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Saturday, April 6, 2013

GEN. DEMPSEY BELIEVES 2014 TROOP LEVELS IN AFGHANISTAN SHOULD NOT BE DECIDED NOW

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
'Too Soon' For Post-2014 Troop Level Decision, Dempsey Says
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service


BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, April 6, 2013 - Although it is too soon to tell what the post-2014 troop arrangement will be in Afghanistan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff expects a decision by this summer, he said yesterday.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey arrived in Afghanistan today to, in part, hear from commanders on the ground what they think the Afghans need to help them develop, he said.

In an interview with reporters traveling with him to Afghanistan, Dempsey said evaluations are well underway on a range of options.

Each set of options is formed around a theme, Dempsey said.

"One is, at what level we will provide training and assistance ... at the lowest tactical level, all the way up to the institutional level," he said. Alternatively, training and assistance might be provided only at the institutional level.

What other agencies need to operate on the ground forms a second core question, the chairman said. He offered the U.S. Agency for International Development as one key organization to consider in post-transition planning.

The concerns of NATO partner nations must also be reconciled, Dempsey said. The NATO implementing directive for Afghanistan favors a hub-and-spoke approach to basing troops, he said.

"Once you ... lay that template out, it begins to illuminate what the options are for the post-2014 presence," the chairman said, "not only on basing, but on numbers."

"I'm not in the camp that is trying to rush that decision," he said, adding that he wants the Afghan security forces to have a chance to lead through two fighting seasons, as outlined in the NATO agreement signed last summer in Chicago. They will also be responsible for the security of the 2014 elections, Dempsey noted. "I want to see how they deal, frankly," the chairman said.

Milestone 2013 will mark the point when the Afghan security forces are in the lead nationwide, Dempsey said. "It'll be coming up here soon," he added. "We haven't exactly fixed the date."

To ensure the drawdown progresses smoothly and according to schedule, "we've got to have a steady rate of retrograde," Dempsey said.

"My military judgment is that the decision about the enduring presence, though it will be necessary to help us and our NATO allies plan, actually pinning it down is not a matter of urgency," he said. Rather than a definitive number of troops, he said, a range would be prudent.

CHAIRMAN OFJOINT CHIEFS TRAVELS TO AFGHANISTAN


Afghanistan.  Credit:  DOD
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Dempsey Arrives in Afghanistan to Assess Progress
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service


BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, April 6, 2013 - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey arrived here today for several meetings with coalition and Afghan leaders.

The trip to Afghanistan follows on the heels of the U.S. Africa Command change of command the chairman attended yesterday, and Dempsey noted yesterday to reporters traveling with him that transitions are at the heart of both visits.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford assumed command of NATO's International Security Assistance Force about 60 days ago, the chairman said. He added that he plans to "review the campaign" with Dunford.

"He had a good, full 30-day transition period with [Gen.] John Allen," Dempsey said, but commanders want to get out and talk to their junior leaders to assess whether command intent is reaching them.

"One of the things I'm going to ask [Dunford], is ... what have you learned. If he tells me 'Nothing,' I'm going to say, 'Maybe we got the wrong guy,'" Dempsey said.

Dempsey will meet with senior military and civilian leaders, including Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command; James B. Cunningham, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and Army Lt. Gen. Keith M. Huber, commander of Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435.

The chairman will also meet with his counterpart, Afghan Army Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi.

As the transition to an Afghan-secured Afghanistan progresses, several provinces have developed spontaneous anti-Taliban movements, a development the chairman said he finds encouraging.

"If this becomes our program, it won't work," he said. The power of such movements lies in the fact that they are generated and led by Afghans, the chairman added.

Taliban efforts at reconciliation with the Afghan government are a sign of progress, he said. A post-ISAF Afghanistan can't be the Afghanistan of 1990, Dempsey added.

There is more than one type of Taliban, Dempsey said, and while s small group may be unreconcilable, those that aren't could become part of the political system.

"Any conflict in history, when it is resolved, is resolved through some form of reconciliation," the chairman said. "I support the effort to try ... through the Afghans to encourage them to take reconciliation as an important line of effort."

SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY'S PRESS STATEMENT ON ATTACK IN ZABUL PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Deadly Attack in Zabul Province, Afghanistan
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 6, 2013


Our State Department family is grieving over the loss of one of our own, an exceptional young Foreign Service officer, killed today in an IED attack in Zabul province, along with service members, a Department of Defense civilian, and Afghan civilians. Four other State Department colleagues suffered injuries, one critically.

Our American officials and their Afghan colleagues were on their way to donate books to students in a school in Qalat, the province’s capital, when they were struck by this despicable attack.

Just last week in Kabul, I met our fallen officer when she was selected to support me during my visit to Afghanistan. She was everything a Foreign Service officer should be: smart, capable, eager to serve, and deeply committed to our country and the difference she was making for the Afghan people. She tragically gave her young life working to give young Afghans the opportunity to have a better future.

We also honor the U.S. troops and Department of Defense civilian who lost their lives, and the Afghan civilians who were killed today as they worked to improve the nation they love.

I spoke this morning with our fallen Foreign Service officer’s mother and father and offered what little comfort I can for their immeasurable loss. As a father of two daughters, I can't imagine what her family is feeling today, or her friends and colleagues.

I also have been in close touch with Secretary Hagel, the White House, and our senior management team at the State Department, including Deputy Secretary Burns, Undersecretary Kennedy, and Ambassador Cunningham in Kabul. We will all keep in close contact as we learn more facts about this attack and the brave people who were killed and wounded. We are also in contact with the families of those injured.

We know too well the risks in the world today for all of our State Department personnel at home and around the world – Foreign Service, civil service, political appointees, locally employed staff, and so many others. I wish everyone in our country could see first-hand the devotion, loyalty, and amazingly hard and hazardous work our diplomats do on the front lines in the world’s most dangerous places. Every day, we honor their courage and are grateful for their sacrifices, and today we do so with great sadness.

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL'S REMARKS AT THE OECD HEADQUARTERS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Public-Private Partnerships to Shut Down the Global Illegal Economy and Build the New Markets and Investment Frontiers of Tomorrow

Remarks
David M. Luna
Director for Anticrime Programs, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
OECD Headquarters
Paris, France
April 2, 2013

Bonjour à nouveau!

I am honored to co-chair this first formal meeting of the Task Force on Charting Illicit Trade with my friend and colleague, Mr. Rolf Alter, Director for Public Governance and Territorial Development here at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Many of you have been with us from the beginning of this bold initiative. Some of us represent governments, others multinational corporations, international organizations, think tanks, and civil society.

In October 2012, we spent a productive day exploring the harms posed by illicit trade and the illegal economy on global supply chain integrity, economic growth, market security, and development.

We agreed that no single government or company can design and implement an effective solution to this complex problem alone, nor does any single entity have a complete understanding of how vast the problem really is.

We recognized that inaction was not a viable option. But through collective action and a multi-sector approach, we could strive to shut down the global illegal economy and help communities to nurture transformative and sustainable markets. Instead of harmful counterfeits and illicit products that pose health hazards to our people, we could work together to build more dynamic economies focused on innovation, competitiveness, and, above all, a brighter future.

Illicit trade, corruption, and crime impede these aspirations and weaken the potential of our commitment, especially in the developing world.

Last fall, we decided to join forces to identify and quantify the risks and harms of illicit trade, to look at our policies with a critical eye, and to brainstorm how we can work together to block illicit trade and protect the supply chains that stimulate economies in countries at the level of production, transit, and consumption.

Today, we meet in Paris to carry forward this commitment. We applaud the OECD and Secretary-General Jose Angel Gurria for their leadership in taking on this challenge through the High-Level Risk Forum, which seeks to increase societal resilience to global risks and emerging threats such as natural disasters, pandemics, and, increasingly, crime.

I would like to extend a special thanks to the private sector participants who have agreed to share their expertise and confront this problem as equal partners with the government representatives in the room. This includes members of the OECD Business and Industry Advisory Committee, the World Economic Forum, and many others.

I also thank all the international organizations and governments who brought their commitment and expertise to develop effective public-private partnerships to combat the global illegal economy and help build and sustain tomorrow’s new markets and investment frontiers.

Illicit Trade: A Risk We Can Control

As humans, we tend to exaggerate the risks of spectacular events that are extremely rare but that result in many losses immediately—a factory fire, a terrorist attack, a natural disaster.

Meanwhile, we underestimate the risks of long-term events that affect us every day in small ways, adding up to a major impact.

Illicit trade is one of these risks.

In order to combat illicit trade, we must understand the risks and costs. We have the data. Now we need to aggregate and share it.

We need tools and maps to inform the public about the breadth of illicit trade and the challenges it poses.

We need to visualize the illicit networks and nodes we all know exist, because we experience their impact every day: when governments cannot afford to provide vital public services because customs revenues are being siphoned away by smugglers, criminals, and corrupt officials; when people die because the drug they were told would cure malaria actually contains chalk; when our nationals are subjected to forced labor to secure ill-gained finances for unscrupulous businesses in the global supply chain; when businesses suffer the loss of revenue from counterfeiting or black market distribution of their products.

When men, women, and children are trafficked to support the illegal economy, human trafficking further promotes breakdown of families and communities, deprives countries of human capital, undermines public health, creates opportunities for extortion and subversion among government officials, and imposes large economic costs.

When illicit financial flows and dirty money enter the global financial system, they taint and weaken the integrity of markets while giving false hope to victimized communities that illicit enterprise can replace fair and open markets.

When illicit actors and networks continue to profit from drugs, criminal activities, and corruption, legitimate commerce loses out as the illegal economy expands, and the legitimate one shrinks. This is an outcome we cannot afford in these austere financial times.

And when illicit trade, blood money, and corruption converge to create permissive sanctuaries, safe havens, and illicit financial hubs, insecurity and destabilization in some parts of the world can have a devastating ripple effect that threatens our shared agenda for enduring peace, prosperity, and market stability.

I look forward to working with all of you today, tomorrow, and in the coming months as we build a clearer panorama of the harms posed by illicit trade and illicit financial flows, develop innovative policy solutions to combat it, and promote effective public-private partnerships across the OECD, WEF, and other communities around the world, to improve the state of our world.

With these introductory remarks, let us begin our work.

FORT BLISS WIL LAUNCH MILITARY'S LARGEST RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECT


Photo:  Solar Farm.  Credit:  U.S. Navy
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Fort Bliss to Launch Military's Largest Renewable Energy Project

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, April 5, 2013 - The largest renewable energy project in U.S. military history is slated to begin soon at Fort Bliss, Texas, a big step toward the installation's goal of generating all the energy it uses, Army Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, the installation and 1st Armored Division commander, announced today.

The Army Corps of Engineers gave the official nod this week for El Paso Electric to start work on a 20-megawatt solar farm that will power all of the division headquarters and most of the eastern sector of the sprawling installation, Pittard told reporters at a news conference.

The partnership is the first between the military and a major local utility on a renewable energy project of this scale, he reported.

"This is the largest solar project at any installation to date in [the Defense Department]. We are very, very proud of that," he said. "It is exciting to be leading the American military in renewable energy, [and] reducing our carbon footprint," both goals of Fort Bliss' environmental campaign plan.

The solar farm, to be completed in 2015, is just one part of the post's sweeping plans to reduce its energy consumption and dependence on nonrenewable energy. Fort Bliss already hosts a 1.4-megawatt solar array, the Army's second-largest, and has installed a 13.4-megawatt rooftop solar array on post housing. In addition, another 20-megawatt contract with El Paso Electric is in the works, as well as a plan with the city of El Paso to convert waste to energy, Pittard said.

Meanwhile, installation officials are pursuing wind and geothermal initiatives and promoting recycling and more efficient water use, he said. They also planted 14,700 trees -- well on their way to the goal of 20,000 -- and have built bike and walking paths and encouraged people to use fuel-efficient vehicles.

The goal, Pittard told reporters, is to achieve "Net Zero," meaning the post creates all the energy it uses.

While reducing Fort Bliss' carbon footprint and energy costs, the initiatives will contribute to the Army's energy conservation and security goal of using 25 percent renewable energy by 2015.

Soldiers have been supportive of the efforts, collectively raising $1 million last year through recycling. The proceeds were channeled to Morale, Welfare and Recreation projects such as skating parks and spinning cycles, prompting even more recycling, which Pittard said he hopes will reach $1.5 million this year.

"Everybody is getting involved in that, because they see the positive results of recycling," he said.
Pittard also reported a dramatic drop in electricity use in post housing.

Changing behavior and promoting a culture that encourages energy conservation are keys to achieving Net Zero, Pittard said.

"And that is what we hope our soldiers will then take with them when they go on to other installations and move into society throughout the county," he said.

As encouraged as he is by Fort Bliss' progress, Pittard said, he sees a direct link between these efforts and his primary mission of ensuring combat-ready forces.

"The solar farm, along with our environment campaign plan, are both part of a larger effort to make Fort Bliss the most fit, most healthy, most resilient community in America that is environmentally sound and is best at preparing soldiers and units for combat," he said.

As soldiers take advantage of more outdoor spaces, they're getting out of their barracks and establishing a closer sense of community, Pittard said.

"All that has helped us with this relationship-building throughout our installation," he said, calling it "no accident" that Fort Bliss has the Army's lowest suicide rate in the continental United States.

"We feel that the fitness, the resiliency and the Net Zero is interrelated," Pittard said. "For us here, it has been a no-brainer. Now what we hope is that the rest of the Army sees that and will replicate it."

CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTOR SENTENCED FOR ROLE IN BRIBERY, EMBEZZLEMENT SCHEME



 
CINCINNATI – The owner and president of Sigma Capital, Inc. in Cincinnati, Samuel P. Mays, 62, was sentenced in U.S. District Court today to 51 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for bribing a government official and stealing from his employees’ 401k funds.

Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Robert Hughes, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office (FBI), Elton Malone, Special Agent in Charge, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations, Special Investigations Branch, and L. Joe Rivers, Regional Director, U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration announced the sentence handed down today by Senior U.S. District Judge Sandra S. Beckwith.

A jury convicted Mays in September 2012 of one count each of bribery of a public official, conspiracy, theft or embezzlement from an employee pension plan, and making false statements.

The scheme involved Mays and another construction contractor, Paul McDonald, 70, of Pleasant Hill, California, and David Mersch, 61, the former Operations Officer for the Cincinnati offices of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Cincinnati.

According to trial testimony, Mersch, who lived in Florence, Kentucky accepted bribes from Mays and McDonald in the form of cash and home improvements with a value of at least $175,000 between 2005 and 2011. The jury also convicted Mays of deducting approximately $125,000 from his employees’ paychecks for contribution to their 401k plans, but never depositing the money.

"The nature of a bribery offense is difficult to quantify, because the victim is the public at large and the damage extends beyond the dollars exchanged," Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Mangan wrote in a memorandum filed with the court prior to sentencing. "This pattern of bribery undermines the government contracting process and destroys the presumed impartiality of federal contracting officers."

McDonald pleaded guilty on November 9, 2011 to one count of bribery. He was sentenced on October 31, 2012 to serve five years of probation including 21 months of home confinement and pay a $5,000 fine. He was also disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust or profit and ordered to resign his employment with Entek Mechanical Corporation and to cooperate with the United States in seeking the surrender of Entek’s certification as a government contractor. Mersch pleaded guilty on July 19, 2011 to bribery and is serving 42 months in federal prison. Both testified against Mays during the trial.

"Mays victimized taxpayers and jeopardized his hard-working employees’ futures," said Elton Malone, Special Agent in Charge of the Special Investigations Branch within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General. "We will not tolerate conspiracy schemes and will continue to work tireless to punish such corruption."

"Employer sponsored retirement plans serve a vital role in providing a financially secure retirement for America’s workers," said L. Joe Rivers, Regional Director for the Cincinnati Regional Office of the Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration. "This case underscores EBSA’s commitment to protecting the assets of 401(k) and other employee benefit plans and punishing those who would divert these funds for their own enrichment."

Stewart commended the cooperative investigation by FBI, HHS inspector general, and Department of Labor investigators, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy Mangan and Christy Muncy, who represented the United States in this case.

Mays will surrender to begin serving his prison sentence on a date to be set by the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Prisons.

Weekly Address: The President’s Plan to Create Jobs and Cut the Deficit | The White House

Weekly Address: The President’s Plan to Create Jobs and Cut the Deficit | The White House

FEMA OUTLINES DISASTER RELIEF TO NEW YORK HURRICANE SANDY SURVIVORS

FROM: FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY

NEW YORK
— New York survivors have until April 13 to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and return their applications for low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Disaster assistance to New York survivors of Hurricane Sandy:
Nearly $946 million in FEMA grants approved for individuals and households
Nearly $812 million for housing assistance
Nearly $134 million for other needs
Nearly $1.4 billion in SBA disaster loans approved for homeowners, renters and businesses
Nearly $3.3 billion in National Flood Insurance Program payments made to policy holders
$817 million approved in FEMA Public Assistance grants to communities and some nonprofit organizations that serve the public
271,181 people have registered for assistance in the 13 designated counties
182,807 housing inspections completed
176,947 visits to Disaster Recovery Centers
5.6 million cubic yards of debris removed
More than 500 voluntary agencies involved in recovery
26 languages used to communicate assistance information to survivors

TYSON FOODS TO PAY PENALTY, FIX PROBLEM OF ANHYDROUS AMMONIA RELEASES


FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Settlement with Tyson Foods to Address Multiple Releases of Anhydrous Ammonia

The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a Clean Air Act (CAA) settlement with Tyson Foods Inc. and several of its affiliate corporations to address threats of accidental chemical releases after anhydrous ammonia was released during incidents at facilities in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska, resulting in multiple injuries, property damage and one fatality.


"This settlement will protect workers at Tyson facilities throughout Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska that use anhydrous ammonia, and make the communities surrounding these 23 facilities safer. It will also provide emergency response equipment for first responders to chemical releases," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The requirements of this agreement, which include comprehensive third party audits, will help mitigate the impact of releases of anhydrous ammonia by ensuring compliance with the Risk Management Program under the Clean Air Act."


"Exposure to anhydrous ammonia can cause serious health issues, and in extreme cases, even death," said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Today’s settlement with Tyson Foods will ensure the proper safety practices are in place in the future to protect employees, first responders, and communities located near processing facilities from the threat of dangerous chemical releases."
Under the terms of the consent decree, Tyson is required to conduct third-party audits of its current compliance with the CAA’s Risk Management Program requirements at all 23 facilities in Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska. The third-party auditors must have expertise in ammonia refrigeration systems, be recognized experts in risk management program compliance and be approved by EPA. Tyson must correct any violations discovered in the audits and certify the completion of the work. Tyson has also agreed to test certain piping used in its refrigeration systems at the 23 facilities to identify any problems that may have led to accidental releases and to replace any non-compliant piping.


Under the consent decree, Tyson will pay a $3.95 million penalty. Tyson has also agreed to implement a supplemental environmental project to purchase $300,000 worth of emergency response equipment for first responders in communities with significant environmental justice concerns in which Tyson operates facilities. The equipment will assist responses to emergencies involving chemicals that are regulated pursuant to the CAA Risk Management Program, including anhydrous ammonia.


Anhydrous ammonia is a poisonous gas and considered an extremely hazardous substance under the CAA. Exposure to vapors can cause temporary blindness and eye damage, as well as irritation of the skin, mouth, throat, respiratory tract and mucous membranes. Prolonged exposure to anhydrous ammonia vapor at high concentrations can lead to serious lung damage and even death.


The Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Program requires owners and operators of facilities that exceed a threshold quantity of a regulated substance, such as anhydrous ammonia, to develop and implement a risk management plan that must be submitted to EPA. The 23 Tyson facilities named in the consent decree are subject to the regulations because the refrigeration systems at the facilities each contain more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia. The facilities have a combined inventory of more than 1.7 million pounds of anhydrous ammonia.

TERMINAL HIGH ALTITUDE AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM BEING DEPLOYED TO GUAM

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Missile Defenders Trained, Ready for Deployment, General Says
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 5, 2013 - Missile defenders preparing for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense System to Guam are ready for the mission, the Army general at their home station reported, noting his full confidence in the ability of U.S. air defense systems to protect against North Korean missiles.

"We don't know the duration of the deployment, but what we do know is that they are ready," Army Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commander of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss, Texas, said today during a news conference at the fort.

"They are trained, they are ready, and they will do the mission," Pittard said.

The Defense Department announced earlier this week its plans to deploy a THAAD system to Guam as a precautionary move to strengthen the regional defense posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat.

All three of the Army's THAAD batteries, part of the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, are based at Fort Bliss. The THAAD system is a land-based missile defense system that includes a truck-mounted launcher, a complement of interceptor missiles, an AN/TPY-2 tracking radar and an integrated fire control system.

Once deployed, the THAAD system will work in tandem with other missile defense systems in the region to provide multi-tiered protection, Pittard explained. Aegis cruisers and other air defense systems will provide lower-level coverage. Patriot missiles and other systems will provide defenses at slightly higher altitudes.

The THADD system operates at the next level, capable of shooting down short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase. The THADD interceptors use a "hit-to-kill approach," relying on the kinetic energy of the impact to destroy the incoming missile.

These layered air defenses could take out a missile launched by North Korea "fairly quickly," Pittard said.

"We are very confident of that," he added.

The THAAD deployment will strengthen defense capabilities for American citizens in the U.S. territory of Guam and U.S. forces stationed there, the Defense Department said in an April 3 news release announcing the deployment that's expected in the coming weeks.

"The United States continues to urge the North Korean leadership to cease provocative threats and choose the path of peace by complying with its international obligations. The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations, and stands ready to defend U.S. territory, allies and national interests," the release said.

Pittard responded to questions about the THAAD deployment during a news conference announcing the largest renewable energy project in U.S. military history. Earlier this week, the Army Corps of Engineers authorized El Paso Electric to start work on a 20-megawatt solar farm on the post, which will power a large percentage of its activities.

THE LAST "HOT SPELL" ON EARTH

Former dwellers in Pliocene seas: fossil coral found on modern-day Cyprus.
FROM: NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

In Last Great Age of Warmth, Carbon Dioxide at Work...But Not Alone
Temperature patterns during Earth's last prolonged global "hot spell"--the Pliocene, some 5.3 to 2.6 million years ago--differed dramatically from those of modern times, according to results reported in this week's issue of the journal Nature
.

Cloud feedbacks, ocean mixing and other factors must have played a greater role in Pliocene warming than previously recognized, and these must be accounted for to make meaningful predictions of Earth's future climate, the scientists said.

"This study shows that no one mechanism can explain all the observations," says Candace Major, a program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research.

The data come from studies of the geochemistry of microfossils (microscopic shells of tiny plankton) preserved in deep-sea sediments.

The sediments were retrieved by researchers affiliated with the Deep Sea Drilling Project, the later Ocean Drilling Program and the current Integrated Ocean Drilling Program--all supported by NSF.

Yale University climate scientist Alexey Fedorov and colleagues compiled records of sea surface temperatures going back five million years, to the early Pliocene.

The records reveal a world with fairly uniform warm temperatures in the Tropics before four million years ago--a scenario that typical climate model simulations fail to show.

"If we want to understand our future climate, we have to be able to understand the climate of the past," said Fedorov, an author of this week's paper.

"The Pliocene Epoch attracts particular attention because of similar carbon dioxide levels to what we have had over the last few decades, but its climate was markedly different in several important ways," he said.

"If we're able to simulate early Pliocene climate, however, we will be more confident in our ability to predict future climate change."

Warm and temperate, the Pliocene is widely viewed as a potential analog for a future hot Earth.

Using chemical fingerprints in ocean sediments to estimate sea surface temperatures, the researchers describe long-term climate trends from the early Pliocene to the present, comparing that ancient climate with today's.

The Pliocene Earth had the same maximum temperature as today, and a similar concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, but waters in the Tropics--off the coast of Peru, for example--were much warmer than they are now, resembling modern El Niño conditions.

There was little to no east-to-west temperature variation along the equator. Temperature differences between high latitudes and the Tropics were also much smaller.

Kira Lawrence of Lafayette College, also an author of the paper, said that "we have been focused on changes in the global mean temperature. What our study demonstrates is the potential for climate patterns to be markedly different in a world that is not that much warmer than today's."

Previous attempts to explain Pliocene climate have emphasized tectonic changes in Indonesia and Central America.

But accounting for this in climate models still results in a conflict with actual temperature patterns.

The scientists have proposed several factors to explain warm temperatures during the Pliocene.

They include ocean mixing in subtropical waters, perhaps due to widespread hurricanes and diminished cloud reflectivity, maybe a result of a different aerosol composition. Both would tend to warm the ocean.

When combined in models with higher levels of carbon dioxide, they help replicate conditions of the warm Pliocene Earth.

But so far these factors have not been included in climate models used to make future projections, the researchers said.

A better understanding of what drove Pliocene climate, with its nearly uniform tropical ocean temperatures, will increase our confidence in the models, said Fedorov.

"We can't discount a possible future that has a vast pool of warm water covering the tropics, and the changes in atmospheric circulation and rainfall that would go along with that," said paper author Chris Brierley of the University College London.

Other authors include Zhonghui Liu of the University of Hong Kong, Petra Dekens of San Francisco State University and Christina Ravelo of University of California, Santa Cruz.

In addition to NSF, the research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Yale University.

-NSF-

Friday, April 5, 2013

NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN FOR APRIL 5, 2013

A U.S. Marine Special Operations Team member uses a bulldozer to level off the build site for a local police checkpoint in Afghanistan's Helmand province, March 30, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau
 
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Combined Force in Helmand Arrests Taliban Leader
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 5, 2013 - A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a senior Taliban leader and detained another insurgent in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Afghanistan's Helmand province today, military officials reported.

The leader is accused of commanding a cell of fighters responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He allegedly provides weapons for insurgents and is believed to be heavily involved in improvised explosive device operations, officials said.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- A combined force in Nangarhar province's Khugyani district detained an insurgent during a search for a Taliban facilitator who provides logistical support to Taliban senior leaders throughout western Nangarhar. He allegedly has organized the purchase, transfer and delivery of weapons and has sold rockets used in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

-- In Khost province's Sabari district, a combined force detained two insurgents during a search for a Haqqani network leader who controls fighters responsible for attacks on Afghan and coalition forces. He also is accused of facilitating the movement of weapons and significant amounts of money for insurgency operations.

Yesterday in Jowzjan province's Shibirghan district, a combined force arrested a Taliban facilitator and detained several other insurgents. The facilitator allegedly has procured weapons for the insurgency, including IEDs, machine guns, sniper rifles, pistols, rocket-propelled grenades, fragmentary grenades, ammunition and magazines.

In other news, Afghan and coalition forces confirmed that Taliban facilitator Mullah Zakir Akhund was killed during an April 3 operation in Jowzjan's Shibirghan district.

Akhund was responsible for providing financial aid to insurgents in several provinces, collecting taxes for the Taliban, overseeing a network of Taliban tax collectors and coordinating financial matters with other leaders. He also was involved in providing weapons for use against Afghan and coalition forces.

West Wing Week: 04/05/13 or “The Scientist-in-Chief” | The White House

West Wing Week: 04/05/13 or “The Scientist-in-Chief” | The White House

VIDEO: This Week at Interior April 5, 2013

VIDEO: This Week at Interior April 5, 2013

U.S. NAVY PHOTOS




FROM: U.S. NAVY

GROTON, Conn. (April 3, 2013) The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Alexandria (SSN 757) makes its way up the Thames River to Submarine Base New London. Alexandria completed a scheduled six-month deployment in the U.S. African Command and European Command areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by John Narewski/Released)




SINGAPORE (April 4, 2013) The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) gets underway. John C. Stennis is deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts.  U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ignacio D. Perez/Released


U.S. WILL CONSOLIDATE FORCES IN JAPAN

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Hagel Details U.S.-Japan Consolidation Plan for Okinawa
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, April 5, 2013 - The United States and Japan have announced a new plan that will reduce the U.S. footprint on the island of Okinawa while ensuring an operationally effective U.S. force presence in the region, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today.

The plan, released today in Tokyo, is a key step forward in implementing the 2006 Realignment Roadmap. It details every step needed for consolidating U.S. forces in Okinawa and gives conditions-based dates for the land returns.

When fully implemented, the plan will result in the return to Japan of about 2,500 acres of land now used by U.S. forces. The returns are essential steps in the realignment agreement, officials said, aiming to ensure a stable presence for U.S. forces in Japan.
"Our plan calls for the immediate return -- upon the completion of certain necessary procedures -- of certain facilities and areas on Okinawa," Hagel said in a statement announcing the plan. "The United States will then return additional locations once replacement facilities are constructed, and when a sizeable contingent of U.S. Marine Corps forces relocate ... outside Japan." The Marines will move to Guam and Hawaii, he added.

The secretary thanked Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his personal leadership and attention to the plan, which required months of close coordination between senior leaders from the two countries and from U.S. Forces Japan and the Marine Corps.

The Defense Department and Japan's Defense Ministry will work to implement the plan, Hagel said, in concert with working to resolve replacement facility issues to avoid the indefinite use of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma at Camp Schwab-Henoko Bay while maintaining alliance capabilities.

Progress last month on the replacement facility includes a landfill permit request filed by the Japanese government with the Okinawa prefectural government for the facility, and a Japanese contribution of $114.3 million to build facilities for U.S. Marine units relocating to Guam.

"Now more than ever, it is essential that the United States maintain a geographically distributed and sustainable force throughout Asia that can provide for the protection of Japan and our other allies, and U.S. interests," Hagel said. "We are resolved to focus our bilateral efforts on modernizing the alliance to meet emerging security challenges in the region."

Hagel said completion of the plan shows what can be achieved through hard work associated with the ongoing U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.

"I look forward to continuing to partner with Prime Minister Abe and his administration to advance the bilateral security relationship of the United States and Japan," he added.

ANTIBODY EVOLUTION AND HIV VACCINE DEVELOPMENT

Co-evolution of virus and antibody – The evolution of the viral protein (green) from 14 weeks through 100 weeks post-transmission is compared to the maturation of the human antibody. Image courtesy Los Alamos National Laboratory.
 
FROM: LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY
Antibody Evolution Could Guide HIV Vaccine Development

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., April 4, 2013—Observing the evolution of a particular type of antibody in an infected HIV-1 patient, a study spearheaded by Duke University, including analysis from Los Alamos National Laboratory, has provided insights that will enable vaccination strategies that mimic the actual antibody development within the body.

The kind of antibody studied is called a broadly cross-reactive neutralizing antibody, and details of its generation could provide a blueprint for effective vaccination, according to the study’s authors. In a paper published online in Nature this week, the team reported on the isolation, evolution and structure of a broadly neutralizing antibody from an African donor followed from the time of infection.

The observations trace the co-evolution of the virus and antibodies, ultimately leading to the development of a strain of the potent antibodies in this subject, and they could provide insights into strategies to elicit similar antibodies by vaccination.

Patients early in HIV-1 infection have primarily a single "founder" form of the virus that has been strong enough to infect the patient, even though the population in the originating patient is usually far more diverse and contains a wide variety of HIV mutations. Once the founder virus is involved in the new patient’s system, the surrounding environment stimulates the HIV to mutate and form a unique, tailored population of virus that is specific to the individual.

The team, including Bette Korber, Peter Hraber, and S. Gnanakaran, of Los Alamos National Laboratory, led by Barton Haynes of Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, with colleagues at Boston University, the National Institutes of Health, and other institutions as part of a large collaboration, showed that broadly neutralizing antibodies developed only after the population of viruses in the individual had matured and become more diverse.

"Our hope is that a vaccine based on the series of HIV variants that evolved within this subject, that were together capable of stimulating this potent broad antibody response in his natural infection, may enable triggering similar protective antibody responses in vaccines," said Bette Korber, leader of the Los Alamos team.

This study was supported by the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and by intramural National Institutes of Health (NIH) support for the NIAID Vaccine Research Center, by grants from the NIH, NIAID, AI067854 (the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology) and AI100645 (the Center for Vaccine Immunology-Immunogen Discovery). Use of sector 22 (Southeast Region Collaborative Access team) at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory was supported by the US Department of Energy, Basic Energy Sciences, Office of Science, under contract number W-31-109-Eng-38.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE WEEKLY CLAIMS REPORT FOR WEEK ENDING MARCH 30,2013

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA



In the week ending March 30, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 385,000, an increase of 28,000 from the previous week's unrevised figure of 357,000. The 4-week moving average was 354,250, an increase of 11,250 from the previous week's unrevised average of 343,000.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.4 percent for the week ending March 23, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending March 23 was 3,063,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 3,071,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,067,250, a decrease of 10,500 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,077,750.
UNADJUSTED DATA
The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 314,016 in the week ending March 30, a decrease of 1,596 from the previous week. There were 315,714 initial claims in the comparable week in 2012.

The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.6 percent during the week ending March 23, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 3,320,163, a decrease of 82,391 from the preceding week's revised level of 3,402,554. A year earlier, the rate was 2.9 percent and the volume was 3,636,712.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending March 16 was 5,288,614, a decrease of 167,165 from the previous week. There were 7,050,710 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2012.

Extended Benefits were available only in Alaska during the week ending March 16.

Initial claims for UI benefits filed by former Federal civilian employees totaled 1,109 in the week ending March 23, a decrease of 67 from the prior week. There were 2,335 initial claims filed by newly discharged veterans, an increase of 65 from the preceding week.

There were 20,240 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending March 16, a decrease of 113 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 38,662, an increase of 339 from the prior week.

States reported 1,799,625 persons claiming EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits for the week ending March 16, a decrease of 106,699 from the prior week. There were 2,815,108 persons claiming EUC in the comparable week in 2012. EUC weekly claims include first, second, third, and fourth tier activity.

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending March 16 were in Alaska (5.7), Puerto Rico (4.4), New Jersey (4.0), Rhode Island (4.0), Pennsylvania (3.9), Connecticut (3.8), Montana (3.8), Wisconsin (3.7), California (3.6), and Massachusetts (3.6).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending March 23 were in California (+8,712), Texas (+2,736), Kansas (+1,611), Arkansas (+1,542), and Pennsylvania (+1,448), while the largest decreases were in Virginia (-1,117), Massachusetts (-804), South Carolina (-602), Puerto Rico (-529), and North Carolina (-503).

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER SPEAKS AT ANNUAL NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK CONVENTION

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the 15th Annual National Action Network Convention

New York ~ Thursday, April 4, 2013


Thank you, Reverend Sharpton – and thank you all for such a warm welcome. It’s a privilege to be included, once again, in this important Annual Convention. It’s a pleasure – as always – to be back home in New York City. And it’s an honor to join with so many good friends, committed partners, and current and future leaders in celebrating the memory – and extending the legacy – of one of our nation’s greatest champions for justice: the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’d like to thank Martin Luther King III, Representative Rangel, Reverend Sharpton, Dr. Richardson, Vice President Hardy, Executive Director Mallory, and each of the National Action Network’s members and leaders – in addition to our distinguished Keepers of the Dream Award recipients – not only for your steadfast support, but for your prayers, over the last four years. Since becoming Attorney General in 2009, I’ve been proud to count you as allies in the Justice Department’s efforts to strengthen our nation and protect its most vulnerable citizens. I’m grateful for all you’ve done since this organization was founded – more than two decades ago – to help safeguard civil rights; to combat and prevent violent crime; to expand access to educational and job opportunities; and to protect that "most basic" right of American citizenship – the right to vote.

Especially tonight, as our nation marks the 45th anniversary of Dr. King’s tragic and untimely death, it’s fitting that we reflect upon how far this country has since traveled on the road to equality and opportunity. It’s appropriate that we celebrate the remarkable, once-unimaginable progress that so many of us have seen even within our lifetimes. But it’s also important to remind ourselves – and our fellow citizens – that this journey is far from over. And, for all the progress we’ve made, the road ahead still stretches beyond the horizon.

Four and a half decades ago – on what was to be the last night of Dr. King’s life – he stood before a religious gathering in Memphis, Tennessee, and laid out an optimistic but unvarnished vision of what this great country has always stood for – and what he knew it could become. It was a vision inspired by the patriots who, two centuries before, had set in motion the great American experiment – and began building the "more perfect Union" that to this day remains our common pursuit. It was a vision tarnished by the evils of slavery and segregation – only to be reclaimed by generations of brave Americans who risked, and too often gave, their lives to move this country closer to its founding ideals.

Above all, it was a vision of hope – put forward in a moment of doubt – that provided assurance of the brighter future Dr. King realized he might not live to see. In that final speech, he surveyed the challenges facing the Civil Rights Movement. He described threats that had been made against his own life. And he sounded a note of confidence in the face of a gathering storm: "We’ve got some difficult days ahead," he told the crowd that night. "But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop . . . . And I’ve seen the Promised Land."

The very next day, Dr. King’s life came to a violent end. And, although he was taken from us far too suddenly, and far too soon – he was only 39 years of age – in the decades since then, his vision has endured, and his message has been amplified by millions who continued to follow his example and to walk in his footsteps.

If he could be here with us tonight, I’m confident that Dr. King would be proud of the country he helped to recreate – and the great strides we’ve witnessed over the last 45 years. I’m sure he would be encouraged to see that his work goes on every day – in the advocacy of groups like this one, and the efforts of countless citizens – seemingly ordinary, but all truly extraordinary – who are still fighting to advance this righteous struggle.

At the same time, I know Dr. King would not yet be satisfied. And he would be the first to remind us that – although segregation is no longer the law of the land; although bigotry and discrimination are not as pervasive as they once were; and although a direct beneficiary of his legacy now sits in the Oval Office, and another humbly serves as the 82nd Attorney General of the United States – even today, in 2013, our struggle to bridge divisions, to eradicate violence, and to combat disparities and disenfranchisement remains far from over. And nowhere is this clearer than in the national debate about voting rights that has captured recent headlines from coast to coast.

At the center of this discussion is the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act – a signature achievement of the Civil Rights Movement – which, for nearly half a century, has served as an essential tool for preventing disenfranchisement in our elections. Under an important provision of this Act known as "Section 5," all or parts of 15 states with documented histories of discrimination are required to obtain approval, from either the Justice Department or a panel of federal judges, for any proposed changes in voting procedures or practices – including redistricting plans, and early voting procedures, and photo identification requirements – some of which may disproportionately impact young, poor, elderly, and minority voters. Since this "preclearance" process went into effect, almost five decades ago, it has prevented these "covered jurisdictions" from altering their voting practices until it has been determined that new proposals have neither a discriminatory purpose nor effect. There has long been a national consensus, a bipartisan consensus, that the Voting Rights Act was not only necessary, but good for our nation.

Since 2010, however, we’ve seen at least 10 lawsuits – more than in the first four decades of the statute’s existence – arguing that Section 5 is no longer constitutional, and that our nation has moved far beyond the challenges that prompted both its passage and its recent, bipartisan Congressional renewal. Let me be clear: while this country has indeed changed, and real progress has been made – we are not yet at the point where the most vital part of the Voting Rights Act can be described as unnecessary or a product of a flawed political process. That’s why today’s Justice Department has vigorously defended Section 5 as an indispensable – and constitutional – tool for eradicating discriminatory electoral processes.

As many of you know, the Supreme Court recently heard a case challenging the constitutionality of this vital measure. As we await the Court’s decision, I want to assure you that – no matter the outcome – the Department of Justice will remain committed to the aggressive and appropriate enforcement of all voting and civil rights protections, including every part of the Voting Rights Act. And we are eager to work with elections administrators and elected leaders throughout the country to consider policies aimed at making more fair – and modernizing – our voting systems; ensuring that all eligible citizens have equal access to the ballot; and preventing and punishing fraudulent voting practices – however rare.

Long lines are unnecessary. Shortened voting periods are unwise and inconsistent with the historic ideal of expanded participation in the process. Recent proposed changes in how electoral votes are apportioned in specific states are blatantly partisan, unfair, divisive, and not worthy of our nation. Let me be clear again: we will not sit by and allow the slow unraveling of an electoral system that so many sacrificed so much to construct.

But I also recognize – as you do – that the Justice Department can’t do it all, and we’ll never be able make the progress we need on our own.

Fortunately, each of us has the power to stand up, and speak out, in defense of this fundamental right. All of us have the responsibility to strengthen the efforts that have been entrusted to us, and the legacy that inspired the National Action Network’s founding. And no one can afford to become complacent – particularly when it comes to protecting the rights, safety, and future, of America’s most vulnerable citizens: our children.

Last December – in Newtown, Connecticut – a horrific mass shooting brought into sharp focus the importance of doing just that. And it spurred legions of policymakers, community leaders, and ordinary citizens to try and address the epidemic of gun violence that afflicts too many neighborhoods every day – and that passes, too often unnoticed, in our cities’ streets.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon is anything but new. Since April 1999 – when two teenagers used guns and homemade bombs to kill a teacher, murder a dozen of their classmates, and wound 21 others at Columbine High School in Colorado – this country has witnessed no fewer than 47 mass shootings involving over 640 victims, more than half of whom were killed. A recent report by the New York County Lawyers’ Association showed that – in a majority of these incidents – the perpetrators used extended or high-capacity magazines.

In order to prevent future tragedies, earlier this year, I joined Vice President Biden and a number of my fellow Cabinet members to develop common-sense recommendations for keeping guns from falling into the wrong hands, keeping our young people safe, and keeping our neighborhoods and schools more secure. Contrary to what a few have said, this comprehensive plan – which President Obama announced in January – is consistent with the Second Amendment, and would not infringe – in any way – on the rights of responsible, law-abiding gun owners. And it has led the Administration to call on Congress to adopt legislation requiring "universal" background checks, so that a full background check is performed every time someone attempts to buy a gun; to impose tough new penalties on gun traffickers; and to ban high-capacity magazines and military-style assault weapons, updated and stronger than the law that was enacted in 1994.

I’m pleased to note that the Senate will vote on a number of promising gun violence reduction proposals in the coming weeks. And tonight, I’m proud to join the National Action Network and countless Americans in urging both houses of Congress to give each and every one of these measures the timely, individual consideration they deserve. Many have said that these will be "tough" votes, and I understand that the gun lobby will attack some who support reform. But progress is never easy, and taking risks to ensure change is almost always necessary. The American people must stand with and support those who will be with us on this critical issue. The collective voice of those who overwhelmingly support the proposed reforms must overcome the efforts of the well-financed few who stand for a violent and dangerous status quo. Those whose lives have been impacted by gun violence – the victims and the survivors – are depending on us.

In December, just days after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I traveled to Newtown. In what were without question the worst moments of my professional life, I walked the halls where those unspeakable acts took place. I met with the first responders and crime scene search officers who arrived at the school just after the first calls came in. And when these brave men and women asked me, with broken hearts and tear-streamed faces, to do whatever I could to prevent such a thing from happening again – I told them I would not rest until we had secured the common-sense changes that they and those 26 angels deserved.

I promised them I would never forget – just as I know you have not forgotten. On this, of all nights, let us dedicate ourselves, as Dr. King would expect us to do, to this new struggle.

In addition to calling for Congressional action, agencies across the Administration are implementing 23 executive actions that President Obama announced in order to provide federal and local officials with the resources and information needed to safeguard our citizens, to develop plans for making schools more secure, and to increase access to mental health services for those who need them. These efforts are currently under way, and I’m hopeful that they’ll help to prevent violence and save lives. But all of this is only the beginning.

More broadly, we must also move to improve our nation’s criminal justice system – and to promote public safety, deterrence, efficiency, and fairness at every level. We’re providing increased support for programs offering quality legal representation to those who cannot afford it, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s decision in Gideon v. Wainwright– a landmark ruling, handed down 50 years ago last month, which held that every defendant charged with a serious crime has the right to an attorney.

We’re also asking larger questions about the mechanisms of our criminal justice system as a whole – and, where appropriate, exploring ways to recalibrate this system and ensure that it’s as fair and effective as possible.

Already, this urgent need has driven the Administration to advocate – successfully – for the elimination of the unjust 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. As we speak, it is propelling us to become both smarter and tougher on crime by facilitating more effective policing at the state and local levels; broadening the impact of innovative prevention, intervention, enforcement, and reentry programs; using intelligence-based strategies to target federal law enforcement resources and assistance to the areas where they’re most needed; and seeking new ways to help crime victims – especially victims of sexual assault – to make their lives whole again.

Our reform efforts are also driving us to engage allies like the Department of Education – and others – to confront the "school-to-prison pipeline" that transforms too many educational institutions from doorways of opportunity into gateways to the criminal justice system. They are informing essential programs like the Department’s Defending Childhood Initiative and the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention – which are helping to rally federal leaders, state officials, private organizations, and community groups to examine how we can better understand, address, and prevent youth exposure to violence – as victims or as witnesses. And these efforts are inspiring us to forge new partnerships like the Federal Interagency Reentry Council – a group I first convened in 2011, which brings together leaders from 20 federal agencies to address barriers that formerly incarcerated individuals face in rejoining their communities, to promote best practices, and to confront these and related issues as more than just criminal justice problems.

The sheer number of Americans contending with these challenges is staggering. Well over two million people are currently behind bars in this country. As a nation we are coldly efficient in our incarceration efforts. One in 28 children has a parent in prison. For African American children, this ratio is roughly 1 in 9. In total, approximately 700,000 people are released from state and federal prisons every year. Nine to 10 million more cycle through local jails. And 40 percent of former federal prisoners – along with more than 60 percent of former state prisoners – are rearrested or have their supervision revoked within three years after their release.

Now, there’s no question that incarceration has a role to play in our criminal justice system. But there’s also no denying that widespread incarceration at the federal, state, and local levels imposes a significant economic burden – totaling nearly $83 billion in 2009 alone – along with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate. As a nation – and as a people – we pay a high price whenever our criminal justice policies fall short of fairly delivering outcomes that deter and punish crime, keep the American people safe, and ensure that those who pay their debts to society have the chance to become productive, law-abiding citizens.

This is why – as we look toward the future – we must promote public safety and deterrence while at the same time ensuring efficiency and fairness. I am concerned by a troubling report released by the United States Sentencing Commission in February, which indicates that – in recent years – black male offenders have received sentences that are nearly 20 percent longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes. The Department of Justice is determined to continue working alongside Congressional leaders, judges, law enforcement officials, and independent groups – like the American Bar Association – to study the unintended collateral consequences of certain convictions; to address unwarranted sentencing disparities; and – where appropriate – to explore ways to give judges more flexibility in determining certain sentences. Too many people go to too many prisons for far too long for no good law enforcement reason. It is time to ask ourselves some fundamental questions about our criminal justice system. Statutes passed by legislatures that mandate sentences, irrespective of the unique facts of an individual case, too often bear no relation to the conduct at issue, breed disrespect for the system, and are ultimately counterproductive. It is time to examine our systems and determine what truly works. We need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, to rehabilitate, and to deter – and not simply to warehouse and forget.

I remain hopeful about what my colleagues and I will be able to achieve in the months and years ahead – as long as we can count on the strong support, and steadfast partnership, of leaders like all of you. As I look around this crowd – of friends, allies, and distinguished award recipients and despite the frustrations of the moment, and the obstacles ahead, I can’t help but feel confident in our ability to move forward together – and to build upon the legacy of the icon who was taken from us 45 years ago tonight.

Dr. King was a singular figure in our history, and his impact on the world we live in today would be difficult to overstate. But the struggle that came to define his life was anything but unique.

This struggle is reflected in the stories of selflessness – and sacrifice – that are woven throughout our history. These stories remind us that this nation was built, and it continues to be improved, by generations of Americans – young and old, from all backgrounds and walks of life – like those in this room tonight. Ultimately, these stories – and the legacy of progress that is our common inheritance – are founded on a hope as old as our Republic, and as contemporary as this new century: that – here and now – we have the power not merely to overcome --- but to come together and to confront the challenges of our time. We have the strength to bear one another up, and push one another forward, in our continuing march down the road to equality and justice. And we have the solemn responsibility – and the rare opportunity – not just to maintain a steady course, but to help realize the vision of a King whose example still guides us; whose words still inspire us; and whose dream will someday lead us to walk – together – into the Promised Land.

May God continue to bless our journey. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

U.S. BATTLE TANKS LEAVE EUROPE

 
German railway loadmasters with the Theater Logistics Support Center Europe control an Abrams main battle tank as it is loaded onto a rail car at the TLSCE railhead, March 19, 2013. The tank was among the 22 of the last U.S. battle tanks to leave Germany. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander Burnett


FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Command Assists Departure of Battle Tanks From Europe
By Army Staff Sgt. Alexander A. Burnett
21st Theater Sustainment Command

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany, April 4, 2013 - The last 22 Abrams main battle tanks assigned to U.S. Army Europe armored combat units began the final portion of their journey back to the United States at the 21st Theater Sustainment Command's Theater Logistics Support Center Europe railhead here March 18, ending a 69-year history of U.S. tanks in Germany.

The tanks arrived at the railhead in the early hours of March 18, and the members of TLSC-E had 24 hours to get them ready to move. Host-nation civilians worked 12-hour shifts to get each tank inventoried, marked, secured and fastened. Each step in securing the tanks was crucial for the trip.

"These tanks must be meticulously accounted for and secured to their rail cars," said Jurgen Mohrhardt, the railhead branch manager for the Supply Activity Europe, TLSC-E and a native of Schopp, Germany. "We are here to ensure these tanks are properly retrograded and accounted for. We want them to make it back safely to the United States. ... The team here did an amazing job getting them ready to move."

To ensure the physical security of the tanks on their journey, six military police soldiers from the 21st TSC's 18th Military Police Brigade accompanied the train to the port of Bremerhaven, Germany.

At Bremerhaven, the 22 tanks were loaded onto a vessel called The Honor of Arc, an American roll-on, roll-off vessel that allows vehicles to drive onto the deck, as opposed to loading them with a crane. Charleston, S.C., was the destination of the tanks and four of the military police escort detail.

"It is an honor to be one of the soldiers escorting the last battle tanks out of Germany," said Army Sgt. Jeremy Jordan, a military police noncommissioned officer assigned to the 529th Military Police Company and a native of Houston. "As these tanks sail back to the U.S., we are closing a chapter in history."

The U.S. Army first brought tanks to the European continent during World War II in 1944, beginning in France with D-Day. By September 1944, the first tanks from 5th Armored Division had pushed forward into Germany. After World War II, the majority of the Sherman tanks used were sent back to the United States.

During the Korean War, a new surge of U.S. tanks arrived in Germany to act as a defense force to protect Western Europe from the Soviet threat. Tanks remained in Germany throughout the years to deploy in support of missions in the Middle East. At its peak, Germany was home to 20 U.S. armored divisions, which amounts to about 6,000 tanks.

"There have been tanks in Germany since 1944, and now there are none," said Andrew M. Morris, the U.S. Army Europe historian and native of Boulder, Colo. "For most of that time, the U.S. was a tank-heavy army. This marks the end of an era, both for the armored history in Germany and the U.S. military."

"Moving these last 22 tanks symbolizes a change in warfighting methodology," said Ingrid Boger, the TLSC-E public affairs officer. "This is the end of a long tradition and history of having battle tanks in Germany."

The last tank to be loaded onto the vessel was the "Casa Loca" -- "The Crazy House." As the single-metric-ton war machine climbed the ramp onto the vessel, it signified the end of an era in Germany, Morris said.

"It's a major change in orientation from being a heavy force oriented on the defense of Western Europe to a deployable expeditionary force able to go anywhere," he added.

EXPORT-IMPORT BANK ENTERS PARTNERSHIIP WITH STATE OF ILLINOIS TO BOOST JOBS

FROM: U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK
Ex-Im Bank Partners With Illinois Trade Center Network, Multiplies Access to Export Financing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has entered a new marketing partnership with the state of Illinois in order to help Illinois businesses boost export sales and jobs. Ex-Im Bank’s City/State Partnership with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) gives thousands of exporters, especially small businesses, access to information about the Bank’s resources.

The partnership is expected to accelerate export business and job growth by connecting Bank products and services to a statewide network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and International Trade Centers (ITCs), where entrepreneurs meet export finance counselors and learn how to grow their businesses.

"Ex-Im Bank has a lot to offer Illinois businesses that want to grow their exports, and this partnership will put Ex-Im’s financing benefits on display for them," said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. "Owners of small and medium-size businesses already come to Illinois export centers to improve their understanding of export trade; now they will find Ex-Im Bank resources in the same place. There they can learn about Express Insurance and other cost-effective tools the Bank offers. We trust this new connection will support increased sales and job growth in Illinois."

Ex-Im Bank’s City/State Partnership with international trade educators and business experts in Illinois aims to build upon existing successes there. Twelve International Trade Centers are associated with SBDCs located in Illinois, mostly on university campuses. Although a correlation between ITC services and increased exports remains to be proved, the ITCs uniquely focus expertise upon how export businesses start, grow, and gain profits. Export sales growth from Illinois over the past four years has exceeded the national average, increasing by 63 percent compared to the nation’s average 47 percent. In 2012, direct exports accounted for ten percent of the Gross State Product.

"We are committed to helping our small and medium-sized businesses in Illinois gain access to capital to expand to markets outside the U.S.," said Adam Pollet, DCEO director. "Small businesses are driving economic growth in Illinois and this partnership with Ex-Im Bank will give small businesses the additional support they need to export globally."

The purpose of the City/State Partners program is to ensure that the Bank’s export finance programs are more accessible to small and medium-sized business through the help of local, state, and regional economic development and business support organizations. Each City/State Partner pledges to make financing assistance and entrepreneurial services available to local businesses in order to create, promote, and expand enterprises that export. Partners – whether governmental entities or non-profit organizations - explicitly recognize exporters as key supporters of U.S. jobs. Ex-Im Bank in turn provides its Partners with free marketing and training materials, qualified finance experts to speak at Partners’ events, assistance with outreach and counseling, and access to a network of lenders, insurance brokers, and U.S. Government export resources.

Through its City/State Partnership with Illinois, Ex-Im Bank offers to Illinois enterprises expanded access to products such as its Global Credit Express, which helps exporters acquire low-cost working capital up to $500,000, as well as Express Insurance, which simplifies small business access to export credit risk insurance on their foreign accounts receivable. The Bank has designed an array of low-cost loans, guarantees, export credit insurance, and supply-chain financing structures to enable both small and large businesses to export globally without fear of nonpayment.

Besides its new IL DCEO-SBDC-ITC Partnership, the Bank cooperates with two other City/State Partners in Illinois: Global Midwest Alliance LLC, and the Chicago Trade Accelerator, organized by World Business Chicago. The Trade Accelerator was inaugurated February 18 in a joint announcement by Ex-Im Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.

ABOUT EX-IM BANK:

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

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


LOW, THIN CLOUDS AND THE RECORD BREAKING MELTING OF THE GREENLAND ICE SHEET

Photo:  Greenland Ice Sheet.  Credit:  Wikimedia Commons.
FROM: NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Thin, Low Arctic Clouds Played an Important Role in Widespread 2012 Greenland Ice Sheet Melt

Clouds over the central Greenland Ice Sheet last July were "just right" for driving surface temperatures there above the melting point, according to a new study by scientists funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The study, published in the April 4 edition of the journal Nature, found that thin, low-lying clouds allowed the sun's energy to pass through and warm the surface of the ice, while at the same time trapping heat near the surface of the ice cap. This combination played a significant role in last summer's record-breaking melt.

"It's kind of like the story of Goldilocks," said Von P. Walden, a co-author of the paper and principal investigator for the NSF-funded Integrated Characterization of Energy, Clouds, atmospheric State, and Precipitation at Summit (ICECAPS) project.

"If the sky had no clouds on July 11th, it would have been too clear and cold to melt the surface. But if the clouds were too thick, it also would have been too cloudy and cold. The thin, liquid-water clouds were just right for melting the surface snow," he said.

ICECAPS is part of NSF's developing Arctic Observing Network (AON), which encompasses physical, biological and human observations--including indigenous knowledge--of the land, ocean and atmosphere. Data from the AON will enable the interagency, U.S. government initiative--the Study of Environmental Arctic Change--to get a handle on a wide-ranging series of significant and rapid changes occurring in the Arctic.

"Clouds are still one of the greatest uncertainties in climate models. Even though the current climate models are generally correct, we need better measurements to improve them," said Walden, a professor in the geography department at the University of Idaho. "We're doing this to avoid future surprises, and we need to expand our knowledge of the details of how the climate operates."

The new findings, Walden added, not only have important implications for the study of the climate in the Arctic, but also provided a measure of "ground-truthing" for evidence found in ice cores--cylinders of ice drilled out of the ice sheet--that similar melting events have occurred in the past. According to ice-core records, the last time the surface at Summit experienced any degree of melting was in 1889, but it is not known whether this extended across the entire ice sheet.

Matthew Shupe, an ICECAPS investigator and a research meteorologist with NOAA's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado and the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory added, "to understand the region's future, you'll need to understand its clouds. Our finding has implications for the fate of ice throughout the Arctic."

Scientists around the world are trying to understand how quickly Greenland is warming because ice melt there contributes to sea level rise globally. The Greenland Ice Sheet is second only to Antarctica in ice volume. In July, more than 97 percent of the Greenland Ice Sheet surface experienced some degree of melting, including at NSF‘s Summit Station, high atop the ice sheet, where the ICECAPS experiment is located.

To investigate whether clouds contributed to, or counteracted, the surface warming that melted the ice, the authors modeled the near-surface conditions. The model was based on observations from a suite of sophisticated atmospheric sensors operated as part of the ICECAPS experiment.

"The July 2012 ice melt was triggered by an influx of unusually warm air sweeping in from North America, but that was only one factor," said David Turner, research meteorologist with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory and one of the lead investigators. "In our paper, we show that low-lying clouds containing a low amount of condensed water were instrumental in pushing surface air temperatures up above freezing and causing the surface ice to melt."

Clouds can cool the surface by reflecting solar energy back into space, and can warm it by radiating heat energy back down to the surface. The balance of those two processes depends on many factors, including wind speed, turbulence, humidity and cloud "thickness," or liquid water content.

In certain conditions, these clouds can be thin enough to allow some solar radiation to pass through, while still "trapping" infrared radiation at ground level. That is exactly what happened last July: the clouds were just right for maximum surface warming. Thicker clouds would have reflected away more solar radiation; thinner ones couldn't have trapped as much heat, and in either of those cases, there would have been less surface warming.

The researchers also found these thin, low-lying liquid clouds occur 30 to 50 percent of the time in summer, both over Greenland and across the Arctic. Current climate models tend to underestimate their occurrence in the Arctic, which limits those models' ability to predict how clouds and their warming or cooling effects may respond to climate change.

"The cloud properties and atmospheric processes observed with the Summit Station instrument array provide a unique dataset to answer the large range of scientific questions we want to address," said Turner. "Clouds play a big role in the surface mass and energy budgets over the Greenland Ice Sheet. Melting of the world's major ice sheets can significantly impact human and environmental conditions via its contribution to sea-level rise."

Better understanding of clouds also improves climate models.

"Our results may help to explain some of the difficulties that current global climate models have in simulating the Arctic surface energy budget, including the contributions of clouds," said Ralf Bennartz, lead author for the study and an ICECAPS investigator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"Above all, this study highlights the importance of continuous and detailed ground-based observations over the Greenland Ice Sheet and elsewhere. Only such detailed observations will lead to a better understanding of the processes that drive Arctic climate."

-NSF-

Thursday, April 4, 2013

CDC SAYS 20% OF TEEN BIRTHS ARE REPEAT BIRTHS

FROM: CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION
New CDC Vital Signs: Nearly 20 percent of teen births are repeat births
Repeat births can be prevented

Nearly one in five teen births is a repeat birth, according to a Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although teen births have fallen over the past 20 years, the number of repeat births remains high and there are substantial racial/ethnic and geographic differences.
Repeat births: A repeat birth is a second (or more) pregnancy resulting in a live birth before the age of 20. More than 365,000 teens, ages 15-19 years, gave birth in 2010, and almost 67,000 (18.3 percent) of those were repeat births.
Racial disparities: Repeat teen births were highest among American Indian/Alaska Natives (21.6 percent), Hispanics (20.9 percent), and non-Hispanic blacks (20.4 percent), and lowest among non-Hispanic whites (14.8 percent).
Geographic disparities: Repeat teen births ranged from 22 percent in Texas to 10 percent in New Hampshire. Data show that although nearly 91 percent of teen mothers who were sexually active used some form of contraception in the postpartum period, only 22 percent used contraceptives considered to be "most effective" (that is, where the risk is less than one pregnancy per 100 users in a year.)

There are things that can be done to prevent repeat teen births. Health care providers, parents, guardians, and caregivers can talk to both male and female teens about avoiding pregnancy by not having sex and can discuss with sexually active teens the most effective types of birth control to prevent repeat teen pregnancy.