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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Weekly Address: Coming Together to Remember September 11th | The White House

Weekly Address: Coming Together to Remember September 11th | The White House



120904-N-FE728-113 DETROIT (Sept. 4, 2012) The US Brig Niagara arrives at Renaissance Pier during the Navy'Äôs commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 in Detroit. This celebration coincides with Detroit Navy Week, one of 15 signature events planned across America in 2012. Niagara served as the relief flagship for Oliver Hazard Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Todd A. Stafford/Released)


120902-N-KT462-122 PEARL HARBOR (Sept. 2, 2012) Sailors standby to perform a rifle volley during the 67th anniversary of the end of World War II aboard the Battleship Missouri Memorial. The ceremony marked 67 years since Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, along with other U.S. and Allied officers, accepted the unconditional surrender of the Japanese, ending World War II. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Dasbach/Released)


Photo:  Cargo Ship.  Credit:  Wikimedia.
The Economic and Strategic Case for Extending PNTR to Russia

William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary

U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Washington, DC
September 6, 2012
Thank you. It’s an honor to be here with Under Secretary Sanchez at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It’s an honor to be introduced by Susan Schwab, for whose service as U.S. Trade Representative I have great admiration, and who did so much during her tenure to advance American economic interests in Russia. And it’s an honor to speak to you briefly today about an issue that matters to all of us -- the economic and strategic argument for extending Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) to Russia.

I have spent a good deal of my checkered diplomatic career helping Administrations of both parties navigate the complexities of the U.S.-Russia relationship. I’ve seen moments of great promise in that relationship, as well as periods of sharp and sometimes abiding differences. Through it all, I’ve tried my best to keep focused on what’s at stake for America’s own interests, as well as for Russia’s long-term evolution. That sense of focus is not always easy to sustain amidst the push and pull of events in both our countries, and in the world around us, but it’s essential to understanding the importance of extending PNTR to Russia today.

This afternoon’s meeting is well-timed. Tomorrow night, Secretary Clinton will touch down in Vladivostok for the 2012 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit where liberalizing trade is expected to be high on the agenda. This is the first time Russia has hosted APEC. But more importantly, Russia is convening this gathering as the newest member of another group: the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Russia’s membership in the WTO is a major milestone, reflecting the strong, persistent support of the last three U.S. Administrations. However, until Congress acts to extend PNTR to Russia, our businesses will be deprived of an unprecedented opportunity to boost trade with one of the largest and fastest growing markets in the world.

A vote to extend PNTR is not a favor to Russia. It is a vote to create and sustain jobs in the United States. PNTR legislation has attracted bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress and from leaders of states across the country. They have lined up to make clear that PNTR is a vital opportunity to keep our companies competitive and help create new, high-quality American jobs. Continuing to deny PNTR for Russia at this stage only hurts American companies and workers, who are facing fierce economic competition—in more sectors and from more places than ever before.

At a time when our leadership in the world depends on shoring up our economy at home, the potential upside to opening the Russian market to U.S. goods and services is considerable. Russia today is the 7th largest economy in the world, but only our 20th largest trading partner. Yet, for many U.S. states, exports to Russia are growing faster than exports to the rest of the world; in April alone, U.S. goods exports to Russia reached $1 billion, a new record level. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that at least 5,000 American jobs are supported for every $1 billion of U.S. exports.

But until the WTO Agreement applies between the United States and Russia, America’s competitors will enjoy more liberal treatment for exports of goods and services and stronger commitments on protection of intellectual property rights--American companies will not. Until the WTO Agreement applies between us, Russia will be under no obligation to apply science based food safety standards to U.S. agricultural exports, leaving poultry and beef producers in Delaware, Arkansas, and Montana vulnerable. And until the WTO Agreement applies between us, we will not have the same recourse as our competitors to the WTO’s binding dispute resolution mechanism to ensure that Russia complies with its WTO commitments.

Failing to lift Jackson-Vanik and extend PNTR will not penalize Russia, nor will it provide an effective lever to change the Russian Government’s behavior. However, extending PNTR is a smart strategic investment that over the long term can help create a better, more predictable partner for the United States and contribute to Russian efforts to build a more transparent and accountable political and economic system.

Russia today is very much at a crossroads. As demonstrations across Russia over the last nine months have reminded us, a growing number of Russians both in and out of government want to see their country develop into a modern state with a diverse and competitive economy. But those determined Russians, many from the emerging middle class, are not only driven by a thirst for economic prosperity, but for a voice in how decisions are made in their society—for the predictability and accountability that come with rule of law.

While we do not expect change to occur overnight, this is a trend-line that is increasing in pace--and one we should support. Extending PNTR and thereby increasing U.S. trade with Russia can strengthen the hand of Russians who want an outward-looking society and an economy that depends more on the innovativeness and resourcefulness of its people, rather than on resources pulled out of the ground. It can also provide positive reinforcement to those working to create a level playing field, with transparent, predictable rules to serve as a hedge against corruption and further Russia’s political modernization. These are not just my own views. They are the arguments of some of the Kremlin’s harshest critics who have called on the United States to terminate Jackson-Vanik. That does not diminish their deep concerns about human rights and the Magnitskiy case–concerns which we strongly share.

Neither WTO membership nor extending PNTR to Russia can instantly create the kind of change the Russian people are seeking. PNTR should be one part of a stronger and fuller rule of law framework that we pursue with Russia, combined with the investment protections that would come with a new Bilateral Investment Treaty and implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, which Russia joined earlier this year. These steps will not transform Russia’s economy overnight. But they will help integrate Russia into the global economy and send strong signals to investors about Russia’s commitment to strengthening rule of law.

As I said earlier, I’ve learned in many years of helping to navigate U.S.-Russian relations that we have to be realistic about the challenges which lie ahead.

We have serious and enduring differences with Russia that PNTR will not change. We continue to disagree fundamentally about Georgia, whose sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence we firmly support. We also disagree fundamentally about Syria, where no stable outcome is possible as long as Bashar al-Asad remains in power, shedding the blood of his own people and risking a spillover of sectarian violence in a region that already has more than its share of troubles. Russia must make a choice here in determining where its interests lie. In the meantime—with Russia’s help or without it—we will continue to work with others in the international community to seek an end to the violence and to develop concrete steps to support a real political transition that advances the processes of reform, reconciliation, and reconstruction.

We also have profound differences with Russia over human rights. We want to see Russia emerge as both a global power and a vibrant democracy with strong rule of law. And we are seeing a new generation of Russians asking important questions of their own leaders. Without an active and independent media, how will Russia succeed in rooting out corruption and its debilitating effects on the economy? How will Russia build a modern political system responsive to modern challenges unless its citizens and activists can freely express dissenting views, without fear of political prosecution? How can Russia strengthen accountability in governance when whistleblowers like Sergey Magnitsky are arrested or killed for pointing out fraud and abuse? What will Russia do to develop a strong, capable civil society when NGOs receiving foreign funds are stigmatized with misleading labels?

While we cannot and should not impose American solutions, we can and do support those Russians who are seeking answers to these tough questions about their nation’s future. We are already taking concrete steps, using existing restrictions on human rights abusers, to ensure that no one implicated in the death of Sergey Magnitsky can travel to the U.S. We will also continue to support programs that bolster Russia’s civil society and strengthen the hand of those seeking a freer and more open and democratic future for Russia.

By now it should be clear, this is not a simple or easy relationship. Given the complexities and hard work involved, it may be tempting to downplay Russia’s importance. We do not have that luxury. Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and one of the world’s largest nuclear powers, and it will remain profoundly in America’s interest to work with Russia where our interests overlap. Already over the last three years we have shown that we can achieve significant results, including on reductions of strategic nuclear weapons and on Afghanistan, where Russia has proven itself a valued partner in ensuring the safe transit of our personnel and equipment to the region. With PNTR, we hope to add expanded trade to this list.

We are encouraged that committees in the Senate and the House have passed PNTR legislation with broad bipartisan support. We also understand that it is likely that a PNTR bill will be considered by both chambers of Congress along with legislation addressing the tragic case of Sergey Magnitskiy. We continue to believe that the case for extending PNTR to Russia stands on its own merits. And, in close consultation with Congress, we will continue to seek out the most effective avenues to address the Magnitskiy case and human rights more broadly.

The economic and strategic stakes are clear. And so is the choice before Congress. Either give Americans the chance to compete on a level playing field in an important market—or we can ensure that the opportunities we worked so hard to create are seized not by Americans, but by workers and businesses beyond our shores. We urge Congress to take action as soon as possible.

Thank you again for the opportunity to meet with you today. Thank you for all your efforts on this important issue. And thank you for everything that the U.S. Chamber does to help ensure that Americans understand the growing connection between economic renewal at home and opening up new markets and new possibilities overseas. I look forward very much to continuing to work with you in that enormously important mission. Thank you.



Washington, D.C., Sept. 5, 2012The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged the CEO of a Los Angeles-based public relations firm with insider trading on nonpublic information she learned from a client that was about to acquire a bank in a deal assisted by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

The SEC alleges that Renee White Fraser and her firm Fraser Communications were contacted by Pasadena-based East West Bancorp (EWBC) for marketing and public relations support during its acquisition of San Francisco-based United Commercial Bank. The very next day after agreeing to take on EWBC as a client, Fraser bought 10,000 shares of EWBC stock. She sold all of her shares after EWBC’s stock price jumped 55 percent after the public announcement of the acquisition.

Fraser agreed to settle the SEC’s charges by paying $91,530.36, which is more than double what she gained in illegal profits from her alleged insider trading.

"Fraser’s client entrusted her with highly sensitive nonpublic information, and she tried to turn that into a quick side profit," said Michele W. Layne, Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office. "Consultants in public relations or any career field cannot exploit their client relationships for an illegal payday in the stock market."

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, EWBC contacted Fraser Communications on Oct. 14, 2009, and shared material, nonpublic information about its upcoming FDIC-assisted transaction for the confidential corporate purpose of allowing Fraser and her employees to prepare marketing and public relations materials ahead of that acquisition. EWBC formally engaged Fraser’s firm on October 15 to assist EWBC with public relations work.

The SEC alleges that Fraser, who lives in Santa Monica, purchased 10,000 EWBC shares on October 16 after learning the previous day about the impending EWBC-United Commercial Bank transaction. EWBC announced the acquisition of United Commercial Bank’s banking operations on November 6. Fraser proceeded to sell 7,500 of her EWBC shares on November 10, the second trading day after the announcement. She sold the remaining 2,500 shares on June 24, 2011, for total combined profits of $43,868.

In settling the SEC’s charges without admitting or denying the allegations, Fraser agreed to pay $43,868 in disgorgement, $3,794.36 in prejudgment interest, and a $43,868 penalty. She consented to a permanent injunction from further violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. Fraser also agreed to a permanent bar prohibiting her from serving as an officer or director of a public company.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Wendy E. Pearson and Finola H. Manvelian in the Los Angeles Regional Office. The SEC acknowledges the assistance of Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).


Million Hearts Launches New Educational Program to Improve Americans' Blood Pressure Control

Team Up. Pressure Down. encourages pharmacist-patient engagement
Customers at drugstores around the nation can get help to improve blood pressure control, through a collaboration among pharmacists, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and other partners. The program, "Team Up. Pressure Down.," includes educational videos, a blood pressure control journal, and wallet card to track medication use.

The blood pressure initiative, part of the Million Hearts health education program and supported by the Affordable Care Act, was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with practicing pharmacists and national pharmacist groups. The initiative’s tools will help pharmacists talk about current medications and ways in which patients can use the medications most effectively. The goal of Million Hearts is to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.

"This valuable Million Hearts initiative will prevent heart attacks and strokes by bringing pharmacists into the care team to help patients control their blood pressure. Pharmacists are able to talk to patients and families about using medication to manage, high blood pressure, and they can also help patients address barriers to taking their medication," said Surgeon General, Regina M. Benjamin, MD.

In May, the Community Preventive Services Task Force, an independent, nonfederal, uncompensated body of public health and prevention experts, whose members are appointed by the Director of CDC, recommended team-based care—uniting the efforts of physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and other health care professionals—to improve blood pressure control. Its recommendation followed a review of evidence from more than 70 scientific publications.

"More than 36 million Americans, or more than half of those with hypertension, don’t have their blood pressure under control and every single day, more than one thousand Americans have a heart attack or stroke," said Janet Wright, M.D., a board-certified cardiologist and executive director of Million Hearts. "Through the ``Team Up. Pressure Down.’’ educational program for pharmacists, we are taking the first step in helping many more Americans achieve blood pressure control."

"Our organization trains the next wave of young pharmacists who are committed to making a difference in patients’ lives," said William Lang, M.P.H., vice president for policy and advocacy, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. "`Team Up. Pressure Down.’ recognizes and supports the critical role of pharmacists in improving blood pressure control through team-based care."

"`The Team Up. Pressure Down’. program will help pharmacists in any setting talk to their patients about the importance of staying on blood pressure medications and coach them on how to control hypertension," said Carolyn C. Ha, Pharm.D., director, professional affairs, National Community Pharmacists Association.

The materials can be tailored for any pharmacy setting. Continuing pharmacy education credit is available for pharmacists who participate.

Practicing pharmacists, pharmacist groups, and consumer groups actively participated in the development of the program over the past year. Contributing organizations included Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, American College of Clinical Pharmacy, American Heart Association, American Pharmacist Association Foundation, Blue Ridge Mountain Group, Cardinal Health, Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services Innovation Center, Community Pharmacy Foundation, Compliant Pharmacy Alliance, Creative Pharmacist Healthy Heart Club, Indian Health Service, National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, National Association of Drug Store Chains, National Community Pharmacists Association, National Consumer League, Pharmacy Quality Alliance, PharmaSmart, University of Iowa School of Pharmacy, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, USPHS/Pharmacist Professional Advisory Committee, WomenHeart.

For more information on public and private support for Million Hearts visit: "".


Guardians at the gate

Airman 1st Class Willie Fox, inspects a vehicle at the contractor gate of Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., Aug. 28, 2012. Fox is with the 377th Security Forces Squadron. (Air Force photo by Ken Moore)

Moving into position

Two F-16 Fighting Hornets from 148th Fighter Wing out of Duluth, Minn., prepare to fly in formation behind the boom of a KC-135R Stratotanker from the 128th Air Refueling Wing after being mid-air refueled on August 15, 2012. Air National Guardsmen nominate their civilian employer(s) to witness an air refueling mission as a measure of thanks for the support their employers give to the Air National Guard and the guardsmen. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Wilson)

Aiming for fuel

An F-22 Raptor from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., moves into position behind a KC-135 Stratotanker from Altus AFB, Okla., during an air refueling, Aug. 21, 2012.The F-22 was refueled outside of New York in support of the Brooklyn Cyclone flyover during Air Force Week. (Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kenneth W. Norman)


Photo:  Army Lt. Gen. James L. Terry.  Credit:  DOD

ISAF Senior Leader Outlines 'Insider Threat' Response
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 2012 - Coalition forces and Afghan government leaders are attacking the issue of insider threats in Afghanistan on several levels, a top commander in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said today.

Army Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, commander of ISAF Joint Command, spoke with Pentagon reporters via satellite from the Afghan capital of Kabul.

Insider attacks, which have cost 45 ISAF lives so far this year, occur when an Afghan soldier or policeman, or an enemy impersonating one, deliberately kills or injures a coalition member. Terry told reporters the degree of insurgent involvement in such attacks varies.

"I sense these actions are driven by fear of an increasingly stronger and more capable Afghan national security force ... [as the] insurgency is continuously degraded and discredited," the general said.

Afghanistan's army and police forces and the nation's leaders, from President Hamid Karzai through the Interior and Defense ministries and down to provincial and district governor levels, are "seized by" the issue and committed to stopping it, Terry said.

Terry offered his condolences to the families of those who have been killed in the attacks. "We will never let them be forgotten," said.

The general said the rise in attacks over the summer may reflect the adaptive nature of an enemy whose bombing, assassination and intimidation campaigns are turning Afghanistan's people against the insurgency. "The reality is we're going to face this," he said.

An Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman announced today that hundreds of Afghan soldiers have been detained or removed from service. Terry said while he has not yet heard the particulars about those actions, the Afghan Interior and Defense ministries seek to limit insider attacks by examining their recruiting procedures and looking for ways to vet possible recruits more closely.

He noted the coalition is helping in the effort, analyzing data on past insider attacks to determine trends and identify threat factors. With that information, plus the ministries' findings, "we can better focus our vetting and screening efforts," the general said. "In other words, go back in and look at specific populations that we think are at risk."

The eight-step vetting process for recruits includes background and criminal checks, medical and drug screening, interviews and references, Terry said. The Afghan ministries are examining those processes to ensure they're as secure and verifiable as possible, he added.

"In addition to that, they're looking at increased efforts to improve the living conditions for their soldiers," the general noted, "and also how they prepare their soldiers for leave periods, and then specifically how they address those soldiers once they return from leave."

Terry said his own Army experience tells him soldiers are most vulnerable to outside influence when they're away from their units, and he suggested Afghan military leaders consider leave periods as critical for their attention.

Another initiative, he said, is a counterintelligence program that places people trained in countering insider attacks "inside of the formations, so that we can identify some of this threat before it actually materializes out there."

Terry said some 25 percent of insider attacks since 2007 have involved either direct enemy planning or insurgent support to an attacker. Some of the remaining attacks are personally motivated by things such as perceived insults, he added, noting the overall issue features some cultural factors coalition leaders also are examining.

"I would just say that what we all recognize is that this is society that's really been traumatized by 30-plus years of war," Terry said. "It also has a gun culture."

In Afghan culture, resolving grievances and disputes often involves "the barrel of a gun," he said.

"As we look toward cultural sensitivity ... and greater understanding of the culture and of the religion, I think we also have to understand what this country and what this population [have] gone through over time," Terry said.

Because of cultural attitudes toward social factors such as friendship and hospitality, Terry said, "I fundamentally believe, ... and this is based on my experience of three tours over here, ... that [the] closer you are in terms of relationship and friendship with the Afghan partners, probably the safer you are."

Within their own ranks, ISAF forces are emphasizing cultural sensitivity training and building relationships with Afghan partner forces, Terry said.

Meanwhile, Afghan units are gaining strength and capability, he said, noting Afghanistan's army and police forces are getting close to 350,000 people fielded.

"I don't, frankly, see that slowing down," he said.


Photo Credit:  U.S. EPA.
EPA Awards $15 Million to Assist U.S. Small Drinking Water and Wastewater Systems

– The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded nearly $15 million in funding to provide training and technical assistance to small drinking and wastewater systems – those serving fewer than 10,000 people – and to private well owners. The funding will help provide training and tools to improve small system operations and management practices, promoting sustainability and supporting EPA’s mission to protect public health and the environment.

"Small systems form the backbone of our nation’s public water system and it is a priority for EPA to help them to meet water quality standards and provide clean water to communities," said Nancy Stoner, EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water. "This funding and technical assistance is part of EPA’s continuing efforts to promote sustainability and public health protection for communities served by small systems."

EPA awards include:
Nearly $7 million to the National Rural Water Association and nearly $3 million to the Texas Engineering Extension Service, which together will provide training and technical assistance for small public water systems across the country to achieve and maintain compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act;
$2.5 million to New Mexico Environmental Finance Center to help small systems improve their financial and managerial capabilities that will enable these systems to effectively provide safe drinking water over the long-term;
$2 million to the Rural Community Assistance Partnership to work with small publicly-owned wastewater systems on treatment and operations issues and to help private well owners;
$500,000 to the Rural Community Assistance Partnership to provide training and technical assistance to tribally-owned and operated public water systems.

More than 97 percent of the nation’s 157,000 public water systems serve fewer than 10,000 people, and more than 80 percent of these systems serve fewer than 500 people. Many small systems face unique challenges in providing reliable drinking water and wastewater services that meet federal and state regulations. These challenges can include a lack of financial resources, aging infrastructure, management limitations and high staff turnover.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Arizona Man Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison for Selling Access to Botnets

WASHINGTON – Joshua Schichtel, 30, of Phoenix, was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for selling command-and-control access to and use of thousands of malware-infected computers, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr.

Schichtel was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth in the District of Columbia. In addition to his prison term, Schichtel was ordered to serve three years of supervised release.

Schichtel entered a guilty plea on Aug. 17, 2011, to one count of attempting to cause damage to multiple computers without authorization by the transmission of programs, codes or commands, a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

According to court documents, Schichtel sold access to "botnets," which are networks of computers that have been infected with a malicious computer program that allows unauthorized users to control infected computers. Individuals who wanted to infect computers with various different types of malicious software (malware) would contact Schichtel and pay him to install, or have installed, malware on the computers that comprised those botnets. Specifically, Schichtel pleaded guilty to causing software to be installed on approximately 72,000 computers on behalf of a customer who paid him $1,500 for use of the botnet.

This case was investigated by the Washington Field Office of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Corbin Weiss, Senior Counsel in the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.


Map Credit:  U.S. State Department.
Delisting of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)
Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 6, 2012

The Department of State has revoked the designation of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN(M)) and its aliases as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity under Executive Order 13224, and as a "terrorist organization" from the Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL) under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). With these actions, the CPN(M)’s property and interests in property in the United States or within the possession or control of U.S. persons will no longer be blocked, and U.S. entities may engage in transactions with CPN(M) without having to obtain a license.

After a thorough review, the Department has determined that the CPN(M) is no longer engaged in terrorist activity that threatens the security of U.S. nationals or U.S. foreign policy. Additionally, in recent years, the Maoist party has been elected as the head of Nepal’s coalition government, has taken steps to dismantle its apparatus for the conduct of terrorist operations, and has demonstrated a credible commitment to pursuing the peace and reconciliation process in Nepal. Today’s delisting does not seek to overlook or forget the party’s violent past, but rather looks ahead towards the party’s continued engagement in a peaceful, democratic political dialogue in Nepal.

This delisting reflects the United States’ resolve to keep our terrorism sanctions current and demonstrates that a group need not stay on a terrorist list forever should it demonstrate a credible commitment to pursuing peace and reconciliation.




A 10-year Maoist insurgency--punctuated by cease-fires in 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2006--began in 1996. After King Gyanendra announced the reinstatement of Parliament on April 24, 2006, the Maoists declared a 3-month unilateral cease-fire on April 26, 2006 which the new Koirala government reciprocated on May 3, 2006. The Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists signed five agreements, culminating in the comprehensive peace agreement of November 21, 2006, effectively ending the insurgency. However, Maoist violence and intimidation continued in spite of the agreement.

The main agenda of the SPA and the Maoists was to hold a Constituent Assembly election, with the primary responsibility of drafting and promulgating a new constitution defining the future political system in Nepal. The interim constitution, adopted on January 15, 2007, expressed full commitment to democratic ideals and norms, including competitive multi-party democracy, civil liberties, fundamental human rights, adult enfranchisement, periodic elections, press freedom, an independent judiciary, and the rule of law. The interim constitution also guaranteed the basic rights of Nepali citizens to formulate a constitution for themselves and to participate in the Constituent Assembly in an environment free from fear. The interim constitution transferred all powers of the King as head of state to the prime minister and stripped the King of any ceremonial constitutional role. Under the interim constitution, the fate of the monarchy was to be decided by the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly. The interim Parliament was a unicameral house.

After promulgation of the interim constitution, many socially marginalized ethnic communities, including the Madhesis of the lowland Tarai, began widespread protests against the proposed proportional representation system incorporated in the new constitution. Bandhs (general strikes) and protests sometimes turned violent, with clashes between police and demonstrators leading to dozens killed and injured. The government eventually agreed to increase the number of directly elected representatives from the Tarai and implement quotas ensuring representation of women, Madhesis, janajatis, and other groups facing discrimination. Constitutional amendments regarding representation were adopted in March and June 2007. The government signed further agreements with Madhesi and janajati groups agreeing to inclusion in government bodies and institutions as well as commitments to address other issues in August 2007, but those remained to be fully implemented.

Five Maoist ministers were appointed to the Nepali Congress-led cabinet on April 2007. The ministers submitted their resignations on September 18, 2007 over the issue of declaring Nepal a republic and adoption of fully proportional representation system for the Constituent Assembly election. After compromise agreements on these issues were reached--having the interim Parliament declare Nepal a republic but letting the CA implement the measure, and adoption of a mixed electoral system--the constitution was amended again and the Maoist ministers were reinducted on December 31, 2007.

Twice deferred, Nepal's Constituent Assembly election was finally held on April 10, 2008. None of the parties succeeded in getting a simple majority in the CA. The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist won 218 out of 575 elected seats, followed by the Nepali Congress with 109 seats, the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist with 103 seats, and the Tarai-based Madhesi People's Rights Forum with 50 seats. Six constituencies needed to hold by-elections, five due to one candidate having won two directly elected seats and one due to the newly elected President resigning his seat. The appointed seats were distributed across the parties in the following manner: Maoist 9, NC 5, UML 5, MPRF 2, SP 1, CPN-Marxist Leninist 1, People’s Front Nepal 1, Nepal Workers and Peasants Party 1, and TMDP 1.

The final list of members elected under the proportional representation system was released on May 8, 2008. The members of the Constituent Assembly were sworn in on May 27, 2008, and the first session of the CA was convened on May 28, 2008. In this session, the CA voted to declare Nepal a federal democratic republic by abolishing the monarchy. Out of 564 members of the CA who voted, 560 voted in favor and 4 against the motion.

While the CA has the prime responsibility of drafting a new constitution for Nepal, it also functions as a regular Parliament. Through the fourth amendment to the interim constitution of Nepal on May 28, 2008, the CA also established, for the first time, a largely ceremonial President as the constitutional head of state, as well as a Vice President. The Prime Minister continues to be the head of the government.

Nepal's judiciary is legally separated from the executive and legislative branches and, in practice, has increasingly shown the will to be independent of political influence. However, by asserting executive control over the judiciary, the interim constitution called into question this independence. Under the interim constitution, the Prime Minister appoints the Chief Justice on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council, and the Chief Justice appoints other judges on the recommendation of the Judicial Council. All lower court decisions, including acquittals, are subject to appeal. The Supreme Court is the court of last appeal.

In August 2008, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Maoist) was sworn in as Prime Minister. Less than a year into his term, Prime Minister Dahal resigned from the government on May 4, 2009 following a dispute over his bid to dismiss the Chief of the Army Staff. On May 23, members from 22 of the 24 political parties represented in the Constituent Assembly elected veteran Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (UML) leader Madhav Kumar Nepal as Prime Minister. Madhav Kumar Nepal was sworn in on May 25, 2009. On June 30, 2010, Prime Minister Nepal announced his resignation "for the sake of consensus" and to end the country's political deadlock following months of Maoist protests. On February 3, 2011, after 16 rounds of voting, Jhala Nath Khanal (UML) was elected Prime Minister; however, 6 months later on August 14, 2011 Khanal resigned from the government, citing the failure to make significant progress on the peace process. On August 29, 2011, Baburam Bhattarai (Maoist) was sworn in as Nepal's 35th Prime Minister, and the fourth Prime Minister since the 2008 CA election.

Human Rights
Since political reform began in 1990, some progress has been achieved in the transition to a more open society with greater respect for human rights; however, substantial problems remain. Poorly trained police sometimes use excessive force in quelling demonstrations. In addition, there have been reports of torture during detention and widespread reports of custodial abuse. In 2000, the government established the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), a government-appointed commission with a mandate to investigate human rights violations. However, the government continues to stall in implementing the commission's recommendations and has not been able to enforce accountability for recent and past abuses. The King's February 2005 dismissal of the government, subsequent imposition of emergency rule and suspension of many civil rights--including freedom of expression, assembly, and privacy--was a setback for human rights in Nepal. During this 3-month period, censors were deployed to major newspapers, and many political leaders were kept under house arrest. The King's government restricted the media from publishing interviews, articles, or news items against the spirit of the royal proclamation of February 1, 2005 or in support of terrorist or destructive activities. The reinstated government, led by Prime Minister Koirala, reversed these decisions in May 2006. The interim constitution promulgated on January 15, 2007 ensured unrestricted freedom of expression and made the NHRC a constitutional body.

Both the Maoists and security personnel have committed numerous human rights violations. The Maoists used tactics such as kidnapping, torture, bombings, intimidation, killings, and conscription of children. Within the Nepalese security forces, violations ranged from disappearances to executions. After the royal takeover on February 1, 2005 and subsequent imposition of the state of emergency, the security forces arrested many political leaders, student leaders, journalists, and human rights activists under the Public Security Act of 1989, although all were released by June 2005 when the King ended the state of emergency.

After the April 2006 cease-fire announced by the government and the Maoists, incidents of human rights violations by the government declined substantially while incidents of human rights violations by the Maoists continued relatively unabated. Even after signing a comprehensive peace agreement with the government in November 2006, Maoists' extortion, abduction, and intimidation remained largely unchecked. Although activities by other political parties have increased significantly in the rural parts of Nepal, political party representatives, police, non-governmental organization (NGO) workers, and journalists reported continuous threats and intimidation by Maoist-affiliated Young Communist League (YCL), Maoist-affiliated All Nepal National Free Students Union (ANNFSU), UML-affiliated Youth Force (YF), UML-affiliated Youth Action Nepal (YAN), or Nepali Congress-affiliated Tarun Dal cadres. During the January-February 2007 uprising in the Tarai, reports of government security forces using excessive force to quell demonstrations were common.

Major daily English-language newspapers include "The Kathmandu Post," "The Himalayan Times," "Republica," and "The Rising Nepal." The last and its vernacular sister publication are owned by a government corporation. There are hundreds of smaller daily and weekly periodicals that are privately owned and of varying journalistic quality. Views expressed since the 1990 move to democracy are varied and vigorous. There are 394 (334 in use) FM radio and 32 (19 in use) television licenses for privately owned and operated stations, following liberalization of licensing regulations. Radio Nepal and Nepal Television are government-owned and operated. There are over 700 cable television operators nationwide, and satellite dishes to receive television broadcasts abound. Internet penetration in Nepal is approximately 4% of the population. Despite its prominence, the Nepali press is still frequently subject to violence and intimidation by political groups.

Trafficking in women and child labor remain serious problems, but some improvement has been seen; in addition, the founder of a U.S.-backed anti-trafficking organization, Maiti Nepal, won the 2010 CNN Hero award. According to the State Department's 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report, Nepal is mainly a source country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. While Nepal is primarily a source country for destinations like India and the Middle East, internal trafficking is also a prominent issue. Lack of prosecution and police complicity in trafficking cases remain major problems. Discrimination against women and lower castes is prevalent.

Friday, September 7, 2012



120823-N-DA827-041 EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (Aug. 23, 2012) Congressman Jeff Miller discusses a remote controlled Talon EOD robot with Senior Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Joseph Severino, the Improvised Explosive Device Division non-commissioned officer in charge, while on a tour at Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal. The school, located at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. provides high-risk, specialized, basic and advanced EOD training to over 2,200 U.S. and partner nation military and selected U.S. government personnel each year. (U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Elizabeth Allen/Released)

120904-N-CH661-012 ARABIAN SEA (Sept. 4, 2012) An EA-6B Prowler assigned to the Rooks of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 137 is the 100,000th launch from catapult three aboard the 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 Jared King/Released)


09/4/2012 - THULE AIR BASE, Greenland – Icebergs float on the horizon as 821st Air Base Group Airmen hold a polar bear swim Aug. 4 and 26 at the Thule AB Tug Boat Beach. The air temperature was 51 degrees, while the water was a scant 41 degrees. "It was a really unique experience," said a chilled Staff Sgt. Neal Thompson, 821st Air Base Group Knowledge Operations Management. "It was definitely something that a lot of people are unable to do," he said referring to his newly-earned title of Polar Bear. Thule AB is one of the six installations operated by the 21st Space Wing, and is located 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Laura Vargas)



Digital Press Kit

Multistate Outbreaks of Human Salmonella Infections Linked to Small Turtles

Contact with reptiles (such as turtles, snakes, and lizards) and amphibians (such as frogs and toads) can be a source of human Salmonella infections. Salmonella germs are shed in the droppings of reptiles and amphibians and can easily contaminate their bodies and the water in tanks or aquariums where these animals live, which can spread to people.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the sale and distribution of turtles with a shell length of less than 4 inches since 1975. However, small turtles continue to cause human Salmonella infections, especially among young children.

CDC is collaborating with public health officials in multiple states and the FDA to investigate 6 overlapping, multistate outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to exposure to turtles or their environments (e.g., water from a turtle habitat). More than 160 illnesses have been reported from 30 states; 64 percent of ill persons are children age 10 or younger, and 27 percent of ill persons are children age one year or younger. Fifty-six percent of ill persons are Hispanic.

Key Messages
Don’t buy small turtles from street vendors, websites, pet stores, or other sources.
Keep reptiles out of homes with young children or people with weakened immune systems.
Reptiles should not be kept in child care centers, nursery schools, or other facilities with young children.

ALWAYS wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after touching a reptile or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Adults should always supervise hand washing for young children.



SEC Charges Georgia Resident with Insider Trading
In August 28, 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil injunctive action in the Northern District of Georgia against C. Roan Berry ("Berry"). The Commission alleges that Thomas D. Melvin ("Melvin"), a Griffin, Georgia based CPA and friend of Berry’s, disclosed material non-public information about the pending tender offer for Chattem, Inc. ("Chattem") securities to Berry. The Commission also alleges that Berry tipped his next door neighbor, Ashley J. Coots. The Commission further alleges that Berry and Coots traded in the securities of Chattem based on that material non-public information.

According to the Commission’s complaint, on December 21, 2009, Sanofi-Aventis ("Sanofi"), a French pharmaceutical company, announced its intent to make a tender offer for Chattem, a Tennessee-based distributor of over-the-counter pharmaceutical products, at the price of $93.50 per share ("Announcement"). Shares of Chattem closed 32.60% higher on the day of the Announcement than the prior trading day’s close of $69.98 and volume increased more than 3,000% to 10.3 million shares.

The Commission alleges that in early December 2009, several weeks before the Announcement, an independent board member of Chattem who owned Chattem options that would automatically exercise in the event of an ownership change at Chattem, initiated a series of confidential conversations and meetings with his longtime accountant, Melvin, to discuss potential methods of ameliorating the effect of an acquisition of Chattem on his tax liability. The Chattem board member told Melvin sufficient facts such that, given Melvin’s knowledge of the board member’s affairs, Melvin would have clearly known that the board member was discussing Chattem. Melvin and the Chattem board member also discussed the price impact of the tender offer on the board member’s options.

The Commission further alleges that Melvin misappropriated material non-public information regarding the impending tender offer for Chattem securities. Within days of his first meeting with the board member, Melvin disclosed material non-public information about the impending tender offer to Berry. Berry traded in Chattem securities based on the material non-public information disclosed by Melvin, and Berry tipped Coots, who also traded.

Berry has agreed to settle the Commission claims against him by consenting to the entry of a final judgment providing permanent injunctive relief under Sections 10(b) and 14(e) of the Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5 and 14e-3 thereunder, and by paying disgorgement of $55,091.51, prejudgment interest of $4,860.37, and a civil penalty of $55,091.51. Berry neither admits nor denies the Commission’s allegations, and his settlement is subject to court approval.


Photo Credit:  CDC
WASHINGTON, September 5, 2012—Heading back to school means getting into a new routine. As moms and dads pack lunches for their kids before a busy day of class and extra-curricular activities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) encourages families to update their food safety routine and take precautions that will help prevent food poisoning in America's young students.

"Preventing foodborne illness is part of USDA's public health mission, but one in six Americans is still expected to get sick from the food they eat this year," Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. "Back to school time provides an excellent opportunity for the whole family to brush up on food safety steps."

When it comes to food safety, are you an A+ student? This true or false quiz is based on real calls to USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). The hotline is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is staffed by specialists who can answer consumers' questions about safely handling, cooking and storing food.

True or False: To effectively destroy germs on my hands, I need to wash them for 20 seconds.

True. Wash hands before and after handling food with soap and running water by rubbing hands together vigorously for at least 20 seconds. The mechanical action of rubbing your hands creates friction that helps dislodge bacteria and viruses. Warm or hot water is preferable to cold water because it helps dissolve fats and foods, aiding in microbe removal and the deactivation of pathogens. If soapy water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs, including viruses.

True or False: The "let stand" step of microwave meal instructions is only there so I don't burn myself.

False. If the food label says, "Let stand for x minutes after cooking," do not skimp on the standing time. Food continues to generate heat after the microwave is turned off, so letting your microwaved food sit for a few minutes actually helps your food cook more. That extra minute or two could mean the difference between a delicious meal and food poisoning. After waiting a few minutes, check the food with a food thermometer to make sure it is 165 °F or above.

True or False: I need to put some sort of cold source in my lunchbox.

True. Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly between 40 and
140 °F, so perishable food transported without an ice source will not stay safe long. Insulated, soft-sided lunch boxes or bags are best for keeping food cold, but pack at least two ice sources with perishable food in any type of lunch bag or box you use. You can use two frozen gel packs that are 5-by-3 inches or larger, or combine a frozen gel pack with a frozen juice box. When packing your bag lunch, place the ice sources above and below the perishable food items to keep them cold. If there is a refrigerator available at work or school, store perishable items there upon arrival. If you place your insulated bag in the refrigerator, leave the lid or bag open so that cold air can keep the food cold.

Some food is safe without a cold source. Items that do not require refrigeration include whole fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, canned meat and fish, chips, breads, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard and pickles.

True or False: As long as it isn't topped with chicken or sausage, leftover pizza is safe to eat if unrefrigerated overnight.

False. Bacteria grow readily in carbohydrate-rich, cooked foods. While uncooked vegetables are safe to store at room temperature in their raw state, cooked foods such as casseroles, rice, pasta and pizza—whether or not the dish contains meat or poultry—must be refrigerated within two hours after cooking. The possibility of bacterial growth increases after cooking, because the drop in temperature allows bacteria to thrive. If a food has been left between 40 and 140 °F for more than two hours, discard it, even though it may look and smell okay. The kinds of bacteria that cause food poisoning do not affect the look, smell, or taste of food. Put leftover pizza in the refrigerator right away, and it will be safe to eat for three to four days.

Have Questions? Ask Karen!

The best cheat sheet—ahem, study partner—is USDA's virtual food safety representative, Ask Karen. Ask Karen is available 24 hours a day at or on your smartphone, with more than 1,300 food safety questions and answers searchable by topic and by product. The site is available in Spanish at and The Mobile Ask Karen app, which has English and Spanish capabilities, can also be downloaded from the Apple and Android app stores.



SEC Charges Radio Personality for Conducting Misleading Investment Seminars
Washington, D.C., Sept. 5, 2012
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a nationally syndicated radio personality and financial advice author for spreading misleading information about his "Buckets of Money" strategy at a series of investment seminars that he and his company hosted for potential clients.

The SEC’s Division of Enforcement alleges that investment adviser Ray Lucia, Sr. claimed that the wealth management strategy he promoted at the seminars had been empirically "backtested" over actual bear market periods. Backtesting is the process of evaluating a strategy, theory, or model by applying it to historical data and calculating how it would have performed had it actually been used in a prior time period.

Lucia, who lives in the San Diego area, and his company formerly named Raymond J. Lucia Companies Inc. (RJL) allegedly presented a lengthy slideshow at the seminars indicating that extensive backtesting proved that the Buckets of Money strategy would provide inflation-adjusted income to retirees while protecting and even increasing their retirement savings. However despite the claims they made publicly, Lucia and RJL performed scant, if any, actual backtesting of the Buckets of Money strategy.

"Lucia and RJL left their seminar attendees with a false sense of comfort about the Buckets of Money strategy," said Michele Wein Layne, Regional Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office. "The so-called backtests weren’t really backtests, and the strategy wasn’t proven as they claimed."

According to the SEC’s order instituting administrative proceedings against Lucia and RJL, they held the seminars highlighting their Buckets of Money strategy in an effort to obtain advisory clients who would be charged fees in return for their advisory services. They promoted the seminars on Lucia’s radio show and on Lucia’s personal and company websites.

According to the SEC’s order, a backtest must utilize actual data from the time period in order to get an accurate result. Lucia and RJL have admitted during the SEC’s investigation that the only testing they actually performed were some calculations that Lucia made in the late 1990s – copies of which no longer exist – and two two-page spreadsheets.

According to the SEC’s order, the two cursory spreadsheets that Lucia claims were backtests used a hypothetical 3 percent inflation rate even though this was lower than actual historical rates. Lucia admittedly knew that using the lower hypothetical inflation rate would make the results look more favorable for the Buckets of Money strategy. These alleged backtests also failed to account for the negative effect that the deduction of advisory fees would have had on the backtesting of their investment strategy, and their "backtesting" did not even allocate in the manner called for by Lucia’s Buckets of Money strategy. The slideshow presentation that Lucia and RJL used during the seminars failed to disclose the flaws in their alleged backtests and was materially misleading.

According to the SEC’s order, Lucia and RJL also failed to maintain adequate records of the backtesting as they were required to do under an SEC rule. The pair of two-page spreadsheets was the only documentation of their backtesting calculations, and those spreadsheets failed to duplicate their advertised investment strategy.

The SEC’s order finds that RJL violated Sections 206(1), 206(2) and 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rule 206(4)-1(a)(5) thereunder. The order finds that Lucia willfully aided and abetted and caused RJL’s violations of Sections 206(1), 206(2) and 206(4) of the Advisers Act and Rule 206(4)-1(a)(5) thereunder. The SEC’s Division of Enforcement is seeking financial penalties and other remedial action in the proceedings.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Peter Del Greco of the Los Angeles Regional Office. John Bulgozdy will lead the litigation. Bryan Bennett and John Kreimeyer conducted the SEC examination that prompted the investigation.

Education Drives America-Bus Tour Stops in the Midwest

<em>Education Drives America</em> – Bus Tour Stops in the Midwest


Report to Congress on the Haqqani Network
Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
September 7, 2012
Today, I have sent a report to Congress saying that the Haqqani Network meets the statutory criteria of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) for designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). This action meets the requirements of the Haqqani Network Terrorist Designation Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-168). Based on that assessment, I notified Congress of my intent to designate the Haqqani Network as an FTO under the INA. I also intend to designate the organization as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity under Executive Order 13224.

The consequences of these designations include a prohibition against knowingly providing material support or resources to, or engaging in other transactions with, the Haqqani Network, and the freezing of all property and interests in property of the organization that are in the United States, or come within the United States, or the control of U.S. persons. These actions follow a series of other steps that the U.S. government already has taken against the Haqqanis. The Department of State previously designated key Haqqani Network leaders under E.O. 13224, and the Department of the Treasury has designated other militants with ties to the Haqqanis under the same authority. We also continue our robust campaign of diplomatic, military, and intelligence pressure on the network, demonstrating the United States’ resolve to degrade the organization’s ability to execute violent attacks.

I take this action in the context of our overall strategy in Afghanistan, the five lines of effort that President Obama laid out when he was in Afghanistan in May: increasing the capacity of Afghan security forces to fight insurgents; transitioning to Afghan security lead; building an enduring partnership with Afghanistan; pursuing Afghan-led reconciliation; and putting together an international consensus to support peace and stability in the region. We will continue to work with both Afghanistan and Pakistan to move these efforts forward and build a more peaceful and secure future.


Marines with Scout Sniper Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6 exit a compound in Agha Ahmad, Afghanistan, Aug. 27, 2012. The Marines with Scout Sniper Platoon and their attachments stood in an over watch position to provide surveillance and gather intelligence on the enemy as part during Operation Helmand Viper.
Date Photo Taken, 8-27-2012 Unit: Regimental Combat Team 6
Photo ByLine, Cpl. Ed Galo

Allen: ISAF 'Absolutely Driven' to Reduce Insider Threat
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2012 - The threat of attacks on coalition service members by Afghan security forces is a complex problem that requires a comprehensive, integrated and combined response from coalition and Afghan officials, the commander of NATO'S International Security Assistance Force said in a written statement issued today.

"The challenges of the Afghan operating environment are many and countering this threat requires unwavering vigilance, close cooperation and a constant assessment of the situation," Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen said. "There is no one single solution or simple means to deal with the challenge posed by insider threats. But I can assure our friends and foes alike that I take this issue very seriously and my entire command is absolutely driven to do everything we can to reduce this threat."

Afghan security forces or attackers wearing Afghan uniforms have killed 45 ISAF service members this year.

"It's important for everyone to understand the work that is being done," Allen said in his statement. "There is a great deal of activity at all levels of ISAF, in our communications and coordination with the Afghan government, and in our military-to-military cooperation between the coalition and the Afghan national security forces."

The dedication to eradicating the threat runs from the highest levels of ISAF headquarters to every Afghan and coalition service member in Afghanistan's most remote corners, Allen said, noting that the attacks threaten both coalition and Afghan forces and require a coalition and Afghan solution.

The general noted he approved a delay in training about 1,000 new recruits for the Afghan Local Police program, in which villagers in remote areas of Afghanistan provide security in their communities with training from U.S. forces and under the auspices of Afghanistan's Interior Ministry and provincial chiefs of police. The training delay will free up resources to re-vet the 16,000 Afghans already serving as local police.

"This force is on the job today, working and achieving results alongside other Afghan and coalition forces," Allen added. "The immediate operational impact of this decision is that about 1,000 ALP recruits who have not yet entered in the training pipeline will be delayed for a relatively short time while the Afghan government, with coalition support, conducts the necessary checks to ensure we are doing all we can to protect our people."

Special Operations Joint Task Force Afghanistan, led by Army Maj. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, oversees Afghan Local Police training and recommended the delay, Allen said, noting he approved it in his capacity as commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

"Other subordinate commanders within ISAF and U.S. Forces Afghanistan are assessing the situations within their particular areas and for their specific missions," Allen said. "Through their combined efforts and inputs, overseen and coordinated at the highest level, we will be best positioned to defeat insider attacks. The entire coalition and our [Afghan] partners are moving as one toward that end."

The decision to delay ALP recruit training also helps maintain and reinforce the reputation of the Afghan Local Police as a legitimate, trained and properly overseen arm of Afghanistan's national security force at the local level, Allen said. "It supports the continuing ISAF and Afghan government's efforts to professionalize this force," he added.

The general dismissed recent allegations of reprisal killings by local police in Kanam in Kunduz province.

"There are no ALP forces serving in this area, yet these rumors gain credence in certain sectors because of inaccurate reporting and confusion of the ALP with unauthorized, illegitimate local militias that have long been a feature of local community life in Afghanistan, but which are now a comparatively rare phenomenon as the Afghan government extends its influence," he said.

The change to the training timeline applies only to the Afghan Local Police and does not affect the rest of Afghanistan's security forces, Allen emphasized. And it is only one of many recent actions taken to confront insider attacks, he said, adding that he has communicated frequently with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the issue.

"I have his personal assurance that the Afghan government and military are full partners in our efforts to eradicate this problem," Allen said. "My senior commanders and staff are also holding frequent meetings with representatives of the Afghan government and security forces at the national and local levels to coordinate further effective action."

The general stressed the need for the coalition, Afghan forces and the Afghan government to work together in meeting the challenges of insider threats.

"The problem of insider attacks hurts our Afghan partners as much as they hurts us, and like the battle for stability in Afghanistan, insider attacks are a problem that we are only going to solve through steadfast partnership," he said. And in the meantime, he added, every day provides examples of solid cooperation throughout Afghanistan.

"On any given day, the 350,000 members of the Afghan national security forces continue to relentlessly pressure the insurgency in every corner of this country," he said. "This includes 8,000 Afghan commandos and 3,000 Afghan National Army special operations forces, who recently themselves underwent intensive re-vetting without missing an operational step."

Similar efforts are occurring in other sectors of the Afghan security forces, he added. "This point is proof positive that we can do what we need to protect the force, in full partnership with the Afghan government and security forces, all while keeping unrelenting pressure on the insurgents," he said.

The general also outlined various steps being taken to deal with the insider threat:

-- The organization and execution of major conferences with top commanders and senior Afghan representatives;

-- A new executive oversight group of senior Afghan and coalition leaders to monitor, direct and drive threat mitigation initiatives, supported by a combined multi-agency working group whose only task is to tackle the insider threat problem.

-- Improvements to the vetting process for new Afghan recruits;

-- An increase in the number of counterintelligence teams in coalition and Afghan formations;

-- Helping the Afghan national security forces develop new procedures for Afghan National Army soldiers returning from leave;

-- An anonymous insider threat reporting system;

-- Enhancement of intelligence exchange between Afghan forces and the coalition; and

-- Establishment of a joint investigation commission to study incidents and to identify lessons and required actions.

"The sum total of our combined efforts will be that we are better protected," Allen said. "Central to success is maintaining and strengthening our bonds with our Afghan brothers and recognizing this is a threat directed at us all.

"Relentless pursuit of the enemy is a key line of operation, and this applies equally to the insider threat," he continued. "I can assure you that we will sustain our focus on this threat and we will constantly review, adapt and modify our arrangements to deliver maximum protection to our troops."



Resolves Antitrust Concerns and Preserves Competition in the Sale of Labels and Sticky Notes in the United States

WASHINGTON — 3M Co. abandoned its plan to acquire Avery Dennison Corp.’s Office and Consumer Products Group, its closest competitor in the sale of adhesive-backed labels and sticky notes, after the Department of Justice informed the companies that it would file a civil antitrust lawsuit to block the deal. The department said that the proposed acquisition would have substantially lessened competition in the sale of labels and sticky notes, resulting in higher prices and reduced innovation for products that millions of American consumers use every day.

On Dec. 21, 2011, 3M and Avery agreed that 3M would acquire Avery’s Office and Consumer Products Group, which includes Avery’s labels business, for approximately $550 million. The agreement specifically excluded some sticky notes assets, but left Avery without its brand or the sales and distribution system necessary to compete effectively in the sticky notes market.

"We welcome the companies’ decision to abandon this deal, which raised competitive concerns in the sale of labels and sticky notes," said Joseph Wayland, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. "As a result of the abandonment of this transaction, American customers will continue to receive the benefits of competition including lower prices and greater innovation in these basic office supplies."

The department’s investigation found that 3M and Avery have dominated adjacent spaces in the office products business for many years – Avery in labels and 3M in sticky notes sold under its Post-it Brand. 3M entered the labels market in the United States in 2009 and began competing with Avery. Avery responded to 3M’s entry by lowering wholesale prices, increasing promotions and customer rebates and accelerating innovations in labels. Avery also responded to 3M’s labels competition by selling Avery branded sticky notes. As a result of the competition between 3M and Avery for the sale of office products, customers have saved millions of dollars and benefited from innovative labels and sticky notes products, the department said.

The proposed merger would have given 3M more than an 80 percent share of both the U.S. labels and sticky notes markets, according to the department.

3M is a Delaware corporation based in Saint Paul, Minn. 3M had 2011 revenues of $27 billion, has operations in 65 countries, and is one of the world’s largest manufacturers and suppliers of office products, including tape, sticky notes, labels, flags and other office products. In 2011, 3M’s Office Supplies Division had world-wide sales of approximately $1.6 billion.

Avery Dennison is a Delaware corporation based in Pasadena, Calif. Avery had 2011 revenues of $6 billion and is a leading global manufacturer and supplier of office and consumer products, including labels, dividers, binders, note tabs, writing instruments and sticky notes. In 2011, Avery’s Office and Consumer Products Group had $765 million in world-wide sales.


Photo Credit:  EPA
Digging in beach sand linked to increased risk of gastrointestinal illness

People take certain precautions when they go to the beach. They apply sunscreen to avoid sunburn and stay away from big waves if they are not strong swimmers. But they do not usually worry about getting sick from digging or playing in the sand.

Unfortunately, beach sand could harbor even more harmful bacteria than nearby bathing waters. EPA researchers and their counterparts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Johns Hopkins University observed a positive relationship between sand exposure and gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses as a function of fecal microbial pollution in beach sand.

The study was published in the January 2012 issue of Epidemiology.

In one of the first studies to show this association, the researchers analyzed 144 wet sand samples collected from Fairhope Municipal Park Beach in Fairhope, AL, and Goddard Memorial State Park Beach in Warwick, RI. Both beaches are located less than 2 miles from a publicly owned waste treatment-works outfall. The researchers then tested the samples for bacterial indicators of fecal contamination, namely, Enterococcus, Bacteroidales, fecal Bacteroides, and Clostridium, as well as a viral indicator called F+ coliphage.The researchers also asked 4,999 people who visited these beaches about their contact with beach sand and their swimming behaviors and other beach activities. Approximately 2 weeks later, they called the participants and asked them about any diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and/or stomach ache that they and other members of their household may have experienced. Too, they asked about activities that might have taken place since the initial interview, such as going back to same beach, swimming in a pool, or eating raw or undercooked foods.

They found that, compared with beachgoers who did not dig in the sand, the adjusted odds ratio (OR) of illness among those who dug in the sand with the highest Enterococcus levels was 2.0 for GI illnesses and 2.4 for diarrhea (considered as a separate outcome). An OR of 1 implies that the event is equally likely to occur in both groups, and an OR of greater than 1 implies that the event is more likely to occur in the first group (those who dug in the sand).

The researchers also observed positive associations between Bacteroidales and diarrhea among those who reported digging in the sand and being buried in the sand. For Bacteroidales and other fecal indicators, being buried in the sand generally showed a somewhat stronger association with GI illness and diarrhea than did just digging in the sand.

The researchers noted that it is possible that the associations between sand contact and GI illness reflect exposure to contaminated water as well as sand. Teasing apart these effects is challenging because the study showed that very few people who played in sand had no recreational water contact. Eighty-one percent of swimmers versus 19% of nonswimmers reported digging in the sand, whereas 89% of swimmers versus 11% of nonswimmers reported being buried in it.

"We have known for some time that swimming in fecally contaminated water is a risk factor for gastrointestinal symptoms, but this is the first analysis to link these symptoms to measures of fecal contamination in sand," said EPA Environmental Public Health Division (EPHD) Epidemiology Branch Chief Timothy Wade Ph.D., senior author of the study. "The symptoms we observed are usually mild and should not deter people from enjoying the beach, but they should consider washing their hands or using a hand sanitizer after playing in the sand or water."

The study was led by EPA then predoctoral trainee Christopher Heaney, Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Other EPA researchers who participated in the study include EPHD health scientist and epidemiologist Elizabeth Sams, MSHSA, and Alfred Dufour of the National Exposure Research Laboratory in Cincinnati.



An aerial view shows damage to Wakuya, Japan, March 15, 2011, after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami devastated the area. Ships and aircraft from the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group are conducting search and rescue operations and re-supply missions to support Operation Tomodachi throughout northern Japan. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alexander Tidd

Registry to Provide Japan Response Radiation Info
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 2012 – Though no Defense Department personnel or their families were exposed to radiation causing adverse health conditions following the nuclear accident in Japan last year, the department has established a registry to provide information to those who served in the stricken country.

The March 11, 2011, earthquake and subsequent tsunami off the coast of Japan caused extensive damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and radiation leaked from the facility.

The Defense Department has established an Operation Tomodachi registry for the 70,000 U.S. service members, family members, DOD civilians and DOD contractors who were in Japan from March 12 to May 11, 2011, said Dr. Craig Postlewaite, DOD’s director for force readiness and health assurance.

"The concept of a registry evolved very soon after the crisis in Japan," the doctor said in an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service. "Initially, there was great emphasis placed on environmental monitoring, because we needed to monitor those levels to ensure that people weren’t adversely affected during the crisis."

Commanders used the monitoring information to assess whether to evacuate personnel. The monitoring data, plus a policy that required the services to report daily precisely where every service member was, enabled the department to establish the registry, he said. "We then had the capability to provide information on estimated doses of radiation" for each person, Postlewaite said.

The Operation Tomodachi registry is being built in a secure database in which all personal information is protected. The dosage estimates cover 13 different shore-based locations, U.S. Navy ships located off the mainland of Japan and aircrews. It also incorporates about 4,000 U.S. responders who were issued radiation dosimeters. "The registry will be finished this calendar year," Postlewaite said.

In addition to the registry, DOD is building a companion website to the registry. Individuals cannot be identified on the website, but people can click on a map to determine the exposures in a specific prefecture, base or area for those who spent most of their time on mainland Japan in the timeframe the registry covers. The website also has information on radiation doses from a medical standpoint.

The doses and other information in the registry and on the website have been peer-reviewed and agree with information provided by national and international groups – including the World health organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Dr. Paul Blake, a senior health physicist at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at Fort Belvoir, Va. Blake also serves as the Operation Tomodachi co-chair for the dose assessment and recording working group.

The radiation release from the nuclear plant came in two types, the doctor said. "One was the shorter-lived radioactive iodines," Blake said. "If you inhale it or ingest it, it has the tendency to collect in your thyroid in your neck. We needed to look at the health risk associated with that."

The other health risk is radioactive cesium. "Cesium can have a half-life of 30 years, so it is still over there in Japan," he said.

So from a health risk viewpoint, DOD officials looked at a dose to the thyroid and a dose to the whole body, and "that’s how we prepared the dose assessment for our shore facilities," he said.

"Both the thyroid and whole body doses are significantly lower than the occupational limits that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission provides for this country," he added.

What people were doing was as important as where they were, Blake said. "The Marines, for instance, did a lot of humanitarian efforts. When you are out there pushing hard and sweating, you are drinking a lot more water, [and] you are breathing a lot harder," he explained. "We needed to take into account radionuclides would enter the body at a faster rate than someone doing a more sedentary [job]."

Sex and age made a difference in the assessments also. Absorption of radionuclides changes depending on a person’s gender and age.

Officials also are concerned about children. "They can be more sensitive, because they are still growing," Blake said. "Fortunately, our children were fairly far back from the actual source. The doses they received were safe."


Photo Credit:  CIA.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nathan Pontious reads his Pashtu-to-English dictionary, Aug. 24, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Timothy Lenzo

Face of Defense: Marine Breaks Down Language, Cultural Barriers

By Marine Corps Cpl. Timothy Lenzo
Regional Command Southwest

PATROL BASE DETROIT, Afghanistan, Sept. 5, 2012 - The Marines are down but not out. The late afternoon sun beats on them, and one Marine wipes sweat from his eyes. Across from them, their opponents smile, seemingly sensing the outcome. With the Olympics fresh in their minds, this is not simply a volleyball game. This is a matter of national pride. Then it happens: a questionable call. Is it a point for the Afghan soldiers on one side of the net, or is it the Marines' serve? Hand gestures and facial expressions are not enough to explain the concerns of both teams.

Then a Marine steps in, turns to the Afghan soldier and begins pleading the Marines' case. The only catch is that unlike the others, he is not speaking English and using over dramatic hand gestures. He is speaking Pashtu, the Afghan soldiers' native language.

For Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nathan Pontious, a rifleman with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6, the ability to speak Pashtu helps to build relationships with Afghan soldiers and local residents.

"It really helps when we are patrolling and we run into a family," Pontious said. "When they see I can speak their language, it usually puts them at ease. We have that common ground, and we can build off it."

Pontious' platoon has two interpreters, but has three squads. This means when the entire platoon patrols, one squad usually is left without an interpreter.

"It's huge having someone like Pontious, who's a Marine but can also speak Pashtu," said Marine Corps Sgt. Jason Lomeli, Pontious' squad leader. "The other day we had to roll out, and the [platoon commander] asked if I was good without an [interpreter]. I responded, 'Of course I'm good -- I have Pontious.'"

Pontious' skills often help to mitigate potentially damaging relations with local Afghans. He explains to the head of the household what the Marines are doing and why they are there, and he reassures the family.

But Pontious said what he really enjoys is the part of speaking Pashtu that isn't work-related.

"I love talking to the children," the Effingham, Ill., native said. "They are really funny, and I love giving them water or candy and watching their smiles."

Even when his squad returns from patrols, Pontious' ability to bridge the language barrier is put to good use. His platoon works closely with Afghan soldiers with 1st Kandak, 1st Brigade, 215th Corps.

Pontious often talks to the Afghan soldiers, trading with them and planning volleyball games.

"We work together like brothers," said Capt. Aziz Mohammad, commander of the Afghan army's 3rd Tolai, 1st Kandak, 1st Brigade, 215th Corps.

Pontious attended a three-month language school to learn Pashtu before deploying to Afghanistan, attending grammar classes in the morning and cultural classes in the afternoon. He graduated third in a class of more than 200 students and the highest of any Marine in his battalion.

Before going to the school, Pontious said, he had developed a reputation as a troublemaker and couldn't seem to shake the misconceptions about him.

"When I first arrived, some of the other leaders warned me about Pontious, saying he might cause issues," explained Lomeli, from Riverdale, Ill. "I think Pontious was misunderstood. He does everything I ask of him and more, and he's a great asset to the squad."

Pontious used his poor reputation as motivation during language school. He volunteered to attend the class, he said, because he learned French easily in high school.

"Honestly, I had some doubters when I left for the course," Pontious said. "I wanted to prove them wrong, and I ended up getting an A in the course."

He also keeps his language skills sharp, practicing with a textbook he brought to Afghanistan and asking the interpreters questions. He also uses a Pashtu-to-English dictionary he received from an Afghan soldier. "That helped a lot," Pontious said. "I take it with me every time we go out."

Back on the volleyball court, Pontious finishes pleading his case. His explanation seems to satisfy his Afghan counterparts, at least for this point, and within moments the Marines and Afghans are playing again.

"I really think I'm helping to change the perception of Marines [for] the people of Afghanistan," Pontious said. "I think they see the effort I've put in to learn their language and their culture, and I think they appreciate it."