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Saturday, March 8, 2014

DEBT COLLECTORS BEWARE OF INCREASED ENFORCEMENT OF FAIR DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES ACT

FROM:  FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 
FTC Increases Deterrence with Stepped Up Enforcement of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Over the last year, the Federal Trade Commission has continued aggressive enforcement of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by bringing or resolving nine debt collection cases, according to the agency’s annual summary of debt collection activities.

“When it comes to debt collection, the FTC has many tools in its arsenal, including research, enforcement, and consumer education,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But in the years since the financial crisis hit, we have increased our emphasis on law enforcement.”

In 2013, the FTC obtained court orders stopping illegal debt collection activities in seven cases, and referred two other debt collection cases to the Department of Justice for civil penalties.  In several of the cases, the FTC obtained temporary restraining orders halting the unlawful conduct, freezing the defendants’ assets, and appointing receivers to take over operations while court proceedings progressed (Asset & Capital Management Group and Goldman Schwartz Inc.). The Commission also brought its first enforcement action regarding text message debt collection (National Attorney Collection Services, Inc.), continued to pursue “phantom” debt collectors (Pinnacle Payment Services, LLC and Pro Credit Group, LLC), and placed the largest third-party debt collector under an order that includes the agency’s highest debt collection civil penalty (Expert Global Solutions). For the most egregious violators, the FTC obtained orders banning the responsible parties from ever participating in debt collection again (Forensic Case Management Services, Inc. and Goldman Schwartz Inc.).

The FTC also filed three amicus briefs in the last year. In its brief for the Seventh Circuit, the FTC argued that a payday lender’s mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses may be unconscionable, in part because they require alleged debtors to arbitrate in a remote tribal court, effectively pressuring those consumers to abandon their legal claims or defenses. The FTC joined the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in filing two other amicus briefs. The first, submitted to the Seventh Circuit, argued that a debt collector violates the law whenever its communications tend to deceive or mislead consumers into believing that a time-barred debt could be the subject of a collection suit. The second, submitted to the Second Circuit, argued that debt collectors whose process servers failed to notify consumers that they were being sued violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which broadly prohibits deceptive and unfair collection practices in any form.

Besides enforcement, the FTC’s debt collection program includes education and public outreach as well as research and policy initiatives. The FTC’s consumer education work in debt collection, includes the launch last year of its Financial Educators site. The site addresses personal finance topics, including credit and debt, among other things. The FTC also collaborated with ChildFocus, Inc. and the Annie E. Casey Foundation to help produce the free guide, Youth and Credit: Protecting the Credit of Youth in Foster Care, which discusses credit issues facing the more than 26,000 children in the United States who age out of foster care every year.  Finally, as part of the FTC’s Legal Services Collaboration project, FTC staff met with legal services providers in cities around the nation to discuss various consumer protection issues, including the FTC’s work in the debt collection arena.

The FTC’s research and policy activities include the Life of a Debt Roundtable Event, which examined data integrity in debt collection and the flow of consumer data throughout the debt collection process.

Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the CFPB is required to submit annual reports to Congress on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  The FTC shares federal jurisdiction for enforcing the act with the CFPB.  The FTC’s summary of its own recent work on debt collection issues assists the CFPB in preparing the report to Congress.

The Commission vote approving the letter was 4-0.

Weekly Address: Time for Congress to Raise the Minimum Wage for the Amer...

LABOR SECRETARY PEREZ'S STATEMENT ON FEBRUARY EMPLOYMENT NUMBERS

FROM:  U.S. LABOR DEPARTMENT 
Statement of Labor Secretary Perez on February employment numbers

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez issued the following statement about the February 2014 Employment Situation report released today:
"The nation's economic recovery continued in February, with the creation of 175,000 new jobs (162,000 of them in the private sector). For four years uninterrupted now — 48 consecutive months — private-sector employment has grown, to the tune of 8.7 million new jobs. The unemployment rate remained essentially unchanged from January, a full point lower than it was a year ago and below 7 percent for the third straight month following 60 straight months above it.
"February's numbers were resilient, despite the weather. We're moving in the right direction, but this recovery can and must move more quickly, changing more lives and helping more people realize their highest dreams. President Obama believes in opportunity for all — in giving everyone who's willing to work hard the chance to succeed. That's why, for example, he recently took action to launch two new manufacturing innovation hubs that will lead to good jobs. That's why he continues to fight for comprehensive immigration reform that will grow the economy by $1.4 trillion over the next decade. That's why he directed us at the Labor Department to issue $150 million in Ready to Work Partnership grants that will help the long-term unemployed find work.

"The president's budget for fiscal year 2015 provides a road map for accelerating economic growth and expanding opportunity. He proposes major new investments in infrastructure — because upgrading our roads, ports and power grids not only puts people to work right away, it facilitates long-term growth across the economy. The Labor Department budget empowers people, helping them acquire the skills they need, to ensure we're connecting ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs. The president is also proposing a new Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative that includes a multibillion-dollar effort to strengthen our community colleges and promote apprenticeship programs, which are a tried-and-true workforce development strategy.

"The president and I are eager to work with Congress on these initiatives and others. But absent leadership from Capitol Hill, the president will take action wherever and whenever possible to help more families secure their foothold in the middle class. This will be a year of action — to accelerate this recovery and create more opportunity for more people."

ANTIBIOTICS LINKED TO CHILDREN'S DIARRHEA

FROM:  CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION 
Severe diarrheal illness in children linked to antibiotics prescribed in doctor’s offices

CDC urges physicians to improve prescribing practices to reduce harm
The majority of pediatric Clostridium difficile infections, which are bacterial infections that cause severe diarrhea and are potentially life-threatening, occur among children in the general community who recently took antibiotics prescribed in doctor’s offices for other conditions, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published this week in Pediatrics.
The study showed that 71 percent of the cases of C. difficile infection identified among children aged 1 through 17 years were community-associated—that is, not associated with an overnight stay in a healthcare facility.  By contrast, two-thirds of C. difficile infections in adults are associated with hospital stays.
Among the community-associated pediatric cases whose parents were interviewed, 73 percent were prescribed antibiotics during the 12 weeks prior to their illness, usually in an outpatient setting such as a doctor’s office.  Most of the children who received antibiotics were being treated for ear, sinus, or upper respiratory infections. Previous studies show that at least 50 percent of antibiotics prescribed in doctor’s offices for children are for respiratory infections, most of which do not require antibiotics.

Improved antibiotic prescribing is critical to protect the health of our nation’s children,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  “When antibiotics are prescribed incorrectly, our children are needlessly put at risk for health problems including C. difficile infection and dangerous antibiotic resistant infections.”
he FY 2015 President’s Budget requests funding for CDC to improve outpatient antibiotic prescribing practices and protect patients from infections, such as those caused by C. difficile.  The CDC initiative aims to reduce outpatient prescribing by up to 20 percent and healthcare-associated C. difficile infections by 50 percent in five years.  A 50 percent reduction in healthcare-associated C. difficile infections could save 20,000 lives, prevent 150,000 hospitalizations, and cut more than $2 billion in healthcare costs.

C. difficile, which causes at least 250,000 infections in hospitalized patients and 14,000 deaths every year among children and adults, remains at all-time high levels.  According to preliminary CDC data, an estimated 17,000 children aged 1 through 17 years get C. difficile infections every year.  The Pediatrics study found that there was no difference in the incidence of C. difficile infection among boys and girls, and that the highest numbers were seen in white children and those between the ages of 12 and 23 months.

Taking antibiotics is the most important risk factor for developing C. difficile infections for both adults and children.  When a person takes antibiotics, beneficial bacteria that protect against infection can be altered or even eliminated for several weeks to months. During this time, patients can get sick from C. difficile picked up from contaminated surfaces or spread from a health care provider’s hands.
Although there have been significant improvements in antibiotic prescribing for certain acute respiratory infections in children, further improvement is greatly needed.  In addition, it is critical that parents avoid asking doctors to prescribe antibiotics for their children and that doctors follow prescribing guidelines.
“As both a doctor and a mom, I know how difficult it is to see your child suffer with something like an ear infection,” said Lauri Hicks, DO, Adobe PDF file director of CDC’s Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work program. “Antibiotics aren’t always the answer. I urge parents to work with their child’s doctor to find the best treatment for the illness, which may just be providing symptom relief.”

$200 MILLION TO BE SPENT BY COAL COMPANIES ON UPGRADES TO DECREASE WATER POLLUTION

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Coal Companies and Subsidiaries to Spend Estimated $200 Million on Treatment and System-wide Upgrades to Reduce Water Pollution
$27.5 Million Civil Penalty Is Largest in History Under Section 402 of the Clean Water Act

Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. (Alpha), one of the nation’s largest coal companies, Alpha Appalachian Holdings (formerly Massey Energy), and 66 subsidiaries have agreed to spend an estimated $200 million to  install and operate wastewater treatment systems and to implement comprehensive, system-wide upgrades to reduce discharges of pollution from coal mines in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.  Overall, the settlement covers approximately 79 active mines and 25 processing plants in these five states.

EPA estimates that the upgrades and advanced treatment required by the settlement will reduce discharges of total dissolved solids by over 36 million pounds each year, and will cut metals and other pollutants by approximately nine million pounds per year. The companies will also pay a civil penalty of $27.5 million for thousands of permit violations, which is the largest penalty in history under Section 402 of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

“The unprecedented size of the civil penalty in this settlement sends a strong deterrent message to others in this industry that such egregious violations of the nation's Clean Water Act will not be tolerated,” said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Today’s agreement is good news for communities across Appalachia, who have too often been vulnerable to polluters who disregard the law.  It holds Alpha accountable and will bring increased compliance and transparency among Alpha and its many subsidiaries.”

“This settlement is the result of state and federal agencies working together to protect local communities from pollution by enforcing the law,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “By requiring reforms and a robust compliance program, we are helping to ensure coal mining in Appalachia follows environmental laws that protect public health.”

In addition to paying the penalty, the companies must build and operate treatment systems to eliminate violations of selenium and salinity limits, and also implement comprehensive, system-wide improvements to ensure future compliance with the CWA. These improvements, which apply to all of Alpha’s operations in Appalachia, include developing and implementing an environmental management system and periodic internal and third-party environmental compliance audits.

The companies must also maintain a database to track violations and compliance efforts at each outfall, significantly improve the timeliness of responding to violations, and consult with third party experts to solve problem discharges.   In the event of future violations, the companies will be required to pay stipulated penalties, which may be increased and, in some cases, doubled for continuing violations.

The government complaint alleged that, between 2006 and 2013, Alpha and its subsidiaries routinely violated limits in 336 of its state-issued CWA permits, resulting in the discharge of excess amounts of pollutants into hundreds of rivers and streams in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The violations also included discharge of pollutants without a permit.

In total, EPA documented at least 6,289 violations of permit limits for pollutants that include iron, pH, total suspended solids, aluminum, manganese, selenium, and salinity. These violations occurred at 794 different discharge points, or outfalls. Monitoring records also showed that multiple pollutants were discharged in amounts of more than twice the permitted limit on many occasions.  Most violations stemmed from the company’s failure to properly operate existing treatment systems; install adequate treatment systems; and implement appropriate water handling and management plans.

Today’s settlement also resolves violations of a prior 2008 settlement with Massey Energy, and applies to the facilities and sites formerly owned by the company. Under the 2008 settlement, Massey paid a $20 million penalty to the federal government for similar CWA violations, in addition to over a million dollars in stipulated penalties over the course of the next two years. Alpha purchased Massey in June 2011 and, since taking over the company, has been working cooperatively with the government in developing the terms of today’s settlement.

CWA permits allow for the discharge of certain pollutants in limited amounts to rivers, streams, and other water bodies. Permit holders are required to monitor discharges regularly and report results to the respective state agencies.

Alpha, headquartered in Bristol, Va., is one of the largest coal companies in the nation. Alpha operates more than 79 active coal mines and 25 coal preparation plants located throughout Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The Wyoming operations are not included in today’s settlement.

The States of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky are co-plaintiffs in today’s settlement.   The U.S. will receive half of the civil penalty and the other half will be divided between the co-plaintiffs based on the number of violations in each state, as follows:   West Virginia ($8,937,500), Pennsylvania ($4,125,000), and Kentucky ($687,500).

The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.

SARAH SEWALL SPEAKS ON ATROCITY PREVENTION AT UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Atrocity Prevention is a Core National Security Interest for the United States
Remarks
Sarah Sewall
Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights 
25th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council
Geneva, Switzerland
March 4, 2014

(As delivered)

High-Level Dialogue With Relevant United Nations Entities on the Promotion of Preventative Approaches Within the UN System

I would like to focus my comments on an immense aspect of prevention with which the United States has long been concerned, and that is the prevention of mass atrocities. Atrocity prevention is a core national security interest for the United States. In 2012, our government formalized an institutional structure to bring together numerous government agencies and departments to address these issues, with the creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board. Since its creation, the Atrocities Prevention Board has helped U.S. government policymakers identify and address atrocity threats, while overseeing deeper institutional changes that will make us more nimble and effective in addressing, and in some cases responding to, these threats in the future. This work remains an ongoing effort, and one that, we increasingly understand, must be shared with other international actors in order to be effective.

Our key to atrocity prevention is a whole-of-government approach, bringing together a wide range of experts from different government departments. Whether through training or multilateral engagement, prevention is a guiding lens for much of our work in challenging situations and countries where conflicts and atrocities are taking place.

In our work we focus on the collection, analysis, and dissemination of information on early-warning indicators and trends of mass atrocity risks. Each agency has its own tools and trainings at its disposal, to ensure that all of our officers in Washington, as well as in the field, are prepared to gauge situations and identify risks well before they escalate to violence, or to react to conflicts immediately and effectively.

We believe a structured inner organizational framework and effective assessments of early warning signs and indicators will give us a better chance to spot problems early on, and allow us to use the tools we have available to influence the context and actors that could trigger violence. This may include sharing information about early warning, establishing national and multilateral focal points, and coordinating responses – be those in the form of deploying mediators or public diplomacy — to stress the importance of preventing a situation from escalating into a mass atrocity.

So therefore, we commend the United Nations for its Rights Up Front Plan. We support the approach of ensuring coherent strategies and information sharing and a “One UN approach.” We hope to work together with OHCHR and other member states to respond to situations in a timely fashion. The key is not to just mitigate the damage caused by situations as they happen, but to look at the early warning signs and preempt atrocities outside of conflict situations and, in places where conflict has begun, respond before violence escalates into mass atrocities.

In closing, I would like to pose a question. What role can member states and civil society organizations play in both New York and Geneva, as well as on the ground, to enhance the UN’s work on prevention and to advance the goals of “Rights Up Front”?

COMPANY AND INDIVIDUALS FOUND GUILTY OF CONSPIRACY TO SELL TRADE SECRETS TO CHINESE GOVERNMENT CONTROLLED COMPANIES

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Two Individuals and Company Found Guilty of Conspiracy to Sell Trade Secrets to Chinese Companies
First Federal Jury Conviction Under Economic Espionage Act of 1996

A federal jury in San Francisco has found two individuals and one company guilty of economic espionage, theft of trade secrets, bankruptcy fraud, tax evasion, and obstruction of justice for their roles in a long-running effort to obtain U.S. trade secrets for the benefit of companies controlled by the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), announced U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag; John P. Carlin, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice; David Johnson, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), San Francisco Division; and Jose Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of the Oakland Field Office, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Criminal Investigation.

The jury found that Walter Lian-Heen Liew (aka Liu Yuanxuan), his company, USA Performance Technology Inc. (USAPTI), and Robert Maegerle conspired to steal trade secrets from E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company regarding their chloride-route titanium dioxide production technology and sold those secrets for large sums of money to state-owned companies of the PRC.  The purpose of their conspiracy was to help those companies develop large-scale chloride-route titanium dioxide production capability in the PRC, including a planned 100,000-ton titanium dioxide factory in Chongqing.  This case marks the first federal jury conviction on charges brought under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996.

“Fighting economic espionage and trade secret theft is one of the top priorities of this Office and we will aggressively pursue anyone, anywhere who attempts to steal valuable information from the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.  “As today’s verdict demonstrates, foreign governments threaten our economic and national security by engaging in aggressive and determined efforts to steal U.S. intellectual property.  I commend the efforts of the women and men of the FBI and the IRS in protecting America’s businesses and our national security.”

“The theft of America’s trade secrets for the benefit of a foreign government poses a substantial threat to our economic and national security” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Carlin.  “Today’s verdict clearly demonstrates that we take this threat seriously.  This case shows that we will not hesitate to pursue and prosecute those who steal from American businesses.”

“The battle against economic espionage has become one of the FBI’s main fronts in its efforts to protect U.S. national security in the 21st century,” said Special Agent in Charge David Johnson.

"This is a case about lying, cheating, and stealing," said José M. Martínez, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation.  "The defendants stole secrets, lied to the bankruptcy court and cheated the IRS and creditors.  In today's economic environment, it's more important than ever that the American people feel confident that everyone is playing by the rules and paying their fair share."

The jury also found that Liew, USAPTI, and Maegerle obstructed justice during the course of their conspiracy.  The jury found that Liew filed false tax returns for USAPTI and Performance Group, a predecessor company to USAPTI, and made false statements and oaths in bankruptcy proceedings for Performance Group.  The guilty verdicts followed a seven-week jury trial before the Honorable Jeffery S. White, U.S. District Court Judge.

Liew, 56, of Walnut Creek, Calif., was convicted of conspiracy to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, attempted economic espionage, attempted theft of trade secrets, possession of trade secrets, conveying trade secrets, conspiracy to obstruct justice, witness tampering, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, false statements, filing false tax returns, false statements in bankruptcy proceedings, and false oath in bankruptcy proceedings. Liew was an owner and president of USAPTI, a company headquartered in Oakland, Calif., that offered consulting services.  USAPTI was found guilty of conspiracy to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, attempted economic espionage, attempted theft of trade secrets, possession of trade secrets, conveying trade secrets, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Evidence at trial showed that in the 1990s, Liew met with the government of the PRC and was informed that the PRC had prioritized the development of chloride-route titanium dioxide (TiO2) technology.  TiO2 is a commercially valuable white pigment with numerous uses, including coloring paint, plastics, and paper.  DuPont’s TiO2 chloride-route process also produces titanium tetrachloride, a material with military and aerospace uses.  Liew was aware that DuPont had developed industry leading TiO2 technology over many years of research and development and assembled a team of former DuPont employees, including Robert Maegerle, to assist him in his efforts to convey DuPont's TiO2 technology to entities in the PRC.  Liew executed contracts with state-owned entities of the PRC for chloride-route TiO2 projects that relied on the transfer of illegally obtained DuPont technology. Liew, Maegerle, and USAPTI obtained and sold DuPont’s TiO2 trade secret to the Pangang Group companies for more than $20 million.

Robert Maegerle, 78, of Harbeson, Del., was found guilty of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, attempted theft of trade secrets, conveying trade secrets, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.  Evidence at trial showed that Maegerle was employed by DuPont as an engineer from 1956 to 1991 where he had developed detailed knowledge of DuPont's TiO2 technology and expertise in building TiO2 production lines.  He also had access to DuPont TiO2 trade secrets, including specific information regarding DuPont’s TiO2 facility at Kuan Yin, Taiwan. He provided these trade secrets to Liew and USAPTI in furtherance of their contracts with state-owned companies of the PRC for chloride-route TiO2 projects.

The jury also found Liew, Maegerle, and USAPTI guilty of obstructing justice by causing an answer to be filed in a federal civil lawsuit in which they falsely claimed that no information from DuPont’s Kuan Yin plant was used in the USAPTI designs for the development of TiO2 manufacturing facilities.  Liew was also found guilty of witness tampering for his efforts to influence a co-defendant’s testimony in the civil lawsuit.  The jury also convicted Liew of conspiring with his wife, Christina Liew, to mislead the FBI by corruptly concealing records, documents, and other objects during the FBI’s investigation into their criminal activity.

Liew was also convicted of filing a false income tax return for his company, Performance Group, for calendar years 2006, 2007, and 2008 and for USAPTI in 2009 and 2010.  The jury also found Liew guilty of making false statements and a false oath in connection with filing for bankruptcy for Performance Group in 2009.

Liew, as co-owner of USAPTI, entered into contracts worth in excess of $20 million to convey TiO2 trade secret technology to Pangang Group companies.  The Liews received millions of dollars of proceeds from these contracts.  The proceeds were wired through the United States, Singapore, and ultimately back into several bank accounts in the PRC in the names of relatives of Christina Liew.

DuPont is a company based in Wilmington, Del., that manufactures a wide variety of products, including TiO2.  DuPont invented the chloride-route process for manufacturing TiO2 in the late-1940s and since then has invested heavily in research and development to improve that production process.  The global titanium dioxide market has been valued at roughly $12 billion per year, and DuPont has the largest share of that market.

The chloride-route process is cleaner, more efficient, and produces a higher-quality product than the sulfate-route process prevalent in the PRC. The object of the defendants’ conspiracy was to convey DuPont’s secret chloride-route technology to the PRC companies for the purpose of building modern TiO2 production facilities in the PRC without investing in time-consuming, costly research and development.

The second superseding indictment also charges, Liew’s wife, Christina Hong Qiao Liew (aka Qiao Hong), with conspiracy to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, attempted theft of trade secrets, possession of trade secrets, witness tampering, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, and false statements.  The charges against Ms. Liew were severed from those against Walter Liew, Maegerle, and USAPTI. Ms. Liew will appear before the Honorable Jeffery S. White on Thursday, March 6, 2014, in San Francisco to set the date for her trial.

Tze Chao (aka Zhao Zhi), a former DuPont employee who was also charged in the second superseding indictment, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit economic espionage on March 1, 2012.

Hou Shengdong, the Vice Director of the Chloride Process TiO2 Project Department for the Pangang Group, was also charged in the second superseding indictment with conspiracy to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, and attempted economic espionage.  He is currently a fugitive.

Charges of conspiracy to commit economic espionage, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, and attempted economic espionage are also pending against the four PRC state-owned companies charged in the second superseding indictment.

The sentencing hearings for Liew, Maegerle, and USAPTI are scheduled for June 10, 2014, before Judge White in Oakland, Calif.  Liew was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals pending sentencing. Maegerle remains out of custody on conditions of release.  The maximum statutory penalties for each of the counts are listed below. However, any sentence will be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

The case is being prosecuted by the Special Prosecutions and National Security Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco, the Counterespionage Section of the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., the FBI, Palo Alto Resident Agency, and Oakland Field Office, IRS Criminal Investigation.

Friday, March 7, 2014

CONGRESSMAN DAVE CAMP ON TAX REFORM ACT OF 2014

FROM:  CONGRESSMAN DAVE CAMP WEBSITE 
Camp Releases Tax Reform Plan to Strengthen the Economy 
and Make the Tax Code Simpler, Fairer and Flatter

Recently, Congressman Dave Camp (R-Midland) released draft legislation to fix America’s broken tax code by lowering tax rates while making the code simpler and fairer for families and job creators.  Camp’s latest draft, the “Tax Reform Act of 2014,” spurs stronger economic growth, greater job creation and puts more money in the pockets of hardworking taxpayers.

Based on analysis by the independent, non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), without increasing the budget deficit, the Tax Reform Act of 2014:

Creates up to 1.8 million new private sector jobs.
Allows roughly 95 percent of filers to get the lowest possible tax rate by simply claiming the standard deduction (no more need to itemize and track receipts).
Strengthens the economy and increases Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by up to $3.4 trillion (the equivalent of 20 percent of today’s economy).

Based on calculations using data provided by JCT, the average middle-class family of four could have an extra $1,300 per year in its pocket from the combination of lower tax rates in the plan and higher wages due to a stronger economy.

Discussing the need to fix America’s broken tax code, Camp said, “It is no secret that Americans are struggling.  Far too many families haven’t seen a pay raise in years.  Many have lost hope and stopped looking for a job.  And too many kids coming out of college are buried under a mountain of debt and have few prospects for a good-paying career.  We’ve already lost a decade, and before we lose a generation, Washington needs to wake up to this reality and start offering concrete solutions and debating real policies that strengthen the economy and help hardworking taxpayers.  Tax reform is one way we can do that.”

PRESS GAGGLE WITH DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST

FROM:  THE WHITE HOUSE 

Press Gaggle with Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest en route Florida

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Florida
12:17 P.M. EST  
MR. EARNEST:  This afternoon, the President and First Lady are headed to Coral Reef High School to talk about ensuring that as many students as possible fill out the financial aid forms that open the door to a college education.  Never before has a college education been as important as it is now in expanding opportunity and ensuring economic stability in this global economy. 
The First Lady has previously talked about efforts the administration has taken to simplify the financial aid form.  Today, the President will talk about an executive action that he'll take to better track which students have completed the form, which will assist efforts to encourage the families of students to do so.
And I'll also point out that any time you're going to a school whose mascot is the barracuda you know it's going to be an interesting afternoon.  So it should be kind of fun. 
With that, why don't we take some questions?
Q    Quick question -- the readout this morning on the President’s call to the Japanese Prime Minister, he talked about they agreed to work with other G7 countries to put pressure on Russia.  Does that reference signal the U.S. no longer views the group as the G8?  And if that's the case, what’s the latest on the President going to the previously scheduled so-called G8 summit in Sochi?
MR. EARNEST:  Jeff, as you know, what we have done is we've suspended our participation in meetings to prepare for the G8 meeting in Sochi.  The reference to the G7 is simply an indication of how united those seven countries are in our resolve to stand up for principles relating to territorial integrity and individual state sovereignty.  You’ve heard these seven countries speak with one voice on this issue and you’ve seen these seven countries demonstrate their resolve in considering a range of options to demonstrate that there will be costs associated with violating principles like this. 
So you saw the readout from the call that the President had with Prime Minister Abe, and Prime Minister Abe was of one mind with the President and the other members of the international community and the other members of the G7 on this issue.
Q    So Sochi, on or off?  If it continues, will the President go?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don't have any announcements to make about the President’s travel in June.  But I can tell you that there had been meetings, as there always is, in advance of the big meeting in June among the countries to prepare for meetings like that.  Our participation in those meetings has been suspended, and I think it would be logical for anybody to conclude that it raises significant questions about whether or not we’d participate in the meeting in June.
Q    I wanted to ask you about Senator Gillibrand’s sexual assault bill -- military sexual assault bill.  I don't remember the President ever coming out and saying where he stood on that bill.  Did he have a position on it?  And was it getting blocked in the Senate, was that something that the White House thought was okay or --
MR. EARNEST:  I'm going to have to pull some additional information for you, which I could get this afternoon, related to this.  It has been the administration’s position and you’ve heard the President speak very forcefully as the Commander-in-Chief about taking the kinds of steps necessary to address what is a persistent problem in our armed forces.  But in terms of our position on specific proposals to reform that system, let me get back to you on that.
Q    A quick one on Ukraine again.  Republicans have been pushing this plan to increase exports of natural gas.  Does the administration see that as some type of realistic option when it comes to helping overseas?
MR. EARNEST:  Let me start by saying this:  There are six licenses that have been approved by the Department of Energy related to the export of about 8.5 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas to a range of countries around the world.  What’s important for you to understand about those licenses that have already been issued is that the projects for delivering the product would not be completed until the end of next year.  So proposals to try to respond to the situation in Ukraine that are related to our policy on exporting natural gas would not have an immediate effect.
The other factor that’s important to understand about the situation is the current inventories of liquefied natural gas in Europe and in Ukraine are actually above traditional levels or above normal levels.  The reason for that is, unlike North America, they’ve had a relatively mild winter in Europe and the region.  So there is no indication currently that there’s much risk of a natural gas shortage in the region.
The other dynamic that factors into all this is that Russia prides itself on being a reliable supplier of natural gas to countries around the world -- I would say natural gas and other sources of energy to countries around the world.  Shutting off the natural gas would threaten that reputation -- it certainly would undermine it, not just in the eyes of Ukraine and Europe but in countries around the world.
Finally, it’s also important to recognize that Russia relies on revenue from exporting natural gas and other sources of energy.  Russia currently yields about $50 billion a year in revenue from exporting natural gas, so ending that kind of relationship with Europe would have significant financial consequences for Russia as well. 
So this is a complicated situation.  For a more detailed explanation of this complicated dynamic, I’d refer you to the Department of Energy.  But in terms of the top lines, the United States has a long relationship with Ukraine and has actually been talking about these energy issues for some time.  Vice President Biden traveled to Ukraine in 2009, and one of the items at the top of the agenda was efforts by the United States to work with Ukraine to help them reduce their dependence on Russian sources of energy, to help them reform their energy sector, to improve efficiency, to improve energy security in Ukraine.  So this is a complicated issue, one that we’ve been coordinating with the Ukrainians on for quite some time.
So I think that mostly answers your question, but for a more detailed answer, I’d refer you to the Department of Energy.
Q    Just related to that, did this come up in the call last night with the Prime Minister?  Because I know that it’s been really important for Japan to build a strong relationship with Russia for natural gas.  Was the President able to give any assurances to the Prime Minister about this?
MR. EARNEST:  I don’t want to get into a more detailed readout beyond what we issued last night and early this morning. But I will say that the executive order that the President issued yesterday put in place a structure where sanctions could be implemented.  As Jay discussed during the briefing, no specific organizations have been targeted at this point, but that process is underway.  So there’s no immediate impact from the sanctions that the President has considered in terms of interrupting anybody’s access to Russian sources of energy. 
What sanctions we’ll be focused on are individuals and entities that have interfered with or played a prominent role in interfering with the sovereignty of Ukraine.  And those are the individuals and entities that will be targeted.  And when we have additional announcements on that, we will.  Let me just end this answer by saying that, as I mentioned in my previous answer, that Prime Minister Abe is committed, or voiced to the President his commitment to closely coordinating with the international community and with the other countries in the G7 in standing up for the principle of respecting state sovereignty and the territorial integrity of independent nations.
Q    Josh, I’m wondering why the White House made the decision or the President made the decision to stick to the plan of spending the weekend in Key Largo, given obviously the pace of events overseas and the fact that the Vice President is also going to be out of the country?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Mark, as you’ve been covering the President this week, you know that he has had a very robust schedule of consulting with President Putin a couple of times this week, that he has had a number of conversations with Prime Minister Cameron, Chancellor Merkel, and other foreign leaders -- Prime Minister Abe just last night.  He has been able to do all of that without interrupting what has otherwise been a pretty busy schedule for him this week -- during a snow day in Washington, D.C., during the rollout of the President’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget.  Our ongoing efforts to monitor ongoing events in Ukraine and to stay in close contact with world leaders has not affected the other aspects of the President’s schedule. 
That’s true of the President’s schedule today.  The President and First Lady, as I mentioned at the top, are traveling to a high school to talk about this core component of the President’s domestic agenda.  Meanwhile, the President has been able to get updates from his national security team and I would anticipate that later today, the President will have at least one phone call to make with a world leader around the globe.  I do anticipate we’ll be able to get you a readout of that call, so we’ll keep you posted.
I think the point is that the President over the course of a very busy week has maintained his schedule and his ability to monitor ongoing events in Ukraine.  I would anticipate that he’ll do the same thing this weekend.  And the fact of the matter is what the President is doing this weekend in Florida is essentially what the President will be doing if he stayed back at the White House.  It’s just that the weather will be a little warmer.
Q    Well, what else will he be doing besides monitoring world events?  What else will he be planning to do on his vacation, if you can give us a little flavor?
MR. EARNEST:  The President is looking forward to spending some time with his wife and daughters, who are traveling down to Florida as well.  There are some recreational amenities on the property, including workout facilities, tennis courts, a couple of golf courses, as you’ve seen. 
So there is a -- many of the people that the people that the President has been talking to in terms of our allies in Europe and other world leaders -- there’s a six-hour time difference between here and there.  So if there is an opportunity for the President to enjoy some of those amenities, then he’ll do that.  But we’ll have to see.  What he will do and what he is looking forward to doing is getting a little bit of downtime in the warm weather with his wife and daughters.  
Q    Can I ask you was any of the President’s or the First Lady’s personal acquaintances or friends traveling on Air Force One who are not administration officials, do you know?  We saw someone boarding who happened to be well dressed with like a cowboy hat -- wasn’t sure who that was -- earlier before the President got there.  And I didn’t know if any other friends or acquaintances --
MR. EARNEST:  There are a couple members of the Florida congressional delegation onboard.  I saw Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and Congressman Joe Garcia is on board as well.  It may have been one of the two of them that you saw. 
Q    You don’t know if any other, like, friends?
MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know of any other friends of the President or the First Lady that’s on board.
Q    Is there still a chance that he could go back to the White House tonight?  Or is the weekend here set pretty much?
MR. EARNEST:  There’s always a chance that the schedule could change, but I don’t anticipate any changes at this point.
Q    Josh, one more question on this.  You’ve obviously got the Vice President out of town, the Secretary of State is still out of town, the National Security Advisor is in the Persian Gulf, and the President is heading to Florida.  I’m just wondering that’s four senior national security officials not in Washington, including the President.  Is that an unusual set of circumstances?  And does that pose any issues in terms of how the government would respond should something sudden happen in Ukraine or Crimea?
MR. EARNEST:  It’s hard for me to speak to the travel habits of all of those officials.  Most of the people you described have as a part of their job description traveling overseas to represent the interest of the United States overseas.  So I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a fairly regular occurrence.  I mean, it’s not uncommon when the President is traveling overseas for the National Security Advisor or for the Secretary of State to be with him.  So it’s not uncommon.
I will say this:  The President is traveling this weekend with his Deputy National Security Advisor, Tony Blinken, who has played a very important role in handling this situation in Ukraine.  The President is traveling with the regular assortment of communications tools that will allow him to convene in a secure fashion meetings with his national security team, if necessary.  He, of course, has a telephone, so if he needs to make calls to world leaders, whether it’s President Putin or our allies, or other international leaders that are involved in this effort, he can stay in regular touch with them.  So we have complete confidence that the President can handle all the responsibilities that he has, based on the resources that we have with us on the flight.
Q    That said, you were quoted earlier this week I think by Politico saying that it was still up in the air, there was some debate or some internal deliberations about whether he would maintain a weekend schedule of staying down there.  The decision seems that he’s going to.  What was the debate about then if he can do that, and you know that?  Are you saying that the situation in the Ukraine is sort of calm enough that you can go reliably?  In other words, what was the debate or why did it come down on this side?
MR. EARNEST:  I wouldn’t characterize it as a debate.  I was quoted in Politico talking about the fact that the President’s schedule would be a little more fluid than usual because international events were a little more fluid than usual. 
I do think that what we have seen over the course of the last several days is the President has marshalled our allies to put in place a structure for responding to the situation that we’re seeing on the ground in Ukraine.  The President has had, again, multiple conversations with President Putin where he highlighted that there is an off-ramp here, that there is an opportunity for the Russians to sit down with the Ukrainians, facilitated by the international community, if necessary, to try to broker an agreement, to allow international inspectors into every corner of the nation of Ukraine to ensure that the rights of everybody, including the rights of ethnic Russians, are being protected.
We’ve described before that that is a legitimate interest of Russia and, frankly, it’s a legitimate interest of the international community to ensure that the rights of all the citizens of Ukraine are being respected.
There’s an opportunity for the Russians to live up to their basing agreement in Crimea, to return their soldiers and their troops to their bases, and for the international community to come together in support of the elections that are planned for May.  So there is a path to deescalate the situation.  And that is a path that has been set up by -- under the President’s leadership.  We have marshalled the international community behind -- or in support of this potential off-ramp.  And I think over the course of the next few days, we’ll get a better indication about whether or not the Russians are open to that off-ramp.
And one of the conclusions of the call that the President had with President Putin yesterday was that Secretary of State John Kerry and his counterpart, Foreign Minister Lavrov, should be in touch to talk about steps forward on that. 
So I think -- the President is hopeful that we’ll get a little greater clarity on the situation over the course of the next few days.  And if additional steps need to be taken next week, then we can take those steps.
Q    Can you characterize the tone of these lengthy conversations that the two leaders have had?  I mean, you said that next few days will tell the story, but it doesn't seem that so far that something has come out of it, that --
MR. EARNEST:  I don't want to set up a deadline over the next few days.  I think we’re hopeful that in the next few days, we’ll get greater clarity about whether or not the Russians are willing to take some concrete steps toward this off-ramp here.
But in terms of characterizing the calls, we have issued readouts and I wouldn’t want to get in front of those.  But I do think that it’s fair for you to -- fair for people to take away from these readouts that at least as it relates to the view of the situation -- the U.S. view of the situation versus the Russian view of the situation in Ukraine, and in Crimea in particular, there’s a pretty strong difference of opinion; that there is a disagreement about the facts related to what’s actually happening on the ground there.
The best example of this is you saw in the news conference that President Putin convened earlier this week that he basically denied that there were Russian troops on the ground in Crimea outside their bases.  All of the available evidence indicates that's not true. 
So we’re having robust, direct, candid conversations between President Obama and President Putin.  That means acknowledging that there are basic differences over what’s actually happening on the ground in Crimea. 
So the real test is whether or not the Russians are going to take advantage of this off-ramp that is available here.  And we’re hopeful that the Russians will take the steps necessary to deescalate the situation -- by observing the basing agreements, by supporting elections, by entering into talks, facilitated by the international community, if necessary, with the Ukrainians to try to resolve all this.  And again, that could also include putting international monitors all throughout Ukraine to ensure that the rights of everybody, including ethnic Russians, are being respected. 
President Putin has indicated that that's part of Russia’s interest in the region, and it’s part of the U.S. and the international community’s interest in the region.  So there is some common ground here.  But I don't want to paper over the differences that exist on some very basic facts on the ground.
Q    It sounds like you’re saying the White House is in kind of a wait-and-see mode for a few days on this?
MR. EARNEST:  I wouldn’t use those words, only because the President and senior members of our team remain very actively engaged in the situation.  The President will continue to consult very closely with our allies around the globe, particularly the G7 nations that Jeff mentioned.  Secretary Kerry will be in touch with his counterpart, having specific discussions about the way forward here.  So there’s still a lot of activity going on here even as we watch carefully to see what the Russian reaction might be.
Other questions?
Q    Will the President have a message today for voters in next week’s special congressional election? 
MR. EARNEST:  The White House is obviously aware that there is a special congressional election on the other side of the state of Florida.  I know that that race has gotten a lot of national attention, but I don’t anticipate that in his event today that the President will be talking about it.  He’ll be pretty focused today on this one core component of his domestic agenda, which is expanding the door -- expanding college education. 
Q    Is it a coincidence that he’s there a few days ahead of the election?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, it’s in a different part of the state, so, yes, it is a coincidence.
Q    Do you have a week ahead?
MR. EARNEST:  I do have a very bare-bones week ahead.  At this point, we anticipate that the President and the First Family will return to Washington on Sunday.
On Monday, the President is really looking forward to welcoming the 2012 and 2013 Division I Men’s and Women’s NCAA National Champions at the White House.  As you know, the President traditionally welcomes the NCAA champion football and basketball teams.  This will be an opportunity for the President to welcome the NCAA champions in some sports that don’t get quite as much attention as those other more high-profile events.  So we’re looking forward to that.
On Tuesday, the President is planning to travel to New York City to participate in events to benefit the DNC and the DSCC.  At this point, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I don’t have any additional events to announce.  I anticipate the President will be at the White House and participating in meetings on those days.
Q    Thank you.
Q    I have one more -- sorry -- closer question to ask about this beer bet.  My editors asked me to ask specifically -- Prime Minister Harper said he hasn’t gotten his beer yet from the Olympic hockey bet.  What’s with the delay?
MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know.  I’m not privy to the details of the international beer delivery, but I can tell you that the President is somebody who makes good on his bets.  So I’m confident that Prime Minister Harper and members of his team will soon be enjoying some delicious White House beer. 
All right.  Thanks.
END

U.S.-ISRAEL DISCUSS SEIZED IRANIAN SHIPMENT OF WEAPONS TO TERRORIST IN GAZA

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Hagel, Israeli Defense Minister Discuss Red Sea Operation
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Mar. 7, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe "Boogie" Yaalon yesterday afternoon and received a briefing on Israel's interdiction operation in the Red Sea that seized a suspected Iranian shipment of advanced weapons bound for terrorist organizations operating in Gaza.

In a statement summarizing the phone call, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said the secretary congratulated Yaalon on the operation’s success and reiterated the U.S. commitment to holding Iran accountable for its destabilizing activities in the region, “even as we continue efforts to resolve our concerns over Iran's nuclear program through diplomacy.”

“Secretary Hagel made clear that illicit actions by Iran are unacceptable to the international community and in gross violation of Iran's U.N. Security Council obligations,” the press secretary added.

The Defense Department and the Israeli Defense Ministry have been in consistent touch on Israel's interdiction operation, Kirby said, coordinating extensively through military and intelligence channels.

“The secretary and the minister pledged to continue this close consultation as Israel completes its final inspection of the vessel,” he said, “and reaffirmed the strength of the U.S.-Israel defense relationship.”

West Wing Week 3/7/14 or, "Look Who's In Our Room"

SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY'S REMARKS ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT

International Women's Day

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 7, 2014


International Women’s Day is a moment to pause and reflect on the contributions of women to the world and to reaffirm our commitment to continued progress on gender equality. It’s also a powerful reminder that women are advancing peace and prosperity around the world in really remarkable ways.

I see it every day as Secretary of State.

I see it in Ukraine, where women are working on the frontlines as volunteers for the Maidan Medical Service. They are raising their voices for freedom and dignity, and we must all step up and answer their call.

I see it in Afghanistan, where women are starting companies, serving as members of parliament, teaching in schools, and working as doctors and nurses. They are the foundation on which Afghanistan’s future is being built.

I see it in Syria, where women are getting restrictions on humanitarian access lifted by offering food to regime soldiers at the checkpoints.

I see it in Mali, where women are risking their lives as advocates for women’s and children’s rights.

Everywhere I travel, in every meeting, I can see firsthand the promise of a world where women are empowered as equal partners in peace and prosperity. But here’s what’s most important: all of the fights and all of the progress we’ve seen in recent years haven’t come easily or without struggle. And we still have work to do.

Our work is not done when one out of every three women is subjected to some form of violence in her lifetime.

We cannot rest knowing that girls younger than 15 are forced to marry and that they are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their twenties.

We cannot hope to break the cycle of poverty if we fail to harness the talent and productivity of half the world’s population. And we cannot hope to break the cycle of war if women are not enlisted as equal partners in the work of peace.

So here’s what I’m saying and what we all need to demand: Women must be involved in the decisions that affect us all. They must have a place at the peacekeeping tables and in the tough negotiations following deadly conflict. They must have a seat on the boards of corporations that impact our economies, and they must have a voice in the halls of justice that uphold the rule of law.

When we invest in our mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters, we invest in a brighter future for the world. The United States stands ready to protect and advance the health, education, and human rights of women and girls everywhere, because women’s progress is human progress.

U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT CONTRACTS FOR MARCH 7, 2014

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
CONTRACTS
 DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

Tactical & Survival Specialties Inc.**, Harrisonburg, Va., (SPM8EJ-14-D-0003); W.S. Darley & Co.*, Itasca, Ill., (SPM8EJ-14-D-0004); ADS Inc.*, Virginia Beach, Va., (SPM8EJ-14-D-0005); Federal Resources Supply Co.*, Stevensville, Md., (SPM8EJ-14-D-0006); Source One Distributors Inc.***, Wellington, Fla., (SPM8EJ-14-D-0007); H Squared Inc., doing business as Quantico Tactical**, Aberdeen, N.C., (SPM8EJ-14-D-0008), have been awarded a maximum $10,000,000,000 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for support of special operational equipment tailored logistics support program.  This is a two-year base contract with three one-year option periods.  This contract is a competitive acquisition and 20 offers were received.  Locations of performance are Virginia, Illinois, Maryland, Florida, and North Carolina with a March 6, 2016 performance completion date.  Using military services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and federal civilian agencies.  Type of appropriation is fiscal 2014 through fiscal 2016 defense working capital funds.  The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support, Philadelphia, Pa.

Tactical & Survival Specialties, Inc.**, Harrisonburg, Va., (SPM8EJ-09-D-0001); W.S. Darley & Co.*, Itasca, Ill., (SPM8EJ-09-D-0002); Atlantic Diving Supply, Inc.*, Virginia Beach, Va., (SPM8EJ-09-D-0002); Source One Distributors Inc.***, Wellington, Fla., (SPM8EJ-09-D-0004), have been awarded a maximum $84,000,000 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for various types of tactical, survival, and rescue equipment.  This is a two-month base contract with no option periods.  This contract is a competitive acquisition, and 14 offers were received.  Locations of performance are Virginia, Illinois, and Florida with a May 8, 2014 performance completion date.  Using military services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and federal civilian agencies.  Type of appropriation is fiscal 2014 defense working capital funds.  The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support, Philadelphia, Pa.

Sysco Central Florida, Ocoee, Fla., has been awarded a maximum $39,375,000 fixed-price with economic-price-adjustment contract for prime vendor food and beverage support.  This contract is a competitive acquisition and one offer was received.  This is a two-year base contract with one one-year option and one two-year option periods.  Location of performance is Florida with an April 16, 2019 performance completion date.  Using military services are Army, Navy, Air Force, and Job Corps.  Subsistence outside of the continental United States (OCONUS) prime vendors will order from this contract in support of OCONUS military customers.  Type of appropriation is fiscal 2014 defense working capital funds.  The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support, Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM300-14-D-3000).

Shore Terminals LLC, doing business as NuStar, San Antonio, Texas, has been awarded a maximum $32,333,197 modification (P00075) exercising the third option period on a five-year base contract (SP0600-99-C-5926) with three five-year option periods for petroleum storage services.  This is a firm-fixed-price contract.  Locations of performance are Texas and California with a March 6, 2019 performance completion date.  Using military services are Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps.  Type of appropriation is fiscal 2014 through fiscal 2019 defense working capital funds.  The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Fort Belvoir, Va.

Pentaq Manufacturing Corp.****, Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico, has been awarded a maximum $27,244,510 modification (P00102) exercising the first option period on a one-year base contract (SPM1C1-13-D-1036) with four one-year option periods for various coats.  This is a firm-fixed-price contract.  Locations of performance are Puerto Rico and Mississippi with a March 17, 2015 performance completion date.  Using military service is Army.  Type of appropriation is fiscal 2014 through fiscal 2015 defense working capital funds.  The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support, Philadelphia, Pa.

Raytheon Co., Space and Airborne Systems, El Segundo, Calif., has been awarded a maximum $8,970,000 firm-fixed-price contract for aircraft circuit card assemblies.  This contract is a sole-source acquisition.  This is a five-year base contract with no option periods.  Location of performance is California with a Nov. 30, 2016 performance completion date.  Using military service is Navy, Canada, and Australia.  Type of appropriation is fiscal 2013 through fiscal year 2016 Navy and foreign military sales funds.  The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Aviation, Philadelphia, Pa., (SPRPA1-11-G-003X-5006).

Imperial Sales Co.*, Watsonville, Calif., has been awarded a maximum $8,152,137 modification (P00202) exercising the third option period on a one-year base contract (SPM3S1-11-D-Z188) with four one-year option periods for various commercial components for unitized group rations.  This is a fixed-price with economic-price-adjustment contract.  Location of performance is California with a March 10, 2015 performance completion date.  Using military services are Army and Marine Corps.  Type of appropriation is fiscal 2013 defense working capital funds.  The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support, Philadelphia, Pa.

NAVY

Bell-Boeing Joint Project Office, Amarillo, Texas, is being awarded a $76,100,722 modification to the previously awarded V-22 fixed-price-incentive-fee lot 17-21 multiyear contract (N00019-12-C-2001).  This modification exercises an option for the manufacture and delivery of one CV-22 tiltrotor aircraft for the U.S. Air Force.  Work will be performed in Fort Worth, Texas (24.6 percent); Ridley Park, Pa. (19.2 percent), Amarillo, Texas (10.4 percent), Dallas, Texas (4.3 percent); East Aurora, N.Y. (2.5 percent); Park City, Utah (1.7 percent); El Segundo, Calif. (1.3 percent); Endicott, N.Y. (1 percent); Ontario, Canada (.9 percent); Tempe, Ariz. (.8 percent); Rome, N.Y. (.7 percent); Torrance, Calif. (.7 percent); Luton, United Kingdom (.6 percent); Clifton, N.J. (.6 percent); Salisbury, Md. (.6 percent); Los Angeles, Calif. (.6 percent); Cobham, United Kingdom (.6 percent); Irvine, Calif. (.6 percent); San Diego, Calif. (.5 percent); Yakima, Wash. (.5 percent); Brea, Calif. (.5 percent); Rockmart, Ga. (.5 percent); McKinney, Texas (.4 percent); Albuquerque, N.M. (.4 percent); Whitehall, Mich. (.4 percent); Wolverhampton, United Kingdom (.4 percent); Tucson, Ariz. (.4 percent); Erie, Pa. (.3 percent); Vergennes, Vt. (.3 percent); Kilgore, Texas (.3 percent); Shelby, N.C. (.3 percent); Avon, Ohio (.2 percent); Santa Clarita, Calif. (.2 percent); Garden City, N.Y. (.2 percent); El Cajon, Calif. (.2 percent); Corinth, Texas (.2 percent); Sylmar, Calif. (.2 percent); Westbury, N.Y. (.1 percent); and various other locations inside and outside the United States (21.8 percent), and is expected to be completed in December 2016.  Fiscal 2014 aircraft procurement, Air Force and Special Operations Command funds in the amount of $76,100,722 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Vigor Shipyards Inc., Seattle, Wash., is being awarded a $30,703,417 cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-award-fee contract to definitize a previously awarded undefinitized contract action (N00024-11-C-4401) for repair and alteration of naval assets.  This body of work is being awarded under an existing five-year contract for planning and execution of repair and alteration to surface ships while in drydock. The USS Momsen (DDG 92) will be undergoing a docking selected restricted availability which is the opportunity in the ship’s life cycle to primarily conduct repair and alteration to systems and hull not available when the ship is waterborne.  Work will be performed in Seattle, Wash., and is expected to be completed by October 2014.  Fiscal 2014 operations and maintenance, Navy funding in the amount of $8,405,188 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, Bremerton, Wash., is the contracting activity.

Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, is being awarded a not-to-exceed $7,696,166 undefinitized modification to the previously awarded low rate initial production lot 6 advanced acquisition contract (N00019-11-C-0083) for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.  This modification provides for the procurement of non-recurring sustainment activities for the government of the United Kingdom, to include procurement of site activation planning efforts for Royal Air Force Marham.  Work will be performed in Warton, United Kingdom (65 percent); and Fort Worth, Texas (35 percent), and is expected to be completed in June 2014.  International partner funds in the amount of $3,848,083 will be obligated at time of award, none of which expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

ARMY

D&S Consultants Inc., doing business as DSCI, Eatontown, N.J., has been awarded an $8,734,140 firm-fixed-price, sole-source contract for Information Technology operations and maintenance support services for United States Southern Command Joint Task Force-Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Work will be performed in Cuba with Sept. 6, 2014 estimated completion date.  Fiscal 2014 operations and maintenance Army funds in the amount of $6,833,026 were obligated at time of award.  U.S. Army Contracting Command – Fort Sam Houston, Texas is the contracting activity (W912CL-14-C-0008).


Ronal Industries Inc.*, Troy, Mich. was awarded a $7,422,150 firm-fixed-price, multi-year indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for 2,075 fan vaneaxials for the M109 howitzer.  Funding and work performance location will be determined with each order.  Estimated completion date is July, 31, 2019.  Bids were solicited via the Internet with two received.  Army Contracting Command, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-14-D-0042).

*Small Business
**Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business
***Veteran Owned Small Business
****Small Disadvantaged Business

COURT BANS SLOVAKIA-BASED ONLINE DIRECTORY SCAMMERS FROM ONLINE DIRECTORY BUSINESS

FROM:  FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 
FTC Action Leads to Ban Against Internet Directory Scammers
Overseas Defendants Targeted Small Businesses, Non-Profits in U.S.

In an action brought by the Federal Trade Commission, a federal court has banned a Slovakia-based operation from the online directory business and entered a $9 million judgment against them.

“The last thing small business owners need is someone trying to trick them out of their hard-earned money,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC is committed to taking action against this kind of deceptive scheme.”

In March 2013, the FTC charged Wolfgang Valvoda, Susanne Anhorn, and Construct Data Publishers a.s., also doing business as Fair Guide, with tricking small businesses and non-profits into paying millions of dollars to be listed in an online directory they did not want to be listed in, and for which they did not realize they would be charged.

As the FTC alleged in its complaint, the defendants sent mailings to small retailers, home-based businesses, local associations, and others who host exhibits at trade shows. The mailings were falsely linked to a trade show the recipients had attended or planned to attend, to trick them into thinking they had a preexisting business relationship with the defendants. The enclosed cover letter and form falsely suggested that the recipients needed to confirm or update their contact information for the trade show. Many did not notice a statement, buried in fine print at the bottom of the form, that by signing and returning the form they were agreeing to pay $1,717 annually to Construct Data Publishers, a company with no connection to trade shows, for a listing on its website, fairguide.com.

The defendants disguised their true location in Slovakia by hiring a company in Naperville, Illinois, to print and mail the cover letters and forms. The mailings included a pre-paid return envelope addressed to a Chicago-area P.O. Box. After delivery to the P.O. Box, the mail was forwarded to the defendants in Slovakia. The defendants then sent out invoices demanding payment of $1,717 or more from each business or non-profit that had returned a signed form. The invoices instructed recipients to wire payment to a Slovakian bank account. Those who refused to pay were threatened with extra charges, damage to their credit, and lawsuits. Many paid just to end the harassment.

The FTC filed its complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, charging that the defendants’ deceptive conduct violated the FTC Act. The court issued a temporary restraining order followed by a preliminary injunction prohibiting the fraud and freezing the defendants’ assets pending litigation. On February 11, 2014, the court entered a default judgment and permanent injunction against the defendants.

In addition to banning the defendants from selling online directories and directory listings, the court order announced today prohibits them from misrepresenting material facts about any products and services, selling or otherwise benefitting from customers’ personal information, failing to properly dispose of customer information, and collecting money from customers. The court also entered a $9.1 million judgment against defendants based on the consumer losses caused by the scheme.

The court’s order is the latest in a series of actions taken against Construct Data/Fair Guide. Courts in Germany and Italy also have entered orders against the company for its deceptive practices. In 2007, to settle a lawsuit filed by an Austrian trade association, Construct Data agreed to cease its deceptive solicitations in Europe. The following year, however, Construct Data moved from Austria to Slovakia and continued its scheme, targeting businesses and non-profits in the United States and other countries.

The FTC appreciates the assistance of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Slovakia, the Slovak Police Attache, and the Ministry of Justice of Austria in bringing this case.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER'S REMARKS AT AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH CELEBRATION

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Attorney General Eric Holder Delivers Remarks at the African American History Month Celebration Marking the 50th Anniversary of 1964 Civil Rights Act
~ Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Thank you, Chief Judge [Richard] Roberts, for those kind words; for your leadership from the bench; and for your many years of service to our nation – both as a District Court Judge and as a former prosecutor.  It is a pleasure to be with you today.  And it’s an honor to join so many distinguished jurists, devoted public servants, and committed public safety officials in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – and rededicating ourselves to the struggle for equal rights and equal justice that has defined this country since its earliest days.

It’s a special privilege to share the stage with Deputy Marshal [Kirk] Bowden, who, as we’ve just heard, stood on the literal front lines of this fight during a critical moment in the Civil Rights Movement – at a time when young students, law enforcement officials, National Guardsmen, and brave citizens risked their lives to integrate historic institutions across the Deep South.  The courage, and the sacrifices, of people like James Meredith, Deputy Bowden – and others who stood with them on that fateful day in 1962 – helped to transform our nation for the better.  The victories they achieved made countless others possible.  And just a year after Deputy Bowden and his colleagues helped secure the integration of the University of Mississippi – at great cost – other brave law enforcement officials, Justice Department leaders, and federalized National Guard personnel helped a remarkable young woman named Vivian Malone – who would much later become my sister-in-law – to peacefully step past Governor George Wallace, along with another brave young person, James Hood – to become the first African American students to enroll at the University of Alabama.

Like all who are old enough to remember those days, I will never forget the turmoil, and the violence, that characterized the Civil Rights era – as millions of people braved dogs and fire hoses, billy clubs and baseball bats, bullets and bombs, in order to secure the rights which were theirs as Americans.  Thanks to their sacrifices, their leadership, and the relentless optimism of pioneers like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, and so many others – the 1960s was a time of great challenge, but also great promise, for our nation.  And among the signature achievements of that tumultuous decade – a decade defined by tragedy as well as hope; by bitter loss as well as remarkable progress – few were as important, or as impactful, as the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

When President Lyndon Johnson signed this landmark law – 50 years ago this coming July – he recognized it as a watershed moment.  Although its adoption did not put the issue of equal justice to rest – or settle the cause of civil rights, once and for all – it marked an inflection point in our history.  It gave those who sought fair treatment a renewed sense of hope.  And it reaffirmed their determination to keep fighting for the brighter future that all of our citizens deserved.

In the years that followed, this struggle – to secure what President Johnson once called the “dignity of man and the destiny of democracy” – would lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and a range of other reforms, both large and small.  Together, these changes altered the course of the 20th century.  And they led our nation’s Department of Justice to take an active role in defending the civil rights to which everyone in this country is entitled – work that remains among our top priorities today.

In many ways, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 continues to stand at the heart of our ongoing efforts – providing critical protections against discrimination and disenfranchisement for members of every sector of society.  But it’s far from the only tool we have for advancing the cause of justice under law; for ensuring both fairness and rigor in all of our enforcement activities; and for securing the basic promise of equality that was codified in our founding documents – and must drive our ongoing efforts to make this fundamental truth not only “self-evident,” but protected by the law.

We can be proud of all that the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, of which Chief Judge Roberts was once a member, has done to advance this struggle in recent years.  Since 2009, the Division has filed more criminal civil rights cases than at any other time in our history, including record numbers of police misconduct and human trafficking cases.  Under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Obama signed into law in 2009, we are improving our ability to hold accountable those who commit bias-motivated acts of violence.  We’re working, under the Defending Childhood Initiative and the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, to combat bullying and harassment, to protect America’s young people from violence and abuse, and to partner with allies like the Department of Education to disrupt the “school-to-prison pipeline.”  And in a variety of ways – from our neighborhoods and workplaces, to our housing and lending markets; from our boardrooms to our border areas; from our military bases to our voting booths – my colleagues and I are using every resource at our disposal and every tool within our reach to stand against all forms of discrimination.

This means taking appropriately aggressive action to enforce key civil rights protections and, where necessary, to call for additional legislative remedies.  But it also means standing vigilant against those who would roll back the progress of the last half-century.  Particularly since last June, when a narrowly split but deeply divided Supreme Court invalidated a critical part of the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Division has been focused on reallocating resources to enforce all federal voting protections that remain on the books.  The Justice Department has filed suit to challenge voting restrictions in Texas and North Carolina.  And I am personally committed to working with Congressional leaders from both parties to refine, and to strengthen, new voting rights legislation that’s being debated on Capitol Hill.

Fortunately, all of this is only the beginning.  And if today’s leaders – and especially today’s lawyers – hope to build on the legacy of those who made the Civil Rights Act and other extraordinary advancements possible, I believe we must do much more than simply prevent the unraveling of the progress with which prior generations have entrusted us.  Moving forward, we must continue to expand the fight for civil rights and equal justice – by seeking new ways to address unwarranted disparities, to combat disenfranchisement, and to address the evolving threats of our time.  And we must begin by ensuring that America has a criminal justice system that’s worthy of its highest ideals; that those who pay their debts to society have fair opportunities to become productive, law-abiding citizens; and that 21st century criminal justice challenges can be met with 21st century solutions.

Last August – in a speech before the American Bar Association in San Francisco – I announced a new “Smart on Crime” initiative that’s dedicated to these goals, and is already allowing us to take meaningful steps forward.  Under this initiative, I mandated an important change to the Justice Department’s charging policies to ensure that stringent mandatory minimum sentences for certain federal, drug-related crimes will now be reserved for the most serious criminals.  My colleagues and I are increasing our emphasis on proven diversion programs – such as drug rehabilitation and community service initiatives – that can serve as effective alternatives to incarceration.  And we are investing in data-driven reentry strategies – and evaluating the unnecessary collateral consequences imposed by certain convictions – to enable formerly incarcerated individuals to stay on the right path and out of the criminal justice system.

Three weeks ago, at Georgetown University Law Center, I called upon state leaders and other elected officials across the country to take another important step in this regard – by restoring voting rights to those who have served their terms in prison or jail, completed their parole or probation, and paid their fines.  We’ve seen over the years that the permanent disenfranchisement of these individuals is unwise and unjust.  We know that it is also counterproductive, undermining the reentry process and perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated people.  The reality is that felony disenfranchisement policies are not only extremely outdated – they echo troubling policies that were enacted more than a century ago, during a time of post-Civil War repression.  And they continue to have a disproportionate impact on America’s communities of color.

Clearly, it’s well past time for us to declare – together – that the free exercise of our fundamental rights must never be subject to the lingering effects of flawed or unjust policies.  Even more broadly, it’s time to affirm – once and for all – that the basic promise of our justice system must never hinge on the quality of, or access to, legal representation for those who need it.

That’s why I believe that, as every jurist and legal professional in this room knows all too well, it is not just unacceptable – it is shameful – that half a century after the Supreme Court declared, in Gideon v. Wainwright, that every person charged with a serious crime has the right to an attorney – far too many Americans still struggle to gain access to the legal assistance they need.

It is shameful that, in far too many places, extraordinarily dedicated public defenders face crushing caseloads without the support they need to do their jobs.

And it’s shameful that – while the federal public defender system has consistently served as a model for success – a recent study shows that only 21 percent of reporting state systems and just over a quarter of county-based offices have enough attorneys to meet caseload guidelines.

Today’s Justice Department is committed to doing everything in our power to help address this indigent defense crisis – including through the Access to Justice initiative I launched in 2010 to increase access to counsel and legal assistance, and to improve the justice delivery systems that serve people who are unable to afford lawyers.  In recent years, our ability to offer support to state and local providers has been constrained by sequestration and other budget shortfalls that have necessitated deep cuts at every level of government.  But the bipartisan funding agreement that President Obama signed into law – just last month – will finally restore the Department’s overall funding to pre-sequestration levels.  And I am pleased to report today that the President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2015 will address the need for additional resources for indigent defense programs throughout America – which must remain a top priority even, and especially, when budgets are tight.

I call upon state and local leaders to step forward and do their part in ensuring that we can live up to the full promise of Gideon.  And I urge legal professionals across the country to do everything they can do help guarantee that adequate legal representation is seen not as a luxury for those who can afford it – but as a basic American right.

After all, neither the Department I lead, nor the Administration in which I am privileged to serve, will be able to bring about this and the other changes we seek on our own.  Just as we have done throughout our history, this nation will continue to rely on passionate citizens to drive us forward.  And we will depend upon leaders like all of you to use your unique skills, training, and experience – at the highest levels of our legal system – to bring our country closer to the values of our forebears and the promise of our founding.

Five decades after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we can reflect with pride on the progress that this critical measure, and so many others, have made possible over many years of struggle and sacrifice.  But even the most sweeping legislation cannot, by itself, wash away the deeply ingrained disparities that millions of Americans continue to face.  Despite all that’s been achieved, a great deal of work remains before us.  We cannot yet be satisfied.  We cannot afford to become complacent.  And we must seize this opportunity to expand on the legacy of inclusion, equality, and justice we’ve inherited.

Although much remains to be done, I am confident that, with your continued leadership, with your steadfast support – and with the courage and determination that has always defined the very best of America’s legal community – we will forge the stronger, more just, and more accepting society that we, and our fellow citizens, deserve.  I am proud to count you as colleagues, and as partners, in this important effort.  And I thank you, once again, for the chance to discuss this work with you today; for your dedication to the cause of justice that remains our common pursuit; and for your commitment to honoring our past by building the brighter future we seek.