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Saturday, September 22, 2012



Rio Grande National Forest.  Credit:  Wikimedia.


USDA and Colorado Announce Rio Grande Basin Water Conservation Project Agreement
WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2012— Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar today announced that Colorado and USDA have agreed to the terms of a new Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to help conserve irrigation water and reduce ground water withdrawal from the Rio Grande Basin. The project will enhance water quality, reduce erosion, improve wildlife habitat and conserve energy in portions of the Rio Grande watershed in Colorado. Vilsack and Salazar made the joint announcement at the 2012 Colorado Water Conservation Board Statewide Drought Conference.

"USDA is proud to work with the state of Colorado to enroll up to 40,000 acres of eligible irrigated cropland in an effort to address critical water conservation and other natural resource issues within portions of the Rio Grande watershed," said Vilsack. "USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program continues to be one of our nation’s most successful voluntary efforts to conserve land, improve our soil, water, air and wildlife habitat resources—and now producers in Colorado have even greater incentives to enroll in efforts to protect the Rio Grande Basin."

This agreement is for the establishment of permanent native grasses, permanent wildlife habitat, shallow areas for wildlife and wetland restoration on up to 40,000 acres of eligible irrigated cropland with a primary goal of reducing annual irrigation water use by approximately 60,000 acre-feet.

The sign-up date for this voluntary conservation program is expected to be announced soon after an agreement is formalized later this year.Farmers and ranchers in portions of Alamosa, Rio Grande and Saguache counties will then be able to apply for this program at their Farm Service Agency (FSA) service center. FSA will administer the Colorado Rio Grande CREP within these counties, working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the state of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources through the Division of Water Resources, Subdistrict Number 1 of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, and other state and local CREP partners.

After the agreement is formalized, participants will (1) voluntarily enroll irrigated cropland into specialized 14-15 year Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts, and (2) enter into water use agreements with Subdistrict Number 1 of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District. An additional perpetual irrigation water retirement agreement also will be an option for producers to help achieve long-term water savings.

The following national CRP conservation practices will be made available for eligible land focusing on water resource conservation:

Establishment of Native Grasses and Forbs – CP2 Establishment of Permanent Wildlife Habitat, Non-easement – CP4D Establishment of Shallow Water Areas for Wildlife – CP9 Restoration of Wetland Habitat – CP23 and CP23A

CREP is an option under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) that agricultural producers may use to voluntarily establish conservation practices on their land. The project will provide land owners and operators financial and technical assistance. Under this CREP, participants will receive annual irrigated rental payments, cost share and incentive payments for voluntarily enrolling irrigated cropland into contracts and installing the approved conservation practices. USDA also will pay up to 50 percent of the cost of installing the conservation practices. Additional special incentives and cost share will be provided by the WAE for land enrolled within a designated focus area within the project area. Additional incentives will be provided by the subdistrict’s WAE to producers who elect to retire water permanently. Participants will establish permanent vegetative covers on enrolled land according to CRP conservation plans developed by NRCS.

To be eligible, cropland must meet CRP’s cropping history criteria, which includes cropping history provisions, one-year ownership requirement, and physical and legal cropping requirements. Marginal pastureland is also eligible for enrollment provided it is suitable for use as a needed and eligible riparian buffer. Producers who have an existing CRP contract are not eligible for CREP until that contract expires. Producers with expiring CRP contracts who are interested in CREP should submit offers for re-enrolling their land into CREP during the last year of their existing CRP contract.

In 2011, as a result of CRP, nitrogen and phosphorous losses from farm fields were reduced by 623 million pounds and 124 million pounds respectively. The CRP has restored more than two million acres of wetlands and associated buffers and reduces soil erosion by more than 300 million tons per year. CRP also provides $1.8 billion annually to landowners—dollars that make their way into local economies, supporting small businesses and creating jobs. In addition, CRP is the largest private lands carbon sequestration program in the country. By placing vulnerable cropland into conservation, CRP sequesters carbon in plants and soil, and reduces both fuel and fertilizer usage. In 2010, CRP resulted in carbon sequestration equal to taking almost 10 million cars off the road.


Photo: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius


Through the Affordable Care Act, Americans with Medicare will save $5,000 through 2022
5.5 million seniors saved money on prescription drugs and 19 million got free preventive care in 2012
Because of the health care law – the Affordable Care Act – the average person with traditional Medicare will save $5,000 from 2010 to 2022, according to a report today from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. People with Medicare who have high prescription drug costs will save much more – more than $18,000 – over the same period.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also announced that, because of the health care law, more than 5.5 million seniors and people with disabilities saved nearly $4.5 billion on prescription drugs since the law was enacted. Seniors in the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the donut hole have saved an average of $641 in the first eight months of 2012 alone. This includes $195 million in savings on prescriptions for diabetes, over $140 million on drugs to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and $75 million on cancer drugs so far this year. Also in the first eight months of 2012, more than 19 million people with original Medicare received at least one preventive service at no cost to them.

"I am pleased that the health care law is helping so many seniors save money on their prescription drug costs," Secretary Sebelius said. "A $5,000 savings will go a long way for many beneficiaries on fixed incomes and tight budgets."

The health care law includes benefits to make Medicare prescription drug coverage more affordable. In 2010, anyone with Medicare who hit the prescription drug donut hole received a $250 rebate. In 2011, people with Medicare who hit the donut hole began receiving a 50 percent discount on covered brand-name drugs and a discount on generic drugs. These discounts and Medicare coverage gradually increase until 2020, when the donut hole will be closed.

The health care law also makes it easier for people with Medicare to stay healthy. Prior to 2011, people with Medicare had to pay for many preventive health services. These costs made it difficult for people to get the health care they needed. For example, before the health care law passed, a person with Medicare could pay as much as $160 for a colorectal cancer screening. Because of the Affordable Care Act, many preventive services are now offered free to beneficiaries (with no deductible or co-pay) so the cost is no longer a barrier for seniors who want to stay healthy and treat problems early.

In 2012 alone, 19 million people with traditional Medicare have received at least one preventive service at no cost to them. This includes 1.9 million who have taken advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit provided by the Affordable Care Act – almost 600,000 more than had used this service by this point in the year in 2011. In 2011, an estimated 32.5 million people with traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage received one or more preventive benefits free of charge.

Weekly Address: Congress Must Act to Create Jobs and Grow the Economy | The White House

Weekly Address: Congress Must Act to Create Jobs and Grow the Economy | The White House


The MC-130E Combat Talon I simulator sits in one of the simulator bays Sept. 20, 2012 at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Since all of the simulators look the same from the outside, they are identified by a specific emblem. For example, this simulator is marked with a pterodactyl dinosaur. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melanie Holochwost)


Map Credit:  CLA World Factbook
The United States established diplomatic relations with Togo in 1960 following its independence from a French-administered trusteeship. After a troubled birth which saw coups and the assassinations, from 1967 to 2005, Togo was ruled by Dictator General Gnassingbe Eyadema, though with periods of quasi-constitutional government and occasional desultory efforts at political reconciliation. The current president, Faure Gnassingbe is Eyadema’s son; he came to power in seriously flawed elections in 2005, but the country's 2007 legislative elections and 2010 presidential election were deemed credible by the international community. Togo faces the challenge of balancing entrenched political groups with the need to implement democratic reforms and continue its nascent economic recovery. The United States and Togo have had generally good relations, and the United States seeks to work with Togo to consolidate democratic gains and economic growth.

Map Credit: CLA World Factbook
U.S. Assistance to Togo

U.S. foreign assistance to Togo aims to encourage a professional military that respects civilian leadership, while continuing to closely monitor the government's willingness to work toward democratic goals. The U.S. Agency for International Development runs local development programs from its office in Ghana through nongovernmental organizations in Togo. Peace Corps celebrates the 50th anniversary of its program in Togo this year, and has nearly 100 volunteers in the field.

Bilateral Economic Relations

Togo has a market-oriented economy, and the country is eligible for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. U.S. exports to Togo include fuel oil, vehicles, petroleum products machinery and food products. The U.S. has a trade surplus with Togo. The United States imports cocoa and coffee from Togo. Togo's export processing zone, established with U.S. Government support, has attracted private investors interested in manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and food processing, primarily for the export market. A 100-megawatt power plant is among the largest electricity investments in Togo and one of the largest single private U.S. investments in West Africa. The two countries have signed a treaty on investment and economic relations. The United States also has a trade and investment framework agreement with the West African Economic and Monetary Union, of which Togo is a member. Togo is working with the U.S. and other development partners to improve the investment climate and commercial infrastructure. Togo has the deepest port on the west coast of Africa. The government’s focus is to expand the port and road network to make Togo the best option for regional transshipment.

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


French Togoland became Togo in 1960. Gen. Gnassingbe EYADEMA, installed as military ruler in 1967, ruled Togo with a heavy hand for almost four decades. Despite the facade of multiparty elections instituted in the early 1990s, the government was largely dominated by President EYADEMA, whose Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) party has maintained power almost continually since 1967 and maintains a majority of seats in today's legislature. Upon EYADEMA's death in February 2005, the military installed the president's son, Faure GNASSINGBE, and then engineered his formal election two months later. Democratic gains since then allowed Togo to hold its first relatively free and fair legislative elections in October 2007. After years of political unrest and condemnation from international organizations for human rights abuses, Togo is finally being re-welcomed into the international community. In January 2012, Togo assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2012-13 term.


Photo: Oregon's Mt. Hood Territory. Credit: Wikimedia.

The Securities and Exchange Commission today filed fraud charges against a Portland, Oregon-based investment adviser who perpetrated a long-running Ponzi scheme that raised over $37 million from more than 100 investors in the Pacific Northwest and across the country.

The SEC alleges that Yusaf Jawed used false marketing materials that boasted double-digit returns to lure people to invest their money into several hedge funds he managed. He then improperly redirected their money into accounts he personally controlled. As part of the scheme, Jawed created phony assets, sent bogus account statements to investors, and manufactured a sham buyout of the funds to make investors think their hedge fund interests would soon be redeemed. Jawed misused investor money to pay off earlier investors, pay his own expenses and travel, and create the overall illusion of success and achievement to impress investors.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Portland, Jawed managed a number of hedge funds through at least two companies he controlled: Grifphon Asset Management LLC and Grifphon Holdings LLC. Jawed’s marketing materials claimed that the Grifphon funds earned double-digit returns year after year even as the S&P 500 Index declined. For certain funds, Jawed also falsely claimed they would invest in publicly-traded securities and that their assets were maintained at reputable financial institutions.

The SEC alleges that Jawed instead invested very little of the more than $37 million that he raised from investors. For one fund, 70 percent of the money raised was either paid in redemptions to investors in other funds, paid to finders, or merely transferred to accounts belonging to Grifphon Asset Management or other entities that Jawed controlled. Jawed concealed the fraud by telling Grifphon’s bookkeepers that the money transfers represented purchases of offshore bonds – though in reality the purported investment was a sham entity supposedly managed by Jawed’s unemployed aunt who lives in Bangladesh.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Jawed further deceived investors as the funds were collapsing by telling them that independent third parties were buying the Grifphon funds’ alleged assets at a premium. In truth, the so-called third-parties were sham entities originally formed by Grifphon and Jawed containing no assets, no income, and no ability to pay for the funds’ alleged assets.

The SEC’s complaint against Jawed additionally charges Robert P. Custis, an attorney who Jawed hired to assist him in the fraud. Custis sent false and misleading statements to investors about the status of the purported purchase of the Grifphon funds’ assets. Custis consistently misrepresented that this purchase was imminent and would result in investors’ investments being repaid at a profit.

By engaging in the above conduct, Jawed, GAM, and Grifphon Holdings violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act, Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and Sections 206(1), 206(2), and 206(4) of the Advisers Act and Rule 206(4)-8 thereunder. By engaging in the above conduct, Custis violated Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 thereunder and aided and abetted violations of Section 206(4) and Rule 206(4)-8 thereunder. The Commission seeks a permanent injunction, disgorgement and prejudgment interest, civil penalty, and other relief as appropriate against them.

The SEC filed separate complaints against two others connected to Jawed’s scheme. Those complaints allege that Jacques Nichols – a Portland-based attorney – falsely claimed to investors that an independent third party would pay tens of millions of dollars to buy the hedge funds’ alleged assets at a premium, and that Jawed’s associate, Lyman Bruhn, of Vancouver, Wash., ran a separate Ponzi scheme and induced investments through false claims he was investing in "blue chip" stocks.

Without admitting or denying the allegations, Nichols, Bruhn, and two entities Bruhn controlled (Pearl Asset Management, LLC and Sasquatch Capital Management, LLC) agreed to settle the SEC’s charges. Along with other relief, Bruhn consented to the entry of permanent injunctions against violations of the Section 17(a) of the Securities Act, Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and Sections 206(1), 206(2), 206(4) of the Advisers Act and Rule 206(4)-8 thereunder. Along with other relief, Nichols consented to the entry of a permanent injunction against violations of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and aiding and abetting violations of Sections 206(1), 206(2), and 206(4) of the Advisers Act and Rule 206(4)-8 thereunder. The SEC’s litigation continues against Jawed, the two Grifphon entities, and Custis.



VANDERBIJLPARK, South Africa -- U.S. Air Forces in Europe rock band, Touch 'n Go, performs during a show for students and instructors at Northern University here, Sept. 19. The band, Touch 'n Go, has made three performances in local communities across South Africa and will be performing at the Africa Aerospace and Defense Exposition Sept. 22-23 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on both days. The band is committed to fortifying international relationships, fostering trust and friendships, and enhancing troop morale. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)

CULLINAN, South Africa -- Staff Sgt. Samuel Kennedy, U.S. Air Forces in Europe rock band bassist, performs during a show for students and instructors of the Cullinan Field Band here, Sept. 18. The band, Touch 'n Go, has made three performances in local communities across South Africa and will be performing at the Africa Aerospace and Defense Exposition Sept. 22-23 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on both days. Touch 'n Go is committed to fortifying international relationships, fostering trust and friendships, and enhancing troop morale. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)



Public Trust Requires Apolitical Military, Dempsey Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Sept. 17, 2012 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wants service members and veterans to consider what using the uniform for partisan politics does to the trust Americans have in their military.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey has maintained throughout his 38-year career that the American military, as a whole, must remain apolitical – meaning being neutral in political matters.

"I have sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution and one of the principles of the Constitution is freedom of speech," he said during an interview on his way to Ankara, Turkey. "Anyone who claims that I am in any way trying to deny someone freedom of speech, I just can't accept that."

Dempsey has been outspoken that service members have truly earned their right to vote, and that all Americans are entitled to private and personal opinions. But he also is worried that using the uniform for partisan purposes could damage the trust Americans have in their military.

Survey after survey reveals the American military is one of the most trusted and most respected institutions in the land, and maintaining that trust is key to the success of the United States, Dempsey said. In his studies of civil-military relations, he added, the cornerstone of the profession of arms is that "we remain apolitical – that we are not a special-interest group."

And he applies that across the board. "I don't care what side of the aisle someone happens to sit on or happens to support," he said.

The chairman said he wants service members and those who have served and who may still use the title "just to think about what impact their actions will have on our standing as a profession with the American people if they engage in partisan political activity."

"I just want them to think about it," he said.

Retired general and flag officers must be extra careful when engaging in partisan political activities, the chairman said. They are held to a higher standard and probably should be, he explained, because many Americans do not make the distinction between an active duty and retired status. "And most [retired general and flag officers] understand that standard and meet it," he added.

Press Gaggle Following Remarks at the Center for European Policy Analysis

Press Gaggle Following Remarks at the Center for European Policy Analysis


Map Credit:  CIA World Factbook.
Friday, September 21, 2012

Alcatel-lucent Subsidiary Agrees to Pay U.S. $4.2 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations

Related to $250 Million Contract for 911 Emergency Response System in Iraq

WASHINGTON – An Alcatel-Lucent subsidiary, Lucent Technologies World Services Inc. (LTWSI), has agreed to pay the United States $4.2 million to settle False Claims Act allegations that it submitted misleading testing certifications to the Army in connection with the design, construction and modernization of Iraq’s emergency communications system, the Department of Justice announced today. Alcatel-Lucent is a global telecommunications provider.

In March 2004, the U.S. Army awarded LTWSI a $250 million contract to build the Advanced First Responder Network (AFRN), a 911 emergency response and first responder communications system designed to enable Iraqis to summon police, fire and medical assistance in emergencies. Today’s settlement resolves allegations that LTWSI submitted claims for payment for equipment, services and contract performance award fees under the AFRN contract based upon inaccurate certifications that LTWSI, between January and July 2005, had performed and successfully completed certain testing of AFRN radio transmission sites, as well as validation of the network as a whole, to ensure the network’s proper operation prior to acceptance by the United States and transfer to the Iraqi government.

"The integrity of our public contracting system is a matter of paramount concern to the Department of Justice, especially where contractors have been engaged to supply critical support for the work of stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan," said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. "The department will seek to recover losses to the American taxpayer when a contractor has claimed money to which it was not entitled."

"The United States must be able to count upon government contractors to seek payment only for services performed in conformance with their contractual obligations. That is particularly true of contractors performing work for the United States in ‘hot spots’ around the globe where verification of invoiced work can be both difficult and dangerous," said Jenny Durkan, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington. "LTWSI’s internal procedures on the AFRN project clearly should have been more robust in this instance."

The settlement resolves a whistleblower suit filed under the False Claims Act in December 2008, by Geoffrey Willson, LTWSI's former contract manager for the project. The False Claims Act permits private parties to sue on behalf of the United States for submission of false claims to the government and to share in any recovery. Willson will receive $758,000 as his statutory share of today’s settlement.

This matter was handled jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington and the Department of Justice Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch in Washington, D.C. Investigative support was provided by the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Seattle Resident Agency of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service. The Defense Contract Audit Agency and Army Criminal Investigation Command also provided investigative support.

The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only and do not constitute a determination of liability.


Map Credit:  U.S. Department Of State
Remarks With Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem Before Their Meeting
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

Treaty Room
Washington, DC
September 21, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning. I am pleased to welcome the Foreign Minister from Tunisia. I’m looking forward to our meeting. We obviously have a great deal to discuss, and I want to thank the Foreign Minister and the Government of Tunisia for their efforts over the last week to help secure our Embassy and the American Cooperative School of Tunis following the violent assaults of last Friday.

We are monitoring events closely today. There is no higher priority for President Obama and myself than the safety of our people. We’ve taken a number of steps around the world to augment security and to protect our personnel at diplomatic posts. And we are working closely with host governments in this effort.

As I have said before and as is embodied in the Vienna Convention and other international agreements, all governments have the duty, the solemn duty, to defend diplomatic missions. They must be safe and protected places so that governments can exchange views and work on many important issues, and leaders across the world must stand up and be counted in rejecting violence and holding violent actors accountable.

We are working closely with the Government of Tunisia. They have assisted us in enhancing the security of our facilities. We’ve also discussed with them the imperative of bringing to justice those responsible for these violent attacks. And we have offered and will continue to look for ways that we can assist the new Government of Tunisia in ensuring the rule of law throughout their country, first and foremost for the people of Tunisia themselves. We look forward to continuing to build our new partnership with the Tunisian Government and people. Our relationship is built around the shared principles of all democracies – a commitment to nonviolence, to tolerance, and inclusivity for all people, and to upholding the rule of law.

The Tunisian people have bravely put themselves on the road to democracy. They were the first of the Arab revolutions and they have made important progress in a very short period of time. They have worked too hard and sacrificed too much over too many years to see their progress hijacked or derailed by extremists with their own agenda. And those extremists, not only in Tunisia but in too many places around the world, look for opportunities to exploit this current situation or other situations, and all people and leaders must stand against them.

So as the Tunisian Government takes steps to strengthen security and protect the Tunisian people and economy from extremism and violent agendas, the United States stands ready to help. We also are working closely with Tunisia on the broader shared threat of terrorism, including from groups like al-Qaida and its affiliates.

So Minister, please know the United States remains committed to supporting Tunisia as you deal with this current situation, as you continue your democratic transition, and we want to be with you as you confront challenges and help seize opportunities together for the betterment of the future of Tunisia.

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDESSALEM: Thank you. Thank you, Your Excellency, Secretary of State, for providing us this opportunity to meet with you here in Washington. I’m here to express my condolences for the loss of the American Ambassador in Libya and the three other members of staff.

I’m also here to express our regret and full and strong condemnation for the storming of the American Embassy and school in Tunisia last Friday. This event does not reflect the real image of Tunisia. As a newborn democracy, all of you know that we are in process to dismantle the heavy legacy of political despotism and to set up the foundations of a new democracy. And we have the heavy, broader responsibility to succeed in this process of democratization. And I’m sure if we succeed, at least we send a positive message to the region, is that democracy is possible in that part of the world.

We are familiar to hear and to read in the newspapers and to hear from the media that democracy expanded in different parts of the globe except in the Arab region. But I hope that we prove by reality that democracy is possible in the Arab world – to be a democrat, Arab, and Muslim at the same time.

We already taken the necessary measures to protect the American Embassy, the American schools, and all diplomatic presence in Tunisia, members of foreign communities. It is our duty, and I’m sure that we have the ability and the capability to protect all private and public institutions in Tunisia. Stability, political stability, and security is priority for us as well for our friend and partner the United States. And I want to thank you, Mrs. Hillary, for providing us this opportunity, and I’m looking forward for a fruitful and constructive discussion.





060607-N-7987M-068 Norfolk, Va. (June 7, 2006) - Explosive Ordnance Disposal Training and Evaluation Unit Two (EODTEU-2) demonstrates the destruction of an explosive device at Fort Story. EODTEU is part of the newly formed Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). Within NECC, all naval expeditionary combat and supply combat elements are integrated so that they are more capable, responsive and effective in their role in the global war on terrorism. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate Airman Mandy Mclaurin (RELEASED)

Threat of terrorist IED's Growing & Expanding, General Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2012 - The threat posed by crude homemade bombs known as improvised explosive devices is growing and spreading across the globe, and will be the terrorists' weapon of choice for decades, the commander of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization said yesterday.

"We still need to do more," Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero told the House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee, adding that his organization is rapidly fielding critical counter IED capabilities. "But let me say up front that I believe the IED and the networks that use these asymmetric weapons will remain a threat to our forces and here at home for decades."

These bombs, he said, will be the weapon of choice for terrorists because they are cheap and readily available. Bomb makers use off-the-shelf technology to make the deadly explosives. IED's were the number one killer of American troops during the war in Iraq.

"This trend is readily apparent in Afghanistan ... where IED events continue to rise," Barbero said. "In the past two years, IED events have increased 42 percent, from 9,300 events in 2009 to 16,000 events in 2011. And this year, we're on track, for 2012, to meet or exceed the historic number of IED events we saw last year."

While the overall number of IED events is high, coalition casualties are down, the general said. This is because the coalition's ability to find IEDs before they explode is steadily improving. This has reduced U.S. casualties by more than 40 percent this past year, he said.

The decrease in IED effectiveness is a result of an across-the-board effort against these devices, he said, noting that troops deploying to Afghanistan receive the latest counter-IED training and use the latest technology from airborne sensors to handheld devices.

"Commanders and troopers on the ground are continuously refining their tactics, techniques and procedures tailored to the threat they face in the region," Barbero told the subcommittee.

Meanwhile, U.S. forces and civilian personnel "will remain the target of insurgent IED attacks and the IED will remain the weapon of choice," Barbero said. "From our experience in Iraq, the reduction of U.S. forces must not equal a reduction in counter-IED or other critical capabilities."

The general said that as the military footprint in Afghanistan gets smaller, troops there "will require flexibility to shift priorities rapidly, providing the requisite counter-IED capabilities, situational awareness and security and protection," he said.

Barbero said the IED threat is growing and morphing to other areas of the world.

"Since 2007, IED incidents outside of Iraq and Afghanistan have increased to average more than 500 incidents per month around the globe," the general said. "Since January 2011, there have been more than 10,000 global IED events occurring in 112 countries, executed by more than 40 regional and transnational threat networks. The extremist networks that employ the IEDs have proven to be resilient, interconnected and extremely violent."

Wherever there is turmoil and insecurity, there will be IEDs, Barbero said.

"I believe U.S. forces will operate in an IED environment," he said. "I believe it's a reality of 21st century warfare, and we must plan accordingly."


020101-N-2383B-507 Kandahar, Afghanistan, (Jan. 1, 2002) -- An Anti-Taliban Forces (ATF) fighter wraps a bandolier of ammunition around his body as ATF personnel help U.S. Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit secure a compound. The Marines are in Afghanistan operating in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer's Mate Johnny Bivera. (RELEASED)

Inspector Questions Accounting of Afghanistan Fuel

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2012 - The U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has urged commanders in Afghanistan not to grant the Afghan government increased responsibility for fuel used by its security forces until questions about how the fuel is managed and accounted for are answered.

The recommendation by John F. Sopko came during testimony yesterday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where he raised "serious concerns" about fuel oversight provided by the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan.

Sopko's organization, known by its acronym SIGAR, was created by Congress to provide independent and objective oversight of Afghanistan reconstruction projects and activities.

"Last week, I testified before this subcommittee that SIGAR had serious concerns about how CSTC-A has managed and accounted for the fuel provided to the Afghan Army," Sopko said. "Despite these problems, CSTC-A still plans to increase annual funding for the Afghan Army fuel by $212 million per year."

Sopko also noted CSTC-A, which assists the Afghan government in generating and sustaining Afghan security forces, expects to move forward with a plan to transfer fuel responsibilities and funding to the Afghan Army.

"We believe there is no basis for either decision," he said. "I continue to urge CSTC-A to halt its plan to increase fuel funding until it develops a better process for determining fuel needs, establishes a comprehensive action plan to improve fuel accountability and delay transferring fuel responsibilities and funding to the Afghan Army until the problems we have identified are fixed."

Sopko said his investigation found that records has been destroyed as well as difficulties with providing documentation detailing the dispensation of fuel.

The investigation "identified and has started interviewing "individuals located in the United States, Afghanistan, United Kingdom and Belgium who were involved in this matter," he said. "We have confirmed that shredding did indeed take place and have identified two Air Force officers who admitted to destroying documents covering the time periods of February 2010 to February 2011."

These officers, Sopko said, obtained supervisory approval to shred the documents because they did not have adequate storage space, but claimed they were saved in electronic format.

"Our investigators are now working to locate those electronic records to review to see if they are actually the records in question," he said. "In addition, just this Tuesday, CSTC-A provided our auditors in Kabul with a CD which they claim contains 97 percent of the documents we had requested for the time period of March 2011 to March 2012."

The inspector general said CSTC-A ensured they would provide complete records for March 2011 to March 2012; however, a sampling provided revealed at least half of the documents were missing.

Auditors will "review this new disc to ascertain whether it contains complete and accurate copies of the records we requested," Sopko told the lawmakers.

Meanwhile, "CSTC-A tells our auditors in Kabul that they have located additional hard copies of the records, including some prior to February 2010 which we intend to examine," he added.

Sopko characterized CSTC-A's handing of these records as "deeply troubling," and noted it raises questions about their ability to perform such a "serious function."

"It appears it has to take two congressional hearings, six months of [Inspector General] requests, an interim audit report, a management alert letter," he said. "And my personal meeting with every single military official in Afghanistan before CSTC-A deigns to seriously take our request for records as something they should respond to."

Sopko said following his initial testimony on Sept. 10, CSTC-A has revised their plan to transfer responsibilities to the Afghan government, in particular, changing the amount of funding it plans to provide directly to the Afghans from two-thirds of total funding to one-third, as well as the time frame.

"It appears ... the Afghan Ministry of Defense has said they can't handle this new mission until March of 2013," he said. "Although we think this is a good move to delay, we're surprised that apparently CSTC-A never talked to the Afghan ministry about this important function until subsequent to the hearing."

"These developments indicate that CSTC-A is perhaps approaching the transition to Afghan-run logistics more cautiously than before," he said, after noting they've struggled in the past with direct assistance.

Sopko noted providing direct assistance to the Afghan government is a critical part of transitioning reconstruction efforts to the Afghans.

"But moving forward with direct contributions, in face of the serious problems that CSTC-A itself has encountered in its fuel programs, reconfirms our belief that transferring funding responsibility in January is doubling down on a very risky bet," he said.


Credit:  Wikikmedia.

Company Also Sentenced to Adopt Antitrust Compliance Program; Former Top Executives Each Sentenced to Serve Three Years in Prison and to Pay Criminal Fine

WASHINGTON — AU Optronics Corporation, a Taiwan-based liquid crystal display (LCD) producer, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in San Francisco to pay a $500 million criminal fine for its participation in a five-year conspiracy to fix the prices of thin-film transistor LCD panels sold worldwide, the Department of Justice announced. Its American subsidiary and two former top executives were also sentenced today. The two executives were sentenced to serve prison time and to pay criminal fines for their roles in the conspiracy. The $500 million fine matches the largest fine imposed against a company for violating the U.S. antitrust laws.

Today's sentencing took place before Judge Susan Illston. Along with the criminal fine, AU Optronics Corporation was also sentenced to print advertisements in three major trade publications in the United States and Taiwan acknowledging its convictions and punishments and the remedial steps it has taken as a result of its conviction. The company and its American subsidiary, AU Optronics Corporation America, were also placed on probation for three years, required to adopt an antitrust compliance program and to appoint an independent corporate compliance monitor.

"This long-running price-fixing conspiracy resulted in every family, school, business, charity and government agency who bought notebook computers, computer monitors and LCD televisions during the conspiracy to pay more for these products," said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division's criminal enforcement program. "The Antitrust Division will continue to pursue vigorously international cartels that target American consumers and rob them of their hard earned money."

Former AU Optronics Corporation president Hsuan Bin Chen was sentenced to serve three years in prison and to pay a $200,000 criminal fine. Former AU Optronics Corporation executive vice president Hui Hsiung was also sentenced to serve three years in prison and to pay a $200,000 criminal fine.

"The number of criminal antitrust cases filed has significantly increased over the last five years, and so has the dedication of FBI resources to these important investigations. The FBI remains committed to thwarting fraud and corruption in the United States and around the world. To that end, we have agents, analysts and professional staff in all of our 56 Field Offices and 63 LEGATs that are committed to fighting these crimes wherever they are found and at whatever level they are found. I would like to commend the employees of the FBI's San Francisco Field Office and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, for their fine work on this very important antitrust investigation. This team has devoted countless hours to the investigation and I appreciate their devotion to the mission," said Assistant Director Ronald T. Hosko, of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division.

The companies and former executives were found guilty on March 13, 2012, following an eight-week trial. The indictment charged that AU Optronics Corporation participated in the worldwide price-fixing conspiracy from Sept. 14, 2001, to Dec. 1, 2006, and that its subsidiary joined the conspiracy as early as spring 2003. The jury found that the convicted companies and former executives fixed the prices of LCD panels sold into the United States. The prices were fixed during monthly meetings with their competitors secretly held in hotel conference rooms, karaoke bars and tea rooms around Taiwan. LCD panels are used in computer monitors and notebooks, televisions and other electronic devices. By the end of the conspiracy, the worldwide market for LCD panels was valued at $70 billion annually. The LCD price-fixing conspiracy affected some of the largest computer manufacturers in the world, including Hewlett Packard, Dell and Apple.

Including today's sentences, eight companies have been convicted of charges arising out of the department's ongoing investigation and have been sentenced to pay criminal fines totaling $1.39 billion. All together, 22 executives have been charged. Including today's sentences, 12 executives have been convicted and have been sentenced to serve a combined total of 4,871 days in prison.

Today's charges are the result of a joint investigation by the Department of Justice Antitrust Division's San Francisco Field Office and the FBI in San Francisco.

Friday, September 21, 2012

US Navy Videos: Naval Submarine Base New London Increases Waterfront Repair Capabilities

US Navy Videos


Fire Controlman 2nd Class Richard L. Kinnison, from Parkton, N.C., fires an air slug from the Mk-32 surface vessel torpedo tubes aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81). 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) 120920-N-YF306-058

The U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), right, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), center, and the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) transit the Pacific Ocean after completing exercise Valiant Shield 2012. Valiant Shield is an integrated joint training exercise that offers the opportunity to integrate Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps assets in a blue-water environment. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Pittman (Released) 120920-N-SF704-026



U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Mark Scott uses his weapon's scope to scan the area while providing security from his battle position during an escort detail at Forward Operating Base Farah in Afghanistan's Farah province on April 7, 2012. Scott is assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah's security force. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lovelady, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

Forces Arrest Taliban, Haqqani Leaders in Afghanistan
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 21, 2012 - Afghan and coalition security forces arrested a Taliban leader, as well as a Haqqani chief, during a security operation in the Sayyid Karam district of Pakitya province today, military officials reported.

The detained Taliban leader is linked to the Nov. 10, 2011, suicide attack that resulted in the deaths of Afghan police officers in the Tsamkani district of Paktiya province.

The detained Haqqani leader is a suspected improvised explosive device expert who is believed to have constructed IEDs, planned their use and facilitated their movement throughout the region to attack Afghan and coalition forces, officials said.

One armed insurgent was killed during the operation, officials said. As the security force attempted to enter the Taliban leader's compound, the armed insurgent fired upon Afghan and coalition troops. The security force returned fire, killing the armed insurgent. No civilians were harmed in the exchange.

The security force also detained several suspected insurgents and seized one assault rifle and Taliban paraphernalia, officials said.

In other operations today:

-- In the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province, a combined force arrested several suspects during a search for a Taliban leader. The sought-after Taliban leader is suspected of conducting insurgent operations throughout northern Helmand, in addition to providing equipment and supplies for attacks on Afghan and coalition forces.

-- A combined force detained multiple suspects during a search for a senior Taliban leader in the Atghar district of Zabul province. The sought-after Taliban leader is linked to insurgent activity and attacks throughout the Atghar district. He is also believed to command several dozen insurgent fighters in Zabul province.

-- In the Pul-e 'Alam district of Logar province, a combined force arrested a suspected Haqqani leader, who's linked to attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in the district, as well as supporting other Haqqani leaders throughout the region. The arrested Haqqani leader is linked to an insurgent network which was responsible for ambushes and mortar attacks. The security force also detained one other suspect.

-- A combined force detained several suspects and seized an assault rifle during a search for a Taliban weapons dealer in the Sayyidabad district of Wardak province. The sought-after weapons dealer is alleged to be responsible for providing weapons, ammunition and IEDs for insurgent attacks.

In operations yesterday:

-- Mullah Naim, the senior Taliban leader for the Balkh district of Balkh province, was killed by a combined force. No civilians were harmed during the operation. Mullah Naim -- also known as Mutaqi, Khodai Nur and Mullah Ayeno -- was responsible for insurgent activity throughout the region. He was also believed to be one of the key figures behind a recent IED attack in Mazar-e Sharif that killed several Afghan civilians. The security force also detained one suspect and seized multiple firearms, grenades and explosives.

-- A combined force killed a group of armed insurgents during a vehicle interdiction and narcotics recovery operation in the Nimroz district of Helmand province. Drugs found in the vehicles included 5,000 pounds of dry opium, 330 pounds of wet opium, 1,873 pounds of brown heroin and one bag of hashish. The security force also seized some machine guns, ammunition and magazines. The drugs were destroyed.


Where North Meets South in the Sea
Scientists Lyndie Hice and Glenn Wagner seine for Atlantic silversides near Cape Hatteras

July 24, 2012
The Atlantic Ocean off Nova Scotia ... and off Florida.

Along some 2,000 miles, its waters go from icy to steamy. Can a marine species live in both temperatures--and everywhere in between?

If it's a small fish known as the Atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia), it can.

The East Coast of North America has one of the fastest water temperature changes, which scientists call a thermal gradient, of any ocean or sea. It plummets 1 degree Celsius for each degree of latitude.

What effect does this steep thermal gradient have on marine species that live along the Atlantic Seaboard? How do they adapt to the extreme differences?

A study by marine scientist David Conover, currently director of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences--along with Lyndie Hice and Tara Duffy of Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y., and Stephan Munch of NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Santa Cruz, Calif.--shows that Atlantic silversides reflect the drop in water temperature in changes in their genetics.

Atlantic silversides range from the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada to northeastern Florida in the U.S. Walk along any East Coast shoreline and you're likely to see one--or a school of them--flashing silver in the shallows.

The fish are often found swimming in brackish waters, such as near the mouths of rivers and streams that connect with the sea. They're among the most common piscine residents of the world's largest such estuary, the Chesapeake Bay.

The small fish gather in salt marshes, which offer shelter for spawning and a haven from predators such as striped bass.

Atlantic silversides fuel coastal food webs from north to south. They're also a common subject of scientific research because of their sensitivity to environmental changes.

Conover and colleagues recently published the results of their study of these ubiquitous fish in the journal Ecology Letters. Hice is the lead author.

The study, she says, is the most comprehensive look at genetic variation across latitudes in a marine species.

"The Atlantic silverside is a fish that survives in a spectrum of water temperatures. There's also extensive mixing of its populations throughout its range. Scientists once assumed that all such populations would have similar traits, but we found otherwise."

Despite a blending of Atlantic silverside populations across latitudes, "the fish show remarkable genetic differences over very short distances," says Conover.

For example, the fish's maximum growth rate, and its number of vertebrae, are different in populations as little as 60 kilometers (37 miles) apart.

Conover and colleagues conducted experiments on Atlantic silversides from 39 locations along the fish's 3,000 kilometer (1,864 mile) range, mapping genetic variation in growth rate, number of vertebrae and sex determination.

They initially hypothesized that areas along the coastline where there are abrupt changes in climate, such as North Carolina's Cape Hatteras, would be places where the traits of silversides would rapidly shift in concert.

Instead they found that each trait varied uniquely with latitude--and not necessarily where expected.

The growth rate of silversides, for example, is fastest in northernmost populations.

"These patterns tell us that natural selection appears to be acting independently on each trait," says Hice.

Relationships between environmental gradients and local populations within a single species, say the scientists, are more complex than anyone thought.

"Knowledge of the conditions that lead to local adaptations in growth rate and other traits," says Conover, "will improve management of marine species and fish stocks--and our understanding of the effects of a changing environment."

As water temperatures warm with climate change, what will happen to fish like Atlantic silversides?

"Understanding how marine species adapt to changes in climate with latitude," says Conover, tells us a lot about their capacity to weather climate change in the future.

As climate and water temperatures warm, Atlantic silversides may someday splash their way north as far as Newfoundland, Labrador--and well beyond.

Cheryl Dybas, NSF



Photo: U.S. Defense Secretary Panetta, New Zealand Defense Minister Johnathon Coleman, U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand David Heubner. Credit: DOD.

Panetta Eases Restrictions on New Zealand Ship Visits
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, Sept. 21, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced here today that he has eased the restrictions on New Zealand navy ship visits to Defense Department and Coast Guard facilities in the United States and around the world.

During a news conference with Defense Minister Dr. Jonathan Coleman, Panetta said the policy, in place since the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty was suspended between the United States and New Zealand in 1984, has been modified to allow the defense secretary to authorize individual visits. "These changes, I think, are important and in the interests of both our nations," he added.

Panetta said the United States also has removed obstacles to talks between the two nations' defense officials, and has lifted restrictions on military exercises. The changes will make it easier for the U.S. and New Zealand militaries to discuss security issues and to work together in tackling common challenges, the secretary said.

In 1984, New Zealand banned nuclear or nuclear-powered ships from entering its waters or using its ports. The U.S. "one-fleet" policy holds that if any U.S. ships are restricted from an area, it will refrain from sending any ships there. In response to a reporter's question, Coleman said the policy against nuclear ships "is in place and will remain in place."

The changes he announced today, Panetta said, affirm that despite differences in some limited areas, the United States and New Zealand are embarking on a new course that will not let those differences stand in the way of greater engagement on security matters.

The secretary also discussed New Zealand's involvement in NATO's International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan.

"In my meeting with Minister Coleman, I expressed my profound appreciation ... for New Zealand's contributions to this international effort," he said. Panetta said progress has come at a heavy price for New Zealand, which last month lost five service members to enemy violence in Afghanistan.

"I join Minister Coleman and the people of New Zealand in mourning for these heroes – and they are heroes -- who gave their lives for their country and for a cause greater than themselves," he said.

Panetta noted he and Coleman signed the "Washington Declaration" at the Pentagon in June, reflecting a deeper partnership between the two militaries. The two defense leaders have identified several areas where closer defense cooperation is possible, including:

-- Increasing cooperation in the South Pacific;

-- Building New Zealand's amphibious capacity; and

-- Working multilaterally to build capacity in security partner countries for peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.

Panetta said he considers it a "special honor" to be the first U.S. defense secretary to visit New Zealand in 30 years.

"The purpose of this trip is really to mark a new era" between the two countries, the secretary said. He added that New Zealand and the United States are "close friends -- yesterday, today and tomorrow."

Coleman called Panetta's trip to New Zealand "a very significant visit ... [that] underscores the very warm state of the relationship between our two countries at all levels."


Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Aaron Belford with his collection of photographer cameras in Yuma, Ariz., Sept. 15, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary Scanlon

Face of Defense: Marine Lives Life Through Eye of Lens
By Marine Corps Lance Col. Zachary Scanlon
Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2012 - For many, the decision to concentrate on a profession takes years. For Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Aaron Belford, it came in a flash.

"Photography has always been in my life," said Belford, the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron substance abuse control officer and a Minneapolis native. "My mom was a commercial artist, and she used to do ad campaigns, so she would work with a ton of photographers. I would go to work with her, because she was a single mom who couldn't afford a babysitter. This is where I first saw a bunch of styles of photography."

Belford said he "stole" one of his mother's cameras. "From then on," he added, "I just went around and took photos of everything."

The 9/11 attacks were the biggest factor in his 2004 decision to enlist in the Marine Corps, Belford said. "A tradition of my family is when your country needs you, you serve in the military," he explained. "This is why I joined."

Once Belford joined the Marine Corps, he didn't stop with this hobby. Instead, he used his service as a way to broaden his photography skills. "The Marines was a great choice," he said. "It gave me opportunities to shoot new, interesting things."

When he deployed to Iraq in 2006, he did just that.

"We didn't have Combat Camera out there," Belford said. "I did all the camera work there with military operations. I was basically a mini Combat Camera."

After his deployment, he turned his hobby of photography into a profitable profession. He also began a family, he said, and balancing the Corps, his hobby and his loved ones is a challenge.

"It's hard to have a family, the Marine Corps and my photos," said the father of a 2-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. "It takes balance to handle them all and is really challenging. That's where the principle of 'adapt and overcome' comes to play."

The Marine Corps has given him a valuable skill, Belford said, one of many he has integrated into his photography.

"I have learned something as simple as project managing," he said. "I can see an end product and know how to reverse engineer to get to that end result. ... I can focus on my task but still watch everyone else. Before the Marine Corps, I would never have been able to do that."

One piece of advice has helped him become successful, Belford said: "Try to find the craziest dream you have and do it. Look at why you can do it, and not why you can't."

Belford is slated to leave the Marine Corps Oct. 1 and plans to open a business based on action photography.

"I want to be hanging out of a helicopter upside-down, going 300 mph, shooting photos of an all-terrain vehicle," he said. "That is the kind of photography I want to do."


Map From: U.S. Department of State Website.

U.S.-Bangladesh Partnership Dialogue
Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 20, 2012  

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy R. Sherman and Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mohamed Mijarul Quayes co-chaired the first U.S.-Bangladesh Partnership Dialogue in Washington, DC on September 19-20, 2012. The delegations held productive conversations on a wide range of bilateral and regional issues including development, civil society and governance; trade and investment; security and countering violent extremism; science and technology; women’s empowerment and gender equality.

The U.S.-Bangladesh Partnership Dialogue provided an opportunity to expand the robust bilateral relationship between our two countries. Bangladesh, which lies at the crossroads of global powerhouses in South and East Asia, can play a key role in linking these critical regions. The United States welcomed the opportunity to use the Partnership Dialogue to further enhance our close ties on a range of areas of cooperation including:

Regional Integration: The United States appreciates Bangladesh’s commitment to greater regional integration, including its efforts to expand relations with neighbors such as India, China, Burma, and others. At the Partnership Dialogue, we encouraged Bangladesh to continue to play an active role in regional integration, including efforts such as the New Silk Road, the Indo-Pacific Corridor and Indian Ocean organizations.

Development and Governance: Bangladesh’s status as a moderate Muslim democracy and its flourishing civil society organizations are the foundation of our bilateral partnership. Bangladesh is a key participant in all major U.S. development initiatives, including food security, health, climate change, and women’s empowerment. The United States also works with Bangladesh to strengthen democratic institutions, protect human rights, ensure space for a vibrant civil society, and improve governance and transparency. At the Partnership Dialogue we also discussed the importance of appointing a respected leader to serve as the new Managing Director of Grameen Bank.

Trade, Labor and Investment: The two sides discussed ways to strengthen and expand our already robust bilateral trade and investment ties. The United States looks forward to working with Bangladesh on investment climate matters, energy capacity and energy security, and development of internationally recognized labor standards. We also discussed planned delegations of U.S. trade and U.S. energy experts visiting Bangladesh in the coming year.

Security Cooperation: The United States applauds the vital and active role Bangladesh plays in ensuring security and stability domestically, regionally and globally. At the Partnership Dialogue we reviewed our continued collaboration in countering violent extremism, military-to-military engagement, counter-narcotics efforts, UN peace-keeping operations, and humanitarian assistance.


Area: 147, 570 sq. km. (55,813 sq. mi.); about the size of Iowa.
Cities: Capital--Dhaka (pop. 10 million). Other cities--Chittagong (2.8 million), Khulna (1.8 million), Rajshahi (1 million).
Terrain: Mainly flat alluvial plain, with hills in the northeast and southeast.
Climate: Semitropical, monsoonal.


Nationality: Noun and adjective--Bangladeshi(s).
Population (July 2009, CIA est.): 156 million.
Annual population growth rate (July 2009, CIA est.): 1.29%.
Ethnic groups (1998, CIA): Bengali 98%, other 2% (including tribal groups, non-Bengali Muslims).
Religions (1998, CIA): Muslim 83%; Hindu 16%; Christian 0.3%, Buddhist 0.6%, others 0.3%.
Languages: Bangla (official, also known as Bengali), English.
Education: Attendance--61%. Adult literacy rate--47.5%. (UNDP Human Development Index 2007/2008)
Health (CIA World Factbook): Infant mortality rate (below 1)--59/1,000. Life expectancy-- 60.25 years.
Work force (70.86 million): Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries--63%; manufacturing--11%; mining and quarrying--0.2%.


Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Independence: 1971 (from Pakistan).
Constitution: 1972; amended 1974, 1979, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1996, 2004.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state), prime minister (head of government), cabinet. Legislative--unicameral Parliament (345 members). Judicial--civil court system based on British model.
Administrative subdivisions: Divisions, districts, subdistricts, unions, villages.
Political parties: 30-40 active political parties. Largest ones include Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the Awami League (AL), the Jatiya Party, and the Jamaat-e-Islami Party.
Suffrage: Universal at age 18.


GDP (2008 est.): $84.2 billion (official); $226.4 billion (PPP).
Annual GDP growth rate (FY 2008): 6.2%; (FY 2008 World Bank est.): below 6%.
Per capita GDP (2008 est.): $554 (official); $1,500 (PPP).
Inflation (December 2008): 6.03% (point-to-point basis) and 8.9% (monthly average basis).
Exchange rate: U.S. $1=69.03 BDT (Dec. 2009); U.S. $1=68.55 BDT (2008); U.S. $1=69.89 BDT (2007).
Annual budget (2008 est.): $12.54 billion.
Fiscal year: July 1 to June 30.
Natural resources: Natural gas, fertile soil, water.
Agriculture (19.1% of GDP): Products--rice, jute, tea, sugar, wheat.
Industry (manufacturing; 28.6% of GDP): Types--garments and knitwear, jute goods, frozen fish and seafood, textiles, fertilizer, sugar, tea, leather, ship-breaking for scrap, pharmaceuticals, ceramic tableware, newsprint.
Trade: Total imports (FY 2008)--$21.6 billion: capital goods, food grains, petroleum, textiles, chemicals, vegetable oils. Growth rate over previous fiscal year: 25.95%. Total exports (FY 2008)--$14.11 billion: garments and knitwear, frozen fish, jute and jute goods, leather and leather products, tea, urea fertilizer, ceramic tableware. Growth rate over previous fiscal year: 16.04%. Exports to U.S. (Jan.-Dec. 2008)--$3.74 billion. Imports from U.S. (Jan.-Dec. 2008)--$468.1 million.


View of the shell of the "Large Buddha" and surrounding caves in Bamyan. The Buddha statue in this cave as well as in another - both dating to the sixth century A.D. - were frequently visited and described over the centuries by travelers on the Silk Road. Both statues were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. From: CIA World Factbook.


Panetta Announces Completion of Afghanistan Surge Drawdown
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

AUCKLAND, New Zealand, Sept. 21, 2012 - The drawdown of U.S. surge forces in Afghanistan is complete as scheduled, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced here today during a news conference with New Zealand Defense Minister Dr. Jonathan Coleman.

Panetta said the return of 33,000 troops President Barack Obama committed to the war in Afghanistan in 2009 is "an important milestone."

"As we reflect on this moment, it is an opportunity to recognize that the surge accomplished its objectives of reversing Taliban momentum on the battlefield and dramatically increased the size and capability of the Afghan national security forces," he said.

The surge of forces allowed the United States and its coalition partners in NATO's International Security Assistance Force to begin transitioning to Afghan security lead, he said, noting that Afghan forces soon will be responsible for leading their country's defense in areas of every province, and for more than 75 percent of the Afghan population.

"At the same time, we have struck enormous blows against al-Qaida's leadership, consistent with our core goal of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al-Qaida and denying it a safe haven," the secretary said.

The 68,000 U.S. service members who remain in Afghanistan combine with other nation's forces to make ISAF around 100,000 troops strong, Panetta said. Those forces will keep working to reduce the level of violence in Afghanistan, ensure the Taliban do not regain any of their previously held areas, and strengthen the Afghan army, he added.

Panetta said Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of U.S. and ISAF forces in Afghanistan, is confident he can accomplish his campaign with the current force level.

"I have always had tremendous confidence in General Allen's ability to say to me, 'This is what I need in order to accomplish the mission,'" the secretary said. "Right now, he is saying the force he has in place is sufficient to accomplish that mission."

Panetta is in New Zealand for the final stop on his third Asian tour, which also included visits to Japan and China.

ESA Portal - Austria - ESA untersucht, ob sich Mars- oder Mondgestein für den Schutz von Astronauten vor Weltraumstrahlung eignet

ESA Portal - Austria - ESA untersucht, ob sich Mars- oder Mondgestein für den Schutz von Astronauten vor Weltraumstrahlung eignet


U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta walks through an honor cordon at the Chinese North Sea Fleet headquarters in Qingdao, China, Sept. 20, 2012. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo


Panetta, Xi Welcome Closer U.S.-China Military Relations
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

BEIJING, Sept. 19, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping both said at the outset of a meeting here this morning that the secretary's visit to China will advance cooperation between the two nations' militaries.

Xi is widely considered as the top prospect to be China's next president when the government transitions in 2013. He hosted Panetta at today's meeting in the Great Hall of the People, just west of Tiananmen Square.

During a short open-media period at the beginning of the meeting, the vice president welcomed the secretary and said he believes Panetta's visit "will be very helpful in further advancing the state-to-state and military-to-military relations between our two countries."

Panetta responded that he is honored to visit China, as he was honored to host Xi at the Pentagon during the vice president's visit to the United States in February. He added he appreciates Xi's support in encouraging closer military coordination between the two countries.

"We are two great Pacific nations with common concerns," the secretary said. "We want to begin what you have called a new new-model relationship, and we can begin with better military-to-military relations. I am confident that we will be able to improve our dialogue, our communication and our security together."

Speaking to U.S. and Chinese reporters later in the day, the secretary said the vice president -- who had been out of the public eye for some weeks before last weekend, and whose health had been the subject of intense speculation -- had been "very engaged" during their meeting.

"We were scheduled to [meet] for about 45 minutes. We went a half hour or more beyond [that] in the discussion," Panetta said.

The secretary said Xi impressed him at this meeting, as in their earlier Pentagon meeting, as someone who speaks frankly and "from the heart."

Panetta said he was impressed with Xi's directness and believes the vice president sincerely wants to work toward a better relationship with the United States.

Shortly after his meeting with Xi, the secretary gave a speech at the People's Liberation Army Armored Forces' engineering academy. He was the first defense secretary to visit the academy.

Before leaving China, Panetta is scheduled to visit the eastern port city of Qingdao, where he will meet with the commander of China's North Sea Fleet.

Panetta began this trip to Asia, his third, with a stop in Japan, and will conclude the trip with a visit to New Zealand, the first by a U.S. defense secretary in 30 years.


Washington, D.C., Sept. 20, 2012The Securities and Exchange Commission today obtained an emergency court order to freeze the assets of a stockbroker who used nonpublic information from a customer and engaged in insider trading ahead of Burger King’s announcement that it was being acquired by a New York private equity firm.

Photo Credit: U.S. Marshals Service
The SEC alleges that Waldyr Da Silva Prado Neto, a citizen of Brazil who was working for Wells Fargo in Miami, learned about the impending acquisition from a brokerage customer who invested at least $50 million in a fund managed by private equity firm 3G Capital Partners Ltd. and used to acquire Burger King in 2010. Prado misused the confidential information to illegally trade in Burger King stock for $175,000 in illicit profits, and he tipped others living in Brazil and elsewhere who also traded on the nonpublic information.

The SEC obtained the asset freeze in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The agency took the emergency action to prevent Prado from transferring his assets outside of U.S. jurisdiction. Prado recently abandoned his most current job at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, put his Miami home up for sale, and began transferring all of his assets out of the country.

"Prado’s e-mails and other communications may have been sent from Brazil and may have been in Portuguese, but our commitment to prosecute illegal insider trading in U.S. markets knows no geographic or language barrier," said Sanjay Wadhwa, Deputy Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Market Abuse Unit and Associate Director of the New York Regional Office.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Prado’s insider trading in Burger King stock occurred from May 17 to Sept. 1, 2010. At the time, Prado was the representative on the account used by the customer to transfer his investment to 3G Capital. The customer had been with Prado for more than 10 years and often shared his confidential financial information with the understanding that it was to remain confidential. Prado had repeated contact with the customer by phone and e-mail as well as in person in Brazil during the time period that Prado traded Burger King securities.

The SEC alleges that Prado began his illegal trading while on a business trip to Brazil, during which he sent an e-mail to a friend that – translated from Portuguese – read, "I’m in Brazil with information that cannot be sent by email. You can’t miss it…." Prado later told his friend on a phone call that night that he heard 3G Capital was going to take Burger King private. The friend, a hedge fund manager in Miami, warned Prado that he should not trade on this information and should not encourage any of his customers to trade either.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Prado went on to tip at least four of his customers who eventually traded in Burger King stock based on nonpublic information about the impending acquisition. For example, just minutes after Prado sent the May 17 e-mail to his friend in Miami, he sent an e-mail to one of those customers which, again translated from Portuguese, read, " … if you are around call me at the hotel … I have some info…You have to hear this." A 10-minute phone conversation followed, and the customer purchased out-of-the-money Burger King call options during the next two days. In August 2010 Prado was on another business trip to Brazil, the same customer sent Prado an e-mail which translated to, "[i]s the sandwich deal going to happen?" Prado replied, "Vai sim," which means, "Yes it’s going to happen." He continued, "[e]verything is 100% under control. I was embarrassed to ask about timing. The last ‘vol’ got in the way." Following these e-mails, the customer – identified as Tippee A in the SEC’s complaint – made additional purchases in Burger King call options. The customer’s total insider trading profits amounted to more than $1.68 million.

The SEC’s complaint against Prado seeks a permanent injunction from violations of Sections 10(b) and 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5 and 14e-3 thereunder, disgorgement with prejudgment interest and monetary penalties.

The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted by Megan Bergstrom, David Brown, and Diana Tani in Los Angeles, and Charles D. Riely in New York, who are members of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Market Abuse Unit. The investigation was supervised by Unit Chief Daniel M. Hawke and Deputy Chief Sanjay Wadhwa. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Comissão de Valores Mobliliários (Securities and Exchange Commission of Brazil), Options Regulatory Surveillance Authority, and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).