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Saturday, September 29, 2012

BP PRODUCTS NORTH AMERICA AGREES TO IMPROVE SPILL RESPONSE PREPAREDNESS AT OIL TERMINALS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Thursday, September 27, 2012
BP Products North America to Improve Spill Response Preparedness at Oil Terminals Nationwide

Company Also Agrees to Pay $210,000 Penalty for Oil Spill Response Violations at Maryland Facility

BP Products North America, Inc. will pay a $210,000 penalty and implement an enhanced oil spill response program at its oil terminals nationwide, as well as a comprehensive compliance audit to resolve alleged violations of oil spill response regulations at its Curtis Bay Terminal in Maryland, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice announced today. The enhanced oil spill response program will help ensure that BP Product’s oil terminals are better prepared to respond to oil spills that could impact human health and the environment.

EPA alleged that BP Products violated federal regulations requiring oil storage facilities to conduct drills and exercises to respond to oil spills at its Curtis Bay Terminal. The civil penalty is EPA’s highest to date for violations of oil drills and exercises requirements where there was no discharge of oil.

"This agreement will help BP Products strengthen its spill response capabilities across the nation at 33 onshore oil terminals, implementing enhanced oil spill response measures, and requiring an independent auditor to evaluate a dozen high-risk onshore facilities for their readiness to respond to oil spills," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. "Taking these steps will help instill a culture of readiness and preparedness that will help protect many communities, and the natural resources upon which they rely, from future harm."

"Being prepared to respond to an oil spill can be the difference between dealing with a small, contained event or a full-blown environmental disaster," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "After twice failing to pass oil spill response exercises at its Curtis Bay facility, under the settlement, BP is required to put preventative measures into place at all of its terminals nationwide that will reduce the threat of oil spills and protect our nation’s valuable waterways. These measures also raise the bar for forward-looking companies seeking to ensure that their facilities are ready to respond quickly in the event of a spill."

Under the settlement filed today in federal court by the U.S. Department of Justice, BP Products will implement a first-of-its-kind program of spill prevention measures at its 33 non-refinery petroleum products terminals across the country.

As part of this program, the company will review and revise response plans for these facilities to ensure safeguards are tailored to the conditions at each facility. BP Products will also perform enhanced training, drills and exercises, exceeding regulatory requirements, and will repeat any failed drills and exercises within 90 days.

In addition, BP Products has agreed to an independent compliance audit of 12 of its marine and high-risk petroleum product terminal facilities. The audits will ensure that each audited facility is in compliance with spill response requirements, and to evaluate whether the facilities have resources to respond to major spills. The results of the compliance audits will also be incorporated into the enhanced spill prevention and response program being implemented at all of BP’s petroleum terminals.

EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard twice conducted unannounced government-initiated oil spill response exercises at the Curtis Bay Terminal. During these exercises, BP Products was required to demonstrate its response to a small scale discharge of fuel oil from the facility into Curtis Creek by being prepared to deploy 1,000 feet of oil containment boom within one hour and subsequently deploying the boom. On both occasions, the company did not complete the exercise in the allotted time and failed to adequately deploy the containment boom.

The Curtis Bay Terminal, which can store about 22 million gallons of oil, is located less than a quarter mile from Curtis Creek, a tributary of Curtis Bay, the Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay.

High-risk onshore facilities that store oil, such as the Curtis Bay Terminal, must have a plan for responding to oil spills that includes employee training, spill response equipment, and a "worst case" contingency plan for containing and cleaning up spills.

Based on the failed drills, EPA cited the company for failing to adequately implement a response plan, failing to identify sufficient spill response resources at the facility, and deficiencies in the facility’s training, drills and exercises program.

Weekly Address: It’s Time for Congress to Help Responsible Homeowners | The White House

Weekly Address: It’s Time for Congress to Help Responsible Homeowners | The White House




RECENT OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTOS





President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, in the Oval Office, Sept. 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)




President Barack Obama and Burmese Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi pet Bo, the Obama family dog, at the conclusion of their meeting in the Oval Office, Sept. 19, 2012. Danny Russel, Senior Director for Asian Affairs, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton watch at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

MILITARY RETIREMENT AND THE ROTH THRIFT SAVINGS PLAN

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Roth Contributions to Open to All Active-duty Troops


By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2012 - Beginning Oct. 1, 2012, active-duty members of the Army, Navy and Air Force will be able to contribute to the Roth Thrift Savings Plan as part of their investment planning, Defense Financing and Accounting Service officials said today.

The after-tax contributions will be electronically deducted from service members' pay accounts.

Active-duty service members also can start their Roth TSP contributions now through their online MyPay accounts, which offer the fastest, easiest and most secure method to manage both Roth and traditional TSP contributions. The second option open to service members is to submit a TSP-U-1 form to their finance office.

Active-duty Marines, Guardsmen, reservists and civilians paid by DFAS were able to begin making contributions to the program in June, officials said.

Additionally, the other branches of the National Guard and reserves will be able to make Roth TSP contributions by mid- to late 2013.

The timeline difference between active-duty and other service members resulted from an interim solution for reserve component members, which didn't meet Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board requirements, according to DFAS.

While work continues for options that will be available more quickly and satisfy the law and FRTIB requirements at the same time, the new schedule will allow time to make systems changes and electronic deductions that meet all requirements. DFAS officials said.

To begin making Roth TSP contributions, service members should determine how much of their pay is eligible. A Roth TSP worksheet can help make the calculations.

Military members are required to contribute an amount equaling 1 percent of their eligible pay to begin TSP contributions. For those who are not participating in traditional TSP investments, the initial Roth TSP election must meet this 1 percent requirement. The IRS maximum contribution to Roth TSP is $17,000 per year, DFAS officials said.

Military members can use pay earned in combat zones, and are excluded from federal taxes to contribute to Roth TSP.

U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY CARTER VISITS F-16 INTERNATIONAL TRAINING SCHOOL

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, left foreground, shakes hands with multinational F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft training students while visiting the U.S. Air Force's 162nd Fighter Wing at the Air National Guard base at Tucson International Airport in Arizona, Sept. 26, 2012. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett

Carter Visits F-16 International Training School
By Air Force Lt. Col. Christine Rhodes
162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

TUSCON, Ariz., Sept. 27, 2012 - Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter visited the 162nd Fighter Wing at Tucson International Airport here yesterday to learn about international F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft pilot training.

The Arizona Air National Guard was one of several stops Carter made throughout the Tucson area.

"It was very good for our airmen to see a senior Department of Defense leader visit our installation," said Air Force Col. Mick McGuire, 162nd Fighter Wing commander. "Dr. Carter left with a strong understanding of our mission and the impact of our global training success."

Carter and his staff met with students and exchange pilots from Iraq, Singapore, Japan, Denmark, Poland, South Korea, Norway and the Netherlands.

Air Guardsmen here train more than 70 international student pilots per year, offering several training programs that range from initial F-16 training to qualify new pilots to an advanced weapons course, officials said.

The 162nd is the "face of the USAF to the world" providing the best-trained coalition warfighting partners for the U.S. Air Force, officials said. The wing has trained pilots from 28 countries that fly the F-16, while developing strategic partnerships and building strong international relationships based on performance, friendship and trust.

SECRETARY OF STATE CLINTON'S REMARKS AT MEETING WITH CENTRAL AMERICAN FOREIGN MINISTERS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Remarks at her Meeting With Central American Foreign Ministers
Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York City
September 27, 2012
So I thank you all very much and I hope that you’ve had some lunch. I’m well aware that running around (inaudible) New York the week of the General Assembly, there’s hardly a moment to breathe, let alone to eat, so I hope you will not be in any way deterred from getting some nourishment.

I want to welcome all of you to our third Central American Citizen Security meeting. I’m pleased so many of our partners are here today to review our progress and discuss the path forward. We established this group because we all have an interest in enhancing stability and security across Central America. For the United States, this is very personal. These are our friends and our neighbors and our partners on so many important issues. We count a lot of our own people with origins from Central America. So we wanted to – and I particularly made it a priority – to do everything we could to deal with crime and violence and help people live safer and more prosperous lives.

Where governments have struggled to meet these challenges on their own, we want to build the partnerships that will allow us to do this better together. And since the Groups of Friends first met last June, we’ve seen real progress. In the first six months of this year, versus the first six months of 2011, homicide rates are down 10 percent in Guatemala, 25 percent in Honduras, and 26 percent in El Salvador. In some communities, we are told that the fear of violence is beginning to fade for the first time in many years.

Now, we have a lot more work to do, because still the rates of violence remain too high, rampant crime threatens to undermine citizens’ faith in their governments, and so we have to keep up the momentum. First, we need to double down on efforts that are making police more responsive and more effective. For instance, the United States has funded model police precinct programs in El Salvador and Guatemala. This program provides training and equipment to get local police more involved in their communities, to build trust between citizens and law enforcement, and to target the zones of impunity where criminals operate.

In these three precincts, homicide rates have declined even more than the national average – 35 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent. And we should expand this proven, successful program and other measures that have brought down crime and built up law enforcement, making it both more professional but also, frankly, more connected, more sensitive to the needs of the people in the communities.

Second, we should build on the success of violence prevention programs that target those who are most vulnerable to being recruited by criminal gangs, namely young people and marginalized populations. USAID is at work in 12 high crime areas in El Salvador partnering with civil society, municipal leaders, and businesses to provide education and vocational training for these at-risk groups. And in these communities, the feedback we are getting from residents is that they feel more confident making reports to local authorities, and crime rates have in fact gone down.

Third, we need to maintain the political will that has driven change from within Central American governments and societies themselves. Since last year, Honduras has passed a law permitting the extradition of drug traffickers, and we thank you. Costa Rica has strengthened its police forces and courts. Guatemala has ramped up its efforts to seize drugs and arrest criminals at the border with Mexico. Now we need to be sure that the new laws are enforced and that the new initiatives are given the resources they need to succeed.

Finally, we hope to keep strengthening partnership and collaboration. Donor countries such as ourselves need to continue to coordinate so we focus resources where they’re needed most without duplicating our efforts. Regional governments need to share effective practices and launch joint efforts, because crime, of course, doesn’t stop at borders, and we have to continue to work together.

For our part, the United States is committed to being a strong partner. Our Central American Regional Security Initiative is designed to help make streets safer, disrupt criminal networks, support the development of strong government institutions, bring services to at-risk communities, and promote greater collaboration among the region’s governments, not only within Central America but with Mexico, with Colombia, and beyond.

This year we are providing $135 million for these efforts, which brings our total in the last four years to nearly half a billion dollars. And we think, based on the evidence, this has been money well spent. We are very proud to be partnering with you, because our partnership is not simply about reducing crime. It is about building safe and stable communities that will allow entire societies to thrive and prosper.

So again, I want to thank all of you for your commitment to this effort. I look forward to hearing from people around this table who are on the front lines doing the hard work. And let me now turn to the Nicaraguan Foreign Minister – Minister Santos, welcome – to please provide an update on the efforts that have been made by Central American governments to reduce crime and violence and to engage the international community in supporting the region’s most pressing security challenges.

PROBLEM: A COMPLEX TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM IN THE MILITARY SUPPLY CHAIN

 
EUCOM Airmen, Marines support Turkey with earthquake relief
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Panelists Brainstorm to Buffer Against Supply Chain Threat

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2012 - Defense Department and National Security Agency officials met with members of academia and industry today to discuss managing and protecting an ever-more-global, commercial and financially complex supply chain.

As National Cyber Security Awareness month approaches in October, panelists framed dialogue at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies to explore how its significant investment in cyberspace supports global missions.

Brett Lambert, deputy assistant secretary of defense for manufacturing and industrial base, and Dennis Bartko, special assistant for cyber at NSA, were part of the panel.

The defense industrial base, Lambert said, comprises a diverse set of companies that provide products and services directly and indirectly to the military and NSA.

He added that the industrial base is not a monolithic entity. Rather, it includes companies that run the gamut from major companies to garage start-ups.

While some companies deal directly with the federal government, Lambert said, the vast majority of suppliers, subcontractors and providers are in a value chain that leads to those private contractors, often 10 to 15 times removed.

"Some products and services are sold by companies in the defense industrial base that are truly unique to defense applications, he said, "but most have substantial levels of nondefense demand or even [are] sold exclusively on commercial terms." Just as some suppliers may not realize their product is used in a military system, he added, DOD, in turn, may not realize it depends on a commercial component.

"For decades, the United States has commanded a decisive lead in the quality and quantity of the defense-related research and engineering conducted globally," Lambert said. He also noted the critical role the U.S. defense industrial base supply chain plays in equipping the military with superior and "technically vibrant" capabilities.

"We rely on our industrial supply chain to develop, build and ultimately maintain the goods and services upon which our warfighters' lives depend, as well as the lives of the citizens they defend," Lambert said.

However, DOD and NSA are concerned about protecting the valuable information that's contained within cyberspace, the experts said.

"Cyberspace is where our nation stores its treasure and its wealth -- our treasure being the intellectual property of our nation ... and our wealth, not being so much the money that we print or the coins that we mint, but the bits and databases that actually represent that," Bartko said.

The use of cyberspace, he added, has enhanced national security, economic competiveness, public safety and civil liberties, but challenges and threats remain and derive from various origins, tools and techniques.

Insider threats through cyber networks over remote access are one example of things that could jeopardize critical supply chains, Bartko said, and determining solutions requires a recognition and understanding of cyberspace's main attribute: convergence.

Media such as video, telephone systems, text messaging and email were separate before the advent of smartphones, tablets and similar devices, Barkto noted.

"Cyberspace was created from separate elements that were converging over time increasingly [and] became [what] we call the Internet and ... cyberspace," he said, resulting in a need for integration in buffering supply chains. And continual change also is critical, as information contained in cyberspace exponentially increases, Bartko said.

"We know that cyberspace is not going to be the same tomorrow as it is today," he said. "Our response needs to be highly agile."

U.S. POSITION ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION REPORT FOR WEEK ENDING 9/28/2012

video

READOUT ON UN SECURITY COUNCIL P-5+1 MINISTERIAL

Map Credit:  CIA World Factbook.
FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Background Briefing: Readout on the United Nations Security Council P-5+1 Ministerial

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York City
September 27, 2012
MODERATOR: Good evening, everybody. Thank you for your patience. As you know, the Secretary just completed a P-5+1 minus Iran ministers meeting. Here to give you a sense of that meeting is [Senior State Department Official], hereafter Senior State Department Official.

Take it away, [Senior State Department Official].

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Good afternoon, good evening. I’ve lost all sense of time. I’m sure you have as well.

We had a political directors meeting with High Representative Ashton for about 90 minutes prior to the ministers joining for a little over 30 minutes. And we had excellent consultations with our colleagues in both settings. And I would say the watch words for both were unity. The P-5+1 remains completely unified in wanting to get the Iranians to consider and to address the concerns of the international community, and that the P-5+1 is completely united in ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.

In addition, the P-5+1 is unified in our dual-track approach. No one likes sanctions. We understand that sanctions sometimes not only hurt countries, but have an effect for people’s day-to-day lives. We’re quite well aware of that. But we believe that it is necessary for Iran to understand that there are consequences to their not addressing the concerns of the international community, and we believe that it also helps to create political space for the diplomacy, which is far and away the preferred way to deal with this issue. All of the ministers were unified in their belief that diplomacy is the much preferred way forward, and that we are committed to that dialogue and diplomacy, and to the dual-track approach which we have been pursuing.

We discussed how we will proceed forward in making sure that we have all of the right substance on the table. We expect there to be contact in the next instance between Cathy Ashton and Dr. Jalili to discuss the next steps forward. She had said she would call him after this P-5+1 consultation, both with political directors and ministers. She will do that. They will talk about what we discussed as possible next steps. We think we will do this – continue to do this in a step-by-step process, which will include some additional consultations among ourselves, then consultations with the Iranians. And I would suspect at some point, we will indeed return to P-5+1 political directors track for a fourth round.

But we are taking this step by step, and so I think unity is – was the key word today. There was complete unanimity among the ministers most importantly, and also a strong affirmation of the job that the High Representative has been doing in coordinating this effort and coordinating these talks and the way forward.

Finally, all of the ministers also agreed that we had to proceed on a basis that was credible. As the High Representative has said many times, as the President has said, as the Secretary of State has said, we will not have talks just for talks’ sakes. So these informal conversations with Iran are very important to gauge the seriousness of their ability to really engage with us, and to take the diplomatic track, which is much preferred from our perspective.

So that’s where we are, and I’m happy to answer your questions.

MODERATOR: Brad.

QUESTION: Yeah. Firstly, just – you said there would probably be another meeting at the – a fourth meeting at the political --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: At some point, I’m sure there will be. I think we’ve got some work to do, some additional work to do first, so I would not expect that to happen immediately. But I would hope that we will get there in the not-too-distant future.

QUESTION: That’s a meeting that would include Iran, right?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And it’s not contingent on anything coming back from her discussions with Jalili?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Everything is step by step in this process, because we have to ensure that Iran is serious. We have to ensure that we aren’t going to have talks for talks’ sake. And we have some reason to believe that they will move to a point of seriousness, but we will test this out every step of the way.

QUESTION: And then, if I may – sorry, this is the last one – was there any mention by anyone about the redlines that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been speaking about in recent weeks?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think we all heard the speech today, and we will continue to have our discussions. As the Prime Minister said, we consult very closely together. We are in discussions together. We are proceeding forward in both wanting to use diplomacy as the way ahead. And so that is how we are proceeding.

MODERATOR: Indira.

QUESTION: You mentioned that you were going to be going forward now with discussions with Iran about some of the ideas that you came up with today. So how are those ideas different from what you’ve already offered to Iran? Was there a new proposal that came out or was it a new idea?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: What we have on the table is very substantive, very fair, and begins to address the concerns of the international community, but is only a first step to many steps that will have to be taken for Iran to address our concerns. So we have always been in discussions about a range of steps that will be necessary by Iran. So we will continue to have those internal consultations.

QUESTION: But the original plan that you had told us about as offered --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Stays on the – is on the – stays on the table.

QUESTION: -- that hasn’t been changed in any way?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: That has not been changed, no.

QUESTION: And what about the Meyer report that came out – I guess it was yesterday – saying that Iran, according to the IAEA, was willing to give up the 20 percent enrichment in exchange for dropping of all sanctions? Was there any discussion about that offer?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We did not discuss that report, no.

QUESTION: Is that a nonstarter?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think we have said that in order for Iran to get the sanctions relief that it’s looking for, they would have to do considerably more than the initial proposal.

QUESTION: And last question: Was there a discussion today about new steps? Because Europe has talked about new sanctions that they are proposing. Did they discuss that in their meeting?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We have – we all believe in a dual-track approach. As you note, the Europeans have been discussing additional sanctions. The President of the United States put out a new Executive Order recently. On Monday, we designated NIAC for their relationship as an agent or affiliate of the IRGC. The Congress passed additional legislation, which we are now implementing. So this dual track – the pressure track is going to continue.

QUESTION: So the Europeans didn’t tell you what they were coming up with?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We’ve had a lot of discussions.

MODERATOR: Anne.

QUESTION: What gives you confidence that – or hope that they (inaudible) may be moving – the Iranians may be moving to a point of greater seriousness? What signs do you see that that’s happening, and what would you count as for your seriousness?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I think that the High Representative, when she had her dinner with Dr. Jalili, I think indicated to the press that Iran wants and looks forward to additional dialogue to try to reach an agreement. But that discussion has to be, as I said, a credible one. And we have to make sure that the timetable that’s being used is not just being used to buy time for Iran to continue its nuclear program.

The President and the Secretary have been very clear that we are not sure that Iran has made the strategic decision to really make a credible deal with the P-5+1. But there are some signals, because they were willing to discuss 20 percent, because we did have some serious discussions, that we might find a basis to move forward. We are not there yet. And as the Secretary said, what they put on, proposed, on the table in response to our proposal was a nonstarter.

MODERATOR: Paul.

QUESTION: I haven’t heard Western officials talk about concern about ordinary Iranians as a result of the sanctions. Is there – was there more discussion of the possible impact on ordinary Iranians these days?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Not in this particular meeting, Paul. I think that’s just a fact of life, that when the rial has lost its value, when oil sales have decreased as fundamentally as they have in Iran, that Iran is going to face a struggle. And what we are trying to do here is to lead the Iranian regime to a decision that in order to be able to have the prosperity that they want, ostensibly for their people, they need to address the concerns of the international community.

TWO FLORIDA MEN PLEAD GUILTY IN ILLEGAL CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION CASE

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, September 27, 2012

Former Florida Fundraiser and Accountant Associate Plead Guilty for Illegal Campaign Contributions

WASHINGTON – Timothy F. Mobley, a real estate developer based in Tampa, Fla., and accountant Timothy F. Hohl pleaded guilty today in Jacksonville, Fla., federal court for their roles in illegal contributions to the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) and the campaign of an elected member of the U.S. Congress, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer.

Mobley, 60, pleaded guilty to one count each of making illegal conduit and illegal corporate contributions in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Hohl, 60, of Tampa, Fla., pleaded guilty to three counts of aiding and abetting those illegal contributions. Both defendants entered their guilty pleas before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel B. Toomey.

During his guilty plea hearing, Mobley admitted that from March 2006 through October 2008, he made contributions to the campaign of an individual referred to in court documents as "Federal Elected Official A" that were above the limit established by FECA. Mobley admitted he disguised these contributions by recruiting and providing money to employees of his business entities and to one employee’s family member. He also admitted he used corporate funds to illegally reimburse the conduit contributions, and that he attempted to conceal reimbursements to various employees by characterizing them as legitimate bonus compensation or advances on bonus compensation. Mobley admitted that in all, he reimbursed a total of $10,000 to RPOF and $84,300 in contributions to the campaign of Federal Elected Official A.

During his guilty plea hearing, Hohl admitted that while working as an accountant to Mobley and Mobley’s business entities from 2006 through 2008, he aided and abetted Mobley’s scheme to make the illegal excessive contributions. Hohl admitted he did so by participating in the reimbursement of other individuals, seeking and accepting reimbursement for his own contributions, and seeking and accepting reimbursement for his wife’s contributions.

On the FECA count charging him with making illegal excessive contributions in the amount of $25,000 or more for the calendar year 2008, Mobley faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $632,000 fine. On the second FECA count, charging him with making illegal corporate contributions in the amount of $25,000 or more for the calendar year 2008, he faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Hohl pleaded guilty to three counts charging him with aiding and abetting Mobley’s reimbursement scheme in 2006, 2007 and 2008, respectively. The maximum potential penalty for each offense is one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys John P. Pearson and Eric G. Olshan of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section. The case was investigated by the Jacksonville and Tampa Field Offices of the FBI. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida provided assistance.

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update: BIO-ENERGY

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

MALE DNA IN THE FEMALE BRAIN

Credit:  Wikimedia.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Some Women's Brains Contain Male DNA: Study

Health implications are unclear, researchers say.

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Male DNA and cells are commonly found in some women's brains and most likely come from male fetuses, according to a small new study.

The medical implications of male DNA and male cells in women's brains are unknown. Previous studies of microchimerism -- the presence of genetic material and cells that were exchanged between fetuses and mothers during pregnancy -- have linked it to autoimmune diseases and cancer in both helpful and harmful ways.

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle analyzed brain autopsy specimens from 59 women who died between the ages of 32 and 101. Male DNA was detected in 63 percent of the women and was distributed in various brain regions. The oldest woman with male DNA was 94.

Thirty-three of the 59 women in the study had Alzheimer's disease. These women had a somewhat lower prevalence of male DNA, which was present in lower concentrations in regions of the brain most affected by Alzheimer's.

Because of the small number of women in the study and their largely unknown pregnancy history, it is not possible to establish a link between Alzheimer's disease and levels of male DNA and cells from a fetus, the researchers said in a cancer center news release.

They also added that the study does not show an association between male microchimerism in women's brains and their health or risk of disease. Further research is needed to investigate this area.

The study was published Sept. 26 in the journal PLoS One.

G-8 DEAUVILLE PARTNERSHIP MEETING

U.S. SECRETARY PANETTA AND CANADIAN DEFENSE MINISTER MACKAY DISCUSS IRANIAN NUCLEAR AMBITIONS


U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, left, and Canadian Defense Minister Peter G. MacKay chat informally before they begin a meeting at the Pentagon, Sept. 28, 2012. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Panetta, McKay Share Concerns on Iran
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2012 - U.S. policy toward Iran's nuclear capability "is not about containment, it's about prevention," Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said here today, in reference to what Western nations believe is Tehran's attempt to enrich enough uranium to acquire a nuclear weapon.

Panetta and Canadian National Defense Minister Peter G. MacKay spoke to the Pentagon press corps following a meeting during which they discussed bilateral relations, Western Hemisphere concerns, Afghanistan and the Middle East with a particular emphasis on Iran.

In their session with reporters, Panetta reiterated that it is U.S. policy that Iran not develop atomic weapons. Both stressed that they want the Iranian government to respond to diplomacy and international sanctions aimed at thwarting suspected efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.

Canada has deep concerns about the Iranian nuclear program and recently closed its embassy in Tehran. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen J. Harper has called Iran the most dangerous place on Earth, and spoke of the "clear and present danger" that Iran poses to the world during a speech to the United Nations.

There were questions at today's joint news conference about red lines for Iran regarding its alleged nuclear ambitions. "There have been a number of red lines placed already, and Iran has edged closer and stepped over those red lines on a number of occasions now, particularly when it comes to cooperation around the subject of inspections," MacKay said.

On Syria, Panetta said there were indications the Syrian military had moved some chemical weapons in recent weeks, but that the main bases with these armaments remain secure.

In their meeting, Panetta and MacKay also discussed the need for greater security collaboration across the Western Hemisphere, particularly for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. "We think that's a real potential for bringing countries together in a common effort," Panetta said. He hopes this will be part of the agenda at the Defense Ministerial of the Americas beginning next week in Uruguay.

Panetta thanked MacKay for Canada's steadfast support in Afghanistan where it has deployed about 500 troops who are training Afghan national security forces.

There is progress and there is hope" in Afghanistan, MacKay said.

"This is what we had always anticipated, is the eventual turnover of security responsibility will allow ... Afghanistan and hopefully the region, to spread that security and spread that hope," he said.

SECRETARY OF STATE CLINTON ANNOUNCES OVER ONE BILLION DOLLARS WILL BE SPENT ON FOOD SECUREITY

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT

Secretary Clinton Announces Pledge From Civil Society Partners to Invest Over One Billion Dollars in Food Security
Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 27, 2012
On the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, Secretary Clinton announced that members from InterAction have committed to spend over a billion dollars over the next three years to support food security and nutrition worldwide.

"Civil society organizations are crucial to our success, both in the public and private sector; they have long standing relationships in communities and valuable technical expertise, and they work every single day on their commitment to try to make this world a better place for all of us" remarked Secretary Clinton during an event focused on highlighting progress under Feed the Future, and the importance of civil society organizations as key partners in achieving common food security and nutrition goals in support of country-led priorities.

InterAction, an alliance of 198 U.S.-based civil society organizations, committed its members to spend over a billion dollars of private, non-government funds to improve food security and nutrition worldwide over the next three years. Of that, five U.S.-based organizations, World Vision, Heifer International, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children and ChildFund International together committed to investing 900 million dollars to advance these goals. They will report progress annually at the time of the UN General Assembly meetings each September.

Feed the Future is the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. With a focus on smallholder farmers—women and men, and their children—Feed the Future supports partner countries in developing their agriculture sectors to spur broad-based economic growth and improve nutrition.

FEEDING A QUASAR

 


FROM: NASA/JPL

Quasar Drenched in Water Vapor

This artist's concept illustrates a quasar, or feeding black hole, similar to APM 08279+5255, where astronomers discovered huge amounts of water vapor. Gas and dust likely form a torus around the central black hole, with clouds of charged gas above and below. X-rays emerge from the very central region, while thermal infrared radiation is emitted by dust throughout most of the torus. While this figure shows the quasar's torus approximately edge-on, the torus around APM 08279+5255 is likely positioned face-on from our point of view.

Friday, September 28, 2012

WHERE WATER RAN ON MARS

FROM: NASA
Link to a Watery Past

In this image from NASA's Curiosity rover, a rock outcrop called Link pops out from a Martian surface that is elsewhere blanketed by reddish-brown dust. The fractured Link outcrop has blocks of exposed, clean surfaces. Rounded gravel fragments, or clasts, up to a couple inches (few centimeters) in size are in a matrix of white material. Many gravel-sized rocks have eroded out of the outcrop onto the surface, particularly in the left portion of the frame. The outcrop characteristics are consistent with a sedimentary conglomerate, or a rock that was formed by the deposition of water and is composed of many smaller rounded rocks cemented together. Water transport is the only process capable of producing the rounded shape of clasts of this size.

The Link outcrop was imaged with the 100-millimeter Mast Camera on Sept. 2, 2012, which was the 27th sol, or Martian day of operations.

The name Link is derived from a significant rock formation in the Northwest Territories of Canada, where there is also a lake with the same name.

Scientists enhanced the color in this version to show the Martian scene as it would appear under the lighting conditions we have on Earth, which helps in analyzing the terrain.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Curiosity rover mission has found evidence a stream once ran vigorously across the area on Mars where the rover is driving. There is earlier evidence for the presence of water on Mars, but this evidence -- images of rocks containing ancient streambed gravels -- is the first of its kind.

Scientists are studying the images of stones cemented into a layer of conglomerate rock. The sizes and shapes of stones offer clues to the speed and distance of a long-ago stream's flow.

"From the size of gravels it carried, we can interpret the water was moving about 3 feet per second, with a depth somewhere between ankle and hip deep," said Curiosity science co-investigator William Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley. "Plenty of papers have been written about channels on Mars with many different hypotheses about the flows in them. This is the first time we're actually seeing water-transported gravel on Mars. This is a transition from speculation about the size of streambed material to direct observation of it."

The finding site lies between the north rim of Gale Crater and the base of Mount Sharp, a mountain inside the crater. Earlier imaging of the region from Mars orbit allows for additional interpretation of the gravel-bearing conglomerate. The imagery shows an alluvial fan of material washed down from the rim, streaked by many apparent channels, sitting uphill of the new finds.

The rounded shape of some stones in the conglomerate indicates long-distance transport from above the rim, where a channel named Peace Vallis feeds into the alluvial fan. The abundance of channels in the fan between the rim and conglomerate suggests flows continued or repeated over a long time, not just once or for a few years.

The discovery comes from examining two outcrops, called "Hottah" and "Link," with the telephoto capability of Curiosity's mast camera during the first 40 days after landing. Those observations followed up on earlier hints from another outcrop, which was exposed by thruster exhaust as Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory Project's rover, touched down.

"Hottah looks like someone jack-hammered up a slab of city sidewalk, but it's really a tilted block of an ancient streambed," said Mars Science Laboratory Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

The gravels in conglomerates at both outcrops range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. Some are angular, but many are rounded.

"The shapes tell you they were transported and the sizes tell you they couldn't be transported by wind. They were transported by water flow," said Curiosity science co-investigator Rebecca Williams of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz.

The science team may use Curiosity to learn the elemental composition of the material, which holds the conglomerate together, revealing more characteristics of the wet environment that formed these deposits. The stones in the conglomerate provide a sampling from above the crater rim, so the team may also examine several of them to learn about broader regional geology.

The slope of Mount Sharp in Gale Crater remains the rover's main destination. Clay and sulfate minerals detected there from orbit can be good preservers of carbon-based organic chemicals that are potential ingredients for life.

"A long-flowing stream can be a habitable environment," said Grotzinger. "It is not our top choice as an environment for preservation of organics, though. We're still going to Mount Sharp, but this is insurance that we have already found our first potentially habitable environment."

During the two-year prime mission of the Mars Science Laboratory, researchers will use Curiosity's 10 instruments to investigate whether areas in Gale Crater have ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech, built Curiosity and manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

RECENT U.S. NAVY PHOTOS





FROM: U.S. NAVY
120925-N-HU377-033 JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (Sept. 25, 2012) The amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) is moored at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam during a port visit. Green Bay is part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group currently underway on a deployment to the western Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dustin Knight/Released)




120922-N-AV746-121 VASHON ISLAND, Wash. (Sept. 22, 2012) Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuel) 3rd Class Megan Ramirez, from Tallahassee, Fla., assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), participates in a community service project at Point Robinson Lighthouse. Ronald Reagan is currently homeported in Bremerton, Wash., while undergoing a docked planned incremental availability maintenance period at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Timothy M. Black/Released)

PRESIDENT OBAMA PROCLAIMS GOLD STAR MOTHER'S AND FAMILY'S DAY

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
President Proclaims Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2012 - President Barack Obama asked the nation to "rededicate ourselves to upholding the sacred trust we share with our Gold Star families and the heroes we have laid to rest," in his proclamation issued today declaring Sept. 30, 2012, as Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day.

The proclamation reads:

"From the revolution that gave life to our Republic to the trials of our times, our men and women in uniform have put themselves in harm's way to defend the people they love and the land they cherish. Their actions attest not only to the depth of their sacrifice, but also to a belief in their country so profound they were willing to give their lives for it. Today, we pay solemn tribute to all who did. Sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, they were all patriots -- and with a devotion to duty that goes without equal, these proud Americans gave of themselves until they had nothing more to give.

"As a grateful Nation honors our fallen service members, so do we honor the families who keep their memory burning bright. They are parents who face the loss of a child, spouses who carry an emptiness that cannot be filled, children who know sorrow that defies comprehension. The grief they hold in their hearts is a grief most cannot fully know. But as fellow Americans, we must lend our strength to those families who have given so much for our country. Their burdens are ones that no one should have to bear alone, and it is up to all of us to live our lives in a way worthy of their sacrifice.

"On this day of remembrance, let us rededicate ourselves to upholding the sacred trust we share with our Gold Star families and the heroes we have laid to rest. Let us always remember that the blessings we enjoy as free people in a free society came at a dear cost. Let us hold the memories of our fallen close to our hearts, and let us mark each day by heeding the example they set. Finally, let us forever keep faith with our men and women in uniform, our veterans, and our military families by serving them as well as they have served us. Our Union endures because of their courage and selflessness, and today, we resolve anew to show them the care and support they so deeply deserve.

"The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 115 of June 23, 1936 (49 Stat. 1985 as amended), has designated the last Sunday in September as 'Gold Star Mother's Day.'

"NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 30, 2012, as Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day. I call upon all Government officials to display the flag of the United States over Government buildings on this special day. I also encourage the American people to display the flag and hold appropriate ceremonies as a public expression of our Nation's sympathy and respect for our Gold Star Mothers and Families."

EXPORT-IMPORT BANK APPROVES A NEARLY $5 BILLION LOAN TO SADARA CHEMICAL COMPANY

Map:  Saudia Arabia.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.
FROM: U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK

Ex-Im Bank Approves Record-breaking Transaction
to Support More Than 18,000 Jobs

Washington, D.C. – In its largest job-supporting authorization to date, the board of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has approved a $4.975 billion direct loan to Sadara Chemical Company for the export of American goods and services required in the construction of a petrochemical complex in Jubail Industrial City II in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

According to estimates calculated from U.S. Census Bureau statistics, the financing will support approximately 18,400 American jobs, 12.5 percent of which come directly or indirectly from small businesses, in 13 states. Among the approximately 70 American exporters involved in the transaction are KBR, ABB Inc., and The Dow Chemical Company. More than 20 of the exporters are small businesses.

"Today the board approved a record-breaking transaction that will support more than 18,000 American jobs across 13 states," said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. "No other transaction in Ex-Im Bank’s storied history has supported as many American jobs as this transaction, and no other single transaction has provided so much support to small businesses. Furthermore, the manufacturing jobs supported by this transaction will in turn support other jobs, allowing the benefits of the transaction to reverberate throughout key corners of the U.S. economy."

Located in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, the mega-project will develop significant downstream capabilities for production in the fast-growing markets of the Middle East. Sadara will be the largest integrated petrochemical complex ever constructed in a single phase and will comprise of 26 process units producing more than 3 million metric tons of ten major product families of chemical products and specialty plastics per year. The complex will become operational in 2016, and its products will be available in markets throughout the world.

Sadara Chemical Company, organized and existing under the laws of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is a joint venture developed by the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) and Dow.

Headquartered in Midland, Mich., The Dow Chemical Company, and its consolidated subsidiaries (Dow), delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions through the production, marketing, and sales of specialty chemicals and advanced materials and plastics. Dow operates manufacturing sites in 36 countries and employs approximately 52,000 people.

"This historic investment is an enormous opportunity – to drive growth and create thousands of jobs here in the U.S. The surest way to grow our economy is to make high-value, innovative products in America, and to bring them to market all over the world," said Andrew N. Liveris, chairman and chief executive officer of The Dow Chemical Company. "Ex-Im Bank's action will allow U.S. manufacturers to do just that – to sell equipment and services to the largest industrial complex ever built in a single phase – namely, Sadara. Thanks to the manufacturing sector’s unmatched multiplier effect, this will create thousands of additional jobs across the entire economy."

Saudi Aramco, wholly owned by the Saudi government and based in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, manages the largest proven reserves of conventional crude oil in the world and the fourth largest gas reserves. The company was incorporated in the early 1940s and employs approximately 55,000 people.

The loan marks Ex-Im Bank’s second petrochemical transaction in Saudi Arabia. Other export-credit agencies participating in the transaction include Export Credits Guarantee Department of the United Kingdom, Hermes of Germany, Compagnie Française d'Assurance pour le Commerce Extérieur of France, the Korea Export-Import Bank, and the Korea Trade Insurance Corporation.

Aquatech International, a Canonsburg, Pa.-based small business engaged in the transaction, will provide water-treatment equipment for the complex. The company specializes in zero-liquid-discharge treatment, water reuse, and desalination.

"We at Aquatech are very pleased that the board of directors of Ex-Im Bank has approved the financing for the Sadara project," said Venkee Sharma, president and CEO of Aquatech. "This particular project has helped Aquatech to retain 50-plus jobs at its Canonsburg, Pa. facility, as well as numerous jobs within our supply chain. Ex-Im Bank has had a positive impact on our continued growth and job creation for the last two decades."

Saudi Arabia accounted for $2 billion of Ex-Im Bank’s credit exposure as of the end of FY 2011, and during the same year the Bank authorized $1.4 million in financing for the export of American goods and services to the Kingdom.

In FY 2012 to date (the present transaction excluded), Ex-Im Bank has approved approximately $3.9 billion worth of authorizations in the Middle East and North Africa.

Secretary Panetta and Canadian Minister MacKay hold a Joint News Conference

Secretary Panetta and Canadian Minister MacKay hold a Joint News Conference

NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN, SEPTEMBER 28, 2012

Photo Credit:  U.S. Air Force.
FROM: U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
Combined Force Kills Multiple Insurgents

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 28, 2012 - An Afghan and coalition security force killed multiple armed insurgents during an operation to arrest a senior Haqqani facilitator in the Gelan district of Ghazni province today, military officials reported.

As the security force approached the Haqqani facilitator's suspected location, armed insurgents attacked the Afghan and coalition troops with heavy machine gun fire, officials said. The coalition troops returned fire, killing several armed insurgents. No civilians were harmed in the exchange.

The sought-after Haqqani facilitator is believed to be directly involved in several attacks throughout the region, many involving improvised explosive devices, and suicide bombers, resulting in civilian casualties, officials said.

The security force also detained two suspects and seized multiple assault rifles, a heavy machine gun and several explosives, including rocket-propelled grenades, officials said. The weapons and explosives were destroyed.

In other operations today:

-- A combined force detained a number of suspects during an operation to arrest a Taliban leader in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province. The sought-after Taliban leader is suspected of facilitating the movement of weapons throughout the region and reported directly to senior Taliban leaders in order to coordinate insurgent attacks.

-- A combined force detained one suspect and seized several pounds of illegal narcotics during a search for a Taliban leader in the Washer district of Helmand province. The sought-after insurgent leader is alleged to serve as a link between senior Taliban leaders and local attack cells, directing insurgent activity throughout the district.

-- A combined force arrested one Haqqani network leader and detained two suspects in the Sharan district of Paktika province. The arrested Haqqani leader is suspected of being directly involved in the planning of insurgent attacks and acquiring weapons and explosives for Haqqani fighters.

-- An Afghan-led, coalition-supported force arrested a Haqqani explosives facilitator, detained one suspect and seized IED-making equipment in the Bak district of Khost province. The arrested facilitator is alleged to be directly involved in the acquisition and emplacement of improvised explosive devices and rockets for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

-- A combined force arrested a number of suspects and seized several firearms during a search for a senior Haqqani leader in the Sayyid Karam district of Paktiya province. The sought-after Haqqani leader is suspected of directing attacks and coordinating the acquisition of weapons and funding for insurgent activity.

-- A combined force detained a number of suspects and seized multiple firearms during a search for a Haqqani IED attack leader in the Sharan district of Paktika province. The sought-after Haqqani leader is believed to be directly involved in the acquisition and emplacement of IEDs for insurgent attacks.

In Sept. 27 operations:

-- An International Security Assistance Force patrol rescued three Afghans who were being held hostage by Taliban insurgents in the Panjwa'i district of Kandahar province. The ISAF unit, Task Force Arrowhead, observed a number of insurgents load three men, bound and blindfolded, onto a trailer towed by a tractor. The ISAF patrol pursued and stopped the tractor, at which point the insurgents attempted to flee. Task Force Arrowhead troops freed the hostages and detained three of their captors, who were later identified as Taliban members. ISAF learned the three captives had been held by the Taliban for up to six days. The freed men were released by ISAF to Panjwa'i district officials.

Adiada a separação do ATV-3 da Estação Espacial Internacional

Adiada a separação do ATV-3 da Estação Espacial Internacional

RECENT U.S. NAVY PHOTOS





FROM: U.S. NAVY

The amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) participates in a live-fire exercise. Green Bay is part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group currently underway on a deployment to the western Pacific region. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam (Released) 120925-N-BB534-447




The bow of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) plows through a wave while underway in rough seas. Cowpens is part of the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, and is currently conducting a routine patrol in the western Pacific region. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Kelly (Released) 120926-N-TX154-064

SEC CHARGES GOLDMAN, SACHS & COMPANY WITH "PAY TO PLAY" POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C., Sept. 27, 2012The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Goldman, Sachs & Co. and one of its former investment bankers with "pay-to-play" violations involving undisclosed campaign contributions to then-Massachusetts state treasurer Timothy P. Cahill while he was a candidate for governor.

Pay-to-play schemes involve campaign contributions or other payments made in an attempt to influence the awarding of lucrative public contracts for securities underwriting business. This marks the first SEC enforcement action for pay-to-play violations involving "in-kind" non-cash contributions to a political campaign.

According to the SEC’s order against Goldman Sachs, Neil M.M. Morrison was a vice president in the firm’s Boston office and solicited underwriting business from the Massachusetts treasurer’s office beginning in July 2008. Morrison also was substantially engaged in working on Cahill’s political campaigns from November 2008 to October 2010. Morrison at times conducted campaign activities from the Goldman Sachs office during work hours and using the firm’s phones and e-mail. Morrison’s use of Goldman Sachs work time and resources for campaign activities constituted valuable in-kind campaign contributions to Cahill that were attributable to Goldman Sachs and disqualified the firm from engaging in municipal underwriting business with certain Massachusetts municipal issuers for two years after the contributions. Nevertheless, Goldman Sachs subsequently participated in 30 prohibited underwritings with Massachusetts issuers and earned more than $7.5 million in underwriting fees.

While the SEC’s case against Morrison continues, Goldman Sachs agreed to settle the charges by paying $7,558,942 in disgorgement, $670,033 in prejudgment interest, and a $3.75 million penalty, which is the largest ever imposed by the SEC for Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) pay-to-play violations. The SEC coordinated this enforcement action with a related action filed by the Massachusetts Attorney General against Goldman Sachs.

"The pay-to-play rules are clear: municipal finance professionals that use their firm’s resources to campaign on behalf of political candidates compromise themselves and the firms that employ them," said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.

Elaine C. Greenberg, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Municipal Securities and Public Pensions Unit, added, "Fighting efforts to improperly influence the underwriting selection process is one of the unit’s top priorities. These practices result in undisclosed conflicts of interest and undermine public confidence in the integrity of the municipal securities market."

According to the SEC’s orders against Morrison and Goldman Sachs, among the campaign activities that Morrison engaged in for Cahill were fundraising, drafting speeches, communicating with reporters, approving personnel decisions, and interviewing at least one possible running mate. Morrison at times referenced his campaign work while soliciting underwriting business in an apparent attempt to curry favor during the selection process. Morrison sent e-mails to a deputy treasurer in Cahill’s office making the following statements while discussing the selection of underwriters:
"The boss [Cahill] mentioned to me this morning that he spoke to [the Assistant Treasurer] and that it is looking good for us [Goldman Sachs] on the build America bond deal."
"From my standpoint as an advisor/consultant/friend I am saying, PLEASE don’t give these [underwriter] slots away willy-nilly. You are in the fight of your lives and need to reward loyalty and encourage friendship. If people aren’t willing to be creative with their support then they shouldn’t expect business. This has to be a political decision."
"We have discussed the Build American Bond transaction and how important it is to me. You have been great keeping me up to speed. This is my number 1 priority and most important ask. Having Goldman as the lead and getting 50% of the economics would be such a home run for me."

According to the SEC’s orders, in addition to his direct campaign work for Cahill, Morrison made an indirect cash contribution to Cahill by giving cash to a friend who then wrote a check to the Cahill campaign. Morrison’s campaign work and his indirect financial contribution created a conflict of interest that was not disclosed by Goldman Sachs in the relevant municipal securities offerings in violation of pay-to-play rules. Morrison himself acknowledged the existence of this conflict in an e-mail to a campaign official, saying, "I am staying in banking and don’t want a story that says that I am helping Cahill, who is giving me banking business. If that came out, I’m sure I wouldn’t get any more business."

According to the SEC’s orders against Goldman Sachs and Morrison, Goldman Sachs terminated Morrison in December 2010.

The SEC’s order against Goldman Sachs found that the firm violated Section 15B(c)(1) of the Exchange Act and MSRB Rule G-37(b), which prohibits firms from underwriting offerings for municipal issuers within two years after any contribution to an official of such issuer. The SEC’s order found that Goldman Sachs did not disclose any of the contributions on MSRB Forms G-37, and did not make or keep records of the contributions in violation of MSRB Rules G-37(e), G-8 and G-9. The order found that Goldman Sachs did not take steps to ensure that the attributed contributions or campaign work or the conflicts of interest raised by them were disclosed in the bond offering documents, in violation of MSRB Rule G-17, which requires broker-dealers to deal fairly and not engage in any deceptive, dishonest, or unfair practice. The order found that Goldman Sachs failed to effectively supervise Morrison in violation of MSRB Rule G-27.

Goldman Sachs consented to the SEC’s order without admitting or denying the findings. In addition to paying disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and the penalty, Goldman Sachs agreed to be censured and to cease and desist from committing or causing any violations and any future violations of the provisions referenced in the order.

In its order against Morrison, the SEC’s Enforcement Division alleges that Morrison violated MSRB Rule G-37(d) by making a secret, undisclosed cash campaign contribution to Cahill, that he violated MSRB Rule G-37(c) by soliciting campaign contributions for Cahill, and that he violated MSRB Rule G-17 by failing to disclose conflicts of interest to the purchasers of municipal securities. The Division of Enforcement further alleges that Morrison caused Goldman Sachs to violate Rule G-8, Rule G-9, Rule G-37(b) and Rule G-37(e).

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by members of the Enforcement Division's Municipal Securities and Public Pensions Unit including Senior Enforcement Counsel Louis A. Randazzo and Assistant Director LeeAnn Ghazil Gaunt, and supervised by Unit Chief Elaine C. Greenberg and Deputy Chief Mark Zehner. Richard Harper of the SEC’s Boston Regional Office will lead the litigation against Morrison.

MARINE RECOUNTS CAMP BASTION ATTACK


FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE


Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ethan Burk stands in front of a bullet-riddled concrete barrier scarred from the Sept. 14, 2012, night attack on Camp Bastion in Helmand province Afghanistan. Carrying a bullet-scarred rifle and wounded during the attack, Burk and another Marine maneuvered out of the kill zone to inform the British Army's quick reaction force of the insurgents' fighting position. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James Mercure.
 
Face of Defense: Marine Recalls Camp Bastion Attack
By Marine Corps Sgt. James Mercure
Regional Command Southwest


AFGHANISTAN, Sept. 27, 2012 - "There was blood down my leg after I got shot," recalled Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ethan Burk, who was present during the Sept. 14 insurgent night attack on Camp Bastion here in Helmand province.

Burk, a hazardous materials management coordinator with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), was on his way to work when he heard the first rocket-propelled grenade explode behind him.

Avoiding the giant fireball from the explosion, he had driven straight into an ambush of heavily armed insurgents firing at his four-wheeled tractor, which had no armor to stop the barrage of bullets striking all around him.

"I could see the muzzle flashes from the corner of the compound," said Burk, a Milford, Texas native. "That's when I realized they were all aiming at me. I felt something hit my arm, but I thought I had just banged it on something. Then I rolled out of the [tractor] and ducked. When I reached for my rifle they started shooting at me again, and that's when I realized they had a lot more firepower than I did because they were firing too fast for just regular AK-47s."

Maneuvering behind a barrier, Burk could only see and judge the insurgents' movements in the darkness by their muzzle flashes. So he pressed on, trying to use the flight line's light to see where the insurgents had holed up so he could get the drop on them.

After moving to a covered position, one of his friends and the only other Marine in the area, Lance Cpl. Kevin Sommers, a cryogenics technician, jumped over a barrier and almost landed on top of Burk. The two Marines waited for the insurgents to try and flank them. When they didn't, the pair climbed over concrete barriers to get better firing points at the enemy.

"Once we realized they weren't coming after us, we jumped over the T-walls and cleared out the area behind the barriers. At that point the British [quick reaction force] showed up, and the [helicopters] were shooting from their main guns at the insurgents fighting position right overhead," Burk said. "We flagged the soldiers down with a light and yelled 'Marines, Marines, Marines' to let them know the situation. The guy in charge of the British QRF told us to go get my arm checked out because he saw the blood on my uniform."

After Burk and Sommers checked in for accountability, Burk went to a corpsman and found out he had been shot in the elbow by one of the insurgent's machine gun rounds.

"After I had it X-rayed, they found two pieces of the bullet still lodged in my arm and they had to surgically remove it," Burk explained. "After the whole ordeal, they asked if I wanted to go home because I was injured, and I told them I just got here, why would I want to go home?"

JUSTICE SAYS PARKING FACILITIES MUST HAVE DIVESTITURES IN ORDER TO MERGE

Credit:  Wikimedia
FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ANTITRUST DIVISION
Divetitures Will Preserve Parking Competition in 29 Citis

WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice announced today that it will require Standard Parking Corporation and Central Parking Corporation to divest their interests in certain off-street parking facilities in 29 cities in 21 states in order to proceed with Standard’s acquisition of Central. The department said that without these divestitures, the combined company would have gained a dominant market share of off-street parking facilities in certain areas of each of the cities, resulting in higher prices and reduced service to motorists. The acquisition is valued at approximately $345 million.

The department’s Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the proposed acquisition. At the same time, the department filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the competitive concerns alleged in the lawsuit.

"Consumers have benefited from lower parking prices because of competition between Standard and Central in many urban central business districts," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joseph Wayland in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. "These divestitures will ensure that consumers in the affected cities and states will receive better services."

Standard and Central are the two largest parking management companies in the United States. The companies are head-to-head competitors in providing motorists with off-street parking services, such as in garages and lots. In its complaint, the department said that the companies compete on prices, including "early-bird" or evening specials, as well as on hours of operation, parking options, security and other terms. As a result of the competition between Standard and Central, consumers have benefitted through lower prices and better services. The proposed merger threatens to end that competition and would provide Standard with the ability to exercise market power by raising prices or reducing the quality of services offered for off-street parking services, the department said in its complaint.

The department’s complaint alleges that the proposed acquisition would lessen competition in certain areas in the central business districts (CBDs) of: Atlanta; Baltimore; Bellevue, Wash.; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Fort Myers, Fla.; Fort Worth, Texas; Hoboken, N.J.; Houston; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; Miami; Milwaukee; Minneapolis; Nashville, Tenn.; New Orleans; New York City (Bronx, Rego Park), N.Y.; Newark, N.J.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Richmond, Va.; Sacramento, Calif.; and Tampa, Fla.

To remedy the harm, the proposed settlement requires Standard and Central to divest at least 107 parking facilities in the CBDs. The divestitures can be accomplished by selling the companies’ interests in the parking facilities to an approved buyer or by terminating the parking facility agreement or allowing it to expire. The facilities to be divested generate total annual revenues from consumers of about $85 million.

Standard is a Chicago-based company which currently operates in 41 states and Washington, D.C., with approximately 2,200 parking facilities containing more than 1.2 million parking spaces. In 2011, Standard had total revenues of more than $729 million.

Central is a Nashville-based company which operates in 38 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, with approximately 2,200 parking facilities containing about 1 million parking spaces. It is privately held, with total revenues in 2011 in excess of $800 million.

As required by the Tunney Act, the proposed settlement, along with a competitive impact statement, will be published in the Federal Register. Any person may submit written comments concerning the proposed settlement during a 60-day comment period to Scott Scheele, Chief, Telecommunications and Media Enforcement Section, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 7000, Washington D.C. 20530. At the conclusion of the 60-day comment period, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia may approve the proposed settlement upon finding that it is in the public interest.