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Saturday, November 10, 2012



It looks like even the craters on Mercury have heard of Bob Ross! The central peaks of this complex crater have formed in such a way that it resembles a smiling face. This image taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft is oriented so north is toward the bottom. The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the Solar System's innermost planet. During the one-year primary mission, MESSENGER acquired 88,746 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER is now in a yearlong extended mission, during which plans call for the acquisition of more than 80,000 additional images to support MESSENGER's science goals. Image Credit: NASA


Photo:  International Space Station.  Credit:  NASA

NASA, ESA Use Experimental Interplanetary Internet to Test Robot From International Space Station

WASHINGTON -- NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) successfully have used an experimental version of interplanetary Internet to control an educational rover from the International Space Station. The experiment used NASA's Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocol to transmit messages and demonstrate technology that one day may enable Internet-like communications with space vehicles and support habitats or infrastructure on another planet.

Space station Expedition 33 commander Sunita Williams in late October used a NASA-developed laptop to remotely drive a small LEGO robot at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. The European-led experiment used NASA's DTN to simulate a scenario in which an astronaut in a vehicle orbiting a planetary body controls a robotic rover on the planet's surface.

"The demonstration showed the feasibility of using a new communications infrastructure to send commands to a surface robot from an orbiting spacecraft and receive images and data back from the robot," said Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The experimental DTN we've tested from the space station may one day be used by humans on a spacecraft in orbit around Mars to operate robots on the surface, or from Earth using orbiting satellites as relay stations."

The DTN architecture is a new communications technology that enables standardized communications similar to the Internet to function over long distances and through time delays associated with on-orbit or deep space spacecraft or robotic systems. The core of the DTN suite is the Bundle Protocol (BP), which is roughly equivalent to the Internet Protocol (IP) that serves as the core of the Internet on Earth. While IP assumes a continuous end-to-end data path exists between the user and a remote space system, DTN accounts for disconnections and errors. In DTN, data move through the network "hop-by-hop." While waiting for the next link to become connected, bundles are temporarily stored and then forwarded to the next node when the link becomes available.

NASA's work on DTN is part of the agency's Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN) Program. SCaN coordinates multiple space communications networks and network support functions to regulate, maintain and grow NASA's space communications and navigation capabilities in support of the agency's space missions.

The space station also serves as a platform for research focused on human health and exploration, technology testing for enabling future exploration, research in basic life and physical sciences and Earth and space science.

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House

Weekly Address: Extending Middle Class Tax Cuts to Grow the Economy | The White House

Weekly Address: Extending Middle Class Tax Cuts to Grow the Economy | The White House

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update: Army's Real UFO

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update


Friday, November 9, 2012
Mississippi Laboratory Operator Charged with Falsifying Records on Industrial Wastewater

An owner and sole operator of an environmental laboratory has been charged in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi with falsification of records and obstructing a federal criminal investigation, announced U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Gregory K. Davis and Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Tennie White, owner, operator and manager of Mississippi Environmental Analytical Laboratories Inc. was charged in a three-count felony indictment with two false statements counts and one count of obstructing proceedings.

According to the indictment, White was hired to perform laboratory testing of a manufacturer’s industrial process waste water samples and then to use those results to complete monthly discharge monitoring reports for submission to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). The indictment alleges that from February to August 2009 White created three discharge monitoring reports (DMRs) that falsely represented that laboratory testing had been performed on samples when, in fact, such testing had not been done. The indictment further alleges that White created a fictitious laboratory report and presented it to her client for use in preparing another DMR.

The indictment further alleges that White made false statements to a federal agent during a subsequent criminal investigation.

An indictment is not a finding of guilt, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

The false statements charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine per count. The obstructing proceedings charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Richard J. Powers of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Gaine Cleveland of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.


Credit:  FDA
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Two Pakistani Nationals Indicted for Conspiring to Illegally Ship Pharmaceuticals into the US

Defendants Allegedly Shipped More Than $780,000 of Drugs into U.S.

Two Pakistani nationals have been indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia on charges alleging that they operated Internet sites that illegally shipped pharmaceuticals from Pakistan and the United Kingdom to customers in the United States.

Sheikh Waseem Ul Haq, 39, and Tahir Saeed, 50, are accused of operating Internet sites that, since late 2005, illegally shipped $2 million of pharmaceuticals from Pakistan and the United Kingdom to customers worldwide, including nearly $780,000 in sales to U.S. purchasers.

According to the indictment, the defendants and others owned, operated and conducted business as Waseem Enterprises and Harry’s Enterprises, wholesale pharmaceutical companies that were located in Pakistan. The businesses were used to unlawfully distribute a wide variety of controlled substances and prescription drugs through Internet sites. The defendants and others also advertised their companies on Internet sites to generate business.

Ul Haq and Saeed directed U.S. customers to submit payments via Western Union to numerous individuals in Karachi, Pakistan, in order to conceal the fact that the funds were going to Ul Haq and Saeed. As alleged in the indictment, the defendants admitted in e-mails that they paid bribes to Pakistani customs officials to facilitate shipment of the drugs out of Pakistan, and warned that U.S. customers bore the risk of interception by U.S. customs officials. The indictment alleges that the defendants packaged the drug shipments in ways which reduced the likelihood of interdiction by customs inspectors and told customers that, despite the packaging, some of the shipments might not get through.

The drugs shipped into the United States included methylphenidate (sold as Ritalin); various anabolic steroids; alprazolam (sold as Xanax); diazepam (sold as Valium), lorazepam (sold as Ativan), clonazepam (sold as Klonapin) and other controlled and non-controlled substances.

The indictment, which was returned on Nov. 6, 2012, was announced today by Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Acting Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division; James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Robert Brisolari, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Division Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration; Gary R. Barksdale, Inspector in Charge, Washington Division, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Antoinette V. Henry, Special Agent in Charge of the Metro Washington Field Office of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations.

The indictment was returned following a presentation of evidence by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, working in conjunction with the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch. It charges the defendants with conspiracy to import controlled substance pharmaceuticals into the United States; conspiracy to distribute controlled substance pharmaceuticals; conspiracy to introduce misbranded pharmaceuticals into interstate commerce; importation and distribution of controlled substance pharmaceuticals; introduction into interstate commerce of misbranded drugs, and conspiracy to commit international money laundering. It also includes a forfeiture allegation seeking all proceeds that can be traced to the scheme.

If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison for each of the two counts involving the conspiracy to import and distribute controlled substances, as well as up to 20 years for the conspiracy to commit international money laundering. They face a maximum penalty of five years for conspiracy to introduce misbranded pharmaceuticals into interstate commerce, and additional time if convicted of the other charges.

In early October 2012, a law enforcement task force investigating the case learned that the defendants would be traveling from Pakistan to northern Europe. With coordination from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, U.S. authorities lodged provisional arrest warrants for the defendants first in Germany and then in the United Kingdom.

With the assistance of Interpol and law enforcement agents in Germany and the United Kingdom, the defendants were tracked from Germany to London, where they were arrested by the London Metropolitan Police Service Fugitive Squad at a hotel near Heathrow Airport on Oct. 19, 2012. They were presented to Westminster Magistrate’s Court in London and ordered held pending extradition to the United States.

"This indictment alleges an international conspiracy to sell anabolic steroids, anti-anxiety medications, and other prescription drugs over the Internet to American consumers without any doctor involved," said U.S. Attorney Machen. "These Pakistani nationals are alleged to have engaged in a scheme to ship unregulated pharmaceuticals to American consumers in exchange for money wired to their cohorts in Pakistan. The controlled substances were packaged to conceal the illegal shipments from being discovered by customs officials. Our Office, along with our law enforcement colleagues, will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who are intent on shipping unregulated and potentially dangerous drugs into the United States."

"This prosecution aims to curb the flow of dangerous drugs into the hands of United States citizens," said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. "The drugs allegedly sold by the defendants were not approved for distribution into the United States, were not dispensed by U.S. licensed pharmacies, and were not prescribed by any physician. Along with the FBI, FDA and our other law enforcement partners, we will continue to protect our citizens from unsafe and potentially harmful drugs."

"This complex investigation and subsequent arrests disrupted an international black market for potentially dangerous drugs entering the United States," said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. "This indictment is the direct result of the hard work of FBI Agents in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations and the London Metropolitan Police Service as well as the prosecutors working on this case."

"This indictment shows the commitment of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to keep its customers safe from potentially harmful products," said Inspector in Charge Barksdale. "We would also like to thank our federal partners in our continued effort to rid the U.S. Mail of illegal pharmaceuticals."

"The FDA Office of Criminal Investigations is committed to working with our international and domestic law enforcement partners in aggressively pursuing unscrupulous individuals who seek to sell adulterated and misbranded pharmaceuticals to U.S. citizens via the Internet," said Special Agent in Charge Henry.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

This investigation was sponsored and supported by the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. Dominguez and Linda I. Marks, Senior Litigation Counsel for the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch, who coordinated the investigation and presented the evidence to the grand jury.


Photo Credit:  Wikimedia Commons

United States Advances Antarctic Marine Protection Proposal
Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 8, 2012

31st Meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) concluded on November 1 in Hobart, Australia. The meeting yielded a significant step toward protecting Antarctica’s Ross Sea as the United States and New Zealand reached agreement on a joint proposal to establish the world’s largest marine protected area (MPA) in that region. The Ross Sea is of tremendous conservation and scientific value and continues to be a focal point for U.S. marine conservation efforts in Antarctica.

Although the United States and New Zealand had submitted different proposals to CCAMLR for MPAs in the Ross Sea, productive negotiations between the two countries resulted in a joint plan that balances ecosystem protection, scientific research, and fishing objectives. The proposed MPA would protect roughly 876,000 square miles (2.27 million square kilometers) of the Ross Sea, an area larger than the state of Alaska.

Unfortunately, the joint plan was not finalized during the meeting. Opposition from a small number of members prevented the Commission from reaching the consensus required to approve the Ross Sea and other MPA proposals. Members agreed, however, to convene a special meeting in Germany in July 2013 to consider and make decisions on the pending MPAs, demonstrating the importance and urgency of the issue.

The U.S. delegation at CCAMLR is led by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, and also includes representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation, as well as advisers from the fishing industry and non-governmental conservation organizations.

The United States looks forward to working with New Zealand and other interested governments in advance of the July meeting on this significant marine protection initiative.



Friday, November 9, 2012
Army National Guard Recruiter Admits Crimes in Fraudulent Recruiting Referral Bonus Scheme

Plea Latest of Ten in Ongoing Corruption Investigation

An Army National Guard recruiter pleaded guilty today in the Western District of Texas for his role in a bribery and fraud scheme that caused approximately $98,000 in losses to the Army National Guard Bureau, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Staff Sergeant Jermaine Britt, 39, of Richmond, Texas, pleaded guilty to a three-count criminal information charging him with one count of bribery, one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud and one count of obstruction of justice. The criminal information was filed on Nov. 2, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

The case against Britt arises from an investigation involving allegations that former and current military recruiters and U.S. soldiers in the San Antonio and Houston areas engaged in a wide-ranging bribery and fraud scheme to illegally obtain fraudulent recruiting bonuses. To date, the investigation has led to charges against ten individuals, all of whom have now pleaded guilty.

According to court documents, in approximately September 2005, the National Guard Bureau entered into a contract with Document and Packaging Broker Inc. to administer a recruiting program designed to offer monetary incentives to soldiers of the Army National Guard who referred others to join. Through this program, a participating soldier could receive up to $2,000 in bonus payments for every person whom the participating soldier referred to join the Army National Guard. Based on certain milestones achieved by the referred soldier, a participating soldier would receive payment through direct deposit into the participating soldier’s designated bank account. To participate in the program, soldiers were required to create online recruiting assistant accounts.

According to court documents, Britt enlisted in the Army National Guard in approximately July 2005, and served as a military recruiter from approximately November 2006. Britt admitted that between approximately May 2008 and April 2011, he and other recruiters obtained the names and Social Security numbers of potential soldiers and provided them to recruiting assistants, including Stephanie Heller, with the understanding that these recruiting assistants would use the information to obtain fraudulent recruiting bonuses. The recruiting assistants used the information to claim they were responsible for referring these potential soldiers to join the Army National Guard, when they were not. In exchange, Britt admitted that he personally received a total of $23,750 in cash payments.

Britt also admitted that after learning of a federal investigation into the fraudulent bonus scheme, he attempted to persuade Heller to falsify her statements to special agents of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (Army CID agents), whom Britt understood at the time were conducting a federal investigation of Britt’s and Heller’s unlawful activities. Specifically, Britt coached Heller on how she could provide false exculpatory explanations to Army CID agents concerning, among other things, Heller’s large cash withdrawals from her personal bank account, Britt’s e-mails to Heller in which he provided her with the personal identifiers of potential soldiers, and Heller’s use of Britt’s military computer to make fraudulent referrals under her recruiting assistant account.

On Oct. 4, 2012, Stephanie Heller pleaded guilty to one count of bribery and one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud in connection with her unlawful dealings with Britt and another recruiter and her personal receipt of approximately $44,500 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses.

The charge of bribery carries a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison, the charge of conspiracy carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and the charge of obstruction carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Each charge also carries a maximum $250,000 fine, or twice the pecuniary gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing has been scheduled for Feb. 8, 2013, before Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery in San Antonio.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Edward J. Loya Jr., Brian A. Lichter, and Sean F. Mulryne of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case is being investigated by agents from the San Antonio Fraud Resident Agency of the Major Procurement Fraud Unit, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.


Army Sgt. 1st Class Barry "Lee" Newnam II, noncommissioned officer in charge, 249th Engineer Battalion, Fort Bragg, N.C., assists in the movement of generators to be sent to areas in New Jersey that are in critical need of power. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jennifer Brady


Soldiers Coordinate Generator Shipment for Sandy Relief

By Army Sgt. Jennifer Brady
10th Press Camp Headquarters

LAKEHURST, N.J., Nov. 9, 2012 - State and local authorities, with support from federal agencies, have been working to restore power to residents of the northeastern United States impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said his top priority is to restore power to those affected by the storm and the U.S. Army's 249th Engineer Battalion, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., is helping to do just that.

"We're conducting support of the national response framework by conducting assessments at critical facilities and sending the information back to the generator yard to begin sending generators out so that we can help bring power back to the people of New Jersey," said Army Capt. Michael Wiehagen, who commands the battalion's Bravo Company.

Wiehagen, a Pittsburgh native, is responsible for a number of engineer teams throughout New Jersey and parts of New York that are working around the clock to assess damage and determine the scale of assistance needed.

Once local power needs are identified, Wiehagen's mission is coordinating the allocation and shipping of generators to these areas.

For Army Sgt. 1st Class Barry "Lee" Newnam II, noncommissioned officer in charge, 249th Engineer Battalion, it's more than a mission; it's an opportunity to help fellow Americans.

"Being a United States Army soldier, it's a privilege to help the citizens of New Jersey in this time of need and I look forward to continuing to serve," Newnam said. "We are here to offer support to the state of New Jersey for as long as they need us and it's imperative that we continue this support at such a critical time."

The generators allocated for New Jersey residents are ready and capable, the engineers said, with enough power to support hospitals and other areas in critical need.

Four generators can provide enough energy to power a small town, and with hundreds of generators facilitated by the 249th Engineer Battalion, the soldiers and FEMA are well on their way to restoring power in New Jersey.


121109-N-PW661-037 MAYPORT, Fla. (Nov. 9, 2012) The country music band Little Big Town performs at the Navy and Marine Corps Classic pre-basketball game concert for servicemembers and their families at the Naval Station Mayport as part a Week of Valor tribute. The game honors veterans, active and reserve service members, and military families. America's away team, the Navy and Marine Corps are reliable, flexible, and ready to respond worldwide on, and above and below the sea as well ashore. Join the conversation in social media using #BBallOnDeck. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Rob Aylward/Released)

121108-N-MJ645-284 MAYPORT, Fla. (Nov. 8, 2012) The University of Florida Gators basketball team practices on the hardwood court assembled on the flight deck aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). The Gators will face off against the Georgetown University Hoyas in the Navy-Marine Corp Classic aboard Bataan and is hosted by the City of Jacksonville, which along with its surrounding communities has a long tradition of supporting Sailors and Marines. The game honors veterans, active and reserve service members, and military families. America's away team, the Navy and Marine Corps are reliable, flexible, and ready to respond worldwide on, and above and below the sea as well ashore. Join the conversation in social media using #BBallOnDeck. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Marcus L. Stanley/Released)




Friday, November 9, 2012
Moneygram International Inc. Admits Anti-Money Laundering and Wire Fraud Violations, Forfeits $100 Million in Deferred Prosecution

Also Agrees to Enhanced Compliance Obligations and Structural Changes in Connection with Five-Year Agreement

WASHINGTON – MoneyGram International Inc. – a global money services business headquartered in Dallas – has agreed to forfeit $100 million and enter into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the Justice Department in which it admits to criminally aiding and abetting wire fraud and failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program, as charged in an information filed today in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Peter Smith for the Middle District of Pennsylvania; and Karen V. Higgins, Inspector in Charge, Philadelphia Division, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).

According to court documents, MoneyGram was involved in mass marketing and consumer fraud phishing schemes, perpetrated by corrupt MoneyGram agents and others, that defrauded tens of thousands of victims in the United States. MoneyGram also failed to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program in violation of the Bank Secrecy Act. The Justice Department will return the forfeited funds to the victims of the fraud scheme through its Victim Asset Recovery Program.

"MoneyGram’s broken corporate culture led the company to privilege profits over everything else," said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. "MoneyGram knowingly turned a blind eye to scam artists and money launderers who used the company to perpetrate fraudulent schemes targeting the elderly and other vulnerable victims. In addition to forfeiting $100 million, which will be used to compensate victims, MoneyGram must for the next five years retain a corporate monitor who will report regularly to the Justice Department."

U.S. Attorney Smith said, "Thousands of citizens in Pennsylvania and other states suffered heartbreaking financial losses for years because of these international telemarketing schemes which depended on MoneyGram’s facilities to give them an electronic highway to move their illegal profits quickly out of the country. The determined work of U.S. Postal Inspectors and federal prosecutors disrupted and closed that electronic highway, hopefully for good. This case provides a way to get restitution for victims and ensure that MoneyGram does its part to deter similar scams in the future."

"This agreement demonstrates the ongoing and important work of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in protecting consumers all across America," said Karen V. Higgins, Inspector in Charge, Philadelphia Division. "Businesses are supposed to provide their customers with fair and honest services. Today’s agreement reflects the commitment of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in seeking justice and, to every extent possible, restitution for the most vulnerable in our society."

As part of the DPA, MoneyGram has agreed to enhanced compliance obligations and structural changes to prevent a repeat of the charged conduct, including:

Creation of an independent compliance and ethics committee of the board of directors with direct oversight of the chief compliance officer and the compliance program;
Adoption of a worldwide anti-fraud and anti-money laundering standard to ensure all MoneyGram agents throughout the world will, at a minimum, be required to adhere to U.S. anti-fraud and anti-money laundering standards;
Adoption of a bonus system which rates all executives on success in meeting compliance obligations, with failure making the executive ineligible for any bonus for that year; and
Adoption of enhanced due diligence for agents deemed to be high risk or operating in a high-risk area.

To oversee implementation and maintenance of these enhanced compliance obligations and evaluate the overall effectiveness of its anti-fraud and anti-money laundering programs, MoneyGram has agreed to retain an independent corporate monitor who will report regularly to the Justice Department. Under the DPA, the department will recommend the dismissal of the criminal information in five years, provided MoneyGram fully abides by the DPA’s terms.

The Fraud Scheme

According to court documents, starting in 2004 and continuing until 2009, MoneyGram violated U.S. law by processing thousands of transactions for MoneyGram agents known to be involved in an international scheme to defraud members of the U.S. public. MoneyGram profited from the scheme by collecting fees and other revenues on the fraudulent transactions.

The scams – which generally targeted the elderly and other vulnerable groups – included posing as victims’ relatives in urgent need of money and falsely promising victims large cash prizes, various high-ticket items for sale over the Internet at deeply discounted prices or employment opportunities as "secret shoppers." In each case, the perpetrators required the victims to send them funds through MoneyGram’s money transfer system.

Despite thousands of complaints by customers who were victims of fraud, MoneyGram failed to terminate agents that it knew were involved in scams. As early as 2003, MoneyGram’s fraud department would identify specific MoneyGram agents believed to be involved in fraud schemes and recommended termination of those agents to senior management. These termination recommendations were rarely accepted because they were not approved by executives in the sales department and, as a result, fraudulent activity grew from 1,575 reported instances of fraud by customers in the United States and Canada in 2004 to 19,614 reported instances in 2008. Cumulatively, from 2004 through 2009, MoneyGram customers reported instances of fraud totaling at least $100 million.

The USPIS and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania have been investigating and prosecuting telemarketing scams that used MoneyGram’s money transfer system and corrupt MoneyGram agents since 2007. To date, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania has brought conspiracy, fraud and money laundering charges against 28 former MoneyGram agents.

Ineffective Anti-Money Laundering Program

MoneyGram’s involvement in this international fraud scheme resulted from a systematic, pervasive, and willful failure to meet its anti-money laundering (AML) obligations under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), a set of laws and regulations enacted by Congress to strengthen the U.S. financial system’s protections against criminal money laundering activity through financial institutions, including money services businesses like MoneyGram. Court documents show that MoneyGram failed to meet its AML obligations by, among other things, failing to:

Implement policies or procedures governing the termination of agents involved in fraud and/or money laundering;
Implement policies or procedures to file the required Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) when victims reported fraud to MoneyGram on transactions over $2,000;
File SARs on agents MoneyGram knew were involved in the fraud;
Conduct effective AML audits of its agents and outlets;
Conduct adequate due diligence on prospective and existing MoneyGram Agents by verifying that a legitimate business existed; and
Sufficiently resource and staff its AML program.

MoneyGram’s BSA failures spanned five years, and resulted, among other things, from the failure of its fraud and AML compliance functions to share information and from its regularly resolving disagreements between its sales and fraud departments in the sales department’s favor. One notable such disagreement occurred in April 2007, when, at a meeting attended by senior MoneyGram executives, the fraud department recommended that 32 specific Canadian agents that were characterized as "the worst of the worst" in terms of fraud be immediately closed. The sales department disagreed with the fraud department’s recommendation, and these outlets were not closed; instead, MoneyGram continued to process transactions from the 32 outlets despite continued complaints of fraud.

This case was prosecuted by Money Laundering and Bank Integrity Unit Trial Attorney Craig Timm of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section (AFMLS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Douglas Daniel of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The forfeiture was handled by Acting Assistant Deputy Chief Jeannette Gunderson of AFMLS’ Forfeiture Unit. The case was investigated by the Harrisburg, Pa., office of the USPIS, Philadelphia Division.

The Money Laundering and Bank Integrity Unit is a corps of prosecutors with a boutique practice aimed at hardening the financial system against criminal money laundering vulnerabilities by investigating and prosecuting financial institutions and professional money launderers for violations of the money laundering statutes, the Bank Secrecy Act and other related statutes.






Photo Credit:  U.S. DOD.

Pentagon Provides Sandy Response Update
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2012 - The Department of Defense is a fully integrated partner in the federal, state, and local response to Hurricane Sandy and the northeaster that swept through the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States, defense officials reported today.

DOD still maintains significant capacity in the region to provide emergency temporary power and pumping capability and to distribute fuel, food, cold-weather clothing, and other comfort items as requested by civil authorities.

DOD's response to Hurricane Sandy continues, officials said. Significant updates over the past 24 hours, as of 11 a.m. EST, include:

-- U.S. Northern Command has nearly 4,000 personnel supporting Hurricane Sandy relief operations in the affected area.

-- Air Force teams completed unwatering operations at Rockaway Wastewater Treatment facility, and East School in Long Beach, N.Y., and provided teams to support fire departments conducting unwatering operations in Breezy Point, N.Y.

-- Army divers repaired the pier system at Caven Point, N.J. Additionally, divers continue to assist the New York City Fire Department unwater the PATH tunnel at the World Trade Center and unwater the Long Beach High School and Recreation Center, N.Y.

-- Marines continued assessments with Army engineers in Far Rockaway, N.Y., and pumped 90,000 gallons of water from apartment buildings there. About 750,000 gallons were pumped from affected homes and parks in Breezy Point, N.Y.

-- Navy dive detachments continue to support the World Trade Center site and Marine Corps pump teams are assisting pumping operations at Breezy Point.

-- Helicopters from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are transporting and relocating generators in the area at the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Navy Seabees and Marine personnel restored the beach at Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook; and supporting debris clearance operations at locations in Bayonne, N.J. and the Battery, N.Y.

Defense Logistics Agency:
-- More than 1.8 million gallons of fuel have been delivered to FEMA distribution points in the New York/New Jersey region. Nine generators were delivered to the Army Corps of Engineers to power apartment buildings in New York City. Seven more generators and seven transformers are en route. Seven additional generators have been provided to the New York City Housing Authority.

-- Contracts are in place to support waste water clean-up, hazardous material removal, and debris removal operations. Two contracts have been awarded for 330 roll-off dumpsters and 34 trucks for overland trash hauling. In the last 48 hours, 2.5 million pounds of debris have been removed.

Army Corps of Engineers:

-- More than 500 generators are now staged at forward locations.

-- A total of 570 power generation and restoration taskings have been received. Five-hundred forty-five assessments have been completed, three are in progress and 22 are not yet started.

National Guard:
-- There are 6,618 National Guard personnel from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and West Virginia assisting in response and recovery efforts across their affected states.

-- The following states are supporting the response efforts through Emergency Management Agreement Compacts: Florida, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maine, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

-- Forty-seven chaplains and chaplain's assistants are providing trauma intervention/counseling, shelter visitations, worship services and other support.

-- There are 3,237 New York National Guard personnel on state active duty supporting relief operations in New York. Guardsmen have distributed 1,439,654 meals from 21 points of distribution sites since Nov 1. Fifty personnel are supporting Red Cross shelters at six sites in sites in Nassau County, N.Y. Guardsmen are also sorting and distributing donated goods from the Javits Center and delivering them to three points of distribution sites.

-- There are 1,957 New Jersey National Guard personnel on state active duty supporting relief operations in New Jersey. Since Nov. 1, the guardsmen distributed 12,590 blankets, 1,740 cots and 3,648 towels. Since Nov. 2, they also have distributed 93,229 gallons of fuel to emergency responders from four distribution points in support of FEMA and DLA. The New Jersey National Guard is providing tents and mobile kitchen trailers to shelter and feed emergency management personnel. Guardsmen continue to assist civil authorities at state-run shelters with transportation, meals, water and power generation in Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties, at the Jersey City Armory, and in Glen Gardner borough. Unarmed Guardsmen are providing safety and security support to law enforcement agencies in Monmouth and Ocean counties.

-- The West Virginia National Guard has 364 personnel on state active duty conducting community assessments; medical evacuations; snow and debris removal; and food, water and generator distribution.


Map Credit:  CIA World Factbook
Support for Bahraini Opposition Political Societies' Declaration of Principles of Nonviolence

Press Statement
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 9, 2012

We welcome the "Declaration of Principles of Nonviolence" issued by six opposition political societies in Bahrain on November 7. Publicly committing to nonviolence is an important confidence-building measure, and we applaud the societies for committing to a non-violent path in order to pursue their goals. We urge the government and these six political societies to engage seriously and practically about ways to allow for the resumption of peaceful demonstrations as soon as possible.

We have repeatedly called on the Government of Bahrain and all elements of Bahraini society to take concrete steps to create a climate conducive for meaningful national dialogue that is responsive to the aspirations of all Bahrainis. We urge all parties to contribute to fostering a climate of reconciliation.

We remain deeply concerned about continuing clashes between police and demonstrators in Bahrain as well as an increase in violent and increasingly indiscriminate attacks on Bahraini civilians and security forces.



In 1783, the Sunni Al-Khalifa family captured Bahrain from the Persians. In order to secure these holdings, it entered into a series of treaties with the UK during the 19th century that made Bahrain a British protectorate. The archipelago attained its independence in 1971. Facing declining oil reserves, Bahrain has turned to petroleum processing and refining and has transformed itself into an international banking center. Bahrain's small size and central location among Persian Gulf countries require it to play a delicate balancing act in foreign affairs among its larger neighbors. In addition, the Sunni-led government has struggled to manage relations with its large Shia-majority population. During the mid-to-late 1990s, Shia activists mounted a low-intensity uprising to demand that the Sunni-led government stop systemic economic, social, and political discrimination against Shia Bahrainis. King HAMAD bin Isa Al-Khalifa, after succeeding his late father in 1999, pushed economic and political reforms in part to improve relations with the Shia community. After boycotting the country's first round of democratic elections under the newly-promulgated constitution in 2002, Shia political societies participated in 2006 and 2010 in legislative and municipal elections and Wifaq, the largest Shia political society, won the largest bloc of seats in the elected lower-house of the legislature both times. In early 2011, Bahrain's fractious opposition sought to ride a rising tide of popular Arab protests to petition for the redress of popular grievances. In mid-March 2011, with the backing of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) capitals, King HAMAD put an end to the mass public gatherings and increasingly disruptive civil disobedience by declaring a state of emergency. Manama also welcomed a contingent of mostly Saudi and Emirati forces as part of a GCC deployment intended to help Bahraini security forces maintain order. Since that time, intermittent efforts at political dialogue between the government and opposition have remained at a stalemate. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), formed in June 2011 to investigate abuses during the unrest and state of emergency, released its final report in November 2011. The King fully endorsed the report, and since then Manama has begun to implement many of the BICI's recommendations, including improving policing procedures, reinstating fired workers, rebuilding some mosques, and establishing a compensation fund for those affected by the unrest and crackdown. Despite this progress, street protests have grown increasingly violent since the beginning of 2012.

Friday, November 9, 2012


A Nearby Stellar Cradle

The Milky Way and other galaxies in the universe harbor many young star clusters and associations that each contain hundreds to thousands of hot, massive, young stars known as O and B stars. The star cluster Cygnus OB2 contains more than 60 O-type stars and about a thousand B-type stars. Deep observations with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have been used to detect the X-ray emission from the hot outer atmospheres, or coronas, of young stars in the cluster and to probe how these fascinating star factories form and evolve. About 1,700 X-ray sources were detected, including about 1,450 thought to be stars in the cluster. In this image, X-rays from Chandra (blue) have been combined with infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (red) and optical data from the Isaac Newton Telescope (orange).

Image Credit: NASA

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing - November 9, 2012

Daily Press Briefing - November 9, 2012



Reports of Torture and Death of Iranian Blogger Sattar Beheshti
Press Statement
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 9, 2012

We are appalled by reports that Iranian authorities tortured and killed blogger and activist Sattar Beheshti during a prison interrogation. Besheshti had been arrested for a crime no greater than expressing his political opinion online. We join the international community in demanding the Iranian government investigate this murder, hold accountable those responsible for Beheshti's arrest, torture, and killing, and immediately cease all reported harassment of Beheshti’s family.

We extend condolences to Beheshti's family in their time of grief, as well as to the families of all Iranians who have been falsely accused, illegally detained, or wrongly killed at the hands of a brutal and hypocritical regime. Sattar Beheshti is just one of thousands of victims of the Iranian government's campaign of violent repression and efforts to curtail basic freedoms at all costs. We will continue to stand with the Iranian people and condemn the abuses against Beheshti and countless others.


Syria Map Credit:  CIA World Factbook.
United States Announces Additional Humanitarian Assistance for the Syrian Crisis

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 9, 2012

Today at the Syria Humanitarian Forum in Geneva, Deputy Assistant Secretary Kelly T. Clements announced that the United States is providing more than $34 million in additional humanitarian assistance to help those affected by the conflict in Syria. With this new assistance, the United States is providing more than $165 million in humanitarian aid to help those suffering inside Syria and refugees in the neighboring countries. This assistance is targeting the following priority areas:
Winterization: This additional funding from the United States will help meet winterization needs in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon and keep families warm during the coming winter by providing additional supplies such as blankets, heating stoves, and heavy-duty plastic sheeting to cover windows and other damaged areas of buildings housing those displaced by the Assad regime’s violence inside Syria.
Child Protection and Gender-based Violence Prevention: A portion of these funds will be used to support child protection issues, psychosocial support, and education, as well as measures to prevent gender-based violence.
Health: This additional funding will also support an immunization campaign that will protect up to one million children inside Syria from measles and other preventable diseases. In addition, we are increasing support for the logistical operation that allows life-saving aid to be delivered when and where possible in Syria.
Medical Transport: This funding will also support the transport of wounded Syrians from the Lebanon-Syria border so they can receive the medical attention they desperately need. By funding critical ambulatory services in Lebanon, the United States is helping fill a clear gap in existing humanitarian assistance.

U.S.-supported humanitarian assistance, excluding food assistance, has reached more than one million people inside Syria and approximately 380,000 who have fled to the safety of neighboring countries.

U.S.-funded medical care has already helped approximately 290,000 conflict-affected people throughout Syria. U.S.-funded field hospitals have performed 11,350 surgeries, and our support has trained more than 450 doctors, first responders, and volunteer medical personnel. We have provided medicines, medical supplies, and medical equipment sufficient to assist over 77,000 people inside Syria, and we are providing a wide range of supplies from simple gauze and bandages to treat wounds to advanced equipment like x-ray machines, defibrillators, and surgical tables to help address more complex injuries.

The United States is the largest donor of food assistance to Syria through the World Food Program (WFP), which is reaching 1.5 million displaced and conflict-affected persons within Syria. During the September distribution cycle, WFP food rations were distributed through more than 200 distribution points in all 14 governorates.

In addition, more than 130,000 people in Syria are being helped with U.S.-funded emergency relief supplies such as hygiene kits, infant care kits, bedding sets, mattresses, clothing, and basic household items.

The United States is aggressively pursuing all feasible options to expand the reach of humanitarian aid in Syria, utilizing both traditional and non-traditional humanitarian networks. The United States continues to pursue every available avenue to secure full, safe, and unfettered access for humanitarian organizations to provide relief supplies to the innocent children, women, and men affected by the Assad regime’s violent campaign against the Syrian people.

We recognize the generosity of the governments of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and other governments for receiving those fleeing the violence in Syria and for hosting and providing assistance to those in need. We commend the efforts of the United Nations and other international organizations and nongovernmental organizations to ease the trauma that the Syrian regime has inflicted on those fleeing the violence. The overwhelming majority of this funding is being directed to UN agencies who are ably leading the humanitarian response. We urge all donors to coordinate closely with the UN-led response to ensure that necessary assistance is reaching those in need in a timely and efficient manner.


Photo:  Migrant Worker.  Credit:  Wikimedia.



All workers in the United States have the right to clean, safe working conditions and fair pay, and protecting the rights of vulnerable workers is a priority for the department. Representatives from the department's Wage and Hour Division and other government agencies met with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights last week to discuss government efforts to protect the rights of farmworkers. Addressing about 50 IACHR and government representatives, Wage and Hour Division Assistant Administrator for Policy Michael Hancock described steps the division and other agencies have taken to ensure compliance with employment standards and expand educational outreach. Representatives from the Employment and Training Administration, the Bureau of International Labor Affairs and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration also attended.


Photo:  Afghanistan Landscape.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.

Combined Force Arrests Haqqani Facilitator
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 9, 2012 - A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Haqqani facilitator in Afghanistan's Khost province today, military officials reported.

The facilitator is suspected of coordinating the delivery of weapons, improvised explosive device materials and fighters to insurgent leadership operating throughout western Khost province.

As a result of the operation, the security force also detained two suspected insurgents and seized homemade explosives, IED-making materials, several grenades, a large quantity of firearms with associated gear and ammunition and numerous bayonets.

In other Afghanistan operations today:
-- A combined force arrested a Haqqani senior leader in Logar province. The arrested leader is believed to have planned and conducted attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in southern Logar province. During the operation, the security force also detained two suspected insurgents.

-- An Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban leader in Helmand province. The arrested leader is suspected of directing the purchase of IED components and overseeing IED emplacements. The security force also detained two suspected insurgents.

In operations yesterday:
-- Afghan Special Police members of Provincial Response Company Bhaglan, enabled by coalition forces, seized 36 rocket-propelled grenade warheads and 15,000 rounds of 12.7 mm ammunition from a weapons cache uncovered in northern Bhaglan province. All materials were destroyed on location.

-- Afghan Special Police members of Provincial Response Company Uruzgan, enabled by coalition forces, killed a number of insurgents and seized anti-tank weapons, more than 100,000 rounds of ammunition and several hand grenades in central Uruzgan province. All seized materials were destroyed.

-- An Afghan and coalition security force killed Taliban leader Qari Munib in Kunar province. Qari Munib was responsible for directing attacks against Afghan and coalition forces and coordinating the movement of weapons and ammunition for the attacks.


Credit:  Wikimedia/NSF
Cool Cat in a Hot Zone

November 5, 2012

What do Ventura County, Calif., and the Front Range of Colorado's Rocky Mountains have in common?

Ventura, which encompasses the city of Los Angeles, has a Mediterranean climate and habitat; the Front Range surrounding Denver is cooler, drier and is lined with tall conifers instead of low, dense shrubs.

Both, however, have people. Lots of them.

But it's what else they have in common that tells the real tale of these urban areas.

Alley cat of the wild
It's on the move from three hours before sunset until midnight, and again before dawn ‘til three hours after sunrise. Each night it roams two to seven miles, mostly along the same route.

Like humans, it visits known locales along the way. In this case, though, those places are a hollow log or two, a brush pile or thicket and the underside of a rock ledge.

It also shares something far more personal with the people it quietly lives alongside: gastrointestinal diseases.

It's a bobcat, and we gave it our afflictions rather than the other way around, say scientists Sue VandeWoude, Kevin Crooks, Mike Lappin and Andrea Scorza of Colorado State University at Fort Collins; Scott Carver of the University of Tasmania; Sarah Bevins of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Seth Riley of the U.S. National Park Service.

The researchers published results of their study of the parasites bobcats and humans share in a recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

Their work is funded by the joint National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) Program.

"The growing interaction of humans and wildlife means that we now share our diseases with each other at an ever-increasing rate," says Sam Scheiner, EEID program officer at NSF.

NSF's EEID program is funded by the agency's Division of Environmental Biology and Division of Ocean Sciences.

"This study demonstrates that we and our wild animal neighbors," says Scheiner, "are closely interconnected in ways that affect the health of us all."

The spillover effect
Pathogen spillover, as it's known, is a major source of disease in humans and in wildlife.

Indeed, bobcats are more likely to pick up parasites such as Giardia when the cats are closer to urban areas, VandeWoude and colleagues found.

They collected bobcat fecal samples in Ventura County and on the Front Range and tested them for Toxoplasma gondii, Giardia duodenalis and Cryptosporidium spp. All are disease-causing parasites found in wildlife and in people. Contact with the latter two results in diarrhea and other gastrointestinal upsets.

The scientists compared samples from bobcats in the two urban areas with those from rural areas of Colorado.

The findings show that city bobcats are more likely than country bobcats to carry parasites.

"Bobcats are exposed to and shed more zoonotic [i.e., may be transmitted between species] parasites near human-occupied landscapes," says Crooks.

But how did the cats, which are smaller relatives of threatened Canadian lynx, acquire the parasites?

"They were probably exposed to the water supply around cities," says VandeWoude. Parasites all-too-often lurk there.

Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia duodenalis account for the majority of waterborne disease outbreaks in humans, with hundreds of thousands of cases in the United States alone every year.

Studies have long suggested that wild cats such as bobcats might contribute to a spillover of pathogens to humans, and vice-versa. But with the cats' secretive natures, few researchers have been able to draw conclusions about wild cats' "shedding" of disease-causing microbes. This study is the first.

A disease continuum
Bobcats are widespread in North America. They traverse a continuum of natural to urbanized habitats, often living side-by-side with humans, domestic animals and other urban-adapted wildlife species.

"Along these boundaries," says VandeWoude, "close living quarters make it easy for one species to transmit diseases to another."

In a city or suburb, pathogens travel from human to bobcat, and bobcat to human, the scientists found, almost as fast as a virus that infects one human family member runs through an entire household.

Whether that household lives in a two-story A-frame or a two-story log pile, there's not much difference, it turns out, in the spread of diseases.

It must be something in the water
It's when everyone heads for the water that things really begin to ramp up.

One group of bobcats in Ventura County, says Carver, the paper's lead author, left its calling card in the Malibu Creek watershed: Cryptosporidium and Giardia. Malibu Creek's environs are heavily populated by bobcats--and humans.

"Our results suggest that humans transmitted these pathogens to bobcats," says Carver, "likely through contaminated water or other environmental sources."

At the time of the study, there was no evidence that bobcats carrying the parasites were ill. But for these cool cats that roam along our streets and through our backyards, life in the ‘burbs can be a chancy existence. Simply crossing an urban stream may be walking through a hot zone.

For bobcats. And for humans.

Cheryl Dybas, NSF


Staten Island, N.Y., Nov. 7, 2012 -- Boats are strewn on streets near the shore in areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy. FEMA is working with state and local officials to assist residents who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

Sea Bright, N.J., Nov. 6, 2012 -- A six foot deep pool at a seaside motel is filled up with sand dumped here by Hurricane Sandy. FEMA is working with state and local officials to assist residents who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Liz Roll/FEMA


Photo Credit:  Wikimedia.

Designations of Iranian Individuals and Entities for Censorship Activities Under the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act and Executive Order 13628

Press Statement
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 8, 2012

Today, the U.S. Department of State reported to the Congress the designations of four Iranian individuals and five Iranian entities for having engaged in censorship or other activities that prohibit, limit, or penalize freedom of expression or assembly by citizens of Iran, or that limit access to print or broadcast media, including by jamming international satellite broadcasts into Iran, and related activities. These actions were taken pursuant to Section 403 of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, signed by the President on August 10, 2012, and Executive Order 13628, which the President signed into effect on October 9, 2012. As a result of this action, U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in transactions involving the designated individuals or entities, and all designated individuals and members of designated entities are subject to a ban on travel to the United States. This action also blocks, or freezes, the property and interests in property of designated individuals or entities.

These actions underscore the Administration’s ongoing commitment to hold Iranian government officials and entities responsible for the abuses carried out against their own citizens. Those designated today include Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Reza Taghipour, who has been found responsible for ordering the jamming of satellite television broadcasts and restricting internet connectivity. Also sanctioned are Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and its Press Supervisory Board, which have limited freedom of expression through their censorship and closure of numerous newspapers and detention of journalists. In addition, we are designating key individuals and entities responsible for assisting the regime in its crackdown on and censorship of the Iranian people.

Such abuses demonstrate the Iranian Government’s ongoing campaign to censor its own citizens, curtail their freedoms, and to prevent the free flow of information both in to and out of Iran. Countless activists, journalists, lawyers, students, and artists have been detained, censured, tortured, or forcibly prevented from exercising their human rights. With the measures we are taking today, we draw the world’s attention to the scope of the regime’s insidious actions, which oppress its own people and violate Iran’s own laws and international obligations. We will continue to stand with the Iranian people in their quest to protect their dignity and freedoms and prevent the Iranian Government from creating an "electronic curtain" to cut Iranian citizens off from the rest of the world.


Photo Credit:  CIA World Factbook.
U.S. Science Envoys Announced
Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 8, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today, at an event on Wildlife Trafficking and Conservation: A Call to Action, announced the appointment of three new science envoys: Professor Bernard Amadei, Professor Susan Hockfield, and Professor Barbara Schaal.

These preeminent scientists will seek to deepen existing ties, foster new relationships with foreign counterparts and discuss potential areas of collaboration that will help address global challenges and realize shared goals. The Science Envoys travel in their capacity as private citizens and advise the White House, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. scientific community about the insights they gain from their travels and interactions.

The Science Envoy program demonstrates the United States continued commitment to science, technology, and innovation as tools of diplomacy. As Secretary Clinton stated in her remarks at a Department event, Wildlife Trafficking and Conservation: A Call to Action, "Building scientific partnerships is an important tool in addressing such global challenges."

These three scientists represent the third cohort of Science Envoys since the program’s inception in 2009. Previous cohorts have visited 19 countries, including Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan.

Dr. Bernard Amadei holds the Mortenson Endowed Chair in Global Engineering and is Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Having earned his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley his main research and teaching interests have focused on rock mechanics and engineering geology. Among his many distinctions, Dr. Amadei is the founding president of Engineers Without Borders and is an elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.

Dr. Susan Hockfield has served recently as president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she remains on the Neuroscience faculty. She also serves as the Marie Curie Visiting Professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School. She earned her Ph.D. at the Georgetown University School of Medicine and has focused her research on brain development and a specific form of brain cancer. Dr. Hockfield has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Barbara Schaal earned her Ph.D. in biology from Yale University and is the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor at the Washington University in St. Louis in the Department of Biology. She is recognized for her work in evolutionary biology, particularly for studies that use DNA sequences to understand evolutionary biology. She holds the distinction of being the first woman elected to the vice presidency of the National Academy of Sciences and is a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.


U.S. Secretary Of Defense Leon Panetta

Panetta Aims to Fortify Alliances on Asia-Pacific Tour
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2012 - To strengthen alliances with partners in the Asia-Pacific region, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta will prepare for a three-country trip across two continents, Press Secretary George Little said in a briefing today.

"We look forward to this opportunity to further advance our long-term strategy of rebalancing with the Asia-Pacific [region]," Little said.

The first stop on the trip, he said, will be Perth, Australia.

There, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and Commander of U.S. Pacific Command Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III will join Panetta for the annual U.S.-Australian Ministerial.

Panetta's first trip to Australia as Defense Secretary will enable him to thank Australia for their contribution to efforts in Afghanistan, Little noted.

"This year's Australia Ministerial will also provide an opportunity to review the alliance's progress on the successful Marine Corps and Air Force deployments to Northern Australia and to discuss the next steps in this important cooperation," he said.

From Australia, the secretary will travel to Thailand.

"The important U.S.-Thailand alliance has served both our countries well for nearly 60 years and our two governments are eager to establish a forward-looking strategic vision ... that builds on our already close cooperation," Little said.

The final stop, he said, will be Cambodia, where the secretary will join 10 other defense chiefs from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at their annual retreat in Siem-Reap.

"Secretary Panetta will emphasize the importance of ASEAN unity for regional stability and will communicate U.S. support for ASEAN-led defense cooperation," Little said.

The secretary's visit to the region, along with that of Secretary Clinton, reflects the commitment of the U.S. to the rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific, Little noted.

"Secretary Panetta has made this one of his highest priorities because he believes that it is the right strategy for the future, security and prosperity of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region," he said.



Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Mexican Pecan Company Owner Sentenced to 48 Months in Prison for Scheme to Defraud the U.S. Export-Import Bank

WASHINGTON – The owner of a pecan brokerage company in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, was sentenced today to serve 48 months in prison for his role in a scheme to defraud the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) of approximately $400,000, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Robert Pitman and Osvaldo L. Gratacos, Inspector General of the Ex-Im Bank.

Leopoldo Valencia-Urrea, 50, was sentenced by Judge Kathleen Cardone in U.S. District Court in El Paso, Texas. Valencia pleaded guilty on Oct. 13, 2011, to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering conspiracy in connection with a scheme to defraud the Ex-Im Bank of approximately $400,000. In addition to his prison term, Valencia was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $58,000 in restitution and $399,075 in forfeiture.

According to court documents, Valencia, a U.S. citizen, was the owner of a pecan brokerage company in Ciudad Juarez and resided in El Paso. Valencia admitted that in 2006, he applied for an Ex-Im insured loan for $406,258 through a bank in Miami. As part of his fraudulent loan application, Valencia and others submitted a fraudulent loan application, financial statements, invoices, letters and bills of lading to falsely represent to the Miami bank and the Ex-Im Bank the purchase and export of U.S. goods to Valencia in Mexico. After the exporter who conspired with Valencia received $399,075 from the Miami bank, Valencia and others diverted the loan proceeds directly to Valencia and others in Mexico. As a result of the fraud, Valencia’s loan defaulted, causing the Ex-Im Bank to pay a claim to the lending bank on a $371,962 loss.

The Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that helps create and maintain U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing. The Ex-Im Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Patrick Donley and Trial Attorney William Bowne of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Spitzer of the Western District of Texas, El Paso Division. The case was investigated by the Ex-Im Bank Office of Inspector General, Homeland Security Investigations in El Paso, under the leadership of Acting Special Agent in Charge Dennis Ulrich; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of Special Agent in Charge Rick A. Raven; and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of Inspector in Charge Daniel S. Cortez. Significant financial analysis and strategic assistance was provided during the course of this investigation by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN).


Photo:  The U.S. Navy Blue Anagels.  Credit:  U.S. Navy.

Statement by Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis honoring Veterans Day by encouraging US employers to put our military heroes to work

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today released the following statement encouraging U.S. employers to commemorate the Veterans Day holiday Monday by making a commitment to hiring veterans:

"On Monday, America will celebrate the sacrifices of the men and women who've served their country in the armed forces. I strongly believe that the best way we can honor our veterans is to employ them.

"We've now lowered our unemployment rate for our veterans to 6.3 percent – well below the national average – and brought down the jobless rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans by more than two percentage points in the last year alone. We're making progress, but our work will not be done until everyone who has worn the uniform can find civilian jobs worthy of their heroic sacrifice.

"Through boot camp and pre-deployment training, the U.S. government spends 8-12 weeks preparing our outstanding soldiers, sailors and airmen to serve. Now that we're winding down a decade of war overseas, it's critical that we spend some time preparing these heroes for the transition back to civilian life. Over the next five years, the Department of Labor will help more than 1 million transitioning service members find jobs when they come home. We're helping them with job search strategies and resume writing, and showing them how to market their world-class military training to secure good-paying civilian jobs.

"Every day, the Labor Department is working to help employers recruit veterans to fill open positions and to go out into local communities to make the case for hiring veterans. America's veterans are dependable, hardworking and loyal. Teamwork and commitment to the mission at hand are hard-wired into their DNA. They've received world-class training from one of the most demanding organizations in the world and been tested in pressure-cooker situations that few of us can imagine.

"Those who fight to protect our freedoms abroad should not have to fight for jobs when they come home. They deserve a chance to use their unique skills to help re-grow our economy. So this Veterans Day, I encourage employers to make the commitment to put our veterans to work for them. It's an act of patriotism that's good for our country and good for their bottom line.

"We're also focused on doing more to assist our homeless veterans, including many women who've come home with unique combat-related problems. On any given night, tens of thousands of vets go to sleep on our streets and under our bridges. We've made huge progress in reducing the number of homeless veterans by focusing on affordable housing first. Once they have shelter, we're helping them find clothing, transportation, medical referrals and jobs. No service member should ever have to come home to homelessness, and with good civilian careers waiting for them, they won't."


Exercise Screaming Eagle IV
Master Sgt. Ed Dawejko and Staff Sgt. Brandon Fountain jump from a C-130J Super Hercules for high-altitude, low-opening jumps with Polish special forces during Exercise Screaming Eagle IV in Povidz, Poland, July 30, 2012. Screaming Eagle is an annual exercise that allows pilots from the 37th Airlift Squadron to conduct training with the C-130J Super Hercules aircraft while facilitating training for several other units. Dawejko is a 603rd Air Operation Center jumpmaster and Fountain is a 435th Contingency Readiness Group survive, evade, resist, escape specialist. (U.S. Air Force photo-Senior Airman Aaron-Forrest Wainwright)

AF establishes full-time presence in Poland
by Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

11/9/2012 - WASHINGTON (AFPS) -- U.S. officials praised the long-standing relationship with Poland as they celebrated the first full-time U.S. military presence in that nation yesterday.

During a ceremony at Lask Air Base, located about 100 miles southwest of Warsaw, U.S. Air Force personnel flew the American flag, marking the establishment of a small unit dedicated to supporting multi-national aviation training and exercises. The ten personnel of the detachment will be joined by up to 200 visiting airmen conducting quarterly training rotations.

U.S. Ambassador to Poland Stephen D. Mull and Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, the commander of U.S. European Command and NATO's supreme allied commander, were joined at the ceremony by Poland's Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak, Chief of Staff Army Gen. Mieczyslaw Cieniuch and Air Force Commander Gen. Lech Majewski.

The arrival of the 10-man team at the base represents "a new kind of U.S. 'boots on the ground' here in Poland," said Derek Chollet, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. Chollet represented Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta at the ceremony.

"The alliance between the United States and Poland is rooted in shared history, shared values and deep ties among our people, cemented through NATO and the ironclad commitment to Article 5," Chollet said. "The Polish people have been our partners for over two centuries, and since joining the NATO alliance in 1999, your troops have been shoulder-to-shoulder with ours in the Balkans, in Iraq and in Afghanistan."

The personnel in Lask will provide continuity for U.S. personnel rotating in and out of Poland, defense officials said. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon and C-130 Hercules units will form the core of the U.S. presence. The personnel at the detachment will report to the 52nd Fighter Wing, based at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

President Barack Obama and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk agreed to the U.S. presence in Lask during the president's visit to Poland last year. The detachment will make it easier for U.S. and Polish airmen to increase their interoperability and will enhance military-to-military ties at all levels, defense officials said.

The presence will also facilitate bilateral and, officials hope, multinational joint training exercises. Poland has extensive ranges and its airspace is far more open than countries farther west. Officials also hope this will allow both militaries to deepen already strong partnerships.

"I am truly proud of the way our defense cooperation has focused on looking to the future to ensure we are prepared for the threats and challenges our countries will face," Chollet said. "As we move together into the future, we expect more U.S. boots to follow as we establish a NATO ballistic missile interceptor site at Redzikowo in 2018."

The U.S. aviation detachment "also sends a clear message to allies and partners that the U.S. remains committed to European defense and to the principle that we are indeed 'stronger together,'" Chollet said.