Saturday, April 28, 2012
President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Grand Foyer of the White House, April 27, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Obama: Executive Order Protects Military, Vet Students
By Donna Miles
WASHINGTON, April 28, 2012 – President Barack Obama dedicated his weekly radio and video address today to describing the advantages of a new executive order designed to crack down on bad actors who prey on service members and veterans considering higher education.
Obama, who traveled yesterday to Fort Stewart, Ga., to unveil the new order, called it vital protection to brave men and women who are often bombarded by schools that provide false or misleading information about things like interest rates on loans, credit transfers, and job placement programs.
The order, he explained, will make it easier for military members and veterans to make informed decisions about financial aid and paying for college and also takes a number of steps to fight deceptive practices by some institutions.
“These men and women have fought with bravery and honor in some of the most dangerous places on the planet,” the president said today, noting that some never returned. “But those who did are now fighting a different kind of battle here at home,” he said. “They’re looking for new jobs, new opportunities, and new ways to serve.”
For many, Obama said, that means returning to school with help from the 9/11 GI Bill and tuition assistance program to help defray costs. Last year, these measures supported more than a half-million veterans and more than 300,000 service members who are pursuing a higher education, he noted.
“That’s progress,” he said. “But it’s not enough to just help our veterans and service members afford school -– we need to make sure they have all the tools they need to make an informed decision when it comes to picking the right program.”
Obama recognized the sad truth that some unscrupulous people are “less interested in helping our men and women in uniform get ahead and more interested in making a buck.” They game the system, he said, bombarding potential students with high-pressure tactics and steering them toward high-interest loans and misleading credit transfers and job placement programs.
“That’s appalling. It’s disgraceful,” he said. “And even though the vast majority of schools do the right thing, we need to guard against the bad actors who don’t.”
The new executive order will make it tougher for those who try to prey on service members and veterans. It will ensure they get the straight facts and make it easier to file complaints, he said.
The result, the president said, will be more security for service members, veterans and their families.
“When our men and women in uniform succeed, our country succeeds,” Obama said. “ They have our back; now it’s our turn to have theirs. And as long as I’m president, I’m going to make sure that anyone who serves this country gets every opportunity they deserve.”
FROM: AMERICAN FORCES PRESS SERVICE
Service Personnel Leaders Testify on Budget Request
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
WASHINGTON, April 27, 2012 - Army, Navy and Air Force leaders detailed plans for force readiness and service member support when they briefed a Senate committee this week on budget requests for next year.
"Wartime experiences over the past decade have taught us that we must have a total Army," Thomas R. Lamont, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on military and civilian personnel programs April 25. The Army National Guard and Army Reserve provide 51 percent of the Army's military end strength for around 16 percent of the base budget, he said.
Lamont said he looks forward to working with Congress to ensure the Guard and Reserve maintain a readily trained force of one million soldiers. "We are increasingly aware of the physical and emotional toll a decade of war has taken on our force," Lamont said. "And we are committed to providing quality assistance" to soldiers and family members who are struggling with issues such as substance abuse, depression, post-traumatic stress."
All affect readiness and weaken the force, Lamont said. The Army continues to take aggressive action to promote health, identify and reduce risky behaviors and prevent suicides, he said. He also said the service is working hard to establish a climate where sexual harassment, sexual assault and hazing are not tolerated.
At the same hearing, Juan M. Garcia III, assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs, highlighted new ROTC units and opportunities including those for women that have opened in the force.
"We have 23 female officers assigned to submarines, with more being assigned in the very near future," Garcia said. "Last year, I spoke of new Navy ROTC units at Arizona State University and Rutgers. This year, I'm pleased to report that we're expanding our ROTC presence at Harvard, Yale and Columbia as part of our goal to make Naval service a viable option for young men and women from all regions and all segments of society."
The Navy and Marine Corps will strive to meet operational requirements as efficiently as possible, Garcia added. "For the Navy, this means continuing to move sailors from shore-support functions to sea duty to enhance operational readiness," he explained. "For the Marines, the reduction of nearly 20,000 in end strength coincides with the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan."
Garcia said the Navy's highest priority remains the care and recovery of wounded, ill and injured service members, adding, "the Navy is leading the way in innovative, therapeutic treatments of our wounded warriors."
Garcia said the Navy's highest priority remains the care and recovery of wounded, ill and injured service members, adding, "the Navy is leading the way in innovative, therapeutic treatments of our wounded warriors."
Daniel B. Ginsberg, assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs testified about "very hard choices" the Air Force made for this year's budget submission.
"We had to reconcile top-line reductions with our requirement to fulfill our global commitments, and maintain acceptable levels of readiness while still sustaining key quality-of-life and core services for our people," Ginsberg said.
"Despite a difficult budget situation, the Air Force is committed to providing cost-effective medical care, services and programs to maintain a healthy and resilient force," he said. "We must support our people to meet the demands of a high-operation tempo and persistent conflict."
Ginsberg also told the committee how the services worked together to form a cohesive budget plan through the Defense Management Action Group.
"There's lots of communications back and forth where we highlight some of the big issues that are going to be coming forward in the year ahead," he added.
DENSCO CORPORATION EXECUTIVE PLEADS GUILTY TO PRICE FIXING BID-RIGGING CONSPIRACY OF U.S. AUTO PARTS
FROM: DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, April 26, 2012
DENSO Corporation Executive Agrees to Plead Guilty to Automobile Parts Price-Fixing and Bid-Rigging Conspiracy Executive Agrees to Serve 14 Months in U.S. Prison
WASHINGTON – An executive of Japanese-based DENSO Corporation has agreed to plead guilty and to serve 14 months in a U.S. prison for his role in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for heater control panels (HCPs) installed in U.S. cars, the Department of Justice announced today.
According to the one-count felony charge filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, Makoto Hattori, along with co-conspirators, engaged in a conspiracy to rig bids for and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of HCPs sold to a customer in the United States and elsewhere. HCPs are located in the center console of an automobile and control the temperature of the interior environment of a vehicle.
According to the charge, Hattori participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as July 2005, until at least July 2008. During the conspiracy, Hattori was an assistant manager in the Toyota Sales Division at DENSO from July 2005 until December 2006, and a manager in the Toyota Sales Division from December 2006 until at least July 2008. According to the plea agreement, which is subject to court approval, Hattori has agreed to serve 14 months in a U.S. prison, to pay a $20,000 criminal fine and to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation.
“The Antitrust Division remains committed to holding executives accountable for engaging in illegal conduct that directly impacts the pocketbooks of American consumers and businesses,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Sharis A. Pozen in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “Criminal antitrust enforcement remains a top priority and the division will continue to work with the FBI and our law enforcement counterparts to root out this kind of cartel conduct that results in higher, non-competitive prices.”
According to court documents, Hattori and co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy by agreeing, during meetings and conversations, to allocate the supply of HCPs on a model-by-model basis and to coordinate price adjustments requested by an automobile manufacturer in the United States and elsewhere. The department said that Hattori and the co-conspirators sold HCPs at non-competitive prices and engaged in meetings and conversations for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreed-upon bid-rigging and price-fixing scheme.
Including Hattori, nine individuals and five companies have been charged in the department’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry. Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd, DENSO Corporation and Yazaki Corporation have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to pay a total of more than $748 million in criminal fines. G.S. Electech Inc. and Fujikura Ltd have agreed to plead guilty and await sentencing. Additionally, seven of the individuals - Junichi Funo, Hirotsugu Nagata, Tetsuya Ukai, Tsuneaki Hanamura, Ryoji Kawai, Shigeru Ogawa and Hisamitsu Takada – have been sentenced to pay criminal fines and to serve jail sentences ranging from a year and a day to two years each. The remaining two individuals, Hattori and Norihiro Imai, have agreed to plead guilty and await sentencing.
Hattori is charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine for individuals. The maximum fine for an individual may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
4 SOPS celebrates 20 years of history
by 1st Lt. Shawn Woodall Jr.
4th Space Operations Squadron
Brig. Gen. Roger W. Teague, Space and Missile Systems Center vice commander. speaks to members of the 4th Space Operations Squadron and other attendees at the ceremony marking the 20th Anniversary of the 4 SOPS April 20. Following the ceremony, attendees were able to tour the current 4 SOPS operations floor. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Dennis Rogers)
4/25/2012 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- For nearly 20 years, the men and women of the 4th Space Operations Squadron have been providing protected military satellite communications to the Department of Defense. Though April 30 marks the 20-year milestone for the squadron, 4 SOPS lineage dates back to the early 1940s.
The squadron began with the activation of the 4th Photographic Squadron June 10, 1941, at March Field, Calif. In World War II, the unit saw a lot of action in the Pacific Theater and was highly decorated.
The unit experienced a few more activations and deactivations before it was activated with its current designation. The 4 SOPS, as we know it today, was activated April 30, 1992, with the charge to operate highly protected military satellite communications operating the Milstar Constellation. Today, along with operating Milstar, 4 SOPS recently took control of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite communication system.
With this, the unit celebrated its 20th anniversary, April 20, with a series of events. Lt. Col. Scott Trinrud, 4 SOPS commander, and Brig. Gen. Roger Teague, director of the Space and Missile Systems Center's Infrared Space Systems Directorate, kicked off the celebration with opening remarks at the Bldg. 210 atrium. The 4 SOPS also hosted a social event in the evening at Peterson Air Force Base club, where Trinrud and former squadron commanders gave remarks about the squadron and its achievements.
"It's an honor to be a part of a squadron with a proud heritage and a critical mission," said Lt. Col. Patrick Long, 4 SOPS director of operations.
As part of its mission, the squadron commands and controls the Air Force-protected MILSATCOM systems, which provide warfighters global, secure, survivable, strategic and tactical communication during peacetime and throughout the full spectrum of conflict. The 4 SOPS' motto, "Linking the Forces," mirrors the squadron's responsibility to enhance the nation's secure communications capability for today's military forces. The squadron operates the Milstar/AEHF satellite constellation through the Air Force Satellite Control Network, Protected Satellite Operations Center and Mobile Constellation Control Stations. The Milstar/AEHF constellation links command authorities to high-priority U.S. forces via communications terminals onboard aircraft, ships, submarines, trucks and ground sites with encrypted facsimile, teletype, data or voice communications.
Another aspect to the 4 SOPS mission consists of its mobile operations, whose operators are ready to deploy at a moment's notice. They deploy with the commanders of U.S. Northern Command and Strategic Command, supplying survivable, enduring and secure communications and constellation command and control throughout the entire spectrum of conflict, which includes trans- and post-attack phases of nuclear war.
"Our mobile capability offers uniqueness unknown to any other squadron that provides MILSATCOM," said 1st Lt. Kris Walker, mobile operations engineer. "This exceptionality makes 4 SOPS critical to routine, as well as contingency operations."
As the squadron moves forward with satellite operations, DoD users can be assured that 4 SOPS will continue to provide military satellite communications for many years to come
CHAIRMAN OF HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE DAVE CAMP'S FLOOR STATEMENT ON "SMALL BUSINESS TAX CUT ACT"
FROM: CONGRESSMAN DAVE CAMP’S WEBSITE
Camp Floor Statement: H.R. 9, “The Small Business Tax Cut Act.”Thursday, April 19, 2012
I rise today in support of H.R. 9, “The Small Business Tax Cut Act.” This legislation will allow small businesses with fewer than 500 employees to take a 20 percent tax deduction.
Small businesses are the engine of job creation. And, while we pursue comprehensive tax reform that will give all businesses certainty to invest and hire, this bill will help small businesses to re-invest, hire new workers, or provide a raise to an employee.
The policies put forth by President Obama and Congressional Democrats have yielded more government spending, but have failed to generate strong economic growth and the jobs Americans need. Instead of lower unemployment, we got a lower credit rating. Instead of massive job creation, we got massive and unprecedented levels of debt. And, instead of higher wages for working families, we got higher gas prices.
This bill provides real relief to American small businesses and the workers they employ. And, it treats every small business equally. Contrary to the political cronyism we’ve seen time and again, this bill doesn’t pick winners and losers. It provides relief to all small businesses, including those in my home state of Michigan.
Michigan has been hit especially hard over the last three years with some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. And while small business owners in my district need and want comprehensive tax reform, they also agree that we must take steps to spur investment and hiring today, too. These business owners are the real experts who know what they need to add jobs back to our communities.
Take for example, Bob Yackel, President of Merrill Tools. As part of the 400-employee Merrill Technologies Group, Mr. Yackel says, “As a manufacturing business in Mid-Michigan, we know firsthand the ramifications of the recent economic turmoil. The best way Washington can help energize economic growth is by making sure business owners are spending less on tax payments and more on creating jobs.”
Bob Yackel is a larger small business owner, but there are smaller businesses that feel the same way. Jim Holton, owner of Mountain Town Station in Mount Pleasant, has served the central Michigan community as a restaurant owner for more than 15 years. He is especially pleased with the simplicity and ease of this legislative approach. He says, “The beauty of the Small Business Tax Cut Act is its simplicity. If you are earning profits and contributing to the economy, then you can take 20 percent off your tax bill. No hoops to jump through. This is a great way for business owners like myself in the Great Lakes Bay region and across America to help jumpstart our economy.”
Those are just two examples in Michigan’s Fourth District, but they echo small business owners across the country. Throughout our history we have depended upon these industrious and innovative risk-takers to help us move through tough economic times. While we work to provide them the long-term comprehensive tax reform they need, we can also take steps today to unlock new opportunities for them immediately. Passing this bill will provide these much-needed, immediate opportunities.
I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting small business – and to demonstrate that support by voting yes on HR 9.
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan (April 24, 2012) Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) the Honorable Ray Mabus hands out candy to Afghan children near Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Mabus conducted battlefield circulations with Marine and Navy forces, received updates on progress from coalition and Afghan leaders, and thanked service members for their service and sacrifice. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Sam Shavers/Released)
FROM: AMERICAN FORCES PRESS SERVICE
Panetta: U.S. Remains Focused on Pursuit of Al-Qaida
By Cheryl Pellerin
ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, April 27, 2012 - America has become a safer place since a Navy SEAL team killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan compound nearly a year ago, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.
Returning from a weeklong trip to South America to strengthen military ties in Colombia, Brazil and Chile, Panetta, who was director of the CIA on May 2, 2011, when the al-Qaida chieftain met his end, recalled the high-risk mission the Defense Department called Operation Neptune Spear.
"I don't think there's any question that America is safer as a result of the bin Laden operation," Panetta told reporters traveling with him.
"When you combine that with the other operations that have ... gone after al-Qaida leadership," he added, "I think it has weakened al-Qaida as an organization and certainly it has prevented them from having the command-and-control capability to be able to put together an attack similar to 9/11.
But al-Qaida remains a threat, the secretary said.
"It doesn't mean that we somehow don't have the responsibility to keep going after them wherever they are -- and we are," he said.
President Barack Obama's decision to give the bin Laden operation the green light was gutsy, the secretary said, since there wasn't absolute confirmation that bin Laden was inside the Abbottabad compound.
Officials had based the operation "on a lot of circumstantial evidence," the secretary said, yet it was the best lead on bin Laden's whereabouts since 2001.
However, the validity of the evidence, he said, was "still a big question mark."
Panetta said the operation provided "several fingernail-biting moments" for U.S. officials and military leaders who from Afghanistan, the CIA operations center and the White House were monitoring the raid as it happened.
One of those anxious moments occurred, the secretary said, when the military aircraft used in the operation -- two lead helicopters plus backups -- entered Pakistani airspace.
"When they crossed the border and were going into Pakistan there were a lot of tense moments about whether or not they would be detected," Panetta said.
Another nail-biting moment occurred as the helicopters entered the Abbottabad compound and one of them lost lift and had to be left behind and destroyed, Panetta said.
"What had happened was that we had picked up from weather reports what the heat conditions were going to be on the ground," the secretary said, "but it turned out to be hotter than we expected."
The heat, intensified by the compound's thick, high walls, caused the helicopter to lose lift and end up on the ground.
Panetta was at that time on the line with Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. McRaven was monitoring communications from Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
After the loss of the helicopter, Panetta recalled asking McRaven, "Okay, what's next?" The admiral, the secretary said, replied, "Don't worry, we're ready for this."
There was additional tension during a 20-minute period of silence that began after the SEALs entered the building where everyone hoped they would find bin Laden, the secretary said. Then they heard weapons fire.
"We knew gunshots had been fired but after that I just didn't know," Panetta said. It was at that point that McRaven reported that he might have heard the code word -- Geronimo -- that would mean they had found bin Laden.
"We still were waiting, and then within a few minutes McRaven said the words, 'Geronimo KIA,'" the secretary said, which meant that bin Laden had been killed in action.
"And that was that," Panetta said.
It was also tense when the team got back into the helicopters and began to leave the compound, he said.
"By that time they had blown [up] the helicopter that was down and you knew that we had woken up all of Pakistan to the fact that something had happened," Panetta said.
The concern revolved around what the Pakistanis were thinking and how they would respond, and whether the team could get out without problems, he said.
"The moment they crossed the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, we finally knew that the mission had been accomplished," Panetta said.
Yet, he said, there were no cheers or high-fives at the CIA's operations center.
"We had some special forces people at the operations center at CIA and we all kind of looked at each other," Panetta said. "As a matter of fact, I have a picture in my office of all of us putting our arms around each other, just [acknowledging that] we got the job done."
Today, nearly a year after bin Laden's demise, the United States and its allies continue to hunt down al-Qaida and other terrorists -- wherever they may be.
"The more successful we are at taking down those who represent their spiritual and ideological leadership, the greater our ability to weaken their threat to this country and to other countries," Panetta said.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
Labor Department statement on withdrawal of proposed rule dealing with children who work in agricultural vocations
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor today issued the following statement regarding the withdrawal of a proposed rule dealing with children who work in agricultural vocations:
"The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations. The Obama administration is also deeply committed to listening and responding to what Americans across the country have to say about proposed rules and regulations.
"As a result, the Department of Labor is announcing today the withdrawal of the proposed rule dealing with children under the age of 16 who work in agricultural vocations.
"The decision to withdraw this rule — including provisions to define the 'parental exemption' — was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms. To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.
"Instead, the Departments of Labor and Agriculture will work with rural stakeholders — such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Future Farmers of America, and 4-H — to develop an educational program to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices."
FROM: EXPORT-IMPORT BANK
Cover Policy Expansions Coming in Three African Countries
WASHINGTON, D.C.: The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) today announced a three-year renewal of the Bank’s Short-Term Africa Initiative (STAI) that provides export-credit insurance for U.S. exporters selling to 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, up to a program limit of $100 million. The initiative is renewed through March 31, 2015.
The Bank also anticipates expanding the availability of its export financing in three sub-Saharan African countries: Cameroon, Ethiopia and Tanzania. Ex-Im Bank’s board of directors is expected to authorize cover-policy expansions for each respective country in May. The changes will be made possible by risk-assessment upgrades that were recently approved through a federal interagency review.
“Sub-Saharan Africa offers great, untapped potential for U.S. companies looking to grow by increasing their foreign sales. Through Ex-Im’s initiative, the U.S. government is opening markets throughout this region,” said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. “We encourage more exporters to enter these markets now to establish a presence that can lead to follow-on business for years to come.”
Hochberg added that the financing risks of many sub-Saharan markets have improved significantly and are lower than commonly perceived. He noted that the Bank has had an excellent experience of repayment in these markets in recent years.
“Since 2002, Ex-Im Bank has authorized $4 billion to support U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa, and we’ve netted more than $150 million in fees,” Chairman Hochberg said. “Ex-Im’s net loss rate in the region is 2 percent, with our fees earning 2.5 times more than the claims we’ve received. This is a very solid repayment record. We want more U.S. exporters to initiate or expand their business in Africa.”
In FY 2011, Ex-Im Bank surpassed the $1 billion authorizations mark for the first time in sub-Saharan Africa, with almost $1.4 billion approved to support U.S. exports to the region. The Bank anticipates another strong authorizations year in FY 2012.
Under STAI, Ex-Im Bank provides support for short-term transactions (repayment terms of up to 180 days, exceptionally up to 360 days) in markets where coverage would not be available under the Bank’s standard cover policy, which is normally based upon credit-risk analysis for medium-term transactions (repayment terms up to seven years).
Currently, Ex-Im’s insurance on all short-term STAI country transactions is available only under the Bank’s single-buyer insurance policy, which is a select-risk authorization. Existing Ex-Im multibuyer policyholders with a diverse spread of country and buyer risk are also eligible but must submit separate single-buyer policy applications for each STAI country buyer. However, under the initiative’s renewal, exporters having favorable experience with highly creditworthy STAI country buyers may have these buyers endorsed to their multibuyer policy.
Ex-Im’s insurance is available to support U.S. exports of a wide range of goods, including consumer items, spare parts, raw materials, agricultural commodities, and construction and mining equipment, among others. The insurance covers irrevocable letters of credit, promissory notes and open-account repayment terms that enable the exporter to extend short-term financing to the foreign buyer. Policies are also available for eligible U.S. banks.
About Ex-Im Bank:
Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that helps create and maintain U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing at no cost to American taxpayers. In the past five years, Ex-Im Bank has earned for U.S. taxpayers $1.9 billion above the cost of operations. The Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working capital guarantees, export-credit insurance and financing to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services.
Ex-Im Bank approved $32.7 billion in total authorizations in FY 2011 -- an all-time Ex-Im record. This total includes more than $6 billion directly supporting small-business export sales -- also an Ex-Im record. Ex-Im Bank's total authorizations are supporting an estimated $41 billion in U.S. export sales and approximately 290,000 American jobs in communities across the country.
FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Remarks at the Global Impact Economy Forum
Remarks Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State Loy Henderson Auditorium
April 26, 2012
Thank you. Oh, thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you, all. Thank you. That was perfect timing, bottoms up. I loved hearing that as I walked in. Thanks to Kris Balderston, his staff in our office of the Global Partnership Initiatives, and everyone here who has helped to plan this forum providing us a lot of great advice and counsel.
I’m also delighted to welcome Sir Richard Branson. Thank you so much for being here. I love the fact that he is such a strong proponent for business as unusual. And I’m excited he’s here because many, many, many years ago, I wanted to be an astronaut, and I think he may be my last chance to live out – (laughter) – that particular dream.
You’re here because you know that we have an opportunity with the convergence of the recognition on the part of government, the private sector, civil society, that we can be so much more effective working together than working at cross-purposes. And for me, this is a great moment to look at where we stand in the world in the pursuit of economic growth and prosperity that is broadly inclusive and sustainable. You know the statistics as well as anyone: One out of three people in the world today living on less than $2 a day; the challenges we face from finite resources, climate change, and other environmental degradation; looking at how people themselves are being empowered from the bottom up in large measure because of the phenomenon of social media. And it’s not only happening somewhere out there, it’s happening everywhere.
And the fact is, these trend lines, apart from the headlines that we all spend most of our time looking at, are profoundly important to foreign policy and national security of all of our countries, because governments everywhere, including most particularly our own, are grappling with what challenges like these mean for our citizens. We believe expanding economic opportunity is fundamental to achieving our own national interest. We want more prosperous societies. We want to see people moving into the middle class. We want to see that creativity and entrepreneurial spirit fostering growth. And we have been working within the Obama Administration to bring our various institutions together to try to put forth that as a focus for us.
So the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Commerce, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, many other of our own institutions working together with international and multilateral institutions are trying to crack the code on removing the obstacles that limit growth. But we have to be more intentional about it. And that’s part of what this forum is meant to both represent, but far more importantly, help us achieve.
And we recognize that so called official development assistance is no longer the leading edge indicator or tool that it used to be. In the 1960s, official development assistance represented about 70 percent of capital flows into developing nations. Today that number is about 13 percent. Where does the rest come from? Well, you know it comes from the private sector, comes from increased trade revenues, it comes from the flow of remittances, and any number of other non-governmental sources. So we’ve made it a goal of this Administration to do more to engage with and coordinate with the private sector, non-profits, philanthropists, diasporas, and anyone else who has value to add.
We know we need partnerships and innovative alliances, which is why one of the first things I did at the State Department was to set up this Office of Global Partnerships. We needed to tear down the silos that prevented us from working creatively and smartly together. We needed to facilitate and scale up the impact economy. And we needed to make it clear that we were over the separation mentality that for too long has guided our efforts.
What do I mean by that? Well, in the past, we looked at corporate revenue and corporate responsibility as separate concerns. We looked at government activity and everything else as separate concerns. Now we know that there’s so much out there that is happening but may not be shared broadly enough so that it both inspires and catalyzes others to do the same. There is a market waiting to be filled in every corner of this world.
So if we can open the doors to new markets and new investments, we can tap as many as 1.4 billion new mid-market customers with growing incomes in developing countries. Taken together, they represent more than $12 trillion in spending power. That’s a huge potential customer base, not only for American companies, which is my primary concern, but also for others. So when we make investments from the three stools of this strategy, official development assistance, not-for-profit philanthropic assistance, private sector investments, we are not only helping to grow and strengthen middle classes in developing nations, we are also supporting the businesses that create jobs here at home. We know that working with the private sector can bolster both our foreign policy interests and our development efforts. But we hope the private sector knows that working with government and civil society also offers value. And increasingly our goals, I would argue, overlap.
Consider just a few examples: Each year, India’s farmers produce nearly 200 million metric tons of rice and wheat, but they lose nearly one-tenth of it after harvest. Just the portion of grain that farmers lose because they don’t have a good way to dry and store their crops would feed about 4 million additional people. And I believe that Sachpreet Chandhoke is here today. Is Sachpreet here? Yes, yes. Well, last year, she led a team of students from Kellogg School of Management to take on this challenge. They designed and pitched the Grain Depot Fund as part of the International Impact Investing Challenge. They proposed building village-level warehouses where local farmers can access the proper equipment to dry their crops and store them, protected from insects, humidity, and theft. Investors in these warehouses will see returns of almost 20 percent while also helping prevent the needless loss of grain, increasing the farmers’ incomes by as much as 15 percent, and creating dozens of local jobs around the storage centers. So with numbers like that, it’s easy to see why Sachpreet and her colleagues won the competition. (Applause.)
Or look at northern Haiti. With its proximity to the U.S. market, the area has great potential to be a regional manufacturing hub. But for decades, despite interest, there was a lack of industrial facilities, limited electric supply, inadequate ports, which all held back private investment. Today, the north of Haiti ranks as one of Haiti’s poorest regions, and of course, Haiti is the poorest country in our hemisphere.
So last year, working with the Government of Haiti and the Inter-American Development Bank, the State Department facilitated a $500 million public-private partnership with the leading Korean garment manufacturer Sae-A. This partnership will develop a globally competitive industrial park in northern Haiti, one of the largest in the Caribbean. It will include an onsite power plant, a waste water treatment facility, and executive residences. Sae-A has projected that it will create 20,000 jobs by 2016 and they will be investing more than $70 million in northern Haiti. The region will continue to benefit from ongoing investments in housing and health clinics, a new container port, and electrification projects for the towns surrounding the industrial park. Sae-A began moving into the first two new 100,000 square feet factory buildings this week, and we expect other tenants to follow later in the year.
At a larger level, our Overseas Private Investment Corporation offers institutional proof that impact investing works. Throughout its 40-year history – and is Elizabeth Littlefield here, our current head of OPIC? – they have been making investments with positive social and environmental returns at the same time as OPIC has generated a profit for American taxpayers. Last year, OPIC issued a call for proposals to catalyze a greater commitment to impact investing. And so far, it has approved $285 million in financing for six new funds that will invest in projects improving job creation, healthcare, combating climate change, and the like.
These are just a few of the examples I could give you of what we are really focused on making happen. And that’s why we are sponsoring and hosting this Global Impact Economy Forum. You’re here because you understand creating shared value is actually in all of our interest. We need all the potential partners, not only here, but who are not in the room, to understand that as well. Our goal is to create an inclusive economic ecosystem that fosters this kind of investing.
So today, I’m proud to announce two exciting new partnerships. USAID – I don’t know if Raj Shah – is Raj here? Ah, oh good, you’re here. USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures, or DIV, invests in breakthrough development solutions that truly have the potential to change millions of lives at a fraction of the usual cost. And now, through a new Global Development Alliance between USAID and the Skoll Foundation – I don’t know if Jeffrey Skoll is here as well – we are dedicating more than $40 million to focus on scaling up game-changing innovations that are cost-effective and sustainable.
This was one of Raj’s and my principal goals when we both came into our positions. It is obviously important to provide humanitarian relief when people are starving because of bad government policies that undermine agricultural development or because of drought or other acts of nature. But it’s better to get ahead of the curve and to invest in new, more effective agricultural production. It’s fine to set up clinics, to take care of people when they’re sick or they’re suffering from disease, but it’s better to get ahead of it and to find interventions like bed nets that will actually prevent disease in the first place. So we’re investing a lot of money in Development Innovation Ventures because we think it will save money, but we need private sector support and ideas as well.
Secondly, we are committed to doing development and diplomacy differently. That’s why I commissioned the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review to take a hard look at ourselves and make sure we knew what we were doing that worked and do more of it and stop what we were doing that didn’t work. So our second program is part of our ongoing investing with impact initiative. It’s called Accelerating Market-Driven Partnerships, or AMP. It’s very important in Washington you get a good acronym – (laughter) – so people spend a lot of time trying to figure out what the initials will sound like. AMP will bring a business eye to taking on social and environmental problems in developing markets. We will launch it in Brazil, focused first on building sustainable cities, from providing low-cost housing, to offering skills training that builds capacity of local workers, to improving urban waste management systems. AMP will draw on the resources of the private sector, civil society, and multilateral partners in both Brazil and the United States, including Arent Fox, Machado Associados, Grupo ABC, HP, the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Bank Group, and Mercy Corps.
So we’re bringing a whole-of-government approach and a broad base of partners to this, creating an innovation toolkit looking at the critical elements necessary to strengthen science and technology to support entrepreneurship and innovation. We’ll be sending our first innovation delegation to Brazil. We’re collaborating with Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas to advance this initiative. If it proves successful in Brazil, we’ll obviously want to expand it and invite you to join us.
Now, I’m not the only one who will be announcing new commitments today. Many of you are here to do the same. This forum fundamentally is built on the idea we don’t have to choose between doing well and doing good. The only choice we have to make is to do better – do better in government, do better in business, do better in civil society. And one thing is clear: We cannot solve our problems or address our challenges without working together. That goes for countries working together and all of us as well. So I have high hopes for this forum. I thank everybody who has been contributing to it to bring it to reality, and I look forward to working with you on the partnerships and opportunities that it helps to midwife for all of us. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Department of Justice Releases Investigative Findings on the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee First Investigative Findings Involving a Juvenile Justice System
Following a comprehensive investigation, the Justice Department today announced its findings regarding the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County (JCMSC), and the Shelby County Juvenile Detention Center in Tennessee. The Justice Department found that the juvenile court fails to provide constitutionally required due process to all children appearing for delinquency proceedings, that the court’s administration of juvenile justice discriminates against African-American children, and that its detention center violates the substantive due process rights of detained youth by not providing them with reasonably safe conditions of confinement. The investigation, opened in August 2009, was conducted under provision of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“This report is a step toward our goal of improving the juvenile court, increasing the public’s confidence in the juvenile justice system, and maintaining public safety,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Upholding the constitutional rights of children appearing before the court is necessary to achieve these ends. The department will work with Memphis leadership to create a comprehensive blueprint that will create sustainable reforms in the juvenile justice system.”
“While the Civil Rights Division findings are serious and compelling, I am encouraged that the leadership and staff of the Juvenile Court of Memphis, Shelby County and the Shelby Juvenile Detention Center have demonstrated that they intend to take immediate action to remedy the various constitutional deficiencies identified,” said Edward L. Stanton III, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. “Our central objective is to ensure that our juvenile justice system works and adequately protects the rights of all youths who come before juvenile court. We look forward to working together to reach this goal, and ultimately establishing a model juvenile court.”
In January 2010 and 2011, with the full cooperation of JCSMC Judge Curtis S. Person, Justice Department attorneys visited the court and detention center with consultants in the fields of juvenile representation, statistical analysis and juvenile protection from harm. The Justice Department and consultants interviewed magistrates, probation counselors, attorneys, administrators and children appearing before the court on delinquency matters. As part of the investigation, the department’s attorneys and consultants conducted an in-depth analysis of over 60,000 youth files and reviewed policies and procedures, recordings of hearings, court documents, case files, detention material and statistical data.
The Justice Department found a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct in several areas, including:
· Failure to provide timely and adequate notice of charges to children appearing on delinquency proceedings;
· Failure to protect youth from self-incrimination during probation conferences;
· Failure to hold timely probable cause hearings for youth arrested without a warrant;
· Failure to provide adequate due process protections for children before transferring them to the adult criminal court;
· The disparate treatment of African-American children; and
· Failure to adequately protect detained youth from self-harm and unnecessary and excessive restraints.
The Justice Department has received extensive cooperation from Judge Person who encouraged court personnel to provide full access to the information necessary for our review. Judge Person and his staff have made improvements since the department began its investigation and demonstrated a desire to continue in a collaborative manner to remedy the deficiencies within the juvenile court and its detention center. The department welcomes this opportunity to continue working with Judge Person and the other stakeholders to improve the court’s services to those children appearing before it and housed in the detention center.
This investigation was conducted by the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division.
FROM: AMERICAN FORCES PRESS SERVICE
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta observes a Brazilian Marine Corps demonstration with Adm. Ferando Antonio at Governor's Island Marine Base, Rio de Janeiro, April 25, 2012. Panetta is on a five-day trip to the region to meet with counterparts and military officials in Colombia, Brazil and Chile to discuss an expansion of defense and security cooperation. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
Panetta: U.S., Brazil Partnership 'Is the Future'
By Cheryl Pellerin
RIO DE JANEIRO, April 26, 2012 - On the second day of his first official visit to Brazil, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta addressed a war college audience, watched an amphibious assault demonstration by Brazilian Marines, and paid tribute to Brazil's fallen heroes of World War II.
Panetta has met so far this week with military officials in Colombia and Brazil on a South American trip that aims to expand defense and security cooperation with countries that are important in the region and, increasingly, the world.
"The United States and Brazil begin with a very important strength," Panetta told military officers at the Escola Superior de Guerra -- Portuguese for Superior War College. The secretary said the two nations share the same values and respect for human rights and democracy.
"And if, using that, we can begin to develop the kind of cooperative relationship that we have in the security area, I think our countries can not only help promote security in this hemisphere but can work together to try to promote peace in the world," he said.
"This is the kind of partnership that is the future," noted Panetta, who fielded questions after his lecture.
A Brazilian Navy fleet captain asked if a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan had reduced the power of the U.S. military and if recent and significant budget tightening represented a transformation or was just a way to save money.
"In many ways," the secretary replied to the Brazilian captain's question, "it represents taking into consideration all the factors you just talked about."
Panetta explained how in a time of fiscal constraints Congress directed the Defense Department to reduce its budget by $487 billion over 10 years.
"My problem is that, even though after 10 years of war we are seeing some successes in Iraq and Afghanistan and on the war on terrorism, we still [have] major threats to confront in the world," he said, noting the dangers posed by terrorist groups like al-Qaida, instability in North Korea and Iran, unrest in the Middle East, and cybersecurity threats.
In view of these threats, Panetta said he rejected across-the-board defense cuts in favor of four guidelines. The secretary vowed that the Defense Department would:
-- Maintain the world's finest military.
-- Avoid hollowing out the force. A smaller, ready and well-equipped military is better than a larger, ill-prepared force that has been arbitrarily cut across-the-board.
-- Achieve savings in a balanced manner, with everything on the table.
-- Preserve the quality of the all-volunteer force and not break faith with the men and women in uniform or their families.
Based on these guidelines and with input from all the services, the department developed "a defense strategy that would meet those goals and provide the force we need not just now but in 2020 and beyond," Panetta said.
"At the same time we can't avoid our responsibilities in the rest of the world," the secretary added, "and that's where this hemisphere comes into play."
The United States must work with other countries, including Brazil, to develop innovative partnerships, he said. The United States military, he added, must invest in the technologies of the future -- cyberspace, unmanned systems, and space -- and appreciate the unique capabilities provided by special operations forces.
"We feel very good about the strategy [because] ... it was developed not only because of the budget but because of what we felt we needed to put in place to keep our country strong for the future," Panetta said. "And I recommend to all of you as students, there are elements of the strategy that Brazil and other countries ought to consider as you move forward."
After the lecture, Panetta visited Brazil's World War II Memorial here in Flamengo Park, established in 1965 to honor Brazilian troops killed while serving alongside U.S. troops in Italy.
Panetta and other U.S. and Brazilian officials toured a small museum there, and then placed a wreath in honor of the fallen heroes as rose petals released from the memorial structure drifted down onto the solemn crowd.
Later, at the Governor's Island Marine Base, Panetta and his delegation watched from an observation post as Brazilian special operations troops staged an amphibious beach assault.
During the exercise, two special operations teams used inflatable boats to infiltrate the site of a radar station, "killing" an enemy lookout and reducing the station to splinters with a fiery explosion.
Automatic weapons fire, incoming helicopters, troops, amphibious craft, a tank-carrying landing craft and many colored-smoke-belching grenades completed the demonstration.
Toward the end of the day, Panetta visited the 130-foot statue of Christ the Redeemer, its arms outstretched at the top of the 2,300-foot Corcovado Mountain in Tijuca Forest National Park, overlooking the city and the sea.
"In the world of today," Panetta had said at the war college, "we believe it is important for other countries to develop their military capabilities and provide for security for their people and security for this hemisphere."
The best way to deal with common challenges in today's world, the secretary said, "is to work together, not apart."
"That's why I'm here in Brazil," he added. "Because this is an important place to start that kind of relationship."
FROM: NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Blood Samples Show Deadly Frog Fungus at Work in the Wild
Pathogen leads to dehydration, other ill effects
April 25, 2012
The fungal infection that killed a record number of amphibians worldwide leads to deadly dehydration in frogs in the wild, according to results of a new study.
High levels of an aquatic, chytrid fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) disrupt fluid and electrolyte balance in wild frogs, the scientists say, severely depleting the frogs' sodium and potassium levels and causing cardiac arrest and death.
Their findings confirm what researchers have seen in carefully controlled lab experiments with the fungus, but San Francisco State University biologist Vance Vredenburg said the data from wild frogs provide a much better idea of how the disease progresses.
"The mode of death discovered in the lab seems to be what's actually happening in the field," he said, "and it's that understanding that is key to doing something about it in the future."
Results of the study are published today in the journal PLoS ONE.
"Wildlife diseases can be just as devastating to our health and economy as agricultural and human diseases," said Sam Scheiner, NSF program officer for the joint National Science Foundation-National Institutes of Health Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases program, which funded the research.
At NSF, the Directorates for Biological Sciences and Geosciences support the program.
"Bd has been decimating frog and salamander species worldwide, which may fundamentally disrupt natural systems," said Scheiner. "This study is an important advance in our understanding of the disease--a first step in finding a way to reduce its effects."
At the heart of the new study are blood samples drawn from mountain yellow-legged frogs by Vredenburg and colleagues in 2004, as the chytrid epidemic swept through California's Sierra Nevada mountains.
"It's really rare to be able to study physiology in the wild like this, at the exact moment of a disease outbreak," said University of California, Berkeley ecologist Jamie Voyles, the lead author of the paper.
Unfortunately, it is a study that can't be duplicated--at least not in the Sierra Nevada.
Frog populations there have been devastated by chytrid, declining by 95 percent after the fungus was first detected in 2004.
"It's been really sad to walk around the basins and think, 'wow, they're really all gone,'" Vredenburg said.
The chytrid fungus attacks an amphibian's skin, causing it to become up to 40 times thicker in some instances.
Since frogs depend on their skin to absorb water and essential electrolytes like sodium from their environment, Voyles and her colleagues knew that the fungus would disrupt fluid balances in the infected amphibians.
But they were surprised to find that electrolyte levels were much lower than anticipated. "It's clear that this fungus has a profound effect in the wild," Voyles said.
Scientists want to learn as much as they can about how the fungus affects wild amphibians, with the hope that these findings will lead to better treatments for the infection.
"The chytrid fungus is causing these frogs to become severely dehydrated, even though they are literally surrounded by water," said Cheryl Briggs, a University of California, Santa Barbara biologist and co-author of the paper.
The new study suggests that individual frogs being treated for the infection might benefit from having electrolyte supplementation in the advanced stages of the disease.
Researchers like Vredenburg already are experimenting with different ways of treating individual frogs, such as applying antifungal therapies or inoculating the frogs with "probiotic" bacteria that produce a compound that kills the fungus.
"The disease is not very hard to treat in the lab with antifungals," Vredenburg said. "But in nature, the disease is still a moving target."
It is still unclear exactly how chytrid spreads across a region, and which frogs might be susceptible to re-infection after treatment.
Earlier this year, Vredenburg and colleagues showed that a common North American frog might be an important carrier of the infection.
The chytrid fungus has killed off more than 200 amphibian species across the globe, but Voyles said the research offers "a glimmer of hope that it might be possible to do something to mitigate the loss."
Other co-authors of the paper are Tate Tunstall and Erica Bree Rosenblum of UC Berkeley, and John Parker of University of California, San Francisco.
Friday, April 27, 2012
This artist's illustration gives an impression of how common planets are around the stars in the Milky Way. The planets, their orbits and their host stars are all vastly magnified compared to their real separations. A six-year search that surveyed millions of stars using the microlensing technique concluded that planets around stars are the rule rather than the exception. The average number of planets per star is greater than one. This means that there is likely to be a minimum of 1,500 planets within just 50 light-years of Earth. The results are based on observations taken over six years by the PLANET (Probing Lensing Anomalies NETwork) collaboration, which was founded in 1995. The study concludes that there are far more Earth-sized planets than bloated Jupiter-sized worlds. This is based on calibrating a planetary mass function that shows the number of planets increases for lower mass worlds. A rough estimate from this survey would point to the existence of more than 10 billion terrestrial planets across our galaxy. The results were published in the Jan. 12, 2012, issue of the British science journal Nature. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Kornmesser (ESO)
Capt. James Schmitz of the Wisconsin National Guard's 82nd Agribusiness Development Team jots a few notes in his notebook about crop conditions at a demonstration farm in Watapur Province, Afghanistan, April 16. The 82nd ADT was at the farm to perform quality assurance checks of the farm's operations, assess crop health and identify future farm issues. 82nd ADT photo by 2nd Lt. Stephen Montgomery
NEWS: Wisconsin Agribusiness team visits Afghan demonstration farm
Date: April 25, 2012
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - The Wisconsin National Guard's 82nd Agribusiness Development Team had its first chance to check the progress of a demonstration farm in the Watapur District of Kunar Province April 16.
The farm - one of three the 82nd ADT oversees - was established by the previous ADT from the Illinois National Guard. The 82nd ADT met with Mohammed Wali, the demonstration farm manager, performed quality assurance and control assessments of the farm, and identified future issues.
"I think it was a good visit," said Master Sgt. John Dietzler, a soil science specialist assigned to the 82nd ADT and project manager for the Watapur Demo Farm.
The demo farm manger's son gave the team a tour of the farm, which is currently growing potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, onions, cucumbers and orange trees intercropped with wheat.
Dietzler said a canal project upstream is causing problems with the farm's irrigation system, which is affecting crop quality.
"Some of the plants were a little wilted, but overall the plants looked pretty good," he said.
After the tour, the team discussed previous training conducted at the demo farm. Wali stated three training events have occurred on the farm - spinach planting, winter vegetable, and orange sapling planting - training up to 30 farmers during each event.
While the previous ADTs have been more hands-on with the demo farms, Dietzler stressed that a cultural advisor and people called young professionals now handle most of the work.
"Much of what we are doing now is advising and facilitating," Dietzler said. "If there is a legitimate reason, we will then provide supplies and money, but we have to be justified in doing a project."
"A lot of time we go these places, we go to just give them ideas - they have the capacity to do it, we just need to encourage them," said Capt. James Schmitz, an agricultural specialist with the 82nd ADT who was also along on the mission to help assess the farm.
One of the stipulations of becoming an ADT-sponsored demo farm is the farmer must agree to reinvest 30 percent of the farm's profits back into farm maintenance and general farm upkeep.
"They have been living for today for so long," Schmitz said. "We're now trying to get them to invest in their future."
The Wisconsin National Guard learned it would gain an agribusiness development team mission in 2010, and the unit trained for 12 months before reporting for active duty in February and completing mobilization training at Camp Atterbury, Ind.
FROM: DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Hess Corporation to Install $45 Million in Pollution Controls and Pay $850,000 Penalty to Resolve Clean Air Act Violations at New Jersey Refinery
WASHINGTON – Hess Corporation has agreed to pay an $850,000 civil penalty and spend more than $45 million in new pollution controls to resolve Clean Air Act violations at its Port Reading, N.J., refinery, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today. Once fully implemented, the controls required by the settlement are estimated to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 181 tons per year and result in additional reductions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). High concentrations of NOx and VOCs, key pollutants emitted from refineries, can have adverse impacts on human health, including contributing to childhood asthma, and are significant contributors to smog.
“This settlement is the 31st such agreement with petroleum refineries across the nation. Hess joins a growing list of corporations who have entered into comprehensive and innovative agreements with the United States that will result in cleaner, healthier air for communities across the nation,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “For example, this agreement will improve air quality for New Jersey residents by requiring Hess to install advanced pollution control and monitoring technology and adopt more stringent emissions limits.”
“EPA is committed to protecting communities by reducing air pollution from the largest sources,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This settlement will reduce harmful emissions that impact air quality, protecting the residents of Port Reading and New Jersey.”
The settlement requires new and upgraded pollution controls, more stringent emission limits, and aggressive monitoring, leak-detection and repair practices to reduce emissions from refinery equipment and processing units.
The government’s complaint, filed on April 19, 2012, alleged that the company made modifications to its refinery that increased emissions without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing required pollution control equipment. The Clean Air Act requires major sources of air pollution to obtain such permits before making changes that would result in a significant emissions increase of any pollutant.
The state of New Jersey actively participated in the settlement with Hess and will receive half of the civil penalty.
The settlement with Hess is the 31st under an EPA initiative to improve compliance among petroleum refiners and to reduce significant amounts of air pollution from refineries nationwide through comprehensive, company-wide enforcement settlements. The first of these settlements was reached in 2000. With today’s settlement, 108 refineries operating in 32 states and territories – more than 90 percent of the total refining capacity in the United States – are under judicially enforceable agreements to significantly reduce emissions of pollutants. As a result of the settlement agreements, refiners have agreed to invest more than $6 billion in new pollution controls designed to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants by over 360,000 tons per year.
FROM: U.S. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL
"Have You Heard?"
Malaria threatens security of millions
Malaria, a disease spread by mosquito bites, can lead to impoverishment, disability, and death. Beyond the loss of human potential, malaria’s direct costs total more than $12 billion each year and cause substantial economic losses for entire nations. Encouragingly, inexpensive yet simple interventions can dramatically reduce malaria’s impact.
From global efforts to grass-roots mobilization, resources committed to fight malaria have increased greatly in the past decade. Hundreds of millions of life-saving insecticide-treated bed nets and effective antimalarial medicines are now available to people who need them, especially pregnant women and children under 5 years old, who are most vulnerable to malaria.
The impact of this massive scale-up has been a dramatic decline in malaria cases and deaths---in many countries by as much as 50 percent. Globally, WHO estimates that malaria deaths decreased by a third between 2000 and 2010, with most of this reduction in Africa. These achievements are fragile, however, because resources are constrained in the current economy, bed nets wear out, and parasites develop resistance to medicines.
World Malaria Day, April 25th, and its theme “Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria,” remind us that successes of the past decade can be easily reversed.
The U.S. government has a major role in the global malaria partnership. CDC, which began in 1946 as the agency to control malaria in the United States, is a leader in global malaria efforts. The successful President’s Malaria Initiative is jointly implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development and CDC and has greatly contributed to recent decreases in malaria.
CDC has played a key role in developing and improving the tools to prevent and treat malaria: treated bed nets and house-spraying to protect families from mosquitoes, accurate diagnostic tests and high-quality effective drugs, and treatment for pregnant women that protects them and their babies.
What more can we do?
Even as many individuals and companies contribute to organizations that buy and distribute bed nets, our nation is harnessing its technical expertise to develop and evaluate new prevention and control methods. CDC is working to ensure that new medicines, vaccines, diagnostic tests, and mosquito control products are deployed effectively, and is also investigating new ways to collect the strategic information needed to track our progress and ensure we invest wisely.
With increased knowledge, the right tools, and renewed commitment to decrease malaria, we can sustain gains made in past decade and save lives.
Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H
Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Secretary Clinton Announces Launch of New Partnership to Drive Investment in Innovation
Media Note Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC
April 27, 2012
Yesterday, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton launched a new partnership to promote investment in innovation at the inaugural Global Impact Economy Forum in Washington, DC.
The Accelerating Market-Driven Partnerships (AMP) initiative is a public-private partnership that seeks to mobilize innovation and investment around critical global challenges such as poverty, climate change, sustainable cities and waste, and addressing agricultural value chain waste in key growth markets. The pilot initiative will initially focus on promoting sustainable cities and related issues in Brazil.
During the launch of AMP, Secretary Clinton said: “AMP will bring a business eye to taking on social and environmental problems in developing markets. We will launch it in Brazil, focused first on building sustainable cities, from providing low-cost housing, to offering skills training that builds capacity of local workers, to improving urban waste management systems. AMP will draw on the resources of the private sector, civil society, and multilateral partners in both Brazil and the United States.”
AMP will provide a platform for businesses, private investors, social entrepreneurs, government, multilateral institutions and philanthropic organizations to identify and tackle key environmental, social and economic challenges in countries that are transitioning from development assistance. The partnership supports the U.S. Department of State’s efforts to promote sustainable, inclusive economic growth and development that strengthens diplomatic efforts and bolsters U.S. business opportunities and investments abroad.
The pilot initiative in Brazil will build on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s work on the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas to advance sustainable and inclusive cities and housing. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of State, AMP will also develop an “Innovation Toolkit” that identifies critical elements necessary to strengthen science and technology, and to foster the development of entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems. AMP will partner with the World Bank Group’s EVOKE online educational gaming platform.
Brazil is South America’s largest economy and the world’s sixth largest economy in terms of gross domestic product. Since 2003, more than 30 million people in Brazil have been lifted out of poverty and are now active participants in the country’s vibrant economy. AMP will promote catalytic investments, such as investments in women, that create opportunities for sustainable social and economic growth and development in sectors identified as priorities by businesses, investors, government and multilateral institutions. Later this year, a delegation of U.S. officials will travel to Brazil to discuss U.S. support for Brazil's thriving innovation ecosystem as part of this initiative.
The AMP initiative is being launched in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the World Bank Group, the Law Offices of Arent Fox and Machado Associates, Grupo ABC, HP, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Mercy Corps.
Other commitments announced at the Secretary’s Global Impact Economy Forum include:
· Investing with Impact Platform: Morgan Stanley Smith Barney announced the launch of the Investing with Impact Platform which will provide the tools and products necessary for clients to combine financial, social and environmental returns.
· $1.25 billion Impact Investment fund: TriLinc Global Impact Fund, LLC announced today its intention to file a registration statement with the SEC for an initial public offering of approximately $1.25 billion, with the purpose of providing an impact investment vehicle for the general public. The Fund intends to use net proceeds it receives to provide growth capital to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) around the world, particularly in developing economies.
FROM: AMERICAN FORCES PRESS SERVICE
U.S. Assessing Military Assistance to Yemen, Spokesman Says
By Karen Parrish
WASHINGTON, April 26, 2012 - Defense officials are assessing what U.S. national security role they are called upon to perform in Yemen, a department spokesman said today.
Navy Capt. John Kirby told Pentagon reporters the Defense Department had suspended military assistance activities in Yemen because of political instability there. Kirby said with a new administration now governing Yemen, defense leaders "are beginning to reassess, and to start up again, some elements of military assistance."
That assistance in the past has meant "helping Yemen deal with their own terrorism problems inside their borders," Kirby said.
A Sept. 30 U.S. airstrike in Yemen killed terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, whom President Barak Obama has called "the leader of external operations" for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
But the threat inside Yemen presented by al-Qaida -- particularly al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula -- remains, Kirby said.
"We believe it's a serious threat. We're working with the Yemeni government, even now, on how best to help them deal with that threat," he added.
Defense leaders believe al-Qaida terrorists are a threat not only to nations in which they find safe havens, Kirby said, but also to other nations, including the United States.
"We still consider al-Qaida a threat to national security," he added.
"We still consider al-Qaida a threat to national security," he added.
Yemeni civil strife began to escalate in 2011, part of the "Arab Spring" or "Arab Awakening" movement that started in December 2010, and included a series of mass protests against ruling regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other countries. Protests in Yemen eventually led to a transfer in power from former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to his former vice president, Abdo Rabo Mansour Hadi, who assumed the presidency Feb. 25 following a Feb. 21 election.
In a White House statement issued Feb. 25, President Obama congratulated the "brave Yemenis who have set their country on a path for a more stable, secure, and democratic future."
The United States will remain "a steadfast partner to Yemen and its people as they transition to a democracy worthy of their struggle," the president added.
FROM: U.S. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD
NLRB judge finds Jimmy Johns franchisee in Minnesota illegally fired employees for protected activity
Administrative Law Judge Arthur Amchan has found that a franchisee of the Jimmy Johns sandwich chain unlawfully discharged six employees after they staged a public campaign complaining of the company’s employee sick leave policy.
In his April 20 decision, Judge Amchan also found that Miklin Enterprises, Inc., a franchisee that operates 10 sandwich shops in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, unlawfully issued written warnings to three employees who took part in the campaign. His decision orders the employer to offer reinstatement to those discharged and rescind the written warnings, and to post notices at all of its shops.
Charges were filed by the Industrial Workers of the World on behalf of the workers, who have also been involved in a campaign to unionize the shops. The NLRB Regional Office in Minneapolis conducted an election in October, 2010, and the union lost by two votes. However, after objections were filed by the union alleging the company engaged in unfair labor practices during the election, the employer and union entered into a settlement in which a rerun election could be held within a year and a half.
In March, 2011, employees asked Milkin Enterprises to provide paid sick leave and to change a policy that requires the employees to find replacements when they are ill and unable to work. After the employer declined, employees posted notices near the 10 shops warning customers that their sandwiches could be made by ill employees. Many or all of these notices were immediately removed by the franchisee. Two days later, six employees involved in the postings were fired and three others received written warnings.
In his decision, Judge Amchan found that the employees’ activity was protected because it was part of an ongoing labor dispute, and that the language and images used did not cause the employees to lose their protection. In addition to ordering the employer to offer reinstatement, the judge also ordered that the employees receive full backpay for any loss of earnings and other benefits.
Labels: EMPLOYEE PUBLIC CAMPAIGNS REGARDING EMPLOYERS PRACTICES, NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD, REPLACEMENT OF ILL WORKERS
WASHINGTON -- While some galaxies are rotund and others are slender disks like our spiral Milky Way, new observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope show that the Sombrero galaxy is both. The galaxy, which is a round, elliptical with a thin disk embedded inside, is one of the first known to exhibit characteristics of the two different types. The findings will lead to a better understanding of galaxy evolution, a topic still poorly understood. "The Sombrero is more complex than previously thought," said Dimitri Gadotti of the European Southern Observatory in Chile and lead author of a new paper on the findings appearing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. "The only way to understand all we know about this galaxy is to think of it as two galaxies, one inside the other." The Sombrero galaxy, also known as NGC 4594, is located 28 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo. From our viewpoint on Earth, we can see the thin edge of its flat disk and a central bulge of stars, making it resemble a wide-brimmed hat. Astronomers do not know whether the Sombrero's disk is shaped like a ring or a spiral, but agree it belongs to the disk class. "Spitzer is helping to unravel secrets behind an object that has been imaged thousands of times," said Sean Carey of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif.. "It is intriguing Spitzer can read the fossil record of events that occurred billions of years ago within this beautiful and archetypal galaxy." Spitzer captures a different view of the galaxy than visible-light telescopes. In visible views, the galaxy appears to be immersed in a glowing halo, which scientists had thought was relatively light and small. With Spitzer's infrared vision, a different view emerges. Spitzer sees old stars through the dust and reveals the halo has the right size and mass to be a giant elliptical galaxy. While it is tempting to think the giant elliptical swallowed a spiral disk, astronomers say this is highly unlikely because that process would have destroyed the disk structure. Instead, one scenario they propose is that a giant elliptical galaxy was inundated with gas more than nine billion years ago. Early in our universe, networks of gas clouds were common, and they sometimes fed growing galaxies, causing them to bulk up. The gas would have been pulled into the galaxy by gravity, falling into orbit around the center and spinning out into a flat disk. Stars would have formed from the gas in the disk. "This poses all sorts of questions," said RubÃ©n SÃ¡nchez-Janssen from the European Southern Observatory, co-author of the study. "How did such a large disk take shape and survive inside such a massive elliptical? How unusual is such a formation process?" Researchers say the answers could help them piece together how other galaxies evolve. Another galaxy, called Centaurus A, appears also to be an elliptical galaxy with a disk inside it. But its disk does not contain many stars. Astronomers speculate that Centaurus A could be at an earlier stage of evolution than the Sombrero and might eventually look similar. The findings also answer a mystery about the number of globular clusters in the Sombrero galaxy. Globular clusters are spherical nuggets of old stars. Ellipticals typically have a few thousand, while spirals contain a few hundred. The Sombrero has almost 2,000, a number that makes sense now but had puzzled astronomers when they thought it was only a disk galaxy.
PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. (April 25, 2012) The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) prepares to moor at Port Everglades. Wasp, along with four other U.S. Navy ships and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter are scheduled to participate in the Fleet Week Port Everglades 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Greg Johnson/Released)
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ARMED WITH SCIENCE
Written on APRIL 24, 2012 AT 7:50 AM by JTOZER
Satellite Sight For the Frontlines
Image is everything.
In the case of military members on the front lines, quick, reliable satellite images are important, but unfortunately not always easy to come by. Today, the lowest echelon members of the U.S. military deployed in remote overseas locations are unable to obtain on-demand satellite imagery in a timely and persistent manner for pre-mission planning.
This is due to lack of satellite overflight opportunities, inability to receive direct satellite downlinks at the tactical level and information flow restrictions.
DARPA’s SeeMe program (Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements) aims to give mobile individual US warfighters access to on-demand, space-based tactical information in remote and beyond- line-of-sight conditions.
If successful, SeeMe will provide small squads and individual teams the ability to receive timely imagery of their specific overseas location directly from a small satellite with the press of a button — something that’s currently not possible from military or commercial satellites.
“We envision a constellation of small satellites, at a fraction of the cost of airborne systems, that would allow deployed warfighters overseas to hit ‘see me’ on existing handheld devices and in less than 90 minutes receive a satellite image of their precise location to aid in mission planning,” said Dave Barnhart, DARPA program manager.
The SeeMe constellation may consist of some two-dozen satellites, each lasting 60-90 days in a very low-earth orbit before de-orbiting and completely burning up, leaving no space debris and causing no re-entry hazard.
The program may leverage DARPA’s Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, which is developing an aircraft-based satellite launch platform for payloads on the order of 100 lbs. ALASA seeks to provide low-cost, rapid launch of small satellites into any required orbit, a capability not possible today from fixed ground launch sites.
“SeeMe is a logical adjunct to UAV technology, which will continue to provide local or regional very high-resolution coverage, but which can’t cover extended areas without frequent refueling,” Barnhart said. “With a SeeMe constellation, we hope to directly support warfighters in multiple deployed overseas locations simultaneously with no logistics or maintenance costs beyond the warfighters’ handhelds.”