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Saturday, November 24, 2012

NASA'S ROBOTS IN SPACE VIDEO

FROM: NASA 


Robots Aboard International Space Station
Ames Research Center, MIT and Johnson Space Center have two new robotics projects aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Robonaut 2, a two-armed humanoid robot with astronaut-like dexterity, is currently undergoing onboard testing. The second is the SPHERES satellite, which recently got a smartphone upgrade that gives it eyes, ears and a sensor array. These robots could assume mundane, sometimes dangerous tasks: monitoring radiation, filter change-outs, some extravehicular activities.

LOOSE SPIRAL GALAXY

 
 

FROM: NASA, LOOSE SPIRAL GALAXY

Hubble Eyes a Loose Spiral Galaxy
The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted the spiral galaxy ESO 499-G37, seen here against a backdrop of distant galaxies, scattered with nearby stars.

The galaxy is viewed from an angle, allowing Hubble to reveal its spiral nature clearly. The faint, loose spiral arms can be distinguished as bluish features swirling around the galaxy’s nucleus. This blue tinge emanates from the hot, young stars located in the spiral arms. The arms of a spiral galaxy have large amounts of gas and dust, and are often areas where new stars are constantly forming.

The galaxy’s most characteristic feature is a bright elongated nucleus. The bulging central core usually contains the highest density of stars in the galaxy, where typically a large group of comparatively cool old stars are packed in this compact, spheroidal region.

One feature common to many spiral galaxies is the presence of a bar running across the center of the galaxy. These bars are thought to act as a mechanism that channels gas from the spiral arms to the center, enhancing the star formation.

Image Credit: NASA/Hubble

 

 

 

 

SIERRA LEONE ELECTIONS

Map Credit:  CIA World Factbook.

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT

Presidential Elections in Sierra Leone
Press Statement
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 24, 2012

The United States commends the people of Sierra Leone who, on November 17, turned out in overwhelming numbers to vote in the third successful presidential and parliamentary election since the end of the country's civil war in 2002. We congratulate President Ernest Bai Koroma on his re-election, and urge all parties to accept the results as representing the will of Sierra Leone’s voting public.

Any grievances related to the election must be resolved through Sierra Leone's judiciary, in accordance with the rule of law. We urge all party leaders to refrain from actions that incite violence or encourage acts of retribution.

We call on the National Electoral Commission, Political Parties Registration Commission, and other stakeholders to address any electoral deficiencies and further strengthen Sierra Leonean democracy.


Locator Map Credit:  CIA World Factbook


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM CIA WORLD FACTBOOK Democracy is slowly being reestablished after the civil war from 1991 to 2002 that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people (about a third of the population). The military, which took over full responsibility for security following the departure of UN peacekeepers at the end of 2005, is increasingly developing as a guarantor of the country's stability. The armed forces remained on the sideline during the 2007 presidential election but still look to the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) - a civilian UN mission - to support efforts to consolidate peace. The new government's priorities include furthering development, creating jobs, and stamping out endemic corruption.

Parents, kids and bullying

Parents, kids and bullying

THE FIGHT TO END HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Jada Pinkett Smith meets with Deputy AG Cole.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

The Fight to End Human Trafficking Contineus
November 21st, 2012
Posted by Tracy Russo

Deputy Attorney General James Cole met with Jada Pinkett Smith last week to discuss the department’s extensive efforts to end human trafficking. Ms. Pinkett Smith founded the organization,
Don’t Sell Bodies, to raise awareness about this global epidemic and advocate for victims of trafficking. Ms. Pinkett Smith was joined by former trafficking victims who now work to raise awareness and eliminate human trafficking, including Minh Dang and Withelma "T" Ortiz-Macey, Glamour magazine’s 2011 Woman of the Year.

During the meeting the group discussed remarks made by Deputy Cole before the INTERPOL General Assembly in Italy earlier this month, which largely focused on the department’s myriad of efforts to combat trafficking, including the links between transnational organized crime and human trafficking and the department’s prosecution and training efforts in this area.

Human trafficking cases are prosecuted by several Department of Justice components, including the Civil Rights Division and its specialized Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, the Criminal Division through the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, and individual U.S. Attorney’s Offices. These cases are investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Homeland Security Investigations, and partners at the Departments of Labor and State.

In recent years we have demonstrated unprecedented success in fighting both labor and sex trafficking. We are bringing a record number of federal cases, while at the same time, more states than ever before have passed their own anti-trafficking laws. The department has increased the number of human trafficking prosecutions by more than 30 percent in forced labor and adult sex trafficking cases, while also increasing the number of convictions in Innocence Lost National Initiative cases by 30 percent.

Working with federal, state, local, and international law enforcement agencies, we recently secured the longest sentence ever imposed in a forced labor case. In
United States v. Botsvynyuk, the lead defendant was sentenced to life in prison plus twenty years, and his co-conspirator was sentenced to twenty years, for their respective roles in an organized human trafficking scheme that held its victims in forced labor on cleaning crews in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Just over a year ago, we initiated a pilot project of multi-agency Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams (ACTeams) in six judicial districts in the United States. These task forces will prove the value of interagency coordination to address the scourge of human trafficking. In addition to the ACTeams, each U.S. Attorney now participates in some form of anti-trafficking task force.

In addition to our own federal prosecutions, the department’s grant making components are funding state and local law enforcement agencies and victim services organizations to support multidisciplinary, victim-centered task forces dedicated to investigating trafficking crimes and providing culturally-competent assistance to victims.

By taking a multi-disciplinary approach to combating human trafficking and working with our federal, state local and nonprofit partners we can ensure that victims obtain the services that they need and that offenders are prosecuted and sentenced to lengthy jail sentences.

U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK TO UNDERWITE EXPORT OF U.S.-MADE SATELLITES TO HONG KONG

Sputnick Exhibit:  The Original Satellite.  Photo Credit:  U.S. Air Force

FROM: U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK
Ex-Im Approves $461 million to Finance Export
of U.S. Satellites to Hong Kong

Washington, D.C. – In a decision that will support thousands of high-tech jobs in the U.S., the board of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has authorized two transactions aggregating $461 million to underwrite the export of American-made satellites to Hong Kong.


The pair of transactions will support approximately 3,700 U.S. jobs, according to Bank estimates derived from Departments of Commerce and Labor data and methodology.

"We are excited to play such a key role in two dynamic transactions that will support several thousand high-paying U.S. jobs in the satellite and aeronautics industries," said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. "These products reveal the technological ingenuity and innovation of American companies and will benefit millions of people the world over as we orient ourselves more and more to the future."

Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) of Hong Kong will deploy the satellites to upgrade and expand its fleet, which offers coverage to 80 percent of the world’s population and targets emerging markets in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Russia.

"We are absolutely delighted with the support of Ex-Im Bank to provide us financing for our upcoming satellite and launch platforms. In ABS-2, Space Systems/Loral provides us with one of the largest satellites ever to be launched over Asia. Separately, the combination of Boeing 702SP satellites and the Falcon-9 launch vehicles will revolutionize the Fixed Satellite industry with the most cost effective delivery of satellites into orbit," said Tom Choi, chief executive officer of ABS. "With these satellites, ABS will extend the reach of affordable and reliable communications and broadcast services to the emerging markets of the world. We are proud to be partnered with such innovative companies and we are extremely thankful for Ex-Im’s financing support."

In the first transaction, the Bank authorized a $171.29 million direct loan to ABS to finance the purchase of a FS1300, C/Ka/Ku-band geostationary satellite from Space Systems/Loral Inc. (SS/L) and insurance from Aon. The satellite is scheduled to launch in 2013.

SS/L, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based provider of satellites and space systems, has manufactured more than 250 satellites since 1960. The satellites have delivered an excess of 1,900 years of on-orbit service.

"Export-Import Bank financing helps make U.S. manufacturers more competitive and keeps our space industry strong," said John Celli, president of Space Systems/Loral. "Our work on the satellite for ABS keeps hundreds of engineers, technicians and managers employed here in Palo Alto and many hundreds more at suppliers across the U.S."

Additionally, the Bank authorized a separate $289.71 million direct loan to ABS to facilitate the purchase of two 702SP C- and Ku-band geostationary satellites from Boeing Satellite Systems International (Boeing), insurance from Aon, technical support, and the launch of both of the satellites with Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Falcon 9. The transaction will finance the first two of Boeing’s all-electric-propulsion commercial satellites and the first Ex-Im Bank-backed SpaceX launch. The two satellites are planned to launch in 2015 from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

"The Bank's support of this important satellite operator, one of two launch customers, finds it again at the forefront of helping fulfill a global opportunity with an advanced-technology, American-made product," said Craig Cooning, chief executive officer of Boeing Satellite Systems International. "Our all-electric propulsion means lighter launch weight, which translates into more payload capability at a lower cost in orbit. It ultimately means we can offer customers more and capture sales that will support hundreds of high-tech American jobs."


Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Hawthorne, Calif., SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches rockets and spacecraft. It is the first private company to build, launch, and dock spacecraft at the International Space Station, a mission previously accomplished only by government space entities.

"Ex-Im Bank’s financing of the ABS mission on a Falcon 9 launch vehicle marks the first SpaceX international launch deal to receive Ex-Im backing, and we look forward to many more to come," said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president. "SpaceX is rapidly winning back market share in a commercial field once dominated by the U.S. The support of Ex-Im is great for our customers, our jobs, and our country"

HSBC Hong Kong and New York Project & Export Finance teams acted as lead financial advisor to ABS throughout the Ex-Im Bank application and due diligence processes.

In FY 2012, Ex-Im Bank authorized approximately $1.4 billion in satellite transactions.

The First Lady Receives the 2012 White House Christmas Tree | The White House

The First Lady Receives the 2012 White House Christmas Tree | The White House

EPA FIENS 16 FIRMS FOR LEAD PAINT RULE VIOLATIONS


FROM: U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
EPA Fines 16 Firms for Violations of the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced 16 enforcement actions for violations of the lead-based paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP). A priority for EPA’s enforcement program is to protect children, and others, from exposure to lead dust that can cause lead poisoning by ensuring that renovators follow the RRP and other lead rules. Lead exposure can cause a range of adverse health effects, from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death, putting young children at the greatest risk because their nervous systems are still developing.

"At least 4 million households with children have lead paint, and over a half million children have elevated levels of lead in their blood. But lead exposure is preventable when you know what to look for and what to do," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "These settlements serve as an important reminder of the importance of using lead-safe practices to protect the health of our children and prevent lead poisoning."

The RRP rule requires that contractors that work on pre-1978 dwellings and child-occupied facilities be trained and certified to use lead-safe work practices. This ensures that common renovation and repair activities like sanding, cutting and replacing windows are done in ways that minimize dangerous lead dust. EPA finalized the RRP rule in 2008 and the rule took effect on April 22, 2010.

The enforcement actions listed below address many serious RRP Rule violations that could result in harm to human health. These actions include cases where the respondent failed to follow lead-safe work practices. Lead-safe work practices are critical to reducing exposure to lead-based paint hazards and, thereby, avoiding potential lead poisoning. In at least five actions, children lived at the property; thus, the respondent directly put children at risk of exposure to lead-based paint hazards. Also, in several cases, respondents failed to obtain firm certification prior to performing or offering to perform renovation activities on pre-1978 homes. The RRP Rule’s certification requirements ensure that firms and renovators know the RRP Rule, and how to employ lead-safe work practices. Other alleged violations include the respondent’s failure to provide EPA's "Renovate Right" pamphlet to homeowners and occupants. The pamphlet is an important mechanism for helping homeowners and tenants understand the risks of lead-based paint hazards, and how best to minimize these risks to protect themselves and their families.

The 16 enforcement actions include 13 administrative settlements and 3 filed administrative complaints. The settlements advance EPA’s mission to protect human health because, under each settlement, the respondent was required to certify that it has come into compliance with the RRP Rule – and compliance results in greater protection for children and others in the future. EPA also assessed civil penalties. When formulating penalties, EPA must evaluate an entity’s ability to pay a penalty and to remain in business. Accordingly, the Agency assessed a total of $53,792 in civil penalties. In the 3 administrative complaints that EPA has filed, the Agency seeks civil penalties up to the statutory maximum of $37,500 per violation.


SAILORS SERVE THANKSGIVING MEALS TO HOMELESS

121121-D-QK571-165 VENTURA, Ca. (Nov. 21, 2012) Left, Capt. David Sasek and Command Master Chief Thomas Cyr, the chief staff officer and command master chief at Naval Base Ventura County, serve up thanksgiving meals with members of local community and law enforcement agencies. Thirty Sailors, including Chief Petty Officer Alan Grow, right, helped serve over 800 meals at the Ventura County Rescue Mission in Oxnard, Calif. Nov. 21. Photo by Andrea Howry, NBVC public affairs.
FROM: U.S. NAVY, NAVAL BASE VENTURA
California Sailors Help Serve Thanksgiving Meals to the Homeless
Andrea Howry, Naval Base Ventura County Public Affairs


OXNARD, Calif. (NNS) -- Sailors from Naval Base Ventura County were among the 150 volunteers who showed up at the Ventura County Rescue Mission in Oxnard Calif., Nov. 21.

"We are so appreciative that the military is willing to give up a day and come help the community," said John Saltee, director of the rescue mission. "We are so pleased with the turnout."

Chief Staff Officer David Sasek and Command Master Chief Thomas Cyr were among several local dignitaries at one buffet table serving food onto plates that were then taken to the families seated at picnic tables all over the rescue mission property.

Another buffet table was staffed by Sailors in their khaki uniforms, while more Sailors shuttled steaming plates of food to the hungry families.

While serving did not begin until noon, several volunteers came as early as 10:30 a.m. to help with behind-the-scenes work, from wrapping plastic tableware in napkins and tying them with orange yarn to setting out drinking cups filled with ice.

A dozen other volunteers from the base visited the rescue mission the day before to help set up for the feast.

"It's important to help out," said Construction Electrician 3rd Class Bryan Sheridan of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3. "We all need to give something back."

"We have a lot of things to be thankful for. We need to give, too," said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Ivy Jane Ibarra, also of NMCB 3.

Five volunteers came from Naval Branch Health Clinic, including Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Starleen Whitaker.

"I wanted to help support the needy," said Whitaker. "I like reaching out to the community."

Lt. Jeffrey Han, base chaplain, said the religious ministries team organizes several volunteer opportunities at the rescue mission every year.

"This is important because it's Thanksgiving," he said. "But it's important to volunteer the other 364 days of the year as well."

LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY GIVES OUT VENTURE ACCLERATION FUND AWARDS

Photo:  Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Credit:  LANL.
FROM:  LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY
New Companies Get Boost from Los Alamos National Security
Venture Acceleration Fund awards help region’s businesses grow

LOS ALAMOS, NEW MEXICO, November 19, 2012—Two local biotech start ups, a water and power company and a hardware inventor are the latest recipients of $165,000 in Venture Acceleration Fund (VAF) awards from Los Alamos National Security, LLC.

Mustomo, Inc., IX Power, Synfolia, and Tape-Ease will receive funding to take their products and services to the next development level. Three of the four companies are commercializing technology and intellectual property developed by New Mexico’s national laboratories and educational institutions.

"Although the program was originally intended to commercialize Lab technologies, VAF frequently funds companies with no tie to LANL or research institutions," says David Pesiri, the Laboratory’s Technology Transfer Division leader. "This round of VAF funding represents a special opportunity to push national lab and research institution technology into the marketplace, and to build upon other tech transfer efforts such as Labstart."

Breast Cancer Detection Aided

Mustomo, Inc. of Los Alamos received $100,000 to commercialize novel LANL technology for breast cancer screening and detection. The ultrasound-based, three-dimensional tomography system has significant advantages over x-ray mammograms and ultrasound screenings in that it is safe, comfortable, high-resolution, and easy to administer. In conjunction with clinical trials at the University of New Mexico Medical Center, Mustomo will use its VAF award to complete an operator manual, procedural guide, quality assurance and test plans, and to implement on-site training and test result review. The company will also prepare a preliminary FDA filing to enter the marketplace.

Mustomo, Inc. is a spin off of LANL’s Labstart program, a joint partnership between Arch Venture Partners and Verge Fund that is under contract with LANL to help identify and create start-up companies.

"I am excited about and appreciate the support from VAF," says Denis O’Connor, CEO of Mustomo, Inc. "This grant will greatly enhance our ability to commercialize this cutting edge technology in breast cancer assessment developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory."

Powering Up

IX Power of Los Alamos received $30,000 to acquire a first customer for Trans-Ex, a software package developed at LANL to optimize electric power grid supply and delivery configuration. IX Power will partner with Local Power of Marshall, CA to identify candidate sites and market opportunities for renewable and efficiency deployments in San Francisco. The team includes six IX Power founders, led by CEO John R. (Grizz) Deal, former LANL Computer Research & Applications Group Leader Vance Faber, and former LANL scientist Jonathan Bradley. Gaspar Loren Toole of Los Alamos will provide technical assistance to the company through the New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NMSBA) program.

IX Power expects to expand its workforce from nine full-time employees to more than 100 employees in the next year. "The VAF grant is critical to our ability to successfully commercialize the TransEx technology," says John R (Grizz) Deal, IX Power’s chief executive officer. "This kind of shared risk, between public sector inventors and private sector marketers, is a unique and vital partnership and a model for other labs and public institutions."

Biodegradability Testing

Synfolia of Santa Fe received $20,000 to conduct materials and biodegradability testing for tailored tissue scaffolds that regenerate epidermal and bone tissue. The company has exclusive rights to commercialize technology that was developed jointly by the University of New Mexico and Sandia National Laboratories. The company’s bioengineered scaffolds improve upon products currently used for tissue generation because they use the patient’s own cells and degrade easily without the problems of inadequate supply. Synfolia’s team includes Elizabeth Dirk, Ph.D. of the University of New Mexico; Shawn Dirk, Ph.D. and Stephen P. Buerger, Ph.D. of Sandia National Laboratories; and Dr. Reza Shekarriz.

"The VAF is a valuable tool for early stage start-ups like Synfolia," says John Chavez, CEO of Synfolia. "The VAF process makes entrepreneurs focus on specific milestones that move them to the next level."

Measuring Up

Tape-Ease received $15,000 to manufacture and market its products through trade shows, merchandising, and video production. The woman-owned, Santa Fe-based company invented practical tools that attach to a standard one-inch tape measure, enabling accurate and quick measurements by a single person. In the past year, Tape-Ease secured a manufacturer and began distribution. Initial marketing resulted in a phenomenal response, prompting Tape-Ease to seek VAF support to capitalize on momentum. The project team includes founders Lisa and Linda Johnson, and partners Michael Rafter and Eldon Goates.

The VAF award came at the most opportune time for Tape-Ease, whose founders have personally funded the company to date. "The funding allowed us to accelerate our momentum in fulfilling orders and marketing our products," says Tape-Ease founder Linda Johnson. "By helping us attend the International Builders Show for the first time, VAF opened the door to distributors from all over the world. VAF has been a lifeline for Tape-Ease. We're so grateful!" About the Program Los Alamos National Security, LLC, manager of Los Alamos National Laboratory, invests $1 million per year in economic development through a program known as Los Alamos Connect. Los Alamos Connect promotes VAF and a variety of other business development programs. The VAF efforts have generated a $24 million return in the regional economy on a $2.46 million LANS investment and helped create or retain 48 jobs.

2012 CONFERENCE ON MIDDLE EAST ZONE FREE OF WMD


Trinity Test - Worlds first atomic bomb detonated by the U.S. at Trinity site in southern New Mexico on 16 July 1945.

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
2012 Conference on a Middle East Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction (MEWMDFZ)

Press Statement
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson,
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 23, 2012

As a co-sponsor of the proposed conference on a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction (MEWMDFZ), envisioned in the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference Final Document, the United States regrets to announce that the conference cannot be convened because of present conditions in the Middle East and the fact that states in the region have not reached agreement on acceptable conditions for a conference.

The United States will continue to work seriously with our partners to create conditions for a meaningful conference. We are particularly grateful for the tireless efforts of Ambassador Jaakko Laajava, the appointed facilitator, supported by the United States, the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation and the UN Secretary General, to lay the groundwork for a successful conference against the backdrop of turmoil and dramatic political change taking place in the Middle East and Iran’s continuing defiance of its international nonproliferation obligations.

The United States believes that a deep conceptual gap persists in the region on approaches toward regional security and arms control arrangements. These differences can only be bridged through direct engagement and agreement among the states in the region. Outside states cannot impose a process on the region any more than they can dictate an outcome. The mandate for a MEWMDFZ must come from the region itself. That principle must underlie any serious undertaking on this issue.

Looking ahead, we encourage states in the region to take a fresh look at the obstacles standing in the way of convening a conference and to begin to explore terms for a successful meeting. This will require that all parties agree on the purpose and scope of a conference and on an agenda and process that takes into account the legitimate security interests of all states in the region. We believe that this conference should discuss a broad agenda that covers regional security and all WMD issues, and that it must operate solely on the basis of consensus among regional parties.

These are appropriate guidelines for official dialogue on security issues in the Middle East where none currently exists. They provide the necessary assurance that states can attend a conference on an equal footing. We would not support a conference in which any regional state would be subject to pressure or isolation.

The United States will continue to work with our partners to support an outcome in which states in the region approach this issue on the basis of mutual respect and understanding and with acknowledgement of the challenges inherent in advancing regional security and arms control. A conference handled this way, with direct engagement of the regional states, will enjoy the greatest prospects for success.

The United States fully supports the goal of a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction and we stand by our commitments. We further note our view that a comprehensive and durable peace in the region and full compliance by all regional states with their arms control




SEC HAS NEAR RECORD RESULTS FOR FISCAL YEAR 2012

Photo Credit:  Wikimedia.
FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C., Nov. 14, 2012 — Building on last year’s record results, the Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that it filed 734 enforcement actions in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2012, one shy of last year’s record of 735. Most significantly, that number included an increasing number of cases involving highly complex products, transactions, and practices, including those related to the financial crisis, trading platforms and market structure, and insider trading by market professionals. Twenty percent of the actions were filed in investigations designated as National Priority Cases, representing the Division’s most important and complex matters.

The SEC also announced that it obtained orders in fiscal year 2012 requiring the payment of more than $3 billion in penalties and disgorgement for the benefit of harmed investors. It represents an 11 percent increase over the amount ordered last year. In the past two years, the SEC has obtained orders for $5.9 billion in penalties and disgorgement.

"The record of performance is a testament to the professionalism and perseverance of the staff and the innovative reforms put in place over the past few years," said SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro. "We’ve now brought more enforcement actions in each of the last two years than ever before including some of the most complex cases we’ve ever seen."

Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, added, "It’s not simply numbers, but the increasing complexity and diversity of the cases we file that shows how successful we’ve been. The intelligence, dedication, and deep experience of our enforcement staff are, more than any other factors, responsible for the Division’s success."

The sustained high-level performance comes two years after the Division underwent its most significant reorganization since it was established in the early 1970s. The results in 2012 were aided by many of the reforms and innovations put in place in the past two years, such as increased expertise in complex and emerging financial markets, products, and transactions, including through enhanced training, the hiring of industry experts, and the creation of specialized enforcement units focused on high-priority misconduct; a flatter management structure; streamlined and centralized processes and the improved utilization of information technology; and a vastly enhanced ability to collect, process, and analyze tips and complaints.

Financial Crisis-Related Cases

Among the cases filed by the SEC in FY 2012 were 29 separate actions naming 38 individuals, including 24 CEOs, CFOs and other senior corporate officers, regarding wrongdoing related to the financial crisis.

These cases included enforcement actions involving:
The former
senior officers of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for misleading statements regarding the extent of each company’s holdings of higher-risk mortgage loans.

Former investment bankers at Credit Suisse for fraudulently overstating the prices of $3 billion in subprime bonds.
Several bank and mortgage executives including those at United Commercial Bank, TierOne Bank, Franklin Bank, and Thornburg Mortgage for misleading investors about mounting loan losses and the deteriorating financial condition of their institutions.
The U.S. investment banking subsidiary of Japan-based Mizuho Financial Group for misleading investors in a CDO by using "dummy assets" to inflate the deal’s credit ratings.

During the last 2½ years, the agency has filed actions related to the financial crisis against 117 defendants – nearly half of whom were CEOs, CFOs and other senior corporate executives, resulting in approximately $ 2.2 billion in disgorgement, penalties, and other monetary relief obtained or agreed to. The SEC brought enforcement actions against Goldman Sachs, J.P Morgan Securities, and Morgan Keegan as well as senior executives from Countrywide, New Century, and American Home Mortgage.

Insider Trading Cases

Insider trading cases also are on the upswing with 58 actions filed in FY 2012 by the SEC, an increase over last year’s total of 57 actions. The 168 total insider trading actions filed since October 2009 have been the most in SEC history for any three-year period.

In these actions, the SEC has charged approximately 400 individuals and entities for illegal trading totaling approximately $600 million in illicit profits. Among those charged in SEC insider trading cases in 2012 were:
Former McKinsey & Co. global head
Rajat Gupta for illegally tipping convicted hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam.

Hedge funds Diamondback Capital and Level Global Investors and affiliated traders and analysts.
Hedge fund manager Douglas Whitman.

John Kinnucan and his expert network consulting firm Broadband Research Corporation.
A second round of charges in an insider trading case involving former professional baseball players and the former top executive at Advanced Medical Optics.

Other Enforcement Matters

In order to ensure fair trading and equal access to information in the securities markets, the SEC brought several actions involving compliance failures and rules violations relating to stock exchanges, alternative trading platforms, and other market structure participants.

These cases included:
First-of-its-kind charges against the
New York Stock Exchange for compliance failures that gave certain customers an improper head start on trading information.
The first-ever action against a "dark pool" trading platform (Pipeline Trading Systems) for failing to disclose to its customers that the vast amount of orders were filled by an affiliated trading operation.
An action against Direct Edge Holdings LLC for violations at two of its electronic stock exchanges and a broker-dealer arising out of weak controls that resulted in millions of dollars in trading losses and a systems outage.

In the NYSE matter, the exchange and its parent company NYSE Euronext agreed to pay a $5 million penalty, marking the first-ever SEC financial penalty against an exchange.

Investment Advisers: The SEC filed numerous actions resulting from several risk-based, proactive measures that identify threats at an early stage so that early action to halt the misconduct can be initiated and investor harm minimized. In 2012, several actions resulted from the Division’s investment adviser compliance initiative, which looks for registered investment advisers who lack effective compliance programs designed to prevent securities laws violations.

The SEC also filed actions charging
three advisory firms and six individuals as part of the Aberrational Performance Inquiry into abnormal performance returns by hedge funds. Other actions against investment advisers included cases against UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico and two executives for misleading disclosures relating to certain proprietary closed-end mutual funds, Morgan Stanley Investment Management for an improper fee arrangement, and OppenheimerFunds for misleading investors in two funds suffering significant losses during the financial crisis. UBS paid more than $26 million to settle the SEC’s charges while OppenheimerFunds paid more than $35 million for its violations.

The SEC filed 147 enforcement actions in 2012 against investment advisers and investment companies, one more than the previous year’s record number.

Issuer Disclosures:
The SEC brought 79 actions in FY 2012 for financial fraud and issuer disclosure violations. Those cases included actions against
Life Partners Holdings and senior executives for fraudulent disclosures related to life settlements; two executives at China-based Puda Coal for defrauding investors about the nature of the company’s assets; and an enforcement action against Shanghai-based Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu for its refusal to provide the SEC with audit work papers related to a China-based company under investigation for potential accounting fraud against U.S. investors.

Broker-Dealers:
The agency filed 134 enforcement actions related to broker-dealers, a 19 percent increase over the previous year. Broker-dealer actions included charges against
a Latvian trader and electronic trading firms for their roles in an online account intrusion scheme that manipulated the prices of more than 100 NYSE and Nasdaq securities as well as charges against New York-based brokerage firm Hold Brothers On-Line Investment Services and three of its executives for their roles in allowing overseas traders to access the markets and conduct manipulative trading through accounts the firm controlled. The defendants in the Hold Brothers action paid a total of $4 million to settle the SEC’s charges.

FCPA:
The SEC filed 15 actions in FY 2012 for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. FCPA actions were filed against
former Siemens executives, Magyar Telekom, Biomet, Smith & Nephew, Pfizer, Tyco International, and a former executive at Morgan Stanley’s real estate investment and fund advisory business.

Municipal Securities:
The SEC filed 17 enforcement actions related to municipal securities, more than double the number filed in 2011. Among those charged in SEC municipal securities actions were
the former mayor and city treasurer of Detroit in a pay-to-play scheme involving investments of the city’s pension funds, and Goldman Sachs for violations of various municipal securities rules resulting from undisclosed "in-kind" non-cash contributions that one of its investment bankers made to a Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate.

LOWER MEKONG INITIATIVE LAUNCHES "CONNECT MEKONG"

Golden lion on a Mekong River waterfront.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Lower Mekong Initiative Launches "Connect Mekong"
Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 20, 2012

The Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) is a multilateral partnership effort initiated by the United States in 2009 for promoting cooperation in the Mekong sub-region in the areas of education, health, environment and water, connectivity, agriculture and food security, and energy security. Over the past four years, LMI has implemented programs through a variety of interagency partners on both sides of the Pacific to meet some of the most pressing trans-boundary challenges in the region.

Looking forward, the United States has committed substantial resources to LMI over the next three years through the Asia Pacific Strategic Engagement Initiative (APSEI), which allows LMI members to support regional efforts towards political and economic integration and narrowing the development gap in ASEAN over the long-term.

On November 20, 2012, President Obama held a photo op with LMI country leaders Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong of Laos, President Thein Sein of Myanmar, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of Thailand, and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This photo op was a demonstration of the commitment of all members to develop strong collaboration to address the most important transnational challenges of the region.

Building on the priorities identified under ASEAN’s Economic and Socio-Cultural Pillars and the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity, "Connect Mekong" leverages U. S. expertise in fostering entrepreneurship and trade, cultivating technical expertise to promote infrastructure connectivity, and expanding educational access to support development of sustainable infrastructure systems and technical capacity in the sub-region. "Connect Mekong" increases investment opportunities in the region by providing avenues for public-private cooperation, establishes formal channels of communication between LMI and ASEAN to fast track LMI programs which contribute most effectively to ASEAN connectivity, and initiates new efforts to generate grassroots entrepreneurship in the Mekong sub-region.
"Connect Mekong" is the result of the collaboration and consultation with government agencies and offices, including USAID, as well as LMI member governments.
The signature program under "Connect Mekong," the Mekong Technology Innovation Generation and Entrepreneurship Resources (TIGERS), is a new public-private platform aimed at boosting competitiveness and growth in targeted Mekong economies by supporting young innovators and entrepreneurs.
"Connect Mekong" also includes the next phase of the Professional Communication Skills (PCS) program, which aims to train up to 1,000 public officials in LMI countries working in technical sectors essential to ASEAN connectivity, such as civil aviation, urban planning and river navigation.
"Connect Mekong" will support a series of best practice exchanges with a wide range of U.S. and LMI partners, focusing on how to develop infrastructure which enhances competitiveness and allows better access to transportation, electricity, information technology, education, and improved sanitation and quality of life for the people.

ROCKET SLED TEST VIDEO

FROM: NASA
 

Rocket Sled Testing

Video of rocket-sled testing of the SIAD-R device, conducted in fall 2012 at China Lake, Calif. The SIAD-R is one of three supersonic deceleration devices now being prepared for flight testing by the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The devices, which slow the rate of descent for vehicles entering the atmosphere of another planet, could be used in Mars missions launching as early as 2018. Credit-NASA.

RECENT PHOTOS FROM THE U.S. NAVY





FROM: U.S. NAVY
The Aircraft carrier John C. Stennis (CVN 74) operates in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility during sunset. Stennis is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of Responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Chase (Released) 121118-N-YF306-158




Family members wave to Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) as it arrives at hits homeport, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for the first time. The new destroyer honors the late Lt. (SEAL) Michael P. Murphy, a New York native who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in combat as leader of a four-man reconnaissance team in Afghanistan. Murphy was the first person to be awarded the medal for actions in Afghanistan, and the first member of the U.S. Navy to receive the award since the Vietnam War. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Dasbach (Released) 121121-N-KT462-091

A NEW GATEWAY TO SPACE

FROM: NASA



Establishing A New Gateway to Space

A year after space shuttle Atlantis touched down to end the shuttle program, NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is preparing for future missions. Facilities are being remodeled to host a variety of spacecraft, rockets and companies to continue humanity's great adventure into space.

Friday, November 23, 2012

MARINE DONATES BONE MARROW TO LEUKEMIA VICTIM

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Enrique Gallardo sets up a communication interface system at Camp Foster in Okinawa, Japan, Nov. 6, 2012. In May, Gallardo flew to San Diego to donate bone marrow to a woman suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Gallardo volunteered to be a donor during recruit training and was contacted as a potential match two years later. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kasey Peacock
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Face of Defense: Marine Donates Bone Marrow for Stranger

By Marine Corps Pfc. Kasey Peacock
Marine Corps Installations Pacific

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa, Japan, Nov. 19, 2012 - In the midst of recruit training, Pvt. Enrique Gallardo was given a form to sign in January of 2010 -- a form that, while similar in appearance to countless others that had passed in front of Gallardo, would be very significant in the Marine's future.

By checking a box on this form, Gallardo elected to be a potential bone marrow donor, setting events into motion that would possibly save the life of a complete stranger.

Two years later, Lance Cpl. Gallardo, an aviation systems radio technician with Marine Air Support Squadron 2, Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, received an email stating he was a potential bone marrow match for a 23-year-old female patient in need of a transplant.

The patient, whose identity remains anonymous to the donor until one year after the procedure is completed, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia: a fast-growing cancer affecting white blood cells.

"When they contacted me, I had forgotten that I chose to be a potential donor," Gallardo said. "I have always lived by the idea that if you can help out someone in need, you should. If the temporary pain I [had] to endure during the process could prevent someone from a lifetime of pain, it was worth it."

After further testing confirmed Gallardo was a match for the patient, he received approval to continue with the procedure in either California or New York.

"I chose San Diego because I'm from Los Angeles and my parents and wife were able to meet up with me during the procedure," Gallardo said. "Their support definitely helped me through the process because they were behind my decision to help someone in need."

The procedure, known as a peripheral blood stem cell donation, began the day after Gallardo arrived at the hospital. The first phase of the procedure consists of a five-day series of shots designed to expand the bone marrow in the donor's body to assist with its withdrawal.

"The first two days of the injections, I remember feeling a minor headache with a few aches and pains in my hips," Gallardo said. "By the fourth and fifth day, I could feel extreme pain throughout my body."

Gallardo was ready for the marrow extraction a few hours after the fifth injection. His blood was removed through a hypodermic needle in one arm and passed through a machine to separate out blood stem cells. The remaining blood, minus the stem cells, was returned to Gallardo through the other arm.

"Throughout the process, I would think about what my staff sergeant told me back when I was contemplating carrying on with the process," Gallardo said. "It was a morning after we had just run a [physical] fitness test. I was bent over feeling a little tired and she came up to me and [asked if I was] in pain. I said that I was and she responded that whoever is in need of this procedure probably wishes they could run a PFT to feel that pain in their legs."

After the procedure, Gallardo was cleared to leave the hospital and took leave to spend time with his family and recover.

"I did my best to be there for him for whatever he needed," said Vannia Gallardo, Enrique's wife. "Even though he never complained about the side effects from the shots, I could see that he was going through some pain. When the day of the donation arrived, we were a little nervous, but the hospital personnel took very good care of him. After lying on the hospital bed with [intravenous fluids] in him for more than four hours, we were relieved to be told everything went well."

Following his leave, Gallardo was back into the swing of things, carrying out his daily duties with no issues.

"I was impressed that, without hesitation, Gallardo was willing to help someone he didn't even know who was in an extreme situation," said Sgt. Eric J. Hansen, an aviation systems radio technician with MASS-2. "As Marines, we are expected to go above and beyond what is expected in everything we do. Gallardo showed that with his selfless sacrifice."

While Gallardo continues on in his Marine Corps career, he says he eagerly awaits the day he will get an update on the condition of the recipient of his donation, hoping he was able to make a difference in her life.