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Saturday, September 15, 2012


Photo Credit:  NASA
New York City on September 11, 2001
Visible from space, a smoke plume rises from the Manhattan area after two planes crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center. This photo was taken of metropolitan New York City (and other parts of New York as well as New Jersey) the morning of September 11, 2001. "Our prayers and thoughts go out to all the people there, and everywhere else," said Station Commander Frank Culbertson of Expedition 3, after the terrorists' attacks.

World Trade Center After 9-11 Attack.  Credit:  U.S. Navy  

The following day, he posted a public letter that captured his initial thoughts of the events as they unfolded. "The world changed today. What I say or do is very minor compared to the significance of what happened to our country today when it was attacked."

Upon further reflection, Culbertson said, "It's horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own country from such a fantastic vantage point. The dichotomy of being on a spacecraft dedicated to improving life on the earth and watching life being destroyed by such willful, terrible acts is jolting to the psyche, no matter who you are."




NATO Military Chiefs Discuss Afghanistan, Transformation
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

SIBIU, Romania, Sept. 15, 2012 - NATO chiefs of defense are fleshing out the post-2014 role for alliance forces in Afghanistan while planning how the alliance will reshape itself to face future threats during a meeting of the Military Committee here today.

The plan, agreed to at the Chicago Summit in May, calls for NATO to continue to train and support Afghan national security forces after the NATO combat mission ends in December 2014.

"The new NATO mission will not be ISAF with another name," said Danish Army Gen. Knud Bartels, the chairman of the committee. "It will be about making sure that the Afghans have the skills to do the job, and not about NATO doing that job for them." Bartels spoke at a news conference following the meeting.

The committee, which includes Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, heard from Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, via video-teleconference.

Allen told the committee there is no denying there has been security progress in the country. He said Afghan forces are getting stronger and more confident and that Afghan forces are "genuinely" in the lead.

Afghan security forces will reach 352,000 members in the next few weeks, Bartels said, and they are making qualitative progress as well. Afghan forces now have the lead for protecting 75 percent of the Afghan population, Bartels said.

There are 27 months until the ISAF mission ends, and Bartels expects hard fighting in the future. NATO and coalition forces will continue to work with and train Afghan forces during that time, he said. Then the new alliance training, advising and assisting mission will begin. The chiefs of defense are planning for the enduring NATO commitment to Afghanistan.

The committee meeting here will inform alliance political leaders of the requirements in Afghanistan post-2014.

"This is a process that will engage all troop-contributing nations, which of course is based on the strategy," Bartels said. "At this stage there is no capping or ceiling or description for what the contingent will be. But it will be a totally different mission than ISAF, and will be a train and assist mission of supporting the Afghans in supporting their own country."

Bartels also addressed the problem of the insider threat. The chiefs are "cooperatively and individually looking at all possible steps to minimize the insider threat, even though we will never be able to eliminate it completely," he said.

"We are moving ahead steadily on this issue," Bartels said, "and it is definitely our perception that it will not derail the strategy that was ... confirmed in Chicago."

The Romanian host of the meeting, Air Force Lt. Gen. Stefan Danila, said his country will participate in the post-2014 mission in Afghanistan, but he could not name the size of the contingent. Romania currently has around 1,800 troops in Afghanistan.

The NATO chiefs also looked at the way the nations can support alliance transformation and put in place the "smart defense" policy agreed to in Chicago. This is necessary, Bartels said, because the alliance must maintain interoperability and must change with the times.

Transformation does not have a start and end date, he said, and planners will keep pushing "so the alliance can face any threat in the future."


Map Credit:  CIA World Factbook 


ISAF Troops Defeat Camp Bastion Attackers

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 15, 2012 - Nearly 20 insurgents infiltrated the perimeter of Camp Bastion in Helmand province, Afghanistan, yesterday and attacked International Security Assistance Force personnel and facilities using small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and suicide improvised explosive device vests, military officials reported.

The attack, which began yesterday shortly after 10 p.m., killed two ISAF service members, wounded several and caused damage to multiple aircraft and structures along the base's flight line, officials said.

ISAF forces reacted to the assault, returned fire, and killed all but one of the known insurgents, defeating the attack, officials said. The remaining wounded insurgent attacker is in ISAF custody and is being treated in a medical facility.

Camp Bastion is currently secure, officials said. ISAF personnel cleared the large base of attackers early today.

ISAF is in the process of fully assessing damages to aircraft and structures on the installation's airfield, officials said.

However, ISAF has determined that despite the damage, there will be no impact to ground or air operations from Camp Bastion, officials said.

An investigation is ongoing.


EPA Adds 12 Hazardous Waste Sites to Superfund’s National Priorities List

Eight Other Sites Proposed To Be Added
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is adding 12 new hazardous waste sites that pose public health and environmental risks to the National Priorities List (NPL) for cleanup under the Superfund program. EPA is also proposing to add another eight sites to the list.

Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country. For each of the 20 sites announced today, EPA has received letters of concurrence from state officials supporting the NPL listing.

"Cleaning up contamination is vitally important to the health of America’s communities," said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. "Putting clean land back into productive use leads to increases in property values, generates new jobs and creates a stronger local economy that will strengthen these communities for years to come."

Since 1983, 1,676 sites have been listed on the NPL. Of these sites, 360 sites have been cleaned up resulting in 1,316 sites currently on the NPL (including the 12 sites added today). There are 54 proposed sites (including the eight announced today) awaiting final agency action.

Contaminants found at the sites include acetone, arsenic, benzene, cadmium, chromium, copper, dichloroethene (DCE), hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), pentachlorophenol (PCP), trichloroethane (TCA), trichloroethylene (TCE), xylene and zinc.

With all NPL sites, EPA works to identify companies or people responsible for the contamination at a site, and requires them to conduct or pay for the cleanup. For the newly listed sites without viable potentially responsible parties, EPA will investigate the full extent of the contamination before starting significant cleanup at the site. Therefore, it may be several years before significant EPA clean up funding is required for these sites.

The following 12 sites have been added to the National Priorities List:

• Alabama Plating Company, Inc. (former electroplater) in Vincent, Ala.
• Cedar Chemical Corporation (former chemical manufacturer) in West Helena, Ark.
• Fairfax St. Wood Treaters (former wood treating operation) in Jacksonville, Fla.
• Bautsch-Gray Mine (former lead and zinc mine) in Galena, Ill.
• EVR-Wood Treating/Evangeline Refining Company (former wood treating operation) in Jennings, La.
• Leeds Metal (abandoned scrap metal facility) in Leeds, Maine
• Holcomb Creosote Co (former wood treating operation) in Yadkinville, N.C.
• Orange Valley Regional Ground Water Contamination (contaminated ground water plume) in Orange/West Orange, N.J.
• Peters Cartridge Factory (former ammunition manufacturer) in Kings Mills, Ohio
• West Troy Contaminated Aquifer (contaminated ground water plume) in Troy, Ohio
• Circle Court Ground Water Plume (contaminated ground water plume) in Willow Park, Texas
• U.S. Oil Recovery (former used oil recovery operation) in Pasadena, Texas

The following eight sites have been proposed for addition to the National Priorities List:

• Pike and Mulberry Streets PCE Plume (former dry cleaner) in Martinsville, Ind.
• Former United Zinc & Associated Smelters (former zinc smelter) in Iola, Kan.
• Creese & Cook Tannery (former tannery and finishing facility) in Danvers, Mass.
• Walton & Lonsbury Inc. (former chrome plating operation) in Attelboro, Mass.
• Matlack, Inc. (former chemical transportation business) in Woolwich Township, N.J.
• Riverside Industrial Park (former paint manufacturer) in Newark, N.J.
• Clinch River Corporation (former pulp and paper mill) in Harriman, Tenn.
• 700 South 1600 East PCE Plume (ground water plume) in Salt Lake City, Utah

EPA is also withdrawing its earlier proposal to add the Evergreen Manor Ground Water Contamination site in Winnebago County, Illinois to the NPL because remedial action has been completed. Affected residences have been connected to the public water supply, a county ordinance is in place which restricts the installation of private wells in the affected area, and contaminants of concern have remained below cleanup standards since 2006.



1957 - The last F-51 Mustang in squadron service with the Air Force is retired from the West Virginia Air National Guard to serve as a museum piece at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, 27 January 1957.


A U.S. Air Force airman keeps an eye out for role players portraying enemy fighters after he and his team members participated in a mock ambush during a route-clearance mission for an exercise in Thetford, England, Sept. 4, 2012. The airman is assigned to the 100th Security Forces Squadron, based at Royal Air Force Base Mildenhall, England. U.S. Air Force photo by Karen Abeyasekere

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Bobby Heimovitz fires a .50-caliber machine gun at an MK-25 smoke target in the Atlantic Ocean, Sept. 5, 2012. Heimovitz is a naval aircrewman helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 9. The squadron is under way with the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman to support carrier qualifications. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mick DiMestico

Steven Peace, a U.S. Navy veteran and U.S. Paralympic road cyclist, rides past fans while negotiating a hill as he completes the first of three laps for the 24-kilometer road race during the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Sept. 8, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.

   U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Patrick McCall, left, receives a high five from an Afghan boy during a security patrol in the Sangin district of Afghanistan's Helmand province, Sept. 6, 2012. McCall is a rifleman assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jason Morrison


Statement on Iran

Press Statement

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

Washington, DC
September 14, 2012
The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and has pursued a dual-track policy to do so. Yesterday, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors overwhelmingly adopted a resolution that clearly reflects the international community’s concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Iran must take concrete steps to address those concerns. Iran must cooperate fully and immediately with the IAEA on all outstanding issues. We welcome the resolve of the international community to make clear the onus is on Iran to abide by its international obligations, honor its commitments to the IAEA, and prove that its intentions are peaceful.

The international community is also determined to make significant cuts to Iranian oil revenue, which funds not only the nuclear program but Iran’s support for terror and destabilizing actions in the region and around the world. I am pleased to announce that Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom have again qualified for an exception to sanctions outlined in Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, as amended (NDAA), based on reductions in the volume of their crude oil purchases from Iran.

As of July 1, the European Union implemented a full ban on Iranian crude oil and petroleum products, strengthening the comprehensive measures it has taken to hold Iran accountable for its failure to comply with its international nuclear obligations. Japan has also taken significant steps to reduce its crude oil purchases, which is especially notable considering the extraordinary energy challenges it has faced in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. As a result, I will report to the Congress that the exception to sanctions pursuant to Section 1245 of the NDAA will apply to the financial institutions based in these countries for a renewable period of 180 days.

These renewed exceptions result from our extensive cooperation with the international community since the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, reducing Iran’s oil revenues and isolating its Central Bank from the international financial system. We have brought significant pressure to bear on the Iranian regime, and we will continue to work with our partners to ratchet up the pressure on Iran to meet its international obligations.



Peter Hemmer's poster highlights the Defense Department's participation in National Hispanic Heritage Month. Graphic courtesy of the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute 
DOD Artist Creates Hispanic Heritage Month Poster
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2012 - When artist Peter Hemmer channeled his creative process to produce a poster highlighting the Defense Department's participation in this year's National Hispanic Heritage Month, he knew he wanted a one-of-a-kind design.

"I wanted to find something bright, colorful and vibrant," said Hemmer, an illustrator with the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.

"Every observance has challenges built into it," Hemmer said, noting he wanted this year's Hispanic Heritage Month poster to be different and interesting.

Hemmer said he didn't want to repeat what's been done in years past, or produce a poster "that's so specific, it alienates certain subgroups of that ethnic group."

He conferred with DEOMI research editor Dawn Smith to develop ideas for the Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 observance, which is themed, "Diversity United, Building America's Future Today."

The consistent factor Hemmer and Smith found in different Hispanic cultures was vibrant colors, they said.

"In the Hispanic population, some other strong qualities are embracing their past, family, celebration and tradition," Smith added.

And through her research for the culturally diverse observance, Smith found a common theme among the many Hispanic cultures: the traditional dress.

"She brought out some pictures of Latina dresses for fiestas, and I was struck by them," Hemmer said. "The more I looked at them, the more I thought about abstract shapes that showed motion. It came together fairly quickly."

In just two days, he said, he was finished with his acrylic abstract creation.

"My thought was that [the observance] encompasses such a huge group of people," Smith said, "we wanted to make sure we used something that spoke to the entire population of Hispanic Americans."

"Observances are designed to enhance cross-cultural awareness for harmony among all our military members, their families and our civilian work force," said Bryan Ripple, DEOMI public affairs officer.

Taking a bit of artistic license, Hemmer felt the poster should embrace the word "American" for Hispanic U.S. citizens.

"Although Hispanic people come from several different countries in the world, we honor them as valued American citizens," Ripple said of the poster's inclusion of the word "American."

"What I like about Pete's posters is they cause you to stop and look at them and contemplate what he's trying to do with his artwork," Ripple said, adding that the poster is made available to all federal government agencies.

An illustrator with DEOMI for more than 11 years, Hemmer said he often uses mixed media to design his creations, from paint and photography to sculpture and calligraphy.

Hemmer's work has become so popular, that DEOMI dedicated a "Diversity Hall" to display 53 framed pieces of his work -- each one measuring 30 inches by 40 inches, Ripple said.

"Doing this job is wonderful for me to be able to use my talent -- not only to create art, but to create art that's useful to other people and furthers DEOMI's mission," Hemmer said. "That's worth something."


Thursday, September 6, 2012
Massachusetts Tax Fraud Promoter Sentenced to Prison for Conspiracy to Obstruct and Impede the IRS

A federal judge in Worcester, Mass., sentenced William Scott Dion today to 84 months in prison for conspiring to defraud the United States, and for obstructing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Justice Department and IRS announced. U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor also ordered Dion to pay restitution in the amount of $3 million.

On April 2, 2012, a federal jury convicted Dion and Catherine Floyd, both of Sanbornville, N.H., and Charles Adams, of Norwood, Mass., for conspiracies to defraud the United States through the promotion and use of multiple tax fraud schemes. The jury convicted all three of conspiracy to defraud the IRS by promoting an "under the table" payroll scheme. Dion and Floyd were also convicted for conspiracy to defraud the IRS through the use of an "underground warehouse banking" scheme designed to conceal customer income and assets from the IRS. Floyd and Dion were also convicted separately for corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the IRS’s ability to determine their own income. Adams was separately convicted of tax evasion.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Dion, Floyd and Adams ran a payroll tax scheme in order to pay employees "under the table" without properly accounting for, withholding, and paying over to the IRS the payroll taxes required by law. The three promoted the payroll scheme to employers and individuals who wanted to avoid payment of employer payroll taxes and individual payroll taxes. The three ran the payroll scheme under three different names: Contract America, Talent Management and New Way Enterprises. Approximately 150 individuals subscribed to the payroll scheme and in excess of $2.5 million in unreported wages and compensation were paid through the system.

The evidence at trial also established that Dion and Floyd conspired to defraud the United States by promoting and operating an "underground warehouse banking" scheme which helped subscribers conceal income and assets from the IRS. According to the evidence, the warehouse scheme operated under three different names: Your Virtual Office, Office Services and Calico Management. As part of the warehouse banking scheme, the defendants maintained accounts at several banks and used the accounts to deposit and commingle business receipts and other funds received from subscribers in order to mask the true ownership of the funds. According to evidence presented at trial, more than $28 million in deposits were made into the various bank accounts used in the scheme.

In August 2009, the three defendants were indicted with four other individuals relating to the promotion and use of these schemes. On Dec. 9, 2011, prior to trial, Gail and Myron Thorick of West Warwick, R.I., pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States by helping operate the "warehouse banking" scheme, and for filing false tax returns. On that same date, Gary Alcock pleaded guilty to conspiracy by using the payroll scheme, as well as to tax evasion and willful failure to file tax returns. On Jan. 24, 2012, Kenneth Scott Alcock pleaded guilty to conspiracy relating to the payroll scheme and to one count of tax evasion. All four defendants are awaiting sentencing.

Kathryn Keneally, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Tax Division, and Carmen M. Ortiz, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, commended the efforts of special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, who investigated the case, Tax Division Assistant Chief John N. Kane, former Tax Division Trial Attorney Jeffrey L. Shih, Assistant U.S. Attorney Victor A. Wild, who prosecuted the case.


Top U.S. Officials Honor Americans Who Died in Libya
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2012 - As they touched down for the last time on U.S. soil, four Americans killed during attacks this week at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, were honored with eulogies today by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In the audience at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland included Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice, former Secretary of State and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin L. Powell, as well as many other top military, State Department and civilian officials, and family members of the fallen patriots.

In four flag-draped caskets, each carried from a C-17 aircraft and into a large hangar by seven Marines, were the remains of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service information management officer Sean Smith, and security officers Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty.

The Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi also wounded three Americans who are recovering at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

At the ceremony, Clinton spoke first, commenting on the life of each State Department hero.

"Today," she said, "we bring home four Americans who gave their lives for our country and our values. To the families of our fallen colleagues I offer our most heartfelt condolences and deepest gratitude."

Sean Smith, who joined the State Department after six years in the Air Force, was respected as a technology expert by colleagues in Pretoria, South Africa, Baghdad, Montreal, and The Hague in the Netherlands. He enrolled in correspondence courses at Pennsylvania State University and had high hopes for the future, Clinton said.

"Sean leaves behind a loving wife, Heather; two young children, Samantha and Nathan; and scores of grieving family, friends and colleagues," she said.

"And that's just in this world," the secretary added, "because online, in the virtual worlds that Sean helped create, he is also being mourned by countless competitors, collaborators and gamers who shared his passion."

Clinton said Tyrone Woods, known by friends as Rone, spent 20 years as a Navy SEAL, serving multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and later earning distinction as a registered nurse and a certified paramedic.

"Since 2010 he protected American diplomatic personnel in dangerous posts from Central America to the Middle East," she said. "Our hearts go out to Tyrone's wife Dorothy and his three sons, Tyrone Jr., Hunter and Kai, born just a few months ago, and to his grieving family, friends and colleagues."

Glen Doherty, called Bub by his friends, also was a former SEAL and an experienced paramedic, the secretary said, who died as he lived -- serving his country and protecting his colleagues.

"Glen deployed to some of the most dangerous places on earth, including Iraq and Afghanistan, always putting his life on the line to safeguard other Americans," Clinton said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Glen's father, Bernard; his mother, Barbara; his brother, Gregory; his sister, Kathleen and their grieving families, friends and colleagues, the secretary added.

Clinton said she was honored to know Ambassador Chris Stevens.

"I want to thank his parents and siblings who are here today for sharing Chris with us and with our country. What a wonderful gift you gave us," she told them.

During a distinguished career in the Foreign Service, Clinton said, Stevens won friends for the United States around the world and made their hopes his own.

"During the revolution in Libya, he risked his life to help protect the Libyan people from a tyrant, and he gave his life helping them build a better country," the secretary added.

People loved to work with Chris, who was "known not only for his courage but for his smile -- goofy but contagious -- [and] for his sense of fun and that California cool," she said, referring to his home in the northern part of the state.

In the days since the attack, so many Libyans have expressed sorrow and solidarity, the secretary said.

"One young woman, her head covered and her eyes haunted with sadness, held up a handwritten sign that said: 'Thugs and killers don't represent Benghazi nor Islam,'" Clinton said.

"The president of the Palestinian Authority, who worked closely with Chris when he served in Jerusalem, sent me a letter remembering his energy and integrity, and deploring, and I quote, 'an act of ugly terror,'" she added.

Others from across the Middle East and North Africa have offered similar sentiments, the secretary said.

"This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We've seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of these brave men. We've seen rage and violence directed at American Embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with," she said.

It's hard for Americans to make sense of these events because the events are senseless and unacceptable, Clinton added, referring to multiple protests at U.S. Embassies over a film posted on the Internet that insults the Prophet Mohammed.

In response, protestors also have swarmed the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia and the German Embassy in Sudan, and the State Department website has posted travel alerts advising caution because of possible demonstrations for anyone visiting U.S. Embassies in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Jakarta, Indonesia.

"The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob," Clinton said. "Reasonable people and responsible leaders in these countries need to do everything they can to restore security and hold accountable those behind these violent acts."

More difficult days lie ahead, she added, "but it is important that we don't lose sight of the fundamental fact that America must keep leading the world. We owe it to these four men to continue the long, hard work of diplomacy."

As he took the podium, Obama quoted Scripture as teaching that, "'Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.'" And he said a few words about each of the Americans who died in Libya.

"Four Americans, four patriots," the president said. "They loved this country and they chose to serve it and served it well. They had a mission and they believed in it. They knew the danger and they accepted it."

Obama added, "I know that this awful loss -- terrible images of recent days, the pictures we're seeing again today -- have caused some to question this work, and there is no doubt these are difficult days."

In such incidents of anger and violence, he said, even the most hopeful must wonder.

"But amid all the images of this week I also think of the Libyans who took to the streets with homemade signs expressing their gratitude to an American who believed in what we could achieve together," the president said.

"I think of the man in Benghazi with his sign in English," Obama said. "A message he wanted all of us to hear. It said, 'Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans. Chris Stevens was a friend.'"

That message is one each American sends every day, he added, that America is a friend.

"Even as voices of suspicion and mistrust seek to divide countries and cultures from one another, the United States of America will never retreat from the world," the president said.

Americans will never stop working for the dignity and freedom that every person deserves, whatever their creed or faith, he added.

"That's the essence of American leadership. That's the spirit that sets us apart from other nations. This was their work in Benghazi and this is the work we will carry on," the president said.

The sacrifice of Doherty, Woods, Smith and Stevens will never be forgotten, he added.

"We will bring to justice those who took them from us," Obama said. "We will stand fast against the violence on our diplomatic missions. We will continue to do everything in our power to protect Americans serving overseas, whether that means increasing security at our diplomatic posts, working with host countries ... and making it clear that justice will come to those who harm Americans."


Map Credit:  U.S. State Department
Ex-Im Bank Chairman Concludes China Business Development Trip

Chongqing, China – Fred P. Hochberg, the chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank), led a business-development mission in China this week where he met with local officials and identified new business opportunities for American companies. Hochberg traveled to Beijing, Chengdu, Tianjin, and Chongqing.

“China is a dynamic market, and there are enormous opportunities for American businesses to sell to Chinese customers,” said Hochberg. “Over the next several years, China is expected to make significant infrastructure investments, and U.S. companies, workers, and products should be involved in those projects.”

While in China, Hochberg met with leading business organizations, including members of AmCham Southwest China and PCH International. Hochberg also held meetings with Vice Governor Gan Li, Mayor Ge Honglin, Mayor Huang Qifan, and Party Secretary Zhang Dejiang.

Ex-Im Bank’s volume is increasing in China. In FY'12 year-to-date, the Bank has authorized $1.2 billion in financing for Chinese companies that purchased U.S. goods and services, up from $586 million in FY’11. As of July 2012, China ranked fourth in new authorizations for Ex-Im Bank.

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.


110319-N-XO436-136 MEDITERRANEAN SEA (March. 19, 2011) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn on March 19, 2011. This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines that targeted about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn is the U.S. Africa Command task force established to provide operational and tactical command and control of U.S. military forces supporting the international response to the unrest in Libya and enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1973. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman/Released)

110329-N-XO436-010 MEDITERRANEAN SEA (March 29, 2011) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) launches a Tomahawk cruise missile to support Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn. Odyssey Dawn is the U.S. Africa Command task force established to provide operational and tactical command and control of U.S. military forces supporting the international response to the unrest in Libya and enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1973. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman/Released)

Friday, September 14, 2012


El Salvador Independence Day

Press Statement

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

Washington, DC
September 13, 2012
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of El Salvador as you celebrate your independence this September 15.

This is a time for Salvadorans across the globe to rejoice in your proud heritage and vibrant culture. With more than two and a half million Salvadorans living in the United States, the rich tapestry of Salvadoran culture is woven closely into American society. This year, on the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Chapultepec Accords, we can also reflect on the progress your nation has made in consolidating democracy and building a more secure and prosperous future.

The United States and El Salvador share a commitment to realizing your country's aspirations of inclusive economic growth, safe and resilient communities, and expanded opportunities, particularly for young people. The American people stand with you as partners and friends as you build a brighter future for generations of Salvadorans to come.

The United States established diplomatic relations with El Salvador in 1863 following its independence from Spain and the later dissolution of a federation of Central American states. Post-independence, the country saw a mix of revolutions, democracy, and a 1980-1992 civil war. The United States and El Salvador share a strong commitment to democracy, rule of law, and inclusive economic development. Ties are further enriched by 1.6 million Salvadorans who call the United States home.

El Salvador is a key partner in efforts to dampen the threats posed by transnational criminal organizations and gangs. The country has been a strong, durable partner on security and defense issues. However, endemic crime and impunity threaten El Salvador's progress by undermining the legitimacy of state institutions and impeding economic growth. U.S. policy toward El Salvador promotes the strengthening of El Salvador's democratic institutions, rule of law, judicial reform, national reconciliation and reconstruction, and economic opportunity and growth. Through the Partnership for Growth, the two countries are committed to working closely to boost economic prosperity and create a safer, more prosperous, and more democratic future for all their citizens.

U.S. Assistance to El Salvador

El Salvador is one of four countries worldwide selected to participate in the Partnership for Growth initiative. A joint U.S.-El Salvador multidisciplinary team identified the two most critical constraints to economic growth: crime and insecurity; and low productivity in tradables. The governments of El Salvador and the United States subsequently identified 20 goals in a 5-year Joint Country Action Plan to work in partnership with local organizations, the private sector, and other donors. As part of this effort, the majority of U.S. assistance for El Salvador will be aligned to support of the Joint Country Action Plan.

Bilateral Economic Relations

The United States and El Salvador are parties to the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), 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. More than 300 U.S. companies have established either a permanent commercial presence in El Salvador or work through representative offices in the country. U.S. exports to El Salvador include agricultural products, oil, machinery, knit crocheted fabrics, and low-value and donated relief articles. U.S. imports from El Salvador include apparel, agricultural products, and gold. Remittances from Salvadorans working in the United States are an important source of income for many families in El Salvador.

El Salvador's Membership in International Organizations

El Salvador 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, Inter-American Development Bank, and World Trade Organization.


Photo:  Libyan Desert..  Credit:  CIA
Statement on the Deaths of Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty in Benghazi, Libya
Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

Washington, DC
September 13, 2012
The attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya on Tuesday claimed the lives of four Americans. Yesterday, I spoke about two: Ambassador Chris Stevens and Information Management Officer Sean Smith. Today, we also recognize the two security personnel who died helping protect their colleagues. Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty were both decorated military veterans who served our country with honor and distinction. Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest gratitude are with their families and friends. Our embassies could not carry on our critical work around the world without the service and sacrifice of brave people like Tyrone and Glen.

Tyrone’s friends and colleagues called him "Rone," and they relied on his courage and skill, honed over two decades as a Navy SEAL. In uniform, he served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2010, he protected American diplomatic personnel in dangerous posts from Central America to the Middle East. He had the hands of a healer as well as the arm of a warrior, earning distinction as a registered nurse and certified paramedic. All our hearts go out to Tyrone’s wife Dorothy and his three sons, Tyrone Jr., Hunter, and Kai, who was born just a few months ago.

We also grieve for Glen Doherty, called Bub, and his family: his father Bernard, his mother Barbara, his brother Gregory, and his sister Kathleen. Glen was also a former Navy SEAL and an experienced paramedic. And he put his life on the line many times, protecting Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hotspots. In the end, he died the way he lived – with selfless honor and unstinting valor.

We condemn the attack that took the lives of these heroes in the strongest terms, and we are taking additional steps to safeguard American embassies, consulates, and citizens around the world. This violence should shock the conscience of people of all faiths and traditions. We appreciate the statements of support that have poured in from across the region and beyond. People of conscience and goodwill everywhere must stand together in these difficult days against violence, hate, and division.

I am enormously proud of the men and women who risk their lives every day in the service of our country and our values. They help make the United States the greatest force for peace, progress, and human dignity that the world has ever known. We honor the memory of our fallen colleagues by continuing their work and carrying on the best traditions of a bold and generous nation.

West Wing Week: 09/14/12 or "Eleven" | The White House

West Wing Week: 09/14/12 or "Eleven" | The White House

The Affordable Care Act - Strengthening Medicare | The White House

The Affordable Care Act - Strengthening Medicare | The White House

Shinseki delivers remarks at Warrior Assembly Symposium

Shinseki delivers remarks at Warrior Assembly Symposium

Army scientists develop deployable renewable energy solutions


Pentagon Deploys Security Team to Libya
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has authorized deployment of a Marine Corps fleet anti-terrorism security team to Libya to protect U.S. citizens there and to secure the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.

During a Pentagon news conference, Little said Panetta strongly condemns the recent attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in the Middle East.

"The secretary extends his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and to the entire State Department family," Little said. "The department has been working with the White House and State Department to provide resources to support the security of U.S. personnel and facilities in Libya."

Little said the Defense Department supported the evacuation of American personnel and casualties out of Libya and is supporting the repatriation of the remains of the four State Department personnel, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who were killed in the attack late Tuesday on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey also have worked over the past 48 hours with combatant commanders throughout the region to conduct reviews of their force postures, he said. They also are working "to ensure that we have the flexibility to respond to requests for assistance or orders as directed by the president of the United States," he added.

Little said the focus of the Defense Department is now on supporting whole-of-government efforts to provide security to American personnel in Libya and elsewhere, working closely with the State Department, "and then supporting any efforts that we may be called upon to assist in the effort to, as the president said, 'deliver justice.'"

"The FBI and Department of Justice have opened an investigation into this tragic event," Little said. "Obviously, we will cooperate fully if called upon to support their investigation.

"Rest assured that this department is going to work very closely with our interagency partners to help investigate [and], if we're called upon, to assist," he continued. "And we will play our part in getting to the root of what happened."

Die Europäische Space Elevator Challenge geht in die zweite Runde

Die Europäische Space Elevator Challenge geht in die zweite Runde


Map Credit:  CIA World Factbook.
DOD Sends Marine Team to U.S. Embassy in Yemen
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2012 - A Marine Corps fleet antiterrorism security team, called a "FAST team" is now on the ground in Yemen to help with security at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.

This is the second FAST team, consisting of about 50 Marines, authorized by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to bolster security at U.S. diplomatic installations in the past two days.

The first team was sent to Libya after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed four State Department employees, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens.

The FAST platoon was dispatched, Little told reporters here, "partly in response to events over the past two days at our embassy in Yemen, but it's also in part a precautionary measure."

Protests began earlier this week in Libya and at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo over what was reportedly an American-produced film posted on the Internet considered insulting to the Prophet Mohammed. Since then, there have been reports of protests in other countries in the Middle East, including at the U.S. embassy in Tunisia and the German Embassy in Sudan.

Travel alerts posted on the State Department website are advising Americans to exercise caution because of possible demonstrations elsewhere, including in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Jakarta, Indonesia.

About ongoing protests in Cairo at the U.S. Embassy there, Little said "the situation hasn't to this point necessitated a change in security posture. Naturally, we stand ready to support our State Department colleagues if a request for additional military support comes through."

In Afghanistan, protests so far have been peaceful, he said.

"We're gratified based on what we know now," Little said, "that religious leaders have appealed for nonviolent protests ... so for at the moment we have not seen outbursts of violence against our diplomatic installations or military bases in Afghanistan."

In Libya, he added, "we are continuing to investigate what happened and DOD will do its part, working with our partners across the government, to determine what happened and, if asked, support the president's call to deliver justice."

He said the department is in communication with State Department colleagues to discuss military support to embassy and consulate security around the world, but that it is premature to reach final conclusions about the recent violence against U.S. diplomatic posts in Libya, Cairo and elsewhere or about who is responsible.

"I really am asking respectfully for a little bit of patience as we work through this," Little said. "It's important to get this answer absolutely correct, and that is the goal of this government -- to make sure that when a call is made that it's accurate and complete."



– The U.S. Department of the Treasury today imposed sanctions against Hizballah's leadership in Lebanon, further exposing Hizballah’s active support to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, as well as its role in terrorist activities.

Hasan Nasrallah, Hizballah's Secretary General, is being designated today pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13582, for providing support to the Syrian government. Mustafa Badr Al-Din and Talal Hamiyah, two senior terrorist leaders of Hizballah, are being designated today pursuant to E.O. 13224, for providing support to Hizballah’s terrorist activities in the Middle East and around the world.

"By aiding Assad’s violent campaign against the Syrian people and working to support a regime that will inevitably fall, Hizballah’s ongoing activity undermines regional stability and poses a direct threat to Lebanon’s security," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. "Hizballah’s actions, overseen by Hasan Nasrallah and executed by Mustafa Badr Al-Din and Talal Hamiyah, clearly reveal its true nature as a terrorist and criminal organization."

Hizballah and its leader Hasan Nasrallah have sought to depict their organization as a social and political party, as well as a resistance movement. These efforts are belied by the facts: Hizballah consistently uses terrorism against civilian targets to achieve its goals, and this trend has only increased recently. The last year has witnessed Hizballah’s most aggressive terrorist plotting outside the Middle East since the 1990s. Moreover, in recent months Hizballah has also played an increasingly active role in providing support to the Government of Syria, further enabling the regime to carry out its bloody campaign against the Syrian people.

Under the Assad regime, Syria has been a longstanding supporter of Hizballah -- providing safe haven to Hizballah and routing weapons, in many cases from Iran, to Hizballah in Lebanon. Hizballah, under the direction of Nasrallah, is now returning the favor by providing training, advice, and extensive logistical support to the Government of Syria as the Assad regime continues to wreak havoc on the Syrian people through the use of terror and violence -- Hizballah’s area of expertise.

Today’s designations build upon a number of actions that the U.S. government has taken against Hizballah over the years for its support for terrorism and its role in supporting the violence being perpetrated by the Assad regime against the Syrian people. Hizballah was designated for its support to the Government of Syria pursuant to E.O. 13582 in August 2012. It was also 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) in January 1995. Hasan Nasrallah was designated pursuant to E.O. 12947 in January 1995.

Hasan Nasrallah

Since the beginning of the Syrian people's courageous campaign in early 2011 to secure their universal rights, Hizballah Secretary-General Hasan Nasrallah has overseen Hizballah’s efforts to help the Syrian regime’s violent crackdown on the Syrian civilian population by providing training, advice, and extensive logistical support to the Government of Syria. 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). Also under Nasrallah, Hizballah has played a substantial role in efforts to expel Syrian opposition forces from areas within Syria and coordinated its support to the Government of Syria with IRGC-QF and senior Syrian government officials. Indeed, under the direction of Nasrallah, Hizballah since mid-2012 has escalated its support to the Government of Syria.

Mustafa Badr Al-Din

Mustafa Badr Al-Din is a senior Hizballah official who is believed to have replaced his cousin, Imad Mughniyah, as Hizballah's top militant commander after Mughniyah's 2008 death. In June 2011, the prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon charged Mustafa Badr Al-Din with the attack on February 14, 2005 that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 21 others.

Talal Hamiyah

Talal Hamiyah is the head of Hizballah's External Security Organization (ESO), which maintains organized cells worldwide. The ESO is the Hizballah element responsible for the planning, coordination, and execution of terrorist attacks outside of Lebanon.



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Justice Department Files Lawsuit Alleging Employment Discrimination by Texas Farm

The Justice Department filed a motion to intervene today in a lawsuit against Jerry Estopy, d/b/a Estopy Farms, a sorghum and soy farm in McAllen, Tex., which also provides equipment and equipment operators for harvests at other farms. The Justice Department seeks to intervene in a lawsuit filed by two U.S. citizens against the farm. The department alleges that the company discriminated against one of the U.S. citizens when it refused to hire him based on his citizenship status. The Immigration and Nationality Act’s (INA) anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on national origin or citizenship status in the hiring or firing process.

According to the department’s complaint, the injured party, a U.S. citizen with over twelve years experience operating cotton combines and tractors, applied for a position with Estopy Farms as a cotton picker operator around June of 2010. The U.S. citizen was not hired, and Estopy Farms hired a number of seasonal foreign workers instead. The department found reasonable cause to believe that the company did not hire the U.S. citizen because it preferred to hire foreign workers under the H-2A visa program. The H-2A visa program allows foreign nationals into the U.S. for temporary or seasonal agricultural work. Employers that seek to participate in the program file an application with the U.S. Department of Labor certifying that they have actively tried to recruit U.S. workers for the jobs and that the temporary workers’ employment will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is charged with approving applications for the H-2A visas.

"The Justice Department will not tolerate discriminatory hiring practices," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division. "While the department does not enforce the rules pertaining to the H-2A program, we will vigorously enforce the INA’s anti-discrimination provision, which protects U.S. workers against an employer’s illegal and discriminatory preferences."

Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid filed a lawsuit with the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) within the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review on behalf of the two U.S. citizens on Nov. 14, 2011. Because a complaint has already been filed, the department seeks to intervene in the existing lawsuit. The Justice Department is represented by trial attorney Liza Zamd in this matter.



Mexico's Independence Day

Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

Washington, DC

September 13, 2012

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of Mexico as you celebrate your independence this September 16.

Our two nations are linked by geography, but we also share deep-rooted economic, cultural, and social ties. The millions of Americans who trace their roots to Mexico share their customs, language, music, and cuisine, enriching American culture all across our country. Every year, increasing numbers of Mexicans and Americans travel between our two countries, creating friendships and ties that reinforce our close relationship.

Above all, Mexico and the United States share a mutual commitment to freedom and democracy. The tolling of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia in honor of American Independence more than two centuries ago echoes the joyful pealing of Guanajuato’s church bells that accompanied Mexico’s valiant struggle for freedom. The people of the United States share in the spirit and cause of Father Miguel Hidalgo’s celebrated Grito de Dolores.¡Viva México!


120912-N-YF306-100 U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY (Sept. 12 , 2012) Pallets from the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE 6) come aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) during a replenishment at sea. Winston S. Churchill 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 2nd Class Aaron Chase/Released)

120913-N-MU720-017 PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 13, 2012) Seaman Robert Barnes removes a chock and chain from an SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Chargers of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 14 during flight operations aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89). Mustin is part of the George Washington Carrier Strike Group based out of Yokosuka, Japan, and is supporting exercise Valiant Shield 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devon Dow/Released)


Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Foreign National Pleads Guilty to Leading Role in Trafficking the Identities of Puerto Rican U.S. Citizens
Co-Defendant Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Alien Smuggling for Financial Gain

WASHINGTON – A Dominican national pleaded guilty today in connection with his leading role in trafficking the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and corresponding identity documents.

The guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Rosa E. Rodríguez-Vélez for the District of Puerto Rico; Director John Morton of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Chief Postal Inspector Guy J. Cottrell of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS); Scott P. Bultrowicz, Director of the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS); and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Chief Richard Weber.

Rafael Joaquin Beltre-Beltre, 35, formerly of Caguas, Puerto Rico, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit identification fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit alien smuggling for financial gain and one count of international money laundering. He also agreed to forfeit $422,793 in illegal proceeds and deportation after serving his sentence. The plea took place in the District of Puerto Rico before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marcos E. Lopez.

Beltre-Beltre was charged in a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Puerto Rico on Mar. 22, 2012. To date, a total of 53 individuals have been charged for their roles in the identity trafficking scheme.

Court documents allege that individuals located in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puerto Rico (Savarona suppliers) obtained Puerto Rican identities and corresponding identity documents. Other conspirators located in various cities throughout the United States (identity brokers) allegedly solicited customers and sold Social Security cards and corresponding Puerto Rico birth certificates for prices ranging from $700 to $2,500 per set. The superseding indictment alleges that identity brokers ordered the identity documents from Savarona suppliers, on behalf of the customers, by making coded telephone calls. The conspirators are charged with using text messages, money transfer services and express, priority or regular U.S. mail to complete their illicit transactions.

Court documents allege that some identity brokers assumed a Puerto Rican identity themselves and used that identity in connection with the trafficking operation. Their customers allegedly generally obtained the identity documents to assume the identity of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and to obtain additional identification documents, such as legitimate state driver’s licenses. Some customers allegedly obtained the documents to commit financial fraud and attempted to obtain a U.S. passport.

According to court documents, various identity brokers were operating in Rockford, Ill.; DeKalb, Ill.; Aurora, Ill.; Seymour, Ind.; Columbus, Ind.; Indianapolis; Hartford, Conn.; Clewiston, Fla.; Lilburn, Ga.; Norcross, Ga.; Salisbury, Md.; Columbus, Ohio; Fairfield, Ohio; Dorchester, Mass.; Lawrence, Mass.; Salem, Mass.; Worcester, Mass.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Nebraska City, Neb.; Elizabeth, N.J.; Burlington, N.C.; Hickory, N.C.; Hazelton, Pa.; Philadelphia; Houston; Abingdon, Va.; Albertville, Ala.; and Providence, R.I.

Beltre-Beltre admitted that he operated as a Savarona supplier and was a leader and organizer in the conspiracy. At sentencing, Beltre-Beltre faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for conspiracy to commit identification fraud, 10 years in prison for conspiracy to commit alien smuggling for financial gain and 20 years in prison for international money laundering. Beltre-Beltre is also subject to a maximum fine of $250,000 for each charge.

Another defendant involved in the scheme, Alma Yesenia Garcia-Ramirez, 28, a foreign national formerly of Crystal Lake, Ill., pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit alien smuggling for financial gain and agreed to forfeit $35,900 in illegal proceeds as well as to deportation to Mexico after serving her sentence. According to court documents, Garcia-Ramirez assisted an Illinois-based identity broker and transferred money on behalf of the organization. Additionally, she used a Puerto Rican identity herself to commit financial fraud and traffic the identities. Garcia-Ramirez also admitted to obstructing justice in relation to the investigation by attempting to hide evidence from law enforcement investigators. Garcia-Ramirez’s plea took place in the District of Puerto Rico before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce J. McGiverin. At sentencing, Garcia-Ramirez faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Beltre-Beltre and Garcia-Ramirez are the 14th and 15th defendants to plead guilty in this case.

The charges are the result of Operation Island Express, an ongoing, nationally-coordinated investigation led by the ICE-HSI Chicago Office and USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI offices in Chicago, in coordination with the ICE-HSI San Juan Office. The Illinois Secretary of State Police; Elgin, Ill., Police Department; Seymour, Ind., Police Department; and Indiana State Police provided substantial assistance. The ICE-HSI Assistant Attaché office in the Dominican Republic, and International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center (IOC-2) as well as various ICE, USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI offices around the country provided invaluable assistance.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys James S. Yoon, Hope S. Olds, Sarah Chang, Christina Giffin and Courtney B. Schaefer of the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, with the assistance of Trial Attorney Jeannette Gunderson of the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, and the support of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico. The U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Northern District of Illinois, Southern District of Indiana, District of Connecticut, District of Massachusetts, District of Nebraska, Southern District of Ohio and Western District of Virginia provided substantial assistance.



GSA Announces Reforms and Savings at Senate Hearing

Sept. 13, 2012

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. General Services Administration Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini appeared before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to discuss GSA’s ongoing reform efforts and recommendations resulting from his ongoing Top to Bottom review of the agency’s operations.

"In this time of shrinking budgets, GSA’s mission of delivering savings has never been more important," said GSA Acting Administrator Tangherlini. "It is our responsibility to make every taxpayer dollar count, and I am confident that the reforms that are underway at GSA will help us do exactly that. These reform efforts continue to support the Obama administration’s priority of giving the American people the most effective and efficient government possible."

Tangherlini, named Acting Administrator in April, immediately called for a Top to Bottom review of all agency operations, to increase accountability, efficiency, and cost savings. In the past five months, GSA has identified and eliminated wasteful spending, operational redundancies and improved agency operations to deliver better value for taxpayers and savings across the government. Tangherlini has also installed new senior leadership by naming Dr. Dorothy Robyn as the agency’s new commissioner for the Public Buildings Service.

In addition, in line with President Obama’s Campaign to Cut Waste, GSA is taking steps to reduce Federal Acquisition Service contracting and service fees for federal agencies. The agency is also moving to consolidate financial, personnel and technology operations.

Millions in New Savings by Cutting Contracting Fees:

GSA’s Top to Bottom review found that several fees assessed by the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) on purchases made by other agencies could be reduced below their current levels without a negative impact on the operations of FAS. Therefore, Tangherlini has announced a new interagency group to review and develop recommendations on the overall fee structure for contracts and services provided by FAS, including fee reductions to help agencies reduce administrative costs.

Consolidation of Budget, Technology and Human Resources Organizations:

The Top to Bottom review also identified an opportunity to consolidate key agency functions such as budget, human resources, and technology which will improve performance and cost effectiveness. Tangherlini has already ordered the consolidation of all budget, finance and accounting personnel under the chief financial officer, increasing transparency, accountability, and oversight on GSA spending. This action will give Congress and taxpayers a better understanding of how and where agency funds are used. GSA will also better manage information technology investment, systems development and maintenance, and increase access to agency data by consolidating all IT personnel, budgets, and systems under the Chief Information Officer. In addition, GSA will consolidate hiring responsibilities and human capital management personnel and operations under the Chief People Officer which will increase visibility into hiring decisions and increase efficiencies by eliminating redundancy within the various parts of GSA.

Initial Reforms Save Millions:

In just five months, GSA has already made significant progress in streamlining operations and saving taxpayer dollars. After putting in place strong policies and controls on spending, travel and events, the agency is projected to save the American taxpayer more than $11 million by eliminating nearly 50 conferences and cutting travel. The agency has also implemented savings ideas gathered from GSA employees totaling $5.5 million.

In an effort to improve the agency’s performance award system to ensure awards are given for exemplary service that goes above and beyond expected levels of performance, Tangherlini took a hard look at bonuses at GSA, and has already reduced Senior Executive Service bonuses substantially. GSA will go further in the next months by reducing the budget for all performance awards across the agency. Additionally, Tangherlini has instituted a targeted hiring freeze across the agency.

GSA also froze federal travel reimbursement rates across the government for the first time in a decade. GSA announced that it will comprehensively review the methodology used to determine those rates and form a Federal Advisory Committee to provide a forum for expert industry advice. GSA anticipates that this will help federal agencies avoid an estimated $20 million in travel costs next year.



Marine Corps Sgt. David Haines, left, and his twin brother, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Haines, reunite at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Sept. 12, 2012. The brothers, from Moscow, Idaho, are on their first combat deployment, and it's the first time they have been together in five years, except for a few days during Christmas leave. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. John Jackson

Face of Defense: Twins Serve Together in Afghanistan

By Marine Corps Sgt. John Jackson
Regional Command Southwest

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, Sept. 12, 2012 - Except for a few days of leave, twin brothers Marine Corps Sgt. David Haines and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Haines hadn't been together for five years until they were reunited here, where both are deployed.

They don't necessarily compete against one another, but the 24-year-old siblings often wrangle back and forth as if they are teenagers fighting for a video game controller.

Whether they are trash-talking about the other's military branch or arguing about dates of events, the brothers playfully interact like adolescents still living together on a daily basis.

Growing up, the Haines brothers had different interests. Michael ran track, worked and even spent the better part of a year living in Italy with his sister. David spent his free time practicing the piano, playing in a jazz band and taking drama classes at the local college. However, the brothers said, they have remained close.

The two graduated from Moscow Senior High School in Moscow, Idaho, in June 2006. After spending a few months out of school, David said, he knew he wanted something different.

"I needed a change of pace," he explained. "My brother-in-law was trying to talk me into the Navy, but the Navy didn't really interest me. The Marine recruiter was right next door and totally sold me."

During January 2007, David left Idaho to become a Marine, and his twin brother was thinking about doing the same.

"I always wanted to join," Michael said. "I had gotten married right out of high school. When we found out that my wife at the time was pregnant, I knew I needed to take care of my family, and I could finally do what I wanted."

For the past five years, Michael and David have shared two duty stations. However, they have not been stationed together at the same time. The brothers have both been assigned to units in Okinawa, Japan, and are both now assigned to units at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

David, the Afghan National Army development chief for 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, deployed in February. His brother, a corpsman, checked into 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, in April and deployed to Afghanistan this summer. It's the first time the brothers have deployed to a combat zone, and the first time they have been together in five years, except for a few days during Christmas leave.

"It's pretty interesting," Michael said. "We always kept missing one another at our previous duty stations. It's pretty cool that we are here together, though."

Although being deployed in the same area is nice for the brothers, David said, he has found himself on the edge of his seat the past few months.

"I was really looking forward to [Michael] getting here, but to be honest, it has made me a bit anxious," he said. "Being a part of the [Marine expeditionary force] and knowing about the kinetics in the area and seeing casualty reports, I was always making sure it wasn't my brother or his unit that was getting hit. It makes it a bit different tracking those things, especially having your twin brother out there."

Michael is wrapping up his 90-day deployment and will be headed back to Camp Pendleton in the coming days. Until he redeploys, the brothers said, they look forward to spending some time together.

The brothers said they enjoy being a part of the armed forces. Both are thinking about seeking commissions. With 15 or more years remaining in the military, they added, it may mean many long waits before uniting again. But they said they'll take whatever opportunity they have to talk to one another, even if it is on the other side of the world in a combat zone.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Aviation boatswain's mates direct the takeoff of an AH-1W Cobra helicopter during flight operations aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) . The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group, along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU), is participating in a certification exercise. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Russell (Released) 120913-N-KB563-307

The forward deployed Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) launches a Harpoon missile from the aft missile deck. Cowpens is participating in a live-fire exercise as part of Valiant Shield 2012. The live-fire event sank the ex-USS Coronado (AGF-11). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Kelly (Released) 120912-N-TX154-175



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Former Chief Investment Officer of Stanford Financial Group Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Obstruction of Justice

WASHINGTON – Laura Pendergest-Holt, 39, the former chief investment officer of Houston-based Stanford Financial Group, was sentenced today to 36 months in prison for her role in obstructing a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into Stanford International Bank (SIB), the Antiguan offshore bank owned by convicted financier Robert Allen Stanford.

Today’s sentence was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas; FBI Assistant Director Ronald T. Hosko of the Criminal Investigative Division; Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Employee Benefits Security Administration Phyllis C. Borzi; Chief Postal Inspector Guy J. Cottrell from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS); and Chief Richard Weber, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).

The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge David Hittner in the Southern District of Texas. In addition to her prison term, Holt was sentenced to three years of supervised release. Judge Hittner noted that Holt did not have the ability to pay a fine.

In January 2009, the SEC sought testimony and documents related to SIB’s entire investment portfolio. Although she was incapable of testifying about the vast majority of that portfolio, Holt nevertheless agreed to testify before the SEC. In her guilty plea, Holt acknowledged that her eventual appearance and sworn testimony before the SEC was a stall tactic designed to frustrate the SEC’s efforts to obtain important information about SIB’s investment portfolio. Holt admitted she took this action intentionally and corruptly, knowing that her testimony would impede the SEC’s investigation and help SIB continue operating.

Holt was remanded into custody today.