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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Weekly Address: Following the President’s Plan for a Strong Middle Class | The White House

Weekly Address: Following the President’s Plan for a Strong Middle Class | The White House

U.S. MILITARY RECRUITMENT CONTINUES STRONG

Photo Credit:  U.S. Navy.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Recruiting Continues Robust Through December

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2013 - All four active services met or exceeded their target recruiting numbers for the first three months of fiscal 2013, Pentagon officials reported today.

Here are the specific numbers by service so far for the fiscal year, which began Oct. 1:

-- Army: 12,396 accessions, 101 percent of its goal of 12,250;

-- Navy: 7,782 accessions, 100 percent of its goal of 7,782;

-- Marine Corps: 6,073 accessions, 100 percent of its goal of 6,058; and

-- Air Force: 6,516 accessions, 100 percent of its goal of 6,516.

The Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps exhibited strong retention numbers for the third month of fiscal 2013, officials said. While the Navy exhibited strong retention numbers in the mid-career and career categories, the Navy's achievement of 86 percent in the initial category is a result of the transition from a downsizing to a stabilizing posture.

Meanwhile, five of the six reserve components met or exceeded their fiscal 2013 recruiting goals for the first three months of the fiscal year. The Army Reserve finished December 572 short of its goal. Here are the numbers:

-- Army National Guard: 12,412 accessions, 103 percent of its goal of 12,015;

-- Army Reserve: 6,450 accessions, 92 percent of its goal of 7,022;

-- Navy Reserve: 1,281 accessions, 100 percent of its goal of 1,281;

-- Marine Corps Reserve: 2,359 accessions, 109 percent of its goal of 2,163;

-- Air National Guard: 2,170 accessions, 100 percent of its goal of 2,170; and

-- Air Force Reserve: 1,872 accessions, 100 percent of its goal of 1,872.

All reserve components have met their fiscal-year-to-date attrition goals. Officials said that although they expect this trend will continue, attrition numbers for December are not yet available.

THE U.S. NLRB FINDS COMPANY CAN'T FIRE EMPLOYEE FOR DISCUSSING SALARY WITH OTHER EMPLOYEES

FROM U.S. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD

The National Labor Relations Board has found that a Texas engineering firm unlawfully fired an employee for discussing salary information with co-workers, and ordered the company to offer reinstatement and to pay back wages for the time out of work.

Under the board order, which issued February 8, Houston-based Jones & Carter, Inc. also must rescind its policy of forbidding employee discussion of salaries. The National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of workers to discuss their terms and conditions of employment, including wages.

In the absence of exceptions, the Board adopted the November 26 decision of Administrative Law Judge Margaret G. Brakebusch. During trial, company officials said the employee – a training coordinator - was fired for "harassing" other workers. But the judge noted that the same company officials told state unemployment investigators a different story, including that the employee was fired for discussing salaries with other workers, and that sharing such information was a "pet peeve" of the company.

As a result of the Board action, Jones & Carter offered the employee reinstatement to her former position, which she declined. The employer agreed to make the former employee whole by paying her backpay, 401(k) contributions, medical expenses and interest in the total amount of $107,000, to revise its policy to delete the prohibition on employees of discussing their salaries, and to post a Board Notice describing these actions.

U.S. SUES OIL AND GAS COMPANY FOR ALLEGED UNLAWFUL DISCHARGE OF OIL AND CHEMICAL DISPERSANTS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Monday, February 11, 2013
US Files Lawsuit in Louisiana Against Oil and Gas Company Alleging Unlawful Discharge of Oil and Chemical Dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico

Today the United States filed a civil action against ATP Oil & Gas Corporation and ATP Infrastructure Partners, LP (ATP-IP) for civil penalties and injunctive relief under the Clean Water Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. The complaint was filed on behalf of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The complaint addresses the defendants’ alleged unlawful discharges of oil and unpermitted chemical dispersants from the defendants’ floating oil and gas production platform, the ATP Innovator, into the Gulf of Mexico.

The ATP Innovator is a production facility operating at Lease Block 711 of Mississippi Canyon in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 45 nautical miles offshore of southeastern Louisiana.

The violations were discovered during a BSEE inspection of the facility in March 2012. Following further investigation by BSEE, the violations were referred to the Department of Justice by BSEE and EPA. The case, United States v. ATP Oil & Gas Corporation et al., was filed in the District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

As alleged in the complaint, ATP failed to properly operate and maintain its wastewater treatment system on the ATP Innovator. As a result, excess oil was discharged into the ocean, and an unauthorized chemical dispersant was added to the oily wastewater discharge to mask the presence of oil on the ocean’s surface. The dispersant was added to the outfall pipe by way of a concealed metal tube that connected a tank of dispersant to the outfall pipe. The connection of the metal tubing to the outfall pipe was located downstream of the sample collection point, making the addition of unauthorized dispersant undetectable in samples that are required to be collected to show compliance with ATP’s Clean Water Act discharge permit.

According to the complaint, the dispersant had been used from at least October 2010 to March 2012. In addition to civil penalties under the Clean Water Act, the complaint also seeks injunctive relief for violations of the Clean Water Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

CONGRESSIONAL TESTIMONY ON EMERGING POWERS

Map:  China.  Credit:  U.S. State Department.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Scholar: Trends, Emerging Powers Bear Watching
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2013 - The nation must sustain awareness of technological and geopolitical trends in allies and emerging powers, a National Defense University senior research fellow told a House subcommittee today.

In a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on intelligence, emerging threats and capabilities, Frank Hoffman stressed the urgency of staying prepared for an ever-broadening array of actors and challenges, rather than a singular one.

"We have to be ready for a broad spectrum of conflicts that range from purely irregular and terrorists at one end to perhaps rising powers with conventional capability to the other," he said.

Hoffman also contested what he called a new "peace theory" circulating throughout Washington in which prominent journals and think tanks have opined that war as most know it has all but disappeared. "There's a pernicious concept ... that the tides of war are receding and that the United States can retrench without risks," he said.

Hoffman acknowledged U.S. successes and the nation's lack of competition from a major power since 1991, but warned against discounting patterns across centuries.

"Great progress has been made in the last decade, but the notion [that] a dramatic change in human nature [can] outweigh 2,000 years of recorded history is tenuous, at best," Hoffman said.
The stability and leadership the U.S. provides the world, a consensus on a Western model based upon rule of law, and global partnerships cause positive assessments in reviewing the last 10 years, he explained.

"We've had extensive peacekeeping support from the international community, to include the [United Nations]," he said. "There's a growth and continued contribution from the conflict-resolution community."

But a number of concerns should give people pause, Hoffman maintained. He described a perceived decline in U.S. capabilities or interest in sustaining its position in the world as emerging powers rise. "History suggests some caution when new, emerging, non-status-quo powers arise," he said.

He also warned of "peace support fatigue" in the international community. "We're going to see a ... lack of domestic support from many allies and other agencies that have been very useful ... in keeping instability down," Hoffman said.

Proxy wars, Hoffman said, also can be catalytic, producing a major war out of what was intended to be a smaller conflict.
He cited resource contention over energy, food, water and rare materials as a "tinderbox for conflicts."

"I see actions in the South China Sea ... and [China's] efforts to secure energy resources and raw assets as something to be taken seriously," he said.

Dwindling incomes and pensions that younger and older demographics will suffer can spur dissent in regions throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East and southern Europe, Hoffman noted, adding that higher unemployment and subsequent dissent could become the "new normal" in affected nations.

"That will produce more disillusionment and more angry people than ... we've seen in the past, [and] will lead to political instability," he said.

Perhaps one of the more visible and imminent dangers is the divided religions and religious extremism, or "sacred rage," in Islam, which Hoffman said could spur the emergence of other forms of government. "We're creating a lot of fertile ground for al-Qaida and its affiliated movements to take root in some places," he said, "and we're not going to be happy with the results."

Still, the defense scholar noted, the subcommittee's charge is at the cusp of what is emerging in the national security arena and what could generate the greatest risks to the nation's prosperity and security in the next decade.

"Plato had it right: 'Only the dead have seen the end of war,'" Hoffman said. "We may not face another bloody century like the last, ... but the world remains a very dangerous place."

KOSOVO'S NATIONAL DAY

Map:  Kosovo.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Kosovo's National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
February 15, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of the Republic of Kosovo as you celebrate your fifth anniversary of independence on February 17.

This past year has been one of great milestones for Kosovo, including the end of Kosovo’s supervised independence, membership of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and progress in the dialogue with Serbia to normalize relations. The United States remains firmly committed to supporting an independent, sovereign, and multiethnic Kosovo. I congratulate Kosovo’s leaders for their dedication to building stronger democratic institutions, advancing new economic opportunities, promoting the rule of law, and reinforcing Kosovo’s European integration path. Continued work in these areas serves to secure lasting regional stability and prosperity for your country.

As you celebrate this special day, know that the United States stands with Kosovo as a partner and friend. I congratulate all the people of Kosovo on this holiday and wish you great success in the year to come.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM CIA WORLD FACTBOOK


The central Balkans were part of the Roman and Byzantine Empires before ethnic Serbs migrated to the territories of modern Kosovo in the 7th century. During the medieval period, Kosovo became the center of a Serbian Empire and saw the construction of many important Serb religious sites, including many architecturally significant Serbian Orthodox monasteries. The defeat of Serbian forces at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 led to five centuries of Ottoman rule during which large numbers of Turks and Albanians moved to Kosovo. By the end of the 19th century, Albanians replaced the Serbs as the dominant ethnic group in Kosovo. Serbia reacquired control over Kosovo from the Ottoman Empire during the First Balkan War of 1912. After World War II, Kosovo became an autonomous province of Serbia in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (S.F.R.Y.) with status almost equivalent to that of a republic under the 1974 S.F.R.Y. constitution. Despite legislative concessions, Albanian nationalism increased in the 1980s, which led to riots and calls for Kosovo's independence. At the same time, Serb nationalist leaders, such as Slobodan MILOSEVIC, exploited Kosovo Serb claims of maltreatment to secure votes from supporters, many of whom viewed Kosovo as their cultural heartland. Under MILOSEVIC's leadership, Serbia instituted a new constitution in 1989 that revoked Kosovo's status as an autonomous province of Serbia. Kosovo Albanian leaders responded in 1991 by organizing a referendum that declared Kosovo independent. Under MILOSEVIC, Serbia carried out repressive measures against the Albanians in the early 1990s as the unofficial Kosovo government, led by Ibrahim RUGOVA, used passive resistance in an attempt to try to gain international assistance and recognition of an independent Kosovo. Albanians dissatisfied with RUGOVA's passive strategy in the 1990s created the Kosovo Liberation Army and launched an insurgency. Starting in 1998, Serbian military, police, and paramilitary forces under MILOSEVIC conducted a brutal counterinsurgency campaign that resulted in massacres and massive expulsions of ethnic Albanians. Approximately 800,000 Albanians were forced from their homes in Kosovo during this time. International attempts to mediate the conflict failed, and MILOSEVIC's rejection of a proposed settlement led to a three-month NATO military operation against Serbia beginning in March 1999 that forced Serbia to agree to withdraw its military and police forces from Kosovo. UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) placed Kosovo under a transitional administration, the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), pending a determination of Kosovo's future status. A UN-led process began in late 2005 to determine Kosovo's final status. The negotiations ran in stages between 2006 and 2007, but ended without agreement between Belgrade and Pristina. On 17 February 2008, the Kosovo Assembly declared Kosovo independent. Since then, over 85 countries have recognized Kosovo, and it has joined the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Serbia continues to reject Kosovo's independence and in October 2008, it sought an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality under international law of Kosovo's declaration of independence. The ICJ released the advisory opinion in July 2010 affirming that Kosovo's declaration of independence did not violate general principles of international law, UN Security Council Resolution 1244, or the Constitutive Framework. The opinion was closely tailored to Kosovo's unique history and circumstances.

RECENT U.S. NAVY PHOTOS




FROM: U.S. NAVY

The Military Sealift Command joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV-1) pulls into Naval Station Mayport to be inspected by Rear. Adm. Sinclair M. Harris, the commander of U.S. 4th Fleet. Spearhead is the first of of nine Navy joint high-speed vessels and is designed for rapid intra-theater transport of troops and military equipment. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Damian Berg (Released) 130214-N-TC587-016




CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 262 take off from the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group, on deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility, is taking part in Cobra Gold 2013, a Thai-U.S. co-sponsored multinational joint exercise. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam M. Bennett (Released) 130214-N-SO729-284


Friday, February 15, 2013

Remarks to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Headquarters

Remarks to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Headquarters

THE 'NIGHT SHINING'



FROM: NASA
Station Crew Sees 'Night-Shining' Clouds

In both the Earth's Northern and Southern Hemispheres polar mesospheric clouds are at the peak of their visibility, during their respective late spring and early summer seasons. Visible from aircraft in flight, the International Space Station and from the ground at twilight, the clouds typically appear as delicate, shining threads against the darkness of space--hence their other names of noctilucent or "night-shining"

On June 13, 2012, when this image was taken from the space station as it passed over the Tibetan Plateau, polar mesospheric clouds were also visible to aircraft flying over Canada. In addition to the still image above, the station crew took a time-lapse image sequence of polar mesospheric clouds several days earlier on June 5, while passing over western Asia. It is first such sequence of images of the phenomena taken from orbit.


Polar mesospheric clouds form between 47 to 53 miles (76 to 85 kilometers) above Earth’s surface when there is sufficient water vapor at these high altitudes to freeze into ice crystals. The clouds are illuminated by the sun when it is just below the visible horizon, lending them their night-shining properties. In addition to the polar mesospheric clouds trending across the center of the image, lower layers of the atmosphere are also illuminated. The lowest layer of the atmosphere visible in this image--the stratosphere--is indicated by dim orange and red tones near the horizon.

Image Credit: NASA

MORTAGE SERVICING COMPANY TO PAY $35 MILLION TO RESOLVE CRIMINAL FRAUD CASE

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Friday, February 15, 2013
Florida-Based Lender Processing Services Inc. to Pay $35 Million in Agreement to Resolve Criminal Fraud Violations Following Guilty Plea from Subsidiary CEO

Agreement Also Follows Closure of Subsidiary DocX Operations

Lender Processing Services Inc. (LPS), a publicly traded mortgage servicing company based in Jacksonville, Fla., has agreed to pay $35 million in criminal penalties and forfeiture to address its participation in a six-year scheme to prepare and file more than 1 million fraudulently signed and notarized mortgage-related documents with property recorders’ offices throughout the United States. The settlement, which follows a felony guilty plea from the chief executive officer of wholly owned LPS subsidiary DocX LLC, was announced today by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Robert E. O’Neill.

The non-prosecution agreement, which LPS entered into today with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, requires the company to make the payment and meet a series of other conditions.

Lorraine Brown, the former CEO of DocX LLC, pleaded guilty on Nov. 20, 2012, in federal court in Jacksonville to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. During her guilty plea, Brown admitted to her leadership role in the scheme.

LPS has taken a number of remedial actions to address the misconduct at DocX. Among other things, LPS has wound down all of DocX’s operations, re-executed and re-filed mortgage assignments as appropriate and terminated Brown and others. LPS has also demonstrated changes in its compliance, training and overall approach to ensuring its adherence to the law, and has retained an independent consultant to review and report on LPS’s document execution practices; assess related operational, compliance, legal and reputational risks; and establish a plan for reimbursing any financial injuries to mortgage servicers or borrowers.

According to the statement of facts accompanying the agreement, before its wind-down, DocX was in the business of assisting residential mortgage servicers with creating and executing mortgage-related documents to be filed with property recorders’ offices throughout the United States. Employees of DocX, at the direction of Brown and others, falsified signatures on the documents. Through this scheme and unbeknownst to the clients, Brown and subordinates at DocX directed authorized signers to allow other, unauthorized personnel to sign and to have documents notarized as if they were executed by authorized signers. These signing practices were used at DocX from at least March 2003 until late 2009, and were implemented to increase profits.

Also to increase profits, Brown hired temporary workers to sign as authorized signers. These temporary employees would sign mortgage-related documents at a much lower cost and without the quality controls represented to clients. These documents were then falsely notarized by employees at DocX, allowing the fraud scheme to remain undetected.

After these documents were falsely signed and fraudulently notarized, Brown authorized DocX employees to file and record them with local county property records offices across the country. Many of these documents – particularly mortgage assignments, lost note affidavits and lost assignment affidavits – were later relied upon in court proceedings, including property foreclosures and federal bankruptcy actions.

In entering into the non-prosecution agreement with LPS, the Justice Department took several factors into consideration. Soon after discovering the misconduct at DocX, LPS conducted a thorough internal investigation, reported all of its findings to the government, cooperated with the government’s investigation and effectively remediated any problems it discovered. The government’s investigation also revealed that Brown and others at DocX took various steps to actively conceal the misconduct from detection, including from LPS senior management and auditors.

Brown, 51, of Alpharetta, Ga., faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. She is scheduled to be sentenced on April 23, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. in Jacksonville.

This case is being handled by Trial Attorney Ryan Rohlfsen and Assistant Chief Glenn S. Leon of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark B. Devereaux of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida. The case is being investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the state of Florida’s Department of Financial Services.

FINAL JUDGEMENT ENTERED IN INSIDER TRADING CASE

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Court Enters Final Judgments Against Former Wall Street Banker, Downstream Russian Trader and Trader’s Wife in Insider Trading Scheme


The Securities and Exchange Commission announced that on January 14, 2013, the Honorable Alvin K. Hellerstein of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York entered a final judgment by default against defendant Alexander Vorobiev ("Vorobiev") and his wife, relief defendant Tatiana Vorobieva ("Vorobieva") (collectively, the "Vorobievs"), for their role in a serial scheme involving insider trading ahead of numerous health care-related acquisitions, tender offers, and other transactions.

Also, the Commission announced that on October 3, 2012, Judge Hellerstein entered a final judgment against Igor Poteroba ("Poteroba"), formerly an investment banker with UBS Securities LLC ("UBS"), who also had been charged in this matter with insider trading for misappropriating highly confidential inside information from UBS about those health care transactions and tipping that information to his friend, Aleksey Koval ("Koval"), also a financial professional, who, in turn, tipped Vorobiev.

The Commission's complaint, filed on March 24, 2010, alleges that, from at least July 2005 through February 2009, Poteroba, Koval, and Vorobiev participated in an insider trading ring that netted over $1 million in illicit profits. According to the complaint, Poteroba was the source of material, nonpublic information about eleven impending corporate transactions, which he obtained through his work as an investment banker in UBS's Global Healthcare Group. Poteroba misappropriated the material, nonpublic information from his employer and its clients in breach of duties of confidentiality that he owed them. Pursuant to the insider trading scheme as described in the complaint, Poteroba tipped defendant Koval, with the material, nonpublic information, and Koval, in turn, tipped his friend Vorobiev and placed trades through an account maintained by Vorobiev. The Commission's complaint alleges that both Koval and Vorobiev traded securities on the basis of that information. Because Vorobiev conducted some of the trading using his wife’s accounts, Vorobieva was named as a relief defendant.

Poteroba previously had been permanently enjoined from violating Sections 10(b) and 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5 and Rule 14e-3 thereunder (see Litigation Release No. 21681 (Oct. 4, 2010)). On September 28, 2010, the Commission entered an order barring Poteroba from association with any broker, dealer, or investment adviser. In a parallel criminal proceeding, on December 21, 2010, Poteroba pleaded guilty to securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud.

The final judgment in the civil action against Poteroba found him liable for disgorgement in the amount of $416,336, representing profits obtained as a result of the conduct alleged in the Complaint, together with prejudgment interest in the amount of $49,071. The final judgment deemed these amounts satisfied by Poteroba’s payment of a forfeiture of $465,095 in a parallel criminal proceeding. No civil penalty was imposed on Poteroba in the final judgment. In the criminal proceeding, Poteroba had been sentenced to twenty-two months of imprisonment and ordered to pay a penalty of $25,000.

The Vorobievs failed to respond to the complaint and the Commission moved for entry of judgment by default. The final judgment in the civil action against Vorobiev: (1) permanently enjoined him from violations of Sections 10(b) and 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5 and Rule 14e-3 thereunder; (2) found him liable for disgorgement in the amount of $146,541.20, representing profits obtained as a result of the conduct alleged in the Complaint, together with prejudgment interest in the amount of $21,389.80; and (3) imposed a civil penalty of $1,885,382.12, for a total judgment award of $2,053,313.73. In partial satisfaction of that award, the Court ordered that more than $220,000 in funds held in brokerage accounts in Vorobiev’s name, previously frozen by court order in the SEC’s action, be remitted to the SEC for transfer to the U.S. Treasury.

The final judgment against Vorobieva found her liable for disgorgement in the amount of $481,919.71, representing profits obtained as a result of the conduct alleged in the Complaint, together with prejudgment interest in the amount of $70,343.12, for a total judgment award of $552,262.83. In partial satisfaction of that award, the Court ordered that nearly $125,000 in funds held in brokerage accounts in Vorobieva’s name, also frozen by court order in the SEC’s action, be remitted to the SEC for transfer to the U.S. Treasury.

The Commission's civil action against defendant Koval remains pending before the Court.

TRANSOCEAN PLEADS GUILTY AND WILL PAY $400 MILLION FOR ROLE IN DEEPWATER HORIZON DISASTER


FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Transocean Pleads Guilty, Is Sentenced to Pay $400 Million in Criminal Penalties for Criminal Conduct Leading to Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Second Corporate Guilty Plea Obtained by Deepwater Horizon Task Force, Second-largest Criminal Clean Water Act Fines and Penalties in U.S. History

Transocean Deepwater Inc. pleaded guilty today to a violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) for its illegal conduct leading to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, and was sentenced to pay $400 million in criminal fines and penalties, Attorney General Holder announced today.

In total, the amount of fines and other criminal penalties imposed on Transocean are the second-largest environmental crime recovery in U.S. history – following the historic $4 billion criminal sentence imposed on BP Exploration and Production Inc. in connection with the same disaster.

"Transocean’s guilty plea and sentencing are the latest steps in the department’s ongoing efforts to seek justice on behalf of the victims of the Deepwater Horizon disaster," said Attorney General Holder. "Most of the $400 million criminal recovery – one of the largest for an environmental crime in U.S. history – will go toward protecting, restoring and rebuilding the Gulf Coast region."

"The Deepwater Horizon explosion was a senseless tragedy that could have been avoided," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. "Eleven men died, and the Gulf’s waters, shorelines, communities and economies suffered enormous damage. With today’s guilty plea, BP and Transocean have now both been held criminally accountable for their roles in this disaster."

Transocean’s guilty plea was accepted, and the sentence was imposed, by U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo of the Eastern District of Louisiana. During the guilty plea and sentencing proceeding, Judge Milazzo found, among other things, that the sentence appropriately reflects Transocean’s role in the offense conduct, and that the criminal payments directed to the National Academy of Sciences and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation are appropriately designed to help remedy the harm to the Gulf of Mexico caused by Transocean’s actions. The judge also noted that the fines and five year probationary period provide just punishment and adequate deterrence.

Transocean pleaded guilty to an information, previously filed in federal court in New Orleans, charging the company with violating the CWA. During the guilty plea proceeding today, Transocean admitted that members of its crew onboard the Deepwater Horizon, acting at the direction of BP’s well site leaders, known as "company men," were negligent in failing to investigate fully clear indications that the Macondo well was not secure and that oil and gas were flowing into the well.

The criminal resolution is structured to directly benefit the Gulf region. Under the order entered by the court pursuant to the plea agreement, $150 million of the $400 million criminal recovery is dedicated to acquiring, restoring, preserving and conserving – in consultation with appropriate state and other resource managers – the marine and coastal environments, ecosystems and bird and wildlife habitat in the Gulf of Mexico and bordering states harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This portion of the criminal recovery will also be directed to significant barrier island restoration and/or river diversion off the coast of Louisiana to further benefit and improve coastal wetlands affected by the spill. An additional $150 million will be used to fund improved oil spill prevention and response efforts in the Gulf through research, development, education and training.

Transocean was also sentenced, according to the plea agreement, to five years of probation – the maximum term of probation permitted by law.

A separate proposed civil consent decree, which resolves the United States’ civil CWA penalty claims, imposes a record $1 billion civil Clean Water Act penalty, and requires significant measures to improve performance and prevent recurrence, is pending before U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier of the Eastern District of Louisiana.

The charges and allegations pending against individuals in related cases are merely accusations, and those individuals are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The guilty plea and sentencing announced today are part of the ongoing criminal investigation by the Deepwater Horizon Task Force into matters related to the April 2010 Gulf oil spill. The Deepwater Horizon Task Force, based in New Orleans, is supervised by Assistant Attorney General Breuer and led by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John D. Buretta, who serves as the director of the task force. The task force includes prosecutors from the Criminal Division and the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana, as well as other U.S. Attorneys’ Offices; and investigating agents from: the FBI; Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigative Division; Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General; Department of Interior, Office of Inspector General; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Law Enforcement; U.S. Coast Guard; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

This case was prosecuted by Deepwater Horizon Task Force Director John D. Buretta, Deputy Directors Derek A. Cohen and Avi Gesser, and task force prosecutors Richard R. Pickens II, Scott M. Cullen, Colin Black and Rohan Virginkar.

U.S. Department Of State Daily Press Briefing - February 15, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - February 15, 2013

West Wing Week: 02/15/13 or “You’re a Hero” | The White House

West Wing Week: 02/15/13 or “You’re a Hero” | The White House

U.S. EDUCATION DEPARTMENT AWARDS $3 MILLION FOR HURRICANE SANDY RECOVERY AID

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
U.S. Department of Education Awards $3 Million to Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and New York City to Aid in Recovery from Hurricane Sandy

February 14, 2013

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students has awarded $3 million in Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grants to Connecticut ($250,000), New Jersey ($1.25 million), New York ($500,000) and New York City ($1 million) to assist with recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The widespread damage of the storm was particularly devastating to these communities.

Project SERV grants provide critical support to districts that have experienced a significant traumatic event and need resources to respond, recover, and re-establish safe environments for students. The Office of Safe and Healthy Students has awarded more than $31.5 million to 104 grantees, including Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and New York City, since the grant program began in 2001.

"Project SERV grants provide key support to students and communities as they continue to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. "These funds help the learning process continue and make resources available to students and educators who may still be dealing with the trauma of last fall’s devastating hurricane."

The three states—Connecticut, New Jersey and New York—will identify school districts and schools that were hardest hit by the storm. New York state’s funds may go to any district except New York City, as it is receiving a separate grant. All four grantees will use the funds to provide education-related services where the learning environment has been disrupted due to the storm’s effects. These services may include mental-health assessments, referrals and services; leasing of space to substitute for damaged buildings; emergency transportation; temporary security measures; and overtime pay for teachers, counselors, law enforcement and security officers, and other staff. Within 75 days after receiving their funds, the grantees will submit reports to the Department describing the basis for distributing the funds and the activities that are planned

Trust your doctor

Trust your doctor

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY AND EUROPEAN UNION REP. ASHTON MAKE REMARKS TO PRESS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Remarks With European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton Before Their Meeting
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
February 14, 2013

SECRETARY KERRY:
Well, good afternoon, everybody. I am very, very happy to welcome my friend, Lady Catherine Ashton, here. We are the veterans of some wonderful dinners and meetings together. I think we have had a meeting of the minds on many occasion in the past, so I’m very happy to have you come back here.

First of all, let me just begin by saying to everybody that a lot has been written in the last year or so about America’s increased efforts in Asia Pacific. And I want to emphasize with Cathy, who we’ve talked about this previously, that the rebalancing that President Obama is engaged in does not and will not come at the expense of any relationship in Europe whatsoever. In fact, we want more engagement with Europe, and we think Europe can be more of a partner in those efforts, which is one of the reasons that President Obama is so firmly committed, as he said in the State of the Union message, to a trade and investment partnership initiative with Europe.

And I think Europe is, I hope, excited by it. I think there are huge possibilities. Both of our economies can benefit by this engagement. There’s an enormous amount of benefit for our citizens throughout Europe and here in the United States. We can create jobs. We will have greater market clout as a consequence of that. And I think this is something we can get through. We all know the difficulties, but I think this moment is one that we could really get through. And we’re going to talk about that in a little bit.

We’re very, very grateful to Cathy Ashton and her leadership and the EU for their efforts on the humanitarian side with respect to Syria. And we will continue to work together to try to end the violence and respond to the humanitarian crisis.

We also have as good a partnership as I think anyone’s ever had across the Atlantic with respect to Iran. The P-5+1 initiative, which Cathy Ashton is leading, is a critical effort to avoid confrontation and to provide for a peaceful resolution to the challenge of the Iranian nuclear program. And I’ve talked before with her about that. We’ll continue that discussion today. We hope that the talks in Almaty in a few days can show some further progress, perhaps open some additional opportunities. So I wish her well in that.

And I want to just congratulate her on a superb effort personally. I think she’s visited the prime players in the Balkans in the Serbia-Kosovo continued challenges, and she’s really working diligently to be able to try to bring parties together and get a final resolution to that. So I wish her well in that.

And I can’t tell you how terrific it is to welcome you here. We see each other everywhere else, and now I finally get to say hi here. So we’d like to hear your thoughts.

HIGH REPRESENTATIVE ASHTON: Well, thank you. There’s nowhere better on Valentine’s Day to be – (laughter) – than in Washington, D.C. to celebrate this great partnership. And as I’ve said to you before, we want to be your most reliable partner.

Europe and the United States share many things. We share the same values; we share the same aspirations for our people, economic and political. And the opportunity of being able to deepen those economic ties is very exciting. It’s very exciting across the 27 countries of the European Union. I think it’s very exciting here, too.

I was the trade commissioner. I joke about that I did beef economics with my dear friend Ron Kirk. It was tough, but with political will and the good support of industry, we can achieve an enormous amount. And I think we can do this and do it in good time. And you and I will have a role to play in that in terms of the political strengths we can bring to this. But I do think this is something that will add great value to our relationship, and as importantly to support our economies and to support our people with jobs.

And on a political front, well, it’s not a surprise for me that I wanted to come here to talk to you, because next week I host the most important part of the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue, where the Prime Minister will come for two days. The United States is an incredibly valuable partner in that effort.

And then from there, I will go to Almaty to lead the discussions with Iran. I always look for success in those and I will do my best on behalf of the P-5+1, or E-3+3 as we call it – it’s still six, whichever way you do it. But it’s important that we continue to try and make our efforts successful in that regard.

And then so much else in our neighborhood particularly where we need to continue to support the people of Syria and the countries around, who are now dealing with refugees coming across the border and worry about the future. I’m thinking too that when this violence ends, we will need to help rebuild.

And of course for us too, when we think about the Middle East peace process, (inaudible) undoubtedly you and I will be in discussion.

But most importantly to say congratulations to you, Secretary Kerry. It’s great to see you here, and I’m so looking forward to working with you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Cathy. I neglected to mention and I do want to mention the Quartet component of the peace process is important, and we’re going to talk about sort of how we move forward from here in the Middle East peace process. So we have a lot to talk about. We’ve got to get to it.

9-11 MASTERMIND SUSPECT CASE CONTINUES

World Trade Center After Attack.  Credit:  U.S. Navy
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Justice Rolls Slowly in Alleged 9/11 Suspects' Case
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

FORT MEADE, Md., Feb. 15, 2013 - The latest round of pre-trial hearings for the alleged 9/11 mastermind and four accomplices wrapped up yesterday at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, much as it started: with hours of wrangling over legal and privacy issues and continued protests by the defense team that the system is rigged.

Army Col. James Pohl, the commission judge, concluded four days of pre-trial hearings in the case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and accomplices Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi.

All five defendants were captured in Pakistan in 2002 and 2003 and have been confined at Guantanamo Bay since 2006.

They were charged during their arraignment in May 2012 with terrorism, conspiracy, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, murder in violation of the law of war, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, hijacking or hazarding a vessel or aircraft. The prosecution has since requested that the conspiracy charge be dropped.

Among the most significant developments during this week's proceedings was the revelation that microphones as well as cameras have been hidden in several locations around the detention facility -- including inside what looked like smoke detectors in rooms where defense attorneys meet with their clients.

Detention officials told the court these measures were taken for security reasons only, and prosecutors insisted that they have never eavesdropped on privileged conversations between the defendants and their counsel. The defense, however, called the mere presence of the microphones an ethics violation that undermines their ability to provide a valid defense.

Pohl ordered that the microphones be removed from rooms where the attorneys meet with clients, and agreed to a defense request that they be held so they can be inspected later, if the defense wishes to.

Defense attorneys also charged that the defendants' property, including confidential mail from their lawyers, had been seized from their cells this week while they appeared in court. Bin Attash, who was among those who reported missing items, stood up and began to address the judge about the matter. Pohl threatened to have him removed from the courtroom if he did not sit down, but assured him he would have an opportunity to speak later, under oath.

Navy Lt. Cdr. George Masucco, the detention facility's assistant staff judge advocate, told the court that the guards seized what they believed to be contraband materials during routine safety inspections earlier this week. Among the suspect material was a photo of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, a metal pen, toilet paper that had English writing on it and mail that had not been properly marked to indicate it had been reviewed for content.

Masucco confirmed during cross examination that some of the challenged materials, including the photo, did, in fact, have the proper markings. However, he noted that some of those stamps didn't conform to established detention center requirements, such as the reviewer's initials.

Defense Attorney Cheryl Bormann argued that repeated inspections of the same materials by guards who rotate through assignments at Guantanamo Bay amounts to harassment. This led to a long discussion about the difference between an inspection and a search, and who needs to be present when one is conducted.

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions, told the judge the camp commander would conduct an investigation to determine facts regarding the latest seizures. That information will be reported to the court within seven days, he said.

In addition, Pohl gave the defense a week to come up with recommended language about inspection protocols, and said the prosecution will get a week to comment on it. Based on that input, the judge said he will make a ruling to clear up future confusion.

In another matter, Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, one of the defense attorneys, told the judge he had not received the support he needed within the timeframe he needed it, including security clearances for the translator he had requested.

Retired Navy Adm. Bruce MacDonald, the convening authority for the commissions, disputed Ruiz' claim, telling the court during testimony delivered via teleconference that he had complied with the defense's requests. MacDonald said he will step down from his three-year appointment when it expires March 21, before the next series of pre-trial hearings, scheduled for April.

All five defendants appeared in the courtroom yesterday. Mohammed, with a bright red beard, wore a traditional white turban and, in a concession the court granted at an earlier pre-trial hearing, a camouflage vest.

A Terra vista do espaço: canyon americano

A Terra vista do espaço: canyon americano

SERBIA'S NATIONAL DAY

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Serbia's National Day
Press Statement John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
February 14, 2013


 
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to congratulate the people of Serbia as you celebrate your National Day this February 15.

The United States is proud of our many years as partners and friends. We remain committed to helping Serbia strengthen its multi-ethnic society, its democratic institutions and rule of law, and to achieving its goal of full membership in the European Union. We welcome Serbia’s efforts to work constructively with its neighbors to build a more stable region. We will support Serbia in each step of its European path, and look forward to a growing role for Serbia as a force for peace and prosperity.

On this special day, the United States stands beside you. To all the people of Serbia, I wish you a peaceful and prosperous future.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM CIA WORLD FACTBOOK


The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was formed in 1918; its name was changed to Yugoslavia in 1929. Various paramilitary bands resisted Nazi Germany's occupation and division of Yugoslavia from 1941 to 1945, but fought each other and ethnic opponents as much as the invaders. The military and political movement headed by Josip "TITO" Broz (Partisans) took full control of Yugoslavia when German and Croatian separatist forces were defeated in 1945. Although Communist, TITO's new government and his successors (he died in 1980) managed to steer their own path between the Warsaw Pact nations and the West for the next four and a half decades. In 1989, Slobodan MILOSEVIC became president of the Republic of Serbia and his ultranationalist calls for Serbian domination led to the violent breakup of Yugoslavia along ethnic lines. In 1991, Croatia, Slovenia, and Macedonia declared independence, followed by Bosnia in 1992. The remaining republics of Serbia and Montenegro declared a new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) in April 1992 and under MILOSEVIC's leadership, Serbia led various military campaigns to unite ethnic Serbs in neighboring republics into a "Greater Serbia." These actions were ultimately unsuccessful and led to the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995. MILOSEVIC retained control over Serbia and eventually became president of the FRY in 1997. In 1998, an ethnic Albanian insurgency in the formerly autonomous Serbian province of Kosovo provoked a Serbian counterinsurgency campaign that resulted in massacres and massive expulsions of ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo. The MILOSEVIC government's rejection of a proposed international settlement led to NATO's bombing of Serbia in the spring of 1999, to the withdrawal of Serbian military and police forces from Kosovo in June 1999, and to the stationing of a NATO-led force in Kosovo to provide a safe and secure environment for the region's ethnic communities. FRY elections in late 2000 led to the ouster of MILOSEVIC and the installation of democratic government. In 2003, the FRY became Serbia and Montenegro, a loose federation of the two republics. Widespread violence predominantly targeting ethnic Serbs in Kosovo in March 2004 caused the international community to open negotiations on the future status of Kosovo in January 2006. In June 2006, Montenegro seceded from the federation and declared itself an independent nation. Serbia subsequently gave notice that it was the successor state to the union of Serbia and Montenegro. In February 2008, after nearly two years of inconclusive negotiations, the UN-administered province of Kosovo declared itself independent of Serbia - an action Serbia refuses to recognize. At Serbia's request, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in October 2008 sought an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on whether Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence was in accordance with international law. In a ruling considered unfavorable to Serbia, the ICJ issued an advisory opinion in July 2010 stating that international law did not prohibit declarations of independence. In late 2010, Serbia agreed to an EU-drafted UNGA Resolution acknowledging the ICJ's decision and calling for a new round of talks between Serbia and Kosovo, this time on practical issues rather than Kosovo's status. The EU began a new round of dialogue with Belgrade and Pristina in October 2012.

EPA REMOVES PRESQUE ISLE BAY FROM GREAT LAKES "AREA OF CONCERN" LIST

Presque Isle Bay Credit:  Wikimedia Commons.
FROM: U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
Presque Isle Bay Removed from Great Lakes "Area of Concern" List; Second Area in U.S. to be Delisted


WASHINGTON (Feb. 14, 2012) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that Presque Isle Bay, on the Pennsylvania shore of Lake Erie, has been removed from the list of heavily contaminated Great Lakes sites targeted for cleanup by the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Environmental conditions in Presque Isle Bay have significantly improved due to actions taken by federal, state and local government. Studies have shown that revitalized waterways, like Presque Isle Bay, can benefit the local economy and better protect people’s health. Presque Isle Bay is now the second site in the nation to be taken off the list of Great Lakes "Areas of Concern" (AOCs).


In October 2011, the federal Great Lakes Interagency Task Force committed to accelerate cleanups of contaminated rivers and harbors to "delist" AOCs. Presque Isle Bay’s delisting reduces the number of AOCs to 29 contaminated sites wholly in the U.S. or shared with Canada.


"On my last day as EPA Administrator, I’m proud to announce that Presque Isle Bay is no longer considered an Area of Concern. We still have a great deal of work to do in the Great Lakes, but this is a positive step that will help protect people’s health and the environment in the community," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, who also serves as Chair of the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force. "President Obama has made cleaning up the Great Lakes a priority for his Administration, and delisting Presque Isle Bay is a big step toward fulfilling that commitment."


The historic discharge of industrial and domestic wastewater contaminated Presque Isle Bay with excessive nutrients, organic compounds, toxic metals and other pollutants. Improvements at Erie’s wastewater treatment plant, along with the waterfront’s conversion from heavy industrial to commercial use, reduced pollution and helped restore the bay.


Since 2010, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding has been used to accelerate the final steps needed to delist Presque Isle Bay. President Obama launched the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at the start of his first term.


"Presque Isle Bay being delisted is a testament to the many conservation, environmental and sportsman groups in Erie County who have made the health of Presque Isle Bay a community priority," said Congressman Mike Kelly. "While this is certainly an achievement, we as a community must keep Presque Isle Bay a priority to avoid any environmental challenges in the future."


Environment Canada, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and the U.S.-Canada International Joint Commission concurred with the decision to delist the Presque Isle Bay AOC.


The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will continue to monitor ecological conditions in Presque Isle Bay, with support from EPA. .

CDC: WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT HEART ATTACTS?

Photo:  Heart Half.  Credit:  CDC
FROM: CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL
What to Know About Heart Attacks?!

A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, occurs when a section of the heart muscle dies or gets damaged because of reduced blood supply. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) occurs when a substance called plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart (called coronary arteries). CAD is the main cause of heart attack. The five major symptoms of a heart attack are—
Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint.
Chest pain or discomfort.
Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder.
Shortness of breath.

If you believe you or someone are experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack it is important to to call 9-1-1 immediately. Otherwise, further damage to the heart muscle can occur and an irregular heart rhythm may develop.

Bystanders who have been trained to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or use a defibrillator may be able to help the victim until emergency medical personnel arrive. At the hospital, doctors will then perform tests to determine whether a heart attack is occurring and decide on the best treatment.

Remember, it’s important to recognize these symptoms and call for help because the chances of surviving a heart attack are greater when emergency treatment begins quickly.


STATE DEPARTMENT ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON'S REMARKS ON MALI TO CONGRESS

Map Of Mali.  From:  CIA World Factbook.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
The Crisis in Mali: U.S. Interests and the International Response
Testimony
Johnnie Carson
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
Before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (As Prepared)
Washington, DC
February 14, 2013

Thank you very much Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel, and Members of the Committee for the chance to testify before you on this important topic. The evolving crisis in Mali is one of the most difficult, complex, and urgent problems West Africa has faced in decades. Mali’s problems reflect the fragility of governance in the region, the lack of economic development – especially in northern Mali – the absence of meaningful opportunities for people to engage with their governments, and the widespread desperation that exists in an unforgiving, arid region with chronic food insecurity. The March 2012 coup and subsequent loss of northern Mali to Islamic extremists demonstrates all too clearly how quickly terrorists prey upon fragile states. Poor governance, weak democratic institutions, and a lack of development and economic opportunity create fertile ground for terrorism and instability.

As the Malian Government, regional partners, and the international community continue to respond vigorously to the ongoing crisis in Mali, we must be mindful of the four underlying challenges Mali continues to face: al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) continued presence in northern Mali, the restoration of democracy, the need to begin negotiations with northern groups that renounce terrorism and recognize the unity of the Malian state, and a significant ongoing humanitarian crisis. Failure to address these challenges – comprehensively and simultaneously – risks perpetuating the cycle of violence and insecurity that has plagued northern Mali for decades and threatened stability across the Sahel.

1. Threats from Terrorists in Mali and Beyond

The presence of extremists in northern Mali poses a threat to the entire Sahel region – and beyond. While the security situation in northern Mali has changed over the last month due to French intervention, we remain concerned about the continued presence of terrorist and extremist groups, including AQIM and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). The French are disrupting and dislodging terrorist enclaves, and liberating northern towns and populations after more than a year of terrorist occupation. Neutralizing the full scope of the terrorist threat in Mali, however, is a long-term effort.

We also must remember that terrorism is a threat that knows no boundaries. We are partnering with countries throughout the region to support their efforts to strengthen border security and their capacity to respond to threats. Our regional counterterrorism support is coordinated through the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP). The primary goal of this program is to address the threat of AQIM. As AQIM has expanded its reach through the flow of arms, supplies, and fighters from North Africa into the region, our assistance and support through the partnership continues to evolve to meet the changing threat.

We continue to work with regional and international partners to deny terrorists safe haven wherever they attempt to operate. And while a security response is critical, we must not forget the underlying causes that drive regional instability and create opportunities for violence to thrive. Terrorists and extremist groups exploited the political chaos created by the northern rebellion in Mali and the coup to expand their safe haven and impose their radical ideology on populations who have long considered such ideology abhorrent. Weak or nonexistent governance and a lack of development throughout the region make many countries vulnerable to such exploitation. We must therefore work collectively with the countries in the region to not only mount a strong and coordinated security response, but we must also reduce the underlying vulnerabilities to extremism by strengthening good governance and promoting economic development.

We commend and strongly support the ongoing French and African military operation in northern Mali. On December 20, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 2085, co-sponsored by the United States, which recognized Mali’s overlapping challenges; underscored the international community’s support for restoring peace, security, stability, and territorial integrity to Mali; and authorized the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA). On January 10, extremist groups, including AQIM and Ansar al Dine, mounted a surprise attack into government-held territory and captured the village of Konna north of Mopti in central Mali. Responding to a request by the Malian Government, France launched Operation Serval to prevent AQIM from moving further south. From the very beginning and at the request of the Malian Government, we worked closely with the French to support their efforts and those of our African partners. We continue to support their efforts by sharing information, providing airlift support for personnel and equipment, and aerial refueling. My colleague Amanda Dory will go into more detail on Department of Defense support. We continue to coordinate closely at the highest levels with the French on a wide range of military and political efforts to promote long-term stability in Mali.

Following the start of French operations on January 11, AFISMA began expediting the deployment of African troops to Bamako. Troops from Nigeria, Niger, Benin, Togo, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Chad are already in Mali. Subject to Congressional notification, the Department of State intends to provide up to $96 million during Fiscal Year 2013 to support AFISMA. As part of this assistance effort, we provided strategic airlift for the deployment of the Togolese contingent to Mali and are providing logistics support for AFISMA troops deployed in Mali. We have sent teams from our Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program to those ECOWAS states that have pledged troops to AFISMA to identify gaps in training and equipment and to accelerate training and equipping of deploying troops.

We welcome the continued progress of French and African operations in Mali. And we agree that the challenge now is to stabilize northern Mali and protect civilians and human rights while maintaining pressure on terrorist groups and advancing the political track. We believe a transition to a UN-authorized and UN-led effort – which brings to bear all the UN comparative advantages of an integrated mission – would be suitable under the right conditions to solidify French gains on the ground. Such a transition will take time, as French and AFISMA operations on the ground continue, and as the UN plans, in consultation with Malian and African partners, for an integrated UN mission in Mali. But the goals of any UN mission would include helping to stabilize those parts of Mali where the French have successfully pushed out extremist and terrorist elements, supporting the Malian political transitional government in its efforts to implement a comprehensive political roadmap and build effective governing institutions, monitoring and reporting on human rights, and supporting regional and international efforts to address the humanitarian crisis.

It is critical that the Malian Defense and Security Forces be adequately trained and equipped to effectively partner with the international force. Consistent with applicable legal restrictions, we terminated our foreign assistance programs with the Government of Mali following the March 2012 military coup, including foreign assistance activities with the Government of Mali; with a few limited exceptions in election support, humanitarian work, and life-saving health programming, our full assistance programming with the government cannot resume until a democratically elected government is in place. The European Union (EU) is leading efforts to reform and rebuild the Malian military through an EU Training Mission which has already begun deploying to Mali. Many other countries have stepped up to provide support. During a January 30 donors’ conference attended by over 90 countries and international organizations, and organized by the African Union in Addis Ababa, countries pledged over $455.5 million in support for Mali, AFISMA, and regional development.

2. Restoring Democratically Elected Government

The gains achieved by French and African forces on the battlefield in northern Mali will be short-lived if not accompanied by elections, strengthened institutions, and national reconciliation to restore Mali’s tradition of democratic governance. Democratic elections will give the Malian Government the credibility it needs to effectively partner with regional militaries, negotiate with northern populations, and reassert civilian rule. We welcomed the Malian National Assembly’s January 29 unanimous approval of a political road map to restore democracy and promote national reconciliation. We also welcome interim Malian President Dioncounda Traore’s commitment to implement this roadmap and hold presidential elections by July 31, 2013. The road map is a critical first step towards legitimate and inclusive governance; an absolute necessity for any durable solution. We urge the interim Malian Government to implement the plan seriously and expeditiously.

The road map provides a framework to quickly move the political process forward, and clearly states that members of the current transitional government are not eligible to run for office, as called for by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). While the road map reflects an important commitment by many of Mali’s political actors to hasten the return to constitutional rule, we call on the Malian authorities to provide greater detail and clarity on the sequence of steps necessary to prepare for credible, free, transparent, and inclusive elections. We also urge the Malian Government to move ahead in developing the necessary legislation called for in the road map, including amendments to the electoral law.

Elections must be conducted free from intimidation and interference by military and security forces. We continue to unequivocally state that coup leader Captain Sanogo and the rest of the military junta members must remove themselves - completely and permanently - from Malian politics. We have imposed targeted travel sanctions on 87 individuals who were involved in the coup, who supported its authors, or who continue to impede the restoration of democracy. Any continued interference in Mali’s progress towards the restoration of democracy is unacceptable and risks the imposition of further sanctions from the United States, partner counties, and international organizations.

We have strongly condemned all human rights abuses in Mali by any group and call for the perpetrators to be held accountable. We support the statements from Malian officials and civil society leaders that that there will be no impunity for human rights abuses. All actors – military, rebel, and otherwise – in Mali have an obligation to adhere to applicable international law and respect human rights. We support the African Union’s commitment to send human rights monitors to Mali and welcome the Swiss Government’s pledge of $1 million to support the team’s deployment. Ensuring the protection of its own citizens must be the foundation of any credible and legitimate government.

3. Negotiations with the North

We condemn those in northern Mali who continue to align themselves with terrorists. There can be no dialogue with those who support terrorism. We also recognize that the indigenous populations of northern Mali, who have a history of resisting foreign Islamic extremists and have welcomed the arrival of French forces, have legitimate political, social, and economic grievances. The Tuareg rebellion that started in northern Mali in January 2012 is part of a longstanding cycle of rebellion and failed attempts to address these grievances. Stopping northern Mali’s cycle of instability will require a serious and sustained effort by Malian authorities, non-extremist northern groups, regional actors, and international partners to address the legitimate political and economic grievances of non-extremist northern groups from Timbuktu to Gao to Kidal. We applaud the political roadmap’s support for long-term negotiations and its openness to dialogue with those groups that renounce armed struggle, adhere to the principles of democracy and the rule of law, and accept without condition Mali’s territorial integrity. We call on Malian authorities to follow through on this commitment to address the political and economic needs of northern populations that reject terrorism and accept Mali’s territorial integrity.

We strongly support the resumption of negotiations with all parties who have cut ties to terrorist organizations, have renounced violence, and who recognize, without conditions, the unity and territorial integrity of the Malian state. We are encouraging the Malian Government to quickly establish the Commission for Negotiations, as called for in the roadmap. We commend Burkinabe President Compaore, the ECOWAS-appointed mediator, for his leadership in the negotiation process and support his continued efforts in this regard. We are also working closely with neighboring countries and the international community to lend support to the negotiating process. Any successful process must address the short-term need to restore Mali’s territorial integrity, while at the same time laying the foundation for the long term, open dialogue needed to address legitimate grievances, and build trust between the northern populations and their government.

4. Humanitarian Crisis

Mali and the rest of the Sahel region have long suffered from chronic food insecurity. The conflict in Mali exacerbated an already difficult humanitarian situation caused by drought and poor harvests followed by flooding. Since the start of the fighting in Mali, more than 400,000 people have become refugees or internally displaced. This includes over 240,000 people displaced within Mali and nearly 170,000 refugees in Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Algeria. These numbers also include the more than 22,000 new refugees who have fled Mali and the more than 14,000 newly displaced persons within Mali since the extremist offensive and French counter operations began last month. We commend the neighboring countries that have welcomed Malian refugees despite their own food security challenges.

The United States continues to work to mitigate the effects of this humanitarian crisis. In fiscal year 2012 and to date in fiscal year 2013, the United States provided more than $120 million in humanitarian assistance to address the emergency in Mali. This is part of the more than $467 million in humanitarian assistance we have provided to the Sahel region in fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The humanitarian situation is and will likely remain very fluid, requiring strategies and programs to adapt in order to meet changing conditions on the ground.

We continue to call on the international community to support a comprehensive humanitarian response, including assistance for the displaced and conflict-affected in Mali and in the broader region. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs recently issued its 2013 consolidated appeal, seeking more than $370 million to assist 4.3 million vulnerable Malians countrywide. We are also urging the international community to respond comprehensively and adequately to the humanitarian needs across the whole Sahel region.

In closing, we must remember that any military success will be fleeting without a democratic and credible government that is responsive to the needs of all Malians. We will continue to urge the interim Malian Government to implement the political road map seriously and expeditiously. We are asking our partners to urge the same. Any military gains will be eroded if political instability and uncertainty return. The French and African intervention has created a valuable opportunity that must not be missed. We will work to ensure that military success can be translated into long-term stability by encouraging expedited elections, marginalizing the military junta, holding perpetrators accountable for human rights abuses, and supporting a national reconciliation process that addresses the longstanding and legitimate grievances of northern populations. By continuing to address Mali’s multiple challenges simultaneously and comprehensively, we aim to break the cycle of conflict in favor of a just, lasting, and prosperous peace.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hear me out

Hear me out

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing - February 14, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - February 14, 2013

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE WEEKLY CLAIMS REPORT

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE WEEKLY CLAIMS REPORT

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA


In the week ending February 9, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 341,000, a decrease of 27,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 368,000. The 4-week moving average was 352,500, an increase of 1,500 from the previous week's revised average of 351,000.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.4 percent for the week ending February 2, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending February 2 was 3,114,000, a decrease of 130,000 from the preceding week's unrevised level of 3,244,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,187,250, a decrease of 28,750 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,216,000.
UNADJUSTED DATA
The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 359,428 in the week ending February 9, a decrease of 29,014 from the previous week. There were 365,014 initial claims in the comparable week in 2012.

The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.8 percent during the week ending February 2, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 3,640,033, a decrease of 103,381 from the preceding week's revised level of 3,743,414. A year earlier, the rate was 3.1 percent and the volume was 3,984,889.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending January 26 was 5,918,156, an increase of 327,676 from the previous week. There were 7,681,411 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2012.

Extended Benefits were not available in any state during the week ending January 26.

Initial claims for UI benefits filed by former Federal civilian employees totaled 1,544 in the week ending February 2, an increase of 174 from the prior week. There were 2,695 initial claims filed by newly discharged veterans, an increase of 439 from the preceding week.

There were 23,522 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending January 26, an increase of 1,133 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 40,659, an increase of 851 from the prior week.

States reported 2,081,356 persons claiming EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits for the week ending January 26, an increase of 255,258 from the prior week. There were 3,002,475 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 26 were in Alaska (6.6), Pennsylvania (4.4), Montana (4.3), New Jersey (4.3), Puerto Rico (4.2), Wisconsin (4.2), Connecticut (4.0), Idaho (4.0), Rhode Island (4.0), Illinois (3.9), and Oregon (3.9).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending February 02 were in California (+11,784), Texas (+2,071), New York (+2,066), Florida (+2,050), and Oregon (+1,603), while the largest decreases were in North Carolina (-2,681), Tennessee (-2,003), Alabama (-1,248), Michigan (-1,011), and Connecticut (-676).

FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE CLINTON HONORED AT PENTAGON

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Panetta, Dempsey Honor Clinton for Leadership
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2013 - Each generation of Americans must earn the responsibility to lead, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the Pentagon today as Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented her with awards and thanked her for her efforts to work with the military to extend America's leadership.

The threats Americans face require military power, but they also require diplomatic efforts and economic levers, Panetta said. Working together, he added, extends American power and influence.

Clinton joked that in the past, there was no love lost between the State and Defense departments. She praised former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Navy Adm. Mike Mullen with reaching out to the diplomats in Foggy Bottom and stressing to Congress the need for fully funding the State Department.

Clinton took office in January 2009, and her time at State was tumultuous. During her term, she worked to reach out to new governments in wake of the Arab Spring. She helped to put together the coalition that toppled Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and she helped to build support for sanctions against Iran, Dempsey said.

Those in uniform very much appreciate this last, the chairman said, "so that we can avoid the use of force, although remaining ready to do so, if necessary."

The chairman said Clinton recognized the limits of military action, and that the United States needs both hard power and soft power. "You've harnessed innovative ways to accomplish engagement, including social media and global town halls, all the while remembering that it's the investment of your personal time that builds relationships," Dempsey said.

Panetta remarked that he has worked closely with Clinton for 20 years. "Because of her leadership, our nation's diplomats and our development experts are working toward a common mission with the men and women of the Department of Defense, and I'm confident that our successes will sustain the bonds that we have built between the Department of Defense and the State Department," he said.

DOD and State Department personnel serve side by side from Afghanistan to North Africa, from the Middle East to Asia Pacific, and are making "great personal sacrifices in order to prevent conflict, to advance the cause of peace and security, and to help achieve the American dream of giving our children a better life," Panetta said.

The U.S. national security apparatus must keep innovating and integrating, Clinton said. "We have to remain committed to upholding America's global leadership and our core values of freedom and opportunity," she said.

The United States is the indispensable nation, the former secretary said, and there is no real precedent in history for the role America plays or the responsibility shouldered. "But I often remind myself that our global leadership is not our birthright," she added. "It has to be earned by each successive generation, staying true to our values and living up to the best traditions of our nation. Secretaries and presidents come and go, but this responsibility remains constant. It truly must be our North Star."

Clinton told the junior officers and civilians in the audience that the country looks to them to carry the mission of American leadership forward.

"So thank you for this tremendous honor that has been bestowed on me by the chairman, and also the honor by the secretary," she said. "I thank you all for your service. ... Let's wish our country godspeed. And please extend to all with whom you serve my deepest gratitude, not as a retired public official, but as an American citizen."

U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT POSTING ON REDUCING GUN VIOLENCE

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Reducing Gun Violence and Preventing Future Tragedies
February 13th, 2013 Posted byTracy Russo

The following post appears courtesy of Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole. It was adapted from recent remarks made to the National District Attorneys Association Winter Conference.

Gun violence has touched every state, county, city and town in America. While we have seen the devastating examples of it over the years, since December’s horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut, the need to address this problem has been center stage. And we at the department — led by the Attorney General – have been working with Vice President Biden and agencies and departments across the Obama Administration to formulate concrete, common-sense recommendations for reducing gun violence and preventing future tragedies.

The Administration has proposed a range of legislative remedies – along with 23 executive actions – to address mass shootings and reduce gun violence. The Department of Justice is working to implement a number of those executive actions.

For example, we are working to strengthen the national background check system by addressing gaps in the federal and state records currently available in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Those gaps significantly hinder the ability of NICS to quickly confirm whether a prospective purchaser is prohibited from acquiring a firearm as a felon.

There are also still 12 states with fewer than 10 mental health records in the system. To help fix this problem, we are providing $25 million in grants to states to assist them in finding ways to make more records available, especially mental health records.

We are also making it possible for local law enforcement officers to run a full NICS background check before returning a firearm to someone after the criminal investigation is finished. For example, when a stolen firearm recovered by police is returned to its original owner, the police need to be sure they are not returning that weapon to a prohibited person.

In addition, the ATF will soon be publishing instructions on how to trace recovered firearms. All it takes is a computer and an internet connection. We encourage local law enforcement officers to do this every time they recover a firearm. ATF will also be publishing an annual report on nationwide lost and stolen gun data. Making this data available gives us a great opportunity for us to work together, at all levels of government to use our limited resources as effectively as possible, to make our communities safer.

We’re also taking a hard look at our federal laws and our enforcement priorities to ensure that we are doing everything possible at the federal level to keep firearms away from traffickers and others who should not have them.

And while most of our efforts will be focused on keeping guns out of the wrong hands, we also want to help those on the ground prevent and mitigate violent situations when they do occur. To this end, the FBI will be providing a new specialized training course for active shooter situations for law enforcement officers, first responders, and school officials.

We recognize that it is not just a federal problem and our law enforcement partners at the state, local and tribal levels are doing some of the hardest and most important work to keep our people safe, and our cities, neighborhoods, and schools secure.

Working together, on these and other efforts, we will help reduce gun violence and prevent future tragedies.