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Saturday, December 22, 2012

NASA GOLD RAINING DOWN FROM THE HEAVENS

 
Fragments of the Sutter’s Mill meteorite fall collected by NASA Ames and SETI Institute meteor astronomer Dr. Peter Jenniskens in the evening of Tuesday April 24, two days after the fall. This was the second recovered find.
Image credit: NASA / Eric James

FROM: NASA
NASA Researchers Strike Scientific Gold With Meteorite

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. - Scientists found treasure when they studied a meteorite that was recovered April 22, 2012 at Sutter's Mill, the gold discovery site that led to the 1849 California Gold Rush. Detection of the falling meteorites by Doppler weather radar allowed for rapid recovery so that scientists could study for the first time a primitive meteorite with little exposure to the elements, providing the most pristine look yet at the surface of primitive asteroids.

An international team of 70 researchers reported in today's issue of "Science" that this meteorite was classified as a Carbonaceous-Mighei or CM-type carbonaceous chondrite and that they were able to identify for the first time the source region of these meteorites.

"The small three meter-sized asteroid that impacted over California’s Sierra Nevada came in at twice the speed of typical meteorite falls," said lead author and meteor astronomer Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute, Mountain View, Calif., and NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. "Clocked at 64,000 miles per hour, it was the biggest impact over land since the impact of the four meter-sized asteroid 2008 TC3, four years ago over Sudan."

The asteroid approached on an orbit that still points to the source region of CM chondrites. From photographs and video of the fireball, Jenniskens calculated that the asteroid approached on an unusual low-inclined almost comet-like orbit that reached the orbit of Mercury, passing closer to the sun than known from other recorded meteorite falls.

"It circled the sun three times during a single orbit of Jupiter, in resonance with that planet," Jenniskens said. Based on the unusually short time that the asteroid was exposed to cosmic rays, there was not much time to go slower or faster around the sun. That puts the original source asteroid very close to this resonance, in a low inclined orbit.

"A good candidate source region for CM chondrites now is the Eulalia asteroid family, recently proposed as a source of primitive C-class asteroids in orbits that pass Earth," adds Jenniskens.

After the asteroid broke up in the atmosphere, weather radar briefly detected a hailstorm of falling meteorites over the townships of Coloma and Lotus in California. This enabled a rapid recovery that permitted the most pristine look yet at a CM-type carbonaceous chondrite.

"This was the first time a rare carbonaceous chondrite meteorite was recovered based on such weather radar detection," said Marc Fries of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, who pioneered the use of this technique. "Meteorites were found mostly under the radar footprint."

Of the estimated 100,000-pound asteroid, less than two pounds was recovered on the ground in the form of 77 meteorites. The biggest was 205 grams. Some of the key meteorites discussed in this work were found by volunteer search teams led by Jenniskens.

"The entire Ames community really came together in the search for these meteorites. People work at NASA because they love science and that was very evident when we saw the overwhelming response of volunteers from Ames wanting to be a part of this," said Pete Worden, director of NASA Ames Research Center.

"The meteorite was a jumbled mess of rocks, called a regolith breccia, that originated from near the surface of a primitive asteroid," said meteoriticist Derek Sears of NASA Ames.

NASA and the Japanese space agency (JAXA) have plans to target asteroids similar to the one recovered at Sutter’s Mill. The Sutter's Mill meteorite provides a rare glimpse of what these space missions may find.

"NASA's robotic OSIRIS-REx mission is currently being prepared to bring back a pristine sample of an asteroid named 1999 RQ36," said co-author and mission co-investigator Scott Sandford of NASA Ames. "In addition, Sutter's Mill has the same reflective properties as near-Earth asteroid, 1999 JU3, the mission target of the Hayabusa 2 sample return mission currently being prepared by the Japanese space agency, JAXA."

The rapid recovery resulted in the detection of compounds that quickly disappear once a meteorite lands on Earth. Mike Zolensky, a mineralogist at NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center, Houston, was surprised to detect the mineral oldhamite, a calcium sulfide, known in the past to disappear from contact with water by simply breathing on it.

"This mineral was known before mainly from rare enstatite chondrites," said Zolensky, "and its presence in the regolith breccia could mean that primitive and highly evolved asteroids collided with each other even at early times when the debris accumulated that now makes the meteorite matrix."

A wide array of carbon-containing compounds was detected that quickly reacted with water once in the Earth's environment. It is thought that the carbon atoms in our body may have been brought to Earth by such primitive asteroids in the early stages of our planet’s history.

"Amino acids were few in this meteorite because this particular meteorite appears to have been slightly heated in space before it arrived at Earth," said Danny Glavin of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

It appears that different parts of the meteorite had a different thermal alteration history. Heating also removed some of the water that used to move salts around in the asteroid.

"Samples collected before it rained on the meteorite fall area still contained such salts," said George Cooper of NASA Ames, "but Sutter's Mill was less altered by water in the asteroid itself than other CM type meteorites."

"Only 150 parts per billion of Sutter's Mill was actual gold," said co-author and cosmochemist Qing-zhu Yin of U.C. Davis, Davis, Calif., "but all of it was scientific gold. With 78 other elements measured, Sutter's Mill provides one of the most complete records of elemental compositions documented for such primitive meteorites."

To view a video about the search for this meteorite, visit:

SEC CHARGES 4 INDIVIDUALS IN ALLEGED FRAUDULENT PENNY STOCK SCHEME

Picture:  Black Hole.  Credit:  NASA
FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C., Dec. 21, 2012 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged four securities industry professionals with conducting a fraudulent penny stock scheme in which they illegally acquired more than one billion unregistered shares in microcap companies at deep discounts and then dumped them on the market for approximately $17 million in illicit profits while claiming bogus exemptions from the federal securities laws.

The SEC alleges that Danny Garber, Michael Manis, Kenneth Yellin, and Jordan Feinstein acquired shares at about 30 to 60 percent off the market price by misrepresenting to the penny stock companies that they intended to hold the shares for investment purposes rather than immediately re-selling them. Instead, they immediately sold the shares without registering them by purporting to rely on an exemption for transactions that are in compliance with certain types of state law exemptions. However, no such state law exemptions were applicable to their transactions. To create the appearance that the claimed exemption was valid, they created virtual corporate presences in Minnesota, Texas, and Delaware. The SEC also charged 12 entities that they operated in connection with the scheme.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, Garber, Manis, Yellin, and Feinstein all live in the New York/New Jersey area and operated the scheme from 2007 to 2010. They each have previously worked in the securities industry either as registered representatives or providers of investment management or financial advisory services.

"These penny stock purchasers had enough securities industry experience to know that their penny stock trading was not exempt from the securities laws as they claimed," said Andrew M. Calamari, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. "They repeatedly violated the registration provisions and in the process also committed securities fraud. We will continue to fight microcap stock abuses that result in the unregistered distribution of shares without vital information about those companies being known to investors."

The SEC’s complaint alleges that Garber, Manis, Yellin, Feinstein and the named entities violated Sections 5(a), 5(c), and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933; Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. The SEC’s complaint seeks a final judgment, among other things, ordering all of the defendants to pay disgorgement, prejudgment interest and financial penalties; permanently enjoining all the defendants from future violations of the securities laws; and permanently enjoining all the defendants from participating in penny stock offerings.

The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted by Michael Paley, Laura Yeu, Elzbieta Wraga, Haimavathi Marlier, Yitzchok Klug and Paul Gizzi of the New York Regional Office. Mr. Gizzi and Ms. Marlier will lead the SEC’s litigation.

JAPAN'S NATIONAL DAY


Photo:  Imperial Palace In Tokyo.  From:  CIA World Factbook.

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Japan National Day Message
Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
December 21, 2012

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to His Imperial Majesty on his 79th birthday this December 23rd, and to congratulate the people of Japan on this national day of celebration.

This year marked the one hundredth anniversary of Japan’s historic gift of three thousand cherry trees to the United States, a lasting symbol of the friendship between our nations. Our strong partnership has flourished under the common values of our people and our shared goals for the Asia Pacific region and around the world. We are grateful for the many important contributions Japan has made to development and democracy and look forward to finding even more ways for collaboration in the future.

I wish His Imperial Majesty a wonderful birthday, and I hope all Japanese people around the world enjoy the blessings of peace and prosperity in the coming year.


 

Photo:  Lotus Blossom.  From:  CIA World Factbook.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM CIA WORLD FACTBOOK

In 1603, after decades of civil warfare, the Tokugawa shogunate (a military-led, dynastic government) ushered in a long period of relative political stability and isolation from foreign influence. For more than two centuries this policy enabled Japan to enjoy a flowering of its indigenous culture. Japan opened its ports after signing the Treaty of Kanagawa with the US in 1854 and began to intensively modernize and industrialize. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Japan became a regional power that was able to defeat the forces of both China and Russia. It occupied Korea, Formosa (Taiwan), and southern Sakhalin Island. In 1931-32 Japan occupied Manchuria, and in 1937 it launched a full-scale invasion of China. Japan attacked US forces in 1941 - triggering America's entry into World War II - and soon occupied much of East and Southeast Asia. After its defeat in World War II, Japan recovered to become an economic power and an ally of the US. While the emperor retains his throne as a symbol of national unity, elected politicians hold actual decision-making power. Following three decades of unprecedented growth, Japan's economy experienced a major slowdown starting in the 1990s, but the country remains a major economic power. In March 2011, Japan's strongest-ever earthquake, and an accompanying tsunami, devastated the northeast part of Honshu island, killing thousands and damaging several nuclear power plants. The catastrophe hobbled the country's economy and its energy infrastructure, and tested its ability to deal with humanitarian disasters.

Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Extend a Holiday Greeting and Thank our Troops for their Service | The White House

Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Extend a Holiday Greeting and Thank our Troops for their Service | The White House

EPA UPDATE ON HYDRAULIC FRACTURING STUDY

FROM: U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

EPA Releases Update on Ongoing Hydraulic Fracturing Study

WASHINGTON
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today provided an update on its ongoing national study currently underway to better understand any potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. Results of the study, which Congress requested EPA to complete, are expected to be released in a draft for public and peer review in 2014. The update provided today outlines work currently underway, including the status of research projects that will inform the final study. It is important to note that while this progress report outlines the framework for the final study, it does not draw conclusions about the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, which will be made in the final study.

As the administration and EPA has made clear, natural gas has a central role to play in our energy future, and this important domestic fuel source has extensive economic, energy security, and environmental benefits. The study EPA is currently undertaking is part of EPA’s focus to ensure that as the Administration continues to work to expand production of this important domestic resource safely and responsibly.

Among the information released today are updates on 18 research projects and details on the agency’s research approach as well as next steps for these ongoing projects and analyses. Today’s update follows the public release, in November 2011, of the agency’s final study plan, which underwent scientific peer review and public comment.

EPA has engaged stakeholders, including industry, to ensure that the study reflects current practices in hydraulic fracturing. EPA continues to request data and information from the public and stakeholders and has put out a formal request for information which can be accessed through the federal register at:
https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/11/09/2012-27452/request-for-information-to-inform-hydraulic-fracturing-research-related-to-drinking-water-resources

EPA also expects to release a draft report of results from the study in late 2014. The study has been designated a Highly Influential Scientific Assessment, meaning it will receive the highest level of peer review in accordance with EPA’s peer review handbook before it is finalized. The 2014 draft report will synthesize the results from the ongoing projects together with the scientific literature to answer the study’s main research questions.

EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) is forming a panel of independent experts which will review and provide their individual input on the ongoing study to EPA. The SAB will provide an opportunity for the public to offer comments for consideration by the individual panel members.

SPACE FENSE TO BE FULLY OPERATIONAL BY 2020


Muai GEODSS
Maui Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance achieved intial operating capability on 1 Oct 1982. (courtesy photo)
FROM: U.S. AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND
Space Fence program moving forward
by Patty Welsh
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

12/21/2012 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center here recently put out a request for proposal to move the Space Fence program forward.

Space Fence will be a system of up to two land-based radars, the first site located at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, to track objects entering Earth's orbit. According to program officials, it will form the foundation of improved space situational awareness by expanding the ability to detect, track, identify and characterize orbiting objects such as commercial and military satellites, smaller objects, maneuvering satellites, break-up events and lower inclination objects.

"Space situational awareness is a continual concern and challenge for U.S. and ally nations," said Ken Francois, Space Fence program manager. "The Space Fence program will increase the capability to provide predictability in reducing the chance of a collision or attack."

The RFP is for the final development and construction of the Space Fence Operations Center, Site 1, and an option for Site 2. It is a full and open competition that will conclude with a contract award, currently anticipated in spring 2013. The award will bring the program forward to final system development, fielding and initial operational capability.

During a Defense Acquisition Board held in August, some changes were made to the program's acquisition strategy.

"The most significant change is that we are moving to an incremental approach. Increment 1 includes the Space Operations Center and Site 1 facilities construction and radar build," said Francois. "Increment 2 includes Site 2 and system integration. This approach maximizes our efficient use of resources and will allow us to reduce costs to the Defense Department and the Air Force, ultimately saving money for the taxpayer."

A lot of previous work got the program to this point.

In early 2011, awards were made to Lockheed Martin and Raytheon for an 18-month period of performance to develop preliminary system designs and prototypes and conduct radar performance analyses, evaluations and other technical activities.

As part of that, two preliminary design reviews for the Space Fence program were completed with final events demonstrating working radar prototypes capable of detecting and tracking a resident space object.

"The PDRs were conducted through a series of four detailed incremental reviews, leading up to the two-day final events," said Francois. "This approach was used so the government could review various aspects of the designs over time and provide timely feedback on any issues."

The incremental reviews included overall system design and architecture, radar hardware and software configuration items, allocated baseline, logistics, facilities, test, modeling and simulation along with the radar prototype demonstration. Following the reviews, the contractors worked on risk reduction activities and design maturation.

"All the work up to now and as we go forward is so we can ensure the mature technologies that are needed are available and to reduce risks associated with the program," said Francois.

Initial operational capability for Space Fence is anticipated in 2017 and full operational capability in 2020.

ENRON BROADBAND SERVICES EXECUTIVES SETTLE FRAUD CHARGES WITH SEC

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that former Enron senior vice presidents Rex T. Shelby and Scott Yeager and the former chief financial officer of Enron Broadband Services (EBS) Kevin A. Howard have agreed to settle the SEC's pending civil actions against them.

The SEC charged Shelby and Yeager with securities fraud and insider trading on May 1, 2003, amending a complaint previously filed March 12, 2003, which charged Howard and Michael W. Krautz, a former senior director of accounting at EBS, with securities fraud. The SEC’s civil case was stayed by the U.S. District Court while criminal proceedings occurred against these defendants.

To settle the SEC’s action against them, Shelby agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1 million, and Yeager and Howard agreed to pay civil penalties of $110,000 and $65,000, respectively. In addition, they each consented to the entry of a final judgment enjoining them from violating Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and permanently barring them from serving as an officer or director of a public company. Howard also agreed to be permanently enjoined from violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 13(b)(5) of the Exchange Act and Exchange Act Rule 13b2-1, and aiding and abetting violations of Sections 13(a) and 13(b)(2)(A) and (B) of the Exchange Act and Exchange Act Rules 12b-20, 13a-1 and 13a-13. These settlement agreements are subject to court approval. Separately, Howard also consented to the entry of an Administrative Order, pursuant to Rule 102(e) of the Commission’s Rules of Practice, suspending him from appearing or practicing before the Commission as an accountant.

In the related criminal proceedings, the Department of Justice previously entered into plea agreements with Shelby and Howard on related charges. Shelby and Howard agreed to respectively forfeit $2,568,750 and $25,000 that, along with the Commission's civil penalties announced today, will contribute $3,658,750 for the benefit of injured investors through the Commission's Enron Fair Fund. Yeager was acquitted in a related criminal proceeding.

As alleged in the Commission's complaint, Shelby, Yeager and other EBS executives engaged in a fraudulent scheme to, among other things, make false or misleading statements about the technological prospects, performance, and financial condition of EBS. These statements were made at Enron's annual analyst conference and in multiple press releases during 2000. While aware of material non-public information concerning the true nature of EBS' technological and commercial condition, Shelby and Yeager sold a large amount of Enron stock at inflated prices. In another part of the scheme, Howard engaged in a sham transaction, known as "Project Braveheart," in which Enron improperly recognized $53 million in earnings in the fourth quarter of 2000 and $58 million in earnings in the first quarter of 2001.

The Commission also announced today that it filed notices of voluntary dismissal of its case against Krautz, along with its case against Schuyler M. Tilney and Thomas W. Davis, two former Merrill Lynch executives who were charged on March 17, 2003 with aiding and abetting Enron’s securities fraud. Krautz was acquitted at trial in a related criminal proceeding.

U.S.-ALBANIA RELATIONS


Map:  Albania.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT

U.S. Relations With Albania
Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Fact Sheet
December 20, 2012


The United States established diplomatic relations with Albania in 1922, following its 1912 independence from the Ottoman Empire. U.S.-Albanian diplomatic relations were ended in 1939 due to Albania's occupation by Italy (1939-43) and Germany (1943-44) during World War II. After the war, Albania saw 40 years of isolation and underdevelopment under its Stalinist leader, who died in 1985. With the 1991 fall of communism, the Albanian Government sought closer ties with the West in order to improve economic conditions and introduced basic democratic reforms. Diplomatic relations between the United States and Albania were reestablished in 1991.

The United States has been a strong partner and friend to Albania as it has made progress to consolidate democracy, to open up its economy, and to provide opportunity for all its people. Albania and the United States have signed and ratified a number of agreements, including a treaty on the prevention of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the promotion of defense and military relations; the Adriatic Charter on Euro-Atlantic integration; and an agreement regarding the non-surrender of persons to the International Criminal Court. The United States supports Albania's European Union membership goal, as it did Albania's pursuit of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership.

Albania has contributed to regional and global security. Albanians credit the 1999 NATO intervention against the then-Federal Republic of Yugoslavia with saving thousands of Kosovo Albanians, and supported United Nations mediation efforts in Kosovo. Albania has supported the U.S. policy of expanding the number of countries extending diplomatic recognition to Kosovo. Within the Adriatic Charter, Albania has acted as a mentor to new NATO aspirants. It has provided military troops for U.S.-led actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has supported U.S. counterterrorism efforts by freezing terrorist assets, shutting down non-governmental organizations with possible links to terrorist financing, and expelling extremists.


Locator Map:  Albania.  From:  CIA World Factbook.

U.S. Assistance to Albania

U.S. Government assistance aims to help Albania strengthen democratic institutions and rule of law; promote sustainable, broad-based economic growth; and integrate the country into European and Euro-Atlantic structures.

Bilateral Economic Relations

Trade with the United States accounts for an insignificant part of Albania's trade volume, focusing on a narrow range of goods and products. Major imports from the U.S. include food (mainly meat), transportation equipment (vehicles), machinery, and computer and electronic equipment, while the main exports to the United States are agricultural products, footwear, and textiles. Albania is eligible to export certain products duty-free to the United States under the Generalized System of Preferences program. The United States and Albania have signed a bilateral investment treaty.

Albania's Membership in International Organizations

Albania and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Albania also is an observer to the Organization of American States.


Seventy percent of the surface of Albania is covered by the mountains of the Dinaric and Pindus Alps. The 1,230-meter tall Mount Dajti of the Dinaric range overlooks Tirana.  From:  CIA World Factbook.

 
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM CIA WORLD FACTBOOK

Albania declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912, but was conquered by Italy in 1939. Communist partisans took over the country in 1944. Albania allied itself first with the USSR (until 1960), and then with China (to 1978). In the early 1990s, Albania ended 46 years of xenophobic Communist rule and established a multiparty democracy. The transition has proven challenging as successive governments have tried to deal with high unemployment, widespread corruption, a dilapidated physical infrastructure, powerful organized crime networks, and combative political opponents. Albania has made progress in its democratic development since first holding multiparty elections in 1991, but deficiencies remain. International observers judged elections to be largely free and fair since the restoration of political stability following the collapse of pyramid schemes in 1997; however, there have been claims of electoral fraud in every one of Albania's post-Communist elections. The 2009 general elections resulted in a coalition government, the first such in the country's history. Albania joined NATO in April 2009 and is a potential candidate for EU accession. Although Albania's economy continues to grow, the country is still one of the poorest in Europe, hampered by a large informal economy and an inadequate energy and transportation infrastructure.

NORAD PROVIDES SANTA TRACKING APPS

Credit:  Wikimedia.

FROM: NORAD

NORAD Provides Website, Apps to Track Santa
From a North American Aerospace Defense Command News Release


PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Dec. 3, 2012 - Children of all ages will be able to track Santa Claus on his annual journey, thanks to the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

The "NORAD Tracks Santa" website at
http://www.noradsanta.org is up and running. The site features a holiday countdown, games and daily activities, video messages from students around the world and more, officials said, and it is available in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese.

Official apps also are available in the Windows Store, Apple Store, and Google Play so parents and children can count down the days until Santa's launch on their smartphones and tablets. Tracking opportunities also offered on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google Plus. Santa followers just need to type "@noradsanta" into each search engine to get started.

Starting at midnight Mountain Standard Time on Dec. 24, website visitors can watch Santa make the preparations for his flight. Then, at 4 a.m. Mountain time, trackers worldwide can speak with a live phone operator to inquire as to Santa's whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD
(1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to noradtrackssanta@outlook.com.

NORAD's "Santa Cams" also will stream videos as Santa makes his way over various locations.

NORAD Tracks Santa is possible, in large part, to the efforts and services of numerous program contributors, officials said. New to this year's program are Bing, HP, iLink-Systems, Kids.gov, Microsoft's Windows Azure, BeMerry! Santa, and SiriusXM. Returning collaborators include the 21st Space Wing, Acuity Scheduling, Air Canada, American Forces Network, Analytical Graphics Inc., Avaya, Citadel Mall, Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council, CradlePoint, Defense Video Imagery Distribution System, the Federal Aviation Administration, First Choice Awards and Gifts, Globelink Foreign Language Center, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, Meshbox, the National Tree Lighting Ceremony, Naturally Santa's, the Newseum, OnStar, PCI Broadband, the Pentagon Channel, RadiantBlue, Space Foundation, TurboSquid, twtelecom, UGroup Media, Verizon and VisionBox.

Santa's Countdown Calendar and the Santa Cam videos will feature music by military bands, including the Naden Band of the Maritime Forces Pacific, the Air Force Academy Band, the Air Force Band of Liberty, the Air Force Band of the Golden West, the Air Force Band of the West, the Air Force Band, the Air Force Heartland of America Band, the U.S. Army Ground Forces Band, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Band, the Air Force Band of Mid-America, and the West Point Band.

It all started in 1955, when a local media advertisement directed children to call Santa direct – but the number was misprinted. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone rang through to the crew commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center. NORAD has carried the tradition on since the command was created in 1958.

THE COUNTER-DRUG MISSION OF THE U.S. MILITARY

 
U.S. Marine Corps Photo By Lance Cpl. Cory D. Polom
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Face of Defense: Navy Boat Team Practices Counter-drug Mission
By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cory D. Polom
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C., Dec. 21, 2012 - As waves tossed the two small assault boats around the sailors aboard were on watch for movement on the water as their vessels made their way to the insertion point.

Cold water splashed over the boats' gunnels but the sailors didn't deviate from their course. They stood ready to deploy into the wet marshlands, where intelligence informed them of the location of a small weapons cache.

Their mission was to quietly insert, recover the cache and get out undetected. Navy Riverine Squadron 2, Detachment 22 accomplished its mission. The ground team recovered three rifles buried under some dead shrubs and sticks and they moved back to the boats for extraction.

Although this was just a training scenario, this is a situation these sailors might face while conducting anti-drug operations in South America, said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dwayne Brown, an operations specialist with the team.

The boat team recently conducted several training exercises on the waterways surrounding Marine Corps Outlying Field Atlantic and Cherry Point during their trip here from Little Creek, Va.

"The land and waterways around this area are similar to what we will be seeing on deployment," Brown said. "That is the reason for choosing this location. We can give these sailors real-life training with real-world similarities to the locations we will see in South America."

MCOLF Atlantic provides the sailors with a quiet, austere location for their training. They constructed shelters and tents, and there is very little to no cell phone reception, putting the sailors in a state of seclusion.

"We want them to get used to this type of place," Brown said. "That way it will not be a shock to them while on deployment."

During the training, the sailors found themselves dealing with different weather patterns including freezing winds and sharp, stinging rain.

"A lot of the weather patterns we deal with make the waters rough and choppy," said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Oyler, an engineer and gunner for the squadron. "We have to be prepared for any type of scenario. We have to be on alert for enemy contact, weather, and even water depth."

The team fought the cold water and high winds and successfully concluded their training.

"Anytime we can come out and get some great training on the water is a great step towards mission accomplishment," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dave Cearley, the executive officer of Riverine Squadron 2.

RECENT U.S. NAVY PHOTOS




FROM: U.S. NAVY

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk after a six-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin J. Steinberg (Released) 121912-N-TB177-760




Seaman Darrell Spencer, from Cloverfield, N.J., stands aft lookout watch on the fantail of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) as an aircraft prepares to land. John C. Stennis is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate (Released) 121216-N-OY799-024

FORCES MAINTAINED IN KOSOVO


U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, left, speaks with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, right, before a conference of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, Oct. 10, 2012. Panetta is scheduled to meet with several defense ministers during the two-day event. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

U.S., NATO Forces Maintain Vigil in Kosovo
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2012 - Returned this week from a trip to Kosovo, the commander of NATO and U.S. European Command recognized the 5,000 NATO forces that continue to preserve the peace there and said he hopes to reduce their numbers in 2013 if the situation allows.

Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, writing in his command blog, recalled the 1990s when almost 60,000 NATO troops conducted peacekeeping missions in the Balkans, sometimes engaging in vigorous combat.

More than 100,000 people died during a turbulent decade following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, he noted. In one single incident in Srebrenica in Bosnia, almost 8,000 men and boys were massacred during the worst war crime in Europe since World War II.

The international community rallied to promote peace talks between warring ethnic and religious groups, and under a United Nations mandate NATO contributed forces to help stem the violence.

Today, the NATO presence has dropped from 15,000 in 2009 to the current 5,000, deployed from the United States and 29 other nations.

Most are in Kosovo, Stavridis said, with the mission of maintaining a safe and secure environment and ensuring freedom of movement.

Despite occasional demonstrations, roadblocks and violence, "the situation is largely under control," he reported.

"We are hoping to reduce [the NATO force] further in the coming year, although that will be very situation-dependent," he said.

"The key will be steady and sustained international pressure on both Serbia and Kosovo to resolve their difficulties, which range from border disputes to customs arrangements along their extensive and contested border," he said.
Stavridis praised the European Union's recent efforts to bring the two prime ministers together to address these differences.

He offered assurance that NATO forces will remain as needed to underpin these initiatives. "NATO will also stay steady," he said. "We'll continue performing our U.N.-mandated mission to the best of our ability."

"As the cold winter approaches, I'm thankful for the 5,000 troops far from their homes," Stavridis wrote. "They are standing the watch, keeping the peace, and shaping a more peaceful world in the Balkans: something that looked impossible a decade ago."

NATO's contribution has helped shape a vastly different security environment in the Balkans over the past decade, he said.

"While tensions remain, Croatia, Albania and Slovenia are members of NATO," he said. "Bosnia-Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro are all in various stages of applying for NATO membership. Serbia wants in the European Union. Kosovo is recognized by nearly 100 nations."

In addition, many of these countries have troops deployed to Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force there, Stavridis noted.

 

NAVY CAMPAIGN TO DETER DESIGNER DRUG USE


121220-N-ZZ999-005 WASHINGTON (Dec. 20, 2011) An informational poster produced by the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery about the designer drug known as "Bath Salts". (U.S. Navy photo illustration/Released)


FROM: U.S. NAVY

Navy Medicine Rolls Out New Campaign to Deter 'Bath Salts' Designer Drug Use
By Valerie A. Kremer, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Public Affairs

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (NNS) -- Navy Medicine announced the launch of a new informational video and poster regarding the health risks and dangers of the synthetic amphetamine known as "bath salts" and other designer drugs, Dec. 20.

The public service announcement video and poster will be distributed for display throughout the fleet and are available for download at
http://www.med.navy.mil/Pages/Syntheticdrugs.aspx.
The new media products focus on the dangers of bath salts and are part of the long-term awareness and deterrence campaign Navy Medicine launched last year on synthetic and designer drugs. This effort is also part of an overall Navy communications plan with partners at the Naval Personnel Command and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and other commands.

The education and awareness campaign from Navy Medicine supports the Navy's zero-tolerance policy on designer drug use, as well as highlights the real and present risks of bath salts. The campaign's goal is to decrease the number of active-duty service members who use designer drugs like bath salts and the synthetic marijuana "Spice" because they are falsely marketed as a "legal" way to get high.

According to Navy Medicine psychiatry resident Lt. George Loeffler at the Naval Medical Center San Diego,, the adverse health effects from bath salt use can range from lack of appetite to kidney failure, muscle spasms, severe paranoid delusions, and psychosis. Several cases of long-term inpatient hospitalization and suicide have been reported and Loeffler has firsthand experience treating service members at Navy military treatment facilities with these symptoms.

"I would say not just as the naval officer, but as your doctor, bath salts will not only jack up your family and your career, it will jack up your mind and body too," said Loeffler in the PSA now available online.

The Bath Salts campaign's slogan, "Bath salts: It's not a fad...It's a nightmare," reflects the hallucinogenic effect of bath salts, which are a non-regulated designer drug comprised of a synthetic cathinone, or amphetamine, that can have a dangerous or debilitating effect on the user.

"As the leader of the medical community for the Navy and Marine Corps, I cannot emphasize enough to our Sailors and Marines that using synthetic drugs really is just like playing Russian roulette with their health, not to mention their career," said Vice Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, U.S. Navy surgeon general said in an editorial written for the Union Tribune in San Diego earlier this year.

The bath salts campaign further supports the Navy Surgeon General's mission for all commanding officers and others in positions of leadership to be fully engaged in their command's implementation plan to continually communicate and educate all hands as to the Navy's zero-tolerance policy on designer drug use.


"The U.S. military represents a microcosm of our much larger population and in many ways strives to be a reflection of the society we serve, so we share many of the same health and safety issues as the general population, including the increased use of these dangerous and debilitating drugs - which not only affect our service members' health, but also our readiness as a military force," said Nathan.

"For nearly two years now, Navy leaders have taken a multitiered approach to combating this escalating issue in our forces, and with our partners in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Naval Personnel Command and throughout our naval enterprise, we have made progress in deterring and detecting use."

Nathan affirmed that the Navy will continue to highlight the issue of synthetic drug use by delivering sustained and targeted messages throughout the Navy and Marine Corps.

"We cannot over-communicate this issue," said Nathan. "Accountability for those who abuse these substances will help deter their use."

Navy Medicine is a global health care network of more than 63,000 Navy medical personnel around the world who provide high quality health care to more than one million eligible beneficiaries. Navy Medicine personnel deploy with Sailors and Marines worldwide, providing critical mission support aboard ship, in the air, under the sea and on the battlefield.



Friday, December 21, 2012

U.S. DEPLORES SHOOT DOWN OF UN MISSION HELICOPTER AND DEATHS OF FOUR RUSSIAN CREW MEMBERS

Map:  South Sudan.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook. 

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT

Attack of an UNMISS Helicopter in South Sudan
Press Statement
Patrick Ventrell
Acting Deputy Spokesperson, Office of Press Relations
Washington, DC
December 21, 2012


The United States deplores the shooting down of a UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) civilian helicopter in Jonglei State on 21 December, in which four Russian crew members died.

The United States expresses its condolences to the families of the crewmembers killed in the attack, as well as to UNMISS and the Government of Russia. We also call on the Government of South Sudan to fully investigate the incident, hold those responsible to account, and take steps to ensure that UN staff are protected from incidents like this in the future.

The United States fully supports UNMISS and its mission to consolidate peace and security, protect civilians, and to help establish conditions for development in South Sudan.

 

DRACCO THE DESTROYER: THE GREAT MIDWEST SNOWSTORM OF 2012

FROM: NASA



Midwest Snowstorm (Dec. 19-21, 2012)

This NOAA's GOES-13 satellite animation shows movement of the storm from Dec.19 through the morning of Dec. 21. The long line of clouds is a cold front associated with a low pressure center that moves in from the west as the animation begins and reaches northern Ohio by the time the animation ends on Dec. 21 at 9:45 a.m. EST.

Credit: NASA GOES Project

FEMA PHOTOS OF JACOB RIIS PARK CLEANUP AFTER HURRICANE SANDY

 
FROM: U.S. FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
 








Far Rockaway, N.Y., Dec. 19, 2012 -- The Army Corps of Engineers is continuing coordination of sand screening, sifting and remediation at Jacob Riis Park, in the New York City borough of Queens. FEMA is providing public assistance funds to aid in the cleanup and restoration of the Rockaways and Breezy Point, Queens, NY. Andre R. Aragon-FEMA

Defense Department Press Briefing via Teleconference with Maj. Gen Patton and Lt. Col. Galbreath on the Annual Military Academy Sexual Assault Report

Defense Department Press Briefing via Teleconference with Maj. Gen Patton and Lt. Col. Galbreath on the Annual Military Academy Sexual Assault Report

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE CLINTON COMMENTS ON NOMINATION OF SENATOR KERRY TO REPLACE HER


FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Statement on the President's Nomination of Senator John F. Kerry to Succeed Her as Secretary of State of the United States

Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
December 21, 2012


Today, I spoke to Senator John Kerry and congratulated him on his nomination to be the next Secretary of State. I also spoke with President Obama and told him that he has made an excellent choice. I hope Senator Kerry will be confirmed quickly.

I have been privileged to know John for many years and to call him a friend, colleague, and partner. He will bring decades of service to our country and deep experience in international affairs. The son of a career Foreign Service Officer, diplomacy is in his blood. As a decorated veteran, he knows what it takes to defend our nation and our values. As a leader in the Senate, he understands how to build coalitions and craft compromises. As a statesman respected around the world, he will be able to sustain and extend America’s global leadership.

John Kerry has been tested – in war, in government, and in diplomacy. Time and again, he has proven his mettle.

I remember watching young Lieutenant Kerry’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee many years ago and thinking that I had just seen a man of uncommon courage and conscience. Years later, as First Lady, I admired John’s integrity and leadership as he returned to Vietnam to uncover the truth about fellow American soldiers who never came home, and to help normalize relations. Then, as Senate colleagues, we worked together on behalf of wounded warriors, working families, and other causes close to both our hearts.

Over the past four years, now as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Kerry has been my trusted partner on major foreign policy challenges facing our nation. He helped us end the war in Iraq and advance a responsible transition in Afghanistan, co-authored key assistance legislation for Pakistan, won ratification of the New START Treaty with Russia, led the way on climate change, and helped us navigate a fast-changing Middle East.

President Obama and I have often asked Senator Kerry to undertake delicate diplomatic missions and to deliver difficult messages. He has forged strong relationships with leaders around the world. As I have learned, being able to talk candidly as someone who has won elections and also lost them is an enormous asset when engaging with emerging or fragile democracies.

Through it all, Senator Kerry has fought for our nation’s diplomats and development experts – and for investing in their mission and America’s global leadership. And now, he is working closely with me and my team to learn the lessons of the tragedy in Benghazi, further protect our people and posts, and implement every single one of the Accountability Review Board’s recommendations.

We need a leader with John Kerry’s experience and talent at the helm of the State Department and USAID in the years ahead. There is much more to do on all of these crucial challenges, from Afghanistan to nonproliferation to climate change, and many others. We also have to consolidate America’s expanded engagement in the Asia-Pacific, continue championing the rights and opportunities of women, pursue a new approach to development centered on dignity and self-sufficiency, keep putting economics at the center of our foreign policy, and practice the kind of smart power that harnesses innovation and partnerships – with governments and with people – to solve problems and seize opportunities.

The men and women of the State Department and USAID represent the best traditions of a bold and generous nation. They serve and sacrifice every day, often in dangerous circumstances. It has been one of the great honors of my life to serve with such fine public servants over the past four years. I could not be prouder of all we have achieved together. They deserve the highest caliber leadership, and that is exactly what they’ll get in John Kerry.

ARMY VICE CHIEF GEN. AUSTIN III TOURS TBI, PTSD TREATMENT CENTER


FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Army Vice Chief Tours TBI, PTSD Treatment Center

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2012 - Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III toured the National Intrepid Center of Excellence here Dec. 19 to gain perspective on treatment for service members who have traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Austin also visited wounded warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center here, a trip officials said he makes on a regular basis. Austin and his wife, Charlene, have taken a particular interest in treatments for TBI and PTSD, two signature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials said.

Dr. James Kelly, NICoE director, led Austin's tour of the two-year old center. During the visit, chiefs of major specialties briefed the general on their treatment approaches.

Austin learned how those approaches are effective in treating service members by using such modalities as art and music therapy, relaxation, a sleep lab and counseling, all in a team setting over the course of four weeks. He viewed magnetic resonance imaging -- also known as MRI -- and saw MRI films showing the occurrence of TBI and PTSD in the brain.

Two golden retrievers and their handlers from Warrior Canine Connection also greeted Austin at NICoE. The Warrior Canine Connection is a nonprofit organization that works with NICoE service members while they are undergoing treatment. In an optional program, service members can learn to train the retrievers as service dogs that are paired with veterans who are mobility impaired, the dog handlers said.

Austin also was briefed on the satellite NICoE clinics being developed around the country at Army posts and Marine Corps bases. The sites include Fort Bragg, N.C.; Forts Bliss and Hood, Texas; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Belvoir, Va.; the Marine Corps' Camp Lejeune, N.C., and a yet-to-be determined base in Southern California.

NICoE officials estimate each of those clinics will see about 1,200 patients with TBI and PTSD per year, while the most severe cases of the disorders are usually referred to the NICoE here.

"I'm very much encouraged and excited about the satellite clinics," Austin told Kelly about the NICoE concept. "They will be beneficial to [service members]."

"It's not every day NICoE gets a visit from the Army vice chief of staff," Kelly said, adding that Austin asked him about the progress on the Fort Belvoir satellite clinic, which is now under construction.

"His main concern today was how what we learn here influences the system [for treating TBI and PTSD]," Kelly said.

"His dedication to our service members in these circumstances is unquestioned," he added.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM WALTER REED NATIONAL MILITARY MEDICAL CENTER

The National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) is a DoD institute dedicated to providing cutting-edge evaluation, treatment planning, research and education for service members and their families dealing with the complex interactions of mild traumatic brain injury and psychological health conditions.

The NICoE was created to focus the collected wisdom and knowledge of our military, federal, academic and private industry partners to define the pattern of the disease state, identify definitive diagnostic criteria, advance novel treatments and share that knowledge with each other. Ultimately, together we can return our wounded, ill and injured service members back to productive lives.

The NICoE aims to be a leader in advancing traumatic brain injury and psychological health treatment, research and education. With its dedicated staff, the NICoE seeks to be an instrument of hope, healing, discovery, and learning for service members recovering from TBI and PH conditions.

NATIONAL GUARD PROVIDE AID DURING END OF THE WORLD STORM


A Wisconsin National Guard member at the Sussex armory readies a light medium tactical vehicle for use during a major snowstorm that hit Wisconsin Dec. 19, 2012. Wisconsin Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Joe Trovato

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Midwest Guard Troops Aid States in Storm's Path
National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 21, 2012 - As the Midwest's first big winter storm forced road closures and shuttered schools, National Guard soldiers were mobilized to assist in Iowa and Wisconsin.

About 166 Wisconsin National Guard members were called to state active duty and were positioned at armories in key locations around the state as a result of a state of emergency.

In Iowa, about 80 Guard members were on state active duty, working with the Iowa Department of Transportation to assist stranded motorists, said Army Lt. Col. Gregory Hapgood of the Iowa National Guard.

The storm, dubbed Draco by The Weather Channel in its new program to raise awareness of winter storms, was expected to drop up to 18 inches of snow in Iowa, according to the National Weather Service.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker issued an executive order Dec. 19 to allow state and local governments to prepare the resources they need to respond to the storm, which is projected to dump up to 19 inches of snow in a storm corridor spanning from south central to northeast Wisconsin.

Wind gusts up to 45 mph are expected to create near white-out conditions and snow drifts of up to four feet, resulting in degraded travel conditions.

"I issued this executive order to make sure Wisconsin is prepared for whatever this winter storm may bring," Walker said. "Mobilizing our state agency resources during this storm will ensure we leave nothing to chance when it comes to protecting the citizens of Wisconsin."

Those state agencies include Wisconsin Emergency Management and the Wisconsin State Patrol.

Wisconsin-based National Guard armories in Sussex, Oconomowoc, Portage, Oak Creek, Milwaukee, Appleton, Beloit, Richland Center and two in Madison have been selected as emergency sheltering and warming areas, as well as staging areas for Wisconsin National Guard soldiers to respond to calls for assistance from local authorities.

Those requests would include responding to stranded motorists along routes designated by the state Department of Transportation, assisting in closing roads, and conducting welfare checks on those affected by the winter storm.
The Wisconsin State Patrol and the National Weather Service are urging people to avoid traveling.

(Editor's Note: The Wisconsin National Guard and Steve Marshall of the National Guard Bureau contributed to this report.)

West Wing Week: 12/21/12 or "We Are There For Them" | The White House

West Wing Week: 12/21/12 or "We Are There For Them" | The White House

President Obama Responds to We the People Petitions Related to Gun Violence | The White House

President Obama Responds to We the People Petitions Related to Gun Violence | The White House

"BATTERIES" AND SENATOR CARL LEVEN


FROM: CARL LEVEN'S WEBSITE, SENATE CHAIRMAN OF THE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE

Battery Effort Helps Secure Our Economic Future

Michigan's economic future, and indeed the nation's, depends on winning a race against our economic competition around the world. That race is to find the technologies that will power homes, vehicles and businesses in the decades to come. Win that race, and we claim the economic high ground.

That's why an announcement in November by the Department of Energy was so important to Michigan. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, a consortium of government, university and private-sector research labs aimed at revolutionizing battery technology.

Fittingly, Michigan is playing a key role in the effort. The consortium, headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, will include research hubs at Johnson Controls in Holland, and on the University of Michigan campus. Dow Chemical in Midland is also a key corporate partner.

The JCESR is nothing short of a Manhattan Project-styled effort to blow through the technical and economic limitations imposed by existing battery technology. Despite enormous progress that has allowed impressive accomplishments in hybrid vehicles and plug-in electric vehicles such as the Chevy Volt, today’s batteries are still bigger, heavier, more expensive and lower capacity than we’d like. With technical improvements, we can bring down costs, reduce our dependence on imported oil and protect our environment.

The answer to this challenge is an effort that, as my colleague Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois put it, "brings together, under a single organizational roof, the world’s leading scientists, engineers and manufacturers in energy storage and provides them with the tools, resources and market reach necessary to produce major breakthroughs."

And if you're bringing together world-class experts in battery technology, you’re right in Michigan’s wheelhouse. Our universities are hubs of research on this and other automotive technologies. Companies such as Johnson Controls, Dow, the Big Three automakers, Sakti3, Compact Power and others are leading the drive to develop and market new battery technologies. And no place on earth can rival Michigan’s concentration of scientific, engineering and workforce talent.

So, at Johnson Controls' lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Holland, technical experts will work on ways to commercialize next-generation technology. At U-M, engineers and chemists will simulate new battery materials and build large-scale prototypes. Dow will bring its world-leading skill in chemistry and energy storage.

It's impressive that President Obama's administration and these companies and research facilities have made this commitment. But the truth is, we have little choice in terms of our economy. Advanced battery technology is going to dominate the future of the automotive industry. It's vitally important to reducing our dependence on foreign oil, a dependence that doesn't just damage our environment, but threatens our economy and our national security.

This effort will no doubt have its ups and downs, just as any innovative new technology would. It's important that we keep in mind our long-term goal: Innovation that ensures these technologies are made in America, by American workers.

We're not the only country seeking these breakthroughs. Foreign companies are too, and they have financing and research support from governments. If our own government refuses to make the same kinds of investments in our companies and research labs, we'll allow those offshore companies and governments to take this vital economic high ground. If we want the next generation of vehicle technology to be manufactured here in America, these investments are a necessity.

Thanks to JCESR and other key investments, we're on the way to winning this economic competition. That’s good news for Michigan workers, Michigan companies, the U.S. auto industry and America's economic future.

FORMER RWANDAN PLANNING MINISTER CONVICTED OF GENOCIDE

Map:  Rwanda.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook. 

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

ICTR Convicts Former Rwandan Planning Minister for Genocide
Press Statement
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
December 20, 2012

Today, the Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) convicted Augustin Ngirabatware, a former government minister in Rwanda, of genocide, incitement to commit genocide, and rape as a crime against humanity. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

The United States welcomes this ruling as an important step in providing justice and accountability for the Rwandan people and the international community. As the Rwandan minister of planning at the time of the genocide in 1994, Mr. Ngirabatware was accused of using funds from his department to finance the genocide. He was a fugitive from justice until his arrest in Germany in 2007. With the conclusion of this trial, judgments have now been rendered as to all of the 81 arrested persons who were tried at the ICTR. We commend the ICTR for carrying out its trials according to the principles of fairness and due process; and for its efficient steps towards completing its work.

There are still nine ICTR fugitives at-large, including three high level fugitives who will be prosecuted by the residual mechanism of the ICTR upon capture: Felicien Kabuga, Protais Mpiranya, and Augustin Bizimana. The other six fugitives are slated to be tried in Rwandan courts once they are captured. Yesterday’s conviction sends a strong signal that the international community will not rest until the remaining fugitives are brought to account. The United States continues to offer monetary rewards of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest or transfer of all ICTR fugitives, whether those individuals will be prosecuted by the residual mechanism of the ICTR or in Rwandan courts. We urge all countries to redouble their cooperation with the ICTR so that fugitives can be arrested. Those who harbor fugitives obstruct justice and stand on the wrong side of history.




Midiendo la presión intracraneal sin dolor de cabeza

Midiendo la presión intracraneal sin dolor de cabeza

Space research has developed a new method to measure the pressure within the skull using simple waves of sound from headphones. The device is an effective warning system for patients in recovery phase which have undergone any damage to the head or some kind of brain surgery early.

NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN FOR DECEMBER 20, 2012

From:  U.S. Department Of Defense.

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Combined Force Arrests 15 Insurgents in Afghanistan
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 20, 2012 - An Afghan and coalition security force arrested 15 insurgents in the Bati Kot district of Afghanistan's Nangarhar province during a search for a Taliban facilitator today, military officials reported.

Officials said the sought-after facilitator is responsible for manufacturing and emplacing improvised explosive devices throughout Nangarhar province.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- A combined force killed the Taliban leader, Mahjur, along with one other insurgent in the Nari district of Kunar province. Mahjur was responsible for planning attacks against Afghanistan government officials and coalition forces. He also acquired and facilitated the movement of IED-making components, other weapons and ammunition used in attacks.

-- In the Alingar district of Laghman province, a combined force killed one insurgent and detained one suspect during a search for a Taliban leader. The sought-after Taliban leader is responsible for attacks against Afghan government officials and coalition forces.

Also, a Haqqani leader was arrested Dec. 17 in the Pul-e 'Alam district of Logar province. The arrested Haqqani leader purchased weapons and ammunition for insurgents and was directly involved in planning and coordinating attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE WEEKLY CLAIMS REPORT

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA


In the week ending December 15, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 361,000, an increase of 17,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 344,000. The 4-week moving average was 367,750, a decrease of 13,750 from the previous week's unrevised average of 381,500.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.5 percent for the week ending December 8, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending December 8 was 3,225,000, an increase of 12,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 3,213,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,240,500, a decrease of 33,500 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,274,000.
UNADJUSTED DATA
The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 400,422 in the week ending December 15, a decrease of 28,766 from the previous week. There were 421,103 initial claims in the comparable week in 2011.

The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.5 percent during the week ending December 8, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 3,231,115, an increase of 56,406 from the preceding week. A year earlier, the rate was 2.9 percent and the volume was 3,628,343.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending December 1 was 5,402,429, a decrease of 238,637 from the previous week. There were 7,152,130 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2011.

Extended Benefits were only available in New York during the week ending December 1.

Initial claims for UI benefits filed by former Federal civilian employees totaled 2,054 in the week ending December 8, an increase of 28 from the prior week. There were 2,831 initial claims filed by newly discharged veterans, a decrease of 125 from the preceding week.

There were 21,340 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending December 1, an increase of 562 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 39,480, a decrease of 2,017 from the prior week.

States reported 2,096,545 persons claiming EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits for the week ending December 1, a decrease of 97,708 from the prior week. There were 2,941,157 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 December1 were in Alaska (6.2), New Jersey (3.9), Pennsylvania (3.9), Puerto Rico (3.7), Montana (3.4), California (3.3), Nevada (3.3), Oregon (3.3), Connecticut (3.2), and Wisconsin (3.1).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending December 8 were in California (+5,952), Florida (+749), Ohio (+743), Rhode Island (+197), and Colorado (+161), while the largest decreases were in New York (-11,295), Pennsylvania (-11,247), North Carolina (-8,564), Wisconsin (-5,726) and Georgia (-5,317).

Incubation à Redu de jeunes pousses à orientation spatiale

Incubation à Redu de jeunes pousses à orientation spatiale

NEW YORK SANDY SURVIVORS RECEIVE OVER $1 BILLION BROM FEMA AND SBA

Breezy Point, N.Y., Dec. 15, 2012 -- The close-knit community of Breezy Point lost more than one hundred homes to fire during Hurricane Sandy. FEMA is providing ongoing support and resources to the Queens, NY community. Andre R. Aragon-FEMA

FROM:  U.S. FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY

FEMA, SBA Assistance to New York Survivors Tops $1 Billion

NEW YORK – Federal disaster assistance for Hurricane Sandy survivors tops $1 billion in New York.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved grants of more than $802 million for rental assistance, home repairs and other needs. The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved low-interest disaster loans of more than $232 million to help homeowners and renters recover from uninsured property loss and other damages.

SBA has also issued loans totaling nearly $17 million to help business owners recover from damages caused by Hurricane Sandy.

"This billion dollar milestone follows President Obama’s words to me," said Michael F. Byrne, FEMA federal coordinating officer. "He told me ‘stay on it’ after he saw the devastation first hand. As a New Yorker, I can speak for FEMA and all of our partners when I promise that we will stay on it right through recovery."

Hurricane Sandy caused damage in 13 New York counties that were designated for Individual Assistance grants to help survivors repair homes, replace lost property and pay for other essential disaster-related needs.

The 13 counties designated for Individual Assistance include: Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester.

, 2013 to register for federal disaster assistance.

President Barack Obama declared a major disaster on Oct. 30, 2012 following Hurricane Sandy’s impact on New York beginning Oct. 27.

U.S. DEPUTY SECRETARY BURN'S TESTIMONY ON BENGHAZI ATTACK


Map:  Libya.  From:  CIA World Factbook
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Benghazi: The Attack and the Lessons Learned
Testimony
William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Thomas Nides
Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources
Opening Remarks Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Washington, DC
December 20, 2012
 

DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS:
Thank you. Mr. Chairman, Senator Lugar, members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity. Secretary Clinton asked me to express how much she regrets not being able to be here today. And I’d like to join you, Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the Secretary and the men and women of the Department of State in expressing our deep respect and admiration for the many years of service of Senator Lugar to our nation.

Since the terrorist attacks on our compounds in Benghazi, State Department officials and senior members from other agencies have testified in four congressional hearings, provided more than 20 briefings for members and staff, and submitted thousands of pages of documents, including the now-full-classified report of the Accountability Review Board. Secretary Clinton has also sent a letter covering a wide range of issues for the record. So today I would like to highlight just a few key points.

The attacks in Benghazi took the lives of four courageous Americans. Ambassador Stevens was a friend and a beloved member of the State Department community for 20 years. He was a diplomat’s diplomat, and he embodied the very best of America. Even as we grieved for our fallen friends and colleagues, we took action on three fronts.

First, we took immediate steps to further protect our people and our posts. We stayed in constant contact with embassies and consulates around the world facing large protests, dispatched emergency security teams, received reporting from the intelligence community, and took additional precautions where needed. You will hear more about all this from my partner, Tom Nides.

Second, we intensified a diplomatic campaign aimed at combating the threat of terrorism across North Africa. We continue to work to bring to justice the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Benghazi, and we are working with our partners to close safe havens, cut off terrorist finances, counter extremist ideology, and slow the flow of new recruits.

And third, Secretary Clinton ordered an investigation to determine exactly what happened in Benghazi. I want to convey our appreciation to the Accountability Review Board’s chairman and vice chairman, Ambassador Tom Pickering and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, and also Hugh Turner, Richard Shinnick, and Catherine Bertini. The board’s report takes a clear-eyed look at serious systemic problems, problems which are unacceptable, problems for which, as Secretary Clinton has said, we take responsibility, and problems which we have already begun to fix.

Before Tom walks you through what we are doing to implement fully all of the board’s recommendations, I would like to add a few words based on my own experiences as a career diplomat in the field. I have been a very proud member of the Foreign Service for more than 30 years, and I have had the honor of serving as a chief of mission overseas. I know that diplomacy, by its very nature, must sometimes be practiced in dangerous places. As Secretary Clinton has said, our diplomats cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs. When America is absent, there are consequences: Our interests suffer and our security at home is threatened. Chris Stevens understood that as well as anyone. Chris also knew that every chief of mission has the responsibility to ensure the best possible security and support for our people.

As senior officials here in Washington, we share that profound responsibility. We have to constantly improve, reduce the risks our people face, and make sure they have all the resources they need. That includes the men and women at the State Department’s Diplomatic Security service. I have been deeply honored to serve with many of these brave men and women. They are professionals and patriots who serve in many places where there are no Marines on post and little or no U.S. military presence in country. Like Secretary Clinton, I trust them with my life.

It’s important to recognize that our colleagues in the Bureaus of Diplomatic Security and Near East Affairs and across the Department, at home and abroad, get it right countless times a day, for years on end, in some of the toughest circumstances imaginable. We cannot lose sight of that. But we learned some very hard and painful lessons in Benghazi. We are already acting on them. We have to do better.

We owe it to our colleagues who lost their lives in Benghazi. We owe it to the security professionals who acted with such extraordinary heroism that awful night to try to protect them. And we owe it to thousands of our colleagues serving America with great dedication every day in diplomatic posts around the world. We will never prevent every act of terrorism or achieve perfect security, but we will never stop working to get better and safer. As Secretary Clinton has said, the United States will keep leading and keep engaging around the world, including in those hard places where America’s interests and values are at stake.

Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN KERRY: Secretary Nides.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Mr. Chairman, Senator Lugar, members of the committee, I also want to thank you for this opportunity. I want to reiterate what Bill has said. All of us have a responsibility to provide the men and women who serve this country with the best possible security and support. From senior Department leadership setting the priorities, the supervisors evaluating security needs, to the Congress appropriating sufficient funds, we all share this responsibility. Secretary Clinton has said that, as Secretary of State, this is her greatest responsibility and her highest priority.

Today I will focus on the steps we have been taking at Secretary Clinton’s direction, and that we will continue to take. As Bill said, the board reports takes a clear-eyed look at serious, systemic problems for which we take responsibility and that we have already begun to fix. We are grateful for the recommendations from Ambassador Pickering and his team. We accept every one of them – all 29 recommendations. Secretary Clinton has charged my office with leading a task force that will ensure that all 29 are implemented quickly and completely, and to pursue steps above and beyond the board’s report.

The Under Secretary of Political Affairs, the Under Secretary for Management, the Director General of the Foreign Service and the Deputy Legal Advisor will work with me to drive this forward. The task force has already met to translate the recommendation into actual 60 specific action items. We’ve assigned every single one to the responsible bureau for immediate implementation, and several will be completed by the end of this calendar year. Implementation of each and every recommendation will be underway by the time the next Secretary of State takes office. There will be no higher priority for the Department in the coming weeks and months. And should we require more resources to execute these recommendations, we’ll work closely with the Congress to ensure that they are met.

As I said, Secretary Clinton wants us to implement the ARB’s findings and do no more. Let me offer some very clear specifics. For more than 200 years, the United States, like every other country around the world, has relied on host nations to provide security for embassies and consulates. But in today’s evolving threat environment, we have to take a new and harder look at the capabilities and the commitments of our hosts. We have to re-examine how we operate in places facing emerging threats, where national security forces are fragmented or may be weak.

So at Secretary Clinton’s direction, we have moved quickly to conduct a worldwide review of our overall security posture, with particular scrutiny on a number of high-threat posts. With the Department of Defense, we’ve deployed five interagency security assessment teams, made up of diplomatic and military security experts, to 19 posts in 13 countries – an unprecedented cooperation between our Departments at a critical time. These teams have provided us a roadmap for addressing emergency – emerging security challenges.

We’re also partnering with the Pentagon to send 35 additional Marine detachments – that’s about 225 Marines – to medium and high-threat posts where they’ll serve visible deterrence to hostile acts. This is on top of the approximate 150 detachments we have already deployed. We are aligning our resources to our 2013 budget requests to address physical vulnerabilities and reinforce structures wherever needed and to reduce risk from fire.

And let me add, we may need your help in ensuring that we have the authority to streamline the usual processes that produce faster results. We’re seeking to hire more than 150 additional Diplomatic Security personnel, an increase of about 5 percent, and to provide them with the equipment and training they need. As the ARB recommended, we will target them squarely at security at our high-threat posts.

I want to second Bill’s praise for these brave security professionals. I have served in this Department for only two years, having come from the private sector. However, I have traveled to places like Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and I have seen firsthand how these dedicated men and women risk their lives every day. We owe them a debt of gratitude as they go to work every day to protect us in more than 270 posts around the world. And as we make these improvements in the field, we’re also making changes here in Washington. We’ve named the first-ever Deputy Assistant Secretary for State for High-Threat Posts within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. We’re updating our deployment procedures to increase the number of experience and well-trained staff serving in those posts. And we’re working to ensure that the State Department makes decisions about where our people operate in a way that reflects our shared responsibility for security.

Our regional assistant secretaries were directed – directly involved in our interagency security assessment process, and will assume greater accountability for securing our people and our posts. We will provide the Congress with a detailed report on every step we’re taking to improve security and implement the board’s recommendations. We’ll look to you for support and guidance as we do this.

Obviously, part of this is about resources. We must equip our people with what they need to deliver results safely, and will work with you as needs arise. But Congress has a bigger role than that. You have visited our posts. You know our diplomats on the ground and the challenges they face. You know our vital national security interests are at stake, and that we are all in this together. We look forward to working with you.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your support and counsel and for this opportunity to discuss these important matters. We’d both be happy to take your questions.