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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Greenland’s Summer Melt Underway

Greenland’s Summer Melt Underway

Weekly Address: Strengthening our Economy by Passing Bipartisan Immigration Reform | The White House

Weekly Address: Strengthening our Economy by Passing Bipartisan Immigration Reform | The White House

EBRD helps Kurgan-Tyube in Tajikistan to become a cleaner city [EBRD - News and events]

EBRD helps Kurgan-Tyube in Tajikistan to become a cleaner city [EBRD - News and events]

SUPERVISOR SENTNECED IN $63 MILLION HEALTH CARE FRAUD SCHEME

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Monday, July 8, 2013

Supervisor of $63 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme Sentenced in Florida to 10 Years in Prison

A former supervisor at defunct health provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN) was sentenced today in Miami to serve 10 years in prison for her central role in a fraud scheme that resulted in more than $63 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare and Florida Medicaid.


The sentence was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department's Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami office.

Wondera Eason, 51, of Miami, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida. In addition to her prison term, Eason was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $14,985,876 in restitution.

On April 25, 2013, a federal jury found Eason guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Eason was employed as the director of medical records at HCSN’s partial hospitalization program (PHP). A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness. In Florida, HCSN operated community mental health centers at two locations. After stealing millions from Medicare and Medicaid in Florida, HCSN’s owner, Armando Gonzalez, expanded the scheme to North Carolina, opening a third HCSN location in Hendersonville, N.C.

Evidence at trial showed that at all three locations, Eason, a certified medical records technician, oversaw the alteration, fabrication and forgery of thousands of documents that purported to support the fraudulent claims HCSN submitted to Medicare and Medicaid. Many of these medical records were created weeks or months after the patients were admitted to HCSN facilities in Florida for purported PHP treatment and were utilized to support false and fraudulent billing to government-sponsored health care benefit programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. Eason directed therapists to fabricate documents, and she also forged the signatures of therapists and others on documents that she was in charge of maintaining. Eason interacted with Medicare and Medicaid auditors, providing them with false and fraudulent documents, while certifying the documents were accurate.

The "therapy" at HCSN oftentimes consisted of nothing more than patients watching Disney movies, playing bingo and having barbeques. Eason directed therapists to remove any references to these recreational activities in the medical records.

According to evidence at trial, Eason was aware that HCSN in Florida paid illegal kickbacks to owners and operators of Miami-Dade County assisted living facilities (ALF) in exchange for patient referral information to be used to submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid. Eason also knew that many of the ALF referral patients were ineligible for PHP services because many patients suffered from mental retardation, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

From 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Medicaid program more than $63 million for purported mental health services.

Fifteen defendants have been charged and have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury for their roles in the HCSN health care fraud scheme.

This case is being investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Allan J. Medina, former Special Trial Attorney William Parente and Deputy Chief Benjamin D. Singer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,500 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

DOD SAYS FURLOUGHS AFFECTING BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE

FROM:  U.S. AIR FORCE 
Furloughs affect Buckley; changes hit home
by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau
460th Space Wing Public Affairs

7/8/2013 - BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The day many civilians and military partners have anticipated is here as furloughs kick off at Buckley and around the Air Force July 8.

Furloughs place an employee in a temporary non-duty, non-pay status because of lack of work, reduction or lack of funds, or other non-disciplinary reason. The furlough will affect approximately 800,000 Department of Defense employees and save about $1.8 billion across the DOD. This decision was enacted to address the $37 billion sequestration cuts.

"After extensive review of all options with the DOD's senior military and civilian leadership on how we address this budget crisis ... I have decided to direct furloughs of up to 11 days for most of the department's civilian personnel," stated Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. "I have made this decision very reluctantly, because I know that the furloughs will disrupt lives and impact DOD operations. I recognize the significant hardship this places on you and your families."

Until the end of the fiscal year, most civilian employees will lose 20 percent of their pay due to the furlough. This amount could range anywhere from a monthly grocery bill to a mortgage payment.

"My suggestion to anyone feeling the budgetary constraints is to go see our professionals in the airman and family readiness center and our civilian personnel office for help," said Thomas Hoag, 460th Operations Group unit deployment manager. "There are many avenues out there to help someone get through these turbulent times."

Though fiscal concerns are crucial, attitude and morale are equally important in accomplishing the mission.

"My opinion of the furlough is one of acceptance; it is out of my control," Hoag said. "Hopefully the powers in charge of our budget fix some issues. I hope that this furlough actually contributes to fixing our fiscal deficiencies in our government. I would hate to think that this fiscal hardship is all for naught."

With 90 percent of civilian Airman working in the field alongside their military counterparts to accomplish the mission, a significant increase in workload can be expected for uniformed members.

"I think that the furlough is going to have an impact on my military co-worker," the deployment manager stated. "We only have a two-person shop. Sometimes we have very busy days, so he'll be hustling on those days that I'm not there.

"One way or another, the mission is going to be accomplished, because that is what we do as professionals," he said. "Although it will come at a cost."

U.S. MARINES AND GEORGIAN SOLDIERS CONDUCT OPERATION NORTHERN LION II IN AFGHANISTAN




FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 

Georgian soldiers provide security during operation Northern Lion II in Afghanistan's Helmand province, July 3, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena




A Georgian soldier provides security during operation Northern Lion II in Afghanistan's Helmand province, July 3, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena.

Friday, July 12, 2013

'PACOM COMMANDER SUPPORTS REVIEW OF JPAC'

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 
Pacom Commander Supports Review of JPAC
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2013 - The Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command has an important and unique global mission and a sacred duty, so defense leaders must ensure the unit has the organizational construct, the right oversight and the right direction, the commander of JPAC's higher headquarters said today.

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, responded to Pentagon reporters' questions about JPAC during a news conference here. JPAC conducts global search, recovery, and laboratory operations to identify the remains of unaccounted-for Americans from past conflicts. The Hawaii-based unit reports to Pacom.

Media outlets reported earlier this week that an internal review performed at JPAC had indicated organizational issues. Locklear pointed out the unit has a limited, set number of experts to perform its unique mission.

"I do think that there are areas where we need to take harder looks at how it is organized and how the mission steps are prioritized," the admiral said. He added he's very supportive of the announcement by James N. Miller, undersecretary of defense for policy, that the department will perform a deeper review of JPAC operations.

"The people in that organization are good people," Locklear said. "And they've done a lot of good work. And they continue to work in some very difficult conditions and difficult places under different political situations."

Locklear said the real issue, for him, is ensuring JPAC has prioritized where and how they pursue their mission, "so that we can get them on an up-ramp as far as number of remains that get recovered."

He noted the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 set a goal of 200 recoveries a year by 2015. "And we're not approaching that," he said. Locklear said the political will of the nations JPAC operates in, along with support and access issues, often influence mission accomplishment.

"It's a very complex issue, globally, to try to get at," he said. " ... I just think that we need to work harder to make sure that the goal that they've been given, that they can achieve it."

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters during a July 9 news conference that reviewing JPAC operations is the prudent thing to do.

"We're going to review the concerns raised in the report to see how JPAC is or isn't functioning well," Little said. "And if steps need to be taken to remedy what's happening inside JPAC, then we'll take action."

Train Derailment and Fire, Lac Mégantic, Quebec

Train Derailment and Fire, Lac Mégantic, Quebec

DVIDS - Video - CSIS Military Strategy Forum

DVIDS - Video - CSIS Military Strategy Forum

West Wing Week: 07/12/13 or “Bring it On Brussels Sprout Wrap!” | The White House

West Wing Week: 07/12/13 or “Bring it On Brussels Sprout Wrap!” | The White House

MORTGAGE AGENT CONVICTED IN MORTGAGE FRAUD SCHEME THAT NETTED $1.43 MILLION

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE 
Las Vegas Agent Convicted in Mortgage Fraud Scheme

A Las Vegas mortgage agent has been convicted for his role in a “cash back at closing” mortgage fraud scheme that netted $1.43 million in fraudulent mortgage loans, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden of the District of Nevada, and Acting Special Agent in Charge William C. Woerner of the FBI’s Las Vegas Field Office.

After a three-day trial before U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks in the District of Nevada, a federal jury convicted Jawad “Joe” Quassani, 42, on July 10, 2013, of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, and two counts of mail fraud.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Quassani participated in a scheme in which the prices of two homes were falsely inflated, mortgage loans were obtained through the submission of loan applications containing false and fraudulent information about the buyer’s income and intent to occupy the homes as primary residences, a portion of the loan proceeds was diverted at the close of escrow to the defendant’s co-conspirators, and commissions on the fraudulent loans were paid to Quassani and his co-conspirator.  Evidence at trial established that Quassani, a licensed mortgage agent at Rapid Funding Group, conceived the scheme together with two of his co-conspirators, prepared one of the loan applications and arranged for the preparation of the other, and shared in the commissions generated by transactions that had no purpose other than to generate profits for the co-conspirators.

Co-conspirators Anita Mathur and Shirjil “Sean” Qureshi previously pleaded guilty in related cases in Las Vegas to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud and mail fraud.  Both are awaiting sentencing.

This case was investigated by the FBI.  Trial Attorneys Stephen J. Spiegelhalter and Gary A. Winters of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.

Today’s conviction is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF), which was created in November 2009 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 more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants, including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants.

DOJ ISSUES STATEMENT ON MEETING WITH EU

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE 
Monday, July 8, 2013
Justice Department Statement on Meeting with European Union

"This morning the Department of Justice hosted the initial meeting in the U.S.-E.U./E.U. Member State dialogue on intelligence practices, as first suggested by Attorney General Holder during a ministerial gathering with E.U. officials in Dublin last month.

 “Officials from the Justice Department, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the State Department represented the United States government.  Officials from the E.U. included representatives of the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU, the European Council, the European Commission, the External Action Service of the EU, and EU Member States.

 “This meeting focused on next steps for discussion of these issues, including the possibility of a follow-on meeting in the coming weeks.  This open and constructive dialogue illustrates the extent and depth of the relationship between the U.S. and our European partners as we strive to protect both the safety and individual liberties of citizens on both sides of the Atlantic.

 “We look forward to this continued dialogue and cooperation with the EU and EU Member States.”

DEPLOYMENT WITH A MILITARY WORKING DOG

Senior Airman Andrew Hanus and Beni look underneath the bumper of a car during a vehicle check at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia, July 2, 2013. The 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron military working dog section performs vehicle inspections on every car entering the base. Hanus is a 379th ESFS MWD handler and Beni is a 379th ESFS MWD both deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Bahja J. Jones)
FROM:  U.S. AIR FORCE
K-9 Airmen deploy with 'best friend'
by Senior Airman Bahja J. Jones
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

7/8/2013 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- One of the most difficult parts of a deployment for service members is leaving behind friends and family. Security forces Airmen in the Military Working Dog section, however, have a unique opportunity when they deploy.

"We get to deploy with our best friend," said Senior Airman Andrew Hanus, a 379th Expeditionary Security Forces MWD handler, deployed with his K-9 companion, Beni, from Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

They are one of 13 MWD teams here who support the 379th ESFS mission to maintain security and vigilance throughout the wing and ensure no threats enter the base by searching each vehicle prior to entry. The MWDs also serve as a psychological deterrent and are trained to attack perpetrators on command.

"The job we do is instrumental in keeping the base secure," Hanus said. "A good relationship between a military dog and handler is critical to executing the mission."

Before a deployment, MWD teams are certified and validated by the mission support group commander at their respective home stations.

"We demonstrate our abilities to work together," he said. "Beni showed proficiency in searching for explosive odors, and I showed competency in recognizing his change of behavior and making the final call if he is giving a positive response."

The certification is conducted by the kennel master and the team must demonstrate the canine is obedient and listens to critical commands given by the handler. If those tasks are not demonstrated, they do not certify and training continues.

The MWD teams must also have mutual trust for one another, Hanus said.

"We work our dogs on a 6- to 15-foot leash," he said. "If Beni detects a threat, we could potentially be within feet of an explosive device, right on top of it. I have to be able to trust him to provide an accurate response and that has a lot to do with our relationship."

In addition to the patrol and search responsibilities, the duo trains every day to ensure Beni remains proficient in his duties, which is particularly import because he is new to the Air Force.

"This is not only Beni's first deployment, but I am also his first handler," Hanus said. "I have a very cool opportunity to help him learn and develop his skills as a 'green' dog."

That in itself makes their relationship much stronger, Hanus said.

"Everything I teach him now should stick with him for the rest of his career," he said. "I feel like I am setting him up for success."

The bond and mutual trust between Hanus, Beni and other K-9 teams here is what keeps the base secure, Hanus said.

"Every morning I wake up and know I am going to be working with my closest friend out here," Hanus said. "There is this awesome feeling of accomplishment you get working with a dog. These dogs are smart and the more time you spend with them, the more you begin to realize this. The appreciation we are given out here is tremendous, but the dogs are the ones putting in the real work."

This sentiment of a strong companionship is shared across the K-9 entire community.

"There is a saying in the K-9 world: feelings and emotions run down leash," said Tech. Sgt. Kent Bass, the 379th ESFS kennel master. "If you have a good bond with your MWD they will be happy to work and be loyal to you."



Thursday, July 11, 2013

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House

DOJ MAKES VIDEO ABOUT EMPLOYMENT ELIGIBILITY VERIFICATION AND DISCRIMINATION

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE 
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Justice Department Releases Educational Video About Discrimination in Employment Eligibility Verification

The Justice Department announced today the launch of a new educational video to assist employers in avoiding charges of discrimination in the employment eligibility verification form I-9 process and in the use of E-Verify. The video also helps educate employees about their legal rights.  The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) within the department’s Civil Rights Division enforces the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against work-authorized individuals in hiring, firing, recruitment or referral for a fee, regardless of their citizenship status or national origin.  The law also prohibits discrimination during the form I-9 and E-Verify processes.

OSC developed its latest video to address issues that frequently arise from calls to its hotline and charges filed. Employers sometimes incorrectly believe that they need to request more documents than are necessary for the employment eligibility verification form I-9.  Additionally, employers using E-Verify may improperly request specific documents due to misunderstanding of E-Verify requirements.  OSC’s new video highlights some practices that are not permissible and may lead to claims under the anti-discrimination provision.

“We believe this video will help both employers and employees across the country understand employment eligibility verification rules,” said Gregory Friel, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “Federal law prohibits discrimination in the employment eligibility verification process, and the Justice Department is committed to enforcing the law.”

Blauer Exoplanet

Blauer Exoplanet

2012 MINING DEATH AND INJURY RATES LOWEST SINCE MSHA BEGAN IN 1983


FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

MSHA releases final data for 2012
Numbers indicate lowest mining death and injury rates

ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration today announced the release of final data for 2012 that indicate the lowest fatality and injury rates in the history of U.S. mining, along with the lowest rate of contractor fatalities since the agency began calculating those rates in 1983.
Thirty-six miners died on the job in 2012. The 2012 total includes the Dec. 28 death of a coal miner at Choctaw Mine in Walker County, Ala., that was recently deemed chargeable to the mining industry. Five contractors died in mining accidents in 2012, compared to 11 in 2011, nearly half the lowest number ever recorded.
"While more needs to be done to protect the nation's miners, we are moving mine safety in the right direction. The actions undertaken by MSHA and the mining community were the key to the continuing improvements we saw in 2012," said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "All miners deserve the safest possible working conditions."

Compliance with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 also continued to improve in 2012, with an 18 percent reduction in violations cited by MSHA since 2010. As a result, penalties for violations dropped. Although the number of mines in the United States decreased slightly (from 14,176 in 2011 to 14,093 in 2012), the number of miners increased from 381,209 to 387,878.

In 2012, the fatality rate was .0110 deaths per 200,000 hours worked. The rate of reported injuries was 2.56 per 200,000 hour worked. These reductions replace the prior year's record historical low rates.

The number of citations and orders MSHA issued fell from 156,802 in 2011 to 139,770 in 2012, an 11 percent decrease. Penalty assessments dropped from $160.8 million in 2011 to $120.5 million in 2012.

In coal mining, 20 miners died in on-the-job accidents in 2012, the second lowest number ever. The fatality rate was .0159 deaths per 200,000 hours worked, also the second lowest ever recorded. The rate of reported injuries was 3.16 per 200,000 hours worked, the lowest ever recorded. The number of citations and orders issued declined, from 93,330 in 2011 to 79,250 in 2012, a 15 percent reduction.

The coal industry saw decreases in the number of mines (from 1,973 to 1,871) and in production (from 1,095 to 1,018 million tons) between 2011 and 2012. While the number of coal miners also decreased from a decades-long high of 143,437 in 2011 to 137,650 in 2012, it was the second highest for any year since 1994.
In metal and nonmetal mining, the record-low fatality rate was .0079 deaths per 200,000 hours worked. Sixteen miners died in on-the-job accidents, equaling the record low set in 2011. The reported injury rate of 2.19 per 200,000 hours worked also was a record low. Citations and orders issued dropped from 63,472 in 2011 to 60,520 in 2012, a 5 percent reduction. While the number of metal and nonmetal mines remained steady in 2012, at 12,193, the number of miners increased from 237,772 in 2011 to 250,228 in 2012..

Passionné(e) par l’espace ? Le Belgian National Trainee Programme est peut-être pour vous !

Passionné(e) par l’espace ? Le Belgian National Trainee Programme est peut-être pour vous !

SHELL OIL TO SPEND OVER $115 MILLION TO REDUCE AIR POLLUTION AT HOUSTON REFINERY, CHEMICAL PLANT

FROM:  U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 
Shell Oil To Spend Over $115 Million to Reduce Harmful Air Pollution at Houston Area Refinery And Chemical Plant

WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that Shell Oil and affiliated partnerships (Shell) have agreed to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at a large refinery and chemical plant in Deer Park, Texas by spending at least $115 million to control harmful air pollution from industrial flares and other processes, and by paying a $2.6 million civil penalty. Shell has agreed to spend $1 million on a state-of-the-art system to monitor benzene levels at the fenceline of the refinery and chemical plant near a residential neighborhood and school and to make the data available to the public through a website.

Shell will spend $100 million on innovative technology to reduce harmful air pollution from industrial flares, which are devices used to burn waste gases. Shell is required to take the following actions to improve flaring operations: minimize flaring by recovering and recycling waste gases (which may then be reused by Shell as a fuel or product); comply with limitations on how much waste gas can be burned in a flare (flare caps); and install and operate instruments and monitoring systems to ensure that gases that are sent to flares are burned with 98% efficiency. Shell’s agreement to recover and recycle waste gases (flare gas recovery) at its chemical plant is a first of its kind.

Once fully implemented, the pollution controls required by the settlement will reduce harmful air emissions of sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including benzene, and other hazardous air pollutants by an estimated 4,550 tons or more per year. These controls will also reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by approximately 260,000 tons per year.

“The innovative emission controls required by today’s settlement will cut harmful air pollution in communities near Houston,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This case is part of EPA’s nationwide enforcement effort to protect fenceline neighborhoods by significantly reducing toxic pollution from flares and making information about pollution quickly available to affected communities.”

“This settlement will result in substantial reductions in toxic air pollution through state of the art technology and increased efficiencies at the Deer Park plant,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert G. Dreher of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This agreement will bring Shell Oil’s refinery and chemical plant in Deer Park into compliance with the nation’s Clean Air Act and result in cleaner, healthier air for residents in the local communities for many years to come.”

The settlement was filed at the same time DOJ filed a complaint on behalf of EPA
alleging, among other things, that the company improperly operated its 12 steam-assisted flaring devices in such a way that excess VOCs, including benzene and other hazardous air pollutants, were emitted.

In addition to reducing pollution from flares, Shell will significantly modify its wastewater treatment plant; replace and repair tanks as necessary; inspect tanks biweekly with an infrared camera to better identify potential integrity problems that may lead to leaks; and implement enhanced monitoring and repair practices at the benzene production unit. When fully implemented, these specific projects are estimated to cost between $15 and $60 million.

Also, in a second project to benefit the community, Shell has agreed to spend $200,000 on retrofit technology to reduce diesel emissions from government-owned vehicles which operate in the vicinity of the Deer Park complex.

These actions will cut emissions of pollutants that can cause significant harm to public health. Exposure to high concentrations of sulfur dioxide can affect breathing and aggravate existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease. VOCs are a key component in the formation of smog or ground-level ozone, a pollutant that irritates the lungs, exacerbates diseases such as asthma, and can increase susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis. Chronic exposure to benzene, which EPA classifies as a carcinogen, can cause numerous health impacts, including leukemia and adverse reproductive effects in women.

Today’s settlement is part of EPA’s national effort to reduce emissions of toxic air pollutants, with a particular focus on industrial flares. These requirements focus on reducing the amount of waste gas sent to flares and on improving flare operations, both of which work to reduce toxic emissions. Improper operation of an industrial flare can send hundreds of tons of hazardous air pollutants into the air. The more waste gas a company sends to a flare, the more pollution occurs. The less efficient a flare is in burning waste gas, the more pollution occurs. EPA wants companies to flare less, and when they do flare, to fully burn the harmful chemicals found in the waste gas.

Shell, which is headquartered in Houston, processes approximately 330,000 barrels per day of crude oil at its Deer Park facility, making it the 11th largest refinery in the United States. In addition, the Deer Park chemical plant produces approximately 8,000 tons per day of products that include ethylene, benzene, toluene, xylene, phenol, and acetone. Both the chemical plant and the refinery operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The consent decree, lodged in the Southern District Court of Texas, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval.

WEAPONS DISPOSAL, AFGHANISTAN 2002

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 
020220-N-3236B-047

Kandahar, Afghanistan (Feb. 20, 2002) -- U.S. Navy and Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians destroy Chinese 82mm Type 65 Recoilless Rifles, and 82mm High Explosive Anti

020220-N-3236B-017
Tank (HEAT) Recoilless Rifle Rounds near the Kandahar International Airport in Afghanistan. EOD teams continue to locate and destroy ammunition seized during missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Ted Banks. (RELEASED)


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Srebrenica's Legacy: How the Lessons of the Balkans Animate Humanitarianism Today

Srebrenica's Legacy: How the Lessons of the Balkans Animate Humanitarianism Today

President Obama Awards the 2012 National Medals of Arts and Humanities | The White House

President Obama Awards the 2012 National Medals of Arts and Humanities | The White House

DEFENSE SECRETARY HAGEL COMMENTS ON COMMITMENT TO MILITARY FAMILIES EDUCATION

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 
Hagel Calls DOD Education Support a Strategic Priority
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 9, 2013 - The Defense Department's commitment to military families and to quality education for military children is a strategic imperative that leaders will maintain, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in remarks today.

During closing remarks at the Military Child Education Coalition's 15th National Training Seminar, Hagel announced that the department has selected the first round of schools that will receive DOD educational partnership grants for the upcoming school year. A total of nearly $20 million will go to 15 public school districts that serve 23 military installations across the country, he said.

"These grants to school systems from California to Texas to Maryland will bolster science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs, as well as foreign language studies," Hagel told an audience of teachers, school liaisons, program directors and other education professionals. "This year's grant selection process is continuing, and we look forward to making more awards in the weeks to come."

The secretary noted that since 2009, the department has awarded 186 of the grants, totaling more than $220 million and reaching more than 750,000 students. DOD has also awarded grants to improve public schools on military installations, Hagel said; 13 schools received grants over the past year, and 17 more are working through the grant process.

The all-volunteer force has helped build a military that is more capable, more resilient and more respected than ever before, Hagel said. To attract and retain that force, he added, "DOD has had to demonstrate that it will always do the right thing for the families, [and] that Americans don't need to choose between serving their country in uniform and being a mom or a dad. As a result, the military became a more family-centered institution."

The secretary noted the military community includes 1.8 million children, who face unique challenges based on their parents' duties. They face the stress of a parent's deployment, often repeatedly, he said, "or the anguish of coping with a parent who never returns from the battlefield. Or one who does return, but is changed in body and mind."

The secretary said that family support "is and will remain" a key part of the all-volunteer force. The fiscal year 2014 defense budget request, he noted, includes $8.9 billion in support programs, including the DOD Education Activity.

Hagel listed several other educational efforts in which department leaders participate, noting, "We ultimately share the same goal as all parents and educators – to teach our children as best we can, and make the world they inherit a better, safer place."

He said part of teaching children involves living out the values they should learn, including honesty.

"So I'm going to be honest with you today about the challenges DOD is facing, particularly when it comes to our new fiscal realities," he said.

The secretary noted that on top of $87 billion in spending cuts over the next decade imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, the department faces a further funding reduction of $37 billion by the end of September, and another $52 billion in fiscal 2014. Overall, sequester will cost DOD half a trillion dollars over a decade if it's not stopped, he said.

"Sequester is irresponsible, and terribly damaging, but it is the law of the land as it stands now," he said. "We teach our children to face their problems head-on, and now we must do the same. We cannot run away from sequester. We must deal with it. Anything less would be irresponsible."

Hagel spoke regretfully about furloughs, which began this week as most DOD civilian employees have taken or will take the first of 11 unpaid days off, one per week until late September.

"This was a very, very difficult decision; one that was not made lightly," he said. "The last thing I wanted to do was furlough anyone."

Hagel said he approved the furloughs, though reluctantly, because military readiness was already suffering: "Planes aren't flying, ships aren't sailing and soldiers aren't training. You don't always see or hear about some of these changes, but they are happening. Because I could not cut any more into our readiness, in the end I had no choice but to make a tough decision on furloughs."

He warned that while DOD schools have been sheltered as much as possible, and will remain open and accredited, he can't guarantee family programs won't feel some future cuts.

"We will have to make more tough choices in the future," he said. "Perfect solutions do not exist." Although efforts to replace the sequester continue, he said, there is no guarantee they will be successful.

"In my budget meetings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and DOD senior leadership, I always emphasize that we're going into this challenge together and that we will come out together," the secretary said. " ... I won't choose up between services. We are all one service. We are going through difficult times, which you all recognize and realize, but we will get through those difficult times together."

Adults can learn a lot from military children's resilience, adaptability and courage, he said.

"And so today, I leave you with one request -- that you continue to do what you're doing," he said. " ... Our military children look to all of us. They look to us for guidance and reassurance every day. And supporting them is the most important thing we'll ever do."

KRK joins efforts to improve energy efficiency in Kosovo [EBRD - News and events]

KRK joins efforts to improve energy efficiency in Kosovo [EBRD - News and events]

Terry Wallace: Protecting the globe and keeping an eye on seismicity

Terry Wallace: Protecting the globe and keeping an eye on seismicity

Mothers, daughters and smoking

Mothers, daughters and smoking

WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY COLLECTS REAL-TIME INFORMATION FROM OIL AND GAS WELLS

Wireless technology collects real-time information from oil and gas wells

GREEN PROPELLANT INFUSION MISSION


DOD REVIEWING POW/MIA OPERATIONS COMMAND

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 
Defense Department to Review POW/MIA Command Operations
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 9, 2013 - The Defense Department has a sacred obligation to recover missing service members, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters today at a news conference.

An internal review conducted by the office charged with that mission -- the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command -- has raised concerns within DOD, Little said.

The results of the internal review are now with the office of the undersecretary of defense for policy, which has oversight over the recovery mission. Recent news reports have described organizational problems within the command.

"Sometimes media reports raise attention in ... a department of 3 million people," Little said. "It certainly sometimes helps to have press stories shed light on issues that are out there."

The office of the undersecretary of defense for policy will begin a review of JPAC operations and the issues described in the internal review soon, he said.

"It's the prudent thing to do, if concerns haven't been raised to the appropriate levels, to take a second look and to ensure that we're performing this very important mission to the best of our ability," Little said.

"We're going to review the concerns raised in the report to see how JPAC is or isn't functioning well," he said. "And if steps need to be taken to remedy what's happening inside JPAC, then we'll take action."

ASTRONAUTS CHECK OUT ORION CREW MODULE


Stepping into the Orion Crew Module
NASA astronauts Cady Coleman and Ricky Arnold step into the Orion crew module hatch during a series of spacesuit check tests conducted on June 13, 2013 at the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The Orion crew module will serve as both transport and a home to astronauts during future long-duration missions to an asteroid, Mars and other destinations throughout our solar system.  Image-Credit- NASA-Bill Stafford

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

HURRICANE SANDY FEDERAL ASSISTANCE AT $5.3 BILLION

FROM:  FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
New Jersey Recovery From Superstorm Sandy: By The Numbers
Release date: 
July 9, 2013 
Release Number: 
4086-181 

TRENTON, N.J. -- Disaster assistance to New Jersey survivors of Superstorm Sandy by the numbers as of July 8:

Total Federal Assistance: $5.3 billion

$3.5 billion in total National Flood Insurance Program payments made on claims to date

$403.3 million in FEMA grants approved for individuals and households

$351 million for housing assistance

$56.6 million for other needs

$802 in SBA disaster loans approved for homeowners, renters and businesses

$650.5 million approved in FEMA Public Assistance grants to state agencies,
local communities and certain private nonprofit organizations that serve the public

261,817 people registered with FEMA for assistance

126,797 housing inspections completed

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House

Department of Defense News Briefing with George Little from the Pentagon

Department of Defense News Briefing with George Little from the Pentagon

FLOW CYTOMETRY AIDS BASIC CELL BIOLOGY RESEARCH AND DRUG DISCOVERY

Flow cytometry aids basic cell biology research and drug discovery

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

Ariane-6

Ariane-6

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House

Plasma technology for textile finishing applications gets a boost from LANL

Plasma technology for textile finishing applications gets a boost from LANL

TO REDEFINE MILITARY HEALTHCARE

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Fort Belvoir Hospital Aims to Redefine Military Healthcare

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

FORT BELVOIR, Va., July 8, 2013 - When the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital opened its doors in August 2011, it represented a long list of "firsts." It was the nation's newest, most technologically advanced military treatment facility, the first one to receive gold-level LEED "green" construction certification, and one of just two joint hospitals in the Military Health System


Less than two years later, the staff at the Defense Department's newest treatment facility is implementing another first: an ambitious new strategy that its commander hopes will help redefine military healthcare.

One of the most striking things about the gleaming new hospital is that despite its 1.3-million-square foot footprint, it has only 120 inpatient beds. Most of the facility is built around 440 examination rooms and 55 clinics that concentrate on outpatient care and preventive medicine, Army Col. Chuck Callahan, the hospital commander, told American Forces Press Service.

"The outpatient arena is where healthcare takes place in 2013," he said. "Good healthcare is focused on prevention, which means you don't need to get hospitalized."

With that goal in mind, the hospital staff is working to keep patients healthy and, when they need medical care, to make it the most positive experience possible.

This is the foundation of the new strategy Callahan began rolling out last year. Tapping the hospital staff and patients directly, he incorporated almost 700 of their suggestions into a plan designed to improve the care provided.

"This strategy we have embraced really belongs to the staff and patients of the organization, and we are now in the process of beginning to implement them," Callahan said.

Early indications are positive, he said. Making appointments is easier than ever before. Parking is convenient. The facility itself is inviting. And most important of all, Callahan said, everything about the hospital operation is focused directly on patients and their families.

People who have tried to see a doctor when they are sick probably know the pitfalls of a reactionary healthcare system. Getting squeezed in for a same-day appointment can be difficult, at best. If a condition requires a visit with a specialist, that draws treatment out even longer and often requires multiple appointments.

"The notion of patient- and family-centered care means we look at the way care is delivered from the perspective of the patient, both individually and as a population," Callahan said. It's a proactive approach that boils down to "'What health care do you need and how do we provide it to you?' rather than the opposite, 'Here is what we have and sorry if it is not what you need,'" he said.

The centerpiece of this model is an ongoing relationship between patients and their providers.

Patients are assigned to a "medical home" -- a team of doctors, nurses and specialists who oversee their care. "This is a group that puts their arms around that group of patients and manages their health -- not just treats their disease," Callahan said.

As a result, patients know who to call when they have health issues or questions. When they need to make an appointment, they can feel confident that they'll get one, and be seen by providers who know their conditions and medical histories.

Patients with complex medical issues also have ready access to the "medical neighborhood" within the hospital, Callahan said. No longer do they need to schedule multiple visits with a series of specialists who may never communicate with each other. Instead, providers from across the "neighborhood" coordinate through medical home to provide interdisciplinary care.

"That's all the providers, plus the patient and family, in the same room, talking through the treatment and management plan," Callahan said. "It's the model we are evolving as a hospital."

The facility itself incorporates what Callahan called "evidence-based design" that supports healing. Design decisions were made to be therapeutic, incorporating natural light, outside views, healing gardens and pavilions inspired by nature: Eagle, River, Sunrise, Oak and Meadow.

Sections of the hospital are color-coded so visitors can quickly get their bearings. All in-patient rooms have just one bed, and a pull-out sofa that family members can sleep on. The design team tapped the Disney Corporation's concepts of "on-stage" versus "off-stage" operations, relegating non-medical services to back hallways or non-prime hours.

While improving access to care when patients are sick and making the hospital experience as positive as possible are major goals of the new strategy, a foundation of the medical home concept is taking care of patients when they are healthy, Callahan said.

Instead of waiting for patients to call, he said, providers reach out to initiate required tests and procedures. They also rely heavily on social media and a secure Internet-based messaging system to answer patients' health-related questions and provide healthcare information aimed at promoting health and well-being.

"The focus is on managing the patients so they get what they need and what they don't even know that they need," Callahan said. "It's not just a matter of 'What are you here for today?'

The goal is to keep you out of the hospital and keep you healthy. That's much better than waiting until you are sick."

Making these investments up front changes the paradigm in delivering healthcare, creating healthier beneficiaries and improving their quality of life, Callahan said.

As the Defense Department struggles with tough budget choices amidst skyrocketing medical costs, this proactive approach makes financial sense, he added.

"Treatment of disease is almost always more expensive than screening for and preventing disease. Almost always," Callahan said. "So we are making the investment up front. As we move toward health and well-being, we are not only providing better healthcare to our beneficiaries. We are also going a long way toward saving healthcare costs in the long run."

Callahan said he expects the new strategy to be fully in place within the next five years, but emphasized that he doesn't anticipate a point where the staff will ever fully declare "mission accomplished."

"Performance improvement is a journey. It is not a destination," he said "Getting better as an organization is a journey, so we are going to continue to evolve our strategy to adapt to healthcare changes and better ways to provide for our patients.

"So there is never going to be a point of 'arriving,'" he said. "In terms of healthcare, there will always be traveling."

U.S. MARINES-GEORGIAN SOLDIERS CONDUCT OPERATION NORTHERN LION II




FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 
A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey taxis before transporting U.S. Marines and Georgian soldiers conducting operation Northern Lion II on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan's Helmand province, July 3, 2013. The aircraft crew is assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena




A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey crew chief provides security while transporting U.S. Marines and Georgian soldiers during operation Northern Lion II on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan's Helmand province, July 3, 2013. The crew chief is assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Closer Look at Flood Damage in India

A Closer Look at Flood Damage in India

European Space Agency United Kingdom (EN) Update

European Space Agency United Kingdom (EN) Update

Remarks by the President Presenting New Management Agenda | The White House

Remarks by the President Presenting New Management Agenda | The White House

Daily HealthBeat Tip Update

Daily HealthBeat Tip Update

Immagine EO della settimana: Paesaggio Peruviano

Immagine EO della settimana: Paesaggio Peruviano

COMPANY TO PAY $14.5 MILLION TO SETTLE OVERBILLING ALLEGATIONS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tacoma, Wash., Medical Firm to Pay $14.5 Million to Settle Overbilling Allegations

Bills Claimed Higher Level of Service Than Was Documented

Sound Inpatient Physicians Inc. will pay $14.5 million to settle allegations that it overbilled Medicare and other federal health care programs, the Justice Department announced today. Sound Physicians is a Tacoma, Wash.-based provider of hospitalists and other physicians to hospitals and other medical facilities. It employs more than 700 hospitalists and post-acute physicians, who provide services at 70 hospitals and a growing network of post-acute facilities in 22 states.


"Physicians who participate in Medicare and other federal health care programs must document and bill for their services accurately and honestly," said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. "The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that Medicare and other federal funds are expended appropriately."

Today’s settlement addresses allegations that, between 2004 and 2012, Sound Physicians knowingly submitted to federal health benefits programs inflated claims on behalf of its hospitalist employees for higher and more expensive levels of service than were documented by hospitalists in patient medical records. Hospitalists are physicians, typically trained in internal medicine, who provide care exclusively to hospital inpatients and have no office or outpatient practice.

"Fraudulently inflated billing of government health care programs puts those programs at risk, and impacts the system’s ability to care for the neediest in our communities," said Jenny A. Durkan, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington. "During this time of tight government budgets, we will do all we can to make sure everyone plays by the rules and does not run up the taxpayers’ tab."

Allegations that Sound Physicians had improperly billed a variety of federal health care programs were brought to the government’s attention through a lawsuit filed by a former Sound Physicians employee, Craig Thomas, under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act. The act allows private citizens to bring civil actions on behalf of the government and share in any recovery. Thomas will receive $2.7 million of the $14.5 million settlement for exposing Sound Physicians’ inflated claims.

This civil settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act. Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $14.7 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $10.7 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The Sound Physicians settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Department of Justice, Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington; the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General; the Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the Office of Personnel Management Office of Inspector General; the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Office of Inspector General; and the TRICARE Management Activity Office of General Counsel.

CHAIRMAN JOINT CHIEFS GIVES INTERVIEW TO CNN

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Dempsey Discusses Middle East, U.S. Troop Issues
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2013 - Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed events in the Middle East and U.S. troop issues during an interview broadcast today but recorded July 3 with Candy Crowley for CNN's State of the Union news program.

Dempsey answered questions about recent events in Egypt, the ongoing civil war in Syria and the situation in Afghanistan.

Dempsey, who has served at length in the Middle East during his military career, called Egypt a great country and a cornerstone of the region.

"It's got an incredible history and culture and the world needs Egypt to be stable," the chairman said, adding that what the Egyptians want to do with their government "is for them to decide, and I mean that sincerely."

He added, "As a student of that part of the world and someone who lived in the region for most of the last 10 years -- what we're seeing is that democracy takes a while to stick."

Turning to Syria, where civil war has raged since March 2011, killing tens of thousands and displacing millions, Dempsey said the United States is contributing hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance and working closely with partners in the region.

Dempsey said he tries to see the broader picture with regard to the situation in Syria.

"This is an issue that extends from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad, and in fact over the last six months the levels of violence in both Lebanon and Baghdad have been alarmingly high," he explained.

Events in Syria reflect a regional issue, Dempsey added, that's related "to a competition at best and a conflict at worst between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam, and it's been hijacked at some level on both sides by extremists -- al-Qaida on one side and Lebanese Hezbollah and others on the other side."

It's not a simple matter of stopping the fighting in Syria by introducing any particular U.S. capability, the chairman said, pointing out that "this is about a 10-year issue and if we fail to think about it as a 10-year regional issue we could make some mistakes."

Dempsey said he's not making predictions about how long President Bashar al-Assad will stay or not stay in Syria.

"I'm suggesting that the underlying causes of the conflict as I have just described them will persist for 10 years," he said.

Turning to Afghanistan, Dempsey said the International Security Assistance Force has another 18 months to get Afghanistan's security forces where they need to be to maintain a stable security platform.

The ISAF is slated to disband at the end of 2014 when its combat mission in Afghanistan ends. NATO will then train, advise and assist Afghanistan's security forces.

"I think that we will get the Afghan security forces to a point where they will be able to provide security generally across the country. But there will be pockets of resistance," Dempsey said.

"The problem," he added, "is that I can't speak with much optimism at this point about the other factors of governance, be they economic or political. They have to keep pace. And we will know because ... there are elections scheduled for early '14."

Asked about whether it will be difficult to bring adversaries like the Taliban into the Afghanistan peace process, Dempsey answered with an example from another war.

"It is always difficult to think about the losses that we've suffered and the idea that at some point we would find reconciliation with [the Taliban], but I'm mindful of the fact that all wars end with some level of political reconciliation," he said.
Dempsey recalled that his Vietnamese counterpart joined him for dinner in his quarters last week.

"Outside we flew their flag next to our flag. I was almost unnerved by it because I went into West Point during the Vietnam War preparing to go fight in Vietnam. And here we are now, some years later, and they are seeking to become much closer partners with us," the chairman said.

"I think there are several flavors of Taliban," he continued. "I think there are some who are reconcilable and undoubtedly some who are not. So long as we can have enough precision in the way we reach out to them, then I won't have ... concerns about whether our sacrifices would somehow be undermined."

Turning to issues facing U.S. troops, Dempsey said the American people have been extraordinary in their appreciation of the military's contribution to the nation over the past decade.

"After every conflict there's a period of time when the nation decides what it will think of the veterans of that conflict," the chairman said, adding that now is the time to start thinking about the image this generation's men and women warriors deserve.

"If I do have a worry," Dempsey said, "it's that this generation of veterans may be seen as somehow victims because a great many things have manifested themselves -- post-traumatic stress syndrome, rising rates of suicide, rising divorce rates, sexual assault.

"So I don't want to have this generation's young men and women, the warriors, seen as victims somehow," he continued. "This conflict has been a source of strength as well for many veterans."

Dempsey also said he'd "like the American people to give veterans opportunities -- not as a handout but rather to recognize what they might bring to the workplace, what they might bring to their communities."

RECENT FEMA PHOTOS OF THE FLOODING IN GELENA, ALASKA


 


FROM: FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT ADMINISTRATION

Gelena, Alaska, July 1, 2013 -- Houses were moved off their foundations by ice and water in the flooding, leaving piles of debris to be removed. FEMA can assist with debris removal and structural advice. Photo by Ed Edahl/FEMA




Galena, Alaska, June 29, 2013 -- A lake of stranded water still covers the baseball fields hatching a bumper crop of mosquitoes which further stresses the disaster survivors and emergency managers. The major federal disaster, signed by President Obama on June 25, authorizes assistance to individuals and households in Alaska Gateway Regional Educational Attendance Area (REAA), Lower Yukon REAA, Yukon Flats REAA, and the Yukon-Koyukuk REAA. Adam DuBrowa/ FEMA

OVER $126 MILLION IN FEDERAL DISASTER AID GOES TO ILLINOIS RESIDENTS

FROM: FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY

Federal Disaster Aid to Illinois Residents Tops $126.4 Million

Release date:

July 5, 2013

Release Number:

4116-IL NR-073

AURORA, Ill.Federal assistance in Illinois has reached more than $126.4 million, distributed among more than 51,100 individuals and households, since a major disaster was declared for storms and flooding that occurred April 16 through May 5.


Storm damage after May 5 is not included in the presidential disaster declaration for Illinois.

The latest summary of federal assistance includes:
More than $126.4 million in FEMA grants approved for individuals and households;
Of that amount, more than $109 million has been approved for housing assistance, including temporary rental assistance and home repair costs;
More than $17 million has been approved to cover other essential disaster-related needs, such as medical and dental expenses and damaged personal possessions;
More than 74,600 home inspections have been completed to confirm disaster damage; and
More than $27.4 million in loans to homeowners, renters or business owners has been approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration;.

The registration deadline has been extended to July 24. The 15-day extension was requested by the State of Illinois.

Two additional counties have been added to the major disaster declaration for individual assistance. Putnam and Warren county survivors also have until July 24 to register for federal disaster assistance. The two counties were previously approved for public assistance, which provides local governments and certain eligible nonprofits with funding for debris removal, emergency protective measures and infrastructure repairs such as building roads and bridges.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

RECENT U.S. NAVY PHOTOS





FROM:  U.S. NAVY 
The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) returns to homeport at Naval Station Norfolk. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group completed a deployment supporting maritime security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan D. McLearnon (Released) 130703-N-GC639-400




The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Florida (SSGN 728) departs Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. Florida will perform routine operations while at sea. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James Kimber (Released) 130703-N-FG395-083

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

ANIMAL-TO-HUMAN INFECTIOUS DISEASE AT ANNUAL CONFERENCE


FROM:  CDC.  This is a male Ixodes ricinus tick (smaller) shown copulating with a female tick (larger). I. ricinus, the "castor bean" tick, so called because of its resemblance to the castor bean, is a vector for the B. burgdorferi spirochete, the cause of Lyme disease, and is commonly found on farm animals, and deer who are the natural host. Credit: Centers For Disease Control and Prevention/Wikimedia


FROM: THE NATONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Interplay of Ecology, Infectious Disease, Wildlife and Human Health Featured at Annual Conference
West Nile virus, Lyme disease and hantavirus. All are infectious diseases spreading in animals and in people. Is human interaction with the environment somehow responsible for the increase in these diseases?

The ecology and evolution of infectious diseases will be highlighted at two symposia at the Ecological Society of America's annual meeting, held from Aug. 5-9 in Minneapolis, Minn.

One symposium will address human influences on viral and bacterial diseases through alteration of landscapes and ecological processes.

Another will focus on the emerging field of eco-epidemiology, which seeks to integrate biomedical and ecological research approaches to addressing human health threats.

Much of the research presented is funded by the joint National Science Foundation- (NSF) National Institutes of Health Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) Program.

"These sessions show that basic research is critical for managing disease threats," said Sam Scheiner, NSF EEID program director. "They also showcase the need to link scientists with public health professionals."

The first symposium, on Monday, Aug. 5, will take a deeper look at the connections between human activities and infectious diseases.

Though we often think of diseases as simply being "out there" in the environment, human actions--such as feeding birds--can influence the abundance, diversity and distribution of wildlife species and thus, infectious diseases.

"New human settlements, the spread of agriculture and the increasing proximity of people, their pets and livestock to wild animals increase the probability of disease outbreaks," said session organizer Courtney Coon of the University of South Florida.

"We're interested in learning more about how urban and other environments that humans dramatically change affect the susceptibility and transmission potential of animals that are hosts or vectors of disease."

What are the key determinants of spillover of wildlife diseases to domestic animals and humans?

Why is the prevalence of pathogens in wildlife in urban areas often altered by counterparts in less developed environments?

Speakers will address these and other questions.

The second symposium, on Tuesday, Aug. 6, will continue the theme of infectious diseases, but with an eye toward integrating biomedical and ecological approaches into the investigation and control of emerging diseases.

"Environmental processes and human health are linked, and we'd like to chart a future in which ecologists and epidemiologists more routinely work in tandem to address health problems," said symposium organizer Jory Brinkerhoff of the University of Richmond.

Scientists studying human diseases may overlook possible ecological factors.

For example, most Lyme disease cases in the eastern United States happen in the North even though the black-legged tick, which transmits the bacterium, is found throughout the Eastern states.

Human life histories and interactions with the environment, researchers say, are critically important to the success of managing a mosquito-borne virus called dengue fever.

"Disease ecologists and epidemiologists address some of the same kinds of questions, yet operate largely in isolation of one another," said Brinkerhoff.

"We're bringing them together to share their approaches and study designs, and to strengthen our ability to address public health issues."

Disease Ecology in Human-Altered Landscapes: Monday, Aug. 5, 2013, 1:30 p.m.-5 p.m., 205AB, Minneapolis Convention Center.
Organizer/Moderator: Courtney Coon, University of South Florida
Co-Organizer: James Adelman, Virginia Tech

Speakers:
Parviez Hosseini, EcoHealth Alliance
Matthew Ferrari, Penn State University
Marm Kilpatrick, University of California, Santa Cruz
Raina Plowright, Penn State University
Sonia Altizer, University of Georgia
Becki Lawson, Zoological Society of London

Eco-Epidemiology: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Addressing Public Health Problems: Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, 1:30 p.m.-5 p.m., 205AB Minneapolis Convention Center.
Organizer/Moderator: Jory Brinkerhoff, University of Richmond
Co-Organizer: Maria Diuk-Wasser, Yale School of Public Health

Speakers:
Maria Diuk-Wasser, Yale School of Public Health
Daniel Salkeld, Colorado State University
Mark Wilson, University of Michigan
James Holland Jones, Stanford University
Harish Padmanabha, National Center for Socio-Environmental Synthesis
Jean Tsao, Michigan State University

-NSF-

DOD SAYS PEOPLE AND PARTNERS ARE CRITICAL CYBER NEEDS


Navy Lt. John Knolla mans the tactical action officer watch in the combat direction center aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during Exercise Valiant Shield 2006 in the Philippine Sea. Valiant Shield focuses on integrated joint training among U.S. military forces, enabling real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces and in detecting, locating, tracking and engaging units at sea, in the air, on land and in cyberspace in response to a range of mission areas. U.S. Navy photo by Airman Christine Singh 
FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 

Critical Cyber Needs Include People, Partners, General Says
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2013 - Despite the inherent technical "geekiness" of cyberspace and urgent Defense Department efforts in that area, people and partners are among DOD's most critical cyber needs, the senior military advisor for cyber to the undersecretary of defense for policy said last week.
Army Maj. Gen. John A. Davis spoke to a large audience at the June 25-27 Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association International Cyber Symposium in Baltimore.

Cyber partnerships such as those with the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency and external partnerships such as those with industry, international allies and academia represent a transformation in the way DOD approaches cyber, Davis said.

For more than two years, he said, "DOD has been fundamentally and deliberately transforming the way we think, the way we organize, the way we train and equip, the way we provide forces and capabilities, the way we command and control those forces, the way we operate and the way we insure leadership and accountability for cyberspace operations."

Even the general's job as military advisor for cyber, a new position formally approved in August in an environment of reduced resources, "is an indication of how seriously senior department leaders are taking this subject," he said.
The standup of U.S. Cyber Command in 2010 was part of this transformation, he said.

"It brought together disparate cyber functions of operating our networks, defending our networks and applying offensive capabilities against adversary networks," said Davis, adding that Cybercom's collocation with the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Md., greatly improved DOD cyber capabilities.

"There's a much better integration of intelligence through NSA's hard work," the general said. "From shared situational awareness to a common operational picture, NSA is doing some really great work. Leveraging their skills and expertise is not only an operational advantage, it's a necessity."

Beyond NSA's technical focus, Davis said, DOD needs broad strategic context for intelligence to fulfill its cyber mission and that DIA, along with other intelligence community organizations, plays a critical role.

Ultimately, people and organizations who work against the United States and its allies in cyberspace are behind the development of malicious code and software, he said.

"This is where DIA is helping us refine and improve our indications and warning so it's not limited to actions taking place at the speed of light, but actions by humans and organizations and processes that might help us ... act with more options for leadership decisions," the general added.

As it does with interagency partners at the Department of Justice's FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, DOD builds capabilities in cyberspace by working with industry, international partners and academia.

In its work with the defense industrial base, or DIB, DOD is the sector-specific agency under Homeland Security for interacting with the DIB.

In 2010, the voluntary DIB Cybersecurity Information Assurance, or CS/IA, effort opened as a permanent program after a pilot period with 34 companies. Activities under the program enhance cybersecurity capabilities to safeguard sensitive DOD information on company unclassified information systems.

With the publication of a federal rule in 2012, DOD expanded the program, and nearly 100 companies now participate. At the same time, the optional DIB Enhanced Cybersecurity Services, or DECS, became part of the expanded DIB program.
Homeland Security officials said DECS is a voluntary program based on sharing indicators of malicious cyber activity between DHS and owners and operators of critical infrastructure. The program covers 18 critical infrastructure sectors, including banking and finance, energy, information technology, transportation systems, food and agriculture, government facilities, emergency services, water, and nuclear reactors, materials and waste.
"DOD relies heavily on critical infrastructure, which is in part why the department has a role to play in providing support to defend these commercial systems," Davis said. More than 99 percent of electricity and 90 percent of voice and communication services the military relies on come from civilian sources, he noted.

"Defending our networks is a challenge that's not getting any easier because of our reliance on key networks and systems that are not directly under DOD's control," the general observed.

Davis said the DIB CS/IA program and DECS "are part of a whole-of-government approach to improve the nation's cybersecurity posture. It's a holistic approach, because that's what's required in order to achieve this goal."

DOD international engagement supports the U.S. International Strategy for Cyberspace and President Barack Obama's commitment to fundamental freedoms, privacy and the free flow of information, and the right of self-defense, Davis said.
DOD's ongoing cyber engagement with allies and close partners takes many forms, he added, including sharing information about capabilities and processes, warning each other about potential threats, sharing situational awareness and fielding more interoperable capability.

Such engagement includes joint training venues and exercises, he said -- "everything from tabletop exercises to more sophisticated exercises, and we're doing joint training and putting cyber into our bilateral exercises on a more regular basis."

With the State Department and other interagency partners, the general added, DOD participates on cyber matters in bilateral, multilateral and international forums, such as the United Nations and NATO.

"As an example of a critical bilateral relationship," he said, "I've had the great honor twice in the past year to engage as part of a U.S. academic and government interagency forum with counterpart Chinese academic and government organizations."

The last meeting was in Washington in December, Davis said.
"We recognize China as a rising power and one of the world's leading voices in this discussion, so senior government officials across the interagency have actively engaged their Chinese government counterparts, including their military [counterparts] ... in a number of ways already and we would like to see those engagements expand," Davis said.

On July 8, DOD officials and several interagency partners "will hold a working group meeting on cyber with our Chinese counterparts to talk about this directly and to strive for concrete solutions with actionable steps for progress," he added.
DOD's partnership with academia addresses what Davis describes as the department's biggest challenge going forward: building the cyber workforce.
"DOD is looking at ways to fundamentally change the way it recruits, trains, educates, advances and retains both military and civilians within the cyberspace workforce," he said. "The vision is to build a system that sustains the cyberspace operations' viability over time, increases the depth of military cyberspace operations experience, develops capable leaders to guide these professional experts ... and ensures that we build real cyberspace operational capability from within our human resources into the future."

The department is looking to partner in new ways with other federal, academic and private institutions, he said, to attract and retain skilled professionals in cyberspace.

"While cyber is always viewed as a technical area," Davis said, "the fact is it's always about people. People are going to make the difference in cyber, just as they have in every other dimension of DOD operations. So we must get the people part right to guarantee success for the future.