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Saturday, May 30, 2015

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: The President Meets with Attorney General Lynch

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: West Wing Week: 05/29/15 or, "High Fives for Everybody!"

NSF VIDEO: Solving Crimes with DNA - Scientists & Engineers on Sofas (and other fur...

NSF VIDEO: Black holes and coffee - Scientists & Engineers on Sofas (and other furn...

SECRETARY KERRY'S STATEMENT COMMEMORATING INTERNATIONAL DAY OF UN PEACEKEEPERS

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Commemoration of International Day of UN Peacekeepers
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
May 29, 2015

Today we honor the service and sacrifice of the courageous men and women serving under the flag of the United Nations with the mission of peace. That mission, which dates back nearly 70 years, is central to the purpose of the United Nations and indispensable to the peace and security of the globe.

Nearly 130,000 courageous UN peacekeepers from 122 countries serve the cause of peace, nearly two-thirds in conflict areas where they operate under robust and demanding mandates often at great personal risk. This is by far the greatest number of active peacekeepers in history – a fact that reflects the steadfast determination of the international community to respond.

And just as the demand for peacekeeping has grown in recent years, so have the demands placed on those missions. Mission mandates have evolved in critically important ways to address the most pressing needs on the ground, including the protection of civilians. While we ask more of peacekeepers, we as a global community must strive to ensure that they possess the necessary training, tools, support and resources to advance the cause of peace. The United States supports such requirements through robust capacity building programs such as the Global Peace Operations Initiative and International Police Peacekeeping Operations Support. We look forward to continuing work with our partners to strengthen UN peacekeeping, including at the Summit that President Obama will co-host this fall, on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly high-level week.

DOJ ANNOUNCES ALMOST 78,000 SERVICE MEMBERS WILL RECEIVE COMPENSATION FOR EXCESS INTEREST ON STUDENT LOANS BY NAVIENT CORP.

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Nearly 78,000 Service Members to Begin to Begin Receiving $60 Million Under Department of Justice Settlement with Navient for Overcharging on Student Loans

The Department of Justice announced today that this June, 77,795 service members will begin receiving $60 million in compensation for having been charged excess interest on their student loans by Navient Corp., the student loan servicer formerly part of Sallie Mae.  The payments are required by a settlement that the department reached with Navient last year to resolve the federal government’s first ever lawsuit filed against owners and servicers of student loans for violating the rights of service members eligible for benefits and protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).  The United States’ complaint in that lawsuit alleged that three defendants (collectively Navient) engaged in a nationwide pattern or practice, dating as far back as 2005, of violating the SCRA by failing to provide members of the military the 6 percent interest rate cap to which they were entitled for loans that were incurred before the military service began.  The three defendants are Navient Solutions Inc. (formerly known as Sallie Mae, Inc.), Navient DE Corporation (formerly known as SLM DE Corporation), and Sallie Mae Bank.

The settlement covers the entire portfolio of student loans serviced by, or on behalf of, Navient.  This includes private student loans, Direct Department of Education Loans, and student loans that originated under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program.  Approximately 74 percent of the $60 million that is about to be distributed is attributable to private loans, 21 percent to loans guaranteed by the Department of Education and five percent to loans owned by the Department of Education.

The checks, which are scheduled to be mailed on June 12, 2015, will range from $10 to over $100,000, with an average of about $771.  Check amounts will depend on how long the interest rate exceeded 6 percent and by how much, and on the types of military documentation the service member provided.

In addition to the $60 million in compensation, the settlement contains several other key provisions.  It required Navient to pay the United States a civil penalty of $55,000.  Navient must also request that all three major credit bureaus delete negative credit history entries caused by the interest rate overcharges and improper default judgments.

The settlement also required Navient to streamline the process by which service members may notify Navient of their eligibility for SCRA benefits.  The revised process includes an SCRA online intake form for service members, and the availability of customer service representatives specially trained on the rights of those in military service.

“This compensation will provide much deserved financial relief to the nearly 78,000 men and women who were forced to pay more for their student loans than is required under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery.  “The Department of Justice will continue using every tool at our disposal to protect the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces from unjust actions and illegal burdens.”

“We are pleased about how quickly we will be able to get this money back into the hands of the service members who were overcharged on their student loans while they were in military service,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division.  “The department will continue to actively protect our service members and their families from such unjust actions.”

The department’s investigation of Navient was the result of a referral of service member complaints from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs, headed by Holly Petraeus.  The Department of Justice worked closely with the department of Education during the investigation to ensure that aggrieved service members with federally owned and federally guaranteed student loans would be fully compensated, and be able to receive the SCRA benefit of a reduced 6 percent interest rate through a streamlined process going forward.  The Department of Education is now using a U.S. Department of Defense database to proactively identify borrowers who may be eligible for the lower interest rate under the SCRA, rather than requiring service members to apply for the benefit.

CDC REPORTS ON TOBACCO TAX STAMPS USE TO PREVENT/REDUCE ILLICIT TOBACCO SALES

FROM:  CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION
Use of Tobacco Tax Stamps to Prevent and Reduce Illicit Tobacco Trade — United States, 2014
CDC Media Relations

Illicit trade undermines tobacco control efforts and might contribute to health disparities. Comprehensive tax stamping policies could enhance U.S. efforts to reduce illicit trade, thereby increasing revenues as well as protecting public health and reducing smoking by stopping illegal cigarette sales. Increasing tobacco products’ unit price is the most effective tobacco prevention and control intervention. Illicit tobacco trade can undermine high tobacco prices by providing tobacco users with cheaper-priced alternatives. Tobacco tax stamping could further support efforts to prevent and reduce illicit trade. A comprehensive tax stamping approach includes using digital, encrypted (high-tech) stamps; applying stamps to all tobacco products, including cigarette-equivalent products like little cigars and roll-your-own tobacco; and working with Native American tribes on stamping agreements for tribally sold products. As of January 1, 2014, most states used traditional, paper (low-tech) stamps that are easy-to-counterfeit. Many states did not explicitly require stamps on cigarette-equivalent products, and approximately two thirds of states with federal reservation land had not negotiated codified agreements that permit tobacco stamping of tribally sold products.

15 CHINESE NATIONALS INDICTED IN SCHEME USING IMPOSTORS TO TAKE STANDARDIZED ENTRANCE EXAMS TO GRAD SCHOOL

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Fifteen Chinese Nationals Charged in Fraud Scheme

Fifteen Chinese nationals have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on charges of conspiracy, counterfeiting foreign passports, mail fraud and wire fraud, U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton for the Western District of Pennsylvania announced today.

The 35 count indictment, returned on May 21, 2015, and unsealed today, names the following 12 individuals as defendants: Han Tong, Xi Fu, Xiaojin Guo, Yudong Zhang, Yue Zou, Biyuan Li aka “Jack Li,” Jia Song, Ning Wei, Gong Zhang, Songling Peng, Siyuan Zhao and Yunlin Sun.  The identities of the three additional defendants remain under seal.

According to the indictment, between 2011 and 2015, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy and a scheme to defraud Educational Testing Services (ETS) and the College Board by having imposters take college and graduate school standardized entrance examinations, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).  In carrying out the scheme, the conspirators had counterfeit Chinese passports made and sent to the United States, which were used by the imposters to defraud ETS administrators into believing that they were other people, namely the conspirators who would receive the benefit of the imposter’s test score for use at American colleges and universities.  The majority of the fraudulent exams taken by the conspirators were taken in western Pennsylvania.

“The perpetrators of this conspiracy were using fraudulent passports for the purpose of impersonating test takers of standardized tests including the SAT, GRE and TOEFL and thereby securing fraudulently obtained admissions to American institutions of higher education and circumventing the F1 Student Visa requirements,” stated U.S. Attorney Hickton.  “This case establishes that we will protect the integrity of our passport and visa process, as well as safeguard the national asset of our higher education system from fraudulent access.”

“These students were not only cheating their way into the university, they were also cheating their way through our nation’s immigration system,” said Special Agent in Charge John Kelleghan for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) of Philadelphia.  “HSI will continue to protect our nation’s borders and work with our federal law enforcement partners to seek out those committing transnational crimes and bring them to justice.”

“The State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) is committed to working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our other law enforcement partners to investigate allegations of crime related to passport fraud and to bring those who commit these crimes to justice,” said Special Agent in Charge David Schnorbus for DSS’s New York Field Office.  “If criminal enterprises are able to manipulate instruments of international travel for profitable gain, then national security is at risk.”

The law provides for a maximum total sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both for each count of wire and mail fraud, 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both for each count of counterfeiting foreign passports, and five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both for conspiracy.  Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offense(s) and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James T. Kitchen is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Department of Homeland Security, HSI and the Department of State conducted the investigation leading to the indictment in this case.  U.S. Attorney Hickton acknowledged that ETS and the College Board cooperated fully in the investigation.

An indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

NSF REPORTS SCHOLARS USING GEOGRAPHY TO STUDY HOLOCAUST

FROM:  NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Geography and mapping give new dimension to study of the Holocaust
Research addresses questions about the scale of the Holocaust, the meaning of place, and the significance of spatial patterns

Numerous scholars in recent years have made the horrors of the Holocaust real to the public through various media, including books and memoirs, films, art, photography and museum exhibitions. Anne Kelly Knowles and her collaborators are using a different approach to better understand the genocide: geography and mapping.

More specifically, the researchers are employing historical geographic information systems (GIS), computer programs that store, display, and analyze data of past geographies to gain new insights into how the Nazis implemented the Holocaust, the patterns of events, and the impact of the Holocaust on different places.

"The key is to recognize that perpetrators and victims experienced the Holocaust at different scales, but that those scales registered – came together – in particular places at particular times," says Knowles, a professor of geography at Middlebury College, who is joining the faculty of the University of Maine in Orono as a professor of history in fall 2015.

"We wanted our geographical explorations and experiments to be deeply grounded in history,’’ she adds. "At the same time, we wanted to ask new questions about the scale of the Holocaust, the meaning of place, and the significance of spatial patterns. Mapping complex data, like the development of the SS concentration camps system, inevitably shows you things you would not know – unless you make a map."

GIS "allows you to layer many kinds of information in the same visual space, and to use animation to see change over time,’" Knowles says. For example, in compiling a data base of 1,300 concentration camps and their associated labor camps," you can ask the computer program a question about the data, and it provides the answer as a map,’’ she says. "I could ask: 'Which camps were established by Jan. 1, 1942?' and it would show me in a map. I could continue to ask questions, and see how the number of camps grew."

Michael De Groot, a former undergraduate history major at Stanford University involved in the research, developed a series of digital layers showing the political boundaries of Europe during WWII. Using animation, he showed how the boundaries changed over time in combination with the expansion of the camps. "When you watch this particular animation, you can see the growth of the Reich and the growth of the camps together," she says. "It so clearly showed that the SS only established camps within territory they politically controlled. Some historians already knew this, but to actually see relationships like that hits you between the eyes.’"

Ultimately, GIS animations like this could become a valuable tool for teaching future students about the events of the Holocaust, Knowles says. "The ability to tell the story of the Holocaust visually makes it very exciting for teachers," she says. "It gets across fundamental information about the dynamics of the Holocaust that is crucial for students to understand."

Some material already is available at the Stanford University spatial history lab website, as well as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website, she says.

Knowles worked with nine collaborators, an interdisciplinary team of historians and geographers who call themselves the Holocaust Geographies Collaborative, with resource support provided by Holocaust museum. The National Science Foundation (NSF) funded the project with about $500,000. Last year the group published a book summarizing the first phase of their research, The Geographies of the Holocaust.

Knowles plans to continue her studies with a recently awarded fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, which annually supports a diverse group of scholars, artists, and scientists chosen on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise.

Her Guggenheim project, Telling the Spatial Story of the Holocaust,will be a novella-length eBook that follows 10 people through the Holocaust (1933 – 1945), connecting their experiences to the spatial unfolding of the Holocaust as Nazi plans were implemented in one place after another. It will be equal parts research, new modes of geo-visual story-telling, and multi-dimensional narrative.

In the NSF-funded project, the Holocaust Geographies Collaborative focused on the different scales at which the Holocaust occurred across Europe, from the continental scale of the development of the SS camp system, to the regional scale, including attacks on civilian populations in Belarus and Lithuania, as well as the arrest and transport of Jews in Italy. The group also examined the urban scale of the Auschwitz camp and the Budapest ghetto, and the scale of individual experience in a study of Auschwitz survivor testimony from January, 1945.

"The Holocaust happened on every scale possible, including the planners in Berlin working with maps and deciding where to put the next concentration camp, making it easier for them to dehumanize the places and people they were planning to capture and obliterate," she says. ``But there also are the personal experiences, the intimate meaning of home, community, synagogue. We think of geography as both remote, abstract planning and intensely personal experiences in time and space.’"

By conducting a geographic analysis of a database of places where Italian Jews were arrested – and who arrested them – and where they were taken, it became clear "that Italian troops and police were every bit as involved as the Germans were," she says, which contradicted long-held assumptions that the Italians were not involved or not as culpable as the Germans were in the Italian Holocaust. "When you convert the information in a database into a map, you can see geographically what happens to these people and who arrested them - both Germans and Italians were deeply involved. It gives you a more nuanced sense of what was happening on the ground."

"This is what I find compelling about historical geography," she adds. "Asking questions about what is happening to people in their homes and in the streets makes it more real."

Another piece of the study – examining the database related to the assaults on civilians in Lithuania – revealed a short window of time when the attacks changed fundamentally. Initially, the Einsatzgruppen (specialized attack squads of German soldiers) in Lithuania went after men and boys. "But at the end of August, 1941, they started attacking all Jews – all ages, women and children and the elderly," she says."This is the moment of genocide, when they were trying to kill everyone.

"This is not brand new information, but by visualizing it, it makes this moment of genocide clear," she adds. "This is really important because there is no document in the historical record of anyone ever saying: 'Now is when we are going to start killing all the Jews.'"

The Holocaust Geographies Collaborative now is turning to new research on victims’ experiences, applying GIS and other digital methods, such as corpus linguistics (the study of language as revealed in samples of"real world" text), to analyze video and written testimony.

Knowles points out, most importantly, that the work she and her collaborators are doing is not just history, or geography – but both. And they complement and enrich each other.

"We go back and forth," she says. "A map shows us something that raises historical questions. Then you go back and do historical research, which raises more geographical questions. This is the new way of doing Holocaust studies – and of doing history."

-- Marlene Cimons, National Science Foundation
Investigators
Anne Knowles
Related Institutions/Organizations
Middlebury College

Friday, May 29, 2015

DOD REPORT LATEST AIRSTRIKES AGAINST ISIL

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
Airstrikes Deny ISIL Forces Tactical Advantages
From a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve News Release

SOUTHWEST ASIA, May 29, 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

Bomber and fighter aircraft conducted four airstrikes in Syria:

-- Near Hasakah, three airstrikes struck three ISIL tactical units, destroying an ISIL supply cache, an ISIL weapons cache and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Kobani, one airstrike destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

Airstrikes in Iraq

Attack, fighter, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 20 airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:

-- Near Baghdadi, three airstrikes struck an ISIL fighting positon and land features denying ISIL a tactical advantage.

-- Near Beiji, five airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and land features denying ISIL a tactical advantage, destroying five ISIL vehicles, two ISIL excavators, an ISIL armored personnel carrier and an ISIL armored vehicle.

-- Near Fallujah, three airstrikes struck land features denying ISIL a tactical advantage, destroying an ISIL boat, an ISIL river crossing point and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Makhmur, three airstrikes struck an ISIL fighting positon and an ISIL staging area, destroying an ISIL excavator.

-- Near Ramadi, one airstrike destroyed two ISIL fighting positons.

-- Near Sinjar, two airstrikes struck an ISIL large tactical unit and land features denying ISIL a tactical advantage, destroying five ISIL buildings and two ISIL heavy machine guns.

-- Near Tal Afar, three airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL mortar positon, destroying an ISIL fighting positon, an ISIL roadside bomb, an ISIL heavy machine gun 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, officials said.

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.

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: West Wing Week: 05/29/15 or, "High Fives for Everybody!"

DEFENSE SECRETARY SAYS U.S. TO REMAIN PRINCIPAL SECURITY POWER IN PACIFIC

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Defense Secretary Ash Carter addresses attendees at the U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Pacific Fleet change-of-command ceremonies in Honolulu, May 27, 2015. Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris, who previously commanded U.S. Pacific Fleet, assumed command of Pacom from Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III. Carter’s stop in Hawaii is his first in a 10-day trip to advance the next phase of the Asia-Pacific rebalance. DoD photo.  

Carter Urges Peaceful Resolution of South China Sea Disputes
By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 27, 2015 – The United States will continue to remain the principal security power in the Pacific region for decades to come, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in Hawaii today.

The secretary also urged countries to work toward a peaceful resolution to territorial disputes in the South China Sea region.

Change of Command

Carter made his remarks during change-of-command ceremonies at U.S. Pacific Command, the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and at the retirement of outgoing Pacom commander Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu.

Former U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. will take over as the Pacom commander from Locklear, while Navy Adm. Scott H. Swift, formerly assigned to the Pentagon as the Navy Staff director, will command Pacfleet.

“We come together at Pearl Harbor, 70 years after the end of World War II, to mark the change of command at Pacom, our oldest and largest combatant command,” Carter said. “Pacom’s leaders -- and all who serve under them -- are charged with protecting the nation while assuring the peace that’s been the hallmark of the Pacific region for many, many years.”

As Pacom’s commander, Locklear inspired and led DoD’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, said Carter, adding that the admiral commanded 350,000 military and civilian personnel, nearly 2,000 aircraft and 180 naval vessels to meet commitments made by President Barack Obama when he announced the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.

Outgoing Commander’s Legacy

Locklear was a diplomat, strategist and leader who recognized the importance of people, Carter said. Locklear’s legacy will make the rebalance a reality, the secretary added.

“But along the way, he also taught so many of us, including me, about America’s enduring interests and commitments in the Asia-Pacific,” Carter said. “Sam has advised a generation of government and military leaders -- secretaries of defense, national security advisors, and the Joint Chiefs -- and we’re going to remember those lessons and build on his legacy as we enter the next phase of our rebalance.”

But as Locklear knows, Carter said, the region’s security is rooted in something deeper and more fundamental: a commitment to shared values and principles, such as a commitment to the rule of law, to resolving disputes through diplomacy instead of coercion, and maintaining freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.

“The United States, DoD, and Pacom have always stood up for those principles and we always will because they’ve assured the Asia-Pacific’s peace and prosperity for decades,” the secretary said.

South China Sea

Carter said he wants to be clear about the United States’ position on the South China Sea, where several Asia-Pacific countries, including China, have been engaged in territorial disputes.

“First, we want a peaceful resolution of all disputes and an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by any claimant,” the secretary said. “We also oppose any further militarization of disputed features.”

Carter added, “Second, and there should be no mistake: The United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world.”

And, “with its actions in the South China Sea, China is out of step with both international norms that underscore the Asia-Pacific’s security architecture, and the regional consensus in favor of noncoercive approaches to this and other long-standing disputes,” the secretary said.

China’s actions “are bringing countries in the region together in new ways,” Carter said. “And they’re increasing demand for American engagement in the Asia-Pacific. We’re going to meet it. We will remain the principal security power in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come.”

DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR VIDEO: This Week at Interior May 22, 2015

DOJ ANNOUNCES MAN CHARGED WITH CONSPIRACY RELATED TO WIRE FRAUD, TRADEMEARK COUNTERFEITING USING THE "SILK ROAD"

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Thursday, May 28, 2015
New Orleans Man Charged With Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and Conspiracy to Commit Trademark Counterfeiting Using the “Silk Road” Online Marketplace

A Louisiana man was charged in a two-count information with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit trademark counterfeiting using the “Silk Road” online marketplace, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite Jr. of the Eastern District of Louisiana.

“Anonymous online marketplaces have provided criminals with the ability to conduct illegal operations worldwide while seemingly insulating them from apprehension and prosecution,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “The Criminal Division is determined to peel back the veil of anonymity and prosecute criminals of all stripes who attempt to use the ‘dark web’ to cloak their illegal conduct.”

According to allegations in the information, Beau Wattigney, 30, of New Orleans, Louisiana, created counterfeit coupons and used Silk Road to sell them.  Silk Road was a worldwide Internet forum used to anonymously sell illegal drugs, goods and services.  Wattigney allegedly used Silk Road 1.0 until it was dismantled by federal officials in October 2013, and Silk Road 2.0 until it was dismantled in November 2014.

According to the information, Wattigney designed the coupons to look like print-at-home manufacturers’ coupons.  The coupons included counterfeit trademarks for many prominent coupon distribution services, including Hopster, Coupons.com, SmartSource and RedPlum.  Wattigney allegedly sold a selection of counterfeit coupons entitled “The Original S.R. Exclusive Coupon Collection” for approximately $50.00.  Additionally, one counterfeit coupon Wattigney allegedly created and sold allowed users to purchase $50.00 Visa Gift Cards for $.01 each.  The coupons Wattigney allegedly sold on Silk Road 1.0 and 2.0 affected more than 50 manufacturers, retailers and online coupon distributors.  If redeemed, the counterfeit coupons could have resulted in a loss of more than $1,000,000 to the affected businesses.

The charges contained in the information are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Philadelphia Division, with assistance from the FBI’s New Orleans Division.  The case is being prosecuted by Senior Counsel Marie-Flore Johnson, Gavin Corn and Robert Wallace of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jordan Ginsberg of the Eastern District of Louisiana.

MICHIGAN RESIDENTS AND MOTORCYCLE CLUB MEMBERS CONVICTED OF RACKETEERING-RELATED CRIMES

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Members of Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club Convicted of Violent Racketeering-Related Crimes

Today, a federal jury in Detroit convicted two members of the violent Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club, one of whom also was a member of the Vice Lords street gang, on separate crimes of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, and assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering and a firearms offense.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Robin Shoemaker of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Detroit Field Division and Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit Field Division made the announcement.

“The dismantling of the Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club demonstrates how law enforcement authorities and community members can work hand-in-hand to combat gang violence across the nation,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “In this case, law enforcement unquestionably saved lives by making a wave of arrests to prevent a planned nationwide campaign of violence against a rival motorcycle gang.  The verdict in this case holds violent gang members accountable for the destruction they inflicted and the havoc they intended to wreak.”

“The Detroit One initiative targets criminal gang members like these defendants, who are responsible for gun violence in neighborhoods,” said U.S. Attorney McQuade.  “We hope that removing dangerous trigger pullers will give our communities the peaceful quality of life we all deserve.”

“ATF works every day with our partners to take the most violent offenders off our streets and put them behind bars,” said Special Agent in Charge S. Robin Shoemaker.  “Without partnership, without standing up against the violence, no public safety issues can be solved.  ATF is committed to this fight, and committed to working together to keep our citizen safe and our communities livable.”

“The defendants in this case were active members of violent criminal groups, one of which was based in Detroit and operated across numerous, and sometimes distant, states,” said Special Agent in Charge Abbate.  “These convictions reflect our continuing resolve through interstate cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement authorities to prevent violent crime regardless of how far its reach may extend.”

The jury convicted the defendants of the following offenses:

Christopher Odum (aka Murder), 29, of Detroit, a member of the Detroit chapters of both the Phantoms and the Vice Lords, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering.

William Frazier (aka Daytona), 37, of Auburn Hills, the Vice President of the Pontiac, Michigan, chapter of the Phantoms, was convicted of two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, and one count of using and carrying firearms during and in relation to a crime of violence.

The evidence showed that the Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club and its members were involved in a range of criminal activity including conspiracy to commit murder, shootings, robberies, extortion and the possession and sale of stolen vehicles and motorcycles.  The evidence also showed overlap between the leadership of the Phantoms and membership in the Vice Lords street gang, which assisted the Phantoms in various criminal endeavors, including searching for and violently attacking rivals of the Phantoms.

Specifically, the evidence at trial demonstrated that, on Oct. 27, 2012, at the Columbus, Ohio clubhouse of the Toros Motorcycle Club, a fight took place between the Phantoms and the Zulus Motorcycle Club, a rival gang.  During the fight, William Frazier, a Phantom member, shot two men.

The evidence at trial also showed that, on Sept. 8, 2013, Antonio Johnson, who was both the National President of the Phantoms and the “Three-Star General” over the Vice Lords in Michigan, ordered numerous Phantoms, including Christopher Odum, to rob the Satan Sidekicks Motorcycle Club, a rival motorcycle club.  During the attempted robbery, a Phantom member, Bryan Sorrell (aka PC) shot a Satan Sidekick member in the face.  A few days later, Odum and another Phantom violently assaulted a prospective member of the Satan Sidekicks during another attempted robbery at a gas station.

Additionally, according to the evidence presented at trial, Johnson blamed the Hell Lovers Outlaw Motorcycle Club for a September 2013 murder of a Phantoms member, and ordered retaliatory murders that were to be carried out in three phases.  In the first phase, the Phantoms were to murder at least three members of the Hell Lovers in Detroit in order to lure additional Hell Lovers to Michigan for the funeral.  In the second phase, the Phantoms were to murder all members of the Hell Lovers who would be at the Hell Lovers’ Detroit clubhouse following the funeral.  In the third phase, the Phantoms were to kill Hell Lovers in other cities throughout the country where the Phantoms had chapters.  In October 2013, ATF and FBI agents disrupted the mass murder plot.  At trial, the government presented evidence that, at the time that investigators disrupted the murder plot, the Phantoms were preparing for the first phase, including stockpiling firearms, conducting research and surveillance of their intended victims, and assigning Phantom members and Vice Lords members to stalk and murder the intended victims.  Odum participated in the murder plot.

This was the second of two recent trials in the prosecution of the Phantoms.  On March 16, 2015, a jury convicted six leaders and members of the Phantoms, many of whom also were leaders and members of the Vice Lords, for various crimes, including the September – October 2013 murder plot against the Hell Lovers and the September 2013 shooting of the Satan Sidekicks member.  Among those six convicted defendants were Johnson and Marvin Nicholson, who was both the National Enforcer of the Phantoms and a member of the Vice Lords.  The charges included RICO conspiracy involving murder, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, firearms offenses, and assault on federal officers.  In addition, four defendants previously have pleaded guilty to charges, including RICO conspiracy and assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, and await sentencing.

The arrests in this case were made as part of the Detroit One Initiative, a collaborative effort between law enforcement and the community to reduce homicide and other violent crime in Detroit, and through the lead efforts of the Comprehensive Violence Reduction Partnership Task Force, which consists of representatives of the ATF, Detroit Police Department, Michigan State Police, Michigan Department of Corrections and the FBI.  By working collaboratively, local, state and federal law enforcement are striving to maximize their ability to identify and arrest the persons and groups initiating the violence in Detroit.  These convictions are a tangible and significant result of this joint effort.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Joseph Wheatley of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Graveline and Louis Gabel of the Eastern District of Michigan.

U.S. OFFICIAL'S REMARKS TO KOREAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Remarks to the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the United States
Remarks
Daniel R. Russel
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
New York City
May 27, 2015
As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Chairman Ha for that introduction. Thank you all for coming - Consul General Kim and consular officials, Korean business promotion organizations, and all KOCHAM members and distinguished guests.

I’m glad to talk to business groups, such as KOCHAM, because economic relations have to be such a large part of our overall relationship with Korea. Your companies are big investors in America, accounting for a huge share of Korea’s FDI stock in the U.S., which is now over $31 billion dollars. Thank you.

In 1962, Dow Chemical, a storied American firm, became the first outside company to enter the Republic of Korea after it opened to foreign investment. Since then, your country’s economy has developed rapidly, and our commercial ties have blossomed with it.

The individual investments of KOCHAM members are far too numerous to list, so I’ll just name a few. Korean Air’s hotel in Los Angeles. Lotte’s move to participate in America’s shale energy boom by building a chemical plant in Louisiana. Doosan is using its expertise and capital to build up Bobcat, a great American global brand, and preserving and creating good jobs for Americans in the process. The banks, insurance providers, shipping and travel companies, consultants, and trade promotion agencies represented here provide essential capital and services that everyone else depends on to get business done. All of your companies are essential to modern life.

But, of course, I there’s one more important field – the field that really separates the 20th century from the 21st – and too often separates us parents from our children – digital technology, and mobile tech in particular.

Tech is one of the best known areas of partnership between our two countries. Just over a week ago, I was with Secretary Kerry in Seoul where he delivered a major speech on cyber policy. He chose to give this speech in Seoul because the Republic of Korea is such an important global leader in the digital world. When you consider the fact that South Korea is one of the most connected countries on earth; one of the biggest economic success stories of the last fifty years; one of the most important inventors of digital technology; and one of the biggest manufacturers of tech products; I think it’s fair to say that no other country has benefitted more from the digital revolution.

The U.S. has benefitted immensely from technology as well. As the most innovative country on earth, we have driven the tech revolution. So it’s natural that Koreans and Americans are partners in tech in so many ways. Just in the past month, Samsung made two interesting announcements: that it was investing $250 million in Silicon Valley, and that its CEOs and senior execs would be spending more time in the U.S. on a regular basis, to interact and share ideas with their counterparts at other companies in the U.S. This move is striking because it shows that despite all that Samsung, and other US and RoK companies, have done to help people connect over great distances, we still want to see each other in person. That’s part of why you all are living here for an extended period, and why many Americans live in Korea.

We appreciate the investments, and the jobs you’re creating. And we know you appreciate the talent you’re getting – from creative coders and marketers at LG, to hard-working line workers and expert engineers at Hyundai and Doosan. Our work together at the same facilities brings our nations closer, and it’s good for Korean Air, for Asiana – and for Delta and United as well.

As we look at the many connections between the U.S. and Korean economies, it’s clear that business is good. And that reflects the broader state of our bilateral relationship – the United States and the Republic of Korea have never been closer.

So today, I will give an overview of our bilateral relations, our strong alliance, and our global partnership that tackling issues from climate to economic development and advocating for our shared values around the globe. Then I’ll say a few words about our forward-looking economic relationship, and open it up for discussion.

The shared values and shared challenges we face form the core of our bilateral relationship. So I’d like to use the rest of my time here to talk about that relationship – to give you the larger context of what our two countries are doing together, for each other, and for the world.

The U.S.-ROK relationship is as strong as it has ever been. I was just in Seoul with Secretary Kerry, and it was a highly successful visit. We are very much looking forward to President Park’s upcoming visit in June. These are just the latest in what have been a series of productive meetings between our countries’ senior leaders.

In addition to these leaders’ meetings, we’ve also concluded, in the last couple years, a series of very important negotiations that have moved the relationship forward. We’ve strengthened our alliance through a new agreement on operational control of alliance forces during wartime—the agreement takes into account the evolving security situation in the region and the critical defense capabilities needed to address the North Korea threat. And we signed a new agreement which ensures the continued R.O.K. resources our troops need to “fight tonight.”

Even as we hope and plan and prepare for a brighter, more peaceful, united future for the Korean peninsula, we must still guard against the perils of the present, from North Korea’s nuclear, ballistic missile, and cyber threats, to natural disasters, to ISIL, pandemic disease, and climate change—global challenges that affect us all.

Just last month, we concluded negotiations on a successor civil-nuclear, or “1-2-3,” agreement. This state-of-the art agreement reflects the Republic of Korea’s status as a major global nuclear supplier while reaffirming the great importance we both place on non-proliferation, security, and safety.

And throughout the year, we’ve made progress on implementing the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. This helps ensure that our two economies continue to provide the foundation of shared prosperity that strengthens all aspects of the relationship.

Beyond our bilateral relations, we’re working to make the region safer and more prosperous.

South Korea, along with Japan, Australia, and others, is a key partner in the regional institutions that put our shared values into practice.

We see the emergence of Global Korea in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ “ASEAN plus three” group, and in APEC and the G20.

As two democracies, free market economies, and two important allies of the U.S., it’s difficult to overstate the importance we place on good relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan. I am hopeful that we will see continued progress on sensitive, important legacy issues, and an enduring improvement in overall relations in 2015.

President Park’s Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative, and the concept of trustpolitik, show her commitment to contributing to the broader discussion of the Asia-Pacific region’s future.

Of course, one critical issue we never lose sight of is curbing the threat from North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and advocating for the human rights of the North Korea’s people.

We’ve strongly supported new Security Council sanctions and increased enforcement to block proliferation and stem illicit activities that fund or support North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. At the same time, we and our partners in the Six-Party Talks continue to make clear to North Korea’s leadership that a brighter future is available if it chooses a different path.

We have gone the extra mile to reach out to North Korea’s government and encourage it to engage in an authentic and credible negotiating process.

But for negotiations to have any chance of success, North Korea must demonstrate a willingness to fulfill its denuclearization obligations and commitments, including those it undertook in the September 2005 Joint Statement.

At the same time, the U.S. and R.O.K. have worked with our partners on behalf of the North Korean people, to shine a bright light on the North’s human rights horrors, and to highlight the responsibility of the country’s leaders.

Last year, the landmark Commission of Inquiry report laid out these violations in devastating detail. There was a multilateral, high-level event on North Korean human rights at the U.N. General Assembly for the first time. And the General Assembly and Human Rights Council overwhelmingly passed strong resolutions calling on the North to address its deplorable human rights situation.

North Korea is feeling the heat. Last year, they even felt the need to send their Foreign Minister to the General Assembly in New York for the first time in 15 years, as part of an apparent charm offensive around the world.

We will continue to maintain pressure on the D.P.R.K. To that end, we support and look forward to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights opening a field-based structure in Seoul that will monitor and document the human rights situation in the DPRK in order to help seek justice for those accountable.

But it’s also important to note that U.S.-South Korea cooperation, and the R.O.K.’s global role, go way beyond dealing with the North.

Secretary Kerry said it simply, “The Republic of Korea has emerged as a key global player dedicated, as the United States is, to universal values like human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.”

It has been a dramatic time for the R.O.K.’s relations with the world, and our global work together. Let me mention just a few highlights…

Last year in Dresden, Germany, President Park Geun-hye laid out a comprehensive vision for peaceful reunification.

She also hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping, making him the first PRC president to visit Seoul before visiting Pyongyang—or even meeting the North Korean leader—a very significant event.

The R.O.K. hosted the Conference of the International Telecommunication Union, which produced the Busan Consensus.

As the dangers of Ebola heated up, South Korea stepped forward. We are pleased that the ROK provided both financial assistance, and three teams of health care workers on the ground in Sierra Leone. The Ebola outbreak is not done, and we must all remain vigilant.

The U.S. and Korea work together to spur development and seize economic opportunities around the globe. The U.S. Agency for International Development and the Korea International Cooperation Agency signed a memorandum of understanding just last year that highlights our strengthened collaboration on maternal and child health in Ghana and Ethiopia; our cooperation on developing the energy sector in Ghana in support of the Power Africa Initiative; our cooperation on climate change in Vietnam; and our partnership on innovative approaches to what we call “Grand Challenges for Development,” and public-private partnerships.

This year, Korea is poised to drive further progress on all these issues…

It will be an important player in fighting disease as host of the Global Health Security Agenda.

Within the last month, Korea has pledged $11 million and sent more than 50 medical, and search and rescue workers to assist in Nepal earthquake relief efforts.

As we face water challenges around the world, South Korea is hosting the triennial World Water Forum, a hugely important gathering of tens of thousands of water policymakers and practitioners.

Korea is hosting the secretariat of the new U.N. Green Climate Fund, to address perhaps the greatest threat facing our entire planet—global warming.

The R.O.K. is an important player at the United Nations, here in Manhattan and around the world.

This is remarkable when you take a moment to think about it. Twenty-five years ago, South Korea wasn’t even a full member of the U.N. I had the privilege of working with a young Korean diplomat, who is now your foreign minister Yun Byung-se, to change that.

Now, we have a South Korean as Secretary-General. And last year, the RoK wrapped up a very active two-year stint on the Security Council. Korea’s diplomats led discussions on pressing topics, such as how to protect civilians in armed conflict, and how to counter the proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.

Our ability to advocate for our priorities and advance our values around the world is strengthened by our economic success, so we have accomplished much in recent years to advance our shared prosperity.

An already-strong relationship has grown even stronger under the Korea-U.S. Free Trade agreement, or KORUS. And I don’t have to tell you that your companies have been among the biggest beneficiaries. KORUS also helps supply chains – Korean companies are buying U.S. inputs more often and U.S. companies can more easily use Korean inputs – a win-win that makes both our economies more competitive in the rest of the world.

And more broadly, KORUS has benefitted both our economies. Under the agreement, Korea has become the United States’ 6th largest trading partner with two-way trade in goods totaling over $145 billion in 2014. Nearly 95 percent of consumer and industrial products will be duty free by 2017, creating opportunities for our countries to engage in joint ventures, to make products together, and to engage in friendly competition.

American carmakers, for instance, aim to keep Hyundai-Kia on its toes, even in its home market. Ford had its best year in Korea in 2014, and its best month ever in Korea just last month, selling innovative hybrid and diesel vehicles. It is Korea’s fastest-growing brand. But more important than the performance of any one company is the principle of fair competition – the belief at the heart of the American system that well-regulated competition drives every firm to do better; to be more innovative; to take the risks that drive progress.

Of course, it’s important that KORUS be fully implemented, so that American and Korean companies benefit fully.

Our economic relationship and cooperation extends beyond KORUS. While we are working to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership with our current negotiating partners, we do welcome the RoK’s interest in joining in the future. And aside from TPP, there are many things we can do to strengthen US-Korea economic relations.

I encourage you to support strong intellectual property protections in Korea and abroad. We have a clear shared interest in this—your companies are among the world’s most innovative, and any short-term gain from undermining IP protections will hurt us all more in the long run.

Some of the most important, innovative, world-changing companies in America didn’t even exist, or barely existed 20 years ago—like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Secretary Kerry, in his remarks in Seoul last week, mentioned some of the newer Internet and tech companies cropping up in the RoK, and I hope you view them more as potential collaborators than as simply competitors.

As major beneficiaries of the global trading system and free trade, I ask you to push—both at home in Korea and abroad—for a level playing field for investors; for free trade and global standards; for fair, transparent, and predictable regulations in Korea, to make the Korean market more dynamic, ultimately benefitting all Koreans.

And I ask you to continue giving back to the communities that you’ve joined across America. Samsung’s endowment of a scholarship in honor of Americans who served in the Korean War is greatly appreciated here. Now serving the children and grandchildren of those veterans and others, it continues to make an important impact in making college affordable.

Whenever I speak to American businesses, I encourage them to do the same thing across the region. Corporate philanthropy and social responsibility is at the core of the values that both our countries hold dear.

Building from the strong base of our security and economic ties, I’m confident that South Korea’s global contributions will only get stronger. Both because of the drive and ingenuity of the Korean people, and because of the strength of our friendship. That friendship goes beyond any one moment in time, beyond the relationships between any one set of companies or leaders.

Our relationship reaches back to the founding of the Republic of Korea, and even earlier. And we continuously nurture it, for instance with the large number of South Korean students studying in the United States, and Americans studying in Korea—a number that has risen by an eye-popping 300 percent over the last decade!

Last year, South Koreans were the ninth-largest group of visitors to the United States, spending $6 billion.

These students and visitors are building relationships that will last a lifetime, and as business leaders, you're thinking of an even longer horizon. I mentioned earlier that Dow made the first foreign investment in the Republic of Korea over 50 years ago. And Dow has stayed in RoK, now partnering with LG, SKC, and Samsung to keep pushing innovation forward—both now, and, I’m confident, long after all of us have retired.

So it’s clear that in all things—in security, in business, in promoting our values—the people of the United States and the Republic of Korea go together. Katchi Kapshida!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

NATIONAL GUARD RESPONDS TO CALLS FOR HELP DURING FLOODS

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Right:  Working with first responders, engineers from the 111th Engineer Battalion of the Texas Army National Guard rescue three people from a stalled vehicle stuck in a low water crossing near Granbury, Texas, May 26, 2015. Texas Guardsmen have rescued more than 100 Texans in need during flooding across the state since mid-May. U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Max Perez.

National Guard Responds to Floods in Texas, Oklahoma
By Army Capt. Martha Nigrelle
Texas National Guard

GRANBURY, Texas, May 28, 2015 – Texas National Guard engineers rescued three people here May 26, and searchers continue hunting for survivors and victims of raging flood waters.

Working with local and state first responders, Texas Guard members spent the Memorial Day weekend responding to calls for help all over Texas as heavy rain pounded the region.

“We got a call around midnight from the local sheriff’s department,” said 1st Lt. Max Perez of the Texas Army National Guard’s 236th Engineer Company, 111th Engineer Battalion. “They asked us to check a neighborhood near the Brazos River for flooded homes and anyone in need.”

Perez took his team of engineers and split into two groups to better search the neighborhood for citizens in need.

“The soldiers responded very quickly. They only took 10 or 15 minutes to get ready to go,” Perez said. “They were pretty motivated about the mission –- eager to save lives.”

With the help of a police officer and a firefighter, the engineers combed through the neighborhood, checking on residents.

Stranded Car

“We found a stranded car that couldn’t move,” Perez said. “There was water up to the window of the car.”

The engineers immediately stopped and got out to help, being sure to first secure themselves to a safety line attached to their military vehicle or another stationary object, Perez said. “We saw a family –- a woman, her daughter, about 3 or 4, and a man -- stuck in the car,” he added.

Army Staff Sgt. Thomas Kennington, 111th Forward Support Company, 111th Engineer Battalion, along with several other soldiers, pulled the girl and her mother from the car and brought them to safety, then returned for the man. Once all three people were safe, the team pulled the vehicle to dry land to ensure that it wouldn’t wash away, Perez said.

“This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this,” Kennington said. “When you’re in that moment with lights flashing, water rushing and soldiers around you whose safety you are concerned for, it’s an adrenaline flow.”

Grateful to Help

The engineers said they were grateful to have been able to help their fellow citizens in need that day.

“The little girl thanked me over and over for saving her and her mama,” Kennington said. “That’s what this is all about.”

Perez said he was just thankful to have been asked to help and that he was proud of his soldiers.

“They showed me the reason why they put on the uniform that night,” said Perez. “Their bravery and dedication was amazing.”

Texas Guard members have rescued more than 100 Texans in need during flooding across the state, since mid-May. Figures from the National Guard Bureau indicate that about 240 personnel are on duty in Texas during this emergency.

In Oklahoma, about 10 National Guard personnel were on duty during that state’s flooding emergency. Guard units in both states conducted helicopter rescues, and in Oklahoma, a helicopter crew provided feed to stranded cattle.

U.S. CONGRATULATES PEOPLE OF ETHIOPIA ON THEIR NATIONAL DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Ethiopia's National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
May 28, 2015

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Ethiopia as you celebrate your national day on May 28.

I will never forget the story of a young Ethiopian woman named Haleta Giday, who I met last year in Washington. She had graduated from one of the best schools in your country. She could have had her pick of jobs. She chose to represent women and children who were the victims of violence. And when Haleta saw how many widows went bankrupt after they lost their husbands, she began a campaign to educate women about their legal and financial rights. Women like Haleta are a testament to the bright future facing your country.

Ethiopia has made great strides to promote economic growth and fight poverty. You are on track to meet most of your Millennium Development Goals this year. You are contributing troops to United Nations and Africa Union peacekeeping missions. And you are hosting refugees fleeing conflict and seeking peace.

The United States continues to work with you to advance basic education, improve health and food security, and promote regional security in Somalia and South Sudan. We are also committed to supporting democracy, human rights, and civil society in Ethiopia.

On this joyous day, I wish all Ethiopians peace and prosperity in the year ahead.

DOD DAILY REPORT ON AIRSTRIKES IN IRAQ, SYRIA

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

SOUTHWEST ASIA, May 28, 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 six airstrikes in Syria:

-- Near Hasakah, three airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units and an ISIL trench system, destroying four ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Dayr Az Zawr, three airstrikes struck three ISIL crude oil collection points.

Airstrikes in Iraq

Attack, fighter, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 20 airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:

-- Near Baghdadi, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying an ISIL homemade explosives cache.

-- Near Huwayjah, an airstrike struck an ISIL fighting position.

-- Near Beiji, three airstrikes destroyed five ISIL vehicles, an ISIL building and an ISIL fighting position.

-- Near Fallujah, three airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units, destroying two ISIL heavy machine guns, two ISIL armored vehicles and an ISIL vehicle bomb.

-- Near Kirkuk, an airstrike struck an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Makhmur, an airstrike struck an ISIL mortar position.

-- Near Mosul, five airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, an ISIL checkpoint and an ISIL staging area, destroying two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL armored vehicle and an ISIL trench system.

-- Near Ramadi, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL vehicle bomb.

-- Near Sinjar, three airstrikes struck three ISIL tactical units, destroying three ISIL heavy machine guns, an ISIL mortar position and an ISIL sniper position.

-- Near Tal Afar, an airstrike struck land features denying ISIL a tactical advantage.

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, officials said.

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.

NASA PROVIDES HIGH RESOLUTION IMAGE OF EUROPA

FROM:  NASA



This 12-frame mosaic provides the highest resolution view ever obtained of the side of Jupiter's moon Europa that faces the giant planet. It was obtained on Nov. 25, 1999 by the camera onboard the Galileo spacecraft, a past NASA mission to Jupiter and its moons which ended in 2003. NASA will announce today, Tuesday, May 26, the selection of science instruments for a mission to Europa, to investigate whether it could harbor conditions suitable for life. The Europa mission would conduct repeated close flybys of the small moon during a three-year period.

Numerous linear features in the center of this mosaic and toward the poles may have formed in response to tides strong enough to fracture Europa's icy surface. Some of these features extend for over 1,500 kilometers (900 miles). Darker regions near the equator on the eastern (right) and western (left) limb may be vast areas of chaotic terrain. Bright white spots near the western limb are the ejecta blankets of young impact craters.

North is to the top of the picture and the sun illuminates the surface from the left. The image, centered at 0 latitude and 10 longitude, covers an area approximately 2,500 by 3,000 kilometers. The finest details that can discerned in this picture are about 2 kilometers across (about 1,550 by 1,860 miles). The images were taken by Galileo's camera when the spacecraft was 94,000 kilometers (58,000 miles) from Europa.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.


FTC FINDS VETERINARIANS HAVE INCREASED COMPETITION FROM RETAIL OUTLETS

FROM:  U.S. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 
FTC Report on Pet Medications Industry Finds Veterinarians Face Increasing Competition from Non-Veterinary Retail Outlets
But Greater Consumer Access To Portable Prescriptions and Less-Restrictive Distribution Practices May Enhance Competition Further, According to FTC

A Federal Trade Commission report on the pet medications industry noted fast growth and a changing landscape of suppliers – with veterinarians seeing increased competition from non-traditional sellers, and consumers finding more ways to buy medications for their pets. The report made recommendations for ways to make the pet medications market even more competitive.

 Based on information gathered, in part, from an October 2012 workshop, the report noted that American’s overall spending on their pets has doubled over the last 12 years, and that a significant portion of that spending is devoted to prescription and over-the-counter medications. Of the nearly $56 billion that consumers spent on their pets in 2013, $7.6 billion was spent on prescription and over-the-counter medications for dogs and cats. Significant improvements in traditional pet treatments for flea, tick, and heartworm, as well as the introduction of new treatments for chronic conditions in pets, have contributed to the increase in spending.

As consumer demand for pet medications has increased, so have the channels for distribution, according to the report. While most consumers still get over-the-counter and prescription medications for pets from their veterinarians, the number of retail pharmacies and other retail outlets competing with veterinarians has increased significantly over the last decade. Another option for consumers has been online pharmacies, which have sold pet medications, often at discounted prices, since the late 1990s.

More recently, according to the report, big-box retail stores, supermarkets, and chain retail pharmacies have begun selling some of the largest volume of pet medications, and many of these retailers advertise even greater discounts than online pharmacies.

The report found that despite these market changes and rapid growth, the pet medications industry could become more competitive if:

consumers had greater access to “portable” prescriptions – or prescriptions that can be filled by someone other than their veterinarian;
non-veterinary retailers had greater access to supplies of pet medications, which are currently restricted by exclusive distribution and exclusive dealing arrangements put in place by manufacturers of pet medications; and
consumers had more low-priced generic animal drug options to choose from.
A variety of stakeholders, including pet medication manufacturers and distributors, veterinarians, non-veterinary retailers, pharmacists, and consumer advocates participated in the FTC workshop. In addition to the public workshop, the FTC received and reviewed more than 700 written public comments.

The Commission vote approving issuance of the report was 5-0.

U.S. OFFICIAL'S TESTIMONY BEFORE CONGRESS ON RWANDA

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Rwandan Human Rights and U.S. Relations With Rwanda
Testimony
Steven Feldstein
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations
Washington, DC
May 20, 2015
As Prepared

Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Bass and Members of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. Thank you for holding this important hearing on Rwanda and for the opportunity to speak today.

Rwanda holds a very personal connection for me. Fifteen years ago I first went to Rwanda as a fellow with the International Rescue Committee. I spent a year in the country supporting its efforts to recover from war and genocide – helping unaccompanied children and youth reintegrate back into their communities, working with villages to provide access to clean water, and traveling throughout the country to try to better understand what gives people the capacity to pick up their feet and move forward after such a shattering experience. Living in Rwanda had a profound impact on me and has been a key inspiration for my decision to pursue a career in foreign policy and human rights.

Indeed, Rwanda’s progress since the 1994 genocide has been remarkable. Rwanda’s GDP has grown at an estimated annual rate of 7 percent, youth literacy rates have improved from 65 percent in 2000 to 77 percent in 2010, and child and infant death rates have plummeted, going from an under-5 mortality rate of 152 children out of every 1,000 in 1990 to just 52 out of 1,000 in 2013. Rwanda also plays a crucial role in international peacekeeping operations, and has made great strides in its inclusion of women at all levels of government. Several years ago I paid a return visit to Kigali, and I found a city profoundly changed. Modern office towers have replaced dilapidated buildings. The streets were spotless – thanks in part to a widely acclaimed ban on plastic bags. New businesses seemed to be springing up daily, such as coffee ventures supplying top quality beans to U.S. brands like Starbucks and Peet’s.

But this is only part of the story. Alongside Rwanda’s remarkable development progress, there have been equally consistent efforts to reduce space for independent voices and to diminish the ability of the media, opposition groups, and civil society to operate. This space matters. It is essential not only for democratic progress, but for cementing Rwanda’s impressive economic and development gains.

When it comes to the human rights situation in Rwanda, we see three trends of note. First, political space in Rwanda and the overall human rights environment continues to shrink. There are reports of targeted killings, and an increasing number of reports of disappearances and harassment of civil society groups and opposition parties. Second, this trend is reinforcing the wrong lessons for Rwanda– particularly that a country can continue to experience robust economic growth and foreign investment even while repressing its citizens further and reducing democratic space. This is not a sustainable path. At some point – if unchecked - human rights violations will begin to affect Rwanda’s economic performance, stability and the willingness of foreign investors to pump in outside capital and do business. Third, Rwanda’s human rights records is setting a disturbing precedent for the region and continent. Other countries are carefully watching Rwanda’s model of economic liberalization and political repression. In my discussions, counterparts frequently point to Rwanda and question whether protecting the rights of their citizens matters if they can achieve substantial economic development.

The answer, of course, is that protecting the rights of all of Rwanda’s citizens and residents matters immensely to Rwanda’s long term stability and prosperity, to its continued positive economic trajectory, and to whether other countries recognize they can follow a similar path to greater prosperity. When governments repress fundamental freedoms and universal human rights, international investment can falter because this repression is a sign of societal fissures that can lead to instability and violence. This is also true when governments stifle civil society organizations that provide checks and balances on corruption and increase government accountability. Rwanda can be a model for the region, or it can slip backwards over time, never truly fulfilling its potential.

We have articulated our concerns about Rwanda’s human rights record for years directly to Rwanda’s senior leaders, including President Kagame, and we have highlighted the deteriorating situation in Rwanda, through the State Department’s annual human rights report. The Department’s 2013 human rights report for Rwanda noted that the government targeted political opponents and human rights advocates for harassment, arrest, and abuse. It reported that the government disregarded the rule of law and placed significant restrictions on the enjoyment of freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, as well as restrictions on press freedoms. It observed that the government harassed and placed substantial limitations on local and international NGOs, particularly organizations that monitored and reported on human rights. And it highlighted reports that arbitrary or unlawful killings took place both inside and outside Rwanda.

The credibility of elections provides an important indication of the level of space for independent voices and views. Unfortunately, Presidential elections in 2010 and parliamentary elections in 2013 were beset by irregularities both in the pre-electoral period and on Election Day. Part of this is due to the passing in 2008 of the “genocide ideology” law, which was intended to restrict any actions that could lead to genocide. In practice, the government has used this law to impede the activities of opposition parties, opposition candidates, and civil society organizations. In the 2010 elections, in which President Kagame was reelected with 93 percent of the vote, there was a lack of critical opposition voices in the pre-election period, opposition political parties were unable to register, and two opposition party leaders were arrested on what appear to be spurious charges. Two unregistered political parties were unable to field presidential candidates due to legal or administrative issues.

International observers reported that Rwanda’s 2013 parliamentary elections also failed to meet standards for free and fair elections. While the elections were calm and well organized, there were numerous irregularities, including the presence of security officials in polling rooms, multiple voting, and local election officials filling out ballots in the absence of voters. Rwandan electoral officials also denied U.S. Embassy observers access to polling stations and vote tabulation centers, thereby making it impossible to verify the accuracy of the final vote count and official participation rate. Rwanda’s next presidential election is in 2017, and we are cautiously hopeful that this election will mark an improvement upon previous contests.

Our concerns about restrictions on press freedom, freedom of assembly, expression, and association extend beyond electoral processes. Most Rwandan news outlets follow party lines. Rwandan journalists self-censor their work, and some have fled the country out of fear of government harassment. The Rwandan government has also stepped up its use of a law amended in 2012 that allows security officials to monitor online communications. During the period surrounding the 20-year genocide commemoration in spring 2014, the country’s few remaining independent journalists were increasingly targeted for harassment and arrest. This led the United States to issue a statement in June 2014 expressing deep concern about the arrest and disappearance of dozens of Rwandan citizens and credible reports that individual journalists were being threatened, and in some cases directly censored.

We are also deeply troubled by the succession of what appear to be politically motivated murders of prominent Rwandan exiles. This includes the December 2013 killing of former Rwandan government official Colonel Patrick Karegeya, who was found dead in a hotel room in South Africa. Months later, armed men raided the South African home of former Rwandan Army Chief of Staff Kayumba Nyamwasa, who had previously been targeted for assassination attempts. President Kagame’s 2014 statements about “consequences” for those who betray Rwanda has further heightened these concerns.

Also of deep concern are corpses that appeared in Lake Rweru, along the border between Rwanda and Burundi, between July and October in 2014. Fishermen reported seeing dozens of floating bodies, some bound and wrapped in sacks. Four bodies were recovered and buried near a village in Burundi’s Muyinga Province. Fishermen reported that on the nights of September 21 and 22, Rwandan marines attempted to exhume the bodies, allegedly to return them to Rwanda. Both Rwanda and Burundi called for a joint investigation into the identity and origin of the bodies. In December, Burundi’s minister of foreign affairs accepted an offer of forensic assistance funded by the United States and several other donor governments for an investigation led by the African Union. Rwandan officials stated that the government also supported a joint investigation, but no investigation has been conducted. The United States continues to press the African Union to move forward with an investigation into these killings and accountability for those responsible.

As a close partner with Rwanda on many global and regional issues, we have and will continue to maintain a close dialogue with the government on these concerns, while recognizing their strong policies and actions with respect to issues of concern, such as women’s rights, the rights of LGBTI persons, and access to health and education.

In closing, Rwanda is an important ally. It is a respected contributor to peacekeeping missions throughout the region, it has rebuilt itself from genocide, and it has achieved impressive development and economic gains. I have seen with my own eyes the remarkable progress that Rwanda has made. I believe there is a bright future ahead for its people, which is why Rwanda’s current human rights situation is so personally disappointing to me. Ensuring respect for freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and respect for the rule of law is essential for cementing, and building from these gains. The United States will continue to urge Rwanda to respect the rights of all its citizens.

Thank you very much and I welcome your questions.

OCEAN PHOSPHORUS CYCLE AND THE ROLE OF MICROBES

FROM:  NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Revealing the ocean's hidden fertilizer
Tiny marine plants play major role in phosphorus cycle
Phosphorus is one of the most common substances on Earth.

An essential nutrient for every living organism--humans require approximately 700 milligrams per day--we're rarely concerned about consuming enough because it is in most of the foods we eat.

Despite its ubiquity and living organisms' dependence on it, we know surprisingly little about how it moves, or cycles, through the ocean environment.

Scientists studying the marine phosphorous cycle have known that phosphorus was absorbed by plants and animals and released back to seawater in the form of phosphate as these plants and animals decay and die.

But a growing body of research hints that microbes in the ocean transform phosphorus in ways that remain a mystery.

Hidden role of ocean's microbes

A new study by a research team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Columbia University reveals for the first time a marine phosphorus cycle that is much more complex than previously thought.

The work also highlights the important but previously hidden role that some microbial communities play in using and breaking down forms of this essential element.

A paper reporting the findings is published this week in the journal Science.

"A reason to be excited about this elegant study is in the paper's last sentence: 'the environmental, ecological and evolutionary controls ...remain completely unknown,'" says Don Rice, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research through its Chemical Oceanography Program. "There's still a lot we don't know about the sea."

The work is also supported by an NSF Dimensions of Biodiversity grant.

"This is an exciting new discovery that closes a fundamental knowledge gap in our understanding of the marine phosphorus cycle," says the paper's lead author Ben Van Mooy, a biochemist at WHOI.

Much like phosphorus-based fertilizers boost the growth of plants on land, phosphorus in the ocean promotes the production of microbes and tiny marine plants called phytoplankton, which compose the base of the marine food chain.

Phosphonate mystery

It's been unclear exactly how phytoplankton are using the most abundant forms of phosphorus found in the ocean--phosphates and a strange form of phosphorus called phosphonates.

"Phosphonates have always been a huge mystery," Van Mooy says.

"No one's been able to figure out exactly what they are, and more importantly, if they're made and consumed quickly by microbes, or if they're just lying around in the ocean."

To find out more about phosphonates and how microbes metabolize them, the researchers took samples of seawater at a series of stations during a research cruise from Bermuda to Barbados.

They added phosphate to the samples so they could see the microbes in action.

The research team used ion chromatography onboard ship for water chemistry analyses, which allowed the scientists to observe how quickly microbes reacted to the added phosphate in the seawater.

"The ion chromatograph [IC] separates out the different families of molecules," explains Van Mooy.

"We added radioactive phosphate, then isolated the phosphonate to see if the samples became radioactive, too. It's the radioactive technique that let us see how fast phosphate was transformed to phosphonate."

Enter the microbes

The researchers found that about 5 percent of the phosphate in the shallow water samples was taken up by the microbes and changed to phosphonates.

In deeper water samples, which were taken at depths of 40 and 150 meters (131 feet and 492 feet), about 15 to 20 percent of the phosphates became phosphonates.

"Although evidence of the cycling of phosphonates has been mounting for nearly a decade, these results show for the first time that microbes are producing phosphonates in the ocean, and that it is happening very quickly," says paper co-author Sonya Dyhrman of Columbia University.

"An exciting aspect of this study was the application of the IC method at sea. In near-real-time, we could tell that the phosphate we added was being transformed to phosphonate."

Better understanding of phosphorus cycle

A better understanding of phosphorus cycling in the oceans is important, as it affects the marine food web and, therefore, the ability of the oceans to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The researchers say that solving the mystery of phosphonates also reinforces the need to identify the full suite of phosphorus biochemicals being produced and metabolized by marine microbes, and what physiological roles they serve for these cells.

"Such work will help us further resolve the complexities of how this critical element is cycled in the ocean," Dyhrman adds.

Grants from the Simons Foundation also supported the work.

-NSF-
Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF

VERY PROMISING QUANTUM DOTS

FROM:  NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Many uses in researching quantum dots

These nanoparticles can achieve higher levels of energy when light stimulates them.

It's easier to dissolve a sugar cube in a glass of water by crushing the cube first, because the numerous tiny particles cover more surface area in the water than the cube itself. In a way, the same principle applies to the potential value of materials composed of nanoparticles.

Because nanoparticles are so small, millions of times smaller than the width of a human hair, they have "tremendous surface area," raising the possibility of using them to design materials with more efficient solar-to-electricity and solar-to-chemical energy pathways, says Ari Chakraborty, an assistant professor of chemistry at Syracuse University.

"They are very promising materials," he says. "You can optimize the amount of energy you produce from a nanoparticle-based solar cell."

Chakraborty, an expert in physical and theoretical chemistry, quantum mechanics and nanomaterials, is seeking to understand how these nanoparticles interact with light after changing their shape and size, which means, for example, they ultimately could provide enhanced photovoltaic and light-harvesting properties. Changing their shape and size is possible "without changing their chemical composition," he says. "The same chemical compound in different sizes and shapes will interact differently with light."

Specifically, the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded scientist is focusing on quantum dots, which are semiconductor crystals on a nanometer scale. Quantum dots are so tiny that the electrons within them exist only in states with specific energies. As such, quantum dots behave similarly to atoms, and, like atoms, can achieve higher levels of energy when light stimulates them.

Chakraborty works in theoretical and computational chemistry, meaning "we work with computers and computers only," he says. "The goal of computational chemistry is to use fundamental laws of physics to understand how matter interacts with each other, and, in my research, with light. We want to predict chemical processes before they actually happen in the lab, which tells us which direction to pursue."

These atoms and molecules follow natural laws of motion, "and we know what they are," he says. "Unfortunately, they are too complicated to be solved by hand or calculator when applied to chemical systems, which is why we use a computer."

The "electronically excited" states of the nanoparticles influence their optical properties, he says.

"We investigate these excited states by solving the Schrödinger equation for the nanoparticles," he says, referring to a partial differential equation that describes how the quantum state of some physical system changes with time. "The Schrödinger equation provides the quantum mechanical description of all the electrons in the nanoparticle.

"However, accurate solution of the Schrödinger equation is challenging because of large number of electrons in system," he adds. "For example, a 20 nanometer CdSe quantum dot contains over 6 million electrons. Currently, the primary focus of my research group is to develop new quantum chemical methods to address these challenges. The newly developed methods are implemented in open-source computational software, which will be distributed to the general public free of charge."

Solar voltaics, "requires a substance that captures light, uses it, and transfers that energy into electrical energy," he says. With solar cell materials made of nanoparticles, "you can use different shapes and sizes, and capture more energy," he adds. "Also, you can have a large surface area for a small amount of materials, so you don't need a lot of them."

Nanoparticles also could be useful in converting solar energy to chemical energy, he says. "How do you store the energy when the sun is not out?" he says. "For example, leaves on a tree take energy and store it as glucose, then later use the glucose for food. One potential application is to develop artificial leaves for artificial photosynthesis. There is a huge area of ongoing research to make compounds that can store energy."

Medical imaging presents another useful potential application, he says.

"For example, nanoparticles have been coated with binding agents that bind to cancerous cells," he says. "Under certain chemical and physical conditions, the nanoparticles can be tuned to emit light, which allows us to take pictures of the nanoparticles. You could pinpoint the areas where there are cancerous cells in the body. The regions where the cancerous cells are located show up as bright spots in the photograph."

Chakraborty is conducting his research under an NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. The award supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organization. NSF is funding his work with $622,123 over five years.

As part of the grant's educational component, Chakraborty is hosting several students from a local high school--East Syracuse Mineoa High School--in his lab. He also has organized two workshops for high school teachers on how to use computational tools in their classrooms "to make chemistry more interesting and intuitive to high school students," he says.

"The really good part about it is that the kids can really work with the molecules because they can see them on the screen and manipulate them in 3-D space," he adds. "They can explore their structure using computers. They can measure distances, angles, and energies associated with the molecules, which is not possible to do with a physical model. They can stretch it, and see it come back to its original structure. It's a real hands-on experience that the kids can have while learning chemistry."

-- Marlene Cimons, National Science Foundation
Investigators
Arindam Chakraborty
Related Institutions/Organizations
Syracuse University

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: The President Meets with the Secretary General of NATO

SEVERAL FIFA OFFICIALS INDICTED FOR ROLES IN CORRUPTING INTERNATIONAL SOCCER

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Nine FIFA Officials and Five Corporate Executives Indicted for Racketeering Conspiracy and Corruption

The Defendants Include Two Current FIFA Vice Presidents and the Current and Former Presidents of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF); Seven Defendants Arrested Overseas; Guilty Pleas for Four Individual Defendants and Two Corporate Defendants Also Unsealed

A 47-count indictment was unsealed early this morning in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging 14 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in connection with the defendants’ participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer.  The guilty pleas of four individual defendants and two corporate defendants were also unsealed today.

The defendants charged in the indictment include high-ranking officials of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the organization responsible for the regulation and promotion of soccer worldwide, as well as leading officials of other soccer governing bodies that operate under the FIFA umbrella.  Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner – the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the continental confederation under FIFA headquartered in the United States – are among the soccer officials charged with racketeering and bribery offenses.  The defendants also include U.S. and South American sports marketing executives who are alleged to have systematically paid and agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.

The charges were announced by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, Acting U.S. Attorney Kelly T. Currie of the Eastern District of New York, Director James B. Comey of the FBI, Assistant Director in Charge Diego W. Rodriguez of the FBI’s New York Field Office, Chief Richard Weber of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez of the IRS-CI’s Los Angeles Field Office.

Also earlier this morning, Swiss authorities in Zurich arrested seven of the defendants charged in the indictment, the defendants Jeffrey Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel and José Maria Marin, at the request of the United States.  Also this morning, a search warrant is being executed at CONCACAF headquarters in Miami, Florida.

The guilty pleas of the four individual and two corporate defendants that were also unsealed today include the guilty pleas of Charles Blazer, the long-serving former general secretary of CONCACAF and former U.S. representative on the FIFA executive committee; José Hawilla, the owner and founder of the Traffic Group, a multinational sports marketing conglomerate headquartered in Brazil; and two of Hawilla’s companies, Traffic Sports International Inc. and Traffic Sports USA Inc., which is based in Florida.

“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said Attorney General Lynch.  “It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.  And it has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable.  Today’s action makes clear that this Department of Justice intends to end any such corrupt practices, to root out misconduct, and to bring wrongdoers to justice – and we look forward to continuing to work with other countries in this effort.”

Attorney General Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to the authorities of the government of Switzerland, as well as several other international partners, for their outstanding assistance in this investigation.

“Today’s announcement should send a message that enough is enough,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Currie.  “After decades of what the indictment alleges to be brazen corruption, organized international soccer needs a new start – a new chance for its governing institutions to provide honest oversight and support of a sport that is beloved across the world, increasingly so here in the United States.  Let me be clear: this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Currie extended his thanks to the agents, analysts and other investigative personnel with the FBI New York Eurasian Joint Organized Crime Squad and the IRS-CI Los Angeles Field Office, as well as their colleagues abroad, for their tremendous effort in this case.

“As charged in the indictment, the defendants fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world,” said Director Comey.  “Undisclosed and illegal payments, kickbacks, and bribes became a way of doing business at FIFA.  I want to commend the investigators and prosecutors around the world who have pursued this case so diligently, for so many years.”

“When leaders in an organization resort to cheating the very members that they are supposed to represent, they must be held accountable,” said Chief Weber.  “Corruption, tax evasion and money laundering are certainly not the cornerstones of any successful business.  Whether you call it soccer or football, the fans, players and sponsors around the world who love this game should not have to worry about officials corrupting their sport.  This case isn't about soccer, it is about fairness and following the law.  IRS-CI will continue to investigate financial crimes and follow the money wherever it may lead around the world, leveling the playing field for those who obey the law.”

The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The Enterprise

FIFA is composed of 209 member associations, each representing organized soccer in a particular nation or territory, including the United States and four of its overseas territories.  FIFA also recognizes six continental confederations that assist it in governing soccer in different regions of the world.  The U.S. Soccer Federation is one of 41 member associations of the confederation known as CONCACAF, which has been headquartered in the United States throughout the period charged in the indictment.  The South American confederation, called CONMEBOL, is also a focus of the indictment.

As alleged in the indictment, FIFA and its six continental confederations, together with affiliated regional federations, national member associations and sports marketing companies, constitute an enterprise of legal entities associated in fact for purposes of the federal racketeering laws.  The principal – and entirely legitimate – purpose of the enterprise is to regulate and promote the sport of soccer worldwide.

As alleged in the indictment, one key way the enterprise derives revenue is to commercialize the media and marketing rights associated with soccer events and tournaments.  The organizing entity that owns those rights – as FIFA and CONCACAF do with respect to the World Cup and Gold Cup, their respective flagship tournaments – sells them to sports marketing companies, often through multi-year contracts covering multiple editions of the tournaments.  The sports marketing companies, in turn, sell the rights downstream to TV and radio broadcast networks, major corporate sponsors and other sub-licensees who want to broadcast the matches or promote their brands.  The revenue generated from these contracts is substantial: according to FIFA, 70% of its $5.7 billion in total revenues between 2011 and 2014 was attributable to the sale of TV and marketing rights to the 2014 World Cup.

The Racketeering Conspiracy

The indictment alleges that, between 1991 and the present, the defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted the enterprise by engaging in various criminal activities, including fraud, bribery and money laundering.  Two generations of soccer officials abused their positions of trust for personal gain, frequently through an alliance with unscrupulous sports marketing executives who shut out competitors and kept highly lucrative contracts for themselves through the systematic payment of bribes and kickbacks.  All told, the soccer officials are charged with conspiring to solicit and receive well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for their official support of the sports marketing executives who agreed to make the unlawful payments.

Most of the schemes alleged in the indictment relate to the solicitation and receipt of bribes and kickbacks by soccer officials from sports marketing executives in connection with the commercialization of the media and marketing rights associated with various soccer matches and tournaments, including FIFA World Cup qualifiers in the CONCACAF region, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the CONCACAF Champions League, the jointly organized CONMEBOL/CONCACAF Copa América Centenario, the CONMEBOL Copa América, the CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores and the Copa do Brasil, which is organized by the Brazilian national soccer federation (CBF).  Other alleged schemes relate to the payment and receipt of bribes and kickbacks in connection with the sponsorship of CBF by a major U.S. sportswear company, the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election.

The Indicted Defendants

As set forth in the indictment, the defendants and their co-conspirators fall generally into three categories: soccer officials acting in a fiduciary capacity within FIFA and one or more of its constituent organizations; sports media and marketing company executives; and businessmen, bankers and other trusted intermediaries who laundered illicit payments.

Nine of the defendants were FIFA officials by operation of the FIFA statutes, as well as officials of one or more other bodies:

Jeffrey Webb: Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, Caribbean Football Union (CFU) executive committee member and Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) president.

Eduardo Li: Current FIFA executive committee member-elect, CONCACAF executive committee member and Costa Rican soccer federation (FEDEFUT) president.

Julio Rocha: Current FIFA development officer.  Former Central American Football Union (UNCAF) president and Nicaraguan soccer federation (FENIFUT) president.

Costas Takkas: Current attaché to the CONCACAF president.  Former CIFA general secretary.

Jack Warner: Former FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, CFU president and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) special adviser.

Eugenio Figueredo: Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member.  Former CONMEBOL president and Uruguayan soccer federation (AUF) president.

Rafael Esquivel: Current CONMEBOL executive committee member and Venezuelan soccer federation (FVF) president.

José Maria Marin: Current member of the FIFA organizing committee for the Olympic football tournaments.  Former CBF president.

Nicolás Leoz: Former FIFA executive committee member and CONMEBOL president.

            Four of the defendants were sports marketing executives:

Alejandro Burzaco: Controlling principal of Torneos y Competencias S.A., a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.

Aaron Davidson: President of Traffic Sports USA Inc. (Traffic USA).

Hugo and Mariano Jinkis: Controlling principals of Full Play Group S.A., a sports marketing business based in Argentina, and its affiliates.

And one of the defendants was in the broadcasting business but allegedly served as an intermediary to facilitate illicit payments between sports marketing executives and soccer officials:

José Margulies:  Controlling principal of Valente Corp. and Somerton Ltd.

The Convicted Individuals and Corporations

The following individuals and corporations previously pleaded guilty under seal:

On July 15, 2013, the defendant Daryll Warner, son of defendant Jack Warner and a former FIFA development officer, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging him with wire fraud and the structuring of financial transactions.

On Oct. 25, 2013, the defendant Daryan Warner waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a three-count information charging him with wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and the structuring of financial transactions.  Daryan Warner forfeited over $1.1 million around the time of his plea and has agreed to pay a second forfeiture money judgment at the time of sentencing.

On Nov. 25, 2013, the defendant Charles Blazer, the former CONCACAF general secretary and a former FIFA executive committee member, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a 10-count information charging him with racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, income tax evasion and failure to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).  Blazer forfeited over $1.9 million at the time of his plea and has agreed to pay a second amount to be determined at the time of sentencing.

On Dec. 12, 2014, the defendant José Hawilla, the owner and founder of the Traffic Group, the Brazilian sports marketing conglomerate, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a four-count information charging him with racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.  Hawilla also agreed to forfeit over $151 million, $25 million of which was paid at the time of his plea.

On May 14, 2015, the defendants Traffic Sports USA Inc. and Traffic Sports International Inc. pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy.

All money forfeited by the defendants is being held in reserve to ensure its availability to satisfy any order of restitution entered at sentencing for the benefit of any individuals or entities that qualify as victims of the defendants’ crimes under federal law.

* * * *

The indictment unsealed today has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Raymond J. Dearie of the Eastern District of New York.

The indicted and convicted individual defendants face maximum terms of incarceration of 20 years for the RICO conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction of justice charges.  In addition, Eugenio Figueredo faces a maximum term of incarceration of 10 years for a charge of naturalization fraud and could have his U.S. citizenship revoked.  He also faces a maximum term of incarceration of five years for each tax charge.  Charles Blazer faces a maximum term of incarceration of 10 years for the FBAR charge and five years for the tax evasion charges; and Daryan and Daryll Warner face maximum terms of incarceration of 10 years for structuring financial transactions to evade currency reporting requirements.  Each individual defendant also faces mandatory restitution, forfeiture and a fine.  By the terms of their plea agreements, the corporate defendants face fines of $500,000 and one year of probation.

The government’s investigation is ongoing.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Evan M. Norris, Amanda Hector, Darren A. LaVerne, Samuel P. Nitze, Keith D. Edelman and Brian D. Morris of the Eastern District of New York, with assistance provided by the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and Organized Crime and Gang Section.