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Saturday, June 16, 2012

ALLEGED CREDIT CARD TRAFFICKER EXTRADITED FROM FRANCE TO THE U.S.


FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Friday, June 15, 2012
Alleged International Credit Card Trafficker “Badb” Extradited from France to the United States
WASHINGTON – Vladislav Anatolievich Horohorin, aka “BadB” of Moscow, an alleged international credit card trafficker thought to be one of the most prolific sellers of stolen credit card data, has been extradited from France to the United States to face criminal charges filed in the District of Columbia and in the Northern District of Georgia.

The extradition was announced today by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. for the District of Columbia, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates of the Northern District of Georgia, U.S. Secret Service (USSS) Assistant Director for Investigations David J. O’Connor, and Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Lamkin of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office.

Horohorin, 27, made his first appearance before U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle in the District of Columbia yesterday.  He was extradited to the United States on June 6, 2012, and was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay in the District of Columbia on June 7, 2012.  He was ordered detained pending trial.

“According to the indictment, Mr. Horohorin was one of the most notorious credit card traffickers in the world, transacting in stolen credit information across the globe,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer.  “Due to our strong relationships with our international law enforcement partners, we secured his extradition to the United States, where he now faces multiple criminal counts in two separate indictments.  We will continue to do everything we can to bring cybercriminals to justice, including those who operate beyond our borders.”

“Our indictment alleges that this young man used his technological savvy to profit by selling stolen credit card information over the Internet on a massive scale,” said U.S. Attorney Machen.  “We are pleased that he has been extradited to the United States to face these criminal charges in a District of Columbia courtroom.  This prosecution demonstrates that those who try to rip off Americans from behind a computer screen across an ocean will not escape American justice.”

“The Secret Service is committed to identifying and apprehending those individuals that continue to attack American financial institutions and we will continue to work through our international and domestic law enforcement partners in order to accomplish this,” said USSS Assistant Director O’Connor.

“International cyber criminals who target American citizens and businesses often believe they are untouchable because they are overseas,” said U.S. Attorney Yates.  “But as this case demonstrates, we will work relentlessly with our law enforcement partners around the world to charge, find and bring those criminals to justice.”

“Horohorin’s extradition to the United States demonstrates the FBI’s expertise in conducting long-term investigations into complex criminal computer intrusions, resulting in bringing the most egregious cyber criminals to justice, even from foreign shores,” said Special Agent in Charge Lamkin.  “The combined efforts of law enforcement agencies to include our international partners around the world will ensure this trend continues.”
Horohorin was indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia in November 2009 on charges of access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.  In a separate investigation, a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Georgia returned a superseding indictment against Horohorin in August 2010, charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and access device fraud.  In August 2010, French law enforcement authorities, working with the U.S. Secret Service, identified Horohorin in Nice, France, and arrested him as he was attempting to board a flight to return to Moscow.

According to the indictment filed in the District of Columbia, Horohorin was the subject of an undercover investigation by USSS agents.  Horohorin, who is a citizen of Israel, Russia and Ukraine, allegedly used online criminal forums such as “CarderPlanet” and “carder.su” to sell stolen credit card information, known as “dumps,” to online purchasers around the world.  According to the indictment, Horohorin, using the online name “BadB,” advertised the availability of stolen credit card information through these web forums and directed purchasers to create accounts at “dumps.name,” a fully-automated dumps vending website operated by Horohorin and hosted outside the United States.  The website was designed to assist in the exchange of funds for the stolen credit card information.  Horohorin allegedly directed buyers to fund their “dumps.name” account using funds transferred by services including “Webmoney,” an online currency service hosted in Russia.  The purchaser would then access the “dumps.name” website and select the desired stolen credit card data.  Using an online undercover identity, USSS agents negotiated the sale of numerous stolen credit card dumps.

According to the indictment filed in the Northern District of Georgia, Horohorin was one of the lead cashers in an elaborate scheme in which 44 counterfeit payroll debit cards were used to withdraw more than $9 million from over 2,100 ATMs in at least 280 cities worldwide in a span of less than 12 hours.  Computer hackers broke into a credit card processor located in the Atlanta area, stole debit card account numbers, and raised the balances and withdrawal limits on those accounts while distributing the account numbers and PIN codes to lead cashers, like Hororhorin, around the world.

Horohorin faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for each count of access device fraud, 20 years in prison for each count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud and a statutory consecutive penalty of two years in prison for the aggravated identity theft count.

The charges in the indictments are merely allegations and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The District of Columbia case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Carol Sipperly, Ethan Arenson and Corbin Weiss of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  Weiss also serves as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.  The District of Columbia case is being investigated by USSS.  Key assistance was provided by the French Police Nationale Aux Frontiers and the Netherlands Police Agency National Crime Squad High Tech Crime Unit.  The FBI Atlanta field office provided information helpful to the investigation.
The Northern District of Georgia case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nick Oldham and Lawrence R. Sommerfeld and Trial Attorney Sipperly of CCIPS.  The Atlanta case is being investigated by the FBI.  Assistance was provided by numerous law enforcement partners.  U.S. Secret Service provided information helpful to the investigation.

The Office of International Affairs in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division provided invaluable assistance.

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

COLD WAR HERO CAPT. GARY FRANCIS POWERS RECEIVES POSTHUMOUS SILVER STAR


Photo:  Recovered items from Capt. Powers Aircraft.  Credit:  NSA Museum and Wikipedia.
FROM:  AMERICAN FORCES PRESS SERVICE
Cold War Hero Powers Receives Posthumous Silver Star
By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, June 15, 2012 - More than half a century after his plane was shot down over the Soviet Union, the heroism Air Force Capt. Francis Gary Powers displayed while piloting his U-2 aicraft was finally recognized during a Pentagon ceremony today.
Powers, who died in a helicopter crash in 1977, was posthumously awarded the Silver Star -- the nation's third-highest award for combat valor. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz presented the medal to Powers' grandson, Francis Gary "Trey" Powers and granddaughter Lindsey Berry.

The downing of his plane on May 1, 1960 was one of the most famous incidents of the Cold War. Powers was flying a clandestine mission in a U-2 over the former Soviet Union. The program, a Joint Air Force and Central Intelligence Agency mission, was a top-secret effort to monitor Soviet nuclear and missile programs.

Powers took off from Peshawar, Pakistan, and headed over the Central Asian Soviet republics. The U-2 cameras gathered invaluable information for the United States and its allies at a time when the Soviet Bear seemed to be on the ascent.

The Soviets had launched Sputnik -- the world's first satellite -- in 1957. John F. Kennedy -- then running for president -- deplored the "missile gap" between the United States and Soviet Union. It was the height of the Cold War with schoolchildren conducting "duck and cover" drills in case of nuclear attack. Most buildings had signs indicating the location of fallout shelters, rooms designed to protect against radiation contamination.
Powers' mission was to overfly Soviet missile sites, nuclear plants and rocket-launching facilities. Over Sverdlovsk his plane -- flying at more than 70,000 feet -- was hit by a SA-2 missile and brought down. Soviet forces captured Powers and he was held by the Soviet secret police, the KGB, in Lubyanka Prison in Moscow.

The shoot down sharply increased tensions between Washington and Moscow. President Dwight D. Eisenhower had to admit that the United States was flying over another sovereign nation. Protests over this broke out in Japan and Europe. Relations with Pakistan deteriorated. A Big-4 Summit -- leaders of the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France and the United States -- scheduled for Paris was canceled. The Soviet Union made propaganda of the incident at the United Nations.

And the Soviets wanted more. Teams of KGB interrogators worked on Powers to get him to give up information or turn against his country. While they never beat him, they constantly threatened him with death, said his son Gary Francis Powers Jr.
Powers spent 21 months in a Moscow prison, Schwartz said. "For nearly 107 days, Captain Powers was interrogated and harassed by numerous Soviet secret police interrogation teams," the chief said. Powers also was held in solitary confinement.
"Although weakened by lack of food and denial of sleep and mental anguish of constant interrogation, Captain Powers refused all attempts to glean from him sensitive information that would have proved harmful to the defense and security of the United States," Schwartz said.

In February 1962, the Soviets exchanged Powers for Soviet spy KGB Col. Rudolph Abel. The handover was conducted on "The Bridge of Spies" in Berlin.
It was a sign of the times that Powers' return home was fraught with uncertainty and questions. A teacher told Dee Powers, the captain's daughter, that her father should have killed himself rather than getting captured. The program was still top secret and what Powers went through was classified. The captain received the CIA Intelligence Star for Valor in 1965 and the Senate Armed Services Committee declared that Powers had conducted himself, "as a fine man under dangerous circumstances."

The younger Powers started researching his father's case in the late 1980s. Much of it was classified. "I would speak about the U-2 incident at classes and people would think I was talking about the rock group," he said.

It wasn't until 1998, seven years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, that the CIA declassified records of the program and Powers' full heroism became known, said young Gary. At that point, the captain posthumously received the CIA Director's Award for Extreme Fidelity and Courage, the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross and the Prisoner of War Medal.

Today's award of the Silver Star puts to rest the idea that somehow the captain behaved poorly in captivity, his son said.

"He loved his family, he loved flying and he loved his country," he said.

DOD IS "...LEVERAGING MOBILE DEVICE TECHNOLOGY...".


Mobile Device Icon by lcb.
FROM:  AMERICAN FORCES PRESS SERVICE
DOD Releases Mobility Device Strategy
WASHINGTON, June 15, 2012 - The Department of Defense announced the release of a mobile device strategy that identifies information technology goals to capitalize on the full potential of mobile devices.

The strategy focuses on improving three areas critical to mobility: wireless infrastructure, mobile devices, and mobile applications, and works to ensure these areas remain reliable, secure and flexible enough to keep up with fast-changing technology, according to a DOD news release.

"The Department of Defense is taking a leadership role in leveraging mobile device technology to improve information sharing, collaboration and efficiencies," Teri Takai, DOD's chief information officer, said in the release. "As today's DOD personnel become increasingly mobile, a wide variety of devices offer unprecedented opportunities to advance the operational effectiveness of the DOD workforce. This strategy will allow mobile activities across the department to converge towards a common vision and approach."

The scope of the DOD mobile device user base is significant, according to the release, with more than 250,000 commercial mobile devices and several thousand Apple and Android operating systems, including pilots. The Mobile Device Strategy is intended to align the progress of these various mobile devices, pilots and initiatives across DOD under common objectives to ensure the warfighter benefits from these activities and aligns with efforts in the Joint Information Environment.

"The DOD Mobile Device Strategy takes advantage of existing technology, the ability to use or build custom apps, and a workforce increasingly comfortable with mobile devices," Takai said in the release. "This strategy is not simply about embracing the newest technology -- it is about keeping the DOD workforce relevant in an era when information and cyberspace play a critical role in mission success."

F-16C FIGHTING FALCON COMBAT TRAINING DURING RED FLAG ALASKA




FROM:  U.S. NAVY
A U.S. Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft takes off for a combat training mission during Red Flag-Alaska 12-2 on Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, June 12, 2012. The pilot is assigned to the 77th Fighter Squadron. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth




German air force Master Sgt. Diana Glamich conducts preflight checks on a GAF Eurofighter Typhoon before a combat training mission during Red Flag-Alaska 12-2 on Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, June 11, 2012. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth


Two U.S. Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft return to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, after completing a combat training mission, June 11, 2012, during Red Flag-Alaska 12-2. The aircraft pilots are assigned to the 77th Fighter Squadron. Red Flag-Alaska is a Pacific Air Forces-sponsored exercise that provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth


A U.S. Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft takes off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, for a combat training mission, June 11, 2012, during Red Flag-Alaska 12-2. The aircraft pilot is assigned to the 77th Fighter Squadron. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzwort



NEW YORK STATE GETS OVER $7 MILLION FROM FEMA FOR HURRICANE IRENE RECOVERY EFFORTS


Photo Credit NASA
FROM:  FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
ALBANY, N.Y. -- The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced over $7 million in Federal grant funding to the State of New York for expenses associated with Suffolk County’s recovery from Hurricane Irene.

FEMA recently approved three debris removal projects within Suffolk County. Applications were approved for the Town of Smithtown, Town of Brookhaven, and Suffolk County. Combined, FEMA approved more than $7 million in federal funds to assist with these debris removal projects. The funds represent 75 percent of the total cost of the projects.

“FEMA is pleased to provide funding for these important projects in support of New York State’s recovery from Hurricane Irene,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Philip E. Parr.

Town of Smithtown:  During the period from Aug. 26 to Sept. 5, 2011, Hurricane Irene's high winds and soaking rains caused 1,855 tons of debris within the Town of Smithtown. FEMA has approved $1,009,769 in funding to reimburse the Town for the federal share of the project to remove debris.

Town of Brookhaven:  On Aug. 26, 2011, Hurricane Irene’s heavy rain and gale force winds caused over 16,894 tons of debris throughout the Town of Brookhaven. FEMA has approved $4,296,116 in funding to reimburse the Town for the federal share of the project to remove debris from within the Town limits.

Suffolk County: During the initial response to Hurricane Irene, Suffolk County activated personnel from all departments to assist in cleanup operations, utilizing its own equipment as well as hiring additional contractors with specialized equipment to provide additional help to collect, reduce and dispose of debris. The county submitted an application for reimbursement for costs associated with the emergency debris removal. FEMA has approved the county’s application, granting $1,745,715 to Suffolk County for a major debris removal project.  

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

MAJOR MORTGAGE COMPANY EXECUTIVE GOES TO PRISON FOR FRAUD


FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Friday, June 15, 2012
Former Chief Financial Officer of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Sentenced to 60 Months in Prison for Fraud Scheme
WASHINGTON – Delton de Armas, a former chief financial officer (CFO) of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp. (TBW), was sentenced today to 60 months in prison for his role in a more than $2.9 billion fraud scheme that contributed to the failure of TBW
.
De Armas was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema in the Eastern District of Virginia.  The sentence was announced today by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia; Christy Romero, Special Inspector General, Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP); Assistant Director in Charge James W. McJunkin of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; David A. Montoya, Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD-OIG); Jon T. Rymer, Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC-OIG); Steve A. Linick, Inspector General of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA-OIG); and Richard Weber, Chief of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).

De Armas, 41, of Carrollton, Texas, pleaded guilty in March to one count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud and one count of making false statements.

“For years, Mr. de Armas, the CFO of one of the country’s largest private mortgage companies, helped defraud financial institutions by concealing from them billions of dollars in losses,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer.  “His lies and deceits contributed to the devastating losses suffered by major institutional investors.  As a consequence for his crimes, he will now spend the next five years of his life behind bars.”

“As CFO, Mr. de Armas could have – and should have – put a stop to the massive fraud at TBW the moment he discovered it,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Instead, he and others lied for years on end to investors, banks, regulators and auditors and caused more than $2.4 billion in losses to major financial institutions.”

“Rather than blow the whistle on billions of dollars in fraud, de Armas chose to help conceal it,” said Special Inspector General Romero.  “This CFO lied to investors, banks, regulators and auditors to cover up the massive fraud scheme which resulted in the failure of both TBW and Colonial Bank.  The court’s decision to sentence de Armas to five years in prison reflects the seriousness of his role as a gatekeeper within TBW and the contribution of his crime to our nation’s financial crisis.”

“The actions of Mr. De Armas and others resulted in the loss of billions of dollars to major financial institutions,” said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin.  “Today’s sentence serves as a warning to anyone who attempts to take advantage of investors and our banking system.  Together with our law enforcement partners, the FBI will pursue justice for anyone involved in such fraudulent schemes.”

According to court documents, de Armas joined TBW in 2000 as its CFO and reported directly to its chairman, Lee Bentley Farkas, and later to its CEO, Paul Allen.  He previously admitted in court that from 2005 through August 2009, he and other co-conspirators engaged in a scheme to defraud financial institutions that had invested in a wholly-owned lending facility called Ocala Funding.  Ocala Funding obtained funds for mortgage lending for TBW from the sale of asset-backed commercial paper to financial institutions, including Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas. The facility was managed by TBW and had no employees of its own.

According to court records, shortly after Ocala Funding was established, de Armas learned there were inadequate assets backing its commercial paper, a deficiency referred to internally at TBW as a “hole” in Ocala Funding.  De Armas knew that the hole grew over time to more than $700 million.  He learned from the CEO that the hole was more than $1.5 billion at the time of TBW’s collapse.  De Armas admitted he was aware that, in an effort to cover up the hole and mislead investors, a subordinate who reported to him had falsified Ocala Funding collateral reports and periodically sent the falsified reports to financial institution investors in Ocala Funding and to other third parties.  De Armas acknowledged that he and the CEO also deceived investors by providing them with a false explanation for the hole in Ocala Funding.

De Armas also previously admitted in court that he directed a subordinate to inflate an account receivable balance for loan participations in TBW’s financial statements.  De Armas acknowledged that he knew that the falsified financial statements were subsequently provided to Ginnie Mae and Freddie Mac for their determination on the renewal of TBW’s authority to sell and service securities issued by them.

In addition, de Armas admitted in court to aiding and abetting false statements in a letter the CEO sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, through Ginnie Mae, regarding TBW’s audited financial statements for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2009.  De Armas reviewed and edited the letter, knowing it contained material omissions.  The letter omitted that the delay in submitting the financial data was caused by concerns its independent auditor had raised about the financing relationship between TBW and Colonial Bank and its request that TBW retain a law firm to conduct an internal investigation.  Instead, the letter falsely attributed the delay to a new acquisition and TBW’s switch to a compressed 11-month fiscal year.

“We are pleased to have joined our law enforcement colleagues in bringing Mr. de Armas to justice,” said Inspector General Rymer.  “The former Chief Financial Officer’s actions contributed to one of the largest bank frauds in the country and led to the demise of TBW.  His punishment, along with the earlier sentencings of other co-conspirators involved in the Colonial Bank and TBW scheme, sends a clear message that those who abuse their positions of trust and seek to undermine the integrity of the financial services industry will be held accountable.  We will continue to pursue such cases in the interest of ensuring the safety and soundness of our Nation’s banks and the strength of the financial services industry as a whole.”

“Delton de Armas was a key player in the TBW fraud; the significant sentence of 60 months handed down today appropriately takes that role into account,” said Inspector General Linick.

In April 2011, a jury in the Eastern District of Virginia found Lee Bentley Farkas, the chairman of TBW, guilty of 14 counts of conspiracy, bank, securities and wire fraud.  On June 30, 2011, Judge Brinkema sentenced Farkas to 30 years in prison.  In addition, six individuals have pleaded guilty for their roles in the fraud scheme, including: Paul Allen, former chief executive officer of TBW, who was sentenced to 40 months in prison; Raymond Bowman, former president of TBW, who was sentenced to 30 months in prison; Desiree Brown, former treasurer of TBW, who was sentenced to six years in prison; Catherine Kissick, former senior vice president of Colonial Bank and head of its Mortgage Warehouse Lending Division (MWLD), who was sentenced to eight years in prison; Teresa Kelly, former operations supervisor for Colonial Bank’s MWLD, who was sentenced to three months in prison; and Sean Ragland, a former senior financial analyst at TBW, who was sentenced to three months in prison.

The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Chief Patrick Stokes and Trial Attorney Robert Zink of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles Connolly and Paul Nathanson of the Eastern District of Virginia.  This case was investigated by SIGTARP, FBI’s Washington Field Office, FDIC OIG, HUD OIG, FHFA OIG and the IRS Criminal Investigation.  The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the Department of the Treasury also provided support in the investigation.  The Department would also like to acknowledge the substantial assistance of the SEC in the investigation of the fraud scheme.

This prosecution was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources.  The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

FACTS ABOUT GREECE FROM THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT


Map Credit:  U.S. State Department.
FROM:   U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
GREECE
Official Name: Hellenic Republic 


PROFILE
Geography
Area: 131,957 sq. km. (51,146 sq. mi.; roughly the size of Alabama).
Major cities: Capital--Athens. Greater Athens (pop. 3,566,060), municipality of Athens (772,072), Greater Thessaloniki (1,057,825), municipality of Thessaloniki (363,987), Piraeus (175,697), Greater Piraeus (466,065), Patras (171,616), Iraklion (137,711), Larissa (126,076).


Terrain: Mountainous interior with coastal plains; 1,400-plus islands.
Climate: Mediterranean; mild, wet winter and hot, dry summer.

People
Population (2010 est.): 11,295,002.
Population growth rate (2010 estimated): 0.1%.
Languages: Greek (official). English is the predominant second language.
Religions: Greek Orthodox (approximately 98% of citizens), with Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and other religious communities.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Literacy--97.5%. All levels are free.
Health: Infant mortality rate--5.43/1,000. Life expectancy--male 77.69 years, female 82.35 years.
Work force (2009 estimated): 5.0 million.



"Athens At Night From Space" Image courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center 


Government
Type: Parliamentary republic.
Independence: 1830. National Day: March 25 (1821).
Constitution: June 11, 1975, amended March 1986, April 2001, May 2008.
Branches: Executive--president (head of state), prime minister (head of government).Legislative--300-seat unicameral Vouli (parliament). Judicial--Supreme Court, Council of State.
Political parties: Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), New Democracy (ND), Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), and Coalition of the Left (SYNASPISMOS).
Suffrage: Universal and mandatory at 18.
Administrative subdivisions: 13 peripheries (regional districts); 325 municipalities; two wider metropolitan area administrative councils to encompass the whole of the Attica region and the Thessaloniki agglomeration.

Economy
GDP (2010): €227 billion (about $312 billion).
Per capita GDP (2010): $27,875.
Growth rate (2010): -3.5%.
Inflation rate (2010): 4.7%.
Unemployment rate (annual average, 2010): 12.5%.
Natural resources: Bauxite, lignite, magnesite, oil, marble.
Agriculture (3.3% of GDP): Products--sugar beets, wheat, maize, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, grapes, raisins, wine, oranges, peaches, tobacco, cotton, livestock, dairy products, rice, figs.
Manufacturing (17.9% of GDP): Types--processed foods, shoes, textiles, metals, chemicals, electrical equipment, cement, glass, transport equipment, petroleum products, construction, electrical power.
Services (78.8% of GDP): Maritime, transportation, tourism, communications, trade, banking, public administration, defense.
Trade: Exports (2010): $22 billion: manufactured goods, agricultural products, beverages, tobacco, petroleum products, cement, chemicals. Major markets--Germany, Italy, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Turkey, U.K., France, U.S., Romania, Spain. Imports (2010)--$64.55 billion: basic manufactures, food and animals, crude oil, chemicals, machinery, transport equipment.Major suppliers--Germany, Italy, China, France, Netherlands, U.S., Russia.

PEOPLE
Greece was inhabited as early as the Paleolithic period and by 3000 BC had become home, in the Cycladic Islands, to a culture whose art remains among the most evocative in world history. In the second millennium BC, the island of Crete nurtured the maritime empire of the Minoans, whose trade reached from Egypt to Sicily. The Minoans were supplanted by the Mycenaeans of the Greek mainland, who spoke a dialect of ancient Greek. During the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires (1st-19th centuries), Greece's ethnic composition became more diverse. The roots of Greek language and culture date back at least 3,500 years, and modern Greek preserves many elements of its classical predecessor.

Eastern Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion in Greece and receives state funding. During centuries of Ottoman domination, the Greek Orthodox Church preserved the Greek language and cultural identity and was an important rallying point in the struggle for independence. There is a centuries-old Muslim religious minority concentrated in Thrace and an estimated 300,000 legal Muslim immigrants living elsewhere in the country. Smaller religious communities in Greece include Old Calendar Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormons.

Greek education is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 15. Overall responsibility for education rests with the Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs. Private colleges and universities (mostly foreign) have campuses in Greece despite the fact that their degrees are not recognized by the Greek state. Entrance to public universities is determined by state-administered exams.

HISTORY
The Greek War of Independence began in 1821 and concluded in 1830 when England, France, and Russia forced the Ottoman Empire to grant Greece its independence under a European monarch.

At independence, Greece had an area of 47,515 square kilometers (18,346 square mi.), and its northern boundary extended from the Gulf of Volos to the Gulf of Arta. Under the influence of the "Megali Idea," which in its most broad interpretation meant the expansion of the Greek state to include all areas where significant Greek communities existed, Greece acquired the Ionian islands in 1864; Thessaly and part of Epirus in 1881; part of Macedonia, Crete, Epirus, and the Aegean islands in 1913; western Thrace in 1918; and the Dodecanese islands in 1947.

Greece entered World War I in 1917 on the side of the Allies. After the war, Greece took part in the Allied occupation of Turkey, where many Greeks still lived. In 1921, the Greek army marched toward Ankara, but was defeated by Turkish forces led by Kemal Mustapha Ataturk and was forced to withdraw. In an exchange of populations under the Treaty of Lausanne, more than 1.3 million refugees from Turkey poured into Greece, and nearly 800,000 Greek Turks were sent to Turkey. This large influx of people created enormous challenges for the Greek economy and society.

Greek politics, particularly between the two world wars, involved a struggle for power between monarchists and republicans. Greece was proclaimed a republic in 1924, but George II returned to the throne in 1935. A plebiscite in 1946 upheld the monarchy, which was finally abolished by referendum on December 8, 1974.

Greece's entry into World War II was precipitated by the Italian invasion on October 28, 1940. Despite Italian superiority in numbers and equipment, determined Greek defenders drove the invaders back into Albania. Hitler was forced to divert German troops to protect his southern flank and overran Greece in 1941. Following a very severe German occupation in which many Greeks died (including over 90% of Greece's Jewish community) German forces withdrew in October 1944, and the government-in-exile returned to Athens.

After the German withdrawal, the principal Greek resistance movement, which was controlled by the communists, refused to disarm. A banned demonstration by resistance forces in Athens in December 1944 ended in battles with Greek Government and British forces. Continuing tensions led to the outbreak of full-fledged civil war in 1946. First the United Kingdom and later the U.S. gave extensive military and economic aid to the Greek Government. In 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall implemented the Marshall Plan under President Truman, which focused on the economic recovery and the rebuilding of Europe. The U.S. contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild Greece’s buildings, agriculture, and industry.

In August 1949, the Greek national army forced the remaining insurgents to surrender or flee to Greece's communist neighbors. The insurgency resulted in 100,000 killed, 700,000 displaced persons inside the country, and catastrophic economic disruption. This civil war left Greek society deeply divided between leftists and rightists.

Greece became a member of NATO in 1952. From 1952 to late 1963, Greece was governed by conservative parties--the Greek Rally of Marshal Alexandros Papagos and its successor, the National Radical Union (ERE) of Konstantinos Karamanlis. In 1963, the Center Union Party of George Papandreou was elected and governed until July 1965. It was followed by a succession of unstable coalition governments.

On April 21, 1967, just before scheduled elections, a group of colonels led by Col. George Papadopoulos seized power in a coup d’état. The junta suppressed civil liberties, established special military courts, and dissolved political parties. Several thousand political opponents were imprisoned or exiled to remote Greek islands. In November 1973, following an uprising of students at the Athens Polytechnic University, General Dimitrios Ioannides replaced Papadopoulos and tried to continue the dictatorship.

In July 1974, the Greek junta sponsored a coup in Cyprus led by extremist Greek Cypriots against the government of President Makarios, citing his alleged pro-communist leanings and his perceived abandonment of enosis, or political union with Greece. Turkey, citing the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, intervened militarily to protect Turkish Cypriots. In a two-stage offensive, Turkish troops took control of 38% of the island. Almost all Greek Cypriots subsequently fled south while almost all Turkish Cypriots moved to the north.

Senior Greek military officers withdrew their support from the junta, which toppled. Leading citizens persuaded Karamanlis to return from exile in France to establish a government of national unity until elections could be held. Karamanlis' newly organized party, New Democracy (ND), won elections held in November 1974, and he became Prime Minister.

Following the 1974 referendum, the parliament approved a new constitution and elected Constantine Tsatsos as president of the republic. On January 1, 1981, Greece became the 10th member of the European Community (now the European Union--EU).

Parliamentary elections were held March 8, 2004, and ND won 165 seats to the Panhellenic Socialist Movement’s (PASOK) 117; Konstantinos Karamanlis, ND leader and the nephew of the former prime minister of the same name, became Prime Minister. Karolos Papoulias was elected President by parliament in February 2005. On October 4, 2009, PASOK won an early parliamentary election with 160 seats to ND’s 91. PASOK leader George Papandreou succeeded Karamanlis as Prime Minister. On February 3, 2010, Papoulias was re-elected President by parliament with a majority of 266 votes out of 300. On November 11, 2011, Papandreou stepped down as prime minister to make way for a coalition government led by Lucas Papademos (PASOK).

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Greece is a parliamentary republic and last amended its constitution in May 2008. There are three branches of government. The executive includes the president, who is head of state, and the prime minister, who is head of government. There is a 300-seat unicameral "Vouli" (legislature). The judicial branch includes a Supreme Court. Greece is implementing a program (“Kallikratis”) that reorganized and consolidated its system of local governments into 13 regional districts and 325 municipalities. Suffrage is universal at 18.

Domestic Terrorism
Terrorist activity in Greece decreased during 2011, continuing the trend of Greek authorities successfully dismantling groups that had been active from the 1970s to the late 2000s. In the summer of 2002, Greek authorities captured numerous suspected members of the terrorist group "November 17." In 2003, 15 members of the terrorist organization, which since 1975 had killed many prominent Greeks and five U.S. Mission employees, were found guilty and convicted of a number of crimes, including homicide. In 2007, an appellate court acquitted two of the defendants, but otherwise largely upheld the results of the initial trial, leaving the leadership of the defunct group serving multiple life sentences and others serving long prison terms. The defendants exhausted their appeals in the Greek legal system in 2010.

On January 12, 2007, terrorists fired a rocket-propelled grenade that struck the U.S. Embassy. The terrorist group Revolutionary Struggle later claimed responsibility for the act. Revolutionary Struggle also claimed responsibility for a number of other attacks on Greek officials, police, financial institutions, and other targets. In April 2010, police arrested six suspected members of Revolutionary Struggle, and discovered hideouts containing bombs, rocket launchers, attack plans, and other evidence connected with the group. An additional group, Sect of Revolutionaries, claimed responsibility for shooting attacks on police, including the murder of an anti-terrorist unit officer in June 2009, as well as the murder of a Greek journalist in July 2010. In March 2010, the "December 6" terrorist organization claimed responsibility for a bomb attack that killed a 15-year-old Afghan immigrant. In June 2010 an aide to the Minister of Citizen Protection was killed when he opened a package addressed to the Minister. A domestic terrorist group called Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei (SPF) claimed responsibility for a number of bomb attacks of varying size between 2008 and 2010. Authorities arrested 26 SPF suspects for offenses that included sending over a dozen parcel bombs to foreign embassies in Athens and political leaders in Europe in late 2010, and bombings at the residences of both ND and PASOK politicians. Six suspects have been convicted, another five were acquitted or charges dropped, and the rest are awaiting trial.

Principal Government Officials
President--Karolos Papoulias
Prime Minister--Lucas Papademos
Foreign Minister--Stavros Dimas
Minister of Defense--Dimitris Avramopoulos
Minister of Citizen Protection--Christos Papoutsis
Ambassador to the United States--Vassilis Kaskarelis
Ambassador to the United Nations--Anastasios Mitsialis

ECONOMY 
Greece adopted the euro (€) as its currency in January 2002. The adoption of the euro provided Greece (formerly a high inflation risk country under the drachma) with access to competitive loan rates and also to low rates of the Eurobond market. This led to a dramatic increase in consumer spending, which gave a significant boost to economic growth. Between 1997 and 2007, Greece averaged 4% GDP growth, almost twice the European Union (EU) average. As with other European countries, the financial crisis and resulting slowdown of the real economy have taken their toll on Greece’s rate of growth, which slowed to 2.0% in 2008. The economy went into recession in 2009 and contracted by 2.4% as a result of the world financial crisis and its impact on access to credit, world trade, and domestic consumption--the engine of growth in Greece.

High growth and low interest rates had masked major fiscal and structural weaknesses that were aggravated by the global financial crisis and ensuing recession. As a result of a high 2009 fiscal deficit (revised upward by Eurostat to 15.4% of GDP from 13.6% of GDP), mounting entitlement costs, and deteriorating competitiveness resulting from higher than Eurozone-average inflation and rigidities in product and labor markets, markets in early 2010 began to question the sustainability of Greece’s public debt (2009 debt revised upward by Eurostat from 115.1% of GDP to 126.8% of GDP). Ever-increasing market doubts and pressures resulted in higher and higher borrowing costs throughout the winter and spring of 2010. Eventually, unsustainable borrowing costs caused Greece to lose market access, forcing Prime Minister Papandreou on April 23, 2010 to request an emergency assistance program from his Euro-area partners and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In early May, the Greek parliament, Euro-area leaders, and the IMF Executive Board approved a 3-year €110 billion (about $145 billion) adjustment program to be monitored jointly by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the IMF. Under the program, Greece has promised to undertake major fiscal consolidation and to implement substantial structural reforms in order to place its debt on a more sustainable path and improve its competitiveness so that the economy can re-enter a positive growth trajectory. Specifically, the 3-year reform program includes measures to cut government spending, reduce the size of the public sector, tackle tax evasion, reform the health care and pension systems, and liberalize the labor and product markets.

Since that time, the Greek Government has legislated a number of these important reforms and reduced the deficit from 15.4% of GDP in 2009 to 10.6% of GDP in 2010. Slow implementation of the reforms, along with a deeper than projected recession, led Eurozone leaders to a new agreement on October 26-27, 2011. It includes a “voluntary” nominal loss of 50% on private holdings of Greek Government debt (known as Private Sector Involvement, PSI) worth €100 billion (approx. $133 billion), an EU contribution to PSI of €30 billion (approx. $40 billion), and an additional €100 billion (approx. $133 billion) in official loans through 2014.

The global crisis and the consequent recession caused an increase in unemployment to12.5% in 2010 and to 20.7% as of March 2012. Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to Greece have dropped, and efforts to revive them have been only partially successful as a result of declining competitiveness and a high level of red tape and bureaucracy. At the same time, Greek investment in Southeast Europe and Turkey has increased, leading to a net FDI outflow in some years.

Greece has a predominately service economy, which (including tourism) accounts for almost 79% of GDP. In 2010, the Greek merchant navy was the largest in the world at 15.96% of the world's total capacity. Other important sectors include food processing, tobacco, textiles, chemicals (including refineries), pharmaceuticals, cement, glass, telecommunication and transport equipment. Agricultural output has steadily decreased in importance over the last decade, accounting now for only 3.3% of total GDP. The EU is Greece’s major trading partner, with more than half of all Greek two-way trade being intra-EU. Greece runs a perennial merchandise trade deficit, and 2010 imports totaled $64.5 billion against exports of $22 billion. Tourism and shipping receipts together with EU transfers make up for much of this deficit.

European Union (EU) Membership 
Greece has been a major net beneficiary of the EU budget; in 2009, EU transfers accounted for 2.35% of GDP. From 1994 to 1999, about $20 billion in EU structural funds and Greek national financing were spent on projects to modernize and develop Greece's transportation network in time for the Olympics in 2004. The centerpiece was the construction of the new international airport near Athens, which opened in March 2001 soon after the launch of the new Athens subway system.

EU transfers to Greece continue, with approximately $24 billion in structural funds for the period 2000-2006. The same level of EU funding, $24 billion, has been allocated for Greece for 2007-2013. These funds contribute significantly to Greece's current accounts balance and further reduce the state budget deficit. EU funds will continue to finance major public works and economic development projects, upgrade competitiveness and human resources, improve living conditions, and address disparities between poorer and more developed regions of the country. The EU plans to phase them out in 2013.

U.S.-Greece Trade 
In 2010 the U.S. trade surplus with Greece was $880.2 million. There are no significant non-tariff barriers to American exports. U.S. exports to Greece were $1.6 billion, accounting for 2.5% of Greece's total imports in 2010. The top U.S. exports remain defense articles, although American business activity is expected to grow in the tourism development, medical, construction, food processing, and packaging and franchising sectors. U.S. companies are involved in Greece's ongoing privatization efforts. Further deregulation of Greece's energy sector and the country's central location as a transportation hub for Europe may offer additional opportunities in electricity, gas, refinery, and related sectors.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Greece's foreign policy is generally aligned with that of its EU partners. Greece maintains full diplomatic, political, and economic relations with its Southeast European neighbors, except with the Republic of Macedonia (see below), and has played an important role as a leader of the region's Euro-Atlantic integration process. It provides peacekeeping and training contingents for Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. Prominent issues in Greek foreign policy include Balkan integration and the name dispute with Macedonia, Greek-Turkish differences in the Aegean, the reunification of Cyprus, illegal migration, Turkish accession to the EU, regional energy development, Middle East relations, including strengthening ties to Israel, international peacekeeping operations, and Greek-American relations.

Energy
Greece enjoys a geostrategic position for the transit of oil and gas from Caspian Basin and western Asia producers to the consumers of that energy in Europe. Greece is seeking to become an energy hub for these resources and has undertaken policies to that end. Taking advantage of its geographic position, Greece has identified four regional energy projects as top priorities. Greece, along with Turkey and Italy, is a partner of the ITGI (Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy) gas pipeline that, if fully realized, would transport up to 11 billion cubic meters of mostly Azerbaijani (and possibly other) gas to southern Europe by 2012. The ITGI currently transmits about 0.75 billion cubic meters of gas from Turkey to Greece; however, Turkey and Azerbaijan need to conclude a gas transit and pricing agreement before the full potential of the project can be realized. An ancillary project to ITGI is the IGB (Interconnector Greece- Bulgaria), which is a gas pipeline spur, linking ITGI with the Bulgarian market.

Greece also has been discussing for many years the development of an oil pipeline to transport Russian oil between the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas and the Greek port of Alexandroupolis on the Aegean coast. The purpose of the project is to reduce oil tanker ship traffic from the Black Sea through the crowded Bosporus strait, reducing the risk of environmental degradation and speeding the flow of oil to Western markets. The Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline currently is being held up by an incomplete environmental impact assessment for the Burgas terminal area. In 2007, Greece signed an agreement with Russia to participate in the proposed Russian South Stream natural gas pipeline, which would run along the Black Sea seabed and emerge in Bulgaria, eventually passing through Greece. This megaproject remains in the conceptual stages with challenges associated with the technical feasibility of transiting the Black Sea, and questions regarding the available sources and quantities of gas to fill the pipeline.

In August 2011, the Ministry of Environment, Energy, and Climate Change, through the recently established agency “Greek Regulatory Corporation for Hydrocarbons SA”, conducted an international public invitation for participation in non-exclusive seismic surveys for hydrocarbon.

Peacekeeping Operations
Greece has supported NATO’s presence in Afghanistan since NATO took command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in 2003. Greece has contributed approximately 75 trainers to the NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan, maintains a small headquarters element with ISAF in Afghanistan, and completed a 6-month command rotation of Kabul airport in October 2010. Greece provided over €72 million (about $96 million) in development and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan between 2002 and 2009.

Greece’s special political and economic relationships with countries in the Balkans play an important role in reinforcing democratic development there. The country has made positive contributions to Balkans reconciliation through its involvement in the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR), NATO’s long-running (and now concluded) SFOR mission in Bosnia, and SFOR’s follow-on mission, the EU’s operation “Althea.” There are presently 44 staff members in Althea and over 200 Greek troops in Kosovo.

Greece has been an active participant in NATO’s Ocean Shield counter-piracy operation providing protection for World Food Program chartered and merchant vessels off the coast of Somalia, and routinely contributes to NATO maritime operations. Greece previously led, and it continues to participate in, the European Union’s “Atalanta” counter-piracy missions. The U.S. Navy’s naval support base at Souda Bay on the island of Crete provides operational and logistical support to European Command (EUCOM), Central Command (CENTCOM), the U.S. Fifth and Sixth fleets, and NATO forces engaged in missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, and the Middle East. Souda played an important support role for NATO forces during Operation Unified Protector in Libya in 2011.

U.S.-GREECE RELATIONS
Greece is an important partner of the United States on many policy priorities. As a leader in the region, Greece has also been an ally to the U.S. in promoting Balkan stability and economic development, supporting Turkey’s bid for accession to the European Union, and supporting the diversification of Europe’s energy supplies. Greece’s geostrategic position also makes it an important ally in engagement and dialogue with the Muslim world. As an entry point into the Schengen visa area for migrants from the Middle East, North and Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southwest Asia, Greece is committed to the humanitarian treatment of migrants but also an improvement in conditions in countries of origin that would ease the pressures for migration.

An estimated three million Americans resident in the United States claim Greek descent. This large, well-organized community cultivates close political and cultural ties with Greece. There are approximately 90,000 to 100,000 American citizens resident in Greece. Greece has the seventh-largest population of U.S. Social Security beneficiaries in the world.

In 1953, the first defense cooperation agreement between Greece and the United States was signed, providing for the establishment and operation of American military installations on Greek territory. The United States closed three of its four main bases in the 1990s. The current mutual defense cooperation agreement provides for the continued operation by the United States of a naval support facility at the strategically located deep-water port and airfield at Souda Bay in Crete.

Greece was admitted to the Visa Waiver Program in 2010.



LIBYA BECOMES MILITARY PARTNER WITH AFRICOM


FROM:  AMERICAN FORCE PRESS SERVICE
Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, left, looks on as U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta lays a wreath on the graves of U.S. sailors at a cemetery in Tripoli, Libya, Dec. 17, 2011. The sailors were lost aboard the USS Intrepid more than 200 years ago. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo  

Africom Forms Military Relationship With Libya
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
STUTTGART, Germany, June 15, 2012 - Operation Odyssey Dawn, the U.S. Africa Command-led U.S. mission in Libya last year, imparted important lessons the Defense Department's newest combatant command is applying as it welcomes a new African partner to the fold while still dealing with some of the residual challenges left by the former regime, the Africom commander said.

Army Gen. Carter F. Ham conceded during recent congressional testimony that the challenges in Libya didn't end with the fall of Moammar Gadhafi and his dictatorship.

"There are some small pockets remaining in Libya and in other places in North Africa that were centers of foreign fighters who left North Africa, transited along various routes and ended up fighting against us and other coalition forces inside Iraq," he told the House Armed Services Committee in February.

"There are remnants of that, and there are indications that al-Qaida senior leadership is seeking ways to reestablish those networks," he said. "And that's one of the challenges that lie ahead for us."

Ham said he's concerned about their influence on Tunisia as well as Libya as both countries attempt to establish representative governments.
"It's very clear that extremist organizations -- notably al-Qaida, with some direction from al-Qaida's senior leaders -- would seek to undermine that good governance that the Tunisians and the Libyans seek," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March. "And so I think that's the real threat that is posed."

"So I think we need to partner very closely with the security forces [and] armed forces of Tunisia and Libya to prevent the reestablishment of those networks [and] to prevent those violent extremist organizations from undermining the progress that both countries are seeking."

Africom is forming a new military-to-military relationship with the Libyans and is working to strengthen its long-term military-to-military relationship with the Tunisians, Ham said, emphasizing the importance of close partnerships with both nations.
"I am very satisfied with the progress of the military-to-military relationship that is developing" with the new Tunisian government, he reported. "We need to sustain that."
"And similarly, with the Libyans, we are forming a good relationship," he continued, noting the standup of an Office of Security Cooperation at the embassy there that can help coordinate security assistance, international military education and training and other security cooperation. "So we're moving in the right direction, but we need to sustain that effort," he said.

Speaking with American Forces Press Service at his headquarters here, Ham said military operations in Libya drove home the point that all U.S. combatant commands including Africom must be capable of operating across the full spectrum of conflict.

"It is probably not going to be very often where Africa Command goes to the more kinetic, the more offensive operations in Africa," he said. "But nonetheless, we have to be ready to do that if the president requires that of us."

Africom typically conducts relatively small-scale, non-offensive missions focused on strengthening the defense capabilities of African militaries, he noted. "But there is an expectation that we must be able to do the full range of military activities."
Operation Odyssey Dawn also reinforced that the United States won't conduct military operations alone, Ham said. "We are always going to do them as part of some type of coalition," he continued. "So building the processes, the mechanisms that allow us to readily incorporate the capabilities of other nations is an important aspect for us as well."
Ham noted the United States' long history of operating with NATO, but said it wasn't as prepared to work side-by-side with non-NATO partners, particularly Arab countries, that joined the coalition. "We had to make sure we were postured to incorporate them very quickly," he said. "I think that is a good lesson for us as we think about operations across Africa in the future."

Africom's close association with U.S. European Command, with both command headquarters here in Stuttgart, proved particularly valuable during the Libya campaign, he said.

Ham called European-based forces absolutely critical to Operation Odyssey Dawn. "Simply stated, we could not have responded on the timelines required for operations in Libya had air and maritime forces not been forward-stationed in Europe," he said.
"Operations in Libya have truly brought U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command to a higher level of collaboration," Ham told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "And this year, we'll continue to work closely together to seek to more effectively address security challenges in our respective areas of responsibilities."
The Europeans, both through NATO and through the European Union, are heavily invested in security matters in Africa, Ham told the House Armed Services Committee. "And it is our strong relationship and partnership with U.S. European Command that allows us to have access and meaningful dialogue in the planning and coordination of those activities."

Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, the Eucom commander who testified alongside Ham, noted that the two commands have shared nautical component commanders and regularly partner in counter-piracy operations.

"We are also exploring ways that we can create efficiencies in intelligence and information sharing," Stavridis said. "And I believe we essentially share intelligence facilities now, and there may be some ways to do even more of that."

U.S.-KOREAN AIR FORCE WORKS TOGETHER PREPARING FOR ATTACKS



FROM:  U.S. AIR FORCE
Republic of Korea Air Force members show off a decontamination vehicle from their arsenal June 8, 2012, at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, during joint training with Pacific Air Forces bases. The training gave American and Korean Airmen the chance to discuss differences in training and equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brigitte N. Brantley) 

Air Force, Republic of Korea allies partner for potential CBRN attacks  
by Senior Airman Brigitte N. Brantley
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

6/14/2012 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- (AFNS) -- With the ever-present threat of North Korea so close, Pacific Air Forces and South Korean Airmen constantly train to respond to any potential attacks.

A combined workshop June 7 and 8 gave the allies a chance to strengthen their partnership through demonstrations of the equipment each side uses during chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) attacks.

"If something ever does go wrong, we can respond together and actually make it a joint environment versus saying 'this is what I'm doing and that's what you're doing,'" said Staff Sgt. Kendra Ketonen, 8th Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management journeyman. "We get the benefits of knowing what they have and what they can bring to the fight."

In addition to the Republic of Korea Air Force 38th Fighter Group and 8th CES from Kunsan, there were also attendees from several other PACAF base, including Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

If North Korea were to make a move, Airmen from these bases would be called in to help defend resources here.

"If we need to work together, we'll understand and better know how to make connections," said Senior Master Sgt. Jerome Dubose, 7th Air Force CBRN manager for Korea from Osan Air Base. "In many cases, our Korean partners have the lead so if there's a war, it behooves us to coordinate with them."

Like much of their joint training and exercises, a translator was on hand to make sure explanations and discussions were as helpful and thorough as possible.

During the workshop, the Americans and Koreans each provided familiarization of the equipment and procedures they use when responding to an attack.

The Americans gave a detailed walk-through of their contamination control area. The Koreans showed off their decontamination aerial sprayer, which works like a car wash and allows people and vehicles to be 'deconned' more quickly.

"We can help each other out to defend this base," said 1st Lt. Jinki Kim from the 38th FG. He added that much of the equipment and training used for decontaminating is the same.

Throughout the training, one point from both sides was emphasized: working together helps the partnership grow and ensures we are prepared to respond to any situation.

SEC. OF DEFENSE PANETTA URGES POLITICAL TRANSITION IN EGYPT


FROM:  AMERICAN FORCES PRESS SERVICE
Panetta Urges Egypt's Military Chief to Continue Political Transition
By Nick Simeone
WASHINGTON, June 15, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta called the leader of Egypt's ruling military council today and encouraged him to move forward with a political transition in that country, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

In a written statement issued today, Little said Panetta called Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi to discuss current events in Egypt "including the recent Supreme Constitutional Court ruling on the Egyptian parliament." Little said Panetta "highlighted the need to move forward expeditiously with Egypt's political transition, including conducting new legislative elections as soon as possible."

Yesterday, Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court ordered the elected parliament dissolved, two days before a presidential run-off election was set to be held, and more than a year after a popular uprising forced longtime President Hosni Mubarak from power.
During today's call, Little said Field Marshal Tantawi reiterated the Egyptian military's commitment to hold free and fair presidential elections as scheduled, and to transfer power to a democratically elected government by July 1.

Little said Panetta "underscored ... the need to ensure a full and peaceful transition to democracy" in Egypt, and he looks forward to working with Egypt's new government on issues of mutual interest.

U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS


Photo Credit:  Wikimedia.
FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
U.S. Relations With China
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Fact Sheet
June 5, 2012
The United States seeks to build a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship with China by expanding areas of cooperation and addressing areas of disagreement, such as human rights. The United States welcomes a strong, peaceful, and prosperous China playing a greater role in world affairs and seeks to advance practical cooperation with China in order to build a partnership based on mutual benefit and mutual respect. The annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) has served as a unique platform to promote bilateral understanding, expand consensus, discuss differences, improve mutual trust, and increase cooperation. The strategic track of the S&ED has produced benefits for both countries through a wide range of joint projects and initiatives and expanded avenues for addressing common regional and global challenges such as proliferation concerns in Iran and North Korea, the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan, and climate change. The United States has emphasized the need to enhance bilateral trust through increased high-level exchanges, formal dialogues, and expanded people-to-people ties. The U.S. approach to China is an integral part of reinvigorated U.S. engagement with the Asia-Pacific.

U.S. Assistance to China
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and State’s assistance programs in China focus on four principal areas: assisting Tibetan communities; addressing the threat of HIV/AIDS and other pandemic diseases; advancing the rule of law and human rights; and supporting environmental protection and climate change mitigation efforts. U.S. assistance programs are targeted, scalable with Chinese resources, and directly address U.S. interests such as limiting the transmission of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and avian influenza that pose threats throughout the region and globally. Programs in Tibetan areas of China support activities that preserve the distinct Tibetan culture and promote sustainable development and environmental conservation in Tibetan communities through grants to U.S. organizations.

Bilateral Economic Relations
The U.S. approach to its economic relations with China has two main elements: the United States seeks to fully integrate China into the global, rules-based economic and trading system and seeks to expand U.S. exporters' and investors' access to the Chinese market. Total two-way trade between China and the United States grew from $33 billion in 1992 to over $503 billion in goods in 2011. The United States is China's second-largest trading partner (after the European Union--EU), and China is the fourth-largest trading partner for the United States (after the EU, Canada, and Mexico). During the economic track of the May 2012 S&ED, the two countries announced measures to enhance macroeconomic cooperation, promote open trade and investment, enhance international rules and global economic governance, and foster financial market stability and reform.

USS IWO JIMA PARTICIPATES IN EXERCISE AFRICAN LION 2012



120414-N-QM601-069 ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 14, 2012) The multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) is underway in the Atlantic Ocean. Iwo Jima is participating in Exercise African Lion 2012, a bi-lateral exercise between U.S. and Moroccan forces, in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Scott Youngblood/Released)

THREE TAX PREPARERS CHARGED WITH HIDING MILLIONS IN SECRET ACCOUNTS IN ISRAEL


 FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Friday, June 15, 2012
Three Tax Return Preparers Charged with Helping Clients Evade Taxes by Hiding Millions in Secret Accounts at Two Israeli Banks Defendants Operated Return Preparation Businesses Located in 12 Locations Throughout the U.S., Including California, New York and Maryland

David Kalai, Nadav Kalai and David Almog were indicted by a federal grand jury in the Central District of California and charged with conspiring to defraud the United States, the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today. The superseding indictment, which was returned late yesterday, was unsealed following the defendants’ arrests.

According to the superseding indictment, David Kalai and Nadav Kalai were principals of United Revenue Service Inc. (URS), a tax preparation business with 12 offices located throughout the United States. David Kalai worked primarily at URS’s former headquarters in Newport Beach, Calif., and later at URS’s location in Costa Mesa, Calif.  Nadav Kalai, who is David Kalai’s son, worked out of URS’s headquarters in Bethesda, Md., as well as URS locations in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, Calif.  David Almog was the branch manager of the New York office of URS and supervised tax return preparers for URS’s East Coast locations.

As alleged in the superseding indictment, U.S. citizens, resident aliens and legal permanent residents have an obligation to report to the IRS on Schedule B of the U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, Form 1040, whether they had a financial interest in, or signature authority over, a financial account in a foreign country in a particular year by checking “Yes” or “No” in the appropriate box and identifying the country where the account was maintained.  They further have an obligation to report all income earned from the foreign financial account on the tax returns.  Separately, U.S. citizens, resident aliens and permanent legal residents with a foreign financial interest in, or signatory authority over, a foreign financial account worth more than $10,000 in a particular year, must also file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) with the Treasury disclosing such an account by June 30 of the following year.

 The superseding indictment alleges that the co-conspirators prepared false individual income tax returns which did not disclose the clients’ foreign financial accounts nor report the income earned from those accounts.  In order to conceal the clients’ ownership and control of assets and conceal the clients’ income from the IRS, the co-conspirators incorporated offshore companies in Belize and elsewhere and helped clients open secret bank accounts at the Luxembourg locations of two Israeli banks, Bank A and Bank B.  Bank A is a large financial institution headquartered in Tel-Aviv, Israel, with more than 300 branches across 18 countries worldwide.  Bank B is a mid-size financial institution also headquartered in Tel-Aviv, with a worldwide presence on four continents.
                                                                                                                     
As further alleged in the superseding indictment, the co-conspirators incorporated offshore companies in Belize and elsewhere to act as named account holders on the secret accounts at the Israeli banks.  The co-conspirators then facilitated the transfer of client funds to the secret accounts and prepared and filed tax returns that falsely reported the money sent offshore as a false investment loss or a false business expense.  The co-conspirators also failed to disclose the existence of, and the clients’ financial interest in, and authority over, the clients’ secret accounts and caused the clients to fail to file FBARs with the Department of the Treasury.
         
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.  The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations.  The defendants are presumed innocent and it is the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Kathryn Keneally, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, thanked Tax Division Trial Attorneys Christopher S. Strauss and Ellen M. Quattrucci, who prosecuted the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra A. Brown of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, who assisted with the prosecution.  The case was investigated by special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation.

ALLEGED PENSION THIEF GETS INJUNCTION FOR SELF AND COMPANY


FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
US Department of Labor obtains preliminary injunction against Matthew D. Hutcheson and Hutcheson Walker Advisors LLC
WASHINGTON — On June 13, the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho granted the U.S. Department of Labor's motion for preliminary injunction against Matthew D. Hutcheson and Hutcheson Walker Advisors LLC. The court found that the department had "demonstrated the type of immediate and irreparable injury necessitating entry of a preliminary injunction."

On May 15, the department filed a complaint in the same court against Hutcheson and others alleging that Hutcheson had violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The complaint alleged that, toward the end of 2010, Hutcheson used more than $3.2 million in retirement plan savings of workers from multiple employers for his own personal benefit and in an attempt to purchase an interest in the Tamarack Resort, a failed ski and golf resort in Idaho.

Hutcheson's alleged misconduct has left the affected retirement plans without sufficient funds to pay participants all the benefits owed to them. Hutcheson also faces a separate criminal indictment, filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in the same court on April 10, in connection with the same transaction and others. Concurrent with its civil complaint, the department filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, seeking removal of defendants Hutcheson and Hutcheson Walker Advisors as fiduciaries of the Retirement Security Plan and Trust, formerly known as the Pension Liquidity Plan and Trust. The secretary of labor also requested the appointment of Jeanne B. Bryant of Receivership Management Inc. as independent fiduciary to the Retirement Security Plan and Trust and the plans. On May 16 the court granted the secretary's motion for a temporary restraining order and took the motion for preliminary injunction under advisement. Today's order is the court's granting of the injunctive relief sought by the department.

In addition to Hutcheson and Hutcheson Walker Advisors LLC, defendants in the secretary's action include Green Valley Holdings LLC and the Retirement Security Plan and Trust.

U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY NAPOLITANO’S COMMENTS ON NEW IMMIGRATION POLICY



Photo:  Secretary Janet Napolitano.  Credit:  Homeland Security.
FROM:  HOMELAND SECURITY
Secretary Napolitano Announces Deferred Action Process for Young People Who Are Low Enforcement Priorities
WASHINGTON— Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today announced that effective immediately, certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.

“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” said Secretary Napolitano. “But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”

DHS continues to focus its enforcement resources on the removal of individuals who pose a national security or public safety risk, including immigrants convicted of crimes, violent criminals, felons, and repeat immigration law offenders. Today’s action further enhances the Department’s ability to focus on these priority removals.
Under this directive, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case by case basis:
Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;

Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;

Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;

Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;

Are not above the age of thirty.
Only those individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these criteria will be eligible for deferred action. Individuals will not be eligible if they are not currently in the United States and cannot prove that they have been physically present in the United States for a period of not less than 5 years immediately preceding today’s date. Deferred action requests are decided on a case-by-case basis. DHS cannot provide any assurance that all such requests will be granted. The use of prosecutorial discretion confers no substantive right, immigration status, or pathway to citizenship. Only the Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights.
While this guidance takes effect immediately, USCIS and ICE expect to begin implementation of the application processes within sixty days. In the meantime, individuals seeking more information on the new policy should visit USCIS’s website (at www.uscis.gov), ICE’s website (atwww.ice.gov), or DHS’s website (at www.dhs.gov). Beginning Monday, individuals can also call USCIS’ hotline at 1-800-375-5283 or ICE’s hotline at 1-888-351-4024 during business hours with questions or to request more information on the forthcoming process.

For individuals who are in removal proceedings and have already been identified as meeting the eligibility criteria and have been offered an exercise of discretion as part of ICE’s ongoing case-by-case review, ICE will immediately begin to offer them deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.

Friday, June 15, 2012

HEAD OF NASA AND CEO OF SPACEX VIEW THE CAPSULE AFTER RETURN FROM SPACE


FROM:  NASA
Bolden, Musk and the Dragon
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, left, congratulates SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk in front of the historic Dragon capsule that returned to Earth on May 31 following the first successful mission by a private company to carry supplies to the International Space Station. 

Bolden and Musk also thanked the more than 150 SpaceX employees working at the McGregor facility for their role in the historic mission. 

This image was taken on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at the SpaceX facility in McGregor, Texas.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden joined SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk at the SpaceX Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas, Wednesday to see the first commercial space capsule to complete a mission to the International Space Station. 

NASA ADMINISTRATOR BOLDEN VIEWS HISTORIC SPACEX DRAGON CAPSULE
WASHINGTON -- NASA Administrator Charles Bolden joined SpaceX CEO and 
Chief Designer Elon Musk at the SpaceX Rocket Development Facility in 
McGregor, Texas, Wednesday to see the first commercial space capsule 
to complete a mission to the International Space Station. 
Bolden and Musk also thanked the more than 150 SpaceX employees 
working at the McGregor facility for their role in the historic 
mission. SpaceX's Dragon capsule made history May 31 when it returned 
to Earth after delivering supplies to the space station. 

"The Dragon capsule is a tangible example of the new era of 
exploration unfolding right now," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden 
said. "Commercial space is becoming a reality as SpaceX and our other 
commercial partners look ahead to future missions to the space 
station and other destinations. I congratulate Elon Musk and the 
entire SpaceX team again for this historic milestone." 

While on-site, Bolden had the opportunity to view some of the 1,367 
pounds of cargo the spacecraft returned to Earth from the space 
station. Dragon is the only spacecraft capable of returning a 
significant quantity of science experiments and cargo from the 
station. Experiments will be given back to researchers hoping to gain 
new insights provided by the station's unique microgravity 
environment. The cargo was transferred to NASA June 13 and will be 
taken to the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston for further 
processing. 

Dragon's journey to the station was SpaceX's second demonstration 
mission under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services 
Program (COTS), which provides investments intended to lead to 
regular resupply missions to the International Space Station and 
stimulate the commercial space industry in the United States. The 
mission began May 22 as the capsule launched from Cape Canaveral Air 
Force Station in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. After its 
maneuverability and abort systems were tested, crew members of 
Expedition 31 aboard the station grappled the capsule and berthed it 
to the orbiting laboratory. 

Dragon, its exterior scorched by the heat of re-entry, splashed down 
in the Pacific Ocean May 31. SpaceX recovered the capsule immediately 
and transported it to McGregor, where engineers unloaded cargo and 
removed hazardous materials. Dragon will be shipped to SpaceX 
Headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., later this year. 

On Thursday, Bolden and Musk will be at SpaceX Headquarters and speak 
with reporters at 9 a.m. PDT. They will see the Dragon spacecraft 
that flew the first COTS demonstration mission in December 2010, 
during which SpaceX became the first private company to recover a 
spacecraft after it orbited Earth. They also will see a prototype 
Dragon spacecraft being designed to carry astronauts to the space 
station as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. 


SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PANETTA THANKS LGBT SERVICE MEMBERS, FAMILIES AND LGBT CIVILIANS

FROM:  AMERICAN FORCES PRESS SERVICE

Panetta Salutes Gay, Lesbian Service Members' Dedicated Duty

By Cheryl Pellerin
WASHINGTON, June 15, 2012 - The pursuit of equality is fundamental to the American story, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said in a video message released today to thank gay and lesbian service members and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civilians for their dedicated service to the nation.

Recognizing June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, the secretary also thanked the families of gay and lesbian service members and LGBT civilians.
Diversity is one of the department's greatest strengths, the secretary noted.

"During Pride Month, and every month, let us celebrate our rich diversity and renew our enduring commitment to equality for all," he said.

In his video message, Panetta emphasized the military's diversity. "The successful repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' proved to the nation that, just like the country we defend, we share different backgrounds, different values and different beliefs," he said. "But together we form the greatest military force in the world."

Integrity and respect are the cornerstones of military culture, the secretary added. "The Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force implemented the repeal with a focus on respect and individual dignity," Panetta said.

Addressing the service members who now can serve openly regardless of their sexual orientation, the secretary lauded their service before the repeal. "Before the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell," he said, "you faithfully served your country with professionalism and courage. And just like your fellow service members, you put your country before yourself." Today, he added, they can be proud not only of serving their country, but also of who they are when in uniform.

The president also recognized June as LGBT Pride Month, noting that throughout the nation's history, ordinary Americans have advocated for change and have "led a proud and inexorable march toward freedom, fairness and full equality under the law – not just for some, but for all."
When the president signed the repeal act into law in December 2010, he said, "We are not a nation that says, 'don't ask, don't tell.' We are a nation that says, 'Out of many, we are one.' We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot. We are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal. Those are the ideals that generations have fought for. Those are the ideals that we uphold today."

When the repeal took effect in September 2011, Panetta said anyone who is capable of serving in uniform should be able to do so, and he re-emphasized that belief in his video message.

"Going forward," Panetta said, "I remain committed to removing as many barriers as possible to make America's military a model of equal opportunity, to ensure all who are qualified can serve in America's military, and to give every man and woman in uniform the opportunity to rise to their highest potential."