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Saturday, August 4, 2012

USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) ON FINAL DEPLOYMENT


120714-N-AP176-079
ARABIAN SEA (July 14, 2012) An aircraft takes off from the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). Enterprise is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeff Atherton/Released)


FROM: U.S. NAVY, USS ENTERPRISE
Records Reveal Enterprise is on 25th Deployment
By USS Enterprise Public Affairs
USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- Aug. 3, marks the 50th anniversary of the first deployment of USS Enterprise (CVN 65), and historians recently discovered the actual number of deployments is higher than commonly reported.

Now as the Big E continues her final deployment, scores of Sailors and historians are reviewing and double checking all aspects of the carrier's storied career.

The number of arrested landings, historic milestones, major evolutions, and, yes, even number of deployments are being checked and double checked for accuracy. As the Navy entered into the digital age, many of the historical documents associated with the carrier were made available online.

Cases in point are the command history reports, which outline the milestones and accomplishments that occur over each calendar year. Research into these and other documents have led researchers to a startling new discovery.

Tracing the number of deployments that Enterprise has completed would seem like a relatively easy task - simply tally up the number from the command history reports. Unfortunately, a few format changes over the years made for a task a bit more challenging than expected.

According to retired Navy captain Todd Creekman, executive director of the Naval Historical Foundation in Washington D.C., researchers at the foundation have unearthed some surprising news.

"In reviewing Enterprise's operational history, we made an interesting discovery" Creekman said. "All the current reports say that the ship is on her 22nd deployment. Actually, it is on the 25th deployment."

Research from the Naval Historical and Heritage Command's (NHHC) online database and other reports reveal that the carrier has "been there, done that" more often than commonly thought.

"We've run it by NHHC historian Mark Evans and it matches his data," Creekman said.

As researchers worked to piece together what happened, it appeared that a focus on the ship's WestPac deployments led to the error.

In a number of accounts, including command history reports, a particular deployment would be listed, for example, as "the tenth WestPac deployment," which would be accurate counting from the ship's first 1965-66 epic "first nuclear carrier in combat" deployment to the Vietnam War.

The carrier completed its fourteenth and last sequential WestPac in 1990, before entering Newport News Shipyard in 1990 for the ship's third refueling.

Following the final refueling, Enterprise made Norfolk, Va., her homeport once again and only made deployments to the Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf.

"The problem began when later history reports used the same number sequence but dropped "WestPac" from the description," Evans explained. "The refueling reports failed to re-account for the three deployments Big E made to the Mediterranean Sea between 1962-1964."

One example is the command history report from the ship's historic 2001 deployment, which reads: "On April 25, the Enterprise Navigation Department set Special Sea and Anchor Detail to begin a historic 17th deployment for operations in the Mediterranean Sea, Arabian Gulf and North Arabian Sea."

This was, in fact, the ship's 20th deployment.

As the 51-year-old carrier steams along today on its 25th and final deployment, researchers continue to verify and cross reference important facts and milestones to ensure accuracy.

"It's already exciting to be a part of Enterprise's final deployment, but each day we are discovering more and more about the rich history of which we are a part," said Capt. William C. Hamilton, Enterprise's commanding officer. "We estimate over 200,000 Sailors and Marines have served aboard the Big E, and every one has helped in making her the legend we serve aboard today. We are a very, very proud crew."

The eighth ship to bear the name Enterprise is scheduled to inactivate from service on December 1, 2012, in a Ceremony in Norfolk, Va., in preparation for her defueling and decommissioning in 2016.

SIMULATOR SAVES MILLIONS

FROM: U.S. AIR FORCE
A student pilot enrolled in Undergraduate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Training at the 558th Flying Training Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, takes off in a new T-6 Texan II simulator July 10. The 558 FTS purchased 10 new simulators for $3 million, which saved the squadron millions of dollar when compared to a traditional T-6 simulator, which cost $3 million each. : . (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Clinton Atkins)


Innovative simulator solution enhances training, saves millions of dollars

by Nathan Simmons
Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

7/31/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) -- A significant milestone for remotely piloted aircraft was ushered in July 10, with the first student sortie in an innovative T-6 Texan II simulator.

The new setup has dramatically increased the ability to train remotely piloted aircraft pilots, and the ingenuity behind the new simulator saves the Air Force millions of dollars. Completing the same training using traditional T-6 simulators, which cost about $3 million each, would have cost upward of $27 million total, which doesn't count the price of a new building it would require to house them.

Training RPA pilots is increasingly critical to mission success, as they are relied on heavily by our armed forces.

"RPAs are the most requested asset in the combat theater," said Maj. Gen. Timothy Zadalis, AETC Director of Intelligence, Operations and Nuclear Integration. "This capability continues to save lives and provide support down range."

When Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz solidified the RPA career field in May 2010, overloading the training system with new aviators became a significant challenge. Robert Englehart, Deputy Chief of Air Education and Training Command's RPA Training Branch, said that with the increase in demand for RPA pilots came the need to expand the capability to train them, but expanding wasn't as simple as it sounds.

"We had to be creative in our solution to this problem, as the increase in need for RPA pilots was paired with shrinking defense budgets," Englehart said. "By staying with the T-6, AETC is able to use courseware and support materials the Air Force has already paid for. AETC really stepped up and found a low-cost solution relatively quickly."

"These simulators use high-end desktop computers with powerful graphics cards to display the T-6 cockpit and instrument displays," said Lt. Col. Scott Cerone, 558th Flying Training Squadron commander. "Real-world surroundings are projected from three high-powered projectors to give the pilots a 180-degree view of the world outside their cockpits."

Another major payoff results from the significantly lower cost of replacing these components compared to those in the traditional simulator. Significant savings are also found in the time and cost of training, as roughly $515,000 is spent to train a traditional pilot versus around $33,000 to train an RPA pilot.

Traditional pilots undergo 48 weeks of training, whereas RPA pilots train in a rigorous 22 week program before they are sent to their units to train on specific aircraft.

Undergraduate RPA Training is composed of three courses. The first course is an initial flight screening in which RPA pilots learn the basics of commanding an aircraft. They then come to the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Randolph AFB, the single source of all Air Force URT for the RPA instrument qualification course. They then move on to an RPA fundamentals course, in which they get grounding in combat operations on a simplified MQ-9 Reaper simulator.

In the first two courses, pilots learn to use the radio, work with air traffic control, learn instrument procedures, situational awareness, Airmanship and all the pilot-in-command skills they need to fly. When traditional pilots graduate from training, they spend some time as a co-pilot or wingman, where they are able to learn under the mentorship of a more experienced aviator. RPA pilots do not get this experience, and thus are expected to demonstrate their pilot-in-command skills very quickly.

This tiered approach to training was beta tested in 2009 before Schwartz formalized the program in 2010. In the 2009-2010 time frame, the Air Force produced roughly 45 RPA pilots. In fiscal year 2013, the 558th FTS plans to produce around 165.

"Dubbed 'the eyes in the sky', these machines and the pilots who operate them are essential, constantly watching our troops on the ground every minute of every day and providing reconnaissance and strike support when needed," Zadalis said.

 

BIPARTISAN TRADE LEGISLATION PASSED IN THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

FROM:  HOUSE COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS
CHAIRMAN DAVE CAMP

House Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Address Africa Preferences, CAFTA-DR Technical Textile Changes, and Burma Sanctions

Thursday, August 02, 2012
Washington, DC - Today, the House passed a package of bipartisan trade legislation that: (1) extends the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) third-country fabric provisions through 2015 and adds South Sudan as an eligible beneficiary country under AGOA; (2) implements non-controversial technical corrections and modifications to the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR); and (3) renews Presidential authority to apply import sanctions against Burma.

This bipartisan legislation passed by voice vote. Additional background on H.R. 5986 is available here.

Chairman Camp said: "This important legislation will strengthen U.S. global competitiveness and trade leadership. Today’s vote to extend certain AGOA provisions and add South Sudan as an eligible beneficiary demonstrates the bipartisan dedication of this Congress to sub-Saharan Africa and reaffirms the success of the AGOA program. The technical corrections to CAFTA-DR encourage deeper integration within the region, promote U.S. exports, and support U.S. jobs. These two provisions will strengthen our ties with U.S. trading partners in Africa and the Western Hemisphere and support U.S. jobs and the U.S. economy.

"Today’s legislation also extends the President’s authority to maintain the import ban on Burmese products for three years and authorizes the actual imposition of import sanctions for one year. I recognize the encouraging developments in Burma over the past months. Nevertheless, in 2003, Congress set out specific goals and benchmarks in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, and I encourage the Burmese government to continue to address the concerns that led to the passage of the law. I also urge the Burmese government to vigorously pursue further reforms, economic growth, and peaceful, inclusive governance that benefit all the Burmese people."

Trade Subcommittee Chairman Brady said: "The strong bipartisan vote on H.R. 5986 re-affirms our strong trade and investment ties with sub-Saharan Africa and ensures a better-integrated textile supply chain in the Americas. These actions will support well-paying U.S. jobs. The legislation also reauthorizes the import ban on Burmese products. While I believe the Burmese government has taken sizeable steps forward in recent months, the political and economic reforms taken must continue and intensify to ensure that all citizens of Burma may be free, have a fully democratically-elected government, and enjoy the fruits of broad-based economic growth."

WHERE IS THE SPENT U.S. NUCLEAR FUEL?

Photo Credit:  U.S. DOD.
FROM: U.S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

Spent Fuel Storage in Pools and Dry Casks
Key Points

All U.S. nuclear power plants store spent nuclear fuel in "spent fuel pools." These pools are robust constructions made of reinforced concrete several feet thick, with steel liners. The water is typically about 40 feet deep, and serves both to shield the radiation and cool the rods.

As the pools near capacity, utilities move some of the older spent fuel into "dry cask" storage. Fuel is typically cooled at least 5 years in the pool before transfer to cask. NRC has authorized transfer as early as 3 years; the industry norm is about 10 years.

The NRC believes spent fuel pools and dry casks both provide adequate protection of the public health and safety and the environment. Therefore there is no pressing safety or security reason to mandate earlier transfer of fuel from pool to cask.

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the NRC issued orders to plant operators requiring several measures aimed at mitigating the effects of a large fire, explosion, or accident that damages a spent fuel pool. These were meant to deal with the aftermath of a terrorist attack or plane crash; however, they would also be effective in responding to natural phenomena such as tornadoes, earthquakes or tsunami. These mitigating measures include:

Controlling the configuration of fuel assemblies in the pool to enhance the ability to keep the fuel cool and recover from damage to the pool.
Establishing emergency spent fuel cooling capability.
Staging emergency response equipment nearby so it can be deployed quickly

According to the Congressional Research Service (using NEI data), there were 62,683 metric tons of commercial spent fuel accumulated in the United States as of the end of 2009.
Of that total, 48,818 metric tons – or about 78 percent – were in pools.
13,856 metric tons – or about 22 percent – were stored in dry casks.
The total increases by 2,000 to 2,400 tons annually

POST 9/11 UNEMPLOYMENT CONTINUES TO FALL

FROM: VETERANS AFFAIRS "VANTAGE POINT"
Post-9/11 Veteran Unemployment Rate Still Falling; At 8.9 Percent in July
August 3, 2012
 by Brandon Friedman
 

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Veteran unemployment data for the month of July. While the unemployment rate for all Veterans fell to 6.9 percent, the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan-era Veterans (or Gulf War II-era Veterans) fell more than half a percentage point to 8.9 percent. The steadier 12-month moving average also fell to 10.4 percent—the lowest figure we’ve seen since 2009.

While much remains to be done, since November 2011, post-9/11 Veterans have experienced the lowest unemployment rate in any combined eight-month period since 2008—with the rate reaching single digits in five of those months. Additionally, the trend over the past 31 months—since January 2010—remains downward for America’s most recent Veterans.

Month-to-month unemployment rate figures for this demographic are fairly volatile, but the long-term trend has shown a consistent decline over more than two and a half years—a strong sign of recovery following the worst economic recession since The Great Depression.






All that said, while we’re heartened that the unemployment rate among younger Veterans has fallen over the long term, too many returning Veterans still can’t find meaningful work.

That’s why VA is collaborating with the White House and the Chamber of Commerce on
hiring fairs across the country through the "Hiring Our Heroes" Program. It’s also why we’re urging Veterans to prepare themselves for the job market by taking advantage of programs like the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Veterans Retraining and Assistance Program (VRAP).

If anything, today’s positive figure reminds us that there’s still much work to be done. VA, in conjunction with the White House, remains committed to ensuring that the unemployment rate for all Veterans continues its downward path.

AFSPC Milestone: AF Frequency Management Agency Realignment

AFSPC Milestone: AF Frequency Management Agency Realignment

FORMER SUPERVISOR OF ROYAL OAK, MICHIGAN SENTENCED FOR VIOLATING CLEAN AIR ACT

FROM: U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
Supervisor of Michigan Town Sentenced to Three Years in Prison

WASHINGTON (August 3, 2012) - William Morgan, the former supervisor of Royal Oak Township, a suburb of Detroit, was sentenced in federal court to three years in prison. Mr. Morgan had previously entered a guilty plea to charges that he conspired to defraud the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), violate the Clean Air Act’s asbestos requirements, and commit bribery. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used commonly in a variety of building construction materials. When asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed by repair, remodeling or demolition activities, microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause serious health problems.

"It is reprehensible that a public official made asbestos abatement decisions based on a bribe, not on what was needed to protect the health of the community," said Randall Ashe, special agent in charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Michigan. "The sentence shows that government officials who attempt to line their pockets rather than carry out their responsibilities honestly will be prosecuted to the full extent to the law."

"Any public official, in city or suburb, who works to enrich himself at the expense of the public will be detected and prosecuted," U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade said. "It is particularly disturbing when an official not only takes bribes but also endangers community health and the environment by allowing the bribes to influence abatement decisions."

Morgan’s criminal conduct involved the awarding of a contract and distribution of federal funds that were intended to be used by communities for the improvement of blighted areas by removing dilapidated buildings. The funding was received through HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). Morgan, in addition to being Township supervisor, was also Royal Oak’s coordinator for NSP.

Prior to the awarding of the contract, Morgan had received a $10,000 bribe from Sureguard/PBM, one of the companies that submitted a bid for the demolition and asbestos removal of an abandoned theater on Eight Mile road. In return for the bribe, Morgan attempted to steer the contract to Sureguard/PBM. Despite Morgan’s efforts, Royal Oak’s Board of Supervisors awarded the contract to another company, which had submitted a lower bid.

During the demolition process, Morgan asked for and received cash payments of $500 and $1,000 from the owner of the company that had won the contract. Morgan received these payments under the belief that they were in return for his approval of a change order covering the asbestos abatement that fraudulently inflated the cost of the work.

One of Morgan’s co-conspirators, Terrance Parker, received a sentence of 21 months. Two other co-conspirators, Kendrick Covington and Marcus Brown have yet to be sentenced.

The case was investigated by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), HUD’s Office of the Inspector General and EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division.

MONTANA WILDFIRE FULL CONTAINMENT EXPECTED BY AUGUST 6


FROM: U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
A wildfire started by lightning on July 31 has spread to nearly 9,500 acres of timber, grass, and sagebrush on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in central Montana. The historic Jim Wells cabin escaped damage, but two horse corrals on the property were burned. Fifteen U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service firefighters and 9 personnel from partner agencies been working to contain the blaze, named the Wells Fire. The fire is expected to spread, as it is confined between refuge roads and the Missouri River. The incident management team has accomplished 30% containment and estimates full containment by August 6.

MEN'S EPEE FENCER INDIVIDUAL BRONZE-MEDAL MATCH

FROM: U.S. AIR FORCE
U.S. Air Force fencer Capt. Seth Kelsey loses the Olympic men's epee individual bronze-medal match, 12-11, to Korea's Jinsun Jung in sudden-death overtime on Aug. 1 at the ExCel South Arena in London. (U.S. Army photo/Tim Hipps)

AF Reservist finishes 4th in 2012 Summer Olympics
8/2/2012 - London (AFNS) -- An Air Force Reserve captain from Colorado finished fourth during the fencing competition at the 2012 London Olympics August 1.

Air Force Reserve Capt. Seth Kelsey earned the best finish since 1956 for a U.S. men's individual epee fencer at the Olympic Games. Kelsey is a logistics officer with the 310th Force Support Squadron at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo.

"I've always been disappointed in my previous Olympic performances," said Kelsey, about his fourth place result. "But today I beat three great guys. I had one of the best performances for U.S. men's epee in as long as I can remember. I felt like I put in a ton of hard work and won some tough bouts. I would have loved to have brought home a medal, but I felt like I gave myself the best possible shot I was going to have."

Kelsey added about his two overtime bouts in the medals rounds, "You've gotta take your chances. You win some, you lose some."

He said that when the bronze medal bout went into sudden death overtime, "I asked the guy if he wanted to go one touch and he said yes. He had got that touch earlier and I thought I was far enough away, but I wasn't."

Kelsey said about the next summer Olympics in Rio, "My plans right now are to stay, go for Rio, try and qualify for the team and then go for a medal in individual and take a team medal as well."

As for the Kelsey family, he said, "They were cheering their heads off. I couldn't have asked for a more exuberant excited family to be here. They were super loud and super excited for me and I'm proud to do so well for them."


 

ALABAMA REAL ESTATE INVESTOR PLEADS GUILTY TO CONSPIRACIES TO

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
WASHINGTON — An Alabama real estate investor pleaded guilty today for his role in conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in southern Alabama, the Department of Justice announced.

Charges were filed on June 25, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama in Mobile, Ala., against David R. Bradley. Bradley was charged with one count of bid rigging and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. According to the plea agreement, Bradley has agreed to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation.

According to court documents, Bradley conspired with others not to bid against one another at public real estate foreclosure auctions in southern Alabama. After a designated bidder bought a property at the public auctions, which typically take place at the county courthouse, the conspirators would generally hold a secret, second auction, at which each participant would bid the amount above the public auction price he or she was willing to pay. The highest bidder at the secret, second auction won the property.

Bradley was also charged with conspiring to use the U.S. mail to carry out a scheme to acquire title to rigged foreclosure properties sold at public auctions at artificially suppressed prices, to make and receive payoffs to co-conspirators and to cause financial institutions, homeowners and others with a legal interest in rigged foreclosure properties to receive less than the competitive price for the properties. Bradley participated in the bid-rigging and mail fraud conspiracies from as early as June 2003 until at least September 2008.

"By first rigging the public auctions, then bidding amongst themselves in secret afterwards, the conspirators illegally profited at the expense of distressed homeowners," said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division’s Criminal Enforcement Program. "This ongoing investigation into real estate foreclosure auctions underscores the division’s commitment to protecting competition in real estate markets around the country."

FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Mobile FBI Office Stephen E. Richardson re-affirmed his commitment to pursuing these complex economic investigations, stating, "This investigation has sent a strong message to the community at large, and the real estate community specifically, that abuses within the real estate industry will not be tolerated. Fraud related to home mortgage investments can have financial implications both locally and nationally, and the integrity of the system must be vigilantly maintained."

Including today’s plea, to date, six individuals—Harold H. Buchman, Allen K. French, Bobby Threlkeld Jr., Steven J. Cox, Lawrence B. Stacy and Bradley—and one company—M & B Builders LLC— have pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama in connection with the investigation. Additionally, on June 28, 2012, real estate investors Robert M. Brannon and Jason R. Brannon, and their company, J & R Properties LLC, were indicted with participating in bid rigging and conspiracy to commit mail fraud at public real estate auctions in southern Alabama.

Each violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. The maximum fine for a Sherman Act charge may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime if either amount is greater than the statutory maximum fine. Each count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine in an amount equal to the greatest of $250,000, twice the gross gain the conspirators derived from the crime or twice the gross loss caused to the victims of the crime by the conspirators.

The investigation into fraud and bid rigging at certain real estate foreclosure auctions in southern Alabama is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Atlanta Field Office and the FBI’s Mobile Office, with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama.

Today’s charges are part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants.

GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION REFORM ISSUES

FROM: U.S. GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION
CYNTHIA METZLER
CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES OFFICER
U.S. GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION
BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE
ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE

"GSA Reform"
August 1, 2012
Good morning Chairman Mica, Ranking Member Rahall, and Members of the Committee. My name is Cynthia Metzler, and I am the Chief Administrative Services Officer of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). In that capacity, I coordinate internal management and support services to promote efficiency within the agency covering a wide variety of issues, including travel and conferences.

As you are aware, Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini was not able to appear today due to a longstanding family commitment. Mr. Tangherlini reached out to the Committee to request that this hearing be rescheduled at a mutually convenient date so that he could personally appear, but was informed that the Committee was electing to proceed with today’s hearing with the awareness that the Mr. Tangherlini was unavailable. Mr. Tangherlini looks forward to continuing to work with the Committee to improve the efficiency of GSA and refocus the agency on its core mission of streamlining the administrative work of the Federal government to save money for the American taxpayer.

Given that the genesis of this hearing was the Acting Administrator’s recent referral to the Inspector General of a 2010 awards ceremony for the Federal Acquisition Service, I have come here today to outline the steps we have taken to reform our conference and travel policies to prevent waste from happening again.

As of April 2012, all travel for events, including internal GSA meetings, training, conferences, seminars, and leadership or management events, among others, was suspended.

We have consolidated oversight of conference and travel expenses in the Office of Administrative Services, which I lead.

My office reviews each and every planned future conference to make sure that these events, and any related travel, are justified.

For example:
Conferences require a business justification and the submission of a budget, and must be approved by the head of the office pursuing the conference, and myself and for those conferences with anticipated costs over $100,000, the Deputy Administrator must also approve the conference.

We have cancelled 37 previously scheduled conferences
Any travel must be essential to the mission of the agency, such as conducting litigation or performing building inspections.
Any routine travel for meetings internal to GSA requires a waiver from the Administrator or Deputy Administrator

These are only a few of the many reforms the Acting Administrator has taken to improve oversight, strengthen controls, and help to refocus the agency on its core mission. His top to bottom review of all agency operations continues, and I know he looks forward to discussing those further with you in the future.

The 2010 FAS awards ceremony is another example of what the Acting Administrator has already recognized: a pattern of misjudgment which spans several years and administrations. It must stop, and that’s why Acting Administrator Tangherlini has instituted several stringent new policies on spending to put an end to this waste.

The new leadership at GSA is committed to investigating any misuse of taxpayer dollars. When we find questionable occurrences we refer them to the Office of Inspector General, as we did in this case.

GSA has already taken a number of important steps to reform conference and travel policies within the agency. As part of the Acting Administrator’s top to bottom review of the agency, more steps will be taken to improve efficiency and save taxpayer dollars.

I

THE WHITE HOUSE NEIGHBORHOOD REVITALIZATION INITIATIVE

"If poverty is a disease that infects an entire community in the form of unemployment and violence; failing schools and broken homes, then we can’t just treat those symptoms in isolation. We have to heal that entire community. And we have to focus on what actually works."
-Barack Obama, July 18, 2007

FROM: U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, BUREAU OF JUSTICE ASSISTANCE

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Department of Justice and Partner Agencies Announce Neighborhoods to Receive Innovative Support Through the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program

The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), on behalf of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI), today announced the eight neighborhoods that will receive training and technical assistance through the groundbreaking Building Neighborhood Capacity Program (BNCP). These competitively selected neighborhoods are located in Flint, Mich.; Fresno, Calif.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Milwaukee.

BNCP, a core component of NRI, is designed to help distressed neighborhoods transform themselves into neighborhoods of opportunity by building capacity around critical elements such as public safety, education, housing, human services and health. Funded through an interagency agreement among the Departments of Justice, Education, and Housing and Urban Development, BNCP will provide intensive training and technical assistance to faith based, nonprofit and community organizations over a period of at least 20 months to help these neighborhoods design and begin pursuing results-driven, sustainable revitalization plans.

"As we’ve seen in too many communities across the country, neighborhoods that have experienced persistent distress often lack the tools to overcome the challenges to revitalization," said Attorney General Eric Holder. " The Building Neighborhood Capacity Program helps these neighborhoods build the infrastructure and tap into the resources necessary to establish and sustain successful renewal efforts."

The selected neighborhoods within the four chosen cities are Flint’s Ward 1 and Ward 3 neighborhoods, Memphis’s Binghampton and Frayser neighborhoods, Milwaukee’s Amani and Metcalfe Park neighborhoods, and Fresno’s El Dorado and Southwest neighborhoods. These communities demonstrated a high need as well as the drive, citizen engagement, and commitment to success necessary to develop capacity around the essential elements of healthy neighborhoods.

The Center for the Study of Social Policy, a nonprofit public policy, research and technical assistance organization with nearly 30 years of experience, was competitively selected to provide training and technical assistance to these neighborhoods and to establish and manage an on-line resource center for anyone interested in sustainable revitalization.

"Poverty should never be destiny," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Through programs like BNCP that offer targeted support to distressed communities for safety, health services, and particularly greater access to a high-quality education, more children and families will have the tools necessary to be successful."

"HUD is proud to stand with our partners at Justice and Education to provide these cities the tools they need to revitalize neighborhoods," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "Through collaborations like this one, we are better aligning federal resources to execute place-based strategies to transform distressed, high-poverty neighborhoods into places that offer hope and opportunity to current families and future generations."

"The Building Neighborhood Capacity Program focuses on the nation’s neediest neighborhoods. BNCP blends the latest research on effective placed-based policing strategies, efforts on building community efficiency and lessons learned from BJA’s smart policing program into one innovative approach to community revitalization," said BJA Director Denise E. O’Donnell. "BJA is proud to lead the Department of Justice’s effort, in collaboration with our federal partners, on this innovative cross-funded program."

CURIOSITY GOES TO MARS

Curiosity and Descent Stage, Artist's Concept NASA, CAL-TECH
FROM: LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY
Bradbury Science Museum Gets Martian Fever!
Public invited to Curiosity rover landing party Sunday night at new Mars exhibit
LOS ALAMOS, NEW MEXICO, July 31, 2012—Curious about Curiosity, the SUV-sized rover scheduled to touch down on Mars on Sunday? Then come on down to an opening party for a new exhibit about it this Sunday at the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos.

The public is invited to a special opening reception beginning at 10 p.m. Sunday (August 5, 2012) to celebrate Los Alamos National Laboratory technologies aboard the six-wheeled mobile science laboratory. The Curiosity rover, the centerpiece of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission, is scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet Sunday at 11:31 p.m. local (Mountain Daylight) time. The museum plans to show the landing via NASA TV live that evening.

While waiting for the nail-biting news about the successful landing of the Curiosity rover, visitors to the new museum exhibit can learn about LANL technologies on board, view a nearly life-sized 3-dimensional stereo poster of Curiosity, and use their iPhone or iPad to interact with it. Light refreshments will be served.

"This is an exhibit about LANL technology on Mars. We’re really excited to showcase LANL’s scientific and technologic expertise while also providing an educational and fun experience for the public," said Bradbury Science Museum Director Linda Deck. "We’ve been thinking about this for months and intensely working on it about four weeks," she said, adding that the exhibit will remain in place indefinitely in the museum’s TechLab.

Museum visitors will find display models of ChemCam—the rock-zapping laser that will help characterize Martian geology—CheMin, which uses X-ray diffraction to determine the composition of mineral samples collected and dropped into a funnel on the Curiosity rover; and simulated radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), the tiny plutonium canisters that provide heat and power sources that give Curiosity several times as much electricity as previous-generation rovers—a necessity for the much larger and more-advanced payload on Curiosity.

U.S. SPACE COMMAND'S 30TH ANNIVERSARY SEPTEMBER 1, 2012


FROM: U.S. AIR FORCE
On 7 February 1994, AFSPC launched the first Milstar satellite, a new generation military satellite communications system, aboard a Titan IV rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla

AFSPC Milestone: First Milstar Satellite Launch
Air Force Space Command Public Affairs

8/2/2012 - Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. -- As Air Force Space Command approaches its 30th Anniversary on 1 Sep, here is a significant milestone from the command's history...

On 7 February 1994, AFSPC launched the first Milstar satellite, a new generation military satellite communications system, aboard a Titan IV rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. The 4th Space Operations Squadron at Schriever AFB, Colo., is responsible for day-to-day command and control, communications payload management and ground segment maintenance for the Air Force's Milstar satellites.

Milstar provides the President, Secretary of Defense and the U.S. Armed Forces with assured, survivable satellite communications (SATCOM) with low probability of interception and detection. Designed to overcome enemy jamming and nuclear effects, Milstar is currently the most robust and reliable operational SATCOM system currently employed by the Department of Defense. The follow-on to Milstar is the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite system, which will provide a ten-times increase in global communication capacity over the current Milstar system



FLARE FIRE


FROM: U.S. NAVY
MH-60S Seahawk helicopters assigned to the Golden Falcons of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12 fire flares alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Lincoln is en route to the United States to complete an eight-month change-of-homeport deployment during which it operated in the U.S. 5th, 6th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary A. Anderson (Released) 120802-N-MH210-279

Friday, August 3, 2012

DASH the high blood pressure

DASH the high blood pressure

HAPPY 222nd BIRTHDAY U.S. COAST GUARD


FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew hoists an 82-year-old man from the stern of a 41-foot Utility Boat approximately 17 miles south of Matagorda Bay, Texas, Oct. 14, 2011. The man aboard the Cache, a 50-foot sailing vessel, suffered a head injury and required immediate medical assistance. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)

Posted by Navy CAPT Paul S. Hammer, DCoE director on August 3, 2012
On behalf of all of us at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, I would like to wish the United States Coast Guard a Happy 222nd Birthday!

When I am out in public in uniform people often approach me and thank me for my service. In our daily work we often think in terms of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, but the Coast Guard is often forgotten or left off that list of services. It may be an unintentional slight, but we can’t forget to honor a force which serves in arduous and dangerous duty at sea, worldwide, in the service and defense of our country. As a naval officer, I am extremely proud of the strong ties the Navy has to the Coast Guard, on land and at sea.

The Coast Guard has a rich history dating back to August 4, 1790. It was the nation’s only armed force afloat until the establishment of the Navy in 1798. Today, the Coast Guard is a force of more than 135,100 dedicated men and women. Coast Guardsmen have served alongside their brothers and sisters in arms in all of our country’s conflicts. I would encourage you to visit the Coast Guard history program website to learn more about its place among our proud military services.

Again, thank you to all Coast Guardsmen for your service, Happy Birthday and Semper Paratus!

FBI SEEKING INFORMATION IN RIPKIN ABDUCTION CASE

http://www.fbi.gov/news/podcasts/wanted/seeking-information-in-ripken-abduction-case.mp3/view?utm_campaign=email-Immediate&utm_medium=email&utm_source=wanted-by-the-fbi-podcast&utm_content=128269

OSPREY TILT-ROTOR AIRCRAFT GROUNDED IN JAPAN

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, right, hosts a Pentagon honor cordon for visiting Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto, Aug. 3, 2012. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett Panetta: Ospreys Grounded in Japan Pending Investigation

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2012 - The Marine Corps will deliver the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to Japan on time, but they will remain grounded for the short term, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told reporters today during a joint Pentagon press conference with Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto.

Panetta said the Osprey will not fly in Japan until a full report into two recent incidents involving the aircraft is presented to the Japanese government and the safety of flight operations is reconfirmed. "The Defense Department anticipates presenting this information to the Japanese government sometime this month," he said.

An Osprey crash in Morocco in April killed two people; another in Florida in June injured five.

The Osprey is key to the defense department's plans for the Asia-Pacific region, Panetta said. "It will enable Marines to fly faster and farther from Okinawa to remote islands in Japan. This is a one-of-a-kind platform."

"We have tremendous confidence in this plane," Panetta added. "We fly it in combat operations, we fly it around the world [and] we fly it here in this country ... This plane can safely implement its operational mission."

Panetta also praised the defense partnership between the United States and Japan.

"This alliance has been the bedrock to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region for more than 50 years," he said.

During their meeting today the defense leaders also discussed plans to realign the U.S. force structure and ways to modernize and advance the U.S.-Japan alliance, including joint operations, training and shared use of training ranges.

"Japan's decision to purchase the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is an important move that will help expand our bilateral cooperation," Panetta said. "It will enhance the ability of our forces to operate together and it will ensure our dominance of the skies for decades to come."

After the press conference, Panetta and Morimoto took part in a familiarization flight aboard an Osprey, flying from the Pentagon to Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.

MILITARY-LAW ENFORCEMENT WORK TO STEM METH INGREDIENT SHIPMENTS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Navy Seals operating in support of Joint Interagency Task force West train with counternarcotics forces in the Asia-Pacific region to help them improve their riverine operations to stem the flow of drugs and precursor chemicals, July 18, 2010. DOD photo by Air Force Capt. Kali Pinckney
Task Force Stems Chemical Trafficking in Asia-PacificBy Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

CAMP SMITH, Hawaii, Aug. 2, 2012 - A little-known organization with U.S. Pacific Command is bringing together military and law-enforcement capabilities to combat drug-related transnational crime in the Asia-Pacific region that has a direct impact on U.S. security.

Interagency Task Force West's major concern is precursor chemicals that are trafficked to the Western Hemisphere to produce methamphetamine, the task force director, Coast Guard Rear Adm. James Rendon, told American Forces Press Service.

These chemicals, frequently shipped from China, are sent to illegal laboratories in Mexico and Central America, where they are used to manufacture the highly addictive stimulant referred to on the street as "meth," "glass" or "tik."

Eighty percent of the methamphetamine that makes its way to the United States transit through Mexico, Rendon reported.

Illicit drugs have long represented a threat to the United States, where drug abuse takes a heavy personal toll on users and their loveed ones. But society at large suffers, too, not only from petty crimes committed by addicts to fund their habits, but also from even-more-insidious activities conducted by transnational crime rings bankrolled by the drug trade.

"There is a link, absolutely," Rendon said. "For transnational criminal organizations, there are no boundaries."

That gives them wide berth to gain power and influence that ultimately destabilizes governments and provides a funding source for extremism, he said. So, recognizing the link between drug trafficking, U.S. national security and regional stability, JIATF West is working hand in hand with its U.S. interagency and regional partners to confront this scourge.

JIATF West is one of three joint, interagency task forces with similar missions. JIATF South, based in Key West, Fla., is focused largely on cocaine trafficking within U.S. Southern Command's area of responsibility. Joint Task Force North at Fort Bliss, Texas, part of U.S. Northern Command, concentrates predominantly on drug trafficking and other transnational threats along the southwestern U.S. border.

By law, the Defense Department is barred from actively conducting law enforcement. But it contributes to those efforts largely by sharing intelligence about drug flows or shipments of precursor chemicals, Rendon said.

"We have a very capable intelligence directorate, which has at its disposal all the tools ... to be looking for things that just don't look right in terms of shipments going across the Pacific," he said.

JIATF West passes this information through the interagency and to partner nations so their law enforcement entities can disrupt and seize shipments, typically after arriving at their destination ports, he said.

This collaboration is paying off, Rendon reported. Since 2010, JIATF West contributed to the seizure of about 1,500 metric tons of precursor chemicals used to produce methamphetamine. So far this fiscal year, he estimated that the task force has helped prevent production of up to 200 metric tons of methamphetamine.

To support this effort, an equally important part of JIATF West's mission is to help regional partners improve their domestic counternarcotics capabilities. "We meet with our partner nations, we assess what their needs are and then we do our best to support their needs," Rendon said.

Training packages, often delivered by Army Special Forces teams, range from tactical to classroom training tailored to an individual country's requirements, he said. Courses can cover anything from marksmanship to mission planning. More recently, U.S. FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration officials have begun providing fraudulent document training to help partners follow the illicit money trail.

JIATF West also focuses heavily on the maritime domain and helping partner nations build capacity within their maritime police or coast guards. This runs the gamut, from deploying trainers to help nations close capability gaps to helping them develop the physical infrastructure and bases needed to project power within their sovereign waters.

Meanwhile, JIATF West also is supporting capacity-building through other base development projects. Rendon recently returned from Indonesia and Thailand, where the task force, working through the U.S. embassies in those countries, established training centers where law enforcement officials can learn tracking and interdiction techniques and apply them in realistic training scenarios.

Rendon said he's been impressed that partner nations recognize the negative impact of trafficking on their own countries and are dedicated to doing their part to control it.

One of his goals, he said, is to partner with China -- which has a huge chemical manufacturing base -- to stem the diversion of some of these chemicals for illicit uses. Rendon plans to travel to China in September with R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, to address this challenge, along with other demand and supply side issues.

"We are hopeful that China will want to engage with us," he said. "There is something in it for them just as much as there is something in it for us. And the bottom line is methamphetamine is just a horrible drug that has so many negative consequences related to the health, the safety and security of citizens of all countries."

As JIATF West and U.S. partners in the Asia-Pacific region experience success, Rendon recognizes that the traffickers continue to adapt their practices to avoid detection and interdiction. He compared it to the "balloon effect," in which pushing at one spot on a balloon causes it to bulge out on the other side, signifying a change of tactics.

"So we are constantly looking for ways to keep up with their tactics," he said of the traffickers.

The impact of these and other capacity-building efforts extends beyond the partners' own borders, Rendon said, contributing to regional stability.

"Everything that we do is in support of U.S. interests, but also in promoting regional stability and security within the Asia-Pacific region," he said. "The Asia-Pacific region has a drug problem itself. And so we work with various countries and train those various countries in a spectrum of topics to help their law enforcement be able to combat transnational organized crime."

PROFILE OF NORWAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
PROFILE
Geography
Area (including the island territories of Svalbard and Jan Mayen): 385,199 sq. km. (148,726 sq. miles); approximately the same size as New Mexico.
Cities (January 2011 est.): Capital--Oslo (pop. 599,230). Other cities--Bergen (260,392), Trondheim (173,486), Stavanger (126,021).
Terrain: Rugged with high plateaus, steep fjords, mountains, and fertile valleys.
Climate: Temperate along the coast, colder inland.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Norwegian(s).
Population (October 2011): 4,973,029.
Annual population growth rate (2010): 1.3%.
Density (2010): 16 per sq. km. (excluding inland water).
Ethnic groups: Norwegian (Nordic, Alpine, Baltic); Sami, a racial-cultural minority; foreign nationals from Nordic and other countries.
Membership in nationally registered religions (2010): Church of Norway (Lutheran) 78%; Roman Catholic 1.3%; Pentecostal Christian 0.8%; other Christian 3.5%; Muslim 2.0%; other, none, or unknown 14.4%, including a Jewish community of approximately 1,500 people, 819 of whom are registered with the Jewish community.
Languages: Bokmal Norwegian (official), Nynorsk Norwegian (official), small Sami- and Finnish-speaking minorities (Sami is official in six municipalities). English is widely spoken.
Education: Years compulsory--10. Literacy--100%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2010)--3.1 deaths/1,000. Life expectancy (2010 est.)--men 78.6 years; women 83.1 years.
Work force (2011, 3.6 million): Legislators, senior officials, and managers 6%; professionals 13%; technicians and associate professionals 25.3%; clerks 6.8%; service workers and market sales workers 24%; agricultural, forestry, and fishery workers 2.2%; craft and related trades workers 10.2%; plant and machine operators and assemblers 7.1%; other occupations and unspecified 5.2%.

Government
Type: Hereditary constitutional monarchy.
Independence: 1905.
Constitution: May 17, 1814.
Branches: Executive--king (chief of state), prime minister (head of government), Council of Ministers (cabinet). The Council is appointed by the monarch in accordance with the will of the Storting, to which the Council is responsible. Legislative--modified unicameral parliament (Storting, 169 members, elected for 4 years by universal adult suffrage). Judicial--Supreme Court, appellate courts, city and county courts. There are 19 Supreme Court judges, with one Chief Justice.
Political parties represented in the parliament: Center Party; Christian People’s Party; Conservative Party; Labor Party; Liberal Party; Progress Party; Socialist Left Party.
Suffrage: Universal over 18.
Administrative subdivisions: 19 fylker (counties) and 429 municipalities, and Svalbard.

Economy
GDP (2011): $479.3 billion.
Annual growth rate (2011): 1.7%.
Per capita GDP (2011, purchasing power parity): $53,300.
Natural resources: Petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, titanium, pyrites, nickel, fish, timber, hydropower.
Arable land: 2.7%.
Agriculture: Products--dairy, livestock, grain (barley, oats, wheat), potatoes and other vegetables, fruits and berries, furs, wool, pork, beef, veal, fish.
Industry: Types--petroleum and gas, food processing, shipbuilding, pulp and paper products, aluminum, ferroalloys, iron and steel, nickel, zinc, nitrogen, fertilizers, petrochemicals, hydroelectric power, refinery products, timber, mining, textiles, fishing, transport equipment, electronics.
GDP by activity (2010): Oil and gas 20%; general government 16%; manufacturing, mining, electricity, building and construction 15%; value added tax (VAT), etc. 11%; commodities, vehicle repairs, etc. 7%; communication and transport 4%; agriculture, forestry, and fishing 2%; other services (commercial, housing, financial, private health/education, hotel and catering, etc.) 25%.
Trade (2010): Exports (f.o.b.)--$178 billion. Major markets--U.K. 27%, Netherlands 12%, Germany 11%, Sweden 7%, France 6%, U.S. 5%. Imports (f.o.b.)--$122 billion. Major suppliers--Sweden 14%, Germany 12.3%, China 8.4%, Denmark 6.1%, U.K. 5.9%, U.S. 5.2%.

GEOGRAPHY
Norway’s northern regions lie within the Arctic Circle, where there are borders with Finland and Russia, while much of the long border with Sweden runs through the Scandinavian mountains. This range, sloping to the south-east, is 1,530 km in length and has its highest areas in the south of Norway, where Galdhopiggen, Norway’s highest point, reaches a peak of 2,469 m (8,100 ft). Almost all of Norway is high ground; in the north the country becomes narrower, with mountains overlooking the fjords and the islands along the coast, and in the center and south the mountains form a high plateau, where there are permanent ice fields. The only area of low ground is around the Oslo fjord and along the coast to Stavanger. The principal rivers are the Glomma, the Lagen, and Tanaelv. Some 6% of Norway’s area is inland water--mostly long, thin lakes. Two-thirds of the country is tundra, rock, or snowfields, and one-quarter is forested, so good agricultural land is rare. Less than 3% of Norway is cultivated, and these areas are in the south-east and in the river valleys. The mountains of Norway are rich in minerals; there are deposits of iron ore, copper, titanium, coal, zinc, lead, nickel, and pyrites, and large offshore reserves of petroleum and natural gas.

Although Norway crosses the Arctic Circle, the climate is not as cold as might be expected, since the North Atlantic Drift brings warm, damp air to the whole country. The geographical conditions give rise to great climatic variation: it is cooler inland and to the north, where winters are long and dark with much snow, but where the sun shines day and night for part of the summer. It is wetter on the west coast, where about 2,000 mm (78.7 inches) of rain falls annually on Bergen; the mean annual rainfall in the capital, Oslo, is 730 mm, most of which falls during the summer. Temperatures in Oslo are highest in July, when the average is 17.3°C (64°F), and lowest in January, when the average falls to −4.7°C (24°F).

PEOPLE
Ethnic Norwegians speak a Germanic language. Northern Norway is also the traditional home of communities of Sami people who speak a non-Indo-European language. In recent years, Norway has become home to increasing numbers of immigrants, foreign workers, and asylum-seekers from various parts of the world. As of January 2011, there were 600,900 immigrants and 100,000 Norwegian-born persons with immigrant parents living in Norway. The majority of immigrants are from Poland, Sweden, Germany, and Iraq. Thirty-four percent of immigrants have Norwegian citizenship. Immigrants now make up about 12.2% of Norway’s population, but the percentage in Oslo is nearly double that.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contribute to the generally free practice of religion in Norway. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway, the state church, enjoys some benefits not available to other religious groups. Education is free through the university level and is compulsory from ages 6 to 16. At least 12 months of military service and training are required of every eligible male; approximately 40% are exempted from service for health or other reasons annually. Norway's health system includes free hospital care, physicians’ compensation, cash benefits during illness and pregnancy, and other medical and dental plans. There is a public pension system.

Norway is in the top rank of nations in the number of books printed per capita. Norway's most famous writer is the dramatist Henrik Ibsen. Artists Edvard Munch and Christian Krogh were Ibsen's contemporaries. Munch drew part of his inspiration from Europe and in turn exercised a strong influence on later European expressionists. Sculptor Gustav Vigeland has a permanent exhibition in the Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo. Musical development in Norway since Edvard Grieg has followed either native folk themes or, more recently, international trends.

HISTORY
The Viking period (9th to 11th centuries) was one of national unification and expansion. The unification of Viking settlements along the Norwegian coast was well advanced by the time of St. Olav’s death in 1030. He is credited with overseeing the population’s conversion to Christianity. A period of civil war ended in the 13th century when Norway expanded its control overseas to parts of the British Isles, Iceland, and Greenland. Norwegian territorial power peaked in 1265, and the following year the Isle of Man and the Hebrides were ceded to Scotland. Competition from the Hanseatic League and the spread of the Black Death weakened the country. The Norwegian royal line died out in 1387, as the country underwent a period of union with Denmark under King Olaf; union with Sweden followed in 1397. Attempts to keep all three countries united failed, with Sweden finally breaking away in 1521. By 1586, Norway had become part of the Danish Kingdom. In 1814, as a result of the Napoleonic wars, Norway was separated from Denmark and combined with Sweden again.

The Napoleonic War saw Denmark side with France in 1807, following the British attack on Copenhagen. With Sweden joining the coalition against Napoleon in 1813, the Treaty of Kiel in 1814 transferred Norway to the Swedish King following Denmark’s defeat. The Norwegians ignored this international agreement and chose the Danish Prince as their king and adopted the liberal Eidsvoll Constitution on May 17, 1814 (May 17 later became Norway’s national holiday). After a few months a Swedish-Norwegian union was agreed under the Swedish crown, with Norway being granted its own parliament (Storting) and government. However, the Swedish King attempted unsuccessfully to revise this constitution in the 1820s and 1830s and parliamentary control over the executive was only obtained following a struggle during the 1870s and 1880s. Norwegian nationalism was associated with the creation of a national standard for written Norwegian based on dialects, rather than the Danish-based official language. There were numerous disputes between the Norwegian Government and Sweden, notably over requests for a Norwegian consular service to reflect the importance of Norway’s expanding merchant fleet. In 1905 the union between the two countries was dissolved following two plebiscites in Norway, one opting for independence and one for a constitutional monarchy. Danish Prince Carl was unanimously elected as King by the Storting in 1905 and took the name of Haakon VII (after the kings of independent Norway) on his arrival in Norway. Haakon died in 1957 and was succeeded by his son, Olav V, who died in January 1991. Upon Olav's death, his son Harald was crowned as King Harald V.

Norway was a nonbelligerent during World War I, but as a result of the German invasion and occupation during World War II, Norwegians generally became skeptical of the concept of neutrality and turned instead to collective security. During the period of Nazi German occupation, over 742 of Norway’s Jews were killed. More than 900 Jews survived mass deportation by hiding and escaping, many of them by crossing the border into Sweden. Norway was one of the signers of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949 and was a founding member of the United Nations. The first UN Secretary General, Trygve Lie, was a Norwegian. Under the terms of the will of Alfred Nobel, the Storting (parliament) elects the five members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee who award the Nobel Peace Prize each year on December 10 to those who have "done the most or best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." Norway held referenda on seeking entry into the European Union (EU) and its predecessor the European Community in 1972 and 1994, with the population rejecting membership both times. Today, a majority remains opposed to EU membership.

GOVERNMENT
The functions of the king are mainly ceremonial, but he has influence as the symbol of national unity. Although the 1814 constitution grants important executive powers to the king, these are almost always exercised by the Council of Ministers in the name of the king (King's Council). The Council of Ministers consists of a prime minister--chosen by the political parties represented in the Storting--and other ministers.

The 169 members of the Storting are elected from 19 fylker (counties) for 4-year terms according to a complex system of proportional representation.

The special High Court of the Realm hears impeachment cases; the regular courts include the Supreme Court (18 permanent judges and a Chief Justice), courts of appeal, city and county courts, the labor court, and conciliation councils. Judges attached to regular courts are appointed by the king in council after nomination by the Ministry of Justice.

Each fylke (county) is headed by a governor appointed by the king in council, with one governor exercising authority in both Oslo and the adjacent county of Akershus.

POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Until the 1981 election, Norway had been governed by majority Labor Party governments since 1935, except for three periods (1963, 1965-71, and 1972-73). The Labor Party lost its majority in the Storting in the 1981 elections.

From 1981 to 2005, governments alternated between Labor minority governments and Conservative-led coalition governments. In the run-up to the 2005 election, Labor Party leader Jens Stoltenberg reached out to the Socialist Left (SV) party and agrarian Center party to form a "Red-Green" coalition government that commanded a majority of seats in parliament. Stoltenberg’s government was the first majority government in Norway in over 20 years, but the governing coalition has had to bridge substantial policy differences to build this majority. The 2005 election was historic because it was the first time the Labor Party was in a coalition government since the 1940s, the first time SV was ever in the national government, and the first time the Center Party joined with the socialist parties as opposed to the right-of-center parties. On September 14, 2009, the "Red-Green" coalition won reelection for 4 more years after winning 86 of the 169 seats in parliament.

The Stoltenberg-led coalition government that took office in October 2005 and was reelected in 2009 continued the northern policy laid down by the government led by Kjell Magne Bondevik (of the Christian Democratic Party) in 2003. This "High North" strategy has remained one of the constant themes of this government and encompasses many of the government’s highest priorities, including environmental protection, responsible development of energy resources, maintaining a security presence in the Arctic, and developing Norway’s relations with Russia. In 2010, Norway concluded bilateral agreements with Russia resolving the two countries’ long-disputed maritime boundary in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean and facilitating travel for border residents. Upon ratification, the maritime boundary agreement entered into force in 2011.
Norway maintains an embassy in the United States at 2720 34th Street NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-333-6000) and consulates in Houston, New York, and San Francisco. Norway closed its consulate in Minneapolis in 2008 but maintains an honorary consulate with Gary Gandrud as honorary consul general. There are honorary consuls in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Bahamas, Bermuda, California (2), Colorado, Florida (3), Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico (2), South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

ECONOMY
Norway is one of the world's richest countries in per capita terms. It has an important stake in promoting a liberal environment for foreign trade. Its large shipping fleet is one of the most modern among maritime nations. Metals, pulp and paper products, chemicals, shipbuilding, and fishing are the most significant traditional industries.

Norway's emergence as a major oil and gas producer in the mid-1970s transformed the economy. Large sums of investment capital poured into the offshore oil sector, leading to greater increases in Norwegian production costs and wages than in the rest of Western Europe up to the time of the global recovery of the mid-1980s. The influx of oil revenue also permitted Norway to expand an already extensive social welfare system. Norway established a petroleum fund (the Government Pension Fund Global) to save and invest the state’s oil and gas earnings. The fund was valued at over 3 trillion kroner (over $500 billion) at the end of 2011. Thanks in part to prudent financial regulation and to high prices in world markets for its energy and fisheries exports, the global financial crisis has had only a limited impact on Norway. Norway’s unemployment rate stood at 3.4% at the end of November 2011. In recent years, labor costs have increased faster than in its major trading partners, eroding industrial competitiveness. Though the impact of international economic turmoil is uncertain, Norway is expected to experience moderate growth in 2012.

Norway twice voted against joining the European Union, but, with the exception of the agricultural and fisheries sectors, Norway enjoys free trade with the EU under the framework of the European Economic Area. This agreement aims to apply the four freedoms of the EU's internal market (goods, persons, services, and capital) to Norway. As a result, Norway normally adopts and implements most EU directives. Norwegian monetary policy is aimed at maintaining a stable exchange rate for the krone against European currencies, of which the euro is a key operating parameter. Norway does not have a fixed exchange rate. Its principal trading partners are the EU, the United States, and China.

Energy Resources
Offshore hydrocarbon deposits were discovered in the 1960s, and development began in the 1970s. Production increased significantly in the 1990s as new fields came on stream. The growth of the petroleum sector has contributed significantly to Norwegian economic vitality. Current petroleum production capacity is approximately 2.6 million barrels per day. Production in gas has increased rapidly during the past several years as new fields are opened, with crude oil production in decline. Hydropower provides nearly all of Norway's electricity, and all of the gas and most of the oil produced is exported. The Norwegian continental shelf's total recoverable petroleum resources have been estimated at 12.8 billion standard cubic meters of oil equivalent (scm o.e.), of which 5.5 billion have been recovered.

Norway is the world's seventh-largest oil exporter and second-largest gas exporter (2010). Norway provides much of Western Europe's crude oil and gas requirements. In 2010, Norwegian oil and gas exports accounted for approximately 47% of total exports. In addition, offshore exploration and production have stimulated onshore economic activities. In 2010, 26% of state revenues were generated from the petroleum industry; taxes and direct ownership ensure high revenues. Foreign companies, including many American ones, participate actively in the petroleum sector. The oil industry directly employs roughly 40,000 people in core extraction activities. Over 250,000 are employed in petroleum-related activities.

Petroleum production peaked in the early 2000s, and the pace of discoveries has not been sufficient to reverse that trend. However, innovative use of extraction technologies has extended the lives of fields and major oil and gas discoveries were made on the Norwegian continental shelf in 2011. Declines in petroleum extraction is to some degree offset by increased extraction of natural gas in both new and existing fields, such as Snohvit and Troll. Given the energy industry’s weight in the economy, diversification into other industries is a long-term challenge for Norway.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Norway supports international cooperation and the peaceful settlement of disputes, and recognizes the need for maintaining national defense through collective security. Accordingly, the cornerstones of Norwegian policy are active membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and support for the United Nations and its specialized agencies. Norway also pursues a policy of economic, social, and cultural cooperation with other Nordic countries--Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland--through the Nordic Council and bilaterally.

In addition to strengthening traditional ties with developed countries, Norway seeks to build friendly relations with developing countries and has undertaken humanitarian and development aid efforts with selected African, Asian, and Latin American nations. Norway also is dedicated to encouraging democracy, assisting refugees, promoting a global response to climate change, and protecting human rights throughout the world.

U.S.-NORWAY RELATIONS
The United States and Norway enjoy a long tradition of friendly relations, strengthened by the millions of Norwegian-Americans in the United States and by about 30,000 U.S. citizens who reside in Norway. The transatlantic relationship is based on democratic values and mutual respect. In 2010 the United States accounted for 5% of Norway's exports and more than 5% of Norway’s imports. The two countries benefit from an annual $15 billion two-way goods and services trade relationship as well as from active cultural exchange, both officially and privately. The United States and Norway share a commitment to promoting universal human rights and economic development, respect for the United Nations, and peaceful resolution of disputes around the globe. The two countries work closely together as NATO allies, including in Afghanistan. There is a strong shared interest in addressing the problems posed by climate change, particularly with respect to the Arctic and in building cooperation in the region through the Arctic Council. The United States and Norway launched a Global Issues Dialogue in Washington, DC on May 6, 2010

 

COUNTRY REPORTS ON TERRORISM 2011

Map:  Iraq Position In The MiddleEast.  Map Credit:  CIA
FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Briefing on the Country Reports on Terrorism 2011Special Briefing
Daniel Benjamin
Coordinator, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Washington, DC
July 31, 2012
MR. VENTRELL:
Okay. Good afternoon, everyone. We have with us today Ambassador Dan Benjamin, the State Department’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism. He is here today to present our annual report on worldwide terrorism, and without further ado, I’m going to turn it over to him for opening remarks. We’ll then have time for a handful of questions, so Ambassador Benjamin.

AMBASSADOR BENJAMIN: All right. Thanks very much, and thank you all for coming today. Today, the State Department is issuing Country Reports on Terrorism 2011, which fulfills a congressional mandate and also provides us with an opportunity to review counterterrorism events worldwide. Please bear in mind that the report only covers events and developments that occurred during the 2011 calendar year.

Of course, 2011 was an extremely significant year in counterterrorism. Besides the death of Usama bin Ladin and a number of other key al-Qaida operatives, we saw millions of citizens throughout the Middle East advance peaceful public demands for change without any reference to al-Qaida’s incendiary world view. This upended the group’s longstanding claim that change in this region would only come through violence. These men and women have underscored, in the most powerful fashion, the lack of influence al-Qaida exerts over the central political issues in key Muslim-majority nations.

At the same time, I should underscore we have no illusions that the transition process that we are in the midst of will be painless or happen quickly. Revolutionary transformations have many bumps in the road. So much is clear. And so inspiring as the moment may be, we are not blind to the attendant perils. Terrorists could still cause to significant disruptions for states undergoing very challenging democratic transitions. The report’s narrative notes, among other things, the continued weakening of the al-Qaida core in Pakistan, but it also demonstrates that the al-Qaida affiliates, while also suffering losses, increased their overall operational ability. And this is particularly true of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. So for all the counterterrorism successes that we’ve seen against al-Qaida and its affiliates, the group and violent extremist ideology and rhetoric continue to spread in some parts of the world.

The report also notes that al-Qaida and its affiliates are not the only terrorist threat that the United States faces. We are increasingly concerned about Iran’s support for terrorism and Hezbollah’s activities as they’ve both stepped up their level of terrorist plotting over the past year and engaging in – and are engaging in their most active and aggressive campaigns since the 1990s. Iran’s use of terrorism as an instrument of policy was exemplified, as you’re all aware, by the involvement of elements of the Iranian Government in the 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador here in Washington.

Let me make a few points about the statistical annex, which is at the end of the report and which was prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center. The total number of worldwide attacks in 2011 was more than 10,000 in 70 countries, resulting in more than 12,500 deaths. But that figure, large as it may be, is a drop of 12 percent from 2010. Again, the largest number of reported attacks occurred in South Asia and the Near East. More than 75 percent of the world’s attacks and deaths occurred in these regions. The victims of terrorist attacks remain overwhelmingly Muslim. The majority of attacks occurred in just three countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, which together accounted for 85 percent of attacks in these regions and almost 64 percent of attacks worldwide. Although it’s worth noting that both Afghanistan and Iraq saw declines in the number of attacks from the previous year – 14 percent in the case of Afghanistan, 16 percent in the case of Iraq.

Africa experienced 978 attacks in 2011, an 11.5 percent increase over the previous year. And this is attributable in large part to the more aggressive attack tempo of the Nigerian-based terrorist group Boko Haram, which conducted 136 attacks in 2011, up from 31 the previous year.

Well, let me end these brief remarks by noting that as a result of international pressure and events such as the Arab Awakening, both al-Qaida the organization and al-Qaida the idea are evolving. Understanding the group’s strengths and weaknesses and the trajectory of its evolution are continuing critical challenges for us and will remain so in the years ahead.
And now, I’ll be happy to take a few questions.

QUESTION: Two questions if I may. One, I look back at the NCTC data going back to 2005, which I think is the first full year for which they were responsible for the statistics, and the figures for both overall attacks and overall worldwide attacks and worldwide fatalities this year, or 2011, are in fact the lowest since 2005. And to what do you ascribe those declines? I mean, I’m sure you’ll say partly it’s you’re getting better at this, but do you also think that the underlying motivating factors for people who launch such attacks are somehow diminishing?

And then secondly, you talked about the Arab Spring. I wonder if you think there is a plausible danger that violence may actually get worse in some places in the short term. I’m thinking in particular of Sinai, but surely there are potentially other examples – Syria being an obvious one – where the transition may actually lead to an increase in what you define as terrorist attacks.

AMBASSADOR BENJAMIN: Both good questions. Let me take the last one first. It’s folly to make predictions of what is going to happen over the next year and what the aggregate numbers are going to look like, but I certainly would not rule out the possibility that we would see increases in violence in any particular area. Egypt, as we know, has gone through a very eventful transition, and that transition included major changes in the security services and in their remit in terms of their personnel and so on and so forth.

We know that there have been long periods of time when many countries in the region were focused on the basic stability of their capitals and their core population areas. So there are all kinds of different things in play, and I think that it would be a mistake to make a hard-and-fast prediction, but simply to say we have to be prepared for any kind of development along those lines. And we’re engaging with all these different countries for exactly that reason.

Now, as for your question about the aggregate declines since 2005, if you remember where we were in 2005, there was an enormous amount of violence in Iraq, and that certainly has to be one of the main reasons for that. And although we’re very concerned about continuing violence in Iraq, the trend line has overall been down through 2011. I think that beyond that, you’d have to look – go region by region. We’ve seen, I think, a pretty steep decline, if memory serves, for example, in Southeast Asia, where there’s been very effective work done to build capacity. In a number of other areas in the world, we’ve also seen increased capacity. Algeria, for example, has many fewer attacks within its borders than it did five, six, seven years ago.

And I think a lot of that is because countries around the world recognize the importance of developing their skills. We’ve worked with many of them on developing their law enforcement capacities, and I think that that’s made a difference. I think the scholars will have the final word on this on why we’ve seen this overall decline, but I want to emphasize it’s still a pretty dangerous phenomenon. As we mentioned, it accounts for thousands of casualties, and there’s reason for lots of vigilance. We can’t ensure that the trend lines will always continue going in the way we want.

QUESTION: You mentioned the uptick in attacks from Boko Haram, and presumably, among the Afghanistan attacks, there were many from the Haqqani Network. Considering that they both were significant contributors to terrorist attacks in your report, what more evidence do you need to include both of them as Foreign Terrorist Organizations?

AMBASSADOR BENJAMIN: Well, we are very concerned about the activities of both groups, and we have been working to address the issue of insecurity in northern Nigeria. And this is a top priority for the Department. We’re concerned about Boko Haram’s activities. We’ve been engaging with the Nigerian Government in particular at the highest levels to move them towards greater engagement with communities that are vulnerable to extremist violence by addressing the underlying political and socioeconomic problems in the north.

As you know, we don’t comment on the designation process. It is a laborious process. It has to be able to stand up in court, takes a long time, and I don’t want to preview any designations or non-designations beyond that. I will point out, though, that we have designated, under Executive Order 13224, three leaders of Boko Haram. We did that back on June 21st. And this allows us to focus on those individuals who are most responsible for violence, for threats against the U.S. and its citizens. And I think that we – that was the right move to take at the time. And if there is more on that designation, you’ll certainly hear about it.


Regarding the Haqqanis, of course, we share with Congress, which has acted on this recently, a strong concern about the activities of the Haqqanis. There is now legislation that has been passed on that. It will be before the President shortly. And again, I’m not going to go into the tick-tock of the review for designation. We take this very seriously. We’ve talked to the Pakistanis on numerous occasions about this, and the work goes on. And again, we have designated many Haqqani leaders under Executive Order 13224, so it’s a mistake to say there have been no designations in this area.

QUESTION: I didn’t say that.

AMBASSADOR BENJAMIN: Okay.

QUESTION: I wonder if I could ask one on al-Qaida, please. Thank you. On al-Qaida, you mentioned that the core al-Qaida group seems to be on a path of decline following the deaths of various leaders, including Usama bin Ladin. But on the same – at the same time, you say that its affiliates are on the rise. And I just wonder, doesn’t that make actually al-Qaida a more dangerous organization; it’s becoming more of a many-headed hydra rather than just one organization that you can fight?

AMBASSADOR BENJAMIN: There’s no question that there is cause for concern. I would not say that we are less safe now than we were several years ago, because the al-Qaida core was the most capable part of the organization by quite a lot, and was capable, obviously, of carrying out catastrophic attacks on a scale that none of the affiliates have been able to match. So it’s a complex calculus, but I – so I wouldn’t say that it is more dangerous out there than it was.

What I would say is that we are very concerned about the growth of the affiliates. We are working closely with partner nations around the world. In the case of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is I think everyone agrees is the most dangerous of the affiliates, that’s a group that benefitted from the long political transition, the turmoil that was going on in Yemen. And I’m optimistic because in President Hadi we have a very committed, very reliable partner now. And our work with Yemen is going very, very well. So while the group did exploit that period of uncertainty, we think the trend lines are going in the right direction now in Yemen.

Similarly, we’re working with the various countries of the Maghreb and the Sahel to deal with AQIM. We have strong engagement with East African countries and AMISOM to deal with al-Qaida in East Africa. And I think that it is a serious situation but one that we’re deeply engaged in and making progress in. We just can’t relax, and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and its various conspiracies, I think, proves that point better than any of them.

QUESTION: Thank you. You said in the report that by the end of 2001 al-Qaida in Iraq was starting to take advantage of the instability in Syria and was trying to gain a foothold there. I was wondering, in the first part of this year, whether you see that trend continuing and growing and what the al-Qaida presence in Syria is, as you understand it to be, right now.

AMBASSADOR BENJAMIN: Right. Well, look, as I’ve said many times, terrorists gravitate to areas of instability and civil strife, and, as everyone has seen in the press, there have been many accounts of al-Qaida-related operatives being in Syria. There’s no doubt that there are some. And the hatred of Sunni extremist groups for the Assad regime is nothing new. We believe that the number of al-Qaida fighters – al-Qaida-related fighters who are in Syria is relatively small. But there is a larger group of foreign fighters, many of whom are not directly affiliated with AQ, who are either in or headed to Syria, and clearly this is a matter of concern for all who fear greater violence in Syria and for regional stability.

So it’s important though that we see this in context. And we should be clear: Though the Assad regime seeks to portray the current situation as a fight against extremists on its part, the overwhelming majority of the opposition in Syria is composed of ordinary Syrians who are tired of their dictatorship and who yearn for a better, freer, more democratic future for their country.

So long as Assad refuses to go and Syria’s transition is blocked, the danger grows of more foreign fighters, including extremists of the al-Qaida type, infiltrating Syria. We are not – we are very much alert to this issue. We’ve spoken with the Syrian opposition groups and warned them against allowing such fighters to infiltrate their organizations. They’ve assured us that they are being vigilant and want nothing to do with AQ or with violent extremists. And I should add that the Free Syrian Army has issued several statements urging foreign fighters to leave Syria.

QUESTION: Well, can I just – a quick follow? I understand what they’ve said. But is it your understanding that these foreign fighters and al-Qaida are operating alone? Or is there – do you have genuine concerns that they’re colluding with some members of the opposition? I’m not saying one particular group or the other.

AMBASSADOR BENJAMIN: I think our concern is less about collusion than it is about infiltration – groups, individuals who are trying to pass themselves off as something that they aren’t and gaining a foothold in various organizations that way.

MR. VENTRELL: Michel.

QUESTION: Yeah. To what extent are you concerned from Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas behaviors? And what are you doing in this regard?

AMBASSADOR BENJAMIN: Well, of course, Iran is and remains the preeminent state sponsor of terrorism in the world. We are deeply concerned about Iran’s activities on its own through the IRGC-Qods Force. And also, together with Hezbollah, as they pursue destabilizing activities around the globe, we are firmly committed to working with partners and allies to counter and disrupt Iranian activities and to prevent Iran from sponsoring new acts of terrors. And we think that the international community is increasingly alert to this threat and will resist it.

I think that it’s important to note that we’ve seen quite a number of different designations in the last year. We have seen a number of al-Qaida activists in Iran who have been designated. We have had them – our (inaudible) case, which, of course, was foiled. We have had other designations of Hezbollah-related individuals who are involved in criminal activities. This has been an area in which we’ve had some really eye-opening revelations in the last year, particularly in the Lebanese-Canadian Bank case. And of course, I speak frequently with interlocutors, with counterparts around the world, on the threats of Hezbollah and, frankly, so do many people above me in the hierarchy, both here and at the White House and at the Department of Defense, and so on and so forth. This is a whole-of-government activity, and it’s concerted and it’s determined.

MR. VENTRELL: We have time for just a couple more questions.

QUESTION: You speak of destabilizing activities around the world of Iran. Can you name some?

AMBASSADOR BENJAMIN: Well, as you know, there are investigations going on in quite a number of different countries. I think that the appropriate thing is to allow those countries to speak for the status of those investigations, but quite a number of them bear the hallmarks of either Iranian or Hezbollah activities.

QUESTION: Including the Bulgaria attacks?

AMBASSADOR BENJAMIN: I’m going to leave that the Bulgarians to characterize.

MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead.

QUESTION: What is your assessment of the strength of Lashkar-e Tayyiba in the year 2011? Has it increased or come down because of the al-Qaida’s decline?

AMBASSADOR BENJAMIN: I have no seen any decrease in Lashkar-e Tayyiba strength. It continues to be a matter of great concern to us, and I’ve spoken on many occasions about the threat to stability in South Asia that Lashkar-e Tayyiba poses. We’ve urged Pakistan to take more action against Lashkar-e Tayyiba. We’d certainly like to see more progress on that trial regarding the atrocities in Mumbai. It remains a major concern on the terrorist landscape, without a doubt. So --

MR. VENTRELL: Right here.

QUESTION: Thank you. I was wondering if you can jump to Latin America and make some comments on Colombia, if you can highlight how is the situation or what the report says about Colombia. Thank you.

AMBASSADOR BENJAMIN: Well, the long-term picture in Colombia at the end of 2011 remained quite good. We’ve seen an enormous reduction in terms of the territory and capabilities of the FARC and the ELN. There is, of course – continues to be activity that is of concern, but when we look around the world and see who’s really benefited from political will and capacity-building efforts, Colombia is at the very top of the list. We know that it takes a long time for terrorist groups to be truly wound down and put out of business. So if there are continuing attacks, I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise. But again, we consider Colombia to be a success case and one in which its leadership showed great resolve.

QUESTION: Do you have information – about Colombia, do you have information about relationship between President Chavez and terrorists in Colombia – FARC, ELN?

AMBASSADOR BENJAMIN: I don’t think we have anything that we haven’t put out before. Of course, there have been issues regarding FARC people having a safe haven, using Venezuela for a safe haven. There have been a number of designations of Venezuelans for their relationship with terrorists, and it’s something that we continue to look at very, very carefully.

MR. VENTRELL: Last question. Can you --

QUESTION: Yeah?

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: Thank you. Can we jump to – maybe to Europe, southeast of Europe, especially – I mean, Western Balkans, especially Bosnia and Kosovo? Do you have from that region – do you have any information about connections between al-Qaida and some terrorist activities in Bosnia and Kosovo and maybe Iran-backed activities in that part?

AMBASSADOR BENJAMIN: Well, actually, the – I think the report covers that, and I encourage you to read the section on Bosnia. There certainly has been some extremist activity there. As you know, an extremist in Frankfurt who came from that region carried out an attack against the U.S. military personnel. It is a concern, and we do engage with the government in Sarajevo as well as in – others in the region to deal with this. I would not say that this is a theater that causes us concern in the same way that South Asia and the Middle East do, but nonetheless, it’s an area where we’re engaged and vigilant.

QUESTION: Are you following the trial about the gentleman who attacked the American Embassy in Sarajevo that --

AMBASSADOR BENJAMIN: I don’t have any information on that myself, but I’m quite sure that the Bosnia desk in the EUR is covering it, as is our own regional directorate. So –

MR. VENTRELL: Thank you all.