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Saturday, September 27, 2014

EXPEDITION 41/42 LAUNCEHS TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

RECENT DOD PHOTOS: MARINES PATROLLING IN AFGHANISTAN

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 


U.S. Marines use optic sensors on vehicles to observe the surrounding area during a security patrol in Shorab in Afghanistan's Helmand province, Sept. 20, 2014. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John A. Martinez Jr.


U.S. Marines patrol in a tactical column in Shorab in Afghanistan's Helmand province, Sept. 20, 2014. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John A. Martinez Jr.


Weekly Address: America is Leading the World

9/26/14: White House Press Briefing

SECRETARY KERRY'S REMARKS AT FRIENDS OF COMPREHENSIVE NUCLEAR-TEST-BAN MINISTERIAL

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Remarks At The Friends of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Ministerial
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
United Nations Headquarters
New York City
September 26, 2014

Thank you, Fumio. Thank you very, very much. Mr. Secretary-General, let me begin by thanking you for an extraordinary week here at the United Nations. I think this has been an UNGA that’s been as seized with the issues of the day as forcefully and as directly as at any time, and we’re very appreciative for all of the UN’s efforts to make that happen. And I can tell you that everybody here with respect to the CTBT will say “Ban forever,” I promise you. (Laughter.)

It’s a privilege to join the friends of the CTBT ministerial because we are here in pursuit of a very noble goal, and that is to ensure that one day our children and our grandchildren will live in a world where the very real threat of nuclear weapons is a subject to be read about in the history books and not in the newspapers, not as a matter of daily currency. And I am mindful of what Fumio said about representing the one country in the world that has seen nuclear weapons in time of war. We learned, all of us, the awesome power that we’ve sought to contain ever since that time, and I believe it is containable. And I might say that I’m proud that President Obama has been pushing to reduce America’s arsenal along with Russia, and that we did manage to pass, when I was in the Senate, the START Treaty.

But the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban treaty has thus far eluded for various reasons. It remains a critical part of our effort to strip the world of these weapons. Some people don’t think that’s possible. I don’t agree. It’s interesting when you have Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, former secretaries of Defense and State all joining together saying it is possible. So people need, obviously, to embrace the notion that how we resolve conflicts has to change dramatically. That’s the purpose of the UN. How we deal with each other has to change. But if we lose the ability to envision that change, we lose something very special in the human spirit, and I think everybody here understands what I mean. We have to believe in the possibility of changing the way we resolve conflict, and if we do, then deterrence by nuclear weapons is something that can change.

So any time we work cooperatively to address the threat of nuclear weapons, we do make the world a safer place, and I have said to people who are doubters about the capacity to take this deterrence away – I’ve said to them, “Every step you take towards it – whether you get there tomorrow or in 50 years or what – makes the world a safer place. There is no question about that.”

The interim agreement that we struck with Iran, the P5+1, has made the world safer because a nuclear stockpile that was at 20 percent has been reduced to 1 – and nothing. And inspections are taking place and there is greater certainty about possibilities than there was before it went into place. And it remains our fervent hope that Iran and the P5+1 can in the next weeks come to an agreement that would benefit the world and it would deal, ultimately, with the issues that are contained in the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty.

So I come here to reiterate the Obama Administration’s unshakable commitment to seeing this treaty ratified and entered into force. And though we have not yet succeeded in ratifying it for pure political, ideological reasons – not substance, I assure you – we nevertheless are pledged to live by it, and we do live by it, and we will live by it.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz made clear a very compelling case for the value of stockpile stewardship in the context of this treaty. And I’ll say just a word about our commitment to the verification regime. Part of that commitment means engaging the American people, our citizens, on the treaty’s merits. And I know some members of the United States Senate still have concerns about this treaty. I believe they can be addressed by science, by facts, through computers and the technology we have today coupled with a legitimate stockpile stewardship program.

So let me be crystal-clear about what this treaty is and what it isn’t. This treaty is about diminishing our reliance on nuclear weapons. It’s about reducing dangerous competition among nuclear powers. It’s about responsible disarmament, and ultimately it’s about advancing international peace and security by building a different structure on which we can all rely.

I also want to be clear about what this treaty isn’t. This treaty isn’t just a feel-good exercise. It’s in all of our national security interests, and it’s verifiable. In fact, its verification regime is one of the great accomplishments of the modern world. The international monitoring system is nearly complete; it is robust, it is effective, and it has contributed critical scientific data on everything from tsunami warnings to tracking radioactivity and nuclear reactor accidents.

What this treaty does is simple: It sets standards and enforces the kind of verification measures that the United States already has in place, and that’s why we remain a strong supporter of the treaty. And we continue to be the single largest contributor to its budget. In fact, we’ve already provided more than 40 million above our assessment over the past two years. As the United States Senate considers ratification, it will require assurances not only that an effective, operational, and sustainable verification regime is in place, but that other nations are committed to sustaining it. That’s why we urge the seven other Annex II states to accelerate their efforts to ratify the treaty and urge all signatory states to provide the resources necessary to complete the verification regime. Let me be clear: There is no reason for the Annex II states to wait for the United States before completing their own ratification process, and this treaty is a national security imperative for all of us.

So I close by just saying that President Obama and I believe that this time we’re living in, with all the conflict of ISIL and failed and failing states and Ebola and conflicts that we wish did not exist, still could become an age of construction, not destruction. A lot of that depends on the people in this room and on the leaders who are not here but were here this week, and it certainly depends on our willingness to fulfill a promise to our children and what they will inherit.

So we have to act with courage in the months ahead – days, weeks, and months ahead, and we know that our goal of a nuclear-free world may be a lofty one. But believe me, it is absolutely one worth fighting for, especially in an age where dirty bombs and nuclear materials and all of these other dangers exist. We would be better off, clearly, emphasizing the passage of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty so that we will never again see additional nuclear powers, and so that the existing nuclear powers will continue to move to eliminate these weapons from Earth.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. (Applause.)

NASA VIDEO: SPACE SCOOP: X-RAY VISION REVEALS INSIDE OF STARS

DOJ FILES STATEMENT OF INTEREST IN NEW YORK CASE INVOLVING DEFENDANTS RIGHT TO COUNCIL

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Department of Justice Files Statement of Interest in New York State Right to Counsel Case

The Department of Justice today filed a statement of interest with the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Albany County in Hurrell-Harring v. State of New York.  In this class action litigation, the plaintiffs allege that, due to systemic failures in four New York counties, indigent criminal defendants have been constructively denied the right to counsel.

In Hurrell-Harring the plaintiffs allege that a lack of funding for indigent defense deprives public defenders of the time or resources to prepare cases or meaningfully represent their clients and amounts to the denial of counsel in violation of Gideon v. Wainwright and the Sixth Amendment.  In its statement of interest, the department advised the court that under resourcing public defense may force even otherwise competent and well-intentioned public defenders into a position where they are, in effect, a lawyer in name only.  The statement of interest added that if the court finds that the plaintiffs have been constructively denied the right to counsel on a systemic basis, the court has broad injunctive authority to remedy those constitutional violations.

“To truly guarantee adequate representation for low-income defendants, we must ensure that public defenders’ caseloads allow them to do an effective job,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “The Department of Justice is committed to addressing the inequalities that unfold every day in America’s courtrooms, and to fulfilling the Supreme Court’s historic decision in Gideon v. Wainwright.  America’s indigent defense systems exist in a state of crisis, and over 50 years after it was made, the promise of Gideon is not being met.”

“This case is emblematic of a national crisis in indigent criminal defense,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Molly Moran of the Civil Rights Division.  “The right to counsel is one of the core guarantees of the Bill of Rights, and yet, as countless cases and studies show, indigent defense systems across the country are facing significant challenges in meeting their Sixth Amendment obligations.”

The purpose of the statement of interest is to provide the court with a framework to assess the plaintiffs’ claim of constructive denial of counsel.  As the department explained in the statement of interest, “An analysis of Gideon cases informs the United States’ position that constructive denial of counsel may occur when: (1) on a systemic basis, counsel for indigent defendants face severe structural limitations, such as a lack of resources, high workloads, and understaffing of public defender offices; and/or (2) indigent defenders are unable or are significantly compromised in their ability to provide the traditional markers of representation for their clients, such as timely and confidential consultation, appropriate investigation, and meaningful adversarial testing of the prosecution’s case.”

The Hurrell-Harring case was filed in 2007 and brought by former indigent defendants who faced criminal charges in five New York counties.  The plaintiffs seek systemic reform to prevent future violations of the right to counsel. The state court trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 7, 2014.

BIOFUELS: POTENTIAL BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS STUDIED

FROM:  NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Building the framework for the future of biofuels
Do plant-based fuels offer a realistic reprieve from a fossil-powered future? An ASU engineer examines the full cycle

Biofuels--fuels made from plants--are seen by many as one of the better options for brightening the national energy outlook.

They offer a promising renewable resource as a replacement for nonrenewable fossil fuels, and a way to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions being pumped into the atmosphere as a result of our use of conventional petroleum-derived fuels.

They could help the United States take major steps to reduce the country's dependence on oil from other parts of the world.

For more than five years Amy Landis has led research that is revealing the potential rewards of developing large-scale biofuels production, as well as the potential drawbacks we would face in the effort.

"We are documenting that there would be environmental benefits, but also trade-offs in growing biofuels that would have to be dealt with," said Landis, an associate professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University (ASU).

Two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants combined to provide about $650,000 for projects directed by Landis, enabling her to paint a clearer picture of the impacts of developing a major biofuels industry. Both grants were through the NSF's Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems Division.

One project looked at the feasibility of growing bioenergy crops on marginal lands where soil nutrients first have to be restored to enable agricultural use. A second project involved forecasting the environmental impacts of next-generation biofuels.

According to Landis, lands damaged by industrial waste or other pollutants could be restored sufficiently to support agriculture for growing bioenergy crops.

Landis' team was able to use other forms of nonhazardous industrial waste materials to neutralize the acidity of soil at polluted sites--particularly abandoned mining lands. The method restored fertility to a level that allowed many of the plants, from which biofuels are derived, to grow.

As a result, biofuels agriculture could become a significant contributor to soil remediation, land reclamation and natural storm water management that fertile, absorbent ground can provide.

A complex system

A downside is that many biofuel crops, like food crops, require fertilizers that cause water degradation, and the water carrying the fertilizers can be transported by runoff into other areas where they can do environmental harm.

To fully understand the ramifications of a big commitment to cultivation of biofuel sources, Landis said she took a holistic approach that examines the entire life cycle of bio-based products.

She looked beyond the benefits of greenhouse gas reductions and energy savings to the challenges of weighing long-term benefits and potential problems.

Landis has been able to quantify some potential future nationwide impacts of growing the various kinds of bioenergy plants--corn grain, soybeans, switchgrasses, canola and algae, for example--to extensively assess economic, social and environmental effects.

That included evaluating the feasibility of bioenergy crops to meet the Energy Independence and Security Act Renewable Fuel Standards, which sets challenging goals for fuel production quantity.

The project involved consideration of the various agricultural and environmental management strategies that would be critical to preventing or mitigating undesirable consequences that could result from growing bioenergy crops to manufacturing biofuels.

The work was also intended to provide a framework for a life-cycle assessment method that can be applied to future evaluations of biofuels cultivation and production, and for gauging the sustainability of various fuel development strategies throughout the United States.

"Our work shows there is no silver-bullet biofuel that provides a perfect sustainability solution," Landis explained. "Developing domestic sustainable fuels is a complex problem and we must consider the wide range of environmental impacts, economic ramifications and social factors.

"In particular for biofuels that rely heavily on fertilizer, our work shows that we should pay particular attention to protecting water quality," she said. "However, it's not all doom and gloom. Our NSF-funded research also developed some creative solutions to utilize abandoned lands and waste materials to produce biofuels."

Broader impacts

The NSF support enabled Landis to use her research findings for education outreach. Much of the information is being incorporated into undergraduate and graduate courses. In addition, in the past several years the grants have supported research activities of four undergraduate students and five graduate students, while also allowing another seven graduate students to engage in work related to the research projects.

Outreach efforts have also included demonstrations to K-12 students and their families. For example, Landis and her lab team have brought plants out of the greenhouse to show how biofuels are made from plants.

This and similar learning activities at ASU's annual Engineering Open House, DiscoverE Day, Night of the Open Door events and Engineering Adventure programs are reaching more than 14,000 younger students each year.

In addition, Landis volunteers at an annual Geared for Girls summer camp, where she talks about what her research is showing about the life cycles of energy and products.

Landis has been able to bring a multifaceted perspective to her biofuels research, drawing on the broad range of expertise reflected in her diverse academic and research roles at ASU.

Those roles include that of research director for the Center for Earth Systems Engineering and Management; senior sustainability scientist with the Julie Ann WrigleyGlobal Institute of Sustainability; a Fellow of Sustainable Development and Ethics with the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics; and her appointment as a Tooker Professor of STEM Education in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

-- Joe Kullman, Arizona State University
Investigators
Amy Landis
Jason Monnell
Related Institutions/Organizations
Arizona State University
University of Pittsburgh

HHS SAYS $212 MILLION WILL BE GOING TO PREVENT CHRONIC DISEASES

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES 
September 25, 2014

HHS announces nearly $212 million in grants to prevent chronic diseases
Funded in part by the Affordable Care Act, grants focus on preventing tobacco use, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell today announced nearly $212 million in grant awards to all 50 states and the District of Columbia to support programs aimed at preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.  Funded in part by the Affordable Care Act, the awards will strengthen state and local programs aimed at fighting these chronic diseases, which are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States, and help lower our nation’s health care costs.

A total of 193 awards are being made  to states, large and small cities and counties, tribes and tribal organizations, and national and community organizations, with a special focus on populations hardest hit by chronic diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will administer the grants.

“These grants will empower our partners to provide the tools that Americans need to help prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes,” said Secretary Burwell. “Today’s news is important progress in our work to transition from a health care system focused on treating the sick to one that also helps keep people well throughout their lives.”

The goals of the grant funding are to reduce rates of death and disability due to tobacco use, reduce obesity prevalence, and reduce rates of death and disability due to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

“Tobacco use, high blood pressure, and obesity are leading preventable causes of death in the United States,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “These grants will enable state and local health departments, national and community organizations, and other partners from all sectors of society to help us prevent heart disease, cancer, stroke, and other leading chronic diseases, and help Americans to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives.”

This is one of many ways the Affordable Care Act is improving access to preventive care, and coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Under the Affordable Care Act, 76 million Americans in private health insurance have gained access to preventive care services without cost-sharing and issuers can no longer deny coverage to anyone because of a pre-existing condition.

Chronic diseases are responsible for 7 of 10 deaths among Americans each year, and they account for more than 80 percent of the $2.7 trillion our nation spends annually on medical care.


PHARMA COMPANY TO PAY OVER $56 MILLION TO RESOLVE ALLEGATIONS OF FALSE CLAIM ACT VIOLATIONS

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Shire Pharmaceuticals LLC to Pay $56.5 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations Relating to Drug Marketing and Promotion Practices

Pharmaceutical company Shire Pharmaceuticals LLC will pay $56.5 million to resolve civil allegations that it violated the False Claims Act as a result of its marketing and promotion of several drugs, the Justice Department announced today.  Shire, located in Wayne, Pennsylvania, manufactures and sells pharmaceuticals, including Adderall XR, Vyvanse and Daytrana, which are approved for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Pentasa and Lialda, which are approved for the treatment of mild to moderate active ulcerative colitis.

“Patients and health care providers must receive accurate information about available prescription drugs so that they can make safe and informed treatment decisions,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “The Department of Justice will be vigilant to hold accountable pharmaceutical companies that provide misleading information regarding a drug’s safety or efficacy.”

The settlement resolves allegations that, between January 2004 and December 2007, Shire promoted Adderall XR for certain uses despite a lack of clinical data to support such claims and overstated the efficacy of Adderall XR, particularly relative to other ADHD drugs.  Among the allegedly unsupported claims was that Adderall XR was clinically superior to other ADHD drugs because it would “normalize” its recipients, rendering them indistinguishable from their non-ADHD peers.  Shire allegedly stated that its competitors’ products could not achieve similar results, which the government contended was not shown in the clinical data that Shire collected.  Shire also allegedly marketed Adderall XR based on unsupported claims that Adderall XR would prevent poor academic performance, loss of employment, criminal behavior, traffic accidents and sexually transmitted disease.  In addition, Shire allegedly promoted Adderall XR for the treatment of conduct disorder without approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The settlement further resolves allegations that, between February 2007 and September 2010, Shire sales representatives and other agents allegedly made false and misleading statements about the efficacy and “abuseability” of Vyvanse to state Medicaid formulary committees and to individual physicians.  For example, one Shire medical science liaison allegedly told a state formulary board that Vyvanse “provides less abuse liability” than “every other long-acting release mechanism” on the market.  However, the government contended that no study Shire conducted had concluded that Vyvanse was not abuseable, and, as an amphetamine product, the Vyvanse label included an FDA-mandated black box warning for its potential for misuse and abuse.  Shire also made allegedly unsupported claims that treatment with Vyvanse would prevent car accidents, divorce, arrests and unemployment.

Additionally, the settlement resolves allegations that from April 2006 to September 2010, Shire representatives improperly marketed Daytrana, administered through a patch, as less abuseable than traditional, pill-based medications, and, for part of this period, improperly made phone calls and drafted letters to state Medicaid authorities to assist physicians with the prior authorization process for prescriptions to induce these physicians to prescribe Daytrana and Vyvanse.

Finally, the settlement resolves allegations that between January 2006 and June 2010, Shire sales representatives promoted Lialda and Pentasa for off-label uses not approved by the FDA and not covered by federal healthcare programs.  Specifically, the government alleged that Shire promoted Lialda off-label for the prevention of colorectal cancer.

"Marketing efforts that influence a doctor’s independent judgment can undermine the doctor-patient relationship and short-change the patient,” said U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  “Where children’s medication is concerned, it can interfere with a parent’s right to clear information regarding the risks to the safety and health of their child.  Shire cooperated throughout this investigation and, in advance of this settlement, began to correct its marketing activities.”

"This settlement represents another important step in our fight against fraud in federally-funded healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon for the Northern District of Illinois.  “The Shire settlement returns funds not only to the U.S. government but also to the individual states whose health care programs rely in part on the efficacy of jointly-funded programs like Medicaid.  We will continue doing everything in our power to combat fraud and ensure the integrity of our healthcare programs.”

As a result of today’s $56.5 million settlement, the federal government will receive $35,713,965, and state Medicaid programs will receive $20,786,034.  The Medicaid program is funded jointly by the federal and state governments.  In addition, Shire has separately reached agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) on a corporate integrity agreement, which will address the company’s future marketing efforts.

“Our agency will continue to hold drug companies responsible for seeking to boost profits using false and misleading claims about products, such as the powerful medications prescribed to children and other drugs at issue in this settlement,” said Chief Counsel to the HHS Inspector General Gregory E. Demske.  “We entered into a corporate integrity agreement with Shire that requires comprehensive compliance safeguards, oversight of Shire promotional activities, and compliance certifications from Shire’s board of directors and management.”

The allegations resolved by the settlement arose from a lawsuit filed by Dr. Gerardo Torres, a former Shire executive, and a separate lawsuit filed by Anita Hsieh, Kara Harris and Ian Clark, former Shire sales representatives.  The lawsuits were filed under the False Claims Act’s whistleblower provisions, which permit private parties to sue for false claims on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery.  Torres will receive $5.9 million.  

This 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 the Attorney General and the Secretary of HHS.  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 $22.4 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $14.2 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

This case was a cooperative effort among the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Northern District of Illinois, the Justice Department’s Civil Division, Office of the Inspector General for the Office of Personnel Management, HHS-OIG and the FDA.  The HHS Office of the General Counsel-CMS Division and the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units also provided assistance.

SECRETARY KERRY'S REMARKS AT GLOBAL ALLIANCE FOR CLIMATE-SMART AGRICULTURE

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Remarks at a Reception for the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
New York City
September 24, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you. Listen, thank you very, very much for being patient and hanging in here, though I noticed a lot of you have glasses in your hand with some liquid in it and therefore you haven’t been completely deprived, I can tell.

This city during these days of UNGA does not lend itself well to diplomatic speed dating, and unfortunately, I sort of scheduled one too many. And I just came from a meeting with my counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, and obviously, we had a lot to talk about. And that’s why I’m running a little bit late, and I apologize for that.

Let me thank Nancy, Dr. Nancy Stetson, for her work, and I’ll say a word about her in a minute. But I’m also very, very privileged and I want to say thank you to the Dutch Government, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and to Agriculture Minister Sharon Dijksma. I’m very, very pleased, and her director-general is here somewhere. I don’t know, he was here a moment ago. I met him. There he is. (Applause.) But thank you so much for being here and being part of this and helping to launch this alliance. The Dutch Government is extraordinarily committed and forward-thinking about this kind of issue, and that’s exactly what we need to be right now, putting this critical connection, this nexus between climate change and food security, at the center of the agenda.

I wish it were otherwise. I’ve been involved in this effort – Nancy alluded to it – going back to the 1970s. The first thing I did when I returned from Vietnam was not protest the war, which I shortly did, but become active in Earth Day 1970, the first Earth Day, and helped to organize it in my home state of Massachusetts, when 20 million Americans came out and said we don’t want to live next to toxic waste sites, we don’t want to be getting cancer from Woburn dump, things like that in Massachusetts. Particularly we had the Cuyahoga River that lit on fire, literally.

And those 20 million people ultimately engaged in a way that became very political. They targeted the 12 worst voters in Congress, labeled them the “Dirty Dozen” and in the very next election beat seven of the 12. That is what brought us the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, and actually created the Environmental Protection Agency we didn’t have when that first took place.

So there’s been a hell of a journey from there to here. And I went to Rio and the Earth Summit in the 1990s and so forth. Unfortunately, it was a voluntary process. It didn’t work and we now are where we are, the hottest year in history last year, the last ten years have been the hottest ten years in history. I mean, it’s an extraordinary statement about the lack of willpower of governments on a global basis, ours included, to have been able thus far to be able to do what we need.

I’m proud to say that President Obama is changing that. We are moving rapidly now. We have ten times the amount of solar power in place that we had five years ago. We have three times the amount of renewables in place that we had. We have new automobile standards, new building standards, so forth and so on.

Why do I mention all of this in the context of food security? Well, for the very simple reason that the real solution is not to be talking about just moving things and coming up with resistant seed and doing our work in the laboratory. The real solution is not to damage it in the first place and to be able to preserve an ecosystem that functions.

But we all know we’re on a path right now that’s probably going to make the – that deprives us of the right of not worrying about mitigation and deprives us of the opportunity to avoid adaptation. So we are where we are, and the only responsible thing that we can do as a consequence of that is work at this.

That’s why I brought Nancy Stetson on board, because Nancy and I worked for two decades side by side when I served in the Senate. And through her work on malaria, TB, and AIDS, principally, I saw her ability to be able to break down things that were very complex and multi-layered, and make them happen. You are looking at the woman who really wrote the first piece of AIDS legislation – no joke. And we passed it. We even got Jesse Helms to support it. And that became the foundation of what became known as PEPFAR. So Nancy Stetson, thank you for your leadership and your effort and everything you did. (Applause.)

So that’s what we’re going to try and do with this alliance. When climate change and food security present these new challenges that they do, we need new partnerships and new solutions in order to tackle them. And the vitality of our ecosystem, the ability of the ecosystem to provide billions of people with food, is under stress, regrettably, like never before.

I was chairman of the fisheries, oceans subcommittee for a long period of time in the Senate, and I saw what has been happening in the major fisheries of the world. Even as we went and tried to ban driftnet fishing and rewrite the Magnuson laws and do all these things – still overfished, still too much money chasing too few fish, still major shifts in the ecosystem as the result of increases in acidity, the acidification of the oceans, the changes in ocean currents, what’s happening with the melting of the icecaps and so forth has a profound impact on the future of food. And all you have to do is talk to farmers or even talk to garden club members in America and they will tell you how things that used to grow in certain places don’t grow anymore, how there’s been a migration of certain species and capacities for growth, a band in the center of America that’s moved north and south.

So the link is clear: Climate change affects how much food we’re able to produce, and it affects – and how much food we produce actually affects climate change at the same time. Now we see this drought that’s hitting in various parts of the world, but particularly in Central America.

And this alliance is going to try to bring capable partners together who have the ability to find solutions. Climate-smart agriculture, it’s that simple. And the World Bank and the FAO have been working together for a long time and making successful investments in drought-resistant corn, soybeans, other climate-resilient crops for a number of years now.

For our part, we have some of the most advanced laboratories and research institutions. And as Secretary Vilsack told all of you yesterday, we’re targeting more of our resources to support agricultural innovation. The President doubled down on this approach yesterday in his executive order, making support for climate resilience a first-tier priority across our development programs.

And if you look at what’s happening in Central America, you can understand why. Sixteen of 22 provinces in Guatemala have been declared by the government a state of emergency. Crop losses in El Salvador have now reached 60 percent of their crops. In Nicaragua, staples like corn and beans cost four times more today than what they cost last spring.

So at the State Department, we’re going to look immediately at what we can do to help in Central America and other parts of the world where we can find our partners to apply our talents to this challenge.

In Ethiopia, we’ve partnered with DuPont to help farmers increase maize production by 50 percent.

In Mali, we’re supporting an aggressive agroforestry program, helping farmers to tackle the problem of desertification, and promoting the planting of fruit and fodder and fuel-wood for income generation.

In Bangladesh, we’re investing with private sector partners in intensified rice production, and helping farmers to diversify into high-value, nutrient-rich commodities like fish. But again, fish – it’s going to be dependent on your overall management of the ecosystem and is it sustainable. It has to be done in a sustainable fashion.

So these are the kinds of successful investments in food security, innovation, and resilience that we plan to showcase to 20 million-plus visitors next year at the Milan Expo. And we hope to attract new partners and new investments in this effort in doing that.

Every nation has an ability to be able to play a part in this. I hate the idea that – I mean, I don’t want to see all our energy going – I want to see us do it because we have to. But I still preach the notion that we have time still to turn this around if we make tough choices about carbon, carbon pricing, where we’re going with respect to the overall issue of climate change, so we minimize the need to do this. And in the end, confronting these challenges means we’re going to have to, unfortunately, invent; we’re going to have to innovate. Maybe I shouldn’t say unfortunately because you benefit anyway, but it’s the wrong way to come at it, and I think everybody here knows that.

That said, we’re going to do it, and I’m proud to be part of this alliance. I’m proud for this announcement tonight, and I’m delighted that you’re all here to share in it. Let’s get the job done.

Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)

Friday, September 26, 2014

DOD PHOTOS: U.S. AIRCRAFT INVOLVED WITH AIRSTRIKES IN SYRIA

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 



U.S. Air Force Maj. Gena Fedoruk and U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Marcel Trott take off in a KC-135 Stratotanker from a base in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to support airstrikes in Syria, Sept. 23, 2014. Multiple KC-135 Stratotankers were part of a large coalition strike package that was the first to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant targets in Syria. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch.




A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes against ISIL targets in Syria, Sept. 23, 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch.

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: WEST WING WEEK: 9/26/14

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: PRESIDENT OBAMA MEETS WITH PRESIDENT OF EGYPT

A LOOK AT TROPICAL STORM RACHEL


In an infrared image from NOAA's GOES-West satellite on Sept. 25 at 1200 UTC (8 a.m. EDT), Tropical Storm Rachel appeared oval shaped.  Image Credit-NASA-NOAA GOES Project.  Caption Credit:  NASA.

AFTERMATH OF KING FIRE IN ELDORADO NATIONAL FOREST

FROM:  NASA  

On Sept. 19, 2014, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite captured these images of the King fire in Eldorado National Forest. In the false-color image, burned forest appears red; unaffected forests are green; cleared forest is beige; and smoke is blue. As of Sept. 23, the blaze had charred 36,320 hectares (89,571 acres).  Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey Caption: Adam Voiland

DOD VIDEO: U.S., ALLIES STRIKE ISIL REFINERIES



NASA VIDEO: U.S. CARGO SHIP ARRIVES AT THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

FTC TARGETS OVER 60 ADVERTISERS FOR NOT MAKING FULL DISCLOSURES IN TV ADS

FROM:  U.S. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 
Operation ‘Full Disclosure’ Targets More Than 60 National Advertisers
FTC Initiative Aims to Improve Disclosures in Advertising

After reviewing numerous national television and print advertisements, staff of the Federal Trade Commission has sent warning letters to more than 60 companies – including 20 of the 100 largest advertisers in the country – that failed to make adequate disclosures in their television and print ads. The initiative – Operation Full Disclosure – is the FTC’s latest effort to ensure that advertisers comply with federal law and do not mislead consumers.

Operation Full Disclosure focused on disclosures that were in fine print or were otherwise easy to miss or hard to read, yet contained important information needed to avoid misleading consumers. In the warning letters, staff identified problematic ads, recommended that advertisers review all of their advertising to ensure that any necessary disclosures are truly “clear and conspicuous,” and asked them to notify the staff of the actions they intended to take with respect to their advertising. The response to staff’s letters has been extremely positive.

“Consumers depend on information in advertising to make their buying decisions – whether it’s computers or cleaning products, televisions or tools, hotel rooms or hair care,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Through efforts like these, the Federal Trade Commission ensures that consumers can have confidence that the ads they see are not hiding important information.”

The FTC’s longstanding guidance to companies is that disclosures in their ads should be close to the claims to which they relate – not hidden or buried in unrelated details – and they should appear in a font that is easy to read and in a shade that stands out against the background. Disclosures for television ads should be on the screen long enough to be noticed, read, and understood, and other elements in the ads should not obscure or distract from the disclosures.

The staff letters advised advertisers that to meet the “clear and conspicuous” standard, their disclosures should use clear and unambiguous language and should stand out in the advertising – consumers should be able to notice disclosures easily; they should not have to look for them.

FTC staff directed the warning letters to advertisers in a wide range of industries, covering English- and Spanish-language advertising for many different types of products. Staff attempted to identify a representative sample of advertisers making inadequate disclosures; advertisers who did not receive a letter should not assume that their advertisements are fine. Staff is not disclosing the recipients of the letters at this time.

The inadequate disclosures staff identified in the ads it reviewed fell into many different categories. Many ads quoted the price of a product or service, but did not adequately disclose the conditions for obtaining that price, while others did not adequately disclose an automatic billing feature. Other ads claimed a product capability or that an accessory was included, but did not adequately disclose the need to first own or buy an additional product or service.

In some ads, the advertiser claimed that a product was unique or superior in a product category, but did not adequately disclose how narrowly the advertiser defined the category, while other comparative ads did not adequately disclose the basis of their comparisons.  Ads promoting a “risk-free” or “worry free” trial period did not adequately disclose that consumers would need to pay for initial and/or return shipping. Numerous other ads made absolute or otherwise broad statements and had inadequate disclosures explaining exceptions or limitations.

Weight-loss ads featuring testimonials claiming outlier results did not adequately disclose the weight loss that consumers generally could expect to achieve. A handful of ads did not adequately disclose issues related to the safety or legality of a product or service. Several ads included a demonstration that was materially altered and did not adequately disclose the alteration. A couple of ads made false claims that the advertisers attempted to cure with contradictory disclosures, which are not sufficient to prevent ads from being deceptive.

While, Operation Full Disclosure focused on television and print advertisements, it follows a recent FTC effort to address online disclosures in new media.

AG HOLDER ANNOUNCES FEDERAL PRISON POPULATION DROP AFTER SENTENCING REFORMS

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Tuesday, September 23, 2014

One Year After Launching Key Sentencing Reforms, Attorney General Holder Announces First Drop in Federal Prison Population in More Than Three Decades
In a speech at the Brennan Center for Justice, Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the federal prison population has dropped by roughly 4,800 inmates since September 2013.  This represents the first time the federal inmate population has fallen, rather than risen, over the course of a fiscal year since 1980.

Moreover, Attorney General Holder announced that current Bureau of Prisons estimates project this downward trend to continue in each of the next two fiscal years.  In FY15, the inmate population is projected to drop by another 2,200 inmates.  In FY16, the population is projected to drop by 10,000 inmates - or the equivalent of six federal prisons.

“This is nothing less than historic,” said Attorney General Holder. “Clearly, criminal justice reform is an idea whose time has come.  And thanks to a robust and growing national consensus – a consensus driven not by political ideology, but by the promising work that’s underway – we are bringing about a paradigm shift, and witnessing a historic sea change, in the way our nation approaches these issues.”

While these statistics show progress at the federal level, there is similar progress at the state level.  Overall, incarceration rates have fallen by roughly 10 percent since President Obama took office, and that has occurred simultaneously with a similarly-sized reduction in crime rates.

The Attorney General’s full remarks to the law enforcement conference, as prepared for delivery appear below:

Thank you, Jim [Johnson], for those kind words; for your friendship over the many years we’ve known one another – since we served together in the Clinton Administration; and for your leadership, along with Doug Jones, as co-chair of the Brennan Center’s Blue Ribbon Panel.

I’d also like to thank the Brennan Center’s distinguished president, my friend Michael Waldman, and your entire staff – particularly the Justice Program – for bringing us together today.  It’s an honor to take part in this important conference.  It’s a privilege to be at NYU Law School for the second time in as many weeks.  And it’s a great pleasure, as always, to be back home in New York City.

For nearly two decades, the Brennan Center has provided indispensable leadership on issues ranging from campaign finance and voting rights to national security and equal justice.  You’ve offered rigorous research and expert guidance to policymakers at every level of government.  And with this conference – and the report you’re unveiling today – you’re taking yet another step to advance our efforts to address some of our nation’s most critical challenges – few of which are more complex, or more urgent, than the need to strengthen America’s criminal justice system and reduce our overreliance on incarceration.

As you know, we gather this afternoon just over a year after the launch of the Justice Department’s Smart on Crime initiative – a series of important changes and commonsense reforms I set in motion last August.  Already, these changes are fundamentally shifting our response to certain crime challenges – particularly low-level, nonviolent drug offenses.  And this initiative is predicated on the notion that our work as prosecutors must be informed, and our criminal justice system continually improved, by the most effective and efficient strategies available.

After all – as I’ve often said – the United States will never be able to prosecute or incarcerate its way to becoming a safer nation.  We must never, and we will never, stop being vigilant against crime – and the conditions and choices that breed it.  But, for far too long – under well-intentioned policies designed to be “tough” on criminals – our system has perpetuated a destructive cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration that has trapped countless people and weakened entire communities – particularly communities of color.

In recent decades, the effects of these policies – and the impact of the “truth-in-sentencing” mindset – have been dramatic.  Although the United States comprises just five percent of the world’s population, we incarcerate almost a quarter of its prisoners.  The entire United States population has increased by about a third since 1980.  But the federal prison population has grown by almost 800 percent over the same period.  Spending on corrections, incarceration, and law enforcement has exploded, consuming $260 billion per year nationwide.  And the Bureau of Prisons currently commands about a third of the Justice Department’s overall budget.

Perhaps most troubling is the fact that this astonishing rise in incarceration – and the escalating costs it has imposed on our country, in terms both economic and human – have not measurably benefited our society.  We can all be proud of the progress that’s been made at reducing the crime rate over the past two decades – thanks to the tireless work of prosecutors and the bravery of law enforcement officials across America.  But statistics have shown – and all of us have seen – that high incarceration rates and longer-than-necessary prison terms have not played a significant role in materially improving public safety, reducing crime, or strengthening communities.

In fact, the opposite is often true.  Two weeks ago, the Washington Post reported that new analysis of crime data and incarceration rates – performed by the Pew Charitable Trusts, and covering the period of 1994 to 2012 – shows that states with the most significant drops in crime also saw reductions in their prison populations.  States that took drastic steps to reduce their prison populations – in many cases by percentages well into the double digits – saw crime go down as well.  And the one state – West Virginia – with the greatest increase in its incarceration rate actually experienced an uptick in crime.

As the Post makes clear: “To the extent that there is any trend here, it’s actually that states incarcerating people have seen smaller decreases in crime.”   And this has been borne out at the national level, as well.

Since President Obama took office, both overall crime and overall incarceration have decreased by approximately 10 percent.  This is the first time these two critical markers have declined together in more than 40 years.  And although we have a great deal of work to do – and although, last year, some states continued to record growth in their prison populations – this is a signal achievement.

We know that over-incarceration crushes opportunity.  We know it prevents people, and entire communities, from getting on the right track.  And we’ve seen that – as more and more government leaders have gradually come to recognize – at a fundamental level, it challenges our commitment to the cause of justice.

Fortunately, I can report today that we are finally moving in the right direction, at least at the federal level.  Over the past year, the federal prison population declined by roughly 4,800 inmates – the first decrease we’ve seen in many ‎decades.

Even more promising are new internal projections from the Bureau of Prisons.  In a dramatic reversal of prior reports – which showed that the prison population would continue to grow, becoming more and more costly, overcrowded, and unsafe – taking into account our new policies and trends, our new projections anticipate that the number of federal inmates will fall by just over 2,000 in the next 12 months – and by almost 10,000 in the year after.‎

This is nothing less than historic.  To put these numbers in perspective, 10,000 inmates is the rough equivalent of the combined populations of six federal prisons, each filled to capacity.  Now, these projected decreases won’t result in any prison closures, because our system is operating at about 30 percent above capacity.  But my hope is that we’re witnessing the start of a trend that will only accelerate as our Smart on Crime changes take full effect.

Clearly, criminal justice reform is an idea whose time has come.  And thanks to a robust and growing national consensus – a consensus driven not by political ideology, but by the promising work that’s underway, and the efforts of leaders like Senators Patrick Leahy, Dick Durbin, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul – we are bringing about a paradigm shift, and witnessing a historic sea change, in the way our nation approaches these issues.

Of course, for these changes to become permanent, we’ll need to rely on the dedication – and the leadership – of federal prosecutors in Washington and in all 94 of our United States Attorney’s Offices.  As a career prosecutor myself – and as former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia – I have always had the utmost confidence in, and respect for, these hardworking men and women.  And that’s why, as Attorney General, I’ve consistently advocated policies that push discretion out into the field.

The Smart on Crime initiative is in many ways the ultimate expression of my trust in the abilities – and the judgment – of our attorneys on the front lines.  And although some have suggested that recent changes in charging and sentencing policies might somehow undermine their ability to induce cooperation from defendants in certain cases, today, I want to make it abundantly clear that nothing could be further from the truth.

As I know from experience – and as all veteran prosecutors and defense attorneys surely recognize – defendant cooperation depends on the certainty of swift and fair punishment, not on the length of a mandatory minimum sentence.  Like anyone old enough to remember the era before sentencing guidelines existed and mandatory minimums took full effect, I can testify to the fact that federal guidelines attempted to systematize the kinds of negotiations that were naturally taking place anyway.  As our U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, John Vaudreuil, often reminds his colleagues, even without the threat of mandatory minimums, it remains in the interests of all attorneys to serve as sound advocates for their clients – and for defendants to cooperate with the government in exchange for reduced sentences.

Far from impeding the work of our prosecutors, the sentencing reforms I’ve mandated have strengthened their discretion. The contention that cooperation is somehow dependent on mandatory minimums is tied to a past at tension with the empirical present, and is plainly inconsistent with history, and with now known facts.  After all, as the Heritage Foundation observed earlier this year: “[t]he rate of cooperation in cases involving mandatory minimums is comparable to the average rate in all federal cases.”

Of course, as we refine our approach and reject the ineffective practice of calling for stringent sentences against those convicted of low-level, nonviolent crimes, we also need to refine the metrics we use to measure success; to evaluate the steps we’re taking; and to assess the effectiveness of new criminal justice priorities.  In the Smart on Crime era, it’s no longer adequate – or appropriate – to rely on outdated models that prize only enforcement, as quantified by numbers of prosecutions, convictions, and lengthy sentences, rather than taking a holistic view.

As the Brennan Center and many others have recognized – and as your landmark report on Federal Prosecution for the 21st Century makes crystal clear – it’s time to shift away from old metrics and embrace a more contemporary, and more comprehensive, view of what constitutes success.  This means developing a new system of assessment – because, as you’ve noted, what gets measured is what gets funded and what gets funded is what gets done.  That’s why I want to commend this organization – and each of our Blue Ribbon Panelists, including some of our very best sitting and former U.S. Attorneys – for examining new ways for the Justice Department to leverage our resources to better serve America’s communities.

Your concrete recommendations – that federal prosecutors should prioritize reducing violence, incarceration, and recidivism – are consistent with the aims of the Smart on Crime initiative.  The new metrics you propose – such as evaluating progress by assessing changes in local violent crime rates, numbers of federal prisoners initially found in particular districts, and changes in the three-year recidivism rate – lay out a promising roadmap for us to consider.  And my pledge to you today is that my colleagues and I will not merely carefully study this critical report – we will use it as a basis for discussion, and a vital resource to draw upon, as we engage in a far-reaching process to develop and codify new success measures – with the aim of cementing recent shifts in law and policy.

One of the key points underscored by your report – and emphasized under the Smart on Crime approach – is the need for the Justice Department to direct funding to help move the criminal justice field toward a fuller embrace of science and data.  This is something that we – and especially our Office of Justice Programs and Bureau of Justice Assistance – have taken very seriously throughout the Obama Administration.  And nowhere are these ideals more fully embodied – or more promisingly realized – than in our Justice Reinvestment Act and Second Chance Act programs.

As we speak, the states that participate in Justice Reinvestment are making fundamental policy reforms that aim to reduce unnecessary confinement, save taxpayer dollars, and reinvest funding in strategies proven to enhance community safety.  A report issued in January highlighted 17 states that are projected to save $4.6 billion over 10 years.  Another study, in June, highlighted seven states that have achieved substantial reductions in three-year recidivism rates.  And these successes are notable not only for their magnitude, but for the political consensus that drove them.

Thanks to bipartisan support from Congress, funding for the Justice Reinvestment Initiative has more than quadrupled this year.  That, on its own, is an extraordinary indication of the power and importance of this work.  And this additional funding is allowing us to launch a new challenge grant program – designed to incentivize states to take the next major step in their reform efforts.

Today, I am pleased to announce that five states – Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, and Oregon – will be receiving these grants, which can be used to expand pre-trial reforms, to scale up swift and certain sanctions, to institute evidence-based parole practices, or a number of other options.  I am also pleased to announce that five states have been selected to receive new funding under the Second Chance Act to help reduce recidivism.  Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Vermont will each be awarded $1 million to meet their recidivism reduction goals.  And each will be eligible for an additional $2 million over the next two years if they do so.

In addition to these and other Second Chance awards, our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is providing $7 million in Second Chance Act funding to support reentry demonstration programs and other important efforts at the juvenile level.  A further $1.8 million will support a new Juvenile Reentry Legal Assistance Program through our partners at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  And we’ll soon be launching a broader partnership with HUD – a partnership rooted in the Pay for Success model championed by the Brennan Center – to focus on finding permanent supportive housing for those returning from incarceration.

The Justice Department has transferred $5 million to HUD for this program, which will announce the competition in the coming months.  Together, these exciting efforts reaffirm our commitment to strengthening America’s justice system at every level.  They underscore our determination to help people get back on the right path.  But they’re only the beginning – because, beyond our Smart on Crime reforms and our emphasis on evidence-based practices, I believe the federal government has an even broader and more critical role to play in securing the fundamental promise of equal justice under law.

As we saw all too clearly last month – as the eyes of the nation turned to events in Ferguson, Missouri – whenever discord, mistrust, and roiling tensions fester just under the surface, interactions between law enforcement and local residents can quickly escalate into confrontation, unrest, and even violence.  These tensions simmer every day in far too many communities across the country.  And it’s incumbent upon all of America’s law enforcement officers and leaders to work with the communities they serve to defuse these charged situations by forging close bonds, establishing deep trust, and fostering robust engagement.

The situation in Ferguson has presented leaders across the nation, and criminal justice and civil rights leaders in particular, with a moment of decision – and a series of important questions that can no longer be avoided.  Will we allow this time – our time – to be defined by division and discord?  Or will we summon the resolve, the fortitude, and the vision to reassess – and even to remake – our system, through cooperation, consensus, and compassion?

Will we again turn a blind eye to the hard truths that Ferguson exposed, burying these tough realities until another tragedy arises to set them off like a powder keg?  Or will we finally accept this mandate for open and honest dialogue, reach for new and innovative solutions, and rise to the historic challenge – and the critical opportunity – now right before us?

These questions are not rhetorical.  And as we seek to address them, we must take into account the preconceived notions that certain people may bring to interactions with police – preconceptions that may be informed by generations of experience; by the totality of what it has meant to be a person of color in the United States.  We must consider corresponding notions that police may bring to interactions with certain communities and individuals.  And we must never lose sight of the immense and unyielding difficulties inherent in the law enforcement profession – from the training they receive to the risks these brave men and women incur every time they put on their uniforms; from the dangers they face, and the split-second decisions they often must make, to the anguish of family members who awaken at night to the sound of a ringing telephone – hoping for the best, but fearing tragic news about a loved one out walking the beat.

As the brother of a retired law enforcement officer, I understand well how challenging – and how thankless – their vital work can be.  As our nation’s Attorney General, I will always be proud – and steadfast – in my support for law enforcement personnel and their families, who make tremendous and often unheralded sacrifices every single day to keep us safe.  And as an African-American man – who has been stopped and searched by police in situations where such action was not warranted – I also carry with me an understanding of the mistrust that some citizens harbor for those who wear the badge.

So today, it’s time to ask ourselves – as a nation – are we conducting policing, in the 21st century, in a manner that is as effective, as efficient, as equitable, and as just as is possible?  It’s time to build on the outstanding leadership that so many local police are providing – and the reform efforts that are underway in St. Louis County and elsewhere – by making this work a focused, national priority.

Just last week, the Justice Department launched a substantial effort to do just that – by establishing a National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice to promote credibility, to enhance procedural justice, to reduce implicit bias, and to support racial reconciliation.  Separately, President Obama has directed federal agencies to carefully review programs that may provide military equipment, or funding for military equipment, to local police – a process that remains ongoing.  Through a range of other programs like the President’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative – and the department’s regular interactions with exemplary law enforcement executives across the country – my colleagues and I are doing important work to resolve tensions and promote mutual understanding;  to bridge divides and spark constructive dialogue; and to ensure – above all else – that everyone who comes into contact with the police is treated fairly.

This is important, and in some cases life-changing, work.  But I believe we need to take these efforts even further.  That’s why, under the leadership of our COPS Office, the Justice Department is working with major police associations to conduct a broad review of policing tactics, techniques, and training – so we can help the field swiftly confront emerging threats, better address persistent challenges, and thoroughly examine the latest tools and technologies to enhance the safety, and the effectiveness, of law enforcement.  Going forward, I will support not only continuing this timely review, but expanding it – to consider the profession in a comprehensive way – and to provide strong, national direction on a scale not seen since President Lyndon Johnson’s Commission on Law Enforcement nearly half a century ago.

In this ongoing effort, and in so many others – as we seize this important moment, renew our determination to combat crime, and accept the historic opportunities now before us – my colleagues and I will continue to look to the Brennan Center, and each of the leaders in this audience, for guidance; for edification; and for frank and honest advice.  We will continue to rely on the experience, and the thoughtful consideration, that you have brought to today’s discussion – and to countless others over the past two decades.  And we will always be both proud and humbled to count you as partners, and as essential allies, in the considerable work ahead.

I want to thank you all – once again – for your leadership, your vision, and your unwavering commitment to the mission we share.  I look forward to building on this dialogue in the weeks and months to come.  And I am optimistic – despite the challenges we face, and the obstacles we must confront – about where your efforts will take us, and all that we will achieve – together – for the exceptional nation we all love.

Thank you.

INTERPOL WASHINGTON ANNOUNCES FOREIGN TERRORIST PROGRAM INVOLVING INFORMATION SHARING

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Interpol Washington Spearheads Foreign Terrorist Fighter Program, Serves as Catalyst for Global Information Sharing Network

Interpol Washington today announced the formation of a dedicated Interpol Foreign Terrorist Fighter (FTF) program in partnership with the National Security Council (NSC), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The program leverages the unique resources Interpol utilizes to combat transnational crime, including its secure, encrypted communications system, its criminal and analytical databases and its system of advisory notices.  Through this program, Interpol will provide an unparalleled mechanism for addressing the threat from FTFs by helping to monitor and deter their international movement and interdict them at strategic entry points, where possible.  Composed of the National Central Bureaus (NCB) of more than 30 member countries, the program was established in response to the need for a forum for sharing intelligence and best practices on a global scale to combat the threat of foreign terrorist fighters traveling to Iraq and Syria.

“Interpol provides critical leadership in advancing the Justice Department’s efforts to combat terrorism and ensure the safety of all Americans – offering cutting-edge resources, a structure for international cooperation, and strategic tools like Red, Blue and Green Notices for tracing, targeting and apprehending terror suspects,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “In a world that is increasingly interdependent and interconnected, Interpol helps to defend against a range of evolving challenges by disseminating information, combating crime, and identifying potential threats.  And particularly today, with the emergence of groups like ISIL, and the knowledge that some Americans are attempting to travel to countries like Syria and Iraq to take part in ongoing conflicts, Interpol – as the world’s largest international police organization – has a vital role to play in safeguarding our homeland and protecting the American people.”

“The threat posed by foreign fighters is one that is persistent and requires the full cooperation and resources of the international law enforcement community to effectively combat," said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.  “We are already working closely with European and other governments to build better information sharing, and we will continue to leverage our partnership with the Interpol, Department of Justice and other international partners to make enhanced and concerted efforts to track foreign fighters who come from or seek to enter the United States.”

The program currently supports a working group that includes Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States, and an international symposia—a multinational database populated with information contributed by and accessible to participating member countries.  The criminal intelligence information contained in the database includes detailed identity particulars that are especially valuable to law enforcement and border control authorities in making determinations of the terrorist threat posed by subjects located in, or attempting to enter, their respective jurisdictions.

Interpol Washington played a critical role in the program’s development and is taking the lead on implementing it in the United States by continuing to strategically use Interpol Red Notices to target and apprehend terrorists for prosecution in U.S. courts and Interpol Blue Notices to trace and locate terrorists and others suspected of terrorism-related activity, including those not charged with a particular offense.  Further, Interpol Washington is extensively utilizing Interpol Green Notices to publish information about hundreds of foreign nationals previously identified in both Iraq and Afghanistan and involved in terrorist activities. Interpol also offers countries the ability to use its information sharing system to send targeted messages to key partners on terrorist subjects.

“Interpol Washington continues to champion international police cooperation by leading U.S. efforts in the Interpol Foreign Terrorist Fighter program,” said Interpol Washington Director Shawn A. Bray.  “Interpol provides a unique set of information sharing solutions for addressing this growing threat.  By applying these solutions via its secure global communications network, Interpol member countries send a strong, unified message of engagement against FTFs and those who support them.”

Regional meetings, meetings of the heads of National Central Bureaus and the annual Interpol General Assembly represent additional opportunities for strengthening the FTF program.  Finally, Interpol works closely with the United Nations, particularly the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council, to publish Special Notices on individuals listed by the Sanctions Committee as belonging to or associated with al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Interpol Washington, a component of the DOJ and co-managed by the DHS, facilitates the sharing of criminal justice, humanitarian and public safety information among Interpol’s 190 member countries and more than 18,000 local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement agencies in the United States.  In coordinating international investigative efforts, Interpol Washington works to enhance the safety and security of our nation.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

AG HOLDER'S REMARKS ANNOUNCING HIS DEPARTURE FROM JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Remarks by Attorney General Eric Holder Announcing His Plans to Depart Justice Department

Washington, DCUnited States ~ Thursday, September 25, 2014
I come to this moment with very mixed emotions.  Proud of what the men and women of the Department of Justice have accomplished over the last six years and, at the same time, very sad that I will not be a formal part of the great things that this department and this President will accomplish over the next two.

I want to thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity you gave me to serve and for giving me the greatest honor of my professional life.  We have been great colleagues, but the bonds between us are much deeper than that.  In good times and bad, in things personal and professional, you have been there for me.  I am proud to call you my friend.  I am also grateful for the support you have given me and the department as we have made real the visions that you and I have always shared.  I often think of those early talks between us and our belief that we might help to craft a more perfect Union.  Work remains to be done – but our list of accomplishments is real.  Over the last six years, our Administration has made historic gains in realizing the principles of the founding documents, and fought to protect the most sacred of American rights: the right to vote.  We have begun to realize the promise of equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters and their families.  We have begun to significantly reform our criminal justice system and reconnect those who bravely serve in law enforcement with the communities they protect.  We have kept faith with our belief in the power of the greatest judicial system the world has ever known to fairly and effectively adjudicate any cases that are brought before it, including those that involve the security of the nation we both love so dearly.  We have taken steps to protect the environment and make more fair the rules by which our commercial enterprises operate.  And we have held accountable those who would harm the American people either through violent means or the misuse of economic or political power.

I have loved the Department of Justice ever since, as a young boy, I watched Robert Kennedy prove during the Civil Rights Movement how the department can – and must – always be a force for that which is right.  I hope that I have done honor to the faith you placed in me, Mr. President, and to the legacy of all those that served before me.

I would also like to thank the Vice President, who I have known for so many years and in whom I have found great wisdom, unwavering support, and a shared vision of what America can, and should, be.  I want to recognize my good friend Valerie Jarrett, whom I’ve been fortunate to work with from the beginning of what started as an improbable, idealistic effort by a young senator from Illinois who we were both right to believe would achieve greatness.  I have had the opportunity to serve in your distinguished Cabinet and worked with a White House staff, ably led by Denis McDonough, that has done much to make real the promise of our democracy.  And each of the men and women who I have come to know will be lifelong friends.

Whatever my accomplishments, they could not have been achieved without the love, support, and guidance of two people who are not with me today.  My parents, Eric and Miriam Holder, nurtured me and my accomplished brother William and made us believe in the value of individual effort and the greatness of this nation.

My time in public service, which now comes to an end, would not have been possible without the sacrifices – too often unfair – made by the best three kids a father could ask for.  Thank you, Maya, Brooke, and Buddy.

And finally I want to thank the woman who sacrificed the most and allowed me to follow my dreams.  She is the foundation of all that our family is and the basis of all that I have become.  My wife, Sharon, is the unsung hero and my life partner.  Thank you for all that you have done.  I love you.

In the months ahead, I will leave the Department of Justice – but I will never leave the work.  I will continue to serve and try to find ways to make our nation even more true to its founding ideals.  I thank the dedicated public servants who form the backbone of the United States Department of Justice for their tireless work over the past six years, for the efforts they will continue, and for the progress they made that will outlast us all.

And I thank you all for joining me on a journey that now moves in another direction, but that will always be guided by the pursuit of justice and aimed at the North Star.            

DOJ STATEMENTS RELEASED REGARDING AG HOLDER'S RESIGNATION

Attorney General Holder
Credit:  DOJ Website

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Statements on the Departure of Attorney General Eric Holder

STATEMENT FROM ETHEL KENNEDY REGARDING ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER

“Eric Holder has vigilantly defended an ideal Bobby strongly believed -- that the Justice Department must deliver justice for all Americans. Especially our most vulnerable, who live in the very communities where justice can be hardest to find.”

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STATEMENT FROM MYRLIE EVERS REGARDING ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER

“There has been no greater ally in the fight for justice, civil rights, equal rights, and voting rights than Attorney General Holder.  As a fierce consequential defender of the right to vote, the Attorney General has worked tirelessly to ensure that every American has the right, the ability and the opportunity to cast their vote and let their voice be heard.

“Attorney General Holder never shied away from the issues that greatly affect us all.  From lobbying Congress to reduce prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders, to cracking down on abuse by police departments and to working to ease racial tension throughout the United States, the Attorney General was always there ready to correct injustices and offer common sense reforms to better our nation.

“I am honored to call the Attorney General a friend, and have had the distinct pleasure of working very closely with him throughout his tenure as AG and prior to his appointment. Just last year, when we celebrated the life of my husband Medgar, Attorney General Holder was the first to offer his assistance to honor Medgar and vowed to continue his pursuit for justice for all Americans, just as Medgar did.

“I wish AG Holder continued success, and look forward to continuing our work together to ensure that that this country stays on the path to greatness, righteousness and equality that we both have dedicated our lives to.”

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STATEMENT FROM MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL REGARDING ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER

“On behalf of the City of Chicago, I want to thank Attorney General Eric Holder for more than five and a half years of extraordinary service as our nation’s Attorney General. Whether it’s reducing gun violence on our streets or supporting restorative justice in our schools so more children can stay on track to graduate, the City of Chicago has had a strong partner in Attorney General Holder. He has been a great champion for keeping our streets safer, making our communities stronger, and making our criminal justice system fairer. We are a better nation because of Attorney General Holder’s outstanding service.”

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STATEMENT FROM THE LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE ON CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS CEO WADE HENDERSON REGARDING ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER

“Attorney General Holder has presided over one of the most forward-thinking and visionary Justice Departments in memory. Remembering only his historic confirmation as the first African-American attorney general would not do justice to his tenure over the past six years, which was one of the most successful in modern American history.

"Under his leadership, the Department of Justice has put forth groundbreaking reforms to our broken criminal justice system, championed the right to vote, defended the Affordable Care Act, protected homeowners from predatory lending, defended the federal government from state overreach on immigration laws, and backed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

"His tenure is even more remarkable considering that he was victim to an unprecedented witch hunt and abuse of power by House Republicans.  Their attempt to stain the office by issuing the only contempt citation against a sitting cabinet member in modern history only validated Attorney General Holder’s effectiveness and commitment to promoting the civil and human rights of all Americans.

"Attorney General Holder came to the job as the one of the most well-prepared nominees ever considered for the post, and he has surpassed even those high expectations. We commend his service to our nation and will work to confirm a successor that will continue Justice’s commitment to the advancement of civil and human rights.”

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STATEMENT FROM THE NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATIONAL FUND REGARDING ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. today lauded the stellar leadership of departing Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced his resignation this morning. LDF also emphasized the need for continued vigilance in the protection of civil rights.

“When Attorney General Holder took the helm of the Department of Justice in 2009, he vowed to make the Civil Rights division the department's ‘crown jewel,’ and he has more than fulfilled that mission,” said Sherrilyn A. Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of NAACP LDF. “When the history of his tenure is written, Eric Holder will ultimately be recognized as one of the finest Attorneys General this country has ever known. In the field of civil rights there are few who could even claim to rival this Attorney General's dedication, strategic focus and commitment."

“General Holder's vision for the Civil Rights Division was one of restoration and transformation, from his leadership on voting rights, to legal services for the poor, to criminal justice reforms and, in recent weeks, to his forceful response to the tragic events in Ferguson,” Ifill added.

Ifill expressed particular support for the Attorney General’s forceful and courageous willingness to speak openly about the problem of mass incarceration in this country. “The ‘Smart on Crime’ initiatives he announced last year are a quintessential example of Attorney General Holder’s vision and boldness,” she said.

In 2013, Ifill noted, when the Supreme Court invalidated key portions of the Voting Rights Act in a devastating decision, Attorney General Holder immediately deployed the full litigation strength of the Justice Department in places like Texas and North Carolina to protect voters of color who had been made even more vulnerable to voting discrimination.  Most recently, his Justice Department attorneys stood side-by-side with LDF lawyers in a Texas courtroom to challenge that state’s discriminatory photo ID law.  A decision in that case, United States v. Texas, is expected in the next few weeks.

“It is hard to overstate the impact of General Holder’s tenure – but we are confident that his initiatives will endure, even under new leadership,” said Leslie Proll, Director of LDF’s Washington Office.  “At this critical time for America, we can’t afford to lose momentum on civil rights.  Certainly the next nominee will have big shoes to fill, but we trust and expect that his replacement will be up to the task.”

Attorney General Holder began his storied legal career as an intern at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund while at law school.  Earlier this year, he was the keynote speaker at LDF’s 60th anniversary celebration of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. View his remarks online here [external link].

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STATEMENT FROM THE HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN REGARDING ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality, today praised the distinguished service of Eric Holder upon learning that he will be stepping down as U.S. Attorney General pending confirmation of his successor. HRC believes that the President should use this opportunity to appoint the nation’s first out LGBT cabinet member.

"Some Attorneys General wait for history, others make history happen. Attorney General Holder made history for the LGBT community,” said Chad Griffin, President of HRC. “He was our Robert F. Kennedy, lightening the burden of every American who faces legal discrimination and social oppression. We owe him a profound debt of gratitude for his legacy of advocacy and service."

Attorney General Holder has been a staunch advocate for civil rights for LGBT Americans throughout his career in public life. As U.S. Attorney General for the District of Columbia, he formed the first hate crimes task force, which has become a model for U.S. Attorneys throughout the country. He spearheaded the administration’s decision to not defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. Under his leadership, the FBI and Civil Rights Division began actively investigating and prosecuting hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity with the implementation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

His leadership is without comparison in the swift implementation of the Supreme Court’s Decision in Windsor v. United States. Attorney General Holder declared that the ruling meant that, “Americans in same-sex marriages are entitled to equal protection and equal treatment under the law.” From this historic statement, more than 1,000 federal rights and benefits of marriages have begun to flow to same-sex couples across the country.

HRC continues to advocate for the historic appointment of an openly LGBT cabinet member to the Obama administration.

"President Obama faces a historic opportunity in light of Attorney General Holder's departure,” said Chad Griffin, President of HRC. “The President has expressed a commitment to appointing a cabinet that reflects the full diversity of the American people, and there are many richly-qualified candidates available to serve as the first openly-LGBT cabinet secretary. It would be a natural extension of this administration's enduring commitment to equality to send a message of visibility and inclusion by nominating such a candidate to serve in this historic role."

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STATEMENT FROM SENATOR BILL NELSON REGARDING ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER

“I have found Attorney General Holder to be an outstanding public servant with whom I’ve had the privilege to work with on a number of issues. Among them, he has led the fight to protect the right to vote for all citizens and that includes his recent letter warning Florida’s governor against any future efforts there to suppress the vote.  And he also has been very supportive of scientists’ efforts to unlock the secrets of potential abuse at a now-shuttered reform school in North Florida.  The president will miss his counsel.”

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STATEMENT FROM REPRESENTATIVE JOHN CONYERS REGARDING ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER

“Attorney General Eric Holder has delivered the utmost distinguished service during his tenure in the Obama Administration.  As the first African American to serve as Attorney General, Mr. Holder has shown vigorous dedication to the American people and advancing civil rights for all.

“As the fourth longest serving Attorney General in U.S. history, his devotion to the pursuit of justice is unparalleled and has comforted the nation during great times of turmoil. I appreciate that he will remain in his post until a successor is named.  I wish him well in all his future endeavors and thank him for his tireless efforts over the past six years and more.”

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STATEMENT FROM REPRESENTATIVE ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON REGARDING ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER

“It is heartbreaking for me to see the Attorney General leave the administration, but it is understandable that, after six years of outstanding work on domestic and international legal issues, he would desire to return to private life,” Norton said.  “We in the District of Columbia are especially proud and grateful that it was his outstanding record as U.S. Attorney here that first brought Eric to the attention of President Clinton and, ultimately, to President Obama.  This morning, we discussed his exceptional work to avoid the harshness of federal mandatory minimum sentencing in selected cases, when the results would have been particularly unfair, by using the local courts.  This was possible because of the U.S. Attorney’s dual local and federal jurisdiction.  His work influenced the changes now underway with federal mandatory minimums that are reducing the sentences of thousands of low-level drug offenders.”

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STATEMENT FROM REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS REGARDING ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER

“Over the past six years, Attorney General Holder has worked to improve our nation’s broken justice system, enforce civil rights laws, ban racial profiling, rekindle trust between law enforcement and communities of color, restructure sentencing guidelines, and identify constructive alternatives to incarceration.  In the process, he has improved how our courts and law enforcement officers do their jobs.

“As the first-ever African American to serve in this position, Attorney General Holder has promoted equal protection under the law by building bridges across ideology, race, gender, and class.  His capacity to fight for the rights of every American has been boundless, and his plan to continue many of those battles beyond his tenure at the Department of Justice is a testament to his character.

“In his 26 years of public service, he has built a legacy of which he can be extremely proud, and I wish him the best as he moves on to new endeavors.”

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STATEMENT FROM REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS REGARDING ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER

“I deeply saddened to learn today that the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, is stepping down.”

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