Bard straps Gen. Mike Hostage into an F-22 Raptor aircraft for his qualification flight at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 27, 2012. Hostage is the commander of Air Combat Command based at Langley Air Force Base, Va., and Bard is a crew chief with the 43rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit. U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Cokeing  

Face of Defense: Air Force General Pilots Raptor Fighter
By Justin Oakes
Air Combat Command
LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va., July 6, 2012 - Air Combat Command's senior airman completed F-22 Raptor pilot qualification recently, reinforcing his personal stake in the Air Force's efforts to identify the root cause of unexplained physiological incidents involving a small number of Raptor crews.

"As airmen, risk is part of our lives as members of the military," said Gen. Mike Hostage, the commander of Air Combat Command. "I'm asking these airmen to assume some risk that exceeds the norm in day-to-day training, and I have to be willing to do it myself and experience firsthand what they do."

Hostage completed his F-22 qualification training with the 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 27.

"Flying the airplane allows me to understand exactly what our airmen are dealing with," Hostage said. "It's an amazing airplane to fly, and I'm confident in the procedures we have in place to help enhance crew safety."

Since September 2011, when the aircraft returned to flight operations, the Air Force has worked to determine why a very small number of pilots have experienced symptoms such as dizziness while flying or disorientation post-flight, and to reduce the risk of those incidents. In January 2012, the Air Force created the F-22 Life Support Systems Task Force, which consists of approximately two dozen ACC specialists and hundreds of others from across the Air Force and other governmental agencies, including NASA and the Navy, as well as industry partners.

"We've had a 99.9 percent effective flying rate relative to these unknown physiological incidents, but that is not good enough," Hostage said. "The task force has made great progress, and the collaboration between our Air Force experts and others from NASA, the Navy and industry is exceptional. I'm confident we're on the right track, ensuring the safety of our crews and maintaining the F-22's combat readiness."

Air Combat Command is leading the F-22 life support task force, which has implemented several risk mitigation measures since the return-to-fly in September. Those measures include comprehensive inspections of aircraft and aircrew life support systems; a greater awareness and emphasis on pilots' recognition of any indication of a potential problem; the installation of a better-designed handle to activate the emergency oxygen system; the fielding of pulse oximeters that allow pilots to cross-check symptoms against measurements of the oxygenation of their blood's hemoglobin; and numerous other non-material enhancements.

"We have taken a 9-1-1 call approach," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Lyon, the ACC's director of operations and the task force lead. "We have instructed our airmen in the field that whenever they get any indication that something may not be right, knock it off, the flying equivalent of calling 9-1-1, and terminate the flight. We focus all our attention on them and the safe recovery of the aircraft."

Most recently, ACC directed pilots to remove the upper pressure garment of their aircrew flight equipment during routine flight operations. Recent centrifuge testing revealed some issues with the garment, which places added pressure on a pilot's chest and restricts breathing in some instances.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that we've identified the major factors that have caused symptoms of oxygen deprivation in some of our F-22 pilots," Lyon said. "We've learned some significant things over the past several months that help protect our crews and maintain our combat readiness for the nation."

Lyon also said he is satisfied that, after extensive testing, no harmful contaminants are moving through the oxygen system. He went on to say a major focus of the task force now is looking at the physiological-support equipment and exploring commonalities in the flight profiles -- the combination of various altitudes and maneuvers -- that could be common in the incidents.

As the task force continues its analysis of factors contributing to physiological incidents, it remains in ongoing dialogue with F-22 pilots, maintainers and life support airmen through regular video teleconferences and a series of town hall meetings.

Meanwhile, Hostage plans to use his time in the Raptor to experience F-22 operations firsthand and continue engaging in personal dialogue with Raptor crews.
"Flying with F-22 pilots and interacting directly with our maintenance and life support airmen helps me better understand and validate what we've learned and what we're continuing to learn about safer operation of the aircraft in a really demanding flight environment," he said.

"The F-22 is vitally important to this nation and the joint warfighting team, and our Raptor pilots and ground crews are up to the task," Hostage said. "Our adversaries pay very careful attention to where it is and what it's doing. Our friends are very reassured by its presence. And it's ready to meet combatant commander requirements anywhere in the world -- all because of our airmen who make it happen."

USS CAPE ST. GEORGE DEMONSTRATES FIREPOWER



FROM:  U.S. NAVY
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) performs a firepower demonstration alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Lincoln is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and combat flight operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joshua E. Walters (Released) 120705-N-NB694-186

DOJ OFFICIAL ON PROTECTING INVESTORS FROM FRAUD


FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Protecting Investors from Fraud
The following post appears courtesy of Barbara L. McQuade, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan
Investor fraud schemes are among the most pervasive types of cases handled by the White Collar Crime Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.
In the past year, our prosecutors have charged a number of investment advisors and stock brokers with defrauding their investors. In one case, a defendant encouraged elderly investors to liquidate legitimate investments to invest with him. In fact, he kept their funds for his own use, depleting many of the victims of their life savings, totaling $4 million. In another case, a defendant offered investments over the Internet, promising high returns and taking in $72 million in investor dollars. Instead, the investments either generated losses or were never made at all.

Victims of fraud include individual investors with modest portfolios as well as institutional investors with large investments, such as pension funds.

President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force was designed to attack fraud, waste and abuse by increasing coordination among agencies and fully leveraging the government’s law enforcement and regulatory system. As part of that effort, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan is aggressively prosecuting financial fraud cases. In the largest investment scheme in the history of the district, a defendant was recently convicted of defrauding more than 1,200 individuals by convincing them to invest more than $350 million in fictitious limited liability corporations. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

In addition to prosecuting perpetrators, we are also combating fraud by raising public awareness to help investors protect themselves. Knowledge of common fraud schemes can help prevent individuals from becoming victims of these crimes.

One of the most common investor fraud schemes is the classic “Ponzi” scheme, named for Charles Ponzi, who devised the concept in the 1920s. In a Ponzi scheme, the investment promoter promises investors a high rate of return for their investment and then uses the funds of new investors to pay the promised return to the earlier investors. These early investors then unwittingly help advance the scheme by bragging about the high rate of return on their investment. Eventually, of course, the scheme collapses when the swindler needs to pay out more than he can take in. A recent example of this type of fraud was the massive scheme Bernard Madoff operated that cost investors billions of dollars.

Another common scheme is known as affinity fraud. In these schemes, perpetrators prey on members of an identifiable group, such as a church community, a school parent-teacher organization, a country club or a professional group. The investment advisor will join the group, or pretend to be part of it. As a result, he enjoys an inflated credibility that encourages members of the group to trust him and be less cautious than they might otherwise be when making an investment.

Another frequently used tactic used by perpetrators of investment fraud is to ingratiate themselves with their victims. In one recent case, a defendant regularly visited his clients at home, shared details of his personal life with them, attended family functions, such as birthday parties and weddings, provided gifts to family members, made donations to the clients’ preferred charities, and assisted clients in life decisions. After obtaining their trust, he took their money for his own use.

U.S.-GUINEA RELATIONS


Map Credit:  U.S. Department Of State/CIA 
FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
U.S. Relations With Guinea
Bureau of African Affairs
Fact Sheet
June 5, 2012
The United States maintained close relations with Guinea prior to the country's 2008 military coup d’etat, which the U.S. condemned. Following Guinea's presidential elections in 2010, the United States reestablished strong diplomatic relations with the government. U.S. policy seeks to encourage Guinea's democratic reforms, its positive contribution to regional stability, and sustainable economic and social development.
The United States has called on the Government of Guinea to establish an electoral timeline for free, fair, and timely legislative elections, which have been repeatedly delayed. Dialogue between Guinea's Government and political party leadership is essential, and the U.S. has strongly encouraged all political players to reconcile their differences.

U.S. Assistance to Guinea
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) mission in Guinea has a core program that supports democratic transition and election processes, good governance at the local level, and improved service delivery by government institutions through key interventions at the national level. USAID also has significant programming intended to improve health outcomes through improved standards of care and community engagement. Regional programming supports preservation of World Heritage forest sites and critical biodiversity hotspots in Guinea.

Peace Corps volunteers work in four project areas: secondary education, environment/agro-forestry, public health and HIV/AIDS prevention, and small enterprise development.

Bilateral Economic Relations
In late 2011, the U.S. Government reinstated Guinea's African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) benefits, which had been lost in early 2010. The reinstatement followed a review by the U.S. Government to examine whether the country had made "continual progress" in meeting AGOA's eligibility criteria. Those criteria include establishment of a market-based economy, rule of law, economic policies to reduce poverty, protection of internationally recognized worker rights, and efforts to combat corruption; political progress was a key factor. Restoring AGOA eligibility provided opportunities to increase mutually beneficial trade and investment between Guinea and the United States.
The United States and Guinea have signed an investment guarantee agreement offering political risk insurance to U.S. investors through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

Guinea's Membership in International Organizations
Guinea has been active in efforts toward regional integration and cooperation. Guinea and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

U.S.-GHANA RELATIONS


Map Credit:  U.S. State Department. 
U.S.-GHANA RELATIONS
The United States established diplomatic relations with Ghana in 1957 following its independence from the United Kingdom. The United States and Ghana share a long history promoting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Ghana has set an example for countries throughout Africa in promoting governance and regional stability.
The U.S. and Ghanaian militaries have cooperated in numerous joint training exercises through U.S. Africa Command, and there is a bilateral International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, a Foreign Military Financing program, as well as numerous Humanitarian Affairs projects. Ghana continues to participate in the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program, in which the U.S. facilitates the development of an interoperable peacekeeping capacity among African nations. Ghana also enjoys a relationship with the North Dakota National Guard, under the auspices of the State Partnership Program.

Through the U.S. International Visitor Program, Ghanaian parliamentarians and other government officials have become acquainted with U.S. congressional and state legislative practices and have participated in programs designed to address other issues of interest. Youth exchanges and study abroad programs are also robust and growing between U.S. and Ghanaian universities and NGO’s. At the U.S. state level, the State Partnership Program aims to promote greater economic ties between Ghana and U.S. institutions, including the National Guard.

The United States has enjoyed good relations with Ghana at a nonofficial, people-to-people level since Ghana's independence. Thousands of Ghanaians have been educated in the United States. Close relations are maintained between educational and scientific institutions, and cultural links are strong, particularly between Ghanaians and African-Americans.

U.S. Assistance to Ghana
U.S. development assistance to Ghana is implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the African Development Foundation, and others. USAID-managed development assistance to Ghana has supported the country in increasing food security, improving basic health care, enhancing access to quality basic education, and strengthening local governance to benefit all Ghanaians. The West Africa Trade Hub, located in Accra, provides technical assistance to help small businesspersons to grow their businesses and access new customers in the United States and the West African region. The Peace Corps has a large program in Ghana, with volunteers working in education, agriculture, and health (including HIV/AIDS, malaria, sanitation, and nutrition).

Bilateral Economic Relations
The United States is among Ghana's principal trading partners, with two-way trade between the two countries rapidly increasing and reaching nearly $2 billion in 2011. A number of major U.S. companies operate in the country. Political stability, overall sound economic management, a low crime rate, competitive wages, and an educated, English-speaking workforce enhance Ghana's potential as a West African hub for American businesses. The discovery of major oil reserves in deep water in the Gulf of Guinea has led numerous international petroleum exploration firms to enter the Ghanaian market, and many other firms involved in oil and gas auxiliary services have expressed interest in starting operations in the country.

Ghana's Membership in International Organizations
In foreign affairs, Ghana generally follows the consensus of the Nonaligned Movement and the African Union on economic and political issues that do not directly affect its own interests. Ghana and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Ghana also is an observer to the Organization of American States.

U.S. CONCERNED OVER DEVELOPMENTS IN ROMANIA


Map Credit:  U.S. State Department.
FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Concerns over Political Developments in Romania
Press Statement Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC
July 6, 2012
We are concerned about recent developments occurring in Romania, our NATO Ally and partner, which threaten democratic checks and balances and weaken independent institutions, such as the courts. As the government contemplates the serious step of removing Romania’s head of state, we urge that the process be conducted in a fully fair and transparent manner, with scrupulous respect for the rule of law and democratic ideals. The United States stands with our EU partners and urges that Romania uphold and protect the common values and principles that unite the European and trans-Atlantic community of nations.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM THE U.S STATE DEPARTMENT
ROMANIA
PROFILE
Geography
Area: 237,499 sq. km. (91,699 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Wyoming.
Cities: Capital--Bucharest (pop. 1.94 million). Other cities--Iasi (309,000), Constanta (302,000), Timisoara (316,000), Cluj-Napoca (306,000), Craiova (299,000), Galati (291,000), Brasov (278,000).
Terrain: Consists mainly of rolling, fertile plains; hilly in the eastern regions of the middle Danube basin; and major mountain ranges running north and west in the center of the country, which collectively are known as the Carpathians.
Climate: Moderate.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Romanian(s).
Population (2010): 21.49 million.
Annual population growth rate: -0.247%.
Ethnic groups: Romanians 89.5%, Hungarians 6.6%, Germans 0.3%, Ukrainians 0.3%, Serbs, Croats, Russians 0.2%, Turks 0.2%, and Roma 2.5%.
Religions: Orthodox 86.8%; Roman Catholic 5%; Reformed Protestant, Baptist, and Pentecostal 5%; Greek Catholic (Uniate) 1% to 3%; Muslim 0.2%; Jewish less than 0.1%.
Languages: Romanian (official). Other languages--Hungarian, German.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Attendance--98%. Literacy--97.3%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2010)--11.32/1,000. Life expectancy--men 70.26 years, women 77.42 years.
Work force (2010): 9.72 million. Agriculture--3.0 million, industry and construction--2.8 million, services--3.3 million, other--0.3 million.

Government
Type: Republic.
Constitution: December 8, 1991, amended by referendum October 18-19, 2003.
Branches: Executive--president (head of state), prime minister (head of government), Council of Ministers. Legislative--bicameral Parliament. Judicial--Constitutional Court, High Court of Cassation and Justice, and lower courts.
Subdivisions: 41 counties plus the city of Bucharest.
Political parties represented in the Parliament are: Democratic Liberal Party (Partidul Democrat Liberal--PDL); Social Democratic Party (Partidul Social Democrat--PSD); National Liberal Party (Partidul National Liberal--PNL); Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (Uniunea Democrata Maghiara din Romania--UDMR); National Union for the Advancement of Romania (Uniunea Nationala pentru Progresul Romaniei--UNPR); Conservative Party (Partidul Conservator--PC).
Suffrage: Universal from age 18.
Defense (2010): 1.4% of GDP.

Economy
GDP (2010): $162 billion.
Annual GDP growth rate (2010): -1.3%; latest IMF 2011 growth forecast: +1.5%.
GDP per capita: $7,538.
Natural resources: Oil, timber, natural gas, coal, salt, iron ore.
Agriculture (2010): Percentage of GDP--6.0%. Products--corn, wheat, potatoes, oilseeds, vegetables, livestock, fish, and forestry.
Industry (2010): Percentage of GDP--26.4%. Types--machine building, mining, construction materials, metal production and processing, chemicals, food processing, textiles, clothing. Industrial output increased by 0.9% in 2008, decreased 5.5% in 2009, and rebounded with a 5.5% increase in 2010.
Services (2010): Percentage of GDP--47.6%.
Construction (2010): Percentage of GDP--8.9%.
Trade: Exports--$48.8 billion. Types--textiles, chemicals, light manufactures, wood products, fuels, processed metals, machinery and equipment. Exports to the U.S. (2010)--$734.0 million. Major markets--Germany, Italy, France, Turkey, Hungary. Imports--$61.2 billion.Types--machinery and equipment, textiles, fuel, coking coal, iron ore, machinery and equipment, and mineral products. Imports from the U.S. (2010)--$750.4 million. Major suppliers--Germany, Italy, Hungary, France, China.
Exchange rate (October 2011): 3.18 new Lei (RON)=U.S. $1.

GEOGRAPHY
Extending inland halfway across the northern limits of the Balkan Peninsula and covering a large elliptical area of 237,499 square kilometers (91,699 sq. mi.), Romania occupies the greater part of the lower basin of the Danube River system and the hilly eastern regions of the middle Danube basin. It lies on either side of the mountain systems collectively known as the Carpathians, which form the natural barrier between the two Danube basins.

Romania's location gives it a continental climate, particularly in Moldavia and Wallachia (geographic areas east of the Carpathians and south of the Transylvanian Alps, respectively) and to a lesser extent in centrally located Transylvania, where the climate is more moderate. A long and at times severe winter (December-March), a hot summer (April-July), and a prolonged autumn (August-November) are the principal seasons, with a rapid transition from spring to summer. In Bucharest, the daily minimum temperature in January averages -7oC (20oF), and the daily maximum temperature in July averages 29oC (85oF).

PEOPLE
About 89% of the people are ethnic Romanians, a group that--in contrast to its Slav or Hungarian neighbors--traces itself to Latin-speaking Romans, who in the second and third centuries A.D. conquered and settled among the ancient Dacians, a Thracian people. As a result, the Romanian language, although containing elements of Slavic, Turkish, and other languages, is a Romance language related to French and Italian.

Hungarians and Roma are the principal minorities, with a declining German population and smaller numbers of Serbs, Croats, Ukrainians, Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Great Russians, and others. Minority populations are greatest in Transylvania and the Banat, areas in the north and west, which belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire until World War I. Even before union with Romania, ethnic Romanians comprised the overall majority in Transylvania. However, ethnic Hungarians and Germans were the dominant urban population until relatively recently, and ethnic Hungarians still are the majority in a few districts.

Before World War II, minorities represented more than 28% of the total population. During the war that percentage was halved, largely by the loss of the border areas of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina (to the former Soviet Union--now Moldova and a portion of southwest Ukraine) and southern Dobruja (to Bulgaria), as well as by the postwar flight or deportation of ethnic Germans. In the last several decades, more than two-thirds of the remaining ethnic Germans in Romania emigrated to Germany.

Romanian troops during World War II participated in the destruction of the Jewish communities of Bessarabia and Transnistria (both now comprising the independent Republic of Moldova) and northern Bukovina (now part of Ukraine). Jews in areas now comprising Romania also were subject to harsh persecution, including government-sanctioned pogroms and killings, and about 30% did not survive the Holocaust. Mass emigration, mostly to Israel, has reduced the surviving Jewish community from over 300,000 to less than 10,000.

Religious affiliation tends to follow ethnic lines, with most ethnic Romanians identifying with the Romanian Orthodox Church. Also ethnically Romanian is the Greek Catholic or Uniate Church, reunified with the Orthodox Church by fiat in 1948, and restored after the 1989 revolution. The 2002 census indicates that 1%-3% of the population is Greek Catholic, as opposed to about 10% prior to 1948. Roman Catholics, largely ethnic Hungarians and Germans, constitute about 5% of the population; Calvinists, Baptists, Pentecostals, and Lutherans make up another 5%. There are smaller numbers of Unitarians, Muslims, and other religions.

Romania's cultural traditions have been nourished by many sources, some of which predate the Roman occupation. The traditional folk arts, including dance, music, wood-carving, ceramics, weaving and embroidery of costumes and household decorations still flourish in many parts of the country. Despite strong Austrian, German, and especially French influence, many of Romania's great artists, such as the painter Nicolae Grigorescu, the poet Mihai Eminescu, the composer George Enescu, and the sculptor Constantin Brancusi, drew their inspiration from Romanian folk traditions.

The country's many Orthodox monasteries, as well as the Transylvanian Catholic and Evangelical Churches, some of which date back to the 13th century, are repositories of artistic treasures. The famous painted monasteries of southern (Romanian) Bukovina make an important contribution to European architecture.

Poetry and the theater play an important role in contemporary Romanian life. Classic Romanian plays, such as those of Ion Luca Caragiale, as well as works by modern or avant-garde Romanian and international playwrights, find sophisticated and enthusiastic audiences in the many theaters of the capital and smaller cities.

HISTORY
Since about 200 B.C., when it was settled by the Dacians, a Thracian tribe, Romania has been in the path of a series of migrations and conquests. Under the emperor Trajan early in the second century A.D., Dacia was incorporated into the Roman Empire, but was abandoned by a declining Rome less than 2 centuries later. Romania disappeared from recorded history for hundreds of years, to reemerge in the medieval period as the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. Heavily taxed and badly administered under the Ottoman Empire, the two principalities were unified under a single native prince, Alexandru Ioan Cuza, in 1859, and had their full independence ratified in the 1878 Treaty of Berlin. A German prince, Carol of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, was crowned the first King of Romania in 1881.

The new state, squeezed between the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian Empires, looked to the West, particularly France, for its cultural, educational, and administrative models. Romania was an ally of the Entente Powers and the U.S. in World War I, and was granted substantial territories with Romanian populations, notably Transylvania, Bessarabia, and Bukovina, after the war.

Most of Romania's pre-World War II governments maintained the forms, but not always the substance, of a liberal constitutional monarchy. The virulently anti-Semitic and Fascist Iron Guard movement, exploiting a quasi-mystical nationalism, fear of communism, and resentment of alleged foreign and Jewish domination of the economy, was a key destabilizing factor, which led to the creation of a royal dictatorship in 1938 under King Carol II. In 1940, the authoritarian General Antonescu took control and pursued pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic policies similar to those advocated by the Iron Guard. Romania entered World War II on the side of the Axis Powers in June 1941, invading the Soviet Union to recover Bessarabia and Bukovina, which had been annexed in 1940.

In August 1944, a coup led by King Mihai (Michael), with support from opposition politicians and the army, deposed the Antonescu dictatorship and put Romania's battered armies on the side of the Allies. Romania incurred additional heavy casualties fighting alongside the Soviet Union against the Germans in Transylvania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia.

A peace treaty, signed in Paris on February 10, 1947, confirmed the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina, but restored the part of northern Transylvania granted to Hungary in 1940 by Hitler. The treaty also required massive war reparations by Romania to the Soviet Union, whose occupying forces did not leave until 1958.

According to the officially recognized 2004 Wiesel Commission report, Romanian authorities were responsible for the deaths of between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews in the territories under Romanian jurisdiction (including Bessarabia, Bukovina, and Transnistria) out of a population of approximately 760,000. In addition, 132,000 Romanian Jews were killed by the pro-Nazi Hungarian authorities in the area of Transylvania that the Nazi government had placed in Hungarian control at the time.

The Soviets pressed for inclusion of Romania's heretofore negligible Communist Party in the post-war government, while non-communist political leaders were steadily eliminated from political life. King Mihai abdicated under pressure in December 1947, when the Romanian People's Republic was declared, and went into exile.

By the late 1950s, Romania's communist government began to assert some independence from the Soviet Union. Nicolae Ceausescu became head of the Communist Party in 1965 and head of state in 1967. Ceausescu's denunciation of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and a brief relaxation in internal repression helped give him a positive image both at home and in the West. Seduced by Ceausescu's "independent" foreign policy, Western leaders were slow to turn against a regime that, by the late 1970s, had become increasingly harsh, arbitrary, and capricious. Rapid economic growth fueled by foreign credits gradually gave way to economic autarchy accompanied by wrenching austerity and severe political repression.

After the collapse of communism in the rest of Eastern Europe in the late summer and fall of 1989, a mid-December protest in Timisoara against the forced relocation of an ethnic Hungarian pastor grew into a country-wide protest against the Ceausescu regime, sweeping the dictator from power. Ceausescu and his wife were executed on December 25, 1989, after a cursory military trial. About 1,500 people were killed in confused street fighting. An impromptu governing coalition, the National Salvation Front (FSN), installed itself and proclaimed the restoration of democracy and freedom. The Communist Party was dissolved and its assets transferred to the state. Ceausescu's most unpopular measures, such as bans on private commercial entities and independent political activity, were repealed.

Ion Iliescu, a former Communist Party official demoted by Ceausescu in the 1970s, emerged as the leader of the FSN. Presidential and parliamentary elections were held on May 20, 1990. Running against representatives of the pre-war National Peasants' Party (PNTCD) and National Liberal Party (PNL), Iliescu won 85% of the vote. The FSN captured two-thirds of the seats in Parliament (66.31% of the votes), and named a university professor, Petre Roman, as prime minister. The strongest parties in opposition in the election were the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) with 7.23% of the votes, and the National Liberal Party with 6.41%. The new government began cautious free-market reforms such as opening the economy to consumer imports and establishing the independence of the National Bank.

Over 200 new political parties sprang up after 1989, gravitating around personalities rather than programs. All major parties espoused democracy and market reforms, with the governing National Salvation Front proposing slower, more cautious economic reforms. In contrast, the opposition's main parties--the National Liberal Party and the National Peasant-Christian Democrat Party (PNTCD)--favored quick, sweeping reforms, immediate privatization, and reducing the role of the ex-communist elite. Nevertheless, the legacy of 44 years of communist rule could not be eliminated quickly. Membership in the Romanian Communist Party usually had been the prerequisite for higher education, foreign travel, or a good job, while the extensive internal security apparatus had subverted normal social and political relations. To the few active dissidents, who suffered gravely under Ceausescu and his predecessors, many of those who came forward as politicians after the revolution seemed tainted by association with the previous regime.

Unhappy at the continued political and economic influence of members of the Ceausescu-era elite, anti-communist protesters camped out in University Square in April 1990. When miners from the Jiu Valley descended on Bucharest 2 months later and brutally dispersed the remaining "hooligans," President Iliescu expressed public thanks, thus convincing many that the government had sponsored the miners' actions. The miners also attacked the headquarters and houses of opposition leaders. Petre Roman’s government fell in late September 1991, when the miners returned to Bucharest to demand higher salaries and better living conditions. Theodor Stolojan was appointed to head an interim government until new elections could be held.

Parliament drafted a new democratic constitution, approved by popular referendum in December 1991. The FSN split into two groups, one led by Ion Iliescu (FDSN) and the other by Petre Roman (FSN), in March 1992. Roman's party subsequently adopted the name Democratic Party (PD), and the FDSN became the Party of Social Democracy of Romania (PDSR) in July 1993.

National elections in September 1992 returned President Iliescu by a clear majority; he easily won reelection over a field of five other candidates. His party, the FDSN, won a plurality in both chambers of Parliament. The 1992 elections revealed a continuing political cleavage between major urban centers and the countryside. Rural voters, who were grateful for the restoration of most agricultural land to farmers but fearful of change, strongly favored President Ion Iliescu and the FDSN, while the urban electorate favored the CDR (a coalition made up of several parties--among which the PNTCD and the PNL were the strongest--and civic organizations) and quicker reform. With the CDR, the second-largest parliamentary group, reluctant to take part in a national unity coalition, the FDSN formed a technocratic government in November 1992 under Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu, an economist, with parliamentary support from the nationalist Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) and Greater Romania Party (PRM), and the ex-communist Socialist Labor Party (PSM). PRM and PSM left the government in October and December 1995, respectively, and all three smaller parties had abandoned the coalition by the time elections were held in November 1996.

The 1996 local elections demonstrated a major shift in the political orientation of the Romanian electorate. Opposition parties swept Bucharest and many of the larger cities. This trend continued in the national elections that same year, when the opposition dominated the cities and made deep inroads into rural areas up until then dominated by President Iliescu and the PDSR, which lost many voters in their traditional strongholds outside Transylvania. The campaign of the opposition hammered away on the twin themes of the need to squelch corruption and to launch economic reform. The message resonated with the electorate, which swept Emil Constantinescu and parties allied with him to power in free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections. The coalition government formed in December 1996 took the historic step of inviting the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) and its Hungarian ethnic backers into government. The coalition government retained power for 4 years despite constant internal frictions and going through three prime ministers, the last being the Governor of the National Bank, Mugur Isarescu.

In elections in November 2000, the electorate punished the coalition parties for their corruption and failure to improve the standard of living. The PDSR came back into power, albeit as a minority government. In the concurrent presidential elections, former President Ion Iliescu decisively defeated the extreme nationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM) leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor. The PDSR was renamed PSD--Social Democratic Party--at a June 16, 2001 congress after it merged with the tiny yet historical Romanian Social Democratic Party.

The PSD government, led by Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, forged a de facto governing coalition with the ethnic Hungarian UDMR, ushering in 4 years of relatively stable government. The PSD guided Romania toward greater macroeconomic stability, although endemic corruption remained a major problem. In September 2003, the center-right National Liberal Party (PNL) and centrist Democratic Party (PD) formed an alliance at a national and local level in anticipation of the 2004 local and national elections, and Romania moved closer to a political system dominated by two large political blocs.

In October 2003, citizens voted in favor of major amendments to the constitution in a nationwide referendum to bring Romania's organic law into compliance with European Union standards.

On November 28, 2004, Romania again held parliamentary and the first round of presidential elections. In the December 12 presidential run-off election, former Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu, representing the center-right PNL/PD alliance, delivered a surprise defeat to PSD candidate Nastase. Basescu appointed PNL leader Calin Popescu-Tariceanu as prime minister, whose government was approved by the Parliament on December 28, 2004.

This coalition unraveled by April 2007 due to enmity between the president and prime minister. From 2007 until December 2008, former Prime Minister Tariceanu's PNL ran an ultra-minority government in coalition with the UDMR and tacit support of the PSD. Following parliamentary elections on November 30, 2008, in which the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL) and PSD virtually tied, a majority PDL/PSD coalition led by PDL Prime Minister Emil Boc governed until October 2009, when it disbanded. The PDL ruled as a caretaker government until a new coalition government was formed in December 2009, made up of the PDL, UDMR, and some National Union for the Advancement of Romania (UNPR) members and independents.

Presidential elections were held in November 2009. Since no candidate garnered a majority of the votes of eligible voters, the top two vote getters--incumbent President Traian Basescu and Senate President Mircea Geoana (PSD)--went on to a second-round runoff. The December 2009 runoff election resulted in a narrow victory for Basescu, who was inaugurated later that month for a second 5-year term.

GOVERNMENT
Romania's 1991 constitution proclaims Romania a democracy and market economy, in which human dignity, civic rights and freedoms, the unhindered development of human personality, justice, and political pluralism are supreme and guaranteed values. The constitution directs the state to implement free trade, protect the principle of competition, and provide a favorable framework for production. The constitution provides for a president, a Parliament, a Constitutional Court, and a separate system of ordinary courts that includes a Supreme Court.

The two-chamber Parliament, consisting of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, is the law-making authority. Deputies and senators are elected for 4-year terms by universal suffrage. The president, mayors, and county council presidents are elected individually; members of Parliament are elected under a mixed election system (majority and proportional); and local and county council members are elected on party slates, in proportion to party choices made by the electorate.

The president is elected by popular vote for a maximum of two terms. The length of the term was extended from 4 to 5 years in an October 2003 constitutional referendum. He is the head of state, charged with safeguarding the constitution, foreign affairs, and the proper functioning of public authorities. He is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and chairman of the Supreme Defense Council. According to the constitution, he acts as mediator among the power centers within the state, as well as between the state and society. The president nominates the prime minister, who in turn appoints the government, which must be confirmed by a vote of confidence from Parliament.

The Constitutional Court adjudicates the constitutionality of challenged laws and decrees. The court consists of nine judges, appointed for non-concurrent terms of 9 years. Three judges are appointed by the Chamber of Deputies, three by the Senate, and three by the president of Romania.

The Romanian legal system is based on the Napoleonic Code. The judiciary is to be independent, and judges appointed by the president are not removable. The president and other judges of the High Court of Cassation and Justice are appointed for terms of 6 years and may serve consecutive terms. Proceedings are public, except in special circumstances provided for by law.

The Ministry of Justice represents "the general interests of society" and defends the legal order as well as citizens' rights and freedoms. The ministry is to discharge its powers through independent, impartial public prosecutors.

For territorial and administrative purposes, Romania is divided into 41 counties and the city of Bucharest. Each county is governed by an elected county council. Local councils and elected mayors are the public administration authorities in villages and towns. The county council is the public administration authority that coordinates the activities of all village and town councils in a county.

The central government appoints a prefect for each county and the Bucharest municipality. The prefect is the representative of the central government at the local level and directs any public services of the ministries and other central agencies at the county level. A prefect may block the action of a local authority if he deems it unlawful or unconstitutional. The matter is then decided by an administrative court.

Under legislation in effect since January 1999, local councils have control over the spending of their allocations from the central government budget, as well as authority to raise additional revenue locally.

Principal Government Officials
President of Romania--Traian Basescu
Prime Minister--Mihai Razvan Ungureanu
Deputy Prime Minister--Marko Bela
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Cristian Diaconescu

Other Ministers
Minister of Regional Development and Tourism--Cristian Petrescu
Minister of European Affairs--Leonard Orban
Minister of Justice--Catalin Marian Predoiu
Minister of Defense--Gabriel Oprea
Minister of Administration and Interior--Gabriel Berca
Minister of Economy, Trade and Business Climate--Lucian Bode
Minister of Public Finance--Bogdan Dragoi
Minister of Labor, Family and Social Protection--Claudia Boghecevici
Minister of Agriculture, Forests, and Rural Development--Stelian Fuia
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure--Alexandru Nazare
Minister of Education, Research, Youth and Sports--Catalin Baba
Minister of Culture and National Heritage--Kelemen Hunor
Minister of Public Health--Ladislau Ritli
Minister of Communication and Information Technology--Razvan Mustea
Minister of Environment and Forests--Laszlo Borbely

Romania maintains an embassy in the United States at 1607 23rd St., NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-332-4846 or 202-332-4848; fax: 202-232-4748).

POLITICAL CONDITIONS
November 2008 parliamentary elections resulted in a virtual tie between the center-right PDL and the center-left PSD, with each holding between 34%-37% of the seats in each chamber. The ruling center-right PNL finished a distant third, and PNL Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu resigned. After intense negotiations among various configurations of the PDL, PSD, and PNL, a majority PDL/PSD coalition government was formed in December 2008 with Emil Boc as new prime minister. Among the new government’s top priorities were addressing the effects of global economic turmoil on Romania’s economic development, and coping with significant fiscal challenges facing the Romanian Government’s budget.

In October 2009, the PNL, PSD, and the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) filed a no-confidence motion after Prime Minister Boc dismissed Deputy Prime Minister/Interior Minister Dan Nica of the PSD. The no-confidence motion carried, ousting Boc’s minority government, and marking the first time since the revolution of 1989 that a no-confidence motion toppled a Romanian government. However, difficulty in nominating and approving a new cabinet allowed Boc to remain in power as a caretaker through both the November and December 2009 rounds of the presidential election.

Concerns over Romania’s economic situation dominated the November 2009 presidential election, contested by incumbent Traian Basescu of the PDL, Mircea Geoana of the PSD, and Crin Antonescu of the PNL. Basescu (32.8%) and Geoana (29.8%) advanced to the second round of elections in December. Despite charges of electoral irregularities, the Constitutional Court certified Basescu the winner over Geoana by 0.7%, or 70,000 votes. Following his victory, Basescu asked acting Prime Minister Boc to again form a new cabinet. The Parliament approved the new government in late December, alleviating 2 months of political instability. Dedicated to modernization, education, and judicial and government reform, the Basescu administration’s main focus remains Romania’s continued recovery from economic recession.

Romania has made great progress in institutionalizing democratic principles, civil liberties, and respect for human rights since the 1989 revolution. Political parties represent a broad range of views and interests, and elected officials and other public figures freely express their views. Civil society watchdog groups remain relatively small but have grown in influence. The press is free and outspoken, although there have been incidents of politically motivated intimidation and even violence against journalists and media management, particularly prior to the 2004 national elections. Independent radio networks have proliferated, and several private television networks now operate nationwide. In addition, a large number of local private television networks have emerged.

Through support of or participation in consecutive government coalitions, the UDMR has ensured the continuing influence of the ethnic Hungarian minority in national government, and presently serves as part of the ruling coalition government. Consecutive governments have sought to improve the socio-economic situation of the Roma minority, which continues to suffer from severe poverty in many areas and from discrimination. According to government statistics Roma officially represent 2.5% of the population, although Romani organizations claim the figure may be as high as 10%.

The restitution of private and religious property seized under communism or during World War II continues to move very slowly. Particularly problematic is the return of Greek-Catholic churches, which were given to the Romanian Orthodox Church by the communist regime. The Romanian Orthodox Church thus far has turned over very few of these churches, many of which had belonged to the Greek Catholic community for hundreds of years. Romania has repealed communist-era legislation criminalizing homosexual acts and banned xenophobic and racist groups and their activities. Romanian law does not prohibit women's participation in government or politics, but societal attitudes remain a significant barrier. Women hold some high positions in government and roughly 10% of the seats in each chamber in the Parliament.

ECONOMY
Romania is a country of considerable potential: rich agricultural lands, diverse energy sources (coal, oil, natural gas, hydro, and nuclear), a substantial industrial base encompassing almost the full range of manufacturing activities, an educated work force, and opportunities for expanded development in tourism on the Black Sea and in the Carpathian Mountains.

The Romanian Government borrowed heavily from the West in the 1970s to build a substantial state-owned industrial base. Following the 1979 oil price shock and a debt rescheduling in 1981, Ceausescu decreed that Romania would no longer be subject to foreign creditors. By the end of 1989, Romania had paid off a foreign debt of about $10.5 billion through an unprecedented effort that wreaked havoc on the economy and living standards. Vital imports were slashed and food and fuel strictly rationed, while the government exported everything it could to earn hard currency. With investment slashed, Romania's infrastructure fell behind its historically poorer Balkan neighbors.

After the fall of the Ceausescu regime in 1989, the pace of restructuring was slow, but by 1994 the legal basis for a market economy was largely in place. After the 1996 elections, the coalition government attempted to eliminate consumer subsidies, float prices, liberalize exchange rates, and put in place a tight monetary policy. The Parliament enacted laws permitting foreign entities incorporated in Romania to purchase land. Foreign capital investment in Romania had been increasing rapidly until 2008, although it remained less in per capita terms than in some other countries of Central and East Europe.

Romania was the largest U.S. trading partner in Eastern Europe until Ceausescu's 1988 renunciation of most favored nation (MFN, or non-discriminatory) trading status resulted in high U.S. tariffs on Romanian products. Congress approved restoration of MFN status effective November 8, 1993, as part of a new bilateral trade agreement. Tariffs on most Romanian products dropped to zero in February 1994, with the inclusion of Romania in the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). Major Romanian exports to the U.S. include chemicals, steel and metallic items, plastics and rubber items, and clothing.

Romania signed an Association Agreement with the European Union (EU) in 1992 and a free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in 1993, codifying Romania's access to European markets and creating the basic framework for further economic integration. At its Helsinki Summit in December 1999, the European Union invited Romania to formally begin accession negotiations. In December 2004, the European Commission (EC) concluded pre-accession negotiations with Romania. In April 2005, the EU signed an accession treaty with Romania and its neighbor, Bulgaria, and in January 2007, both countries were welcomed as new EU members.

Romania suffered through a deep economic recession beginning with the 2008 global financial crisis, but should return to positive if very modest growth. The Romanian Government concluded a 2-year, $27 billion financial assistance package with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission, and the World Bank in March 2009. Austerity measures included a 25% cut in public sector wages, a hike in the national value added tax (VAT) rate from 19% to 24%, and thousands of layoffs. GDP declined by 7.1% in 2009 and a further 1.3% in 2010. In late 2010 and early 2011 the government also pushed several important pieces of reform legislation through Parliament, including pension reforms, an overhaul of public sector pay systems, and modernization of the labor code. The final IMF review of Romania’s compliance with the 2009 package, conducted in February 2011, declared the agreement a “success” in stabilizing the economy. A new 2-year “precautionary” agreement between Romania and the IMF, effective March 2011, focuses on deepening structural reforms, restructuring or privatizing unprofitable state-owned enterprises (SOEs), clearing arrears, improving quality of public spending and strengthening tax collection, further liberalizing electric energy and natural gas pricing, and preserving the financial-banking sector’s stability.

Restructuring and privatization of the state-owned enterprises and curbing SOE arrears that currently are estimated to make up approximately 3.6% of GDP are among the most difficult challenges identified in mid-2011 by a joint IMF/EC technical mission. The initial goal of reducing total SOE arrears to RON 19.7 billion (or Euro 4.46 billion, approx. $6 billion), by the end of June 2011 was not met. It remains unclear whether further arrears targets will be met either. SOEs experiencing these problems are concentrated in transportation, mining, and the energy sector.

Privatization of industry was first pursued with the transfer in 1992 of 30% of the shares of some 6,000 state-owned enterprises to five private ownership funds, in which each adult citizen received certificates of ownership. The remaining 70% ownership of the enterprises was transferred to a state ownership fund. With the assistance of the World Bank, European Union, and IMF, Romania succeeded in privatizing most industrial state-owned enterprises, including some large state-owned energy companies. Romania completed the privatization of the largest commercial bank (BCR) in 2006. Two state-owned banks remain in Romania, Eximbank and the National Savings Bank (CEC). Four of the country's eight regional electricity distributors have now been privatized. Privatization of natural gas distribution companies also progressed with the sale of Romania's two regional gas distributors, Distrigaz Nord (to E.ON Ruhrgas of Germany) and Distrigaz Sud (to Gaz de France). Further progress in energy sector privatization has been delayed by the planned creation of two integrated, state-owned energy producers combining hydro, nuclear, and thermal power producers. After the courts ruled against the bundling, the government dropped the initial plan and is now contemplating two smaller-scale regional bundling projects that would result in the vertical integration of lignite mines with lignite-fired power plants, and of pit coal mines with pit coal-fired power plants. The project has to receive clearance from the Romanian Competition Council before proceeding. Romania has a nuclear power plant at Cernavoda, with one nuclear reactor in operation since 1996 and a second one commissioned in the fall of 2007.

The return of collectivized farmland to its cultivators, one of the first initiatives of the post-December 1989 revolution government, resulted in a short-term decrease in agricultural production largely due to agricultural land fragmentation. Some four million small parcels representing 80% of the arable surface were returned to original owners or their heirs. Many of the recipients were elderly or city dwellers, due to large-scale rural emigration abroad, and the slow process of granting formal land titles remains an obstacle to leasing or selling land to active farmers.

The IMF, World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and European Investment Bank (EIB) all have programs and resident representatives in Romania. U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs were phased out completely in 2008, except for Small Project Assistance Grants, which are still available through the Peace Corps. According to the National Office of the Trade Register, which measures foreign direct capital registered and disbursed to firms, between 1990 and July 2011 Romania attracted a total of $41.97 billion in foreign direct investment, of which the U.S. represented 2.22%. The actual level of U.S. investment, however, is underreported as much of it flows to Romania through European subsidiaries of U.S. companies.

After years of consistently high inflation in the 1990s, Romania's inflation rate steadily decreased through 2004, only to rise again along with high GDP growth rates of 4% to 8% through 2008. The deep recession beginning in late 2008 dramatically reduced inflationary pressures, but the VAT tax hike from 19% to 24% imposed in mid-2010 reversed that trend and pushed prices higher. Stoked also by rising global food and energy prices, inflation hit an annualized rate of 8% at the end of 2010, the highest in the EU. Assisted by depressed domestic demand, good harvests, and decreasing food prices, inflation gradually fell in the first 9 months of 2011, reaching a September-annualized low rate of 3.45%, within the central bank’s 2011 targeted band. The IMF has been critical of Romania's low rate of tax collection and poor enforcement mechanisms as a medium- to long-term impediment to growth, since Romania still has one of the lowest percentages in the EU of revenues collected, at 33% of GDP in 2010. The current account deficit had been a concern, as it reached 13.6% of GDP in 2007 and 12.4% of GDP in 2008. However, due to the recession, the current account deficit dropped to 4.2% of GDP in 2010. Deteriorating health and education services and aging and inadequate physical infrastructure continue to be seen as threats to future growth.

Romania's budget deficit dropped steadily to only 0.8% of GDP in 2005, but then skyrocketed again, peaking at 7.2% in 2009. The major culprits for the rising deficit were serious tax evasion, runaway government procurement spending, and unsustainable increases in public sector wages, public pensions, and social assistance. Under the 2009 IMF agreement the deficit was pared to 6.5% of GDP in 2010 and was on track to reach the target of 4.4% in 2011, though additional austerity measures may be needed to get the deficit under 3% by 2012, a more ambitious budget deficit target for a multiple-election year.

Driven by the recession, official unemployment peaked at 7.8% in December 2009 but then dropped to 6.9% by the end of 2010 despite substantial layoffs in the public sector, and declined further to 4.8% in June 2011. More public sector layoffs might be carried out, though a gradual return to growth in the private sector should fuel a correspondingly gradual recovery in job creation.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Since December 1989, Romania has actively pursued a policy of strengthening relations with the West in general, and specifically with the U.S. and the European Union. Romania was a helpful partner to the allied forces during the first Gulf War, particularly during its service as president of the UN Security Council. Romania has been active in peace support operations in Afghanistan, the UN Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM), the Implementation Force/Stabilization Force (IFOR/SFOR) in Bosnia, the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) in Kosovo, and in Albania. Romania also offered important logistical support to allied military operations in Iraq in 2003 and, after the cessation of organized hostilities, has participated in coalition security and reconstruction activities. Romania is a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which it chaired in 2001.

In 1996, Romania signed and ratified a basic bilateral treaty with Hungary that settled outstanding issues and laid the foundation for closer, more cooperative relations. In June 1997, Romania signed a bilateral treaty with Ukraine that resolved certain territorial and minority issues, among others. Romania also signed a basic bilateral treaty with Russia in July 2003.

Romania formally joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2004, and hosted a NATO Summit from April 2-4, 2008. The venue symbolized the expansion of the Alliance from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and set new goals for years to come.

Romania acceded to the European Union on January 1, 2007 along with Bulgaria, bringing the number of EU states to 27. Romania is a strong advocate for a "larger Europe," encouraging other countries that were formerly part of the Soviet sphere to integrate into both NATO and the EU.

Romania has been actively involved in regional organizations, such as the Southeast Europe Cooperation Initiative (SECI) and the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe, and has been a positive force in supporting stability and cooperation in the area.

Romania maintains good diplomatic relations with Israel and was supportive of the Middle East peace negotiations initiated after the Gulf conflict in 1991. Romania also is a founding member of the Black Sea Consortium for Economic Development. It joined the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in 1972, and is a member of the World Trade Organization. 

A SEARCH FOR A VACCINE FOR FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE



From:  U.S. Homeland Security.  Credit:  U.S. Homeland Security 
Caption: One of the first signs of FMD is excessive salivation and lesions on the tongue and hooves. 


FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
A World Free of one of the Most Virulent Animal Diseases?
The Departments of Homeland Security and Agriculture have developed a novel vaccine for one of the seven strains of the dreaded foot-and-mouth disease, paving the way for the development of the others.

One of the most economically devastating diseases in the world for those who raise cows, sheep, pigs, goats, deer and other cloven-hoofed animals is foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). This incredibly contagious and fast-spreading disease causes fever, blisters on the feet and mouth (hence the name), loss of appetite, drooling, and lameness. Most herds affected are culled, as in the case of the 2001 outbreak in Great Britain when over 10 million animals had to be destroyed.

Traditional vaccines for FMD typically have three problems: first, there are so many different strains of the FMD virus that you must have a very well-matched vaccine to have any effect; second, traditional vaccines contain live FMD virus so they cannot be produced in the United States, and; third, depending on a vaccine's quality, it can be nearly impossible to determine whether an animal is actually infected, or has simply been exposed to the vaccine. Unless one can differentiate between vaccinated and infected animals, those animals vaccinated outside the U.S. with the traditional vaccine would be prohibited from entering any country that is designated FMD free. The United States has been FMD-free since 1929, but that is no guarantee that the disease will not strike again, as the UK learned in 2001after being FMD-free for 34 years.


From:  U.S. Homeland Security.  Credit:  U.S. Homeland Security 
Plum Island Animal Disease Center

Now, at the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate's high-containment Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), located off the tip of Long Island, N.Y., scientists have produced a molecular vaccine against one strain of FMD, that 1) does not use a live FMD virus for vaccine manufacture, and, 2) can be used to differentiate an infected from inoculated animal using common diagnostic tests.

"This is the biggest news in FMD research in the last 50 years," says PIADC Director Dr. Larry Barrett. "It's the first licensed FMD vaccine that can be manufactured on the U.S. mainland, and it supports a vaccinate-to-livestrategy in FMD outbreak response."

The new FMD vaccine, originally discovered by Dr. Marvin Grubman in the USDA Agricultural Research Service at PIADC, took seven years to develop and license. Dr. Bruce Harper, Director of Science at PIADC and the manager over PIADC's Targeted Advanced Development Branch, led the development team, who worked with industry partners GenVec Inc., a biopharmaceutical company in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and Antelope Valley Biologics, a Benchmark Biolabs affiliate in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The FMD viral structure includes genetic material surrounded by a coat of proteins called a capsid. The new vaccine produces only the virus coat particles, which form empty viral capsids, and not the entire genome of the virus; thus it lacks the infectious viral nucleic acids. When the vaccine is injected into the animal the resulting empty viral capsids trigger a protective immune response.

"The absence of the nucleic acids of the real virus allows us to differentiate between vaccinated and infected animals," said Grubman. "This is critical when determining that an animal is free of infection after an FMD outbreak. Now it will no longer be necessary to destroy all the animals in a herd when just a few become infected."

The development of the vaccine was a team effort that required new scientific discoveries in order to work properly. Dr. John Neilan, the Branch Chief of the DHS Targeted Advanced Development Branch at PIADC, developed a way to address the immune response to the vaccine, which made it possible to achieve the level of effectiveness required for a USDA license. The vaccine has been granted conditional license for use in cattle by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's Center for Veterinary Biologics. Under the conditional license, the product may be distributed should the need for it arise, as authorized by federal emergency management officials within USDA. APHIS issued the conditional license to Antelope Valley Bios, Inc., who manufactured the vaccine under a contract from GenVec.

The FMD virus, noted since at least the 16th century, survives in lymph nodes and bone marrow. Large amounts of the virus are found in all body secretions and excretions and every time an infected animal breathes out it releases large amounts of infectious virus, exposing other animals. FMD virus can survive on the ground for extended periods, and can be carried in contaminated feed, manure, on the tires of vehicles and on the shoes and clothes of people. It has been documented to spread by being carried with the wind over long distances. The most common route of introduction of FMD into a country has been through feeding contaminated meat product scraps to pigs, as was the case in the devastating 2001 outbreak in the United Kingdom.

There are seven known serotypes and more than 60 subtypes of the FMD virus, and there is no universal vaccine against the disease. Potential cost of an FMD outbreak in United States could exceed $50 billion. FMD is present today in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and parts of South America.

PIADC has entered into a cooperative research and development agreement with an industry partner, Merial, to evaluate the FMD vaccine production process. S&T is also funding efforts to develop vaccines against other foreign animal disease threats such as classical swine fever, African swine fever, and Rift Valley fever.

"Our work isn’t over yet," says S&T's Agricultural Defense Branch Chief Michelle Colby. "This vaccine protects against just one strain of FMD, so this is just the tip of a growing iceberg. DHS has several vaccines for other FMD serotypes ready to enter the licensure process."

SOLAR FLARE PEAKED ON THE 4TH OF JULY



FROM:  NASA
This image, captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows the M5.3 class solar flare that peaked on July 4, 2012, at 5:55 AM EDT. The flare is shown in the 131 Angstrom wavelength, a wavelength that is particularly good for capturing the radiation emitted from flares. The wavelength is typically colorized in teal as shown here. Image Credit: NASA/SDO/AIA/Helioviewer

US Navy Videos SEC. NAVY SPEAKS ON 1812 BICENTENIAL

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TRANSPARENT ARMOR STOPS .30 CAL. BULLET FROM 25 YARDS




FROM:  U.S. AIR FORCE
Bullet proof
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- This ground-finish transparent armor test piece withstood the impact of a .30 caliber armor-piercing bullet fired from 25 yards away using a Russian M-44 sniper rifle. Shown is the test piece, which demonstrates the armor's ability to stop penetration from armor-piercing threats. (U.S. Air Force photo)
051017-F-0000S-001 (1)

ISAF NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN JULY 6, 2012


Photo:  Sandstorm In Afghanistan.  Credit:  U.S. Navy.
FROM:  AMERICAN FORCES PRESS SERVICE
Combined Force Detains Several Suspected Insurgents
Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, July 6, 2012 - An Afghan and coalition security force detained several suspected insurgents during a search for a Taliban improvised explosive device expert in the Ghorak district of Afghanistan's Kandahar province today, military officials reported.

The expert constructs IEDs and supplies them to Taliban leaders throughout the region for use in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, officials said.
In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- Officials confirmed that the Lashkar-e-Taiba insurgent leader Ammar was killed June 29 during an airstrike in the Watahpur district of Kunar province. Ammar had managed a network of insurgents and directed attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout the province. The airstrike also killed the LeT leader, Khatab Shafiq, and several other insurgents. A follow-on assessment confirmed the airstrike had not injured any civilians and had not damaged any civilian property.

-- In the Terayzai district of Khost province, a combined force detained several suspected insurgents and seized one firearm and multiple grenades during a search for a Haqqani leader. The Haqqani leader plans and coordinates attacks against the Afghan government throughout the province.

-- A combined force detained two suspected insurgents during a search for a Taliban bomb maker in the Khugyani district of Nangarhar province. The Taliban bomb maker plans and coordinates attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout the region.

-- A combined force found and cleared four IEDs in Ghazni province. Two IEDs were found in the province's Ghazni district, one in the Khwaia Omari district and one in the Gelan district.
-- A combined force detained one insurgent in Ghazni province's Andar district.
-- A combined force discovered a weapons cache in Ghazni province's Ab Band district. The cache contained items used to create IEDs.

-- A combined force killed one insurgent in Kunar province's Darah Ye Pech district.
-- A combined force found and cleared an IED in Logar province's Pul-E Alam district.
-- A combined force found and cleared four IEDs in Nangarhar province. Two IEDs were found in the province's La'L Pur district, one in the Chapahar district and one in the Achin district.
-- A combined force killed one insurgent in Paktika province's Orgun district.
-- A combined force discovered a weapons cache containing grenades and mortar rounds used to make IEDs in Wardak province's Maidan Shahr district.

-- A combined force killed two insurgents in Wardak province's Sayyidabad district. The insurgents were found with IED-making materials, small arms and ammunition.

U.S.-BELIZE RELATIONS


Map Credit:  U.S. State Department/CIA
FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
U.S. Relations With Belize
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Fact Sheet
June 20, 2012
The United States and Belize traditionally have had close and cordial relations. The United States is home to the largest Belizean community outside Belize, estimated to be over 100,000. Belize's economic growth and accompanying democratic political stability are important U.S. objectives. The United States and Belize are working as partners to address the issues of citizen security and transnational crime. The two countries have mutual legal assistance treaties with each other covering stolen vehicles and extraditions. Both governments seek to control the flow of illegal migrants to the United States through Belize.

U.S. Assistance to Belize
The United States works closely with the Government of Belize to fight illicit narcotics trafficking, and Belize benefits from the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). Through CARSI, the U.S. Government seeks to strengthen citizen safety and improve the government’s capacity to confront and disrupt criminal organizations. The Belize Defense Force receives military assistance from the United States. The U.S. military's assistance program in Belize has included the construction and renovation of several schools and youth hostels, medical assistance programs, and drug reduction programs. U.S. military assistance was also critical in establishing Belize’s coast guard. Belize benefits from U.S. Agency for International Development regional programs, and there is a Peace Corps program in the country. Belize has signed a 5-year Central American regional framework agreement with the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Bilateral Economic Relations
The United States is Belize's principal trading partner and major source of investment funds. In 2010, the United States provided 47.9% of Belizean merchandise imports and accounted for 49.1% of Belize's merchandise exports. Some 185 U.S. companies have operations in Belize. Tourism attracts the most foreign direct investment, although U.S. investment also is found in the telecommunications, petroleum, and agricultural sectors. A Country Commercial Guide for Belize is available from the U.S. Embassy's Economic/Commercial section.

Belize's Membership in International Organizations
Belize became a member of the United Nations following its 1981 independence from the United Kingdom. Belize and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the UN, Organization of American States, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

SEC. OF STATE CLINTON FOLLOWING THE SYRIAN PEOPLE MINISTERIAL MEETING


FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Press Availability Following the Friends of the Syrian People Ministerial Meeting
Press Availability Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State Chief of Mission Residence
Paris, France
July 6, 2012
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. Today the international community sent a clear and unified message: The violence in Syria must stop, a democratic transition must start, and Assad must go. Last week in Geneva, all five permanent members of the UN Security Council and other key players agreed to Kofi Annan’s plan that Assad transfer full executive authority to a transitional governing body that is broadly inclusive and chosen by mutual consent, which means the opposition has a veto on its membership. Here in Paris, more than one hundred nations and organizations endorsed that plan and dispelled any doubt about Assad’s role in a transition. He has none.

I want to thank President Hollande and Foreign Minister Fabius for hosting this conference. In addition to the conference that the French Government very ably ran, we had a chance to discuss a wide range of other issues, including Iran, Afghanistan, and the Eurozone, the problems in the Sahel, the upcoming conference in Tokyo for civilian support for the Afghan’s decade of transformation, and so much else. And as always, we reaffirmed the strong bonds of friendship between our two nations.

But of course, the main focus today was on Syria. Now that we have a plan for an inclusive, Syrian-led, democratic transition, the challenge is how to implement it. We all know that Assad will not easily halt his war or give up his power. It will take serious and sustained pressure from both the broader international community and those nations that have particular influence in Damascus.

The United States and the Friends of the Syrian People are doing our part. First, we are working with a broad cross-section of the Syrian opposition, which came together this week in Cairo to support a detailed blueprint for implementing Kofi Annan’s transition plan. And the United States continues to provide non-lethal assistance to help the opposition organize and communicate.

Second, we are depriving Assad of the financial resources to continue waging his war on the Syrian people. Our Sanctions Working Group has called for all states to freeze assets of senior regime officials, restrict transactions with the commercial and central banks, and embargo Syrian oil. The regime is becoming increasingly isolated from the international financial system. Syria’s currency and foreign reserves have collapsed. And we’ll be pushing for even stronger implementation of sanctions at the third Working Group meeting in Doha.

Third, as Joint Special Envoy Annan has requested, we are pursuing a new UN Security Council resolution that demands implementation of the Annan plan and imposes real and immediate consequences for non-compliance, including additional sanctions under Chapter 7.

Increasing pressure in all these ways is critical because no transition plan can progress so long as the regime’s brutal assaults continue. That’s why the entire world is now looking to those few nations that still have influence in Damascus. They need to step up and use all their leverage to make sure Assad sees the writing on the wall. Sitting on the sidelines – or even worse, enabling the regime’s brutality – would be a grievous mistake.
And by the same token, let me say to the soldiers and officials still supporting the Assad regime, the Syrian people will remember the choices you make in the coming days, and so will the world. The new Syrian Justice and Accountability Center is now up and running, compiling evidence of serious violations of human rights. And we are seeing high-level defections every day. It is time to abandon the dictator, embrace your country men and women, and get on the right side of history.

Before I close, let me add that today I also had a candid and productive meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. We discussed how to build on his exchange of letters with Prime Minister Netanyahu. I underscored that the United States remains absolutely committed to the goal of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on two states for two peoples with peace and security. In a time of upheaval across the region, we cannot lose sight of the critical importance of resolving this issue.
So I will be following up on this discussion when I meet with Israeli officials in Jerusalem in about 10 days. And with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.

MS. NULAND: We’ll take two today. Let’s start with CNN, Elise Labott, please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. You mentioned that high-level defections are happening. We understand that a high-level brigadier general has defected and could be on his way to Paris. What information do you have on that, and what do you think of this high defection? There’s been a lot of criticism, Madam Secretary. You heard in the hall today from the Syrian opposition that there’s a lot of talk, a lot of conferences, but not a lot of action. And how do you think that this Annan plan and these conferences are going to get – change that military equation on the ground and stop the violence anytime soon? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you. With respect to the defectors that we are seeing, it is important that there is this increasing stream of senior military defectors including, reportedly just yesterday, a very close and long-time ally of both Assad and his father. Because if people like him, and like the generals and colonels and others who have recently defected to Turkey are any indication, regime insiders and the military establishment are starting to vote with their feet. Those who have the closest knowledge of Assad’s actions and crimes are moving away, and we think that’s a very promising development. And it also raises questions for those who remain in Damascus still supporting this regime, still propping it up, about their own choices ahead of them, because we have no doubt about the outcome here.

We know that the Assad regime will fall. The question is how many more people have to die before that happens. And we want to see those who are on the inside hasten the day when a true transition can begin and the Syrian people have a chance to chart their own democratic future. So these defections send a message to Assad, but perhaps more importantly, they send a message to the people who are still left, which I hope they hear and heed.

With respect to the opposition, as you know, we’ve been working very closely with the opposition for a number of months. The stories we heard today, both in the public session and in private encounters, were deeply distressing. We share the opposition’s outrage at lives that are lost, at people who are tortured, at women who are abused and raped. It’s just extraordinary, the unspeakable violence that this regime is imposing on its own people. That’s why we are working hard to unify the international community behind a credible political transition plan.

You have to be for something, and now we are. We have a plan that is supported by the P-5 coming out of Geneva, by the Friends of the Syrian People, and most importantly, by Syrian opposition leaders and backed up by global economic sanctions. And we have to be honest about this. For too long, the Syrian opposition has been divided. And those divisions have only given comfort to Assad and his allies and supporters inside of Syria and outside. But finally, we are overcoming these obstacles. As I said this morning, really, it was not until early this year that the opposition began calling for any kind of help. And we are in absolute support.

And we think what happened in Geneva, with Russia’s and China’s support, was significant. For the first time, the opposition was put on the same level as the Assad regime. The creation of a transitional governing body with full executive authority has to be formed by mutual consent, which obviously means that Assad and the people around him are not going to be part of it. We’re now going to work to support what came out of Cairo to build on their compact articulating the rights of all Syrians. And we’re going to work hard to make sure that sanctions are enforced because we think that’s also a very strong message to Syrians who still support the Assad regime or who haven’t chosen sides.

But we have to do more. And I was very clear this morning. I mean, countries that are not implementing sanctions need to be implementing the sanctions. No travel, no trade, no comfort for this regime. We have to block financial flows. We have to block the kind of support that Syria continues to receive. And we have to go to the Security Council and now take the document from Geneva, supplemented by the work that the opposition themselves did in Cairo, and put real consequences behind those words by working to get a Chapter 7 resolution that will help us end the violence and have consequences for those who continue to inflict suffering and death on the Syrian people.

So I think the sequence of events over the last week has been very powerful and has sent a very clear, unified message. And now we have to follow up and keep the pressure on.
MS. NULAND: Last one today, Jacques Hubert-Rodier from Les Echos.

QUESTION: I just wanted to know – you met President Francois Hollande today and I wanted to know what is your assessment, if there is any change of priorities of a French – of a new French Government?

And on Syria, did you talk about any further measures, including sending arms to the opposition or even a military intervention with President Francois Hollande? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well first, we are delighted to be working with President Hollande and his team. President Obama and I were thrilled to welcome him to Washington and then to Chicago just a few days after his being sworn in as President. We consider France a very close partner, a strong ally, and we have already rolled up our sleeves and gotten to work. We think we face a lot of opportunities and challenges ahead, but we are confident that there’s a great deal of understanding and commitment on both sides to work together to meet the extraordinary range of international issues that we face today.

Our cooperation has already been excellent on Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Mali, the Sahel region, at NATO. And, I mean, for us, we will never forget France is our oldest ally, our very first diplomatic mission, and we work very hard to make sure that we maximize the potential of our relationship. And we are going to broaden and deepen our working partnership with members of the Hollande government, but I think it’s off to a great start.
And as to your other question, we discussed a full range of issues, but not that one. I think that when it comes to Syria, we do not want to further militarize this conflict. We want to bear down on the approach we are taking together, because, of course, Foreign Minister Fabius was a very active participant at our day-long meeting in Geneva and instrumental in helping to shape the communique that was a result of those efforts. We want to really get a maximum effort on the points that I’ve already mentioned and see how much more pressure we can apply to the regime and hasten its departure.

MS. NULAND: Thank you all very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.

WHISTLE BLOWER CASE AGAINST PILGRIM'S PRIDE SETTLED


FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
US Department of Labor's OSHA settles whistleblower case
against Pilgrim's Pride in Mount Pleasant, Texas
MOUNT PLEASANT, Texas – The U.S. Department of Labor has entered into a settlement agreement with Pilgrim's Pride Corp. in Mount Pleasant to resolve an investigation by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration into the company's termination of an employee who raised environmental complaints, in violation of the whistleblower provision of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.

"Employees must feel free to exercise their rights under the law without fear of termination or other retaliation by their employers," said John M. Hermanson, OSHA's regional administrator in Dallas. "The Labor Department is committed to vigorously protecting the whistleblower rights of all workers."

OSHA initiated an investigation upon receiving a complaint from a manager for water reclamation at the company's chicken processing plant who had alerted the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality when process and storm water containing excessive amounts of chromium, lead and mercury were discharged into the environment. According to the complainant, Pilgrim's Pride stated that the TCEQ did not need to be notified and that sharing the information was not in the company's best interest, and consequently terminated the complainant's employment.

Prior to OSHA issuing its investigative findings, the parties reached an agreement in which the employer will pay the complainant $50,000. Pilgrim's Pride also has agreed to post a notice to employees advising them of their whistleblower rights, purge any derogatory information in the employee's personnel file directly related to the incident and provide a neutral job reference. In exchange, the employee will not seek reinstatement.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws. Under the various whistleblower provisions enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or the government.

Any employee who believes he or she has been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employer whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

Editor's note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.