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Saturday, November 17, 2012

SOL HAS TWIN SONS

FROM: NASA

video

Double Prominence Eruptions


The Sun erupted with two prominence eruptions, one after the other over a four-hour period (Nov. 16, 2012). The action was captured in the 304 Angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. It seems possible that the disruption to the Sun’s magnetic field might have triggered the second event since they were in relatively close proximity to each other. The expanding particle clouds heading into space do not appear to be Earth-directed. Credit: NASA/SDO

 

OHIO AUTOMOBILE PARTS SUPPLIER EXECUTIVE PLEADS GUILTY IN PRICE FIXING AND BID-RIGGING CONSPIRACY


FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Executive Agrees to Serve One Year in U.S. Prison

WASHINGTON — An executive at the Ohio subsidiary of a Japanese automotive supplier pleaded guilty today for his role in a conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids of anti-vibration rubber parts sold in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced. This is the first charge in the department’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the automobile anti-vibration rubber parts industry, which is one of the department’s ongoing investigations into anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry.

According to a one-count felony charge filed on Oct. 30, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, in Toledo, Hiroshi Yoshida, a Japanese national employed at the Ohio-based U.S. subsidiary of an automobile anti-vibration rubber supplier headquartered in Saitama, Japan, participated in a conspiracy to rig bids for, and to fix prices of, automobile anti-vibration rubber parts sold in the United States and elsewhere. According to the charge, Yoshida’s involvement in the conspiracy began at least as early as October 2005 and continued until at least June 2011. The department said Yoshida and his co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy by agreeing, in meetings and discussions, to allocate the supply of certain automobile anti-vibration rubber parts, to exchange prices, to submit noncompetitive bids and to sell the parts at collusive and noncompetitive prices in the United States and elsewhere.

According to the plea agreement, Yoshida has agreed to serve 12 months and one day in a U.S. prison, to pay a $20,000 criminal fine and to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation. Yoshida’s sentencing is scheduled to take place on Dec. 20, 2012.

Anti-vibration rubber parts are comprised primarily of rubber and metal, and are installed in automobiles to reduce engine and road vibration. Anti-vibration rubber parts are installed in suspension systems and engine mounts, as well as other parts of an automobile.

"This is the first charge in the division’s investigation into anticompetitive conduct involving automotive parts used to reduce engine and road vibration," said Joseph Wayland, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. "The aim of this multi-year conspiracy was to do away with competition among suppliers, through bid rigging and price fixing, in order to maximize profits."

"We are pleased with the guilty plea entered today by Mr. Yoshida and his acceptance of responsibility, as the anti-vibration rubber parts industry is a critical component of the automobile manufacturing process," said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Cleveland Division. "The Cleveland FBI is committed to working with our Department of Justice partners in the Antitrust Division to keep this industry and other critical industries competitive by aggressively pursuing any conspiracy in Northern Ohio that undermines free competition and our economy."

Including Yoshida, nine companies and 12 executives have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the department’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry. Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd., DENSO Corp., Yazaki Corp., G.S. Electech Inc., Fujikura Ltd., Autoliv Inc. and TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH pleaded guilty and were sentenced to pay a total of more than $790 million in criminal fines. Nippon Seiki Co. Ltd. and Tokai Rika Co. Ltd. have agreed to plead guilty and await arraignment and sentencing. Additionally, Junichi Funo, Hirotsugu Nagata, Tetsuya Ukai, Tsuneaki Hanamura, Ryoki Kawai, Shigeru Ogawa, Hisamitsu Takada, Norihiro Imai, Kazuhiko Kashimoto, Toshio Sudo and Makoto Hattori have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to pay criminal fines and to serve jail sentences ranging from a year and a day to two years each.

Yoshida is charged with violating the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine for individuals. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

SEC CHARGES LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY WITH SECURITIES LAW VIOLATIONS


FROM: SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C., Nov. 15, 2012 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company with securities law violations for failing to sufficiently disclose the potential negative impact of a "cap" it placed on a complex investment product that investors were planning to use for retirement.

The SEC's investigation found that MassMutual included a cap feature in certain optional riders offered to investors, and the cap potentially affected $2.5 billion worth of MassMutual variable annuities. Neither the prospectuses nor the sales literature sufficiently explained that if the cap was reached, the guaranteed minimum income benefit (GMIB) value would no longer earn interest. MassMutual's disclosures instead implied that interest would continue to accrue after the GMIB value reached the cap, and dollar-for-dollar withdrawals would remain available to investors. A number of MassMutual's own sales agents were confused by the language in the disclosures, and investors were not sufficiently informed of the potential negative effect of taking withdrawals if they reached the cap approximately a decade from now.

MassMutual, which removed the cap after the SEC's investigation to ensure that no investors will be harmed, has agreed to settle the charges and pay a $1.625 million penalty.

"Investors shouldn't have their retirement nest eggs at risk because of undisclosed investment complexities," said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement. "Through our proactive investigative efforts, we exposed a problem with a complex variable annuity investment at least a decade before it could have harmed investors."

According to the SEC's order instituting settled administrative proceedings, MassMutual offered GMIB 5 and 6 riders from 2007 to 2009 as an optional feature on certain variable annuity products. The GMIB rider sets a minimum floor for a future amount that can be applied to an annuity option, known as the "GMIB value." Unlike the contract value of the annuity that fluctuates with the performance of the underlying investment, the GMIB value increases by a compound annual interest rate of either 5 or 6 percent and allows investors to make withdrawals any time during the annuity's accumulation phase.

According to the SEC's order, MassMutual advertised its GMIB riders as providing "Income Now" if investors elected to make withdrawals during the accumulation phase or "Income Later" if they elected to receive annuity payments. MassMutual's sales literature highlighted the guarantee provided by the riders by stating, "Even if your contract value drops to zero, you can apply your GMIB value to a fixed or variable annuity." The riders included a maximum GMIB value, and investors could not reach this cap until 2022. If the GMIB value reached the cap, every dollar withdrawn would reduce the GMIB value by a pro-rata amount tied to the percentage decrease on the contract value. After a number of such withdrawals, depending on market conditions, both the contract value and the GMIB value could decline and adversely affect the amount a customer could apply to an annuity and the future income stream.

The SEC's investigation found that a number of MassMutual sales agents and others did not understand that all withdrawals taken after the GMIB value reached the cap would result in such pro-rata reductions. After reviewing MassMutual's prospectuses and other disclosures, they believed that if the GMIB value reached the cap, investors could take withdrawals and the GMIB value would remain at the cap. Some sales agents mistakenly believed that investors could maximize their benefits by waiting until the GMIB value reaches the cap, taking annual 5 or 6 percent withdrawals, and annuitizing their contracts in order to receive an income stream tied to the maximum GMIB value. But in reality, following such an investment strategy could have had severe adverse consequences for investors. By taking withdrawals annually after the cap is reached, investors would proportionately reduce their GMIB values and in turn potentially decrease their future income streams. In a worst-case scenario, they would withdraw all of their contract value, the GMIB value would decline to zero, and they would be left with nothing to annuitize and, consequently, no future income stream.

According to the SEC's order, while MassMutual was offering GMIB riders, there were indications that sales agents and others did not understand the effect of post-cap withdrawals on the GMIB value, which should have alerted the company to the fact that its disclosures were inadequate. Beginning May 1, 2009, after it stopped offering the riders, MassMutual revised its prospectuses to better explain the consequences of taking withdrawals after the GMIB value reaches the cap. Following the SEC's investigation, MassMutual undertook the remedial step of removing the cap entirely from these riders in order to guarantee that no investor will ever reach the cap. This action contributed to the determination of the penalty amount. MassMutual consented to the SEC's order without admitting or denying the findings. In addition to the $1.625 million penalty, MassMutual agreed to cease and desist from committing or causing any violations and any future violations of Section 34(b) of the Investment Company Act.

The SEC's investigation was conducted by Attorney-Advisor Daniel H. Rubenstein and supervised by Associate Director Stephen L. Cohen and Assistant Director C. Joshua Felker.

HOLIDAY RETAIL CROWD CONTROL AND WORKER SAFETY

Shopping Mall Photo Credit:  Wikimedia Commons
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

US Labor Department's OSHA encourages retailers to provide crowd management measures to protect workers during major sales events

WASHINGTON
— The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is encouraging retail employers to take precautions to prevent worker injuries during Black Friday and other major sales events during the holiday season.

In 2008, a worker was trampled to death while a mob of shoppers rushed through the doors of a large store to take advantage of an after-Thanksgiving Day Black Friday sales event. OSHA recommends that retailers follow certain safeguards against this type of tragedy.

"Crowd control and proper planning are critical to preventing injuries and deaths," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "OSHA urges retailers to adopt a crowd management plan during the holiday shopping season that includes a few simple guidelines."

Crowd management plans should include:
On-site trained security personnel or police officers.
Barricades or rope lines for pedestrians that do not start right in front of the store’s entrance.
Implementing crowd control measures well in advance of customers arriving at the store.
Emergency procedures in place to address potential dangers.
Explaining approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public.
Not allowing additional customers to enter the store when it reaches its maximum occupancy level.
Not blocking or locking exit doors.

Weekly Address: Working Together to Extend the Middle Class Tax Cuts | The White House

Weekly Address: Working Together to Extend the Middle Class Tax Cuts | The White House

U.S. SEC. OF STATE CLINTON ADDRESSES EMBASSY STAFF IN SINGAPORE


FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Meeting With Embassy Singapore Staff and Their Families
Remarks
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
St. Regis Hotel
Singapore
November 17, 2012

AMBASSADOR ADELMAN:
Well, Madam Secretary, you are in the presence of an all-star team. And that is really what we're about here in the U.S. Embassy Singapore, and that is teamwork. We've got 19 U.S. Government agencies working hard every day. And you saw some of their good work over the last couple of days. U.S.-Singapore relations, as you know, have never been better, and that's a result of the work of these extraordinarily talented people and their families, who have all served the public. And, if you don't mind, I will add following in your good example.

I know they want to hear from you, and we sincerely hope you will have some time to greet some of the families individually.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely. Absolutely.

AMBASSADOR ADELMAN: So, once again, please join me in thanking our United States Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. Thank you, David. Thank you. Thank you all. Well, it is wonderful, being back here in Singapore, and having this chance to thank each and every one of you for the great contributions you are making to this important relationship. I want to thank the ambassador and Caroline and their entire family for representing our country so well, so enthusiastically, and so positively. And it is a special pleasure for me to thank you for what you've done to help make this trip of mine successful, and what you do every day to bring the people of our two countries closer together.

I have had excellent meetings here in Singapore. I just gave a speech about an hour-and-a-half ago at Singapore Management University about the nexus of economic power and global influence, and explaining what I call our economic statecraft agenda. I raised these issues in the meetings with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. And we couldn't do what we are doing without all of you supporting American businesses, including the more than 2,000 who have their regional headquarters here. I was just out at the GE facility that does aircraft parts repair, and it was great to see what they are doing here in this region. And I also want to thank you for coordinating the efforts, as David was saying, of 19 agencies represented here. That's a lot of coordination. From State and Defense to Commerce, Treasury, USDA, and so much more.

But that represents the depth and breadth of our relationship. And this embassy has led the way with regional trade missions to Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, most recently Burma, that ended with at least five American companies either opening an office or landing a sale there. And I am proud to say that today U.S. exports to Singapore are at an all-time high, as are American investments. That's a testament to the ambassador's leadership and the talent and energy of so many of you in this room.

I know you're also reaching out to the community, helping to clean up one of Singapore's beautiful beaches, volunteering at the Special Olympics or the Ronald McDonald House, serving meals at a retirement home, building connections which, after all, are the base of any strong relationship. That is every bit as important as security and economics for the long run.

I also want to thank all the family members who are here today. I know that there is a lot of you who are far from home. But I am glad that you are part of this team. Some of you have served unaccompanied time in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, which I greatly appreciate. The President and I are very grateful for what you do.

I also want to take a moment to recognize our locally-engaged staff. Could all of our Singaporean staff raise your hands so we can thank you for what you do every single day? (Applause.) I want to congratulate your FSN of the Year, Susan Mok. (Applause.) And there are 3 staff members -- I did a double-take when I saw this number -- there are 3 staff members who, between them, have put in a combined 120 years of service at this post. (Applause.) Now, they all started when they were in kindergarten. (Laughter.) But let me thank Yahya Rahmat, Amy Ho, and Helen Jen. (Applause.) Because I know very well that ambassadors come and go, and secretaries come and go, but our locally-employed staff provide the continuity, the memory bank that keeps our mission going year after year.

So, it is wonderful for me to be able to come and take this chance to celebrate and thank you for all you're accomplishing on behalf of the American people and this critical relationship. And now I'm going to shake as many hands as I can, and thank you personally for the great job you are doing. Thank you all. (Applause.)

LATVIA'S NATIONAL DAY

Latvia.  Map Credit:  CIA World Factbook.

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT

Latvia's National Day
Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 15, 2012

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of Latvia as you celebrate the 94th anniversary of your independence this November 18. You have made progress under difficult circumstances and demonstrated what can be accomplished through hard work, pride in country, and an unwavering faith in democracy.

The United States is proud of our long shared history as strategic allies, valued partners, and close friends. Since 1918, American support for the sovereign people of Latvia has never wavered. Today, Latvia and the United States remain steadfast partners. From cooperation in Afghanistan to exploring new business opportunities, the ties between our two countries only grow stronger.

On this special day, I send my deepest congratulations to all the people of Latvia and look forward to strengthening our cooperation even more as we promote the fundamental values we both cherish.


Latvia Locator Map Credit:  CIA World Factbook.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM CIA WORLD FACTBOOK

The name "Latvia" originates from the ancient Latgalians, one of four eastern Baltic tribes that formed the ethnic core of the Latvian people (ca. 8th-12th centuries A.D.). The region subsequently came under the control of Germans, Poles, Swedes, and finally, Russians. A Latvian republic emerged following World War I, but it was annexed by the USSR in 1940 - an action never recognized by the US and many other countries. Latvia reestablished its independence in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Although the last Russian troops left in 1994, the status of the Russian minority (some 28% of the population) remains of concern to Moscow. Latvia joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004.

GAMER CHARGED WITH HACKING INTO GAMING COMPANY SERVERS

Photo:  Gamer Hisroty, Atari's Pong.  Credit:  Wikimedia Commons.

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gamer Charged with Hacking into and Disabling New Hampshire Gaming Company’s Computer Servers

WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in the District of New Hampshire returned an indictment late yesterday charging a Dutch national with allegedly conspiring to hack into and disable computer servers belonging to Rampid Interactive, a New Hampshire-based company that publishes and hosts a multi-player online role-playing game called "Outwar," Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney John P. Kacavas of the District of New Hampshire announced today.

Anil Kheda, 24, of the Netherlands, is charged with one count of conspiring to commit computer intrusion and one count of making extortionate interstate threats.

The indictment alleges that from November 2007 to August 2008, Kheda and other members of the conspiracy, all of whom were avid "Outwar" players, accessed Rampid’s computer servers without authorization and rendered "Outwar" unplayable for days at a time. According to the indictment, Kheda and his alleged co-conspirators also used their unauthorized access to Rampid’s servers to alter user accounts – causing the restoration of suspended player accounts and the accrual of unearned game points – and obtain a copy of all or portions of the "Outwar" computer source code, which they used to help create a competitor online game, "Outcraft." The indictment also alleges that Kheda and his alleged co-conspirators sent Rampid interstate communications threatening to continue to hack into Rampid’s computer systems unless Rampid agreed to pay them money or provide them with other benefits.

According to the indictment, as a result of the defendants’ hacking activities, Rampid was unable to operate "Outwar" for a total of approximately two weeks over a nine-month period and incurred over $100,000 in lost revenues, wages, hosting costs, long term loss of business, as well as the loss of exclusive use of their proprietary source code, which it had invested approximately $1.5 million in creating.

According to court documents, Kheda earned approximately $10,000 in profits from operating "Outcraft," which has approximately 10,000 players worldwide.

If convicted, Kheda faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and two years in prison on the interstate threats charge.

The case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Mona Sedky of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Arnold H. Huftalen of the District of New Hampshire.

The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

FORFEITURE JUDGEMENTS ENTERED AGAINST PROPERTIES BOUGHT WITH BRIBE MONEY


FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
U.S. Forfeits $2.1 Million Worth of Property Purchased with Alleged Bribes Paid to the Family of the Former President of Taiwan

The Department of Justice has forfeited a Manhattan condominium and a Virginia residence – with a combined value of approximately $ 2.1 million – purchased with the proceeds of alleged bribes paid to the family of the former President of Taiwan, Shui-Bian Chen, as part of the department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced the forfeiture today with U.S . Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton.

On Oct. 23, 2012, U.S. District Judge Norman Moon of the Western District of Virginia entered a final forfeiture judgment against a residence in Keswick, Va., and On Oct. 24, 2012, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in the Southern District of New York entered a final forfeiture judgment against a condominium in Manhattan. Both properties were previously owned by the former first family of Taiwan through a British Virgin Islands shell company.

Today, ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) took possession of the Virginia property. The title of the Manhattan condominium has been vested through court order to the government.

According to the civil forfeiture complaints filed in this case, during former President Chen’s administration, Yuanta Securities Co. Ltd. paid a bribe of 200 million New Taiwan dollars (equivalent to approximately $6 million USD) to former first lady Sue-Jen Wu in 2004 to ensure that the Taiwan government would not oppose Yuanta’s bid to acquire a financial holding company.

The former first family used Hong Kong and Swiss bank accounts, British Virgin Island companies and a St. Kitts and Nevis trust to purchase the two properties. One of the shell companies, Avallo Limited, which held title to both properties through U.S. domestic companies, settled both forfeiture actions under terms that provide for the sale of the property and forfeiture to the U.S. government of approximately 85 percent of the net proceeds from the sale of both properties.

"The Kleptocracy Initiative was established to prevent corrupt leaders from using the United States as a safe haven for their ill-gotten gains," said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. "The former president of Taiwan’s family allegedly accepted millions in bribes in exchange for official action favoring Yuanta Securities, and we have now taken possession of two valuable properties purchased with their alleged spoils. We are committed to using every tool available to root out foreign official corruption."

"This most recent seizure of luxury properties in New York City and Keswick, Va. belonging to the son of the former President of Taiwan Shui-Bian Chen is part of a continued effort by Homeland Security Investigations special agents to identify, locate, and seize properties and accounts in the United States belonging to him and his family," said ICE Director Morton. "HSI will continue to find and seize the U.S. assets of foreign corrupt officials who try to use our country to conceal the illicit proceeds and profits of their crimes."

The case was prosecuted by Deputy Chief Linda Samuel and Trial Attorney Jennifer Wallis of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided valuable assistance. The case was investigated by ICE- HSI’s Foreign Corruption Investigations Group, the HSI Miami Asset Identification and Removal Group and the HSI Attaché Hong Kong, with assistance from the Taiwan Ministry of Justice, Special Investigations Division.

This case is part of the Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. This initiative is carried out by a dedicated team of prosecutors in the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, working in partnership with federal law enforcement agencies to forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption and where appropriate return those proceeds to benefit those harmed

U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK APPROVES APPROXIMATELY $500 MILLION LOAN TO FINANCE SALES OF DREAMLINERS TO POLAND


Photo:  787 Dreamliner.  Credit:  Wikimedia.
FROM: U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK

Ex-Im Approves Approximately $500 million to Finance Export
of Boeing Dreamliners to Poland


Washington, D.C. – The board of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) authorized a comprehensive guarantee of an approximately $500 million loan to Polskie Linie Lotnicze LOT S.A. (LOT Airlines) for the export of a fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft to Poland.

Apple Bank for Savings of New York extended the loan.

Boeing delivered the first Dreamliner to LOT Nov. 9 in Everett, Wash. The Dreamliner departed Seattle Wednesday and arrived in Warsaw, Poland yesterday. LOT will be the first European airline to operate the Dreamliner, and it was also the first European airline to operate the Boeing 767.

Ex-Im Bank’s financing will support approximately 2,500 U.S. jobs, according to bank estimates derived from Departments of Commerce and Labor data and methodology.

"This landmark transaction brings American state-of-the-art aircraft to a competitive marketplace in Europe," said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. "By leveling the playing field, the Bank’s financing benefits business in both America and Poland and supports thousands of jobs in the U.S."

Founded in 1928, LOT became the first airline in Central and Eastern Europe to operate American-manufactured aircraft. It is also the only airline that currently offers non-stop flights between the U.S. and Poland. The fleet of Dreamliners, which will contribute to LOT’s efforts to simplify, modernize, and upgrade its operations, will continue LOT’s non-stop North American service by flying routes to Warsaw from Chicago, New York, and Toronto.

"The Dreamliner delivery is yet another historic first for LOT, already one of the world’s oldest continuing airlines, as it becomes the first airline in Europe to operate the 787," said Todd Nelp, vice president for European sales at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "We’re thankful that Poland’s flag carrier puts its faith in American aviation know-how, and that Ex-Im Bank is there to support our customers who enable and sustain thousands of U.S. technology jobs."

Nippon Export and Investment Insurance of Japan is co-financing the transaction.

As of the end of FY 2012, Ex-Im Bank’s credit exposure in Poland totaled $5.5 million.

POLICY AND WATER RESOURSE MANAGEMENT

Photo:  Planet Mars And Future Earth?  Credit:  NASA 

FROM: NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Water Resources Management and Policy in a Changing World: Where Do We Go From Here?

Scientists at American Geophysical Union conference present new findings on a resource becoming more precious than gold

November 15, 2012


Visualize a dusty place where stream beds are sand and lakes are flats of dried mud. Are we on Mars? In fact, we're on arid parts of Earth, a planet where water covers some 70 percent of the surface.

How long will water be readily available to nourish life here?

Scientists funded by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) program are finding new answers.

NSF-supported CNH researchers will address water resources management and policy in a changing world at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), held in San Francisco from Dec. 3-7, 2012.

In the United States, more than 36 states face water shortages. Other parts of the world are faring no better.

What are the causes? Do the reasons lie in climate change, population growth or still other factors?

Among the topics to be covered at AGU are sociohydrology, patterns in coupled human-water resource systems and the resilience of coupled natural and human systems to global change.

Researchers will report, for example, that human population growth in the Andes outweighs climate change as the culprit in the region's dwindling water supplies. Does the finding apply in other places, and perhaps around the globe?

Scientists presenting results are affiliated with CHANS-Net, an international network of researchers who study coupled natural and human systems.

NSF's CNH program supports CHANS-Net, with coordination from the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability at Michigan State University.

CHANS-Net facilitates communication and collaboration among scientists, engineers and educators striving to find sustainable solutions that benefit the environment while enabling people to thrive.

"For more than a decade, NSF's CNH program has supported projects that explore the complex ways people and natural systems interact with each other," says Tom Baerwald, NSF CNH program director.

"CHANS-Net and its investigators represent a broad range of projects. They're developing a new, better understanding of how our planet works. CHANS-Net researchers are finding practical answers for how people can prosper while maintaining environmental quality."

CNH and CHANS-Net are part of NSF's Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) investment. NSF's Directorates for Geosciences; Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences; and Biological Sciences support the CNH program.

"CHANS-Net has grown to more than 1,000 members who span generations of natural and social scientists from around the world," says Jianguo "Jack" Liu, principal investigator of CHANS-Net and Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability at Michigan State University.

"CHANS-Net is very happy to support another 10 CHANS Fellows--outstanding young scientists--to attend AGU, give presentations there, and learn from leaders in CHANS research and build professional networks. We're looking forward to these exciting annual CHANS-Net events."

Speakers at AGU sessions organized by CHANS-Net will discuss such subjects as the importance of water conservation in the 21st century; the Gila River and whether its flows might reduce the risk of water shortages in the Colorado River Basin; and historical evolution of the hydrological functioning of the old Lake Xochimilco in the southern Mexico Basin.

Other topics to be addressed include water conflicts in a changing world; system modeling of the Great Salt Lake in Utah to improve the hydro-ecological performance of diked wetlands; and integrating economics into water resources systems analysis.

"Of all our natural resources, water has become the most precious," wrote Rachel Carson in 1962 in Silent Spring. "By a strange paradox, most of the Earth's abundant water is not usable for agriculture, industry, or human consumption because of its heavy load of sea salts, and so most of the world's population is either experiencing or is threatened with critical shortages."

Fifty years later, more than 100 scientists will present research reflecting Rachel Carson's conviction that "seldom if ever does nature operate in closed and separate compartments, and she has not done so in distributing Earth's water supply."

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PANETTA'S REMARKS AT THE ASEAN MEETING

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, center, tours Angkor Wat with U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia William E. Todd, right, and David L. Carden, left, U.S. Ambassador to the U.S. Mission to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in Siem Reap, Cambodia, Nov. 16, 2012. Angkor Wat is the largest Hindu temple complex in the world. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
FROM: U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta
November 16, 2012
Remarks by Secretary Panetta at ASEAN Meeting, Siem Reap, Cambodia


SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON E. PANETTA: Well, good afternoon to everyone.

It has been a real pleasure for me to have the opportunity to be here in Cambodia for my first visit as secretary of defense.

I want to thank the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN. We had the opportunity to sit down together at lunch, and then in a more formal session, to exchange our views.

And I want to express in particular my thanks to Cambodia's minister of national defense, who has been such a gracious host.

This is my final stop on my trip to Southeast Asia. This trip has taken me to Australia, and then to Thailand, and now to Cambodia. And the message that I have conveyed on this visit, and my other visits, is that the United States's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is real, it is sustainable, and it will be ongoing for a long period of time into the future.

The United States military has been working with friends and partners and allies in the Asia-Pacific region for over 70 years. Americans have fought and died in this region, and our goal has always been to try to promote peace and prosperity throughout this region. And we have tried to foster conditions that would lead to economic growth, more effective governance, and an effort to help lift millions from property and create a better future for generations to come.

And we are deepening our military engagement with our allies and partners in this region, in order to ensure that we are able to promote security and prosperity for many years to come.

But our increased military engagement in the region is but one part of the effort by the United States to rebalance. This effort includes not just military, but diplomatic, economic and cultural engagement across the region. And I know that President Obama looks forward to discussing each of these elements of our rebalance when he arrives here for the East Asia Summit later this week.

Today, we reaffirm the importance of ASEAN unity for building regional stability, and also the United States's support for ASEAN-led defense cooperation in a number of critical areas to the region, including humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, maritime security, nonproliferation and counterterrorism.

I also want to underscore, and I stressed this in meetings that I participated in, the support of the United States for the protection of human rights, of civilian oversight of the military, of respect for the rule of law, and for the right of full and fair participation in the political process here in Cambodia and throughout Southeast Asia.

And as I said last year in Indonesia, and I stress again, we are committed to further strengthening the U.S.-ASEAN relationship. And as a reflection of that commitment, the United States will increase the size and number of exercises that we participate in in the Pacific with our Southeast Asia partners. And we are devoting new funding to this goal.

In addition, we're pleased to see progress toward action-oriented cooperation in the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus. And the United States looks forward to participating in three ADMM-Plus exercises in 2013, including a humanitarian and disaster relief exercise that will be hosted by Brunei, a counterterrorism exercise that we are cosponsoring with Indonesia, and a maritime security exercise co-chaired by Malaysia and Australia.

I expressed to my counterparts that I am impressed by the continuing development of ASEAN-led efforts to enhance security. As I stated at the last meeting, we in the Pacific are part of one family of nations, and we may not agree on all issues, but we are committed to work together to ensure the security of that family.

Let me conclude by saying that this is in many ways a new era in the U.S. relationship in this region. It is based on the principles of the rule of law. It is based on our presence to try to help develop the capabilities of nations. It is based on partnership. And it is based on the common goal of advancing peace and prosperity and opportunity for all people in all nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

Thank you.

Friday, November 16, 2012

PLANETARY NEBULA ABEL 30: 'A SPECIAL PHASE OF EVOLUTION'


FROM: NASA

A Reborn Planetary Nebula

These images of the planetary nebula Abell 30 show one of the clearest views ever obtained of a special phase of evolution for these objects. The inset image on the right is a close-up view of A30 showing X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in purple and Hubble Space Telescope data showing optical emission from oxygen ions in orange. On the left is a larger view showing optical and X-ray data from the Kitt Peak National Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton, respectively. In this image the optical data show emission from oxygen (orange) and hydrogen (green and blue), and X-ray emission is colored purple.

A planetary nebula -- so called because it looks like a planet when viewed with a small telescope -- is formed in the late stage of the evolution of a sun-like star. After having steadily produced energy for several billion years through the nuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium in its central region, or core, the star undergoes a series of energy crises related to the depletion of hydrogen and subsequent contraction of the core. These crises culminate in the star expanding a hundred-fold to become a red giant.

Eventually the outer envelope of the red giant is ejected and moves away from the star at a relatively sedate speed of less than 100,000 miles per hour. The star meanwhile is transformed from a cool giant into a hot, compact star that produces intense ultraviolet radiation and a fast wind of particles moving at about 6 million miles per hour. The interaction of the UV radiation and the fast wind with the ejected red giant envelope creates the planetary nebula, shown by the large spherical shell in the bigger image.

In rare cases, nuclear fusion reactions in the region surrounding the star's core heat the outer envelope of the star so much that it temporarily becomes a red giant again. The sequence of events -- envelope ejection followed by a fast stellar wind -- is repeated on a much faster scale than before, and a small-scale planetary nebula is created inside the original one. In a sense, the planetary nebula is reborn.

Image Credit-NASA-ESA


U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT AND BETTER BUYING STRATEGY

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter offers opening remarks as he introduces Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, to brief Pentagon reporters about the Defense Department's "Better Buying Power 2.0" initiative, Nov. 13, 2012. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett
FROM: U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT,
Defense Officials Preview 'Better Buying Power 2.0'

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2012 - Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter today unveiled a proposed new phase of the Defense Department's "Better Buying Power" initiative that since 2010 has shaped the department's acquisition arm to "do more without more."

Carter told reporters during a Pentagon briefing that when he, as undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, and then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced the first round of "efficiencies" aimed at trimming defense spending, Gates "foresaw, correctly, that the days of ever-increasing defense budgets were coming to an end."

Better Buying Power, introduced in September 2010, was the acquisition contribution to the efficiencies initiative, Carter said.

"It was directed at the $400 billion that the department spends annually on goods and services, ... to get more capability for the warfighter and more value for the taxpayer by obtaining greater efficiency and productivity in defense spending what economists call 'productivity growth,'" he explained.

Now, after planning for a $487 billion decrease in spending over the next decade, the department will incorporate some lessons its members have learned since 2010 when it rolls out the final version of Better Buying Power 2.0 early in 2013, Carter said.

The deputy secretary said hundreds of examples exist of Defense Department acquisition executives putting the Better Buying Power principles into practice. "Each of these examples shows what we can achieve if we rededicate ourselves to acquisition best practices," he added.

Carter then handed the briefing off to Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. Kendall noted the department's proposed plan for the updated initiative will be open for review and comment for two months before a final version takes effect.

Kendall described the seven broad focus areas for the new defense buying initiative:

-- Achieve affordable programs;

-- Control costs throughout the product life cycle;

-- Offer incentives for productivity and innovation in industry and government;

-- Eliminate unproductive processes and bureaucracy;

-- Promote effective competition;

-- Improve tradecraft in acquisition of services; and

-- Improve the professionalism of the total acquisition workforce.

Kendall noted the new version includes some 36 initiatives grouped under those seven headings. In some cases, he said, they replace the original 23 initiatives in five focus areas.

"It turns out that defense acquisition is a pretty complicated subject," he noted. "And there aren't easy, simple solutions that are going to ... reform acquisition and make everything ... better overnight with one or two policy changes."

Lack of productivity -- both in government's bureaucratic processes and in industry "cycle time" – is one complicated area the acquisition chief said he thinks a lot about, and which carries over from the original 2010 initiative. Cycle time, he said, translates into "how long it takes us to get products to the field" – and he added that he's "very unhappy" with the answer.

"It's taking much too long, as far as I'm concerned," Kendall said. "And I have several efforts under way to try to understand what the root cause of that is." Delays can occur at many stages, he noted -- in setting and changing requirements, in testing, and even in production.

"Is industry not as agile as it once was? There are a number of possible causes there, and it's probably some combination of them all, together. ... But I would definitely like to reduce cycle times," he said.

The new effort brings new approaches, but the same aim, to defense acquisition as 2010's Better Buying Power initiative, Kendall said: to give troops fighting the nation's wars the best equipment, and to get good value for every taxpayer dollar.

Kendall said he sees results from the two-year-old effort, but he echoed defense leaders' statements for months past when he warned that such progress, and any plans to achieve deliberate cost savings, will wither if the Budget Control Act's sequester mechanism takes effect in January.

Sequestration would trigger an additional $500 billion in across-the-board defense spending cuts over the next decade if Congress fails to agree on an alternative.

"It's a horrible way to take money out [of the defense budget]," he said. "It really flies in the face of everything we're trying to accomplish here."

RECENT U.S. NAVY PHOTOS

 
FROM: U.S. NAVY

121110-N-ZZ999-001
ARABIAN GULF (Nov. 10, 2012) An Army AH-64D Apache helicopter from the 3-159th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion lands on the flight deck of the afloat forward staging base (interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15), while Ponce conducts interoperability familiarization and integration training. USS Ponce, formerly designated as an amphibious transport dock ship, was converted and reclassified to fulfill a long-standing U.S. Central Command request for an AFSB to be located in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Intelligence Specialist Cedric Thomas/Released)


 

121112-N-MO201-273
SOUDA BAY, Greece (Nov. 12, 2012) The Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Alexandria (SSN 757) departs Souda Bay, Greece. Alexandria is homeported in Groton, Conn., and currently deployed conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Paul Farley/Released)

USS Alexandria U.S. Navy photo by Paul Farley

PANETTA CRITICAL OF STALLED CYBERSECURITY LEGISLATION

U.S. Cyberbrigade.  Credit:  U.S. DOD.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Panetta 'Disappointed' as Cyber Legislation Stalls
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is "disappointed" that an effort to move pending cybersecurity legislation forward failed in the Senate yesterday, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

Little, traveling with Panetta in the Asia-Pacific region, issued a statement after the Senate rejected by a 51-47 vote a procedural motion by Sens. Joseph Lieberman and Susan Collins to move the legislation forward.

"Secretary Panetta was disappointed to learn that the Senate failed to move forward on the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which would have enhanced our nation's ability to protect itself against cyber threats, which are growing at an alarming rate," Little said.

Cyberattacks threaten to have crippling effects on America's critical infrastructure and its government and private-sector systems, he added.

"The U.S. defense strategy calls for greater investments in cybersecurity measures, and we will continue to explore ways to defend the nation against cyber threats," Little said. "New legislation would have enhanced those efforts. If the Congress neglects to address this security problem urgently, the consequences could be devastating."

MESSAGE SENT BY GEN. PETRAEUS TO EMPLOYEES OF THE CIA

Photo Credit:  U.S. DOD
FROM: U.S. CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

Message from General David H. Petraeus (US Army Retired)
Statement to Employees from General David H. Petraeus (US Army Retired)
November 9, 2012

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the White House and asked the President to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign from my position as D/CIA. After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation.

As I depart Langley, I want you to know that it has been the greatest of privileges to have served with you, the officers of our Nation’s Silent Service, a work force that is truly exceptional in every regard. Indeed, you did extraordinary work on a host of critical missions during my time as director, and I am deeply grateful to you for that.

Teddy Roosevelt once observed that life’s greatest gift is the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing. I will always treasure my opportunity to have done that with you and I will always regret the circumstances that brought that work with you to an end.

Thank you for your extraordinary service to our country, and best wishes for continued success in the important endeavors that lie ahead for our country and our Agency.

With admiration and appreciation,

David H. Petraeus

NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN FOR NOVEMBER 16, 2012

Destroying Insurgent Position.  Credit:  U.S. DOD
FROM: U.S DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Combined Force Arrests Insurgents in Search for Taliban Leader

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2012 - A combined Afghan and coalition force in Afghanistan's Helmand province arrested several suspected insurgents today during a search for a Taliban leader who facilitates the transfer of weapons and is involved in ambush attacks targeting Afghan and coalition forces, military officials reported.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- A combined force in Nangarhar province arrested a Taliban weapons facilitator believed to have organized and executed the transfer of weapons and ammunition to Taliban fighters and to have planned assassinations. The security force also detained two other suspected insurgents and seized assault-style rifles.

-- In Logar province, a combined force arrested a Haqqani network leader suspected of planning and launching rocket-propelled grenades and 82 mm rockets against Afghan and coalition forces.

In Ghazni province yesterday, a combined force killed Taliban leader Hafiz Sadar and another insurgent. Also known as Sherin Agha, Hafiz Sadar was responsible for directing roadside-bomb and direct-fire attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, and he was directly accountable for the kidnapping of Afghan officials.

IS IT GARBAGE OR IS IT FOOD? AMERICA RECYCLES DAY

Photo:  Food.  Credit:  U.S. National Institute Of Health

FROM: U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
EPA Announces Regional Food Recovery Challenge Awards on America Recycles Day

(CHICAGO – Nov. 15, 2012) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes regional office is marking America Recycles Day with the announcement of six Food Recovery Challenge Achievement Awards. Through the Food Recovery Challenge, EPA encourages organizations to donate food and recycle food scraps to reduce waste, feed the needy and save money.

"These sports stadiums and universities -- in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio -- have prevented more than 350 tons of food scraps from entering landfills," said Regional Administrator Susan Hedman. "Food Recovery Challenge Achievement Award winners are using food to feed people, not landfills."


Food disposed of in landfills rapidly decomposes and becomes a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The following Recovery Challenge Achievement Award winners are being recognized for significantly cutting food waste below previous years’ levels:


• Minnesota Twins Baseball Club – Target Field, Minneapolis, Minn.
• Saint Paul River Centre/Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.
• City of Eagan Event Center, Eagan, Minn.
• Village of Rosemont – Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Ill.
• Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Mich.
• Youngstown State University, Youngstown, Ohio

NATIVE CUBAN BECOMES U.S. AIRMAN

Air Force Senior Airman Osniel Diaz inspects kitchen equipment at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., Nov. 6, 2012. Diaz started his Air Force career without knowing how to speak English. U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Face of Defense: Cuban Boy Grows to be U.S. Airman
By Air Force Airman 1st Class William J. Blankenship
Air University

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala., Nov. 15, 2012 - Under a star-studded night in their native Cuba, a young boy and his stepbrother made a promise to each other. If they ever somehow made it to the United States, they would join the U.S. military.

Nearly two decades and a host of obstacles later, they have made their dreams come true.

Air Force Senior Airman Osniel Diaz is a public health specialist with the 42nd Medical Group here, in charge of food inspection, workplace safety, sanitary standards and controlling communicable diseases. Throughout his childhood, Diaz said, he and his family had dreams of reaching America, even after threats of imprisonment from the communist government.

"One night in Cuba," he added, "we decided that, when we got to the United States, we would join the military to give back to the country that gave us our freedom."

Freedom for Diaz and his family came in stages. In 2002, his mother and stepbrother were allowed access to the United States. Despite the rumors of threats and imprisonment, Diaz joined his family four years later when he was granted a travel visa.

When he arrived in Miami, he found that his stepbrother had joined the Marine Corps, as promised. But the journey to fulfill his own promise to his new country had to wait a bit longer.

"I spent four years waiting to get my resident card so that I could join the military," Diaz said. "In the meantime, I worked as a computer technician. I didn't know English, so that was the only type of job I could handle."

Diaz and his family moved to Colorado, and for a while, it looked as if his dream of joining the military wouldn't turn into a reality. "One day immigration called to interview me for the fourth time," he said. "The problem was that I had to travel from Colorado back to Florida for the interview."

The interview was a success, and with his new resident status in hand, Diaz pursued his dream of joining the Air Force. But he found that joining and succeeding in the military had its own set of challenges.

"I was working at a good job, but my dream was still to be in the Air Force," he said. "I understand that only 1 percent of the U.S. population joins the military and fights for their country, but, for me, joining was saying 'thank you' for my freedom."

First Diaz had to obtain an age waiver, then ran into the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. "It was horrible, and I barely passed," he said. "My reading score was awful, but my scores on the other sections helped balance it out."

Diaz soon found himself unemployed, and with a wife and two small children to support, entering the Air Force held an extra sense of urgency. A month later, his recruiter called with an opening, with one slight twist: he had two days to report.

Diaz said he found that even though getting into the Air Force presented one set of challenges, getting through basic training presented an entirely different set.

"I was always in trouble, and I didn't speak English when I first got to basic," he said. "My brother gave me good advice from his time as a Marine: 'Be a copycat. Whatever you see other people do, do that.'

"The first week of basic was hard," he continued. "My collar was messed up, and I kept getting yelled at for it in the cafeteria. I was so confused about it all that I didn't eat. I just drank water for a week."

Finally, someone in his flight told Diaz that his collar was flipped up instead of lying flat. And even though his language problem continued to plague him throughout basic training, he said, things began to improve for the new American resident.

With the help of a fellow trainee, Diaz continued to work on his English skills and made it through basic training and public health technical school.

"Even after I got to Maxwell, my English was pretty bad," he acknowledged. "My first supervisor made me answer the phones for the first two months. She said I would answer the phones and read Air Force instructions until I got better at English, and it really helped. Hearing the language and trying to understand it all day improved my skills greatly."

Today, as an American citizen, Diaz gets a thumbs-up from the one person who has watched him struggle from a dream-struck youth to a newly promoted senior airman.

"Osniel has changed his life because this country gave him the opportunity to pursue his dreams," said his mother, Lina Martinez. "He has put the maximum effort into his work to get ahead and has never given up. Even without mastering the English language, he has studied the computer field, joined the Air Force and is growing a family with his beautiful wife."

Two days that decide Europe’s space future: a citizen’s briefing on ESA

Two days that decide Europe’s space future: a citizen’s briefing on ESA

POSSIBILITIES: U.S.-AUSTRALIA CONFERENCE

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Thai Defense Minister Sukampol Suwannathat inspect the honor guard in Bangkok, Nov. 15, 2012. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
U.S.-Australia Conference Points to Possibilities

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

HONOLULU, Nov. 15, 2012 - While the latest Australia-U.S. Ministerial Conference in Perth, Australia, was more concerned with the maintenance of the alliance, the discussions do point to interesting possibilities for the two countries in the future.

The very location of the host city highlighted one possibility: Perth is the largest Australian city on the Indian Ocean.

"We are continuing to examine what opportunities exist in the Indian Ocean-Pacific Ocean region," said Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a participant in the conference. "Up until now most of our conversations have been about the Pacific. I think what you've seen emerge as a result of the Perth Ministerial is the Indian Ocean. Perth is a portal to the Indian Ocean."

Dempsey spoke in an interview aboard a military aircraft traveling back from the conference.

The discussions included the possibility of allowing U.S. forces to use a navy base near Perth and airfields in northern Australia. The participants decided this required more information.

"We're not looking to station anybody beyond where they are already based, because we do have to maintain a balance of forward permanent presence and rotational presence," Dempsey said. "We're not looking at changing that balance yet."

But more areas for rotational units could be in the cards. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta tasked Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, U.S. Pacific Command commander, to work with Gen. David Hurley, chief of Australia's defense forces, to assess what might be possible. The results would be discussed in a future ministerial conference.

"Wherever we find ourselves the rotations will be episodic, and what works best for both us and our partners," Dempsey said.

U.S. Marines currently rotating in and out of Darwin, Australia, are there for six months; there is no permanent U.S. base.

"We're not looking at planting a flag and opening a base," Dempsey said. "There will be a handful of people who will probably be there to keep the base warm, but not many."

This ministerial conference changed the measurement of success a bit, the chairman said. The U.S. effort in the Asia-Pacific region often is thought about in reference to a Marine expeditionary unit, a brigade combat team, aircraft or ships, he explained.

"But it's also about the other things that we are increasingly interested in and partnering with -- space, cyber, special operations forces, [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], ways to achieve maritime domain awareness," he said. "While it's sometimes about personnel and hardware, it's often also about integrating strategies."

Despite transparency from the United States and Australia with their defense intentions, the Chinese government objected to the positioning of Marines in Australia. The United States puts Marines in Darwin for the purpose of partnering with Australia and the other nations of the region, the general said. This leads to better understand of the region, builds deeper relationships, and places assets in place in case of a need for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, he added.

"It's not just the Chinese who are interested in our intentions," the chairman said. "We've had similar conversations with Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and we have to keep at that."

The absence of the United States as a Pacific power would be very bad for the region and the globe, Dempsey said, because with little U.S. defense presence in the region, the possibility of a dangerous miscalculation or misperception rises. While the United States is rebalancing military forces to emphasize the Pacific, he added, there will be some churn as the process proceeds.

"The nature and intentions of our presence [in the Pacific] will become evident to the Chinese over time," he said.

Supplementing teens

Supplementing teens

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update: Polluting Space – Scientists Discover CO2 In The Upper Atmosphere

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

FORMER COURT EMPLOYEES INDICTED FOR THEFT OF PROGRAMMING CODE FOR COURT DATA SYSTEM


FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Two Former Alabama Court Employees Indicted for Stealing Programming Code for Sensitive Court Data System

Two former employees of the Alabama Administrative Office of the Courts were indicted today in Montgomery, Ala., for stealing the programming code for a sensitive court data system, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance for the Northern District of Alabama.

The indictment charges Michael David Carroll, 58, and Jill Hawthorne, 35, both of Montgomery, with one count of stealing property having a value of $5,000 or more by an employee of a state or local government agency that receives $10,000 or more annually in federal assistance. Carroll is the former Director of Information Systems for the Alabama Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). Hawthorne is a former database administrator for AOC.

According to the indictment, Carroll and Hawthorne stole the code for the AOC’s county court records database called Namemaster. The indictment also alleges that Carroll and Hawthorne stole the digital blueprint, known as the schema, for how the Namemaster database was constructed. A database schema often includes information concerning tables, fields, relationships, views, indexes and other such elements.

According to a publicly filed search warrant affidavit, Hawthorne and Carroll facilitated the unlawful transfer of the code and schema for Namemaster to an Orlando-based private software development company CyberBest Technology Inc. They also allegedly facilitated the transfer to CyberBest of hundreds of thousands of Jefferson County, Ala., court records from the state Namemaster database.

If convicted, Carroll and Hawthorne each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Estes for the Northern District of Alabama and Trial Attorney William Hall of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service, Alabama Bureau of Investigation and Alabama Attorney General’s Office.

Indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

PANETTA PLACES MILITARY LEADERSHIP CULTURE ON REVIEW


FROM: U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
Panetta Directs Review of Officers' Culture of Stewardship
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

BANGKOK, Nov. 15, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has ordered a review to determine how the armed forces can better foster a culture of stewardship among senior military officers, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.

Panetta directed Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to work with other members of the Joint Chiefs on the review, Little said, adding that initial findings are due to the secretary within the next few weeks.

Little said this is an ongoing process, the timing of which -- amid recent reports and investigations of potentially improper behavior by several general officers -- is coincidental. The review, he said, "was going to happen anyway." Input to the secretary will form the basis of a report to President Barack Obama on the department's progress in this area by Dec. 1.

The process, Little noted, is intended to reinforce and strengthen the standards that keep the military well led and disciplined.

"The secretary believes that the vast majority of our senior military officers exemplify the strength of character and the highest ethical standards the American people expect of those whose job it is to provide for the security of our nation," Little said.

"They represent not only the best of the American military but the American people," he added. "The majority of these officers lead by example, which is one of the reasons the United States military stands without peer."

Over the past several months, the press secretary said, Panetta has spoken with the service secretaries, service chiefs and combatant commanders about instances when senior officers have not lived up to the standards expected of them.

"This has been an ongoing discussion," Little said, "reflecting shared concerns."

The secretary is traveling this week in the Asia-Pacific region, visiting defense officials in Australia, Thailand and Cambodia.

 

NASA VIDEO: WIND AND RADIATION ON MARS

FROM: NASA 

video

Wind and Radiation on Mars

Curiosity monitors radiation and spots elusive whirlwinds on Mars.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

COMMANDER OF U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS SAYS THERE IS NO EVIDENSE PAKISTAN KNEW BIN LADEN'S LOCATION

Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, right, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, talks with PBS' Charlie Rose about the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden. Rose interviewed McRaven during the Hero Summit in Washington, D.C., Nov. 14, 2012. DOD photo by Claudette Roulo
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

McRaven: No Evidence Pakistan Knew bin Laden's Location

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2012 - The commander of U.S. Special Operations Command said yesterday that a post-raid assessment concluded there is no evidence that the Pakistani government knew the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

Navy Adm. William H. McRaven told attendees at the Hero Summit that Pakistan wasn't informed of the raid that led to the death of bin Laden because the initial assumption was "How could they not know he was there?"

Senior leaders, he said, believed informing Pakistan about the raid in advance would have put the mission at risk. McRaven said he doesn't believe the Pakistani government knew bin Laden's whereabouts. "We have no intelligence that indicates the Pakistanis knew he was there," he added.

McRaven, interviewed on stage by PBS' Charlie Rose, said there was never a moment he doubted the raid would succeed. "We hand-picked the guys," he said. "They were the best of the best, all across the board. They had extensive combat experience, and consequently ... I was very confident."

Though bin Laden is dead, nonstate actors still present a threat, the admiral said.

"We've done a terrific job of taking care of the core of al- Qaida," McRaven said. But, he added, "there's no such thing as a local problem anymore. ... Everything in the world is connected." This interconnectedness means the future of special operations lies in partnerships with other nations, he added.

"We understand ... to minimize the rise of violent extremism, you have to create the conditions on the ground where people have good jobs, where there is the rule of law, where there is stability [and] where there is good governance," he said. "We think, from a military standpoint, we can certainly help with the security that will be required to help begin to build some of that stability.

"The raids get all the media attention," he continued, "but the reality of the matter is the bulk of what we do is building partner capacity and working with host nations. I think that's the future of special operations."

The admiral said he recently returned from Afghanistan, where partnership building is ongoing, and he feels the relationship is the best he's ever seen it. The relationship between Afghans and their local, regional and national governments is taking serious root, he said.

Afghanistan will be a better version of itself in 2014, McRaven said, noting that the Afghan army is one of the most respected institutions in the country.

"It's an entirely different paradigm for the people of Afghanistan, but I'm convinced we're on the right path," he said.

U.S.-THAILAND DEFENSE ALLIANCE

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, center, tours the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Nov. 15, 2012. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
 
U.S., Thai Leaders Move Defense Alliance Into 21st Century
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

BANGKOK, Nov. 15, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Thai Defense Minister Sukampol Suwannathat affirmed their nations' long-term military partnership here today, updating a vision for the alliance whose most recent statement, in 1962, focused on fighting communism.

Before attending the signing ceremony on the manicured grounds of the Ministry of Defense, Sukampol accompanied Panetta as the secretary inspected the Thai guards of honor.

Later, after signing the 2012 Joint Vision Statement for the Thai-U.S. Defense Alliance, both men made statements to a room packed with journalists.

Panetta said he is honored to visit Thailand as the U.S. secretary of defense, and he thanked Sukampol for his hospitality.

"I also wanted to come here as secretary to affirm very strongly that the United States-Thailand defense alliance remains strong and remains one of our great alliances in this region," he added.

Thailand will be increasingly important in collective security efforts to promote peace and prosperity in the region, Panetta said, expressing appreciation to the minister and the Thai military for close cooperation and generous support offered to American forces over the years.

"Recognizing that our future prosperity and ... security are closely tied to that of the Asia-Pacific region, President [Barack] Obama has committed the United States to working even more closely with our friends and allies in this region," Panetta said, "deepening our engagement through diplomacy, through trade and through stronger military to military relations."

The president looks forward to further discussing these issues when he arrives here later this week to visit Bangkok on a trip that also will include visits to Rangoon, Burma, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

"America's engagement with Thailand is a crucial part of these broader efforts," Panetta said.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the communiqué signed in 1962 by Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Thai Foreign Minister Thanat Khoman, he added, an agreement that committed the nations to halting the spread of communism.

"Today the minister and I moved this alliance into the 21st century," Panetta said, "by signing a joint vision statement that will help pave the way for even stronger military-to-military ties as we adapt to the shared threats and challenges that we will face together in this region and in the future."

According to the new vision statement, U.S.-Thai defense cooperation will focus on four key areas:

-- Partnership for regional security in Southeast Asia;

-- Supporting stability in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond;

-- Bilateral and multilateral interoperability and readiness; and

-- Relationship building, coordination and collaboration at all levels.

Panetta's visit is the culmination of a year's worth of reinvigoration of the strategic part of the two nations' defense relationship, a senior defense official said in a background briefing earlier today for reporters traveling with the secretary.

On the operational side of the relationship, the militaries of the United States and Thailand are deeply engaged in massive exercises such as the Thai-led Cobra Gold, the world's largest multilateral military exercise and premier training event in Asia, the official said.

Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, called CARAT, is another area of cooperation, he added. This is a series of bilateral military exercises between the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. And Timor Leste joined the exercise for the first time this year.

The Thais like the engagement and they want more, the official said. "There's a big demand signal from the Thais to do more training, to come to our schools, to engage on the operational side and the classroom side as well as the strategic part," he added.

The relationship has also been reinvigorated, the official said, by a series of meetings and visits over the past several months between officials of each nation.

Panetta had a short encounter with Sukampol this year at the Shangri-La Dialogue regional security conference in Singapore. Then Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Bangkok in June and later received a reciprocal visit by his counterpart, Gen. Thanasak Patimaprakorn.

Other visits included one to Bangkok in July by Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, and a visit to Thailand last month by Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command. And in Washington last month, the U.S.-Thailand Defense Strategic Talks put Defense Department officials together with a senior-level Thai delegation, the official said.

This summer, Thai defense officials held a two-day conference on their role in the U.S. defense strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, he added, and came away from it with interests that led to the updating of the Thai-U.S. defense alliance.

"As we focus on these areas of cooperation," Panetta said today, "I want to convey that the United States remains committed to helping the Thai military further develop its already impressive capabilities so that it can assume even greater security responsibilities in this region," particularly in maritime security, humanitarian relief and peacekeeping operations.

"Thailand is an important ally in the Asia-Pacific region," the secretary added, "and we look forward to strengthening that alliance to ensure the friendship and security of both our nations in the future."