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Saturday, May 23, 2015

U.S. INTERIOR DEPARTMENT VIDEO: THIS WEEK AT INTERIOR MAY 22, 2015

FTC SAYS CONSUMERS LOST MONEY IN INTERNATIONAL SWEEPSTAKES SCAM

FROM:  U.S. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
Consumers Lost Millions of Dollars Despite ‘Guarantee’ of Prize Money

At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a federal court has temporarily halted a sweepstakes operation based in Fort Lauderdale that took more than $28 million from consumers throughout the United States and other countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. The FTC seeks to permanently end the allegedly illegal practices and return money to victims.

“This outfit promised people huge prizes and collected millions in fees but never paid out a dime,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “If someone says you have to pay to claim a sweepstakes prize, assume it’s a scam.”

According to the FTC’s complaint and other court filings, the defendants mailed personalized letters falsely telling consumers that they had won large cash prizes, typically more than $2 million. The prizes are “guaranteed,” the letters stated, but to collect the money, consumers had to mail the defendants a $20-$30 fee by cash, check or money order. To create a false sense of urgency, they set a deadline, typically 10 days, and warned consumers they would forfeit their winnings if they didn’t pay on time.

In reality, consumers had not won anything. The defendants have no connection to any sweepstakes and cannot award or pay anyone the promised prizes. “Only in dense, confusing language, at the bottom or on the back of the letters,” the FTC explains, do they admit that the only service they provide is compiling “reports” about sweepstakes and contests offered by other parties that are open to the public. By design, the defendants’ disclaimers are unclear and inconspicuous, and fail to alert consumers to the truth, and most consumers don’t even receive the “reports” and would never have agreed to pay $20-$30 for them.

The defendants are Mail Tree Inc.; Michael McKay Co.; Spin Mail Inc.; MCP Marketing Activities LLC, also doing business as Magellan Mail and Magellan Marketing; Trans National Concepts Inc.; Romeria Global LLC, also d/b/a Lowenstein Varick and Nagel; Supreme Media LLC; Vernier Holdings Inc.; Awards Research Consultant LLC;  Mailpro Americas Corp.; Masterpiece Marketing LLC, also d/b/a Affiliated Opportunities Group (AOG), Corporate Accounting Authority (CAA), Dispatch Notification Services (DNS), Information Reporting Group (IRG), National Directory Center (NDC), and Priority Information Exchange (PIE); Matthew Pisoni; Marcus Pradel; John Leon; and Victor Ramirez. The court issued an order that temporarily stopped the illegal conduct, froze the defendants’ assets, and appointed a receiver to control the operation while the FTC pursues the case.

The Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida arrested Matthew Pisoni, Marcus Pradel, John Leon and Victor Ramirez in connection with the sweepstakes operation.

“No one is permitted to steal hard-earned money from members of our community,” U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said. “This office will work with international, national and local law enforcement agencies to prevent these types of sweepstake fraud schemes, and we will bring those who commit these crimes to justice.”

The FTC would like to thank the United States Postal Inspection Service, the United States Department of Treasury - Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, the Vancouver Police Department, the Windsor (Ontario) Police Service, and the Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom for their assistance in this case.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida was 5-0. The court entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants on May 19, 2015.

To learn how to avoid these kinds of scams, read the FTC's Prize Scams.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.

CDC ANNOUNCES DROWNING OUTCOMES RELATED TO DESIGNATED DANGEROUS UNDERWATER BREATH-HOLDING BEHAVIORS

FROM:  CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION
Fatal and Nonfatal Drowning Outcomes Related to Dangerous Underwater Breath-Holding Behaviors — New York State, 1988–2011

Drowning is a preventable public health risk. Through education and policy interventions and increased awareness of these dangerous swimming behaviors, the aquatic health and safety community can play a significant role in decreasing fatalities among all recreational populations. This report identifies a class of swimming behaviors, designated dangerous underwater breath-holding behaviors (DUBBs), that can lead to fatal drowning. These behaviors could easily be prevented to decrease the risk of drowning among otherwise healthy swimmers. These findings expand the domain of active drowning surveillance to consider the epidemiology of contributing behaviors in fatal and non-fatal drowning incidents.

MAN SENTENCED FOR OPERATING CHARITY AS ILLEGAL BANK AND FILING FALSE TAX RETURN

FROM:  FDIC AND U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2015
Union City, New Jersey, Man Sentenced to 27 Months in Prison for Operating Supposed Charity as Illegal Bank, Falsifying Taxes

NEWARK, N.J. B A Union City, New Jersey, man was sentenced today to 27 months in prison for operating a supposed charitable organization, or “gemach,” as an unchartered bank, accepting millions of dollars in deposits – including nearly $1 million of his own money – which he shielded from state or federal regulation, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Moshe Schwartz, 34, a/k/a “David Schwartz” or “Gedalya David Schwartz,” previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares to two counts of an information: operating an unchartered bank and aiding and assisting in the filing of a false 2007 tax return. Judge Linares imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

According to the information and statements made in court:

Schwartz operated Gemach Shefa Chaim (GSC), purportedly to provide interest-free loans to needy members of the Sanz community in Union City. During his guilty plea proceeding, Schwartz admitted he operated GSC as a bank, with millions of dollars in deposits and more than 350 client accounts by July 2009.

To operate a bank in the United States, a bank is required to obtain a charter from the United States or the state in which the bank operates. Chartered banks are subject to oversight, regulation, and periodic review by federal and state authorities. Neither Schwartz nor GSC had such a charter.

Schwartz admitted that, in operating GSC as a bank, he accepted deposits and credited clients’ accounts, wrote checks from GSC as directed by clients, made transfers between accounts, disbursed client funds upon request, negotiated GSC checks presented by persons other than the named payees, conducted wire transfers, provided clients with receipts of transactions, charged clients a fee for bounced checks and provided overdraft notices to clients. Schwartz also admitted that he opened and maintained various bank accounts at financial institutions in or around North Jersey in the name of GSC and used those institutions to deposit client funds, negotiate checks, provide clients with GSC checks and conduct wire transfers. Because client funds were deposited into and commingled within GSC’s bank accounts at financial institutions, the funds could only be traced back to GSC, thereby concealing the true ownership, nature and source of the funds. Many clients were thus able to use their GSC accounts to engage in suspicious and, at times, illegal activities, including evading federal taxes and money laundering.

Schwartz also admitted that he provided false and fraudulent information to his tax preparer in Union City concerning his income for tax year 2007, falsely representing that his income was $24,475 when it was approximately $208,845. Schwartz admitted that he used his own GSC account and a false identity to conceal his income and assets from the IRS, causing a $74,889 tax loss.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Linares sentenced Schwartz to serve two years supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution of $74,889 and a $60,000 fine.

GSC bank accounts were seized in July 2009 and approximately $500,000 was ultimately forfeited. The accounts had been used by Moshe Altman, 45, Itzak Friedlander, 47, and Shimon Haber, 39, to launder proceeds that cooperating witness Solomon Dwek, 42, had purported to be the proceeds of illegal activities. Altman pleaded guilty in December 2010, to, among other things, conspiring to launder monetary instruments and was sentenced in March 2011 to 41 months in prison. Friedlander pleaded guilty in April 2010 to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and was sentenced in April 2011 to 24 months in prison. Haber pleaded guilty to the same charge in January 2010 and was sentenced in May 2010 to five months in prison.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing; as well as the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel; the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Francis L. Mace; and the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Ryan, for their assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark J. McCarren of the Special Prosecutions Division and Frances C. Bajada of the Criminal Division in Newark.

SECRETARY KERRY'S REMARKS AT BOEING RENTON FACTORY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
The World Wants What America Makes
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Boeing Renton Factory
Renton, Washington
May 19, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Pat, thank you very, very much. I beg your slight indulgence at the beginning of this because I’m suffering from those air miles. (Laughter.) Actually, it’s a combination of allergy and a cold, and I don’t recommend it to anybody. But if I stop occasionally, you’ll understand why.

Pat, thank you for a very generous introduction. Most importantly, thank you for your role and the role of all of these workers and supporters of Boeing. What an extraordinary company. I am delighted to be here at Boeing, although I think, because of this speech, it’s going to be one airplane every 13 hours today, I’m afraid. (Laughter.)

I see our former ambassador to China and former governor and former secretary of commerce here, Gary Locke. It’s great to see you. Thank you for being here with us. (Applause.) And thank you, all of you, for welcoming me to this really beautiful state.

As you may know, I’ve been traveling an awful lot, so when I was told we were landing in Washington, you can imagine my relief when I remembered that it was this Washington – (laughter) – the one with Mount Rainer in the background and Puget Sound at its feet, and the jet plane capital of the world right here in Renton, too, and I’m very, very honored to be here with all of you. Thank you.

My wife Teresa and I have always loved coming to the state of Washington. We have a lot of similarities with our great state of Massachusetts, but I’m very, very glad to be back here today. And being outside here like this, standing here, it kind of brings me back to a few years ago. The people of Washington State are not only warm and welcoming, but your judgment is impeccable, and I particularly appreciated that in November of 2004. (Laughter and applause.) Of course, I’d have been a little bit more grateful if you’d spent a little more time sharing wisdom you’re your friends and relatives back in Ohio. It would have – no. (Laughter.)

But the fact is the quality of your engagement has long been on display in the representatives that you send to Washington through many, many years. From Warren Magnuson to Scoop Jackson to your outstanding House delegation and to my former Senate colleagues Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, you have always sent the very best to Washington, and both your state and our nation are better for it.

I am especially pleased to be back here at Boeing. I landed many, many times at Boeing Field. I’m delighted to be here next to the Renton Field. Today I finally get a factory tour, and you have no idea how much fun that is for me. Flying has been in my family for generations. My dad was a pilot who enlisted in the Army Air Corps a year before Pearl Harbor and he took me on my very first flight in a Piper J-3 over Washington, D.C. when I was about ten years old. And I’ve been a pilot myself ever since college. And like most pilots, I try to fly whenever I can, whatever I can.

A few years ago, when I was still in the Senate, I made a trip to the Middle East and I was at lunch at an Israeli air force base down in the southern part of Israel. And the colonel who was in charge was an ace from Israel’s Six-Day War and he knew that I had been requesting the opportunity to fly in Israel, so that I could get a bird’s eye view of the security challenges. And Tel Aviv had refused to sign off on the idea of this senator going flying, but I kept badgering. And during lunch at the base, I asked the colonel, “Hey, check with Tel Aviv one more time, see if we could take a flight.” And he comes back to me and he says, “Senator, I hope you didn’t eat too much because we’re going flying.” (Laughter.) So the next thing, I’m driving out with him. I leave my party at the lunch. I drive out to the airfield, they give me a helmet and a suit and we jump in this jet trainer and he says, “The moment we’re off the ground, it’s your airplane.” I said, “Man, he didn’t even check my logbook and – nothing.” (Laughter.) This is – I’m okay with this.

So I grab the stick, up we go, we start flying around. Next thing we know, I’m flying – about three minutes into the flight, I’m flying towards the Red Sea, and there’s a voice in my ear in the helmet saying, “Senator, you better turn faster. You’re going over Egypt.” (Laughter.) And so I turn real hard. And then I asked him if I could do some aerobatics, which I love to do, over the desert. And he gave me the thumbs-up, so I did some rolls and a great big loop, and turned the plane upside down. And below me, spread out below me, I could see the whole Sinai. I could see Aqaba. I could see Jordan. I could see a lot of Israel. And I thought to myself, “Wow, this is fantastic. This is the perfect way to understand the Middle East – upside-down and backwards.” (Laughter.) And I’m telling you, that’s been reinforced to me more and more, day to day.

But I managed to stay current as a pilot all the way up until recently. I haven’t been able to fly as Secretary, so for the first time in years I am not current. They may not let me fly loops anymore, but I have to tell you, as you heard from Pat, as Secretary of State, I practically live, very happily, on a Boeing 757. And we have logged – (applause) – thank you. We have logged over 800,000 miles in a little bit over two years with a huge number of crises, as you know, and a major need to be in personal touch with people building relationships and working for the interests of our country.

But on that note, I figured, since I was here, I’d just come out and ask: Don’t you think I ought to be able to trade up? (Laughter.) I mean, don’t you have a spare Dreamliner parked somewhere around here? (Laughter.) I promise I’ll show it off all over the world – free publicity, just think of it. It’s a win-win, as they say in China.

All kidding aside, I am very, very pleased that the State Department, the Export-Import Bank, the Department of Commerce, as Gary knows, we’ve been able to work really hand-in-hand with Boeing, and we’re proud to do so to vigorously support your business – American business – overseas. And together we have helped facilitate tens of millions, billions of dollars – billions of dollars – in aircraft sales, everywhere from Indonesia, to Brazil, to Kenya, and I’m proud of that. I’ve personally been able to get on the phone with a prime minister or president – and I’m glad to say successfully on some occasions to be able to help close some deals. So I’m proud of those eight years of backlog and I hope it’s going to be 20 before you know it. I’m confident it will be because of the quality of the work you do. (Applause.)

Boeing is America’s leading exporter, one of our top employers, and an incredible innovator and competitor, and you all ought to be as proud of that as we are proud of you. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate place to visit on my way back from Asia to talk about our nation’s leadership role in the glowing – in the growing global economy. And it’s a critically important opportunity to strengthen the long-term security and shared prosperity of our country, and nothing is more important.

Back east, in the other Washington, the House – we’ll give them a moment to take off here. Everybody should cheer. There goes another one. (Cheering and applause.) Back east, in the other Washington, the House and Senate are considering a piece of legislation called the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act. I know, that’s a mouthful. But it boils down to whether President Obama should have the authority to conclude and put before Congress the two most significant trade agreements in our history – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the TPP – the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The TPP is currently made up of 12 countries along the Pacific Rim, including, obviously, the United States. The deal, which is in the final stages of negotiation, would encompass 40 percent of the world’s economy. And as with any complex agreement, my friends, there are many details to be hashed out, but the reasons why it is important are straightforward and sensible.

First of all, in the modern world, we can’t just expect our economies to grow if all we do is buy and sell to ourselves. It’s just not going to happen. Trade supports jobs and it builds prosperity – period. And the record of the past five, ten, fifty or a hundred years bears that out. As I speak, exports support about 11.7 million American jobs. And that number is only going to go up. Why? It’s pretty simple; it’s really simple math: 95 percent of the world’s consumers live beyond the borders of the United States. And if for some reason we just decide to give up and not to do business with them, to shut down because we think somehow it’s a loss of a job here, believe me, a lot of other people will welcome that at our expense.

And as a veteran of 28 years in the Senate, who voted on every trade agreement during that period, I know and understand the delicate relationship between the trade issue and American workers. For years, we built a consensus in America based on the argument that the benefits of trade would be passed up and down the economic food chain, benefitting everyone. I have to say that, regrettably, in recent years, the consensus for trade that was built on that principle – (sound of plane taking off) – (applause). Do you feel like that’s a baby leaving the family? (Laughter.) But it’s good. The consensus that allowed us to engage in trade through all those years, the principle that it was built on has actually become frayed, because not enough of the benefits are, in fact, being passed on. And the anger and frustration that has come from that has translated into opposition to trade itself, when the real focus ought to be on the other policy reforms that are necessary to address that concern. For example, on improving tax policy, on strengthening international labor and environmental standards, as is actually being done in these two deals that I’m talking about. The solution lies not in shutting the door to trade itself, but in transforming the system to make it work for everybody.

So let me be clear: If we pick the wrong culprit, we will cut off our nose to spite our face. And so as orders shift from us to the rest of the world’s producers, the result would be boarded-up windows and “going out of business” signs in places from one end of America to another. We could see dockworkers with pink slips in their hands instead of container ships steaming into and out of ports. We could even see aerospace companies shutting down some of those assembly lines because there’s been a reduction in the incentive for people to buy planes from our country. The truth is, the only people we know or I know who would benefit from a decision by the United States not to participate in the TPP would be international competitors. And believe me, they would be delighted.

Here in Seattle, you know this. You know this instinctively and you know it empirically too. In 1971, the city of Seattle was in such decline that one of the most famous billboards in our country read: “Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights?” A little over 40 years later, the census bureau named Seattle the fastest-growing city in the United States of America. That transformation is thanks in part to the fact that your state is among the leading exporters in our union, with sales topping $90 billion in 2014 – more than a 200 percent increase from just a decade ago.

The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area is our country’s fourth-largest export hub by volume. And even though Boeing tops the list, your state’s exports don’t just come from a handful of companies. Washington has more than 12,600 exporting firms whose sales abroad support about 400,000 jobs. And in addition to aircraft, the state is renowned for its software, its coffee products, its apples, its wheat, its fish, its wine, its machinery, and its lumber. And what is more, some of your top customers are among the 11 other countries participating in the TPP, including Japan, Canada.

So let’s be clear. Washington State is a trade leader because you discovered a long time ago that it’s in your best interest to do business with the world. Now, no one compelled this decision. No one compelled your predecessors to engage in lucrative trade deals. You saw the common sense of it. In fact, more than a century ago, the workers for a company right here in Renton were making railway cars for export to the Far East. And they did it because Seattle is the gateway to the Pacific and because it simply makes good economic sense to go where the customers are.

Guess what? That logic still holds today. And if you only sell to a limited market, believe me, your standard of living will stagnate or decline. Obviously, on its face, that’s not a very smart formula. The bottom line is that if we want to make it in America – in every respect make it – we have to sell what we make in America to partners across the equator and every part of the world, from pole to pole. And to give our firms the best chance to compete, my friends, we need agreements on trade.

So the rules of the road are clear. And this brings me to the second big reason why the Trans-Pacific Partnership is so vital: It will enable us to play a critical role in helping to determine the highest standard rules for trade.

In the United States, we’ve fought hard for years – it didn’t come easily; go back to the 1800s. Not everybody was treated the way they are today in the workplace. It was a hard-fought struggle. And for years we fought to make sure that workers were protected so that economic growth doesn’t come on the backs of exploited people. And we care that businesses adhere to environmental standards so that families continue to enjoy clean air and the water that they deserve, no matter how close they live to factories or to other industrial facilities. And we believe that rather than putting aside the things we care about in order to compete with the rest of the world in a low-standards race to the bottom, we should help bring the rest of the world up to meet the high standards by which American businesses now operate.

That is exactly what the legislation before Congress would allow us to do.

My friends, we can’t farm out to other nations the core interests of the United States of America. When it comes to the jobs of U.S. workers and the paychecks of U.S. families, we’ve got to be our own prime contractors; we can’t entrust to any other country the responsibility for preserving the American Dream.

Right now in the Asia Pacific, we have the chance to finalize a trade agreement that is truly unlike any other ever negotiated: an agreement where every participant has to comply with core international labor and environmental standards; where every participant has to refrain from using under-age workers and unsafe workplaces; where every participant has to ensure that nationally owned companies compete fairly with ones that are privately owned; and where every participant has to fight trade-related bribery and corruption, support legitimate digital trade, safeguards – intellectual property safeguards, and guarantees the promises that they make are promises that they have to keep, because they’re enforceable in the agreement. We didn’t have an agreement, none of that happens. That’s not a complicated choice. By any standard, the agreement that I just outlined is an historic trade agreement.

The TPP is not your grandparents’ trade agreement; it’s not your mom and dad’s trade agreement; it’s not even your older brother or sister’s trade agreement. This is a new, new entity, and ultimately, this is a 21st century agreement where the key understandings and high standards are baked right into the four corners of the text – not in a side agreement, not in a letter, but in the text of the agreement itself.

Now as you know, Congress has already begun a new round of deliberations on trade. Parts of the debate have been on related issues, but on the key question of whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be good for our country, the arguments against have been sincere, they’ve been passionate, but I have to say to you today that I believe they are also deeply flawed.

For example, opponents contend that Congress and the public haven’t had a chance to read the text of the proposed deal. Well, the truth is members of Congress, who were sent to Washington, D.C. to represent the public, have had access to it for years. Now, of course, some confidentiality, I think most of you understand, is required in any kind of multilateral negotiation. There are obvious reasons why we don’t release every single sentence every day as it’s being discussed. When you do that, words get distorted, arguments are undermined, and ultimately, consensus and a deal become much harder to arrive at. Even labor contracts and other contracts here in this country are more often than not done in a way that they’re negotiated and then presented to people.

And there’s one thing that I learned in this job from negotiating with friends and foes alike – it’s that you have the best chance of success when you’re not negotiating in public every day. It’s the only way to keep the process moving forward and to gain the concessions that we seek from other countries. Senators who are unhappy about this might recall the locked doors and closed windows that marked America’s constitutional convention 228 years ago, without which we wouldn’t even have a Senate today.

The important thing about the TPP, my friends, as with our Constitution, is that the final text will be made public. In fact, it will be posted online for a minimum of 60 days before President Obama even signs it. And only after the public has had a chance to review it would it then go before Congress for hearings and for a full and open debate in the United States Congress. My friends, that’s not secrecy at work; that’s democracy at work, and it’s the way we’ve done business in our country for a very long time.

A second argument we hear against TPP is that other countries could use it to dismantle America’s environmental standards, Wall Street reforms, minimum wage laws, food safety guidelines, and on and on. I have heard that argument about every single trade agreement that we’ve ever passed, and it has never happened. And if that were true, I can promise you I would oppose the agreement myself. But it’s not true. The agreement won’t take away any sovereign rights of our nation, of any nation. It’s not going to allow anyone to change our laws other than the United States Congress. Rest assured, with the TPP in place, we will retain our ability to protect our clean air and water, regulate our economy, and uphold all of the laws of our nation. And I have fought my entire career for many of those things, and I don’t intend to start undoing a lifetime of work now and turning my back on all of that overnight.

The third major argument that you hear against TPP is the standard line about outsourcing and globalization. Now, this is a kind of gut reaction that I respect. It reflects the real impacts that Americans feel sometimes as the result of technological and economic transitions that are always taking place in a nation on the move. It’s a genuine feeling, and I’ve talked to many workers in many states through the course of my career who have been affected by change, and many of you know them. Some of you may be them.

But I want to emphasize: This concern needs to be directed at the right target. Outsourcing occurs because of the mobility of capital and labor and market competition. And the remedy is not to pull back from trade agreements themselves or to attempt to stop globalization, because that’s not possible. Globalization has no reverse gear, my friends. As technology continues to evolve, as more and more people in the world have smartphones and look and listen to what people are doing and thinking in other countries, the world will become more interconnected, not less. And no politician anywhere in the world has the power to change people’s desires to be connected, to be part of the world, and in many ways to share what they see other people having that they want themselves.

So no matter how hard people may try to pretend otherwise, no matter how many politicians may stand up and appeal to the instinct to play to that fear, the fact is globalization is here to stay. No one can put that genie back in the bottle. What we can do is mitigate the negative impacts. And in the end, when you measure all the benefits against all the negatives, I believe the balance says it is absolutely a good thing for our nation and for the world.

From our nation’s earliest days, we have been trying to encourage more people – just think about this. For years, we’ve encouraged people: Embrace democracy, be like us, join capitalism, compete in the free market. We’ve urged them to adopt our economic system, our rules. We want people to support an open marketplace and capitalism and the free flow of investment. We deeply value the ability to start up a company, make a product, sell it worldwide, take a risk. That’s how we’ve always defined America. And we have argued for centuries that the most responsible role government can play is to respect commerce – not impose government will, but develop a framework of the core principles built on freedom – freedom to take a risk, freedom to invest, freedom to take the job you want – and then get government out of the way and let the private sector do what it does so well in this nation.

Well we now have nations around the world eager to embrace that or already embracing that. Their economic interests compel them to do so. They know it’s the only way that they can be competitive in today’s globalized world, and they don’t want to get left behind. We too have to accept the fact that changes to the global economic system will happen with us or without us. So instead of resisting change, we ought to be investing in our people in order to make sure we can take advantage of that change.

We have to continue taking critical steps that will make us more competitive and spread the benefits of globalization far and wide, including, as President Obama has proposed, through trade adjustment assistance, through lifelong learning, through support for innovation and research; from helping every young person to get a higher education, and from reauthorizing crucial institutions such as the Export-Import Bank, which are helping local, small manufacturers like the Measurement Technology Northwest Inc. and Engineered Compost Systems expand their global footprint abroad. We also need to help hire new workers to fill the export orders that are coming from new markets overseas, including from countries in the Asia Pacific, as we know and as Pat just mentioned to you.

More of us also need to share the confidence that our parents and our grandparents had when they built this country out of the ashes of war – and frankly, the confidence that so many young entrepreneurs are exhibiting today. Remember, just three decades ago, experts were predicting that competition from the Japanese on their semiconductors – remember this? – computers and cars would cause America to become, and I quote, “a nation of short-order cooks and salespeople.”

Today, Japan’s automakers have set up plants that support jobs for tens of thousands of workers here in America. And despite all of the publicity about outsourcing, in the past five years, our manufacturing sector has been growing at twice the rate of the overall economy. Sometimes it really amazes me, folks, how short the public memory is. A lot of people forget that only six years ago, when President Obama first took office, right before he took office, we were on the brink of economic disaster. Iconic companies were filing for bankruptcy. Unemployment was approaching 10 percent. Our entire financial structure was on the brink of collapse. And when I say this, I am not exaggerating. I’m just repeating what a Republican secretary of the treasury said when he came to the Capitol Hill to implore my Senate colleagues and I to authorize a bailout of the system. And today, while nobody is claiming victory yet, the United States has added 12.3 million jobs over 62 straight months of private sector growth – the longest streak on record. We’ve put more people back to work than all of the other advanced economies combined. And a big cause of this turnaround is that our experts have reached a – our exports have reached a record level. They are up nearly 50 percent since 2009.

That tells a story. And it’s no accident, folks. That’s the result of the most determined, competitive, entrepreneurial business and talented workers in the world. It’s also the result of some smart policy – policy that is based on the idea that when we increase what America sells overseas, our payrolls get larger, our paychecks get fatter. On the average, export-supported jobs pay significantly more than other jobs. So we’re talking quality jobs, not just quantity. And if we were satisfied with this progress, well, perhaps we could just sit back and forget about new trade agreements and the chance to further pry open the international markets where 19 out of 20 of the world’s consumers live. Try that.

Happily, we’re not satisfied. Because we know that even if we attempt to stand still, nobody else will, or most won’t. And we’re going to get blown away economically in the process. We have to keep finding new markets. We have to keep creating those new jobs. And we’ve got to ensure that our workers – farmers, ranchers, businesses – receive equitable treatment in that marketplace. We can’t do that, folks, by sitting on the sidelines. You can’t be on the side of the road while other countries are writing the rules of the road for the rest of the world’s trade. We’ve got to be engaged. We’ve got to lead. And by the way, most Americans inherently understand that.

A recent poll shows that almost three out of five of our citizens view foreign trade as an opportunity, not a threat. And here’s the reason: The U.S. market is one of the most open in the world. Seventy percent of U.S. imports cross our borders tariff-free. You’ve all seen these duty-free stores at airports, right? Well, America is pretty much one big duty-free shop. That’s not the case with all – excuse me – with all of our partners. Our automakers face tariffs of up to 30 percent in Malaysia. Our poultry farmers face tariffs of up to 40 percent in Vietnam. Washington apples are charged a markup of 17 percent in Japan. And what about the great wine that you produce here in Columbia and the Walla Walla Valley? Tariffs on wine in Japan and Vietnam are as high as 50 percent. Not only that, America’s environmental and labor standards are among the highest in the world.

And that’s why we have so much to gain and nothing to lose by reaching deals that lower trade barriers, lower the tariffs, raise global norms – and we should also remember that if we don’t clinch free trade agreements in the Asia Pacific, it doesn’t mean that those agreements may not happen. It just means that we may not be part of them and we may not shape them. The standards will be driven down instead of up, and the business we might have had will go to our competitors instead. Even now, Washington apples are losing out to Chinese apples in Malaysia because Beijing has a preferential trade agreement with that country and we don’t. And Japan and Australia just signed a pact that will allow Australian beef into the Japanese market at a lower tariff than American beef. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to sit here and watch. And I’m sure it doesn’t make a lot of sense to you.

It’s not just giant firms like Boeing, by the way, and Starbucks, and Costco, and Microsoft, and Amazon that we’re caring about here. Small and medium-sized businesses are really the linchpin of the American economy. In fact, they’re the source of two out of every three new jobs that we create in this country. But these firms also confront a unique set of challenges when they’re trying to increase exports. For example, the Cascade Design Company that is based in Seattle exports outdoor recreation equipment to some 40 countries. But it could sell far more if its customers didn’t have to pay high tariffs in exactly the markets that we will open through the TPP.

There’s a long list of examples like that; I’m not going to go through all of them. But the TPP will lower tariffs on American exports. It will ensure that TPP countries treat American products the same way that we treat products from their own firms. It will cut red tape. It will reduce bureaucracy for our small businesses and family farms. And it will help our companies participate more directly in new global supply chains that are creating unprecedented opportunities all around the world. When you add it all up, the economic case for trade promotion authority and for TPP is not even a close call in my judgment – it’s overwhelming. And as Secretary of State, let me put this in a perspective of global challenges.

It is no secret that the world in the future looks pretty complicated right now. The turbulence that we see comes from a combination of factors, including the fact that even as the world grows closer, there are powerful forces pulling people apart – terrorism, extreme nationalism, conflicts over resources, a huge number of people coming of age in parts of the world where there simply aren’t enough jobs. This creates a race between opportunity and frustration that we can’t afford to lose. Expanded trade can help us win that race by spurring innovation and – and as we’ve seen in Asia and elsewhere – helping hundreds of millions of people to lift themselves out of poverty. And poverty, my friends, is where you see much of this violent extremism born.

Just as important, trade agreements such as the TPP will help to knit America and our partners together so that we are better able to cooperate on other areas. It helps to create a community of common interests on trade that will reinforce trust and helps us expand our cooperation in other areas. And that matters, my friends, because the Asia Pacific is the single-most dynamic part of the globe today and where much of the history of this century is going to be written. It includes the four most populous countries, the three largest economies, and a huge and rapidly growing middle class that want to fly in the planes that you build here.

The good news is that our engagement in this region is welcome and making a difference because our partners know that our markets – and even our futures – are absolutely closely linked together. If we were to retreat from the Asia Pacific, and if our friends were in turn to turn their backs on us, we would face a much different world than we have known in recent decades. And it would not be a world that is more secure.

So let me be clear. We know that our goals in the Pacific are critical because we want what most countries in the region seek: a place where the sovereignty of every state is respected, whether they’re big or small; a region where disputes are settled openly and in accordance with rule of law. We – all of us frankly – can help make this happen if we’re as fully involved economically just as we are diplomatically. In fact, as my colleague Ash Carter, the Secretary of Defense, has suggested, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is as important to American interests in the Asia Pacific as our military posture. Completing the TPP would send a message throughout the region as well as the world that America is – and will continue to be – a leading force for prosperity and security in the Asia Pacific. That is good for the United States; it’s good for our trading partners; and it is definitely good for companies and workers here in the American Northwest.

So here’s the bottom line: 2015 is simply not the time for us to decide that trade negotiations are too hard, nor to – it’s not the time to vacate the field and ignore 70 years of lessons from the Great Depression and World War II. It’s not the time for us to sit back and allow the principles of free and open trade to be supplanted by the discredited and empty prospects of protectionism and mercantilism.

There is nothing progressive about blaming trade or trade agreements for the inevitable economic shifts that are brought on by technology and time. There is nothing liberal about clinging to the past when the future is filled with opportunities to innovate and create whole new industries. And there is nothing more in keeping with the traditions of Washington State – American traditions – than to look over the horizon for the connections that will create a stronger, more prosperous, and secure future for the people of this region and of all America.

My friends, more than 50 years ago, when Seattle hosted the World’s Fair, American exports were worth only about one-twentieth of their value today. In the decades since, our commercial relationships have been utterly transformed; our leading manufacturers have changed; our trade in service has exploded; and technology has made what was not even imaginable the new normal.

We are living in a wholly different world, an exciting time, except for one thing: the need for American leadership. Like the generation of Warren Magnuson and Henry “Scoop” Jackson, our generation faces a test that we cannot allow partisanship or any other source of internal division to prevent us from meeting. We have an opportunity before us to shape and elevate the global rules of trade for decades to come.

We cannot shy away from this task, just as we cannot walk backwards into the future. Like mariners; like sea hawks – with a small s (laughter); like the proud employees of Boeing; we need to face the world and all its challenges with the confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and our incredible ability to compete. That’s what we must do. And I am confident, as I look around this extraordinary manufacturing center, as I look at all of you, that the United States will get this done and Washington State is going to help us do it.

Thank you. (Applause.)

Friday, May 22, 2015

DOD REPORTS ON AIRSTRIKES AGAINST ISIL

FROM:   U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
Airstrikes Continue Against ISIL in Syria, Iraq
From a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve News Release

SOUTHWEST ASIA, May 22, 2015 – U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials reported details of the latest strikes, which took place between 8 a.m. yesterday and 8 a.m. today, local time, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Airstrikes in Syria

Attack and fighter aircraft conducted five airstrikes in Syria:

-- Near Hasakah, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.

-- Near Dayr Az Zawr, two airstrikes struck two ISIL wellheads.

-- Near Kobani, one airstrike destroyed an ISIL fighting positon.

Airstrikes in Iraq

Attack, bomber, fighter and remotely piloted conducted 15 airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:

-- Near Asad, two airstrikes destroyed five ISIL buildings.

-- Near Haditha, one airstrike struck an ISIL staging area.

-- Near Mosul, four airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying two ISIL tunnel systems, an ISIL motorcycle, an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL cache.

-- Near Ramadi, five airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying five ISIL armored vehicles, two ISIL tanks, two ISIL vehicles, an ISIL armored personnel carrier, three ISIL IEDs, five abandoned tanks, two abandoned armored personnel carriers and two abandoned armored vehicles.

-- Near Sinjar, three airstrikes struck three ISIL tactical units, destroying four ISIL buildings, two ISIL heavy machine guns and an ISIL mortar system.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, 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 terror and conduct operations.

Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Bahrain, Canada, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

SECRETARY KERRY'S REMARKS AT U.S. CHAIRMANSHIP OF THE ARCTIC COUNCIL RECEPTION

FROM:  THE STATE DEPARTMENT
05/21/2015 09:10 PM EDT
Remarks at the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council Reception
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
May 21, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Well, Admiral Papp, thank you for a way over the top introduction, which I’ll take any day of the year. (Laughter.) We don’t get enough of those in public life.

I want you all to know I began sailing when I was about five years old, which was way before Jack Kennedy became President of the United States, so – (laughter) – it was no model there. It was my dad, actually, who dragged me out and let sail, crossed the ocean several times, actually, as a sailor.

I knew somehow Admiral Papp was going to get some icebreakers into that introduction, too. (Laughter.) But we need him, and I’m honored that so many coasties are here. Thank you all very much. And Navy, if you’re in there, we appreciate it very, very – whoops. What happened? Well, it’s not a sign of the times, I want you to know. (Laughter.) It rolled way out there. That’s all right. Don’t worry about it. Seriously, don’t worry about it. I have the job without that, so – (laughter).

I am really thrilled to see so many of you here. I mean that. We did not know who would respond to this sort of call to gather only a short time after the passing of the gavel in Iqaluit, and we’re deeply grateful to our friends from Canada for their great stewardship and for helping our team so much – Admiral Papp and company – to be able to do that in a seamless way and with a great deal of cooperation with respect to the agenda ahead. I know Lynne Yelich, minister at the House of Commons, is here tonight. Lynne, I don’t know where you are. Where’s your hand? But you’re representing Chair Leona Aglukkaq, and we’re very grateful to you. And thank you to Canada for all you did, and we appreciate your being here today. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

And I had a chance before we came out here to present a couple of certificates of appreciation to Susan Harper and to Vincent Rigby, who’s the chair of the Arctic officials, and we’re very grateful for their stewardship. They were really the ones who worked so closely and helped to pass that baton, and I say thank you to them.

I also want to say I talked to Foreign Minister Lavrov earlier this morning. We did talk a little about the Arctic. And he couldn’t be here because Prime Minister Abadi is in Moscow, but he is 100 percent looking forward to working with us and committed – Moscow – you all saw that they indicated they’re going to sign the treaty. And we are looking forward to that continued participation.

But I’ll tell you there is no greater test of the collegiality of this council – or, frankly, of a personal gesture of friendship and support for this effort – than the three foreign ministers who have traveled to be here all this distance, one of whom came all the way from Tel Aviv in Israel, where he was on a visit. I’m talking about the distinguished foreign minister from Norway, Borge Brende. Thank you so much for your being here and making that effort. (Applause.) The foreign minister of Iceland, Gunnar Sveinsson – they’re right here. Thank you so much for being part – raise your hand so everybody can see you. (Applause.) There you are. And my friend from Finland, who announced to me because of the change of government this will be his sort of last journey here for the moment as a foreign minister, but Erkki Tuomioja – where are you? Erkki. There he is. Thank you very, very much. (Applause.) Thanks for being here.

And we’re privileged to have our ambassador from Canada who does such a great job here, Gary Doer. Thank you, Gary, for being here. And the American ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman – Bruce, thank you for being here very, very much. Appreciate it. (Applause.)

I want to begin by saying that I love a man who can’t say no to serving when he’s asked to. And when I called him literally the night before he was about to retire, I didn’t know whether I was on a fool’s mission, in the sense that he already had his life planned out and he was locked in and clear where he was going to go. But what a terrific phone call that turned out to be, and what a stroke for all of us that the admiral is prepared to continue almost doing what he was doing in many ways, only with a closer, more narrowed focus, but on a focus of passion and a focus of his own heart. He is 100 percent into this, my friends. And after years – you don’t become commandant of the Coast Guard without years of extraordinary service, and now he is putting in overtime, so to speak. We’re deeply appreciative to Admiral Papp. Thank you for being our special representative to the Arctic. Appreciate it. (Applause.)

And I want to join the admiral in welcoming all of you who are here – friends from the diplomatic community, the Executive Branch, Capitol Hill. I want to introduce two senators. The senator from Maine, Angus King, is here somewhere, over there. (Applause.) Angus, thank you for being here. (Applause.) And from Alaska, the senator from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski, is here. (Applause.) And I am deeply appreciative to both of them. They have started the Arctic caucus in the United States Senate. They took the time to travel with me when we went to Iqaluit and took on the chairmanship. It helped us – I think it helped them – to get a sense of the energy and enthusiasm that exists for this enterprise. And we will need the United States Senate and the Congress, and we’re deeply appreciative for your leadership.

I also thank the folks from the private sector, from the scientific, from the academic worlds, worlds of academia who are here, especially those of you, literally, who have traveled thousands of miles to be with us this evening. And we’re very grateful you could make it.

For those of you who haven’t been here before, this is sort of the great hall of our State Department, where we are privileged to entertain foreign dignitaries or have events like this. The room was named for Benjamin Franklin, and you can see him up there on the wall above the fireplace. He had something to say about just about everything except the Arctic. (Laughter.) But there is a connection. And that is, during his storied career – and it was a remarkable career and he is really known as sort of the first diplomat, if you will, the founder of the diplomatic service – he crossed the Atlantic many times back when it was not an easy task, my friends. And if you read the history of John Adams and his young son leaving Massachusetts to sail over to become ambassador, and literally escaping a British frigate and pumping down in the hold to keep the ship afloat because it sprung a leak, this was hairy business – these guys, the way they did this.

And he loved to fill up the hours at sea by conducting experiments with water temperature. And he used the most sophisticated equipment of the era, which was a thermometer put in a bucket. And he would lower the bucket into the waves, and with help from a Nantucket sea captain who happened to be his cousin – Franklin, actually, was raised partly by an aunt on Nantucket – he became the first person to publish, as a result of his findings, a chart of what he called “a river in the ocean,” which, of course, we know as the Gulf Stream. So it’s a powerful current that affects all of our climate, including the conditions in the Arctic itself. So without knowing it – he didn’t talk about it, but he did something about it. (Laughter.)

And there is, of course, a second connection between Franklin and this reception. And that is that he liked to have a really good time, folks. (Laughter.) And he didn’t spare the booze, and while he was in Paris he led a life that clearly meant that had he lived today and been nominated, he would never have been confirmed for office. (Laughter.) Anyway, it just goes to show how the times change. (Laughter.)

So I’m not going to give a long speech. I just want to say a few words about this wonderful opportunity to take over this chairmanship, which I totally respect, is a consensus-driven structure and will stay that way, obviously, and which is really a moment of stewardship. It’s a shared responsibility. It’s a rotating chair. We get to be chair; we bring some ideas to the table, but none of them work if we don’t have the same collegiate spirit that brought these three great foreign ministers here to Washington tonight. That’s the spirit with which we approach this.

And the council is a unique body. It was established to find practical solutions to some very daunting and rapidly growing challenges, and the United States is really thrilled to take its turn in the chair with a goal of passing the baton on with all of us heading in the same direction and with a great sense of responsibility.

Our priorities include Arctic Ocean safety, security, and stewardship. It includes improved economic conditions for the living conditions of folks in the Arctic communities, and that is a critical concern – indigenous population and what development or changes in the environment might do to those folks. They’re 4 million strong living there for centuries, and believe me, they are an essential part of everything that is critical to the region.

So I begin by being very clear that every nation that cares about the future of the Arctic has to be a leader in taking and urging others to move forward with bold initiatives and immediate, ambitious steps to curb the impact of greenhouse gases.

A few minutes ago we were talking in the back room with my fellow foreign ministers about the importance of our responsibility on climate change and the difficulty of getting people in public life to link in reality to the daunting impacts that the potential catastrophe that comes with that change could bring to people. It’s hard to fathom and it’s hard to grab on, and for a lot of people it’s easier to shove it off and either pretend it’s not happening or let it – somebody else is going to take care of it.

It’s not going to work that way. And if we don’t do this, the current trends of record temperatures – almost every year is a record set ahead of the last year, and that’s true for the last 10 or 11 years. It’s not an anomaly. And we also know that the thawing permafrost, which is releasing methane, which is 20 times more damaging than carbon dioxide, has its own negative impacts, not to mention the impact on living conditions for the people who live there and rely on the frozen tundra and so forth.

Moreover, you have huge acidification that comes, and we’re seeing the increase of that acidification. And scientists are telling us there’s an impact on krill, which is critical to whales and critical to ocean life. And so the cycle itself can be broken here, once again, conceivably by the impact of human beings and the absence of wise stewardship and, in fact, sustainable development practices.

Extreme weather events, which we’re seeing more and more of – we spent about 110 billion or so last year in the United States of America for one year’s damages. I mean, you think, if you start accruing that on an annualized basis, folks, the kind of input we’re talking about in order to put out technology that could reduce those impacts or limit them altogether is miniscule compared to those damages and to what will happen as property disappears, as insurance rates go up, as whole nations like islands in the Maldives or the Seychelles or other places, in fact, are threatened by sea level rise. There’s no mystery to what any of this means.

And so we also see the loss of sea ice, meaning coastal disruptions and storm surges, and in lower latitudes the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which has real impact because it’s currently above water, on ground. And as that water enters the ocean – or the whole ice sheet or parts of it might start to break off – you are going to see some serious impacts. So nobody can afford to be passive on this issue, and that’s what brings us to the table in this effort for these two years. The responsibility the Arctic Council has to the people who live in the region – as beautiful as it is, it is not just a picturesque landscape. It’s a home. It’s a lifestyle. It has a history. And those folks deserve as much respect for that as anybody else in any other habitat on the earth.

Over the next years, we’re going to focus on the well-being of the indigenous communities, and we’re going to take into account that the melting of the ice is now opening up the possibilities of a great deal more commercial traffic, a great deal more tourism – eco-tourism or otherwise – and a great deal more shipping, fishing, and commercial operations, particularly possibility of extraction of minerals from the ocean and the possibility of conflict as people engage in staking claims for that. So there’s a lot at stake, which is why President Obama did undertake to articulate this in the context of the Coast Guard graduation yesterday. So we have to implement the framework that we have developed to reduce emissions of black carbon and methane in the Arctic, and at the same time we have to foster economic development that will raise living standards and help make renewable energy sources the choice for everybody.

So everybody in this room is connected to the Arctic somehow. That’s what brought you here today. And I think there’s an extraordinary degree of unity of purpose in our beginnings here and in our being here. We want a region where people can live with hope and optimism for the future, where strong measures are being taken to mitigate environmental harm, where natural resources are managed effectively and sustainably, and where the challenges of economic development and social cohesion are being addressed in a creative, sensitive, responsible way. Above all, we want a region where every stakeholder has a voice and a role in making the idea of one Arctic a reality. And I want to thank each of you for the contributions that you are making to this effort and that you will make over the course of these years.

It’s my pleasure now to introduce to you somebody who has probably gained the title as the guest who came the furthest even. Forgive me. It’s only the second visit that Byron Nicholai has made to the Lower 48, as it’s called, and it’s his first to the East Coast. And the reason it’s his first is he only just turned 17 years old, folks. (Laughter.) Byron’s home is the village of Toksook Bay in Alaska, where he was a star basketball player. He was the leader of the high school drum group. And as we will soon see and hear, he also sings. And when he posted a song on Facebook, his world suddenly got a lot bigger. (Laughter.) After graduation, Byron hopes to do more traveling to teach students about his culture and hopefully to inspire them to learn more about their ancestral traditions. Tonight he is here to help us celebrate the next chapter in the work of the Arctic Council. And unity is our watchword, so please put your hands together and welcome Byron. (Applause.)

(Mr. Nicholai performs three songs.)

SECRETARY KERRY: That was wonderful. What a strong, resonant, extraordinary voice. And most importantly, thank you for really not just giving a person and a face to the Arctic, but also a voice and especially a spirit. And I think everybody here is deeply appreciative for you coming and singing. Thank you so much. Thank you. (Applause.) Have a good time, everybody.

Oh, I’ve just been handed a note. I wasn’t aware of this; I apologize. But the Swedish Minister for Research and Higher Education Hellmark Knutsson is here. Where is she? There. Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you very, very much. Thank you.

Folks, now you get to the Ben Franklin part of the party. Have fun.

U.S.-GREECE DISCUSS DEFENSE ISSUES

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Right:  Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Christine E. Wormuth welcomes Greece's Minister of Defense Panos Kammenos to the Pentagon May 20, 2015. During their meeting, Wormuth and Kammenos discussed security and defense issues of mutual concern, including trans-Mediterranean migration, terrorism, the Balkans, Libya, the Middle East, and Russia's aggressive actions in Ukraine. DoD photo. 

Leaders Discuss U.S.-Greece Security, Defense Issues

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 21, 2015 – Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Christine E. Wormuth met yesterday with Greece's Minister of Defense Panos Kammenos at the Pentagon to discuss security and defense issues of mutual concern, according to a DoD news release.

Those issues included trans-Mediterranean migration, terrorism, Russia's aggressive actions in Ukraine, the Balkans, Libya, and the Middle East, the release said. Wormuth thanked Greece for hosting U.S. forces at Souda Bay, Crete, and for its participation in operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo, according to the release.

Greece's Support in Opposing ISIL

Wormuth also noted the important support Greece is providing the coalition in opposing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the release added. She and Kammenos agreed that the security situation along NATO's southern flank is a growing concern and called for NATO to develop a southern strategy.

She also conveyed that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is looking forward to working with Kammenos at the NATO Ministerial next month, the release said.

DOD SAYS PATHWAY CLEARED TO BEIJI OIL REFINERY IN IRAQ

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
Iraqi Forces Clear Pathway to Beiji Oil Refinery
From a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve News Release

SOUTHWEST ASIA, May 22, 2015 – Iraqi security forces and federal police, enabled by the coalition, have successfully cleared and established a ground route into the Beiji oil refinery, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

The Beiji oil refinery has been an ongoing target for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists, and the area around the refinery has been contested for several months, officials said.

Reinforcement and resupply of the Iraqi forces within the refinery is ongoing, officials said. Ground forces, supported by coalition airstrikes, reconnaissance, and advise and assist elements, maneuvered to clear through the area, establishing route security and reclaiming key terrain.

‘Steady, Measured Progress’ Made Against ISIL

“In the past 72 hours, we have seen the [Iraqi security forces] make steady, measured progress in regaining some of the areas leading to the Beiji oil refinery despite the significant [ISIL] resistance in the form of [improvised explosive devices], suicide vehicle borne IEDs, as well as heavy weapon and rocket fire attacks,” said Marine Corps Brig. Gen Thomas Weidley, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve chief of staff.

Weidley added, “In spite of the isolated nature of where the [Iraqi security forces] have been operating and the constant threat from [ISIL], creating a safe route to the refinery will allow supplies and reinforcements to arrive. This will assist security forces in clearing and securing contested areas in and around the refinery.”

Since the liberation of Tikrit, ISIL has increased its attempts to force the withdrawal of the Iraqi security forces at the refinery and surrounding areas, officials said.


WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: The President Delivers the United States Coast Guard Academy Commencemen...



UPS SETTLES ALLEGATIONS OF IMPROPERLY DEPRIVING FEDERAL CUSTOMERS OF GUARANTEED SERVICE REFUNDS

FROM:  FDIC, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2015
UPS Agrees to Pay $25 Million to Settle Civil False Claims Act Violations

Settlement resolves allegations that UPS supplied federal customers with inaccurate delivery times and “exception codes” to deprive the customers of the ability to request “Guaranteed Service Refunds” for late overnight deliveries

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) has agreed to pay $25 million to resolve allegations that it submitted false claims to the federal government in connection with its delivery of Next Day Air overnight packages, the Justice Department announced today. UPS is a package delivery company based in Atlanta.

UPS provides delivery services to hundreds of federal agencies through contracts with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and U.S. Transportation Command, which provides support to Department of Defense agencies. Under these contracts, UPS guaranteed delivery of packages by certain specified times the following day. The settlement announced today resolves allegations that from 2004 to 2014, UPS engaged in practices that concealed its failure to comply with its delivery guarantees, thereby depriving federal customers of the ability to request refunds for the late delivery of packages. In particular, the government alleged that UPS knowingly recorded inaccurate delivery times on packages to make it appear that the packages were delivered on time, applied inapplicable “exception codes” to excuse late delivery (such as “security delay,” “customer not in,” or “business closed”), and provided inaccurate “on-time” performance data under the federal contracts.

“This conduct affected numerous federal agencies,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “We place high importance on the integrity of companies that provide services to the government. Combating all manner of fraud on the government is a high priority here in the Eastern District of Virginia.”

“Protecting the federal procurement process from false claims is central to the mission of the Department of Justice,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We will continue to ensure that when federal monies are used to purchase commercial services the government receives the prices and services to which it is entitled.”

“The United States should get what it pays for, nothing less,” said Acting Inspector General Robert C. Erickson of the GSA.

The civil settlement resolves a lawsuit filed under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, which permits private parties to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and obtain a portion of the government’s recovery. The civil lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia by Robert K. Fulk, a former employee of UPS, who will receive $3.75 million.

This resolution in this matter was the result of a coordinated effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, the GSA Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation OIG, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the Department of Treasury OIG, and with assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs OIG.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Benjamin C. Mizer, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Division; Robert C. Erickson, Jr., Acting Inspector General, General Services Administration (GSA); and Fred W. Gibson, Acting Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Robert E. Craig, Special Agent in Charge, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, made the announcement after the case was unsealed by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The matter was investigated by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter S. Hyun and Kevin Mikolashek of the Eastern District of Virginia.

The lawsuit is captioned United States ex rel. Fulk v. United Parcel Service, Inc., et al., No. 1:11cv890 (E.D. Va.). The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:11cv890.

JOINT CHIEFS CHAIR SAYS IRAQI FORCES 'DROVE OUT OF RAMADI'

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
Dempsey: Iraqi Forces Not Driven From Ramadi, They Drove Out of Ramadi
By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

BRUSSELS, May 20, 2015 – Iraqi security forces weren’t “driven from” Ramadi, they “drove out of Ramadi,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told reporters traveling with him that he has said from the start that the mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant would take years to accomplish.

“At the start I said three years,” he said. “That still might be the case, we may be able to achieve our objectives in three years. But I said then, and I reiterate now, that there may be tactical exchanges -- some of which go the way of Iraqi security forces and others which go the way of ISIL. But the coalition has all the strategic advantages over time.”

Time will tell, the general said, and time is also a factor because the key to victory is not just military success on the battlefield, but the ability of the Iraqi government to draw the various groups in the country back together.

After-action Review

U.S. commanders in Iraq are working with their Iraqi counterparts to work out exactly what happened, Dempsey said. Reports indicate that Iraqi security forces drove out of Ramadi -- an important provincial capital -- during a sandstorm May 16.

“This group of [Iraqi security forces] had been forward-deployed in al Anbar [province] -- arguably the most dangerous part of Iraq,” he said. “They believed they were less well-supported. The tribes had begun to come together, but had not … allied themselves with the [security forces].”

The sandstorm precluded U.S. air support against ISIL and the Iraqi commander on the ground made “what appears to be a unilateral decision to move to what he perceived to be a more defensible position,” the general said.

Success Demands Commitment

Success against ISIL requires the commitment of the Iraqi government, the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi people, he said.

There must be political reconciliation among the various actors, a plan for the reconstruction of those areas that have been affected by ISIL attacks and the promise of “governance that gives the people the belief that they will be cared for in the future,” Dempsey explained.

From the start of the campaign against ISIL, the United States has been clear that support is conditional on Iraq’s government accomplishing these goals, the general said. “They have to happen, and if they don’t happen, then this campaign won’t succeed,” he said. “That’s been clear from the start.”

The anti-ISIL coalition is working to coalesce the Sunni tribes in
Anbar against ISIL. The coalition will give the tribes some training and equipment, “but all that necessarily needs to flow through the government of Iraq,” the chairman said. “The coalition will only support those groups that subordinate themselves to the government.”

DEFENDANTS IN "RACHEL ROBOCALLS" CASE FOUND BY COURT TO BE LIABLE FOR $1.7 MILLION

FROM:  U.S. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
Court Finds Defendants in FTC’s Treasure Your Success “Rachel Robocalls” Case Liable for $1.7 Million

Universal Processing Services (UPS) of Wisconsin, LLC, a payment processor, and telemarketer Hal E. Smith and his company HES Merchant Services Company, Inc. (HES), defendants in the Federal Trade Commission’s case against a deceptive robocall credit card interest rate reduction scheme, were jointly ordered to pay $1,734,972 to the Commission by a Florida district court. The money will be used to provide refunds to defrauded consumers.

 “The defendants blasted thousands of people with illegal robocalls and lied about helping relieve their credit card debt,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Now they’re out of the robocall business. The court’s decision also shows that it’s bad business for payment processors to help scammers take people’s money.”

The final orders announced today against UPS, which did business as Newtek Merchant Solutions, Smith, and HES follow the court's November 2014 order granting the FTC’s motion for summary judgment against these three defendants who took part in the Treasure Your Success (TYS) scheme. The rest of the defendants had previously agreed to final orders settling the agency’s charges against them.

The court held Smith and HES liable for 11 violations of the FTC Act and the Commission’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), based on their participation in a deceptive telemarketing scheme purporting to be a credit card interest rate reduction service that used robocalls to solicit consumers. The defendants failed to disclose the identity of the person(s) responsible for placing the robocalls and unlawfully calling numbers that had been registered on the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry.

In February 2015, the court entered a permanent injunction against Smith and HES that includes 20-year bans on robocalls, telemarketing, and marketing debt relief products or services. It also permanently prohibits Smith and HES from making misrepresentations in the sale or marketing of any product or service, including financial products or services, and imposes the $1.7 million judgment.

The court also found UPS liable for “assisting and facilitating” the TSR violations of the other defendants by providing the interface with the banks to handle credit card payments while knowing (or avoiding knowing) of the underlying TSR violations. Among other things, the court found that UPS had ignored numerous red flags that, if properly investigated, would have led UPS to decline TYS as a client. The court imposed the same $1.7 judgment million against UPS.

After the summary judgment ruling, UPS agreed to a settlement permanently barring the company from processing payments for clients whom it knows or should have known: 1) fall into certain categories that have received close industry attention, such as debt relief services; 2) make misrepresentations to consumers; 3) charge consumers without their authorization; and 4) otherwise violate the FTC Act or the TSR. It also requires UPS to put screening and monitoring provisions in place for use when accepting future clients.

The Commission vote approving the proposed stipulated final order against UPS was 5-0. The proposed stipulated final order was entered by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, and has now been signed by the judge.

The following defendants previously agreed to stipulated final orders settling the FTC’s charges against them:

On September 23, 2013, a permanent injunction against defendants Willy Plancher; Valbona Toska, WV Universal Management, LLC; Global Financial Assist, LLC; and Leading Production, LLC banning them from robocalling, telemarketing, and marketing debt relief products or services;
On October 6, 2014, a permanent injunction against Ramon Sanchez-Ortega barring him from robocalling and telemarketing;
On November 19, 2014, a permanent injunction and $25,000 financial judgment against Derek Depuydt, UPS’s former president prohibiting him from acting as a payment processor, independent sales organization, or a sales agent for high-risk clients; and
Also on November 19, 2014, a permanent injunction against Jonathon E. Warren; Business First Solutions, Inc.; and Voiceonyx Corp. barring them from robocalling, telemarketing, and marketing debt relief products or services.
NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the district court judge.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

U.S. CONDEMNS MORTAR ATTACKS ON UN MISSION IN SOUTH SUDAN

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
New York, NY
May 20, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the May 20 mortar attacks on the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Melut, South Sudan, that resulted in the death of four people, including one child, and severely injured eight others. We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the victims and reiterate our call for those responsible for attacks on civilians and UN facilities to be held accountable.

Today’s attacks are only the latest in a series of brutally violent acts against civilians, including the raping and murder of children, resulting from increased fighting between the Government of South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition, and their respective affiliated militias and other armed groups, in Unity and Upper Nile States over the last two weeks. As this most recent incident underscores, the renewed fighting in South Sudan puts at risk UNMISS bases and protection of civilian sites; and it does so at a time when across the country more than 3 million people are lacking sufficient food and more than 2 million are internally displaced.

The international community is footing the bill for President Salva Kiir’s and opposition leader Riek Machar’s shameful disregard for the devastating humanitarian crisis facing the people of South Sudan. Political and military leaders on all sides of this conflict must put aside their self-serving ambitions, bring an end to the fighting, implement the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement to which both have already agreed, and engage in negotiations for a comprehensive and inclusive peace agreement to establish a transitional government and bring about a reform process that addresses the root causes of this conflict.

South Sudan’s political leaders continue to refuse to prioritize the well-being of their own people, necessitating an increase in international pressure on the South Sudanese parties so that they accept and implement a credible peace agreement. In this vein, we will continue our work with the UN Security Council’s South Sudan Sanctions Committee to gather and review evidence that might be useful for sanctions listings that target political spoilers and those who violate and abuse human rights and violate international humanitarian law.

We regret that South Sudan’s political leaders repeatedly fail to heed international humanitarian law’s prohibition on intentionally targeting civilians. Additionally, all parties should regard UNMISS sites as inviolable and the work of UNMISS personnel should be respected, supported and protected as they endeavor to protect the more than 120,000 internally displaced people sheltering at UNMISS bases and the many others outside these bases who are displaced by the ongoing fighting.

NASA's VACUUM CHAMBER 5

FROM:  NASA 



When you need to test hardware designed to operate in the vast reaches of space, you start in a vacuum chamber.  NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland has many of them, but Vacuum Chamber 5 (VF-5) is special.  Supporting the testing of electric propulsion and power systems, VF-5 has the highest pumping speed of any electric propulsion test facility in the world, which is important in maintaining a continuous space-like environment.

The cryogenic panels at the top and back of the chamber house a helium-cooled panel that reaches near absolute zero temperatures (about -440 degrees Fahrenheit). The extreme cold of this panel freezes any air left in the chamber and quickly freezes the thruster exhaust, allowing the chamber to maintain a high vacuum environment. The outer chevrons are cooled with liquid nitrogen to shield the cryogenic panels from the room temperature surfaces of the tank.

Most electric propulsion devices, such as Hall Thrusters, use xenon as a propellant, which is very expensive. By capturing the used xenon as ice during testing, researchers are able to recover the propellant to reuse, saving NASA and test customers considerable costs.

The oil diffusion pumps along the bottom of the tank capped by circular covers use a low vapor pressure silicon oil to concentrate small amounts of gas to the point where it can be mechanically pumped from the chamber.

VF-5 will continue to provide a testing environment for Glenn’s advanced Solar Electric Propulsion technology needed for future astronaut expeditions into deep space, including to Mars.

Image Credit: NASA

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: The President signs the Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert...

U.S. CENTCOM TELLS REPORTERS THINGS WILL 'CONTINUE TO EBB AND FLOW'

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
Centcom Officials ‘Confident’ Iraqi Security Forces Will Recover Ramadi
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2015 – The loss of Ramadi is a setback, but U.S. Central Command officials are confident Iraqi security forces will take back the city in the near term, a Centcom spokesman said today.

During a conference call with Pentagon reporters, Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder provided an update on current operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the combatant command’s areas of responsibility.

“From our perspective,” he said, “what happened at Ramadi was a setback -- certainly concerning, but the fact is it’s a tough fight. As we’ve said before, there’s going to be good days and bad days, and things will continue to ebb and flow.”

“We are confident that the Iraqis, with coalition support, will recover Ramadi,” Ryder said. “We will continue to work closely with the government of Iraq and Iraqi security force leadership as they plan their next move to take back the city.”

Success in Other Areas

Ryder pointed out Iraqi security forces have had success fighting in other areas of the country and said Ramadi is “one piece of a larger fight.”

Looking at the overall situation in Iraq, he said, security forces have achieved some “good effects” in simultaneous operations in Karmah, Tikrit and Baghdadi and while providing security in support of the Kadhimiya pilgrimage.

“In the north, the Peshmerga continue to conduct effective combat operations,” Ryder said. “Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria have done very well, and really represent a hostile force in ISIL’s backyard that has caused them some significant problems there.”

The colonel emphasized he was not minimizing the significance of the setback in Ramadi, nor suggesting it was not important.

“Every square inch of Iraq is important, and liberating every square inch of territory occupied by ISIL is important,” Ryder said. “But again, I’d ask you to look at the bigger picture here. Understand that combat is not always linear, and there will be setbacks, and there will be victories."

With a 60-nation coalition backing the Iraqis as they lead this fight, Ryder said there is confidence that they will retain the momentum against ISIL, and ultimately, defeat them.

U.S.-trained Iraqi Forces

Ryder noted 7,000 U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces have graduated and returned to the field -- primarily in the north and the south of Iraq, where they have conducted “effective” operations.

“They have performed as you would expect an army infantry maneuver unit to perform -- exercising good command and control in the field,” he said.

Of note, Ryder said none of those forces were at Ramadi, but “we have seen that the forces that have graduated have done well.”

“We are continuing to work with Iraq to help their forces develop and regenerate their combat capability,” he said, “and so in the days ahead, it will be important for the [Iraqi security forces] to continue to keep pressure on ISIL.”

Through training, the advise-and-assist mission, building partner capacity sites and coalition air power efforts, Ryder said, “we’re confident that we have the right strategy at this time to degrade and defeat ISIL.”

WHITE HOUSE REPORT ON NATIONAL SECURITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE

FROM:  THE WHITE HOUSE
May 20, 2015
White House Report: The National Security Implications of a Changing Climate

The full report can be found HERE.

Today, President Obama will travel to New London, Connecticut to deliver the commencement address at the United States Coast Guard Academy. During his speech, the President will speak to the importance of acting on climate change and the risks to national security this global threat poses. The White House also released a new report on the national security implications of climate change and how the Federal government is rising to the challenge.

As the President has made very clear, no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change, as we are already seeing these threats in communities across the country. We know that climate change is contributing to extreme weather, wildfires, and drought, and that rising temperatures can lead to more smog and more allergens in the air we breathe, meaning more kids are exposed to the triggers that can cause asthma attacks.

But as the President will stress, climate change does not respect national borders and no one country can tackle climate change on its own. Climate change poses immediate risks to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters and resulting in humanitarian crises, and potentially increasing refugee flows and exacerbating conflicts over basic resources like food and water. It also aggravates issues at home and abroad including poverty, political instability and social tensions – conditions that can fuel instability and enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.

The Department of Defense (DOD) is assessing the vulnerability of the military’s more than 7,000 bases, installations and other facilities to climate change, and studying the implications of increased demand for our National Guard in the aftermath of extreme weather events. Two years ago, DOD and DHS released Arctic Strategies, which addresses the potential security implications of increased human activity in the Arctic, a consequence of rapidly melting sea ice.
 
But we also need to decrease the harmful carbon pollution that causes climate change. That is why, this summer, the EPA will put in place commonsense standards to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, the largest source in the United States. Today, the U.S. harnesses three times as much electricity from the wind and twenty times as much from the sun as we did since President Obama took office. We are working with  industry  and  have taken action to phase down HFCs and address methane emissions in the oil and gas sector. By the middle of the next decade, our cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas, and we have made unprecedented investments to cut energy waste in our homes and buildings. And as the single largest user of energy in the United States, DOD is making progress to deploy 3 gigawatts of renewable energy on military installations by 2025.

DOJ ANNOUNCES ADMINISTRATOR, BILLER CONVICTED IN $4.5 MILLION MEDICARE FRAUD

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Monday, May 18, 2015
Administrator and Biller of Illinois Physician Group Convicted in $4.5 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

A federal jury in Chicago on May 15, 2015, convicted the administrator and biller of a Schaumburg, Illinois, in-home visiting physician group for their participation in a $4.5 million health care fraud scheme that included billing Medicare for services rendered to patients who were dead and services rendered by medical professionals who worked over 24 hours in a day.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois, Special Agent in Charge Robert J. Holley of the FBI’s Chicago Division and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office made the announcement.

According to evidence presented at trial, Rick E. Brown, 58, of Rockford, Illinois, the President of Home Care America Inc., controlled the daily operations of a physician practice, Medicall Physicians Group Ltd.  Mary C. Talaga, 54, of Elmwood Park, Illinois, was the company’s biller who submitted Medicall’s Medicare claims and was employed by Home Care America.  Brown and Talaga falsely billed Medicare for services that were never provided to patients.  The services fraudulently billed included services rendered to patients who were actually dead, as well as services purportedly provided by medical professionals after they had ended their employment and by medical professionals who worked over 24 hours per day.  Evidence showed that Brown forged physician signatures on medical documents, and Talaga directed physicians to create false documentation after she had billed for services that had not been documented or provided.

Brown and Talaga were each found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, six counts of health care fraud and three counts of false statements relating to a health care matter.  They were charged in a superseding indictment returned on March 25, 2015.  Medicall submitted approximately $12 million in claims to Medicare, approximately $4.5 million of which were shown to be fraudulent at trial.

The sentencing hearing for Brown is scheduled for Aug. 10, 2015, and the sentencing hearing for Talaga is scheduled for Aug. 7, 2015.

The investigation was conducted jointly by the FBI and HHS-OIG and brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Illinois.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Brooke Harper and Senior Trial Attorney Jon Juenger of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,100 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6.5 billion.  In addition, the HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

SCIENTISTS CITE POSSIBLE POWER SHORTAGES DUE TO CLIMATE CHANGE

FROM:  NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Drought, heat likely to affect U.S. West's power grid
Scientists recommend looking at power plants' capacities in view of expected changes

Electricity generation and distribution infrastructure in the U.S. West should be “climate-proofed” to decrease the risk of future power shortages, according to new research results.

Expected increases in extreme heat and drought will bring changes in precipitation, air and water temperatures, air density and humidity, write scientists Matthew Bartos and Mikhail Chester of Arizona State University in a paper published in the current issue of the journal Nature Climate Change.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Water, Sustainability and Climate (WSC) Program.

"Society depends on agriculture, energy and water availability to prosper," said Tom Torgersen, NSF WSC program director. "Security in these areas requires an understanding of the complex links between humans and nature."

Changing conditions could limit energy production

The authors say that changing conditions could significantly constrain the energy generation capacity of power plants--unless steps are taken to upgrade systems and technologies to withstand the effects of a generally hotter and drier climate.

The scientists report that power stations are particularly vulnerable to the climate conditions predicted to occur within the next half-century.

“In their development plans, power providers are not taking into account climate change effects,” Bartos said. “They are likely overestimating their ability to meet future electricity needs.”

U.S. West will see higher demand in years to come

The U.S. West in particular is expected to see greater energy demand due to population growth and higher temperatures.

Bartos and Chester say that power plants should strengthen their transmission capacities and conservation strategies if they are to remain capable of reliably supplying power as conditions change.

Scientists recommend that power providers consider climate constraints

Power providers also should invest in more resilient renewable energy sources and consider local climate constraints when selecting sites for new generation facilities, the researchers said.

“Diverse arrays of energy-generation technologies are used by the U.S. West’s power grid," said Chester.

The scientists looked at five power-generating technologies: hydroelectric facilities; steam, wind and combustion turbines; as well as photovoltaics.

“We’re finding that some power generation technologies may be more climate-resilient than others," Chester said.

"Renewable energy sources are generally less susceptible to climate change effects. More use of renewable sources may contribute to a better climate-proofed power infrastructure."

-NSF-
Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF
Joe Kullman, ASU,