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Saturday, April 27, 2013

NEWLY DEPLOYED LASER WEAPONS HIGHLIGHT NEED FOR HIGH-VOLTAGE POWER GENERATION

FROM: U.S. NAVY

Lasers Bring New Urgency to Electric Power Research
Date: 4/25/2013 3:14:00 PM
By David Smalley, Office of Naval Research


ARLINGTON, Va. (NNS) -- In the wake of the recent announcement that laser weapons will be put on U.S. Navy ships, the need for reliable, high-voltage shipboard power has become a matter of national security, officials said at this week's Electric Ship Technologies Symposium outside Washington, D.C.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored event featured some of the world's top scientists and engineers in power systems, who agree that a new era in electric power is within sight.

"The work being done in this area is vital," said Dr. Thomas Killion, who heads ONR's Office of Transition. "As the upcoming deployment of a shipboard laser weapon reminds us, we need power generation and power management systems with greater-than-ever capabilities, but from devices that are smaller than ever."

Earlier this month, Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert announced that for the first time a laser weapon system (LaWS) will be placed onboard a deployed ship, USS Ponce, for testing in the Persian Gulf in 2014. The announcement underscored the need for accessible high-power electric generation, capable of meeting the substantial demands that will be needed to power laser systems and other high-power weapon systems.

As the technology advances, and faced with rising and unpredictable fossil fuel costs, the Navy's next-generation surface combatant ship will leverage electric ship technologies in its design.
While electric ships already exist, design characteristics of a combatant ship are more complex with regard to weight, speed, maneuverability-and now, directed energy weapons.

ONR-supported scientists are focused on cutting-edge technologies that include silicon carbide (SiC)-based transistors, transformers and power converters.
"SiC is important because it improves power quality and reduces size and weight of components by as much as 90 percent," said Sharon Beerman-Curtin, ONR's power and energy science and technology lead. "This is a critical technology enabler for future Navy combatant ships that require massive amounts of highly controlled electricity to power advanced sensors, propulsion and weapons such as lasers and the electromagnetic railgun."

Killion said that a lighter, smaller footprint on ships will contribute to the substantial increase in energy efficiency that is predicted from breakthroughs in electric power research.

"The enhanced capabilities and potential cost savings of increased power at reduced size cannot be overemphasized," he said. "This is the future."

Improved power systems could have enormous impact in both military and civilian sectors. Concerns by engineers over an aging power grid in the United States and elsewhere, for instance, have grown in recent years.

The Navy's power and engineering efforts that will further naval power hold similar promise for civilian benefit. ONR sponsors the Electric Ship Research and Development Consortium (ESRDC), composed of eight leading universities. The ESRDC is focused on afloat power systems, and leads efforts to address a national shortage of electric power engineers, and ensure U.S. superiority in electric systems.

Some of the critical technologies ONR is working on include power-dense electronics; new power conversion capabilities; energy storage; and sensors, weapons and protection. Killion said all of these areas deserve support because they are of naval and national importance.

"A key challenge in designing an all-electric future naval combatant ship is enabling technologies that can provide power agility with minimal energy storage needs," said Beermann-Curtin. "We are making truly noteworthy progress toward those goals."

At the symposium, Killion also announced the pending Fiscal Year 2013 Small Business Innovation Research solicitation opportunities in the power and energy area, including continued development of automated methods for design of cooling systems; alternative power supplies; ship energy use monitoring and analysis methods; compact connectors; and compact power for radio frequency sources.

SUPER HORNETS FROM THE TOPHATTERS OF STRIKE FIGHTER SQUADRON 14




FROM: U.S NAVY

An F/A-18E Super Hornet from the Tophatters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14 participates in an air power demonstration over the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group is returning from an eight-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility. U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ignacio D. Perez (Released) 130424-N-TC437-190




130424-N-TC437-692 PACIFIC OCEAN (April 24, 2013) Two F/A-18E Super Hornet from the Tophatters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14 participate in an air power demonstration over the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group is returning from an eight-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ignacio D. Perez/Released)

 

DOD SAYS IT HAS UNDERTAKEN TO SAVE $1 BILLION FROM SPACE PROGRAM

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE,
DOD Officials Detail $1 Billion in Space Program Savings

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, April 26, 2013 - Senior Defense Department officials testified yesterday before Congress highlighting the activities the department has undertaken to save an estimated $1 billion and provide a balanced national security space program.

Gil I. Klinger, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space and intelligence, and Douglas L. Loverro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, appeared before the House Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on strategic forces to review the department's fiscal year 2014 budget request for national security space activities.

Klinger said the Defense Department is introducing competition as early as possible with a more efficient contracting strategy for acquiring space launch services and associated launch capabilities, resulting in significant savings.

"These actions resulted in an estimated savings of over $1 billion in the Future Year Defense Program, below the fiscal year 2013 President's budget, without excessive and unacceptable risk," he said.

Klinger said the department continues to consider potential alternative acquisition and procurement strategies across the national security space portfolio and remains committed to a disciplined cost approach.

"The undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, and the service acquisition executives have established affordability targets for the majority of our large, critical space programs," Klinger said.

The department also is assessing how to take better advantage of commercial opportunities, he said, and will continue to pursue more production-oriented processes and quantities as part of each overall mission architecture.

Klinger noted this approach may result in greater affordability and reduced time to fielding in the future.

"Your authorization in fiscal year 2012 to incrementally fund up to six years to procure two advanced extremely high frequency satellites and your fiscal year 2013 authorization to fund two space-based infrared system satellites are reflected in the fiscal year 2014 president's budget," he said.

DOD is committed to balancing the modernization of mission capability with the associated risks, Klinger told Congress, both in acquisition and operations.

"It is paramount that we deliver the capabilities the warfighter will need in the future, given the evolving threats," he said. "The 2014 budget proposal increased investments over last year in the Space Modernization Initiative for missile warning to inform future acquisition decisions and anticipate evolving threats."

And the Defense Department is implementing various Better Buying Power initiatives, Klinger said, to make GPS more affordable and to ensure it can sustain this "critical" global utility.

"In fiscal year 2014, the department's budget proposal requests funding for an assessment to determine if we can accelerate the military GPS user equipment program," he added.

Klinger said it would fund the development of the next-generation operational control system. "Both are required to enable a new military signal to further improve our GPS anti-jamming capability," he said.

Klinger also noted he was "pleased" to report the completion of studies to help the department frame potential decision points for follow-on capabilities.

"In fiscal year 2012, we completed the architecture studies for resilient-based satellite communications, space control, and overhead persistent infrared capabilities," he said.

Loverro emphasized the "basic reality" that space defense remains vital to national security during his testimony before the HASC subcommittee.

"[This] evolving strategic environment increasingly challenges U.S. space advantages, advantages that both our warfighters and our adversaries have come to appreciate," he said. "As space becomes more congested, competitive, and contested, the department must formulate programs and policies that will secure those advantages in the years to come."

This reality, Loverro said, is juxtaposed with the fact that as a nation, the U.S. provides these capabilities in an environment that is increasingly cost-constrained. And, growing budgeting challenges coupled to increasing external threats compel the department to think and act differently, he said.

"While these two realities present a clear challenge, I do not by any means view them with a sense of 'doom and gloom,'" Loverro noted. "New entrepreneurial suppliers alongside our legacy suppliers are creating an ever-burgeoning commercial space market that can provide a significant advantage to the DOD if we formulate the policies and strategies to encourage their growth and use."

Similarly, he said, there's been growth worldwide in allied space investments in capability, which provide the Defense Department with "significant" opportunities to help build resilience into itsspace capabilities.

These policies and strategies will begin to address challenges and opportunities, but they are just the initial steps in an area that will continue to demand attention and action, Loverro said.

MASTER SGT. SAVES AIR FORCE $348,000

 
Air Force Master Sgt. Ernest Harrison, 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, poses for a photo at the U.S. Army Logistics Civil Augmentation Program port in Southwest Asia, April 16, 2013. Harrison saved the Air Force more than $348,000 when he found a misplaced U-30 aircraft tow tractor that had mistakenly dropped off the inventory list during changeover with his predecessor. Courtesy photo

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Face of Defense: Airman's Sharp Eye Saves Air Force $348K
By Air Force Senior Master Sgt. George Thompson
386th Air Expeditionary Wing

SOUTHWEST ASIA, April 22, 2013 - As Air Force officials seek to institute a culture change through the "Every Dollar Counts" campaign, one deployed airman's determination helped to save more than a third of a million dollars.

Air Force Master Sgt. Ernest Harrison, 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron transportation management office superintendent, was working his liaison officer duties at a host-nation port when something caught his eye.

"I saw this massive piece of equipment, but had no idea it was an Air Force asset," Harrison said. "My predecessor gave me a list of all the assets I needed to track, and this was not one of them."

The item in question, a 50-ton U-30 aircraft tow tractor, had somehow dropped off the inventory list during the changeover.

"Normally it's dark when I finish my work, but on this particular day, I finished early and took a couple of pictures of this thing," Harrison said. "I wrote down the weight and the tag number and sent it to the Air Forces Central guy in charge of all the vehicles in the region."

As it turns out, AFCENT was in the process of ordering a new U-30 to support the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing's C-17 operations.

"He wrote me back and said, 'Where did you find this thing?' and I said, 'It was sitting out here in the middle of a field all by itself,' and the best part was it started right up," Harrison said.

Harrison's detective work allowed AFCENT to cancel the equipment order and scratch the C-17 mission slated to transport the 100,000 pound U-30, saving the Air Force $348,571.73.

Though Harrison will not receive a monetary award, as do those who submit money-saving ideas through the Air Force's Innovative Development Through Employee Awareness Program, he's glad he was able to save his service a substantial sum.

"As you know, the budget is tight," he said, "and just knowing I saved the Air Force this money is a great feeling."

 

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S., LITHUANIA SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENT TO CURB NUCLEAR SMUGGLING

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

U.S. and Lithuania Sign Agreement for Cooperation on Countering Nuclear Smuggling

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
April 23, 2013

 

Today, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas LinkeviÄ ius strengthened their countries’ partnership to combat nuclear terrorism by signing an agreement to advance protection against nuclear and radiological smuggling.

This "Joint Action Plan between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Lithuania on Combating Illicit Trafficking of Nuclear and Radioactive Materials and Related Technology" expresses the intention of the two governments to work together to enhance Lithuania’s capabilities to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear smuggling incidents and to share experience with other countries in the region. The plan is the eleventh such agreement concluded, and Lithuania is the program’s second European Union and NATO partner. It is also one of the many steps the United States and Lithuania are taking to implement the commitments both nations made at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.

The newly signed plan includes steps to enhance Lithuania’s control of its radioactive materials, foster cooperation among its domestic agencies, expand the country’s role as a mentor to regional partners, and review and strengthen the Lithuanian Penal Code to ensure all types of nuclear smuggling cases can be prosecuted. Lithuania also has established a Nuclear Security Center of Excellence, and the United States is supporting Lithuania’s efforts to develop a counter nuclear smuggling curriculum for this center and host regional training courses.

Today’s signing reflects the common conviction of the United States and Lithuanian Governments that nuclear smuggling is a critical and ongoing global threat that requires a coordinated, global response. As a gateway to the European Union, Lithuania has an important role to play in that effort, and this agreement strengthens an already excellent partnership that will make the United States, Lithuania, and Europe more secure.

PROTOCOL FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT MEDICAL FORENSIC EXAMINATIONS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Release of the Updated National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations 2d

April 24th

Today, I was fortunate to join Attorney General Eric Holder, Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West, OVC Principal Deputy Director Joye Frost and OJP Acting Assistant Attorney General MaryLou Leary in honoring 12 extraordinary individuals at the Office for Victims of Crime’s National Crime Victims’ Service Awards Ceremony for demonstrating outstanding service in supporting crime victims and victim services. The ceremony also provided an opportunity to gather together and commemorate National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAM) and Denim Day. And we celebrated a long-awaited accomplishment – the release of the updated National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, Adult/Adolescent (SAFE Protocol, 2d.). The Attorney General’s announcement of the revised protocol is a tribute to victims of crime and to all of our partners working tirelessly on the front lines to support survivors.

In the nine years since the protocol was initially released, there have been marked improvements in the "state of the art" for forensic medical examinations. The revised edition maintains the same traditions of standardization, quality, and best practice as the first SAFE Protocol. Like the first edition, this newest version is an indispensable resource, updated with improvements to reflect current technology and practice.

"The SAFE protocol is crucial to our efforts to end sexual violence," said Attorney General Holder. "It is our responsibility to ensure that victims feel comfortable coming forward. The SAFE Protocol helps us coordinate and improve our response when these courageous individuals do seek help from first responders including nurses, doctors, advocates, law enforcement, and prosecutors."

The revised SAFE Protocol reflects the many important improvements that can help increase the quality of the services victims receive. There is information on populations with special needs, such as victims with limited English proficiency, victims with disabilities, American Indian and Alaska Native victims, victims in the Military, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims. The new version also provides more information on topics such as drug and alcohol facilitated sexual assault, pregnancy, confidentiality, and alternative reporting procedures. The revised version also increases the emphasis on victim-centered care and collaboration, including offering victims an informed choice about participating in the criminal justice system.

Advocates and practitioners who work with sexual assault survivors have a firsthand understanding of the importance of high-quality forensic evidence collection as specified in the SAFE Protocol. When these procedures are used, they make a difference. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) programs have been found to improve the quality of forensic evidence, improve law enforcement’s ability to collect information and to file charges, and increase the likelihood of successful prosecution. The updated SAFE Protocol is a tremendous victory for victims of sexual assault and the dedicated SAFEs, SANEs, advocates, law enforcement, and prosecutors that support victims and hold offenders accountable.

We know that SAFE and SANE programs positively impact the experience of victims. SAFEs and SANEs are specially trained to provide compassionate care for victims while collecting evidence that improves outcomes for victims, police, and prosecutors. One study found that sexual assault victims are more likely to engage in investigation and prosecution if they receive care at SANE programs.

GSA INITIATIVE WOULD REPLACE FEDERAL FLEET WITH HYBRID VEHICLES

 FROM: GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION

New GSA Initiative Replaces Aging Federal Fleet with Up to 10,000 Hybrid Vehicles

April 22, 2013

Washington, DC -- Ahead of Earth Day, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini announced a new GSA Fleet consolidation initiative to give federal agencies the opportunity to replace their aging fleet with hybrid vehicles. Through this initiative, GSA would expand the number of hybrid vehicles in the federal fleet by up to 10,000 vehicles, resulting in the reduction of approximately 1,000,000 gallons of fuel per year for the life of these vehicles. This is a significant opportunity to more efficiently manage fleet operations, create significant savings through fuel efficiency, and make government more sustainable.

"Providing a hybrid federal fleet is an essential part of GSA’s commitment to making government agencies as efficient and effective as possible," said GSA Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini. "At a time when government needs to make every tax dollar count, GSA is committed to creating more energy efficiency and cost-saving opportunities like the fleet consolidation program that make government smarter and reduce our environmental footprint."

Through this initiative, federal agencies can now consolidate vehicles into the GSA Fleet inventory. If agencies choose to participate in the program, GSA will fund the total incremental cost to replace eligible consolidated vehicles with new hybrid sedans.

Consolidating with GSA Fleet will also provide GSA’s federal partners with end-to-end fleet management services including vehicle acquisition and disposal, maintenance control and accident management, fuel and loss prevention services and a management system that provides detailed and accurate data to efficiently manage fleet operations -- all for a low-cost monthly rate.

ISAF NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN FOR APRIL 26, 2013

 
As seen through a night-vision device, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Alex, a military working dog, waits to load into a CH-47 Chinook helicopter and participate in a night aerial re-supply operation on Forward Operating Base Bostic, Kunar province, Afghanistan, April 18, 2013. Alex is assigned to the 101st Airborne Division's 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Vang Seng Tha

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Combined Force Arrests Taliban Facilitator
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release


KABUL, Afghanistan, April 26, 2013 - A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban facilitator and one other insurgent during an operation in the Kandahar district of Afghanistan's Kandahar province today, military officials reported.

The facilitator is believed to be a key link in weapons trafficking operations throughout Kandahar province, officials said. He has a history of acquiring and transporting rocket-propelled grenade launchers, recoilless rifles, assault rifles, ammunition and other military equipment for use in insurgent operations.

Officials said he also participated in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- A combined force arrested a number of insurgents and seized 75 pounds of narcotics during a search for a Taliban leader in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province. The sought-after insurgent is believed to have control over a group of fighters responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout the province. He also served as a tactical advisor to senior Taliban leadership in the area, and has coordinated insurgent logistics operations.

-- Afghan and coalition security forces confirmed yesterday's arrest of a Taliban leader, Naqibullah, during an operation in the Pul-e-Alam district of Logar province. Nagibullah is believed to control fighters responsible for building and emplacing improvised explosive devices targeting Afghan and coalition forces. He also facilitates the movement of supplies, to include weapons and IED-making materials, for the Taliban network in his area.

-- Combined forces confirmed the death of a Taliban leader, Sher Zaman, during an April 23 operation in the Nad 'Ali district of Helmand province. Sher Zaman was directly responsible for purchasing and distributing IED components to other Taliban members. He also participated in IED and small-arms fire attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, and provided intelligence to senior Taliban leaders.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- In the Tirin Kot district of Uruzgan province, the Afghan 1st Company, 8th Special Operations Kandak, enabled by coalition forces, captured an IED facilitator and detained one other insurgent during the unit's first cordon-and-search mission. The facilitator is believed to be a sub-commander with ties to several mid-level Taliban insurgents and is linked to attacks on Afghan government officials in the Deh Rawud district.

-- A combined force arrested a Taliban leader and one other insurgent in the Kandahar district of Kandahar province. The arrested leader is believed to manage a network of Taliban informants throughout Kandahar province. He has participated in public executions of Afghan officials, assisted in the facilitation of weapons to local fighters, and directly associated with Abdullah Wakil, the Taliban leader for the Panjwa'i district who was killed March 31 during an Afghan and coalition operation.

-- A combined force killed two insurgents during a search for a Taliban leader in the Nawa-i-Barakzai district of Helmand province. The leader is believed to be involved in IED operations and direct-fire attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He's linked in the kidnapping of an Afghan soldier, and also stands accused of training subordinate insurgent fighters and coordinating the movement of ammunition and weapons to Taliban forces.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Warding off cancer, the heart-healthy way

Warding off cancer, the heart-healthy way

INVESTOR PLEADS GUITLY FOR ROLE IN RIGGING BIDS AT MUNICIPAL TAX LIEN AUCTIONS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
NEW JERSEY INVESTOR PLEADS GUILTY FOR ROLE IN BID-RIGGING
SCHEME AT MUNICIPAL TAX LIEN AUCTIONS

Investigation Has Yielded 12 Guilty Pleas


WASHINGTON — A financial investor who purchased municipal tax liens pleaded guilty today for his role in a conspiracy to rig bids for the sale of tax liens auctioned by municipalities in New Jersey, the Department of Justice announced.

A felony charge was filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in Newark, against Norman T. Remick, of Barnegat, N.J. According to the charge, from in or about the beginning of 2007 until approximately February 2009, Remick participated in a conspiracy to rig bids at auctions for the sale of municipal tax liens in New Jersey by agreeing to allocate among certain bidders which liens each would bid on. The department said that Remick proceeded to submit bids in accordance with the agreements and purchased tax liens at collusive and non-competitive interest rates.

"The conspirators illegally met and engaged in anticompetitive discussions to allocate bids amongst themselves at tax lien auctions in New Jersey, depriving distressed homeowners of competitive interest rates at a time when they most needed them," said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division's criminal enforcement program. "Prosecuting these types of bid-rigging schemes remains a top priority for the division."

The department said that the primary purpose of the conspiracy was to suppress and restrain competition in order to obtain selected municipal tax liens offered at public auctions at non-competitive interest rates. When the owner of real property fails to pay taxes on that property, the municipality in which the property is located may attach a lien for the amount of the unpaid taxes. If the taxes remain unpaid after a waiting period, the lien may be sold at auction. State law requires that investors bid on the interest rate delinquent property owners will pay upon redemption. By law, the bid opens at 18 percent interest and, through a competitive bidding process, can be driven down to zero percent. If a lien remains unpaid after a certain period of time, the investor who purchased the lien may begin foreclosure proceedings against the property to which the lien is attached.

According to the court documents, Remick was involved in a conspiracy with others not to bid against one another at municipal tax lien auctions in New Jersey. Since the conspiracy permitted the conspirators to purchase tax liens with limited competition, each conspirator was able to obtain liens that earned a higher interest rate. Property owners were, therefore, made to pay higher interest on their tax debts than they would have paid had their liens been purchased through open and honest competition, the department said.

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. The maximum fine for a Sherman Act violation may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims if either amount is greater than the $1 million statutory maximum.

Today's plea is the 12th guilty plea resulting from an ongoing investigation into bid rigging or fraud related to municipal tax lien auctions. Eight individuals – Isadore H. May, Richard J. Pisciotta Jr., William A. Collins, Robert W. Stein, David M. Farber, Robert E. Rothman, Stephen E. Hruby and David Butler – and three companies – DSBD LLC, Crusader Servicing Corp. and Mercer S.M.E. Inc. – have previously pleaded guilty as part of this investigation.

Today's charge was brought in connection with the President's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys' offices and state and local partners, it's the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants.

U.S. Department Of State Daily Press Briefing - April 26, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - April 26, 2013

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE HAGEL MEETS WITH MEDIA IN CAIRO, EGYPT


FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Presenter: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
April 24, 2013

Media Availability with Secretary Hagel in Cairo, Egypt
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Okay, good, good. Good afternoon. How were the pyramids?

Q: Still there, huh.

Q: We wouldn't know.

SEC. HAGEL: You worked, that's right. Yeah, well, let me open up with a couple of comments, and then we'll go to whatever you want to talk about.

I wanted to stop in Egypt to, first, reaffirm American commitment to Egypt's emerging democracy, encourage the democratic and economic reforms that are underway here. Egypt's been an important partner of the U.S. over many years, and I wanted to get acquainted with the new president. I did not know him. I knew many of the military leaders.

So today was -- was a day to get acquainted, get reacquainted, and also reaffirm America's commitment to this emerging democracy. It is not easy. This is a difficult part of the world. This is a large country, an important country. They are undertaking the right course of action, human dignity and freedom and democratic norms and governance. We are committed to helping any nation that does that.

So we discussed, the president and I, many issues this afternoon, had a good meeting. I spent a lot of time with the defense minister and a number of his representatives. Some I've known over the years. So I was -- I was very, very happy that I stopped here and pleased that I spent the day to really take my own assessment of the situation here.

So that's what I was doing here. I'd be glad to respond to your questions.

Q: Question for you about Syria and chemical weapons. We haven't had a chance to ask you that since before the news of the Israeli assessment. What do you make of this new Israeli assessment, that they have used chemical weapons?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, when I was in Israel, they did not give me that assessment. I guess it wasn't complete. So I haven't seen the specifics, haven't talked to any Israeli officials, nor have I talked to any of our intelligence officials specifically about it. As I said, our intelligence agency, our agencies are assessing the information. So I really don't have anything to say beyond that.

Q: Is there -- sorry to follow up -- I'll try -- is there a danger here, a risk that U.S. credibility comes into question? Because there's been this red line declared. And yet you now have the British and the French also very strong suspicions, and now you have this very explicit confirmation from Israeli military intelligence.

SEC. HAGEL: Well, I don't think there's any danger. Suspicions are one thing. Evidence is another. I think we have to be very careful here before we make any conclusions -- draw any conclusions based on -- on real intelligence. And that's not at all questioning other nations' intelligence, but the United States relies on its own intelligence and must. So until I can see that intelligence, I really don't have anything else to say.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said that they did not give you that assessment, but you spent a lot of time with Defense Minister Ya'alon. Did -- what did he discuss with you about Syrian chemical weapons? I mean, did he give you other assessments? Did he say they were still pending? Did he give you a different story? Or did he not talk to you about it?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, you know I don't discuss my conversations with any senior officials, nor -- nor do I get into any specifics -- any of our allies' specific conversations I had. We talked about everything. We talked about Syria. We talked about chemical weapons. We talked about the region. We talked about many issues. And we did talk about this issue.

Q: Well, with all due respect, you do talk about what you discuss with senior officials all the time. I mean, did -- it's an important question.

SEC. HAGEL: I don't discuss with you what I discuss with senior officials.

Q: Well, I understand, but I still think it's a fair question. Did the minister bring this up with you or not?

SEC. HAGEL: I said he did. We talked about it. I said we talked about it.

Q: But not that assessment particularly --

SEC. HAGEL: Well --

Q: -- that the IDF came out with

SEC. HAGEL: No, because I -- I think, as I just said earlier, I don't know if that assessment had been completed when I was there. So -- go ahead.

Q: I was going to ask you, do you think that assessment reflects the Israeli government's position at this point? Do you think it was just the IDF wanting to put that out there? And when we talk about a red line, you know, looking down the road, let's say we do find that this was true, that there was chemical weapons used. How do you decide -- does it -- does setting the red line -- does it mean it has to be used to a certain degree, so many people have to be affected in order to cross that red -- how -- how do we define a red line?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, first, I can't address whose assessment you're referring to was specifically in Israel. I assume it was an Israeli assessment, but I haven't seen it. That's my point. And I can't respond to something I don't know about, nor have I seen.

I'm not sure I understand your question about assessing red lines.

Q: (off mic) what would be a trigger, you know -- I mean, if a small amount is used, that's not the same as a large amount being used --

SEC. HAGEL: No.

Q: -- and, therefore, our response would -- would depend on those kinds of factors. Is that the kind of thing that you guys are talking about, in terms of how you would respond, if you were to determine that the line was crossed?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, we're looking at all possibilities, assessing all situations, and until we have intelligence, until we have facts, until we have confidence in those facts, then I have nothing else to say about it.

Q: Has -- has the Defense Department -- has the U.S. government sought clarification on what the military intelligence officer reported in his speech? And do you know, is that -- again, is that the official Israeli assessment on what happened there at Aleppo in Damascus? Do you know that?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, first -- first, you all know more about it than I do on official assessments. I have not talked to anybody about the Israeli assessment or report. That's first. And what I rely on is specific U.S. intelligence agency assessments. And any recommendations I would make to the president would have to come from those assessments, from our intelligence agencies.

Q: Do you think there's a risk, sir, that -- do you think that we need to make -- the U.S. needs to make the determination relatively quickly, now that you have three close allies having put out these assessments? Does the U.S. need to make a determination in the next week or few weeks or months? I mean, what are we looking at in terms of a timeline here?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, I don't think -- I don't think you judge these kinds of serious matters based on you have a timeline. It's based on the facts. It's based on intelligence. It's -- it's based on what you know, what you don't know, and what you think you know.

But this is serious business. And you want to be as sure as you can be on these kind of things. And until I see our intelligence assessments and the results of those, I can't respond any further.

Q: Sir, you have an intelligence background. How long do these things take? What's the --

SEC. HAGEL: I'm not in the intelligence business. I was on the Intelligence Committee in the Congress, co-chaired the president's Intelligence Advisory Board, but to say I have an intelligence background, I think, is a stretch.

But you don't take intelligence and say, okay, here's the timeframe. We're going to have it done in 24 hours. Intelligence is a matter of many pieces coming together. You look at all those pieces and facts. Sometimes it's easy. Most times it's not easy.

So you take the facts as they are. You get those facts. You do all the things you've got to do to make an assessment based on what you know and the facts, and then you come to some conclusion and some judgment based on that -- it's like a big mosaic. And I just don't have anything more to say until I see what our intelligence agencies have.

Q: How about a different topic?

GEORGE LITTLE: Thanks. That's all right. We've got to run now.

Q: (off mic)

SEC. HAGEL: All right. We'll take one more (off mic)

Q: (off mic)

Q: I have an Egypt question for you.

SEC. HAGEL: Go ahead, Bob, and then -- okay, all right.

Q: (off mic)

Q: So, I mean, the U.S. provides $1.7 billion to Egypt by way of military assistance each year. And most of that goes towards upgrading fighter jets and military tanks. But the problem that Egypt seems to face right now is counterterrorism. Is there any thought being given to taking or diverting some of that money towards counterterrorism efforts that Egypt needs right now than upgrading fighter planes and tanks?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, as you know, that's a program that goes through the FMF program, Foreign Military Financing, and Egypt makes assessments on where they think their security needs are.

Q: One more on Egypt, if I could. The Sinai is of interest to Israel, your first stop. I'm curious whether the rise of militancy in Sinai came up today, whether the Egyptians pledged anything to sort of tamp that down, which could be a big problem with the Israelis.

SEC. HAGEL: We did talk about the Sinai. We talked about many issues today and all the big issues that affect Israel's and Egypt's security, affects the Middle East security, stability, regional stability, America's security. Yes, we talked about it all.

Q: Thanks.

MR. LITTLE: Got to wrap up (off mic)

SEC. HAGEL: Thank you.

Q: Thank you very much.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

West Wing Week: 04/26/13 or “This Stuff’s Really Cool” | The White House

West Wing Week: 04/26/13 or “This Stuff’s Really Cool” | The White House

U.S. CONGRATULATES THREE NATIONS ON THEIR NATIONAL DAYS

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
South Africa's Freedom Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 26, 2013


On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of the Republic of South Africa and offer my best wishes as you celebrate Freedom Day April 27.

The partnership between the United States and South Africa is founded on a common set of principles and ideals that include democracy, respect for human rights, religious freedom, and the rule of law.

Celebrating this Freedom Day, we commemorate the remarkable progress that South Africans have achieved since the first inclusive election 19 years ago. Your successful struggle to overcome apartheid remains a testament to the power of democracy and an inspiration to people around the world who value freedom.

I commend South Africa’s progress as a nation and its dedication to the development of the African continent. The United States looks forward to continued cooperation and shared success in the future.

I offer you my best wishes on the occasion of this important anniversary and join the country in wishing President Mandela a speedy recovery.

 
On the Occasion of the Republic of Togo's National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 26, 2013

On behalf of the American people, I extend my best wishes to the people of Togo as they celebrate their independence on April 27.

In commemorating this important event, we also celebrate our long history of friendly and productive relations.

The United States welcomes Togo’s efforts as a member of the United Nations Security Council and the Economic Community of West African States to support global and regional peace and prosperity.

We look forward to continued cooperation to promote democracy and economic growth in Togo.

 
On the Occasion of the Republic of Sierra Leone's National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 26, 2013

On behalf of all Americans, I send best wishes to the people of Sierra Leone as they celebrate 52 years of independence on April 27.

We congratulate Sierra Leone on having completed last year its third consecutive series of free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections, which marks a milestone for democracy and stability in your country. The active participation by so many Sierra Leoneans in this process serves as an example for the entire world to emulate.

Together with its recent deployment of another battalion of peacekeepers, Sierra Leone is now truly an important contributor to Africa’s collective security. This day is a well-earned opportunity for Sierra Leoneans to commemorate their commitment to freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.

The United States welcomes and encourages Sierra Leone’s ongoing efforts to promote open government, to combat corruption, and to strengthen investment in its people.

The United States looks forward to continued partnership with Sierra Leone as our countries work to achieve our common goals and help all Sierra Leoneans enjoy greater benefits of peace and prosperity in the coming year.


GENERAL DEMPSEY DISCUSSES MULTITUDE OF SUBJECTS WITH CHINESE LEADERS

 
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A Kissinger , left, and U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meet in Beijing, China, Apr 23, 2013. DOD photo by D. Myles Cullen

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
China Visit Sparks Dynamic Engagements, Dempsey Says

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

BEIJING, April 24, 2013 - With his visit to China nearly complete, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said today he has been afforded good access to senior Chinese leaders, junior leaders and future leaders.

Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a media roundtable that one thread common to the meetings he's attended here is that with power comes responsibility -- local, regional and, increasingly, global.

Dempsey said his discussions in China, which is widely considered the world's greatest rising power, have ranged from regional concerns such as territorial disputes to the potentially global issue of North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Other major topics in his talks here this week, he said, included growing risk in the cyber domain and the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.

Earlier this week, Dempsey met separately with Chinese President Xi Jinping and State Councilor Yang Jiechi. He also met individually and in some group meetings with senior Chinese army officers, including Gen. Chang Wanguan, minister of national defense; Gen. Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission; and his host for this visit, Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff.

Addressing reporters' questions on North Korea today, Dempsey said the ballistic missile and nuclear tests Pyongyang has conducted show that nation is "on a path that will certainly increase risk in the region, and ultimately could present risk globally."

The United States has responded to North Korean provocations in the past, he noted, by denouncing North Korea's path toward nuclear weapons and its failure to live up to agreements and U.N. Security Council resolutions against such development. The U.S. military posture toward a nuclear-armed North Korea is one of deterrence and preparedness, the chairman said.

"If they were to launch, we do have the capability to defend ourselves, our people, our facilities," Dempsey added.

China, North Korea's primary ally along with Russia, has been very clear that among its national interests is a non-nuclearized Korean Peninsula, Dempsey said. He added that he will leave China believing that its leaders are "as concerned as we are" about the issue.

Dempsey said his meetings here did not touch on specific measures the Chinese might take in response to further North Korean actions.

"We think there's still time for North Korea's leaders to back away from further provocations, and we certainly hope they take the opportunity to do so," he added.

To questions on cyber concerns involving China, Dempsey said he has the advantage of being able to build on decisions that already have been taken. He noted that during Secretary of State John F. Kerry's visit here earlier this month, the Chinese agreed to form a cyber working group.

"I reinforced my belief that that was timely and appropriate," the chairman said. "We had a very useful discussion about how the challenges in cyber are migrating from theft to disruption, and left unaddressed, are likely to lead to destruction."

The nations that have the strongest economies and rely most on technology are most vulnerable to cyber activity, Dempsey said. In discussions with Chinese leaders, he said, "I encouraged them to put their best and brightest minds to seek a level of collaboration and transparency with us, because it will affect both of our futures."

The chairman said he supports developing a code of conduct for cyber activity, likening the concept to Albert Einstein's assertion that "if I had 60 minutes to save the world, I should spend 55 minutes understanding the problem and only five minutes solving it."

"I think we're in that '55 minutes,'" Dempsey said. "I think we're in that period of gaining a common understanding. ... Cyber continues to evolve, whether we would like it to or not."

State, nonstate and individual actors all operate in the cyber domain, he said, and while cyber originated as an open-architecture system designed to allow information to move freely, "there has to be some code of conduct established."

The chairman also responded to reporters' questions about the territorial dispute between China and Japan over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, adjacent to possible undersea oil reserves. Japan refers to them as the Senkaku Islands, while in China they are known as the Diaoyu Islands.

Dempsey noted the United States doesn't take sides in such disputes and urges peaceful resolution to all such issues.
In discussions, both he and the Chinese were "very candid" about their respective positions on the islands, he said.

"In the case of Japan, in particular, I was careful to remind them that we do have certain treaty obligations with Japan that we would honor," the chairman said. "And therefore, it was in everyone's best interest that this be resolved peacefully and without military coercion."

The chairman said many of the senior and mid-level Chinese military leaders he spoke with here sought clarity about the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.

"I think I was successful in describing it as a long-term process," he said. "We've never suggested this would be something that would manifest itself overnight. But also, it was a strategic imperative for us to rebalance, over time, to the Pacific."

Economic, security, and demographic trends all lead to the Asia-Pacific region, he said.

"Furthermore, I tell them this wasn't about them, meaning China. Of course they're a factor, ... but this wasn't a strategy that was aimed at them in any way," Dempsey said.

The chairman added that military considerations are only part of the broader U.S. regional strategy. "I pointed out to them that among the first visitors who came here after our ... rebalancing initiative was announced was Jack Lew, the secretary of the treasury," he said.

Dempsey noted that President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have discussed forging a new relationship between the two countries. "That new relationship will, of course, be established in the context of our other and enduring relationships in the region," he said.

In every case, Dempsey said, discussion about the rebalance was dynamic.

"I like to believe that my trip here has contributed to a greater understanding of what we're doing and why," he said. "But it's something that we're going to have to continue to work over time."

Today, the chairman visited China's National Defense University, the 4th Aviation Regiment and the Army Aviation Academy.

The cadets Dempsey spoke with are training to become either maintainers or pilots of aircraft, he noted. In discussion with the Chinese cadets, Dempsey said, "they probably asked me a dozen or more questions. One of the questions was about an issue of geostrategic importance, and 11 of them were about leadership."

"It was fascinating, actually," he added. "I found them to be genuinely interested in how I described myself as a leader, what were the attributes I thought were important, ... [and] the difference between junior-level leadership and senior-level leadership."

The chairman said his answer to the cadets was fundamentally the same thing he would tell a junior military leader in the U.S. forces.

"That is, that what we expect our junior leaders to do is to become competent in their chosen fields, so if you're an aviator, you should aspire to be the best aviator that you can be," Dempsey said. "And then, spend as much time thinking about how to be a man or woman of character, because leadership is the combination of competence and character."

Small Business Majority Report - Small Businesses Support Increasing Minimum Wage

Small Business Majority Report - Small Businesses Support Increasing Minimum Wage

Watching too closely

Watching too closely

SEC CHARGES CAPITAL ONE FINANCIAL CORPORATION WITH UNDERSTATING AUTO LOAN LOSSES

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C., April 24, 2013 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Capital One Financial Corporation and two senior executives for understating millions of dollars in auto loan losses incurred during the months leading into the financial crisis.

An SEC investigation found that in financial reporting for the second and third quarters of 2007, Capital One failed to properly account for losses in its auto finance business when they became higher than originally forecasted. The profitability of its auto loan business was primarily derived from extending credit to subprime consumers. As credit markets began to deteriorate, Capital One’s internal loss forecasting tool found that the declining credit environment had a significant impact on its loan loss expense. However, Capital One failed to properly incorporate these internal assessments into its financial reporting, and thus understated its loan loss expense by approximately 18 percent in the second quarter and 9 percent in the third quarter.

Capital One agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle the SEC’s charges. The two executives – former Chief Risk Officer Peter A. Schnall and former Divisional Credit Officer David A. LaGassa – also agreed to settle the charges against them.

"Accurate financial reporting is a fundamental obligation for any public company, particularly a bank’s accounting for its provision for loan losses during a time of severe financial distress," said George Canellos, Co-Director of the Division of Enforcement. "Capital One failed in this responsibility by underreporting expenses relating to its loan losses even as its own internal forecasting tool had signaled an increase in incurred losses due to the impending financial crisis."

According to the SEC’s order instituting settled administrative proceedings, beginning in October 2006 and continuing through the third quarter of 2007, Capital One Auto Finance (COAF) experienced significantly higher charge-offs and delinquencies for its auto loans than it had originally forecasted. The elevated losses occurred within every type of loan in each of COAF’s lines of business. Its internal loss forecasting tool assessed that its escalating loss variances were attributable to an increase in a forecasting factor it called the "exogenous" – which measured the impact on credit losses from conditions external to the business such as macroeconomic conditions. A change in this exogenous factor generally had a significant impact on COAF’s loan loss expense, and it was closely monitored by the company through its loss forecasting tool. Capital One determined that incorporating the full exogenous levels into its loss forecast would have resulted in a second quarter allowance build of $72 million by year-end. Since no such expense was incorporated for the second quarter, it would have resulted in a third quarter allowance build of $85 million by year-end.

However, according to the SEC’s order, instead of incorporating the results of its loss forecasting tool, Capital One failed to include any of COAF’s exogenous-driven losses in its second quarter provision for loan losses and included only one-third of such losses in the third quarter. The exogenous losses were an integral component of Capital One’s methodology for calculating its provision for loan losses. As a result, Capital One’s second and third quarter loan loss expense for COAF did not appropriately estimate probable incurred losses in accordance with accounting requirements.

The SEC’s order also finds that Schnall and LaGassa caused Capital One’s understatements of its loan loss expense by deviating from established policies and procedures and failing to implement proper internal controls for determining its loan loss expense. Schnall, who oversaw Capital One’s credit management function, took inadequate steps to communicate COAF’s exogenous treatment to the senior management committee in charge of ensuring that the company’s allowance was compliant with accounting requirements. Despite warnings, he also failed to ensure that the exogenous treatment was properly documented. LaGassa, who managed the COAF loss forecasting process, failed to ensure that the proper exogenous levels were incorporated into the COAF loss forecast. He also failed to ensure that the exogenous treatment was documented consistent with policies and procedures.

"Financial institutions, especially those engaged in subprime lending practices, must have rigorous controls surrounding their process for estimating loan losses to prevent material misstatements of those expenses," said Gerald W. Hodgkins, Associate Director of the Division of Enforcement. "The SEC will not tolerate deficient controls surrounding an issuer’s financial reporting obligations, including quarterly reporting obligations."

Capital One’s material understatements of its loan loss expense and internal controls failures violated the reporting, books and records, and internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws, namely Sections 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A), and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 12b-20 and 13a-13. Schnall and LaGassa caused Capital One’s violations of Section 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A), and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act and Rule 13a-13 thereunder and violated Exchange Act Rule 13b2-1 by indirectly causing Capital One’s books and records violations.

Schnall agreed to pay an $85,000 penalty and LaGassa agreed to pay a $50,000 penalty to settle the SEC’s charges. Capital One and the two executives neither admitted nor denied the findings in consenting to the SEC’s order requiring them to cease and desist from committing or causing any violations of these federal securities laws.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Senior Counsel Anita Bandy and Assistant Chief Accountant Amanda deRoo and supervised by Assistant Director Conway Dodge.

U.S.-U.A.E. DEFENSE COOPERATION DISCUSSION

 

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel meets with United Arab Emirates Gen. Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, center, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the United Arab Emirates armed forces, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, foreign affairs minister, in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, April 25, 2013. Hagel met with defense leaders on his last stop of a six-day trip to the region. Photo Credit: DOD.
 
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Hagel, Crown Prince Discuss U.S.-U.A.E. Defense Cooperation

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, April 26, 2013 - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's first trip to the Middle East included a visit and official dinner with Gen. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the United Arab Emirates armed forces.

The two men met last night and reaffirmed the strong U.S. commitment to defense and security cooperation between their countries, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today in a statement.

In particular, he said, they discussed the United Arab Emirates' purchase of 25 F-16 Block 60 aircraft and the U.S. decision to release standoff weapons for sale to defend the United Arab Emirates. The smart standoff weapons can navigate to their targets and are more precise and can be fired at further distances than conventional weapons.

"The additional F-16s will increase both nations' interoperability and enhance their ability to perform joint and coalition security operations," Little added.

Hagel expressed appreciation for United Arab Emirates' contributions to NATO missions in Afghanistan and Libya.

"The secretary and the crown prince concurred on the need to build on the already robust defense ties, which include bilateral exercises and training, to expand cooperation in such areas as ballistic missile defense," Little said.

The United States and the United Arab Emirates agreed to hold regular bilateral defense consultations to further coordinate expanding military activities, the press secretary said.

They also discussed a range of regional challenges, he said, including the need for Iran to meet its international obligations with respect to its nuclear program, the ongoing conflict in Syria, and countering the threat of violent extremism.

Hagel's trip to the Middle East, which began April 20 and ends later today, also took the secretary to Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to discuss common issues and interests in the region


THE CHEMISTRY OF SUN AND SNOW IN THE ARTIC

Artic Sun.  U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service
FROM: NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Sunlit Snow Triggers Atmospheric Cleaning, Ozone Depletion in the Arctic

Finding is related to snow atop sea ice, adding a new dimension to scientific concerns about loss of Arctic ice

National Science Foundation-funded researchers at Purdue University have discovered that sunlit snow is the major source of atmospheric bromine in the Arctic, the key to unique chemical reactions that purge pollutants and destroy ozone.

The new research also indicates that the surface snowpack above Arctic sea ice plays a previously unappreciated role in the bromine cycle and that loss of sea ice, which been occurring at an increasingly rapid pace in recent years, could have extremely disruptive effects in the balance of atmospheric chemistry in high latitudes.

The team's findings suggest the rapidly changing Arctic climate--where surface temperatures are rising three times faster than the global average--could dramatically change its atmospheric chemistry, said Paul Shepson, an NSF-funded researcher who led the research team. The experiments were conducted by Kerri Pratt, a postdoctoral researcher funded by the Division of Polar Programs in NSF's Geosciences Directorate.

"We are racing to understand exactly what happens in the Arctic and how it affects the planet because it is a delicate balance when it comes to an atmosphere that is hospitable to human life," said Shepson, who also is a founding member of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. "The composition of the atmosphere determines air temperatures, weather patterns and is responsible for chemical reactions that clean the air of pollutants."

A paper detailing the results of the research, some of which was funded by NSF and some by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, was recently published online at Nature Geoscience.


Arctic Sea Ice.  Credit:  NOAA.

Ozone in the lower atmosphere behaves differently from the stratospheric ozone involved in the planet's protective ozone layer. This lower atmosphere ozone is a greenhouse gas that is toxic to humans and plants, but it also is an essential cleaning agent of the atmosphere.

Interactions between sunlight, ozone and water vapor create an "oxidizing agent" that scrubs the atmosphere of most of the pollutants human activity releases into it, Shepson said.

Temperatures at the poles are too cold for the existence of much water vapor and in the Arctic this cleaning process appears instead to rely on reactions on frozen surfaces involving molecular bromine, a halogen gas derived from sea salt.

This gaseous bromine reacts with and destroys atmospheric ozone. This aspect of the bromine chemistry works so efficiently in the Arctic that ozone is often entirely depleted from the atmosphere above sea ice in the spring, Shepson noted.

"This is just a part of atmospheric ozone chemistry that we don't understand very well, and this unique Arctic chemistry teaches us about the potential role of bromine in other parts of the planet," he said. "Bromine chemistry mediates the amount of ozone, but it is dependent on snow and sea ice, which means climate change may have important feedbacks with ozone chemistry."

While it was known that there is more atmospheric bromine in polar regions, the specific source of the natural gaseous bromine has remained in question for several decades, said Pratt, a Polar Programs-funded postdoctoral fellow and lead author of the paper.

"We thought that the fastest and best way to understand what is happening in the Arctic was to go there and do the experiments right where the chemistry is happening," Pratt said.

She and Purdue graduate student Kyle Custard performed the experiments in -45 to -34 Celsius (-50 to -30 Fahrenheit) wind chills near Barrow, Alaska. The team examined first-year sea ice, salty icicles and snow and found that the source of the bromine gas was the top surface snow above both sea ice and tundra.

"Sea ice had been thought to be the source of the gaseous bromine," she said. "We had an 'of course!' moment when we realized it was the snow on top of the sea ice. The snow is what is in direct contact with the atmosphere. Sea ice is critical to the process, though. Without it, the snow would fall into the ocean, and this chemistry wouldn't take place. This is among the reasons why the loss of sea ice in the Arctic will directly impact atmospheric chemistry."

The team also discovered that sunlight triggered the release of bromine gas from the snow and the presence of ozone increased the production of bromine gas.

"Salts from the ocean and acids from a layer of smog called Arctic haze meet on the frozen surface of the snow, and this unique chemistry occurs," Pratt said. "It is the interface of the snow and atmosphere that is the key."

A series of chemical reactions that quickly multiplies the amount of bromine gas present, called the "bromine explosion," is known to occur in the atmosphere. The team suggests this also occurs in the spaces between the snow crystals and wind then releases the bromine gas up into the air above the snow.

The team performed 10 experiments with snow and ice samples contained in a "snow chamber," a box constructed of aluminum with a special coating to prevent surface reactions and a clear acrylic top. Clean air with and without ozone was allowed to flow through the chamber and experiments were performed in darkness and in natural sunlight.

The team also measured the levels of bromine monoxide, a compound formed from the reaction of bromine atoms with ozone, through flights of the Purdue Airborne Laboratory for Atmospheric Research.

Shepson is the pilot of this specially equipped aircraft, which he and air operations technical specialist Brian Stirm flew from Indiana to Barrow for these experiments. They found the compound was most prevalent over snow-covered first-year sea ice and tundra, consistent with their snow chamber experiments.

The experiments were performed from March to April 2012 and were part of NASA's Bromine, Ozone and Mercury Experiment, or BROMEX. The goal of the study is to understand the implications of Arctic sea ice reduction on tropospheric chemistry.

Shepson's group next plans to perform laboratory studies to test the proposed reaction mechanisms and to return to Barrow to perform more snow chamber experiments.

In addition, Shepson is co-leading a team using ice-tethered buoys to measure carbon dioxide, ozone and bromine monoxide across the Arctic Ocean, and Pratt is working with scientists from the University of Washington to examine the chemistry of snow from across the Arctic Ocean.

"In the Arctic, climate change is happening at an accelerated pace," Pratt said. "A big question is what will happen to atmospheric composition in the Arctic as the temperatures rise and snow and ice decline even further?"

-NSF-

CDC WARNING REGARDING POSSIBLE WORKER HEALTH RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH NANOMATERIALS

FROM: CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL

To protect worker health NIOSH recommends new exposure levels for nanomaterials

What


New Current Intelligence Bulletin issued by CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports the results of research in which various types of carbon nanotubes/carbon nanofibers can cause pulmonary fibrosis, inflammatory effects, and granulomas in laboratory animals exposed to them by inhalation. NIOSH considers these animal study findings to be relevant to human health risk because similar lung effects have been observed in workers exposed to respirable particulates of other materials in dusty jobs.

Who
CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) today recommended that occupational exposures to carbon nanotubes and nanofibers be controlled to reduce worker’s potential risk for certain work-related lung effects. NIOSH is the first federal agency to issue recommended exposure levels for this growing industry.

Background
The number of workers that are potentially exposed to nanomaterials cannot be determined with certainty. However, the demand for nanomaterials are expected to grow over the next decade with increasing use in energy saving products, consumer goods and the structural material of medical devices. These nanomaterials are also incorporated into plastics, ceramics, paints, coatings, and electronics, among other everyday products.

Carbon nanotubes and carbon nanofibers are only two of many types of nanomaterials being incorporated into different products to increase strength, durability, versatility, heat resistance, and other useful properties. They are routinely used by workers in a variety of manufacturing industries including, automotive, aviation, construction manufacturers of structural materials, textiles, batteries, and consumer products such as sporting goods.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Department Of State Daily Press Briefing - April 25, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - April 25, 2013

Official: Action on Chem Weapons Requires Clearer Evidence

Official: Action on Chem Weapons Requires Clearer Evidence

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE HAGEL MAKES REMARKS IN SOUTHWEST ASIA

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
April 25, 2013

Remarks by Secretary Hagel at an Air Base in Southwest Asia

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the secretary of defense, the Honorable Chuck Hagel. (Applause.)

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Good morning. You guys are at ease. I remember as an old sergeant -- there you go -- I've never done that before. That's -- that's pretty good, isn't it?

Thank you for having me. Thank you for allowing me to say a few words and come out and get my picture taken with you. And thank you for what you're doing. I don't have to tell you the kind of world that we live in today, the complications and the dangers. You're a very big part of helping keep our world secure and safe, stable, not easy. But it's worth doing.

I've always admired anyone who makes the armed forces their career, if for no other reason than you've figured out in your life a purpose. And not everyone can say that. So I want you to know how much we all appreciate the work you do.

I know also it's a great sacrifice for each of you with your families, but I don't have to tell you it's worth doing and your families are proud of you. We're going to do everything we can to continue to support your mission and your efforts and everything you're doing. These are defining times in the world. These are exciting times, dangerous times, but I don't know of a time for any of us to be part of something so important than right now.

You know, each generation has an opportunity to make the world better and contribute and do things, but your generation is truly part of building a new world order. And I don't think we've seen this kind of a reality and this kind of effort being put forward, nor this kind of a complete upside-down world order since the end of World War II. And what you do here and how you're doing it and your lives and your careers are going to have a tremendous impact on how this turns out, as this new world order is built.

So thank you for doing this. Thank you for giving me the privilege of being part of your team and coming out here today. I've had an interesting five days here in the Middle East. And this is my last stop after visiting five countries. We'll go back tomorrow.

Always, it's important to come out and see firsthand and listen carefully and closely to the men and women who are doing the job out here. And I very much appreciated this time out in your area. You get a little closer to what's going on and get connected better with what you're doing and how I can help you and how everybody in our enterprise can help you do your jobs better in every way we can.

Give my thanks to your families and my best regards to your families. I know how proud they are of each of you.

Now, I'd be glad to respond to questions if you've got some advice for the secretary of defense. I'm very open to that, and I welcome that. So we've got a few minutes, I think, before we take some pictures, and I'd be glad to respond to anything I can and anything that you want to talk about. Want to also acknowledge your commanding officer and all those who have responsibility of these important units out here for their leadership and what they're continuing to do for our country and our efforts.

So, general, chief, thank you each, as well as all the leaders out here in this operation.

So who wants to -- who wants to start? Anything you want to talk about. Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you for taking my question. (Inaudible) . Recently, servicemen and women saw tuition assistance suspended and then restarted. My question is, what, if any, changes can we expect to see in fiscal year '14 to that program?

SEC. HAGEL: Tuition assistance is an important program for all the reasons you know. When I was in the Senate, I was a strong supporter -- I think all of Congress is. All of America understands the importance of it. We have reinstituted it, as you have noted, sergeant. We'll continue to make it a priority.

But in the scope of the budget realities that you all are familiar with, we are having to make some tough choices to comply with budget cuts that are significant. I wish we didn't have to do that, but we do.

So what I have to focus on, as all of our leaders, first, the readiness of the men and women who are out on the front lines and support you and your mission and what you're doing. That's number one, is to support you in your mission in every way we can. We won't cut that.

Then we've got to go from there. How then do we fairly distribute these cuts without cutting into our operations, without cutting into our maintenance? And we're balancing that now. Not easy. We'll get through it. But these are difficult -- difficult issues.

So tuition assistance, it's important. It's a priority. You all understand it. We do. But in the first scope of this, sergeant, when we made that initial decision based on those initial numbers, we had to assess what was highest priority. And I just gave you what the highest priority was. As important as tuition assistance is, will continue to be -- it was not at the same level of supporting our readiness of you all.

But, again, I say, not to minimize the importance of that program -- it is important, we will fund it, and we'll continue to fund it. Thank you.

Where are you from, sergeant?

Q: (Inaudible), sir.

SEC. HAGEL: Thank you.

Who else has a -- a question? Yes.

Q: (off mic)

SEC. HAGEL: How do I see the shift, did you say? I'm sorry. I didn't get the last part.

Q: Yes, sir. What do you see the Air Force doing -- particularly the Air Force, but the military as a whole -- to make that transition from this AOR to the Pacific?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, the larger context of your question was regarding our rebalancing of our focus with our assets around the world. As you noticed and noted in your comments, we are unwinding our -- our major combat presence in Afghanistan and we have unwound our presence in Iraq. And we have made the assessment -- and I think correctly -- that -- and, by the way, these assessments are constantly changing based on the world, based on dangers, based on assets, based on interest, based on allies. And so the world is not static; I don't have to remind any of you. It changes hour to hour, minute to minute.

So our job in the Department of Defense, a leader's job, President Obama's job, all of your jobs, is to protect our country and to assure our interest in the world, and security is the anchor to that. So that policy, as we rebalance our focus, has rebalanced more assets to the Asia Pacific, which I think is exactly right.

All our services, including the Air Force, will continue to have a very, very, very significant role in that. How can it be otherwise? We will -- we will shift in varying ways presence in operations, depending on what the threat is, depending on how we want to project power, and that is all part of a continual assessment.

So the Air Force in particular, the question you asked about, will continue to play an important role, if for no other reason than projection of power. And I think where we want to continue to go -- Secretary Gates talked about this, Secretary Panetta talked about it -- is a flexible, agile military.

The threats are shifted. Ten years ago, I don't think very many people in this room would have talked much about cyber warfare or -- or the cyber threat. Even five years ago, it was a different world. Obviously, non-state actors, Islamic fundamentalism, terrorists, the coordination of those terrorists, interests that go below the surface, these are not coming all or mainly from state threats, from nation-state threats. Most of these threats are coming from non-state actors.

And so that is shifting not only our balance of assets, but our -- our strategic interests and the strategies that protect those strategic interests and the tactics then that employ those -- those strategies. So our Air Force, our Navy, our Marines, our Army, Coast Guard, all remain -- will continue to remain vital parts of our security interests.

You may be spending more time in the Pacific. Not a bad assignment.

Did somebody else have one? Yes.

Q: Sir, thank you. (Inaudible). Quick question on the note of sequestration, with the 17 squadrons that are being temporarily stood down until the end of the fiscal year. What is your prediction on the possibility of an agreement being made prior to the end of the year to keep the squadrons flying? And if not, how do you view our CMR status up to the end of the fiscal year?

SEC. HAGEL: An agreement on what?

Q: The flying hour program to keep the squadrons flying, get them flying again, get the 17 units that were stood down.

SEC. HAGEL: Well, as I said, these strategies and our programs and our policies and where we think our needs are, and then the operations to fulfill those requirements, are in constant review. I opened up our Q&A here this morning and answered a question about tuition assistance by referencing the budget limitations.

Now, budget should never, ever hold hostage a nation's interests -- should never hold hostage a nation's security. But budgets are all part of what we live with, and so we have got to adjust and adapt to the reality of those budgets. And, yes, it will affect some of our missions. Yes, it will affect some of our strategies and how, in fact, we protect our interests and our strategic interest, in particular, and then how we adapt with our tactical operations.

So we'll continue to review and shift, but, again, I say, this is all anchored by the absolute requirement of having a ready force, an adaptable force, a flexible, agile force, and a committed force. And I said when I became secretary of defense -- I think every secretary of defense has said this, is committed to this, as all your leaders -- the one asset an institution has that's more valuable than anything else, its people. And you take care of your people. You have to take care of your people.

And we're committed to do that first, because it won't matter how many planes you have or ships you have and how sophisticated the equipment if the people aren't right, if the people are not committed, if they're not of quality. And our force is our highest priority.

Another question? Yes.

Q: Sir, (inaudible) deployed out of (inaudible), California. Speaking about strategic interests, sir, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the economic sanctions against Iran and what your assessment of their effectiveness is.

SEC. HAGEL: Well, I believe that our policy regarding Iran is the correct policy. We are employing all the tools that wise, great powers employ when dealing with issues and challenges and dangers. And so we are working the diplomatic track. As you noted, we're working the international sanctions -- economic sanctions track. On Iran in particular, those economic sanctions against Iran are the most effective, most international, most penetrating economic sanctions that I think have ever been employed against a country.

And we do know, by every measurement, every metric applied, that it is doing significant damage to Iran's economy. It is having an effect inside Iran. You use all the other dimensions, the threat, always, of the military option. You build an international consensus, which we have done, using the international economic sanctions. You build especially a consensus with your regional partners, which you're doing out here. And you take the entire universe of these capabilities and assets and you focus them.

The military option in these situations is always an option, but I believe -- I think the president -- I know the president believes this -- that should be the last option. And I don't know if all of these efforts that we're applying in dealing with Iran, one being international economic sanctions, will, in fact, change their attitude about what we think is their objective moving toward a nuclear weapon, possibility of delivering that weapon. I don't know if what we're doing will shift their thoughts or their approach.

But we have the time. We have the assets. We have the international community. We are working toward that end. So I think those sanctions have been effective. I think they'll continue to be effective. We can continue to do more, but it's important to remember, as I said, the international consensus in these kinds of dangerous efforts is very, very important. And we continue to build that international consensus.

GEORGE LITTLE: (off mic)

SEC. HAGEL: Okay, George. George Little, very famous man over here. You've all seen -- he's our assistant secretary for public affairs. He's the spokesman. He has everything just right all the time. And he's willing to stay for four or five hours and answer questions. Isn't that right, George? If you --

MR. LITTLE: (off mic)

SEC. HAGEL: Yeah. Guys, I am grateful personally as an American citizen for what you're doing. I'm proud as secretary of defense to be your leader. And I thank you and your families, especially, for the sacrifices you're making for our country and the efforts that we're all making to make a better world.

Now, if you all want to do some photos, I'd be very pleased if we wanted to get a picture. Thank you.

LETTER TO CONGRESS WARNS OF POSSIBLE SYRIAN REGIME USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

This morning, the White House delivered a letter to several members of Congress on the topic of chemical weapons use in Syria. The letter, which will be made available to you here shortly, states that the U.S. intelligence community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin.

As I have said, the intelligence community has been assessing information for some time on this issue, and the decision to reach this conclusion was made in the past 24 hours, and I have been in contact with senior officials in Washington today and most recently the last couple of hours on this issue.

We cannot confirm the origin of these weapons, but we do believe that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime. As the letter states, the President has made it clear that the use of chemical weapons or the transfer of such weapons to terrorist groups would be unacceptable.

The United States has an obligation to fully investigate – including with all key partners and allies, and through the United Nations – evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria.

Over the past week, I have traveled as you all know to five countries in the Middle East – all of whom have expressed concerns about the deteriorating situation in Syria. And you have asked me on several occasions about chemical weapons use.

As I've said, this is serious business – we need all the facts.

THE PITCHER PLANT ECOSYSTEM

 
Pitcher Plant. Dept of the Interior, National Park Service
FROM: NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Earth Day: Big Ecosystem Changes Viewed Through the Lens of Tiny Carnivorous Plants

April 22, 2013

In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans.

---Kahlil Gibran

What do a pond or a lake and a carnivorous pitcher plant have in common?

The water-filled pool within a pitcher plant, it turns out, is a tiny ecosystem whose inner workings are similar to those of a full-scale water body.

Whether small carnivorous plant or huge lake, both are subject to the same ecological "tipping points," of concern on Earth Day--and every day, say scientists.

The findings are published in this week's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In the paper, ecologists affiliated with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research site in Massachusetts offer new insights about how such tipping points happen.

"Human societies, financial markets and ecosystems all may shift abruptly and unpredictably from one, often favored, state to another less desirable one," says Saran Twombly, program director in NSF's Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.

"These researchers have looked at the minute ecosystems that thrive in pitcher plant leaves to determine early warning signals and to find ways of predicting and possibly forestalling such 'tipping points.'"

Life in lakes and ponds of all sizes can be disrupted when too many nutrients--such as in fertilizers and pollution--overload the system.

When that happens, these aquatic ecosystems can cross "tipping points" and change drastically. Excess nutrients cause algae to bloom. Bacteria eating the algae use up oxygen in the water. The result is a murky green lake.

"The first step to preventing tipping points is understanding what causes them," says Aaron Ellison, an ecologist at Harvard Forest and co-author of the paper. "For that, you need an experiment where you can demonstrate cause-and-effect."

Ellison and other scientists demonstrated how to reliably trigger a tipping point.

They continually added a set amount of organic matter--comparable to decomposing algae in a lake--to a small aquatic ecosystem: the tiny confines of a pitcher plant, a carnivorous plant native to eastern North America.

Each pitcher-shaped leaf holds about a quarter of an ounce of rainwater. Inside is a complex, multi-level food web of fly larvae and bacteria.

"The pitcher plant is its own little ecosystem," says Jennie Sirota, a researcher at North Dakota State University and lead author of the paper.

Similar to lake ecosystems, oxygen levels inside the water of a pitcher plant are controlled by photosynthesis and the behavior of resident organisms--in this case, mostly bacteria.

Ellison says that conducting an experiment with bacteria is like fast-forwarding through a video.

"A bacterial generation is 20 minutes, maybe an hour," he says. "In contrast, fish in a lake have generation times of a year or more.

"We would need to study a lake for 100 years to get the same information we can get from a pitcher plant in less than a week."

The same mathematical models, Ellison and colleagues discovered, can be used to describe a pitcher plant or a lake ecosystem.

To approximate an overload of nutrients in pitcher-plant water, the team fed set amounts of ground-up wasps to the plants.

"That's equivalent to a 200-pound person eating one or two McDonald's quarter-pounders every day for four days," says Ellison.

In pitcher plants with enough added wasps, an ecosystem tipping point reliably occurred about 45 hours after the start of feeding.

The scientists now have a way of creating tipping points. Their next step will be to identify the early warning signs.

"Tipping points may be easy to prevent," says Ellison, "if we know what to look for."

Other authors of the paper are Benjamin Baiser of Harvard Forest and Nicholas Gotelli of the University of Vermont.

-NSF-