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White Press Office Feed

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Emergency response vehicles line the area around the Pentagon, and smoke clouds the horizon shortly after a terrorist attack Sept. 11, 2001. President George W. Bush announced a war on terrorism and initiated homeland-defense efforts, including Operation Noble Eagle, which involved combat air patrols within the United States.

Johnson Gives Legal Background for War Against al-Qaida
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2012 - The United States remains in an armed conflict with al-Qaida, but it is important that the fight against the terrorist group is done in a lawful manner that does not compromise American values, Jeh C. Johnson told the Oxford Union in England today.

The group invited Johnson, the Defense Department's general counsel, to discuss the implications of the fight against al-Qaida -- a conflict that Britain has been involved in as well since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Al-Qaida planned and executed the attacks that killed 3,000 people from their base in Afghanistan. The United States has taken the fight directly to the terrorists, "the result of which is that the core of al-Qaeda is today degraded, disorganized and on the run," Johnson said. "Osama bin Laden is dead. Many other leaders and terrorist operatives of al-Qaida are dead or captured; those left in al-Qaida's core struggle to communicate, issue orders, and recruit."

But, the group remains a danger. While the international coalition has degraded al-Qaida's capabilities, it has decentralized, and relies much more on affiliates. The most dangerous of these are al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula based in Yemen and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates in northern and western Africa. In Yemen, the United States works with the government there in counterterrorism operations.

But the question for some is whether all of these actions are legal. Taking on al-Qaida is not like declaring war on a sovereign nation. It is an amorphous terror group that operates worldwide. Some have asked what is the legal basis for armed conflict against such a group?

"The United States government is in an armed conflict against al-Qaeda and associated forces, to which the laws of armed conflict apply," Johnson said. "One week after 9/11, our Congress authorized our President 'to use all necessary and appropriate force' against those nations, organizations and individuals responsible for 9/11."

Then-President George W. Bush, and now President Barack Obama have acted militarily based on that authorization ever since. The Supreme Court also endorsed this justification in 2006.

But, for the United States, this is a new kind of conflict. It is an unconventional fight against an unconventional enemy.

"Given its unconventional nature, President Obama -- himself a lawyer and a good one -- has insisted that our efforts in pursuit of this enemy stay firmly rooted in conventional legal principles," Johnson said. "For, in our efforts to destroy and dismantle al-Qaida, we cannot dismantle our laws and our values, too."

He added that the United States is "not at war with an idea, a religion or a tactic. We are at war with an organized, armed group -- a group determined to kill innocent civilians."

The nation is also in conflict with groups that aid al-Qaida.

"We have publicly stated that our goal in this conflict is to 'disrupt, dismantle, and ensure a lasting defeat of al-Qaeda and violent extremist affiliates," Johnson said. "Some legal scholars and commentators in our country brand the detention by the military of members of al-Qaida as 'indefinite detention without charges.' Some refer to targeted lethal force against known, identified individual members of al-Qaeda as 'extrajudicial killing.'"

Johnson countered, by pointing out that "viewed within the context of conventional armed conflict -- as they should be -- capture, detention and lethal force are traditional practices as old as armies."

He added, "We employ weapons of war against al-Qaida, but in a manner consistent with the law of war. We employ lethal force, but in a manner consistent with the law of war principles of proportionality, necessity and distinction."

The armed conflict is now in its twelfth year. How will it end?

"It is an unconventional conflict, against an unconventional enemy, and will not end in conventional terms," Johnson said.

Every defense secretary since 9/11 has said the war against terrorism will not conclude with a formal surrender such as the ceremony that took place on the deck of the USS Missouri that ended World War II.

"We cannot and should not expect al-Qaida and its associated forces to all surrender, all lay down their weapons in an open field or to sign a peace treaty with us," Johnson said. "They are terrorist organizations. Nor can we expect to capture or kill every last terrorist who claims an affiliation with al-Qaida."

Al Qaida's "radical and absurd goals" include global domination through a violent Islamic caliphate, terrorizing the United States and other western nations so they retreat from the world stage as well as the destruction of Israel.

"There is no compromise or political bargain that can be struck with those who pursue such aims," Johnson said.

The general counsel believes there will come a tipping point when so many al-Qaida leaders and operatives have been killed or captured that the group and its affiliates can no longer attempt to launch a strategic attack against the United States.

"At that point, we must be able to say to ourselves that our efforts should no longer be considered an 'armed conflict' against al-Qaida and its affiliates; rather, a counterterrorism effort against individuals who are the scattered remnants of al-Qaida," he said.


US Navy Videos


After its first Mercury solar day (176 Earth days) in orbit, MESSENGER has nearly completed two of its main global imaging campaigns: a monochrome map at 250 m/pixel and an eight-color, 1-km/pixel color map. Apart from small gaps, which will be filled in during the next solar day, these global maps now provide uniform lighting conditions ideal for assessing the form of Mercury’s surface features as well as the color and compositional variations across the planet. The orthographic views seen here, centered at 75° E longitude, are each mosaics of thousands of individual images. At right, images taken through the wide-angle camera filters at 1000, 750, and 430 nm wavelength are displayed in red, green, and blue, respectively. Image Credit-NASA-Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory-Carnegie Institution of Washington

NASA Spacecraft Finds New Evidence for Water Ice on Mercury

WASHINGTON -- A NASA spacecraft studying Mercury has provided compelling support for the long-held hypothesis the planet harbors abundant water ice and other frozen volatile materials within its permanently shadowed polar craters.

The new information comes from NASA's MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft. Its onboard instruments have been studying Mercury in unprecedented detail since its historic arrival there in March 2011. Scientists are seeing clearly for the first time a chapter in the story of how the inner planets, including Earth, acquired their water and some of the chemical building blocks for life.

"The new data indicate the water ice in Mercury's polar regions, if spread over an area the size of Washington, D.C., would be more than 2 miles thick," said David Lawrence, a MESSENGER participating scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., and lead author of one of three papers describing the findings. The papers were published online in Thursday's edition of Science Express.

Spacecraft instruments completed the first measurements of excess hydrogen at Mercury's north pole, made the first measurements of the reflectivity of Mercury's polar deposits at near-infrared wavelengths, and enabled the first detailed models of the surface and near-surface temperatures of Mercury's north polar regions.

Given its proximity to the sun, Mercury would seem to be an unlikely place to find ice. However, the tilt of Mercury's rotational axis is less than 1 degree, and as a result, there are pockets at the planet's poles that never see sunlight.

Scientists suggested decades ago there might be water ice and other frozen volatiles trapped at Mercury's poles. The idea received a boost in 1991 when the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico detected radar-bright patches at Mercury's poles. Many of these patches corresponded to the locations of large impact craters mapped by NASA's Mariner 10 spacecraft in the 1970s. However, because Mariner saw less than 50 percent of the planet, planetary scientists lacked a complete diagram of the poles to compare with the radar images.

Images from the spacecraft taken in 2011 and earlier this year confirmed all radar-bright features at Mercury's north and south poles lie within shadowed regions on the planet's surface. These findings are consistent with the water ice hypothesis.

The new observations from MESSENGER support the idea that ice is the major constituent of Mercury's north polar deposits. These measurements also reveal ice is exposed at the surface in the coldest of those deposits, but buried beneath unusually dark material across most of the deposits. In the areas where ice is buried, temperatures at the surface are slightly too warm for ice to be stable.

MESSENGER's neutron spectrometer provides a measure of average hydrogen concentrations within Mercury's radar-bright regions. Water ice concentrations are derived from the hydrogen measurements.

"We estimate from our neutron measurements the water ice lies beneath a layer that has much less hydrogen. The surface layer is between 10 and 20 centimeters [4-8 inches] thick," Lawrence said.

Additional data from detailed topography maps compiled by the spacecraft corroborate the radar results and neutron measurements of Mercury's polar region. In a second paper by Gregory Neumann of NASA's Goddard Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., measurements of the shadowed north polar regions reveal irregular dark and bright deposits at near-infrared wavelength near Mercury's north pole.
"Nobody had seen these dark regions on Mercury before, so they were mysterious at first," Neumann said.

The spacecraft recorded dark patches with diminished reflectance, consistent with the theory that ice in those areas is covered by a thermally insulating layer. Neumann suggests impacts of comets or volatile-rich asteroids could have provided both the dark and bright deposits, a finding corroborated in a third paper led by David Paige of the University of California at Los Angeles.

"The dark material is likely a mix of complex organic compounds delivered to Mercury by the impacts of comets and volatile-rich asteroids, the same objects that likely delivered water to the innermost planet," Paige said.

This dark insulating material is a new wrinkle to the story, according to MESSENGER principal investigator Sean Solomon of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y.

"For more than 20 years, the jury has been deliberating whether the planet closest to the sun hosts abundant water ice in its permanently shadowed polar regions," Solomon said. "MESSENGER now has supplied a unanimous affirmative verdict."

MESSENGER was designed and built by APL. The lab manages and operates the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The mission is part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed for the directorate by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.


E-2C Hawkeye aircraft assigned to the Wallbangers of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117 fly over the Pacific Ocean near Ventura, Calif. VAW-117 is a command and control and airborne early Warning Squadron dedicated to deliver time critical situational awareness to warfare commanders and coalition partners. U.S. Navy photo by Command Master Chief Spike Call (Released) 121120-N-ZZ999-004

Chinese sailors render honors to Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) the Honorable Ray Mabus during a visit to the People's Liberation Army Navy hospital ship Peace Ark (866). Mabus is visiting China to discuss the United States' new defense strategy, deepening our military-to-military engagements, rebalancing toward the Pacific and fostering a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship with China. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Sam Shavers (Released) 121129-N-AC887-001


Remarks at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy 2012 Saban Forum Opening Gala Dinner

Remarks at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy 2012 Saban Forum Opening Gala Dinner


Map:  Laos.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.

Lao People's Democratic Republic's National Day
Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 30, 2012

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on your National Day this December 2.

This year marks 57 years of diplomatic relations between the United States and Laos, and my visit in July affirmed the growing relationship between our two countries. The United States remains committed to working with the Lao Government and other partners to increase access to healthcare, build on our food security initiative, promote economic development, and reduce the impact of unexploded ordnance and accounting for the remains of U.S. military service members.

We congratulate Laos on its accession to the World Trade Organization, a milestone for your economic reforms that will serve you well for new investment opportunities. Laos has taken significant strides to become a more prominent member of the international community, including through its leadership in the Lower Mekong Initiative, and the United States welcomes the opportunity to strengthen our partnership even more.

I wish all Laotians continued peace, prosperity, and happiness in the coming year.

Map:  Laos:  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.

Modern-day Laos has its roots in the ancient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, established in the 14th Century under King FA NGUM. For 300 years Lan Xang had influence reaching into present-day Cambodia and Thailand, as well as over all of what is now Laos. After centuries of gradual decline, Laos came under the domination of Siam (Thailand) from the late 18th century until the late 19th century when it became part of French Indochina. The Franco-Siamese Treaty of 1907 defined the current Lao border with Thailand. In 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao took control of the government ending a six-century-old monarchy and instituting a strict socialist regime closely aligned to Vietnam. A gradual, limited return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1988. Laos became a member of ASEAN in 1997.


Photo:  Korean War Era.  Credit:  U.S. Marine Corps. 

North Korean Announcement of a Launch December 10-22, 2012
Press Statement
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 30, 2012

A North Korean "satellite" launch would be a highly provocative act that threatens peace and security in the region. Any North Korean launch using ballistic missile technology is in direct violation of UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) 1718 and 1874.

The UN Security Council Presidential Statement adopted unanimously on April 16, 2012 strongly condemned North Korea's April 13 launch and expressed its determination to take action accordingly in the event of a further launch. We call on North Korea to comply fully with its obligations under all relevant UNSCRs.

Devoting scarce resources to the development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles will only further isolate and impoverish North Korea. The path to security for North Korea lies in investing in its people and abiding by its commitments and international obligations.

The United States is consulting closely with its Six-Party and other key allies and partners on next steps.


Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter delivers remarks at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy in Durham, N.C., Nov. 29, 2012. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett


Carter Outlines U.S. Security Strategy in Tight-budget Era
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

DURHAM, N.C., Nov. 30, 2012 - In a speech at Duke University here yesterday, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter outlined new security strategies and challenges that he said will define the nation's future in a post-war era of fiscal constraint.

Carter said the need to keep the department's "fiscal house in order" after more than a decade of war and under the threat of sequestration has spurred an approach of rebalancing and innovation as the Defense Department pivots to the Asia-Pacific region.

"We in the Department of Defense ... are at a moment of great strategic consequence and great strategic transition; we're at the confluence of two great forces," Carter said. "After almost 12 years of unrelenting and uninterrupted war ... in two particular places, Iraq and Afghanistan -- that era is coming to an end."

While Carter acknowledged the war in Afghanistan persists, he expressed confidence in the strategy's probability of success as U.S. forces draw down and Afghan security forces maintain stability.

"... The principal requirement [is] to ensure the country is no longer a danger to the U.S.," he said.

Looking forward, Carter said, military leadership determined that U.S. forces must be leaner, more agile, ready, and technologically advanced.

"We wanted to take ... steps to make the most effective use of our force in the era after Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.

The new concept of readiness, according to Carter, involves preserving and building on the strength of the all-volunteer active duty, Guard and Reserve force developed during the last decade.

"We wanted to retain [the force] and we wanted to respect it [with] no sudden changes as the war came to an end," he said.

Carter said he also aims to shift the weight of intellectual effort to future challenges by continuing to invest in special operations forces, electronic warfare, and space and cyber technology.

These investment areas, he explained, will be best leveraged in the Asia-Pacific region, where a considerable amount of the U.S. future security and economic interests lie.

Carter noted the unique history of the region that he said never had NATO nor "any structure to heal the wounds of World War II and yet it has had peace and stability for 70 years."

Because he credits sustained American military presence in the region with the long span of peace, Carter said his goal as the U.S. pivots to the Pacific is simple.

"We want to 'keep on keepin' on' with what that region has: an environment of peace and stability in which the countries of the region -- all of them -- can continue to enjoy economic prosperity," Carter said.

As partnerships with Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Australia continue to blossom, Carter said he urges broadening the U.S. military strategy to one of national strategy including economic engagement, long-standing principles of self-governance, and free, open access to commerce.

"That environment is not a birthright," Carter said. "It's something that results in important measure from the continued pivotal presence of the U.S. military in that region."

The U.S. will continue to work with new security partners such as India, Philippines, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations collective, and China while setting priorities for the kinds of capabilities that are relevant for the Asia-Pacific region, Carter said.

"... We can enhance our Asia-Pacific region posture ... because of the end of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars which frees up capacity," he added.

Therefore, Carter said, the U.S. will move more security assets into the region, such as the deployment of F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Japan and an expanding rotational bomber presence on Guam.

Key defense investments that remain shielded from budget cuts include KC-46 tanker aircraft, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technology and the Virginia Class submarine, which Carter said maintains "unrivaled undersea dominance." New training infrastructure involves joint, multi-lateral exercises designed to strengthen partnerships with nations in the Asia-Pacific region, he added.

"Partners are a force multiplier for us," Carter said. "We're not only emphasizing our existing alliances and partnerships, but [we're also] trying as hard as we can to build new ones."

It is for these reasons, he said, that the U.S. can and will find the military capacity and intellectual resources to support the strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.

But Carter shared a question he said is on the minds of many Americans: Can the U.S. accomplish these endeavors with the anticipated budget cuts?

As the DOD's strategic juncture in history and the current era of fiscal belt-tightening overlap, Carter described the defense strategy as an "an unprecedented process" in terms of the depth of presidential involvement.

Carter said President Barack Obama invested significant time and effort with defense leadership to develop strategic budgetary cuts.

Still, Carter explained, absent swift Congressional approval for follow-on measures to the Budget Control Act, sequestration could be "disastrous" for national defense.

"If it comes to pass, it will hollow out the force," he said.

In the meantime, Carter said he and other DOD officials remain resolute in the task of providing U.S. national security while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

"We hope that by being good strategists and sound managers, we can continue to defend the country and enjoy the trust of the people it's our responsibility to defend," Carter said.

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day


Fred Hochberg.  Chairman Of Export-Import Bank.
Message from the Chairman


Recently the Export-Import Bank of the United States announced a fourth straight record-breaking year for export financing – over $35.7 billion in Exim authorizations for FY 2012. That is up by nearly 10 percent from last fiscal year and up 150 percent over the past four years. We not only did this at no cost to taxpayers, we delivered $1.1 billion in excess revenues to the Treasury.

But these numbers mean little without understanding the impact we've had on America's economic recovery. Our financing supported 255,000 export-related jobs last year – good jobs with high wages and a promising future for working families—and nearly 1 million jobs over the past 4 years. These quality jobs were in communities across the country in industries ranging from nuclear power plant machinery and services to solar panels.

Our financing for small businesses also reached a new record of $6.1 billion – supporting innovative entrepreneurs as they expand into overseas markets. By the end of FY 2012, 650 small businesses have used Exim financing this year for the first time; additionally, more than 1,730 small-business transactions were for loans under $500,000. And we've only just begun. Our support for women- and minority-owned small-business exporters, for instance, increased nearly 17 percent, setting a new record. Here at Ex-Im, we are always looking to partner with new exporters.

Export growth is contributing more and more to the nation's economy. Overall in 2011, U.S. exports accounted for $2.17 trillion of U.S. gross domestic product of $15.6 trillion – an all-time high. This underscores the success so far of President Obama's National Export Initiative – a coordinated effort to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014 – as we continue to make steady progress towards that goal.

Business people around the country are impressed when I tell them that we produced these results with a staff of only about 400. Not only that, we cut our approval times in half, simplified application forms, and launched a Total Enterprise Modernization program to streamline our systems. In FY 2012, 90% of all transactions were processed within 30 days and 98% were processed within 100 days. We are doing "Government at the Speed of Business" and expect even more productivity improvements in the year ahead. I invite you to read on for details about our successful fourth quarter and fiscal year.


Photo:  F-35.  Credit:  U.S. Air Force.


DOD, Lockheed Martin Agree to More F-35s
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2012 – DOD and Lockheed Martin have reached an agreement in principle to manufacture 32 F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter jets, Pentagon Press Secretary George E. Little said today.

The jets are part of Low-Rate Initial Production batch 5 -- the fifth production lot of the aircraft. Unit-cost data will be made available once the contracts are finalized and signed, Little said.

"Production costs are decreasing and I appreciate everyone’s commitment to this important negotiation process," said Navy Vice Adm. Dave Venlet, the F-35 program executive officer.

The agreement also covers the costs of manufacturing support equipment, flight test instrumentation and additional mission equipment, he added.

"It was a tough negotiation," Little said, "and we’re pleased that we’ve reached an agreement."

According to a news release from the F-35 program office, Lockheed Martin will produce 22 F-35A conventional take-off and landing variants for the Air Force, three F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variants for the Marine Corps and seven F-35C carrier variants for the Navy.

Aircraft production was started in December 2011 under a previously authorized undefinitized contract action, the release said. Undefinitized contract actions authorize contractors to begin work before reaching a final agreement on contract terms.

The agreement sets the program to move forward according to improved business timelines, Little said. "It’s good for all nations that are partnered with us in this important effort for our future national security."

The United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Turkey, Israel and Singapore are partners or participants in the aircraft’s development program, and the Japanese government announced in December 2011 it will buy 42 of the fighters.

Weekly Address: Urging Congress to Extend the Middle Class Tax Cuts | The White House

Weekly Address: Urging Congress to Extend the Middle Class Tax Cuts | The White House

Bo Inspects the 2012 White House Holiday Decorations | The White House

Bo Inspects the 2012 White House Holiday Decorations | The White House



2012 Hurricane Season Rainfall

This animation shows rainfall totals calculated by NASA's TRMM satellite from tropical cyclones that affected the western Atlantic Ocean area during the 2012 hurricane season. It begins on May 19, 2012 with the formation of Tropical Storm Alberto off the coast of South Carolina and progresses through the Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29. The last storm of the season, Tony, was out of the view of this animation. Measurements appear in millimeters.

Credit-NASA-SSAI, Hal Pierce


Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley discusses the importance of modernization and the challenges ahead for the Air Force at the 2012 Aerospace and Defense Investor Conference in New York, Nov. 29.2012. U.S. Air Force photo-Dave Wilson
SecAF declares 'Modernization can't wait' 11/30/2012 - NEW YORK CITY (AFNS) -- The Air Force's senior civilian addressed the importance of modernization and the challenges ahead for the Air Force at the 2012 Aerospace and Defense Investor Conference here Nov. 29.

"Among the most difficult challenges facing the Air Force is the need to modernize our aging aircraft inventory as the defense budget declines," said Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley. "New threats and technologies require new investments."

Donley conveyed the careful strategic choices made in crafting the service's budget, highlighting the importance of research, development, procurement and construction -- "investments in future capability."

He specifically addressed the need for modernization among fighter, tanker, bomber, space and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms as "high priority investments," while other important capabilities like a new trainer and joint surveillance and target attack radar system are not yet funded.

"The plans and resources available for modernization are not optimal, but we are making tough choices to keep them workable with the right priorities for the future," he said. "Further reductions in defense would make these choices even harder."

Among these choices is readiness, which the secretary stressed is one area the service is not willing to taking additional risk.

"We see readiness -- in personnel, training and materiel dimensions -- already frayed. We have made important efficiencies and we are programmed for more," he said. "There are few options for reducing the size of our forces and still being able to execute strategic guidance."

In line with defense guidance, the Air Force has set a clear picture of its investment spending and priorities -- priorities that the joint force and the American public depend on, Donley said. For example, the service's ten largest investment programs include four space systems critical for access to space, secure communications, missile warning, and navigation and timing.

"America's Air Force remains the most capable in the word, but modernization can't wait," Donley said. "These new threats and investment needs, like cyber and missile defense, are not theoretical possibilities for the future. They are here, now."

Amidst the challenges and emerging requirements involved with modernizing the service, Secretary Donley stressed the importance of balancing effectiveness and efficiency, containing program requirements and costs, and continuing to be responsible stewards of taxpayer resources to make it work.

The two-day conference featured speakers from industry and the Department of Defense, including remarks from Robert Hale, under secretary of defense and chief financial officer; and Frank Kendall, the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.


Pakistan:  The Hunza Valley in the Northern Areas is believed to have served as the inspiration for the novel Lost Horizons. Credit: CIA World Factbook.
U.S.-Pakistan Economic and Finance Working Group
Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 30, 2012

Deputy Secretary of State Thomas R. Nides and Finance Minister of Pakistan Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh co-chaired the U.S.-Pakistan Economic and Finance Working Group in Washington, DC on November 30. The working group focused on expanding bilateral economic engagement, particularly in the areas of trade and investment.

Both sides committed to broadening private sector ties between their two countries. Deputy Secretary Nides highlighted the U.S. Government’s many initiatives in this area – including a Pakistan investment conference in London hosted by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in October, the launch of the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative, and a series of conferences and virtual meetings devoted to training and mentoring Pakistan’s entrepreneurs.

In other meetings, senior State Department officials and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah also highlighted the positive results of ongoing civilian assistance programs in Pakistan, including significant contributions in sectors critical to economic growth – such as the addition of more than 400 MW of capacity to Pakistan’s power grid and the construction of over 650 km of roads to date. Both sides agreed that Pakistan’s prosperity is predicated on energy sector reform; the United States welcomed Pakistan’s commitment to undertake the reforms needed to attract greater investment.

The United States commended Pakistan’s recent efforts to expand economic cooperation with its neighbors. Both sides discussed ways to improve trade and transit with Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics, citing the importance of enhanced trade for the region’s stability and prosperity. The United States welcomed the Government of Pakistan’s plans to extend most-favored-nation status to India by the end of the year.

The U.S. delegation included senior representatives from the Department of State, USAID, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and the National Security Staff.



Washington, D.C., Nov. 30, 2012 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced insider trading charges against a Brazilian ex-banker for his role in a scheme to illegally trade Burger King securities

The SEC alleges that Igor Cornelsen and his firm through which he made trades - Bainbridge Group - reaped illicit profits of more than $1.68 million by trading Burger King options based on confidential information ahead of the company's September 2010 announcement that it was being acquired by a New York private equity firm. Cornelsen is now a resident of the Bahamas with a home in South Florida after holding high-ranking positions at several banks in Brazil before his retirement. He sought inside information from his broker Waldyr Da Silva Prado Neto by sending him e-mails with such masked references as, "Is the sandwich deal going to happen?" Prado was stealing the inside information from another Wells Fargo brokerage customer involved in the Burger King deal.

Cornelsen and Bainbridge Group agreed to pay more than $5.1 million to settle the SEC's charges. The settlement is subject to court approval. The litigation continues against Prado, whose assets have been frozen by the court.

"Cornelsen shamelessly prodded Prado for details on 'the sandwich deal' and Prado happily obliged to satisfy his customer's appetite for inside information," said Daniel M. Hawke, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division's Market Abuse Unit and Director of the Philadelphia Regional Office.

Sanjay Wadhwa, Deputy Chief of the Market Abuse Unit and Associate Director of the New York Regional Office, added, "Foreign investors who access the U.S. capital markets must play by the rules and not rig the market in their favor, otherwise they face getting caught by the SEC and paying a hefty price as Cornelsen is here."

According to the SEC's complaint filed today in federal court in Manhattan, Cornelsen became Prado's customer in 2008. On May 17, 2010, Prado sent Cornelsen an e-mail written in Portuguese that translates to, "Igor, if you are around call me at the hotel … I have some info … You have to hear this." Cornelsen called Prado at his hotel and they had a 10-minute conversation. Earlier that same day, Prado told a friend that he had knowledge of the impending Burger King deal. After talking with Prado, Cornelsen began trading out-of-the-money Burger King call options the very next day. Cornelsen had never previously traded Burger King securities.

The SEC alleges that Cornelsen continued trading Burger King options over that summer despite losing money in some instances. In August, Cornelsen sent Prado e-mails seeking assurances that 'the sandwich deal' was going to happen, and Prado responded with such statements as "Yes it's going to happen" and "Everything is 100% under control." Cornelsen then purchased additional Burger King call options. Cornelsen took steps to minimize his connection to Prado by purchasing the Burger King call options in accounts held at brokerage firms other than where Prado worked.

The SEC alleges that after the public announcement of the Burger King deal, Cornelsen e-mailed Prado to inquire about the acquisition price. Upon learning the new per share price that would yield him substantial illegal profits, Cornelsen e-mailed back, "Wow! What a day!"

The SEC's complaint charges Cornelsen and Bainbridge Group with violations of Sections 10(b) and 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5 and 14e-3. The proposed final judgment orders them to jointly and severally pay $1,681,090 in disgorgement and $136,620.96 in prejudgment interest. Cornelsen is ordered to pay a $3,362,180 penalty. They neither admit nor deny the SEC charges. The proposed final judgment also enjoins them from future violations of these provisions of the federal securities laws.

The SEC's investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted by Market Abuse Unit members Megan Bergstrom, David Brown, and Diana Tani in the Los Angeles office with assistance from Charles D. Riely in the New York office. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Comissão de Valores Mobliliários (Securities and Exchange Commission of Brazil), the Options Regulatory Surveillance Authority (ORSA), and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Friday, November 30, 2012


Photo:  Lake Vida.  Credit:  NASA-Ames-Chris McKay.


Ancient Microbes Survive Beneath the Icy Surface of Antarctic Lake
November 30, 2012

Researchers funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) describe in a new publication a viable community of bacteria that ekes out a living in a dark, salty and subfreezing environment beneath nearly 20 meters of ice in one of Antarctica's most isolated lakes.

The finding could have implications for the discovery of life in other extreme environments, including elsewhere in the solar system.

If, as the researchers postulate, the bacteria survive purely from chemical reactions, as opposed to drawing energy from the sun or other sources, "this gives us an entirely new framework for thinking of how life can be supported in cryo-ecosystems on Earth and in other icy worlds of the universe," said Alison Murray of Nevada's Desert Research Institute (DRI), the lead author on the paper.

The findings were published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Murray and Christian Fritsen, also at DRI, co-authored the paper along with Peter Doran and Fabien Kenig at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The team's work was supported by NSF, which manages the United States Antarctic Program (USAP). Through the USAP, NSF coordinates all U.S. research on the southernmost continent and in the Southern Ocean

Lake Vida is the largest of several unique lakes found in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, an ice-free area of the continent.

Lake Vida contains no oxygen, is mostly frozen and possesses the highest nitrous-oxide levels of any natural body of water on Earth. A briny liquid that is approximately six times saltier than seawater percolates throughout the icy environment below a depth of 16 meters with an average temperature of minus 13.4 degrees Celsius (or 8 degrees Fahrenheit).

"This study provides a window into one of the most unusual ecosystems on Earth," said Murray. "Our knowledge of geochemical and microbial processes in lightless icy environments, especially at subzero temperatures, has been very limited up until now. This work expands our understanding of the types of life that can survive in these isolated, cryo-ecosystems and how different strategies may be used to exist in such challenging environments."

Murray is a molecular microbial ecologist. She has been a polar researcher for the past 17 years and has participated in 14 expeditions to the Southern Ocean and Antarctic continent.

Despite the very cold, dark and isolated nature of the habitat, the researchers report that the brine harbors a surprisingly diverse and abundant assemblage of bacteria that survive, unlike most life on the planet, without drawing energy, either directly or indirectly, from the sun. Previous studies of Lake Vida dating back to 1996 indicate that the brine has been isolated from outside influences for more than 3,000 years.

Murray and her co-authors and collaborators--including the project's principal investigator, Peter Doran, of the University of Illinois at Chicago--developed stringent protocols and specialized equipment for their 2005 and 2010 field campaigns that allowed them to sample the lake's brine while avoiding contaminating the pristine ecosystem.

To sample the unique environment, researchers worked in a secure, sterile tent on the lake's surface to keep the site and equipment clean as they drilled ice cores, collected samples of the salty brine residing in the lake ice. With these samples they assessed the chemical qualities of the water and its potential for harboring and sustaining life, and described the diversity of the organisms detected.

Geochemical analyses suggest that chemical reactions between the brine and the underlying iron-rich sediments generate nitrous oxide and molecular hydrogen. The latter, in part, may provide the energy needed to support the brine's diverse microbial life.

"It's plausible that a life-supporting energy source exists solely from the chemical reaction between anoxic salt water and the rock," explained Fritsen, a systems microbial ecologist and research professor in DRI's Division of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences.

Murray added that further research is currently underway to analyze the abiotic, chemical interactions between the Lake Vida brine and the sediment, in addition to investigating the microbial community by using genomic sequencing approaches. The results could help explain the potential for life in other salty, cryogenic environments beyond Earth.

The Lake Vida brine also represents a cryo-ecosystem that is a suitable and accessible analog for the soils, sediments, wetlands, and lakes underlying the Antarctic ice sheet that other polar researchers are just now beginning to explore.



This composite image shows the most distant X-ray jet ever observed. X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory are shown in blue, radio data from the NSF's Very Large Array are shown in purple and optical data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are shown in yellow. The jet was produced by a quasar named GB 1428+4217, or GB 1428 for short, and is located 12.4 billion light years from Earth. Labels for the quasar and jet can be seen by mousing over the image. The shape of the jet is very similar in the X-ray and radio data.

Giant black holes at the centers of galaxies can pull in matter at a rapid rate producing the quasar phenomenon. The energy released as particles fall toward the black hole generates intense radiation and powerful beams of high-energy particles that blast away from the black hole at nearly the speed of light. These particle beams can interact with magnetic fields or ambient photons to produce jets of radiation.

As the electrons in the jet fly away from the quasar, they move through a sea of background photons left behind after the Big Bang. When a fast-moving electron collides with one of these so-called cosmic microwave background photons, it can boost the photonâ energy into the X-ray band. Because the quasar is seen when the universe is at an age of about 1.3 billion years, less than 10% of its current value, the cosmic background radiation is a thousand times more intense than it is now. This makes the jet much brighter, and compensates in part for the dimming due to distance.

While there is another possible source of X-rays for the jet - radiation from electrons spiraling around magnetic field lines in the jet - the authors favor the idea that the cosmic background radiation is being boosted because the jet is so bright.

The researchers think the length of the jet in GB 1428 is at least 230,000 light years, or about twice the diameter of the entire Milky Way galaxy. This jet is only seen on one side of the quasar in the Chandra and VLA data. When combined with previously obtained evidence, this suggests the jet is pointed almost directly toward us. This configuration would boost the X-ray and radio signals for the observed jet and diminish those for a jet presumably pointed in the opposite direction.

This result appeared in the Sept. 1, 2012 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Credits- X-ray- NASA-CXC-NRC-C.Cheung et al, Optical- NASA-STScI- Radio- NSF-NRAO-VLA

The Vice President goes to Costco | The White House

The Vice President goes to Costco | The White House



USS  Iwo Jima
at sea with USNS Laramie.

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Nov. 28, 2012) The multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) transits alongside the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Laramie (T-AO 203) during a replenishment at sea. Iwo Jima is the flagship of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group with the embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. The U.S. Navy is constantly deployed to preserve peace, protect commerce, and deter aggression through forward presence. Join the conversation on social media using #warfighting. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Cyrus Roson/Released) 121128-N-YO707-292.
Blue Angels aviators in the cockpit of Fat Albert.
PENSACOLA, Fla. (Nov. 28, 2012) Pilots prepare to perform a touch and go maneuver aboard Fat Albert, a C-130 Hercules aircraft assigned to the U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, during a training flight as Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornet pilots taxi for takeoff at Naval Air Station Pensacola. An all-Marine crew of three pilots and five enlisted aircrew fly Fat Albert, provide logistical support for the team and open the air show by displaying the tactical flight characteristics of the C-130 aircraft. The U.S. Navy has a 237-year heritage of defending freedom and projecting and protecting U.S. interests around the globe. Join the conversation on social media using #warfighting. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rachel McMarr/Released) 121128-N-DI587-045
Join the conversation


Helping Hand In Afghanistan.   Photo Credit:  U.S. Marines.

Combined Force Arrests 2 Haqqani Insurgents
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 30, 2012 - An Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Haqqani leader and a Haqqani facilitator in Afghanistan's Logar province today, military officials reported.

The arrested insurgent leader acquired weapons for Haqqani fighters and directed attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout the province's Muhammad Aghah district, officials said. At the time of his arrest, the insurgent leader was overseeing the movement of improvised explosive devices and Haqqani fighters in preparation for an attack.

The detained facilitator had planned and executed attacks against Afghan and coalition forces within the Muhammad Aghah district while managing the transfer of weapons and IEDs to Haqqani fighters.

The security force also detained one other suspected insurgent and seized multiple firearms.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- In Helmand province, a combined force arrested a Taliban financier. The detained insurgent financier managed money for the Taliban in several districts within the province and was directly responsible for distributing funds to Taliban fighters for their use in planning and executing attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. The security force also detained one other suspect.

-- A combined force arrested a Taliban facilitator in Kandahar province. The facilitator was responsible for distributing and coordinating the movement of weapons and ammunition for the Taliban in the area.

And in Jowzjan province yesterday, a combined force arrested a Taliban facilitator who planned and directed IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. The security force also detained one other suspect and seized a number of IED components.

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing - November 30, 2012

Daily Press Briefing - November 30, 2012


Photo:  Pirate Flag.  Credit:  Wikimedia.

Thursday, November 29, 2012
Third Member of Internet Piracy Group "IMAGiNE" Sentenced in Virginia to 40 Months in Prison for Criminal Copyright Conspiracy

Fifth Member of IMAGiNE Pleaded Guilty Today for Role in Conspiracy

WASHINGTON – A third member of the Internet piracy group "IMAGiNE" was sentenced today to 40 months in prison, and a fifth member of IMAGiNE pleaded guilty today for his role in the conspiracy, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia and Special Agent in Charge John P. Torres of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) in Washington, D.C.

Gregory A. Cherwonik, 53, of Canandaigua, N.Y., was sentenced today by Senior U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in the Eastern District of Virginia. In addition to his prison term, Cherwonik was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution. Cherwonik pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement on July 11, 2012.

Javier E. Ferrer, 41, of New Port Richey, Fla., pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement before U.S. District Judge Henry C. Morgan Jr. in the Eastern District of Virginia. At sentencing, scheduled for March 14, 2013, Ferrer faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Cherwonik was indicted along with three other defendants on April 18, 2012, for their roles in the IMAGiNE Group, an organized online piracy ring that sought to become the premier group to first release Internet copies of movies only showing in theaters. Ferrer was charged in an information on Sept. 13, 2012, for his role in the IMAGiNE Group.

According to court documents, Cherwonik, Ferrer and their co-conspirators sought to illegally obtain and disseminate digital copies of copyrighted motion pictures showing in theaters. Cherwonik admitted to ordering a receiver to be used to capture the audio sound tracks of copyrighted movies (referred to as "capping"). Cherwonik wrote the computer code for the IMAGiNE Group’s website. He also worked with another IMAGiNE Group leader to establish a PayPal account for donations made to support the site and to create the new website, which was hosted on a computer server in France. Ferrer admitted he secretly used a video camera to film copyrighted motion pictures in movie theatres. He then used software to synchronize an audio file with his illegally obtained video of the movie to create a completed movie file suitable for sharing over the Internet. According to testimony by a representative of the Motion Picture Association of America, the IMAGiNE Group constituted the most prolific motion picture piracy release group operating on the Internet from September 2009 through September 2011.

Co-defendants Sean M. Lovelady, Willie O. Lambert and Jeramiah B. Perkins each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement on May 9, June 22 and Aug. 29, 2012, respectively. Lambert and Lovelady were sentenced on Nov. 2, 2012, to 30 months and 23 months in prison, respectively. Perkins is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 3, 2013.

The investigation of the case and the arrests were conducted by agents with HSI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Krask of the Eastern District of Virginia and Senior Counsel John H. Zacharia of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) are prosecuting the case. Significant assistance was provided by the CCIPS Cyber Crime Lab and the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.

This case is part of efforts being undertaken by the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force) to stop the theft of intellectual property. Attorney General Eric Holder created the IP Task Force to combat the growing number of domestic and international intellectual property crimes, protect the health and safety of American consumers, and safeguard the nation’s economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work. The IP Task Force seeks to strengthen intellectual property rights protection through heightened criminal and civil enforcement, greater coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and increased focus on international enforcement efforts, including reinforcing relationships with key foreign partners and U.S. industry leaders.


Bimodal Nuclear Thermal Rocket is a NASA version of nuclear fission reactor for a spacecraft.
Bimodal Nuclear Thermal Rockets conduct nuclear fission reactions similar to those safely employed at nuclear power plants including submarines. The energy is used to heat the liquid hydrogen propellant. Advocates of nuclear powered spacecraft point out that at the time of launch, there is almost no radiation released from the nuclear reactors. The nuclear-powered rockets are not used to lift off the Earth. Nuclear thermal rockets can provide great performance advantages compared to chemical propulsion systems. Nuclear power sources could also be used to provide the spacecraft with electrical power for operations and scientific instrumentation.  Credit:  NASA

Researchers Test Novel Power System for Space Travel

Joint DOE and NASA team demonstrates simple, robust fission reactor prototype

LOS ALAMOS, NEW MEXICO, November 26, 2012—A team of researchers, including engineers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, has demonstrated a new concept for a reliable nuclear reactor that could be used on space flights.

The research team recently demonstrated the first use of a heat pipe to cool a small nuclear reactor and power a Stirling engine at the Nevada National Security Site’s Device Assembly Facility near Las Vegas. The Demonstration Using Flattop Fissions (DUFF) experiment produced 24 watts of electricity. A team of engineers from Los Alamos, the NASA Glenn Research Center and National Security Technologies LLC (NSTec) conducted the experiment.

Heat pipe technology was invented at Los Alamos in 1963. A heat pipe is a sealed tube with an internal fluid that can efficiently transfer heat produced by a reactor with no moving parts. A Stirling engine is a relatively simple closed-loop engine that converts heat energy into electrical power using a pressurized gas to move a piston. Using the two devices in tandem allowed for creation of a simple, reliable electric power supply that can be adapted for space applications.

Researchers configured DUFF on an existing experiment, known as Flattop, to allow for a water-based heat pipe to extract heat from uranium. Heat from the fission reaction was transferred to a pair of free-piston Stirling engines manufactured by Sunpower Inc., based in Athens Ohio. Engineers from NASA Glenn designed and built the heat pipe and Stirling assembly and operated the engines during the experiment. Los Alamos nuclear engineers operated the Flattop assembly under authorization from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

DUFF is the first demonstration of a space nuclear reactor system to produce electricity in the United States since 1965, and the experiment confirms basic nuclear reactor physics and heat transfer for a simple, reliable space power system.

"The nuclear characteristics and thermal power level of the experiment are remarkably similar to our space reactor flight concept," said Los Alamos engineer David Poston. "The biggest difference between DUFF and a possible flight system is that the Stirling input temperature would need to be hotter to attain the required efficiency and power output needed for space missions."

"The heat pipe and Stirling engine used in this test are meant to represent one module that could be used in a space system," said Marc Gibson of NASA Glenn. "A flight system might use several modules to produce approximately one kilowatt of electricity."

Current space missions typically use power supplies that generate about the same amount of electricity as one or two household light bulbs. The availability of more power could potentially boost the speed with which mission data is transmitted back to Earth, or increase the number of instruments that could be operated at the same time aboard a spacecraft.

"A small, simple, lightweight fission power system could lead to a new and enhanced capability for space science and exploration", said Los Alamos project lead Patrick McClure. "We hope that this proof of concept will soon move us from the old-frontier of Nevada to the new-frontier of outer space".

Los Alamos research on the project was made possible through Los Alamos’s Laboratory-Directed Research and Development Program (LDRD), which is funded by a small percentage of the Laboratory’s overall budget to invest in new or cutting-edge research. NASA Glenn and NSTec also used internal support to fund their contributions to the experiment.

"Perhaps one of the more important aspects of this experiment is that it was taken from concept to completion in 6 months for less than a million dollars," said Los Alamos engineer David Dixon. "We wanted to show that with a tightly-knit and focused team, it is possible to successfully perform practical reactor testing."

An animation of the new reactor concept can be seen on Los Alamos National Laboratory’s YouTube channel at:



US Labor Department sues Dallas-based The Christmas Light Co. to secure more than $240,000 in minimum and overtime back wages

— The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against The Christmas Light Co. Inc. and owner William F. Rathburn to recover approximately $240,881 in wages and an additional amount in liquidated damages on behalf of 233 employers who installed and removed lights for the company. An investigation in Dallas by the department's Wage and Hour Division found that the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay 233 installers and removers the minimum and overtime wages required by law.

"The Labor Department holds employers accountable when they do not properly pay their workers," said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest. "Failing to pay minimum and overtime wages is unacceptable. Such behavior robs workers of their rightful wages and undercuts those hardworking and conscientious employers who obey the law. This lawsuit demonstrates that the department will use all enforcement tools available, including litigation, to recover workers' wages and ensure a level playing field for law-abiding employers."

The complaint was filed in the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division seeking back wages, liquidated damages and an injunction against future violations of the FLSA, which provides that employers who violate the law are, as a general rule, liable to employees for their back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are paid directly to the affected employees.

The investigation determined that the company paid employees a flat rate for installing and removing Christmas lights without regard to the number of hours the employees had worked. Investigators also found that in most cases employees were paid "straight time" rather than overtime at time and one-half their regular rates for hours worked over 40 in a week, as required. Additionally, records required by the FLSA were not maintained.

The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked. An overtime premium rate takes into account commissions, bonuses and incentive pay. Additionally, employers must maintain accurate time and payroll records.


Long Beach Island, N.J., Nov. 26, 2012 -- Township debris clean is continuing and they clean up after Hurricane Sandy. FEMA's Public Assistance Grants will become available to cities and towns to assist in covering the cost of recovery. Steve Zumwalt-FEMA

FEMA Awards $39 Million in Debris Removal Funding

– The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved two Public Assistance (PA) grants totaling more than $39 million to reimburse the city of Long Beach and Nassau County for 75 percent of their costs for debris removal due to Hurricane Sandy.

$24 million will go to the city of Long Beach; $15 million will be awarded to Nassau County. FEMA does not perform the actual debris removal work; it reimburses the local governments that contract for the eligible work.

Strong winds and heavy rains from Hurricane Sandy brought down trees, tree limbs and power lines throughout Nassau County. Within the city of Long Beach, heavy rains and a six foot storm surge deposited more than 330,000 cubic yards of debris, 400,000 cubic yards of sand and 2,550 cubic yards of vegetative debris throughout the city.

Collecting and clearing out piles of debris has been one of the most difficult and time-consuming challenges of the recovery. Through hard work and persistence over the past month, debris piles are dwindling and, in many cases, disappearing altogether. The FEMA PA program reimburses state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations 75 percent of eligible debris removal costs. In order to qualify, damage must be a direct result of Hurricane Sandy.

"FEMA is committed to getting people back into their homes" said Federal Coordinating Officer Michael F. Byrne. "A critical step is clearing debris out of the way so the recovery can progress. We will continue to work alongside our partners in New York state and local government until the job is finished."

Under FEMA’s PA program, FEMA obligates funds to the state for, at a minimum, 75 percent of eligible costs. The remaining 25 percent is covered provided by non-federal funds. The state forwards the federal funds to the eligible local governments or organizations that incurred costs.

For debris removal to be eligible, the work must be necessary to:
Eliminate an immediate threat to lives, public health and safety,
Eliminate immediate threats of significant damage to improved public and private property when the measures are cost effective, or
Ensure the economic recovery of the affected community to the benefit of the community-at-large.

Remarks at the Foreign Policy Group's "Transformational Trends 2013" Forum

Remarks at the Foreign Policy Group's "Transformational Trends 2013" Forum

El abrupto cambio de estación en Titán

El abrupto cambio de estación en Titán


Photo:  NYSE.  Credit:  Wikimedia.

Washington, D.C., Nov. 29, 2012 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged two retail brokers who formerly worked at a Connecticut-based broker-dealer with insider trading on nonpublic information ahead of IBM Corporation’s acquisition of SPSS Inc.

The SEC alleges that Thomas C. Conradt learned confidential details about the merger from his roommate, a research analyst who got the information from an attorney working on the transaction who discussed it in confidence. Conradt purchased SPSS securities and subsequently tipped his friend and fellow broker David J. Weishaus, who also traded. The insider trading yielded more than $1 million in illicit profits. The SEC’s investigation uncovered instant messages between Conradt and Weishaus where they openly discussed their illegal activity. The SEC’s investigation is continuing.

"When licensed professionals who are privileged to work in the securities industry violate legal duties and enrich themselves at investors’ expense, it undermines public confidence in the integrity of the markets," said Daniel M. Hawke, Director of the SEC’s Philadelphia Regional Office. "As industry professionals, Conradt and Weishaus clearly understood that what they were doing was wrong, but did so anyway while knowing the consequences they would face if caught."

In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York today announced criminal charges against Conradt and Weishaus, who live in Denver and Baltimore respectively.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, the scheme occurred in 2009. Conradt revealed in instant messages that he received the information from the research analyst and warned Weishaus that they needed to "keep this in the family." Weishaus agreed, typing "i don't want to go to jail." They went on to discuss other people who have been prosecuted for insider trading. In another series of instant messages, Conradt bragged that he was "makin everyone rich" by sharing the nonpublic information. Weishaus later noted, "this is gonna be sweet."

The SEC alleges that the research analyst’s attorney friend sought moral support, reassurance, and advice when he privately told the research analyst about his new assignment at work on the SPSS acquisition by IBM. In describing the magnitude of the assignment, the lawyer disclosed material, nonpublic information about the proposed transaction, including the anticipated transaction price and the identities of the acquiring and target companies. The associate expected the research analyst to maintain this information in confidence and refrain from trading on this information or disclosing it to others.

The SEC alleges that Conradt, Weishaus, and other downstream tippees purchased common stock and call options in SPSS. A call option is a security that derives its value from the underlying common stock of the issuer and gives the purchaser the right to buy the underlying stock at a specific price within a specified period of time. Typically, investors will purchase call options when they believe the stock of the underlying securities is going up. Conradt, Weishaus, and other downstream tippees invested so heavily in SPSS securities that the investments accounted for 76 percent to 100 percent of their various brokerage accounts. Conradt and Weishaus both hold law degrees. Conradt is admitted to practice law in Maryland, and he passed the Colorado bar examination administered in February 2012.

The SEC alleges that Conradt and Weishaus violated Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. The SEC is seeking disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest and financial penalties, and a permanent injunction against the brokers.

The SEC’s investigation is being conducted by Mary P. Hansen, A. Kristina Littman and John S. Rymas, in the SEC’s Philadelphia Regional Office. G. Jeffrey Boujoukos and Catherine E. Pappas in the Philadelphia office are handling the litigation. The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Map:  Romania.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook

On the Occasion of Romania's National Day
Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 30, 2012

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to all Romanians as you celebrate your Unification Day this December 1st.

This is a reminder of the important contributions your country continues to make toward peace and prosperity around the world. Your support for NATO and other international organizations have helped to advance the ideals of freedom and democracy. Together, we are working in the Balkans and Afghanistan to give millions of people hope for a brighter future.

The United States looks forward to continuing our partnership for many years and is grateful to have a strong friend and ally in Romania.


Romania Locator Map.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook. 


The principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia - for centuries under the suzerainty of the Turkish Ottoman Empire - secured their autonomy in 1856; they were de facto linked in 1859 and formally united in 1862 under the new name of Romania. The country gained recognition of its independence in 1878. It joined the Allied Powers in World War I and acquired new territories - most notably Transylvania - following the conflict. In 1940, Romania allied with the Axis powers and participated in the 1941 German invasion of the USSR. Three years later, overrun by the Soviets, Romania signed an armistice. The post-war Soviet occupation led to the formation of a Communist "people's republic" in 1947 and the abdication of the king. The decades-long rule of dictator Nicolae CEAUSESCU, who took power in 1965, and his Securitate police state became increasingly oppressive and draconian through the 1980s. CEAUSESCU was overthrown and executed in late 1989. Former Communists dominated the government until 1996 when they were swept from power. Romania joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007.


Panetta, Barak Discuss Iron Dome Success, Israeli Defenses

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak praised the performance of the Iron Dome air defense system during a press conference here today.

Panetta said the Iron Dome system, which was developed by the Israelis and funded in large part by the United States, prevented war following hundreds of recent Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip. The two men spoke to reporters after meeting at the Pentagon.

"I'm very proud that our two countries cooperated so closely to field the Iron Dome anti-rocket system," Panetta said, noting the system performed remarkably well during the rocket onslaught. "It intercepted more than 400 rockets bound for Israeli population centers, for a roughly 85 percent success rate overall," he said.

"Its success is a testament to the ingenuity of the Israeli people and to the commitment of the United States to Israel's security," he said. "Today, I assured the minister that our strong commitment to Iron Dome will continue into the future."

The U.S. provided $70 million in fiscal year 2012 funds for the system, on top of the $205 million previously allocated, Panetta said, noting DOD will continue to support the system in the future.

"We will obviously continue to work together to seek additional funding to enable Israel to boost Iron Dome's capacity further and to help prevent the kind of escalation and violence that we've seen," Panetta said.

Iron Dome prevents wars, Panetta said, but Israeli and Palestinian leaders must sit down and resolve their differences for real peace in the region.

Barak thanked the United States for the funding to deploy the Iron Dome batteries.

"We highly appreciate your plans to help us in the future on the same issue, because the needs are much larger than what we have right now, and we are determined to complete the system, besides the operational offensive capacities of the Israeli armed forces," Barak said.

Panetta and Barak also spoke about relations between the two nations, and touted the strength of the U.S.-Israeli partnership. Panetta said it is the strongest he has ever seen, describing it as based on shared values and also "on the iron-clad commitment of the United States to Israel's security."

Panetta said the United States strongly supports Israel's right to defend itself and strongly condemned the rocket attacks launched by Hamas against Israel.

"We are encouraged that the cease-fire agreement has held," he said.

The secretary stressed that the United States will continue to work with Israel and Egypt to end the smuggling of arms into Gaza. "No nation should have to live in fear of these kinds of attacks," he said.

Panetta and Barak also spoke about the Iranian nuclear danger. Both nations have continuing concerns over Iran's destabilizing activities and its nuclear program. Panetta reiterated that the United States will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

"Iran is facing unprecedented pressure from the ... crippling sanctions that have been imposed by the international community," he said. "And I continue to believe that there is time and space for an effort to try to achieve a diplomatic solution, which remains, I believe, the preferred outcome for both the United States and for Israel."

Barak said the United States and Israel share the same beliefs in freedom, liberty, democracy and human dignity. The United States, he said, is a "moral beacon" to the people of the turbulent region. "We are highly appreciative of this role," he said. "We always keep the right to defend ourselves by ourselves on time where it's needed, but I think that the role of the United States is invaluable in our region."

Before leaving Israel, Barak announced he will retire from political life. Panetta paid tribute to his Israeli counterpart, praising "his brilliant strategic mind," which "stems from his warrior heart and his warrior experience."

The secretary pinned the DOD Medal for Distinguished Public Service on Barak.