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Saturday, August 11, 2012


An Australian Airbus A319 jet is shown at the annual Sea Ice Runway, near McMurdo Station in this file photo from 2007. During the August 2012 medical evacuation, an Australian Airbus landed at Pegasus Field near McMurdo, one of a few airstrips in Antarctica able to accommodate wheeled aircraft.  Credit: Photograph by: Ralph Maestas National Science Foundation
Patient Successfully Evacuated From Antarctica
August 9, 2012
A medical evacuation flight bringing a patient from the National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station in Antarctica arrived safely in Christchurch, New Zealand at approximately 3 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, Aug. 9.

Upon arrival, the patient was transported to a local hospital for treatment.

Due to medical confidentiality, NSF has no additional comment on the patient's status.

NSF decided earlier this week to fly the patient out of Antarctica to receive treatment that is not available at McMurdo. The medical facility at the station is equivalent to an urgent-care center in the United States and is not equipped for the type of procedure that was being contemplated.

Kelly Falkner, the acting director of NSF's Office of Polar Programs, expressed the gratitude of the U.S. Antarctic Program, which NSF manages, to government agencies in Australia and New Zealand that provided the vital assets to make the evacuation possible.

She noted that "this is an excellent example of the benefits of longstanding cooperation with our Antarctic partners, Australia and New Zealand in particular."

The Australian Antarctic Division, which manages Australia's Antarctic research program, provided an A319 Airbus to transport the patient as well as the aircrew and medical support staff aboard the plane. The Royal New Zealand Air Force contributed search-and-rescue coverage, which is integral to any medical evacuation flight at this time of year.

Winter is coming to a close in Antarctica, but daylight is minimal and restricted to midday twilight, and temperatures are extremely low.

An additional passenger was also permitted to leave McMurdo Station aboard the medical evacuation flight because of compelling personal circumstances.

NSF manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, through which it coordinates all U.S. research and the necessary logistical support on the continent and aboard ships in the Southern Ocean.


Obama signs law giving health care to Lejeune tainted water victims | McClatchy

Obama signs law giving health care to Lejeune tainted water victims | McClatchy


Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
August 11, 2012

Hi, everybody. Today, I want to talk about something that most of you know already – it’s hot outside. It’s really hot. And if this feels worse than normal, that’s because it is. We just found out that the month of July was the warmest month on record – warmer than any other month since we began keeping track more than a century ago.

But the heat is just half the story. We’re also suffering through one of the worst droughts in over 50 years. More than a fifth of this country is experiencing what we call "extreme" or "exceptional" drought – with states like Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas getting hit harder than most.

That’s bad news for a lot of people, but it’s especially tough on our farmers. Right now, half of the corn crop in America is in poor or very poor condition. Cattle farmers are struggling to feed their animals. Many folks are seeing their livelihoods dry up in front of their eyes. And if we don’t get relief soon, Americans everywhere will start feeling the pinch, with higher prices on grocery store shelves all across the country.

We can’t let that happen. That’s why, at my direction, the Department of Agriculture, led by Secretary Vilsack, has been working with other agencies across the federal government to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help farmers and ranchers fight back and recover from this disaster. Already, we’ve given farmers across 32 states access to low-interest emergency loans.

We’ve opened up more federal land for grazing. And we’re working with crop insurance companies to give farmers a short grace period on their premiums, since some families will be struggling to make ends meet at the end of the year.

This past week, we went even further – announcing an additional $30 million to help get more water to livestock and restore land affected by the drought. We’re making it easier for even more farmers, ranchers and businesses to get emergency loans. And the Department of Transportation is helping more truck drivers deliver supplies to states that need them the most.

This is an all-hands-on-deck response, and we’ll be doing even more in the coming weeks to help families and communities that are suffering right now.

But my Administration can’t do it alone. Congress needs to do its part, too. They need to pass a farm bill that not only helps farmers and ranchers respond to these kinds of disasters, but also makes necessary reforms and gives them some certainty year-round. That’s the single best way we can help rural communities right now, and also in the long-term.

So call your Members of Congress, write them an email, and tell them that now is the time to come together and get this done. Too many Americans are suffering right now to let politics get in the way. Let’s help farmers, ranchers and business owners recover. Let’s make sure that families who already stretch their budgets to the limit don’t have to pay more for groceries this fall.

In the meantime, I’ll keep doing everything I can to help respond to this disaster. Because at times like these, it doesn’t matter if you live in Des Moines or Detroit – we’re Americans first. And if we look out for each other, we’ll come out of this stronger than before.

Have a great weekend, everybody. And stay cool.


Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joshua Taylor stands outside his tent at Combat Outpost Jaker, Afghanistan, July 27, 2012. Taylor deployed to Afghanistan a year after joining the Marine Corps. "I always hoped to be a part of history," he said. "It's something I can be proud of." U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Buckwalter

Face of Defense: Marine Declines Scholarship to Serve
By Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Brian Buckwalter
Regimental Combat Team 6

COMBAT OUTPOST JAKER, Afghanistan, Aug. 8, 2012 - For some people, history is just another subject in school. For Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joshua Taylor, being a part of history was a calling.
To follow that calling, Taylor, 21, from Troy, Ala., left behind a full-ride scholarship to college to join the Marine Corps. The only reason he even went to college for a year was because it was free, he said, noting he's always had an interest in the military.

"Action movies had a role in it," he said, but so did his interest in warfare, tactics and World War II history.

Taylor, a 2009 graduate of Pike Liberal Arts School, went to recruit training and then to the Marine Corps' School of Infantry. Following his initial training, he was assigned to 2nd Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.

At first, Taylor said, he wasn't sure if the Camp Lejeune-based unit was going to deploy, a disappointing possibility for an infantry Marine.

"I wanted to be here [in Afghanistan] before the war was over," he said.

His best friend, who also joined the Marine Corps, is stationed in Hawaii. "He said I'm the lucky one," Taylor said, because his friend also wanted the opportunity to deploy to Afghanistan.

Taylor deployed to Afghanistan exactly a year into his enlistment, and just before his 21st birthday. He serves near the Nawa district of Helmand province, and so far he has had a quiet deployment.

The Marines work with Afghan National Army and other Afghan forces in the area, and the Marines assist Afghan forces if they request it.

This approach is part of the transition from coalition-led to Afghan-lead security operations. Marines had been fighting in the lead in Helmand province, then shoulder to shoulder with Afghan forces, before beginning to make the transition to an advisor-only force earlier this year.

Taylor, who was 10 years old when the 9/11 attacks happened, said this transition is a sign of progress in the country.

With less to do "outside the wire," Taylor said, he and other 2nd Platoon Marines pass time at their small combat outpost any way they can. Taylor said everyone brought laptop computers to watch movies on, and the outpost has a gym with weights and cardio equipment. Once or twice a week, Taylor said, he goes to the morale, welfare and recreation tent to check his Facebook account, but he usually tries to keep his mind off of what he is missing back home.

Taylor said he went through recruit training and the School of Infantry with some of the Marines in his squad. They've all developed a strong bond with each other, he said.

"I know everyone would have my back, just like I would have their back," Taylor said.

Taylor said it's too early to decide whether he will re-enlist or depart the Marines when his four-year contract expires. If he does decide to get out, he said, he will go back to college to become a stockbroker or learn computer security.

Whatever he decides to do, Taylor said, he will be always able to look back at his service and know that he was a part of something bigger than himself.

"I always hoped to be a part of history," Taylor said. "It's something I can be proud of."


Treasury Targets Hizballah for Supporting the Assad Regime
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated the terrorist group Hizballah for providing support to the Government of Syria, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13582, which targets the Government of Syria and its supporters. This action highlights Hizballah’s activities within Syria and its integral role in the continued violence the Assad regime is inflicting on the Syrian population.

Since the beginning of the Syrian people’s courageous campaign in early 2011 to secure their universal rights, Hizballah has provided training, advice and extensive logistical support to the Government of Syria’s increasingly ruthless efforts to fight against the opposition. Hasan Nasrallah, Hizballah’s Secretary-General, has overseen Hizballah’s efforts to help the Syrian regime’s violent crackdown on the Syrian civilian population. Hizballah has directly trained Syrian government personnel inside Syria and has facilitated the training of Syrian forces by Iran’s terrorist arm, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - Qods Force (IRGC-QF). Hizballah also has played a substantial role in efforts to expel Syrian opposition forces from areas within Syria.

"Hizballah’s extensive support to the Syrian government’s violent suppression of the Syrian people exposes the true nature of this terrorist organization and its destabilizing presence in the region," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. "Long after the Assad regime is gone, the people of Syria and the entire global community will remember that Hizballah, and its patron Iran, contributed to the regime’s murder of countless innocent Syrians."

Hizballah has coordinated its support to the Government of Syria with the IRGC-QF and senior Syrian government officials. The IRGC-QF, which serves as a conduit for Iran’s material support to the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate (GID), was listed for sanctions in the Annex to E.O. 13572, which targets those responsible for human rights abuses in Syria. It had been previously sanctioned under E.O.13224 in October 2007 for its support to terrorists, including Hizballah. Qasem Soleimani, the long-time commander of the IRGC-QF, was also designated last year pursuant to E.O. 13572 for his personal support to the Syrian regime.

For years, Iran has also provided Hizballah with training, weapons and explosives, as well as political, diplomatic, monetary and organizational aid. The IRGC-QF’s continued cooperation and coordination with Hizballah has assisted the Syrian government’s efforts to violently crush opposition to Assad’s rule in Syria and highlights the combined Iranian and Syrian campaign to use their military resources and terrorist clients to inflict violence and suffering on the Syrian people and deny their legitimate democratic aspirations.

Hizballah was previously named a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to E.O. 13224 in October 2001, and listed in the Annex to E.O. 12947 as a Specially Designated Terrorist (SDT) on January 23, 1995. Hasan Nasrallah was named an SDT pursuant to E.O. 12947 in January 1995.

In addition to the actions taken against the IRGC-QF and Qasem Soleimani in 2011 under E.O. 13572, the United States has repeatedly exposed Iran’s support for the ongoing violence perpetrated by the Syrian government. In June 2011, Treasury designated Iran’s Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) which, like the IRGC-QF, provided material support to the Syrian GID; the LEF also dispatched personnel to Damascus to assist the Syrian government in its efforts to suppress the Syrian people. In February 2012, Treasury designated the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, Iran's primary intelligence organization, for providing substantial technical assistance to the Syrian GID. With actions such as today’s designation, Treasury will continue to expose Iran’s provision of support to the Government of Syria as well as its continued support of Hizballah’s activities within Syria and throughout the region.


Map From U.S. State Department
Background Briefing on Further Sanctions Under the Iran Sanctions Act

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official
Via Teleconference
Washington, DC
August 10, 2012

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Today we have [Senior Administration Official]. This call will be on background, attributable to a Senior Administration Official. [Senior Administration Official] will start out the call with a few remarks, and then we can go into some Q&A. We do have a limited amount of time, but we’ll try and get through as many questions as we can.

With that, let me turn it over to [Senior Administration Official].
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, [Moderator], and thanks for everyone for calling in for this this afternoon. I know we’re getting late on a Friday afternoon in August, so I’m going to try and keep these remarks brief.

As I know you’ve seen from the statement that went out a couple of hours ago, today the Administration has imposed sanctions on the Syrian state-run oil company Sytrol under the Iran Sanctions Act as that act has been amended over the years by the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act. These sanctions are because of transactions that Sytrol engaged in with Iran’s energy sector, and I think the action we’re taking today highlights the really serious concerns that the United States has about the close ties shared by the Iranian and Syrian regimes and the fact that we, the United States, are committed to using every tool available to prevent regional destabilization.

In April of this year, Syria and Iran engaged in a two-way trade in the energy sector in which Syria sent 33,000 metric tons of gasoline to Iran. The United States has determined that the value of that gasoline that was delivered by Sytrol to Iran this last April was over 36 million, which significantly exceeds the thresholds needed to trigger sanctions under the applicable laws.

This kind of trade is allowing Iran to continue developing its nuclear program while providing the Syrian Government with the resources it needs to oppress the Syrian people during the continuing and ongoing serious violence in Syria today. And although these sanctions – the specific action we’re taking today is a direct result of Syria’s provision of gasoline to Iran and the reciprocal trade Iran provided to Syria, the United States views Iran’s broader support for the Assad regime as completely unjustifiable and unacceptable. Iran is actively advising, supplying, and assisting the Syrian security forces and regime-backed militias that are carrying out gross human rights abuses against the Syrian people and is also providing the Assad regime with equipment to monitor opposition activity on the internet.

Iranian officials, as many of you know, have boasted about Iran’s support to the Assad regime, and Iran’s actions in Syria underscore its fear of losing its primary remaining ally in the Middle East and an important conduit to Hezbollah. And I know many of you were probably on the call earlier today in which Under Secretary David Cohen and Assistant Secretary Dan Benjamin were discussing actions we took against Hezbollah earlier today.

Today’s actions against Sytrol send a stark message: The United States stands resolutely against sales of refined petroleum product to Iran, and more broadly that we, the United States, take any business that continues to support Iran’s energy sector and continues to support the Assad regime, or that helps facilitate either nation’s efforts to evade U.S. and international sanctions, is going to face very serious consequences.

I think you all saw the release earlier today. And I think with that overview, let me turn it over for questions.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, we will now begin the question-and-answer session. If you would like to ask a question, please press * then 1 on your telephone keypad. You will hear a tone indicating that you’ve been placed in queue. You may remove yourself from queue at any time by pressing the # key. Once again, if you would like to ask a question, please press *1 at this time.

The first question is from the line of Margaret Brennan with CBS News. Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Hi. Good afternoon. With Iran’s sale of oil, there are still allies of the U.S. that are consuming it. So can you draw some line here that explains what’s different between trade in Iran – between Syria and Iran and countries like Japan and the Koreas and India that are continuing to consume and do business with Iran when it comes to their petroleum production?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just maybe just clarify the specific action that we’re imposing sanctions on today was for a transfer of 33,000 metric tons of gasoline from Syria to Iran. But really the broader purpose, or one of the major purposes here, is to draw broad attention to the really serious and deep relationships between the Iranian and Syrian regimes and the support that the Iranian regime has been providing to the Syrian Government. While Syria was transferring gasoline to Iran, Iran was transferring diesel in return to Syria, diesel which obviously the regime has been using – diesel is a major fuel that the regime uses to help fuel its own equipment and supplies. So we take this trade very, very seriously.

We could take follow-up questions at some point directed to PA about the broader issues related to the NDAA sanctions on the petroleum sector. But broadly, as you know, Margaret, we are working with countries around the world to reduce their purchases of Iranian crude and encourage all countries around the world to apply – abide by U.S. sanctions and to reduce their purchases of Iranian crude and other petroleum products.

OPERATOR: The next question is from the line of Rachelle Younglai from Reuters. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. I’m wondering what the –

OPERATOR: One moment, please. Ms. Younglai, please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Hi. What do these sanctions –

MODERATOR: All right. I think we’re having a –

OPERATOR: Ms. Younglai, please repeat your question.

QUESTION: Can you hear me?

MODERATOR: Yes. Why don’t you give it one more try?

QUESTION: Okay. I’m wondering what these sanctions against petrol do. I mean, what are the new penalties against petrol?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Absolutely, so under the Iran Sanctions Act, we are required to apply three of nine different sanctions. In this case, we – because of the seriousness of this particular issue, we applied the three most aggressive sanctions authorized under the act. We’ve blocked all banking transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction that have any Sytrol interest in them, blocked all property transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction in which Sytrol has any interest. And we’ve also blocked any procurement by the U.S. Government of anything from Sytrol.

So I think we’ve both taken very serious substantive action against Sytrol. I also think, at least as importantly with the action we’re taking today, we’re sending a message to companies around the world – not just in the United States but to companies around the world – about the seriousness with which the United States treats the Iran-Syria trade, the seriousness with which the U.S. takes the actions going on in Syria, and we’re sending a message to companies around the world that they really need to be not doing business with Sytrol as an entity, and they need to be winding down their support for the Assad regime.

OPERATOR: The next question is from the line of George Russell with Fox News. Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Hi. I wonder if you can tell me what kind of capabilities the Iranians are giving the Syrians for surveillance on the internet that they don’t already have?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks. As you know, I can’t comment on ongoing investigations, and I also have to be cognizant of the different intelligence equities, and can’t comment on things that we can’t say publicly, obviously.

Let me just talk a little bit about that – the broader issue there, which is that the U.S. remains and is quite concerned about the provision of technology to both the Syrian and the Iranian Government that those governments can use to monitor and track individuals in Iran and Syria in order to commit human rights abuses against those individuals. Last April, we rolled out an executive order – the Administration rolled out an executive order, the gravity executive order, which targets the provision of technology to either the Government of Iran or the Government of Syria that those governments can use to monitor, track, or otherwise surveil people in Iran and Syria with – that surveillance for monitoring and tracking can then be used to commit serious human rights abuses against those people. And we take these authorities very seriously, and we take all allegations about the transfer of this kind of technology quite seriously. Obviously, I can’t comment on any current pending investigations.

OPERATOR: The next question is from the line of David Ivanovich with Argus Media. Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Hi. Good afternoon. We had the President issue an executive order a year ago regarding imports of Syrian oil in into the U.S. and barring U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with – regarding Syrian oil. So I’m having a hard time understanding what the real-world differences are between those sanctions and what’s happening today.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So Sytrol is a state-owned and state-run oil company in Syria, and last year, as you know, the U.S. enacted sanctions that imposed broad sanctions on the Government of Syria and took that action this year. I think really with the action we’re taking today, in addition to – as I mentioned earlier, in addition to drawing attention to and focusing on the important support that Iran is providing the Syrian regime, I think we’re also sending a very clear message by designating Sytrol specifically for this action to companies around the world that they shouldn’t be doing business, not just companies within the United States and subject to our laws, but to companies around the world that they shouldn’t be doing business with Sytrol, that they run very serious both reputational and business risks if they continue that business with Sytrol or providing other support to other Assad regime elements.

MODERATOR: I think we’ve got time for maybe one more question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And we have a follow-up question from the line of Margaret Brennan with CBS News. Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Yeah. To follow up on the who’s purchasing question, I mean, if it’s not the U.S., is this also a message that’s intended to be directed toward European customers? I mean, who is actually out there actively supporting as customers this company?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We’ve worked closely with the Europeans on a variety of sanctions issues, and the Europeans have also been in the process of ending purchases of petroleum from Sytrol. So this is really, as I said, a designation that is intended to send a signal to companies around the world, any companies around the world that are thinking about trying to engage in business with Sytrol, that they’re going to be running very serious risks if they do so.

MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone, for joining. I appreciate you participating in this call. If you have any other further questions, please don’t hesitate to call us here at the Press Office, and we’ll follow up for you.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 - Syria

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 - Syria


120808-N-SE064-170 U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (Aug. 8, 2012) An F/A-18C Hornet from the Rampagers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 83 launches from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Eisenhower 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 Seaman Apprentice John Haynes/Released)
Eisenhower, CVW-7 Commence OEF Missions

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathanael Miller, Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group Public Affairs

USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, At Sea (NNS) -- Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, embarked aboard aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), began flying the first combat sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Aug. 9.

These missions will provide direct support to coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan. The support includes electronic warfare, close-air support, airborne command and control, and reconnaissance.

"Air-support missions are intended to degrade terrorist activities, diminish the influence of the Taliban and improve security to encourage economic prosperity in the region," said Capt. Samuel J. Paparo, CVW-7 commander. "We bring a wide range of capabilities to coalition forces in Afghanistan and take pride in the fact that we are working with them to establish security and stability there. Every squadron has trained thoroughly for these missions, and now it is time to execute."

Since 2009, U.S. Navy aircraft have averaged about 5,000 close-air support missions per year in support of OEF.

Eisenhower joins the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG), led by aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which has been operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility since April.

While air support will be the primary focus in support of OEF, Eisenhower and other CSG surface ships can also achieve a robust set of missions in support of regional maritime security.

"Our mission is to set the conditions for economic prosperity, which encompasses ensuring maritime security of all commercial sea lanes," said Rear Adm. Michael Manazir, commander, Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. "The versatility of our capabilities and vitality of our Sailors allows us to be flexible and agile at all times."

Manazir stressed how critical every Sailor of the carrier strike group is to mission success, from flight deck personnel, to the pilots, to the engineers.

"Everyone has a role and everyone does it exceptionally well," said Manazir. "I am extremely proud of the Sailors that compose this strike group and I am certain that each will perform at the highest caliber possible."

CVW-7 is composed of the "Bluetails" of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 121, the "Patriots"of Electronic Attach Squadron 140, the "Rampagers" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 83, the "Jolly Rogers" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103, the "Wildcats" VFA 131, the "Puking Dogs" of VFA 143, and the "Nightdippers" of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron 5.

Eisenhower is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, conducting maritime security operations and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom.


Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert observes a fly-by demonstration of a Predator C Avenger unmanned aerial vehicle. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Lawlor (Released) 120808-N-WL435-011


Ex-Im Bank Approves Record $1.5 Billion in Financing of U.S. Exports to Sub-Saharan Africa in First Three Quarters of FY 2012

Ex-Im Bank Expands Cover Policy in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Angola
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the first three quarters of FY 2012, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) approved a historic $1.5 billion in financing to support U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa, surpassing the previous record of $1.4 billion for the entire year in FY 2011.

The increase was driven by export growth in several sectors, including machinery, vehicles and parts, commodities and aircraft. Two of the top markets for U.S. exports in the region are South Africa and Nigeria, which are among Ex-Im Bank’s nine key country markets.

"Proportionately, Ex-Im Bank supports more U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa than it does to the world at large. Last year, we financed 6.7 percent of U.S. exports to this region. With this new record in sub-Saharan authorizations already achieved in FY 2011, we are on target to increase that percentage," said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg.

"Sub-Saharan Africa is a priority region because many countries have strong prospects for long-term economic growth and infrastructure development. We want to help more U.S. exporters increase their sales to this emerging region," he added.

In 2012, Ex-Im Bank expanded its cover policies in four sub-Saharan African countries: Cameroon (opened for long-term in the public sector), Ethiopia (opened for short-term and medium-term in both the public and private sectors), Tanzania (opened for long-term in the public sector) and Angola (opened for long-term in the private sector). The cover policies changes were approved by the Bank’s board of directors, following upon country-risk upgrades determined through an interagency country-risk review process.

Ex-Im Bank Chairman Hochberg, Vice Chair Wanda Felton and Bank staff conducted a business-development mission in sub-Saharan Africa from August 6 – 10, visiting South Africa and Mozambique. The trip included participation in the U.S.-South Africa Strategic Dialogue with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Pretoria on August 7.

On August 7, Chairman Hochberg signed a Declaration of Intent with the Industrial Development Corp. of South Africa Ltd. (IDC), indicating Ex-Im Bank’s interest in financing up to $2 billion of U.S. technologies, products and services to South Africa’s energy sector, with an emphasis on clean-energy technologies.

Recent Ex-Im Bank success stories in sub-Saharan Africa:

In April, Ex-Im Bank authorized a $37.2 million loan guarantee to support the export of U.S. road-construction equipment and related services by Hoffman International Inc. in Piscataway, N.J., to the Republic of Cameroon. Ex-Im Bank is guaranteeing a medium-term loan from Societe Generale in New York, N.Y., to Cameroon’s Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development. The financing will support the purchase of 150 new and used machines produced by U.S. manufacturers that include Mack Trucks Inc., Terex Corp., Caterpillar Inc. and Grove US LLC.

In June, Ex-Im Bank approved a $7 million loan guarantee supporting the export of dredging equipment and spare parts from Dredging Supply Co., in Reserve. La., to Japaul Oil and Maritime Services PLC in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Ex-Im Bank is guaranteeing a medium-term loan from RB International Finance (USA) LLC in Bethel, Conn., to Japaul Oil and Maritime Services for the purchase of the equipment. The foreign buyer’s primary business is oil and maritime services in the upstream segment of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.

The U.S. exporter, Dredging Supply Co., specializes in manufacturing custom-designed, portable dredges for a variety of uses. The company has a total of approximately 125 employees at its facilities in Reserve, La.; Poplarville, Miss.; Greenbush, Mich.; and Stoneboro, Pa.

About Ex-Im Bank:

Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that helps create and maintain U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing at no cost to American taxpayers. In the past five years, Ex-Im Bank has earned for U.S. taxpayers $1.9 billion above the cost of operations. The Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working capital guarantees, export-credit insurance and financing to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services.

Ex-Im Bank approved $32.7 billion in total authorizations in FY 2011 -- an all-time Ex-Im record. This total includes more than $6 billion directly supporting small-business export sales -- also an Ex-Im record. Ex-Im Bank's total authorizations are supporting an estimated $41 billion in U.S. export sales and approximately 290,000 American jobs in communities across the country.


Norfolk Southern Railway Co. ordered by US Labor Department
to pay more than $300,000 for violating Federal Railroad Safety Act
Tennessee whistleblower to receive compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees
– The U.S. Department of Labor has found that, once again, Norfolk Southern Railway Co. has violated the whistleblower protection provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act. An investigation by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration revealed that the railroad terminated an employee in retaliation for reporting a workplace injury.

The department has ordered the company to pay the affected employee more than $300,000 in damages, including $200,000 in punitive damages, $75,000 in compensatory damages and $25,123.40 in attorney's fees. Additionally, the company must expunge the disciplinary record of the employee as well as post a notice regarding employees' whistleblower protection rights under the FRSA and provide training to its employees about these rights.

These actions follows several other orders issued by the department to Norfolk Southern Railway Co. in the past year. OSHA's investigations have found that the company continues to retaliate against workers for reporting work-related injuries, which effectively has created a chilling effect in the railroad industry.

The Chattanooga-based employee in this case reported an injury when he hit his hard hat against a horizontal support beam. After conducting an investigative hearing, the railroad charged the employee with falsifying his injury and subsequently terminated him on Oct. 8, 2010. The employee appealed, and a Public Law Board upheld the railroad's decision while reducing the termination to a suspension with no back pay. OSHA found that the railroad's investigative hearing was severely flawed and orchestrated to intentionally support management's decision to terminate the employee.

"Railroad workers throughout this country have the right to report an injury without fear of retaliation," said Cindy A. Coe, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta. "The Department of Labor will continue to protect all employees, including those in the railroad industry, from retaliation for exercising these basic worker rights, and employers found in violation will be held accountable."

Either party to this case can file an appeal to the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.

OSHA and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration have signed a memorandum of agreement to facilitate coordination and cooperation between agencies regarding the enforcement of the FRSA's whistleblower provisions. The act protects railroad employees from retaliation when they report safety violations, or work-related personal injuries or illnesses.

Under the agreement, the FRA will refer railroad employees who complain of alleged retaliation to OSHA. OSHA will provide the FRA with copies of the complaints it receives under the FRSA's whistleblower provision, as well as any findings and preliminary orders that OSHA issues. The agencies jointly will develop training to assist FRA enforcement staff in recognizing complaints of retaliation and to assist OSHA enforcement staff in recognizing potential violations of railroad safety regulations revealed during whistleblower investigations.

Norfolk Southern Railway Co. is a major transporter/hauler of coal and other commodities serving every major container port in the eastern United States with connections to western carriers. Its headquarters are in Norfolk, Va., and it employs more than 30,000 union workers.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, motor vehicle, transportation, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, maritime, health care, workplace safety and health regulations, and consumer product safety laws.

Under the various whistleblower provisions enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at

Note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.



Area: 8,511,965 sq. km. (3,290,000 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than the U.S.
Cities: Capital--Brasilia (pop. 2.5 million). Other cities--Sao Paulo (11.2 million), Rio de Janeiro (6.3 million), Belo Horizonte (2.4 million), Salvador (2.7 million), Fortaleza (2.4 million), Curitiba (1.7 million), Recife (1.5 million), Porto Alegre (1.4 million).
Terrain: Dense forests in northern regions including Amazon Basin; semiarid along northeast coast; mountains, hills, and rolling plains in the southwest, including Mato Grosso; midwestern savannahs; the world's largest wetland area; and coastal lowland.

Climate: Mostly tropical or semitropical with temperate zone in the south.

Nationality: Brazilian.
Population (2010): 190 million.
Annual population growth rate: 1.17%.
Ethnic groups: African, Portuguese, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, indigenous peoples, and people of Middle Eastern descent.
Religion: Roman Catholic (74%).
Language: Portuguese.
Education: Literacy (2009)--90.3% of adult population.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2009)--22.5/1,000. Life expectancy (2010)--73.1 years.
Work force (2009 est.): 101.7 million.

Type: Federative republic.
Independence: September 7, 1822.
Constitution: Promulgated October 5, 1988.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state and head of government popularly elected to no more than two 4-year terms). Legislative--Senate (81 members popularly elected to staggered 8-year terms), Chamber of Deputies (513 members popularly elected to 4-year terms). Judicial--Supreme Federal Tribunal (11 lifetime positions appointed by the president).
Political parties: Workers' Party (PT), Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), Democrats (DEM), Democratic Labor Party (PDT), Brazilian Labor Party (PTB), Party of the Republic (PR), Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), Communist Party of Brazil (PC do B), Progressive Party (PP), Social Democratic Party (PSD), Popular Socialist Party (PPS), Green Party (PV), Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), National Mobilization Party (PMN), Humanistic Solidarity Party (PHS), Brazilian Republican Party (PRB), Christian Social Party (PSC), Christian Labor Party (PTC), Labor Party of Brazil (PT do B), Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), and Brazilian Labor Renewal Party (PRTB).

Economy (2011 est.)
GDP (nominal exchange rate): $2.5 trillion.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $2.3 trillion.
Annual real growth (2011 est.): 3.5%.
Per capita GDP (nominal exchange rate): $12,917.
Per capita GDP (purchasing power parity): $11,845.
Natural resources: Iron ore, manganese, bauxite, nickel, uranium, gemstones, oil, wood, and aluminum. Brazil has 14% of the world's renewable fresh water.
Agriculture (6% of GDP): Products--soybeans, coffee, sugarcane, cocoa, rice, livestock, corn, oranges, cotton, wheat, and tobacco.
Industry (28% of GDP): Types--steel, commercial aircraft, chemicals, petrochemicals, footwear, machinery, motors, vehicles, auto parts, consumer durables, cement, and lumber.
Services (66% of GDP): Types--mail, telecommunications, banking, energy, commerce, and computing.
Trade: Trade balance (2011)--$20 billion surplus. Exports--$202 billion. Major markets--China 15%, United States 10%, Argentina 9%. Imports--$182 billion. Major suppliers--United States 15%, China 14%, and Argentina 8%.
Exchange rate (October 3, 2011): U.S. $1 = 1.75 Brazilian reais.

With its 190 million inhabitants, Brazil has the largest population in Latin America and ranks fifth in the world. The majority of people live in the south-central area, which includes the industrial cities of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte. Brazil underwent rapid urban growth; by 2005, 81% of the total population was living in urban areas. This growth aids economic development but also creates serious social, security, environmental, and political problems for major cities.

Six major groups make up the Brazilian population: the Portuguese, who colonized Brazil in the 16th century; Africans brought to Brazil as slaves; various other European, Middle Eastern, and Japanese and other Asian immigrant groups who settled in Brazil since the mid-19th century; and indigenous peoples of Tupi and Guarani language stock. Intermarriage between the Portuguese and indigenous people or slaves was common. Although the major European ethnic stock of Brazil was originally Portuguese, subsequent waves of immigration contributed to a diverse ethnic and cultural heritage.

From 1875 until 1960, about 5 million Europeans immigrated to Brazil, settling mainly in the four southern states of Sao Paulo, Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul. Immigrants came mainly from Italy, Germany, Spain, Japan, Poland, and the Middle East. The largest Japanese community outside Japan is in Sao Paulo. Despite class distinctions, national identity is strong. Brazil prides itself on being open to all races. It recently began a national conversation on racial equality and entered into a memorandum of understanding with the United States on addressing racial inequality. Indigenous people, located mainly in the northern and western border regions and in the upper Amazon Basin, make up less than 1% of the population. Their numbers are declining as contact with the outside world and commercial expansion into the interior increase. Brazilian Government programs to establish indigenous reservations and to provide other forms of assistance for these groups have existed for years but are controversial.

Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas. About three-quarters of all Brazilians belong to the Roman Catholic Church; most others are members of traditional Protestant denominations, members of growing evangelical movements, or follow practices derived from African religions.

Pedro Alvares Cabral claimed Brazil for Portugal in 1500. The colony was ruled from Lisbon until 1808, when Dom Joao VI and the rest of the Portuguese royal family fled from Napoleon's army, and established its seat of government in Rio de Janeiro. Dom Joao VI returned to Portugal in 1821. His son declared Brazil's independence on September 7, 1822, and became emperor with the title of Dom Pedro I. His son, Dom Pedro II, ruled from 1831 to 1889, when a federal republic was established in a coup led by Deodoro da Fonseca, Marshal of the Army. Slavery had been abolished a year earlier by the Princess Regent Isabel while Dom Pedro II was in Europe.

From 1889 to 1930, the government was a constitutional republic, with the presidency alternating between the dominant states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. This period ended with a military coup that placed Getulio Vargas, a civilian, in the presidency; Vargas remained as dictator until 1945. Between 1945 and 1961, Brazil had six presidents: Jose Linhares, Gaspar Dutra, Vargas himself, Cafe Filho, Carlos Luz, Nereu Ramos, Juscelino Kubitschek, and Janio Quadros. When Quadros resigned in 1961, Vice President Joao Goulart succeeded him.

Goulart's years in office were marked by high inflation, economic stagnation, and the increasing influence of radical political elements. The armed forces, alarmed by these developments, staged a coup on March 31, 1964. The coup leaders chose Humberto Castello Branco as president, followed by Arthur da Costa e Silva (1967-69), Emilio Garrastazu Medici (1969-74), and Ernesto Geisel (1974-79), all of whom were senior army officers. Geisel began a democratic opening that was continued by his successor, Gen. Joao Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo (1979-85). Figueiredo permitted the return of politicians exiled or banned from political activity during the 1960s and 1970s and allowed them to run for state and federal offices in 1982.

Concurrently, an electoral college consisting of all members of Congress and six delegates chosen from each state continued to choose the president. In January 1985, the electoral college voted Tancredo Neves from the opposition Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) into office as President. Neves died 39 days later, before his presidential inauguration, from abdominal complications. Vice President Jose Sarney became President upon Neves' death. Brazil completed its transition to a popularly elected government in 1989, when Fernando Collor de Mello won 53% of the vote in the first direct presidential election in 29 years. In 1992, a major corruption scandal led to his impeachment and, ultimately, resignation. Vice President Itamar Franco took his place and governed for the remainder of Collor's term.

To date, all democratically elected presidents that followed Itamar Franco started and finished their mandate with no interruptions in the constitutional order. On October 3, 1994 Fernando Henrique Cardoso was elected President with 54% of the vote. Cardoso took office January 1, 1995, and pursued a program of ambitious economic reform. He was re-elected in 1998 for a second 4-year term. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, commonly known as Lula, was elected president in 2002, after his fourth campaign for the office. He was re-elected in 2006 for a second 4-year term. President Lula, a former union leader, was Brazil's first working-class president. In office, he took a prudent fiscal path, warning that social reforms would take years and that Brazil had no alternative but to maintain tight fiscal austerity policies. At the same time, he made fighting poverty through conditional transfer payments an important element of his policies.

In October 2010, Brazil held its sixth consecutive presidential and general elections since the reinstatement of democracy in 1985. About 130 million Brazilians, two-thirds of the country’s population, were eligible to vote, a mandatory civic duty. Up for election were the President, the governors of all 26 states and of the federal district of Brasília; all 513 federal deputies; 54 senators (two-thirds of the total); and 1,057 delegates to the 27 state assemblies.

Dilma Vana Rousseff, the Workers' Party (PT) candidate, won a runoff election against the Brazilian Social Democratic Party candidate, becoming the first woman president of Brazil. President Rousseff had previously served as the Minister of Mines and Energy and as the Chief of Cabinet in President Lula’s administration. Rousseff took office on January 1, 2011 and has prioritized growth with equity policies to eradicate poverty and fiscal austerity. She has been a vocal defender of human rights and promoter of social inclusion, most notably gender equality, and is generally seen as a strong advocate for transparency in government. Within the first year of her government, several cabinet ministers resigned at Rousseff's urging due to accusations of graft.

Brazil is a federal republic with 26 states and a federal district. The 1988 constitution grants broad powers to the federal government, made up of executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The president holds office for 4 years, with the right to re-election for an additional 4-year term, and appoints the cabinet. There are 81 senators, three for each state and the Federal District, and 513 deputies. Senate terms are 8 years, staggered so that two-thirds of the upper house is up for election at one time and one-third 4 years later. Chamber terms are 4 years, with elections based on a complex system of proportional representation by states. Each state is eligible for a minimum of eight seats; the largest state delegation (Sao Paulo's) is capped at 70 seats. This system is weighted in favor of geographically large but sparsely populated states.

Several political parties are represented in Congress. Since representatives to the lower house might switch parties, the proportion of congressional seats held by particular parties can change. Brazil's major political parties include:

Workers' Party (PT-center-left)
Democrats (DEM-center-right)
Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB-center)
Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB-center)
Green Party (PV-center-left)
Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL-left)
Brazilian Labor Party (PTB-center-right)
Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB-center-left)
Democratic Labor Party (PDT-center-left)
Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB-left)
Progressive Party (PP-center-right)
Party of the Republic (PR-center-right)
Brazilian Republican Party (PRB-center)
Christian Social Party (PSC-center)
Social Democratic Party (PSD-center-right)

Chief of State and Cabinet Members
President--Dilma Vana Rousseff
Vice President--Michel Miguel Elias Temer Lulia
Minister-Chief Casa Civil (Chief of Staff)--Gleisi Helena Hoffmann
Minister of Defense--Celso Amorim
Minister of Development, Industry, and Trade--Fernando Damata Pimentel
Minister of Finance--Guido Mantega
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Antonio de Aguiar Patriota
Minister of Justice--Jose Eduardo Cardozo
Minister of the Environment--Izabella Teixeira
Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply--Mendes Ribeiro
Minister of Mines and Energy--Edison Lobao

Ambassador to the United States--Mauro Vieira
Ambassador to the United Nations--Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti
Ambassador to the OAS--Ruy de Lima Casaes e Silva

Brazil maintains an embassy in the United States at 3006 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-238-2700). Brazil has consulates general in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, Hartford, and Washington, DC.

The Brazilian economy’s solid performance during the 2008 financial crisis and its strong and early recovery, including 2010 growth of 7.5%, have contributed to the country’s transition from a regional to a global power. Expected to grow 3.5% in 2011 and 4.0% in 2012, the economy is the world’s seventh-largest and is expected to rise to fifth within the next several years. During the administration of former President Lula, surging exports, economic growth, and social programs helped lift tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty. For the first time, a majority of Brazilians are now middle-class, and domestic consumption has become an important driver of Brazilian growth. President Dilma Rousseff, who took office in January 2011, has indicated her intention to continue the former president’s economic policies, including sound fiscal management, inflation control, and a floating exchange rate.

Low unemployment and strong domestic demand pushed 12-month inflation to 7.3% through the first three quarters of 2011, above the upper limit of the government’s target of 2.5%-6.5%. The central bank believes, however, that the global economic downturn will dampen inflationary pressure and projects inflation to fall within the target band by the end of 2011 and throughout 2012. Concerns regarding global economic conditions drove the central bank to reduce interest rates from 12.5% to 12%, the first such rate decrease since mid-2009, to keep domestic consumption high. Prolonged high interest rates have attracted foreign currency inflows that have driven up the value of the currency (the real) by nearly 30% since the start of 2009. In an effort to limit the appreciation, the government had increased dollar reserves and introduced capital controls.

Brazil is generally open to and encourages foreign investment. It is the largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Latin America, and the United States is traditionally the top foreign investor in Brazil. Since domestic savings are not sufficient to sustain long-term high growth rates, Brazil must continue to attract FDI, especially as the government plans to invest billions of dollars in off-shore oil, nuclear power, and other infrastructure sectors over the next few years. The major international athletic competitions that Brazil will host every year until the 2016 Rio Olympics are also leading the government to invest in roads, airports, sports facilities, and other areas.

Trade Policy
President Rousseff has made economic growth and poverty alleviation top priorities. Export promotion is a main component of plans to generate growth and reduce what is seen as a vulnerability to international financial market fluctuations. To increase exports, the government is seeking access to foreign markets through trade negotiations and increased export promotion, including tax breaks for exporters.

Brazil has been a leading player in the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round negotiations and continues to seek to bring that effort to successful conclusion. To further increase its international profile (both economically and politically), the Rousseff administration is also seeking expanded trade ties with developing countries, as well as a strengthening of the Mercosul (Mercosur in Spanish) customs union with Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina. In 2008, Mercosul concluded a free trade arrangement with Israel, followed by another arrangement with Egypt in 2010. Mercosul is pursuing free trade negotiations with Mexico and Canada and resumed trade negotiations with the EU. This trade bloc also plans to launch trilateral free trade negotiations with India and South Africa, building on partial trade liberalization agreements concluded with these countries in 2004. China has significantly increased its purchases of Brazilian soy, iron ore, and steel in recent years, becoming Brazil's principal export market and an important source of investment.

Agriculture is a major sector of the Brazilian economy, and is key for economic growth and foreign exchange. Agriculture accounts for about 6% of GDP (25% when including agribusiness) and 36% of Brazilian exports. Brazil enjoyed a positive agricultural trade balance of $55 billion in 2009. Brazil is the world's largest producer of sugarcane, coffee, tropical fruits, frozen concentrated orange juice (FCOJ), and has the world's largest commercial cattle herd (50% larger than that of the U.S.) at 170 million animals. Brazil is also an important producer of soybeans (second to the United States), corn, cotton, cocoa, tobacco, and forest products. The remainder of agricultural output is in the livestock sector, mainly the production of beef and poultry (second to the United States), pork, milk, and seafood.

Environment, Science, and Technology
About half of Brazil is covered in forests, and Brazil has the majority of the world's largest rain forest, the Amazon. A little less than 40% of the Amazon, and to a lesser extent the Cerrado (tropical savannah), is managed by national, state, or municipal governments, either as conservation units, forest concessions, or officially designated indigenous lands. In the last 30 years, migration into the Amazon and the conversion of forest land, primarily for agricultural use, reduced forest cover in the Brazilian Amazon by 20%. Through initiatives such as the revitalization of degraded pastures and forest, agriculture, and livestock integration, the government made progress in reducing deforestation for agricultural use. However, deforestation due to illegal logging remains a serious problem. In 2006, the government created the Brazilian Forest Service with the aim to manage the Amazon forest resources in a sustainable manner.

Including emissions from deforestation, Brazil is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. As part of its domestic commitments on climate change incorporated into legislation in 2010, Brazil inscribed a target of reducing emissions by 36.1%-38.9% below business as usual by 2020. This commitment includes further reductions in deforestation rates as well as advances on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Brazil also created a National Climate Change Fund, the country’s primary means for financing national climate change policies.

Figures from 2010 demonstrated that Brazil had reduced the rate of Amazon deforestation by more than 70%, its lowest rate of deforestation in over 20 years. Government officials predict that, at the current pace, Brazil’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 36.1%-38.9% could be reached by 2016 rather than 2020. Brazil also increased its programs in other biomes at risk for significant deforestation. At COP-16 in December 2010 in Cancun, the Brazilian Government delegation played an important role in developing a characterization of country commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, the central outcome of the conference. These commitments could enable Protocol proponents to continue into a second commitment period.

Brazil is a regional leader in science and technology and a global leader in fields such as biofuels, agricultural research, deep-sea oil production, and remote sensing. The Brazilian Government seeks to develop an environment that is more supportive of innovation, taking scientific advances from the laboratory to the marketplace in order to promote economic growth. Yet it still faces some challenges. With the vast majority of the population living in urban areas, Brazil faces serious environmental obstacles in providing potable water to its citizens and removing and treating their waste water.

U.S. Government, private sector, and academic researchers have extensive ties with Brazilian counterparts. Areas in which there is close cooperation include biofuels, medical research, remote sensing, and agriculture. The extent of bilateral scientific and technological cooperation is expanding and prospective areas in which to expand include advanced materials, telecommunications, energy transmission, and energy efficiency. Limitations to cooperation include substantial restrictions on foreign researchers collecting or studying biological materials, due to concerns over possible unauthorized taking and commercialization of genetic resources or traditional knowledge of indigenous communities (often referred to as "biopiracy").

Other Aspects
Brazil has one of the most advanced industrial sectors in Latin America. Accounting for roughly one-third of the GDP, Brazil's diverse industries include automobiles and parts, machinery and equipment, textiles, shoes, cement, computers, aircraft, and consumer durables. Brazil continues to be a major world supplier of commodities and natural resources, with significant operations in lumber, iron ore, tin, other minerals, and petrochemicals. Brazil has a diverse and sophisticated services industry as well, including developed telecommunications, banking, energy, commerce, and computing sectors. The financial sector is secure and provides local firms with a wide range of financial products, yet interest rates remain among the highest in the world. The largest financial firms are Brazilian (and the two largest banks are government-owned), but U.S. and other foreign firms have an important share of the market.

Government-initiated privatization after 1996 triggered a flood of investors in the telecom, energy, and transportation sectors. Privatization in the transportation sector has been particularly active over the last 20 years. Many antiquated and burdensome state management structures that operated in the sector were dismantled, though some still exist. The Brazilian railroad industry was privatized through concession contracts ranging from 30 to 60 years, and the ports sector is experiencing similar, albeit less expansive, privatization. In response to the dramatic deterioration in the national highway system, the federal government granted concessions for existing highways to private companies, which in turn promise to restore, maintain, and expand these highways in exchange for toll revenues generated. New opportunities are expected to arise with the opening of Brazilian civil airports to private management and investment through a federal concession model, but the initiative faces obstacles due to questions surrounding sovereignty and opposition from airport unions. The United States and Brazil signed an Air Services Liberalization Agreement in 2008 that increased commercial air travel between the two countries. In 2010, they initialed an air transportation agreement and an air transportation memorandum of understanding that, when they are signed and enter into force, will continue and expand this process.

The Government of Brazil undertook an ambitious program to reduce dependence on imported oil. In the mid-1980s, imports accounted for more than 70% of Brazil's oil and derivatives needs; the net figure is now zero. Brazil announced in early 2008 the discovery of pre-salt oil fields off the coast of Brazil. The oil reserves in these fields are conservatively estimated at between 30 billion and 80 billion barrels, which would make Brazil one of the top 10 countries worldwide in reserves. Output from the existing Campos Basin and the discovery of the new fields could make Brazil a significant oil exporter by 2015. Brazil is one of the world's leading producers of hydroelectric power. Of its total installed electricity-generation capacity of 112,000 megawatts, hydropower accounts for 77,000 megawatts (69%). Brazil is also one of the world’s largest biofuels producers, and sugar-based ethanol comprises over 50% of its vehicle fuel usage. Brazil and the United States, as the world’s largest biofuels producers, have worked jointly through a 2007 memorandum of understanding to help make sustainable biofuels a global commodity. In 2011, that memorandum was subsumed under the Strategic Energy Dialogue, a partnership announced by President Rousseff and President Barack Obama when the latter visited Brazil in March.

Like its supply of carbon-based fossil fuels, Brazil’s proven mineral resources are extensive. Large iron and manganese reserves are important sources of industrial raw materials and export earnings. Mining companies, most of them Brazilian, tend to prefer to explore the deposits of nickel, tin, chromite, bauxite, beryllium, copper, lead, tungsten, zinc, gold, and other minerals. High-quality, coking-grade coal required in the steel industry is in short supply.

Brazil has traditionally been a leader in the inter-American community. It has played an important role in collective security efforts, as well as in economic cooperation in the Western Hemisphere. Brazil supported the Allies in both World Wars. During World War II, its expeditionary force in Italy played a key role in the Allied victory at Monte Castello. It is a member of the Organization of American States (OAS) and a party to the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty). Recently, Brazil has given high priority to expanding relations with its South American neighbors and is a founding member of the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI); the Union of South American Nations (UNASUL) created in June 2004; and Mercosul, the customs union of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil, with Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador as associate members; Venezuela's full membership is pending.

Brazil is a charter member of the United Nations and participates in its specialized agencies. It has contributed troops to UN peacekeeping efforts in the Middle East, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cyprus, Mozambique, Angola, East Timor, and most recently Haiti. Brazil is currently leading the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti. In 2010-2011, Brazil served as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Prior to this, it had been a member of the UN Security Council nine times. Brazil is seeking a permanent position on the Council.

As Brazil's domestic economy has grown and diversified, the country has become increasingly involved in international economic and trade policy discussions. For example, Brazil was a leader of the G-20 group of nations and in 2009 became a creditor country to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The U.S., Western Europe, and Japan are primary markets for Brazilian exports and sources of foreign lending and investment. China is a growing market for Brazilian exports. Brazil also bolstered its commitment to nonproliferation through ratification of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signing a full-scale nuclear safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), acceding to the Treaty of Tlatelolco, and joining the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

The United States and Brazil have traditionally enjoyed friendly, active relations encompassing a broad political and economic agenda. The excellent bilateral relationship was foreshadowed when United States was the first country to recognize Brazil's independence in 1822. Since then, deepening U.S.-Brazil engagement and cooperation are reflected in high-level contacts between the two governments. Most recently, there have been reciprocal visits by President George W. Bush and President Lula in March 2007, President Obama's visit to Brazil in March 2011, and six other cabinet-level and cabinet-rank visits in the first part of 2011. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended the January 1, 2011 inauguration of President Dilma Rousseff.

As the two largest democracies and economies in the Western Hemisphere, the U.S. and Brazil are in the process of consolidating the foundation for a new partnership for the 21st century. In the aftermath of President Obama’s March 2011 visit, a series of cabinet-level dialogues were created or reinvigorated. The second annual Global Partnership Dialogue, chaired by Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota, met in Washington, DC in June 2011 and was followed by the Economic and Financial Dialogue in July and the Strategic Energy Dialogue in August. These dialogues are the primary vehicles for policy coordination and for defining partnership priorities.

The 10 agreements signed between the U.S. and Brazil at the time of President Obama’s 2011 visit testify to an intensification of bilateral engagement in a broad range of areas that involve major interests of both countries. The formal intergovernmental dialogues involve multiple U.S. and Brazilian agencies that report directly to both presidents on issues relating to politics, economics, trade, finance, agriculture, energy, technology, innovation, the environment, defense, and nonproliferation.

Bilateral relations are complemented by people-to-people initiatives and trilateral and multilateral cooperation. To foster and increase the existing goodwill and understanding between the people of the United States and Brazil, 50,000 Brazilian secondary and post-secondary students will be selected by the Brazilian Government for exchange programs in United States in the next 5 years. The United States and Brazil also undertake trilateral cooperation in third countries, particularly in support of development programs focused on food security, health, and women’s rights. To facilitate such programs, a memorandum of understanding to advance trilateral cooperation was signed in March 2011 during President Obama’s trip to Brazil. Multilaterally, the closeness of U.S.-Brazil relations is evidenced by the launch of the Open Government Partnership on the margins of the 2011 UN General Assembly, in which Brazil and the U.S. head a multi-country initiative to foster transparency.

In addition to recently signed initiatives and periodic meetings, the governments of Brazil and the United States have a long-standing collaboration on biofuels and eliminating racial discrimination. Under the memorandum of understanding signed in 2007, Brazil and the U.S. have worked together to advance biofuels cooperation, both bilaterally and globally. In March 2008, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Brazil and signed a historic Joint Action Plan to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Discrimination and Promote Equality. The plan calls for Brazil and the United States to work jointly in combating racial discrimination and sharing best practices in tackling discrimination in the areas of education, law enforcement, labor, health, and many other areas. There has been cooperation on trilateral development programs in Mozambique in the health sector and food security, with plans or programs extending this cooperation to additional countries in Africa, Haiti, and El Salvador.

U.S. Embassy and Consulate Functions
The U.S. embassy and consulates in Brazil provide a wide range of services to U.S. citizens and business. Political, economic, and science officers deal directly with the Brazilian Government in advancing U.S. interests but are also available to brief U.S. citizens on general conditions in the country. Attaches from the U.S. Commercial Service and Foreign Agriculture Service work closely with hundreds of U.S. companies that maintain offices in Brazil. These officers provide information on Brazilian trade and industry regulations and administer several programs to aid U.S. companies starting or maintaining business ventures in Brazil. The number of trade events and U.S. companies traveling to Brazil to participate in U.S. Commercial Service and Foreign Agriculture Service programs tripled over the last 3 years.

The consular section of the embassy, the consulates, and the consular agents provide vital services to the estimated 70,000 U.S. citizens residing in Brazil. Among other services, the consular sections assist Americans who wish to participate in U.S. elections while abroad and provide U.S. tax information. Besides the U.S. residents living in Brazil, some 150,000 U.S. citizens visit annually. The consular sections offer passport and emergency services to U.S. tourists as needed during their stay in Brazil. The U.S. Mission in Brazil is the third-largest visa operation in the world, issuing over 820,000 visas in FY 2011. The consulate in Sao Paulo is the largest non-immigrant visa issuing post, conducting over 3,000 visa interviews a day. It is expected that Brazilian travel to the U.S. will increase 198% by 2015. Brazilian tourists spent $4.57 billion in the U.S. economy in 2009.


In the Mission Operations Control Room of the Mission Control Center, Building 30, Manned Spacecraft Center, flight controllers applaud the splashdown and success of the Apollo 11 lunar mission.

Four days earlier on July 20, 1969, mission commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. Armstrong, Aldrin and command module pilot Michael Collins splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, successfully completing the mission.

Image Credit: NASA

Friday, August 10, 2012


Map From U.S. Department of State

The United States established diplomatic relations with Guatemala in 1849 following its independence from Spain and the later dissolution of a federation of Central American states. In 1954, the United States assisted in the overthrow of the Guatemalan government due to concerns about the threat of communism. A new government took power in Guatemala the same year, and the United States established diplomatic relations with it. Beginning in 1960, forces carried out armed insurrection against the Guatemalan government. Peace accords ending the 36-year internal conflict were signed in 1996.

Guatemala continues to face major challenges to successful development, including poverty, malnutrition, and vulnerability to economic fluctuations and natural disasters. The Guatemalan government also faces the challenges of corruption and the presence of transnational organized crime.

U.S. policy objectives in Guatemala include:
Supporting the institutionalization of democracy and implementation of the peace accords;
Encouraging respect for human rights and the rule of law, and the efficient functioning of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, which was inaugurated in 2008;
Supporting broad-based economic growth and sustainable development and maintaining mutually beneficial trade and commercial relations, including ensuring that benefits of the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) reach all sectors of the Guatemalan populace;
Cooperating to combat money laundering, corruption, narcotics trafficking, alien-smuggling, and other transnational crime, including through programs funded under the Central American Regional Security Initiative; and
Supporting Central American integration through support for resolution of border/territorial disputes.

U.S. Assistance to Guatemala
U.S. assistance focuses on improving citizen security and justice, increasing levels of economic growth and social development in the Western Highlands, fostering sustainable management of natural resources, and mitigating the effects of global climate change.

Bilateral Economic Relations
The United States is one of Guatemala's largest trading partners. The two countries are parties to the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, which aims to facilitate trade and investment and further regional integration by eliminating tariffs, opening markets, reducing barriers to services, and promoting transparency. CAFTA-DR contains a chapter on investment similar to a bilateral investment treaty with the United States. U.S. exports to Guatemala include oil, agricultural products, articles donated for relief and low-value shipments, and machinery. U.S. imports from Guatemala include agricultural products, apparel, gold, and silver.

Guatemala's Membership in International Organizations
Guatemala and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization of American States, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update


Ghana Map Credit:  U.S. State Department
Background Briefing By a Senior State Department Official, Accra, Ghana
Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official
Accra, Ghana
August 10, 2012
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thanks, [Moderator]. I want to just start by setting the context for this visit. We were last in Istanbul in early June for the Global Counterterrorism Forum, on the margins of which we held a Core Group meeting on Syria with a number of key stakeholders, and then approximately a month later in Paris, a Friends of the Syrian People meeting. Since the Friends of the Syrian People meeting, there have not been any high-level gatherings or ministerial level visits by the Secretary specifically on Syria, but in that timeframe a lot has happened.

You’ve had a series of high-level defections, a major bombing that took the lives of key security officials in the regime. You’ve had the opposition, the Free Syria Army and associated groups, consolidate gains on the ground that stretch from Aleppo up to the Turkish border, and gains elsewhere in the country as well, including showing increased operational effectiveness. And of course, over the past month you’ve had the Syrian economy continue to deteriorate, you’ve had a Security Council resolution vetoed by the Russians and the Chinese, and you’ve had the resignation of Kofi Annan effective at the end of this month, among a range of other things that have unfolded just in the last four weeks.

So after that Security Council resolution was vetoed, we made clear that we were shifting from New York to a focus on supporting the opposition in its efforts to hasten the day that Assad falls and to begin in earnest planning for the day after Assad falls in close coordination with our partners and in support of Syrian groups on the ground, who are going to be charged with, ultimately, building the new Syria and trying to safeguard institutions of the state and deal with all of the challenges that will come once the transition begins.

So that’s the frame within which this visit takes place. The Secretary is eager to have the opportunity to roll up her sleeves and have in-depth, lengthy, detailed conversations with the senior Turkish leadership, with the President, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and a number of other key officials in the Turkish Government to talk about the three broad pillars of our strategy.

The first is to discuss with the Turks both what it is that we’re doing and how we judge the effectiveness of what we’re doing in terms of supporting the opposition, to hear from them about the latest approaches they’re taking to support the opposition, as well as the picture each of us have of the work that other countries are doing and how our work and the Turks’ work can fit into that broader effort by the international community to coordinate and effectively deliver support for the opposition on the ground inside Turkey.

At the same time – so that goes for the nonlethal assistance that we’re providing. It goes for other forms of support and assistance that are being provided to the Syrian opposition. And it also goes for the work that the Arab League, the Turks, us, and others are doing with the political opposition groups that are trying to come together under an umbrella to have a single common plan, a transition plan and vision for a future Syria that’s pluralistic, democratic, and effectively maintains the institutions of the state. So we’ll also want to talk to the Turks about the July 3rd transition plan that the opposition groups collectively arrived at and the work that is ongoing right now to try to follow up on that and put additional meat on the bones as everybody plans for the day after.

The second --

MODERATOR: Sanctions.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Oh, sorry. Yes, I am reminded that in terms of supporting the opposition, we all have to remember that the overall goal here is to hasten the day that Assad goes. And part of that work is direct support but part of it also is pressure and isolation of the regime. And one of the key forms of pressure is economic sanctions, which in the coming days or very shortly we will be tightening even further with additional sanctions that drive at both Syrian entities and at those who are supporting the efforts of the Syrian Government to oppress its own people. So the sanctions piece and talking to the Turks about how we can most effectively both ramp up and enforce the sanctions on the books will also be a feature of the conversations.

The second area is humanitarian assistance. The humanitarian picture has grown more dire as the fighting has spread. That’s true both inside Turkey and in countries – I’m sorry, inside Syria and in countries bordering Syria, all of them, including Turkey. There are now more than 50,000 refugees that the Turks are supporting, and the need for international support in the form of funding and other types of tools and resources is growing.

So last week, the United States announced $12 million in additional assistance, a portion of which will go to refugees in Turkey or to support refugees in Turkey. And tomorrow, the Secretary will make further announcements both with respect to funding for UNHCR and for the specific Turkish appeal through IOM. And when the President and Prime Minister Erdogan talked on July 30th, one of the issues they discussed was how the international community can effectively support a growing burden on Turkey as it continues to be very generous in providing for refugees that come across its border. And they’re coming across every day in significant numbers.

MODERATOR: (Inaudible) more than a 1,000 a day –

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The third area is transition planning and day after planning. The Secretary was very clear that we don’t want to put a date on Assad’s departure, because we can’t. We don’t know when that day will come, but it is our strong conviction that it will come and that the international community needs to be prepared to support the Syrians themselves as they deal with all of the challenges that will come with actually effectuating a transition to a new Syria.

There are political challenges in terms of organizing the state and protecting its institutions. There are economic challenges, both in terms of short-term stabilization and in terms of rebuilding a deteriorating Syrian economy. There are security challenges that may require international and multilateral assistance of various kinds. There are challenges related to securing, of course, weapons inside Syria to ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands. And there are humanitarian challenges related to the need to provide basic subsistence to displaced Syrians both inside and outside Syria.

So all of that work has to be conducted at the earliest possible point, which is why we’ve been working on it for some time now and why we want to intensify our collaboration with the Turks and with other key stakeholders.

So all of this will be on the agenda, and in a specific way when the Secretary sits down with her counterparts and with the Turkish leadership. And the goal here is to try, as much as possible, to be able to arrive at a common operational picture, to gain a better understanding of the effectiveness of what we’re doing now and what more can be done, and then to take it from there and to coordinate effectively with the other key partners in the international community. And in that regard, the Secretary will be having conversations next week by telephone with key partners in Europe and elsewhere, and planning for another Friends of Syria gathering at some point in the coming weeks.

Also while she’s in Turkey, the Secretary will meet with activists, opposition activists, some of whom are just very recently arrived from Syria and have firsthand experience with what is going on on the ground in Aleppo and elsewhere. And she will talk to them about what their assessment is of where things are, where they’re headed, and what kinds of support they need from the United States and the international community. She’ll also have an opportunity to engage with the humanitarian and refugee issue in meetings as well.

So that’s a broad overview of where we’re headed, and I’ll take a few questions before we all have to go down to the van so we don’t miss our flight (inaudible).


QUESTION: On the activists, has she met any of these figures before? And can you characterize them anymore particularly than activists?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: She hasn’t met any of them before. They represent a cross-section of people from inside Syria and some now based outside Syria who are helping coordinate efforts to address the specific needs of the opposition. So you have students who are organizing student protests and student political opposition to the regime. You’ve got women who are working as part of a collection of women’s groups in Syria specifically addressing the needs of women who are part of the opposition. You’ve got those who are involved in communications, from Skype to Facebook to other web-based tools to try to get messages out and coordinate the public strategic communications dimension of the opposition.

So it is folks with a very hands-on set of experiences related to both resisting the Syrian regime and trying to organize and coordinate and effectively marshal various elements of those who are in the opposition or associated with the opposition on the ground in Syria.
QUESTION: And at this point, who’s doing the accountability – legal work on the ground in Syria?


QUESTION: No actual rebel figures?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. When you say rebel figures, meaning armed --

QUESTION: Fighters. Armed fighters.


QUESTION: Armed fighters (inaudible).

QUESTION: Can I wait?


QUESTION: I just have a quick one. On the announcements of further sanctions regarding both Syrian entities and those who are supporting the efforts of the Syrian Government, is this going to represent sort of a broadening of efforts to get at Iranians groups or others who may be involved here?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think that’s pointed in the right direction. I’d prefer not to preempt the announcements, although [Moderator] will work, I think, over the course of today to see what’s possible in terms of getting you additional information.

QUESTION: Is it today? It will happen today in D.C.

MODERATOR: We’ll talk a little bit more about this in a minute.


QUESTION: Does any of this discussion with the Turks or with the activists speak to any additional steps intervention or involvement, non-humanitarian, and kind of talking support that you’ve already offered?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, for starters, we’ve already gone beyond humanitarian by providing specific, tangible types of assistance that can help the opposition on the ground – communications equipment, medical assistance of different kinds. So – but I take your question to be moving beyond where we are now.

QUESTION: Right. Yeah, right.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: One of the key things that the Secretary wants to achieve when she arrives in Turkey is to compare notes with the Turks so that she can sharpen her own operational picture of what’s happening on the ground. It’s a very fluid situation. The groups that are participating are themselves quite fluid. And what she would like to do over the course of the day is gain a clearer picture of the effectiveness of what we’re currently providing and how it can be made more effective, and then whether or not there are additional things that we can do to be helpful to the opposition that will add value rather than cause harm.

And over the course of her conversations and in trying to arrive at conclusions on that, she will shape her advice to the President and to her colleagues back in Washington about any further types of support or assistance that the United States might be prepared to provide.

QUESTION: Does that mean you do or do not rule out lethal assistance (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I think you heard this week from both Susan Rice and John Brennan that we’re never in the business of categorically ruling things in or out. I think her focus will be on the effectiveness of what we’re doing, how we can make it more effective. But she certainly will be looking to see whether there’s anything else that we can do that will have a positive impact as opposed to a detrimental impact on the overall situation in Syria.

MODERATOR: Let’s do Matt and then (inaudible).

QUESTION: Do we have anything else? I know that you’re not going to – the questions that I would ask, you’re not going to be able to answer. So –


QUESTION: Just to make clear the first pillar of your strategy, we are still taking about nonlethal assistance?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That’s what she’ll be focused on today.

MODERATOR: Okay. Thanks, everybody.