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Saturday, February 9, 2013

THE NOR'EASTER APPROACHES AS SEEN FROM SPACE

 


FROM: NASA
Powerful Nor'easter Coming Together

A massive winter storm is coming together as two low pressure systems are merging over the U.S. East Coast. A satellite image from NOAA's GOES-13 satellite on Feb. 8 shows a western frontal system approaching the coastal low pressure area.

The satellite image, captured at 9:01 a.m. EST, shows clouds associated with the western frontal system stretching from Canada through the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, into the Gulf of Mexico. The comma-shaped low pressure system located over the Atlantic, east of Virginia, is forecast to merge with the front and create a powerful nor'easter. The National Weather Service expects the merged storm to move northeast and drop between two to three feet of snow in parts of New England.

Credit: NASA

GEN. DEMPSEY SAYS MISSION IN AFGHANISTAN DETERMINES TROOP NUMBERS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Afghan Mission Will Determine Troop Numbers, Dempsey Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany, Feb. 9, 2013 - The mission in Afghanistan will determine the number of American troops who will still be deployed there after 2014, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

Military leaders are confident that the number will match the mission. "I will not at any point ask 10,000 troops to do 20,000 troops work," Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told reporters.

Dempsey is flying to Afghanistan for the change of command ceremony from Marine Corps Gen. John Allen to Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford.

Dunford will be the last commander in Afghanistan of NATO's International Security Assistance Force and the last commander of Operation Enduring Freedom when the mission ends in December 2014. He will preside as the Afghan forces take the lead for security and will command as U.S. forces draw down in the country. There are currently 66,000 American service members in Afghanistan.

As Dunford takescommand, he has to keep three things in careful equilibrium, the chairman said. These are keeping the pressure on al-Qaida and other transnational terror groups seeking to operate in Afghanistan, training Afghan security forces, and redeploying U.S. and NATO forces out of the country.

NATO and partner forces – including U.S. service members – will be leaving the country through the end of 2014 in a steady and gradual manner. This spring Afghan forces will be in the lead for security throughout the country. "As that occurs, there will be some force structure changes that grow from that decision," Dempsey said.

But it is more complicated than simply loading personnel on planes and flying them back to the United States. "There's never a flip of a switch," the chairman said.

Not all Afghan forces have the same capability. In some areas kandaks – Afghan battalions – may need help. Elsewhere, kandaks may be trained, but the higher headquarters may need assistance. "You may be training a kandak in one part of the country and brigades and corps in another, just because the developmental model is different," he said.

The enemy has a say in Afghan plans. The Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, has decreed that he wants the Taliban to make 2013 an intense year, the chairman said. "But here's what's different, the situation this summer – the first summer where Afghan security forces are in the lead – that intensity will be directed principally at them," the chairman said.

The Taliban taking on Afghan forces rather than Western personnel changes the political, internal discourse in Afghanistan. "We'll have to see how it changes it," he said.

This shift to Afghan control is already happening. Afghan security forces are in the lead in protecting more than 75 percent of the population. And there are results from that, Dempsey said. "One vignette: Every Sunday, John Allen has a memorial service outside his headquarters to remember the soldiers who were lost in the past week," the chairman said. "This past Sunday was the first service he held since he was commander where there wasn't a single ISAF ... soldier killed in action. First week in 19 months. However, there were 25 Afghan soldiers killed."

This summer the Taliban will test the Afghan soldiers and police. U.S. service members will help the Afghan forces in the summer fighting season. They will not only provide their Afghan brethren physical support, but psychological support as well, and this will build the Afghan's self-esteem. "What really hangs in the balance now is the confidence level of the Afghan security forces and its people," he said. "We have to continue building their confidence, because they are capable fighters."

Defense leaders have matched the number of troops to the mission. Dempsey called this a collaborative and thorough effort. "We didn't start talking numbers until we had a clear understanding of missions," he said. The missions for the post-2014 period are: some continued counter terror effort against transnational global threats; to train, advise and assist Afghan troops; and to provide support to other U.S. government agencies working in the country.

"Once we settled in on the missions, then we were able to provide options on how to accomplish them," he said. For example, it requires a different number of personnel to train an Afghan kandak than an Afghan brigade. Figuring out what units need what help "illuminates what the numbers should be," the chairman said. "So we're not going from number to mission, we're going from mission to number."

Afghanistan's neighbor Pakistan remains crucial to any solution in the region, and Dempsey said he has "seen a degree of interest and cooperation on the part of our Pakistani military counterparts that is actually quite encouraging," he said. "They finally believe we are not going to shut out the lights and leave at the end of '14. They see a viable partnership among them, us and the Afghans."

Cooperation, which was always good at the tactical level, has climbed a notch to the operational level. It also helps that Pakistani leaders now assess the terrorist threat to the nation closer to the American view.

Dempsey is optimistic that the Bilateral Security Agreement between Afghanistan and the United States will be in place this year. Protections for U.S. troops under the agreement do not seem to be the same showstopper that they were in Iraq, he said.

Reporters asked about the "zero option" for U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014. "I have said publically no one has ever mentioned zero to me, and I would never recommend zero," Dempsey said.

Ultimately political reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan government will be what ends the war in Afghanistan. While there are no active negotiations now, the Taliban are talking among themselves about this, the chairman said. "As they talk among themselves, their behavior appears to be migrating toward being a political factor in Afghanistan's future and less a internal security threat," he said.

This does not mean peace will suddenly break out in the nation. "There will be irreconcilable parts of the Taliban that are just so ideologically skewed that the idea of any concessions is just anathema to them," he said. "On the other hand, I think there will be portions that will be willing to be part of the political landscape and not part of the security landscape."

YEMENI GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATES IRANIAN-SUPPLIED WEAPONS CACHE

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Yemeni Government Investigation into Iranian-Supplied Weapons Cache
Press Statement
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
February 9, 2013

The United States commends the Government of Yemen for its successful and significant interdiction of a vessel attempting to smuggle a large cache of Iranian-supplied weapons, explosives, and other munitions into Yemen. At a press conference in Sana’a earlier today, Yemeni Government officials noted that their investigation thus far shows that these weapons were loaded onto the vessel in Iran and were intended for armed insurgents operating in Yemen. Yemen’s decision to bring this incident to the attention of the United Nations Security Council underscores its vigilance in countering threats to its sovereignty, its ongoing political transition, and the region’s stability.

According to Yemeni Government officials, their initial investigation has revealed that the vessel was carrying a large shipment of explosives, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, IED precursors, and most disturbingly, man-portable anti-aircraft missiles. These weapons are clearly designed to cause significant damage with the highest possible number of casualties and are a threat to both Yemen and the region. Paragraph 5 of UNSCR 1747 expressly prohibits Iran from exporting arms and related material, and, in light of this evidence, the United States encourages the UN Sanctions Committee to respond immediately to the Yemeni Government’s request to send a Panel of Experts to examine the seized weapons and bring its findings to the Security Council.

The origin of the vessel and weapons underscores Iran’s ongoing evasion of six relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Iran continues to defy the international community through its proliferation activities and support for destabilizing action in the region. The international community must continue to speak with one voice and work to ensure that Iran adheres to all of its international obligations.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PANETTA OUTLINES PROBLEMS OF BENGHAZI RESPONSE

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta testifies on the Defense Department's response to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C., Feb. 7, 2013. Testimony also included the findings of the department's internal review following the attack. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Panetta: Distance, Time Affected Benghazi Response
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2013 - Better intelligence and closer interagency cooperation can help to prevent future crises like the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said here today.

Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Panetta said an exhaustive review of the Benghazi events has established the Defense Department responded appropriately to the attacks.

"This was, pure and simple, a problem of distance and time," he said.

"The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time given the speed of the attacks for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference," Panetta told the senators, quoting the Accountability Review Board's findings.

The secretary and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the committee in what may be Panetta's last appearance before Congress as defense secretary. Since the attacks, he noted, DOD has fully supported Congressional and State Department efforts to review the actions and decisions surrounding the events in Benghazi.

"The Department of Defense and the rest of the United States government spared no effort to do everything we could to try to save American lives," said Panetta, noting that two service members were part of the six-man team that evacuated Americans there within 12 hours of the initial attack.

"There will always be a tension between mission effectiveness for personnel -– that ability to get out and do what they're supposed to do in these countries -- and their physical security," he noted. "We are committed to steps that avoid a 'bunker mentality' and yet still afford greater protection from armed attack."

Panetta said DOD is taking a three-pronged approach to help prevent future attacks on U.S. diplomats and facilities by strengthening host-nation security capabilities, increasing security measures and enhancing intelligence and military response options.

"We have to be able to better assess and build up the capabilities of host governments to provide security," he said.

While the military doesn't have primary responsibility for security at U.S. diplomatic missions, he added, "where permissible and appropriate, and in collaboration with the Secretary of State and the U.S. chief of mission in the affected country, we believe that the Defense Department can assist in their development of host-nation forces using a range of security assistance authorities to train and equip these forces."

DOD also is supporting the State Department's efforts to harden facilities and reassess diplomatic security, the secretary said. Teams have evaluated 19 vulnerable diplomatic facilities, including the U.S. Embassy in Libya, he added, and officials are in the process of developing recommendations on potential security increases as required.

Over the next two to three years, he said, the Defense Department will assign nearly 1,000 additional Marines to diplomatic security detachments. There are 152 such detachments in place today, the secretary noted, and 35 more will stand up.

Officials also are focused on enhancing intelligence collection and ensuring that U.S. forces throughout the region are prepared to respond to crises, if necessary, Panetta said. He emphasized that the U.S. military is not a global emergency-response service, and troops need good intelligence information to operate effectively.

"We have forces on alert, and we're prepared to move, but our ability to identify threats, to adjust posture, to prevent plots and respond to attacks to our personnel at home and overseas depends on actionable intelligence, and it always will," he said.

Therefore, the secretary said, the Defense Department is working to enhance intelligence collection, improve the responsiveness of contingency assets and adjust the location of reaction forces.

"At the same time, we're working closely with State to ensure they have our best estimate of response times for each at-risk diplomatic facility, so that they can make the best informed decisions about adjustments to their staff presence in areas of increased security threat," he added.

Panetta closed his statement with a reminder to the committee that he sees budget uncertainty as the greatest security risk facing the nation.

With a "sequestration" mechanism in budget law set to trigger major across-the-board spending cuts March 1, he noted, DOD could lose about $500 billion in funding over the next decade, on top of the $487 billion spending cutback already planned.

"I know the members of this committee share the deep concerns that I have raised about sequestration, and I urge you to do the responsible thing and avoid weakening our national defense," he said.

Congress, DOD, the State Department and the intelligence community all have a responsibility for the nation's security, Panetta noted.

"If we work together, we can keep our Americans safe," he said.

Weekly Address: Averting the Sequester and Finding a Balanced Approach to Deficit Reduction | The White House

Weekly Address: Averting the Sequester and Finding a Balanced Approach to Deficit Reduction | The White House

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SAYS SECURITY DETERIORATING IN NORTH DARFUR

Map:  Sudan (Darfur and Jebel Marra).  Credit:  CIA World Factbook. 
FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Rapid and Significant Deterioration in Security in North Darfur and Jebel Marra
Press Statement
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
February 8, 2013

 



The United States is profoundly concerned by violent clashes between heavily armed tribal militias in North Darfur and between Sudanese government forces and rebels in Jebel Marra. Recent violence has resulted in civilian deaths and displaced some 100,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance.

In just the first month of 2013, more civilians have been newly displaced by violence in Darfur than in all of 2012. To meet the humanitarian needs of those affected by these clashes, we call on the Sudanese government to grant UN agencies unrestricted access to all areas of Darfur, and to work closely with UN agencies, humanitarian actors, and the African Union - United Nations Hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID) to deliver assistance.

We urge the Sudanese government to urgently disarm militias in Darfur, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1556; to cease aerial bombardments; and to implement the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur as the basis for a more inclusive and effective peace process.

U.S. DOJ REACHES SETTLEMENT WITH MACMILLAN IN E-BOOKS CASE

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ANTITRUST DIVISION

Department Continues to Litigate Against Apple Inc.

WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice announced today that it has reached a settlement with Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC, which does business as Macmillan, and will continue to litigate against Apple Inc. for conspiring with Macmillan and four of the other largest U.S. book publishers to raise e-book prices to consumers.

Today's proposed settlement was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. If approved by the court, the settlement will resolve the department's competitive concerns involving Macmillan. The department's Antitrust Division previously settled its claims against four book publishers–Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C., Penguin Group (USA) Inc. and Simon & Schuster Inc.

On April 11, 2012, the department filed a lawsuit against Apple and the five publishers alleging they conspired to eliminate retail price competition, resulting in consumers paying millions of dollars more for their e-books. The settlement with Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster was approved by the court in September 2012. The public comment period on the department's settlement with Penguin will close on March 5, 2013. The trial against Apple is scheduled to begin in June 2013.

"As a result of today's settlement, Macmillan has agreed to immediately allow retailers to lower the prices consumers pay for Macmillan's e-books," said Jamillia Ferris, Chief of Staff and Counsel at the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. "Just as consumers are already paying lower prices for the e-book versions of many of Hachette's, HarperCollins' and Simon & Schuster's new releases and best sellers, we expect the prices of many of Macmillan's e-books will also decline.

"According to the complaint, the five publishers and Apple were unhappy that competition among e-book sellers had reduced e-book prices and the retail profit margins of the book sellers to levels they thought were too low. To address these concerns, the department said the companies worked together to raise retail e-book prices and eliminate price competition, substantially increasing prices paid by consumers. Before the companies began their conspiracy, retailers regularly sold e-book versions of new releases and bestsellers for, as described by one of the publisher's CEO, the “wretched $9.99 price point." As a result of the conspiracy, consumers were typically forced to pay $12.99, $14.99 or more for the most sought after e-books, the department said.

Under the proposed settlement agreement, Macmillan will immediately lift restrictions it has imposed on discounting and other promotions by e-book retailers and will be prohibited until December 2014 from entering into new agreements with similar restrictions. The proposed settlement agreement also will impose a strong antitrust compliance program on Macmillan, including requirements that it provide advance notification to the department of any e-book ventures it plans to undertake jointly with other publishers and regularly report to the department on any communications it has with other publishers. Also for five years, Macmillan will be forbidden from agreeing to any kind of most favored nation (MFN) provision that could undermine the effectiveness of the settlement.

Macmillan has its principal place of business in New York City. It publishes e-books and print books through publishers such as Farrar, Straus and Giroux and St. Martin's Press. Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH owns Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC, which does business as Macmillan, and has its principal place of business in Stuttgart, Germany.

Hachette Book Group USA has its principal place of business in New York City. It publishes e-books and print books through its publishers such as Little, Brown and Company and Grand Central Publishing.

HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C. has its principal place of business in New York City. It publishes e-books and print books through publishers such as Harper and William Morrow.

Penguin Group (USA) Inc. has its principal place of business in New York City. It publishes e-books and print books through publishers such as The Viking press and Gotham Books. Penguin Group (USA) Inc. is the U.S. subsidiary of The Penguin Group, a division of Pearson plc, which has its principal place of business in London.

Simon & Schuster Inc. has its principal place of business in New York City. It publishes e-books and print books through publishers such as Free Press and Touchstone.

Apple Inc. has its principal place of business in Cupertino, Calif. Among many other businesses, Apple distributes e-books through its iBookstore.

The proposed settlement, along with the department's competitive impact statement, will be published in the Federal Register, consistent with the requirements of the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act. Any person may submit written comments concerning the proposed settlement within 60-days of its publication to John R. Read, Chief, Litigation III Section, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 Fifth Street, N.W., 4th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20530. These comments will be published either in the Federal Register or, with the permission of the court, will be posted electronically on the department's website. At the conclusion of the 60-day comment period, the court may enter the final judgment upon a finding that it serves the public interest.

FACT SHEET ON U.S. ASSISTANCE TO THE PEOPLE OF SYRIA

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
U.S. Government Assistance to Syria
Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC

The United States supports the Syrian people’s aspirations for a Syrian-led transition to a democratic, inclusive, and peaceful Syria. The United Nations estimates that more than 60,000 Syrians have been killed in the nearly two years since unrest and violence began. In the last month alone, the number of Syrians seeking refuge in neighboring countries has risen sharply. More than 700,000 Syrians have registered as refugees since the crisis began, or are awaiting registration in neighboring countries while, inside Syria, an additional 2.5 million people remain internally displaced and 4 million people are in need of assistance. The Syrian regime has sacrificed all legitimacy in a vicious effort to cling to power. U.S. assistance includes vigorous diplomatic support of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, $365 million in humanitarian assistance to help those affected by the conflict, and over $50 million nonlethal support for local opposition councils and civil society inside Syria.

Diplomatic Support

The United States continues to support the Syrian people as the Syrian Opposition Coalition sets a course toward the peaceful, democratic, inclusive future that the people of Syria deserve. We are working with other nations to further isolate the regime and support the Syrian people’s calls for President Assad to step down. We and our international partners actively supported the efforts of the Syrian people to launch the Syrian Opposition Coalition in Doha in November 2012 and, on December 11, 2012, President Obama recognized the Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. The Coalition – which includes opponents of the Assad regime from across the political and ethno-sectarian spectrum – has made real progress since its founding, and is stepping up its outreach to women, minorities, religious leaders and civil society. The Coalition has also begun to develop formal structures and plans for a democratic political transition that protects the rights, the dignity, and the aspirations of all Syrians. In Paris on January 28, more than 50 countries supporting the Syrian opposition gathered to reaffirm their commitment to provide support to the Syrian Opposition Coalition and agreed on the urgent need to increase and improve the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including for areas outside of regime control. On February 2, Vice President Biden met with Syrian Opposition Coalition President al-Khatib in Munich. The Vice President praised al-Khatib’s personal courage and leadership of the Coalition and urged al-Khatib to continue his efforts to maintain unity among the SOC leadership, to isolate extremist elements within the broader opposition, and to reach out to – and be inclusive of – a broad range of communities inside Syria.

Humanitarian Assistance

The United States, along with the international community, is tirelessly working to provide humanitarian aid to the innocent civilians affected by the brutal conflict in Syria. In advance of the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait, President Obama announced an additional $155 million in humanitarian assistance for those suffering as a result of the Assad regime’s brutality. This new funding includes $10 million in humanitarian assistance to provide flour to bakeries in Aleppo previously announced on January 25.

With this new assistance, U.S. humanitarian assistance totals $365 million to help more than 1.5 million people inside Syria and the more than half a million people who have fled to the safety of neighboring countries. Over $200 million of this total goes to address critical needs inside Syria. Our assistance is providing emergency medical care and medical supplies, food aid, and winterization supplies like blankets and heaters for those affected by the crisis, both inside Syria and those now seeking refuge.

U.S. humanitarian aid is being provided throughout all 14 governorates of Syria on the basis of need. It is not branded in order to ensure the safety of aid recipients and humanitarian aid providers as well as to ensure that aid distribution is not thwarted en route. The United States is committed to using all channels to reach affected Syrians throughout the country and is working through UN, NGO, and community-based partners, as well as with the Syrian Opposition Coalition’s Assistance Coordination Unit. The United States is also working closely with country partners in the region who have generously opened their borders.

Transition Support to the Unarmed Opposition

The United States is also providing over $50 million in nonlethal support to the unarmed Syrian opposition, including emergent local and national democratic institutions, and nonsectarian civic groups. This assistance includes training and equipment to build the capacity of a nationwide network of ethnically and religiously diverse civilian activists to link Syrian citizens with nascent governance structures. This support enhances the information security of Syrian activists, human rights organizations, and media outlets, empowers women leaders to play a more active role in transition planning and peace negotiations, and supports the psycho-social rehabilitation of Syrian refugees who are victims of torture and war. Activities sponsored by these funds enable local councils and grassroots organizations to respond to the needs of their communities and promotes constructive participation in the country’s political transition.

Over 4,000 major pieces of equipment have been provided, mostly to Damascus, Aleppo, and other areas with significant opposition presence, including communications and computer equipment, as well as generators and medical supplies, to support unarmed Syrian opposition groups strengthen civil society, media, and democratic transition planning.

Support to civil society groups and local councils includes efforts to train, equip, and build the capacity of nearly 1,500 grassroots activists, including women and youth, from over 100 opposition councils and organizations in 10 different regions of Syria; develop groups’ abilities to mobilize citizens, share information, provide community services, and undertake civic functions; support interreligious and communal dialogues and encouraging citizen participation in shaping the Syrian transition; and supporting human rights documentation and transitional justice workshops while laying the foundation for future accountability efforts.

Support to independent media projects includes assistance to community radio stations providing information for refugees about available services; training for networks of citizen journalists, bloggers, and cyberactivists to support their documentation, packaging, and dissemination of information on developments in Syria; and technical assistance and equipment to enhance the information and communications security of Syrian activists within Syria.

Assistance in support of democratic transition planning includes efforts to link unarmed opposition elements inside Syria with global supporters; support for the independent Syria Justice and Accountability Center to document human rights abuses and coordinate transitional justice and accountability efforts; technical assistance to emerging political parties; and facilitating nonsectarian Syrian activists’ participation in political and economic transition planning to promote the business community’s engagement in transition processes.

U.S. EXPORTS REACH NEW ANNUAL RECORD OF NEALY $2.2 TRILLION

FROM: U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK
U.S. Exports Reach $186.4 Billion in December, Rise to Record Annual Total of Nearly $2.2 Trillion in 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States exported $186.4 billion in goods and services in December 2012, according to data released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) of the U.S. Commerce Department.

U.S. exports of goods and services in 2012 reached a record annual total of nearly $2.2 trillion ($2.195 trillion), which is 39.1 percent above the level of exports in 2009. Over the past 12 months, exports have been growing at an annualized rate of 11.6 percent when compared to 2009.

"Today’s record-breaking numbers show that U.S. exports in 2012 continued on a historic path of growth," said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. "Thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of our exporters, America is making steady progress towards meeting President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling exports. Over the past year, U.S. companies big and small have exported almost $2.2 trillion worth of goods and services, fueled by the power of American innovation."

"But we cannot stop here. More can and must be done to increase international sales and create jobs in the United States. Through our nationwide Global Access for Small Business initiative, Ex-Im Bank is reaching out locally to more small and medium-sized businesses to provide them with the export financing and training they need to succeed globally," Hochberg said.

Over the last 12 months, among the major export markets (i.e., markets with at least $6 billion in annual imports of U.S. goods), the countries with the largest annualized increase in U.S. goods purchases, when compared to 2009, occurred in Panama (52.0 percent), Chile (42.2 percent), Russia (41.4 percent), Peru (37.9 percent), Venezuela (37.6 percent), Argentina (36.2 percent), United Arab Emirates (36.0 percent), Hong Kong (33.4 percent), Turkey (32.9 percent) and Columbia (31.7 percent).

About Ex-Im Bank

Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that helps create and maintain U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing at no cost to American taxpayers. In the past five years (from Fiscal Year 2008), Ex-Im Bank has earned for U.S. taxpayers nearly $1.6 billion above the cost of operations. The Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working capital guarantees, export-credit insurance and financing to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services.

Ex-Im Bank approved nearly $35.8 billion in total authorizations in FY 2012 – an all-time Ex-Im record. This total includes more than $6.1 billion directly supporting small-business export sales – also an Ex-Im record. Ex-Im Bank's total authorizations are supporting an estimated $50 billion in U.S. export sales and approximately 255,000 American jobs in communities across the country.


RECENT U.S. NAVY PHOTOS OF USS TENNESSEE






FROM: U.S. NAVY
The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee (SSBN 734) returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. Tennessee deployed for operations more than three months ago. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James Kimber (Released) 130206-N-FG395-167
 

LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY ON FASTER BIOMASS TO FUELS CONVERSION

Credit:  Los Alamos National Laboratory
FROM: LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY
New Process Speeds Conversion of Biomass to Fuels
Fuels synthesis insight can reduce costs and greenhouse gases


LOS ALAMOS, NEW MEXICO, February 7, 2013—Scientists made a major step forward recently towards transforming biomass-derived molecules into fuels. The team led by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers elucidated the chemical mechanism of the critical steps, which can be performed under relatively mild, energy-efficient conditions. The journal Catalysis Science & Technology published the research.

Trash to Treasure

"Efficient conversion of non-food biomass into fuels and chemical feedstocks could reduce society’s dependence on foreign oil and ensure the long-term availability of renewable materials for consumer products," said John Gordon, one of the senior Los Alamos scientists on the project.

"Also, efficient conversion could decrease the production of greenhouse gases. However, current technologies to convert biomass into fuels require extreme conditions of high temperatures and high pressures, both of which make the conversion process prohibitively expensive."

The study provides important insight into a critical step in biomass fuels synthesis and it may enable the design of better, non-precious-metal catalysts and processes for large-scale transformation of biomass into fuels and commodity chemicals.

The Ring of Simplicity

For more than a century, chemists focused on a "more is better" approach, adding functionality to molecules, not removing it. For this breakthrough, however, researchers applied the opposite strategy and aimed for simplicity, opening up a component of the molecule to make it easier to transform. They perfected a method for "direct-ring opening" of the furan rings, which are made of four carbons and one oxygen atom, and that are ubiquitous in biomass-derived fuel precursors.

Opening these rings into linear chains is a necessary step in the production of energy-dense fuels, said Gordon, because these linear chains can then be reduced and deoxygenated into alkanes used in gasoline and diesel fuel. The reaction requires relatively mild conditions using the common reagent hydrochloric acid as a catalyst.

The researchers tested the process on several biomass-derived molecules, and they performed calculations to study the selectivity and mechanism of reaction. This information is key to designing better catalysts and processes for biomass conversion.

The research team

The Los Alamos researchers include Christopher Waidmann of Nuclear and Radiochemistry; John Gordon of Inorganic, Isotope and Actinide Chemistry; Aaron Pierpont, Enrique Batista, and Richard Martin of Physics and Chemistry of Materials; L. A. "Pete" Silks and Ruilian Wu of Bioenergy and Biome Sciences. The Los Alamos Laboratory Research and Development program funded the work.

Image caption: Artist’s conception of the process: Researchers open up a component of the biofuel molecule, called a furan ring, to make it easier to chemically alter. Opening these rings into linear chains is a necessary step in the production of energy-dense fuels, so these linear chains can then be converted into alkanes used in gasoline and diesel fuel. Image by Josh Smith, Los Alamos National Laboratory.

U.S.-SAINT LUCIA RELATIONS

Map:  Saint Lucia.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.
FROM: U.S. STATE DELPARTMENT

The United States and Saint Lucia have a cooperative relationship. The United States supports the Saint Lucian Government's efforts to expand its economic base and improve the lives of its citizens. Saint Lucia has cooperated with the United States on security concerns. Saint Lucia and the United States share an interest in combating international crime and narcotics trafficking. Because of Saint Lucia's geographical location, it is an appealing transit point for narcotraffickers. In response to this threat, Saint Lucia has concluded various bilateral treaties with the United States, including a maritime law enforcement agreement (subsequently amended to include overflight and order-to-land provisions), a mutual legal assistance treaty, and an extradition treaty.

The United States maintains no diplomatic presence in Saint Lucia. The Ambassador and Embassy officers are resident in Barbados but travel regularly to Saint Lucia.

U.S. Assistance to Saint Lucia

St. Lucia is an active participant in the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, a partnership between the United States and the countries of the Caribbean dedicated to increasing citizen security throughout the region. The Peace Corps, whose Eastern Caribbean regional headquarters is located in Saint Lucia, has 22 volunteers in Saint Lucia, working primarily in business development, education, and health. In addition, Saint Lucia benefits from U.S. military exercises and humanitarian civic action construction projects.

Bilateral Economic Relations

Saint Lucia's economy depends primarily on revenue from tourism. More visitors to Saint Lucia are from the United States than any other country. Saint Lucia is a beneficiary of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which aims to facilitate the economic development and export diversification of the Caribbean Basin economies by providing beneficiary countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market for most goods. The single most significant foreign investment in Saint Lucia is U.S.-based Hess Oil's large petroleum storage and transshipment terminal. Saint Lucia does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.

Saint Lucia's Membership in International Organizations

Saint Lucia's foreign relations emphasize mutual economic cooperation and trade and investment. The country seeks to conduct its foreign policy chiefly through its membership in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. Saint Lucia and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization of American States, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization


Saint Lucia Locator Map.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM CIA WORLD FACTBOOK

The island, with its fine natural harbor at Castries, was contested between England and France throughout the 17th and early 18th centuries (changing possession 14 times); it was finally ceded to the UK in 1814. Even after the abolition of slavery on its plantations in 1834, Saint Lucia remained an agricultural island, dedicated to producing tropical commodity crops. Self-government was granted in 1967 and independence in 1979.

Population: 162,178 (July 2012 est.)

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing - February 8, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - February 8, 2013

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY MAKES REMARKS WITH CANADIAN FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Remarks With Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird After Their Meeting
Remarks

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
February 8, 2013


SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. It’s my great, great pleasure to welcome Foreign Minister John Baird here to the State Department. He was one of the first calls that I made after I officially came into the building and started and was sworn in, and he is my first guest as Foreign Minister. So I hope everybody does understand that this is meant to underscore the extraordinary strength of the relationship that we have, and we are very, very grateful for it.
We dove right into the toughest issues. We began with hockey. (Laughter.) He knows – the Ambassador knows that I grew up playing a little bit. And since I’m a Bruins fan, we’ve clashed in many ways. But he, from Ottawa, is a fan of the Senators. And I want you all to know it’s the first time I’ve ever heard anybody talk well of senators. (Laughter.) So I’m grateful for it.

Today was the first of what I know will be many very productive sessions. And the reason for that is that Canada and the United States share the same values. We have a history and a heritage of our people that is unbelievably connected. We have the same entrepreneurial spirit. We have the same core beliefs that everybody ought to be able to find their place in life to do better.

We also share something else that’s pretty important: a trillion dollars of bilateral trade relationship. And that is hugely important to both of our countries, to our economies, and to our citizens. Canada is one of the largest, most comprehensive investment relationships that we have in the world. It supports millions of jobs here in the United States. And today the Foreign Minister and I agreed to try to discuss ways that we can grow that and even make it stronger. And there are ways to do that.
Our border with Canada, happily, is not a barrier. It’s really a 5,000 mile-long connection between us and it is a central part of the daily pulse of our relationship. So today we talked about progress beyond our border. We talked – an initiative which Prime Minister Harper and President Obama announced last year. And we are improving our cooperation now in keeping our nations secure against threats without unnecessary burdens at the border. To the degree we can facilitate, we want to do that.

We also talked about our dynamic energy relationship. Canada is the largest foreign energy supplier for the United States of America. And many people in America are not aware of that. They always think of the Mideast or some other part of the world. But Canada is our largest energy supplier. And our shared networks of electrical grids keep energy flowing both ways across the border. As we move forward to meet the needs of a secure clean energy future on this shared continent, we are going to continue to build on our foundation of cooperation.

Our neighbor to the north is also one of our most able global partners. On issue after issue, whether it’s been cooperation with NATO to promote security, stability around the world, or our shared efforts to mitigate climate change through international climate negotiations, the Major Economies Forum, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, or our joint work to advance human rights through the OSCE and the Organization of American States, in every one of these efforts Canada and the United States are united for progress.

We also discussed our common efforts on Iran. The P-5+1 partners are unified in our approach. And we are committed – I emphasize we are committed – to preventing Iran from securing a nuclear weapon. And we will continue our dual-track policy of both pressure and engagement. I want to underscore to Iran: The window for diplomacy is still open. And we have agreed to meet Iran again in two weeks in Kazakhstan. We’ve made our position clear. The choice is really ultimately up to Iran. The international community is ready to respond if Iran comes prepared to talk real substance and to address the concerns, which could not be more clear, about their nuclear program. If they don’t, then they will choose to leave themselves more isolated. That’s the choice.

I’d like to thank the Foreign Minister for Canada’s leadership on all of the global challenges that we face together. In conflict zones like Syria and Mali, Canada has stepped up and Canada is helping our humanitarian response. In our own hemisphere, Canada is a strong advocate for strengthening democracy and the rule of law throughout Central America, throughout the Caribbean. And I really look forward to working with the Minister as a partner on regional issues that affect the Americas, including later this year when we will meet with the Foreign Minister of Mexico to decide ways as to how all of North America, which we talked about, can actually work more effectively together.
So through all of the issues on a crowded agenda, I’m pleased to be able to say that Canada and the United States stand shoulder to shoulder and work together as partners, as allies, and as trusted friends. And I look forward to our cooperation. Mr. Baird, thank you for making me your first visit today. I appreciate it. And I look forward to discovering innovative new ways in which we can do even more and do better.
Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: Thank you. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. It’s a great privilege and a great honor to be your first foreign minister to visit you here at the State Department. Thank you for the priority and the confidence that you’ve placed in the relationship with Canada. That is something that is tremendously important.

The United States has been a phenomenal friend and ally to Canada, and under the Obama Administration and under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, I think the two leaders and the two governments have accomplished a great deal. Obviously for us, the number-one priority continues to be job creation and economic growth, and I appreciate having the opportunity to talk about a wide range of issues that we seek to tackle to help encourage job creation and economic growth on both sides of the border. The Detroit River International Crossing is an important priority for Canada, and we’ve been very pleased with the cooperation we’ve received here in Washington and in Lansing, Michigan, and we look forward to getting this huge job creation initiative moving forward in the months and years ahead.

Particularly, we talked – had a good discussion, an exchange on energy policy. Obviously the Keystone XL Pipeline is a huge priority for our government and for the Canadian economy, and I appreciated the dialogue we had on what we can do to tackle environmental challenges together. President Obama and Prime Minister Harper both assumed a 17 percent reduction in GHG emissions as part of the Copenhagen Accord, and that continues to be a real priority with Canada, with our plan to phase out coal-fired electricity generation, and to harmonize vehicle and light trucks emissions, which has seen great, great, great results in recent years.

I appreciated the opportunity to discuss other issues involving security. I think I share, Canada shares the huge concern with respect to the potential of a nuclear Iran. We believe that beyond Iran’s support, material support for terrorism, beyond their abysmal and deteriorating human rights record, the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran is the biggest threat to international peace and security. And I want to say how much I appreciated your strong comments on this and your leadership. I share the view that a diplomatic solution is possible. We strongly support the P-5+1 initiative. We strongly support having and maintaining and increasing tough sanctions against the Iranian regime. We want them to change course and rejoin the international community. That is a significant priority.

Obviously we had a good discussion as well with respect to the situation in Syria, and I think the concern of all of civilized humanity of the terrible horrors going on that Assad is waging against his own people, and the huge challenge and problem of chemical weapons.

I appreciate the chance to talk about human rights and our strong commitment to working to support and defend freedom around the world. The fight against international terrorism is the great struggle of our generation, and we are strong and solid partners with the United States.
(In French.)

Thank you again for your time and for your leadership.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: We’ll take two questions today, one from each side, and by one from each side I mean one.
We’ll start with CNN, Elise Labott, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. Welcome, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Elise.

QUESTION: The vast majority of top national security officials in the previous Administration, including your predecessor, Secretary Clinton, supported arming the Syrian rebels. Were you briefed about this plan when you were in the Senate, and what do you think of the plan? Do you think it’s time to start arming the rebels?

And I’m wondering what you think of these – you mentioned Iran – these mixed messages coming from Iran. The Foreign Minister, even the President, have said that they’d be open to talks with Iran. The Foreign Minister had some very nice comments to say about you. But the Supreme Leader has said that direct talks are not possible. Do you think that there are prospects for a deal, and do you have a plan to move this forward? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me see, that was three questions if I counted correctly. (Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: One plus one does not equal two. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: But well done. I’m impressed. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: A lot of practice.


SECRETARY KERRY: I beg your pardon?

QUESTION: A lot of practice.


SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I get it. I’m impressed. I’m taking stock every day. (Laughter.) Next time you’ll have to ask her to ask a half a question or a quarter. (Laughter.) I’ll fill in the blanks.
MS. NULAND: (Inaudible)

SECRETARY KERRY: Anyway, let me answer that.
First of all, on the first part of your question, let me just say I don’t know what the discussions were in the White House and who said what, and I’m not going to go backwards. This is a new Administration now, the President’s second term. I’m a new Secretary of State and we’re going forwards from this point.

My sense right now is that everybody in the Administration and people in other parts of the world are deeply distressed by the continued violence in Syria. There is too much killing, there’s too much violence, and we obviously want to try to find a way forward. There are serious questions about al-Nusrah and AQI, al-Qaida from Iraq coming in, and other violent groups on the ground. It is a very complicated and very dangerous situation, and everybody understands it is a place that has chemical weapons, and we are deeply concerned about that.

So I’d just say to you that we’re evaluating. We are evaluating now. We’re taking a look at what steps if any – diplomatic – particularly might be able to be taken in an effort to try to reduce that violence and deal with the situation. And when we are prepared, Elise, I’d tell you, we – you’ll be the first to know, I’m sure. We’ll let you know. We’re going to evaluate this as we go forward. But I know the Prime – the Foreign Minister and I talked about this at length – at length – and we both share a deep concern about what is happening there. And I’m going to focus on it quite considerably.
QUESTION: On Iran, sir?

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, on Iran. On Iran, we’re deeply concerned about the arms that were on the dhow that went into Yemen. I think the Yemenis need to speak to that first before we do.
But I want to emphasize, the announcement the Iranians themselves have made in a letter to the IAEA in which they have announced a different kind of centrifuge is concerning. It’s disturbing. And so my plea to the Iranians is to – or my statement – is a clear statement: We are prepared to let diplomacy be the victor in this confrontation over their nuclear program. The President has made it clear that Iran – he’s prepared to talk about a peaceful nuclear program. Iran has a choice. They have to prove to the world that it is peaceful, and we are prepared to sit reasonably and negotiate how they can do that and how we can all be satisfied with respect to the United Nations requirements in the effort to do that. Or they can choose to be more isolated, as I said earlier. It’s really their choice, not ours, as to which way they want to go.

And the Administration, the President, has made it clear that his preference is to have a diplomatic solution. But if he cannot get there, he is prepared to do whatever is necessary to make certain that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon.

MS. NULAND: Next question, from Lee-Anne Goodman, please, from Canadian Press.

QUESTION: Hi there. Congratulations, Secretary Kerry.

SECRETARY KERRY: Hello. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: And welcome, Minister Baird. One half question: Keystone. (Laughter.) President Obama has made a point in his inaugural address of emphasizing the need to confront climate change. Does that bode badly for Keystone? And a quick one about any concerns about allegations that Canadians have been involved in the last couple of recent terrorist attacks. And (In French.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Not today. I’ve got to refresh myself on that. (Laughter.) But with respect to the Keystone, Secretary Clinton has put in place a very open and transparent process which I am committed to seeing through. I can guarantee you that it will be fair and transparent, accountable, and we hope that we will be able to be in a position to make an announcement in the near-term. I don’t want to pin down precisely when, but I assure you, in the near-term.
I’m not going to go into the merits of it here today. I pay great respect, as I did in my comments earlier, to the important energy relationship with Canada, and the importance of the overall
relationship. But we have a legitimate process that is underway, and I intend to honor that.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: We had a good discussion with respect to Keystone. We appreciated the Secretary’s comments at his confirmation hearings. We spoke about making a decision based on science and based on facts. Obviously, when it comes to the environment, I think we have likeminded objectives. Prime Minister Harper and President Obama have both set a 17 percent reduction in GHG emissions. We’ve worked very well together on reducing vehicle emissions for cars, for light trucks. Canada is aggressively moving forward on our plan to ban and phase out dirty coal-fired electricity generation, and we’ll continue to focus on that. I think we all share the need for a growing economy, to create jobs. We share the desire on energy security in North America, and we also share the objective of protecting our environment for future generations and those will be areas where we’re going to continue to work together.
(In French.)

MS. NULAND: Thank you all very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all. Thank you very, very much. We appreciate it.

 

Friday, February 8, 2013

VIDEO OF MASSIVE EAST COAST STORM FORMING



FROM:  NASA
Powerful Winter Storm in the Making

A massive winter storm is coming together as two low pressure systems are merging over the U.S. East Coast. An animation of satellite imagery from NOAA's GOES-13 satellite from Feb. 6 to Feb. 8 shows the two systems headed for a collision off the mid-Atlantic Coast. Credit-NASA GOES Project

DVIDS - Video - Armed Forces Farewell Ceremony

DVIDS - Video - Armed Forces Farewell Ceremony

West Wing Week: 02/08/13 or "What's Up, Camera Man" | The White House

West Wing Week: 02/08/13 or "What's Up, Camera Man" | The White House

NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN FOR FEBRUARY 8, 2013

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Korzatkowski, foreground, briefs Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah troops on the mission plan before the arrival of U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens on Forward Operating Base Farah in Farah City, Afghanistan, Feb. 5, 2013. Korzatkowski, executive officer, is assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah. The mission was part of a two-day visit by U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens, assistant chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, to meet with provincial Afghan officials, engage with the team's civil-military leaders and meet soldiers and sailors assigned to the team. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Matthew Stroup

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Combined Force Arrests Explosives Expert in Takhar Province
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release
KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb. 8, 2013 - An Afghan and coalition security force arrested an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader during an operation in the Yangi Qal'ah district of Afghanistan's Takhar province today, military officials reported.

The arrested insurgent leader was an explosives expert assisting with the planning of an impending high profile attack, officials said. He also coordinated the construction and movement of improvised explosive devices in the province.

During the operation, the security force also detained one suspected insurgent, officials said.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- A combined force in Kandahar province's Panjwai district detained three insurgents while searching for a Taliban leader responsible for organizing IED operations against Afghan and coalition forces.

-- In Logar province's Baraki Barak district, a combined force detained five insurgents while searching for a Taliban leader who oversees insurgent fighters and attacks Afghan and coalition patrols.

Yesterday in Kunduz province's Chahar district, a precision strike killed Hamid Gul, a Taliban leader who conducted attacks against Afghan government officials and Afghan and coalition forces. He oversaw 25 insurgent fighters responsible for IED operations in the district.

Not-so-healthy America

Not-so-healthy America

ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE BURKE SAYS CLEAN ENERGY IS NATIONAL SECURITY INTEREST

Photo:  Wind Turbines.  Credit:  Wikimedia Commons.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Clean Energy Tied to National Security, Official Says
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2013 - The changing U.S. and international energy pictures have a profound effect on security, a senior Pentagon official said here yesterday.

Sharon E. Burke, the assistant secretary of defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs, told industry partners and congressional leaders at the American Council on Renewable Energy's National Renewable Energy Policy Forum that the motivation for seeking out clean energy sources is strongly rooted in national security interests.

The International Energy Agency's world energy outlook, released in November, is "the shot heard 'round the world," Burke said. According to the report, she said, the world will need $37 trillion dollars in new investment in the energy supply system from now to 2035.

Even as mature economies increase their energy efficiency, switch fuels and reduce their petroleum demand, the thirst for oil among the world's economies -- particularly developing economies -- will continue to grow apace, Burke said.

"China will account for something like 50 percent of that [growth]," she told the audience. "When you add in India and the Middle East, you're talking about 60 percent."

The United States is affecting the most change on the world energy picture, she said. The IEA estimates that by 2020, the United States is going to outstrip Saudi Arabia as an oil producer. Another report predicts that the U.S. will succeed Russia as a natural gas producer, she added.

This means the possibility exists that North America could be energy self-sufficient by 2035, Burke said. "Even as everyone else in the world has growing demand and contracting supply, we're bucking the trend," she said.

This possibility has generated a lot of justifiable excitement, and for a variety of reasons, Burke said. There are positive consequences for the U.S. economy, for jobs and for the manufacturing sector, she said. But the Defense Department is most interested in the second-order geostrategic effects, Burke noted.

A danger in all this enthusiasm, she said, is that it overlooks the fact that the United States will still be part of a highly volatile global energy market, "and the world's supply and demand trends are going to continue to shape our own prosperity here at home."

The energy security variables have implications that aren't yet understood, Burke said. For example, she asked, what will happen if Saudi Arabia -- already the largest single consumer of petroleum in the Middle East -- becomes a net importer?

Iran is suspected to have been behind two attacks on Saudi Aramco: a cyberattack in 2012 that damaged 85 percent of the company's computers, and a two-vehicle suicide-bomb attack in 2006, Burke said. Both attacks failed to disable oil and gas production, but they were clearly intended to do so, she added.

Last month, Iran conducted naval exercises in the Strait of Hormuz, which it has repeatedly threatened to close, she said.

"I know a lot of people who think those are empty threats, because such a closure would certainly hurt the Iranian people most of all, but this is 20 percent of the global oil market," Burke said. "It would cripple the global economy, so certainly at DOD we take those threats seriously."

Territorial disputes pose a different kind of threat, she said. Tensions flared recently between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands, due in part to the expected presence of oil there, Burke said. In the Arctic, global climate change has made more oil and gas accessible, driving bordering nations to stake claims on formerly ice-bound geologic provinces.

The Defense Department has a history of looking at how the effects of climate change -- droughts, floods, population migration, sea level rise and shifts in arable land -- are an accelerant to instability, she said. In May, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta called climate change a threat to national security, Burke added.

The need for clean energy and energy efficiency has an enduring security angle, she said, adding that it's the only way to break out of the paradigm of foreign energy dependence and its associated instability.

The Defense Department's changing mission also has energy security implications, Burke said. In January 2012, Panetta and President Barack Obama released new strategic guidance that called for a rebalance of focus to the Asia-Pacific region.

Considering that the Defense Department already is the single largest consumer of fuel in the country, if not the world, she said, it's "sobering" to think about what the rebalance means for fuel consumption. Last year, the department used 4.3 billion gallons of petroleum, and spent about $20 billion on fuel, Burke said.

Beyond the rebalance and the long supply lines that it implies, the strategy articulates a changing security environment, Burke said, including rising powers, weapons of mass destruction, anti-access/area-denial and violent extremism. "We are organizing to meet these challenges," she said, but the ability to do so hinges on maintaining energy security.

Everything from cyber to special operations to large-scale humanitarian assistance efforts requires a lot of energy, Burke noted.

"Consider this ability to disperse, to maneuver, to operate over long distances in remote locations, and to be aware that people are going to try to interdict your movements, try to prevent you," she said. "That's a fuel challenge, and it's a fuel logistics challenge, and we have to get our arms around it."

The department has to apply the lessons it learned over the past decade of war, Burke said. An average of 45 million gallons of fuel is consumed each month in Afghanistan, she said.

"Delivering all that fuel takes a toll on a lot of different things," Burke said. "It takes a toll on helicopters, aircraft [and] trucks that are moving the fuel, and that's a bill that's going to come due, because we need all those things for other missions in the future, and their life has been shortened."

The Army and Marine Corps have documented thousands of casualties related to fuel movements in Afghanistan and Iraq, Burke said. U.S. forces can protect those lines, she added, but the cost in people and resources is higher than it needs to be.

Maintaining a military that's ready for missions everywhere means it's vital to use energy better and use better energy, Burke said, noting that the Defense Department is looking at a variety of energy efficiencies and renewable energy sources for military systems.

The conflicts of the last decade have made it clear that individuals are themselves a military system, Burke said. "Because they carry so much electronic gear now, it gives them great capabilities, ... but it all requires power. It requires batteries," she explained.

According to one Army estimate, soldiers walking a three-day foot patrol in Afghanistan may be carrying anywhere from 10 to 18 pounds of batteries, Burke told the audience. "We want to look at how we can power that particular system -- the human system -- better," she said.

Other systems that require large amounts of energy are combat outposts and forward operating bases, Burke said. These bases serve as hubs for troops when they operate -- they project power from there, fight from there, live there, get intelligence from there and communicate from there. These activities are all powered by diesel generators, she said.

Fuel for those generators is delivered by truck convoys, helicopters, airdrops and even by donkey, Burke said. "Whatever it takes to get it there," she said.

"The next system ... is what I would call 'big movers,'" she said. "The individual on the base may be very critical to the operation, but the big volume is in ships and vehicles and aircraft. They go through an enormous amount of fuel." They also provide the U.S. military with one of its biggest advantages -- the ability to move people and things anywhere at any time, Burke said.

The final system, "game-changers," is a bit different from the others, she said.

"For example," Burke said, "we're seeing a lot of unmanned systems come into the force in all domains -- underwater, on the ground, in the air -- and those radically change how much energy you consume and they also give you a lot of flexibility for the kind of energy you consume."

For each of those systems, the department is investing in new, more efficient technologies, she said, including the technology of efficiency itself.

"I recognize efficiency isn't a technology, it's a suite of technologies, but for us, it's an extremely important investment, Burke said.

For example, she said, power management and distribution for forward operating bases is critical to reducing fuel use, but generators at those bases are often oversized and underloaded. The department is working to use generators more efficiently, including by stringing together several to create a microgrid, Burke said.

Those oversized generators burn a lot of fuel heating and cooling non-insulated structures, she said, so the department is looking at more efficient tents and other shelters.

"Heating and air conditioning is one of the biggest power users on the battlefield," she added. "We've put a lot of money into research and development lately for how to get more innovative in heating and cooling for these environments."

A second technology area of interest is energy storage, Burke said. "We're interested in a whole range of battery technologies," she said, "from Nano batteries for sensing, to more efficient lightweight batteries, to power equipment for the troops to large scale energy storage."

Solar energy is being put to some promising uses, Burke said. At the troop level, she said, flexible solar rechargers are already out on the battlefield.

"We're also interested in ruggedized solar that can generate power at forward bases ... [and] we've tested unmanned aerial systems using solar [power]," Burke said. In one such test, she said, the aircraft was aloft for two straight weeks without refueling.

Other technological developments the department is looking into, Burke said, include waste-to-energy and fuel cells for troops on the move and for unmanned systems.

The department is investing in alternative energy technologies because it makes strategic sense, Burke said.

"These are technologies that we think are going to help the troops do their missions better," she said. "At the end of the day, in some respects we're technology agnostic. This is not an exhaustive list. We want anything that's going to help our troops meet the mission and to do their jobs better."

Asteroide visita a Terra (Near Earth Asteroid Is Comming)

Asteroide visita a Terra

A STUDY OF ASTEROID 1999 RQ36




FROM: NASA
OSIRIS-REx Targets Near-Earth Asteroid

NASA is sending the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to asteroid 1999 RQ36 to better understand the evolution of its orbit and to retrieve a pristine sample for study on Earth. Credit-NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

MARYLAND HOSPITAL AGREES TO PAY $4.9 MILLION TO SETTLE FALSE CLAIMS ACT ALLEGATIONS


Credit:  U.S. Navy
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Maryland’s St. Joseph’s Medical Center Agrees to Pay $4.9 Million for Medically Unnecessary Hospital Admissions

St. Joseph’s Medical Center, a hospital located in Towson, Md., has reached a settlement with the United States to pay $4.9 million in connection with its submission of false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare programs, the Justice Department announced today.

This settlement resolves the hospital’s civil liability to the United States under the False Claims Act for the hospital’s disclosure that from 2007-2009 it engaged in a practice of admitting patients to the hospital unnecessarily. In particular, the hospital disclosed that it admitted patients for short stays – typically one or two days – that were not warranted by the patient’s medical condition, and thereby generated a larger reimbursement than was proper for each patient. Of the $4.9 million to be paid by St. Joseph’s, $4.6 million will go the United States, and $152,406 will go to the state of Maryland, which is also a party to the agreement.

"The improper admission of patients for the purpose of obtaining increased reimbursement is a significant drain on the resources of federal and state healthcare programs," said Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. "This recovery reflects the Department’s continuing efforts to safeguard federal funds."

This resolution is part of the government's emphasis on combating health care fraud and another step for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder and Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in May 2009. The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation. One of the most powerful tools in that effort is the False Claims Act, which the Justice Department has used to recover more than $10.2 billion since January 2009 in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs. The Justice Department’s total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009 are over $14 billion.

Mr. Delery thanked the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland; and the Justice Department’s Commercial Litigation Branch, for their resolution of this matter.

FBI SEEKS HELP FINDING MURDERER OF U.S. EMBASSAY EMPLOYEE

http://www.fbi.gov/news/podcasts/wanted/seeking-information-about-murder-of-u.s.-embassy-employee.mp3/view?utm_campaign=email-Immediate&utm_medium=email&utm_source=wanted-by-the-fbi-podcast&utm_content=176130

Le premier étage de Vega VV02 installé au port spatial de l’Europe

Le premier étage de Vega VV02 installé au port spatial de l’Europe

RBS ORDERED TO PAY $325 MILLION TO SETTLE ATTEMPTED INTEREST RATE MANIPULATION

FROM:  U.S. COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION

CFTC Orders The Royal Bank of Scotland plc and RBS Securities Japan Limited to Pay $325 Million Penalty to Settle Charges of Manipulation, Attempted Manipulation, and False Reporting of Yen and Swiss Franc LIBOR

With this Order, the CFTC has now imposed penalties of more than $1.2 billion on banks for manipulative conduct with respect to LIBOR and other benchmark interest rates

Washington, DC
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced an Order against The Royal Bank of Scotland plc and RBS Securities Japan Limited (collectively, RBS or the Bank), bringing and settling charges of successful manipulation, attempted manipulation, and false reporting relating to LIBOR for Yen and Swiss Franc, which are benchmark interest rates critical to financial markets and the public. The Order requires RBS to pay a $325 million civil monetary penalty, cease and desist from further violations as charged, and take specified steps to ensure the integrity and reliability of LIBOR and other benchmark interest rate submissions, including improving related internal controls.

"The integrity of LIBOR depends on truthful information provided by a select group of some of the world’s most important banks. The public is deprived of an honest benchmark interest rate when a group of traders sits around a desk for years falsely spinning their bank’s LIBOR submissions, trying to manufacture winning trades. That’s what happened at RBS," said David Meister, the CFTC’s Director of Enforcement.

The Order finds that:

• As recently as 2010 and dating back to at least mid-2006, RBS made hundreds of attempts to manipulate Yen and Swiss Franc LIBOR, and made false LIBOR submissions to benefit its derivatives and money market trading positions; RBS succeeded at times in manipulating Yen and Swiss Franc LIBOR;

• At times, RBS aided and abetted other panel banks’ attempts to manipulate those same rates;

• The misconduct involved more than a dozen RBS derivatives and money market traders, one manager, and multiple offices around the world, including London, Singapore, and Tokyo; and

• The unlawful conduct continued even after RBS traders learned that a LIBOR investigation had been commenced by the CFTC.

With this Order, the CFTC has now imposed penalties of more than $1.2 billion on banks for manipulative conduct with respect to LIBOR submissions and other benchmark interest rates, and has required each bank to comply with undertakings specifying the factors upon which submissions should be made, including making the determination of submissions transactions focused, and requiring implementation of internal controls and policies needed to ensure the integrity and reliability of submissions. With the undertakings, each bank represents that its benchmark interest rate submissions "shall be based on a rigorous and honest assessment of information, and shall not be influenced by internal or external conflicts of interest, or other factors or information extraneous to any rules applicable to the setting of a [b]enchmark [i]nterest [r]ate," according to the Order.

According to the CFTC’s Order against RBS, the various ways in which RBS conducted its manipulative scheme all followed a similar pattern. The profitability of RBS’s Yen and Swiss Franc derivatives positions, such as interest rate swaps, depended on Yen and Swiss Franc LIBOR, as did certain of RBS’s money market positions. RBS traders would ask their colleagues to make false LIBOR submissions that were beneficial to RBS’s trading positions. The traders’ requests were either for falsely high submissions or falsely low ones, whatever was needed to turn a profit. The submitters often accommodated those requests by making false submissions. Some of these submitters were even traders themselves, and skewed their LIBOR submissions to drive the profitability of their own money market and derivatives trading positions.

RBS created an environment for a number of years that eased the path to manipulation by placing derivatives traders and submitters together on the same desk, heightening the conflict of interest between the profit motives of the traders and the responsibility of submitters to make honest submissions. When derivatives traders and submitters eventually were separated (for business, not compliance reasons), the misconduct continued through Bloomberg chats and an internal instant messaging system.

According to the Order, RBS derivatives traders also unlawfully worked in concert with a trader from a UBS AG subsidiary (UBS), another LIBOR panel bank, in attempts to manipulate Yen LIBOR, and with a trader at another panel bank in attempts to manipulate Swiss Franc LIBOR. RBS also aided and abetted UBS’s attempts to manipulate Yen LIBOR by executing wash trades (trades that result in financial nullities) to generate extra brokerage commissions to compensate two interdealer brokers for assisting UBS in its unlawful manipulative conduct. On at least one occasion, RBS also requested the assistance of an interdealer broker to influence the submissions of multiple panel banks in an attempt to manipulate Yen LIBOR.

The Order finds that RBS attempted to manipulate Yen and Swiss Franc LIBOR even after questions arose in the media in 2007 and 2008 about the integrity of banks’ LIBOR submissions, LIBOR reviews and guidance by the British Banker’s Association in 2008 and 2009, and the CFTC’s request in April 2010 that RBS conduct an internal investigation relating to its U.S. Dollar LIBOR practices. In fact, certain RBS employees involved in the misconduct were aware of the LIBOR investigation, yet continued their manipulative conduct and tried to conceal the conduct by minimizing their use of written messages to conduct the scheme.

The Order further finds that RBS’s traders were able to carry out their many attempts to manipulate Yen and Swiss Franc LIBOR for years because RBS lacked internal controls, procedures and policies concerning its LIBOR submission processes, and failed to adequately supervise its trading desks and traders. RBS did not institute any meaningful controls, procedures or policies concerning LIBOR submissions until on or about June 2011. During this time, RBS was experiencing significant growth on its Yen and Swiss Franc trading desks, generating revenues for RBS that were multiplying over the years.

The CFTC Order also recognizes the cooperation of RBS with the Division of Enforcement in its investigation.

In related actions by the U.S. Department of Justice, RBS Securities Japan Limited agreed to plead guilty to a criminal charge of wire fraud, The Royal Bank of Scotland plc entered into a deferred prosecution agreement whereby it would continue to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice in exchange for the deferral of criminal wire fraud and antitrust charges, and RBS collectively accepted a penalty of $150 million. In addition, the United Kingdom Financial Services Authority (FSA) issued a Final Notice regarding its enforcement action against The Royal Bank of Scotland plc and imposed a penalty of £87.5 million, the equivalent of approximately $137 million.

The CFTC thanks and acknowledges the valuable assistance of the FSA, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Washington Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the Financial Services Agency of the Government of Japan, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong.

CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Jonathan K. Huth, Aimée Latimer-Zayets, Brian G. Mulherin, Maura M. Viehmeyer, Rishi K. Gupta, Timothy M. Kirby, Terry Mayo, Elizabeth Padgett, Anne M. Termine, Philip P. Tumminio, Jason T. Wright, Gretchen L. Lowe, and Vincent A. McGonagle. CFTC Staff from the Division of Market Oversight and Office of the Chief Economist also assisted with the investigation of this matter.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE WEEKLY CLAIMS REPORT FOR WEEK ENDING FEBRUARY 2, 2013

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA


In the week ending February 2, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 366,000, a decrease of 5,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 371,000. The 4-week moving average was 350,500, a decrease of 2,250 from the previous week's revised average of 352,750.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.5 percent for the week ending January 26, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending January 26 was 3,224,000, an increase of 8,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 3,216,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,211,000, an increase of 13,750 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,197,250.
UNADJUSTED DATA
The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 386,176 in the week ending February 2, an increase of 16,696 from the previous week. There were 401,365 initial claims in the comparable week in 2012.

The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.9 percent during the week ending January 26, unchanged from the prior week's revised rate. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 3,720,496, an increase of 41,570 from the preceding week's revised level of 3,678,926. A year earlier, the rate was 3.2 percent and the volume was 4,097,013.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending January 19 was 5,590,480, a decrease of 326,513 from the previous week. There were 7,663,608 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2012.

Extended Benfits were not available in any state during the week ending January 19.

Initial claims for UI benefits filed by former Federal civilian employees totaled 1,370 in the week ending January 26, a decrease of 508 from the prior week. There were 2,256 initial claims filed by newly discharged veterans, a decrease of 484 from the preceding week.

There were 22,389 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending January 19, a decrease of 511 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 39,808, a decrease of 286 from the prior week.

States reported 1,826,098 persons claiming EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits for the week ending January 19, a decrease of 288,471 from the prior week. There were 2,985,907 persons claiming EUC in the comparable week in 2012. EUC weekly claims include first, second, third, and fourth tier activity.

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending January 19 were in Alaska (6.6), Montana (4.4), Puerto Rico (4.4), Pennsylvania (4.2), New Jersey (4.1), Wisconsin (4.1), Connecticut (4.0), Idaho (4.0), Oregon (3.8), and Rhode Island (3.8).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending January 19 were in North Carolina (+2,030), Oregon (+491), Virginia (+461), and Vermont (+62), while the largest decreases were in California (-20,414), Texas
(-5,082), Illinois (-4,865), Florida (-3,570), and Michigan (-2,795).