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Saturday, December 15, 2012




Photo:  Just After Hurricane Sandy Struck New York State.  Credit:  U.S. Army.


Approved Funds for New York State Hurricane Sandy Survivors Tops $780 Million
December 14, 2012

— Since Hurricane Sandy struck New York, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s mission has been to help individuals and families recover from the disaster and will continue to support residents until the mission is completed. As of today, FEMA has approved more than $784 million in individual assistance for New York Sandy survivors.

FEMA is reaching out to all 13 designated counties, focusing on the hardest hit areas of New York state. Assistance to the hardest-hit areas includes:
Bronx $2 million
Kings $169.1 million
Nassau $257.8 million
New York $11.5 million
Queens $200.4 million
Richmond $80.6 million
Suffolk $57.9 million

FEMA provides the following snapshot of the disaster-recovery effort as of December 14:

FEMA is reaching out to all 13 designated counties, focusing on the hardest hit areas of New York state. Assistance to the hardest-hit areas includes:
Bronx $2 million
Kings $169.1 million
Nassau $257.8 million
New York $11.5 million
Queens $200.4 million
Richmond $80.6 million
Suffolk $57.9 million

FEMA provides the following snapshot of the disaster-recovery effort as of December 14:
More than 253,000 New Yorkers have contacted FEMA for information or registered for assistance with FEMA and more than $784 million has been approved. More than 128,000 people have applied through the online application site at, or on their smart phone at
26 Disaster Recovery Centers are open in the affected areas. These include mobile sites as well as fixed sites, and to date more than 94,000 survivors have been assisted at DRCs in New York.
114 inspectors in the field have completed 160,986 home inspections – completing 98 percent of inspections.
2 Points of Distribution or PODs remain open providing meals, water and blankets, both in Nassau County.
13 New York counties are designated for both individual and public assistance. These are Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved nearly $163 million in disaster loans to homeowners, renters and businesses. The SBA has staff members at every FEMA/State Disaster Recovery Center and 19 Business Recovery Centers in the New York area to provide one-on-one help to business owners seeking disaster assistance.


Morning In Afghanistan.  From:  U.S. Army


Panetta Meets with U.S., Afghan Leaders
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 13, 2012 - Over two days in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has met with U.S. and Afghan leaders here and in Kandahar, gathering information he says will help inform the decision President Barack Obama will soon make on troop levels there after 2014.

Last night here Panetta spent an hour-long meeting with Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

Afterward, Panetta and Allen attended a dinner with other military leaders. The event was closed to press but according to a pool report Panetta and Allen each made comments while photographs were being taken before dinner.

Panetta walked around the table, shaking hands with each general officer in attendance, including Army Maj. Gen. Anthony Thomas, commanding general at Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan; Army Maj. Gen. William C. Mayville, ISAF Regional Command-East commander; Army Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, commander of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan; Army Maj. Gen. Robert B. Abrams, commander of ISAF Regional Command-South and others.

Allen said the leaders here were honored to have Panetta with them for a candid conversation and to hear the secretary's guidance and views.

Panetta wished them all the best for the holidays, adding that the people of the United States appreciate their service and sacrifice.

The secretary said he traveled to Afghanistan to understand the "situation on the ground" and plans to meet with Afghan leaders in advance of President Obama's upcoming decision about future troop levels in post-2014 Afghanistan.

This morning, Panetta met with Afghan Minister of Defense Bismillah Khan Mohammadi and Afghan Interior Minister Mujtaba Patang here, then flew to Kandahar Air Field to meet with the leadership of Regional Command-South, including Abrams.

Afterward the secretary spoke with and took questions from troops who serve at RC-South headquarters.

The RC-South area of responsibility includes Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul and Daykundi provinces. The U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division soldiers at headquarters are joined by troops from NATO member nations Albania, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Romania, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Non-NATO member nations Australia, Jordan and Singapore also have troops there.

Panetta stood in near-freezing temperatures with the troops around him, talking about the progress made in Afghanistan.

"As far as I'm concerned, 2011 was a real turning point. We've seen levels of violence go down. We've seen that the Taliban has found it almost impossible to regain any of the territory that they lost during that period," he said.

The Afghan army now conducts 85 percent of patrols, he said.

"That's moving it in the right direction," Panetta said. "They're taking over more and more of the responsibility, which has to happen if we're eventually going to have an Afghanistan that can secure and govern itself."

Every country that has troops in Afghanistan has spilled blood over nearly 11 years to complete the mission there, the secretary said.

"The bottom line is that those sacrifices -- all of those sacrifices -- are not in vain," Panetta said. "We have made good progress in achieving the mission that we're embarked on, and it's because of all of you."

"That's why I'm here -- to say thank you for all of your service and for your sacrifice. Thank you for giving back -- giving back in duty is the kind of service that is at the heart of our strength," he added.

"Military strength, as far as I'm concerned ... none of that would be worth a damn without the men and women in uniform who serve this country. You are the real strength of our military power," Panetta said.

In response to a question from one of the troops, Panetta said his proudest achievements as defense secretary include working with the Joint Chiefs and other military leaders to formulate a new defense strategy for the future, and helping open up service in the military to anyone who wants to serve by expanding roles for women and in 2011 ending the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

"I think that when it comes to serving the United States of America, anybody who wants to serve this country ought to have the opportunity to do it," he said.

After Panetta and his group left Kandahar and returned to Kabul, insurgents detonated a vehicle bomb near Kandahar Airfield, killing one service member and wounded three others and several Afghans.

Hanukkah at the White House 2012 | The White House

Hanukkah at the White House 2012 | The White House


Photo:  Patterns In Nature.  Credit:  National Science Foundation.

SEC Charges Massachusetts Company, CEO and Promoters With $9 Million Securities Fraud

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed an enforcement action today in federal court in Boston against BioChemics, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company based in Danvers, Massachusetts, its CEO and two individuals it paid to solicit investors. The SEC alleges, among other things, that the defendants made false statements to investors about collaborations with major pharmaceutical companies and the status and results of drug trials of the company’s main product, and that they created fraudulent valuations of the company’s stock in order to raise millions of dollars from investors. The action charges BioChemics, its CEO John Masiz of Topsfield, Massachusetts, Craig Medoff of New York, New York and Gregory Kroning of Norwood, New Jersey, with violating the federal securities laws in a fraudulent scheme that raised at least $9 million from 70 investors in 19 states from at least 2009 until 2012.

According to the SEC’s complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, BioChemics purportedly makes a transdermal drug delivery system. The defendants allegedly told investors that BioChemics was engaged in active research and development collaborations with major pharmaceutical companies, that it had two drugs under FDA review, and that it was conducting specific clinical trials—all of which was false. According to the complaint, when BioChemics finally did conduct one clinical trial, it misrepresented the results of that trial. The SEC’s complaint further alleges that defendants Masiz and Medoff created and gave to investors fraudulent valuations setting the worth of BioChemics at between $500 million and $2 billion. However, according to the complaint, the valuations had no reasonable basis and the defendants’ representations that the valuations had been developed by reputable independent investment banks were false. In addition, the complaint alleges that defendants told investors their money would be used to fund clinical trials and for operating expenses, but in fact used some investor funds to pay for personal expenses for Masiz including meals, massages, clothes and sporting goods and to make interest-free loans of over $200,000 to Kroning in addition to paying for his personal expenses including a leased BMW.

Masiz and Medoff have previously been sued by the Commission in connection with earlier securities frauds. Masiz was a defendant in a 2004 SEC enforcement action alleging false and misleading statements by VASO Active Pharmaceuticals, a BioChemics subsidiary. A final judgment by consent was entered against Masiz that permanently enjoined him from violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. Medoff was a defendant in a 1993 SEC enforcement action alleging the fraudulent offering of unregistered securities. That case resulted in a final judgment by consent against Medoff in 1994 that permanently enjoined him from violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. The Commission also issued an Order in January 1995 barring Medoff from associating with, among others, brokers, dealers, and investment advisers. In a separate case involving different conduct, Medoff also pled guilty to criminal securities fraud charges in 1995.

The complaint charges all defendants with violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 (the "Exchange Act") and Rule 10b-5 thereunder and also charges Kroning and Medoff with violating Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act by acting as unlicensed brokers and Medoff with violating Section 15(b) of the Exchange Act by acting as a broker after being permanently barred from the industry in a previous action by the Commission. The complaint seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement, and civil penalties, as well as an order barring Masiz from serving as an officer or director of any public company. The complaint also seeks an order barring Masiz and Medoff and any entity they own or control from participating in the issuance, offer, or sale of any security aside from their own personal trading accounts.


Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua T. Shakeshaft, a combat engineer and head instructor for improvised explosive device awareness at the Battle Skills Training School on Camp Lejeune, N.C., accepts the 2012 Veteran of the Year award from Mayor Sammy Phillips of Jacksonville, N.C., during a ceremony held Nov. 20, 2012. Shakeshaft received the award for his ongoing efforts to help wounded veterans. Photo by Lisa Miller


Face of Defense: Marine Shares Love of Fishing With Injured Vets
By Marine Corps Cpl. Paul Peterson
2nd Marine Logistics Group

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Dec. 13, 2012 - They called his name, and the rest was just a blur

Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua T. Shakeshaft, a combat engineer and head instructor for improvised explosive device awareness at the Battle Skills Training School here, walked to the head of the council chambers at City Hall in Jacksonville, N.C., Nov. 20 to accept the 2012 Veteran of the Year award.

Jacksonville is proud of its unique bond with local veterans, said Mayor Sammy Phillips, who personally handed the award to Shakeshaft. Every year since 1988, the city takes a moment to recognize veterans from each of the city's veteran organizations for demonstrating outstanding volunteerism, support and leadership.

More than 100 people filled the council chambers as Phillips thanked each of the 30 recipients for their continued service to the local community and the nation.

"I was perfectly happy with a pat on the back," said Shakeshaft, who accepted the award as the nominee for Heroes on the Water, an organization that provides wounded and disabled veterans with an outlet for stress though kayak fishing. "The last thing I ever expected was to get an award from the mayor."

Shakeshaft, a Castle Rock, Colo., native and veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, first became active with the organization after returning to the states to be with his mother, who was dying of cancer.

He instantly found an outlet for his own combat stress and personal loss through an activity he loved from his time back home: fishing.

"He was hooked the very first time he went out with us, and he has gone out ever since," said Patrick Curley, one of Shakeshaft's personal mentors and the Chrystal Coast Chapter coordinator for Heroes on the Water. "He has found something he enjoys doing, and now he is sharing it with other people."

Shakeshaft saw his participation as a personal means of healing and a way to help his fellow veterans struggling with visible and unseen wounds. It increasingly consumed his free time.

"No one here knew I was taking veterans out fishing every weekend," Shakeshaft said. "I don't expect recognition for it. I'm doing it for me. I'm doing it for my gratification -- helping people helps me. I got that from my mom."

Shakeshaft continues to share his expertise with IEDs as an instructor during his working hours here, but his weekends belonged to the waterways of North Carolina.

"It has changed my life," he said. "It is like the brotherhood you see when you are in combat ... [whether] it is a double amputee or someone who has post-traumatic stress disorder, everybody can relate with each other."

Shakeshaft said his wife, Traci, is his biggest supporter. Fishing and volunteering cut into the couple's small amount of free time, but she understands its importance and even tells him to go out.

He takes particular joy in seeing what he calls a "hero's moment," when a wounded warrior finds a few minutes of peaceful sleep in a kayak while his feet dangle in the water.

Shakeshaft's contributions to the community quickly grew after his first volunteering experience with the group. He regularly brought new participants to events and became increasingly involved in other volunteer opportunities.

Whether it is mentoring local youth, participating in veterans meetings and parades or simply providing an open ear to a fellow service member, he said the gratification of doing something good helps him heal.

Shakeshaft is planning additional outreach programs. He hopes someday to return to Colorado, where he can help veteran communities find some of the peace he experiences nearly every weekend in North Carolina.


Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, center-left, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaliga, center-right, the chairman's senior enlisted advisor, join a group of USO celebrities and some of the Carrier Strike Group 3, USS John C. Stennis' crew, for a photo opportunity aboard the aircraft carrier, Dec. 13, 2012. The chairman began his annual USO holiday tour aboard the USS Stennis. DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.


Dempsey Praises Troops During USO Tour Kick-off
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD THE USS JOHN C. STENNIS, Dec. 14, 2012 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff greeted deployed sailors and Marines on this huge aircraft carrier as he kicked off his annual USO holiday tour yesterday.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey introduced this year's lineup of USO talent with Washington Nationals Major League Baseball players Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen; Matt Hendricks, a Washington Capitals' National Hockey League player; comedian Iliza Schlesinger, winner of NBC's Last Comic Standing; as well as country music singer Kellie Pickler.

The chairman was joined by his senior enlisted advisor, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, their spouses, USO President Sloan D. Gibson, and Shane Hudella, of "Defending the Blue Line," an organization that donates hockey equipment to military families.

"On behalf of all of the million-plus men and women serving in uniform, let me thank you for your service," Dempsey said, as the USO talent presented their inaugural show to the ship's crew.

"When the itinerary for the chairman's annual holiday USO tour was being formed, the only thing I said to my staff was, 'Look, we've got to go to the Stennis because we've asked more of those young men and women than we've asked of anybody else in the past year,'" he said.

The chairman acknowledged many of the sailors were assigned to this deployment soon after a short five-month turnaround from a previous combat tour that ended in March.

"You're out here keeping commerce flowing [in the Arabian Gulf], making sure that our potential enemies know that we're alert and ready, and just being the best possible representatives of our great country," Dempsey said.

"So on behalf of the Joint Chiefs, all of us -- the senior leaders of the military -- let me say thanks to you," he said. "And also I want you to pass that to your family members when you have a chance to talk to them."

Dempsey added, "I do want you to tell them how much we appreciate the service of the John C. Stennis Strike Group. We're really, really proud of you."

Battaglia was equally grateful to the crew of the aircraft carrier and pointed to the ship's motto, "Honor, Commitment and Courage," as a symbol of their commitment to military service.

"I was just noticing the powerful-looking image that we have standing behind us," he said, noting an enormous USS Stennis flag, serving as a backdrop for the USO show.

"It's not only the image of naval sea power in its best of form," Battaglia said. "It's those three words that define our profession. It's moving to be able to share that with you -- honor, courage and commitment."

It's tough on troops during the holiday season when they're deployed away from home protecting the nation and its interests, the sergeant major acknowledged.

"[But] we're excited to be here -- we really are," he said. "And we know that you came down here for a specific reason ... you've come here to see some celebrities and entertainers and we're going to get that to you."

"So enjoy the show," Battaglia said. "Thanks, [USS] Stennis!"

Statement of the G8 Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) Initiative

Statement of the G8 Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) Initiative

Weekly Address: Nation Grieves for Those Killed in Tragic Shooting in Newtown, CT | The White House

Weekly Address: Nation Grieves for Those Killed in Tragic Shooting in Newtown, CT | The White House


Czech Republic A10 Thunderbolt II Air Craft.  Credit:  U.S. Air Force 

Smart Defense Team Helps NATO Face Lean Times
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

NORFOLK, Va., Dec. 13, 2012 – As the cost of militaries increase, NATO allies can benefit from an efficiencies-driven Smart Defense program, Allied Command Transformation officials said here yesterday.

Army Lt. Col. William Brown III, ACT Core Team member, and Richard Perks, ACT Capability Development Strategist spoke with reporters during the 2012 Chiefs of Transformation Conference. The event brings together NATO, partner, industry and government agency professionals to share best practices and expand collaboration.

"What Smart Defense really tries to do is help allies work together," said Perks, adding that even a small uptick in multinational group projects could significantly reduce the burden on individual allies.

"It’s about facilitating allies’ efficiency in their own defense programs … and by doing so it’s better for NATO," he said.

Brown agreed, noting that NATO aims to build and maintain capabilities that increase its effectiveness and relevance.

"Smart Defense is one of the ways that we are helping the nations to meet the demands of capability requirements as we go forward," Brown said. "We try to align the capabilities, achieve economies of scale and reduce duplication."

To do that, Brown explained, Smart Defense first examines the capabilities under a conceptual lens in helping to produce policy through NATO-level discussion. Next, he said, the core team takes a pragmatic approach to execute the ideas.

"We have 148 Smart Defense projects and proposals that cover a wide range of areas from procurement to training … a lot of them in the logistical realm," he said.

Brown cited a recent helicopter maintenance success story in which allies merged powers and unearthed major savings.

"Instead of nations having to send their experts and their maintenance people to Afghanistan to do scheduled maintenance on the aircraft, they are able to work together through the NATO logistics committee [in which the U.S.] had the lead and several nations participated," Brown said.

Ultimately, Brown explained, the Smart Defense project saved a nation 1.2 million Euros by enabling it to leave the aircraft in place for repairs instead of sending it back to its home station.

Equally important is operational readiness, Perks said.
"The helicopter stayed there, and whereas it would’ve been three or four months before it was available again, it was available in three or four weeks," he added.

Perks also emphasized that NATO’s capabilities are largely rooted in what the allies bring to the alliance. Because some NATO members have experienced difficult financial times, Brown said, Smart Defense is not a new concept, rather one brought to the foreground based on necessity.

Brown also noted the value of smaller countries that have positively impacted the alliance.

"It’s great to see a country like Slovakia or the Czech [Republic], who both have robust programs in the chemical and biological area [and] are providing some of the expertise on the projects related to that," Brown said.

The Czech Republic’s flight training program has been a feather in the nation’s cap, Brown added.

"Instead of every nation having to train five to 10 pilots per year, let’s work together on that. You can just imagine fixed costs when you run a flight school," Brown said.

"Smart Defense will continue if we’re able to get the mindset included in everybody’s beam," he said. "It’s not always going to be about pushing projects or proposals under the Smart Defense banner, but we need to make it so that it is included as part of the [NATO Defense Planning Process]."

NATO’s defense planning process, according to Brown, is a top-down approach where the requirements for member nations are being provided by NATO, while Smart Defense helps provide a bottom-up feed with the projects and proposals the nations use.

"The nations have come up with these ideas," Brown said. "If they believe that a project is important for them to pursue, the fact that they’re working in a multinational effort instead of trying to do it themselves … you see the efficiencies of these projects as they go forward."

Perks shared Brown’s sentiment.

"Smart Defense addresses the fiscal reality head on," Perks said. "Capabilities are big, they’re expensive, they’re complex and it’s increasingly difficult to build them, so we have to come together -- it’s the way ahead."




This afternoon, I spoke with Governor Malloy and FBI Director Mueller. I offered Governor Malloy my condolences on behalf of the nation, and made it clear he will have every single resource that he needs to investigate this heinous crime, care for the victims, counsel their families.

We've endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. And each time I learn the news I react not as a President, but as anybody else would -- as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there's not a parent in America who doesn't feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.

The majority of those who died today were children -- beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers -- men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.

So our hearts are broken today -- for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost. Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children's innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain.

As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it's an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago -- these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.

This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter and we'll tell them that we love them, and we'll remind each other how deeply we love one another. But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight. And they need all of us right now. In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans. And I will do everything in my power as President to help.

Because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need -- to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories but also in ours.

May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.


Sgt. Michael Quandt, an Afghan Local Police trainer with Company D, 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, attached to 2nd Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, relays instructions through an interpreter to an ALP officer during an improvised explosive device training lane at Joint Combat Outpost Masaw, Afghanistan, Sept. 15, 2011. The lane focused on teaching the ALP about identifying and securing IEDs.

More Effort Needed to Counter IEDs, General Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2012 – The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization has made progress against IEDs, "but it isn’t enough," Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday.

In Afghanistan, much of the fertilizer used in explosives comes from Pakistan, and Barbero, who directs JIEDDO, said he understands the importance of working with Pakistani officials.

"The U.S., led by the State Department, continues to seek a relationship with Pakistan that is constructive and advances both U.S. and Pakistani interests," the general told the Senate panel yesterday.

The importance of countering the threat posed by IEDs and of attacking threat networks cannot be overstated, Barbero said.

"Counter-IED is an area ripe for cooperation between the United States and Pakistan and I am also encouraged by the recent positive tone in our discussions with the government of Pakistan and the assurances from our Pakistani counterparts," he said.

But Barbero emphasized that Pakistan must do more. More than 60 percent of U.S. combat casualties in Afghanistan, both killed and wounded in action, are caused by IEDs. This year IEDs killed or wounded almost 1,900 Americans. Pakistanis have also suffered from these devices.

"It is in their interest to increase counter-IED cooperation with us and take effective actions against these networks," Barbero said.

Afghanistan has banned ammonium nitrate-based fertilizers. Yet these remain the main explosive used in IEDs. "Today more than 85 percent of the IEDs employed against coalition forces are homemade explosives," Barbero said. "And of those, about 70 percent are made with ammonium nitrate derived from the fertilizer calcium ammonium nitrate, referred to as CAN, a common agriculture fertilizer produced in and transited through Pakistan."

While the fertilizer is produced elsewhere, Pakistan is almost exclusively the source of the chemical compound used in IEDs, he said. Another chemical compound, potassium chlorate, is used in Pakistan’s textile and matchstick industries, and is also being used to make IEDs in Afghanistan.

"In concert with our Pakistani partners, we must address the continued flow of ammonium nitrate-based fertilizers and other IED materials into Afghanistan," the general told senators.

Coalition and Afghan forces seized 30 tons of fertilizer in 2009, compared to 440 tons so far in 2012. "The high number of IED incidents and the growing seizure rates highlight the continued lack of effective measures to impede the supply of IED materials into Afghanistan from Pakistan," he said.

Barbero said he is working with the Pakistani fertilizer producer to counter the illicit use of the product as an explosive. The general said he is also working with U.S. and international fertilizer organizations to put controls in place on fertilizers.

"While international and U.S. professional fertilizer associations are receptive and actively addressing these issues, the producers within Pakistan have been less than cooperative," he said. "Despite making minor packaging, tracking and marketing changes, they have not implemented any effective product security or stewardship efforts."

The Pakistani producers can and must do more, Barbero said.

"While the government of Pakistan has taken military actions to address the IED threat and go after these networks, these efforts remain focused on Pakistan’s domestic threat and have had no measurable effect on the number of IED events in Afghanistan, on the flow of precursor materials smuggled across the border, or on the threat of networks operating in Pakistan who attack our troops in Afghanistan," the general said.

He emphasized that the U.S.-Pakistan dialogue has been improving, but more still must be done.

"We must move from discussing cooperation to actual cooperation," Barbero said, noting Pakistan has passed legislation, but has done little to implement the laws.

Military cooperation also remains stalled, Barbero told committee members.

"We must move beyond talking about cooperation to developing a comprehensive framework and then work together to address the shared problems," he said.



Dempsey Warns of Sequestration's Potential Impact
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

MANAMA, Bahrain, Dec. 14, 2012 - The potential impact of sequestration, if it happens, could significantly degrade the Defense Department's overall readiness for years to come, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs said here yesterday.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey was responding to a sailor's question on the possible effects of the massive budget cuts that could take effect in January, while speaking to an audience from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. Fifth Fleet.

Sequestration is a mechanism built into the Budget Control Act which would trigger across-the-board cuts in federal spending -- including an additional $500 billion cut in defense -- if Congress and the president cannot agree on a plan to reduce the federal deficit before Jan. 2, 2013.

"It'll be a significant degradation," Dempsey said. "How does it translate to you? Stretched out maintenance periods, less flying hours before deployment, less training, potentially some interruptions of PCS movements or schools."

The Defense Department has spread the word that allowing sequestration to occur would be "a really bad idea," Dempsey said.

"It will have an effect, and I think it'll be an effect felt for two or three years," the general said. "There are some who think we can just let it happen, and then sweep it up over the next six months."

The chairman explained how he and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta requested military manpower be exempt from the additional proposed budget reductions.

"We went to [President Obama] and asked him to use his authority to exempt manpower," Dempsey said. "If we hadn't done that, in an almost inconceivable way, we would have had to cut the endstrength by 8 percent as part of the package."

The president approved the exemption, he said, but the "bad news is it puts a bigger burden on the other accounts," which include operations, maintenance, training and infrastructure.

"So those will now be impacted at about a 10 percent blow across the board," Dempsey said. "What does this mean to your particular community? I can't say for sure because the CNO -- chief of naval operations -- is the one who has to figure that out."

However, operations won't be impacted by sequestration if it occurs, the chairman said.

"So now I just told you we've exempted two places. Now when I say operations, I mean deployed operations," he said.

The Joint Strike Fighter is among defense projects that would be disrupted by sequestration, Dempsey said, adding that
civilian DOD employees would likely also feel the impact.

"There could be some civilian employees placed on unpaid furloughs," the chairman said. "So it's really serious."


Peggys Point Lighthouse in Peggys Cove, Nova Scotia is a very popular tourist
site operated by the Canadian Coast Guard. The lighthouse, the second one on
this site, was built in 1914 and is 15 m (50 ft) tall.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.


Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
December 14, 2012

U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson and the Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney signed a U.S.-Canada Visa and Immigration Information-Sharing Agreement on December 13, 2012.

This agreement will enable Canada and the United States to share information from third country nationals who apply for a visa or permit to travel to either country. This will better protect the safety and security of Americans and Canadians and facilitate legitimate travel and business. Increased information sharing will support better decision-making by both countries to confirm applicants’ identities, and identify risks and inadmissible persons at the earliest opportunity. It will increase safety and security, as both countries work to identify terrorists, violent criminals, and others who pose a risk before they reach our borders. All officers working on immigration and refugee protection will be equipped with more information to make decisions. This will better protect the safety and security of Americans and Canadians alike and further facilitate legitimate travel.

The agreement authorizes development of arrangements under which the United States may send an automated request for data to Canada, such as when a third country national applies to the United States for a visa or claims asylum. Such a request would contain limited information, such as name and date of birth in the case of biographic sharing, or an anonymous fingerprint in the case of biometric sharing. If the identity matches that of a previous application, immigration information may be shared, such as whether the person has previously been refused a visa or removed from the other country. The same process would apply in reverse when a third country national applies to Canada for a visa or claims asylum. Biographic immigration information sharing is set to begin in 2013, and biometric sharing in 2014.

Under the agreement, information will not be shared regarding U.S. or Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Any information shared on travellers and asylum seekers will be handled responsibly and, as with other information sharing agreements, exchanged in accordance with relevant U.S. and Canadian laws.


121207-N-QP351-021 SAN DIEGO (DEC. 07, 2012) The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) returns returns to San Diego Bay. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Michael Schwartz/Released)

121206-N-ZQ794-050 VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (Dec. 6, 2012) Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordinance Disposal Group (EODGRU) 2 fast rope from an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28 during a demonstration for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstars and divas. WWE athletes visited EODGRU 2 as part of the 10th annual WWE "Tribute to the Troops" in Hampton Roads. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kay Savarese/Released)



Statement from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the Newtown, Connecticut, School Shootings

December 14, 2012
"School shootings are always incomprehensible and horrific tragedies. But words fail to describe today's heartbreaking and savage attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As the father of two children in elementary school, I can barely imagine the anguish and losses suffered today by the Newtown community.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to every parent, child, teacher, staff member, and administrator at Sandy Hook and the surrounding community. And our thanks go out to every teacher, staff member, and first responder who cared for, comforted, and protected children from harm, often at risk to themselves. We will do everything in our power to assist and support the healing and recovery of Newtown."

Friday, December 14, 2012


Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, center, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thanks sailors, their families and Defense Department civilians from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. Fifth Fleet, during a stop on his annual holiday USO tour in Manama, Bahrain, Dec. 13, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.

Chairman Addresses Deployed Sailors' Concerns
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

MANAMA, Bahrain, Dec. 14, 2012 - Members of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. Fifth Fleet, had the opportunity to voice their concerns during a meeting with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his senior enlisted advisor here yesterday.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, joined by Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, met sailors, families and Defense Department civilians, and provided them an opportunity to ask questions of their senior leaders during a meet and greet on his annual holiday United Service Organizations tour in the region.

"You're doing an incredible job," Dempsey told the group. "We are really in 21-year conflict that started in this region in 1991 with Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

"We were deeply engaged in trying to keep stability in this part of the world," the chairman continued. "And then, of course, along came 9/11, and many of the threats that created that challenge for our country emanated out of here."

The chairman told service members assembled around him that they represent "the latest generation of young men and women who have answered the call, as your country has asked, to come and serve here. And you're really, really making us proud."

Today there are "any number of challenges facing our nation," Dempsey said, citing rising powers as well as the possibility of available technology and weaponry falling in to the hands of nonstate groups, making them "more dangerous than they really should be to us."

"And then there's also our financial situation, which we share with many countries in the rest of the world," he added.

The United States, however, will weather through today's period of uneasiness, Dempsey said, as it has done before.

"We figure stuff out, even when we appear a little uncertain or unsettled," the chairman said. "We will, at the end of the day, do what's right, and get it right 100 percent of the time."

The chairman said the current generation of military leaders serving the nation at home, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the globe makes him confident of the future.

As long as leaders remain committed to the mission, to their own development as individuals, and to their families, Dempsey said, "I think we're going to be fine."

The chairman also rebuked the notion that the U.S. military is in decline.

"It is not in decline and it will never be in decline," Dempsey said. "We won't let it be in decline. It might get bigger some years and smaller in others; we might stretch part of the force more one time than another -- it always seems to level out over time.

"But like I said, we will figure it out -- I promise you that," he continued. "So during this holiday season let me just tell you, 'Thanks.' And I wish you everything that could possibly come your way."

Dempsey added, "However you chose to worship, I wish you all of the blessings that come, because you, more than anyone in our country, has earned those blessings. And I promise you, we will not forget that as we do our part of the fight back in Washington, D.C."

Following his remarks, the chairman fielded questions from the audience on topics such as the future of the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law which currently defines marriage as the legal union between a man and a woman.

"The Supreme Court did agree to take it up sometime between now and June," Dempsey said. "[And] yes, we do have plans in place ... if the law is repealed. We will put in place methods to ensure same-sex partners have the same benefits, if they're married, as a heterosexual couple will."

However, he did note that the Defense Department is "bound by law" until the act is "repealed or overturned" by the Supreme Court.

On a question about future operations in Afghanistan, Dempsey said after the next two years, "the president has made clear, our war in Afghanistan will be over." However, he added, "we'll be there in more modest numbers to support [Afghan security forces]."

Dempsey also addressed concerns about a change in the current military retirement system, and assured the audience that he, and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, will keep faith with "anybody already in the system."

The 18th chairman concluded his visit by serenading the crowd with a rendition of "Christmas in Killarney," then wished everyone a "Merry Christmas."



ISS Update: Nutrition Manager Talks About Children's Book "Space Nutrition"

NASA Public Affairs Officer Brandi Dean interviews Scott Smith, Manager of Nutritional Biochemistry at Johnson Space Center, about the children’s book he co-authored called "Space Nutrition." The book talks about the history of space flight, the various space programs and of course space food.



Thursday, December 13, 2012
Florida Accountant Indicted for Stealing Client Money Intended for IRS

An indictment was unsealed today in Fort Pierce, Fla., charging Joseph Rizzuti with one count of corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and four counts of wire fraud, the Justice Department and the IRS announced. The indictment was returned by a grand jury on Nov. 29, 2012.

According to the indictment, Rizzuti, the owner of Beacon Accounting Services in Palm City, Fla., interfered with the IRS’s ability to collect taxes owed by two clients, stole payments from those clients intended for the IRS, and made misrepresentations to those clients and to the IRS. Rizzuti allegedly stole approximately $265,000 from one client and approximately $23,500 from another client, money that the clients gave him to pay to the IRS.

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, Rizzuti faces a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison for each of the four wire fraud counts and a maximum potential sentence of 3 years for the obstruction count. He is also subject to fines and mandatory restitution if convicted.

This case was investigated by special agents of IRS - Criminal Investigation and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Trial Attorneys Justin Gelfand and Rebecca Perlmutter of the Justice Department’s Tax Division are prosecuting the case.

President Obama Makes a Statement on the Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut | The White House

President Obama Makes a Statement on the Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House



FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSECoalition force members engage insurgents during an Afghan-led security patrol in Farah province, Afghanistan, Dec. 7, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau

Afghan National Police watch as their commander engages insurgents during an Afghan-led security patrol in Farah province, Afghanistan, Dec. 7, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau


Photo:  Gold Buddha In Burma.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.


Intelligence Council Poses Four Worlds of the Future
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2012 - Prediction is an inexact science.

The 1939 New York World's Fair was billed as a look at tomorrow, and nations built pavilions and presented their latest inventions along with how they believed they would change the world.

One large part of the Fair itself was called "Futurama" -- a scale model of what planners believed would be America in 1960. The model had futuristic homes, urban complexes, bridges, dams and an advanced highway system which envisioned speeds of 100 mph.

The visionaries of 1939 did not anticipate suburbs, satellites, an oil embargo, nuclear energy or apparently where all those 100 mph cars were going to park.

The National Intelligence Council, which supports the Director of National Intelligence by providing long-term strategic analysis, has learned from instances like this and presents a range of options in its publication World Trends 2030.

The council posits four possible worlds in 2030: stalled engines, fusion, gini out-of-the-bottle and nonstate world.

"Gini" refers to the gini coefficient, which is a statistical measurement of income inequality.

The stalled engine world predicts a planet where the risk of interstate conflict rises due to a new great game in Asia. This scenario is a bleak one. "Drivers behind such an outcome would be a U.S. and Europe that turn inward, no longer interested in sustaining their global leadership," the report says. This scenario envisions the Euro Zone unraveling, causing Europe's economy to tumble.

The stalled engine world also sees the U.S. energy revolution failing to materialize -- despite current trends that suggest the U.S. will be a future energy exporter.

This scenario is most likely to lead to conflict between nations over scarce resources, but this scenario does not necessarily envision major conflagrations. Economic interdependence and globalization would be mitigating factors.

The fusion scenario represents the other end of the spectrum.

"This is a world in which the specter of a spreading conflict in South Asia triggers efforts by the U.S., Europe and China to intervene and impose a ceasefire," the report says. "China, the U.S. and Europe find other issues to collaborate on, leading to a major positive change in their bilateral relations, and more broadly leading to worldwide cooperation to deal with global challenges."

This scenario sees China adopting political reforms and Chinese leaders managing growing nationalism. Fusion sees more multinational organizations.

"In this scenario, all boats rise substantially," the report says. Developing economies rise, but so do those in developed countries. Under fusion, the American dream remains a reality with the council seeing U.S. incomes rising by $10,000 over a decade.

"Technological innovation -- rooted in expanded exchanges and joint international efforts -- is critical to the world staying ahead of the rising financial and resource constraints that would accompany a rapid boost in prosperity," the report says.

The genie out-of-the-bottle scenario is a world of extremes, but somewhere between the stalled engine and fusion scenarios. This scenario sees winners and losers in the global commons; a core group of the European Union remaining while others -- those not doing well economically -- fall away.

In the "gini" scenario the United States remains the preeminent power but it doesn't play global policeman. Energy producing nations see prices fall while they fail to diversify their economies. "Cities in China's coastal zone continue to thrive, but inequalities increase and split the [Communist] Party," the report says.

Global growth continues, but it is uneven. More countries fail in part because of the failure of international organizations.

"In sum, the world is reasonably wealthy, but it is less secure as the dark side of globalization poses an increasing challenge in domestic and international politics," the report says.

The final scenario -- the nonstate world -- sees nonstate actors taking the lead in confronting global challenges. Nonstate actors include nongovernmental organizations, multinational businesses, academic individuals, wealthy individuals and cities.

"The nation state does not disappear, but countries increasingly organize and orchestrate 'hybrid' coalitions of state and nonstate actors which shift depending on the issue," the report says.

This is a complex and diverse world that favors democracies. "Smaller, more agile countries in which the elites are also more integrated are apt to do better than larger countries that lack social or political cohesion," the report says.

By its nature, the nonstate world would be uneven and would carry its own dangers. Some global problems would be solved because the networks would coalesce to solve them but others would not. Security threats would increase because not all nonstate actors are benign. Access to lethal and disruptive technologies could expand, "enabling individuals and small groups to perpetuate violence and disruption on a large scale," according to the report.

The four worlds suggested in the report could happen or something altogether different may occur also. The report notes that unplanned, unforeseen events can change all of this.

The example of the New York World's Fair extends here too. While the Fair opened in 1939, it reopened in 1940. Two nations that sponsored buildings in 1939 -- Czechoslovakia and Poland -- had ceased to exist when the Fair returned in 1940.



The Topkapi Palace courtyard in Istanbul. The Palace was the official residence of the Ottoman Sultans for 400 years. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains many holy relics of the Muslim world. Construction was begun in 1459, and at its height, the complex housed 4,000 people. In 1924, a governmental decree transformed the Palace into a museum of the imperial era.


Panetta Signs Order to Deploy 400 U.S. Personnel to Turkey
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey, Dec. 14, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has signed an order that will deploy 400 U.S. personnel to Turkey to support the deployment that NATO agreed to recently of Patriot missile capability there, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.

Panetta signed the agreement en route to Turkey as he wrapped up a trip this week that included time in Kuwait and Afghanistan with civilian and military leaders.

He visited the troops to thank them for their dedication and sacrifice, and for spending another holiday season away from family and friends.

While in Kabul the secretary also met with Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF regional commanders and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"The United States has been supporting Turkey in its efforts to defend itself," Little said. "NATO has recently offered up Patriot missile battery capability to Turkey, [which] is a very strong ally of the United States."

Little said he expects the troops to be deployed in the coming weeks.

"I'm not going to go into precise locations at this time, he added, "but I wanted to let you ... know that we signed that order and that we are prepared in the context of NATO to support the defense of Turkey for an unspecified period of time."

The personnel will deploy to Turkey to operate two U.S. Patriot missile batteries once they are in place, he said.
"The purpose of this deployment is to signal very strongly that the United States, working closely with our NATO allies, is going to support the defense of Turkey, especially with potential threats emanating from Syria," Little said.

Incirlik Air Base is an installation of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, a major command of the U.S. Air Force and the air component of the U.S. European Command, a DOD unified command.

"Turkey also is a key NATO ally and we have a lot of U.S. forces stationed there to enhance our strong defense cooperation," Panetta told reporters traveling with him as the trip began.

"Both the United States and Turkey share common concerns now about the violence in Syria and the threat that it poses to regional stability, he added.

Panetta said DOD has been working closely with Turkey on humanitarian issues, chemical and biological weapons issues, and missile defense.

"I'm pleased that last week NATO pledged to deploy missile defense systems to protect Turkey, and we will participate in that effort as well," the secretary said.

Panetta said the United States and Turkey are committed to work together to strengthen defense systems and to put pressure on the Assad regime in neighboring Syria to end the violence in that country and help develop the political transition that must take place there.



CFTC Charges Calif. Company Arista LLC and Calif. Residents Abdul Sultan Walji and Reniero Francisco with Fraud in Operating $9.5 Million Commodity Pool

Federal court issues emergency order freezing the defendants' assets, permitting expedited asset discovery, and protecting books and records

Washington, DC
– The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced that it filed a civil enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against Arista LLC, a registered Commodity Pool Operator (CPO) with its principal place of business in Newport Coast, Calif., and its principals Abdul Sultan Walji (a/k/a Abdul Sultan Valji) and Reniero Francisco, both California residents. The CFTC complaint charges the defendants with defrauding investors in connection with operating a commodity pool to trade commodity futures contracts and options, making false statements to pool participants, misappropriating pool funds, and making false statements in filings with the National Futures Association (NFA). The CFTC complaint also charges the defendants with failing to register with the CFTC during Arista’s first year of operating as a CPO.

On December 12, 2012, the same day the complaint was filed, U.S. District Court Judge Paul A. Engelmayer entered an ex parte restraining order freezing the defendants' assets, authorizing expedited discovery by the CFTC, and prohibiting the defendants from destroying or concealing books and records. The judge set a hearing date on the CFTC’s motion for a preliminary injunction for December 21, 2012.

The CFTC complaint alleges that from at least February 2010 through January 2012, the defendants carried out a fraudulent scheme to misappropriate millions of dollars from investors in commodity futures and options. The defendants allegedly collected funds from 39 investors totaling more than $9.5 million, of which the defendants paid themselves $4.125 million in purported fees while losing over $4.8 million trading. In order to perpetuate their scheme, the defendants allegedly provided false quarterly statements to investors and filed false quarterly reports with the NFA. For example, the complaint alleges that the NFA, as a result of its examination, determined that Arista’s September 2011 pool quarterly report (PQR) had falsely reported a positive 99 percent rate of return in September 2011, when in reality Arista’s rate of return was negative 46.98 percent. NFA also determined that Arista’s PQR had falsely reported a net asset value (NAV) of $8,421,139 as of September 30, 2011, when in reality Arista’s NAV as of that date was approximately $523,000, according to the complaint.

In its continuing litigation, the CFTC seeks restitution and a return of ill-gotten gains, civil monetary penalties, trading and registration bans, and permanent injunctions against further violations of the federal commodities laws, as charged.

In a parallel criminal action, on December 12, 2012, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced that it filed a criminal complaint charging both Walji and Francisco with conspiracy, securities fraud, and wire fraud offenses. Walji is also charged with commodities fraud. Both defendants were arrested in California by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The CFTC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the FBI, and the NFA.


Map:  Mexico.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.


Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
December 14, 2012

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation welcomes Mexico as the newest addition to the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction (Global Partnership). Mexico is the first Latin American country to join the Global Partnership, which addresses nuclear and radiological security, biosecurity, scientist engagement, and facilitates the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 through cooperative projects.

The Global Partnership began at the 2002 Kananaskis G8 Summit as a 10-year, $20 billion initiative to prevent terrorists or states that support them from acquiring or developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Since then, the Global Partnership has grown to include 25 members and has allocated about $21 billion worldwide. At the 2011 G8 Summit in Deauville, leaders agreed to extend the Partnership beyond 2012 and to make it more truly global.


The site of advanced Amerindian civilizations - including the Olmec, Toltec, Teotihuacan, Zapotec, Maya, and Aztec - Mexico was conquered and colonized by Spain in the early 16th century. Administered as the Viceroyalty of New Spain for three centuries, it achieved its independence early in the 19th century. The global financial crisis beginning in late 2008 caused a massive economic downturn the following year, although growth returned quickly in 2010. Ongoing economic and social concerns include low real wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, inequitable income distribution, and few advancement opportunities for the largely Amerindian population in the impoverished southern states. The elections held in 2000 marked the first time since the 1910 Mexican Revolution that an opposition candidate - Vicente FOX of the National Action Party (PAN) - defeated the party in government, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). He was succeeded in 2006 by another PAN candidate Felipe CALDERON. National elections, including the presidential election, are scheduled for 1 July 2012. Since 2007, Mexico's powerful drug-trafficking organizations have engaged in bloody feuding, resulting in tens of thousands of drug-related homicides.


F-35 In Training (2nd Aircraft From Left).  Credit:  U.S. Air Force


Pilot Calls F-35 'Big Leap' in Fighter Capability

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2012 - The F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter jet will be a strategic deterrent for the nation because of its "huge leap in capability," a Marine Corps pilot said.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Scott, commander of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing's Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., recently told the Pentagon Channel the F-35 will allow Marines to perform missions in high-threat areas, unlike existing aircraft.

The F-35 will be able to do every mission now performed by the AV-8 Harrier does now, but will be able to do it in more situations, said Scott, who is involved with flying and testing the new aircraft. The new fighter will provide access to more areas, he explained, and will allow more time for rolling back enemy defenses.

The Defense Department and Lockheed Martin reached an agreement in principle last week to manufacture 32 F-35s in the Pentagon's largest weapons program. Lockheed Martin will produce 22 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variants for the Air Force, three F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing variants for the Marine Corps, and seven F-35C carrier variants for the Navy.

Scott said flying the F-35 is an easy transition from the Harrier, and that it did exceptionally well, during a recent trial at sea.

"The sensors and systems are the big leap deploying the aircraft in terms of tactics," he said.

"The Lightning will fulfill a lot of the functions of Marine Corps aviation -- such as [our] air support role, antiair, targeting enemy ground locations and supporting the troops on the ground -- as Harriers and [F/A-18] Hornets do now," he added. "But it brings more in one aircraft in its ability to protect itself from the enemy."

Scott said the F-35 will give the military "a huge leap in capability, probably five or six steps beyond what we now have."

"We're going to have this aircraft for a long time," he said. "As we get more and more of these aircraft in all of the services, we're going to see a lot of the benefits that the aircraft has in terms of commonality. As we start operating tactically, some of the communications [and] capabilities will become more and more valuable to the services, ... and it will be in demand to combatant commanders around the world."


What is commonly known today as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program had its origination in several programs from the 1980s and early 1990s.

Over the years, several tactical aircraft acquisition programs have attempted to deliver new warfighting capabilities to the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and our close allies. Most of those programs failed while the JSF program excelled.

The experience gained from previous programs has made JSF what it is today, the world's foremost stealthy, supersonic, survivable, lethal, supportable and affordable multi-role fighter. A summary of the preceding programs as well as a brief history of the F-35 is provided.

Remarks by U.S. Secretary of Defense Panetta in Kandahar, Afghanistan

Remarks by Secretary Panetta in Kandahar, Afghanistan

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing - December 13, 2012

Daily Press Briefing - December 13, 2012

World Conference on International Telecommunications

World Conference on International Telecommunications

Hearts and multivitamins

Hearts and multivitamins




The Clementine spacecraft is launched aboard a Titan II missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., in this Jan. 25, 1994, file photograph. The recent interpretation of data from the Clementine spacecraft mission, a joint Ballistic Missile Defense Organization/NASA venture, has revealed that deposits of ice could exist in permanently dark regions near the South Pole of the Moon. Initial estimates suggest that the ice deposit area is the size of small lake (60 to 120 thousand cubic meters), and that the lunar crater containing the ice deposit has a depth greater than the height of Mount Everest, and a rim circumference twice the size of Puerto Rico. The discovery of ice on the Moon has enormous implications for the potential return of humans to the Moon's surface and the establishment of a permanent lunar station. The lunar ice could be mined and dissociated into hydrogen and oxygen by electric power provided by solar panels or a nuclear generator, providing both breathable oxygen and potable water for the permanent station on the Moon. Hydrogen and oxygen are also prime components of rocket motor fuel and could potentially result in the establishment of a lunar filling station transport to or from the Moon more economical by at least a factor of ten. The Clementine spacecraft's primary military mission was to qualify lightweight sensor and camera technology for possible application for ballistic missile defense programs, but it also demonstrated a capability for low-cost, high-value space exploration missions. (Released)





Wounded warriors return to Afghanistan
December 12, 2012
By Sgt. Ashley Curtis

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Dec. 9, 2012) -- After being medically evacuated out of Afghanistan, embarking on the long road to recovery and learning to live life with less than they had before, eight wounded soldiers and Marines returned to Afghanistan Dec. 5.

They went to get a first-hand look at the war's progress and to help bring a sense of closure for the mental wounds left by their injuries.

The group made various stops as part of Feherty's Troops First Foundation's Operation Proper Exit. This trip was the first of its kind to Afghanistan.

Army Sgt. Jared Lemon of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, heard about the program from a fellow wounded warrior who had returned to Iraq through the foundation.

"He told me how it was a release for him and how it helped him out a lot," he said. "I wanted that. I wanted to have that feeling. It's great to come back here and feel like part of a unit again."

The Soldiers and Marines had been deployed to the country at various times between 2008 and 2011. Seven improvised explosive devices and one sniper later, the group collectively lost seven limbs and suffered burns, gunshot wounds and several other serious injuries.

But what keeps them bonded is far beyond the power of the enemy: their love of service and concern for their fellow Soldiers and the mission.

Recalling the event that took the life of the Soldier next him and as well as his right arm, Lemon said, "The hardest thing for me was waking up not with my guys."

The sentiment was echoed by the rest of the group.

"It's amazing just to put the uniform back on and be in this environment with Soldiers and Marines over here," said retired Army Staff Sgt. Earl Granville of the Pennsylvania National Guard's 1/109th Infantry. "Words can't explain it."

Four of the eight say they plan to continue military service and two others are working toward veteran-related occupations.

The group spoke to soldiers much like the ones they were deployed with during a town hall gathering at Camp Nathan Smith, situated in the heart of Kandahar City. One Marine commented on how the now brightly lit city was void of electricity when he was here last and each member of the group commented on their amazement at the progress that has been made across Afghanistan since they left.

"When we were there, we never really worked with the ANA [Afghan National Army] and ANCOP [Afghan National Civil Order Police] that well," said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jonathan Carnes of 3/7 Weapons Company.

"As soon as we'd ever get in a fire fight, or an IED blast or anything, they'd leave," Carnes continued. "Now I hear about the progress they've made and how they're taking over most of our battle spaces. They're running the majority of the combat operations and they actually get to lead the fight and take it to the enemy. It's profound, honestly. It's amazing."

"I had no hope for Afghanistan when I left. It means a lot to know it was all for something," Spc. Lyle Yantz, 2/508th Parachute Airborne Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, said of their sacrifices. "It's meaningful."

"I've learned a lot since I've been on this trip," said Lemon. "It really means a lot to me that things have changed. It was really good coming back and finding out what I'd done, what my unit had done, what other Soldiers had done actually made a difference. It's not a hopeless fight."

ESA-Bodenstationen haben Satelliten und Raumsonden immer im Blick

ESA-Bodenstationen haben Satelliten und Raumsonden immer im Blick


Photo:  Sheep Grazing.  Credit:  Wikimedia Commons.

USDA Action during Drought Opened 2.8 Million Acres to Haying and Grazing, Brought Nearly $200 Million in Forage for Producers

Secretary Announces Pilot Program to Provide More Water for Haying and Grazing, Memorandum to Improve Drought Weather Forecasting

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2012 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's measures to open conservation land to emergency haying and grazing during the 2012 drought freed up a record 2.8 million acres and provided as much as $200 million in forage for producers facing critical feed shortages. Vilsack made the announcement during the national drought forum in Washington, D.C. co-sponsored by numerous federal agencies, governors' associations and academic partners.

"The Obama Administration remains committed to doing everything it can to help farmers, ranchers, businesses, and local and county governments meet drought-related challenges," said Vilsack. "Now we know that the actions taken by USDA and other federal agencies at the height of the drought provided much-needed flexibility during a difficult time. We also know that drought recovery is a long-term proposition, and we will continue to partner with producers to see it through."

At the height of the 2012 drought, the Secretary announced expanded use of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres for haying and grazing including a two-month extension for emergency grazing on CRP acres without incurring an additional CRP rental payment reduction. By providing this flexibility, USDA freed up forage and feed to benefit all livestock producers during a critical period, on top of additional USDA actions, including lowering the interest rate for emergency loans and working with crop insurance companies to provide flexibility to farmers.

USDA's Farm Service Agency reported to the Secretary today that roughly 2.8 million acres under 57,000 CRP contracts utilized the emergency haying and grazing option, compared to just over 1 million acres in 2011. In 2005, producers utilized roughly 1.7 million CRP acres for emergency haying and grazing, the previous record. USDA estimates of the gross value of forage provided in 2012 run from $140 million to $200 million.

The Secretary also announced today a new pilot program administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Kansas and Colorado to remove sediments from ponds to help provide more water for livestock or for irrigation. Part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the pilot provides an additional conservation option for producers who face drought-related issues on their agricultural operations. Also, for the current fiscal year, NRCS has made available over $16 million through the EQIP program to farmers and ranchers for water conservation, practices, and wildlife habitat that have been affected by the drought. Those funds are in addition to the over $27 million provided to farmers ranchers in 22 states for drought mitigation during fiscal year 2012.

Additionally, Secretary Vilsack noted that over the period of the recently expired Farm Bill, conservation systems installed with support from NRCS programs reduced water withdrawn from the Ogallala Aquifer by at least 860,000 acre feet. This is more than enough water to cover the area of Washington D.C. nearly 20 feet deep and is equivalent to the domestic water use of approximately 9.6 million individuals for a year (based on USGS estimated use of 80 gallons per person per day). The quantity represents about 1.1 percent of the total groundwater irrigation withdrawals from the aquifer over the same period. At the agricultural sales level from the 2007 Census of Agriculture, an extension of aquifer life of 1.1 percent would transfer into sales "today" of about $82 million. These reduced water withdrawals have also resulted in a related energy savings of the equivalent of at least 18 million gallons of diesel fuel.

The NRCS Ogallala Aquifer Initiative supported over one-quarter of these reduced withdrawals, approximately 238,000 acre feet, and achieved these reductions in the most sensitive areas of States in the Ogallala region. Funding through the initiative is targeted to areas where there has been a significant (over 25 foot) decline in the level of the aquifer or where there is a significant vulnerability for contamination of the aquifer through groundwater recharge.
While USDA's efforts during the drought have delivered assistance to those who need it most, Vilsack noted that the Department is hampered in its efforts by lack of a Farm Bill and he urged Congress to take action so that programs that could assist affected producers could be used to help them. Vilsack also announced that, in the wake of a series of regional drought conferences with farmers, ranchers, business owners and other stakeholders, a memorandum of understanding is being entered into with the Department of Commerce, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to improve sharing of data and expertise, monitoring networks, and drought forecasting efforts. The MOU is a direct outcome of the regional conferences, Vilsack said. In recent months, USDA has partnered with local governments, colleges, state and federal partners to conduct a series of regional drought workshops. Hundreds of producers met with government officials to discuss needs, and programs available to them. Vilsack kicked off the first meeting in Nebraska, and additional meetings were held in Colorado, Arkansas, and Ohio.

In addition, nearly 2,000 producers have taken advantage of funding from NRCS. So far, these drought recovery efforts have impacted over a million acres of farmland.

In recent months, USDA has also announced:

Purchased approximately $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken, and catfish for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks, to help relieve pressure on American livestock producers and bring the nation's meat supply in line with demand. Updated the emergency loans application process to allow these loans to be made earlier in the season. Filed special provisions with the federal crop insurance program to allow haying or grazing of cover crops without impacting the insurability of planted 2013 spring crops. Authorized up to $5 million in grants to evaluate and demonstrate agricultural practices that help farmers and ranchers adapt to drought. Granted a temporary variance from the National Organic Program's pasture practice standards for organic ruminant livestock producers in drought impacted states in 2012. Authorized $16 million in existing funds from its Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to target states experiencing exceptional and extreme drought. Transferred $14 million in unobligated program funds into the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) to help farmers and ranchers rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters and for carrying out emergency water conservation measures in periods of severe drought. USDA worked with crop insurance companies to provide flexibility to farmers, and one-third of all policyholders took advantage of the extended payment period. Authorized haying and grazing of Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easement areas in drought-affected areas where haying and grazing is consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands. Lowered the reduction in the annual rental payment to producers on CRP acres used for emergency haying or grazing from 25 percent to 10 percent in 2012. Simplified the Secretarial disaster designation process and reduced the time it takes to designate counties affected by disasters by 40 percent.

The National Drought Forum is co-sponsored by: NOAA, USDA, EPA, DOI, FEMA, National Drought Mitigation Center, National Integrated Drought Information System, Western Governors' Association, Southern Governors' Association, Midwestern Governors' Association, and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

The Obama Administration, with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's leadership, has worked tirelessly to strengthen rural America, maintain a strong farm safety net, and create opportunities for America's farmers and ranchers. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its most productive periods in American history thanks to the productivity, resiliency, and resourcefulness of our producers. A strong farm safety net is important to sustain the success of American agriculture. USDA's crop insurance program currently insures 264 million acres, 1.14 million policies, and $110 billion worth of liability on about 500,000 farms. In response to tighter financial markets, USDA has expanded the availability of farm credit, helping struggling farmers refinance loans. Since 2009, USDA has provided more than 128,000 loans to family farmers totaling more than $18 billion. Over 50 percent of the loans went to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.