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Saturday, December 8, 2012

THE MAGNETIC FIELDS OF EARTH AND MARS

FROM: NASA



Comparing Magnetic Fields on Earth and Mars

This animation compares the magnetic fields on Earth and Mars. The Earth has a large-scale planetary magnetic field that can protect it from space weather and other hazards. Mars, on the other hand, only has small pockets of magnetic fields scattered around the planet.

RECENT U.S. NAVY PHOTOS





FROM: U.S. NAVY
121207-N-TC587-044 MAYPORT, Fla. (Dec. 7, 2012) Navy Seaman First Class Duane Reyelts, a survivor of the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, tosses flowers off the side of the guided-missile frigate USS De Wert (FFG 45) during a Pearl Harbor Day ceremony. The ceremony commemorated the anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Damian Berg/Released)




A bugler plays Echo Taps at the 71st Anniversary Pearl Harbor Day Commemoration. More than 2000 guests, including Pearl Harbor survivors and other veterans, attended the National Park Service and U.S. Navy-hosted joint memorial ceremony at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. This year's theme focused on "Coming of Age - From Innocence to Valor." U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin W. Sisco (Released) 121207-N-XD424-204

Rating the red wine supplement

Rating the red wine supplement

RECENT U.S. NAVY PHOTO



FROM: U.S. NAVY

121207-N-WF272-107 PEARL HARBOR (Dec. 7, 2012) The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Tucson (SSN 770) conducts a pass-in-review by the USS Arizona Memorial during the 71st Anniversary Pearl Harbor Day Commemoration ceremony at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. More than 2000 guests, including Pearl Harbor survivors and other veterans, attended the National Park Service and U.S. Navy-hosted joint memorial ceremony at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. This year's theme focused on "Coming of Age - From Innocence to Valor." (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan/Released)

Intervention at the OSCE Ministerial Council First Plenary Session

Intervention at the OSCE Ministerial Council First Plenary Session

Remarks With First Minister of Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness

Remarks With First Minister of Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness

U.S. DOL SUES TO RECOVER EMPLOYEE LOSSES IN STOCK OWNERSHIP PLAN

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

US Labor Department sues to recover losses to employee stock ownership plan of Rembar Inc.

NEW YORK
— The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit to recover losses suffered by participants in the Rembar Inc. Employee Stock Ownership Plan after the plan allegedly was allowed to purchase overvalued company stock. The suit names as defendants Rembar owner and CEO Frank Firor and First Bankers Trust Services Inc., which was hired as an independent fiduciary and trustee in connection with the company's newly formed plan. The plan is also a defendant.

"Employee Retirement Income Security Act fiduciary duties are the highest standard of care known to the law and apply to those who manage employee benefit plans," said Jonathan Kay, regional director of the Labor Department's Employee Benefits Security Administration's New York Regional Office. "The department remains committed to ensuring that fiduciaries work solely in the interest of plan participants and beneficiaries."

The suit alleges that, in June 2005, First Bankers Trust Services allowed the plan to purchase 100 percent of the company's stock from Firor and Firor's relatives for $15.5 million. An investigation by EBSA determined that First Bankers Trust Services failed to comply with its duty to understand the valuation report that set the purchase price, identify and question assumptions in the report, and verify that the conclusions in the report were consistent with the company's financial data. As a result of First Bankers Trust Services' failure to comply with its fiduciary duties, the plan overpaid for the stock and suffered losses.

The suit seeks, among other things, to recover jointly from First Bankers Trust Services and Firor all losses suffered by the plan.

Rembar Inc. is engaged in the distribution and manufacturing of precision parts made from refractory metals. The suit was filed in the U.S. Court for the Southern District of New York and is being litigated by the department's Regional Office of the Solicitor in Manhattan. The suit is based on an investigation conducted by EBSA's New York Regional Office.

PROVIDING TROOP SERVICES IN AFGHANISTAN

Army Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Currier, left, and Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony McRoberts work in the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team's personnel section to provide much-needed services to troops based at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar City, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jeff Neff
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Face of Defense: Soldier, Sailor Provide Troop Services

By Army Staff Sgt. Jeff Neff
Provincial Reconstruction Team Kandahar

KANDAHAR CITY, Afghanistan, Dec. 7, 2012 - Day-to-day operations at Camp Nathan Smith here wouldn't be the same without Army Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Currier and Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony McRoberts.

The duo work diligently behind the scenes in the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team's personnel section as they provide much-needed services to KPRT members.

There isn't much that happens without their involvement, from personnel rosters and daily tracking to service members' finances, awards, and promotions.

When the mail arrives, soldiers and sailors wait patiently outside while Currier and McRoberts drive over and get it. Mail is an issue near and dear to all and serves as the lifeline from family members to the troops.

McRoberts, who's been in the Navy for two years, was born in Colorado Springs, Colo., and hails from Midland, Mich. He is based at Naval Air Station Coronado in San Diego on the USS Ronald Reagan. He plans to complete his bachelor's degree in information systems management.

McRoberts concurrently works as a Counter Radio Electronic Warfare Master Gunner. Being a CREW Master Gunner consists of radio frequency engineering for electronic warfare jamming systems involving reacting to and countering radio-controlled explosives.

Texas-born Currier is from San Antonio and now calls Newport News, Va., home. He is an Army reservist from the 450th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) and has been in the Army for 22 years.

Currier served in a variety of duty positions, starting as a combat medic in the 1st Cavalry Division. He later served at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and then deployed to Iraq where he was in charge of a military police aid station.

Currier would later deploy to Kosovo where he served as first sergeant in a civil affairs detachment.

The Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team is a civil-military organization consisting of U.S. Navy and Army active-duty and reserve members who conduct operations to support the growth in capacity and capability of the Kandahar provincial government. KPRT works closely with other military units, civilian agencies, contractors and nongovernmental organizations to support the Afghan government's progress toward sustainable stability.

A NEW READY-TO-EAT MEAT AND POULTRY PRODUCT ADULTERANT TESTING POLICY

Photo Credit:  USDA
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Consumers, Industry Benefit under FSIS Hold and Test Implementation

WASHINGTON, December 7, 2012 –
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced that, beginning in 60 days, the Agency will require producers to hold shipments of non-intact raw beef and all ready-to-eat products containing meat and poultry until they pass Agency testing for foodborne adulterants.

"This new policy will reduce foodborne illnesses and the number of recalls by preventing contaminated products from reaching consumers," USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. "Many producers hold products until test results come back. We're encouraging others in the industry to make this a routine part of operations."

The new policy requires official establishments and importers of record to maintain control of products tested for adulterants by FSIS and not allow the products to enter commerce until negative test results are received. FSIS anticipates most negative test results will be determined within two days. The policy applies to non-intact raw beef products or intact raw beef products intended for non-intact use and that are tested by FSIS for Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli. Also, the policy applies to any ready-to-eat products tested by FSIS for pathogens.

FSIS developed the "hold and test" policy, which will reduce consumer exposure to unsafe meat products, based on public comment and input received on a
Federal Register notice published in April 2011. FSIS estimates if this new requirement had been in place between 2007 through 2010, 49 of the 251 meat, poultry and processed egg product recalls that occurred during that time could have been prevented.

The notice will be posted shortly on the FSIS website at
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/
Federal_Register_Notices/index.asp
and will be available at www.regulations.gov once it is published.


Today's announcement is the latest significant public health measure FSIS has put in place during this Administration to safeguard the food supply, prevent foodborne illness, and improve consumers' knowledge about the food they eat. These initiatives support the three core principles developed by the President's Food Safety Working Group: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery. Other actions taken by the USDA include:
Zero-tolerance policy for non-O157:H7 STECs. On June 4, 2012, FSIS began routinely testing raw beef manufacturing trim for six strains of non-O157:H7 Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) serogroups. Trim found to be contaminated with these pathogens, which can cause severe illness and even death, will not be allowed into commerce and will be subject to recall.
Labeling requirements that provide better information to consumers about their food by requiring nutrition information for single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products and ground or chopped products.
Public Health Information System, a modernized, comprehensive database with information on public health trends and food safety violations at the nearly 6,100 plants FSIS regulates.
Performance standards for poultry establishments for continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens. After two years of enforcing the new standards, FSIS estimates that approximately 5,000 illnesses will be prevented each year under the new Campylobacter standards, and approximately 20,000 illnesses will be prevented under the revised Salmonella standards each year.

Frontlines and Frontiers: Making Human Rights a Human Reality

Frontlines and Frontiers: Making Human Rights a Human Reality

Weekly Address: Congress Must Extend the Middle Class Tax Cuts | The White House

Weekly Address: Congress Must Extend the Middle Class Tax Cuts | The White House

SEC CHARGES LAWYER WITH ISSUING FRAUDULENT OPINION LETTERS REGARDING ISSUANCE OF MICROCAP STOCK

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C., Dec. 7, 2012 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced charges against a Florida-based securities lawyer for issuing fraudulent attorney opinion letters that resulted in more than 70 million shares of microcap stock becoming available for unrestricted trading by investors.

An attorney opinion letter is required from a licensed and duly authorized securities lawyer in order to facilitate the transfer of restricted microcap shares on the over-the-counter markets. In April 2010, the Pink Sheets (now OTC Markets Group) banned Guy M. Jean-Pierre of Pompano Beach, Fla., from issuing attorney opinion letters due to "repeated missing information and inconsistencies" about the issuers and his lack of due diligence in his past letters.

The SEC alleges that Jean-Pierre has since engaged in a scheme to continue writing and issuing attorney opinion letters in the name of his niece by applying her signature without her consent. Jean-Pierre (also known as Marcelo Dominguez de Guerra) sought to evade the ban by forming a new company called Complete Legal Solutions and misrepresenting that his niece was conducting the legal work that was allegedly performed.

"Securities lawyers are trusted gatekeepers in the issuance of stock, and it is particularly offensive when attorneys like Jean-Pierre blatantly break the rules and commit fraud," said Andrew M. Calamari, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. "The SEC is committed to punishing offenders like Jean-Pierre as we continue to root out the enablers of microcap fraud in our markets."

According to the SEC’s complaint filed late yesterday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Jean-Pierre hatched a plan within two weeks of his ban to continue issuing attorney opinion letters through Complete Legal and his niece’s identity. Jean-Pierre’s niece, a licensed attorney herself, was looking for work at the time. Jean-Pierre told his niece about his work issuing attorney opinion letters and offered to pay her to assist him. He suggested they form Complete Legal and asked her to send him three copies of her signature and a copy of her driver’s license. Jean-Pierre’s niece complied with his requests with the understanding this information was needed to incorporate Complete Legal. Afterwards, Jean-Pierre never requested that his niece do any legal work at Complete Legal and she was not compensated for any such work.

Instead, the SEC alleges that Jean-Pierre used the new company and his niece’s identity to continue his prior practice of issuing attorney opinion letters. Each of these letters contained fraudulent statements and falsely represented his niece as the signatory. Jean-Pierre’s niece did not write any of the letters and did not make the representations concerning the issuers. Jean-Pierre fabricated attorney opinion letters on Complete Legal letterhead for at least 11 companies that traded publicly on the Pink Sheets. Certain letters resulted in Pink Sheet issuers being granted the improved status of having adequate current information in the public domain under Rule 144(c)(2) of the Securities Act of 1933. This status kept the issuers from being tagged on the Pink Sheets’ website with a red "STOP" sign near its ticker symbol with the moniker of "OTC Pink No Information" and a large warning that the company "may not be making material information publicly available."

According to the SEC’s complaint, adequate current public information about an issuer must be available for certain selling security holders to comply with the Rule 144 safe harbor allowing companies to issue unregistered securities pursuant to Section 4(1) of the Securities Act. Jean-Pierre falsely issued letters bearing his niece’s signature to transfer agents opining that restrictive legends could be legally removed from either pre-existing stock certificates or newly issued stock certificates pursuant to Rules 144 or 504 of the Securities Act.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that Jean-Pierre violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. The SEC is seeking disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest and financial penalties, a permanent injunction, and a bar from participating in the offering of any penny stock pursuant to Section 20(g) of the Securities Act.

The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted by Megan Genet and Steven G. Rawlings in the New York Regional Office. Todd Brody, Barry Kamar, and Ms. Genet are handling the SEC’s litigation.

ARMY GEN. DEMPSEY'S ETHICS RECOMMENDATIONS PRESENTED TO PRESIDENT OBAMA

Army General Martin E. Dempsey
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Panetta Briefs President on Dempsey Ethics Findings
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has briefed President Barack Obama on Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey's recommendations about general/flag officer ethics, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff presented two initial findings that Panetta took to the White House earlier this week.

Dempsey sent the secretary some initial findings "informed as a result of his year-long effort to renew the U.S. military's commitment to the profession of arms," Little told reporters.

The findings are part of the review of general and flag officer ethics training. As part of this effort, Panetta asked Dempsey to work with the Joint Chiefs to determine how to better foster a culture of stewardship among senior U.S. military leaders.

The first finding is that while there is appropriate ethics training in place for senior leaders, "we need to start earlier and reinforce that training more frequently in an officer's career," Little said. Ethics training is a part of each service's professional military education from initial entry training to general/flag officer education.

"Second, General Dempsey believes we must look at the level and type of support senior leaders receive in the execution of their duties to ensure it is necessary, and to ensure we are being consistent, sensible and efficient," Little said.

The chairman's intent is to direct consistency of support across the general officer/flag officer cadre and to determine whether it is appropriate, the press secretary said.

"What we're talking about here is the personnel infrastructure surrounding general and flag officers," Little said. There are different types of support that general and flag officers receive. For example, generals in command have an aide-de-camp, which is one level of support. They often have additional staff to help with more routine activities.

Little said the findings are an initial set of recommendations, and part of a long-term effort by the chairman.

"The secretary fully supports what Chairman Dempsey has done over the last year with respect to the profession of arms and this is going to be an on-going dialogue inside the Joint Chiefs and services," Little said. "We will see an evolution of discussion and potential actions depending on what General Dempsey, the chiefs and the secretary decide going forward."

Little said Dempsey has not reached conclusions on ethics training or support to senior military officers.

"The secretary is committed to giving the chairman and the chiefs the space they need to come forward with recommendations and to take actions on their own that may be appropriate for ethics for general and flag officers," the press secretary said.

Panetta strongly believes the vast majority of general and flag officers behave in a manner consistent with the highest standards of conduct, Little said.

COURT PERMANENTLY BARS DEFENDANTS FROM COMMODITIES INDUSTRY

FROM: U.S. COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION

Federal Court in New York Orders Defendants Forex Capital Trading Group, Forex Capital Trading Partners, and Highland Stone Capital Management to Pay over $1.8 Million for Fraud in Off-Exchange Foreign Currency Scheme

Washington, DC - The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced that Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York entered a default judgment and permanent injunction order against defendants Forex Capital Trading Group, Inc. (Forex Group), Forex Capital Trading Partners, Inc. (Forex Partners), both of New York, N.Y., and Highland Stone Capital Management, L.L.C. (Highland Stone) of Rutherford, N.J. The order requires these defendants to pay a civil monetary penalty of $1,352,293 and to disgorge $450,764 of ill-gotten gains for the benefit of defrauded customers. The order also imposes permanent trading and registration bans against the defendants and prohibits them from violating the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC regulations, as charged.

The order stems from a CFTC anti-fraud enforcement action filed on July 27, 2011 against these three companies and their principals (see CFTC Press Release 6083-11, July 28, 2011). The order finds that Forex Group, Forex Partners, and Highland Stone fraudulently solicited 106 customers who invested more than $2.8 million to trade retail foreign currency (forex). In soliciting customers, the defendants falsely claimed, on their websites and elsewhere, that their forex trading for customers was profitable for a period of several years, the order finds. The defendants’ claims included a falsely reported customer gain of 51.94 percent in 2010, a year, in fact, in which their customers lost more than $1.2 million. Overall, customers lost more than 93 percent of their total invested principal through the defendants’ forex trading, the order finds.

The order also finds that the defendants distributed false account statements to prospective customers showing profitable trading and acted in capacities requiring registration with the CFTC, but were not registered.

The CFTC’s litigation is continuing against the principals of Forex Partners and Forex Group, namely Susan G. Davis of Jersey City, N.J., and David E. Howard II, of New York, N.Y., and against the principal of Highland Stone, Joseph Burgos, of Rutherford, N.J.

The CFTC appreciates the assistance of the U.K. Financial Services Authority in this matter.

CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this action are Susan B. Padove, Joy McCormack, Elizabeth Streit, Michael Geiser, Janine Gargiulo, Scott Williamson, Rosemary Hollinger, and Richard B. Wagner.

INTERVIEW WITH EXPEDITION 34/35 FLIGHT ENGINEER TOM MARSHBURN

FROM:  NASA



ISS Update: Interview with Expedition 34/35 Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn

NASA Public Affairs Officer Kyle Herring conducts a telephone interview Dec. 3, 2012, with NASA astronaut and Expedition 34 Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn.

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL DISCUSSES SPACE SECURITY


  Deputy Assistant Secretary Frank Rose.  

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT

Remarks: Strengthening Security in Space through Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures

Remarks
Frank A. Rose
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
ASEAN Regional Forum Space Security Workshop
Hoi An, Vietnam
December 6, 2012


I am very pleased and honored to join you here today to discuss space security in such a beautiful location in one of the most dynamic and important regions in the world. I’d like to thank our hosts in the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for organizing such an important and timely conference.

What is "space security?"

Before I discuss in depth the topic of this speech "transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) and how they help strengthen the security and stability of the space environment", I’d like to first talk briefly about what "space security and stability" means.

Today, space systems are vital to the daily life and workings of every nation around the world and their peoples. Space systems enhance our national security, foreign policy, and global economic interests; they expand scientific knowledge; and they improve life on the ground through weather forecasting, environmental monitoring, and city planning. Yet for all that we depend on it, we face a number of challenges in the space arena, including orbital congestion, situational awareness, and collision avoidance, all of which require our focused attention and concerted efforts to address as they directly affect the security and stability of space.

Each of the nations here likely has a different interpretation of what "space security" means based principally upon each respective country’s national interests. Based on the U.S. National Space Policy and other Presidential guidance, as well as our obligations under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and other international law, we in the United States associate "security" as it relates to space with the pursuit of those activities that ensure the sustainability, stability, and free access to, and use of, outer space in support of a nation’s vital interests. This interpretation is supported by long-standing principles of space law and including:
All nations have the right to explore and use space for peaceful purposes, and for the benefit of all humanity, in accordance with international law. Consistent with this principle, "peaceful purposes" allows for space to be used for national and homeland security activities.
The space systems of all nations have the rights of passage through, and conduct of operations in, space without interference. Purposeful interference with space systems, including supporting infrastructure, will be considered, in the U.S. view, an infringement of a nation’s rights.

Unless the international community adopts pragmatic and constructive measures in the near-term to avoid collisions and curb irresponsible behavior, the space environment around our planet will become increasingly hazardous to both human and robotic spaceflight. The United States and many nations around the world are pursuing a variety of unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral transparency and confidence-building measures to address these challenges and to strengthen long-term sustainability, stability, safety, and security in space.

What are TCBMs?

Today, the international community increasingly recognizes the usefulness of transparency and confidence building measures, or TCBMs, as a way to promote openness and to reduce tensions between nations, particularly in areas where misperceptions may exist. Additionally, while declarations of national intentions or pledges of responsible behavior in the future are certainly desirable, they may not be enough to reduce suspicions. To overcome mistrust requires building confidence between nations, which can only be achieved with transparency, openness, and predictability through such things as information-sharing and personal contact.

Confidence-building measures have been used successfully in bilateral, regional, and multilateral setting since the Cold War. For example, during the Cold War measures such as the "hot-line" agreement, data exchanges, and reciprocal visits between the United States and the Soviet Union helped ease tensions and reduce the risk of accidents. The United Nations and the international community have formally recognized the contributions of TCBMs to peace, security, and disarmament since the 1970s. The successful history of TCBMs in other areas, such as strategic nuclear and conventional forces, suggests that TCBMs can also make an important contribution in the space field.

TCBMS for Outer Space

Activities in space are often the source of uncertainty, suspicions, and mistrust, in part due to the frequently classified technologies and systems used by the military and intelligence organizations of spacefaring nations; the inherent difficulty in monitoring space related activities, deployments, and operations; and sometimes in attributing irresponsible behavior. As former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said,

"To avoid conflicts based on misperceptions and mistrust, it is imperative that we promote transparency and other confidence-building measures – in armaments, in threatening technologies, in space and elsewhere."

Space-related TCBMs enable us to address critical areas such as orbital debris, space situational awareness, and collision avoidance, and through them help to increase familiarity and trust and encourage openness among space actors. Broad support for TCBMs also provides a foundation upon which the international community can build.

Ongoing TCBM Efforts

Currently there are a number of on-going efforts to establish multilateral TCBMs—the work of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS), the study by the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Space TCBMs, and the proposed International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. Experts on all three of these efforts have already presented to you today, so I will just touch on them briefly.

While many approaches to ensuring stability in space come from the top down, there is great value in "bottom-up" approaches from experts and satellite operators, such as the work of the Working Group on Long-Term Sustainability of Space Activities of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of UNCOPUOS. This Working Group is a key forum for the international development of "best practices guidelines" for space activities. Many of the best practice guidelines addressed by this working group are integral to our efforts to pursue TCBMs that enhance sustainability in space.

A second multilateral TCBM effort currently being undertaken is the UN GGE study on Outer Space TCBMs, for which I serve as the U.S. expert. Under the able chairmanship of Victor Vasiliev of Russia, the Group of Governmental Experts offers a unique opportunity to advance international consensus on a the range of voluntary and non-legally binding TCBMs in space that have the potential to mitigate the dangers and risks in an increasingly contested and congested space environment. As part of its effort to draw upon as much expertise as possible, the GGE welcomes written recommendations from intergovernmental bodies, industry and private sector, civil society, and other UN Member States not already represented in the group. While the 15 members of the GGE may not reach consensus to endorse all TCBMs proposed by UN Member States and NGOs, I believe the GGE can produce a substantial list of voluntary, pragmatic TCBMs that work to solve concrete problems and enhance the stability and security of the space environment for all spacefaring nations.

Perhaps one of the most beneficial ways to promote responsible behavior in space could be the adoption of "rules of the road." In that vein, the European Union is leading efforts to develop an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, the third multilateral effort. An International Code of Conduct, if adopted, would help prevent mishaps, misperceptions, and mistrust in space by establishing non-legally binding guidelines that reduce the hazards of accidental and purposeful debris-generating events. It would encourage all spacefaring nations to act responsibly in a space environment that is increasingly congested and contested. It would also address the challenge of collision avoidance by increasing the transparency of operations in space.

TCBMs can also be undertaken regionally, bilaterally, and unilaterally. Through panels, conversations, and tomorrow’s breakout session, this forum can be a great opportunity for creating confidence among nations in the Asia-Pacific region. Next week’s meeting of the Asia Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum, although civil in nature, also creates confidence between nations through information-sharing and cooperation on projects. Bilaterally, dialogues between nations on space security issues, the sharing of space policies and budgets, expert visits, military-to-military exchanges, and information exchanges on natural and debris hazards can all be effective TCBMs.

From a national perspective, we in the United States recognize the importance of space situational awareness in order to prevent collisions between satellites and/or other orbiting objects. As a result, we are seeking to improve our ability to share information on space objects with other space-faring nations as well as with industry partners. The United States also provides notifications to other governments and commercial satellite operators of potentially hazardous conjunctions between orbiting objects. To establish two-way information exchanges with foreign satellite operators and to facilitate the urgent transmission of notifications of potential space hazards, we are currently reaching out to space-faring nations and organizations to ensure that our Joint Space Operations Center, or JSpOC, has current contact information for both government and private sector satellite operations centers.

In Conclusion
As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said earlier this year:

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

The international community is more reliant on space than ever and the long-term sustainability of our space activities is at serious risk. Accidents or irresponsible acts against space systems would not just harm the space environment, but would also disrupt services that the citizens, businesses, and nations around the world depend on.

Ensuring the long-term sustainability, stability, safety, and security of the space environment and protecting it for future generations are in the vital interests of the United States, the members of ASEAN, and the entire global community. To do this, however, we must overcome misperceptions and suspicions by taking a step-by-step approach to building confidence and creating understanding through TCBMs.

Thank you very much.

Friday, December 7, 2012

U.S. SMALL BUSSINESS ADMINISTRATION PROVIDES OVER $150 MILLION IN LOW-INTEREST DISASTER LOANS

Brooklyn, N.Y., Dec. 4, 2012 -- Local Red Hook business, Cornell Paper and Box Company, continues cleanup of boxes at the warehouse that was flooded during Hurricane Sandy. Business impacted by the storm may contact the Small Business Administration (SBA) for low-interest disaster loans at all New York State/FEMA disaster recovery centers and 18 SBA business recovery centers. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA
FROM: U.S. SMALL BUSSINESS ADMINISTRATION
SBA Approves More than $150 Million in Disaster Loans

To Hurricane Sandy Survivors

WASHINGTON –
A month after Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, the U.S. Small Business Administration has approved more than $150 million in low-interest disaster loans to about 2,500 homeowners, renters and businesses in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

"During the past month I’ve visited disaster centers and spoken with people who are struggling to reclaim communities and businesses that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy, and I was impressed by their determination to rebuild stronger," said SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills. "The SBA is there to support the long-term recovery of the disaster areas, and we will make sure that as many people as possible get the help they need to become whole again."

Through Thursday, the precise total was $156.56 million to 2,507 residents and businesses.
For more information about SBA disaster loans, visit www.sba.gov/sandy.

Tiffany: What $2,000 Means to My Family | The White House

Tiffany: What $2,000 Means to My Family | The White House

DESIGNATIONS OF GLOBAL TERRORISTS FOR "UNITY AND JIHAD" AND TWO LEADERS

A beach used by tourists west of Algiers.

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Terrorist Designations of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, Hamad el Khairy, and Ahmed el Tilemsi

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
December 7, 2012


The Department of State has designated the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA, also known by MUJAO), Hamad el Khairy, and Ahmed el Tilemsi, two of the organization’s leaders, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. As a result of the designation, all property subject to U.S. jurisdiction in which MUJWA, Khairy, or Tilemsi has any interest is blocked and U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them or to their benefit.

In addition to today’s domestic designation under E.O. 13224, MUJWA is also listed by the United Nations 1267/1989 al-Qa’ida Sanctions Committee. The UN listing requires all member states to implement an assets freeze, a travel ban, and an arms embargo against MUJWA. The UN action demonstrates international resolve in eliminating MUJWA’s violent activities in Mali and the surrounding region.

MUJWA was created in September 2011 after members broke off from al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in order to spread their activities into West Africa. MUJWA has been behind violent terrorist attacks and kidnappings in the region, including the October 2011 abduction of three aid workers from a refugee camp in western Algeria; a March 2012 suicide attack on a police base in Tamanrasset, Algeria, which wounded 23 people; and a June 2012 attack in Ouargla, Algeria, which killed one and injured three. MUJWA was also responsible for the April 2012 kidnapping of seven Algerian diplomats in Gao, Mali. Although three of the diplomats have since been released, MUJWA continues to make demands in exchange for the release of the remaining diplomats, and has threatened to kill the hostages if those demands are unmet.

Hamad el Khairy and Ahmed el Tilemsi are both founding leaders of MUJWA. Khairy has been involved in MUJWA’s kidnapping for ransom operations, personally claiming the group’s April 2012 abduction of Algerian diplomats, and has appeared in MUJWA videos to make threats against those who oppose the organization. Prior to his leadership role in MUJWA, Khairy was a member of AQIM, and was involved in planning terrorist operations against Mauritania in 2007. Tilemsi acts as MUJWA’s military head, and directly participated in the group’s October 2011 kidnapping of three aid workers in Algeria, which left two wounded by gunfire. Before joining MUJWA, Tilmesi was also affiliated with AQIM, and participated in that organization’s January 2011 abduction of two French nationals in Niamey, Niger.


U.S. NAVY ADM. WINNEFELD HONORS VETERANS OF PEARL HARBOR ATTACK

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Shelby Tucci plays Taps during a sunset ceremony at the USS Utah Memorial, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Dec. 6, 2012. The Utah was sunk during the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Tucci is assigned to the Pacific Fleet Band. U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Quinlan
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Winnefeld Honors Pearl Harbor Veterans
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2012 - "What a wonderful idea America is," the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today at the National World War II Memorial during the observance of the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

"On that now infamous day ... our nation learned in horror that Japanese forces had shattered a peaceful Hawaiian Sunday morning," Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. said of the Dec. 7, 1941, surprise Japanese air attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, which killed more than 2,400 Americans and shattered a good portion of the U.S. Pacific fleet.

The more than 350 Japanese aircraft that took part in the attack were dispatched from six aircraft carriers. Nineteen U.S. ships were sunk or damaged. All eight of the U.S. Navy's battleships at Pearl Harbor were hit and four were sunk. Of the more than 300 American aircraft destroyed or damaged, most were still on the ground.

The attack shocked the nation "but it also stirred a quiet and peace-loving people to action," Winnefeld said.

More than 16 million service members fought in World War II, and the memorial's 4,048 gold stars represent the more than 400,000 service members who were killed or missing in action.

"This memorial is a very sacred place where we come to visit, to remember, to reflect and commemorate the defining moments of World War II," said Mick Kicklighter, a retired Army lieutenant general and chairman of the board for the Friends of the National World War II Memorial.

Veterans of World War II fought against great odds, Kicklighter said.

"Not only did they fight and win that war and save this nation, but they literally saved the world," Kicklighter said. "This nation will never forget ... those who gave all their tomorrows."

"Here on this sacred ground, we mark the price of freedom," Winnefeld said. "So, it's appropriate that the memorial honoring the service and sacrifice of so many in that conflict is our setting for today."

Today the U.S. military "is involved in another conflict half-a-world away, as the result of a different surprise attack on American soil that killed nearly 3,000 of our fellow Americans in one day," the admiral said, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

At that time, Winnefeld was the commander of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, which was returning home from a routine deployment. The ties between those two attacks and the wars that followed include the roles played by his ship and the previous Enterprise, both of which launched the first strikes in response to surprise attacks on the United States.

"Now, imagine yourself aboard USS Enterprise on the night of those first strikes," the admiral said. "Here's part of what [I] told her crew: 'Aboard Enterprise, good evening shipmates. The last time America actually went to war to defend against an attack on our homeland was almost exactly 60 years ago ... tonight a ship named Enterprise will again be an integral part of our nation's response. And, like 1941, this war is a little more personal than defending our vital interests. We're defending our families.'"

"The men and women who today wear the cloth of our nation walk confidently in your footsteps. They look up to you -- specifically to you. They live your legacy as members of the next greatest generation," Winnefeld told the World War II veterans in the audience.

"Today we pause to honor you and to salute those who won that war and paved the way for our nation's prosperity and leadership over the last seven decades," he added.

"Memorials like this beautiful memorial in which we're having this ceremony and days of remembrance like this, try as we might, will never be able to adequately recognize your service and sacrifice," the admiral told the veterans. "But we can thank you for what you've done for our nation."

West Wing Week: 12/07/12 or "I Have To Pinch Myself" | The White House

West Wing Week: 12/07/12 or "I Have To Pinch Myself" | The White House

U.S. DOD Contracts for December 07, 2012

Contracts for December 07, 2012

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing - December 7, 2012

Daily Press Briefing - December 7, 2012

NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN FOR DECEMBER 7, 2012

Logar Province, Afghanistan.  Credit:  U.S. Department Of Defense.

FROM: U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Combined Force Arrests Haqqani Leader
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 7, 2012 - An Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Haqqani leader during an operation in the Mota Khan district of Afghanistan's Paktika province today, military officials reported.

The arrested Haqqani leader planned and conducted improvised explosive device attacks and was involved in organizing the Oct. 20 kidnapping of five Afghan soldiers, officials said.

The security force also detained three other suspected insurgents and seized IED-making materials and multiple firearms, officials said.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- In the Lashkar Gah district of Helmand province, a combined force arrested a Taliban leader who oversaw a group of insurgents responsible for conducting IED attacks in the central Nad 'Ali district. The security force also detained two other suspects.

-- In the Kandahar district of Kandahar province, a combined force arrested a Taliban leader and one other suspect. The detained Taliban leader was responsible for transporting and distributing homemade explosives and IED-making components to insurgents.

-- A combined force arrested a Taliban leader and detained one other suspect in the Pul-e 'Alam district of Logar province. The arrested Taliban leader operated in Logar province's Khoshi district and facilitated the acquisition and distribution of weapons in the Khoshi and Plu-e 'Alam districts. He also oversaw the training of suicide bombers and provided support to Taliban insurgents traveling through the province.

-- A combined force killed three insurgents, detained multiple suspects and seized numerous weapons, grenades and ammunition during a search for a Taliban facilitator in the Sherzad district of Nangarhar province.

-- A combined force arrested a Haqqani leader, detained one other suspect and seized numerous weapons in the Khost district of Khost province. The detained Haqqani leader was responsible for overseeing attacks and coordinating IED emplacement in Khost City. He also facilitated the movement of IED-making materials and weapons to insurgents.

REMOTE-CONTROLED AIRCRAFT: THE COST OF THEIR MISSION

Lance Brady of the US Bureau of Land Management launches a USGS Raven aircraft June 21, 2012 at Glines Dam/Lake Mills on the Elwha River in Olympic National Park, Wash. Dr. Doug Clark of the Bureau of Reclamation, in background, looks on. USGS, Reclamation, BLM and other agencies are cooperating on science missions to study hydrology, sedimentation, revegetation and other issues relating to the removal of two dams on the Elwha

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Written on November 29, 2012 by jtozer
Remote-Controlled Aircraft Work Hard for Science


Remote sensing technologies on airborne scientific missions have added new depth and dimension to scientific observation. Yet they come at a cost – literally. Flying data-gathering missions for scientists, land managers, and hazard-mitigation agencies can cost upward of $30,000 an hour.

The U.S. Geological Survey is leading a federal initiative to make this high-quality science less costly, more accessible, and more environmentally friendly by using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) developed for the U.S. military to survey remote areas, monitor wildlife populations, and gather data on potential hazards on federal lands throughout the United States.

The science missions yield peaceful civilian uses for past-generation military technology. A roadmap adopted by the
Department of the Interior (DOI) in 2010 tasks the USGS with developing certification, pilot training and proof-of-concept UAS missions through 2014 for its own USGS science centers and on behalf of federal agencies including the Office of Surface Mining (OSM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Forest Service. DOI’s Office of Aviation Services (OAS) is charged with developing aircraft airworthiness and operator certification, including training.

USGS scientists and pilots are now monitoring feral animals and invasive vegetation in Hawaii,shoreline erosion on the Missouri River on behalf of the Lower Brule Sioux people in South Dakota, spotting underground mine fires in West Virginia, and tracking the population density of sandhill cranes in Colorado. The missions save several thousands of dollars over equivalent human missions and are far safer than low-flying conventional aircraft.

Based in Denver, the USGS Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office has conducted missions all over the United States. The planes and their operators are subject to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and DOIOAS rules and regulations.
"The best pilots are the ones who grew up playing video games," says UAS project manager Mike Hutt.
The USGS fleet includes several 4.5-lb battery-powered, hand-launched AeroVironment Ravens as well as T-Hawk Honeywell helicopters, which run on only a few ounces of fuel. Each type of craft can fly for roughly an hour. Initially used with their military-issue forward-looking and downward-looking analog cameras, the systems have been modified by USGS to take advantage of low-cost technology such as digital cameras, while a range of sensors are being evaluated for specific scientific missions.

Carbon dioxide sensors can be used in climate-change studies, while synthetic aperture radar would allow the

craft to fly in low-visibility conditions and provide change detection over a study area. Thermal sensors are used to monitor lakes that aren’t recharging at their historic rates.

"Are there underground ruptures drying-up springs or other changes affecting the hydrology? Fish and wildlife biologists are interested in these temperature changes. Rivers change temperature when vegetation on either side of banks is cleared, and this changes habitat," Hutt said.

The initial USGS mission in March 2011
studied the annual north-south migration of endangered sandhill cranes from Arizona through Colorado to Montana and Wyoming. The cranes fly north in the first part of February and spend much of each spring in Colorado’s San Luis Valley at the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. Thermal cameras capturing images of the cranes at roost were used to determine population trends in collaboration with the FWS.

"Because the Raven is small and quiet, it could fly low enough – 75 feet – to photograph the birds without disturbing them. Moreover, the mission cost only one-tenth of a conventional airborne survey – $3,000 as opposed to $30,000 an hour," Hutt said.

Since then, USGS scientists have returned to track the cranes’ migration, and have flown Ravens on scientific missions all over the United States. On behalf of the OSM, they flew Ravens over surface mines near Charleston, W.Va., to inspect and monitor reclamation efforts. On remote reaches of the Elwha River in Washington state, the Ravens have monitored changes in vegetation and sediment after the two dams were removed from Olympic National Park. They have flown near Red Rocks Lake, Mont., where a thermal camera onboard a Raven was used to locate underwater springs that could help fish survive the winter. UAS missions have surveyed invasive weeds in south central Idaho. In September-October, the aircraft surveyed the Pitkin County coal basin in Colorado, and the San Simon watershed in Arizona, all on behalf of the BLM.

Future projects include surveys of gulls in the Farallon Islands off San Francisco; an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site in New Castle, Del.; and climate change studies on the Colorado Front Range and in the Pacific Ocean at Palmyra Island.

The Denver-based UAS office is not the only USGS initiative to develop new uses for unmanned aircraft. In far northern California’s remote Surprise Valley, USGS geophysicists are teaming with NASA-Ames Research Center to
map underground faults and fractures with the SIERRA aircraft, which is larger and has a longer range than the Raven or T-Hawk. By 2013, the USGS-NASA cooperators aim to develop payload-driven instrumentation for SIERRA that can make higher-level cognitive assessments based on real-time data, allowing the aircraft to plan and perform a complete survey mission without human intervention.

By Barbara Wilcox


LIGHTNING AND TERRESTIAL GAMMA-RAY FLASHES

FROM:  NASA
Fermi's GBM Finds Radio Bursts from TGFs



Lightning in the clouds is directly linked to events that produce some of the highest-energy light naturally made on Earth: terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs). An instrument aboard NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope was recently fine-tuned to better catch TGFs, and this allowed scientists to discover that TGFs emit radio waves, too.

Credit-NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

PRESIDENT OBAMA PROCLAIMS NATIONAL PEARL HARBOR REMEMBRANCE DAY


FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

President Proclaims National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2012 - "Today, we pay solemn tribute to America's sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice at Oahu. As we do, let us also reaffirm that their legacy will always burn bright -- whether in the memory of those who knew them, the spirit of service that guides our men and women in uniform today, or the heart of the country they kept strong and free," President Barak Obama said in his proclamation issued today declaring Dec. 7 as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

The proclamation reads:

"On December 7, 1941, our Nation suffered one of the most devastating attacks ever to befall the American people. In less than 2 hours, the bombs that rained on Pearl Harbor robbed thousands of men, women, and children of their lives; in little more than a day, our country was thrust into the greatest conflict the world had ever known. We mark this anniversary by honoring the patriots who perished more than seven decades ago, extending our thoughts and prayers to the loved ones they left behind, and showing our gratitude to a generation of service members who carried our Nation through some of the 20th century's darkest moments.

"In his address to the Congress, President Franklin D. Roosevelt affirmed that "with confidence in our Armed Forces -- with the unbounding determination of our people -- we will gain the inevitable triumph." Millions stood up and shipped out to meet that call to service, fighting heroically on Europe's distant shores and pressing island by island across the Pacific. Millions more carried out the fight in factories and shipyards here at home, building the arsenal of democracy that propelled America to the victory President Roosevelt foresaw. On every front, we faced down impossible odds -- and out of the ashes of conflict, America rose more prepared than ever to meet the challenges of the day, sure that there was no trial we could not overcome.

"Today, we pay solemn tribute to America's sons and daughters who made the ultimate sacrifice at Oahu. As we do, let us also reaffirm that their legacy will always burn bright -- whether in the memory of those who knew them, the spirit of service that guides our men and women in uniform today, or the heart of the country they kept strong and free.

"The Congress, by Public Law 103-308, as amended, has designated December 7 of each year as "National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

"NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim December 7, 2012, as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. I encourage all Americans to observe this solemn day of remembrance and to honor our military, past and present, with appropriate ceremonies and activities. I urge all Federal agencies and interested organizations, groups, and individuals to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff this December 7 in honor of those American patriots who died as a result of their service at Pearl Harbor."

VA AND DEFENSE SECRETARIES WANT INTEGRATED SUPPORT SYSTEM

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, right, holds a joint press conference with Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki at the Veterans Affairs Building in Washington, D.C., Dec. 6, 2012. Panetta and Shinseki met before the press conference to discuss ways to help facilitate veteran disability claims and other issues. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Secretaries Seek Integrated Military, Veteran Support System
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2012 - The secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs are partnering to build an integrated military and veteran support system, Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta said at a joint DOD-VA press conference at the Veterans Affairs Department here today.

Calling their departments' collaboration "a national security issue in many ways," Panetta said the agreements between DOD and VA "go to the heart of taking care of the people who fight for us, and ensure that we can recruit the very best force possible."

He added that if service members, veterans and their families are to get the kind of "seamless experience they deserve," the jobs of the secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs are to "make clear that there has got to be good cooperation" at all levels.

"Our close partnership has never been more important than it is today," Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said of his meeting with Panetta.

Based on guidance from President Barack Obama, the two departments are working on a revamped Transition Assistance Program, a joint electronic medical records system, joint acquisitions decisions, better access to mental health programs, and disability claims, among other issues, the secretaries said.

"Today, our veterans wait too long for the benefits they deserve and that's why, together, we're streamlining our processes ... between our departments," Shinseki said.

Overall, the DOD and VA collaboration for building an integrated support system is not about turf, but about serving the nation's veterans.

"I'm very encouraged that the level of collaboration between our two departments is better than it ever has been in the past," Panetta said.

"Yet we still have to reach much deeper," he said. "We owe it to [service members and veterans] to give them the tools to put their lives back together and pursue their goals, whether it's getting a good education, the best health care, excelling in a new career, serving in our government, or starting a business.

"Today, we discussed a number of steps to try to get our departments to work together in a further enhanced DOD-VA collaboration," Panetta continued. "In particular, our discussion focused on a redesigned Transition Assistance Program. The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 mandated that all service members participate in TAP to prepare them for life after the military."

Shinseki said his department's support of DOD's revamped TAP, a presidential initiative, will create a "seamless and productive program that provides a warm hand-off from service member to new veteran status, to ensure all who have served are prepared to transition to civilian life and have access to the VA benefits and services they've earned."

Panetta said the new TAP is progressing well.

"We've got a large number of individuals in the military, and as we transition in these next few years in terms of our force structure we will have a lot of people going into this system," the defense secretary said. "I'm delighted to report we are very satisfied with the requirements of the VOW Act having been fully tested in terms of effectiveness at all 206 installations [it] is ready to go. We're on track to implement additional tracks for service members interested in education, technical training and entrepreneurship by October 2013."

Disability claims will also become more streamlined as the two departments work together, Panetta said.

"DOD has agreed in principle to conduct more detailed exit physicals for departing service members who are not immediately filing a VA disability claim," he said. "That helps expedite the process so that we don't have to go far back to their past to try to determine whether that claim is valid or not."

With this information sharing, VA will have the health information it needs from DOD to more quickly process a claim, Panetta explained.

"Today, Secretary Shinseki and I agreed to develop a joint DOD-VA plan for accelerating the program to try to integrate our health care systems. We want to meet or beat the schedule we've established as targets," the defense secretary said. "We've asked for the plan to be presented to us by early January. We've got to do everything we can to move this on a more expeditious path."

Improved mental health service access is expected to be presented to the president as a joint recommendation by the two departments by the end of February 2013, he said.

Panetta expressed his concern over the rate of suicide among military members and veterans.

"It's a terrible challenge that we are dealing with, and we have got to do everything we can between DOD and the VA to ensure our systems are equipped to give our people the help they need to deal with these unique circumstances," he said.

Panetta applauded the work of health care professionals who treat service members, veterans and families, and also recognized warfighters.

"America's men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day to keep this country safe. We owe it to those who fight for us to fight for them," the defense secretary said. "Programs to help our warriors were developed out of the best intentions but too often they fall victim to red tape, bureaucracy and intransigence.

"We, as secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs, deeply believe that we can and we will do better," he continued, "and we will accept nothing less than the best services that we can provide for those who serve this country."

U.S. DOD OFFICIAL TELLS CONGRESS NORTHERN MALI HAS BECOME A TERRORIST HAVEN

Map:  Mali.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook. 
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Dory: Northern Mali a Terrorist Safe Haven
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2012 – Northern Mali has become a terrorist haven, and DOD will continue to work with local African nations and regional organizations to isolate and degrade the threat emanating from the area, a senior defense official told Congress today.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and its affiliates are using northern Mali as a safe haven, Amanda J. Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, said during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The terror groups have established administrative centers and training bases in the area, Dory said.

"Our approach is to support Mali’s neighbors, to isolate the terrorist threat and to enable [the Economic Community of West African States] and others to degrade AQIM while working to restore Malian sovereignty," she said.

DOD and interagency partners are working closely together to help this local and regional effort, Dory said.

In late March, the Malian military launched a coup against the government. Regional nations and the U.S. initially imposed sanctions against the military junta. While local nations have recognized the interim government, the United States has not. The U.S. military cannot legally provide aid to any government deposed by a military coup.

Northern Mali is a center for illicit trafficking networks that include drugs, people and now extremism, Dory said.

"Beyond the obvious threat to Mali’s citizens and its neighbors, the growing terrorist presence in Mali also threatens U.S. citizens and interests in the region, to include the ability to attack embassies and conduct kidnapping operations," she said.

ECOWAS will lead the military intervention in Northern Mali, and that regional group will work closely with the African Union, Dory said.

The Department of Defense, through U.S. Africa Command, is actively supporting the military planning effort, she said.

"This is very much an African-led process," Dory said. "Our efforts are aimed at making our partners more capable of combating the terrorist threat in their territories, and providing better security for their people."

American assistance includes training and equipping African forces preparing to deploy to northern Mali, advice and additional planning support, Dory said.

U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PANETTA MAKES COMMENTS ON SYRIA AND SEQUESTRATION

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta poses for photos with the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen cheerleaders and band during a pep rally held in the halls of the Pentagon, Dec. 6, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Panetta Discusses Syria Situation, Sequestration
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta today repeated the U.S. government's growing concern that Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar Assad may be preparing to use chemical weapons on their own people.

Without getting into specific intelligence, Panetta told reporters at a news conference at the Department of Veterans Affairs there is no question that "as the opposition advances, in particular in Damascus, that the [Assad] regime might very well consider the use of chemical weapons." He added that what the U.S. knows "raises series concerns that this is being considered."

Panetta's comments came three days after President Barack Obama warned the Assad regime that there would be consequences for such a move, and that Assad himself would be held accountable.

Today, Panetta expanded on that warning.

"The president has made very clear that the Assad regime ought not to make the mistake of thinking that somehow it can use chemical weapons on its own people and get away with that. The whole world is watching," the defense secretary said.

Panetta said he would not comment on the consequences if Assad were to use weapons of mass destruction.

"But I think it's fair enough to say that the use of those weapons would cross a red line for us," he added.

The warnings to the Assad regime come as reports suggest opposition forces are closing in on Damascus and that the nearly two-year-old civil war is increasingly threatening Assad's inner circle.

On another matter, Panetta was asked today about the impact of sequestration on defense programs, should it occur.

"There is no question that if sequestration happens, it will impact those who are coming home [from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan]," he said. "It's going to impact on what we're going to be able to provide them."

Panetta compared the automatic budget cuts triggered by sequestration to a "meat-axe approach."

If implemented, sequestration would "have a serious impact in terms of those [service members] coming home, the programs that serve them, the support system that we have not only for them, but for their families," he added.

"It's for that reason, obviously, that our continuing hope is that the leadership in this country comes together and finds an agreement that avoids this deficit cliff that we're hanging on," Panetta said.

Tsunami Information Statement

Tsunami Information Statement

FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF NASPSO CONVICTED FOR THEFT OF UNION TREASURY AND PENSION FUNDS


FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

WASHINGTON – The founder and president of the National Association of Special Police and Security Officers (NASPSO) – which represents private security guards assigned to protect federal buildings in the metropolitan Washington area – was convicted yesterday in Washington federal court, following a jury trial, of 18 counts related to his theft of union treasury and pension funds, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Caleb Gray-Burriss, 62, of Washington, was convicted on six counts of mail fraud, seven counts of theft from a labor organization, one count each of obstruction of justice and criminal contempt, and three counts of union recordkeeping offenses. Joining in the announcement of the verdict were Marc I. Machiz, Director of the Philadelphia Regional Office of the Employee Benefits Security Administration of the Department of Labor; Michael S. Barcus, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Regional Office of the Department of Labor, Office of the Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations; and District Director Mark Wheeler, of the Department of Labor’s Washington District Office of the Office of Labor-Management Standards.

In June 2010, Mr. Gray-Burriss was charged with four counts of mail fraud in connection with his operation of a pension plan for members of NASPSO. A grand jury returned two superseding indictments in April 2011 and August 2012, which also charged offenses committed by Gray-Burriss while he was released on bail.

According to the evidence at trial, from approximately June 2004 through February 2011, Gray-Burriss wrote numerous checks to himself or to other third parties from the NASPSO pension plan checking account. The evidence also showed that Gray-Burriss spent more than $100,000 of the pension plan funds in this way, while falsely maintaining it was an operational fund that he was properly administering and that was providing benefits to the beneficiaries. The evidence further showed that Gray-Burriss committed criminal contempt of a court order addressing his prior misappropriation of pension and health plan funds after Gray-Burriss resumed his scheme in 2009 to defraud employers and NASPSO members of pension funds.

In addition, the evidence presented at trial showed that Gray-Burriss, while an officer and employee of NASPSO, stole over $150,000 in NASPSO funds consisting of cash withdrawals to himself, unauthorized salary increases and bonuses to himself and another person, fraudulently drawn checks to himself – purportedly for employment taxes on behalf of NASPSO – and unlawfully used NASPSO funds to pay his personal fines in a civil lawsuit.

The jury also found that Gray-Burriss committed obstruction of justice by destroying or concealing NASPSO financial records during a grand jury investigation; failing to file required annual reports on behalf of NASPSO, falsifying those reports, and failing to maintain properly the records of NASPSO.

At sentencing, which is currently scheduled for Feb. 28, 2013, Gray-Burris faces a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the mail fraud counts, five years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each of the theft from a labor organization and conspiracy counts; five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the criminal contempt count; 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the obstruction count, and a year in prison and a $10,000 fine for the recordkeeping offenses.

The investigation was conducted by agents and investigators of the U.S. Department of Labor. Trial Attorney Vincent J. Falvo of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Trial Attorney Tracee Plowell, of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section prosecuted the case.

WEEKLY UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE CLAIMS FOR WEEK ENDING DECEMBER 1, 2012

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending December 1, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 370,000, a decrease of 25,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 395,000. The 4-week moving average was 408,000, an increase of 2,250 from the previous week's revised average of 405,750.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.5 percent for the week ending November 24, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending November 24 was 3,205,000, a decrease of 100,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 3,305,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,309,000, an increase of 7,750 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,301,250.
UNADJUSTED DATA
The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 498,619 in the week ending December 1, an increase of 139,678 from the previous week. There were 528,793 initial claims in the comparable week in 2011.

The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.6 percent during the week ending November 24, an increase of 0.4 percentage point from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 3,301,200, an increase of 465,529 from the preceding week. A year earlier, the rate was 2.9 percent and the volume was 3,696,154.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending November 17 was 4,959,240, a decrease of 224,722 from the previous week. There were 6,575,150 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2011.

Extended Benefits were only available in New York during the week ending November 17.

Initial claims for UI benefits filed by former Federal civilian employees totaled 1,627 in the week ending November 24, an increase of 2 from the prior week. There were 1,863 initial claims filed by newly discharged veterans, a decrease of 522 from the preceding week.

There were 18,845 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending November 17, an increase of 242 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 36,889, a decrease of 2,436 from the prior week.

States reported 2,008,608 persons claiming EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits for the week ending November 17, a decrease of 110,446 from the prior week. There were 2,794,284 persons claiming EUC in the comparable week in 2011. EUC weekly claims include first, second, third, and fourth tier activity.

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending November 10 were in Alaska (5.7), New Jersey (3.9), Puerto Rico (3.6), Pennsylvania (3.3), Connecticut (3.1), Oregon (3.1), Nevada (2.9), Montana (2.8), and New York (2.8).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending November 24 were in Wisconsin (+5,876), Oregon (+2,328), Ohio (+2,252), Washington (+2,107), and Iowa (+1,262), while the largest decreases were in New Jersey (-23,966), California (-7,053), New York (-6,682), Texas (-6,425) and North Carolina (-2,609).

FIRST QUALIFIED FEMALE SUBMARINE OFFICERS RECEIVE DOLPHINS

121205-N-LP168-011 BANGOR, Wash. (Dec. 5, 2012) Lt. j.g. Jennifer Noonan, assigned to the Blue crew of the ballistic missile submarine USS Maine (SSBN 741), receives her submarine warfare officer device from former shipmate Lt. Jason Brethauer during a ceremony at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. Noonan is one of three Sailors to become the first female unrestricted line officers to qualify in submarines. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Ahron
FROM: U.S. NAVY

From Commander, Submarine Forces Public Affairs
NORFOLK (NNS) -- Three Sailors assigned to USS Maine (SSBN 741) and USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) became the first female unrestricted line officers to qualify in submarines Dec. 5.

Lt. j.g. Marquette Leveque, a native of Fort Collins, Colo., assigned to the Gold Crew of Wyoming, and Lt. j.g. Amber Cowan and Lt. j.g. Jennifer Noonan of Maine's Blue Crew received their submarine "dolphins" during separate ceremonies at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., and Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Wash.

In order to receive their dolphins, Leveque, Cowan and Noonan were required to qualify as Officer of the Deck and Engineering Officer of the Watch, perform damage control functions, and demonstrate satisfactory qualities of leadership.

Cowan, a native of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Noonan, who hails from Boston, joined two other Blue Crew officers - Lt. j.g. James Barclay and Lt. j.g. John Schaeffer - in receiving their dolphins. Cowan was pinned by her husband, Naval Flight Officer Lt. Adam Cowan. Noonan chose a former Maine shipmate and mentor, Lt. Jason Brethauer, to pin her dolphins. Schaeffer decided to have Lt. Joe Westfall, a current shipmate from the Blue Crew, conduct his pinning. The Commanding officer of Maine's Blue Crew, Cmdr. William Johnson, pinned Barclay.

"I am honored to participate in today's ceremony honoring these four fine officers who have proven themselves over the past year," said Johnson. "They are truly worthy to join in the great legacy of submariners that have gone before us as 'qualified in submarines.'"

In Kings Bay, Leveque, along with fellow Gold Crew officer Lt. j.g. Kyle E. McFadden, participated in a ceremony presided by Cmdr. Christopher Nash, commanding officer of Wyoming's Gold Crew. Leveque was pinned by her husband, Lt. j.g. Luke Leveque, a qualified submariner onboard the ballistic missile submarine USS Maryland (SSBN 738). McFadden was pinned at the ceremony by Nash.

"Today was a very special occasion. It was special because two talented young officers earned the right to lead the next generation of submarine sailors in the most capable Navy the world has ever known. It was also special because these young leaders fully represent the future of our nation's technical talent," said Nash.

Leveque, Cowan and Noonan are three of 24 women - 17 line officers and seven supply officers - assigned to Maine, Wyoming, USS Ohio (SSGN 726) and USS Georgia (SSGN 729). Maine and Ohio are homeported in Bangor, while Wyoming and Georgia are homeported in Kings Bay.

"I am honored to be joining the long tradition of the submarine force by earning my dolphins and excited for the journey to come. I could not have accomplished this without the help of the wardroom and crew of the USS Wyoming," said Leveque.

Leveque, Cowan and Noonan have each completed strategic deterrent patrols aboard their respective submarines.

"Qualifying is a huge accomplishment for any submariner, and it feels no different for me," said Noonan. "I am thrilled to finally be a member of this elite community. I'm particularly grateful to my crew, officers and enlisted, for supporting me and holding me to the same standards as those who have gone before me. I look forward to being able to fully contribute to the crew now that I'm a qualified submarine officer."

"Qualification in Submarines is more of a personal achievement," said Cowan. "It requires understanding of the many facets of submarine life and has you perform so many skills that when I take a step back and look at everything that I have done and what this qualification means I will do, it is pretty amazing. I see it as that point where I have demonstrated the knowledge and the instinct to perform safely and smartly in all areas of the ship and its missions. Ultimately, it is a monumental mark of the confidence my command and crew has in me. And earning that respect and acceptance is a feeling that I will hold with me for my entire life."

Prior to reporting to their boats beginning in November 2011, Leveque, Cowan, Noonan and the other women assigned to Ohio, Maine, Wyoming and Georgia graduated from the Submarine Officer Basic Course in Groton, Conn. In addition, the submarine line officers under instruction graduated from the Naval Nuclear Power School at Charleston, S.C., and underwent naval nuclear prototype training.