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Saturday, February 25, 2012

SPACE BUCKYBALLS IN SOLID FORM FOUND BY NASA


The following excerpt is from the NASA website:

“NASA'S SPITZER FINDS SOLID BUCKYBALLS IN SPACE
WASHINGTON -- Astronomers using data from NASA's Spitzer Space
Telescope have, for the first time, discovered buckyballs in a solid
form in space. Prior to this discovery, the microscopic carbon
spheres had been found only in gas form.

Formally named buckminsterfullerene, buckyballs are named after their
resemblance to the late architect Buckminster Fuller's geodesic
domes. They are made up of 60 carbon molecules arranged into a hollow
sphere, like a soccer ball. Their unusual structure makes them ideal
candidates for electrical and chemical applications on Earth,
including superconducting materials, medicines, water purification
and armor.

In the latest discovery, scientists using Spitzer detected tiny specks
of matter, or particles, consisting of stacked buckyballs. They found
them around a pair of stars called "XX Ophiuchi," 6,500 light-years
from Earth.

"These buckyballs are stacked together to form a solid, like oranges
in a crate," said Nye Evans of Keele University in England, lead
author of a paper appearing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal
Astronomical Society. "The particles we detected are miniscule, far
smaller than the width of a hair, but each one would contain stacks
of millions of buckyballs."

Buckyballs were detected definitively in space for the first time by
Spitzer in 2010. Spitzer later identified the molecules in a host of
different cosmic environments. It even found them in staggering
quantities, the equivalent in mass to 15 Earth moons, in a nearby
galaxy called the Small Magellanic Cloud.

In all of those cases, the molecules were in the form of gas. The
recent discovery of buckyballs particles means that large quantities
of these molecules must be present in some stellar environments in
order to link up and form solid particles. The research team was able
to identify the solid form of buckyballs in the Spitzer data because
they emit light in a unique way that differs from the gaseous form.

"This exciting result suggests that buckyballs are even more
widespread in space than the earlier Spitzer results showed," said
Mike Werner, project scientist for Spitzer at NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "They may be an important form of
carbon, an essential building block for life, throughout the cosmos."


Buckyballs have been found on Earth in various forms. They form as a
gas from burning candles and exist as solids in certain types of
rock, such as the mineral shungite found in Russia, and fulgurite, a
glassy rock from Colorado that forms when lightning strikes the
ground. In a test tube, the solids take on the form of dark, brown
"goo."

"The window Spitzer provides into the infrared universe has revealed
beautiful structure on a cosmic scale," said Bill Danchi, Spitzer
program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "In yet another
surprise discovery from the mission, we're lucky enough to see
elegant structure at one of the smallest scales, teaching us about
the internal architecture of existence."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., manages
the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission
Directorate in Washington. Science operations are conducted at the
Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in
Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.”



DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER CARTER SHOWS OFF IMPROVEMENT IN FORMER TALIBAN STRONGHOLD


The following excerpt is from the U.S. State Department American Forces Press Service website : 






Carter's Walk Through Marjah Market Shows Progress

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
"MARJAH, Afghanistan, Feb. 24, 2012 - Simply by walking through the marketplace here today, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter showed how much progress has taken place in this former Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

Carter visited a forward operating base and the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, before he walked through the village's marketplace with no issues. He got a firsthand look at work under way to expand capacity at the base, touring numerous construction areas.

The deputy secretary received an operational update from local Afghan national security force leaders and the district governor before moving on to the Marjah marketplace, where Taliban insurgents once operated with impunity.

In contrast to violent protests elsewhere in the aftermath of Muslim religious materials being inadvertently mishandled at Bagram Airfield, Carter encountered no protests, upheaval or disturbances in Marjah. The village remained tranquil as Carter, the district governor and Afghan military and police leaders walked through the streets.

A walk down Marjah's marketplace was unthinkable as recently as 2010, when Operation Moshtarak was launched to free the area from Taliban control.

Carter called Marjah a "great success story" as he walked through the marketplace. Curious children came by and local residents followed on motorcycles as Carter made his way up and down the streets.
Along his route walking back to the base, Carter stopped and bought snacks from a local merchant for the village children who were tagging along. At another brief stop, he examined another merchant's wares.
As he departed, Carter thanked the district governor and Afghan security force leaders for the opportunity to walk through the marketplace, again referring to the peaceful village as one of many "great success stories" in Afghanistan.

Carter's first stop today was at the Chaman Gate, one of two major border crossings with neighboring Pakistan. The Pakistani government closed the crossing to NATO traffic amid recent tensions. The deputy secretary visited with local Afghan police and customs officials, toured a new biometrics facility and got a firsthand view of the daily traffic at the crossing.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby, who is along on the trip, said this was Carter's second visit to Chaman Gate, and that he noted the progress made in adding controls to the border post to put pressure on smugglers of explosive materials.

"American and Afghan military officials updated Carter on security at the Chaman Gate and gave him a better sense of the impact its closing to NATO traffic has had on resupply efforts," Kirby said. Though Carter expressed his hope that Pakistan soon would allow alliance goods to begin flowing again, Kirby added, he was assured that operations in Afghanistan had not yet been adversely affected.

Carter's next stop was to Regional Command Southwest, where he received updates from Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John Toolan Jr. about the progress of transition efforts and improved security throughout the region. Roughly half of Helmand's districts are in or will soon be in the process of transitioning to Afghan security lead, Kirby noted."

RUSSIAN ENGINEERS WORK ON INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION


T


he above picture and excerpt below are from the NASA website: 


"This image of Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Anton Shkaplerov, both Expedition 30 flight engineers, was taken during a spacewalk on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012. During the six-hour, 15-minute spacewalk, Kononenko and Shkaplerov moved the Strela-1 crane from the Pirs Docking Compartment in preparation for replacing it in 2012 with a new laboratory and docking module. The duo used another boom, the Strela-2, to move the hand-operated crane to the Poisk module for future assembly and maintenance work. Both telescoping booms extend like fishing rods and are used to move massive components outside the station. On the exterior of the Poisk Mini-Research Module 2, they also installed the Vinoslivost Materials Sample Experiment, which will investigate the influence of space on the mechanical properties of the materials. The spacewalkers also collected a test sample from underneath the insulation on the Zvezda Service Module to search for any signs of living organisms. Both spacewalkers wore Russian Orlan spacesuits bearing blue stripes and equipped with NASA helmet cameras. Image Credit: NASA" 

Friday, February 24, 2012

SEC CHAIRMAN SCHAPIRO SPEAKS AT THE PRACTICING LAW INSTITUTE'S SEC SPEAKS


The following excerpt is from the SEC website:

Speech by SEC Chairman:
Remarks at the Practicing Law Institute’s SEC Speaks
by
Chairman Mary L. Schapiro
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Washington D.C.
Feb. 24, 2012
Good morning. Thank you so much for that kind introduction, Rob.
It is a pleasure to be here. I look forward to this conference every year as an opportunity to give a “State of the SEC” exposition – reviewing our recent activities and how we have evolved and how the changes we’ve made will benefit the markets we regulate and the investors we protect.
Twenty years ago when I first served as an SEC commissioner, the financial world was a very different place. The Dow was inching towards the 3000 mark. Derivatives were barely a blip on the radar. A portable Macintosh weighed 16 pounds. And all you could do on a cell phone was talk.
For most SEC staff, the biggest market disruption in living memory was the “Black Monday” crash of 1987 – a near-cataclysmic experience to be sure, but one that paled in comparison to the crisis of 2008.
So, when President Obama asked me to return and serve as Chairman, I knew the agency would be challenged on a level at which no SEC had ever been challenged before:
Challenged to restore confidence in markets that had nearly self-destructed.
Challenged to address risks that could jump from market to market like wildfire, incinerating each in turn.
Challenged to bring a pre-crisis mindset into a post crisis-era.
Challenged to prove that the agency could and would step up to play its role, aggressively and effectively.
Given the scope of the financial crisis and the fallout from the Madoff scandal, it was no surprise that some were calling for the agency to be disbanded.
But, the investing public and policymakers understood the importance of our mission – to protect investors and ensure the integrity of our markets.

And the men and women of the SEC were eager to meet these challenges head on.
That was no surprise to me. From my earlier years with the SEC, I knew well that the individuals who serve are a dedicated and talented team, able and eager to rise to the occasion. I knew we’d come through – and I am pleased by how far we have come.
And, so I would ask anyone who currently works – or has previously worked – at the SEC to stand and be recognized.

Thank you.
Our commitment to evolve helped to drive a consensus, inside and outside the SEC, that the better solution was not to shutter the agency, but to strengthen it – to demand more aggressive and efficient action from us, and for us to embrace needed reforms and better adjust to the new world in which we were operating.
And that’s what the SEC’s leadership team set out to do.
We redesigned the SEC, investing in technology and human capital, and significantly improving operations.
We put in place a new operating strategy, rooted in an entrepreneurial attitude and a collaborative approach.
We immediately began to execute on an agenda that would better protect investors and reduce the chances of another systemic shockwave.
I knew, as we found our footing after the financial crisis and began to implement this strategy, that every move would be watched by many eyes. What I didn’t realize was that the SEC’s energetic response to the challenges we faced would lift the agency’s profile to heights rarely seen since the days of Joe Kennedy and The New Deal.

I welcome the attention. It gives rise to needed debate about important issues and challenges us to be our best. But, I sometimes worry that the tendency of observers to focus on individual rules or discrete actions distracts them from the big picture. What the agency has accomplished is greater than the sum of the rules we’ve adopted and the cases we’ve brought: we have fundamentally changed the agency in ways that will allow us to carry out our mission more effectively than ever in the 21st Century.
And it’s not just that we’ve accomplished a great deal over the last three years. It’s that we’re now fundamentally better equipped to perform at an even higher level in the years to come.

Redesigning the SEC
Investing for Continued Success
A first priority was to make better use of SEC resources, carefully investing overdue budget increases in people and technology and improving management in ways that allowed us to make the most of our funds.
When I returned to the SEC, I saw how much the staff was being asked to do, and how little they were being given to do it.
Although the agency experienced a brief period of funding growth following Sarbanes-Oxley, the budget failed to keep up with inflation in the years leading up to the financial crisis. Despite continued growth in the markets, the number of employees actually fell. And with oversight, examination and enforcement staff stretched to the limit, operations and IT needs were put on the back burner – investments in new IT fell by half.

During my term, we have been fortunate to experience a modest funding turnaround – increases that we were determined to invest strategically. We wanted not just to grow, but to grow more efficient as well – growing in ways that would expand capacity faster than the budget numbers were rising.
We broadened our hiring approach, searching for recruits with financial industry backgrounds and specialized experience. We now have traders, asset managers, academics and quants on staff in addition to attorneys, economists and accountants, giving us a correspondingly greater insight into the technologies and practices that drive today’s financial markets.
We increased the training budget to more than double what it was in 2009, helping staff to keep pace with the changes in the market.

We significantly upgraded our case management system. Overworked attorneys and paralegals can now take advantage of vastly improved research capabilities – and we are deploying an agency-wide eDiscovery tool that will expand our ability to parse evidence and drill down on key subjects.
Perhaps our most reported IT investment has been our new system for handling the thousands of tips, complaints and referrals we receive each year. And an ongoing series of upgrades is allowing us to better triage the information we receive as well as compare the data more effectively – opening new investigations, routing tips to existing investigations or discovering emerging trends that need to be watched.
Managing Effectively

Together with wise investments, we also have been finding ways to improve agency operations.
Within the various divisions and offices, we’ve created “managing executive” positions to handle important support areas, freeing legal, examination and other professionals to focus their skills on mission-critical work.
We are outsourcing responsibilities like leasing and financial management reporting to other agencies, focusing on core strengths and deploying people and resources accordingly.
And we’re implementing a number of management recommendations resulting from the Dodd-Frank mandated study of agency operations.

After three years of intense effort, the SEC is simply a sounder agency on a fundamental level, deploying people and technology more effectively and maximizing the impact of our limited resources. It’s all part of an effort to be more effective for years to come. But it should not suggest in any way that our work is done.
Instilling Entrepreneurial Leadership

Parallel to our investments in people and tools, we began to put in place a new approach. We wanted to be more entrepreneurial – moving to diminish or head off threats within the markets, trusting our teams to recognize these threats and move rapidly without the need for top-down guidance in every case.
This approach has flourished, and while we don’t have time to discuss every office and division, I’d like to offer a few as examples of how it is improving our efforts.
Corporation Finance

One place to look is the Division of Corporation Finance, which is run by SEC Speaks co-Chair Meredith Cross, and which has been particularly aggressive in enhancing its structure and focus.
In the last year, Corp Fin established new groups to concentrate closely on three systemically critical facets of the financial world: the largest financial institutions, structured finance products, and capital markets trends. These offices will help ensure that investors have clear information about items that could – without the sunlight of disclosure – turn into malignant trends or dangerous practices.
In addition, Corp Fin’s disclosure teams have been proactive in targeting specific disclosure issues which have potentially significant consequences.
They’ve prompted companies to provide critical information about the potential financial impact of repatriating cash held overseas.

They’ve raised questions about whether companies are properly disclosing their litigation contingencies.
And they’ve worked with our enforcement, accounting and international units to combat an uptick in problems with reverse mergers by stepping up scrutiny of related filings.
Corp Fin also is taking a lead in providing companies guidance on how existing disclosure rules apply to emerging and fast-changing market realities, issuing guidance – where possible – before inadequate or outdated disclosure practices harm investors.

The staff issued guidance regarding the way financial services firms should disclose their exposure to European sovereign debt in time for these firms to use it when they prepare their annual reports – helping to provide investors with adequate, granular financial information even as the situation remains fluid.
And the staff issued guidance regarding companies’ obligations to disclose material cyber-security risks and attacks – clearly an area of growing concern to investors. Additionally, in reviewing the most recent wave of IPOs, Corp Fin quickly stopped problematic revenue recognition practices. And they halted the use of misleading non-GAAP measures before these practices – prevalent during the tech bubble of the 90s – could take root again.
Similarly, disclosure teams acted swiftly when the right of investors to have their day in court was threatened – by objecting to a mandatory arbitration provision that was included in governing documents connected with a company’s IPO.

The results of these changes aren’t always eye-catching. But we are convinced that increased focus on systemically significant market sectors is a necessary shift in a post-crisis world. We know that our proactive efforts to provide guidance have proved helpful to many companies as they grapple with disclosure issues. And we believe, based on our own review of disclosure statements, that investors are getting information that is both more complete and more relevant than in the past.
Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE)
Perhaps the areas in which changes in organization and approach have been most apparent are in our examination and enforcement units.
In both, new leadership has managed significant organizational changes and – just as important – encouraged an aggressive and proactive approach.

Over the last two years, OCIE has put in place a new National Examination Program. The program has brought changes in the way examination teams are assembled – OCIE now precisely matches examiners’ skills with the unique challenges each examination offers. Examination materials are now standardized.
And working with the Division of Risk, Strategy and Financial Innovation, this national exam program greatly expands the use of risk-based targeting.

Better targeting and more effective examinations are paying off. Over the last two years, 42 percent of exams have identified significant findings – up by a third since 2009. And over that same period, the percentage of exams resulting in referrals to Enforcement has risen by half, from 10 percent to 15 percent.
One such referral involved a fund which had come into our sights through our risk-based targeting efforts.
During the resulting examination, the fund admitted to an error in its trading algorithm, which it had previously failed to report – a failure that cost investors more than $200 million. Thanks to the work of the exam team and enforcement staff, the fund agreed to a settlement – returning the money to wronged investors almost before they knew they had been wronged and paying a $25 million penalty.

Division of Enforcement
Meanwhile, the Enforcement Division – led by today’s other co-Chair Rob Khuzami –revamped its operations, putting additional talented attorneys back on the front lines, creating specialized units, and streamlining procedures.

Those reforms are already producing record results. I won’t steal all of Rob’s thunder, but last year the SEC brought a record 735 enforcement actions, including some of the most complex cases we’ve ever worked on. And we obtained orders for $2.8 billion in penalties and disgorgements. What’s most satisfying is that last year we returned more than $2 billion to wronged investors. If Congress agrees with my request to raise the caps on what we can obtain, we would have the ability in appropriate cases to return even larger sums to wronged investors.

In the area of financial crisis-related cases, we filed charges against nearly 100 individuals and entities – actions against Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan and top executives at Countrywide, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And more than half of the individuals charged were CEOs, CFOs or other senior officers.
It should come as no surprise that there are more actions to come.
This division also realized significant gains from its Aberrational Performance Inquiry – another collaborative effort with Risk Fin and OCIE which uses quantitative analytics to search for hedge fund advisers whose claimed returns are unusual enough to raise a red flag.

In December, as a result of one of the aberrational performance sweeps, we charged four hedge fund advisers for inflating returns, overvaluing assets and other actions that materially misled and harmed investors.

OCIE, RiskFin, and Enforcement are working together through different analytic initiatives to target various types of misconduct. These initiatives are particularly important to the SEC’s efforts to detect fraud before complaints are received.

And one can draw direct lines between Enforcement’s earlier restructuring and its current results.
For instance, one unit created during the reorganization – the Asset Management Unit – took the time to survey a group of firms that were actively communicating through social media. In the process, they learned about the various approaches firms were using – getting a sense of those that were legitimate and those that might not be.
Shortly thereafter, a staff member who was familiar with the survey noticed something irregular in the operation of an Illinois-based investment adviser.
In short order, the ensuing investigation uncovered the fact that the adviser was offering more than $500 billion in fictitious securities through various social media websites, garnering significant attention from multiple potential buyers.
Again, the agency acted before investors were harmed by suing the adviser last month and effectively halting the fraud.

But rather than just stopping there, Enforcement teamed up with OCIE, the Investment Management division and our Investor Education office. And on the same day that we shut down the fraud, we released two publications – one that will help investors recognize, avoid, and report similar scams, and another one that will help investment advisers keep their communications in compliance.
It’s hard to quantify the results of efforts like these – to know how much savings won’t be poured into fraudulent offerings or what tips might arise from the publications we’ve released. But we think this is important and that this aggressive and coordinated approach is yielding superior results across the agency – and will continue to do so going forward.

Recommitting to our Investor Protection Mission
Yet another priority in recent years has been rededicating ourselves to our investor protection mission – an important task if we were to bolster the confidence so necessary for our markets to thrive.
That meant strengthening the regulatory structure and pulling back the veil that covered portions of our financial system.
That is why – even before Dodd-Frank – we set out to address the resiliency of money market funds, insist upon more meaningful information regarding municipal securities and require more information from investment advisers, among other initiatives.
The Dodd-Frank Act
With the passage of Dodd-Frank our responsibilities expanded dramatically. And I am proud of the across-the-board progress we are making against these mandates. Of the more than 90 mandatory rulemaking provisions, the SEC has proposed or adopted rules for more than three quarters of them, not to mention a number of the rules stemming from the dozens of other provisions that give the SEC discretionary rulemaking authority.

And we already have completed 12 studies called for by Congress.
We could talk for hours about Dodd-Frank, but let me just touch on a few highlights.
In the area of corporate governance, we have finalized rules concerning shareholder approval of executive compensation and "golden parachute" arrangements.

Led by the Division of Investment Management, we have adopted new rules that have already resulted in approximately 1,200 hedge fund and other private fund advisers registering with the SEC. It’s a process by which they agree to abide by SEC rules and provide critical systemic risk information that can give regulators better insight into their practices.

And we have established a whistleblower program that is already providing the agency with hundreds of higher-quality tips, helping us to avoid investigatory dead-ends and – at the same time – prodding companies to enhance their internal compliance programs.

In another area, response to the meltdown of the mortgage-backed securities market, the SEC has proposed rules that will protect investors by:

Increasing dramatically investors’ visibility into the assets underlying all types of asset backed securities.
Requiring securitizers – in conjunction with our banking colleagues – to keep skin in the game, giving them an incentive to double-check originators’ underwriting practices.
Changing the practices of the rating agencies whose gross mis-ratings of billions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities were kerosene on kindling.

OTC Derivatives
Next up will be the final proposals to essentially build, from the ground up, a new regulatory regime for over-the-counter derivatives.
The over-the-counter structure of the derivatives market has long presented a risk to the financial system. In October 1993, I addressed a Symposium for the Foundation for Research in International Banking and Finance about the potential problems. At that time I said “nothing will interrupt the progress of the derivatives market more abruptly than a financial crisis that is perceived to be caused or exacerbated by unregulated activity in those markets.”
Back then, of course, the notional value of interest rate and currency swaps was $4.7 trillion, which seemed like an extraordinary figure.

I was concerned that this potentially useful financial innovation might present significant systemic risk for various reasons, including: the opacity of the derivatives market; weak or non-existent capital, margin and clearing and settlement requirements; and the concentration of derivative transactions among a relatively small number of institutions.

While others shared these concerns, in 2000, Congress specifically excluded most derivatives transactions from regulation. And by mid-2008, as the repercussions of the mortgage-backed securities market’s collapse were echoing throughout the financial system, the notional value of the derivatives market had increased more than a hundred-fold, and was approaching $700 trillion.
Title VII of Dodd-Frank addresses challenges in the OTC derivative market underscored by the events of 2008, by bringing the derivatives market into the daylight.

The SEC is working with the CFTC to write rules that strengthen the stability of our financial system by:
Increasing centralized clearing of swaps and ensuring that capital and margin requirements reflect the true risks of these products.

Improving transparency to regulators and to the public by shedding light on opaque exposures and assisting in developing more robust price discovery mechanisms.
Increasing investor protection by enhancing security-based swap transaction disclosure, mitigating conflicts of interest, and improving our ability to police these markets.

Next Steps on Implementing Title VII
It is my hope that, in the near term, we will complete the last remaining proposals regarding capital, margin, segregation and recordkeeping requirements.
But, we are already beginning to transition to the adoption phase. As a first step, I expect the Commission to soon finalize rules that further define who will be covered by the new derivatives regulatory regime and, next, what will constitute a security-based swap.

Finalizing these definitions will be a foundational step, defining the scope of the new regulatory regime and letting market participants know whether their current activities will subject them to the substantive requirements we will be adopting in the coming year.
Beyond this, the Commission staff is continuing to develop a plan for how the rules will be put into effect. The plan should establish an appropriate timeline and sequence for implementation and avoid a disruptive and costly “big bang” approach.
And at all stages of implementation, those subject to the new regulatory requirements will be given adequate time to comply.

International Application of Title VII
While some issues are stand-alone concerns, certain issues cut across the entirety of our implementation of Title VII. Among the most important, given the global nature of the derivatives market, is the international impact of our rules.
We are working hard to coordinate with our foreign counterparts to help achieve consistency among approaches to derivatives regulation. There has been significant progress on the international level.
Our cross-border approach must strike a balance between sufficient domestic regulatory oversight and the realities of the global market. A “one-size-fits-all” approach is neither feasible nor desirable.
In the near term, the Commission intends to address the most salient international issues in a single proposal. This will give interested parties an opportunity to consider, as an integrated whole, our approach to cross-border transactions and the registration and regulation of foreign entities engaged in such transactions with U.S. parties.

Money Market Funds
Despite the breadth of Dodd-Frank, there are other gaps in the regulatory system that threaten investors that we are working to address.
One high-profile area of interest is money market funds. As you know, when the Reserve Primary Fund broke the buck in 2008, it set off a run so serious that the federal government was forced to step in and guarantee the multi-trillion dollar industry.
It was a shock that reverberated across the market and compelled us to take action. And so, two years ago, we adopted regulations making the mix of investments these funds can hold more liquid and less risky. But, at the time, I said we needed to do more.
That is because money market funds remain susceptible to runs and to a sudden deterioration in quality of holdings. We need to move forward with some concrete ideas to address these structural risks.
We’ve spent lots of time and outreach reviewing many possible approaches. There are two serious options we are considering for addressing the core structural weakness: first, float the net asset value; and second, impose capital requirements, combined with limitations or fees on redemptions.
It’s hard to miss the hue and cry being raised by the industry against either of these approaches.
But the fact is investors have been given a false sense of security by money market fund sponsor support and the one-time Treasury guarantee. Funds remain vulnerable to the reality that a single money market fund breaking of the buck could trigger a broad and destabilizing run.
Should that happen, the government will not have the tools it had in 2008. Then, Treasury used the Exchange Stabilization Fund to stop the run. But Congress eliminated that option when it passed TARP legislation. Today, the money-market fund industry and, by extension, the short-term credit market, is working without a net.

To the extent that there’s a deadline, it’s the pressure that we should feel from living on borrowed time. We’ve been incredibly deliberate about this. The President’s Working Group report on reform options was issued in October 2010. We’ve had extensive public comment. And we held a roundtable with the Financial Stability Oversight Council on money market funds and systemic risk last May.
Consolidated Audit Trail

Finally, we’re working to improve the SEC’s capacity to regulate and investigate. And so another major initiative is the consolidated audit trail.
Standardizing reporting across trading platforms would seem to be an obvious move, serving investors on two levels: aiding in the investigation of suspicious trading activities, insider trading, or market manipulation and allowing more rapid and accurate reconstruction of unusual market events.
The complexity of the undertaking, however, has necessitated a detailed and extended rulemaking process, including a thoughtful review of the many comments received since we first proposed the system’s creation. The contours of the regulation are being finalized and will be considered by the full Commission. But, regardless of the details, the broader result must be a mechanism that gives the agency the ability to rapidly reconstruct trading – something that doesn’t exist today.

In addition, while the initial proposal will be for an audit trail tracking orders and trades in the equity markets, I believe that the system should eventually be expanded to include fixed income, futures and other markets.
It is important that we get a structure in place sooner rather than later so that the heavy lifting of working through the technical nuances of the system can begin. We expect to adopt a final rule in the months ahead. After that, I anticipate that the exchanges and FINRA will be required to submit a detailed blueprint, which in turn would be subject to public comment and a separate Commission approval.

Conclusion
I’m proud to have the opportunity to work at the SEC during an exceedingly productive period in its history.
The SEC has accomplished much and we are on the verge of further critically important rulemakings that will strengthen the structure of the financial markets and enhance the agency’s ability to oversee those markets and pursue investors’ interests.

However, just as important as the cumulative effect of these accomplishments, are improvements in the culture, management, approach and attitude of the agency as an institution and the staff who make it work – improvements that all regulatory agencies should undergo – and that will allow the SEC to continue to function at a high level in the years ahead.

No one can predict what challenges will arise, what new threats to market stability will emerge, what fraudsters and manipulators will try down the road. But whatever does happen, the SEC is now materially better able to enforce the law and to identify and manage threats.
The burst of activity isn’t just a result of circumstances – a reaction to the financial crisis. It’s an indication that the SEC is evolving in step with the rapidly changing markets.
It has been a busy time. But there are a lot proud people who – even as we finish what is on our plates today – are looking ahead to an equally productive future.”


"CRAMMING" HOW CROOKS CHARGE ITEMS ON PHONE BILLS JUST LIKE A STOLEN CREDIT CARD


The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

February 22nd, 2012 Posted by Tracy Russo
The following post appears courtesy of Richard Goldberg, Assistant Director of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.

Did you know that your telephone bills may contain charges for products or services other than telephone service, much like charges on a credit card?  Those who carry out these types of fraud have found ways to insinuate themselves onto the telephone billing system, and arrange for false charges to appear on telephone bills.  As a result, you could be paying for goods or services you never ordered or received.

“Cramming” is the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges on a telephone bill.  The perpetrators tend to keep crammed charges small, to increase the likelihood that you will pay your bill without noticing the false charges.  They do this on both consumer and business telephone bills, on landline and wireless bills.

The Consumer Protection Branch in the Justice Department’s Civil Division is working hard to prosecute these criminals.  But individuals are really the front line in the battle against cramming and in the best position to notice these false charges.  Crammed charges may appear on any page of a telephone bill, so you should carefully review your bill on a monthly basis.

 If you see unfamiliar or suspicious charges on your telephone bill, you should:
 Contact your local telephone company, tell the telephone company of the cramming, and instruct the company to remove the false charge and give a credit for false charges on any previous bills, and
Submit a complaint summarizing the false charges to the Federal Trade Commission.
Many telephone companies will, upon request, exclude third-party billing from a customer’s telephone bill.  Doing so may prevent crammed charges from appearing on telephone bills in the future. "

REFUGEES RESETTLED IN THE U.S TOPS 3 MILLION


The following excerpt is from a U.S. State Department e-mail:

Three Million: Changing Lives One Refugee at a Time
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
February 21, 2012
“The number of refugees resettled in the United States topped three million on February 15. The resettlement program continues to offer life-changing and life-saving support for refugees who have been in camps or urban locations for many years. Equally important, it serves many more refugees by preserving and expanding the humanitarian space in countries of first asylum. We have seen this vividly in the past during the Kosovo crisis, and more recently in Libya.

The 1980s saw primarily refugees resettling in the U.S. from Vietnam, Laos, and the Soviet Union. The 1990s brought large numbers of Bosnians as war engulfed the former Yugoslavia. In the 21st century, we welcomed refugees from Burma, Bhutan, Iran, Iraq and Somalia, among others, reflecting a more diverse and expansive
program. Last year we processed refugees from 69 different countries in 92 locations.
A few statistical highlights since 1975:
· Over 1.4 million refugees from South East Asian countries
· Over 605,000 from countries of the Former Soviet Union
· Over 262,000 Africans
· Over 289,000 from the countries of Near East and South Asia
· The five largest nationalities resettled are Vietnamese, Ukrainian, Iraqi, Cuban, and Somali
· The five states that have resettled the most refugees, in descending order, are California, New York, Texas, Washington, and Florida
I recently traveled to Tennessee, where I saw the strengths of the refugee admissions program in action. While the Departments of State and Health and Human Services offer initial support to refugees in the U.S., the program is designed to encourage refugees to become self-sufficient as quickly as possible. But it’s the welcoming help of local communities that is the linchpin of the program’s success. Volunteers and other community members help refugees adjust to the world around them, get settled, and integrate themselves.

We understand that the current economic situation is challenging the ability of federal, state, and non-profit agencies to broadly assist refugees in need. In response, in 2010, the Deptartment of State doubled the per-refugee stipend, and raised it again this year. The refugee admissions program is a public-private partnership. As such, non-profit agencies involved have also increased efforts to raise private resources to support refugees in need. And some businesses are stepping in to assist as well.

In Tennessee, I heard firsthand the commitment of businesses to making refugee resettlement successful. Tyson Foods support to refugees is remarkable: $100,000 per year for on-site ESL, $3,500 per year for college costs, 100% reimbursement for naturalization applications, full-time interpreters on site, financial assistance, on-site banking, and tax preparation services, all of which demonstrate why the company had only a 12.5% turnover last year and has proven to be such a strong example of leadership in integrating refugees, not just into their new community, but into the wider U.S. economy.
The Nashville mayor, police chief, and director of the mayor’s office of neighborhoods were enthusiastic about the diversity in Nashville, the civic contributions of refugees, and the collegial working relationships of service providers.

I know that many other communities around the country can point to similar experiences. In the end, all Americans benefit from our nation’s open doors – the refugees, those whose lives they touch, and the communities strengthened by their contributions.
We expect the future of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program to remain strong and responsive. We will continue to partner with UNHCR to provide resettlement opportunities here in the United States – and to encourage other countries to open their doors generously as well.
As we celebrate this major milestone, we would like to thank all of you for your continued commitment to the program.
Kind regards,
David M. Robinson
Acting Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration”

FORMER CEO AND CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD OF PUDA COAL, INC., ARE CHARGED WITH FRAUD BY SEC


The following excerpt is from the SEC website:

SEC Charges Chairman and Ex-CEO of Puda Coal With Fraud

On February 22, 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil injunctive action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York charging the Chairman of Puda Coal, Inc. (“Puda”) and the former CEO of Puda with securities fraud for the undisclosed theft of the primary asset of the U.S. public company they controlled. The Commission’s complaint alleges as follows:


Defendants Ming Zhao, the Chairman of Puda, and Liping Zhu, Puda’s former CEO, perpetrated a massive fraud on Puda’s public shareholders by effectively stealing and selling Puda’s operating subsidiary. Before the defendants’ fraud, Puda held an indirect 90% ownership stake in Shanxi Puda Coal Group Co., Ltd (“Shanxi Coal”), a coal mining company located in the Shanxi Province of the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”). In September 2009, just weeks before Puda announced that Shanxi Coal had received a highly lucrative mandate from the provincial government authorities to become a consolidator of smaller coal mining companies, Zhao, with Zhu’s knowledge and complicity, transferred Puda’s 90% stake in Shanxi Coal to himself. In July 2010, Zhao transferred a 49% equity interest in Shanxi Coal to CITIC Trust Co. Ltd. (“CITIC Trust”), a Chinese private equity fund controlled by CITIC Group, which is reported to be the largest state-owned investment firm in the PRC. CITIC Trust placed its 49% stake in Shanxi Coal in a trust and then sold interests in the trust to Chinese investors. In addition, Zhao caused Shanxi Coal to pledge 51% of its assets to CITIC Trust as collateral for a loan of RMB 3.5 billion ($516 million) from the trust to Shanxi Coal. In exchange, CITIC Trust gave Zhao 1.212 billion preferred shares in the trust. None of these asset transfers were approved by Puda’s board or its shareholders or disclosed in Puda’s various SEC filings, which Zhao and Zhu signed knowing that those documents were materially false and misleading. Puda also conducted two public offerings in 2010 in the U.S. without disclosing that it no longer had any ownership stake in the coal company, Puda’s sole source of revenue. Thus, at the same time that CITIC Trust was effectively selling interests in the coal company to Chinese investors, Zhao and Zhu were still telling U.S. investors that Puda owned a 90% stake in that company.

In addition, Zhao and Zhu continued their fraudulent scheme to deceive public investors even after the Commission began its investigation. As part of the fraud, Zhu forged a letter purporting to be from CITIC Trust which falsely stated that no funds had actually been loaned to Shanxi Coal and disclaimed any interest in Puda’s or Shanxi Coal’s assets. Zhao’s counsel then provided the forged letter to the Commission’s investigative staff and to Puda’s audit committee in an effort to create the false impression that Puda and its public shareholders had not been harmed by the asset transfers. After Puda disclosed the letter to the public in an SEC filing, further misleading shareholders about the ownership of Puda’s assets, the letter was exposed as a forgery. Zhu admitted forging the letter and resigned as CEO, but Zhao remains Chairman. As a result of the defendants’ fraud, Puda is now little more than a shell company, with no ongoing business operations.

Both Zhao and Zhu are charged in the Commission’s complaint with violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Sections 10(b), 13(b)(5), and 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and Rules 10b-5, 13b2-1, 13b2-2, 14a-3, and 14a-9a thereunder. Both men are also alleged to be liable pursuant to Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act as control persons of Puda for Puda’s violations of Sections 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act and Rules 12b-20, 13a-1, and 13a-13 thereunder, and that they are also liable pursuant to Section 20(e) of the Exchange Act for aiding and abetting those violations. Zhu is also charged with violating Exchange Act Rule 13a-14. Finally, the Commission alleges, in the alternative, that Zhao and Zhu are liable pursuant to Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act as control persons of Puda for Puda’s violations of Sections 10(b) and 14(a) of the Exchange Act and Rules 10b-5(a), 10b-5(b), and 10b-5(c), 14a-3 and 14a-9, and that they are also liable pursuant to Section 20(e) of the Exchange Act for aiding and abetting those violations.
The complaint seeks a final judgment permanently enjoining the defendants from committing future violations of these provisions, ordering them to disgorge their ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest, imposing financial penalties and barring them from acting as officers or directors of a public company."

TWO ISAF MEMBERS KILLED BY MAN WEARING AFGHAN ARMY UNIFORM



The following excerpt is from a U.S. Department of Defense American Forces Press Service e-mail:






"Man in Afghan Army Uniform Shoots ISAF Members

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases
WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2012 - A man wearing an Afghan army uniform turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Force service members in eastern Afghanistan today, killing two service members, military officials reported.

It was the second incident in three days of a person wearing an Afghan security forces uniform shooting an ISAF member, officials said.
It is ISAF policy to defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities.
In other news from Afghanistan:

-- An Afghan-led and coalition-supported security force found and destroyed 1,100 pounds of explosives in the Achin district of Nangarhar province yesterday.

-- A combined Afghan and coalition security force in the Nawah-ye Barakzai district of Helmand province detained multiple insurgent suspects today while searching for a Taliban leader who conducts attacks against Afghan government officials.

-- An Afghan-led security force captured a facilitator who supplied arms and explosives to insurgents in the Khost district of Khost province today. The security force seized weapons, ammunition and bomb-making materials and detained an additional suspect during the operation."
 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

U.S. GOVERNMENT WANTS TO HAVE 100,000 U.S. STUDENTS STUDYING IN LATIN AMERICA


The following excerpt is from a U.S. Department of State e-mail:


"100,000 Strong in the Americas


Fact Sheet
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
February 21, 2012

   

"…the United States will work with partners in this region, including the private sector, to in­crease the number of U.S. students studying in Latin America to 100,000, and the number of Latin American students studying in the United States to 100,000."
—President Barack Obama
La Moneda, Santiago, Chile, March 21, 2011
In March 2011, President Barack Obama launched "100,000 Strong in the Americas," an initiative to increase international study in the Western Hemi­sphere. The purpose of 100,000 Strong is to foster region-wide prosperity through greater international exchange of students, who are our future lead­ers and innovators. Increasing understanding in the Western Hemisphere and building closer people-to-people ties will help the State Department work to­gether with the people of the Western Hemisphere to address common chal­lenges including citizen security, economic opportunity, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability.
Partnerships
The Department of State is working to im­plement 100,000 Strong in the Americas through partner­ships – with foreign governments, with universities and colleges, and with the private sector. EducationUSA (educationusa.state.gov), a network of more than 100 U.S.-Government-supported advising centers throughout the Hemisphere, is a centerpiece of our partnership and outreach efforts.
Universities and Colleges
We are working with institu­tions in the United States and throughout the Hemisphere to encourage expanded exchanges and closer partner­ships between U.S. and Latin American universities and colleges.
Private Sector
The U.S. Government, in partnership with governments in the region, strongly supports exchanges through Fulbright, Gilman, and other scholarship pro­grams. Reaching beyond these programs, we seek con­tributions from the private sector to support scholarships. Any such funding will go directly to the organization ad­ministering the program the donor wishes to support.
Foreign Governments
Most governments in the region provide scholarships to enable top students to study abroad. Brazil’s "Science without Borders" scholarship program plans to send 75,000 Brazilians to study abroad over the next four years, with up to half coming to the United States. The United States has worked closely with Brazil to coordinate the U.S. portion of this program. We seek opportunities to cooperate with other governments on student advising, assistance with placement, and co­ordination to ensure timely access to educational and visa services.
Diversity
We are promoting a more diverse profile of stu­dents who participate in educational exchanges and their destinations. The Department of State is reaching out to diverse institutions throughout the United States includ­ing Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, Native American Tribal colleges, and community colleges. We are working with Latin American and Caribbean governments, universities, and the private sector to provide international study opportunities for stu­dents from disadvantaged backgrounds


"


REVIEW OF MILITARY HEALTHCARE FOCUSES ON SLOWING GROWTH OF COSTS


The following excerpt is from the Department of Defense American Forces Press Service:





"Chairman's Corner: The Military Health System


By Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2012 - I spent last week on Capitol Hill with our Secretary of Defense. The questions about our defense budget were tough — as they ought to be. The stakes are high.
There are no easy answers in cutting $487B from the budget, but we're not the first generation to face difficult budget challenges. We'll figure it out. The nation's counting on us.

Health care costs generated a lot of attention. I welcomed the opportunity to speak about this important part of the budget, to express my concerns about further cuts that could come due to sequestration, and to explain how we intend to keep faith with our armed forces — not just through pay and benefits but by ensuring we remain the best trained, best equipped, and best led military in the world.

In forming this budget, we looked at all cost variables. Many of you will know that pay and benefits account for more than 1/3 of the budget and that health care costs in particular have increased from $19B in 2001 to $48B today. We had to act to slow this growth.

I want those of you who serve and who have served to know that we've heard your concerns, in particular your concern about the tiered enrollment fee structure for TRICARE in retirement. You have our commitment that we will continue to review our health care system to make it as responsive, as affordable, and as equitable as possible."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

AFGHANISTAN'S KARZAI CONDEMNS VIOLENCE BY INSURGENTS


The following excerpt is from an e-mail from the Department of Defense: 






"

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force and ISAF Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2012 - The commander of the International Security Assistance Force joined with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in condemning a recent spate of insurgent violence in Afghanistan.
Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen offered condolences to the Afghan people for the "desperate acts of murder by insurgents."

At least six Afghans and an ISAF service member died in insurgent attacks yesterday. In the most recent attack, a man wearing an Afghan police uniform shot and killed an ISAF member in southern Afghanistan.
In other attacks yesterday:

-- A vehicle bearing a homemade bomb exploded when it rammed a district police station in Kandahar, killing two policemen and wounding four Afghan civilians.
-- A roadside bomb killed four civilians, including a child, in Kandahar's Shah Wali Kot district when the victims drove over a roadside bomb.

"My sincere thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and injured in these attacks against the people of Afghanistan," Allen said. "On behalf of the coalition of 50 nations within ISAF, I send condolences to the loved ones concerned and pray for a swift recovery for the injured.

"These incidents again show the insurgency's total disregard for the Afghan people and disdain for peace," he continued. "The lack of concern for the peace and security of the Afghan people, and the continued killing of innocents, sends an obvious message by the insurgents: the Taliban do not care who or how many of their fellow Afghans are killed."

Allen said the attacks show insurgents' growing concern about an increasingly capable Afghan police force, as the attacks are conducted from a distance "to avoid certain capture."

"The insurgents should be concerned," the general said. "We -- ISAF and [Afghan security forces] together -- will continue in our efforts to hold these murderers to account."
In recent Afghanistan operations:
-- A coalition patrol in Kandahar's Zharay district Feb. 19 seized 16 mortar rounds, 12 recoilless rifle rounds and about 62 pounds of homemade explosives.
-- An Afghan and coalition security force in the Kunduz district of Kunduz province Feb. 18 captured a Taliban leader who directed the placement of explosives targeting Afghan and coalition forces.
-- In the Sabari district of Khost province, an Afghan-led security force confiscated bomb-making materials and weapons and detained suspected insurgents while searching for a Haqqani leader who directs roadside-bomb and direct-fire attacks against Afghan forces."

U.S. SPECIAL REP. FOR N. KOREA POLICY MAKES REMARKS IN BEIJING


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

“Remarks Upon Arrival in Beijing
Remarks Glyn Davies
Special Representative for North Korea Policy Westin Chaoyang Hotel
Beijing, China
February 22, 2012
AMBASSADOR DAVIES: It’s very good to see everybody. Thanks very much for coming out. My name is Glyn Davies. I just arrived in Beijing. This is my second visit in my new position. I was here in December just prior to the dramatic events in the second half of December in North Korea. I am here with a very strong interagency delegation of colleagues - in particular, with Special Envoy to the Six-Party Talks Clifford Hart, who is here with me, and we are, of course, here prepared to engage the North Koreans to try to pick up where we left off in our second exploratory talks in Geneva in late October of last year. I think you are all quite familiar with the issues that are on the table in this bilateral exploratory phase with the North Koreans - in particular, the denuclearization issue, but I also plan to raise nonproliferation, human rights and humanitarian affairs, and my hope is that we can find a way to move forward with the North because, of course, I think it’s in everyone’s interest to try to get on to the next phase here which will be Six-Party Talks and that will be up to North Korea. And I hope that they are coming in the cooperative spirit ready to discuss all of the issues that are of concern to us and that we will spend more time at our talks tomorrow discussing the future rather than dwelling on the past - and with that I’d be very happy to take any of your questions. Over to you.

QUESTION: Sir, over the last 12 months or so we’ve seen a little regime change in countries around the world. Do you think that the Arab Spring has at all affected the North Korean thinking in any way?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: I don’t know. I mean that’s a question that…I mean, I hate to say this to you, but you’d have to put that to the North Koreans. I can’t get inside their heads to try to do some psychoanalysis of how the Arab Spring might or might not have affected their thinking. My objective is to try to find a way forward that will lead to greater peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula which is important not just for the people of Korea, North and South, but also for the region of Northeast Asia and quite frankly for the world. And with this change that’s occurring or has occurred in the leadership in Pyongyang, we will be interested in seeing whether they’re interested in moving forward with us and then eventually – the much more important phase of this – aspect of this – moving forward with the other members of the Six-Party. Let me come down here – yes?

QUESTION: I’m from CCTV and my question is things now in North Korea with a new leader, what kind of particular information do you want to get at these meetings?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Yes, well, the purpose of my meeting here – I’m not really here quite so much to try to investigate the new leadership is in North Korea. I’m much more interested in trying to find out what the new leadership in North Korea is prepared to do – and I think that’s what’s important about this diplomatic process that we’re engaging in. Are they prepared to pick up where we left off from the New York meeting in July and the Geneva meeting in October? Can we move forward on that basis, and can we find a way forward on, in particular, the question of denuclearization, but also on these other issues that I've mentioned: nonproliferation, obviously humanitarian issues and human rights issues are important to us, regional stability. We think it's very important that North Korea quickly take up again its dialogue with its neighbors, in particular South Korea but also with Japan, that's important. And so, those are the kinds of things I'll be looking for when I meet with First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan tomorrow. And, as I say, I'm hopeful that we won't spend too much time going back over positions that we have already outlined to each other, and that we can start from that spot and move forward.
QUESTION: What do you think is the obstacle right now, the major obstacle...

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Let me come here and then come right back to you. Yes, please.

QUESTION: NHK, Japanese public TV, in terms of nutritional assistance, there is some differences between the U.S. and the DPRK. How is it influence on tomorrow's meeting?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, I don't know, I mean, I think we've all seen what the North Koreans said in their statement from KCNA some weeks ago, quoting their Foreign Ministry. They have laid out a position that you've all read about their desire for a certain quantity of food, a certain mix...they in particular want to get as much grain as they possibly can. Our position that we have outlined to them, actually in this city, in Beijing, just prior to the announcement of the death of Kim Jong-il is there. They know about it, they know what it's based on, that it's based on, number one, our deep concern for the welfare of the people of North Korea, number two, our technical assessment of the need that exists in North Korea, and then obviously we have to make these decisions based on competing needs around the word for our own nutritional assistance.

So all of that was laid out for them when Ambassador Bob King, who is our Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights, came out with Mr. Jon Brause, Deputy Administrator of AID. They got into a number of specific issues that relate to the modalities of the delivery of assistance. Exactly how long this might take, how we are hoping to reach certain populations -- children under five in particular, but also pregnant and breast-feeding women, and certain elderly who are living alone off of the North Korea public distribution system -- all of that was laid out to them, and those talks made very good progress but they didn't achieve a final result. I expect that that may well come up in our discussions with the North Koreans, and we are prepared for that - we're ready to talk about that - and to see if we can move that process forward as well. But right now, we've made no final decisions about the provision of nutritional assistance because we haven't reached agreement on all of the modalities that we've discussed in Beijing.
And now, over here there was a question...

QUESTION: What’s the prognosis out there for the possibility of restarting the Six-Party Talks, can you comment? (inaudible)

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: Well, again that’s very much up to North Korea. We all, I think, all of us in the region have, and all of us involved in the process, have an interest in trying to get back to the Six-Party Talks. But we’re not interested in doing it at any costs and at all costs. So we’re not interested, as we’ve said many times, in talk for talk’s sake. We first need to see signs that North Korea is indeed prepared to take steps to reassure all of us, and particularly the United States - I represent the United States - that they are sincere in getting back to fulfilling the obligations that they themselves made, along with the other members of the Six-Party Talks, in the September 2005 statement, and in other Six-Party meetings and statements. And so, that’s really what I’m interested in, in this forum – is, are they ready to get back to that conversation, and to carry it forward into the future and not spend too much time re-fighting some of the battles of the past. I think that’s the most important thing. Other questions? Anyone else? One more. Yes, sir?

QUESTION: It’s me again. How much do you know about how Kim Jung Un and how much do you think his thinking will influence your job and the progress?

AMBASSADOR DAVIES: You are now asking me an imponderable, quite frankly. I mean, North Korea has a new leader. This is obviously the backdrop to our having this conversation that begins tomorrow. What precisely his policies are, in what direction he wants to take his country, all of these are a bit unknown at this stage.
I find it a positive sign that relatively soon after the beginning of the transition in North Korea, the DPRK has chosen to get back to the table with us. I think that’s a good thing. But the proof will be in the results of these discussions that we have with the North Koreans. Which is why I’m so interested in having this conversation with the First Vice Foreign Minister and his team, and exploring just exactly where they are, maybe beginning to get some answers to these questions, such as you are asking here today.
In any event, I haven’t yet had a conversation with the North Koreans, so I don’t have all that much news to provide you. I’m sorry about that. But what I would like to do is find other occasions, perhaps at the beginning of every day and end of every day, to get back with you, and tell you what I can.

You have to remember that this is a diplomatic process. My first obligation is to our partners in the Six-Party process. I look forward very much to having a good conversation with Special Representative Wu Dawei here in Beijing. That will be excellent. And then from here, Saturday, we will go off to Seoul, where I will have a chance to talk to Lim Sung-nam, my counterpart in Seoul. And then to Director General Sugiyama in Tokyo on Sunday. And that’s an important part of this process. Making sure that we all stay, knitted up together, connected up together in the Six-Party process.

I was off to Moscow a few weeks ago, and I met with my new counterpart, Ambassador Morgulov. And I’ll call him sometime, to report to him. And with all due respect to you, I know you have jobs to do, and they’re important jobs, what I need to do is privileged as diplomatic conversations, and make sure I talk to them. And provide them details, perhaps so that they don’t hear it first from you. And I hope you understand that.

In any event, so if that’s okay, we’ll try to let you know when I’ll be leaving the hotel tomorrow morning. I’d be happy to say a couple of words. And then perhaps at the end of the day tomorrow we can all get back together again and have a conversation then. So again, thank you very much for coming here today and I look forward to working with you and talking with you over the coming days.
Thanks a lot, talk to you soon. Bye-bye."

MAN IN TEXAS TO PAY $31 MILLION IN FRAUDULENT FOREIGN CURRENCY TRADING SCHEME


The following excerpt is from the CFTC website:

“Federal Court Orders Texas Resident Robert D. Watson to Pay $31 Million for Defrauding Customers, Misappropriating Millions of Dollars, and Providing Fictitious Records in Forex Scheme
Watson’s business entities ordered to pay disgorgement of $21 million, and Texas resident Daniel J. Petroski ordered to pay more than $550,000 for his role in the scheme

In a related criminal matter, Watson was sentenced to 20 years in prison on February 10, 2012
Washington, DC - The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced that it obtained federal court consent orders resolving its remaining claims against defendants Robert D. Watson and Daniel J. Petroski, both of Houston, Texas, PrivateFX Global One Ltd., SA, and 36 Holdings Ltd. Global One, a corporation formed in Panama, and 36 Holdings are under the control of a court-appointed receiver, Thomas L. Taylor III.

The consent orders, both entered on February 2, 2012, by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, stem from a CFTC complaint filed in the same court on May 21, 2009, charging the defendants with operating a multi-million dollar fraudulent off-exchange foreign currency (forex) scheme (see CFTC Press Release 5661-09, May 26, 2009).

One consent order requires Watson, Global One, and 36 Holdings jointly and severally to pay $21 million in disgorgement and orders Watson to pay a $10 million civil monetary penalty. The other consent order requires Petroski to pay $414,723 in disgorgement and a $140,000 civil monetary penalty. The consent orders also require the defendants to give up their rights to funds and other assets held by the receiver.

The court previously entered a consent order of permanent injunction on February 24, 2010, that resolved liability against all defendants and permanently barred the defendants from engaging in any commodity-related activity and from registering with the CFTC. This earlier order found that on or about July 1, 2006, defendants began soliciting investors to purchase shares of Global One, whose purported objective was to speculate in the forex markets. Global One’s offering raised approximately $21 million from at least 80 investors by touting Global One’s purportedly successful forex trading performance, according to the order. From April 2006 through April 2009, the defendants reported monthly returns, purportedly generated through forex trading, to Global One investors of approximately 1.5 percent to nearly 3 percent and claimed to never have had a losing month trading forex, the court found. However, also according to the order, the defendants’ representations to Global One investors regarding Global One’s extraordinary forex trading profits and related returns to investors were false.

The earlier consent order also found that, prior to the filing of the CFTC’s complaint, the defendants provided the CFTC with fictitious third-party bank and forex trading records prepared by Watson to conceal the fraud.

In a related criminal matter, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas as part of President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, Watson pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud. On February 10, 2012, the court sentenced Watson to the statutory maximum of 20 years in prison."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA APOLOGIZES FOR QURAN BURNING IN AFGHANISTAN

The following excerpt is from the Department of Defense American Forces Press Service: 
"WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta today joined the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan in apologizing to the Afghan people for the reported inappropriate treatment of religious materials, including copies of the Quran, at Bagram Airfield.
In a written statement, Panetta said Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen had notified him of "the deeply unfortunate incident."

"He and I apologize to the Afghan people and disapprove of such conduct in the strongest possible terms," Panetta said. "These actions do not represent the views of the United States military. We honor and respect the religious practices of the Afghan people, without exception." 

The secretary added that he supports Allen's "swift and decisive action" to investigate the matter jointly with the Afghan government. "I will carefully review the final results of the investigation to ensure that we take all steps necessary and appropriate so that this never happens again," he said.
In a statement issued this morning, Allen said he'd received a report overnight on the improper disposal of Islamic religious materials at Bagram and launched a formal investigation.

"When we learned of these actions, we immediately intervened and stopped them," he said. "The materials recovered will be properly handled by appropriate religious authorities."

International Security Assistance Force officials are taking steps "to ensure this does not ever happen again," Allen said. "I assure you -- I promise you -- this was NOT intentional in any way," he added.

Allen offered his personal apology to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Afghan government, "and most importantly, to the noble people of Afghanistan."

"I would like to thank the local Afghan people who helped us identify the error, and who worked with us to immediately take corrective action," Allen said."

Monday, February 20, 2012

DOW CHEMICAL TO PURCHASE ABOUT 50 PROPERTIES DUE TO POSSIBLE DIOXIN CONTAMINATION


The following excerpt is from the Dow Chemical Company website:

"Midland, MI - February 16, 2012
Earlier today, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) announced a proposed plan to resolve the dioxin issue in the city of Midland.
In a related announcement, The Dow Chemical Company today is informing owners of approximately 50 properties in a commercial area near the Michigan Operations manufacturing site about a voluntary property purchase program.
Dow is offering this incentivized property purchase program to give property owners in the immediate area north and east of Michigan Operations (see map) the option to move out of an industrial/commercial area to a residential area, if they so choose. The program will also offer relocation support for those who rent their homes, if the property owner participates in the program.
"We see this as an opportunity to address land use near our manufacturing site and give people still living in this industrial/commercial area the choice to move elsewhere," said Rich A. Wells, vice president and site director for Dow's Michigan Operations.
Dow has retained Community Interaction Consulting Inc. (CIC), a real estate services company, to administer the voluntary property purchase program and help property owners and renters understand their options.
The 50 properties eligible for the program are located within the resolution area outlined in the proposed dioxin agreement announced today by the MDEQ. Property owners who choose not to relocate will be offered testing and remediation of their properties, if necessary.
Dow will donate acquired properties to Midland Tomorrow, the nonprofit economic development entity serving Midland County.
Dow has also established the Midland Resolution Center at 1008 Jefferson Avenue to serve as a resource for property owners. Beginning February 21, 2012, CIC representatives will be available at the Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Homeowners can also find more information online by visiting www.midlandpropertyprogram.com, or by calling (989) 638-7002.
About Dow
Dow (NYSE: DOW) combines the power of science and technology to passionately innovate what is essential to human progress. The Company connects chemistry and innovation with the principles of sustainability to help address many of the world's most challenging problems such as the need for clean water, renewable energy generation and conservation, and increasing agricultural productivity. Dow's diversified industry-leading portfolio of specialty chemical, advanced materials, agrosciences and plastics businesses delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions to customers in approximately 160 countries and in high growth sectors such as electronics, water, energy, coatings and agriculture. In 2011, Dow had annual sales of $60 billion and employed approximately 52,000 people worldwide. The Company's more than 5,000 products are manufactured at 197 sites in 36 countries across the globe. References to "Dow" or the "Company" mean The Dow Chemical Company and its consolidated subsidiaries unless otherwise expressly noted. More information about Dow can be found at www.dow.com."