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Saturday, January 19, 2013

BEIJING AIR QUALITY AS SEEN FROM SPACE


FROM: NASA
Air Quality Suffering in China

Residents of Beijing and many other cities in China were warned to stay inside in mid-January 2013 as the nation faced one of the worst periods of air quality in recent history. The Chinese government ordered factories to scale back emissions, while hospitals saw spikes of more than 20 to 30 percent in patients complaining of respiratory issues, according to news reports.

At the time that this Jan. 14 image was taken by satellite, ground-based sensors at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing reported PM2.5 measurements of 291 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Fine, airborne particulate matter (PM) that is smaller than 2.5 microns (about one thirtieth the width of a human hair) is considered dangerous because it is small enough to enter the passages of the human lungs. Most PM2.5 aerosol particles come from the burning of fossil fuels and biomass (wood fires and agricultural burning). The World Health Organization considers PM2.5 to be safe when it is below 25.

Also at the time of the image, the air quality index (AQI) in Beijing was 341. An AQI above 300 is considered hazardous to all humans, not just those with heart or lung ailments. AQI below 50 is considered good. On January 12, the peak of the current air crisis, AQI was 775 the U.S Embassy Beijing Air Quality Monitor—off the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scale—and PM2.5 was 886 micrograms per cubic meter. Image Credit-NASA-Terra - MODIS

PRESIDENT OBAMA BLAMES TERRORISTS FOR DEATHS IN ALGERIA


FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Obama: Blame for Algeria Tragedy Rests With Terrorists
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2013 - The nation's thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and injured in the terrorist attack in Algeria, and the blame for the tragedy rests with the terrorists who carried it out, President Barack Obama said today.

In a statement, the president said the United States condemns the terrorists' actions "in the strongest possible terms."

"We have been in constant contact with Algerian officials and stand ready to provide whatever assistance they need in the aftermath of this attack," Obama said. "We also will continue to work closely with all of our partners to combat the scourge of terrorism in the region, which has claimed too many innocent lives."

The attack is another reminder of the threat posed by al-Qaeda and other violent extremist groups in North Africa, the president said.

"In the coming days, we will remain in close touch with the government of Algeria to gain a fuller understanding of what took place so that we can work together to prevent tragedies like this in the future," he added.

During a news conference in London today, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said both of their governments remain in close contact with Algerian officials, and are working to establish firm details of the assault, kidnappings and murders that took place at a remote natural gas facility in Algeria.

Panetta confirmed Americans were among those held hostage, but he said the possible number of U.S. deaths remains unclear. He pledged continued close consultation with Algerian authorities, and emphasized the attackers bear full and sole responsibility for all loss of life.

"Just as we cannot accept terrorist attacks against our cities, we cannot accept attacks against our citizens and our interests abroad," he said. "Neither can we accept an al-Qaida safe haven anywhere in the world."

Since 9/11, Panetta said, "We've made very clear that nobody is going to attack the United States of America and get away with it." The nation and its allies and partners have fought terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, and
will take the fight to North Africa as well, he said.

(Karen Parrish of American Forces Press Service, traveling with Panetta in London, contributed to this report.)

 

EPA FINALIZES CHANGES IN CLEAN AIR STANDARDS FOR STATIONARY ENGINES

FROM: U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
EPA Finalizes Revisions to Clean Air Standards for Stationary Engines

Updated rule provides extensive public health protections, slashes costs of compliance

WASHINGTON – Today, in compliance with settlement agreements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized revisions to standards to reduce air pollution from stationary engines that generate electricity and power equipment at industrial, agricultural, oil and gas production, power generation and other facilities.

The final revised rule announced today will reduce the capital and annual costs of the original 2010 rules by $287 million and $139 million, respectively, while reducing harmful pollutants, including 2,800 tons per year (tpy) of hazardous air pollutants; 36,000 tpy of carbon monoxide; 2,800 tpy of particulate matter; 9,600 tpy of nitrogen oxides, and 36,000 tpy of volatile organic compounds.

Pollution emitted from the engines can cause cancer and other serious health effects including: aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease; premature deaths in people with heart or lung disease; neurological, cardiovascular, liver, kidney health effects; and effects on immune and reproductive systems.

EPA estimates annual health benefits of the updated standards to be worth $830 million to $2.1 billion.

The final amendments to the 2010 "National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines (RICE)" reflect new technical information submitted by stakeholders after the 2010 standards were issued. The updates will ensure that the standards are cost-effective, achievable, and protective, while continuing to provide significant emission reductions.


SUPPORTING THE 'DEEP FREEZE'

Antarctica-bound Military Sealift Command-chartered container ship MV Ocean Giant departed Port Hueneme, Calif., loaded with supplies on Jan. 17, 2013. U.S. Navy photo

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Supply Ships Support 'Deep Freeze' Antarctica Operation
Military Sealift Command

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2013 - Two supply-laden Military Sealift Command-chartered vessels are en route to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, marking the start of resupply efforts in support of Operation Deep Freeze, according to a MSC news release issued today.

The container ship MV Ocean Giant departed Port Hueneme, Calif., Jan. 17, loaded with nearly seven million pounds of food, building supplies, vehicles, and electronic equipment and parts, the release said.

The tanker ship MT Maersk Peary departed the European area of operations in December, carrying more than six million gallons of diesel fuel, jet fuel and gasoline, according to the release. Both ships are participating in the annual Joint Task Force Support mission to resupply the remote scientific outpost.

The MSC-chartered ships will deliver 100 percent of the fuel and about 80 percent of the supplies that researchers and support personnel in Antarctica will need to survive and work over the course of a year, according to the release.

Maersk Peary will arrive in Antarctica first and discharge its fuel cargo, followed by Ocean Giant in mid-February, the release said. Ocean Giant is scheduled to off-load its cargo at a 500-foot ice pier that juts out from the Antarctic coast. The cargo will be off-loaded by members of Navy Cargo Handling Battalion One working around-the-clock for eight days.

Following the off-load, the release said, the Ocean Giant will be loaded with retrograde cargo for transportation off the continent, including ice core samples carried back to the United States in sub-zero freezer containers, as well as trash and recyclable materials for disposal and equipment no longer required on station.

In 2012, unfavorable weather conditions made the ice pier at McMurdo unusable for dry cargo operations, the release said. Members of the Army's 331st Transportation Company constructed a floating dock to ensure cargo operations could be conducted.

"Even though we've been conducting ODF missions for many years, every year we have challenges to face," Tom Brown, MSC Pacific Sealift Prepositioning and Special Mission Team Lead, said in the release. "We try to address as much as possible in the planning phase, but because we are working with Mother Nature, we can't always know what will happen.

"Because of this," Brown continued, "we really have to function as a team, not just within the Navy, but with all the other organizations who participate in this mission to ensure that we get the critical cargo onto the ice and on time to support the people who live and work there."

Due to adverse winter conditions in Antarctica, the ODF mission must take place during a small window of opportunity in the Antarctic summer months of January to March. This can mean tight schedules for everyone involved in the mission, from the ship's crew, to the cargo handlers on the ice, to the mission schedulers in the United States.

"Operation Deep Freeze is a very critical mission for the people who live and work in Antarctica," Navy Capt. Sylvester Moore, commander of MSC Pacific, said in the release. "Without this resupply mission, all operations in Antarctica would end, and the scientific community would lose the opportunity to conduct research and study not only the continent of Antarctica, but its impact on our global climate."

An MSC-chartered cargo ship and tanker have made the challenging voyage to Antarctica, which includes passage through a 15-mile ice channel in places more than 13 feet thick every year since the station was established in 1955.

MSC operates approximately 110 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners, the release said.

PREPARING AN INTERNATIONAL LEGALLY BINDING DOCUMENT ON MERCURY POLLUTION

Graphic:  National Institutes of Health 
FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Remarks at the Opening of the Fifth Session of the United Nations Environment Programme's Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to Prepare a Legally Binding Instrument on Mercury

Remarks
Daniel A. Reifsnyder
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Geneva, Switzerland
January 13, 2013


Let me first thank you, Chair Lugris, and the Government of Switzerland for hosting this crucial fifth session, where we expect to conclude our work. My delegation also extends its appreciation to the Secretariat for the many hours invested in organizing and guiding our efforts.

The United States remains committed to finalizing a robust and effective instrument this week, bringing us one step closer to our shared objective – to reduce global mercury pollution to protect human health and the environment. At home, we have made significant progress in reducing mercury exposure through a number of tools including regulation, policies, voluntary initiatives, and public-private partnerships. For example, over the last 30 years we have reduced mercury emissions significantly in key sectors through the application of pollution control technologies, and we have steadily reduced the availability and use of mercury-added products.

Mr. Chair, I’d like to take a moment to speak to what we see as a significant environmental challenge here – and the largest global source of mercury pollution to be addressed under this Convention -- air emissions.

If this Convention is to achieve our shared objective, all parties must reduce emissions of mercury from a set of defined sources. At past INCs, some have proposed that air emissions be addressed only through voluntary measures. Those proposals seem to reflect two concerns. The first is the need for flexibility in implementation. We believe there is a way to balance clear obligations to reduce emissions with provisions that are inherently flexible in their implementation. We made some progress at INC-4 in this regard. There we worked with other delegations to capture the inherent flexibility of best available techniques (BAT), and we are convinced that here we can build on that foundation to achieve an agreement with clear obligations on air emissions this week with the needed element of flexibility in their implementation.

The second concern is the perception that any obligations with respect to air emission of mercury are somehow inconsistent with development goals, particularly the needs of countries to supply energy to their citizens. Let me be very clear -- we recognize the need for continued growth and development, including the use of coal for power generation. The United States does not advocate an obligation that would require any Party to stop burning coal. But this draft convention does not present a choice between environment and development. Rather, the issue here is whether development will take place sustainably, in a way that protects human health and the environment from mercury pollution. We believe that this convention has no more important purpose than to meet this objective.

Finally, a few words with respect to your text. Like all others, we thank you for your work in putting together this text. At the same time, we have a few concerns. First, we were surprised to see changes to some previously unbracketed, agreed text that went through legal review at INC-4. For example, in paragraph one of Article 20, the nature of the obligation has changed from "should" to "shall." Where the parties have spent much time in reaching an acceptable solution and that solution has been through legal review, we think no changes should be made. We will thus ask to return to previously agreed text there and in other places such as in Article 12. Second, we have concerns with some of the policy choices reflected in the text. For example, we do not think there is consensus that releases to land and water should be addressed in a manner identical to atmospheric emissions. Another example is in Article 15, where the introduction suggests that the Chair’s revision was not intended to eliminate policy options. However several important elements-- a broadened donor base, voluntary resources, and the varying capacities of countries, to name three -- are not adequately captured for consideration in the revised article, and we intend to reinsert them in our deliberations this week. To be clear, we are not seeking to go back to the text from INC4 - my delegation is prepared to negotiate from the basis of your text – but we will need to address these kinds of issues as we go forward.

Mr. Chair, my delegation stands ready to continue to work with you, our many able co-chairs, and all delegations and meeting participants to conclude a comprehensive, balanced and effective new instrument on mercury this week.

And finally, The United States will submit for the record a statement regarding Palestinian status, and we request that the statement be included in the report of the meeting.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

A CITY WORKS TO END VETERAN HOMELESSNESS

Photo:  U.S. Air Force.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

New Orleans Works to End Veteran Homelessness
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service


NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 18, 2013 – In 2009, the same year the Volunteers of America of Greater New Orleans Veteran’s Transitional Facility opened, President Barack Obama and the Veterans Affairs Department set a goal to end veteran homelessness by 2015.

Lisa Battaglia, wife of the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the facility here yesterday and spoke to American Forces Press Service after visiting with residents and staff.

"As a woman veteran myself, finding ways in getting our veterans off the streets remains a priority for my husband and me," she said.

The facility arose out of a need for ways to assist homeless veterans transition out of homelessness, said Melissa Haley, director of supportive services for veteran families for Volunteers of America.

Its existence is a sign that people in the greater New Orleans area, as in cities across the country, have taken the president’s call to action to heart, Battaglia said.

Around 400 veterans have come through the transition program since the facility opened, said Gerald Rooks, the program director. About 88 percent successfully completed it, meaning they are permanently off the streets, he said. "We try every day to increase that number," he added.

Veterans arrive at the facility in a number of ways, Rooks said. The staff seeks out veterans at places where the homeless gather, he said, but veterans can either self-refer or be referred by the VA.

Norman Adams, a Navy veteran residing at the facility, said he found the transitional facility through the staff’s outreach program.

"I retired from nursing after 45 years," Adams said. "I lived a pretty good life until it just went off the road."

After several months of homelessness -- during which he made his way to New Orleans -- outreach personnel told him about the transitional facility.

"This is where I belong right now. … I’m going to move on," he said, "but I want to be right when I move on."

The main facility has space to house up to 40 male veterans, while two other locations can house a total of 16 men. Currently, residents range in age from 34 to 68, Rooks said.

"We’re starting to see younger vets," he added, noting that four homeless veterans in their 20’s have sought assistance from the program in the past 12 months.

Rooks said he’s also seen an increase in female veterans with children seeking assistance through the facility’s non-resident programs. He added that there are only 5 beds in all of New Orleans available to female veterans, and they don’t accept children.

The term "homeless veteran" should be an oxymoron, Haley said.

"When you’re a veteran, you have a home," she said. "This is America, this is your community." Her goal, she said, is to ensure veterans are homeless for as short a period of time as possible.

The organization works closely with the city of New Orleans and the New Orleans regional Veterans Affairs office to find funding, educational opportunities, employment and housing for veterans, Rooks said.

Programs for residents include life skills classes like resume writing and money management, peer and group counseling and assistance with obtaining benefits from the VA, he said.

"I get to help fallen heroes get back on their feet," he said.

"We are committed to working with people who hire veterans," Haley said, "because we know that [veterans] have transferrable skill sets."

"I’d hate to see what it would be like if the program wasn’t here for others," said Wayne Duvall, an Army veteran residing at the transitional facility. "I’m prepared to make that transition … and get out."

"When I first came here, it was just a hideout … I’d just get lost in the background," said Adams. But the staff helped him get on track, he said, and he has reconnected with his family and found a place to volunteer his time.

"Those who have served this nation as veterans should never find themselves on the streets, living without care and without hope," VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said when he announced an initiative in 2011 highlighting local services for homeless veterans, their families and those at risk of becoming homeless.

Now Is The Time to Take Action Against Gun Violence | The White House

Now Is The Time to Take Action Against Gun Violence | The White House

FITNESS, AGING AND DIABETES

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

HHS HealthBeat is a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat.

Even if we’re healthy, we still lose about 10 percent of our aerobic ability each decade after about age 40 or 50. But diabetes takes an extra toll on our cardiovascular system, and makes it look older than it should. At the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Amy Heubschmann looked at data on people with diabetes:

"There’s been about 20 percent worse fitness levels in adults with diabetes as compared to adults without diabetes. That’s the case in teenagers, middle aged adults and older adults."

However, she says moderate physical activity can raise fitness levels to close to what moderately active people without diabetes should have.

The study presented at a joint meeting of physiology organizations was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

CONGRESSMAN DAVE CAMP COMMENTS ON "PROTECT OUR KIDS ACT OF 2012"

FROM: U.S. CONGRESSMAN DAVE CAMP'S WEBSITE
Protect our Kids Act Signed Into Law

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI) issued the following statement after the President signed into law the "Protect our Kids Act of 2012," H.R. 6655. The legislation, coauthored by Camp, establishes a commission to study data on child fatalities from abuse and neglect, to review current prevention methods and best practices, and to evaluate the adequacy of current programs in order to recommend a comprehensive strategy to reduce fatalities from child abuse and neglect.


"I want to thank the President for signing the Protect our Kids Act of 2012 into law, and I look forward to working with him and House and Senate leaders to select members of the commission created by this legislation. Once selected, they can begin their important work to reduce child deaths from abuse and neglect."

EPA ANNOUNCES VOLUNTARY CLEAN AIR PROGRAM CALLED 'PM ADVANCE'

FROM: ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
EPA launches new voluntary program to help reduce harmful soot pollution


WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a new voluntary clean air program, 'PM Advance,' to help communities continue to meet soot pollution standards, improve air quality and protect public health.

PM Advance focuses on working with communities to develop strategies for reducing harmful fine particle emissions.

Soot, also known as fine particle pollution, can penetrate deep into the lungs and has been linked to a wide range of serious health effects, including premature death, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children.

On December 14, 2012, EPA updated the national air quality standards for PM 2.5 by revising the annual standard to 12 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3). Updated last in 1997, the revised annual standard will have major economic benefits with comparatively low costs. EPA estimates health benefits of the revised standard would range from $4 billion to over $9 billion per year.

The PM Advance program is designed to help communities who meet current standards continue to meet the standards. Early work to reduce fine particles, such as PM Advance participation, can be incorporated into required planning. Through the program, participants will commit to taking specific steps to reduce fine particle pollution, such as putting in place a school bus retrofit program or an air quality action day program, while EPA will supply technical advice, outreach information, and other support.

While federal rules are expected to ensure that most areas meet the new standards, areas can participate in PM Advance to help them remain in attainment.

U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK GUARANTEES $87.1 MILLION FOR EXPORT OF SATELLITES TO SPAIN

Credit:  NASA.
FROM: U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK

Ex-Im Approves $87.1 Million Guarantee to Finance Export
of American-made Satellite to Spain


Washington, D.C. – The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has authorized an $87.1 million guarantee of a loan extended by Crédit Agricole and other European lenders to Hispasat Canarias S.L.U., a Hispasat S.A. (Hispasat) subsidiary based in Madrid, Spain, that will finance the assembly and purchase of a satellite to be manufactured by Orbital Sciences Corporation (Orbital) of Dulles, Va.

The guarantee, which is Ex-Im Bank’s third transaction with Hispasat, will support approximately 600 U.S. jobs, according to bank estimates derived from Departments of Commerce and Labor data and methodology.


"This transaction is yet another example of our commitment to support high-tech jobs throughout America," said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. "The ‘Made in America’ brand is second to none, and it is our job to ensure it always has an equal footing with competitors in the international market."

Established in 1989, Hispasat is the fourth largest western European satellite operator and the eighth largest operator in the world. It currently manages a constellation of seven active satellites and plans to expand its fleet.

The Amazonas-4A satellite, a Ku-band satellite equipped with 24 transponders, is expected to launch in 2014 and will occupy the company’s orbital slot over Brazil. It will provide coverage to the Americas and respond to the increasing demand of direct-to-home and high-definition television broadcasts.

Orbital Sciences Corporation was founded in 1982 and specializes in designing, building, testing and operating small- and medium-size satellites, rockets and other space systems. The company provides its space systems products to commercial customers, such as Hispasat, as well as to U.S. government agencies, including NASA, the Department of Defense, and intelligence agencies. Orbital employs almost 4,000 people, primarily in Virginia and Arizona, with other smaller locations around the country.

"Ex-Im Bank has played a critical role in the financing of several high-value commercial satellites built by Orbital," said Garrett Pierce, vice chairman and chief financial officer of Orbital. "Ex-Im Bank's participation has enabled us to compete on a level playing field around the world and win new export-related business. In addition, our success in capturing new orders of state-of-the-art spacecraft provides hundreds of high-tech and high-wage jobs for Orbital's workforce and throughout our extensive network of U.S.-based suppliers."

Ex-Im Bank authorized a record-breaking $1.4 billion to finance exports of American-made telecommunications satellites in FY 2012. In the first quarter of FY 2013, Ex-Im Bank has already authorized $516.9 million.

ABOUT EX-IM BANK:


Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that creates and maintains U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing at no cost to American taxpayers. In the past five years (from Fiscal Year 2008), Ex-Im Bank has earned for U.S. taxpayers nearly $1.6 billion above the cost of operations. The Bank provides a variety of financing mechanisms, including working capital guarantees, export-credit insurance and financing to help foreign buyers purchase U.S. goods and services.

Ex-Im Bank approved $35.8 billion in total authorizations in FY 2012 – an all-time Ex-Im record. This total includes more than $6.1 billion directly supporting small-business export sales – also an Ex-Im record. Ex-Im Bank's total authorizations are supporting an estimated $50 billion in U.S. export sales and approximately 255,000 American jobs in communities across the country.

RENEWABLE ENERGY ZONE IN ARIZONA

Photo:  Solar Panels.  Credit:  Wikimedia Commons.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Secretary Salazar Finalizes Plan to Establish Renewable Energy Zone on Public Lands in Arizona
First-ever state-wide plan to identify, set aside previously disturbed lands to encourage wind and solar energy development

WASHINGTON, DC
-- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced that Interior has designated 192,100 acres of public land across Arizona as potentially suitable for utility-scale solar and wind energy development, furthering President Obama’s ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy to expand domestic energy production.

The publication of the Record of Decision (ROD) for this initiative, known as the Restoration Design Energy Project, caps a three-year, statewide environmental analysis of disturbed land and other areas with few known resource conflicts that could accommodate commercial renewable energy projects.

The ROD also establishes the Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone, the third solar zone on public lands in Arizona and the 18th nationwide. The Solar Energy Zones are part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to facilitate solar energy development by identifying areas in six states in the West with high solar potential, few resource conflicts and access to existing or planned transmission. With the Agua Caliente zone, Interior is delivering on the promise made as part of the Western Solar Plan to identify and establish additional solar energy zones.

"This project is a key milestone in our work to spur smart development of solar and wind energy on public lands across the West," Secretary Salazar said. "Arizona has huge potential when it comes to building a clean energy economy, and this landscape-level plan lays a solid foundation for making sure that it happens in the right way and in the right places. As we advance the President’s energy strategy, we continue to work closely with states, local communities, tribes, industry, conservation and other groups to reduce potential resource conflicts and expedite appropriate projects that will generate jobs and investment in rural communities."

Since 2009, the Obama Administration has approved 34 renewable energy proposals for public lands, including solar, wind and geothermal projects. Together, they could generate 10,400 megawatts of electricity, or enough energy to power more than 3 million homes.

The lands identified in Arizona today include previously disturbed sites (primarily former agricultural areas) and lands with low resource sensitivity and few environmental conflicts. Bureau of Land Management lands in Arizona containing sensitive resources requiring protection, such as endangered or threatened wildlife and sites of cultural and historic importance, were eliminated from consideration. Additionally, the areas selected had to have reasonable access to transmission lines and load centers as well as be situated near areas with high electricity demand.

The ROD also sets standards for projects to avoid impacts to sensitive watersheds, ground water supplies and water quality and establishes a baseline set of environmental protection measures for proposed renewable energy projects. Today’s action does not directly authorize any solar or wind energy projects; any proposal will need to undergo a site-specific environmental review.

"This initiative exemplifies our ‘Smart-from-the-Start’ review process, which puts appropriate pieces in place for responsibly developing renewable energy projects on public lands," said Mike Pool, acting BLM Director. "The Arizona project can really serve as a model for future statewide analyses for responsible energy development in the West."

The new 2,550-acre Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone is located in Yuma County near Dateland, and the BLM estimates that the zone could generate more than 20 megawatts through utility-scale solar projects. The BLM administers about 12.2 million surface acres of public lands in Arizona.

To implement the ROD, eight BLM resource management plans will be amended to identify Renewable Energy Development Areas and provide guidance on how public lands are to be used. These identified areas are within 5 miles of a transmission line or a designated transmission corridor, and are close to cities, towns, or industrial centers.

THE NEW FOCUS FOR NATO

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta tours the House of Lords with Andrew Robathan, minister of state for the U.K.'s armed forces, in London, Jan. 18, 2013. Panetta is on a six-day trip to Europe to visit with defense counterparts and troops. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Panetta Urges New Focus for NATO
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

LONDON, Jan. 18, 2013 - As the International Security Assistance Force transitions to a sustaining role in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, will NATO retreat from its responsibilities, or innovate to develop and share the capabilities needed to meet growing, global security challenges?

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta delivered a speech at King's College here today, built around that question.
The audience included students and faculty members of the school's Department of War Studies and the secretary noted it was "especially these young leaders" he wished to address.

The more than 60-year-old NATO alliance "remains the bedrock of America's global ... partnerships," Panetta said. "But today, after over 11 years of war, I believe we are at another turning point in the history of the transatlantic alliance."

NATO nations came together in 1949 to form a common defense against the monolithic Soviet superpower. Now, Panetta noted, the alliance -- if it is to remain an effective, capable, enduring multilateral security alliance -- must prepare to quickly respond to a wide range of security threats even as member nations, under budget pressures, spend less on their militaries.

"The bottom line is that no one nation can confront the threats ... alone," the secretary said. "We have got to build an innovative, flexible, and rotational model for forward-deployed presence and training."

In transforming its capabilities, NATO must develop innovative alliance cooperation, invest in new frontiers, and build regional partnerships, he said.

Innovative cooperation, Panetta said, involves positioning and equipping forces so they can respond to threats rapidly and effectively. For example, he noted, the Defense Department has moved two heavy Army brigades out of Europe.

"But ... this effort is not primarily about cuts," he said. "We will be supporting new rotational deployments, enhanced training and exercises, and other new initiatives that bolster the readiness of our forces and build their capacity to seamlessly work together."

The secretary listed some of those U.S. initiatives: deploying ballistic missile defense-equipped destroyers to Rota, Spain; establishing a new U.S. aviation detachment in Poland; and deploying U.S. Army battalions on a rotational basis to participate in the NATO Response Force.

"We are making tangible investments in these new forms of cooperation to make the alliance more responsive and more agile," the secretary said. "And we are doing so in a cost-effective way that meets our fiscal responsibilities."

Turning to "new frontiers," Panetta urged NATO commitment to cyber defense.

"For years, I have been deeply concerned by intellectual property theft, by attacks against private sector institutions, and the continued probing of military and critical infrastructure networks," he said. Panetta said cyber- attacks could "paralyze our economies" and potentially destroy national power grids, government systems, financial and banking networks.

"That technology is real and threatening today," Panetta said. "As societies that rely on cyberspace, Europe and the United States have more to gain from stronger cyber security than anyone else. And our economies are so interdependent; failing to act together could leave all of us dangerously exposed."

NATO must consider what its role should be in defending member nations from cyber attacks, the secretary said.

"We must begin to take the necessary steps to develop additional alliance cyber defense capabilities," he said. "To that end, I urge that in the coming year [that] NATO ministers hold a session to closely examine how the alliance can bolster its defensive cyber operational capabilities."

Other key capabilities for the future that require investment, Panetta said, include unmanned systems, surveillance and intelligence platforms, space defense and special operations forces.

"The time has come when nations can share critical capabilities ... that enhance [our common] ability to ... respond to common threats," he said.

Panetta said the third pillar for building the transatlantic alliance of the 21st century "must be a determined and proactive effort to build strong partnerships with nations and security organizations in other regions of the world."

The purpose of such an approach would not be to build a global NATO, Panetta said, but to help other regions provide for their own security and become more capable of partnering with NATO to meet global challenges.

"We see this every day in Afghanistan, where more than 20 non-NATO countries -- Australia, Jordan, others -- work alongside NATO countries in ISAF," he said. "And we saw the benefits of this approach in our Libya [operation] as well, where the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council partnered with Europe and North America under a NATO umbrella to protect the Libyan people. The presence of these regional partners has added credibility and capability to the alliance effort, and laid the groundwork for continued cooperation in the future."

And as NATO confronts other security challenges in Africa and the Middle East, Panetta recommended the establishment of "deeper partnerships with the Arab League [and] the Gulf Cooperation Council and build regular dialogue, exchanges and exercises with African organizations such as the African Union and ECOWAS in Western Africa."

NATO also must broaden the scope of alliance security discussions beyond European and regional issues, the secretary said.

"In particular, I strongly believe that Europe should join the United States in increasing and deepening our defense engagement with the Asia-Pacific region," Panetta said.

The U.S. "pivot" to Asia has caused concern in Europe, he acknowledged.

"But today those concerns should be put to rest," Panetta said. "Global security is not a zero-sum game, but neither are the security commitments of the United States. More importantly, Europe's economic and security future is -- much like the United States' -- increasingly tied to Asia. After all, the European Union is China's largest trading partner, [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations'] second-largest trading partner, and ranks third and fourth with Japan and South Korea."

It is in the interests of both the United States and Europe, the secretary said, for NATO to become more outwardly focused and engaged in strengthening Asian security institutions such as ASEAN.

"It is also in our interest to expand defense dialogue and exchanges with a full range of nations including China, where defense spending, according to one estimate, is projected to exceed the largest eight European nations combined, by 2015," the secretary said.

NATO member nations have a responsibility to demonstrate global leadership and to advance the ideals of peace and prosperity, he said.

"To that end, the United States and Europe should work together and ensure our efforts are coordinated through regular consultations between European and U.S. defense officials focused on Asia-Pacific security issues," Panetta said. "The bottom line is that Europe should not fear our rebalance to Asia, Europe should join it."

In NATO, the world has a model for how nations can come together to advance global peace and prosperity, he said, but the alliance "must be strong enough and bold enough to change."

The secretary said after spending this week in Southern Europe, and continuing to deal with budget uncertainty at home, "I am very clear-eyed about the fiscal pressures nations are facing."

NATO nations are facing a crisis, Panetta said. "But we must never allow any crisis to undermine our collective resolve," he said.

As he prepares to retire from a career in public service, the secretary said he recognizes a generational shift is underway.

"There will probably not be another U.S. secretary of defense with direct memories of World War II," he said. "Many of those entering military service today -- and many of the young students here in this audience -- were born years after the fall of the Berlin wall. Yet across the generations, the transatlantic alliance remains the rock upon which we will build our future security and our future prosperity."

Panetta said his generation's mission was to secure a better and safer life for their children.

"That is now your mission and your responsibility," he told the students in the audience. "History will ultimately define our legacy, for better or for worse. Your job is now to make your own legacy. The future security of nations in the 21st century rests on whether you decide to fight together or fight separately. That decision rests with all of you."

RECENT U.S. NAVY PHOTOS




FROM: U.S. NAVY

130117-N-PL185-388 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Jan. 17, 2013) An F/A-18E Hornet assigned to the Gunslingers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105 taxies on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) during flight operations. Harry S. Truman is underway conducting composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) in preparation for its upcoming deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lorenzo J. Burleson/Released)




130116-N-YZ751-473 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Jan. 16, 2013) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the Sea Knights of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22 delivers ammunition to the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) during an ammunition onload. George H.W. Bush is conducting training and carrier qualifications in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tony D. Curtis/Released)

Friday, January 18, 2013

EXPEDITION 35/36 SCIENCE BRIEFING

FROM: NASA

video





Remarks With Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida After Their Meeting

Remarks With Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida After Their Meeting

USS GUARDIAN GROUNDED ON TUBBATAHA REEF



Official U.S. Navy file photo of USS Guardian (MCM 5) arriving at White Beach Naval Facility Jan. 8, 2013 for a port visit and supply replenishment during its 2013 patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Steve White/Released)
FROM:  U.S. NAVY
OKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- While the U.S. Navy continues operations to free the grounded USS Guardian (MCM 5) from Tubbataha Reef, all 79 crew members were temporarily removed today and safely transferred by small boat to the nearby support vessels USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62) and MSV C-Champion.

"Seventh Fleet ships remain on scene and essential Guardian Sailors will continue conducting survey operations onboard the ship as needed until she is recovered," said Vice Adm. Scott Swift, U.S. 7th Fleet commander. "Several support vessels have arrived and all steps are being taken to minimize environmental effects while ensuring the crew's continued safety."

Small boats continue to be used to transfer personnel between Guardian and Military Sealift Command ships Bowditch and C-Champion.

After the Sasebo-based Guardian ran aground Jan. 17, initial efforts to free the ship on high tide were not successful. The ship remains stuck on the reef, approximately 80 miles east-southeast of Palawan Island.

The Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship had just completed a port call in Subic Bay, Olongapo City, and was en route to her next port of call when the grounding occurred. The U.S. Navy is operating in coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The cause of the grounding is under investigation.

U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT AND MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite J. Harris, who retired in 1997 as the highest-ranking woman officer in the Air Force and the highest-ranking African-American woman in the Defense Department, will be the keynote speaker at a Jan. 24 Pentagon event marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the accompanying national day of service. U.S. Air Force photo

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Defense Department to Honor Martin Luther King Jr. Jan. 24
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2013 - The Defense Department will honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. this year on Jan. 24 with an observance hosted by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.

The event will begin at 8 a.m. in the Pentagon Auditorium, and it will be broadcast live on the Pentagon Channel's cable network and website.

The keynote speaker for the department's 28th annual observance of the national day of service will be retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite J. Harris, who left the service in 1997 as the highest-ranking woman officer in the Air Force and the highest-ranking African-American woman in the Defense Department.

The permanent theme for the Jan. 21 federal holiday honoring King is "Remember, Celebrate, Act: A day on, not a day off."

Legislation signed in 1983 created the Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal holiday. In 1994, Congress designated the holiday as a national day of service. The remembrance takes place each year on the third Monday in January, and is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service.

The day is being observed as part of "United We Serve," an initiative that President Barack Obama announced in June 2009 as a call to action for all Americans to volunteer and be part of building a new foundation for the nation, one community at a time.

From 1957 until his death in 1968, King traveled more than 6 million miles and spoke more than 2,500 times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest and action, according to the Nobel Prize organization website.

In 1963, he was named Time magazine's Man of the Year. He had become the symbolic leader of American blacks in the push for equality and a world figure.

At age 35, King was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tenn., where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking sanitation workers there.

King was born Jan. 15, 1929. On this birthday, he would have been 84.

In an interview with American Forces Press Service from her home in Atlanta, Harris said that her career followed King's philosophy of nonviolent efforts and commitment to a cause.

"My achievements came because of my commitment," she said. "You have to be committed to your purpose, and I think those [career] milestones came because of my commitment to doing a job well. I believe in excellence."

In the Air Force, Harris was the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the Air Force's first woman vice commander for maintenance.

Her service medals and decorations include the Bronze Star, the Presidential Unit Citation, and the Vietnam Service Medal.

After retirement, Harris served NASA as the Florida site director and logistics process owner for the company managing the shuttle program, United Space Alliance.

Today she CEO of a business she created called Eroster Government Solutions and is a member of two service-oriented organizations: Delta Sigma Theta and the MECCA Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.

"If you look back through my [Air Force] records, you'll see that every inspection that I went through, the results were excellent," Harris said. "I would find out what it takes to get rated as excellent, and that's the way I would gear my whole work force."

The retired major general said she feels a kinship to King. Her January birthday is the day after his, and she graduated from Spelman College in Atlanta, just across the street from King's alma mater, Morehouse College.

"I try to live the way King wanted you to live, and that's by doing what you know to be right and what you believe to be right, and taking the obstacles and surmounting them," Harris explained.

Her goal for the keynote speech on Jan. 24 is to inspire service members to get involved in solving community problems, she said.

"What I want them to walk away with is [a determination to] find some area in the community, especially now since the forces are drawing down and you're coming back home, help your community," Harris said.

"You folks are disciplined, you folks know how to get a job done, you know how to set a goal, and you know how to have fun doing it," she added. "So take that out into our community, and let's help the government get America back on track being the greatest country in the world."

West Wing Week: 01/18/13 or "#NowIsTheTime" | The White House

West Wing Week: 01/18/13 or "#NowIsTheTime" | The White House

U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PANETTA WARNS TERRORISTS

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta speaks at King's College in London, Jan. 18, 2013. Panetta is on a six-day trip to Europe to visit with foreign counterparts and troops. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
Panetta: Terrorists 'Will Have No Place to Hide'
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

LONDON, Jan. 18, 2013 - U.S. and allied officials are working "around the clock" to resolve the hostage situation in Algeria, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said here today.

Earlier this week, Panetta confirmed that Americans are among those taken hostage in eastern Algeria Jan. 16 when terrorists attacked and occupied a natural gas plant. During a speech at King's College today, the secretary departed from his prepared remarks to comment on the situation.

"I just received a briefing from my staff, and we are continuing to work very closely with the British government and with other nations ... to assess precisely what is happening on the ground," he said. "Even as we continue to try and gather better information about what has happened, let me make a few points."

First, Panetta said, "Regardless of the motivation of the hostage-takers, there is no justification -- NO justification -- for the kidnapping and murder of innocent people ... going about their daily lives."

Second, he said, "We are working around the clock to ensure the safe return of our citizens, and we will continue to be in close consultation with the Algerian government."

Third, he continued, "Terrorists should be on notice that they will find no sanctuary, no refuge -- not in Algeria, not in North Africa, not anywhere. Those who would wantonly attack our country and our people will have no place to hide."

Shortly after his speech, the secretary attended an unscheduled meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron. As the two entered the meeting, Cameron was heard to say, "Let's start with Algeria."

Senior defense officials traveling with Panetta said the Algeria and Mali discussion took up approximately half of the meeting. It focused on policy rather than tactics, officials said. The two leaders had an in-depth discussion of the unfolding situation in Algeria, exchanged assessments and compared notes..

Cameron and Panetta also discussed budget issues, Syria, Iran, the bilateral relationship between the two countries and how they can work with other countries to address counterterrorism, officials said.

Panetta is in London on the final leg of a weeklong European tour which he has said is likely his last international trip as defense secretary before he retires. The secretary's previous stops on this trip included Lisbon, Portugal, Madrid and Rome.

NATO PLANS FOR CONTINUED PRESENCE IN AFGHANISTAN

An Afghan girl and boy walk along a dirt path after watching coalition service members during a key leader meeting in Bala Boluk, Afghanistan, Jan. 2, 2013. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Matthew Stroup

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
NATO Planners Look to Enduring Force in Afghanistan
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service


BRUSSELS, Jan. 17, 2013 - With just 23 months until the end of the International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, Afghan forces are poised to move into the lead operationally, and NATO and partner nations are discussing the scope and missions of the enduring presence force that will remain in the country.

The conversations within NATO are about this transition, a senior NATO officer, speaking on background, told reporters today. The alliance's chiefs of defense, including Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are here for meetings.

"It has been less a conversation about numbers than it has been about capabilities and requirements," the senior officer said of discussions concerning NATO's role going forward in Afghanistan.

"Milestone 2013" is the shorthand NATO uses referring to Afghan forces taking the security lead. Last week, President Barack Obama and Afghan President Karzai announced this will occur in the spring.

This milestone marks a long road for the Afghan national security forces, the officer said. In 2012, Afghan forces demonstrated their battlefield abilities and proficiencies. Now, he said, the need in Afghanistan is for NATO support forces and advisors rather than the combat troops Afghanistan needed in the past.

The post-2014 needs are a training-and-advising capability and a focused counterterrorism capability, the officer said. How to execute those missions at various troop levels are the conversations that are going on within NATO, in Afghanistan and in the capitals of partner nations, he told reporters, adding that ISAF has not been asked to provide advice with respect to a zero-troop option.

The way forward can be seen with an eye to the past, the officer said. The nature of the enduring-presence force will be to facilitate an Afghan national security force that will still be conducting counterinsurgency operations, he added.

Just a year ago, the officer noted, people asked when ISAF was going to shift the main effort in Afghanistan from Regional Command South to Regional Command East. They didn't realize the main effort was already shifting, he said, because that mission was shifting to Afghan forces.

For a counterinsurgency to succeed, the officer said, indigenous forces have to be the lead. Foreign forces can provide the breathing space for these forces to develop their capabilities, but ultimately it is up to local forces to work with the people. "That's been what has been happening over the last 18 months," he said.

The drawdown of U.S. surge forces in Afghanistan created the space and necessitated innovation for Afghan forces. "They are doing corps-level operations today using counterinsurgency type tactics, techniques and procedures, with us firmly in an advisory role," he said.

In 2015 and beyond, the nature of NATO presence will be on training, advising and assisting to ensure the continued development of the Afghan forces, the officer said, and the counterterrorism mission will be to prevent al-Qaida from putting down roots in Afghanistan again.

The Afghan forces will be ready for the full security load by 2015, the officer said, but the road hasn't been easy. "We're building this military virtually from scratch," he noted.

Once trained, the officer said, the Afghan military "has gone from the training field to the battlefield, it has gone from training straight into combat." The Afghan military needs to have cohesion and loyalty to the nation, but it still must incorporate and adjust to the dynamic of tribalism and ethnicity, he added. And on top of this, he said, less than a quarter of all Afghans are literate, and the use of modern weapons and tactics requires literacy.

There are problems, he acknowledged, and ISAF and the Afghan ministries are addressing them. Attrition in the army is an unsustainable 3.5 percent per month, the officer said. Other national security elements such as the police and air force are within the norms needed, around 1.4 percent per month.

The army's difficulties, he told reporters, stem from four basic problems: quality of leadership, quality of life, access to leave, and pay.

The pay issue has been largely solved with the adoption of electronic funds transfer. Quality of life issues are being addressed by building new garrisons, the officer said. "We're getting these soldiers out of barracks that are falling down, that are cast-offs, and getting them into the new facilities and bases that we are building for them," he said.

Leave was a problem last year and directly contributed to a rise in the attrition rate, the officer said, noting these soldiers went straight from the training ground to a tough fighting season in 2012. "We have worked very closely with the Afghan army and the Ministry of Defense to get leave back on the books for these kids," he said.

Finally, the officer said, leadership is a systemic problem that is being addressed. The Afghan defense minister is scrubbing the leadership of the Afghan military and weeding out those who can't cut the mustard or are corrupt, while promoting those who have demonstrated their worth.

The attrition is coming down, the officer said.

All this is important for the Afghan security forces in 2013, the officer said. "This is the first summer where Afghans are in the lead for security operations throughout the country," he said. "We want their forces to come out of this fighting season to be successful, but really to be confident in their abilities."

The Afghans already are conducting corps-level operations around Afghanistan and routinely oversee 10,000 to 12,000 Afghan troops in an operation from multiple brigades, the officer said. Between 1,000 and 1,500 ISAF personnel will be scattered about the battle space as advisors or providing support capabilities.

One Taliban tactic is simply to wait out the NATO ISAF mission and take on the Afghan national security force, the officer said, but he added he does not believe that is the Taliban's strategy.

"Have the Taliban taken a knee for a couple of fighting seasons to sustain their own combat power and lull us into a false sense of confidence?" he said. "We have concluded they have not taken a knee. They are going to continue to come at us hard. That's where the insider threat has been, and our sense is they are not going to husband or marshal their combat power for a post-2014 offensive."

The fighting seasons from 2009 to 2012 each saw decreases in enemy activity. What's more, the officer said, where the fighting is happening also is instructive. In 2011, NATO surge forces permitted ISAF to push the enemy out of the cities. "In 2012, as the Taliban sought to get back into the population centers, they were really unable to do that," he said. The officer said he expects fewer Taliban attacks this year, but he still expects the Taliban to go after the Afghan national security forces.

And all this has to happen so the footprint for an enduring force is ready by the end of 2014, the officer said. About 220 bases in Afghanistan have to close over the next 23 months. "The strategic end state is to seek the final basing platform for our mission that converts naturally into the basing platform for the enduring presence force," he explained.

Some of that force will be in and around the Afghan capital of Kabul, working with the various government ministries and with the training establishments that have grown up around the city. The officer said he anticipates a presence at Bagram Airfield. Other enduring-presence forces could be based regionally in corps or police-zone areas, or they could be mobile training teams that go from one regional headquarters to another.

There is enthusiasm in NATO to continue to make a difference in Afghanistan, the officer said. "We've put 11 years of fighting into this, and the right kind of force in the post-2014 period can sustain these gains for a long time," he said.

Over the next 23 months, commanders must work to maintain the cohesion of the coalition -- 50 nations have been successful working together in the country -- and they must guard the integrity of the campaign plan, the officer said. Beyond that, he added, commanders must lead and manage the redeployment of the force, the retrograde of materiel and the closing of more than 200 bases.

"That requires extraordinarily detailed planning, and 23 months is the blink of an eye," he said. "We are seriously going to use every second to fight the campaign, clear the theater and set the enduring presence force."

USDA MICROLOAN PROGRAM OFFERS UP TO $35,000 FOR ASSISTANCE



Photo Credit:  USDA
 
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

USDA Finalizes New Microloan Program
Microloans up to $35,000 aim to assist small farmers, veterans, and disadvantaged producers

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2013 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a new microloan program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designed to help small and family operations, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers secure loans under $35,000. The new microloan program is aimed at bolstering the progress of producers through their start-up years by providing needed resources and helping to increase equity so that farmers may eventually graduate to commercial credit and expand their operations. The microloan program will also provide a less burdensome, more simplified application process in comparison to traditional farm loans.


"I have met several small and beginning farmers, returning veterans and disadvantaged producers interested in careers in farming who too often must rely on credit cards or personal loans with high interest rates to finance their start-up operations," said Vilsack."By further expanding access to credit to those just starting to put down roots in farming, USDA continues to help grow a new generation of farmers, while ensuring the strength of an American agriculture sector that drives our economy, creates jobs, and provides the most secure and affordable food supply in the world."



The new microloans, said Vilsack, represent how USDA continues to make year-over-year gains in expanding credit opportunities for minority, socially-disadvantaged and young and beginning farmers and ranchers across the United States. The final rule establishing the microloan program will be published in the Jan. 17 issue of the Federal Register.


Administered through USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) Operating Loan Program, the new microloan program offers credit options and solutions to a variety of producers. FSA has a long history of providing agricultural credit to the nation’s farmers and ranchers through its Operating Loan Program. In assessing its programs, FSA evaluated the needs of smaller farm operations and any unintended barriers to obtaining financing. For beginning farmers and ranchers, for instance, the new microloan program offers a simplified loan application process. In addition, for those who want to grow niche crops to sell directly to ethnic markets and farmers markets, the microloan program offers a path to obtain financing. For past FSA Rural Youth Loan recipients, the microloan program provides a bridge to successfully transition to larger-scale operations.


Since 2009, USDA has made a record amount of farm loans through FSA—more than 128,000 loans totaling nearly $18 billion. USDA has increased the number of loans to beginning farmers and ranchers from 11,000 loans in 2008 to 15,000 loans in 2011. More than 40 percent of USDA’s farm loans now go to beginning farmers. In addition, USDA has increased its lending to socially-disadvantaged producers by nearly 50 percent since 2008.


Producers can apply for a maximum of $35,000 to pay for initial start-up expenses such as hoop houses to extend the growing season, essential tools, irrigation, delivery vehicles, and annual expenses such as seed, fertilizer, utilities, land rents, marketing, and distribution expenses. As their financing needs increase, applicants can apply for an operating loan up to the maximum amount of $300,000 or obtain financing from a commercial lender under FSA’s Guaranteed Loan Program.


USDA farm loans can be used to purchase land, livestock, equipment, feed, seed, and supplies, or be to construct buildings or make farm improvements. Small farmers often rely on credit cards or personal loans, which carry high interest rates and have less flexible payment schedules, to finance their operations. Expanding access to credit, USDA’s microloan will provide a simple and flexible loan process for small operations.


Producers interested in applying for a microloan may contact their local Farm Service Agency Office.


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.


HHS AWARDS $1.5 BILLION FOR NEW HEALTH CARE LAW

Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

HHS awards $1.5 billion to support states building Health Insurance Marketplaces

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced $1.5 billion in new Exchange Establishment Grants to California, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, and Vermont to ensure these states have the resources necessary to build a marketplace that meets the needs of their residents.

"These states are working to implement the health care law and we continue to support them as they build new affordable insurance marketplaces," Secretary Sebelius said. "Starting in 2014, Americans in all states will have access to quality, affordable health insurance and these grants are helping to make that a reality."

Because of the Affordable Care Act, consumers and small businesses will have access to marketplaces starting in 2014. The marketplaces are one-stop shops that will provide access to quality, affordable private health insurance choices similar to those offered to members of Congress. Consumers in every state will be able to buy insurance from qualified health plans directly through these marketplaces and may be eligible for tax credits to help pay for their health insurance. These marketplaces promote competition among insurance providers and offer consumers more choices.

Delaware, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Vermont received awards today for Level One Exchange Establishment Grants, which are one-year grants states will use to build marketplaces. California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, and Oregon received Level Two Exchange Establishment Grants today. Level Two grants are multi-year awards to states to further develop their marketplaces.

A total of 49 states, the District of Columbia, and four territories have received grants to plan their marketplaces, and 34 states and the District of Columbia have received grants to build their marketplaces. To ensure states have the support and time they need to build a marketplace, states may apply for grants through the end of 2014 and may use funds through their start-up year.

AIR FORCE CAPTAIN COACHES ULTRA FITNESS

Air Force Capt. Lesley Lilly leads her class in stretching before a Jan. 14, 2013, workout at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Lilly, deployed from Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, coaches a 5 a.m. CrossFit class six days a week. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russell Martin

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Face of Defense: Deployed Captain Coaches Ultra Fitness
By Air Force Capt. Tristan Hinderliter
451st Air Expeditionary Wing

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Jan. 16, 2013 - Six days a week, her smartphone alarm -- a soothing instrumental melody -- goes off at 4:10 a.m.

She puts on her physical training uniform, stops by her office to check email, then drives across base to the outdoor CrossFit pad, where this time of year it is cold and dark.

That's how Air Force Capt. Lesley Lilly, 451st Expeditionary Force Support Flight commander and a volunteer CrossFit coach, has spent the past month. For two months before that, she attended the 5 a.m. class as an athlete, then she stepped up as a coach when the previous coaches redeployed home.

Lilly, deployed here from Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, has been doing CrossFit for about a year, but fitness and health education is nothing new to her. She earned her bachelor's degree in community health education from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and during college she had an internship at a nonprofit organization, Church Health Center in Memphis, Tenn., where she taught classes on health and fitness.

She's currently working on her master's degree in health and kinesiology from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

"A key philosophy I live by is, 'Your health is your greatest wealth,'" Lilly said. "You can't buy good health in the sense that you can go out and buy a nice home. You have to invest in good choices to really be healthy throughout your life."

The CrossFit workouts consist of a warm-up routine, stretching, a skill -- such as a particular lifting movement -- and the workout of the day, or "WOD" in the parlance of the athletes.

Most workouts include strength training movements such as snatches, deadlifts, hang cleans, push jerks or squats. There are kettle-bell swings, handstand push-ups, sprints and box jumps. There are exercises with names like burpees, thrusters, kipping pullups, double-unders and the Sumo deadlift high pull.

"CrossFit is really good in developing well-rounded athletes, because it incorporates so many different types of physical activity," Lilly said. "The workouts are intended to be constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movements."

Lilly is one of two coaches for the 5 a.m. class. The other is Joey Wisniewski, a General Dynamics contractor who is a mechanic on the Stryker armored combat vehicle.

Wisniewski, from Renton, Wash., has been at KAF since June 2011 and has been a CrossFit coach here for the past two months, including the past month with Lilly.

"Lesley is very positive, encouraging, and always brings everybody up," he said. "She's a really hard worker, and I appreciate her positive feedback and motivation to all the athletes."

Lilly said when she returns home to Texas she hopes to get her CrossFit Level 1 certification and to be able to coach part time.

"Coaching here has been a great experience," she said. "Trying to figure out what you need to do individually to improve as an athlete is very different than observing someone else's form and technique and trying to articulate to them how they should improve."

One of the most rewarding things about coaching is watching people develop and improve, she said.

"When you see an athlete that couldn't do a certain exercise a month ago and now you see them able to do that because you are giving them the instruction they need, that's been really rewarding," Lilly said.

Her passion for fitness, it seems, is matched only by her enthusiasm for nutrition.

"When you're thinking about nutrition, it's so important to incorporate it with physical activity," she said. "They really do work hand in hand."

The overall principle to keep in mind, she said, is that food is fuel.

"What you eat fuels your body throughout the day," Lilly said. "So you want to focus on eating a lot of natural, healthy fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats such as poultry and fish or lean cuts of red meat. Fuel your body for success."

When she's not teaching CrossFit or picking out healthy food at the dining facility, Lilly leads 20 airmen in the 451st EFSF. The flight is responsible for manpower, personnel and services functions for the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing.

Lilly said one of the highlights of her deployment so far was arranging activities as part of a "12 Days of Christmas" campaign.

"It was very rewarding to be able to provide a venue for our airmen to enjoy the holidays while they were deployed and away from their families," she said.

Despite a very demanding work schedule, Lilly said she tries to get at least seven hours of sleep a night in order to have the energy to keep up her workout routine. After all, 4:10 a.m. comes early.

U.S. ASKED BY FRANCE TO PROVIDE 'ENABLERS' FOR MALI CONFLICT

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Dempsey: France Requests U.S. Enablers for Forces in Mali
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service


ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Jan. 17, 2013 - The French government has asked for U.S. military assistance for their actions against an al-Qaida-affiliated group in Mali, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.

In an interview, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said the United States has not been asked to help with lethal operations, but rather, with enablers.

The requests are being addressed through the U.S. interagency process, the chairman said. The Defense and State departments and the National Security Council staff will assess the requests, "and we will probably provide what we can," he said.

Dempsey called the French mission in Mali important. "Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is a threat not only to the country of Mali, but the region, and if ... left unaddressed, could in fact become a global threat," the general said.

The first thing the French asked for was planning assistance, a request that shows the close relationship the United States maintains with its French allies, Dempsey said.

"They know we've done work against that kind of threat for 10 years," he explained, "and they've asked our help." The planners already have begun working with their French allies, he added.

The French also have asked for logistics assistance, Dempsey said. Mali is a huge country with a small population. Distances in the country are great, and infrastructure is lacking.

TWO FORMER EXECUTIVES OF VOLT INFORMATION SCIENCES, INC., CHARGED WITH SECURITIES FRAUD

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
SEC Charges Volt Information Sciences, Inc. and Two Former Officers with Securities Fraud

The Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday filed civil injunctive complaints in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in connection with improper accounting at Volt Information Sciences, Inc. ("Volt" or the "Company"), a company located in New York, New York.

In its complaint against Jack J. Egan, Jr. Volt’s former Chief Financial Officer, the Commission alleges that Egan participated in a scheme to materially overstate revenue. For Volt’s fourth quarter and fiscal year ended October 28, 2007, Egan signed and filed financial statements reporting $7.55 million of revenue that had not been earned and was not recognizable under U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. The $7.55 million of improper revenue caused Volt’s net income for its fourth quarter and fiscal year ended October 28, 2007, to be materially overstated. The complaint further alleges that the scheme relied on fabricated paperwork purporting to be a contract selling software to a customer. Egan knew that any sale of the software was impossible because Volt intended to lease the same software to the same customer the following year. Nevertheless, Egan authorized that the $7.55 million in improper revenue be included in the Company’s consolidated income statement for 2007, which were included in Volt’s: (1) 2007 Form 10-K filed with the Commission on January 11, 2008, as amended by Form 10-K/A filed with the Commission on February 25, 2008; and (2) earnings release on Form 8-K furnished to the Commission on December 20, 2007. Egan signed the fraudulent 2007 Form 10-K and subsequent SEC filings that included the same overstatement of revenue. In addition, the complaint alleges that Egan mislead Volt’s external auditors and he signed one or more certifications required by Section 302 of the Sarbanes Oxley Act that were false and misleading.

The Commission’s complaint charges Egan with violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 ("Securities Act"); Sections 10(b) and 13(b)(5) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 ("Exchange Act"); and Exchange Act Rules 10b-5, 13b2-1, 13b2-2, and 13a-14. The complaint further charges Egan with aiding and abetting violations by the Company. The Commission seeks that Egan be permanently enjoined, be ordered to pay a civil money penalty, and be prohibited from acting as an officer or director.

In addition to the complaint against Egan, the Commission filed a settled civil action against Volt and Debra L. Hobbs ("Hobbs"), the former chief financial officer of the Volt subsidiary where the fraud originated. Without admitting or denying the complaint's allegations, Volt agreed to be enjoined from violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act , and Sections 10(b),13(a), 13(b)(2)(A), and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act and Exchange Act Rules 10b-5, 12b-20, 13a-1, and 13a-11. The Company cooperated during the Commission’s investigation and has undertaken significant remediation efforts.