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DEMOCRATIC TRANSITIONS IN THE MAGHREB

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT,

Democratic Transitions in the Maghreb

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State


Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Washington, DC
October 12, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all. Thank you very much. And a special word of thanks to a friend and someone whom I admire greatly, General Scowcroft. His many years of distinguished service to our country is a great tribute in every respect.

Thanks also to Jon Alterman and CSIS for hosting this conference on "The Maghreb in Transition: Seeking Stability in an Era of Uncertainty." I also wish to acknowledge Dr. Terrab for his strong support of this important conference and members of the diplomatic corps as well.

Now, why are we here? And why is this conference so timely? Well, to start with, what happens in this dynamic region has far-reaching consequences for our own security and prosperity. And we know very well that it is most important to the people of this region, whose aspirations and ambitions deserve to be met. But recent events have raised questions about what lies ahead – what lies ahead for the region, what lies ahead for the rest of us who have watched with great hope, as General Scowcroft said, the events that have unfolded in the Maghreb. A terrorist attack in Benghazi, the burning of an American school in Tunis – these and other scenes of anger and violence have understandably led Americans to ask what is happening. What is happening to the promise of the Arab Spring? And what does this mean for the United States?

Well, I certainly think it’s important to ask these questions and to seek answers, as you are doing today. And let me, on a personal note, start with what happened in Benghazi. No one wants to find out exactly what happened more than I do. I’ve appointed an Accountability Review Board that has already started examining whether our security procedures were appropriate, whether they were properly implemented, and what lessons we can and must learn for the future. And we are working as thoroughly and expeditiously as possible, knowing that we cannot afford to sacrifice accuracy to speed. And of course, our government is sparing no effort in tracking down the terrorists who perpetrated this attack.

And we are focused, as we must, on what more needs to be done right now to protect our people and our facilities. We had another terrible attack yesterday. I strongly condemn the killing of a longtime Yemeni employee at our Embassy in Sana’a. And we are working with Yemeni authorities to investigate this attack and to bring those responsible to justice as well.

But throughout all of this, we must not only focus on the headlines. We have to keep in mind the trend lines. We have to remain focused on the broader strategic questions posed by these democratic transitions and their impact on American interests and values.

Let me start by stating the obvious: Nobody should have ever thought this would be an easy road. I certainly didn’t. However, it is important to look at the full picture – to weigh the violent acts of a small number of extremists against the aspirations and actions of the region’s people and governments. That broader view supports rather than discredits the promise of the Arab revolutions. It reaffirms that, instead of letting mobs and extremists speak for entire countries, we should listen to what the elected governments and free citizens are saying. They want more freedom, more justice, more opportunity – not more violence. And they want better relations not only with the United States, but with the world – not worse.

I have no illusions about how complicated this is. After all, American foreign policy has long been shaped by debates over how to balance our interests in security and stability with our values in supporting freedom and democracy. Recent revolutions have intensified these debates by creating a new birth of freedom, but also by unseating old partners and unleashing unpredictable new forces.

As I said last fall at the National Democratic Institute, we have to be honest that America’s policies in the region will always reflect the full range of our interests and values – promoting democracy and human rights, and defeating al-Qaida; defending our allies and partners, and also ensuring a secure supply of energy.

And there will be times when not all of our interests and values align. We work to align them, but we do so acknowledging reality. And it’s true that we tailor our tactics for promoting democratic change to the conditions on the ground in each country. After all, it would be foolish to take a one-size-fits-all approach regardless of circumstances or historical trends.

But in the long run, the enduring cooperation we seek – and that our interests and our values demand – is difficult to sustain without democratic legitimacy and public consent.

Weeks before the revolution in Egypt began, I told Arab leaders gathered in Doha that the region’s foundations were sinking into the sand. It was clear even then that the status quo was unsustainable, that refusal to change was itself becoming a threat to stability.

So for the United States, supporting democratic transitions is not a matter of idealism. It is a strategic necessity.

And we will not return to the false choice between freedom and stability. And we will not pull back our support for emerging democracies when the going gets rough. That would be a costly strategic mistake that would, I believe, undermine both our interests and our values.

Now, we recognize that these transitions are not America’s to manage, and certainly not ours to win or lose. But we have to stand with those who are working every day to strengthen democratic institutions, defend universal rights, and drive inclusive economic growth. That will produce more capable partners and more durable security over the long term.

Today, these transitions are entering a phase that must be marked more by compromise than by confrontation, by politics more than protests. Politics that deliver economic reforms and jobs so that people can pursue their livelihoods and provide for their families. Politics that will be competitive and even heated, but rooted in democratic rules and norms that apply to everyone – Islamists and secularists, Muslims and Christians, conservatives and liberals, parties and candidates of every stripe. Everyone must reject violence, terrorism, and extremism; abide by the rule of law; support independent judiciaries; and uphold fundamental freedoms. Upholding the rights and dignity of all citizens, regardless of faith, ethnicity, or gender, should be expected.

And then, of course, we look to governments to let go of power when their time comes – just as the revolutionary Libyan Transitional National Council did this past August, transferring authority to the newly elected legislature in a ceremony that Ambassador Chris Stevens cited as the highlight of his time in the country.

Achieving genuine democracy and broad-based growth will be a long and difficult process. We know that from our own history. More than 235 years after our own revolution, we are still working toward that more perfect union. So one should expect setbacks along the way, times when some will surely ask if it was all worth it. But going back to the way things were in December 2010 isn’t just undesirable; it is impossible.

So this is the context in which we have to view recent events and shape our approach going forward. And let me explain where that leads us.

Now, since this is a conference on the Maghreb, that’s where I’ll focus. Because after all, that’s where the Arab revolutions started, and where an international coalition helped stop a dictator from slaughtering his people, and where, just last month, we saw such disturbing violence.

But let’s look at what’s actually happening on the ground, especially in light of recent events. We have to, as always, be clear-eyed about the threat of violent extremism. A year of democratic transition was never going to drain away reservoirs of radicalism built up through decades of dictatorship, nor was that enough time to stand up fully effective and responsible security forces to replace the repressive ones of the past.

As we’ve warned from the beginning, there are extremists who seek to exploit periods of instability and hijack these democratic transitions. All the while, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other terrorist groups are trying to expand their reach from a new stronghold in northern Mali.

But that is not the full story. Far from it.

The terrorists who attacked our mission in Benghazi did not represent the millions of Libyan people who want peace and deplore violence. And in the days that followed, tens of thousands of Libyans poured into the streets to mourn Ambassador Stevens, who had been a steadfast champion of their revolution. You saw the signs. One read, "Thugs and killers don’t represent Benghazi or Islam." And on their own initiative, the people of Benghazi overran extremist bases and insisted that militias disarm and accept the rule of law. That was as inspiring a sight as any we saw in the revolutions. And it points to the undimmed promise of the Arab Spring – by starting down the path of democratic politics, Libyans and Arabs across the region have firmly rejected the extremists’ argument that violence and death are the only way to reclaim dignity and achieve justice.

In Tripoli, the country’s transitional leaders condemned the attack. They fired the top security officials responsible for Benghazi. Then, the government issued an ultimatum to militias across the country: Disarm and disband in 48 hours or face the consequences. As many as 10 major armed groups complied. Now, militias and extremists remain a significant problem in Libya, but there is an effort to address it that has now taken hold throughout the country. As Libya grapples with the challenges of forming a government, the international community needs to support its efforts to bring these militias to heel and provide security for all of its citizens.

Consider Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab revolutions. Last year, an Islamist party won a plurality of the votes in an open, competitive election. I know some in Washington took this as an omen of doom. But these new leaders formed a coalition with secular parties and promised to uphold universal rights and freedoms, including for women. And the United States made it clear that we would be watching closely and would assess the new government by its actions, not its words.

This past February in Tunis, students and civil society activists shared with me their fears about extremists seeking to derail their transition to lasting democracy, but also their hopes that responsible leaders and accountable institutions would be strong enough and willing enough to turn back that challenge.

And, indeed, we have seen an intense debate play out in Tunisian society. For example, early drafts of the new constitution labeled women as "complementary to men," but Tunisia’s active civil society raised strong objections, and eventually the National Constituent Assembly amended the text to recognize women’s equality.

Civil society is wise to remain vigilant, and to exercise their hard-earned rights to safeguard their new democracy. Like the hundreds of Tunisian women who recently took to the streets to protest on behalf of a woman charged with indecency after she was raped by police officers. These competing visions of Tunisia’s future were put to the test when violent extremists attacked the U.S. Embassy in Tunis and burned the American school nearby. How did the Tunisian people and government respond?

First, the government increased security around our Embassy and promised to assist with repairs to the school, which they have done. Then they publicly committed to confront violent groups and prevent Tunisia from becoming a safe haven for international terrorism. Following through on these pledges is essential. Those responsible for the attacks must be brought to justice. The government must provide security for diplomatic missions and create a secure environment for foreign residents and visitors. And the rule of law must extend to everyone throughout the country.

The country’s leaders also took to the airwaves, to newspaper pages, even Facebook and Twitter, to denounce both the attacks and the extremist ideology behind them, putting their own political capital on the line. The Foreign Minister flew to Washington to stand with me and publicly condemn the violence. And so we continue to support those changes that are occurring in Libya and in Tunisia and those leaders and citizens who understand what is expected of them if they are to fulfill their own hopes.

Now, the situation in the rest of the Maghreb is different. Morocco and Algeria have not experienced revolutions, but recent events have also tested their values and resolve. Last year, when citizens of Morocco called for change, Moroccan society under King Mohammed VI answered with major constitutional reforms followed by early elections and expanded authorities for parliament. An Islamist party leads the new ruling coalition along with a variety of other parties after thirteen years in the opposition. And we’ve been encouraged that its leaders have sought to engage all Moroccans and have focused on creating jobs and fighting corruption. And we continue to urge them to follow through on all of their commitments for political and economic reform.

Last month, with anti-American protestors in the streets across the cities of Morocco, the Foreign Minister traveled to Washington for our first-ever Strategic Dialogue. He could have avoided the cameras, but instead, he strongly condemned the attack in Benghazi, embraced a broader partnership with the United States, and pledged that his country would continue working toward democracy and the rule of law.

Algeria also has much to gain by embracing the changes that are taking place around it, and we have seen some progress. The government held parliamentary elections in May and invited international observers to monitor them for the first time. And it moved quickly last month to protect diplomatic missions, including the U.S. Embassy, and to defuse tensions in the streets. But still, Algeria has a lot of work to do to uphold universal rights and create space for civil society, a message I delivered at the highest levels in person in February.

Now, what do these snapshots and stories from across the region tell us? On the one hand, last month’s violence revealed strains of extremism that threaten those nations, as well as the broader region and even the United States. On the other hand, we’ve seen actions that would have been hard to imagine a few years ago, democratically-elected leaders and free people in Arab countries standing up for a peaceful, pluralist future.

It is way too soon to say how these transitions will play out. But what’s not in doubt is that America has a big stake in the outcome.

Last month at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, I met with leaders from across the region, and I told each of them that the United States will continue to pursue a strategy to support emerging democracies as they work to provide effective security grounded in the rule of law to spur economic growth and bolster democratic institutions. We’ve made those three priorities the hallmark of America’s involvement in the region. We've convened donor conferences to coordinate assistance, leverage new partnerships through the G-8, the Community of Democracies, the OECD; and we have stepped up our engagement with the Arab League, signing the first ever memorandum of understanding for a strategic dialogue between us.

But we recognize that words, whether they come from us or others, are cheap. When we talk about investing in responsible leaders and accountable democratic institutions, it has to be followed by actual investments.

So we have mobilized more than $1 billion in targeted assistance since the start of the revolutions. And the Obama Administration has requested from Congress a new $770 million fund that would be tied to concrete benchmarks for political and economic reforms. And I again urge Congress to move forward on this priority.

But let me briefly just address the three parts of our strategy, starting with security. The recent riots and lawlessness underscore the challenges of safeguarding public safety in free societies and reforming security forces. For decades, those forces protected regimes. Now their job is to protect citizens, especially against the threat from violent extremists. For some time, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other terrorist groups have launched attacks and kidnappings from northern Mali into neighboring countries. Now, with the chaos and ethnic conflict there allowing these groups to carve out a larger safe haven, they are seeking to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions.

So we are using every tool we can to help our partners fight terrorism and meet their security challenges. We recently embedded additional Foreign Service Officers with regional expertise into the U.S. Africa Command to better integrate our approach. Across the region, diplomats, development experts, and military personnel are working hand in hand.

Across the region also, we’re partnering with security officials of these new governments who are moving away from the repressive approaches that helped fuel radicalization in the past and we're trying to help them develop strategies grounded in the rule of law and human rights.

We’re helping border guards upgrade their equipment and tighten their patrols so that weapons don’t flood the region even more than they already have. We're helping train prosecutors and build forensic labs that can produce evidence that stands up in courts. And last month, just days after the riots in Tunis, we launched a new partnership with Tunisia to train police and other justice officials. And we were very pleased that Tunisia also agreed to host a new international training center that will help officials from across the region develop means to protect their citizens’ security and their liberty.

Now the nations of the Maghreb are not the first to struggle with the challenge of protecting a new democracy. And one of the lessons we’ve learned around the world is that training, funding, and equipment will only go so far. It takes political will to make the hard choices and demand the accountability that is necessary for strong institutions and lasting security. And it takes changes in mindsets to make those reforms stick.

In all my conversations with high-ranking officials in these countries, I recognize that particularly in Tunisia and Libya, the people I'm talking to were often victims of security forces, imprisoned, seeking exile, beaten, in some cases, tortured. And for them all of the sudden to find themselves on the side of security forces, even ones that are of the new regime, takes a mental change, and they have admitted that it is a responsibility that they now understand they must assume.

The United States is also stepping up our counterterrorism efforts, helping the countries of North Africa target the support structure of the extremist groups, particularly al-Qaida and its affiliates – closing safe havens, cutting off financing, countering their ideology, denying them recruits.

Our Trans Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership is building the capacity of ten countries, providing training and support so that they can better work together to disrupt terrorist networks, and prevent attacks.

And we are expanding our work with civil society organizations in specific terrorist hotspots, particular villages, prisons, and schools. Now, the Maghreb’s economic and social challenges fueled the revolutions and the calls for reform. And in order to succeed, these emerging democratic governments need to show they can deliver concrete results.

So that is the second area we’re focused on: Working with small- and medium-sized enterprises, which create jobs and alternatives to radicalism, bringing women and young people into the formal economy, providing capital and training for entrepreneurs, helping emerging democracies update their economic regulations, their investment laws, their trade policies so their private sectors can actually flourish.

We’re establishing a Tunisian-American Enterprise Fund with an initial capitalization of $20 million to stimulate investment in the private sector and provide businesses with needed capital. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, OPIC, is offering $50 million in loans and guarantees, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation is helping address long-term constraints to economic growth. We’ve provided export training for small business owners and job training to hundreds of young Tunisians. And I’m particularly proud of the new $10 million scholarship fund, which we launched in August to help Tunisian students study at American universities and colleges.

We also look forward to working on economic issues with the new Libyan Government once it’s formed. One of our top priorities is helping nations trade more with each other. That, after all, will create new jobs for their citizens and markets for their products. But today, North Africa is one of the least integrated regions in the world. It doesn’t have to be that way. And opening the border between Algeria and Morocco would be an important step in moving toward that integration.

The third key area in our strategy is strengthening democratic institutions and advancing political reforms – not an easy process, as we can see from the difficulty in forming a government in Libya. And political progress has to grow from the inside, not imposed from the outside or abroad. But there are ways we can and are helping. In Libya, for example, the United States has trained hundreds of lawyers and civil society activists on election laws and offered tutorials to campaign managers and candidates in the run-up to the recent elections. Now we’re encouraging civil society to be fully engaged in drafting a new constitution that will protect the equal rights of all Libyan citizens.

Similar efforts are underway across the Maghreb, tailored to local needs and conditions. And none of this is happening in a vacuum. The transitions occurring in the Maghreb are linked, as you well know, with developments across the wider Middle East.

Egypt, of course, the largest Arab nation, cornerstone of the region, we’ve seen its new elected leadership say that the success of Egypt’s democratic transition depends on building consensus and speaking to the needs and concerns of all Egyptians, men and women, of all faiths and communities. Now, we stand with the Egyptian people in their quest for universal freedoms and protections. And we’ve made the point that Egypt’s international standing depends both on peaceful relations with its neighbors and also on the choices it makes at home and whether or not it fulfills its own promises to its own people.

In Syria, the Assad regime continues to wage brutal war against its own people, even as territory slips from its grasp. I recently announced major new contributions of humanitarian aid and assistance for the civilian opposition, and we remain committed with our like-minded partners to increase pressure on the regime.

And in Yemen, where we supported negotiations that eventually achieved a peaceful transition, we are working to prevent al-Qaida and other extremists from threatening these emerging, fragile democratic institutions and prevent them also from finding a safe haven from which to stage new attacks.

And when I met with King Abdullah of Jordan last month, we discussed the importance of continuing reforms to move his country toward more democracy and prosperity.

So in all of these places and many others, the United States is helping the people of those nations chart their own destinies and realize the full measure of their own human dignity.

Dignity is a word that means many things to different people and cultures, but it does speak to something universal in all of us. As one Egyptian observed in the wake of that country’s revolution, freedom and dignity are "more important than food and water. When you eat in humiliation, you can’t taste the food."

But dignity does not come from avenging perceived insults, especially with violence that can never be justified. It comes from taking responsibility for one’s self and one’s community. And if you look around the world today, those countries focused on fostering growth rather than fomenting grievance are pulling ahead – building schools instead of burning them; investing in their people’s creativity, not encouraging their rage; empowering women, not excluding them; opening their economies and societies to more connections with the wider world, not shutting off the internet or attacking embassies.

I remain convinced that the people of the Arab world do not want to trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob. There is no dignity in that. The people of Benghazi told this world loudly and clearly when they rejected the extremists in their midst what they hoped for. And so did the leaders of Libya when they challenged the militias. And so did the Tunisians who spoke out against violence and hatred. That is the message we should take from the events of the last month.

Now, I want to add and close with one more thought about what happened in Benghazi. Because, as you might expect, that is for me and for all the men and women at the State Department very personal.

Diplomacy, by its nature has to be often practiced in dangerous places. We send people to diplomatic posts in 170 countries around the world. And yes, some of those are in war and conflict zones. Others are in unstable countries with complex threats and no U.S. military presence. That is the reality of the world we live in.

And we will never prevent every act of violence or terrorism or achieve perfect security. Our people cannot live in bunkers and do their jobs. But it is our solemn responsibility to constantly improve, to reduce the risks our people face, and make sure they have the resources they need to do those jobs we expect from them. And of course, nobody takes that more seriously than I and the security professionals at the State Department do.

Chris Stevens understood that diplomats must operate in many places where soldiers do not or cannot, where there are no other boots on the ground, and security is far from guaranteed. And like so many of our brave colleagues and those who served in our armed forces as well, he volunteered for his assignments.

Last year, our Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, was assaulted in Damascus by pro-regime thugs. But he insisted on continuing to meet with peaceful protesters and serving as a living manifestation of America’s support. And when he drove to the battered city of Hama, the people there covered his car with flowers.

People like Chris and Robert represent diplomacy and America at its and our best. They know that when America is absent, especially from the dangerous places, there are consequences. Extremism takes root, our interests suffer, and our security at home is threatened. So we will continue sending our diplomats and development experts to dangerous places. The United States will not retreat. We will keep leading and we will stay engaged in the Maghreb and everywhere in the world, including in those hard places where America’s interests and values are at stake. That’s who we are. And that’s the best way to honor those whom we have lost. And that’s also how we ensure our country’s global leadership for decades to come.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)




 

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update: The Turning Of Trash

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update


U.S. DEFENSE AND CHANGES AT THE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

Photo Credit:  Wikimedia.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Defense Intel Agency Director Outlines Changes Under Way
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2012 - The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency shared his vision of accelerating change and building capacity within the agency during a symposium yesterday in Orlando, Fla.

Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn spoke to the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation about reshaping defense analysis and professional development of the workforce, but began with his plan to use the Defense Clandestine Service to integrate the intelligence community.

"I'm going to use this to integrate the entire agency," Flynn said. "This is not a marginal adjustment for DIA. This is a major adjustment for national security."

The idea is increasing partnerships, he said, as well as increasing capacity and capabilities while putting the agency's presence where it's needed.

It's also about offsetting risk, preventing strategic surprise and retaining U.S. competitive advantage, Flynn said, "and I think that's really important."

Flynn discussed reshaping defense analysis for the agency and lauded the operational community for its understanding of intelligence.

"The operational community understands intelligence, [in] many, many cases, particularly in the surveillance and reconnaissance realm, much more than they did five years ago," Flynn said, "[and] definitely [more] than they did 10 years ago."

The general also touched on professional development, in particular, focusing on the civilian side of the workforce, which until recently, hasn't had the same opportunities as their military counterparts.

"I went and studied post-World World II, post-Korea, post-Vietnam and post the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War," Flynn said. "In all four examples, the Department of Defense killed training and professional development."

Flynn noted DIA has a "fairly healthy budget," and he said he has made professional development one of his priorities.

"It's an area that I'm very comfortable with, and it's something that we will invest in -- particularly, leader training," he said.

Flynn also emphasized the importance of building capacity within DIA, and the intelligence community at large.

"When we're getting ready and adjusting for whatever the next conflict is going to be, we have to use our training and education system to drive change, build trust and instill this culture," he said.

"Everything is under attack, [and] everything is challenged," Flynn added. "One of the things that we have a responsibility to do is understand some of [the] issues and then prioritize accordingly, based on the direction that we are given from our leadership."

The general underscored the value of DIA in the U.S. national defense strategy.

"It is [an] indispensable element of the military dimension of our national defense posture," Flynn said. "[This is] what the Defense Intelligence Agency gives this nation."

 

THE NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE CORPS

Photo Credit:  U.S. Navy.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Health care law increases access to primary care through the National Health Service Corps

Investments help ease cost of professional schooling for clinicians, students

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced that $229.4 million was invested in the National Health Service Corps in 2012 to support more doctors and nurses and increase access to primary care. These investments included nearly 4,600 loan repayment and scholarship awards to clinicians and students, and grants to 32 states to support state loan repayment programs.

"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the National Health Service Corps is providing loans and scholarships to more doctors, nurses, and other health care providers, so more people get the care they need," said Secretary Sebelius. "National Health Service Corps clinicians are providing care to approximately 10.4 million patients across the country."

The National Health Service Corps provides financial, professional and educational resources to medical, dental, and mental and behavioral health care providers who bring their skills to areas of the United States with limited access to health care.

With nearly 10,000 providers, the National Health Service Corps has nearly tripled since 2008. In addition to Corps clinicians currently providing care, nearly 1,000 students, residents, and health providers receive scholarships or participate in the Student to Service Loan Repayment program to prepare to practice.

Today’s announcement was made in conjunction with the celebration of the National Health Service Corps’ annual Corps Community Day.

Established in 1970, the National Health Service Corps, administered by HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration, has provided health care to communities across the country by supporting more than 42,000 primary health care practitioners over its 40-year history.

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AIR FORCE WISHES NAVY A HAPPY 237TH BIRTHDAY



FROM: U.S. AIR FORCE

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Mark R. Alvarez)

Air Force leaders salute Navy on 237th birthday

10/12/2012 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy salute the Navy on its 237th birthday Oct. 13.

Donley wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Navy stating:

"Congratulations as you celebrate the 237th birthday of the United States Navy. Our Nation depends upon the men and women of the United States Navy, whose selfless service builds on your Service's proud heritage as a global force for good.

"The men and women of the United States Air Force are honored to serve alongside you and your Sailors as part of the Joint team. We wish you the very best on the Navy's 237th birthday."

Welsh wrote a letter to the Chief of Naval Operations stating:

"Congratulations to the men and women of the United States Navy as you celebrate 237 years of service to our great Nation. Since 1775, the men and women of the Navy have placed service above self in faithfully executing their mission to maintain freedom of the seas.

"On behalf of the men and women of the United States Air Force, I salute you and your Sailors, and wish you the very best on the Navy's birthday."

Roy wrote a letter to the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy stating:

"I'm writing this to extend sincere wishes for a Happy 237th Birthday to the United States Navy. Since the birth of our Navy in 1775, Sailors have served as the shield of the Republic. From the historic sailing vessels of the late eighteenth century to today's most advanced sea-based weapons systems, Americans have come to rely on their United States Navy to keep the Nation safe.

"On behalf of Airmen everywhere, I wish you all the best as you celebrate. We look forward to serving alongside you for many years to follow."


 

TEXAS HOME HEALTH CARE COMPANY OWNER PLEADS GUILTY IN $374 MILLION MEDICARE FRAUD

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, October 11, 2012

Owner of Texas Home Health Services Company Pleads Guilty, Admits Role in $374 Million Fraud Scheme

WASHINGTON - A Dallas-area home health services company owner today admitted his role in a $374 million home health fraud scheme in which he and others conspired to bill Medicare for unnecessary services that were never performed. Cyprian Akamnonu, 64, of Arlington, Texas, entered his guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud before U.S. District Judge Sam A. Lindsay in Dallas federal court.

The guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Sarah R. Saldaña; Special Agent in Charge Diego G. Rodriguez of the FBI’s Dallas Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Mike Fields of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General's (HHS-OIG) Dallas Regional Office; and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU).

According to court documents, beginning in at least January 2006, Akamnonu, along with his wife Pat Akamnonu, owned and operated Ultimate Care Home Health Services, Inc. Cyprian Akamnonu admitted that he directed his wife and others to recruit Medicare beneficiaries from Dallas neighborhoods for home health services they did not need and for which they did not qualify. Once the beneficiaries were recruited, Cyprian Akamnonu would take prescriptions for home health services to the offices of Medistat Group Associates, P.A., owned and operated by co-defendant Jacques Roy, M.D.


Cyprian Akamnonu admitted he brought the prescriptions to Roy because he and Roy had a fraudulent arrangement whereby Ultimate provided Roy with beneficiaries to bolster Medistat’s patient roster in exchange for Roy’s certification for skilled nursing services of any beneficiary brought to him. Roy’s office manager, co-defendant Teri Sivils, and others would allegedly then sign these prescriptions on Roy’s behalf. Cyprian Akamnonu admitted to paying Sivils cash to sign the prescriptions.

Cyprian Akamnonu admitted that once he obtained signed prescriptions, nurses acting at his direction would perform cursory visits for the beneficiaries they had recruited that bore little relationship to the skilled nursing services which Roy had purportedly prescribed. Ultimate would then bill Medicare, at Cyprian Akamnonu’s direction, for skilled nursing services that were not necessary and were not performed.


Court documents show that from January 2006 through November 2011, Roy or another Medistat physician allegedly certified over 78% of the beneficiaries serviced by Ultimate. Ultimate billed over $43 million to the Medicare program for these beneficiaries. Roy, in turn, allegedly incorporated these beneficiaries into his own practice and billed over $2.4 million for services related to them.

At sentencing, Cyprian Akamnonu faces a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy count. Sentencing is currently scheduled for Feb. 4, 2013. As part of his plea agreement, he has also agreed not to contest the forfeiture of 21 real properties, four automobiles, and funds in a number of personal and business accounts connected to proceeds of the fraud.

His six co-defendants, including his wife, await trial on related charges, currently set for June 2013. The charges and allegations contained in the indictment against them are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Elliott and Mindy Sauter of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, and Deputy Chief Sam Sheldon and Trial Attorney Ben O’Neil of the Criminal Division's Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division's Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas.

EXPORT-IMPORT BANK LISTS NATIONS WITH LARGEST INCREASES IN U.S. GOODS PURCHASES

Photo:  Container ships In Panama.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.
 FROM:  U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States exported $181.3 billion in goods and services in August 2012, according to data released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) of the U.S. Commerce Department.

"I am pleased that U.S. exports remain high, because they are a major contributor to our economic recovery, and help create and sustain jobs across the country," said Export-Import Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. "Going forward, we encourage more American companies to compete in international markets, where 95 percent of the world’s customers are located."

Exports of goods and services over the past twelve months totaled $2.173 trillion, which is nearly 37.6 percent above the level of exports in 2009. Over the past twelve months, exports have been growing at an annualized rate of 12.7 percent when compared to 2009.

In June of this year, the U.S. recorded exports of $185.2 billion, an all-time record high.

Among major export markets, the top ten buying countries with the largest annualized increase in purchases of U.S. goods were, when compared to 2009, Panama (34.9 percent), Chile (27.8 percent), Argentina (26.3 percent), Turkey (26.3 percent), Russia (25.7 percent), Hong Kong (25.6 percent), Peru (25.3 percent), United Arab Emirates (21.8 percent), Ecuador (21.6 percent), and Venezuela (20.9 percent).

U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PANETTA GIVES DETAILS REGARDING CYBERDEFENSE

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Panetta Spells Out DOD Roles in Cyberdefense

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta spelled out in detail the Defense Department's responsibility in cybersecurity during a speech to the Business Executives for National Security meeting in New York, today.

Panetta has stressed the importance of cybersecurity since taking office last year. In addition, the secretary has warned about a "cyber Pearl Harbor" many times, including during testimony before Congress.

The speech before BENS aboard the USS Intrepid Museum is the secretary's clearest discussion to date of DOD's responsibility in the cyber domain.

"A cyber attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremist groups could be as destructive as the terrorist attack of 9/11," he said in prepared remarks. "Such a destructive cyber terrorist attack could paralyze the nation."

The secretary pointed to denial of service attacks that many large U.S. corporations have suffered in recent weeks, but also cited a more serious attack in Saudi Arabia. In that attack a sophisticated virus called "Shamoon" infected computers at the Saudi Arabian state oil company, ARAMCO.

"Shamoon included a routine called a 'wiper,' coded to self-execute," he said. "This routine replaced crucial system files with an image of a burning U.S. flag. It also put additional 'garbage' data that overwrote all the real data on the machine. The more than 30,000 computers it infected were rendered useless, and had to be replaced."

There was a similar attack later in Qatar. "All told, the Shamoon virus was probably the most destructive attack that the private sector has seen to date," Panetta said.

Enemies target computer control systems that operate chemical, electricity and water plants, and guide transportation networks.

"We also know they are seeking to create advanced tools to attack these systems and cause panic, destruction and even the loss of life," he said.

"An aggressor nation or extremist group could gain control of critical switches and derail passenger trains, or trains loaded with lethal chemicals," he said. "They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country."

Cyber attacks could be part of a major attack against the United States, and this could mean the cyber Pearl Harbor the secretary fears. This is "an attack that would cause physical destruction and loss of life, paralyze and shock the nation and create a profound new sense of vulnerability," he said.

DOD has a supporting role in cyber defense, he said. The Department of Homeland Security is the lead federal agency, with the FBI having lead on law enforcement. Still the overall DOD mission is to defend the United States.

"We defend. We deter. And if called upon, we take decisive action," the secretary said. "In the past, we have done so through operations on land and at sea, in the skies and in space. In this new century, the United States military must help defend the nation in cyberspace as well."

DOD has responsibility for defending its own networks, and can also help deter attacks. "Our cyber adversaries will be far less likely to hit us if they know we will be able to link them to the attack, or that their effort will fail against our strong defenses," he said. "The Department has made significant advances in solving a problem that makes deterring cyber adversaries more complex: the difficulty of identifying the origins of an attack."

DOD has improved its capability of tracking attacks to point of origin. "Potential aggressors should be aware that the United States has the capacity to locate them and hold them accountable for actions that harm America or its interests," he said.

But improved defenses will not stop all cyber attacks. "If we detect an imminent threat of attack that will cause significant physical destruction or kill American citizens, we need to have the option to take action to defend the nation when directed by the President," Panetta said. "For these kinds of scenarios, the Department has developed the capability to conduct effective operations to counter threats to our national interests in cyberspace.

"Let me be clear that we will only do so to defend our nation, our interests, or our allies," he continued. "And we will only do so in a manner consistent with the policy principles and legal frameworks that the Department follows for other domains, including the law of armed conflict."

DOD is finalizing a comprehensive change to rules of engagement in cyberspace. "The new rules will make clear that the Department has a responsibility not only to defend DOD's networks, but also to be prepared to defend the nation and our national interests against an attack in or through cyberspace," he said. "These new rules will make the Department more agile and provide us with the ability to confront major threats quickly."

The private sector, government, military and international partners operate in cyberspace. "We all share the responsibility to protect it," he said. "Therefore, we are deepening cooperation with our closest allies with a goal of sharing threat information, maximizing shared capabilities, and deterring malicious activities."

All U.S. leaders have discussed cyber security with foreign leaders. Panetta raised the issue with Chinese leaders during his recent trip to Beijing. "I underscored the need to increase communication and transparency so that we can avoid misunderstanding or miscalculation in cyberspace," he said. "That is in the interest of the United States, and it is in the interest of China."

But businesses have the greatest interest in cybersecurity. Businesses depend on a safe, secure, and resilient global digital infrastructure, and businesses own and run many of the critical networks the nation depends on. "To defend those networks more effectively, we must share information between the government and the private sector about threats in cyberspace," the secretary said.

While there has been progress in sharing public-private cyber information, "we need Congress to act to ensure this sharing is timely and comprehensive," he said. "Companies should be able to share specific threat information with the government without the prospect of lawsuits hanging over their head. And a key principle must be to protect the fundamental liberties and privacy in cyberspace that we are all duty-bound to uphold."

Baseline standards must be set for cyber security and that means Congress must act, Panetta said. He said the bipartisan Cybersecurity Act of 2012 "has fallen victim to legislative and political gridlock. That is unacceptable to me, and it should be unacceptable to anyone concerned with safeguarding our national security."

One option under consideration, Panetta said, is an executive order to enhance cybersecurity measures. "There is no substitute for comprehensive legislation, but we need to move as far as we can in the meantime," he said. "We have no choice because the threat we face is already here. Congress has a responsibility to act. The President has a Constitutional responsibility to defend the country."

RECENT U.S. NAVY PHOTOS



FROM: U.S. NAVY

An E-2C Hawkeye assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 sits on the flight deck of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) at night. Enterprise is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The U.S. Navy has a 237-year heritage of defending freedom and projecting and protecting U.S. interests around the globe. Join the conversation on social media using #warfighting. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brooks B. Patton Jr. (Released) 121008-N-JL826-020




An SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Warlords of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron Light (HSL) 51 brings cargo from the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199), not pictured, to the forecastle of the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) during a vertical replenishment. Mustin is on patrol in the western Pacific Ocean. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devon Dow (Released) 121010-N-MU720-263

US Navy Videos: SEC. OF NAVY HAS BIRTHDAY MESSAGE

US Navy Videos

Friday, October 12, 2012

PIONEER I LAUNCH


Pioneer I Launch

Thor-Able I with the Pioneer I spacecraft atop, prior to launch at Eastern Test Range at what is now Kennedy Space Center. Pioneer I launched 54 years ago on Oct. 11, 1958, the first spacecraft launched by the 11-day-old National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Although the spacecraft failed to reach the Moon, it did transmit 43 hours of data.

Image Credit-NASA

RESOLUTION ON MALI


Map Credit:  CIA World Factbook.
FROM: U.S. STATE DELPARTMENT
UNSC Adoption of Resolution on Mali

Press Statement
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
October 12, 2012

The United States supports the resolution on Mali adopted by the UN Security Council today as a comprehensive approach to the overlapping governance, security, and humanitarian crises affecting Mali.

This resolution today accomplishes a number of important objectives: it imposes targeted sanctions against AQIM individuals and entities in Mali, supports a negotiation process to seek a sustainable political solution with the North, provides support and assistance from the UN and member states to bolster planning efforts by ECOWAS and the African Union, and expresses the readiness of the Security Council to respond to the request from the Transitional authorities of Mali regarding a potential force to assist the Malian armed forces.

The United States believes that ECOWAS and the AU should play a prominent role in planning and implementing any such response, with strong and active support from the international community. Both military and civilian elements will be essential in responding to the emerging threats in Mali and the Sahel. The U.S. government’s objectives to address the situation in Mali include restoring the authority of the State of Mali over its entire national territory, upholding the unity and territorial integrity of Mali, and confronting the threat posed by AQIM and affiliated groups.

Strengthening democratic institutions must be at the heart of combating extremism and political upheaval. Accordingly, we believe that restoration of democratically-elected government in Mali by April 2013, as called for by ECOWAS, is a crucial component of the overall long-term solution to Mali’s current crises.

Finally, we welcome the appointment of Special Envoy Romano Prodi. The Secretary General should empower the envoy to marshal U.N. resources to help Bamako hold elections by April 2013, and to engage with Malian, Tuareg and regional stakeholders to promote a negotiated settlement to the Tuareg rebellion. In addition, the envoy should support U.N. OCHA’s ongoing efforts to improve the international response to the humanitarian crisis in the Sahel region.

We look forward to the report called for by today’s resolution and for continued international attention regarding the situation in Mali.

Medicare Open Enrollment

Medicare Open Enrollment

NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN FOR OCTOBER 12, 2012

U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Combined Force Arrests Haqqani Leader

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 12, 2012 - An Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Haqqani leader in Paktiya province today, military officials reported.

The arrested insurgent leader is suspected of conducting improvised explosive device and indirect-fire attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, officials said.

The security force also detained a number of suspected insurgents and seized several assault weapons and a large quantity of explosive material as a result of the operation, officials said.

In other operations today:

-- A combined force killed a number of armed insurgents during a search for Taliban fighters in Sar-e Pul province. The security force seized several assault rifles, shotguns, and grenades during the operation.

-- A combined force arrested a number of suspected insurgents during a search for a Taliban leader in Helmand province. The sought-after Taliban leader is responsible for directing multiple attacks targeting Afghan and coalition forces throughout Helmand province.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA NATIONAL DAY

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT

Equatorial Guinea National Day
Press Statement

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State


Washington, DC

October 12, 2012

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of Equatorial Guinea as you celebrate your independence day this October 12.

The United States is committed to promoting peace and prosperity for the people of Equatorial Guinea. We support efforts to achieve economic growth in a manner that is consistent with the values of democracy and good governance. And we remain committed to working together to meet the challenges of the future.

I wish all people of Equatorial Guinea peace and prosperity in the years to come.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT

U.S.-EQUATORIAL GUINEA RELATIONS

The United States established diplomatic relations with Equatorial Guinea in 1968, following the country's independence from Spain. Equatorial Guinea's President has held office for more than three decades, and his party dominates the legislature. Three major U.S. foreign policy issues form the cornerstone of the bilateral relationship with Equatorial Guinea -- good governance and democracy; the protection of human rights; and U.S. national security, especially access to energy resources. The United States seeks to encourage improved human rights, the development of a working civil society, greater fiscal transparency, and increased government investment in Equatorial Guinea's people in areas such as health and education.

U.S. Assistance to Equatorial Guinea

U.S. assistance to Equatorial Guinea has focused on introducing the country’s military and police forces to the principles of human rights, good governance, and democracy, and on improving regional maritime security. The U.S. Agency for International Development has several small regional projects, but does not have a presence within the country. The Ambassador's Self-Help Fund annually finances a number of small grassroots projects. Equatoguineans visit the U.S. under programs sponsored by the U.S. Government, U.S. oil companies, and educational institutions.

Bilateral Economic Relations

Equatorial Guinea's hydrocarbon riches dwarf all other economic activity; the country's oil reserves are located mainly in the Gulf of Guinea. U.S. oil companies are one of Equatorial Guinea’s largest investors, and they have a lead role in oil and gas exploration and extraction. Equatorial Guinea's exports to the U.S. are dominated by petroleum products. In an effort to attract increased U.S. investment, U.S. passport-holders are entitled to visa-free entry for short visits. Imports from the United States include machinery, iron and steel products, optic and medical instruments, and inorganic chemical and rare earth minerals.

Equatorial Guinea's Membership in International Organizations

Equatorial Guinea has used its oil wealth to expand its foreign presence, establishing diplomatic missions in other countries. Equatorial Guinea and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank. The country also is an observer to the Organization of American States and World Trade Organization.

MIAMI AREA THERAPIST SENTENCED FOR PART IN $205 MILLION MEDICARE FRAUD

Photo Credit:  U.S. Department Of Defense.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Thursday, October 11, 2012
Miami-Area Therapist Sentenced to 108 Months in Prison for Participating in $205 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

WASHINGTON – Miami-area resident Vanja Abreu (Ph.D), former program director at the mental health care company American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC), was sentenced today to 108 months in prison for participating in a $205 million Medicare fraud scheme, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Michael B. Steinbach of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent-in-Charge Christopher Dennis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami office.

Abreu, 49, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz in the Southern District of Florida. In addition to her prison term, Judge Seitz sentenced Abreu to serve three years of supervised release following her prison term and pay $72,771,469 in restitution, jointly and severally with co-defendants.

On June 1, 2012, after a seven week trial, a federal jury in the Southern District of Florida found Abreu guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Evidence at trial demonstrated that Abreu and her co-conspirators caused the submission of false and fraudulent claims to Medicare through ATC, a Florida corporation headquartered in Miami that operated purported partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), intensive treatments for severe mental illness, in seven different locations throughout South Florida and Orlando.

Evidence at trial revealed that ATC secured patients by paying kickbacks to assisted living facility owners and halfway house owners who would then steer patients to ATC. These patients attended ATC, where they were ineligible for the treatment ATC billed to Medicare and where they did not receive the treatment that was billed to Medicare. After Medicare paid the claims, some of the co-conspirators then laundered the Medicare money in order to create cash to pay the patient kickbacks.

Evidence at trial revealed that Abreu was a program director at ATC’s Boca Raton, Fla., center from September 2005 to November 2005. In November 2005, Abreu moved to ATC’s Miami center, where she was the program director until February 2009, at which point she was promoted to corporate leadership and oversaw operations at all ATC centers until April 2010. Evidence at trial revealed that program directors, including Abreu, helped doctors at ATC sign patient files without reading the files or seeing the patients. Evidence further revealed that Abreu and others would assist the owners of ATC in fabricating doctor notes, therapist notes and other documents to make it falsely appear in ATC’s patient files that patients were qualified for this highly specialized treatment and that the patients were receiving the intensive, individualized treatment PHP is supposed to be. Included in these false and fraudulent submissions to Medicare were claims for patients who were in the late stages of diseases causing permanent cognitive memory loss and patients who had substance abuse issues and were living in halfway houses. These patients were ineligible for PHP treatment, and because they were forced by their assisted living facility owners and halfway house owners to attend ATC, they were not receiving treatment for the diseases they actually had.

Abreu was charged in an indictment returned on Feb. 8, 2011. ATC, the management company associated with ATC, and 20 individuals, including the ATC owners, have all previously pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial.

ATC executives Lawrence Duran, Marianella Valera, Judith Negron and Margarita Acevedo were sentenced to 50 years, 35 years, 35 years and 91 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in the fraud scheme. The 50- and 35-year sentences represent the longest sentences for health care fraud ordered to date. Acevedo, who was one of the first defendants to plead guilty and has been cooperating with the government since November 2010, testified at the doctors’ trial.

ATC and its management company, Medlink Professional Management Group Inc., pleaded guilty in May 2011 to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. ATC also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and to pay and receive illegal health care kickbacks. On Sept. 16, 2011, the two corporations were sentenced to five years of probation per count and ordered to pay restitution of $87 million. Both corporations have been defunct since their owners were arrested in October 2010.

The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Jennifer L. Saulino, Robert A. Zink and James V. Hayes of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT DAILY BRIEFING

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EPA AWARDING $30 MILLION FOR DIESEL EMISSION REDUCTION PROGRAM


Photo:  Diesel Engine.  Credit:  Wikimedia

FROM: U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
EPA Awards $30 Million for Clean Diesel Projects

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is awarding $30 million for clean diesel projects as part of its ongoing campaign to reduce harmful diesel exhaust that can lead to asthma attacks and premature deaths.

The Diesel Emission Reduction Program, also known as DERA, is designed to replace, retrofit or repower older diesel-powered engines like marine vessels, locomotives, trucks and buses.

Diesel engines are durable, fuel-efficient workhorses in the American economy. However, older diesel engines that predate newer, cleaner standards emit large amounts of air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM). These pollutants are linked to health problems, including asthma, lung and heart disease and premature death. The clean diesel projects funded through these grants will work to address the more than 11 million older diesel engines that continue to emit higher levels of pollution.

In this year’s competition, winners were selected based on a proposal’s potential for maximizing health and environmental benefits by targeting areas that have significant air quality issues. Reduced air pollution from diesel engines in these areas can have a direct and significant impact on community health.

New this year is an increased funding availability per award that will allow EPA to target larger engines used in marine vessels and locomotives, which will result in significant emissions reduced per engine.

DERA was enacted in 2005 and since it was first funded in FY 2008, EPA has awarded over 500 grants nationwide. These projects have reduced hundreds of thousands of tons of air pollution and saved millions of gallons of fuel.

Protection Against the Flu

Protection Against the Flu

U.S.-BANGLADEDESH MILITARY RELATIONS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, is escorted by Bangladeshi military personnel during a troop-review ceremony in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Oct. 10, 2012. Military-to-military relations between the United States and Bangladesh underlined Locklear's visit to Bangladesh. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Carl N. Hudson 

Locklear Encourages Closer U.S.-Bangladesh Military Ties
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2012 - Praising Bangladesh as a global model in both peacekeeping and disaster management, Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told Bangladeshi leaders and reporters yesterday he welcomes more opportunities for the United States and Bangladesh to work together to support their mutual security interests.

Locklear visited Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital city, where he met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Army Chief Gen. Iqbal Karim Bhuiyan and Navy Chief Vice Adm. Zahir Uddin Ahmed.

The United States, Bangladesh and other regional neighbors all stand to benefit from a strong U.S.-Bangladeshi military-to-military relationship, Locklear told reporters following the meetings.

"As I look across this part of the world, having a prosperous, secure and safe Bangladesh is a cornerstone to the future security of this part of the world," he said.

Locklear recognized strides Bangladesh -- the world's seventh-most-populated country -- has made as it learns not to prosper in a challenging geographic environment.

With a long history of devastating natural disasters, Bangladesh has made tremendous strides in managing their effects, the admiral said. "I think it is a model for others to follow," he said, expressing hope that the United States and Bangladesh can "learn from each other and strengthen our cooperation in some of these key areas."

In addition, Bangladesh has become "the world standard for peacekeeping operations," Locklear said. "And there is a lot that other nations can learn from what your forces do globally in support of U.N.-sanctioned peacekeeping operations," he added.

Bangladesh also recently built and launched its first ship, "quite an accomplishment" toward building a maritime force, he said.

Locklear congratulated both Bangladesh and Burma for taking their dispute over territorial seas, exclusive economic zones and continental shelves in the Bay of Bengal to the international law of the sea tribunal. The tribunal handed down its judgment in March.

Calling this "an excellent model" for other nations around the world, Locklear said the tribunals offer a way to deal with contested maritime areas in the South China Sea, East China Sea and elsewhere around the world.

Asked by a reporter, Locklear said any support from the United States to help Bangladesh defend its waters as defined by the tribunal would be at the request of the Bangladeshi government.

"And we will help in ways that would improve their capacity to be able to monitor what is going on in their maritime areas and to respond when their maritime interests are at stake," he said.

Assigning "a very good grade" to the military-to-military relationship between the United States and Bangladesh, Locklear said he would like to build on it to become stronger partners in ensuring a positive security environment.

He cited the biannual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, or CARAT, exercise series, in which the two militaries train together to increase interoperability. This year's exercise included the navies of the United States and Bangladesh, as well as Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and, for the first time, Timor Leste.

In another measure under discussion, but not yet concrete, the United States could transfer a retired U.S. Coast Guard cutter to the Bangladeshi navy.

Locklear and the Bangladeshi military leaders discussed these and other issues, agreeing to annual general-officer-level meetings to assess progress and chart the way forward for the military-to-military relationship.

While hoping to lock in key events such as exercises and senior-level visits as part of a five-year plan, Locklear said, he hopes to foster "a pretty free-flowing, living relationship like you would expect from any other partner."

The United States has no problem with Bangladesh advancing relationships with other regional nations, particularly China, Locklear said in answer to a reporter's question.

"In the end, we should have a security environment where everyone participates ... in their own interest, but also in the collective interest of everyone else," he said.

He emphasized that the U.S. rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region is not designed to "contain" China, as some have argued. "It is a strategy of looking at how do we ensure peace and prosperity and enhance a security environment for the decades, for the years to come in this part of the world where the United States, like China, like Bangladesh, like India have shared interests," he explained.

"There are too many problems facing the world today for everyone to line up and take sides," Locklear said. "We have to be able to be productive together and to create an environment that is better for our children and for their grandchildren. We have to be positioned with our military and our capabilities across all our nations, to be able to deal with massive humanitarian disasters that we know will come again. We have to ensure that the maritime, the cyber, the global commons are secure and safe, so that everyone can have access to them and so economies can grow.

"So the expectation would be that if Bangladesh chooses to have multiple relationships, it would be healthy for the security environment," Locklear said.

Remarks by Secretary Panetta on Cybersecurity to the Business Executives for National Security, New York City

Remarks by Secretary Panetta on Cybersecurity to the Business Executives for National Security, New York City


U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ALLEGES RESALE OF CREDIT REPORT DATA

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,

Thursday, October 11, 2012
Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against Three Related Companies for Violating Fair Credit Reporting Act

The United States has filed a complaint against three related companies that bought and sold consumer credit reports, the Justice Department announced today. The government’s complaint charges these companies with violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The companies have agreed to pay a $1.2 million civil penalty to resolve these charges.

In a complaint filed Oct. 9, 2012, the United States alleged that Direct Lending Source Inc., and Bailey & Associates Advertising Inc., both Florida corporations, Virtual Lending Source LLC, based in San Diego, Calif., and the principals of all of these entities, Robert M. Bailey, Jr. and Linda Giordiano , violated the FCRA by failing to comply with provisions forbidding the sale of credit reports without a "permissible purpose." The complaint alleges that the defendants purchased thousands of "pre-screened" consumer lists, or collections of credit report data. The only permissible purpose under the Act for using such prescreened lists is to make "firm offers of credit or insurance" to consumers. However, the complaint alleges that the defendants re-sold the lists to dealers who marketed loan modification, debt relief and credit repair services rather than making firm offers of credit. According to the complaint, some of the dealers who purchased the defendants’ credit report data have become the subject of law enforcement actions or warnings involving fraud committed against consumers in financial trouble.

The complaint also alleges that the defendants did not take reasonable steps to identify the ultimate purchasers of the credit reports. In some cases, according to the complaint, the defendants sold lists to brokers who then re-sold them to unidentified entities.

"The sensitive financial information in credit reports must be protected from those who would use it to target vulnerable consumers for sham offers," said Stuart Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. "We will work with the Federal Trade Commission to aggressively enforce the laws that safeguard these reports."

Along with the $1.2 million civil penalty, the defendants agreed to injunctions against future FCRA and FTC violations in a proposed consent decree that must be approved by the court. The proposed order would prohibit the defendants from using, obtaining or reselling consumer reports for unauthorized purposes. The proposed order also would prohibit the defendants from selling consumer reports in connection with solicitations for debt relief and mortgage relief services that charge advance fees.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which oversees the FCRA, referred the case to the Department. The lawsuit, United States v. Direct Lending Source et al., was filed in the Southern District of California.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Delery thanked the FTC for referring this matter to the Department. The Consumer Protection Branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division brought the case on behalf of the United States.

USDA SECRETARY VILSACK DESIGNATES 1 MILLION MORE CONSERVATION ACRES

Photo Credit:  USDA
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Fulfills Commitment to Designate 1 Million Additional Conservation Acres to Support Wildlife Habitat Restoration

Failure to Pass Food, Farm and Jobs Bill Puts Enrollments in Jeopardy LEWIS, Iowa, Oct. 8, 2012—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today underscored the Obama Administration’s commitment to partnerships in conservation by announcing the allocation of 400,000 acres to support conservation and restoration of wildlife and their habitats as part of the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP. Under Vilsack’s leadership, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has enrolled more than 12 million acres in CRP, a voluntary program available to agricultural producers to help them use marginal and environmentally sensitive land to bring conservation and economic benefits for their land and communities. Today’s announcement of 400,000 state acres for wildlife enhancement (SAFE acres), fulfills Vilsack’s commitment made last spring to commit 1 million acres for special initiatives to restore grasslands, wetlands and wildlife habitat.

"Since 2009, USDA has worked with producers and private landowners to enroll a record number of acres in conservation programs," said Vilsack. "These efforts have not only conserved our natural resources, but bolstered rural economies for current and future generations. That’s why it’s important for Congress to pass comprehensive, multi-year food, farm and jobs legislation—so that America’s rural communities have certainty that millions of acres of conservation lands will be there tomorrow to sustain and create jobs in the small businesses that reinforce our tourism and recreation industry."

With 400,000 SAFE acres available, USDA will work with producers and landowners to target habitat for high-priority species like the lesser prairie chicken and sage grouse, as well as game species like pheasants and quail that providing hunting opportunities and support rural jobs. Existing projects in 20 states will be able to add up to 280,000 combined acres for all projects, including prairie, wetlands, forest and savanna habitat restoration.In addition, more than 100,000 acres were added to target species as diverse as northern scarlet snakes, ferruginous hawks and the American woodcock.

SAFE is a voluntary continuous CRP practice that conserves and restores habitat for wildlife species that are threatened or endangered, have suffered significant population declines or are important environmentally, economically or socially. SAFE is currently capped at 1.25 million acres nationally. Acres are now allocated across 97 SAFE projects located in 36 states and Puerto Rico. Under SAFE, state fish and wildlife agencies, non-profit organizations and other conservation partners work collaboratively to target CRP delivery to specific conservation practices and geographic areas where enrollment of eligible farm land in continuous CRP will provide significant wildlife value. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) monitors SAFE and other continuous CRP activity and manages available acres to ensure that CRP goals and objectives are being met.

The Food Security Act of 1985, Section 1231(a), as amended, provides authority to enroll land in CRP through September 30, 2012.However, no legislation has been enacted to reauthorize or extend this authority; therefore, CRP currently is unable to enroll new acres.

In March, Secretary Vilsack announced USDA’s intent to enroll up to 1 million acres in a new CRP grasslands and wetlands initiative meant to target environmentally sensitive land through continuous signups. FSA has set aside acres within CRP for specific enrollments that benefit duck nesting habitat, upland birds, wetlands, pollinators and wildlife. In addition, USDA announced a continuous sign-up of highly erodible cropland, which seeks to protect the nation’s most environmentally sensitive lands. The Highly Erodible Cropland initiative permits landowners to enroll up to 750,000 acres of land with an Erodibility Index (EI) of 20 or greater.

CRP is one of America’s most valuable and vital conservation efforts, ensuring cleaner air and water, preventing soil erosion, and enhancing economic opportunity in rural America by supporting recreation and tourism. The approach to target the most sensitive lands is essential to maintain the substantial benefits of CRP while ensuring that productive farmlands continue to produce America’s food, feed, fiber and renewable fuel.

Highlights of CRP include:

CRP prevents the erosion of 325 million tons of soil each year, or enough soil to fill 19.5 million dump trucks;
CRP has restored more than two million acres of wetlands and two million acres of riparian buffers;
Each year, CRP keeps more than 600 million pounds of nitrogen and more than 100 million pounds of phosphorous from flowing into our nation’s streams, rivers, and lakes;
CRP provides $1.8 billion annually to landowners—dollars that make their way into local economies, supporting small businesses and creating jobs; and
CRP is the largest private lands carbon sequestration program in the country. By placing vulnerable cropland into conservation, CRP sequesters carbon in plants and soil, and reduces both fuel and fertilizer usage. In 2010, CRP resulted in carbon sequestration equal to taking almost 10 million cars off the road.

As part of President Obama’s
America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, the Administration is opening up recreational access to lands and waters, supporting the creation of urban parks and trails, increasing youth employment in conservation jobs and making historic investments in large landscapes such as the Everglades. The initiative is empowering locally-led conservation and outdoor recreation efforts, from supporting the working landscapes of the Dakota Grasslands and longleaf pine in the southern U.S., to designating the Chimney Rock National Monument inColorado, to countless other success stories across the country.

In 2011, USDA enrolled a record number of acres of private working lands in conservation programs, working with more than 500,000 farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, and prevent soil erosion. Moreover, the Obama Administration, with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, has worked tirelessly to strengthen rural America, implement the Farm Bill, maintain a strong farm safety net, and create opportunities for America’s farmers and ranchers. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its most productive periods in American history thanks to the productivity, resiliency, and resourcefulness of our producers.