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Saturday, March 16, 2013


Regarding Significant Reductions of Iranian Crude Oil Purchases
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 13, 2013

The United States and the international community remain committed to maintaining pressure on the Iranian regime until it fully addresses concerns about its nuclear program. That is why today I am pleased to announce that based on additional significant reductions in the volume of its crude oil purchases from Iran, Japan has again qualified for an exception to sanctions outlined in Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012.

Additionally, 10 European Union countries – Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom – have also qualified for a renewal of the NDAA exception because they have not purchased Iranian oil since July 1, 2012, pursuant to a decision made by the whole of the European Union in January 2012. As a result, I will report to the Congress that exceptions to sanctions pursuant to Section 1245 of the NDAA for certain transactions will apply to the financial institutions based in these countries for a potentially renewable period of 180 days.

Today’s determination is another example of the international community’s commitment to convince Iran to meet its international obligations. A total of 20 countries and economies have continued to significantly reduce the volume of their crude oil purchases from Iran. The message to the Iranian regime from the international community is clear: take concrete actions to satisfy the concerns of the international community, or face increasing isolation and pressure.


New EPA Report: Initial Data Shows Significant Gains in Fuel Economy for 2012

– Today, EPA released its annual report that tracks the fuel economy of vehicles sold in the United States, underscoring the major increases made in the efficiency of the vehicles Americans drive, reducing oil consumption and cutting carbon emissions. According to the report, EPA estimates that between 2007 and 2012 fuel economy values increased by 16 percent while carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have decreased by 13 percent, and in 2012 alone the report indicates a significant one year increase of 1.4 miles per gallon (mpg) for cars and trucks.

"Today’s report shows that we are making strides toward saving families money at the pump, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and cleaning up the air we breathe," said Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. "The historic steps taken by the Obama administration to improve fuel economy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil are accelerating this progress, will spur economic growth and will create high-quality domestic jobs in cutting edge industries across America."

The expected 1.4 mpg improvement in 2012 is based on sales estimates provided to EPA by automakers. EPA’s projections show a reduction in CO2 emissions to 374 grams per mile and an increase in average fuel economy to 23.8 mpg. These numbers represent the largest annual improvements since EPA began reporting on fuel economy.

Fuel economy is expected to continue improving significantly under the Obama administration’s historic National Clean Car Program standards. The program cuts greenhouse gas emissions and would double fuel economy standards by 2025. The standards will save American families $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs, and by 2025 will result in an average fuel savings of more than $8,000 per vehicle. The program will also save 12 billion barrels of oil, and by 2025 will reduce oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day – as much as half of the oil imported from OPEC every day.

EPA’s annual "Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 through 2012" attributes the improvements to the rapid adoption of more efficient technologies, the increasing number of high fuel economy choices for consumers, and the fact that many automakers are already selling vehicles that can meet more stringent future fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards. The report indicates that the projected gains for 2012 more than make up for a slight dip in fuel economy in 2011.

Compared to five years ago, consumers have twice as many hybrid and diesel vehicle choices, a growing set of plug-in electric vehicle options, and a six-fold increase in the number of car models with combined city/highway fuel economy of 30 mpg or higher.


DOD Requires More Base Closings, Official Says
By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2013 - The Defense Department possesses more real estate than it needs and is looking to close additional bases and installations in the United States and abroad, a senior DOD official told a House panel yesterday.

Another round of base realignments and closings should be an essential part of any overall strategy for reshaping the military, John Conger, the acting deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, told the House Armed Services Committee in prepared testimony.

"Force structure is declining relative to that which existed in 2005, thereby continuing to add to aggregate excess capacity," Conger said, noting that the U.S. Army is reducing its active duty end strength from 570,000 to 490,000 by 2020, and the Marine Corps from about 202,000 to 182,000.

"If we assume our bases were either appropriately loaded or were carrying excess capacity," he said, "these force reductions will increase that surplus."

In last year's budget request, the Pentagon asked Congress for permission to initiate two more rounds of base closings, under what is known as BRAC, the Base Realignment and Closure authority. Conger said the last round of BRAC closings, in 2005, produced $4 billion in annual recurring savings.

By law, under the BRAC process, an independent commission submits to Congress a list of military installations it believes should be closed or realigned, with lawmakers and the president then required to approve or reject the recommendations without change.

Conger referred to a 2004 DOD study which he said found the military had 24 percent excess capacity "and that the BRAC 2005 recommendations reduced capacity by only 3.4 percent."

The Defense Department is examining further reductions in U.S. military bases in Europe, where Conger said more than 100 sites have already been returned to host governments since 2003, and where no authority from Congress is required for recommending additional closures.

"By the end of this year, we plan to conclude with a fully vetted list of options from which the Secretary [of Defense] can make strategic decisions for eliminating excess, preserving and even enhancing our ability to meet strategic and operational commitments," Conger said in his prepared remarks.

The U.S. Army already plans to close 33 additional sites in Europe associated with the decision to reduce brigade combat teams based on the continent.

Weekly Address: Time to Create the Energy Security Trust | The White House

Weekly Address: Time to Create the Energy Security Trust | The White House


First U.S. Anti-Ballistic Missile Site.   Located In N. Dakota.  Credit:  DOD.
Hagel: U.S. Bolstering Missile Defense
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2013 - The United States will add more ground-based ballistic missile interceptors to its arsenal to guard against increased threats from North Korea and Iran, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced today.

North Korean and Iranian missile capabilities have increased and the United States must stay ahead of that threat, Hagel said. Both have developed longer range ballistic missiles, and North Korea has now conducted three nuclear tests, followed by stepped up threats against the United States and South Korea.

The Pentagon will deploy 14 more ground-based interceptors in locations at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif, Hagel said, boosting the total number from 30 to 44. The added interceptors will provide a nearly 50 percent increase in U.S. missile defense capability, Hagel said.

"The United States has missile defense systems in place to protect us from limited ICBM attacks, but North Korea in particular has recently made advances in its capabilities and is engaged in a series of irresponsible and reckless provocations," Hagel said.

Last month, North Korea conducted its third nuclear test. In December 2012, the North launched a satellite into orbit, demonstrating an intercontinental ballistic missile capability. In April 2012, Pyongyang also displayed what appeared to be a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile capability.

Hagel also said the United States will team with Japan to deploy an additional advanced radar there. The radar will provide improved early warning and tracking of any missile launched in North Korea at the United States or Japan.

Hagel said DOD is also conducting environmental impact studies for a potential additional interceptor site in the United States. Officials are looking for two sites on the East Coast and one on the West. While the administration has not made a decision on whether to proceed, conducting environmental impact studies will shorten the timeline of construction should a decision be made, he explained. Hagel also announced plans to restructure the SM3-2B program, a land-based standard missile, with plans to deploy it as part of the European phase-adapted approach. "The purpose was to add protection of the U.S. homeland already provided by our current GBIs [ground based interceptors] against missile threats in the Middle East," Hagel said.

The secretary said shifting resources from the "lagging program" to fund the additional interceptors and kill vehicle technology that will improve performance of the GBI and other versions of the SM3 interceptor allows the U.S. to add protection against missiles from Iran and North Korea sooner.

Hagel reemphasized the United States' "iron-clad" commitment to missile defense. "The missile deployments the United States is making in phases 1 through 3 of the European phase-adaptive approach, including sites in Poland and Romania, will still be able to provide coverage of all European NATO territory as planned by 2018," he said.

The overall result will improve the U.S. ability to counter future missile threats from Iran and North Korea while being good stewards of taxpayers' resources, Hagel said.

"The American people expect us to take every necessary step to protect our security at home and U.S. strategic interests abroad," he said. "But they expect us to do so in the most efficient and effective manner possible."



Landforms on Mars
This image was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) flying onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission.

Gully landforms like those in this image are found in many craters in the mid-latitudes of Mars. Changes in gullies were first seen in images from the Mars Orbiter Camera in 2006, and studying such activity has been a high priority for HiRISE. Many examples of new deposits in gullies are now known.

This image shows a new deposit in Gasa Crater, in the Southern mid-latitudes. The deposit is distinctively blue in enhanced-color images. This image was acquired in southern spring, but the flow that formed the deposit occurred in the preceding winter.

Current gully activity appears to be concentrated in winter and early spring, and may be caused by the seasonal carbon dioxide frost that is visible in gully alcoves in the winter.

Written by: Colin Dundas

Image Credit-- NASA-JPL-University of Arizona

Friday, March 15, 2013

DOD News Briefing in the Pentagon Briefing Room

DOD News Briefing in the Pentagon Briefing Room


U.S. soldiers and Albanian special operations forces join with Afghan border police and soldiers in the Spin Boldak district of Afghanistan's Kandahar province, March 3, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann

Combined Force Arrests Taliban Facilitator
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, March 15, 2013 - A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban facilitator and detained another insurgent in the Kandahar district of Afghanistan's Kandahar province yesterday, military officials reported.

The Taliban facilitator is accused of acquiring and distributing lethal aid to fighters in Kandahar and Uruzgan provinces, officials said. In the past, he has also provided grenades, ammunition, home-made explosive material and improvised explosive devices for use in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

In other Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- A combined force killed an insurgent in Helmand province's Nahr-e Saraj district.

-- A combined force detained a number of insurgents during an operation in search of a senior Haqqani leader in Khost province's Manduzai district. The sought-after Haqqani leader has been fighting against Afghan and coalition forces for nearly five years and has more than 200 insurgents under his command. He has directed them to attack Afghan and coalition forces in multiple provinces throughout Afghanistan, including Khost, Paktiya and Paktika. The Haqqani leader also has experience working in terrorist training camps and guiding and equipping extremist fighters in order to conduct operations against the Afghan people and government.

-- A combined force killed a number of insurgents during two security operations in Ghazni province's Andar district.


Thursday, March 14, 2013
Former Web Producer Indicted in California for Conspiring with "Anonymous" Members to Attack Internet News Site

A former web producer for a Tribune Company-owned television station in Sacramento, Calif., was charged today in an indictment for allegedly conspiring with members of the hacker group "Anonymous" to hack into and alter a Tribune Company website, the Justice Department announced.

Matthew Keys, 26, of Secaucus, N.J., was charged in the Eastern District of California with one count each of conspiracy to transmit information to damage a protected computer, transmitting information to damage a protected computer and attempted transmission of information to damage a protected computer.

Keys was employed by Sacramento-based television station KTXL FOX 40, as its web producer, but was terminated in late October 2010.

The three-count indictment alleges that in December 2010 Keys provided members of the hacker group Anonymous with log-in credentials for a computer server belonging to KTXL FOX 40’s corporate parent, the Tribune Company. According to the indictment, Keys identified himself on an Internet chat forum as a former Tribune Company employee and provided members of Anonymous with a login and password to the Tribune Company server. After providing log-in credentials, Keys allegedly encouraged the Anonymous members to disrupt the website. According to the indictment, at least one of the computer hackers used the credentials provided by Keys to log into the Tribune Company server, and ultimately that hacker made changes to the web version of a Los Angeles Times news feature.

The indictment further alleges that Keys had a conversation with the hacker who claimed credit for the defacement of the Los Angeles Times website. The hacker allegedly told Keys that Tribune Company system administrators had thwarted his efforts and locked him out. Keys allegedly attempted to regain access for that hacker, and when he learned that the hacker had made changes to a Los Angeles Times page, Keys responded, "nice."

Each of the two substantive counts carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the Sacramento and Los Angeles Field Offices of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013



Washington, D.C., March 11, 2013 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged two investment advisers at Oppenheimer & Co. with misleading investors about the valuation policies and performance of a private equity fund they manage.

An SEC investigation found that Oppenheimer Asset Management and Oppenheimer Alternative Investment Management disseminated misleading quarterly reports and marketing materials stating that the fund’s holdings of other private equity funds were valued "based on the underlying managers’ estimated values." However, the portfolio manager of the Oppenheimer fund actually valued the fund’s largest investment at a significant markup to the underlying manager’s estimated value, a change that made the fund’s performance appear significantly better as measured by its internal rate of return.

Oppenheimer agreed to pay more than $2.8 million to settle the SEC’s charges. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office today announced a related action and additional financial penalty against Oppenheimer.

"Honest disclosure about how investments are valued and how performance is measured is vital to private equity investors," said George S. Canellos, Acting Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. "This action against Oppenheimer for misleadingly writing up the value of illiquid investments is clear warning that the SEC will not tolerate lax disclosure practices in the marketing of private equity funds."

According to the SEC’s order instituting settled administrative proceedings, the Oppenheimer advisers marketed Oppenheimer Global Resource Private Equity Fund I L.P. (OGR) to investors from around October 2009 to June 2010. OGR is a fund that invests in other private equity funds, and it was marketed primarily to pensions, foundations, and endowments as well as high net worth individuals and families.

According to the SEC’s order, OGR’s largest investment — Cartesian Investors-A LLC — was not valued based on the underlying managers’ estimated values. OGR’s portfolio manager himself valued Cartesian at a significant markup to the underlying manager’s estimated value. OAM’s change in valuation methodology resulted in a material increase in OGR’s performance as measured by its internal rate of return, which is a metric commonly used to compare the profitability of various investments. For the quarter ended June 30, 2009, the portfolio manager’s markup of OGR’s Cartesian investment increased the internal rate of return from approximately 3.8 to 38.3 percent.

"Particularly in the current difficult fundraising environment that can incentivize private equity managers to artificially inflate portfolio valuations, firms must implement policies and procedures to ensure that investors receive performance data derived from the disclosed valuation methodology," said Julie M. Riewe, Deputy Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Asset Management Unit. "Oppenheimer failed to implement such procedures and provided investors with misleading information about its valuation policies and performance numbers."

The SEC’s order found that former OAM employees made the following misrepresentations to potential investors:
The increase in Cartesian’s value was due to an increase in Cartesian’s performance when, in fact, the increase was attributable to the portfolio manager’s new valuation method.
A third-party valuation firm used by Cartesian’s underlying manager wrote up the value of Cartesian, which was untrue.
OGR’s underlying funds were audited by independent third-party auditors when, in fact, Cartesian was unaudited.

The SEC’s order also found that Oppenheimer Asset Management’s written policies and procedures were not reasonably designed to ensure that valuations provided to prospective and existing investors were presented in a manner consistent with written representations to investors and prospective investors.

Oppenheimer Asset Management’s conduct violated Sections 17(a)(2) and 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rules 206(4)-7 and 206(4)-8. Without admitting or denying the findings, Oppenheimer agreed to pay a $617,579 penalty and return $2,269,098 to those who invested in OGR during the time period when the misrepresentations were made. Oppenheimer consented to a censure and agreed to cease and desist from committing or causing any future violations of the securities laws. The firm is required to retain an independent consultant to conduct a review of its valuation policies and procedures.

Oppenheimer will pay an additional penalty of $132,421 to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the related action taken by the Massachusetts Attorney General.

The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, was conducted by Panayiota K. Bougiamas and Igor Rozenblit of the Asset Management Unit and Lisa Knoop. It was supervised by Valerie A. Szczepanik. The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Mobilizing Ingenuity to Strengthen Global Security
Rose Gottemoeller
Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
South by Southwest Conference (SXSW)
Austin, TX
March 8, 2013

Thank you so much for the introduction, Daniel and thank you all for being here. I’m really excited about being here in Austin at the South by Southwest Conference.

Now, I realize that being the government’s chief arms control negotiator might seem a little out of place here. What can the tech community do to help is get rid of the thousands and thousands of nuclear weapons still in the world? We worry about them getting into the hands of terrorists. Add to that the increased threat from chemical and biological agents – you can see the threat from CW in Syria -- and technologies that are easily switched from peaceful to threatening purposes. We have a big problem on our hands.

In truth, I came here for your help. The United States has laid out a comprehensive approach to dealing with these threats. But we need new ideas, and the information revolution is an obvious place to look. I hope you come away from this session energized to help us in our efforts to combat the threats of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

A Problem

Let me start by giving you a feel for our nuclear treaty verification problem. When signing our most recent treaty – New START – with the Russian Federation, the President said our next step would be to pursue reductions in all types of nuclear weapons, even nuclear weapons held in secret storage facilities. In the past, we focused on eliminating nuclear weapons on big missiles or bombers – items you could count from satellites in space. The idea was, eliminate the missile and you eliminate the threat of the warhead.

Now the President has said that is not good enough – if we’re worried terrorists will get their hands on nuclear weapons, we have to reduce and eliminate those weapons, even if they’re hidden away in storage. That is a big challenge for a nuclear arms controller: how can we monitor warheads, know where they are and that the other guys don’t have hidden stashes somewhere?

For bomb-making material, these challenges only increase. This stuff is portable and easy to hide. Major ports have radiation detectors, but these systems are very sensitive and can pick up the radioactivity coming from everyday items like bananas, kitty litter and porcelain toilets. Bet you didn’t know those things were radioactive.

For biological and chemical agents, the main problem comes from the dual-use nature of the work and technologies. How can we tell if work being done is good or bad? Or if we cannot, how do we build in activities to reassure people that the work being done is safe and peaceful?

So our goal is to devise and enhance systems for tracking and monitoring, as well as devise new ways to verify compliance with future agreements and treaties. Of course, as you who work in technology know, no system is ever 100% foolproof. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, foolproof systems tend to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools and for that matter, highly-motivated cheaters.

How do we even come close to 100% verification? In the treaty context, we are looking for effective verification. Paul Nitze, a brilliant, esteemed national security expert and long-serving government official, explained effective verification as follows:

"[I]f the other side moves beyond the limits of the treaty in any militarily significant way, we would be able to detect such violations in time to respond effectively and thereby deny the other side the benefit of the violation."

That’s effective verification. Nitze’s definition has been and continues to be the benchmark for verifying arms control treaties. But the world is changing, as I’ve described, and with it, the nature of what we need to monitor and verify. To help us meet the challenges ahead, we need your help.

A Light Bulb

New information tools are popping up everywhere and their potential impact is magnified by the global connectivity of the Internet. Our new reality is a smaller, increasingly-networked world where the average citizen connects to other citizens in cyberspace hundreds of times each day. Today, any event, anywhere on the planet, could be broadcast globally in seconds. That means it is harder to hide things. When it is harder to hide things, it is easier to be caught. The neighborhood gaze is a powerful tool, and it can help us to verify the treaties and agreements we’ve created.

A New Plan

The way we at the State Department see it so far, there are two elements we are working with when it comes to incorporating the information age into WMD verification and monitoring – tools for inspectors and data acquisition and analysis.

Using Tools

First, it is already apparent that digital tools are revolutionizing the way diplomacy is conducted, much like the telegraph did in the 19th century. Email is a good example: it rapidly accelerated the pace of the negotiation of New START, in comparison with the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

Information technologies could also be useful in the hands of a WMD inspector. Smartphone and tablet apps could be created for the express purpose of aiding in the verification and monitoring process. For example, by having all safeguards and verification sensors in an inspected facility wirelessly connected through the cloud to the inspector’s tablet, he or she could note anomalies and flag specific items for closer inspections, as well as compare readings in real time and interpret them in context. In the 90’s, U.S. weapons inspectors in Russia had to be able to cross country ski to do their jobs. They had to ski around the perimeters of facilities searching for things – with the kinds of tablet apps I mentioned, perhaps we could make the cardio optional.

Using the Crowd

The second way we could incorporate the new tools of the information age into WMD verification and monitoring is by harnessing of the power of the crowd to generate data and then analyze it.

Already, critical information generated through social networking is being incorporated into local safety systems in the United States. RAVEN911—the Regional Asset Verification & Emergency Network—is a multilayer mapping tool that supports emergency first response in Cincinnati, Ohio and its regional neighbors. RAVEN911 uses live data feeds, geospatial imagery, and information gathered through Twitter and other public sources to provide details that cannot be shown on an everyday geographic map, such as the location of downed electric power lines and flooded roads. This helps emergency first responders get to where they need to go more quickly.

Sound far-fetched to extend such ideas to arms control? It shouldn’t. There are apps that can convert your smartphone camera into a radiation detector. Your tablet could help detect nuclear explosions! Tablets have tiny accelerometers installed – that’s what tells the tablet which way is up. But the accelerometers also have the capability to detect small earth tremors.

You can imagine a whole community of tablets, all containing an "earth tremor" app. Users are dispersed randomly around the country, their tablets connected to a centralized network. If the sensors all start shaking at once, you may have a natural occurrence – an earthquake – or you may have an illicit nuclear weapon test. Which is which would need to be confirmed with official sensors and analysis.

This kind of ubiquitous sensing I see as one of the most exciting areas for new arms control monitoring tools.

A Hitch?

So, we have a brand new set of exciting possibilities to pursue, but there is a hitch. For any of this to work, there are a lot of technical, legal, political, and diplomatic barriers ahead that would need to be overcome—never easy.

In the end, the goal of using information technology and social networks should add to our existing arms control monitoring and verification capabilities, not to supersede them.

A Challenge

Last summer, we launched our first Innovation in Arms Control Challenge and asked the American public, "How Can the Crowd Support Arms Control Transparency Efforts?" This challenge sought creative ideas from the public to use commonly available technologies to support arms control policy and education efforts.

We received interest from more than 500 people from across the United States with solutions that largely fell into four broad categories: smartphone apps, internet websites and games, sensor array schemes, and "big data" crunching.

Our first prize winner is Ms. Lovely Umayam, a graduate student from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. She developed "Bombshelltoe", an online education platform that examines the intersection of culture and nuclear issues in order to facilitate better public understanding. Mr. Allan Childers, an Aerospace/Defense industry consultant from Florida, was a runner-up with his proposal for a mobile application that provides a platform for users to connect and interact, as well as a rewards program for sharing information on various arms agreement regimes. Dr. Rudolph "Chip" Mappus, a research scientist at Georgia Tech Research Institute working on computational neurology and brain-machine interfaces, was also a runner up. He proposed a geographically-based online game about verifying treaty compliance that experts and everyday citizens could play together.

This challenge was a first step focused on public education, and I am excited about the results and our prizewinners. This spring we’re preparing to launch a second Innovation in Arms Control Challenge that will ask the American public to design an information technology tool that can aid arms control inspections, so please stay tuned to on that front. We would love to get submissions from SxSW Interactive attendees!

A Pitch

So now I am eager to hear from you. As many of you are aware, there is a grand tradition of citizen science in this country – two of the greatest were among our earliest diplomats: Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin. I hope that this State Department tradition continues as we tackle these enormous challenges. Experts like you, particularly experts outside of the Beltway, can help us think bigger and bolder. It is sometimes strange to think that the government helped plant the seed of the information revolution, but at times seems to have no clue about how to harvest its rewards. That is why speaking to people like you is so important.

Thanks again for your attention and I would now love to take some questions and even better – to hear some ideas!


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Former U.S. Consulate Guard Sentenced to Nine Years in Prison for Attempting to Communicate National Defense Information to China

Bryan Underwood, a former civilian guard at a U.S. Consulate compound under construction in China, was sentenced today to nine years in prison in connection with his efforts to sell for personal financial gain classified photographs, information and access related to the U.S. Consulate to China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS), announced Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s National Security Division; Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; and Gregory B. Starr, Director of the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.

Underwood pleaded guilty Aug. 30, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of attempting to communicate national defense information to a foreign government with intent or reason to believe that the documents, photographs or information in question were to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation. He was sentenced by the Honorable Ellen S. Huvelle. Upon completion of his prison term, Underwood will be placed on two years of supervised release.

Underwood, 32, a former resident of Indiana, was first charged in an indictment on Aug. 31, 2011, with two counts of making false statements and was arrested on Sept. 1, 2011. On Sept. 21, 2011, he failed to appear at a scheduled status hearing in federal court in the District of Columbia. The FBI later located Underwood in a hotel in Los Angeles and arrested him there on Sept. 24, 2011. On Sept. 28, 2011, Underwood was charged in a superseding indictment with one count of attempting to communicate national defense information to a foreign government, two counts of making false statements and one count of failing to appear in court pursuant to his conditions of release.

"Bryan Underwood betrayed America’s trust by attempting to sell access to secure areas of the very U.S. Consulate compound he was charged to protect," said Assistant Attorney General Monaco. "Today, he is being held accountable for his actions. As this case demonstrates, we remain vigilant in protecting America’s secrets and in bringing to justice those who seek to compromise them."

"Access to classified information is a special responsibility to be honored, not a financial opportunity to be exploited," said U.S. Attorney Machen. "Bryan Underwood is going to prison because he tried to make millions by selling secret photos of a U.S. Consulate to a foreign government. His sentence demonstrates our dedication to jealously guarding our nation’s secrets. We all owe a great debt of gratitude to the agents who detected and stopped Underwood before he succeeded in betraying our country."

"Bryan Underwood attempted to betray his country by using his access to sensitive information for his own benefit. Fortunately, he was stopped before classified information fell into the wrong hands," said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Parlave. "Together with our partner agencies, the FBI will continue to diligently work to combat potential acts of espionage that threaten our national security."

"The close working relationship between the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office resulted in the conviction of Bryan Underwood before he could potentially harm the security of our country," said Director Starr of the Diplomatic Security Service. "This was a great success by all of the agencies involved."

According to court documents, from November 2009 to August 2011, Underwood worked as a cleared American guard (CAG) at the site of a new U.S. consulate compound that was under construction in Guangzhou, China. During this time, the compound was not yet operational. CAGs are American civilian security guards with top secret clearances who serve to prevent foreign governments from improperly obtaining sensitive or classified information from the construction site. Underwood received briefings on how to handle and protect classified information as well as briefings and instructions on security protocols for the U.S. Consulate, including the prohibition on photography in certain areas of the consulate.

In February 2011, Underwood was asked by U.S. law enforcement to assist in a project at the consulate and he agreed. In March and April of 2011, Underwood lost a substantial amount of money in the stock market. According to court documents, Underwood then devised a plan to use his assistance to U.S. law enforcement as a "cover" for making contact with the Chinese government. According to his subsequent statements to U.S. law enforcement, Underwood intended to sell his information about and access to the U.S. Consulate to the Chinese MSS for $3 million to $5 million. If any U.S. personnel caught him, he planned to falsely claim he was assisting U.S. law enforcement.

As part of his plan, Underwood wrote a letter to the Chinese MSS, expressing his "interest in initiating a business arrangement with your offices" and stating, "I know I have information and skills that would be beneficial to your offices [sic] goals. And I know your office can assist me in my financial endeavors." According to court documents, Underwood attempted to deliver this letter to the offices of the Chinese MSS in Guangzhou, but was turned away by a guard who declined to accept the letter. Underwood then left the letter in the open in his apartment hoping that the Chinese MSS would find it, as he believed the MSS routinely conducted searches of apartments occupied by Americans.

In May 2011, Underwood secreted a camera into the new U.S. consulate compound and took photographs of a restricted building and its contents. Several of these photographs depict areas or information classified at the Secret level. Underwood also created a schematic that listed all security upgrades to the U.S. consulate and drew a diagram of the surveillance camera locations at the consulate. In addition, according to his subsequent statements to U.S. law enforcement, Underwood "mentally" constructed a plan in which the MSS could gain undetected access to a building at the U.S. consulate to install listening devices or other technical penetrations.

According to court documents, the photographs Underwood took were reviewed by an expert at the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security who had original classification authority for facilities, security and countermeasures at the U.S. Consulate. The expert determined that several of the photographs contained images classified at the Secret level and that disclosure of such material could potentially cause serious damage to the United States.

In early August 2011, Underwood was interviewed several times by FBI and Diplomatic Security agents, during which he admitted making efforts to contact the Chinese MSS, but falsely claimed that he took these actions to assist U.S. law enforcement. On Aug. 19, 2011, Underwood was again interviewed by law enforcement agents and he admitted that he planned to sell photos, information and access to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to the Chinese MSS for his personal financial gain.

After initially being arraigned in this case on Sept. 1, 2011, Underwood was released on his personal recognizance, with certain conditions, including staying within the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and returning to court for a status hearing on Sept. 21, 2011. Instead of returning to court as promised, Underwood purchased a bicycle, racks, panniers, helmet and multiple energy snack bars. He left a fake suicide note at his hotel room in Springfield, Va. Then, alive and well, he pedaled west out of Springfield and eventually boarded a bus in Wytheville, Va., under a false name. He was arrested on Sept. 24, 2011 in a hotel room in Los Angeles, with over $10,000 in cash and 80,000 Japanese yen. He has been in custody ever since.

The U.S. government has found no evidence that Underwood succeeded in passing classified information concerning the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to anyone at the Chinese MSS.

This investigation was conducted jointly by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The prosecution was handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and Trial Attorney Brandon L. Van Grack from the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.


Map:  Illinois.  Credit:   Wikimedia Commons.  GNU. 

Washington, D.C., March 11, 2013 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged the State of Illinois with securities fraud for misleading municipal bond investors about the state’s approach to funding its pension obligations.

An SEC investigation revealed that Illinois failed to inform investors about the impact of problems with its pension funding schedule as the state offered and sold more than $2.2 billion worth of municipal bonds from 2005 to early 2009. Illinois failed to disclose that its statutory plan significantly underfunded the state’s pension obligations and increased the risk to its overall financial condition. The state also misled investors about the effect of changes to its statutory plan.

Illinois, which implemented a number of remedial actions and issued corrective disclosures beginning in 2009, agreed to settle the SEC’s charges.

"Municipal investors are no less entitled to truthful risk disclosures than other investors," said George S. Canellos, Acting Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. "Time after time, Illinois failed to inform its bond investors about the risk to its financial condition posed by the structural underfunding of its pension system."

Elaine Greenberg, Chief of the SEC’s Municipal Securities and Public Pensions Unit, added, "Regardless of the funding methodology they choose, municipal issuers must provide accurate and complete pension disclosures including the effects of material changes to their pension plans. Public pension disclosure by municipal issuers continues to be a top priority of the unit."

According to the SEC’s order instituting settled administrative proceedings against Illinois, the state established a 50-year pension contribution schedule in the Illinois Pension Funding Act that was enacted in 1994. The schedule proved insufficient to cover both the cost of benefits accrued in a current year and a payment to amortize the plans’ unfunded actuarial liability. The statutory plan structurally underfunded the state’s pension obligations and backloaded the majority of pension contributions far into the future. This structure imposed significant stress on the pension systems and the state’s ability to meet its competing obligations – a condition that worsened over time.

The SEC’s order finds that Illinois misled investors about the effect of changes to its funding plan, particularly pension holidays enacted in 2005. Although the state disclosed the pension holidays and other legislative amendments to the plan, Illinois did not disclose the effect of those changes on the contribution schedule and its ability to meet its pension obligations. The state’s misleading disclosures resulted from various institutional failures. As a result, Illinois lacked proper mechanisms to identify and evaluate relevant information about its pension systems into its disclosures. For example, Illinois had not adopted or implemented sufficient controls, policies, or procedures to ensure that material information about the state’s pension plan was assembled and communicated to individuals responsible for bond disclosures. The state also did not adequately train personnel involved in the disclosure process or retain disclosure counsel.

According to the SEC’s order, Illinois took multiple steps beginning in 2009 to correct process deficiencies and enhance its pension disclosures. The state issued significantly improved disclosures in the pension section of its bond offering documents, retained disclosure counsel, and instituted written policies and procedures as well as implemented disclosure controls and training programs. The state designated a disclosure committee to assemble and evaluate pension disclosures. In reaching a settlement, the Commission considered these and other remedial acts by Illinois and its cooperation with SEC staff during the investigation. Without admitting or denying the findings, Illinois consented to the SEC’s order to cease and desist from committing or causing any violations of Sections 17(a)(2) and 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act of 1933.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Peter K. M. Chan along with Paul M. G. Helms in the Chicago Regional Office and Eric A. Celauro and Sally J. Hewitt in the Municipal Securities and Public Pensions Unit. They were assisted by other specialists in the unit including Joseph O. Chimienti, Creighton Papier, and Jonathan Wilcox.


Of the 10 million square miles (26 million square kilometers) of northern vegetated lands, 34 to 41 percent showed increases in plant growth (green and blue), 3 to 5 percent showed decreases in plant growth (orange and red), and 51 to 62 percent showed no changes (yellow) over the past 30 years. Satellite data in this visualization are from the AVHRR and MODIS instruments, which contribute to a vegetation index that allows researchers to track changes in plant growth over large areas.  Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
Amplified Greenhouse Effect Shifts North's Growing Seasons

WASHINGTON -- Vegetation growth at Earth's northern latitudes increasingly resembles lusher latitudes to the south, according to a NASA-funded study based on a 30-year record of land surface and newly improved satellite data sets.

An international team of university and NASA scientists examined the relationship between changes in surface temperature and vegetation growth from 45 degrees north latitude to the Arctic Ocean. Results show temperature and vegetation growth at northern latitudes now resemble those found 4 degrees to 6 degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 1982.

"Higher northern latitudes are getting warmer, Arctic sea ice and the duration of snow cover are diminishing, the growing season is getting longer and plants are growing more," said Ranga Myneni of Boston University's Department of Earth and Environment. "In the north's Arctic and boreal areas, the characteristics of the seasons are changing, leading to great disruptions for plants and related ecosystems."

The study was published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Myneni and colleagues used satellite data to quantify vegetation changes at different latitudes from 1982 to 2011. Data used in this study came from NOAA's Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometers (AVHRR) onboard a series of polar-orbiting satellites and NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on the Terra and Aqua satellites.

As a result of enhanced warming and a longer growing season, large patches of vigorously productive vegetation now span a third of the northern landscape, or more than 3.5 million square miles (9 million square kilometers). That is an area about equal to the contiguous United States. This landscape resembles what was found 250 to 430 miles (400 to 700 kilometers) to the south in 1982.

"It's like Winnipeg, Manitoba, moving to Minneapolis-Saint Paul in only 30 years," said co-author Compton Tucker of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The Arctic's greenness is visible on the ground as an increasing abundance of tall shrubs and trees in locations all over the circumpolar Arctic. Greening in the adjacent boreal areas is more pronounced in Eurasia than in North America.

An amplified greenhouse effect is driving the changes, according to Myneni. Increased concentrations of heat-trapping gasses, such as water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane, cause Earth's surface, ocean and lower atmosphere to warm. Warming reduces the extent of polar sea ice and snow cover, and, in turn, the darker ocean and land surfaces absorb more solar energy, thus further heating the air above them.

"This sets in motion a cycle of positive reinforcement between warming and loss of sea ice and snow cover, which we call the amplified greenhouse effect," Myneni said. "The greenhouse effect could be further amplified in the future as soils in the north thaw, releasing potentially significant amounts of carbon dioxide and methane."

To find out what is in store for future decades, the team analyzed 17 climate models. These models show that increased temperatures in Arctic and boreal regions would be the equivalent of a 20-degree latitude shift by the end of this century relative to a period of comparison from 1951-1980.

However, researchers say plant growth in the north may not continue on its current trajectory. The ramifications of an amplified greenhouse effect, such as frequent forest fires, outbreak of pest infestations and summertime droughts, may slow plant growth.

Also, warmer temperatures alone in the boreal zone do not guarantee more plant growth, which also depends on the availability of water and sunlight.

"Satellite data identify areas in the boreal zone that are warmer and dryer and ¬¬other areas that are warmer and wetter," said co-author Ramakrishna Nemani of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "Only the warmer and wetter areas support more growth."
Researchers did find found more plant growth in the boreal zone from 1982 to 1992 than from 1992 to 2011, because water limitations were encountered in the latter two decades.

Data, results and computer codes from this study will be made available on NASA Earth Exchange (NEX), a collaborative supercomputing facility at Ames. NEX is designed to bring scientists together with data, models and computing resources to accelerate research and innovation and provide transparency.

Monday, March 11, 2013


U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel tours a classroom of Afghan soldiers with Afghan Brig. Gen. Aminullah Patyani, commander of the Kabul Military Training Center in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 10, 2013. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Combined Force Arrests Taliban Leader in Helmand Province
Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2013 - A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban leader and detained another insurgent in the Nawah-ye Barakzai district of Afghanistan's Helmand province today, military officials reported.

The leader is accused of coordinating ambushes against Afghan and coalition forces and is believed to have a history of directing attacks using improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.

The security force also seized a stockpile of IED components.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- A combined force in Kandahar province's Arghandab district arrested a Taliban leader believed to be an IED specialist with a cell of fighters under his command. He also has a significant history of procuring IED components, building IEDs and distributing them to his subordinates for use against Afghan and coalition forces. The security force also detained another insurgent and seized 20 pounds of heroin.

-- In Logar province's Baraki Barak district, a combined force detained an insurgent during a search for a Taliban leader alleged to be responsible for directing insurgent activity. He also is influential in the Taliban network there, ordering IED operations and other attacks.

In operations yesterday:

-- A combined force in Paktia province's Gardez district arrested a Haqqani network facilitator accused of procuring and distributing lethal aid to extremist fighters. He also is believed to have planned attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. The security force also arrested another insurgent and seized ammunition, an assault rifle and a grenade.

-- In Kandahar province's Panjwai district, a combined force arrested nine insurgents during a search for a Taliban commander accused of building IEDs and coordinating their use in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also is believed to have operational control over a cell of Taliban fighters and maintained a sophisticated operations center used to plan insurgent activity.

-- A combined force killed three insurgents in Helmand province's Nahr-e Saraj district after observing them conducting insurgent activity.

DOD Press Briefing by Gen. Dunford from Kabul, Afghanistan

Press Briefing by Gen. Dunford from Kabul, Afghanistan


Apparent Insider Attack Kills 2 Americans, 2 Afghans
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2013 - Two American service members were killed and 10 were wounded in an apparent "green-on-blue" incident in Afghanistan's Wardak province today.

An International Security Assistance Force release said the two were killed when an individual wearing an Afghan national security forces uniform turned a weapon on U.S. and Afghan forces. The attack killed at least two Afghan soldiers as well, U.S. officials said.

This is the third fatal insider attack this year. A British soldier was killed Jan. 7, and an American contract employee was killed March 8.

These attacks escalated last year, with 62 ISAF service members killed in 46 separate attacks. Insider attacks conducted in 2012 killed 35 Americans.

Today's attack occurred in the village of Jalrez. Reports indicate the attackers used a truck-mounted weapon to open fire on personnel leaving a training session. ISAF personnel killed the attacker, officials said.


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, meets with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 10, 2013. Hagel traveled to Afghanistan on his first trip as the 24th defense secretary to visit U.S. troops, NATO leaders and Afghan leaders. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
Hagel Offers Observations After Meeting With Karzai
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, March 10, 2013 - After his first meeting with Afghanistan's president as head of the U.S. military today, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the encounter featured "clear, direct conversation

The secretary and President Hamid Karzai met for discussions and dinner at the presidential palace here. NATO International Security Assistance Force commander Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham and other senior U.S. officials also attended.

In a speech earlier today, Karzai seemed to suggest the United States and the Taliban were conspiring to keep the level of violence in Afghanistan high to ensure the continued presence of U.S. troops here beyond 2014.

"We did discuss those comments," the secretary said, responding to a reporter's question about his meeting with Karzai. "I told the president it was not true that the United States was unilaterally working with the Taliban in trying to negotiate anything."

Any negotiation with the Taliban to build peace and political consensus in Afghanistan must come from the Afghan government, Hagel said. "Obviously, the United States will support efforts, if they are led by the Afghans, to come to some possible resolution, if that eventually evolves," he added.

Later in his comments, Hagel acknowledged that "when a nation would ... think of engaging an enemy they're still at war with, it's difficult." But he added that he always has believed it's wise for nations to engage with and reach out to each other.

"That doesn't mean you are prepared to negotiate; it may never get to that point," he said. "But I think it's far preferable to war."

Hagel's first visit to Afghanistan as secretary has been eventful. Yesterday, his first full day here, he attended a briefing within earshot of a deadly blast near the defense ministry that killed nine Afghan civilians and injured at least 14 others. Those in attendance reported they could hear the explosion clearly, though they didn't immediately know the source.

Today, a scheduled Karzai-Hagel news conference was called off, and Hagel's planned visits to the Defense and Interior ministers at their respective headquarters were shifted to an ISAF installation.

U.S. officials said security considerations led to moving the ministerial meetings to ISAF facilities and cancelling the news conference. A statement from the presidential palace said the media event was cancelled because of schedule pressures.

Hagel secretary appeared unfazed by those events. "When you spend 48 hours in Afghanistan or anywhere else that's too dangerous," he told reporters, "you recognize the complications that exist every day."

The solution to those complications may be imperfect, Hagel said, but "we should always be mindful of the higher purpose of what we're doing and why."

It's easy in a war zone to get focused on issues of the day, week or month, Hagel said. While the metrics of the moment are good guideposts, the secretary added, "we've got to keep in mind the larger context of where we've been, what we've accomplished and where we're going with the big issues."

The secretary offered three other observations about his trip, the first he has made to Afghanistan since 2008, when he was part of a congressional delegation along with then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. His current trip has let him see, Hagel said, that "a lot of things have gone right" in the interim.

"A lot has happened in this country, and a lot of it's been very good," he added.

His second takeaway, he said, was that much of that success can be attributed to the efforts of U.S. troops and diplomatic staffs, supporting dedicated generals and ambassadors.

"The quality of our people doesn't really ever change," he said. "The American serviceman and woman [and] our diplomats, ... especially in the war zones, what they have to deal with every day and the sacrifices they make -- it's pretty remarkable."

Third, he said, the transition in Afghanistan is a critically important time. As U.S. and coalition forces redefine their roles and Afghan forces assume greater responsibility, he said, there will be new challenges and new issues to face beyond the battlefield.

"It's a different time, a different dynamic, a different environment," he said. "I don't think any of these are challenges that we can't work our way through."

From 2008 to now, the secretary said, he has seen dramatic changes in Afghanistan and a renewed commitment from both NATO and Afghan leaders. Hagel said that -- coupled with his great faith in U.S. military leaders and diplomats in Afghanistan -- tells him "we're on the right path, and I think we will meet these transition dates."

Hagel met separately this afternoon with Afghan Defense Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi and Interior Minister Ghulam Mujtaba Patang. This morning, the secretary also visited the Kabul Military Training Center, where he heard briefings on noncommissioned officer battle staff training, the Afghan sergeants major academy, and female NCO training.


Cyber Command.  Credit:  U.S. Navy.
Pacom Promotes Regional Cyber Capabilities, Defenses
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2013 - Two years ago, U.S. Pacific Command set out on a big experiment during its Terminal Fury exercise, subjecting participants for the first time to simulated cyber intrusions and network access denials, among other unexpected curve balls the exercise planners threw their way.

Pacom's cyber cell, serving as a testbed for the newly established U.S. Cyber Command, grappled with scenarios that shot holes through their cyber defenses, compromising their command-and-control systems and, by extension, their ability to control their forces.

The exercise underscored what already had become abundantly clear throughout Pacom and the entire Defense Department: the cyber domain is the new military "high ground" -- an advantage to those to use it effectively, and the downfall of those who don't.

So in officially standing up its Joint Cyber Center last year at the direction of then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, Pacom officials set out to capitalize on cyber capabilities and make them integral to the entire command structure.

"The intent is to be a fusion center to integrate cyber in all its versions in the entire cyber portfolio into the command's daily and warfighting battle rhythm," Air Force Brig. Gen. John "Mark" Hicks, Pacom's director of command, control, communications and cyber, told American Forces Press Service during a telephone interview from Camp Smith, Hawaii.

Pacom's vast area of responsibility -- more than half the globe -- makes it particularly reliant on its secure and unsecure networks to operate, Hicks explained.

"Nothing happens out here -- we don't have visibility on anything, we can't command and control anything, my boss, [Navy] Adm. [Samuel J.] Locklear [III] can't do his mission -- without assured and secure communications," Hicks said. "That means communications, not just with his own forces, but also between our allies and partners, because that is a very big part of our job here."

Collaborating closely with Cyber Command, the Defense Information Systems Agency and the services, the CyberPac team helps to ensure the command's networks provide a reliable command-and-control platform. In addition, they coordinate with other U.S. government agencies to promote the global debate on the future of cyberspace.

"We view cyber as a global common, much like sea, air and space," Hicks said. "So we are advocates for unfettered, free and secure use of the Internet and other telecommunications."

Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. Cyberthreats come in many forms, Hicks said. They range from hackers intent on stealing intellectual property to well-organized campaigns by state and nonstate actors to exploit national secrets, deny service or bring down vital military networks.

Recognizing that cyber threats have no respect for national borders, CyberPac increasingly is reaching out to regional allies and partners to encourage closer cooperation across the cyber domain.

"As I like to put it, communications interoperability is both an agent of and a necessary condition for improved relationships," Hicks said. "So by helping partner nations build their military communications and cyber capacity and capability, we are building partner capacity, improving our relationships with them in a non-threatening way. That potentially opens the door and allows greater access for other U.S. military activities."

So in addition to its other activities, CyberPac is leveraging Pacom's exercise program and hosting workshops and other bilateral and multilateral forums that promote closer military-to-military cyber engagement.

"There is a very palpable sense of concern with respect to cyber vulnerability in the Asia-Pacific," Hicks said, citing the frequency of software pirating and intellectual property theft through cyber intrusions. "This is a very needed capability in the Asia-Pacific."

Vietnam participated for the first time in the Cyber Endeavor workshop that ran concurrently with the Pacific Endeavor exercise. And despite widespread criticism of China's suspected role in cyber incursions, Pacom officials hope it will agree to join other regional countries at future cyber venues.

"We are continuing to reach out and hope to include the People's Republic of China in that list in the new future," Hicks said. "This is something about which everyone in the Asia-Pacific can agree. It provides a nonthreatening opportunity for us to work together toward a common goal, with the collateral benefit of building relationships."


Hot spring in Yellowstone.  Credit:  Wikimeidia Commons.
How to Thrive in Battery Acid and Among Toxic Metals
In the movie Alien, the title character is an extraterrestrial creature that can survive brutal heat and resist the effects of toxins.

In real life, organisms with similar traits exist, such as the "extremophile" red alga Galdieria sulphuraria.

In hot springs in Yellowstone National Park, Galdieria uses energy from the sun to produce sugars through photosynthesis.

In the darkness of old mineshafts in drainage as caustic as battery acid, it feeds on bacteria and survives high concentrations of arsenic and heavy metals.

How has a one-celled alga acquired such flexibility and resilience?

To answer this question, an international research team led by Gerald Schoenknecht of Oklahoma State University and Andreas Weber and Martin Lercher of Heinrich-Heine-Universitat (Heinrich-Heine University) in Dusseldorf, Germany, decoded genetic information in Galdieria.

They are three of 18 co-authors of a paper on the findings published in this week's issue of the journal Science.

The scientists made an unexpected discovery: Galdieria's genome shows clear signs of borrowing genes from its neighbors.

Many genes that contribute to Galdieria's adaptations were not inherited from its ancestor red algae, but were acquired from bacteria or archaebacteria.

This "horizontal gene transfer" is typical for the evolution of bacteria, researchers say.

However, Galdieria is the first known organism with a nucleus (called a eukaryote) that has adapted to extreme environments based on horizontal gene transfer.

"The age of comparative genome sequencing began only slightly more than a decade ago, and revealed a new mechanism of evolution--horizontal gene transfer--that would not have been discovered any other way," says Matt Kane, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.

"This finding extends our understanding of the role that this mechanism plays in evolution to eukaryotic microorganisms."

Galdieria's heat tolerance seems to come from genes that exist in hundreds of copies in its genome, all descending from a single gene the alga copied millions of years ago from an archaebacterium.

"The results give us new insights into evolution," Schoenknecht says. "Before this, there was not much indication that eukaryotes acquire genes from bacteria."

The alga owes its ability to survive the toxic effects of such elements as mercury and arsenic to transport proteins and enzymes that originated in genes it swiped from bacteria.

It also copied genes offering tolerance to high salt concentrations, and an ability to make use of a wide variety of food sources. The genes were copied from bacteria that live in the same extreme environment as Galdieria.

"Why reinvent the wheel if you can copy it from your neighbor?" asks Lercher.

"It's usually assumed that organisms with a nucleus cannot copy genes from different species--that's why eukaryotes depend on sex to recombine their genomes.

"How has Galdieria managed to overcome this limitation? It's an exciting question."

What Galdieria did is "a dream come true for biotechnology," says Weber.

"Galdieria has acquired genes with interesting properties from different organisms, integrated them into a functional network and developed unique properties and adaptations."

In the future, genetic engineering may allow other algae to make use of the proteins that offer stress tolerance to Galdieria.

Such a development would be relevant to biofuel production, says Schoenknecht, as oil-producing algae don't yet have the ability to withstand the same extreme conditions as Galdieria.



Companies Agree to Pay a Total of $18.9 Million in Criminal Fines

WASHINGTON — Two Japanese air freight forwarding companies have agreed to plead guilty and to pay criminal fines totaling $18.9 million for their roles in a conspiracy to fix certain fees in connection with the provision of air freight forwarding services for air cargo shipments from Japan to the United States, the Department of Justice announced today. "K" Line Logistics Ltd. has agreed to pay a $3,507,246 criminal fine and Yusen Logistics Co. Ltd. has agreed to pay a $15,428,207 criminal fine.

Including today's charges, as a result of this investigation, 16 companies have either pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay criminal fines totaling more than $120 million.

"Consumers were forced to pay higher prices on the goods they buy every day as a result of the noncompetitive and collusive service fees charged by these companies," said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. "Prosecuting these kinds of global, price-fixing conspiracies continues to be a top priority of the Antitrust Division."

Freight forwarders manage the domestic and international delivery of cargo for customers by receiving, packaging, preparing and warehousing cargo freight, arranging for cargo shipment through transportation providers such as air carriers, preparing shipment documentation and providing related ancillary services.

According to charges filed separately today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, "K" Line Logistics and Yusen Logistics engaged in a conspiracy to fix and to impose certain freight forwarding service fees, including fuel surcharges and various security fees, charged to customers for services provided in connection with air freight forwarding shipments of cargo shipped by air from Japan to the United States from about September 2002 until at least November 2007.

According to the charges, the companies carried out the conspiracy by, among other things, agreeing during meetings and discussions to coordinate and impose certain freight forwarding service fees and charges on customers purchasing freight forwarding services for cargo shipped by air from Japan to the United States. The department said the companies levied freight forwarding service fees in accordance with the agreements reached and engaged in meetings and discussions for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreed-upon freight forwarding service fees.

Each company is charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum $100 million fine for corporations. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

Today's charges are the result of a joint investigation being conducted by the Antitrust Division's National Criminal Enforcement Section, the FBI's Washington Field Office and the Department of Commerce's


Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Justice Department Settles with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Over Discrimination Against People with Hepatitis B

The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey School (UMDNJ) under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The settlement resolves complaints that the UMDNJ School of Medicine and the UMDNJ School of Osteopathic Medicine unlawfully excluded applicants because they have hepatitis B. This is the first ADA settlement ever reached by the Justice Department on behalf of people with hepatitis B.

In 2011, the two applicants in this matter applied and were accepted to the UMDNJ School of Osteopathic Medicine, and one of them was also accepted to the UMDNJ School of Medicine. The schools later revoked the acceptances when the schools learned that the applicants have hepatitis B. The Justice Department determined that the schools had no lawful basis for excluding the applicants, especially because students at the schools are not even required to perform invasive surgical procedures, and that the exclusion of the applicants contradicts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated guidance on this issue.

According to the CDC’s July 2012 "Updated Recommendations for Preventing Transmission and Medical Management of Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) – Infected Health Care Workers and Students," no transmission of Hepatitis B has been reported in the United States from primary care providers, clinicians, medical or dental students, residents, nurses, or other health care providers to patients since 1991.

"Excluding people with disabilities from higher education based on unfounded fears or incorrect scientific information is unacceptable," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "We applaud the UMDNJ for working cooperatively with the Justice Department to resolve these matters in a fair manner."

"It is especially important that a public institution of higher learning – especially one with a mission to prepare future generations of medical professionals – strictly follow the laws Congress has enacted to protect from discrimination those people who have health issues," said U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul Fishman. "The remedies to which the school has agreed should ensure this does not happen again."

Under the settlement agreement, the UMDNJ must adopt a disability rights policy that is based on the CDC’s Hepatitis B recommendations, permit the applicants to enroll in the schools, provide ADA training to their employees and provide the applicants a total of $75,000 in compensation and tuition credits.

Both of the applicants in this matter come from the Asian American Pacific Islander community. The CDC reports that Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) make up less than 5 percent of the total population in the United States, but account for more than 50 percent of Americans living with chronic Hepatitis B. Nearly 70 percent of AAPIs living in the United States were born, or have parents who were born, in countries where hepatitis B is common. Most AAPIs with Hepatitis B contracted Hepatitis B during childbirth . The Civil Rights Division is committed to ensuring that this community is not subjected to discrimination because of disability.

Title II of the ADA prohibits state and local government entities, like the UMDNJ, from discriminating against individuals with disabilities in programs, services, and activities. State and local governments must also make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless those modifications would result in a fundamental alteration.


Credit:  U.S. Army.
FDA issues draft guidance for manufacturers to accurately label medical products that are not made with natural rubber latex

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued draft recommendations to medical product manufacturers for providing consumers with accurate information about products that are not made with natural rubber latex (NRL).

NRL is a milky fluid found in rubber trees and other plant sources. Prolonged or repeated exposure to NRL can result in sensitivity or allergy. Mild reactions may include skin redness, rash, hives, or itching. More severe reactions may include respiratory symptoms such as difficulty breathing, coughing spells and wheezing. Rarely, anaphylactic shock may occur.

The FDA is encouraging manufacturers of FDA-regulated medical products to stop using statements on labels such as "latex free" or "does not contain natural rubber latex" because these statements are not scientifically accurate. Instead, the FDA recommends manufacturers use the labeling statement – "not made with natural rubber latex" – to indicate when NRL was not used as a material in the medical product or product container.

"Consumers rely on and expect accurate labeling and product information, especially when they are concerned about allergic reactions," said William Maisel, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director for science in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. "Our recommendations regarding natural rubber latex provide consistent, scientifically accurate language for health care providers, patients and consumers who want to avoid this material due to possible sensitivity or allergy."

The terms "latex free" and "does not contain natural rubber latex" suggest that the medical product is completely without NRL. However, even when medical products are not made with NRL, there is a chance that products can become contaminated with NRL allergens during manufacturing or packaging processes. There is no test to show that a medical product is completely free of NRL allergens. Additionally, it is not necessary for a medical product to be completely without NRL allergen proteins to be considered safe for use by some individuals with NRL allergies.

Also, phrases such as "latex free" that are not specific about the kind of latex being referred to can cause confusion. Latexes may be natural or synthetic. Synthetic latex, such as nitrile and polyvinyl chloride, does not contain the proteins responsible for NRL allergy.

People most at risk for NRL sensitization include those who frequently use NRL gloves such as physicians, nurses, dentists, medical technicians, hairdressers, housekeepers, and food service workers. Employees in facilities that manufacture products containing NRL are also at risk.

Consumers concerned about NRL allergies should check the medical product label, if readily available, or ask their health care provider if the product of interest contains NRL.

Today’s draft recommendations would apply only to FDA-regulated medical products, such as drugs, medical devices, biologics and veterinary products. The law does not require medical product manufacturers to state on the product labeling when NRL has not been used in the manufacture of the product or product packaging. However, medical device manufacturers are required to include a caution statement on the labeling of devices that are made with NRL.


Army Corps of Engineers project manager Sharon Tirpak manages federally-funded civil works projects for the Galveston District in Texas through feasibility studies and construction. Tirpak employs her leadership skills as she guides multidisciplinary teams through complex projects that energize the economy and reduce risks from disasters. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo
Face of Defense: Marine Biologist Oversees Civil Works Projects
By Isodro Reyna
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District

WASHINGTON, March 1, 2013 - Managing federally funded civil works projects through feasibility studies and construction requires leadership -- a skill U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District project manager Sharon Tirpak hones while guiding multidisciplinary teams through complex projects that energize the economy and reduce risks from disasters.

A marine biologist by trade, Tirpak left the world of research to put her people and leaderships skills to use directing Corps projects such as the Freeport Harbor and Texas City Channel deep-draft navigation projects, Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay Storm Damage Reduction Study, and Clear Creek Flood Risk Management Project.

"I lead teams of engineers, biologists, economists and project sponsors through civil works projects that contribute to the economic well-being of the nation," Tirpak said. "It is a leadership role with many responsibilities and challenges and requires knowledge of Corps processes, with the biggest challenge keeping the projects on schedule and within budget."

A 19-year veteran of the Corps, Tirpak has served in a variety of roles within the district including lead planner and regulatory project manager.

"I actually chose marine biology as my field of study while in college and worked as a fishery biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service for 14 years," she said. "However, arriving at the Corps, I realized this was one of the best professional moves I could have made. I am much better at working and interacting with people than I was doing research, and I'm thankful to my fellow co-workers who taught me all about dredging and engineering."

According to Tirpak, being a project manager is never dull because there is always something that has to be taken care of.

"I like 'putting out the fires,' as it makes each day go by fast," Tirpak said. "I also like the interaction with the project delivery teams and sponsors and the learning aspect.

"Working on my projects always affords me the opportunity to learn something new," she added.

One of Tirpak's most fascinating projects to date was the deepening of the Texas City Channel, which included the removal of Civil War-era artifacts from the busy waterway.

"Working with the archeologists that helped bring up the remains of the USS Westfield from the Texas City Ship Channel is probably the most interesting assignment I've worked on," she said. "The Galveston District orchestrated an archaeological recovery of artifacts from the Civil War-era shipwreck, which included the removal of 10,000-pound Dahlgren cannon in 2009."

The recovery was part of a larger $71 million project completed in 2011 to deepen the Texas City Ship Channel from 40 feet to 45 feet to allow larger vessels to navigate the channel to transport commodities to various industries.

"By completing some of the long-term studies and positioning those projects for potential authorization and funding, or by completing a construction project such as the Texas City Channel Project, I believe my work with the Galveston District is leaving a lasting impact on the nation," Tirpak said. "I'm proud to say I helped make that happen."

Tirpak received numerous awards, including the Department of Commerce Bronze Medal Award for Superior Federal Service, the USACE Galveston Regulatory Customer Service Award, Regulator of the Year, several Department of the Army Achievement Medals and Commander's Awards for Civilian Service for her work on various projects.

A 1980 graduate of the University of New England and a 2005 graduate of the Army Management Staff College, Tirpak also is a certified scuba diver who enjoys seeing the Pittsburgh Steelers win. She also helps with her son's scouting and band activities and is involved in her local community.