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Saturday, February 18, 2012


The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

Friday, February 17, 2012
“Moex Offshore Agrees to $90 Million Partial Settlement of Liability in Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill$70 Million Penalty Is Largest Under the Clean Water Act; Moex Also to Perform Gulf Conservation Projects Worth at Least $20 Million
WASHINGTON – MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC has agreed to settle its liability in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in a settlement with the United States valued at $90 million, announced the Department of Justice, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today.  Approximately $45 million of the $90 million settlement is going directly to the Gulf in the form of penalties or expedited environmental projects.

According to the terms of the settlement, MOEX will pay $70 million in civil penalties to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act resulting from the spill and agreed to spend $20 million to facilitate land acquisition projects in several Gulf states that will preserve and protect in perpetuity habitat and resources important to water quality and other environmental features of the Gulf of Mexico region.  At the time of the spill, MOEX was a minority investor in the lease for the Macondo well. It no longer owns any share of the lease.

The terms of today’s settlement do not affect the potential liability of – or recoveries from – other parties involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Beginning with a well blowout and explosion on April 20, 2010, the owners and operators of the Macondo Well and the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon allowed millions of barrels of oil to escape into the Gulf of Mexico, affecting the entire region.  Oil spills can cause both immediate and long-term harm to people’s health and the environment.  The Clean Water Act provides for civil penalties for such discharges.  This is the largest civil penalty ever recovered under the Clean Water Act.

“The Department of Justice has not wavered in its commitment to hold all responsible parties fully accountable for what stands as the largest oil spill in U.S. history,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “This landmark settlement is an important step – but only a first step – toward achieving accountability and protecting the future of the Gulf ecosystem by funding critical habitat preservation projects.”

“This will move the Gulf Coast along in its recovery as it continues to rebound from the largest spill in U.S. history,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp.  “The settlement demonstrates our firm commitment to hold accountable those who pollute our environment.”

“This is good news for the Gulf Coast communities that are continuing to rebuild their economy and restore their ecosystem. This administration is going to stand with the people here to ensure a full recovery from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Dedicating funds to actions that restore the local waters is a vital part of restoring these communities.  As someone who grew up on the Gulf Coast, I know how important clean water is to the lives and livelihoods of the people here, and I know we need to take every possible action to get the ecosystem here on a path to long-term restoration.”

As part of the settlement, MOEX Offshore has agreed to pay $70 million in civil penalties, of which, $45 million will go to the United States.  The money will go toward replenishing the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, where by law it will be available to pay for response actions, cleanup and damages caused by future spills.  The remaining penalty will go to Gulf states that participate in the settlement.  Those states will receive penalty payments as follows: $6.75 million to Louisiana, $5 million each to Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, and $3.25 million to Texas.
MOEX Offshore has also agreed to secure and protect properties of ecological significance for the Gulf habitats.  MOEX Offshore will ensure that properties within the states of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Florida are transferred to – or acquired by – state governments, non-profit groups, land trusts or other appropriate entities, to protect those properties from development.  In all, these projects are expected to cost at least $20 million. The negotiation process with MOEX included numerous discussions with the Gulf states, who have been indispensible in reaching this important agreement.

This settlement does not affect the government’s claims against any other defendant in the Deepwater Horizon lawsuit that was filed on Dec. 15, 2010.  The trial of the first phase of the case is set to begin in federal district court in New Orleans on Feb. 27, 2012.

MOEX Offshore is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the MOEX USA Corporation.  Mitsui Oil Exploration Co. Ltd. is the corporate parent of MOEX USA, which in turn is owned by Mitsui & Co. Ltd. of Japan.”


The following excerpt is from the SEC website:

“On Tuesday, February 14, 2012, United States District Judge Robert W. Sweet of the Southern District of New York issued an Opinion in favor of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission finding that United Kingdom-based hedge fund adviser Pentagon Capital Management PLC (PCM) and Lewis Chester, PCM’s Chief Executive Officer, engaged in securities fraud in violation of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Specifically, Judge Sweet found that Defendants PCM and Chester orchestrated a scheme to defraud mutual funds in the United States through late trading from February 2001 through September 2003. Late trading refers to the practice of placing orders to buy, redeem, or exchange U.S. mutual fund shares after the time as of which the funds calculate their net asset value (usually as of the close of trading at 4:00 p.m. ET), but receiving the price based on the net asset value already determined as of 4:00 p.m. ET. Judge Sweet found that the Defendants “intentionally, and egregiously violated the federal securities laws through a scheme of late trading” through broker-dealer Trautman Wasserman & Company, Inc. (TW&Co.), and found that the scheme was “broad ranging over the course of several years and in no sense isolated.”

As a result of Defendants’ conduct, the Court found that PCM and Chester violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act, Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act, and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and granted the Commission’s request to enjoin PCM and Chester from future violations of those provisions. Judge Sweet further found PCM and Chester, together with Relief Defendant Pentagon Special Purpose Fund, Ltd., PCM’s advisory client, jointly and severally liable for disgorgement of $38,416,500 of profits from the U.S. mutual fund trades executed through TW&Co. plus prejudgment interest. Finally, Judge Sweet imposed civil penalties against Defendants in the amount of $38,416,500, equal to Defendants’ pecuniary gain for late trades through TW&Co.

The Court found in Defendants’ favor regarding charges of deceptive market timing of U.S. mutual funds.

Chester, age 43, is a resident of London, England. PCM is an investment adviser and investment manager based in London, England, and it is registered with the United Kingdom Financial Services Authority. Pentagon Special Purpose Fund, Ltd. is an international business company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.”


The following excerpt is from the Department of Labor website:

“SAN ANTONIO — The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Fresh From Texas with eight serious violations for exposing workers to numerous electrical hazards at the company's facility in San Antonio, as well as two other-than-serious violations for inadequate record keeping. Proposed penalties total $40,500.

"Electrical hazards can lead to the loss of a worker's life by electrocution. OSHA will not tolerate an employer failing to take responsibility for keeping the workplace safe," said Jeff Funke, OSHA's area director in San Antonio. "Fortunately, in this case, no one was injured."

The serious violations include failing to ensure that workers were provided with adequate working space around electrical equipment and that the working space was not used for storage, properly cover electrical equipment such as condenser units, ensure high-voltage equipment was not exposed to forklift traffic, protect electrical circuits from overload to prevent a possible fire and remove damaged electrical cords from service. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
The other-than-serious violations include failing to adequately describe occupational injuries and illnesses on the OSHA 300 log and properly certify the OSHA 300A summary form for injuries and illnesses. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

The company employs about 150 workers who package and transport produce from the San Antonio site. It has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's San Antonio Area Office or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.”


The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

Friday, February 17, 2012
“Virginia Man Accused of Attempting to Bomb U.S. Capitol in Suicide AttackExplosives Had Been Rendered Inoperable by Authorities and Posed No Threat
WASHINGTON – A 29-year-old man residing in Alexandria, Va., was arrested for allegedly attempting to detonate a bomb in a suicide attack on the U.S. Capitol Building as part of what he intended to be a terrorist operation.

The charges were announced by Neil MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office.

Amine El Khalifi, an immigrant from Morocco who is illegally present in the United States, was charged today by criminal complaint with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against property that is owned and used by the United States.  He made his initial appearance today at 4:15 p.m. before Judge T. Rawles Jones Jr.  If convicted, El Khalifi faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

The arrest of El Khalifi was the culmination of an undercover operation during which he was closely monitored by the FBI Washington Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).  The explosives and firearm that he allegedly sought and attempted to use had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement and posed no threat to the public.
“The complaint filed today alleges that Amine El Khalifi sought to blow himself up in the U.S. Capitol Building,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “El Khalifi allegedly believed he was working with al-Qaeda and devised the plot, the targets and the methods on his own.”
“Today’s case underscores the continuing threat we face from homegrown violent extremists,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco.  “Thanks to a coordinated law enforcement effort, El Khalifi’s alleged plot was thwarted before anyone was harmed.”
“This individual allegedly followed a twisted, radical ideology that is not representative of the Muslim community in the United States,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “He became known to the JTTF because of his stated desire to carry out attacks in the U.S., specifically, the U.S. Capitol building.  This arrest is the result of dedicated special agents, task force officers and intelligence analysts from the FBI and our partner law enforcement agencies that make up the JTTF.”

According to the criminal complaint affidavit, in January 2011, a confidential human source reported to the FBI that El Khalifi met with other individuals at a residence in Arlington, Va., on Jan. 11, 2011.  During this meeting, one individual produced what appeared to be an AK-47, two revolvers and ammunition.  El Khalifi allegedly expressed agreement with a statement by this individual that the “war on terrorism” was a “war on Muslims” and said that the group needed to be ready for war.

The affidavit alleges that El Khalifi sought to be associated with an armed extremist group, and on Dec 1, 2011, he was introduced by a man he knew as “Hussien” to an individual named “Yusuf,” who was, in reality, an undercover law enforcement officer.  Throughout December 2011 and January 2012, El Khalifi allegedly proposed to carry out a bombing attack. His proposed targets included a building that contained U.S. military offices, as well as a synagogue, U.S. Army generals and a restaurant frequented by military officials.

During meetings with the undercover officer, El Khalifi allegedly handled an AK-47and indicated his desire to conduct an operation in which he would use a gun and kill people face-to-face.  He also allegedly selected a restaurant in Washington, D.C., for a bombing attack; handled an explosive as an example of what could be used in the attack; conducted surveillance to determine the best place and time for the bombing and purchased materials as part of the planned operation.

On Jan. 7, 2012, “Hussien” informed El Khalifi that he was an al-Qaeda operative.  El Khalifi allegedly discussed the possibility that his planned bombing of the restaurant would be followed by a second attack against a military installation to be conducted by others who El Khalifi believed to be associated with al-Qaeda. The affidavit alleges that El Khalifi understood that his attack on the restaurant would be part of an al-Qaeda operation that would include both his restaurant bombing and the attack against a military installation.
The affidavit alleges that on Jan. 15, 2012, El Khalifi stated that he had modified his plans for his attack.  Rather than conduct an attack on a restaurant, he wanted to conduct a suicide attack at the U.S. Capitol Building. That same day at a quarry in West Virginia, as a demonstration of the effects of the proposed suicide bomb operation, El Khalifi dialed a cell phone number that he believed would detonate a bomb placed in the quarry.  The test bomb detonated, and El Khalifi expressed a desire for a larger explosion in his attack.  He also selected Feb. 17, 2012, as the day of the operation, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit alleges that over the next month, El Khalifi traveled to the U.S. Capitol Building on multiple occasions to conduct surveillance, choosing the spot where he would be dropped off to enter the building for the martyrdom operation, the specific time for the attack and the method he would use to avoid attracting the attention of law enforcement. El Khalifi also asked Hussien to remotely detonate the bomb he would be wearing on the day of the attack if El Khalifi encountered problems with security officers, and to provide El Khalifi with a gun that he could use during the attack to shoot any officers who might attempt to stop him.

On February 17, 2012, El Khalifi allegedly traveled to a parking garage near the U.S. Capitol Building.  El Khalifi took possession of a MAC-10 automatic weapon and put on a vest containing what he believed to be a functioning bomb.  Unbeknownst to El Khalifi, both the weapon and the bomb had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement.  El Khalifi walked alone from the vehicle toward the United States Capitol, where he intended to shoot people and detonate the bomb.  El Khalifi was arrested and taken into custody before exiting the parking garage.

This investigation is being conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gordon Kromberg and Michael Ben’Ary of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, as well as Trial Attorneys Joseph Kaster and Courtney Sullivan from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

The charges contained in the criminal complaint are mere allegations.  As in any criminal case, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”

Friday, February 17, 2012


The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

Thursday, February 16, 2012
“California Resident and Company Plead Guilty to Conspiracy to Export Computer-Related Equipment to Iran.  An Additional Company Owner Pleads Guilty to Obstruction of Justice.

WASHINGTON – Massoud Habibion, 49, aka “Matt Habibion” and “Matt Habi,” a U.S. citizen and co-owner of a Costa Mesa, Calif., company, Online Micro LLC, pleaded guilty today in the District of Columbia to conspiracy to illegally export computers from the United States to Iran through the United Arab Emirates (UAE).    Additionally, Mohsen Motamedian, 44, aka “Max Motamedian” and “Max Ehsan,” a U.S. citizen and co-owner of Online Micro, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

The guilty pleas were announced by Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; John Morton, Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); David W. Mills, Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement, Department of Commerce; and Adam Szubin, Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Department of the Treasury.

At a hearing today before U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle, Habibion and Online Micro each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and to defraud the United States.   Motamedian pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.   Judge Huvelle set sentencing for May 16, 2012.   The maximum sentence for Habibion and the company is five years in prison and $1 million.   The maximum sentence for Motamedian is 20 years in prison.

Under the terms of the plea and related civil settlements with the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and OFAC, Habibion and his company have agreed to forfeiture of a money judgment in the amount of $1.9 million. In addition, Habibion and Online Micro are denied export privileges for 10 years, although the denial order will be suspended provided that neither Habibion nor Online Micro commit any export violations during the 10-year probationary period and comply with the terms of the criminal plea agreements and sentences.  Motamedian separately agreed to a $50,000 monetary penalty to settle a civil charge that he solicited a false statement to federal law enforcement agents.

Habibion and Motamedian were arrested on a criminal complaint in California on April 7, 2011. The defendants and their company were later indicted on April 21, 2011.

Habibion and Online Micro today admitted that they willfully conspired with a company operating in Dubai, UAE, and Tehran, Iran, to procure U.S.-origin computers from the United States and export those computers from the United States to Iran through Dubai without first obtaining licenses or authorizations from OFAC.

In or around May 2007, Online Micro purchased 1,000 computer units from Dell Inc. for approximately $500,000.   Later that year, Dell began receiving service calls concerning Dell computer units from individuals in Iran, and after conducting an internal investigation, suspended Online Micro from placing further orders with Dell.

Beginning around Nov. 9, 2009, and continuing through December 2010, Habibion and Online Micro conspired with Company X, a firm operating in Dubai and Tehran, to procure U.S.-origin computer-related goods and export those goods to Iran via the UAE.   During the scope of the conspiracy, defendants Online Micro and Habibion sold and exported from the United States to Company X numerous shipments of computer-related goods, worth a total of more than $4,904,962, with knowledge that the majority of those goods were destined for Iran.

Online Micro also caused Shipper’s Export Declarations to be filed with U.S. Customs and Border Protection falsely identifying the ultimate destination of the goods as the UAE.   During the course of the investigation, Habibion and Motamedian told a government cooperator (Individual A) to lie to U.S. law enforcement officials about the transactions.   Specifically, the defendants told Individual A to lie about Iran being the true ultimate destination for the goods and counseled him to tell U.S. law enforcement agents that the computer-related goods remained in Dubai.

Motamedian and Habibion also acknowledged to Individual A that the sanctions “are serious” and “were not a joke.”  Yet Motamedian told Individual A to “Say, ‘I sold over there’ and have your guys make up invoices;” and “[d]efinitely delete your communication with [Company X’s agent in Iran] on Yahoo.”  Similarly, Habibion stated to Individual A that he should tell U.S. law enforcement agents that the computer-related goods remained in Dubai: “Well, you can say, ‘I kept the goods there.’  How does he know what happened?”

This investigation was conducted by the ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) field offices in San Diego and Orange County, Calif.  U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s BIS Los Angeles Field Office also assisted in the investigation.

Senior Attorney Adrienne Frazier from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s BIS, and Assistant Director of Enforcement Michael Geffroy and Enforcement Officer Elizabeth Beam from OFAC handled the civil settlements for their agencies, respectively.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys T. Patrick Martin and Anthony Asuncion from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, and Trial Attorney Jonathan C. Poling from the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.”

Thursday, February 16, 2012


The following excerpt is from the U.S. Department of State:

 Media NoteOffice of the SpokespersonWashington, DC
February 15, 2012
 “On the occasion of the visit of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, the United States and China have expanded the U.S.-China EcoPartnerships program with the admission of two more EcoPartnerships this week, bringing the total number of EcoPartnerships to 15. The EcoPartnerships program is aimed at developing new models of mutually beneficial voluntary arrangements between a range of state, local, and private sector organizations, to promote energy security, economic growth, and environmental sustainability in both countries. The United States and China signed theFramework for EcoPartnerships Under the U.S.-China Ten Year Framework for Cooperation on Energy and Environment (“EcoPartnerships Framework”) in Beijing in December 2008. The two new partnerships are: · Cities of Columbus, Ohio, and Hefei, Anhui province: These sister cities will form an EcoPartnerhip together with flagship universities in those cities. This EcoPartnership plans to use the resources from Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research and Hefei University of Technology to develop and apply electric vehicle technologies and address other energy and environmental issues facing both cities, such as lake and wetland conservation, waste and sewage treatment, energy conservation in buildings, and urban planning. The two cities plan to work with private sector funding sources, local manufacturing, and academic centers in order to strengthen ties, mitigate negative impacts on the environment, and create green jobs.

 · The Nature Conservancy’s Great River Partnership and the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture’s Yangtze River Fishery Administration: This EcoPartnership will work to advance river basin management and conservation of large river systems and will try to develop new capacity for sustainable agriculture in both countries. This EcoPartnership will use each partner’s unique strengths to develop new systems to monitor and manage large river systems such as the Mississippi and Yangtze Rivers.


The  following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012
“WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that a federal grand jury in Kentucky returned a 10-count indictment against Barren County Sheriff Christopher Eaton and Sheriff’s Deputies Danny McCown, Aaron Bennett, Adam Minor and Eric Guffey.

The indictment charges that the defendants used unreasonable force on and injured a man they captured following a vehicle pursuit on Feb. 24, 2011, thereby violating his civil rights.  According to the indictment, the defendants assaulted and aided and abetted others in assaulting the victim. Eaton further failed to prevent officers under his command from assaulting the victim.

The indictment also charges each defendant with making false statements to the FBI concerning the assault.   In addition, Eaton was charged with falsifying police reports in an effort to cover up the assault, and for tampering with a witness by directing him to create a false report concerning the incident.

The civil rights charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for each count, and the false statements charges carry a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison.   Additionally, Eaton faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each count of witness tampering and for falsification of reports.

This case is being investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Roy Conn and Sanjay Patel of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


“Craters appear well defined on icy Rhea in front of the hazy orb of the much larger moon Titan in this Cassini spacecraft view of these two Saturn moons. Lit terrain seen here is on the leading hemispheres of Rhea and Titan. North on the moons is up and rotated 13 degrees to the left. The limb, or edge of the visible disk, of Rhea is slightly overexposed in this view. The image was taken in visible green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Dec. 10, 2011. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.2 million miles (2 million kilometers) from Titan and at a Sun-Titan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 109 degrees. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 810,000 miles (1.3 million kilometers) from Rhea and at a Sun-Rhea-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 109 degrees. Image scale is 8 miles (12 kilometers) per pixel on Titan and 5 miles (8 kilometers) per pixel on Rhea. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute “ The above excerpt and picture are from the NASA website.


The following excerpt is from the Department of Health and Human Services: Free preventive care also provided to 32.5 million in Medicare  "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today that the Affordable Care Act provided approximately 54 million Americans with at least one new free preventive service in 2011 through their private health insurance plans. Secretary Sebelius also announced that an estimated 32.5 million people with Medicare received at least one free preventive benefit in 2011, including the new Annual Wellness Visit, since the health reform law was enacted. Together, this means an estimated 86 million Americans were helped by health reform’s prevention coverage improvements. The new data were released in two new reports from HHS. “Americans of all ages can now get the preventive services they need, like mammograms and the new Annual Wellness Visit, free of charge, as a result of the new health care law,” Secretary Sebelius said. “With more people taking advantage of these benefits, more lives can be saved, and costly, and often burdensome, diseases can be prevented or caught earlier.” The Affordable Care Act requires many insurance plans to provide coverage without cost sharing to enrollees for a variety of preventive health services, such as colonoscopy screening for colon cancer, Pap smears and mammograms for women, well-child visits, and flu shots for all children and adults. The law also makes proven preventive services free for most people on Medicare. The report on private health insurance coverage also examined the expansion of free preventive services in minority populations.  The results showed that an estimated 6.1 million Latinos, 5.5 million Blacks, 2.7 million Asian Americans and 300,000 Native Americans with private insurance received expanded preventive benefits coverage in 2011as a result of the new health care law. The report discussing Medicare preventive services found that more than 25.7 million Americans in traditional Medicare received free preventive services in 2011. The report also looked at Medicare Advantage plans and found that 9.3 million Americans – 97 percent of those in individual Medicare Advantage plans – were enrolled in a plan that offered free preventive services.  Assuming that people in Medicare Advantage plans utilized preventive services at the same rate as those with traditional Medicare, an estimated 32.5 million people benefited from Medicare’s coverage of prevention with no cost sharing.”


The following excerpt is from the NASA website: WASHINGTON -- NASA announced Monday a $17.7 billion budget request for fiscal year 2013 supporting an ambitious program of space exploration that will build on new technologies and proven capabilities to expand America's reach into the solar system. Despite a constrained fiscal environment, the NASA FY13 budget continues to implement the space science and exploration program agreed to by President Obama and a bipartisan majority in Congress, laying the foundation for ground-breaking discoveries here on Earth and in deep space, including new destinations, such as an asteroid and Mars by 2035. "This budget in-sources jobs, creates capabilities here at home -- and strengthens our workforce, all while opening the next great chapter in American exploration," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "And as we reach for new heights in space, we're creating new jobs right here on Earth, helping to support an economy that's built to last." The NASA budget includes $4 billion for space operations and $4 billion for exploration activities in the Human Exploration Operations mission directorate, including close-out of the Space Shuttle Program, and funding for the International Space Station, $4.9 billion for science, $669 million for space technology and $552 million for aeronautics research. "This budget puts us on course to explore farther into space than ever before, revealing the unknown and fueling the nation's economy for years to come," Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. "We are committed to ensuring that our astronauts are once again launched from U.S. soil on American-made spacecraft, and this budget provides the funds to make this a reality." The budget supports NASA's continued work to develop the Space Launch System, a new heavy-lift rocket to carry astronauts to destinations such as an asteroid and Mars, and the Orion crew capsule in which they will travel. Included are resources for final preparation and manufacturing milestones for Orion's 2014 Exploration Flight Test 1 and preliminary design reviews of major Space Launch System elements. NASA has prioritized funding for its partnership with the commercial space industry to facilitate crew and cargo transport to the station. The $830 million for this work in the FY13 budget advances progress towards a vibrant space industry that will create well-paying, high-tech jobs to the U.S. economy, and reduce America's reliance on foreign systems. The budget also enhances use of the International Space Station to improve life on Earth and help make the next great leaps in scientific discovery and exploration. NASA's science budget supports a balanced portfolio of innovative science missions that will reach farther into our solar system, reveal unknown aspects of our universe, and provide critical data about our home planet. The agency will continue to develop and conduct critical tests on the James Webb Space Telescope leading to its planned launch in 2018. As the successor to Hubble Space Telescope, James Webb again will revolutionize our understanding of the universe. NASA also is developing an integrated strategy to ensure the next steps for the robotic Mars Exploration Program will support science as well as long-term human exploration goals. Space Technology work supported in the budget will drive advances in new high-payoff space technologies such as laser communications and zero-gravity propellant transfer, seeding innovation that will expand our capabilities in the skies and in space, supporting economic vitality, lowering the cost of other government and commercial space activities, and helping to create new jobs and expand opportunities for a skilled workforce. NASA supports its commitment to enhancing aviation safety and airspace efficiency, and reducing the environmental impact of aviation by helping to accelerate the nation's transition to the Next Generation Air Transportation System through investments in revolutionary concepts for air vehicles and air traffic management. "The 2013 budget moves us forward into tangible implementation of a sustainable and affordable exploration program," NASA's Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Robinson said.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


The following excerpt is from the U.S. State Department website: Special BriefingState Department and USAID Officials Washington, DC February 13, 2012 MR. VENTRELL: Our briefers have to get up to the Hill in about 40-45 minutes (inaudible). This session is on background. We have State and AID officials, so since there’s a mix, let’s just call this Administration officials. (Inaudible). I’ll let the three of them introduce themselves very briefly, and then I’ll moderate the questions. So let’s go ahead. You want to start? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Sure. I’m [Senior Administration Official One]. I’m [position withheld]. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: [Senior Administration Official Two], [position withheld]. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: [Senior Administration Official Three], [position withheld]. MR. VENTRELL: Okay. Do any of you have any remarks you want to say before we go for questions, or we just want to go? Okay, Josh, you look like you’re ready to begin. Dig in. QUESTION: Okay. Can we talk about the fact that Europe, Eurasia, South Central Asia – I’m looking at page 11 in the briefing book, where it says assistance to those countries will be zeroed out. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, right. QUESTION: Let me finish. And democracy funding, 115 million zeroed out. And migration and refugee assistance, minus 250 million, which is all in the OCO, which is -- SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: So let me explain the – Europe – and this is Europe and Central Asia money and the democracy. Those are – we’ve traditionally funded assistance in Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia in a separate account. This year, we are taking those funds and we are funding those programs in our normal assistance accounts – economic support funds, the INL programs, and global health programs. So if you look at the tables in the back, you’ll see those countries funded. We’re discontinuing that account. That account was set up – it had morphed over time but it originally – 20 years ago when the Berlin Wall fell, it was a separate set of accounts that were set up for that region. Twenty years have gone by, several countries have graduated into market democracy, into the international institutions – the EU, NATO – and we felt it was time to sort of normalize the assistance for those countries in the regular budget so that we no longer have a separate carve-out. So there is money in the budget for those reasons. The same thing with Democracy Fund. The Democracy Fund is something that Congress always provides us as a distinct account. We have put the democracy money into the Economic Support Fund account. We do this every year. So it looks like it’s a zeroing out, but it really isn’t a zeroing out. You have to kind of go into the depth of the budget to sort of get that. On humanitarian assistance, you’re right. Most of that reduction from 2012 is in the refugee assistance account. We feel the $4 billion, roughly, that we have in total for humanitarian assistance in the food aid account, the refugee accounts, and the disaster assistance accounts are sufficient to allow us to do what we have to do. Plus I would just say two other things: One, a portion of the Middle East Incentive Fund is – we anticipate it could be used to deal with humanitarian emergencies in that region owing from the transition. We’ve already spent about $150 million over the last year in humanitarian assistance to Libya and in other places. So that’s a place we can sort of stretch the main accounts. And we also have some money in the Feed the Future program that goes for more traditional development food aid programs. That will also help us stretch the account. So I think we’re in pretty good shape on those accounts. QUESTION: Thanks. A very quick follow-up. So the 250 from the migration and refugee assistance, that was all in the OCO, right? And then -- SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, in 2012, it was split between the base budget and there was a few hundred million dollars that was put in the OCO. QUESTION: Yeah. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: As the Deputy Secretary said, we’re – our OCO proposal for 2013 is very much like it was last year. It’s purely Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iraq. It doesn’t have any of the humanitarian assistance in the OCO. So the – for all of you to get an apples to apples comparison from 2013 to 2012, you’ve got to look totals to totals, because we’re – our methodology is different. QUESTION: So practically, is there going to be a scale-down of migration and refugee assistance in those three countries? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: No. I think we have the flexibility to use the existing set of accounts to deal with humanitarian issues in those countries. QUESTION: I’ll let someone else. MR. VENTRELL: Other questions? Go ahead. QUESTION: Can I ask you something about the Kerry-Lugar number going down to about 10 – from 1.5 to 1.1? I’m just trying to understand now – wasn’t it supposed to be 1.5 (inaudible)? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Sure. The authorization bill, the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill you refer to, authorized up to $1.5 billion over five years. This was the bill that was enacted in 2010. For the first couple of years, we have requested $1.5 billion. The Congress – and through the negotiation over the budget, we never got that high. And so given the budget constraints, given the fact that we’re under caps, and the fact that we really had to look very hard at our spending, we have since decided to request something a little bit lower than the 1.5. We did the same thing last year. So we’re at about 1.1 billion for Kerry-Lugar – for the non-military assistance program. It just means that to get to the $7.5 billion of what we refer to as Kerry-Lugar-Berman funding, it’s just going to take us a little bit longer. But we still have a very, very robust commitment to Pakistan. In addition to the 1.1, there is money in military assistance, the traditional foreign military assistance, which is part of a multiyear agreement. And as the Deputy Secretary said, even though we have our challenges with the government right now, we wanted to make sure that the budget reflected the nature of the program, its importance to our security, importance to our efforts in that region. So a $2.5 billion Pakistan budget, which includes those two things plus the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund, is a – is really, I think, a strong statement of support for what we’re doing there. QUESTION: So just to follow up, you’re saying that the Kerry-Lugar, the 7.5 billion, is now going to take longer than five years? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, it’s going to. That’s an authorization bill. That wasn’t an appropriation. So we’re – if we’re not requesting nor are we receiving from the Congress the full 1.5, it’s going to take us a little bit longer. But an assistance program at over a billion dollars is still – it’s still one of the largest recipients of assistance in our budget. And so -- QUESTION: I’m sorry. How much did you get last year? I’m looking for it. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We had about $1 billion in non-military assistance for Pakistan in 2012. QUESTION: So if you’re asking for the 1.1, do you anticipate that it’s going to be a lot less than that, or you think you’ll get -- SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We’ve been having – the Pakistan levels have been hovering around that level for the last few years, so I’m pretty confident that that’s sort of the sustained level that we’re going to get if the Congress, although, as the Deputy Secretary said, this is a proposal. We’re going to have a – we have a lot of negotiation to do, so we’re going to make the best argument we can and we’ll have to work out with the Congress ultimately what the final appropriation’s going to be. MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead. QUESTION: Hi. Lisa Friedman with ClimateWire. Thanks. The climate change funding that Administrator Shah mentioned – the priorities seem very broad. Can you talk about what this is going to fund, and is this new money? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, it’s a sustaining – it’s a sustained commitment we have to climate change programs in the developing world. I’ll saying something, and I’ll ask [Senior Administration Three] to amplify. When we began the Global Climate Change Initiative, we were doing so around the Copenhagen commitments we made a few years ago. And we’ve largely met those, the $6 billion in climate financing – this is over a period of years. So now we’re into a sort of sustained level of effort on climate dealing from – everything from clean energy to resiliency to forest – sustainable forestry and other things. So this is a continuation of programs that we funded, and whether – I don’t know what your definition of new money is, but it is an allocation we have as part of our overall budget that’s part of our overall tax that’s going to go for the programs – I don’t know, [Senior Administration Official Three], if you want to say anything about -- SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Well, it’s just – [Senior Administration Official One] is exactly right. This is not – these are not new programs. They’re continuations of the same strategies that we’ve had, focusing in three areas: adaptation, clean energy, and sustainable landscapes. We’re still focusing on things like the RED commitment, although as I think one of the things that will become clear when you go into the details is that commitment is probably going to have to stretch another year to meet that billion dollars, given the envelope we’re working under. And – but it’s the same commitments in the same three categories. And obviously, the State and AID piece is just one piece of the total. There are also the contributions through Treasury to the – to climate-related World Bank funds. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: So if you add the Treasury direct funding and you add our direct funding, we’re at – almost at $769 million worth of climate funding in the total U.S. Government budget. MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead, Elise. QUESTION: I have a couple of things. So Burma – this is like the – when was the last time you gave kind of non-emergency -- SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We’ve been doing – Burma. We’ve been doing programs in Burma for the last few years. This is – we’re trying this year in the 2013 budget to keep the levels at sustained and a higher sustained level, given the fact that there’s an opening there now. And I imagine assistance from humanitarian accounts in other parts of the budget over – when we’re in actual 2013, the numbers will grow a little bit. So we’re really trying – as late as those breaking developments were in our budget process, we’re trying to make sure to keep the number as high as (inaudible). QUESTION: Okay. And then on the Middle East and North African Incentive Fund, so you just arrived at the 770 kind of, not randomly, but it doesn’t look like you have any kind of ideas on any -- SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Right. So let me explain a little bit more about this fund, because it’s an important part of the budget. First of all, the 770 million – I forget who asked the Deputy Secretary whether it was new versus moving around. There is 70 – 70 million of it is programs that are the – it’s the Middle East Partnership Initiative and a small USAID program called OMEP – Office of Middle East -- SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Office of Middle East Partnerships. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: -- Partnerships. Those have been funded previously in the past. That’s 70 million. Seven hundred million is, I would say, quote, new money. It’s money that we have, through the various tradeoffs in the budget – have identified to allow us to help with the democratic transitions in the Middle East. A little bit of background is helpful here. We came to the Middle East change without any resources dedicated to this in the budget. So over the last year, since last January, we have reprogrammed, carved out, made available almost $800 million for the response. That includes some of the Egypt money from their reprogramming out of their pipeline, the new Middle East response fund in 2011, a similar fund in 2012. All the humanitarian assistance is a – there’s a – our effort to respond to the transitions over the past year have been robust. We needed a way in 2013 to sustain – have a sustainable way to fund these things. You’re right. There’s nothing magic about 700 million. It’s not allocated way in advance. I wouldn’t know how to allocate that right now. But there’s a few key points that I would make. One is we’re trying to recast the relationship with these new governments in a way that we haven’t done before. We want to focus more on economic growth; we want to focus more on democratic transitions. And the budget for the Middle East region historically has not been focused on those things. It has been largely security assistance related. And we needed to expand the envelope, if you will, of funding to that region to allow us to do those things which were not being done in the past. And two is -- QUESTION: So you’re not doing it within the individual country? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: No. This is over and above the bilateral programs to places like West Bank-Gaza and Lebanon and Tunisia and Egypt. This is additional money that we would then allocate as we work with those new governments to secure public commitments, commitments on reform, to allow us to do – and help them achieve the goals that we’ve – that’s in all of our interests. So this is a new account, it’s a new fund, it’s an addition to everything else we’re doing in the region. It doesn’t come at the expense of any of the preexisting agreements we have with Israel and Jordan. So -- QUESTION: Well, far be it from us to get ahead of ourselves, but I mean, if you look at the money that, like, ended up being spent in Libya, for instance, when – once the international community stepped up its action against Libya, I mean, if something were to happen in another one of these countries – say Syria for instance – would the money come from this account or would that be – I mean, your 700 million can go to Syria, like in a (finger snap). SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Correct. It could – we could use this fund for places like Syria, and we actually are worried about what our response is going to be when Syria breaks one way or the other. And that’s going to be dependent on timing. If we need to do something in Syria this fiscal year, we’re going to have to use the resources we have in 2012. However, the resources we have in 2013 through this fund, if we have it appropriated by Congress, can be – finance part of the response. And it – and – but more importantly, it’s available to us to be more proactive and add more sustainable bilateral relationship. So you’re right. Syria could be a big draw. I would hope it’s not 700 million big, and I would hope that our response to whatever happens in Syria is coordinated with the international community, much like our response was to Libya. And – but that’s what this fund is there for, for Libya, for Syria, for Yemen, for Tunisia, for Morocco. I mean, if there are transitions going on around the region, we want to have the ability to affect this proactively and in a more sustained way than reprogramming money, which is what we had to over the last year. Go ahead. QUESTION: Just on the West Bank that you mentioned, the numbers are slightly lower this year. I’m just wondering, first of all, why that is and if there would be any change based on the makeup of the government of Hamas (inaudible). SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: The two primary reasons why West Bank is down is, one, we had a very robust police training program in the West Bank. Most of that was equipment, heavy training. That is sort of tailing off, and now we’re into more sustainment and rule of law, which is more – which is cheaper than the equipment. So a large chunk of the reduction is just to reflect programmatic reality to the West Bank. And there is a reduction in the amount of cash transfer that we are proposing for 2013. This year, we’re – we were planning on doing $200 million. Next year, the proposal is $150 million. We think the economic situation is slightly better, so it means we can give a little bit less. But obviously, when we get to 2013 and we have to work with the Congress on the allocations, we’ll have to assess where that is a year from now. QUESTION: And the makeup of the government? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Even the makeup of the government. QUESTION: And so, I’m sorry – just in terms of the numbers, so looking here at the FF money, and that’s – SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: That’s the cash transfer, and the -- QUESTION: So then – so we’re talking about the training with stuff, right? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: That’s the – in the (inaudible) – the INL portion of the budget. So if you – there’s an account table for the INL in that, too, and you’ll see similar reductions. QUESTION: Okay. QUESTION: Can I ask you a little bit more about INL? So we have old money and we have a overall $500 million increase. And then on this page, on 164, we have 350 million more for Iraq and about that same amount reduced for Afghanistan and Pakistan. So what’s going on here? Is the calculation that we don’t – that drug – SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: No. QUESTION: -- (inaudible) is not as important in Afghanistan? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: No. No, well – okay. So not to overly technicalize this, but to put the Afghanistan and Pakistan budgets in context, you’ve got to look at the base and the OCO together. QUESTION: So it was switched to the base? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Right. So there’s INL money and counterdrug money in OCO for Afghanistan, for example, and you’ll see it goes up. For Iraq, the police program is part of this transition near our – starting with the program in 2012, that’s about $500 million. We are planning to strengthen that program in 2013. It’ll be a bigger program, more advisors. That accounts for the big – for the increase from 2012 to 2013. But to do an accurate apples to apples comparison in Afghanistan and Pakistan, you’ve got to glue the two things together. I know it gets complicated. QUESTION: You’re saying that it’s going up overall? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. The drug programs, rule of law programs in Afghanistan, and particularly in Afghanistan because a lot of that is transition-related programs that DOD is not going to do any more work starting today. So you’ll see when you do an apples to apples – and we can help you with it offline, if you like – you’ll see those numbers grow. So the – looking at the one chart in the one part of the book doesn’t really tell the whole story. So I know it’s confusing, but that’s the way the budget is constructed. We’ll have to help you glue the pieces together. MR. VENTRELL: (Inaudible.) QUESTION: Yes. Can you just follow up on Kerry-Lugar? You said last year, you guys asked for and received $1 billion. How much have you guys received and spent, year to date? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I will have to get back to you on the actual expenditures. The money has not moved as quickly as we would want, owing to various difficulties on the ground and with the government, but we’ll have to get back to you with the status of those funds. QUESTION: And if I can just ask about these numbers, 1.1 was Kerry-Lugar, and 800 million is the (inaudible) fund. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Right. QUESTION: And what’s another 300 million – SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: That’s the foreign military financing portion. So those are the three main components of our assistance programs – the ESF, the – I’m sorry, the nonmilitary assistance piece, the foreign military finance piece, and the PCCF are the three components of our assistance to Pakistan. MR. VENTRELL: A couple more. Andy? QUESTION: Just a quick one on the numbers for Sudan and South Sudan on economic support. South Sudan obviously still has a lot more, but it seems to be trending down against last year, while Sudan itself is trending slightly up. What’s the rationale there? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: We spiked in 2012 funding for South Sudan, given the fact that this is a big year of transition, it’s a new government. And in the – all the tradeoffs we had to do, given the caps, we felt we could come down a little bit and still maintain very, very high levels to South Sudan. I don’t have the number right in front of me, but I know it’s multiple hundreds of millions of dollars. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Two hundred million -- SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Right, and then that’s augmented with funding from other accounts. And on the regular part of Sudan, we’re trying to build – we’re in a different world now in Sudan. We’ve got two separate countries. We have issues in Darfur and other things we still have to do, so we felt we had to sort of strike the balance between the two countries. And so that’s the main part of the difference. QUESTION: Will there be any component – and this is my ignorance here, but is debt relief part of that equation or not? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I’ll address – SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: It’s funded. There is a – I don’t know the exact number, but there is a significant number in Treasury. The department actually has an account for debt relief. And you’ll notice, I think that spikes this year, like, from low double digits to 300 or – 200-300 million, and that is mostly if not all for Sudan debt relief. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: So you – the Treasury Department can give you more details on that. QUESTION: Just a minor detail. The Israel aid is just a teeny bit higher. Is that just in keeping with the agreement under the MOU? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: That’s the 10 – yes, that’s the 10-year agreement. QUESTION: Okay. QUESTION: Is it correct – and I think it is, isn’t it, that the only country that received IMET funds last year but is not this year is Guinea? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: There were a handful of IMET countries. Again, not very – these are not very big programs. There were a handful of IMET countries, right. Let me look. QUESTION: I think it’s the only one. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, Guinea-Bissau is the one – the only one that we zeroed out. QUESTION: And then every year it comes up and every year (inaudible). Why does the East-West Center keep getting money? QUESTION: Why does the International Coffee Organization -- QUESTION: Well, that actually makes sense, but the East-West Center – every year, you guys come out and want to cut its funding, and every year it goes up to the Hill and it ends up getting more money than they – than anyone had ever asked for. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: East-West Center funding level for 2013 is consistent with the funding level that was in the President’s request for 2012, and -- QUESTION: Yeah. It was also jacked up by the Hill. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: It was increased in the appropriations process by the Hill. We continue to believe that it does offer good programs. They’re – at this funding level, it’s likely that we will see greater focus to their programs in Hawaii, and that they will probably be closing down their headquarters operations here in Virginia. But they will continue to provide the educational programs that we’ve been -- QUESTION: Is that something that – really? That’s something that they’re going to do? They’re going to shut down their office? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: That’s why there are considerations for the lower level of funding. QUESTION: Okay. All right. QUESTION: One last one. I’ve got a quick one on the PEPFAR funding, if I could, for USAID. Could you just talk us through what this increase (inaudible) for what it is relative to last year, and how that’s going to break down for medication versus prevention? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: I actually don’t think I can. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Right. I think -- SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: To do that -- SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I know that Dr. Goosby was going to do a more detailed set of briefings on the PEPFAR program. They can get into some of that detail. The one thing I would add to what the Deputy Secretary and to what Raj said at the press briefing earlier is, yes, while the global health number is down below 2012, these are really cases of programs that are outcome-driven in terms of how we arrived at the number, and sort of taking advantage of their successes. Unit costs are coming down, they’re becoming a lot more efficient, they were able to treat more people at lower cost, and so we are able for – it’s rare in the budget world to have a program or set of programs that have measurable efficiencies where we can actually do a lot more with a little bit less money. So I think it’s important to note, as you get into this, that the budget, even though it’s slightly down from 2012, still maintains the commitment on the 6 million treatment goal, still maintains our Global Fund commitment, still maintains our commitment to the -- PARTICIPANT: To GAVI. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: -- to GAVI, the vaccine institution, still maintains robust funding for malaria and maternal child. So it’s – so the numbers don’t tell the whole story. I think Dr. – Ambassador Goosby can give you chapter and verse on the bilateral and country splits and kind of what their considerations were. MR. VENTRELL: Shortly -- one last question, then we’ve got to get our briefing -- QUESTION: The Administration’s pivot to Asia Pacific, are there ways we can quantitatively see this in the budget? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: The budget – again, it’s one of those things where I think the story is better told on the diplomatic side, where we have a number of – we’re reengaging with Asia on – in several regional and multilateral institutions. The numbers are slightly below 2012 for the region, but I have to say most regions are slightly down, maybe with the exception of the Middle East, because the budget was that tight. So there are lots of other things that we’re doing in that region with respect to Indonesia, with respect to multilateral institutions that complement the priority that you’ll see out of the DOD strategy. SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: I also – just to add to that, I think what you’re going to see increasingly in that region is, for certain countries like India, moving from assistance to trilateral cooperation. So our strategy with India is going to increasingly be looking at working with the Indians on mutual development goals which may not all be in India; may be in third countries. And I know our Feed the Future Initiative has already started working with India on such a program similar to one we have with Brazil and Mozambique. So I think – and there are other countries, like Indonesia is starting up its own aid agency now. So I think you’re going to start seeing more of that in – and Asia is going to be probably leading the way along with the two summits on Latin America on that effort. MR. VENTRELL: Okay. Thank you all.


The following excerpt is from the Department of Treasury website: EXTEND 100 PERCENT FIRST-YEAR DEPRECIATION DEDUCTION FOR ONE ADDITIONAL YEAR Current Law An additional first-year depreciation deduction is temporarily allowed for qualified property placed in service before January 1, 2013. The deduction equals 50 percent of the cost of qualified property placed in service during the taxable year, and is allowed as a depreciation deduction for both regular tax and alternative minimum tax purposes. The property’s depreciable basis is adjusted to reflect this additional deduction. Taxpayers may elect out of this additional depreciation deduction for any class of property for any taxable year. The additional first-year deduction equaled 100 percent of the cost of qualified property acquired after September 8, 2010 and before January 1, 2012, and placed in service prior to January 1, 2012. Qualified property includes tangible property with a recovery period of 20 years or less, water utility property, certain computer software, and qualified leasehold improvement property. It excludes property that is required to be depreciated under the alternative depreciation system. The original use of the property must commence with the taxpayer, and the taxpayer must purchase (or begin the manufacture or construction of) the property after December 31, 2007 and before January 1, 2013 (but only if no written binding contract for the acquisition was in effect before January 1, 2008). The property must be placed in service before January 1, 2013. An extension by one year of the placed-in-service date is allowed for certain property having longer production periods, but only the portion of the basis that is properly attributable to costs incurred prior to January 1, 2013 may be taken into account. Certain aircraft not used in providing transportation services are also granted a one-year extension of the placed-in-service deadline. Special rules apply to syndications, sale-leasebacks, and transfers to related parties of qualified property. The dollar limitation on the first-year depreciation allowance of qualifying passenger automobiles is increased by $8,000. Corporations otherwise eligible for additional first-year depreciation may elect to claim additional alternative minimum tax credits in lieu of claiming the additional depreciation for “eligible qualified property.” Such property includes otherwise qualified property that was acquired after March 31, 2008, and only adjusted basis attributable to its manufacture, construction, or production after that date and before January 1, 2010, or after December 31,2010, and before January 1, 2013 is taken into account. Depreciation for such property must be computed using the straight-line method if the corporation elects this provision. Reasons for Change By accelerating in time the recovery of investment costs, additional first-year deductions for new investment lower the after-tax costs of capital purchases. This encourages new investment and promotes economic recovery. Proposal The proposal would extend the 100-percent additional first-year depreciation deduction for one additional year. Thus, qualified property acquired and placed in service through 2012 (2013 for property eligible for a one-year extension of the placed-in-service date) could be fully expensed. Taxpayers could elect not to expense any class of their qualified property and instead depreciate that property without any additional first-year depreciation deduction. The proposal would be effective for qualified property placed in service after December 31, 2011


The following excerpt is from the Department of Treasury website: PROVIDE A TEMPORARY 10-PERCENT TAX CREDIT FOR NEW JOBS AND WAGE INCREASES Current Law Under current law, there is no generally available income tax credit for job creation or increasing employees’ wages. Reasons for Change Although the economy is recovering from a severe economic recession and the private sector has increased employment, a tax credit designed to stimulate job creation and wage increases could help put more Americans back to work, provide tax relief targeted at America’s small businesses, and strengthen the foundation of the economic recovery. Proposal Under the proposal, qualified employers would be provided a tax credit for increases in wage expense, whether driven by new hires, increased wages, or both. The credit would be equal to 10 percent of the increase in the employer’s 2012 eligible wages over the prior year (2011). Eligible wages are the employer’s Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) wages. The wage base for determining the maximum amount of OASDI wages per employee is $106,800 for 2011 and $110,100 for 2012. The maximum amount of the increase in eligible wages would be $5 million per employer, for a maximum credit of $500,000, to focus the benefit on small businesses. For employers with no OASDI wages in 2011, eligible wages for 2011 would be 80 percent of their OASDI wage base for 2012. The credit would generally be considered a general business credit. A similar credit would be provided for qualified tax-exempt employers. The Secretary may prescribe rules with respect to eligible wages. The credit would only apply with respect to the wages of employees performing services in a trade or business of a qualified employer or, in the case of a qualified employer exempt from tax under section 501(a), in furtherance of the activities related to the purpose or function constituting the basis of the employer’s exemption under section 501. Self-employment income would not be considered eligible wages. A qualified employer means any employer other than the United States, any State or possession of the United States, or any political subdivision thereof, or any instrumentality of the foregoing. A qualified employer also includes any employer that is a public institution of higher education (as defined in section 101 of the Higher Education Act of 1965). For purposes of determining the $5 million limit on the maximum amount of OASDI wages available for the credit, all employees of all corporations that are members of the same controlled group (using the 80-percent ownership test for filing a consolidated return) would be treated as employed by a single employer. For partnerships, proprietorships, etc., all employees under common control would be treated as employed by a single employer. The Secretary may prescribe rules with respect to predecessor and successor employers. 6 The credit also would be available for increases in earnings subject to tier 1 Railroad Retirement taxes subject to OASDI rates (section 3111(a)). Similar benefits would be extended to non-mirror code possessions (Puerto Rico and American Samoa) through compensating payments from the U.S. Treasury. The proposal would be effective for wages paid during the one-year period beginning on January 1, 2012.


The following excerpt is from the Department of Treasury website: "ADDITIONAL TAX CREDITS FOR INVESTMENT IN QUALIFIED PROPERTY USED IN A QUALIFYING ADVANCED ENERGY MANUFACTURING PROJECT Current Law A 30-percent tax credit is provided for investments in eligible property used in a qualifying advanced energy project. A qualifying advanced energy project is a project that re-equips, expands, or establishes a manufacturing facility for the production of: (1) property designed to produce energy from renewable resources; (2) fuel cells, microturbines, or an energy storage system for use with electric or hybrid-electric vehicles; (3) electric grids to support the transmission, including storage, of intermittent sources of renewable energy; (4) property designed to capture and sequester carbon dioxide emissions; (5) property designed to refine or blend renewable fuels or to produce energy conservation technologies; (6) electric drive motor vehicles that qualify for tax credits or components designed for use with such vehicles; and (7) other advanced energy property designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Eligible property is property: (1) that is necessary for the production of the property listed above; (2) that is tangible personal property or other tangible property (not including a building and its structural components) that is used as an integral part of a qualifying facility; and (3) with respect to which depreciation (or amortization in lieu of depreciation) is allowable. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), total credits were limited to $2.3 billion, and the Treasury Department, in consultation with the Department of Energy, was required to establish a program to consider and award certifications for qualified investments eligible for credits within 180 days of the date of enactment of ARRA. Credits may be allocated only to projects where there is a reasonable expectation of commercial viability. In addition, consideration must be given to which projects: (1) will provide the greatest domestic job creation; (2) will have the greatest net impact in avoiding or reducing air pollutants or greenhouse gas emissions; (3) have the greatest potential for technological innovation and commercial deployment; (4) have the lowest levelized cost of generated or stored energy, or of measured reduction in energy consumption or greenhouse gas emission; and (5) have the shortest completion time. Guidance under current law requires taxpayers to apply for the credit with respect to their entire qualified investment in a project. Applications for certification under the program may be made only during the two-year period beginning on the date the program is established. An applicant that is allocated credits must provide evidence that the requirements of the certification have been met within one year of the date of acceptance of the application and must place the property in service within three years from the date of the issuance of the certification. Reasons for Change The $2.3 billion cap on the credit has resulted in the funding of less than one-third of the technically acceptable applications that have been received. Rather than turning down worthy projects that could be deployed quickly to create jobs and support economic activity, the program –8 which has proven successful in leveraging private investment in building and equipping factories that manufacture clean energy products in America – should be expanded. An additional $5 billion in credits would support nearly $17 billion in total capital investment, creating tens of thousands of new construction and manufacturing jobs. Because there is already an existing pipeline of worthy projects and substantial interest in this area, the additional credit can be deployed quickly to create jobs and support economic activity. Proposal The proposal would authorize an additional $5 billion of credits for investments in eligible property used in a qualifying advanced energy manufacturing project. Taxpayers would be able to apply for a credit with respect to part or all of their qualified investment. If a taxpayer applies for a credit with respect to only part of the qualified investment in the project, the taxpayer’s increased cost sharing and the project’s reduced revenue cost to the government would be taken into account in determining whether to allocate credits to the project. Applications for the additional credits would be made during the two-year period beginning on the date on which the additional authorization is enacted. As under current law, applicants that are allocated the additional credits must provide evidence that the requirements of the certification have been met within one year of the date of acceptance of the application and must place the property in service within three years from the date of the issuance of the certification. The change would be effective on the date of enactment.


STATEMENT BY SECRETARY CLINTON I condemn in the strongest possible terms the bombing of an Israeli diplomatic vehicle in India and the attempted attack on Israeli Embassy personnel in Georgia. The scourge of terrorism is an affront to the entire international community. The United States places a high priority on the safety and security of diplomatic personnel around the world and we stand ready to assist with any investigation of these cowardly actions. Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured personnel in New Delhi and their loved ones.


The following excerpt is from the U.S. Department of Treasury website: TEMPORARY TAX RELIEF TO CREATE JOBS AND JUMPSTART GROWTH EXTEND TEMPORARY REDUCTION IN THE SOCIAL SECURITY PAYROLL TAX RATE FOR EMPLOYEES AND SELF-EMPLOYED INDIVIDUALS Current Law Most wages and salaries are subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). Earnings from self-employment are subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes under the Self Employment Contributions Act (SECA). The FICA tax is imposed to fund two different benefit programs: (1) the old-age, survivor and disability insurance program (“OASDI”), which funds the Social Security program that provides monthly retirement, disability, and survivor benefits; and (2) Medicare hospital insurance (“HI”). Generally, the OASDI tax rate of 12.4 percent applies to taxable wages and salaries up to the OASDI wage base ($106,800 for 2011 and $110,100 for 2012), and the HI tax of 2.9 percent applies to all taxable wages and salaries. Generally, one-half of both OASDI and HI taxes are paid by the employer and the other half are paid by the employee through mandatory withholding. Earnings from self-employment are also subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes at the same total tax rates, and one-half of the amount of SECA tax (that is, the amount equivalent to the employer portion of FICA) is deductible for income tax purposes. For the first $106,800 of taxable wages and salaries received during 2011 and essentially the first $18,350 of taxable wages and salaries received during the first two months of 2012, the Social Security tax on employees was reduced by 2.0 percentage points, from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent, and the Social Security tax on the self-employed was similarly reduced from 12.4 percent to 10.4 percent. The Social Security Trust Fund was held harmless and received transfers from the General Fund equal to the reduction in payroll taxes attributable to these reductions in the payroll tax rate. Reasons for Change The temporary reduction in Social Security tax provides relatively large benefits to workers who have been hardest hit by the recession and are most likely to spend their tax cut, stimulating the economy and creating jobs. Payroll tax cuts are particularly effective because they are delivered immediately in the worker’s paycheck, regardless of whether the worker has a current income tax liability. Extending this reduction in payroll taxes would provide continued financial assistance to middleclass families and encourage additional job creation.2 Proposal The Administration proposes to extend the 2.0 percentage point reduction in the Social Security tax on employees to the first $110,100 of taxable wages and salaries received during 2012. Similarly, the Administration proposes to extend the 2.0 percentage point reduction in the Social Security tax on the self-employed to the first $110,100 of taxable self-employment earnings received during 2012. The Social Security Trust Fund will be held harmless and receive transfers from the General Fund equal to the reduction in payroll taxes attributable to these reductions in the payroll tax rate. The proposal would be effective upon the date of enactment

Monday, February 13, 2012


The following excerpt is from the Department of Treasury website: INCENTIVES FOR EXPANDING MANUFACTURING AND INSOURCING JOBS IN AMERICA PROVIDE TAX INCENTIVES FOR LOCATING JOBS AND BUSINESS ACTIVITY IN THE UNITED STATES AND REMOVE TAX DEDUCTIONS FOR SHIPPING JOBS OVERSEAS Current Law Under current law, there are limited tax incentives for U.S. employers to bring offshore jobs and investments into the United States. In addition, costs incurred to outsource U.S. jobs generally are deductible for U.S. income tax purposes. Reasons for Change On January 11, the White House released a report that details the emerging trend of "insourcing" and how companies are increasingly choosing to invest in the United States. For example, real business fixed investment has grown by about 18 percent since the end of 2009. In the past two years, over 400,000 manufacturing jobs have been created, while manufacturing production has increased by about 5.7 percent on an annualized basis since its low in June of 2009, its fastest pace in a decade. In addition, continued productivity growth has made the United States more competitive in attracting businesses to invest and create jobs by reducing the relative cost of doing business compared to other countries. The Administration would like to make the United States more competitive in attracting businesses by creating a tax incentive to bring offshore jobs and investments back into the United States. In addition, the Administration would like to reduce the tax benefits that exist under current law for expenses incurred to move U.S. jobs offshore. Proposal The proposal would create a new general business credit against income tax equal to 20 percent of the eligible expenses paid or incurred in connection with insourcing a U.S. trade or business. For this purpose, insourcing a U.S. trade or business means reducing or eliminating a trade or business (or line of business) currently conducted outside the U.S. and starting up, expanding, or otherwise moving the same trade or business within the United States, to the extent that this action results in an increase in U.S. jobs. While the creditable costs may be incurred by the foreign subsidiary of the U.S.-based multinational company, the tax credit would be claimed by the U.S. parent company. A similar benefit would be extended to non-mirror code possessions (Puerto Rico and American Samoa) through compensating payments from the U.S. Treasury. In addition, to reduce tax benefits associated with U.S. companies’ moving jobs offshore, the proposal would disallow deductions for expenses paid or incurred in connection with outsourcing a U.S. trade or business. For this purpose, outsourcing a U.S. trade or business means reducing or eliminating a trade or business or line of business currently conducted inside the United States and starting up, expanding, or otherwise moving the same trade or business outside the United States, to the extent that this action results in a loss of U.S. jobs. In determining the subpart F income of a controlled foreign corporation, no reduction would be allowed for any expenses associated with 28 moving a U.S. trade or business outside the United States. For purposes of the proposal, expenses paid or incurred in connection with insourcing or outsourcing a U.S. trade or business are limited solely to expenses associated with the relocation of the trade or business and do not include capital expenditures or costs for severance pay and other assistance to displaced workers. The Secretary may prescribe rules to implement the provision, including rules to determine covered expenses. The proposal would be effective for expenses paid or incurred after the date of enactment.”


The following excerpt is from the Department of Defense American Forces Press Service Chairman Optimistic That Afghan Forces Will be Ready by 2014 By Cheryl Pellerin American Forces Press Service ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Feb. 12, 2012 - A quick trip to Afghanistan this week, and meetings with leaders and troops there, encouraged the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the Afghan National Security Forces will be ready by 2014 to take the combat lead. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey spent time in Kabul with Afghan Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of International Security Assistance Force–Afghanistan and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, and the ISAF staff. The chairman also met with U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, commanding general of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, and his staff. For NTM-A, 6,000 international trainers and advisers at 70 training sites in 21 provinces recruit and train Afghan soldiers and police. With U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, commander of ISAF Regional Command-East and commanding general of the Army 1st Cavalry Division, Dempsey visited forward operating base Shank in Logar province to meet Army Col. Mark H. Landes, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, and his Task Force Bulldog leadership team. "The intent was to try to knit together the campaign plan at the national level with the ANSF campaign plan, and then to see how a local commander, a colonel-level commander, is implementing it," Dempsey told American Forces Press Service. When he travels overseas, Dempsey has an office in an Airstream trailer called the Silver Bullet that's secured to the floor of a C-17 aircraft. There, on his way home from brief visits to Afghanistan and to meet with defense officials in Egypt, Dempsey writes notes to the spouses or parents of some of those he's met in Afghanistan to let them know their son or daughter or husband is doing okay. "What I learned, in a very encouraging way, is that [the campaigns and implementation are] very well knit together," he said. Each of their plans complemented the other " ... and we are achieving the goals that the alliance established in Lisbon to get us to [20]14," the chairman added.He was referring to the 2010 summit in Portugal of NATO heads of state and their agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to gradually withdraw combat forces by 2014. "One of the very pointed questions I asked [of the tactical commanders] was, How are the Afghan National Security Forces doing?" the chairman said. "I got the same answer every time," he added. "That they are doing very well. That they're not ready to stand on their own yet but [the commanders] think, with another fighting season looming and the effort to continue building their capabilities over time, the next year, the year after, kind of in a rolling conversion, [the ANSF] will be able to take the lead in combat operations." Dempsey gets a lot out of even short trips to the war zone because he likes to talk to people, and he was once in the business of building a national security force. During the summer of 2003 he took command of the 1st Armored Division and deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was the first commander of Multi-National Division–Baghdad. Then from 2005 to 2007 he was commander of Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq. Dempsey said he has to understand the processes that make things work -- the U.S. government, NATO, the Afghan government, and any other process that affects military operations. "But you also it seems to me have to gain a feel [for things], and you can't gain a feel from Washington," he added. "The chairman -- any chairman -- has to get out, look people in the eye, walk the ground ... have a private moment with Minister Wardak," Dempsey explained, "and ... ask him how he's doing ... and in so doing gain a feel that you can then combine with your understanding and have a reasonably good chance to come to the correct conclusion." What Dempsey learned in Iraq is that building any kind of security force requires three pillars of effort. "You've got to build the basic blocking and tackling of fighting, and you've got to build an institution that can pay them, provide logistics and educate them," he said. "In the middle of that you've got to partner with them initially ... and then migrate or evolve to embedded teams [in which] they're doing the heavy lifting," Dempsey said. "That's what I learned doing this in Iraq." In Afghanistan, he said, what he learned and felt on his visit is that "where we are now with the Afghan security forces is we're beginning to build that institution that will eventually be able to support them and, in so doing, make them self reliant." The chairman addedthat " we're beginning to migrate from the partnership role to the embedded training team and that's actually quite encouraging. ... Each [pillar] is beginning to become a little clearer." The big question, he said, is will they be ready? "The answer I'm coming back with is, at least in the snapshot that I took on this trip, and I'll add other snapshots over time, ... is that they will," the chairman said."

Sunday, February 12, 2012


The Following excerpt is from the U.S. Department of Justice website: February 9, 2012 “WASHINGTON – Three Northern California real estate investors have agreed to plead guilty today for their roles in conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced. To date, as a result of the ongoing investigation, 20 individuals have agreed to plead guilty.   Charges were filed today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland, Calif., against Barry Heisner of Brentwood, Calif.; Dominic Leung of Alameda, Calif.; and Hilton Wong of San Ramon, Calif.   According to court documents, for various lengths of time between August 2008 and January 2011, Heisner, Leung and Wong conspired with others not to bid against one another at public real estate foreclosure auctions. Instead, the investors designated a winning bidder to obtain selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Contra Costa County.   “The Antitrust Division will continue to pursue vigorously the perpetrators of these fraudulent schemes. Those who eliminated competition from the marketplace and lined their pockets while preying on the misfortune of others will be held accountable for their actions,” said Sharis A. Pozen, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “The division also will aggressively seek to forfeit the proceeds earned by those who took a leading role in facilitating these conspiracies.”   “The integrity of the real estate market depends on the transparency and fairness of all participants,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephanie Douglas. “When individuals take advantage of the public’s trust to enrich themselves they damage the very foundation of our economy. The FBI is committed to working with our local and federal partners to continue to bring those who engage in anticompetitive activities to justice.”   Heisner, Leung and Wong also were charged with conspiracies to use the mail to carry out a scheme to fraudulently acquire title to selected properties sold at public auctions, to make and receive payoffs, and to divert money to co-conspirators that would have gone to mortgage holders and others by holding second, private auctions open only to members of the conspiracy. The department said that the selected properties were then awarded to the conspirators who submitted the highest bids in the second, private auctions. The private auctions took place at or near the courthouse steps where the public auctions were held. According to court documents, a forfeiture allegation was also included in the charges against Heisner.   The department said that the primary purpose of the conspiracies was to suppress and restrain competition and to conceal payoffs in order to obtain selected real estate offered at Contra Costa County public foreclosure auctions at noncompetitive prices. When real estate properties are sold at these auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with remaining proceeds, if any, paid to the homeowner.   Each violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. Each count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The government can also seek to forfeit the proceeds earned from participating in the conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The maximum fine for the Sherman Act charges may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victim if either amount is greater than the $1 million statutory maximum.   Today’s charges are the latest cases filed by the department in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, Calif.   The investigation into fraud and bid rigging at certain real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Field Office and the FBI’s San Francisco office.”