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Saturday, November 29, 2014

NSF VIDEO: UNMANNED UNDERWATER VEHICLE TESTED BENEATH ANTARCTICA

COLOR HIGHLIGHTS URANUS


Cption Credit:  NASA.  The false colors in this image indicate altitude. The green and blue regions show where the atmosphere is clear, allowing sunlight to penetrate deep into Uranus. In the yellow and gray regions, a haze or cloud layer is reflecting sunlight away. Orange and red colors indicate very high clouds, like cirrus clouds on Earth.  Credit: Erich Karkoschka (University of Arizona) and NASA

U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE ISSUES UPDATE ON ACCUSED ARMED CASINO TAKEOVER FUGITIVES

FROM:  U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE
November 21, 2014    
Robert M. Alexander, Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal
District of Nevada, Reno Office
Update on the Status of Three Individuals Accused of Armed Casino Takeover



Reno, NV – Northern Nevada’s U.S. Marshals led fugitive taskforce is actively seeking the whereabouts of Timothy Tofaute  and David Dixon. The two men are accused of an armed takeover of the Chukchansi Indian Resort and Casino in Coarsegold, California on October 9, 2014. Brian Auchenbach, who was also named on an arrest warrant related to this event, turned himself in to the Madera County Sheriff yesterday, November 20, and was subsequently released on $800,000 bail.

Tofaute, 46, Dixon, 35, and Auchenbach, 38, along with other private security contractors, are facing multiple felony charges including kidnapping, false imprisonment, and assault with a deadly weapon stemming from the events at the casino that day. Tofaute and Dixon remain outstanding and are still being pursued. Both men have extensive military and private security training. Tofaute is a former Navy SEAL. Due to their background and the nature of the charges, they should be considered armed and dangerous. The Madera County Sheriff’s Department is the lead investigative agency for this case.

The U.S. Marshals Office in Reno would like to thank the public and local media outlets for their efforts in this important matter. The results achieved so far would not have been possible without the assistance of both. Anyone with information about the fugitives being sought in this case is encouraged to call the U.S. Marshals led Fugitive Taskforce at 775-686-5780, Secret Witness, or local police. All callers may remain anonymous.

     Original News Release

NSF VIDEO: SEA SPRAY: COMPLEX CHEMISTRY WITH BIG EFFECTS ON CLIMATE-SCIENCE NATION

"STEALTHGENIE" SPAYWARE APP SELLER PLEADS GUILTY

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Man Pleads Guilty for Selling "StealthGenie" Spyware App and Ordered to Pay $500,000 Fine

A Danish citizen today pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Virginia and was ordered to pay a fine of $500,000 for advertising and selling StealthGenie, a spyware application (app) that could remotely monitor calls, texts, videos and other communications on mobile phones without detection.  This marks the first-ever criminal conviction concerning the advertisement and sale of a mobile device spyware app.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew G. McCabe of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement after a hearing before U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema in the Eastern District of Virginia.

“Spyware is an electronic eavesdropping tool that secretly and illegally invades individual privacy,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “Make no mistake: selling spyware is a federal crime, and the Criminal Division will make a federal case out if it.  Today’s guilty plea by a creator of the StealthGenie spyware is another demonstration of our commitment to prosecuting those who would invade personal privacy.”

“The defendant advertised and sold a spyware app that could be secretly installed on smart phones without the knowledge of the phones owner,” said U.S. Attorney Boente.  “This spyware app allowed individuals to intercept phone calls, electronic mail, text messages, voicemails and photographs of others.  The product allowed for the wholesale invasion of privacy by other individuals, and this office in coordination with our law enforcement partners will prosecute not just users of apps like this, but the makers and marketers of such tools as well.”

“Mr. Akbar is the first-ever person to admit criminal activity in advertising and selling spyware that invades an unwitting victim’s confidential communications,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge McCabe.  “This illegal spyware provides individuals with an option to track a person’s every move without their knowledge.  As technology evolves, the FBI will continue to evolve to protect consumers from those who sell illegal spyware.”

According to the statement of facts accompanying the plea agreement in the case, Hammad Akbar, 31, is the chief executive officer of InvoCode Pvt. Limited and Cubitium Limited, the companies that advertised and sold StealthGenie online.  StealthGenie could be installed on a variety of different brands of mobile phones, including Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, and Blackberry Limited’s Blackberry.  Once installed, it could intercept all conversations and text messages sent using the phone.  The app was undetectable by most users and was advertised as being untraceable.

Akbar was arrested on Sept. 27, 2014, in Los Angeles and pleaded guilty today to sale of an interception device and advertisement of a known interception device.  After accepting the guilty plea, the court immediately sentenced Akbar to time served and ordered him to pay a $500,000 fine.  He was also ordered to forfeit the source code for StealthGenie to the government.

On Sept. 26, 2014, the court issued a temporary restraining order authorizing the FBI to temporarily disable the website hosting StealthGenie, which was hosted from a data center in Ashburn, Virginia.  The court later converted the order into a temporary injunction, and the website remains offline.

According to Akbar’s admissions, StealthGenie had numerous functions that permitted it to intercept both outgoing and incoming telephone calls, electronic mail, text messages, voicemail, and photographs from the smartphone on which it was installed.  The app could also turn on the phone’s microphone when it was not in use and record sounds and conversations that occurred near the phone.  All of these functions could be enabled without the knowledge of the user of the phone.

In order to install the app, the purchaser needed at least temporary possession of the target phone.  During the installation process on an Android smartphone, for example, the person installing the app was required to grant a series of permissions that allowed the app to access privileged information on the device.  Once the app was activated, it was started as a “background” (i.e., hidden) service and set up to launch automatically when the phone was powered on.  The only time that the app interacted with the screen was during activation, and the icon for the app was removed from the phone’s menu.  Akbar admitted that because of these characteristics, a typical smartphone user would not know that StealthGenie had been installed on his or her smartphone.  

Akbar also admitted to distributing an advertisement for StealthGenie through his website on Nov. 5, 2011, and to selling the app to an undercover agent of the FBI on Dec. 14, 2012.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney William A. Hall Jr. of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jay V. Prabhu and Alexander Nguyen of the Eastern District of Virginia.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Weekly Address: Happy Thanksgiving from the Obama Family

U.S. CONGRATULATES PEOPLE OF MAURITANIA ON THEIR INDEPENDENCE DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 28, 2014


On behalf of the American people, I send best wishes to the people of Mauritania on the 54th anniversary of your independence on November 28.

Mauritania and the United States have a strong partnership founded on shared interests for regional peace and security, and countering the spread of Ebola in West Africa.

Last August, I hosted President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz in Washington at the U.S. – African Leaders Conference. I thanked President Aziz for his work in crafting a ceasefire agreement in Mali and for your country’s commitment to counter-terrorism efforts throughout the Sahel.

I look forward to working with the Mauritania government and civil society to expand trade and increase prosperity for all Mauritanians in the years ahead.

On this day of celebration, I wish all Mauritanians a joyful Independence Day.

RECENT U.S. DOD PHOTOS: RAPTORS AND LIGHTNING

F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lightning IIs fly in formation over the Eglin Training Range, Fla., after completing an integration training mission, Nov. 5, 2014. The F-22s are assigned to the 94th Fighter Squadron on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. The F-35s are assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo.

F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lightning IIs taxi on the runway on Eglin Training Range, Fla., during an integration training mission, Nov. 5, 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo.

SEC CHARGES PRINCIPALS OF OIL AND GAS COMPANY WITH FRAUD

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Litigation Release No. 23144 / November 26, 2014
Securities and Exchange Commission v. Paul R. Downey, et al., Civil Action No. 1:14-CV-00185-C (N.D. Tex. Abilene Division)


SEC Charges Principals of a Texas Oil and Gas Company with Conducting a Fraudulent Offering, and Charges Seller with Acting as an Unregistered Broker

On November 20, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged two principals of Quest Energy Management Group, Inc. (Quest), Paul Downey of Naples, Florida and Jeffry Downey of Abilene, Texas, with conducting a fraudulent offering of preferred stock and limited partnership interests. The SEC also charged John Leonard, a salesman residing in Naples and Chicago, with acting as an unregistered broker in offering and selling the investment.

The SEC alleges that between January 2010 and May 2011, the father-son duo of Paul and Jeffry Downey used Quest, an Albany, Texas-based oil and gas company, to fraudulently offer Quest preferred stock and limited partnership units in an entity called Permian Advanced Oil Recovery Investment Fund I, LP (PAOR). Investors were told that PAOR would acquire working interests in oil and gas leases from Quest and receive revenue from those leases. With assistance from unregistered salesman John Leonard, the Downeys raised $4.8 million from approximately 17 investors. The PAOR offering was fraudulent on account of blatantly deceptive misstatements about Quest and PAOR. More particularly, the Downeys made false statements in the private placement memorandum about the financial viability of Quest; the purchase debt and liens associated with certain leases in which PAOR was acquiring an interest; the current and projected petroleum production from the leases; the use of investor funds raised in the offering; independent audits of PAOR; and foreseeable litigation against Quest and the Downeys.

On May 24, 2013, the U. S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, appointed Burton Wiand, a Tampa attorney, as receiver over Quest, based on Quest's receipt of funds from a Ponzi scheme conducted by Arthur Nadel and others. In re Arthur Nadel, et al., Lit. Rel. No. 20858 (January 21, 2009). The receivership is ongoing.

The SEC's complaint against the Downeys and Leonard alleges that the Downeys violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and that Leonard violated Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act. The SEC's complaint seeks from the Downeys and Leonard disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, civil penalties, and permanent injunctive relief, and additionally against the Downeys, officer and director bars.

The SEC's investigation was conducted by Jeffrey Cohen, Carol Hahn, and Joann Harris, and the SEC's litigation is being led by B. David Fraser. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Texas State Securities Board.

LONG RUNNING CONFLICT IN SENEGAL

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Sant'Egidio Playing Vital Role in Effort to End 30-Year Conflict in Senegal
Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations
November 25, 2014

The insurgency in Senegal’s Casamance region is one of the longest-running conflicts in the world—and one of the least known. It began 32 years ago when the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) demanded that the area be granted independence. Geography is a critical factor in this standoff. Casamance is the southern-most portion of Senegal, but another country, The Gambia, runs east-to-west between the region and the northern areas of Senegal.

In January 2011 President M. Abdoulaye Wade stated his willingness to engage Sant'Egidio, a Catholic lay organization in Rome with experience in helping parties resolve conflicts

A few weeks later, the military wing of the MFDC agreed to participate. Little happened, however, until Macky Sall was elected president in 2012 and injected new energy into the quest for peace. “We saw an opportunity for the State Department to promote peace,” said CSO’s Rebecca Wall, who proposed that her bureau send a senior official to provide diplomatic support and international partner coordination for the peace process.

That official was retired Ambassador James Bullington, who had 12 years of Africa experience in hot spots such as Chad and Burundi, a great respect for local leadership, and plenty of Chattanooga charm.

“We can’t bring peace to the Casamance,” Ambassador Bullington said in late 2012, after his arrival in Dakar. “Only the Senegalese can do that. But we can provide political and material support for the peace process.” To build on the momentum and to keep this issue on the embassy’s radar screen despite competing priorities, Ambassador Bullington coordinated with Embassy Dakar staff and other U.S. government agencies to ensure a focused, interagency approach. He began speaking regularly with the Government of Senegal and Sant’Egidio, while encouraging regional neighbors, especially The Gambia, to cooperate in the peace initiative. In late 2013, Sue Ford Patrick served as the U.S. Casamance advisor, and in 2014, the State Department’s Africa Bureau deployed Ambassador Mark Boulware to continue this role. The UN and other international partners also made important contributions.

Sant'Egidio contacted MFDC leader Salif Sadio, and high-level delegations from MFDC visited the Community of Sant'Egidio in Rome three times between January and July 2012 to prepare the negotiations. “Sant’Egidio understands that negotiations take a long time and that relationship-building is the key to the ultimate success of a peace process,” said CSO’s Wall, who helped secure U.S. government funds to enlist Sant’Egidio.

The first round of talks between representatives of the MFDC and the government of Senegal took place that October. Sant’Egidio asked Sadiò to release eight hostages as a humanitarian gesture and as an act to promote a favorable climate for negotiations. On December 9, in Casamance, Sadio delivered the prisoners to an international delegation. At about the same time a de facto ceasefire took hold, and it remains in effect.

“Interreligious and ecumenical dialogue between Christian and Muslim community leaders and the political leaders promoted and created a positive synergy that is favourable to reconciliation,” Sant’Egidio said on its website. Negotiations in Rome and Senegal continue, in hopes that before long this conflict can be considered at an end.

SONY COMPUTER ENTERTAINMENT AMERICA TO SETTLE FTC CHARGES OF PLACING MISLEADING ADS

FROM:  U.S. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 
Sony Computer Entertainment America To Provide Consumer Refunds To Settle FTC Charges Over Misleading Ads For PlayStation Vita Gaming Console
FTC Also Charges Los Angeles Ad Agency with Promoting Console through Deceptive Twitter Endorsements

Sony Computer Entertainment America (“Sony”) has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived consumers with false advertising claims about the “game changing” technological features of its PlayStation Vita handheld gaming console during its U.S. launch campaign in late 2011 and early 2012.

As part of its settlement with the FTC, Sony is barred from making similarly misleading advertising claims in the future, and will provide consumers who bought a PS Vita gaming console before June 1, 2012, either a $25 cash or credit refund, or a $50 merchandise voucher for select video games, and/or services. Sony will provide notice via email to consumers who are eligible for redress after the settlement is finalized by the Commission.

“As we enter the year’s biggest shopping period, companies need to be reminded that if they make product promises to consumers -- as Sony did with the “game changing” features of its PS Vita -- they must deliver on those pledges,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC will not hesitate to act on behalf of consumers when companies or advertisers make false product claims.”

As part of its launch campaign for the PS Vita, Sony claimed that the pocket-sized console would revolutionize gaming mobility by enabling consumers to play their PlayStation 3 games via “remote play,” and that they could engage in “cross platform” play by starting a game on a PS3 and then continuing it on the go, right where they left off, on a PS Vita. The FTC alleges that each of these claims was misleading.

In a related action, the Commission charged that Deutsch LA, Sony’s advertising agency for the PS Vita launch, knew or should have known that the advertisements it produced contained misleading claims about the console’s cross platform and 3G capabilities.

The FTC also alleges that Deutsch LA further misled consumers by urging its employees to create awareness and excitement about the PS Vita on Twitter, without instructing employees to disclose their connection to the advertising agency or its then-client Sony. Under a separate settlement order, Deutsch LA is barred from such conduct in the future.

The PS Vita is a handheld gaming console that Sony first sold in the United States in February 2012 for about $250. Unlike the PS3, which allows consumers to play video games on a television, the PS Vita is a portable device that enables gamers to play “on the go,” untethered to a television screen.

FTC Complaint Against Sony Computer Entertainment America

The FTC’s complaint against Sony charges the company with making false claims about the PS Vita’s “cross platform gaming” or “cross-save” feature. Sony claimed, for example, that PS Vita users could pause any PS3 game at any time and continue to play the game on their PS Vita from where they left off. This feature, however, was only available for a few PS3 games, and the pause-and-save capability described in the ads varied significantly from game to game. For example, with respect to “MLB 12: The Show,” consumers could only save the game to the PS Vita after finishing the entire nine-inning game on their PS3. In addition, Sony failed to inform consumers that to use this feature, purchasers had to buy two versions of the same game – one for their PS3 and one for the PS Vita.

The FTC’s complaint also alleges that Sony’s PS Vita ads falsely implied that consumers who owned the 3G version of the device (which cost an extra $50 plus monthly fees) could engage in live, multi-player gaming through a 3G network. In fact, consumers could not engage in live, multiplayer gaming.

The complaint further alleges that Sony also falsely claimed that with the “remote play” feature, PS Vita users could easily access their PS3 games on their handheld consoles. In reality, most PS3 games were not remote playable on the PS Vita. Sony also misled consumers by falsely claiming that PS Vita users could remotely play the popular PS3 game, Killzone 3, on the PS Vita. In fact, Sony never enabled remote play on its Killzone 3 game title, and very few, if any, PS3 games of similar size and complexity were remote playable on the PS Vita.

FTC Complaint Against Deutsch LA

The FTC’s complaint against Deutsch LA charges the company with similarly misleading consumers through ads that it created touting the PS Vita’s cross-platform gaming and 3G features.

The Commission also alleges that Deutsch LA misled consumers with deceptive product endorsements for the PS Vita. Specifically, the agency used the term “#gamechanger” in its ads to direct consumers to online conversations about Sony’s console on Twitter. About a month before the gaming console was launched, one of Deutsch LA’s assistant account executives sent a company-wide email to staff asking them to help with the ad campaign by posting comments about the PS Vita on Twitter and using the same  “#gamechanger” hashtag, according to the complaint.

In response to the company-wide email, various Deutsch LA employees posted positive tweets about the PS Vita to their personal Twitter accounts, without disclosing their connection to Deutsch or Sony, the FTC alleged. The FTC has charged that the tweets were misleading, as they did not reflect the views of actual consumers who had used the PS Vita, and because they did not disclose that they were written by employees of Deutsch LA.

Proposed Settlement Orders

The proposed settlement orders prohibit both Sony and Deutsch LA from making similar misrepresentations in the future when promoting the features or capabilities of handheld gaming consoles. The proposed order against Deutsch LA also bars it from misrepresenting that an endorser of any game console product or video game product is an independent user or ordinary consumer of the product. In addition, the proposed order requires Deutsch LA to disclose a material connection, where one exists, between any endorser of a game console product or video game product and Deutsch LA or other entity involved in the manufacture or marketing of the product. These requirements are in line with the FTC’s Endorsement Guides,

The proposed order against Sony requires it to send email notifications to all consumers it can reasonably identify as having bought a PS Vita before June 1, 2012.

Information for Consumers

The FTC has information for consumers about how to detect and avoid advertisements that may be deceptive or misleading, including a new blog post, Sony Ads Shouldn’t Play Games.

The Commission vote to accept both proposed consent orders for public comment was 5-0.

FDIC REPORTS COMMERCIAL BANK AND SAVINGS INSTITUTION NET INCOME FOR THIRD QUARTER

 FROM:  FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION 
November 25, 2014Media Contact:
David Barr (202) 898-6992
dbarr@fdic.gov
Commercial banks and savings institutions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reported aggregate net income of $38.7 billion in the third quarter of 2014, up $2.6 billion (7.3 percent) from earnings of $36.1 billion the industry reported a year earlier. The increase in earnings was mainly attributable to a $7.8 billion (4.8 percent) increase in net operating revenue (the sum of net interest income and total noninterest income), the biggest since the fourth quarter of 2009. Almost two-thirds of the 6,589 insured institutions reporting (62.9 percent) had year-over-year growth in quarterly earnings. The proportion of banks that were unprofitable during the third quarter fell to 6.4 percent from 8.7 percent a year earlier.

"The banking industry had another positive quarter," FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg said. "Community banks, in particular, performed better than a year ago. Most importantly, third quarter income growth was based on revenue growth instead of lower loan-loss provisions. This can be a more sustainable foundation for continued earnings growth going forward."

Total loan and lease balances rose by $50.9 billion (0.6 percent) in the third quarter to $8.2 trillion. Commercial and industrial loans increased by $10.1 billion (0.6 percent), and auto loans grew by $9 billion (2.4 percent), while balances of one- to four-family mortgage loans declined by $6.7 billion (0.4 percent). Over the last 12 months, loan and lease balances increased by 4.6 percent.

Noninterest income was $5.4 billion (9.2 percent) higher than a year ago. Gains from loan sales were $1.2 billion (45.6 percent) higher, while trading income was up by $1.1 billion (25.3 percent). This is the first time in the last five quarters that noninterest income has increased year-over-year.

Net interest income was up $2.4 billion (2.3 percent) from a year ago, as interest-bearing assets were 5.9 percent higher. The average net interest margin (the difference between the average yield banks earn on loans and other investments and the average cost of funding those investments) was 3.14 percent, down from the 3.26 percent average in the third quarter of 2013. This is the lowest quarterly average margin since 3.11 percent in the third quarter of 1989, as larger institutions increased their holdings of low-yield, liquid investments.

Noninterest expenses for goodwill impairment were $1.1 billion higher than a year ago, while itemized litigation expenses were $1.6 billion lower. Expenses for salaries and employee benefits were $2.0 billion (4.3 percent) higher than in the third quarter of 2013. Banks set aside $7.2 billion in provisions for loan losses, up 23.9 percent from $5.8 billion a year earlier. This is the first time in five years that the industry has reported a year-over-year increase in loss provisions.

Asset quality indicators continued to improve as insured banks and thrifts charged off $9.2 billion in uncollectible loans during the quarter, down $2.4 billion (21.0 percent) from a year earlier. The amount of noncurrent loans and leases (those 90 days or more past due or in nonaccrual status) fell by $9.7 billion (5.3 percent) during the quarter. The percentage of loans and leases that were noncurrent declined to 2.11 percent, the lowest level since the 2.09 percent posted at the end of the second quarter of 2008.

The average return on assets (ROA) rose slightly to 1.02 percent in the third quarter from 1.00 percent a year earlier. The average return on equity (ROE) rose from 8.94 percent to 9.04 percent.

Despite continued positive developments, Chairman Gruenberg noted: "Still, there are challenges ahead for the industry. Margins remain under pressure in this low interest rate environment. Institutions have responded by extending asset maturities, which raises concerns about interest-rate risk. And banks are increasing higher-risk loans to leveraged commercial borrowers. All of these issues continue to be matters of ongoing supervisory attention. Nevertheless, third quarter results were largely good news for community banks and for the entire banking industry."

Financial results for the third quarter of 2014 are contained in the FDIC's latest Quarterly Banking Profile, which was released today. Also among the findings:

Community banks earned $4.9 billion during the quarter. Starting with the Quarterly Banking Profile released for the first quarter of 2014, the FDIC added a new section that reports on the performance of community banks – those institutions that provide traditional, relationship-based banking services in their local communities. Based on criteria developed for the FDIC Community Banking Study published in December 2012, there were 6,107 community banks (93.0 percent of all FDIC-insured institutions) in the third quarter of 2014 with assets of $2.0 trillion (13.0 percent of industry assets). Third quarter net income at community banks of $4.9 billion was up $351 million (7.8 percent) from a year earlier, driven by higher net interest income and lower loan-loss provisions. The report also found that loan balances at community banks in the third quarter grew at a faster pace than in the industry as a whole, asset quality indicators continued to show improvement, and community banks continued to account for 45 percent of small loans to businesses.

The number of "problem banks" fell for the 14th consecutive quarter. The number of banks on the FDIC's "Problem List" declined from 354 to 329 during the quarter, the lowest since the 305 in the first quarter of 2009. The number of "problem" banks now is 63 percent below the post-crisis high of 888 at the end of the first quarter of 2011. Two FDIC-insured institutions failed in the third quarter, compared to six in the third quarter of 2013.

The Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) balance continued to increase. The DIF balance (the net worth of the Fund) rose to a record $54.3 billion as of September 30 from $51.1 billion at the end of June. The Fund balance increased primarily due to assessment income, recoveries from litigation settlements, and receivership asset recoveries that exceeded estimates. Estimated insured deposits increased by 0.4 percent, and the DIF reserve ratio (the Fund balance as a percentage of estimated insured deposits) rose to 0.89 percent as of September 30 from 0.84 percent as of June 30. A year ago, the DIF reserve ratio was 0.68 percent. By law, the DIF must achieve a minimum reserve ratio of 1.35 percent by September 30, 2020.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

EUROPA: THE JUPITER MOON


FROM:  NASA 

Caption credit:  NASA.  The puzzling, fascinating surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa looms large in this newly-reprocessed color view, made from images taken by NASA's Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. This is the color view of Europa from Galileo that shows the largest portion of the moon's surface at the highest resolution. The view was previously released as a mosaic with lower resolution and strongly enhanced color (see PIA02590). To create this new version, the images were assembled into a realistic color view of the surface that approximates how Europa would appear to the human eye. The scene shows the stunning diversity of Europa’s surface geology. Long, linear cracks and ridges crisscross the surface, interrupted by regions of disrupted terrain where the surface ice crust has been broken up and re-frozen into new patterns. Color variations across the surface are associated with differences in geologic feature type and location. For example, areas that appear blue or white contain relatively pure water ice, while reddish and brownish areas include non-ice components in higher concentrations.

The polar regions, visible at the left and right of this view, are noticeably bluer than the more equatorial latitudes, which look more white. This color variation is thought to be due to differences in ice grain size in the two locations.  Images taken through near-infrared, green and violet filters have been combined to produce this view. The images have been corrected for light scattered outside of the image, to provide a color correction that is calibrated by wavelength. Gaps in the images have been filled with simulated color based on the color of nearby surface areas with similar terrain types. This global color view consists of images acquired by the Galileo Solid-State Imaging (SSI) experiment on the spacecraft's first and fourteenth orbits through the Jupiter system, in 1995 and 1998, respectively. Image scale is 2 miles (1.6 kilometers) per pixel. North on Europa is at right. The Galileo mission was managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

SOYUZ TMA-15M ROCKET LAUNCHES FROM KAZAKHSTAN

FROM:  NASA

 The Soyuz TMA-15M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014 as seen in this long exposure carrying Expedition 42 Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA, and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency (ESA) into orbit to begin their five and a half month mission on the International Space Station.  Image Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

NSF VIDEO: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF ROBOTINA

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Space Station Live: Thanksgiving Feast on Orbit

West Wing Week: 11/28/14 or, "We Need Turkey"

U.S. CONGRATULATES PEOPLE OF ALBANIA ON THEIR INDEPENDENCE DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 26, 2014


On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Albania as you celebrate your 102nd Independence Day on November 28.

Albania is a strong and reliable NATO ally and a force for stability in the Western Balkans. I thank the Albanian people for their support of the ISAF and Resolute Support missions in Afghanistan, as well as their immediate and valued contributions to the global coalition to counter ISIL.

The United States continues to actively support Albania’s efforts to meet the requirements for joining the European Union. I commend your progress on the path toward full Euro-Atlantic integration.

On this special occasion, the United States stands with you as a steadfast partner and ally.

U.S. FILES LAWSUIT CLAIMING COMPANY BILLED GOVERNMENT FOR INELIGIBLE PATIENTS

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
United States Files False Claims Act Lawsuit Against Las Vegas Hospice and Related Entities for Billing Medicare and Medicaid for Ineligible Patients


The United States has filed suit against Creekside Hospice II LLC, Skilled Healthcare Group Inc. (SKG), its holding company, and Skilled Healthcare LLC (SKH), an administrative services subsidiary of SKG that operates Creekside (collectively the Creekside entities), alleging that these entities knowingly submitted ineligible claims for hospice services and inflated claims for patient visits to government health care programs, the Justice Department announced today.

“The Medicare hospice benefit is intended to provide pain management and other palliative care to patients nearing the end of life, to help make them as comfortable as possible,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Civil Division.  “Too often, however, companies abuse this critical service by using aggressive marketing tactics to pressure patients who do not need, and may be ill-served, by these services in order to get higher reimbursements from the government.  The department will take swift action to protect taxpayer dollars and make sure that Medicare benefits are available to those who truly need them.”

The Medicare and Medicaid hospice benefits are available for patients who elect palliative treatment (medical care focused on providing patients with relief from pain and stress) for a terminal illness and have a life expectancy of six months or less if their disease runs its normal course.  When Medicare or Medicaid patients receive hospice services, they no longer receive services designed to cure their illnesses.

The government’s complaint alleges that the Creekside entities knowingly submitted or caused the submission of false claims for hospice care for patients who were not terminally ill.  According to the complaint, the companies allegedly directed staff to enroll patients in the hospice program regardless of the patients’ eligibility for hospice benefits, sometimes by instructing staff to change records after the hospice submitted claims for payment to indicate that all requirements had been met.  Management from Creekside, SKG and SKH also allegedly instructed employees to alter medical records to make it appear that doctors at the hospice had conducted personal visits with the patients, when in fact they had not occurred, in order to ensure reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid.  The complaint alleges that Creekside management aggressively discouraged staff from permitting patients or their families to revoke their elections to accept hospice benefits.  The complaint also alleges that staff at Creekside were discouraged from documenting known improvements in a patient’s health in the medical record, called “Chart Killers” by the hospice, to ensure that Medicare or Medicaid would pay the hospice’s claim.

Further, the complaint alleges that the Creekside entities knowingly submitted or caused the submission of inflated claims to Medicare for services performed by the medical director.  The government alleges that the companies repeatedly used billing codes that resulted in higher payment by Medicare than were justified by the services actually performed.  As a result of the conduct alleged in the complaint, the government contends that the Creekside entities misspent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars from the Medicare and Medicaid programs. 

“In order to protect the financial integrity of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, upon which so many of our senior American citizens rely, both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have made combating healthcare fraud an enforcement priority,” said U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden for the District of Nevada.  “This type of fraud will not be tolerated and DOJ and HHS will act swiftly when it does occur to pursue False Claims Act suits against violators.”

The United States filed its complaint in two consolidated lawsuits brought under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act and the Nevada False Claims Act by Joanne Cretney-Tsosie, a clinical manager for Creekside, and Veneta Lepera, a former clinical manager for Creekside.  Under these statutes, a private citizen can sue for fraud on behalf of the United States and the state of Nevada, respectively, and share in any recovery.  The federal and state governments are entitled to intervene in such a lawsuit, as they have done in this case.

The United States’ suit is part of 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 Health and Human Services.  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 $23.1 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $14.8 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

This matter was investigated by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office and the HHS Office of Inspector General.  The claims asserted against Creekside Hospice, SKG and SKH are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

NASA VIDEO | SWIFT: A DECADE OF GAME-CHANGING ASTROPHYSICS

U.S. UNITED NATIONS REPRESENTATIVE POWERS MAKES REMARKS ON UN RESOLUTIONS CONDEMNING ISRAEL

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
New York, NY
November 25, 2014
AS DELIVERED

Like everyone in this assembly hall, we are deeply concerned about the volatile situation in the Middle East. The United States has made an enormous effort, especially over the last year and a half, to work with the parties in trying to pave the road towards achieving a negotiated final-status agreement allowing two states to live side-by-side in peace and security.

In this context, the United States remains profoundly troubled by the repetitive and disproportionate number of one-sided General Assembly resolutions condemning Israel – a total of 18 this year. This grossly one-sided approach damages the prospects for peace by undermining trust between parties and damaging the kind of international support critical to achieving peace. All parties to the conflict have direct responsibilities for ending it, and we are disappointed that UN Members continually single out Israel without acknowledging the responsibilities and difficult steps that must be taken on all sides. These unbalanced, one-sided resolutions set back our collective efforts to advance a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Middle East, and they damage the institutional credibility of the United Nations.

Of these annual resolutions, which unfairly single out one country and consistently lack balance, three are particularly troubling to the United States: the “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat;” the “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People;” and the “Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.” These resolutions renew mandates for UN bodies established decades ago, wasting valuable resources and reinforcing the perception of systematic UN bias against Israel. All member states should evaluate the effectiveness of supporting and funding these bodies.

I do want to add that our continued opposition to the resolution on “Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the Occupied Golan,” which will come up for a vote in this Assembly next month, should not be understood to mean that we support settlement activity. On the contrary, we reject in the strongest terms Israeli settlements in territories occupied in 1967. Settlements are illegitimate, and they damage Israel’s security and the hopes for peace.

Continued settlement activity is contrary to Israel’s stated goal of negotiating a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians and is inconsistent with Israel’s international commitments.

During the past year, we have been deeply concerned by Israel’s advancement of plans for thousands of additional housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. We have made clear that such action only draws condemnation from the international community, poisons the atmosphere not only with the Palestinians but also with the very Arab governments with which the Israeli government says it wants to build relations, and undermines the prospect for a peaceful negotiated agreement with the Palestinians.

Both sides took unhelpful steps that undercut the most recent round of final status negotiations. The scale and timing of Israel’s settlement activities contributed significantly to the erosion of trust between the parties.

The United States is in full agreement about the urgent need to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, based on the two-state solution and an agreement that establishes a viable, independent, and contiguous state of Palestine, once and for all. We’ve invested a tremendous amount of effort and resources in pursuit of this shared goal, and we firmly believe that the parties need to resolve the conflict through direct negotiations. If the parties are willing and ready to take that step, we stand ready to support them and to continue our efforts to advance the cause of peace.

In closing, while the United States unequivocally rejects Israeli settlements in territories occupied in 1967, they do not justify the repetitive, disproportionate, and one-sided General Assembly resolutions condemning Israel, which do not advance our collective efforts to advance a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Thank you.

DOD PHOTOS: NATIONAL GUARD HELPS REMOVE SNOW IN NEW YORK

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 



Soldiers help remove snow at a senior care center in Orchard Park, N.Y., Nov. 22, 2014 New York National Guard photo by U.S. Army Maj. Paul Hernandez




 Soldiers use heavy equipment to assist with snow removal in Buffalo, N.Y., Nov. 22, 2014. The soldiers are assigned to the New York Army National Guard's 152nd and 827th engineer companies. New York National Guard photo by U.S. Army Maj. Paul Hernandez

PRESIDENT OBAMA HONORS THE 2014 MEDAL OF FREEDOM RECIPIENTS

SEC ANNOUNCES COURT ENTERS JUDGEMENT AGAINST BOILER ROOM OPERATOR

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Litigation Release No. 23140 / November 24, 2014

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Edward M. Laborio, Jonathan Fraiman, Matthew K. Lazar, Envit Capital, LLC, Envit Capital Group, Inc., Envit Capital Holdings, Inc., Envit Capital Private Wealth Management, LLC, Envit Capital Multi Strategy Mixed Investment Fund I LP, Aetius Group PLC, and Aetius Group LLC, Civil Action No. 1:12-cv-11489-PBS, (District of Massachusetts, Complaint filed August 10, 2012)

United States v. Edward Laborio and Jonathan Fraiman, 12-cr-10238-FDS-JGD (District of Massachusetts)

Court Enters Judgments Against Former Massachusetts-Based Boiler Room Operator and His Companies, Also Indicted by Grand Jury

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced that on November 18, 2014, the federal court in Boston, Massachusetts, entered final judgments against defendant Edward M. Laborio and his group of related entities, most with the name "Envit," in a boiler room scheme case filed by the Commission in 2012. The judgments permanently enjoin Laborio and the Envit entities from violating various sections of the federal securities laws, bars Laborio from certain parts of the securities industry, and orders Laborio and the entities to pay a total of $37,006,590 in disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, prejudgment interest, and civil penalties.

On August 10, 2012, the Commission filed a complaint against Laborio, Jonathan Fraiman, Matthew K. Lazar, and seven entities owned and controlled by Laborio, including a non-existent hedge fund, alleging that they participated in a boiler room scheme that raised more than $4 million from approximately 150 investors between October 2006 and late August 2009 through the use of false promises and pressurized sales tactics.

The court entered the judgments by default permanently enjoining:

Laborio, Envit Capital, LLC ("Envit LLC"), Envit Capital Group, Inc. ("Envit Group"), Envit Capital Holdings, Inc. ("Envit Holdings"), Envit Capital Private Wealth Management, LLC ("Envit Wealth"), Envit Capital Multi Strategy Mixed Investment Fund I LP ("Envit Fund"), Aetius Group, PLC ("Aetius PLC"), and Aetius Group, LLC ("Aetius LLC") from future violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 ("Securities Act"), and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 ("Exchange Act") and Rule 10b-5 thereunder;

Laborio and Envit Wealth from future violations of Sections 206(1), 206(2), and 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rule 206(4)-8 thereunder;

Laborio, Envit LLC, Envit Group, Envit Holdings, and Aetius PLC from future violations of Section 5 of the Securities Act;

Envit Fund and Aetius LLC from future violations of Section 7(a) of the Investment Company Act of 1940; and

Laborio from future violations of Section 15(a)(1) and 16(a) of the Exchange Act and Rule 16a-3 thereunder.
The judgments also order civil penalties of $4 million against Laborio and each of the Envit entities, and orders Laborio and the entities to disgorge, jointly and severally, $5,006,590 in ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest. Laborio's judgment also bars him from serving as an officer or director of a public company and from participating in any offering of penny stock.

On October 8, 2013, the court entered a judgment against Fraiman, enjoining him from future violations of the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. On October 11, 2013, the Commission issued an Order barring Fraiman from any future association with any broker, dealer, investment adviser, municipal securities dealer, municipal advisor, transfer agent, or nationally recognized statistical rating organization, with the right to reapply after ten years. Fraiman consented to both the judgment and the Commission Order.

On November 27, 2013, the court entered a judgment against Lazar, enjoining him from future violations of the antifraud provision of the federal securities laws. On December 11, 2013, the Commission issued an Order barring Lazar from any future association with any broker, dealer, investment adviser, municipal securities dealer, municipal advisor, transfer agent, or nationally recognized statistical rating organization, with the right to reapply after three years. Lazar consented to both the judgment and the Commission Order.

In a parallel criminal case, on August 7, 2014, a federal Grand Jury in the District of Massachusetts indicted Laborio and Fraiman on one count of conspiracy and one count of mail fraud for their roles in the Envit boiler room scheme. Also on August 7, 2014, a Magistrate Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts issued arrest warrants for Laborio and Fraiman. Fraiman was arrested on August 27, 2014. Laborio is currently a fugitive.

For more information, see Exchange Act Release No. 34-59900 (May 12, 2009) [Order suspending trading in Envit Group securities]; Initial Decision Release No. 385 (August 13, 2009) [Initial decision revoking registration of Envit Group securities]; Exchange Act Release No. 60658 (September 11, 2009) [Notice of final decision revoking registration of Envit Group securities]; Litigation Rel. No. 22444 (August 10, 2012) [Civil Complaint]; Litigation Rel. No. 22836 (October 8, 2013) [Fraiman settlement]; Exchange Act Release No. 70678 (October 11, 2013) [Fraiman Order]; Litigation Release No. 22881 (December 2, 2013) [Lazar settlement]; Exchange Act Release No. 71043 (December 11, 2013) [Lazar Order].

U.S. ACCUSES SANDWICH CO. OF DISTRIBUTING FOOD MADE IN INSANITARY CONDITIONS

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT  
Friday, November 21, 2014
United States Files Enforcement Action Against Michigan Sandwich Company and Co-Owner to Stop Distribution of Adulterated Products

A civil complaint was filed in federal court in Michigan against Scotty’s Incorporated of Detroit and its co-owner and manager, Sandra Jackson, to prevent the distribution of adulterated sandwiches, the Department of Justice announced today.

According to the complaint, Scotty’s Incorporated, which does business as Bruce Enterprises and Bruce’s Fresh Products, prepares and distributes ready-to-eat (RTE) sandwiches, including RTE tuna sandwiches.  The complaint alleges that the company’s sandwiches are manufactured in insanitary conditions, and that the company’s procedures are inadequate to ensure the safety of its products.  Moreover, the company has failed to implement a written Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan for handling seafood and minimizing the potential for harmful contamination in the company’s RTE tuna sandwiches.  The Justice Department filed the injunction action in the Eastern District of Michigan at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Seafood poses well-known risks when it is transported from ship to shore, but these risks can be effectively mitigated if companies handling seafood take proper precautions,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “The Department of Justice will take all appropriate measures to protect the safety of the seafood consumers eat.”

According to the complaint, the FDA has performed five inspections of the defendants’ facility since 2006 and documented insanitary practices and/or seafood HACCP violations every time.  These inspections revealed that the company’s RTE sandwiches are adulterated within the meaning of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because they are prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions in which they may have become contaminated with filth or rendered injurious to health.  The complaint alleges, for example, that since 2006, the company was repeatedly told to develop a written HACCP plan recognizing the inherent risks of toxin formation in tuna and enumerating plans to take corrective action when tuna is not properly handled.

Tuna that is not chilled rapidly or stored at sufficiently lower temperatures is at increased risk for the formation of scombrotoxin.  The toxin can be adequately controlled when tuna is chilled after death and maintained at a cold temperature throughout storage and distribution.  In the event that the tuna is not properly maintained, scombrotoxin readily forms and cannot be removed or destroyed through subsequent washing, freezing or cooking of the tuna.  Consumption of fish containing high levels of scombrotoxin may cause scombrotoxin poisoning, the symptoms of which may include burning sensations in the mouth or throat, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, diarrhea, rashes, hives, a drop in blood pressure, constriction of the air passage, heart palpitations and respiratory distress.

According to the complaint, the FDA’s most recent inspection was conducted between January 14 and February 6.  At the inspection, according to the complaint, the FDA found that the defendants failed to have and implement an HACCP plan for food safety hazards reasonably likely to occur.  There were also no sanitation control records documenting the safety of, among other things, water used at the facility; the cleanliness of surfaces, utensils and equipment coming into contact with food; maintenance of hand-sanitizing machines and bathrooms; exclusion of pests from the facility; and control of employee health conditions such as the wearing of jewelry, hair nets or beard covers.

The government is represented by Trial Attorney Dan Baeza of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Caplan of the Eastern District of Michigan, with the assistance of Assistant Chief Counsel for Enforcement Christopher Fanelli of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of General Counsel’s Food and Drug Division.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

READOUT: VP'S CALL WITH ROMANIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT KLAUS IOHANNIS

FROM:  THE WHITE HOUSE 
November 25, 2014
Readout of the Vice President’s Call with Romanian President-elect Klaus Iohannis

Vice President Joe Biden called Romanian President-elect Klaus Iohannis to congratulate him on his election victory, noting the impressive voter turnout as a sign of a strong and healthy democracy. The Vice President underscored the strength of the bilateral relationship and expressed appreciation for Romania’s contributions to NATO, its support for Ukraine, and its efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. The Vice President expressed his condolences for the loss of life in the November 21 helicopter accident and thanked Romania for its sacrifices as part of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Finally, the Vice President and President-elect Iohannis discussed the critical importance of rule of law reforms, both as a driver of economic growth and as a national security issue.

SECRETARY KERRY'S REMARKS ON INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and 16 Days of Activism
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 25, 2014

Today, we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the start of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. Over the next two weeks, U.S. embassies and missions around the world will all be working to raise awareness of the irreparable harm caused by gender-based violence.

This issue is seared into me. As a young prosecutor, I saw women and young girls whose lives and families were ripped apart by violence. I will never forget seeing women in dark glasses and long-sleeved shirts worn to cover up the black eyes and bruises of abuse. I couldn’t help but think about them as my two daughters went out into the world. As a Senator, working with Joe Biden and Cathy Russell, long before any of us were in the Administration, I helped pass the Violence Against Women Act.

In recent years, I’ve seen firsthand how much work remains to be done all across the globe, not just here at home. I saw it as a Senator, and I’ve seen it even more as Secretary. On my latest visit to Africa, while in Kinshasa, I toured a fistula clinic at St. Joseph’s Hospital. I spoke with doctors and activists alike who have devoted their life’s work to healing the scars left by sexual violence. And I listened to young women tell heartbreaking stories of their pain and ongoing recovery from the physical and emotional wounds left by their brutal assaults. These women were brave; they were extraordinarily strong. I came away inspired by their determination to make sure that no woman goes through the same ordeal as they did ever again.

Simply put, we must all do more to end violence against women in all its forms, wherever and whenever it occurs, and it starts by acknowledging it. There can be no conspiracy of silence.

The sad truth is that one in three women will experience gender-based violence in her lifetime. This violence knows no class, religious, or racial boundaries. And it comes at a terrible cost – not only for the woman or girl, but for families, communities, and entire countries. Preventing it is the only way to achieve a future of peace, stability, and prosperity.

Over the past year, the United States has worked to up our game battling gender-based violence across the globe. Through our Gender-based Violence Emergency Response and Protection Initiative, we help meet the immediate security needs of survivors. The Safe from the Start initiative is sending experts into the field to prevent gender-based violence in conflict zones and regions devastated by natural disasters. We are also working to address the scourge of early and forced marriage, most recently launching a program in Benin. And this past summer, I was proud to launch our partnership with Together for Girls to collect data on the consequences of sexual violence against children and provide a foundation to mobilize responses to new outbreaks of violence.

We will not turn away in the face of evil and brutality. We stand up, and we reaffirm that sexual violence will be not be tolerated. Not now, not ever.

U.S. ANNOUNCES TWO CHARGED WITH CONSPIRING TO PROVIDE MATERIAL SUPPORT TO ISIL

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Two Minnesotans Charged with Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
18-year-old Somali American Stopped at Minneapolis/Saint Paul Airport before Boarding Flight to Turkey

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota Andrew M. Luger today announced a criminal complaint charging Abdi Nur, 20, and Abdullah Yusuf, 18, with conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, namely, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  Nur is additionally charged with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.  Yusuf is expected to make an initial appearance at 2:00 p.m. today before Magistrate Judge Janie S. Mayeron in United States District Court in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“More than 16,000 recruits from over 90 countries traveled to Syria to become foreign terrorist fighters with alarming consequences,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin.  “This is a global crisis and we will continue our efforts to prevent Americans from joining the fight and to hold accountable those who provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations.  With these two defendants, we have now charged more than 15 individuals with offenses related to the foreign fighter threat in Syria.”

“As charged, these two young men conspired to join ISIL and travel from Minnesota to the Middle East to engage in a campaign of terror in support of a violent ideology,” said U.S. Attorney Luger.  “Since al-Shabaab began recruiting young adults from the Twin Cities in 2007, our region has lost dozens of disaffected young people to terrorist organizations that would sooner see Somali Minnesotans die on foreign battlefields than prosper in peace and security in the United States.  The law-abiding members of Minnesota’s Somali community are great partners in our fight against terror, and I am proud to work closely with community and religious leaders to lift up those Somali youth who remain vulnerable to terrorist recruiters.  Unfortunately, Yusuf and Nur were not the first – and may not be the last – to conspire in support of ISIS.  As we work with our many partners to improve the lives of Somali Minnesotans, we will continue to investigate and prosecute aggressively criminals who provide support for terror.”

“The FBI remains committed to both its community partners and to its law enforcement mandate concerning the detection and disruption of terrorist activity,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard T. Thornton for the Minneapolis Division.  “This complaint epitomizes the FBI's commitment to upholding the laws of the United States as they apply to those who would support terrorism.”

According to the criminal complaint and documents filed in court, on April 28, 2014, Abdullahi Yusuf applied for an expedited passport at the Minneapolis Passport Office.  He told the passport specialist that he intended to travel to Turkey, but when asked, Yusuf could not specify his travel itinerary, travel companions, hotel location or the name or address of a friend in Turkey who he claimed to have met recently via Facebook.  The passport specialist also asked Yusuf about the cost of his trip, which Yusuf reported as, “about $1,500.”  However, Yusuf had no known source of income.  Yusuf obtained his passport on May 5, 2014, and used it to open a checking account on the same day.

According to the criminal complaint and documents filed in court, on May 23, 2014, Yusuf deposited $1,500 in cash into his Wells Fargo checking account in four separate ATM deposits spread throughout the day.  On May 24, 2014, Yusuf used a debit card associated with the same account to purchase a $1,417.05 airline ticket from Minneapolis/Saint Paul to Istanbul, Turkey.  The ticket was for a flight scheduled to depart Minneapolis/Saint Paul on May 28, 2014.  His parents did not know that Yusuf had obtained a passport and planned to travel to Turkey, nor did they know that he had acquired $1,500 and purchased an airline ticket.

Yusuf is associated with H.M., a former Minnesota resident now believed to be fighting in Syria, and who traveled from Minnesota to Turkey on March 9, 2014.  The same debit card was used to purchase H.M.’s airline ticket as was used to purchase an airline ticket for  a third man from Minnesota who later traveled to Syria to fight with  ISIL.  Yusuf exchanged several telephone calls and text messages with H.M. in the days before YUSUF attempted to depart for Turkey.

On the morning of May 28, 2014, Yusuf’s father drove him to school.  Approximately one hour after arriving at school, Yusuf walked to a mosque near his school.  Yusuf left the mosque and was driven to a light rail station from which Yusuf departed for the airport.  At the airport, Yusuf was advised by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that he would not be permitted to travel to Turkey as he had planned.

According to the criminal complaint and documents filed in court, Abdi Nur departed from the Minneapolis/Saint Paul airport for Istanbul, Turkey on May 29, 2014.  Prior to his departure, on April 24, 2014, Nur obtained an expedited U.S. passport.  On May 24, 2014, Nur made an ATM deposit of $1,540 in cash to his checking account.  On May 27, 2014, Nur purchased an airline ticket for $1,619.30, using a debit card associated with the same checking account.  Like Yusuf, Nur was unemployed when he purchased his airline ticket.  Nur successfully boarded a flight for Turkey on May 29, 2014.  He was scheduled to return to the United States on June 16, 2014, but did not.

According to the criminal complaint and documents filed in court, Nur had become “much more religious,” in the two months preceding his departure, including talking about how his family needed to pray more and wear more traditional clothing.  Nur began to talk about jihad during this time period.

According to the criminal complaint and documents filed in court, Nur has communicated via Facebook with an individual in the United States after his departure for Turkey.  During those communications, Nur stated that he has gone “to the brothers,” and that we “will see each other in the afterlife inshallah,” and “im not coming back” (sic).  Nur has also communicated with a separately charged defendant, Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan, aka “Miski.”

According to the criminal complaint and documents filed in court, after asking Nur if he knew “Duale” (a U.S. citizen known to have traveled to Syria), Miski advised Nur “…Being connected in Jihad make you stronger and you can all help each other by fulfilling the duties that Allah swt (sic) put over you…Like us in Somalia the brothers from mpls are well connected so try to do the same….It is something we have learned after 6 years in Jihad.”

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI.  The charges contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

U.S. CONGRATULATES PEOPLE OF SURINAME ON THEIR INDEPENDENCE DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT  
Suriname's Independence Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 25, 2014

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Suriname on the 39th anniversary of your independence on November 25.

The United States and Suriname collaborate on issues important to both our countries and the region.

We are working to enhance the security and prosperity of our citizens through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, stop the spread of HIV/AIDS through PEPFAR, and strengthen military-to-military cooperation.

On behalf of the people of the United States, I wish you the best during your Independence Day celebrations.

AG HOLDER'S STATEMENT ON CONCLUSION OF GRAND JURY PROCEEDING IN MICHAEL BROWN SHOOTING

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Monday, November 24, 2014
Attorney General Holder Statement on the Conclusion of the Grand Jury Proceeding in the Shooting of Michael Brown

Attorney General Eric Holder released the following statement Monday regarding the conclusion of the St. Louis County grand jury proceeding in the shooting of Michael Brown:

“While the grand jury proceeding in St. Louis County has concluded, the Justice Department’s investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown remains ongoing.  Though we have shared information with local prosecutors during the course of our investigation, the federal inquiry has been independent of the local one from the start, and remains so now.  Even at this mature stage of the investigation, we have avoided prejudging any of the evidence.  And although federal civil rights law imposes a high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions.

“Michael Brown’s death was a tragedy.  This incident has sparked a national conversation about the need to ensure confidence between law enforcement and the communities they protect and serve.  While constructive efforts are underway in Ferguson and communities nationwide, far more must be done to create enduring trust.  The Department will continue to work with law enforcement, civil rights, faith and community leaders across the country to foster effective relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve and to improve fairness in the criminal justice system overall.  In addition, the Department continues to investigate allegations of unconstitutional policing patterns or practices by the Ferguson Police Department.

“Though there will be disagreement with the grand jury's decision not to indict, this feeling should not lead to violence.  Those who decide to participate in demonstrations should remember the wishes of Michael Brown's parents, who have asked that remembrances of their son be conducted peacefully.  It does not honor his memory to engage in violence or looting.  In the coming days, it will likewise be important for local law enforcement authorities to respect the rights of demonstrators, and deescalate tensions by avoiding excessive displays—and uses—of force.”

CHICAGO MAN SENTENCED TO PRISON, HOME CONFINEMENT FOR FAILING TO FILE FEDERAL INCOME TAX

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Chicago Businessman Sentenced for Failing to File Tax Returns

A prominent Chicago businessman was sentenced today to serve six months in prison and six months home confinement, to be followed by one year supervised release and ordered to cooperate in paying taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for willfully failing to file federal individual income tax returns, announced the Justice Department.

On June 12, a criminal information filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago alleged that Jamie Viteri had willfully failed to file individual income tax returns for tax years 2007, 2008 and 2009.  According to the plea agreement, Viteri earned substantial income that he did not report to the IRS from a company and a state agency.  Viteri’s gross income exceeded $270,000 in 2008 and $290,000 in 2009.  He was the president and chief executive officer of Viteri Inc., doing business as Chicago Latino Network (CLN), a solely owned media company focused on the Latino community in Chicago.  Viteri was also an employee and managing director of the Bureau of Entrepreneurship and Small Business at the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, an Illinois state government agency.

The case was investigated by special agents from IRS-Criminal Investigation and prosecuted by Trial Attorney Christopher Maietta of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIALS REMARKS ON PROJECT SAPPHIRE

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Project Sapphire 20 Years Later
Remarks
Richard E. Hoagland
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Washington, DC
November 17, 2014

(As Prepared)

Ambassador Umarov, Senator Nunn, Senator Lugar (the distinguished senator from my home state of Indiana), honored guests, ladies and gentlemen: It is such an honor to participate in this conference marking the 20th Anniversary of Project Sapphire. Thank you to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) for making this important dialogue possible. This is a hugely significant anniversary, and I am grateful that CSIS and the Embassy of Kazakhstan have made this public event possible. I have to admit, I feel a little bit like the U.S. Zelig of Central Asia, because I’ve been there since 1993 – and am so proud to have been there.

After the United States became the first country to recognize Kazakhstan’s independence in 1991, our two nations built a foundation of mutual trust, working together to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. There is no better symbol of that trust than Project Sapphire, which rid Kazakhstan of approximately 600 kilograms or weapons grade uranium.

Kazakhstan, this new member of the community of nations, through its decision to carry out Project Sapphire, earned respect from around the world for its commitment to strengthening global security and for its support for international norms.

Since then, Kazakhstan has been at the forefront of nuclear nonproliferation efforts and a major force in the multilateral institutions that underpin those efforts. And nuclear nonproliferation cooperation remains a seminal pillar of the U.S.-Kazakhstan strategic partnership.

We appreciate Kazakhstan’s ongoing participation in the Nuclear Security Summit process – a priority for President Obama. The Summits have been an important venue in helping to secure vulnerable nuclear material worldwide, and Kazakhstan’s contributions in this regard have been very valuable.

For example, Kazakhstan shut down the BN-350 reactor on the Caspian coast and shipped its spent fuel to secure storage. I was there at the dedication ceremony, outside Kurchatov, snow sweeping across the steppe, and I was deeply proud – and deeply moved – to be privileged to represent my country at that important event. In other milestones of nuclear non-proliferation, Kazakhstan down-blended 33 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from its Institute of Nuclear Physics (INP) to low enriched uranium, and it also secured weapon-usable nuclear material at the Semipalatinsk Test Site through upgraded physical protection.

We are also proud of our growing partnership on science and technology and anticipate deepening our collaboration with Kazakhstan through the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC), which Kazakhstan will host at Nazarbayev University in Astana beginning in 2015.

The ISTC has played a pivotal role in the prevention of WMD-expertise proliferation over the past two decades, and Kazakhstan’s leadership in hosting the Center will be critical to the continued success of the organization.

Kazakhstan is also working with the United States on another priority issue. In his April 2009 Prague speech, President Obama called for the creation of a bank of low enriched uranium (LEU) under the International Atomic Energy Agency’s auspices, as part of a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation.

The fuel bank will provide an emergency backup source of reactor fuel in the event that the international market could not meet a country’s needs, and would thereby support the expansion of peaceful nuclear energy without increasing the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation. We support the LEU bank and appreciate Kazakhstan’s offer to host it.

In conclusion, today Kazakhstan is a leader in the region and a strong partner of the United States. It continues to set high goals and is taking on a leadership role on the global stage. The United States and Kazakhstan have an ambitious agenda together to address the challenges of the 21st century, whether in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons or in building an open and inclusive trade network linking Central and South Asia with China and Europe. This is a great expansion from Project Sapphire 20 years ago. I want to assure you that our broadening cooperation will help us to achieve these goals.

CROP PRODUCTION MAY CAUSE GREATER CHANGES IN SEASONS

FROM:  NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION 
Boosts in productivity of corn and other crops modify Northern Hemisphere carbon dioxide cycle
Croplands help drive greater seasonal change in annual cycle

Each year in the Northern Hemisphere, levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide drop in the summer as plants "inhale," then climb again as they exhale after the growing season.

During the last 50 years, the size of this seasonal swing has increased by as much as half, for reasons that aren't fully understood.

Now a team of researchers has shown that agricultural production may generate up to a quarter of the increase in this seasonal carbon cycle, with corn playing a leading role.

"This study shows the power of modeling and data mining in addressing potential sources contributing to seasonal changes in carbon dioxide," says Liz Blood, program director for the National Science Foundation's MacroSystems Biology Program, which funded the research. "It points to the role of basic research in finding answers to complex problems."

In the Northern Hemisphere, there's a strong seasonal cycle of vegetation, says scientist Mark Friedl of Boston University (BU), senior author of a paper reporting the results in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

"Something is changing about this cycle," says Friedl. "Ecosystems are becoming more productive, pulling in more atmospheric carbon during the summer and releasing more during the dormant period."

Most of this annual change is attributed to the effects of higher temperatures driven by climate change--including longer growing seasons, quicker uptake of carbon by vegetation and the "greening" of higher latitudes with more vegetation.

"But that's not the whole story," says Josh Gray of BU, lead author of the paper. "We've put humans and croplands into the story."

The scientists gathered global production statistics for four leading crops--corn, wheat, rice and soybeans--that together represent about 64 percent of all calories consumed worldwide.

They found that production of these crops in the Northern Hemisphere has more than doubled since 1961 and translates to about a billion metric tons of carbon captured and released each year.

These croplands are "ecosystems on steroids," says Gray, noting that they occupy about 6 percent of the vegetative land area in the Northern Hemisphere, but are responsible for up to a quarter of the total increase in seasonal carbon exchange of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The growth in seasonal variation doesn't have a huge impact on global terrestrial carbon uptake and release, he says, since carbon gathered by the crops is released each year.

However, understanding the effects of agricultural production, the researchers maintain, will help improve models of global climate, particularly in discovering how well ecosystems will buffer rising levels of carbon dioxide in the future.

The BU investigators collaborated with a team of scientists, including Eric Kort of the University of Michigan, Steve Frolking of the University of New Hampshire, Christopher Kucharik of the University of Wisconsin, Navin Ramankutty of the University of British Columbia and Deepak Ray of the University of Minnesota.

The work highlights extraordinary increases in crop production in recent decades.

"These indications of increased productivity speak well for agriculture," says Tom Torgersen, program director for the National Science Foundation's Water Sustainability and Climate Program, which also funded the research. "But such enhanced agricultural productivity makes significant demands on water supplies, which will require further investigation. "

Adds Friedl, "It's a remarkable story of what we've done in agriculture in general. And in particular in corn, which is one crop that's just exploded."

Corn alone accounts for two-thirds of the crop contribution to the increased seasonal exchange in carbon, he says. Almost 90 percent is produced in the midwestern United States and China.

"Over the last 50 years, the area of croplands in the Northern Hemisphere has been relatively stable, but production has intensified enormously," Friedl says.

"The fact that this land area can affect the composition of the atmosphere is an amazing fingerprint of human activity on the planet."

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF

DOJ ANNOUNCES OPPORTUNITIES FOR FUNDING FOR PUBLIC SAFETY IN NATIVE AMERICAN COMMUNITIES

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT  NATIVE AMERICAN COMMUNITIES, PUBLIC SAFETY
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Justice Department Announces Funding Opportunities for Public Safety Projects in Indian Country

The Department of Justice today announced the opening of the grant solicitation period for comprehensive funding to support public safety, victim services and crime prevention improvements in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.  The department’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS) was posted today at www.justice.gov/tribal/open-sol.html. The solicitation closes on Feb. 24, 2015.

“The Department of Justice is making a concerted effort – one that we are building on every year – to expand our reach to tribes and make resources more widely available to our partners in Indian country,” said Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason for the Office of Justice Programs.  “This solicitation addresses an array of tribal justice system issues and will give tribes access to the support they need to keep their communities safe and ensure a just, fair, and effective system for fighting crime.”

CTAS is administered by the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).  The funding can be used to enhance law enforcement; bolster adult and juvenile justice systems; prevent and control juvenile delinquency; serve sexual assault, domestic violence and elder victims; and support other efforts to combat crime.  To view the FY 2015 CTAS, visit www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/tribal/pages/attachments/2014/11/19/ctas_fy-2015_solicitation.pdf.

Applications for CTAS are submitted through the Justice Department’s Grants Management System (GMS) which enables grantees to register and apply for CTAS online.  Applicants must register with GMS prior to submitting an application.  An applicant will not be able to submit an application without registering in GMS before the application deadline of 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET), Feb. 24, 2015.

The FY 2015 CTAS reflects improvements and refinements from earlier versions.  Feedback was provided to the department during tribal consultations and listening sessions, and includes tribal leaders’ request to improve and simplify the DOJ grant-making process.  Changes to DOJ grant programs, enacted with the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act, are incorporated into the CTAS solicitation and in the appropriate purpose areas.  For more information about changes to the CTAS Solicitation from last year, read the FY 2015 CTAS fact sheet.

For the FY2015 CTAS, a tribe or tribal consortium may submit a single application and select from nine competitive grant programs referred to as Purpose Areas.  This approach allows the department’s grant-making components to consider the totality of a tribal nation’s overall public safety needs.

The nine purpose areas are:

Comprehensive Tribal Justice Systems Strategic Planning (OJP/COPS/OVW)

Public Safety and Community Policing (COPS)

Justice Systems, and Alcohol and Substance Abuse (BJA)

Corrections and Correctional Alternatives (BJA)

Violence Against Women Tribal Governments Program (OVW)

Children’s Justice Act Partnerships for Indian Communities (OVC)

Comprehensive Tribal Victim Assistance Program (OVC)

Juvenile Justice Wellness Courts (OJJDP)

Tribal Youth Program (OJJDP)

Tribes or tribal consortia may also be eligible for non-tribal government-specific federal grant programs and are encouraged to explore other funding opportunities for which they may be eligible.  Additional funding information may be found at www.grants.gov or the websites of individual agencies.

Today’s announcement is part of the Justice Department’s ongoing initiative to increase engagement, coordination and action on public safety in tribal communities.

EXPORT-IMPORT BANK, WTC NEW ORLEANS WORK TO BOOST LOCAL EXPORTS

FROM:  U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK 
Ex-Im Bank Joins with World Trade Center New Orleans to Boost Local U.S. Exports 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has joined forces with the World Trade Center New Orleans to assist local businesses to boost their export sales and add quality American jobs as part of Ex-Im Bank's City/State Program.

The City/State Program helps ensure that Ex-Im Bank's export finance products are more accessible to small and medium-sized businesses by way of local, state, and regional economic development and business support organizations. Each City/State Program member pledges to make financing assistance and entrepreneurial services available to local businesses in order to create, promote, and expand exports from their area. Ex-Im Bank provides members with free marketing and training materials, qualified finance experts to speak at members’ local events, assistance with outreach and counseling, and access to a network of lenders, insurance brokers, and U.S. Government export resources.

The program is expected to accelerate export business and job growth by connecting Bank products and services to a statewide network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs).
“Ex-Im Bank has a lot to offer New Orleans businesses that wish to expand their export reach, and this program will put Ex-Im's financing benefits on display for them,” said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. “Exporters can learn about Express Insurance and other cost-effective tools the Bank provides, and use those tools to increase global sales and local job growth.”

“We’re very excited about this new partnership with the Ex-Im Bank after working together over the course of several months to get to this point,” Dominik Knoll, CEO, World Trade Center of New Orleans said. “This partnership furthers our ability to provide Louisiana businesses with the financial resources and information they need to expand internationally. The Export-Import Bank of the United States is an invaluable financial resource that has cleared the pathway for thousands of exporting businesses throughout the United States and we look forward to being a local resource for Louisiana businesses interested in those same financial opportunities.”

ABOUT EX-IM BANK:

Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that supports and maintains U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing at no cost to American taxpayers. The Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working capital guarantees and export credit insurance, to promote the sale of U.S. goods and services abroad. Ninety percent of its transactions directly serve American small businesses.

In fiscal year 2014, Ex-Im Bank approved $20.5 billion in total authorizations. These authorizations supported an estimated $27.5 billion in U.S. export sales, as well as approximately 164,000 American jobs in communities across the country.

Small business exporters can learn about how Ex-Im Bank products can empower them to increase foreign sales by clicking here. For more information about Ex-Im, visit www.exim.gov.

ABOUT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER OF NEW ORLEANS:

The World Trade Center of New Orleans (WTCNO) is the strongest international business organization in the Gulf Coast region, consisting of 1,000+ companies as well as high profile individual members. This membership base represents a diverse group of industry leaders, companies, professional organizations, and government institutions that include manufacturing, energy, agriculture, maritime, digital media, foreign consulates, and other interests. In 2013, member organizations were able to significantly contribute to the state’s record-breaking exports, the total value of which exceeded $63.3 billion. The mission of the World Trade Center of New Orleans is to create jobs and wealth in Louisiana through international trade, economic development, and allied activities.

Monday, November 24, 2014

11/24/14: WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFING

PRESIDENT OBMAM ON THE DEPARTURE OF SECRETARY HAGEL

AIRSTRIKES STILL UNDERWAY IN SYRIA AND IRAQ

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Inherent Resolve Airstrikes Continue in Syria, Iraq
From a U.S. Central Command News Release

TAMPA, Fla., Nov. 24, 2014 – U.S. and partner-nation military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq over the last three days, U.S. Central Command officials reported today.
Airstrikes in Syria

Fighter and bomber aircraft have conducted nine airstrikes in Syria since Nov. 21, officials said:

-- Seven airstrikes near Kobani destroyed three ISIL fighting positions and two ISIL staging areas, damaged another ISIL staging area and suppressed four ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Raqqah, two airstrikes struck an ISIL headquarters building.
Airstrikes in Iraq

In Iraq, fighter, attack, bomber and remotely-piloted aircraft have conducted 15 airstrikes since Nov. 21, officials said:

-- Five airstrikes near Mosul destroyed an ISIL checkpoint, three ISIL Humvees, a large ISIL unit, two tactical ISIL units and a heavy weapon.

-- Near Asad, two airstrikes destroyed a mortar position, an ISIL artillery piece, an ISIL vehicle and a tactical ISIL unit and damaged an ISIL-occupied building and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Baghdad, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL-occupied building, three ISIL vehicles, an ISIL Humvee and two tactical ISIL units, one of which was emplacing roadside bombs.

-- Near Ramadi, two airstrikes destroyed two ISIL vehicles.

-- Near Tal Afar, two airstrikes suppressed a mortar position.

-- An airstrike struck an ISIL obstruction near Fallujah Dam.

-- Near Hit, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

All aircraft returned to base safely, Centcom officials said, noting that airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the terrorist group ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community.

The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project power and conduct operations, Centcom officials said.
Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.