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Saturday, February 23, 2013


United States Condemns Attacks on Aleppo
Press Statement
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
February 23, 2013

The United States Government condemns in the strongest possible terms the series of rocket attacks against Aleppo, most recently the attack using Scud missiles on an eastern district of the city late on Friday, February 22, that killed several dozen people. The Friday attack follows the assault on Aleppo of Tuesday, February 19, that destroyed several city blocks in the Jabal Badr district of Aleppo and injured hundreds of innocent civilians. These attacks, as well as other atrocities such as the strike against a field hospital earlier in the week, are only the latest demonstrations of the Syrian regime's ruthlessness and its lack of compassion for the Syrian people it claims to represent.

The Assad regime has no legitimacy and remains in power only through brute force. From the city of Deir Zour in the far eastern part of Syria to the mountains of Jebel Akrad near the Mediterranean, Syrians across the country have demanded that Assad, and the architects of his violent campaign, step aside and allow a Syrian-led political transition to begin so that the rights of all Syrians can be respected, and the country can begin to rebuild. The United States sees no indication that the brave Syrian people fighting against this aggression will accept these regime leaders, with the blood of so many Syrians on their hands, as part of a transition governing authority.

The United States has contributed $385 million to help Syrian refugees and citizens inside Syria who have been displaced by regime violence. As the regime strikes out against more and more civilians, we have increased our humanitarian aid in close coordination with Syrian activists, and we have urged other countries to do so as well. We also have helped local administrative councils, provincial revolution councils and the local coordination committees organize themselves to play their vital role in the revolution. We look forward to meeting soon with the leadership of the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, the Syrian Opposition Coalition, to discuss how the United States and other friends of the Syrian people can do more to help the Syrian people achieve the political transition that they demand and that they deserve


Drilling into Mars

This animation of NASA's Curiosity rover shows the complicated suite of operations involved in conducting the rover's first rock sample drilling on Mars and transferring the sample to the rover's scoop for inspection. The drilling and sample transfer took place on Feb. 8 and 20, 2013, or sols 182 and 193, Curiosity's 182nd and 193rd Martian days of operations.

Weekly Address: Congress Must Act Now to Stop the Sequester | The White House

Weekly Address: Congress Must Act Now to Stop the Sequester | The White House


Remarks With Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida Before Their Meeting
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
February 22, 2013

Good afternoon, everybody. It’s my great pleasure to welcome the Foreign Minister of Japan, His Excellency Fumio Kishida. We’ve just come from an excellent meeting of the President and the Prime Minister of Japan, and I think it’s fair to say that almost every topic with respect to Japanese-American relations was discussed.

We meet now, two of the three strongest economies in the world, and we meet as very special friends in a very strong alliance, an alliance that I can say to you is really evolving into a global partnership and which is critical to the peace and security of the Asia Pacific.

I want to particularly thank the people of Japan and the leadership of Japan for their extraordinary cooperation on a number of global issues: on counterterrorism - the efforts with respect to Afghanistan; where Japan has been a major partner - efforts in Mali most recently; where we regret the loss of life and we particularly express our sympathies to Japan for the loss of 10 citizens at the In Amenas facility. And Japan has worked hard with respect to the issue of nuclear nonproliferation. They have been an important partner in reducing the level of fuel being used and bought, purchased from Iran. They’ve been important with respect to the enforcement of sanctions.

Japan is also a very important partner in efforts to try to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, and the Prime Minister raised this issue in the conversation with the President. And Japan, importantly, has been part of the Major Economies Forum and the Clean Climate Coalition and other initiatives, and I think the Minister and I look forward to following up on the discussion that was initiated by the President and the Prime Minister earlier.

Just to underscore the importance of the relationship with Japan, obviously everybody has been aware of tensions around the Senkakus Islands, and I want to compliment Japan on the restraint that it has shown, its efforts to try to make sure that this does not flare up into a significant confrontation. And we make it clear with respect to the Republic of – the Democratic Republic of North Korea, which has recently engaged in very reckless behavior with its nuclear test, that we believe the alliance with Japan is strong, our security commitments with Japan are real and we stand behind them, and they are strong.

So I welcome the Foreign Minister here. There are a number of things that are less critical, I think, that we will be talking about, but I look forward to a good discussion. And most importantly, I look forward to this very important continued global alliance and partnership that we have built. Thank you for visiting us, Minister.

FOREIGN MINISTER KISHIDA: (Via interpreter) Let me start by saying that I appreciate the kind and powerful messages and words from Secretary Kerry with regard to Japan. Right after taking office as Secretary of State, we have had two opportunities so far to talk to each other over the phone, and this is our first meeting – face-to-face meeting, and certainly it is my pleasure to see you in person this time.

With Mr. Secretary, I certainly have looked forward to having discussions on the Japan-U.S. alliance, as well as how we respond to the situations in the Asia Pacific, in the Middle East, as well as the Sahel, and also how we look forward to working on global issues such as counterterrorism and also the issue of environment. And I certainly look forward to having a discussion, and also, by doing so, we would like to deepen our cooperation.

Just a while ago both Mr. Secretary and myself attended the Japan-U.S. summit meeting and during the meeting both leaders had a candid discussion to cover issues such as the economy, security affairs, as well as foreign policy challenges. And I would like to underscore that the meeting was indeed very meaningful. And right now we are going to have the Japan-U.S. foreign ministers meeting with Mr. Secretary, and by having this meeting we would like to do a follow-up based on the outcome of the discussion of the summit meeting. And also, we would like to have the exchange of opinions on the regional affairs.

Obviously, the Japan-U.S. alliance is a lynchpin of the – Japan’s foreign policy, and by working together hand in hand with Mr. Secretary, we would like to achieve progress in reinforcing the Japan-U.S. alliance. And once again, thank you very much for taking the time out to have the foreign ministers meeting today.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Thank you.


Presenter: Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta
February 22, 2013
Press Conference with Secretary Panetta at NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON E. PANETTA: Let me begin by welcoming everyone to what should be my final press conference on this -- the last of my international trips as secretary. I've been saying that a lot lately, but my hope is that this time it really works.

Truthfully, I have appreciated the opportunity to be here and to be able to consult with my fellow NATO and ISAF defense ministers one last time as secretary of defense. And I should say that I deeply appreciate all of their -- their kind comments to me and also to Giampaolo. Both -- both Italians are going to be moving on.

Foremost on the agenda has been the mission in Afghanistan, which was the focus, as many of you know, of this morning's session and a key topic of my bilateral meetings over the last two days. In my discussions with the other ministers of defense, there is a strong consensus that our mission is succeeding, it's succeeding on the ground because of the growing role and capabilities that all of us have seen of the Afghan National Security Forces.

The ANSF are now in the lead for nearly 90 percent of combat operations. And they are on track to step into the lead for all of these operations by this spring. That has truly exceeded the expectations that were set at the Chicago summit last year, but it is as a result of their success in the field that General Allen, in particular, felt that we could make that transition in the spring.

This success led President Obama to accept General Allen's recommendation that the U.S. maintain a strong presence, once we've made this transition of combat control to the Afghans, that it was important for the United States to maintain a strong presence throughout the fighting season of 2013. What we're looking at is probably a presence in excess of 60,000 during the fighting season through the final transition of tranche five, which would take place in August of 2013.

Following that, sometime in the fall, we would then begin a drawdown that would take us to roughly about 50,000 by November, and then it would take us down, as the president indicated, to 34,000 by February of 2014. We would maintain that number through the election in order to provide and assist the Afghans in providing sufficient security for the elections. Once those elections were completed, we would then begin the final drawdown of our forces towards the end of 2014. I have full confidence that we'll be able to achieve our goal of giving the ANSF full responsibility for security nationwide by the end of 2014 and successfully complete this mission.

As my Italian father used to say in an old expression that he repeated oftentimes, "piano piano te va lontano," which means, "Step by step, you'll go a long way." And I think that's probably good advice for all of us as we approach this final period, hopefully, in the completion of the mission that we've been engaged in, in Afghanistan.

As we draw closer to the end of our combat mission, the alliance has also begun to discuss how to implement our strong commitment to the long-term security of Afghanistan. In particular, we discussed how we could best continue to support the ANSF, building on the commitments that nations made last year in Chicago.

That continued support includes enablers and the possibility of providing funding to extent the ANSF at the surge level of 352,000 through 2018, before moving towards what would then be, hopefully, a more sustainable number. That is seriously being considered by the president, and it's something we discussed with President Karzai when he came to Washington.

We also discussed how to transition to our new train, advise, and assist mission after 2014. Today, we ask NATO to begin planning for a range of options on the post-2014 posture that would provide for an effective regional presence, not only in Kabul, but at fixed sites in the north, the south, the east, and the west.

As the United States weighs our own force posture options and consults with the Afghan government on a post-2014 presence, we will continue to work very closely with ISAF nations, particularly the other regional lead nations, to continue to discuss a range of options with regards to what the NATO force will look like in that post-2014 period. And our goal is obviously to ensure the success of this new mission and the long-term stability of Afghanistan. We've made a commitment to a strong enduring presence, and we intend to stand by that commitment.

As I prepare to leave NATO headquarters, I can say that, among the things that I am most proud of as secretary is the success of our troops that have been able to achieve the kind of successful direction that we've been able to achieve on the ground in Afghanistan and the extraordinary unity and strength and resolve of ISAF.

I had the opportunities a number of times to go to Afghanistan. This last time, I went to Afghanistan, had the opportunity to meet with all of our military leaders in the field. And to a person, each of them said that -- that this mission was headed in the right direction, and they all expressed confidence in the growing capability of the Afghan force to be able to handle security and to take on the enemy.

We've laid the groundwork for how our nations can come together to resolve the security challenges of the 21st century, including emerging challenges like the threat posed by violent extremism in North Africa and cyber attacks. I think the ability of having pulled together this great alliance and the effort in Afghanistan can really serve us as a model for how we decide to take on other challenges in the world that will confront us.

To resolve these challenges together, we must really commit to acting together. And there's no question that in the current budget environment, with deep cuts in European defense spending, the kind of political gridlock that we're seeing in the United States right now with regards to our own budget, is putting at risk our ability to effectively act together.

As I prepare to step down as secretary of defense, I do fear that the alliance will soon be -- if it is not already -- stretched too thin. In our sessions devoted to these topics, the questions I asked my fellow ministers were simple. Will we let our nations retreat from our responsibilities in the face of growing budget constraints? Or will we demonstrate the kind of creativity and innovation and political will to develop and share the capabilities we must have in order to meet future security threats together as an alliance?

The choice for our allies is clear. And I want to commend Secretary General Rasmussen for his leadership in warning against the effect of budget cuts and in proposing new ideas, like the Connected Forces Initiative, that will help our militaries continue to train and operate together, even as our deployments to Afghanistan are reduced.

These are critical to ensuring the readiness of the alliance, which has to be the top priority in an unpredictable and crisis-prone world. I'd also like to commend the secretary general for making cyber a major area of focus for the next defense ministerial. It's a call that I made upon NATO that they should do. We have seen -- we are seeing continuing attacks in the cyber arena on the private sector, on the public sector, in the defense arena. This is, without question, the battlefield for the future, and it's an area that NATO needs to pay attention to.

Let me conclude by noting, as I did last month in a speech that I gave in London, that there is a generational shift that is occurring. I'm probably the last American secretary of defense to have direct memories of World War II. And our youngest men and women in uniform today were born after the end of the Cold War.

The bonds that formed the basis of our alliance were built on the basis of those 20th century conflicts. But over more than a decade of war in Afghanistan, I believe we have renewed those bonds for the 21st century and carried out the most enduring and effective alliance campaign since World War II. If we have the strength to carry those bonds forward, then I believe that we can realize our shared dream of a better and more peaceful and more secure world for future generations. Thank you.

GEORGE LITTLE: The secretary is pleased to take a few questions. We'll start with the Associated Press. Or we'll start with Bloomberg.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Gopal Ratnam with Bloomberg News. Good luck to you as you leave and head back to your beloved California. I want to ask you two questions. This morning, the German defense minister has told reporters that you had expressed to him the U.S. would keep between 8,000 and 12,000 troops in Afghanistan post-2014. One, would you confirm that? And, second, in your discussions with your counterparts here in NATO, what kind of commitments do you ask of them post-2014? And what kind of promises have you got or what kind of concerns have they expressed to you about their commitments?

SEC. PANETTA: First of all, that report is not correct. We did discuss a range of options. And what we discussed was a range of options that would -- that would be directed to the NATO force overall, which includes both the U.S. force contribution that we would make, plus what other NATO countries would contribute, as well.

And that -- those options are there. NATO will continue to do a planning process around those options. And we will be working with them as we develop the final decisions that the president makes with regards to our commitment to that enduring presence.

With regards to the 2014 period, we did describe that we felt it was important to develop this regional approach to be able to have a presence in some of the key areas in the northwest, east, and south, to be able to have a presence, obviously, in Kabul, that we would provide -- continue to provide enabling capabilities, particularly on a strategic level, with regards to those forces, and that we would continue to work with them to develop what the train, advise, and assist mission should look like. So we're going to be continuing to work on that.

And that was -- I have to say -- there was good receptivity among all of the ministers with regards to the broad elements that I described during this last session.

Q: (off mic)

SEC. PANETTA: Pardon me?

Q: (off mic)

SEC. PANETTA: All of -- all of the ministers, a number of the ministers spoke. And I have to say that all of the ministers who spoke indicated that they appreciated the outlines that we presented and that they, too, were committed to an enduring presence. So I feel very confident that we are going to get a number of nations to make that contribution for the enduring presence.

MR. LITTLE: Yes, sir?

Q: It's (inaudible) from German television ZDF. I just heard the same thing, that the minister of defense of Germany said 8,000 to 12,000, so I just would like to make that understandable for me. So you say altogether there might be 8,000 to 12,000, is the contribution of the U.S. troops even less than 8,000 to 12,000? Or -- and in which region would you like to place troops?

SEC. PANETTA: What -- what we discussed was a range of options. I don't want to go into particular numbers, because, frankly, we want -- we want to be able to have the flexibility to look at a range of options that we ought to have for our enduring presence. But I want to make very clear that the range of options we were discussing was with regards to the NATO force.

And the NATO force consists of both a U.S. presence, plus NATO contributions. And we didn't define specifics on that. Frankly, that remains to be determined as we go forward with the planning process.

MR. LITTLE: Now the Associated Press.

Q: All right, thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. The discussion about extending and maintaining 352,000 Afghan troops for the next five years, can you talk a little bit about how you're going to be able to go to the U.S. Congress and defend something like that, when just the other day you had to issue public notice of furloughs for 800,000 civilian workers? How can you defend increasing this amount of spending when, obviously, the Defense Department in the United States is in deep financial problems?

SEC. PANETTA: Well, I think -- I mean, look, first and foremost, with regards to the crisis that we confront in the United States, the fact is, as I've said, that this, frankly, should not be a crisis. This is a -- this is a political crisis. It's not a crisis that relates to our capabilities within the budget that we've defined for the Defense Department.

And my hope is that -- that Congress does not allow sequester to take place. I think it would be, frankly, a very shameful and irresponsible act of political dysfunction if, in fact, that were to occur. The American people would be justly outraged to have people who they elect to office to protect them harm them by allowing sequester to take place.

So I guess my -- what I want to make clear is that sequester is -- is by no means -- doesn't reflect the budget that we have put in place to implement our strategy. It would be -- it would be truly an act of -- of irresponsibility if it happened.

And then I -- in terms of the consequences of sequester, I have to say, if sequester does take place, it could impact not only our readiness, but, frankly, the role that we would play with regards to the readiness of NATO, as well. So all of that would be impacted if that occurred.

Assuming that doesn't happen, then our view is that we -- you know, if the president makes the decision to continue the ANSF presence at 352,000, that that would be an investment that would be worth making, because it would allow us greater flexibility as we take down our troops, and it would allow us greater flexibility, frankly, to save in the funds that we now dedicate to the warfighting effort. And I think I can make that case to the Congress, that that would be an effective tradeoff.

MR. LITTLE: We have time for one more question. Yes, sir? And we'll wrap it up.

Q: (Inaudible), Tolo TV Afghanistan. Sir, most of the Afghans believe that the U.S. will abandon Afghanistan again when the combat mission finishes in Afghanistan. What type of guarantee you can give them, sir? Because on one hand, Taliban still pose a serious threat to the Afghan government, and the peace process is also not going well.

SEC. PANETTA: I -- you know, I want to make clear that -- that the United States and ISAF, the NATO -- the NATO countries that are involved in the ISAF effort, all of us are committed to supporting Afghanistan, not just now, but in the future. And that commitment is unwavering.

And the best example of that commitment is that we are going to maintain in excess of 60,000 troops there even after we've made the transition to the Afghans for combat responsibility. So we will maintain a significant presence there through a key fighting season and through the final transition of areas. And even as we draw down, we'll still maintain a significant presence there throughout the Afghan election.

And beyond that, we will maintain an enduring presence to be able to fulfill two key missions, to be able to train, assist and continue to support the Afghan army and defense force, and in addition to that, to conduct counterterrorism activities to make sure that Al Qaida and its affiliates never again are able to establish a safe haven there.

So I -- in the discussions I've had, both with President Karzai, with the defense minister, and with others, we have made very clear that we have a continuing and dedicated commitment to make sure that Afghanistan is a country that ultimately can govern and secure itself.

MR. LITTLE: Thank you, everyone. Have a good afternoon.


Friday, February 22, 2013
United States Joins Lawsuit Alleging Lance Armstrong and Others Caused the Submission of False Claims to the U.S. Postal Service

The Department of Justice announced today that the government has joined a civil lawsuit alleging that Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel and Tailwind Sports LLC and Tailwind Sports Corporation (Tailwind) submitted or caused the submission of false claims to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) in connection with its sponsorship of a professional bicycle racing team by regularly employing banned substances and methods to enhance their performance, in violation of the USPS sponsorship agreements.

From 1996 through 2004, the USPS sponsored a professional cycling team owned by Tailwind and its predecessors. Lance Armstrong was the lead rider on the team, and between 1999 and 2004, he won six consecutive Tour de France titles as a member of the USPS-sponsored team. Johan Bruyneel was the directeur sportif, or manager, of the cycling team.

The sponsorship agreements gave the USPS certain promotional rights, including the right to prominent placement of the USPS logo on the cycling team’s uniform. Each of the agreements required the team to follow the rules of cycling’s governing bodies, which prohibited the use of certain performance enhancing substances and methods. Between 2001 and 2004 alone, the Postal Service paid $31 million in sponsorship fees.

The lawsuit joined today by the government alleges that riders on the USPS-sponsored team, including Armstrong, knowingly caused the USPS agreements to be violated by regularly employing banned substances and methods to enhance their performance. The lawsuit further alleges that Bruyneel knew that team members were using performance enhancing substances and facilitated the practice.

The government today notified the court that it is joining this lawsuit against Armstrong, Bruyneel and Tailwind, and will file its formal complaint within 60 days.

"The Postal Service contract with Tailwind required the team to enter cycling races, wear the Postal Service logo, and follow the rules banning performance enhancing substances – rules that Lance Armstrong has now admitted he violated," said Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. "Today’s action demonstrates the Department of Justice’s steadfast commitment to safeguarding federal funds and making sure that contractors live up to their promises."

"Lance Armstrong and his cycling team took more than $30 million from the U.S. Postal Service based on their contractual promise to play fair and abide by the rules – including the rules against doping," said Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. "The Postal Service has now seen its sponsorship unfairly associated with what has been described as ‘the most sophisticated, professionalized, and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.’ This lawsuit is designed to help the Postal Service recoup the tens of millions of dollars it paid out to the Tailwind cycling team based on years of broken promises. In today’s economic climate, the U.S. Postal Service is simply not in a position to allow Lance Armstrong or any of the other defendants to walk away with the tens of millions of dollars they illegitimately procured."

"The Postal Service conducts business with many different contractors and subcontractors, with a large majority of them providing a much needed service and fulfilling their contractual duties. It is critical that public confidence in contractor performance remains high. When that public trust is compromised, as occurred in this case, the Office of Inspector General will fully investigate," said David C. Williams, Inspector General, U.S. Postal Service, and Office of Inspector General.

"The Postal Service strongly supports intervention by the Department of Justice in this matter and a vigorous pursuit of this case," said Postal Service General Counsel and Executive Vice President Mary Anne Gibbons. "The defendants agreed to play by the rules and not use performance enhancing drugs. We now know that the defendants failed to live up to their agreement, and instead knowingly engaged in a pattern of activity that violated the rules of professional cycling and, therefore, violated the terms of their contracts with the Postal Service. For that reason, the Postal Service fully agrees with the decision by the Department of Justice to seek appropriate damages under the False Claims Act."

For many years, including during the USPS sponsorships, Armstrong and others repeatedly denied that the team used performance enhancing substances or methods. Yet on Oct. 10, 2012, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) issued a report concluding that Armstrong used banned performance enhancing substances starting in at least 1998 and continuing throughout his professional career, and that he pressured and helped his teammates to engage in similar conduct. Accordingly, USADA disqualified all of his competitive results since Aug. 1, 1998, including his seven Tour de France victories, and banned him from sport for life pursuant to the World Anti-Doping Code.

In a recently-televised interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong contradicted his earlier denials and admitted that he used banned substances and methods throughout his career, starting in the mid-1990s. In particular, he admitted having engaged in banned practices during each of his seven Tour de France victories, including the six he won as a USPS rider. Armstrong explained that he avoided detection by anti-doping authorities by carefully timing his use of banned drugs so that they would leave his system prior to his undergoing cycling’s required periodic drug testing.

The lawsuit joined by the United States was filed by Floyd Landis, a former rider and teammate of Armstrong on the USPS sponsored team from 2002 through 2004. The lawsuit was filed under the False Claims Act, which imposes liability on those who submit false claims for government funds, and provides for the recovery of three times the government’s damages, plus civil penalties. The False Claims Act contains a qui tam or whistleblower provision, which permits private parties to sue on behalf of the United States for false claims and share in any recovery. The False Claims Act permits the government to investigate the allegations and intervene, or decline to intervene in the whistleblower’s lawsuit. While the government notified the court that it was joining the lawsuit’s allegations as to Armstrong, Bruyneel, and Tailwind, it advised the court that it was not intervening in the case as to several other defendants named in the complaint.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Delery and U.S. Attorney Machen commended the coordinated effort of the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and the USPS Office of Inspector General and Office of General Counsel, in their investigation of this matter.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is captioned United States ex rel. Landis v. Tailwind Sports Corporation, et al. The claims made in the complaint are only allegations and do not constitute a determination of liability. Trial Attorney Robert Chandler of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Darrell Valdez and Mercedeh Momeni of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia are representing the government.



CFTC Charges CME Group’s New York Mercantile Exchange and Two Former Employees with Disclosing Material Nonpublic Information about Customer Trades

Washington, DC
– The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today filed an enforcement action charging the New York Mercantile Exchange, Inc. (CME NYMEX), which is owned and operated by the CME Group, and two former CME NYMEX employees, William Byrnes and Christopher Curtin, with violating the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC Regulations through the repeated disclosures of material nonpublic customer information over of period of two and one-half years to an outside commodity broker who was not authorized to receive the information.

The CFTC’s Complaint, filed on February 21, 2013, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that Byrnes and Curtin worked on the CME ClearPort Facilitation Desk and were responsible for facilitating customer transactions reported for clearing through the CME ClearPort electronic system. The Complaint alleges that at least from in or about February 2008 to September 2010, Byrnes knowingly and willfully disclosed material nonpublic information about CME NYMEX trading and customers, including about trades cleared through CME ClearPort, to a commodity broker on at least 60 occasions. The Complaint further alleges that between May 2008 and March 2009, Curtin knowingly and willfully disclosed the same type of information to the same commodity broker on at least 16 additional occasions. The nonpublic customer information unlawfully disclosed by Byrnes and Curtin in conversations — often captured on tape — included details of recently executed trades, the identities of the parties to specific trades, the brokers involved in trades, the number of contracts traded, the prices paid, the structure of particular transactions, and the trading strategies of market participants, according to the Complaint.

The Complaint alleges that the CME NYMEX and the two former employees violated the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC Regulations, which specifically prohibit the disclosures of this type of customer information.

The CFTC’s Complaint also alleges that in July 2009, a market participant complained to CME NYMEX that the participant believed nonpublic information about trades cleared through CME ClearPort had been disclosed by a CME NYMEX employee named "Billy." Although a CME NYMEX Managing Director who investigated the market participant’s complaint identified "Billy" to be William Byrnes, CME NYMEX did not then question Byrnes, and Byrnes’s illegal disclosures continued for over a year, until at least September 2010. Ultimately, CME NYMEX terminated Byrnes’s employment in December 2010 after yet another market participant complained to CME NYMEX about disclosures of nonpublic customer information. Curtin had previously left CME NYMEX voluntarily.

In its continuing litigation, the CFTC seeks civil monetary penalties, trading and registration bans, and a permanent injunction prohibiting further violations of the federal commodities laws, as charged.

CFTC Division of Enforcement staff responsible for this case include Patrick Daly, James Wheaton, David W. MacGregor, Lenel Hickson, Stephen J. Obie, and Vincent A. McGonagle.



The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) pulls away from the pier at Naval Station Norfolk for a deployment to support maritime security operation and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility, Feb. 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan D. McLearnon-Released)

An MV-22 Osprey assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 takes off from the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) as another Osprey prepares for take-off. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jerome D. Johnson-Released)


Photo:  U.S. Drawdown In Afghanistan.  U.S. Army Photo.
NATO Ponders Afghan Troop Strength, Official Says
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Feb. 21, 2013 - NATO defense ministers gathered here are considering proposals to keep the number of Afghan national security forces at 325,000 for the next five years, according to a NATO official.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is here this week for the gathering of NATO defense ministers and representatives of non-NATO partner nations.

The official spoke to reporters on background, because the alliance and the Afghan government are still in discussions about the issue, and no final decision is expected soon.

Member nations fully realize that now, as the alliance enters a new phase of operations in Afghanistan and prepares to cut back on coalition troop strength, "we need to ensure that the Afghans are confident about the future," the official said.

Two narratives common among the Afghan people are working against success for coalition and Afghan forces, the official said: that coalition forces are there as occupiers, or that NATO will abandon Afghanistan after the transition to Afghan security lead is complete in 2014.

While the coalition has achieved "extraordinary progress" in defeating the Taliban and building Afghan forces, he said, it's now critical to address the Afghans' uncertainty.

Afghan soldiers and police are effective in their missions, but are increasingly distracted by fears about their personal futures, the official said. Coalition forces don't have to worry about whether they'll have a job, or get a paycheck, from year to year, he noted, but Afghan forces do.

If NATO can give Afghanistan's people solid assurances of the alliance's continued commitment beyond 2014, he said, "that's the one thing left, now, to advance the campaign forward."

Friday, February 22, 2013

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing - February 22, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - February 22, 2013

West Wing Week: 02/22/13 or “A Single Sacred Word: Citizen” | The White House

West Wing Week: 02/22/13 or “A Single Sacred Word: Citizen” | The White House


Ambulances.  Credit:  U.S. Air Force.

Health care law allows consumers to easily find and compare options starting in 2014
New rule will expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits to 62 million Americans

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced a final rule that will make purchasing health coverage easier for consumers. The policies outlined today will give consumers a consistent way to compare and enroll in health coverage in the individual and small group markets, while giving states and insurers more flexibility and freedom to implement the Affordable Care Act.

"The Affordable Care Act helps people get the health insurance they need," said Secretary Sebelius. "People all across the country will soon find it easier to compare and enroll in health plans with better coverage, greater quality and new benefits."

Today’s rule outlines health insurance issuer standards for a core package of benefits, called essential health benefits, that health insurance issuers must cover both inside and outside the Health Insurance Marketplace. Through its standards for essential health benefits, the final rule released today also expands coverage of mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment, for millions of Americans.

A new report by HHS, also released today, details how these provisions will expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits and federal parity protections for 62 million more Americans.

In the past, nearly 20 percent of individuals purchasing insurance didn’t have access to mental health services, and nearly one third had no coverage for substance use disorder services. The rule seeks to fix that gap in coverage by expanding coverage of these benefits in three distinct ways:
By including mental health and substance use disorder benefits as Essential Health Benefits
By applying federal parity protections to mental health and substance use disorder benefits in the individual and small group markets
By providing more Americans with access to quality health care that includes coverage for mental health and substance use disorder services

To give states the flexibility to define essential health benefits in a way that would best meet the needs of their residents, this rule also finalizes a benchmark-based approach. This approach allows states to select a benchmark plan from options offered in the market, which are equal in scope to a typical employer plan. Twenty-six states selected a benchmark plan for their state, and the largest small business plan in each state will be the benchmark for the rest.

The rule additionally outlines actuarial value levels in the individual and small group markets, which helps to distinguish health plans offering different levels of coverage. Beginning in 2014, plans that cover essential health benefits must cover a certain percentage of costs, known as actuarial value or "metal levels." These levels are 60 percent for a bronze plan, 70 percent for a silver plan, 80 percent for a gold plan, and 90 percent for a platinum plan. Metal levels will allow consumers to compare insurance plans with similar levels of coverage and cost-sharing based on premiums, provider networks, and other factors. In addition, the health care law limits the annual amount of cost sharing that individuals will pay across all health plans – preventing insured Americans from facing catastrophic costs associated with an illness or injury.

Policies in today’s rule also provide more information on accreditation standards for qualified health plans (QHPs) that will be offered through the Health Insurance Marketplaces (also known as Exchanges), one-stop shops that will provide access to quality, affordable private health insurance choices.

Together, these provisions will help consumers compare and select health plans in the individual and small group markets based on what is important to them and their families. People can make these choices knowing these health plans will cover a core set of critical benefits and can more easily compare the level of coverage based on a uniform standard. Further, these provisions help expand choices and competition on the Marketplaces.


Spending Cuts Would Cause Chaos, Carter Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2013 - Deep, across-the board spending cuts scheduled to take effect March 1 would cause chaos for the Defense Department, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said in a televised interview yesterday.

Carter told Judy Woodruff on "PBS Newshour" that the department will do what it can to minimize disruptions should the cuts kick in, but it can do only so much.

"We don't have a lot of flexibility, and we don't have a lot of time in that regard," Carter said.

A "sequestration" mechanism in budget law requires DOD to cut $46 billion in spending from March 1 until the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year unless Congress comes up with an alternative that would stop sequestration from triggering. This comes on top of $487 billion in defense spending reductions already programmed over 10 years, and Pentagon officials have noted that operating under continuing resolutions in the absence of a fiscal year budget complicates matters.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta notified Congress yesterday that the department is preparing to place almost all of its 800,000 civilian employees on unpaid furlough for one day a week through the rest of the fiscal year. These are not faceless bureaucrats who simply shuffle paper, Carter said.

"They repair our ships. They maintain our aircraft," Carter said. "That's who these people are, and 44 percent of them are veterans. It's a terrible thing to have to deprive them of some of their income."

If sequestration triggers, operations and maintenance -- the primary funding that ensures readiness -- will be particularly affected. The department will ensure units deploying to Afghanistan will receive the training needed to succeed. But this will rob other units readying for other missions, Carter said.

"That's just a mathematical fact of doing sequester," he added. "This is very damaging to national security."

In planning for sequestration, the Navy already has postponed sending an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf to join one already there, to ensure there will be enough ready carriers to dispatch to other critical areas if required.

"In everything we do, we're really trying to keep on protecting the country and delivering the defense under these circumstances," Carter said.

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House


Food Security and Minimizing Postharvest Loss
Robert D. Hormats
Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment
Marshall Center East Auditorium
Washington, DC
February 19, 2013

Thank you for participating in today’s conference on post-harvest losses. In particular, I would like to thank many of you here today. Your work to reduce post-harvest losses and support food security and sustainability throughout the globe is critical. Finding and supporting efforts to stop post-harvest food loss has been a high priority for me since I took this job over three years ago.

Especially because the measures to avoid post-harvest losses are within reach if we and other countries take bold action.

The scale of post-harvest food loss is tragic. Nearly one-third of global agricultural production never makes it to the consumer or arrives in poor condition. Beyond the threat to food security, post-harvest losses adversely affect farmers and consumers in the lowest income groups. And, post-harvest food losses are a waste of valuable farming inputs, such as water, energy, land, labor, and capital. Having lived in East Africa earlier in my life, I saw the magnitude of post-harvest food losses in that region, and the tragic repercussions for human hunger, loss of farmer income, and harm to economic growth.

I have discussed the importance of reducing post-harvest losses in my meetings with leaders in India, Africa, and other parts of the world—and, indeed, at the G-8 and at APEC. Post-harvest losses can be reduced through:
The development and dissemination of regionally-appropriate technologies and techniques, and
Adoption of policies and incentives for investment in post-harvest infrastructure.

Developing New Technologies and Techniques

First, it’s important to develop technologies and techniques to reduce post-harvest losses that are appropriate to the needs of local communities. Needs vary widely, depending on crop type, region, weather, and other variables. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The U.S. government is taking a comprehensive approach to helping countries solve the problem of post-harvest food loss. This includes, the Obama Administration’s Feed the Future initiative, which promotes a series of programs to reduce post-harvest losses. In Ghana, for example, Feed the Future is improving grain storage through better technology and processing techniques.

And, at the 2012 G8 Summit at Camp David, President Obama, other G8 leaders, and leaders from African partner countries launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

The Alliance emphasizes engaging more partners from the private sector in these efforts and taking bold steps to reduce post-harvest food losses.

Indeed, a number of world-class companies, such as ADM, Cargill, Ingersoll-Rand, and Walmart, have already successfully deployed food storage and preservation technologies in several regions of the world. These companies are making a difference—supporting local farmers by efficiently moving their food products to store shelves with little loss.

In addition, companies such as ADM, NGO and individual donors, and many others are investing in universities and research institutions—such as at the University of Illinois and at the University of California, Davis—to carry out cutting-edge research programs, some of which you will hear more about during today’s program.

Several entrepreneurs have also stepped up to develop new technologies and approaches to reduce food loss. I recently met with Promethean Power Systems—a start-up co-founded by an MIT graduate and a Boston entrepreneur. They have partnered with an Indian company called Icelings to develop a solar-powered refrigeration system for transporting fruits and vegetables from rural farms to city markets. Technologies like this will improve the livelihoods of farmers in India by reliably getting their produce to market and will help consumers by increasing the availability of food. In June 2012, Secretary Clinton awarded the Promethean-Icelings partnership the first ever grant of the U.S.-India Science and Technology Endowment Fund.

There are many examples of new technologies and techniques being developed to reduce post-harvest food loss. These innovative solutions are essential.

Policies and Incentives to Invest in Post-Harvest Loss Mitigation

But even with the right technology solutions, many countries lack meaningful incentives, affordable financing options, and necessary government policies to encourage farmers to adopt efficient practices. Many countries lack the incentives for retailers to invest in equipment, facilities, and stores needed to reduce food loss and broaden market opportunities. And, government policies and regulations in some countries make it difficult for investments to be profitable. That’s why—in addition to developing new technologies and techniques—it is critical that governments adopt policies that encourage greater investment in post-harvest storage and distribution network infrastructures.

Some important progress is being made.

I recently returned from a trip to India, where I met with government officials who have taken steps to open India’s multi-brand retail sector to encourage foreign direct investment. This policy shift was aimed, in part, at building modern food supply chains, developing cold storage infrastructure, and improving overall agricultural efficiency and sustainability in India. Foreign direct investment in the multi-brand retail sector—as well as the development of India’s own storage and distribution industry and post-harvest technologies—are critical for India’s overall economic growth prospects as well as for the success of its agricultural sector.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh explained that an organized and efficient retail sector "will help to ensure that a third of our fruits and vegetables, which at present are wasted because of storage and transit losses, actually reach the consumer." Prime Minister Singh makes a compelling point—one that was echoed in my meetings with the Global Cold Chain Alliance’s India Division and the Agra Cold Storage Owners Association.

I have heard similar sentiments in other parts of the world. The need for investment in post-harvest infrastructure is clear and present. It’s time to remove bottlenecks and unlock business investment. The Department of State, USAID, and others in the U.S. government are working with foreign governments across the globe to help facilitate and make viable investment in post-harvest infrastructure.

Meeting the food demands of an ever-increasing world population presents a major challenge for the 21st century. Among the most important and efficient ways to improve food security, nutrition, and incomes for millions of small farmers is to make certain that every bushel of wheat, liter of milk, or kilogram of rice that is produced is stored properly and delivered efficiently from farm to table. A great deal of work is being done to improve agricultural productivity in a sustainable way around the world. But, at the same time, we must also work to ensure that goods produced by farmers actually have good markets and reach consumers in good condition. It’s high time to make solving the problem of post-harvest food losses an urgent global priority—and to make such losses a thing of the past.

Success will improve the food security of hundreds of millions of people around the world, boost the incomes of millions of small holder farmers in villages and towns throughout the world’s developing and emerging countries, and represent a giant step forward to better conserve our planet’s natural resources.

Thank you.

Beating birth defects before pregnancy

Beating birth defects before pregnancy


U.S. Army Lt. Col. Thomas M. Feltey, second left, meets with an Afghan uniform police commander and other district leaders after the first district leaders' shura in Spin Boldak in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Feb. 11, 2013. Feltry commands the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann

Precision Strike Kills Taliban IED Expert
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release
KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb. 22, 2013 - A precision strike killed Zekaria, a Taliban improvised explosive device expert, in the Chahar Darah district of Afghanistan's Kunduz province yesterday, military officials reported.  The strike will significantly degrade the ability of insurgents to conduct attacks in the Charhar Darah district, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command officials said.

In other news, ISAF Joint Command officials confirmed today that Habib, a Taliban leader, was killed by a precision strike yesterday in Logar province's Charkh district. He obtained weapons for insurgents and helped to plan attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, officials said.

ESA chooses instruments for its Jupiter icy moons explorer

ESA chooses instruments for its Jupiter icy moons explorer


Lake Pontchartrain. Jocelyn Augustino-FEMA
Archaeologists Discover One of the Oldest Native American Artifacts South of Lake Pontchartrain

NEW ORLEANS – Pottery sherds, animal bones and pieces of clay tobacco pipes are among the items recently discovered by a team of archaeologists under contract to the Federal Emergency Management Agency surveying land near Bayou St. John in New Orleans.

"It was a bit of a surprise to find this," said FEMA Louisiana Recovery Office Deputy Director of Programs Andre Cadogan, referencing a small, broken pottery fragment. "We clearly discovered pottery from the late Marksville period, which dates to 300-400 A.D. The pottery was nice, easily dateable, and much earlier than we expected. This is exciting news for historians and Tribal communities as it represents some of the only intact prehistoric remains of its kind south of Lake Pontchartrain."

The Bayou St. John spot holds a prominence in New Orleans’ history, throughout the years serving as the location of a Native American occupation, a French fort, a Spanish fort, an American fort, a resort hotel and then an amusement park. Through a series of shovel tests and methodological excavation, the archaeologists discovered evidence of the early Native Americans, the colonial period and the hotel.

"The historical record tells us that the shell midden (or mound) created by the Native American occupation was destroyed by the French when they built their fort here," said Cadogan. "However, we’ve discovered, through archaeology, that rather than destroy the midden, the French cut off the top of it and used it as a foundation for their fort."

FEMA’s work near Bayou St. John is part of an agreement with the State Historic Preservation Office, Indian Tribes and the state to perform archaeological surveys of parks and public land in the city of New Orleans. It falls under FEMA’s Environmental and Historic Preservation program, which evaluates historical and environmental concerns that may arise from projects funded by federal dollars.

FEMA hazard mitigation funding was used for thousands of home elevations and reconstructions throughout Louisiana. Rather than evaluate every property for archaeological remains—a nearly impossible task—FEMA, the State Historic Preservation Office and various consulting parties signed an agreement, which allowed FEMA to conduct alternate studies such as the archaeological surveys.

"The surveys not only offset potential destruction of archaeological resources on private property from the home mitigations but also give us a leg up on any future storms. We are helping the state of Louisiana learn about its history as well as provide information that leads to preparedness for the next event," said Cadogan.

FEMA, in coordination with the State Historic Preservation Office and Indian Tribes, identified the areas to be surveyed. Once the field studies are completed and all of the artifacts are analyzed and recorded, the State Historic Preservation Office will become stewards of the information.


Off The Island Of St. Thomas.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.

Washington, D.C., Feb. 21, 2013 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged an investment adviser located in the U.S. Virgin Islands with defrauding clients from whom he withheld the fact that he was receiving kickbacks for investing their money in thinly-traded companies. When he faced pressure to pay clients their returns on those investments, he allegedly used money from other clients in a Ponzi-like fashion to make payments.

The SEC’s Enforcement Division alleges that James S. Tagliaferri, through his St. Thomas-based firm TAG Virgin Islands, routinely used his discretionary authority over the accounts of his clients to purchase promissory notes issued by particular private companies. In exchange for financing those companies, TAG received millions of dollars in cash and other compensation — a conflict of interest that was never disclosed to investors. The Enforcement Division further alleges that when the promissory notes neared or passed maturity and his clients demanded payment, Tagliaferri misused assets of other clients to meet those demands.

"Tagliaferri was anything but forthcoming with his clients and he repeatedly failed to act in their best interests," said Andrew M. Calamari, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. "He didn’t tell them about the compensation he received from the companies they were financing, and then compounded his fraud by using client assets to pay other clients when the conflicted investments came due."

In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York today announced criminal charges against Tagliaferri.

According to the SEC’s order instituting administrative proceedings, Tagliaferri invested TAG clients primarily in conservative and liquid investments such as municipal bonds and blue-chip stocks until around 2007, when he began investing clients in highly illiquid securities. These investments included promissory notes issued by various closely-held private companies that were nothing more than holding companies through which an individual and his family effected personal and business transactions. He also invested at least $40 million of clients’ money in notes of a private horse-racing company, International Equine Acquisitions Holdings, Inc.

According to the SEC’s order, TAG received more than $3.35 million and approximately 500,000 shares of stock of a microcap company in return for placing various investments with these companies. The compensation that TAG received from the companies for the investments that Tagliaferri made on behalf of his clients created a conflict of interest that he was required to disclose to investors.

The SEC’s Enforcement Division alleges that Tagliaferri then further defrauded clients by investing their funds in microcap and other thinly-traded public companies in order to raise at least $80 million to pay the interest or principal due to other clients on certain of the promissory notes. Tagliaferri explained in e-mails he sent in April 2010 to the individual behind the companies that the real motivation for investing TAG clients in one of his microcap companies was to use the proceeds to pay off other clients invested in the initial series of promissory notes. "Where is the $125MM. As you are aware, this money was earmarked to clear all of the notes and other issues facing us both," Tagliaferri wrote. He later added, the "shares you transferred are being sold to clients. With those proceeds, you’re buying back your own notes." TAG clients were unaware, however, that Tagliaferri’s true motivation for having them buy these stocks was to repay other TAG clients on other conflicted investments he had made for them.

According to the SEC’s order, Tagliaferri willfully violated Sections 17(a)(1) and (3) of the Securities Act of 1933, Sections 10(b) and 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5 thereunder, and Sections 206(1), 206(2) and 206(3) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.

The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing.


Atlas V Rocket.  Credit:  U.S. Air Froce.
Pentagon Revamps Approach to Industrial Base, Official Says
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2013 - The Defense Department has revamped its approach to communicating and interacting with the defense industrial base after applying lessons learned from previous economic downturns, a senior defense official said here today.

Brett B. Lambert, deputy assistant secretary of defense for manufacturing and industrial base, spoke during an Atlantic Council panel session.

Lambert said he was asked in 2009 to figure out a perception that DOD's communication with the defense industry was lacking.

A lot of people thought it was political, he said, but that proved not to be the case.

"It became obvious to me very, very quickly it had nothing to do with politics or parties," he said. "It had everything to do with 10 years of double-digit, year-over-year growth. There was no need to talk to each other. Everyone was happy. When we had a program that was bleeding, we cauterized the wound with money, because we had it. Expediency was the most important thing."

Lambert said the defense industry delivered what was asked of it, but that over time, the interaction between DOD and the industrial base broke down.

"So we came in with strategic guidance to try to re-establish, if you will, communications -- specifically with industry," he said. "But I came in with another specific task."

The deputy assistant secretary said then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was aware of the coming downturn. "He knew well the times of double digit growth were over," Lambert said. "And so we knew we were entering a time of downturn."

With that in mind, Lambert said, officials reviewed the four previous downturns' effects on the industrial base.

"Basically we were 0-4," he said. "We got it wrong in every case. We got it wrong for a variety of different reasons, so we went back to look at what we could do better."

That effort made clear the need to engage industry up front, Lambert said. "And we needed to understand how dramatically the industry has changed since the last downturn -- the post-Cold War downturn," he added.

Lambert said the department reviewed lessons learned and crafted a plan, agreed to by Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, and Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, to act on those lessons.

"One: better communications," he said. "We're doing that through outreach -- through working with organizations like the Atlantic Council to communicate, to get our ideas out, and to get feedback."

The Defense Department received more than 500 inputs from industry from the "Better Buying Power 1.0" initiative, Lambert said.

"Many were implemented," he added. "We have even more industry inputs for Better Buying Power 2.0. And they are being reviewed, and many of our changes you'll see coming out in the final document will reflect the industry's comments."

The second element, he said, places more emphasis on internal mechanisms and what the Defense Department could do better in working with industry partners, such as educating the DOD workforce on what those partners are all about.

"The third thing I was asked to take on was policies that were both enduring and flexible," Lambert said, noting that a new Defense Department acquisition instruction will be issued in the coming weeks. Lambert said the new instruction represents a new way to look at industrial base analysis and policy, and that every major program will be affected.

"Instead of thinking about industrial base as an afterthought once program decisions are made," he added, "industrial base will now be ... part of major decisions."

Lambert said he believes the department now is well prepared, despite changes in the defense industrial base over the past decade.

"Moving forward, I feel comfortable that we have the tools to deal with some of the more complicated industrial base issues, including the transaction issues we're going to see," Lambert said.

"At the same time," he added, "cuts are coming across the board, or likely to come across the board to the whole department," referring to a mechanism in budget law that will take effect March 1 unless Congress comes up with an alternative plan.

"Those cuts will also come to the very institutions we're trying to set up to mitigate the effects of those cuts," Lambert said, "so on that regard, I'm not terribly optimistic right now."


Learning About 'Veggie' at the NASA Social

Marshall Porterfield, Life and Physical Sciences Division Director at NASA Headquarters, talks about the human body in microgravity and other life sciences at a NASA Social exploring science on the International Space Station at NASA Headquarters, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 in Washington.

The Vegetable Production System ("Veggie"), a container used for growing plants on the ISS, is pictured in the foreground. Veggie is a deployable plant growth unit capable of producing salad-type crops to provide the crew with a palatable, nutritious, and safe source of fresh food and a tool to support relaxation and recreation. Veggie provides lighting and nutrient delivery, but utilizes the cabin environment for temperature control and as a source of carbon dioxide to promote growth. Image Credit-NASA-Carla Cioffi


Major General Charles Gurganus
Outgoing Commander Cites Progress in Southwestern Afghanistan
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2013 - As he prepares to conclude a year of command in one of the most challenging regions of Afghanistan, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Charles "Mark" Gurganus said he's optimistic about the progress his forces have helped to bring about as they overcame challenging circumstances and an evolving mission.

Gurganus is scheduled to transfer command of the International Security Assistance Force's Regional Command Southwest next week to Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Walter Miller Jr., wrapping up a year overseeing operations in Helmand and Nimroz provinces.

Talking by phone with American Forces Press Service from his headquarters in Helmand province today, Gurganus reflected on the challenges he and his 15,000 U.S. and coalition forces faced during a transitional year.

"We came over here and were clearly still leading the counterinsurgency fight," he said. But the mission evolved over the course of the deployment, with Gurganus' forces conducting more joint operations with their Afghan national security counterparts, then moving into advisory and mentoring roles as the Afghans took on more security responsibility.

Now, a new step in the evolution is under way – a process focus on developing the logistics systems, training programs and other institutions. "That is really a key part of the evolution, because I think that is where we leave behind capabilities that are sustainable," Gurganus said, posturing the Afghans for future challenges.

"This will not always be a counterinsurgency fight they are in, and they will have to shift more and more to being able to defend their country against external aggression," he said. "So I think this next evolution is pretty important."

Recognizing that "Marines still love a good fight, there is no doubt about that," Gurganus credited his Marines with embracing every phase of the transition. "They have shown a tremendous deal of flexibility in what they bring to the nation's defense and whatever is asked of them," he said.

In doing so, "they have really seen the power of their assistance to the Afghans," he said. "They have seen what that really means in terms of advising, assisting, training and helping them to integrate new capabilities. It has become something that the Marines and our coalition soldiers have taken a lot of pride in, being able to watch these guys step up more and more and take the lead responsibility for security."

Meanwhile, coalition troops have juggled other challenges, including the drawdown of more than 10,000 Marines and other ISAF forces and their equipment in the midst of the fighting season. As part of the surge recovery, two Marine regimental combat teams were reduced to one, six battalions were reduced to two, and 143 bases were closed or transferred.

"That made the mission more difficult," Gurganus conceded. "But once we laid out what needed to be done, the commanders got after it and the Marines just got on with doing it."

These experiences have enabled the Marines to develop skills Gurganus said will easily transfer to security cooperation missions they could be called on to support anywhere in the world. "I think these experiences are going to be key to being able to execute those missions with a great amount of professionalism." he said. "I don't think we will ever run out of a needing the skills that we developed here -- at least not in the foreseeable future, anyway."

Gurganus reported "a laundry list" of progress during the past year. The Afghan army and police have demonstrated that they're up to the task of increasingly challenging roles. "They're certainly not perfect yet," Gurganus said, "but they have developed, and their capabilities have gotten stronger."

He cited particular progress within the police force, which is putting the concepts of community policing and evidence-based criminal processes into action. "That's been a huge step in a province where 85 to 90 percent of the people are illiterate," Gurganus said.

But the most promising development, he said, is the growing – albeit it slow – support of the Afghan people for their government. Sustainable development projects are benefiting the population, and people have a voice that simply didn't exist a decade ago, he noted.

"I won't tell you it is wholesale yet, that everybody thinks the government is great," Gurganus said. "But I think probably that is the part that is most heartening."

Despite "a lot of good-news stories," Gurganus recognized that many challenges remain. "I told Lee Miller I think he will have plenty of work to do over the course of the next year or so, but I think we have some good progress," he said.

Among those challenges is the expectation that the Taliban will attempt to resurge as coalition forces draw down – just as they did during the past year's drawdowns. But based on Afghans' response, Gurganus said, he's confident they're prepared to take the Taliban on.

"We saw the Taliban actively target and take on the police and Afghan National Army and have seen them, quite frankly, step up to the plate and handle the threat," he said. "It was not without casualties and not without trouble. But at the end of the day, they took the day. And it is really troublesome, I think, for the Taliban."

Afghans are leading all operations, from planning to resourcing their activities, he said. Coalition forces provide support only when the Afghans absolutely need it, such as medical evacuation capabilities they have not yet developed.

As his Marines prepare to return to Camp Pendleton, Calif., Gurganus credits them for the role they have played in Afghanistan's future. Gains made haven't come without sacrifice, he recognized. So even before he leaves Afghanistan, Gurganus already is planning a memorial service to be held April 11 at Camp Pendleton to honor the 75 Marines, sailors and coalition soldiers in Regional Command Southwest killed during the past year.

The ceremony not only will honor them and recognize the magnitude of their sacrifice, he said, but also will help to give closure to the Marines who served and sacrificed alongside them.

Gurganus recognized the U.S. and coalition forces who sacrificed before them in Helmand province and helped set the conditions for his forces to build on.

"It goes back not only to the things we have done. It goes back to every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine who has served out here," he said. "The conditions were well set for us to pick up this mission. And hopefully, we will have taken it to another level, where now General Miller just picks it up and goes right on from here."

What that future will look like remains unclear, he acknowledged. But the way Garganus defines success – and encourages his Marines and coalition forces to define it – is through the opportunity they have given the Afghans.

"Ten years ago, the Afghan people had no opportunity. They had nothing resembling a chance to have a better future," he said. "Our job is to help create that opportunity. And what they decide to do with it is ultimately going to be their decision."

By this measure, Garganus declared the current deployment and previous ones it has built on a success.

"I really do believe that the work that has been done over the course of the last 10 years by all of the coalition has given the Afghans the opportunity now to really step up and be a country for which they determine its future," he said.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

West Wing Week: 02/22/13 or “A Single Sacred Word: Citizen” | The White House

West Wing Week: 02/22/13 or “A Single Sacred Word: Citizen” | The White House


Marine Corps Sgt. Bradley A. Hoover, a fixed-wing aircraft power plant mechanics instructor at the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., stresses communication when training fellow Marines. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Glen Santy
Face of Defense: Sergeant Takes Responsibility for His Marines

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Glen Santy 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C., Feb. 21, 2013 - Because they are the future of his craft, and each one is a direct reflection of himself, Marine Corps Sgt. Bradley A. Hoover said, he takes personal responsibility for each Marine he is charged with leading.

Hoover, a fixed-wing aircraft power plant mechanics instructor with the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training here, guides new Marines through a three-month training period, which includes daily physical training and Marine Corps martial arts courses.

The job gives him a high level of personal satisfaction in sending highly-trained Marines to the fleet, Hoover said.

"One thing I want these Marines to remember is to never stop excelling and to try their best at everything they do," he added. "I want these students to absorb this knowledge."

In the engine technician field, the sergeant said, communication sustains a productive workflow, so he stresses that aspect of the job.

"I want to get them to speak out loud and think out loud and get them to work together," Hoover said. "The more they learn here, the less they have to learn in the fleet."

ESA-Studierendensatellit macht bedeutende Fortschritte

ESA-Studierendensatellit macht bedeutende Fortschritte

Will eating Southern cooking hurt?

Will eating Southern cooking hurt?


Senior Airman Stephen Hanks and Geri, a patrol and explosive detector dog, both with the 447th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, patrol the perimeter of Sather Air Base on Dec. 11, 2011, in Baghdad, Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo-Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)
Rightsizing U.S. Mission Iraq
Special Briefing
Thomas Nides
Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources
Via Teleconference
Washington, DC
February 8, 2012

MS. NULAND: Thank you, Operator, and thanks to all of you for joining us. We are pleased today to have with us Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides to talk on the record about a review that he is conducting for the Secretary on rightsizing the U.S. mission in Iraq.

Let me, without further ado, turn it over to the Deputy, and then we’ll take about three or four questions. Unfortunately, his time is a little compressed. Go ahead, Mr. Deputy Secretary.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Hi. Thank you all very much. I just wanted to touch on a couple of facts as it regards to Iraq and what we’re planning to do and what we planned to do when we started the mission. As you know, we had the largest transition since the Marshall Plan taking place as of January 1st, and I think many folks thought that it was a difficult mission set and we – I think arguably – could suggest we’ve had a very successful mission.

We – the military is now gone. We have a robust diplomatic presence. We have a diplomatic presence both in up north and down south and in Baghdad. We have been fully and completely engaged on the – all of the political aspects, which you all have been covering quite clearly. And Jim Jeffrey, in particular, I want to give enormous credit to of being fully engaged at all levels of the Iraqi political situation. We have stood up a robust police-training program, which is doing a terrific job working with the local police in training and developing a program, which I think will pay enormous dividends, too. We’re working on economic development, because as you know, they’re producing almost a million two barrels a day out of Basrah. And we’re working with the IO community to make sure that that, as well as all the other economic development all over the country – we have economic officers accomplishing that.

We have, the probably the most sophisticated OSC-I site, which we’re working with – or OSC-I sites – which we’re working with the military. As you know, the Iraqis have been purchasing tens of millions of dollars of equipment from us, and they will be continuing to do that. We’re training the Iraqis on that equipment, and that is U.S. equipment which they’re purchasing.

And as I’ve pointed out at the beginning is, we’re fully and completely engaged on the political deployment. And with that – knock on wood – we’re doing this, with the first and foremost, the security of our people. It’s certainly still a complicated situation there, but to the credit of our security and our diplomats and our locally engaged employees – knock on wood – we’re doing a better than fine job at accomplishing the goals that we set out.

That said, when we put this mission set up, it was very clear to us that we were going to make sure that over time – and what I mean by over time meaning over this year – we begin to try to right size the Embassy to look at – like so – there’s never such a thing as a normal embassy, but a more normalized embassy presence. And principally, our goal has been to shift our reliance on contractors to basically hiring local Iraqis. This is what the Iraqis want, and quite frankly, that’s what we want because it’s cheaper, it’s more important to be part of the community. And so first and foremost, our goal has always been to, over this year, is to shift more and more of our purchasing, and quite frankly, just our whole operations more to local – locally hired individuals. So that is our first priority, with the understanding that our main priority is making sure our people are secure.

So number one, we’re going to be looking at how we can do that over the next year. We’ll continue to look at our footprint, which is something we’ll always do. And we’re meeting with folks on a daily basis, along with my colleague Pat Kennedy and his team, to make sure that our footprint is appropriate for the period of time as we proceed. We’ll be looking at the – as we look at the programs that we’re offering, most of the programs that we’re offering will continue to be offered. But we’ll continue to look at how we can hire like we do in many countries around the world, that we hire Iraqis to help us with the programs that we’re executing. So I am – we’re doing exactly what we said we were going to do when we set up this mission set, which is we’re going to constantly continue to look to ways to shift more of the cost structure to

locally, which is going to be, obviously, substantially cheaper for us, but most importantly, to continue evaluating it as this mission set is accomplished and is being accomplished.

So I am – feel quite good about where we are. I will tell you, contrary to some of the news reports, we are not reducing our operations by 50 percent. But I will hope – quite frankly, I am hopeful that over the next few months that we’ll be able to reduce our size by, again, reducing the dependency on contractors, by focusing on the things that we said we were going to focus on. But that is – quite frankly, I think we owe it to our – the taxpayers. We owe it to the men and women who are working there. We owe it to all the men and women who have spent time there. And quite frankly, that’s what a good bilateral relationship will do.

So I am quite pleased as we are proceeding here, and I think we’ll have more opportunity in the next few weeks to continue to brief you about how our planning is going. But I should tell you, it’s going to be a process that we’ll go through over the next few months about how we do this plan and continue to do the planning in Iraq.

So why don’t I pause and take a couple questions.

MS. NULAND: Thanks, Operator. We’re ready to go to questions.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And at this time, if you do have questions, please press * followed by 1 on your touchtone phone. If you would like to remove your question, that is *2. Again, *1 for any questions or comments. One moment for that, please.

I am currently showing no questions. Again, that is *1 on your touchtone phone for any questions or comments.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Boy, I must have been really good.

OPERATOR: I do have a question from Karen DeYoung. Ma’am.



QUESTION: You said it won’t be 50 percent, but have you come up with any sense of what it would be? And do you see Iraqis actually taking over security functions, whether static or movement security or any kind of security?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: I would – to be honest with you, I don’t know where the 50 percent number came from. But I am – it is what it is. But I think that the – I don’t know what the number is. What I – here’s the direction I gave people, okay? We made a commitment to try to reduce the dependency on contractors. There’s been a lot of press written about how many contractors we had. Much of that is security, but its food service, right? If I can get food purchasing – more food purchasing done in Iraq and not have to bring it in, that will dramatically decrease our dependency on contractors to do food service. And that goes through a lot of the service that we are providing now.

So my view of this is we will also look aggressively on perimeter security and how we manage that. But I should be honest with you, Karen. My – the only thing I worry about – the only thing I worry about is the security of our people. Okay? We have a diplomatic mission. We owe it to make sure that we fulfill the diplomatic mission that we set out to do when we made this transition. But the most important thing to do is to make sure that we are making sure that we have – our people are secure. And so I – as much as I would love to reduce – continue to reduce the numbers of people and the cost, I will not sacrifice the security of our people.

That said, I think as we go through this year, we’re going to see many, many opportunities to allow us to have a – the footprint that we can accomplish the goals around economic development and the OSC-I and the police training, the political engagement, with hopefully some fewer people and then also a lesser dependency on the contractors, which I think we all want to do. And we’ll do that. And it will take – it’s going to take time.

And what we’re not going to do is make kind of knee-jerk decisions. This has to be – there was several years of planning goes into these as the Embassy was stood up, and we will be very thoughtful as we begin moving – transitioning this is into a more – what I refer to as a normal-looking embassy. But that will take time, and so we’re going to be doing this very thoughtfully, and in consultation with the Congress, I mind you. I will have many conversations with the Congress, which we’re doing. And they get it. I mean, they totally understand what we’re trying to do.

MS. NULAND: Operator, next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Steven Myers of The New York Times. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Tom and Victoria.


QUESTION: The – two questions, which are related: Why is this review happening now as opposed to over the last year when you knew this was coming? Even on the question of buying local food, for example, that could have been done years ago, but it wasn’t. And now you’re looking at it, so I wonder why.


QUESTION: If I can just ask my second, because it’s related: The Iraqis have put up a lot of obstacles, some small but some rather significant, on movements, on visas. They’ve complained about the size of the security footprint. How much of the Iraqi obstructionism is causing you to rethink the number of people that you have there as well?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Okay. Well, let me answer the first question. The first one’s a good question. I mean – and I should say let’s just step back and remind us where we were, okay? A year ago, we had almost 40-50,000 American troops there, okay? The military was the – was predominately the way we got around. It was certainly a major part of our presence, if not the greater preponderance of our presence, and all of our – much of our diplomatic presence was dependent upon everything from how we were fed and our medical care and all those activities, right?

So as we made the largest transition – again, I hate to use this line, but I’ll use it anyways again – since the Marshall Plan, our decision was – which was rightly so – is that we’re going to have to stand this mission set up. Because remember, we set a hard deadline to have those troops gone. So we knew that – starting January 1st – that we were going to have to have a mission set up to basically allow us to do exactly what our mission was, which is the diplomacy, the political engagement, the police training. And so our goal was – at that point was to make sure we had a mission that’s set up.

We always said – if you go and talk to Senator Leahy or you talk to Kay Granger, I was very clear that this was going to be – we’re going to do this in stages. You and I had this conversation. We were going to basically have a glide path, which was we would do – like on police training, our original police training program had us this year – our original plan was to do a billion dollar police training, and we started the plan – the training with a half a billion dollar program, because we want to see how these programs work. And as I said to everyone on the Hill, we are going to stand this mission set up because it’s critically important as we get those – we get the military out that we have a very strong diplomatic presence and we don’t have any gaps between the military and our diplomatic presence.

But that said, I – we have been totally upfront and straight about this, that over time we want to have a more normalized embassy, and that will mean making a decision over time about contractors, the numbers of contractors, the size of some of our mission sets, without losing sight of our core mission, which is, number one, political engagement, economic development, kind of the – and then this – and then the OSC-I piece of this, which is very, very important as they purchase U.S. equipment.

So I – again, I’m – one thing about what we have said and certainly what I’ve said and I think our team has said is we were very clear with everyone what we were planning to do and how we will execute this over. And this is not going to happen overnight. I mean, we’re not going to have – tomorrow, we’re not going to be able to sit here and say okay, X numbers of – hundreds of thousands of people have departed. We’re going to be doing this over a period of time as we think about how this mission set should look like, and quite frankly, as we procure more goods and as we operate more.

Now, on your second question, I – we’ve had an unbelievable cooperation from the Iraqis, okay? Listen, is it always perfect? No. I’m sure it’s not always perfect. It’s not always perfect. And I’m sure they don’t think we’re always perfect. But the reality is, is they’ve given us the visas that we’ve needed. It hasn’t been always smooth, but we’ve been given the visas. We’ve set up an operation in Iraq which allows our diplomats to be safe, allows us to do political engagement, it allows us to have an OSC-I site that are training people on military equipment which they’re purchasing from us.

So I’d have to say, as cynical as all of us are – and I think most of us are pretty cynical – pretty darn good, I mean, if you ask us come January 30 – January or February 6th where we are today. So I think you all would be questioning us if you weren’t asking us a question, "Well, what are you guys going to do over the long term? What is your long-term view of how big your footprint should be? How much should you be relying up on local contractors?" So we’re asking the tough questions. We’re going to continue asking the tough questions. And we’re going to, over time, allow ourselves to have this Embassy look like – more like a normal embassy, but it will take time without compromising our core missions.

MS. NULAND: And for those of you who aren’t wonked up on Iraq, Office of Security Cooperation is what OSC-I is.

We have time for one last question, Operator. Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And I have a question from Matthew Lee from the Associated Press. Your line is open.



QUESTION: Thanks. You say that you’ve been very clear about this with everybody, but apparently not, because that’s why this 50 percent number is floating around – I presume – that’s floating around in Baghdad. And whether or not it’s true or not, I’m wondering if it isn’t, in fact, the case if you are simply getting rid of the expensive contractors and replacing them with local contractors. While I see a reduction in cost, I don’t see a net reduction in contractors.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Oh, well that – yeah. Listen, we’re not there to make – I mean, listen. We will go – we’ll go contractor by contractor, we’ll try to figure out over time what goods we can purchase locally in which we will not rely upon goods that are coming in over the border.

But I think the more – which – and I certainly appreciate the question – I think you also should recognize the fact we were spending last year almost $50 billion through DOD, and we’re now spending approximately $5.5 billion or – I mean, correct my numbers, but in that ballpark, right? For the taxpayers, okay, they’ve had a very positive gain. Okay? That said, I think most of us would agree that the – if you look at what’s happened in Iraq over the last month and a half, our political engagement there has been at the top end of the scale. The engagement of Jim Jeffrey and Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden and Barack – President Obama and all the players have been very strong and has been really done by the strength of our diplomatic presence there.

But listen, I think the reality is, as I said at the onset, my hope is that as we go through this next year, I’ll be having conversations which you’ll say, listen, we had X thousands of contractors. We have Y now because we are procuring more of our goods in Iraq, or we have concluded that we – the footprint that we currently have, we can have a smaller footprint. We don’t need as big a footprint. So consequently, we don’t need as many, quote, "static guards." I mean, that’s what every good operation does. We should be – you – people should be pushing us all the time to continue to evaluate over the next couple years, which we will be doing.

Our goal has been, quite frankly, upfront, which is we will continue to look at this – the mission set to make sure that we do not compromise on our core responsibilities, which is, number one, the security of our people. So regardless of what the size is, we are going to make sure that the people there – our diplomats and our – and the people that we have hired there are secure, number one, and two, that the ability for us to be involved in the political engagement of Iraq is at the highest possible level because there’s – clearly, as you all know, there’s – this is as important a diplomatic mission that we have anywhere in the world. The stakes are high, and we plan to be engaged. So --

QUESTION: I understand that, but what I’m getting at is that barring – or unless – until there is development, until the circumstances allow for a dramatic reduction in, say, security guards, the security footprint, if you are just getting rid of the expensive contractors and hiring local people at less cost, isn’t it possible that there won’t be that significant a reduction in the number of personnel at all, at least until we get to the point where there doesn’t have to be that many – where there doesn’t --

DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: I mean, Matt, my – the way I’d answer the question is: I mean, having spent a lot of time in the business world as well, so I guess I’m somewhat uniquely qualified since I’ve had – I’ve done this a few times – there’s a variety of ways to do this, right? One is, obviously, the numbers of people that are working on different programs. And again, I go back to this notion that we want to make sure we have enough people to do the programs that we believe are critically important. The second way to make sure that you are smart about it is the numbers of locations you have, right? The amount of space you have, because obviously, the number of, quote, "security guards" you’re talking about is a total derivative of how many square feet we have, right? I mean, how many locations you have, because you have to obviously protect the perimeters of those.

So as we proceed over the next year, and as we look at our mission set and look at what we’re trying to achieve on the diplomatic side, my hope is, is that we’ll conclude over – in the period of time that we can consolidate some of the locations and space, and that will allow us to rely more upon local Iraqi contractors. But the most important thing is what we’re going to do is we’re going to be studying it, we’re working on it, we’re going to work very closely with our staff at our – in Baghdad and around the country, and we’re going to work with the Iraqis. They – we are a team working closely with them as we look at this diplomatic mission now and into the future.

So guys, I’ve got to run. But thank you all. And if I can be of any other help, I’m sure you’ll let us know.

MS. NULAND: Thank you all very much for joining us.