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Saturday, April 13, 2013

MEDIA NOTE: U.S. OFFICIAL'S MEETING WITH IRAQI KURDISTAN REGIONAL DELEGATION

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Readout of Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones' Meeting with Iraqi Kurdistan Region Delegation
Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
April 12, 2013

Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones met with a senior delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq at the State Department today to discuss U.S.-Iraq relations, especially the longstanding ties we share with the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and its people.

Acting Assistant Secretary Jones welcomed the Kurdish delegation and expressed the strong U.S. commitment to supporting the development of a sound, vibrant, and inclusive Iraq. She underscored our commitment to the Strategic Framework Agreement, the basis for the United States’ partnership with a federal, democratic, and unified Iraq. She reiterated U.S. support for an Iraqi Kurdistan Region within the framework of Iraq’s constitution. Building on the Secretary’s recent trip to Iraq, the two sides discussed the importance of direct and continuous engagement by all of Iraq’s political parties to address outstanding issues, including appropriate division of authority between the central and regional government, equitable distribution of resources, and resolving internal boundary disputes pursuant to Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution.

To that end, the Acting Assistant Secretary noted she was encouraged that a Kurdish Alliance delegation arrived in Baghdad this week to discuss the importance of peaceful dialogue and partnership in resolving political disputes. She further emphasized Secretary Kerry’s message that the United States remains committed to the vision of Iraq as defined in the Iraqi constitution, and is prepared to help Iraqi leaders resolve their differences peacefully and in a manner that benefits all the Iraqi people.




SOLDIER INDICTED FOR FUEL THEFT CRIMES IN AFGHANISTAN

Photo:  Iraq War.  Credit:  DOD.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Former Army Soldier Indicted on Bribery and Related Charges for Facilitating Thefts of Fuel in Afghanistan

Stephanie Charboneau, aka Stephanie Shankel, 34, of Fountain, Colo., formerly a Specialist in the United States Army, has been indicted in the District of Colorado for her alleged role in assisting the thefts of fuel in Afghanistan and laundering the proceeds of crime, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Criminal Division announced.

According to the indictment returned on April 9, 2013, and now filed publicly, Charboneau was assigned to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Fenty, in eastern Afghanistan, as part of the 704th Brigade Support Battalion. Her duties included overseeing the movement of fuel by private Afghan trucking companies from FOB Fenty to nearby military bases. The indictment alleges that Charboneau conspired with Sergeant Christopher Weaver, her supervisor, and Jonathan Hightower, a civilian employee of FLUOR Inc., to facilitate the theft of fuel for money. Charboneau and her co-conspirators allegedly received money from a representative of an Afghan trucking company to enable that company to steal truckloads of fuel. The conspirators allegedly authorized the movement of truckloads of fuel from FOB Fenty – ostensibly to nearby bases – knowing and intending that when the fuel left FOB Fenty it would never reach the designated base and would instead be stolen. These events occurred from approximately February 2010 through approximately May of 2010.

In addition, the indictment charges that when Charboneau returned to the United States, she engaged in a series of transactions with the bribe proceeds to avoid the currency transaction reporting requirements. Charboneau allegedly purchased an automobile for $33,179 in cash through a $5,000 down payment, two $9,900 cashier’s checks she funded but were in the name of two acquaintances, and an $8,379 cashier’s check in her name.

Charboneau was charged with conspiracy, bribery, theft, money laundering and structuring. If convicted, she faces penalties of 20 years in prison for money laundering, 15 for bribery, 10 for theft of government property, and five for conspiracy and structuring. She also faces fines of $250,000 per count.

Weaver and Hightower have each pleaded guilty to a bribery conspiracy scheme and are awaiting sentencing.

This case was investigated by former Fraud Section Trial Attorney Mark Pletcher, who is currently an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of California, and Special Trial Attorney Mark H. Dubester. The case was investigated by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the Department of the Army, Criminal Investigations Division, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI Denver field office.

SPECIAL BRIEFING ON THE SERGEI MAGNITSKY RULE OF LAW ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 2012

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT

Background Brieing on the Administration's Implementation of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Officials
Via Teleconference
Washington, DC
April 12, 2013

MODERATOR:
Good afternoon, everybody, on this Friday afternoon. This call is on background. I have three Senior State Department Officials with me here. From here on, they will be attributed as Senior State Department Officials, but they are [Senior State Department Official One], [Senior State Department Official Two], and [Senior State Department Official Three]. So they will be Senior State Department Officials One, Two, and Three, respectively.

Having said that, I will now turn it over to Senior State Department Official Number One for some opening comments, followed by Q&A. Thank you very much.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Good afternoon, everyone. As you know by now, the State Department, consulting with the Treasury Department and other departments, has submitted to Congress the first list of persons under the Magnitsky Act who met the criteria described in that act. That list contains 18 people, 16 of whom were put on the list because of their association with the persecution and ultimately death of Sergei Magnitsky. There are two others on that list associated with other events: One was associated with the shooting in Vienna of Israilov, a Chechen; the other was associated with the murder of Paul Klebnikov.

Those 18 people were placed on the list following a thorough process of collecting information, including from NGOs, from Congress, and from our own sources, and then a process by which agencies of the U.S. Government, including especially OFAC from the Treasury Department, reviewed the information about them to determine whether we had met a reasonable standard to include them on this list.

As of today, the people on this list will have any assets in the United States blocked – that’s as of now – and they will not be able to receive a visa.

Putting a name on this list is a serious undertaking. It has legal ramifications. Whenever you are freezing the assets of individuals, you better know what you’re doing and why, and you better have a reasonable, demonstrable basis for doing so. We believe we have that basis. We think that the purposes of the Magnitsky Act are the support of human rights. We applaud those purposes. Human rights is part of our relationship with the Russians. It is sometimes a difficult part, but we have implemented this law in a fair spirit and diligently.

We have notified the Congress both in writing and in person. We are going to be notifying the Russians, although the list is now public and I’m sure the Russian blogosphere is lit up with discussion of the names.

The names include six persons who were placed there because of their position in the initial investigation and arrest of Magnitsky. They were senior investigators, supervisorial, and other personnel of the Interior Ministry; one from the General Prosecutors Office; four judges from the Tverskoy court; two prison officials, one from the Matrosskaya Tishina prison, the head of the pre-trial prison detention facility there, the other the head of the pre-trial detention facility at Butyrka prison; plus two heads of tax authority offices. They were associated – these people – with various stages of the campaign against Sergei Magnitsky.

The standard that applied to the review of these and the determination under the Magnitsky Act is the same standard that applies to other economic sanctions determinations of individuals. And for those of you interested, the relevant standard is spelled out in the Administrative Procedures Act. It is an across-the-government standard and it’s important that that standard be maintained.

There’ll be plenty of opportunity to take questions, but that is an overview of what has happened today. I’ll let my colleagues add, and then we’ll have some time for questions.

MODERATOR: Over to our second official. Do we have any other before going to Q&A?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think we’re good.

MODERATOR: Okay. Operator, we’re ready for Q&A.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to ask a question, please press * then 1 on your touchtone phone. You will hear a tone indicating that you’ve been placed in queue. You may remove yourself from the queue at any time by pressing the # key. If you are using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if you have a question, please press *1 at this time. And it will be just one moment.

And our first question comes from the line of Peter Baker with The New York Times. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, guys, for doing the call. I appreciate it. A couple of questions: One, we were told there’s also a classified list of other people. Is that correct, and can we – even if we don’t know the names, can we get some sense of numbers and types of people on it? And then secondly, do we have any evidence any of the people, at least on the unclassified list, have any assets in the United States?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I can confirm that there was a classified list as provided under the law. I can say that we briefed congressional staff of both houses of Congress this morning and early this afternoon about both contents of that list and the reason why we believe that the people we put on that list belonged on that list under the Act’s standards. We went into some detail.

Because it’s classified, I’m not going to get into either numbers, names, except to say that we felt obligated to brief the Congress in detail, and we have done so.

QUESTION: And then the assets of at least publicly known people?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Peter, that question’s probably best directed to OFAC and Treasury, who are the experts. But I can tell you, in general in these cases what happens is they put out a notice to banks and other financial institutions and wait for them to report back.

QUESTION: So we don’t – we haven’t done that – so as far as you know we haven’t done that sort of research at this point.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: We don’t normally do that in these cases.

QUESTION: Right.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO*: The procedure I described is OFAC’s standard operating procedure.

QUESTION: Right. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Operator, next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from the line of Desmond Butler with Associated Press. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you all for doing this call. Some of the folks up on the Hill are already complaining that the list was soft-pedaled, that some of the bigger names of Russian officials they wanted to see on the list were not on the list. Were there political considerations? Did you take into account the effect that this would have on relations with Russia?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Political considerations were not a factor. The principal factor was the stage of the information about these – about people and whether or not we felt the U.S. government’s standards for the freezing of assets of individuals were met. It is one thing to think of general political responsibility for human rights problems in Russia generally or in any country generally. It is quite another thing to target an individual for the freezing of personal assets. There are very good reasons why you want to follow the rule of law, particularly – I find it particularly ironic that in a case – the case of – involving Sergei Magnitsky, who was persecuted because he was blowing the whistle of confiscation of private assets and misuse of private assets, that there would be any question about following the rule of law and proper procedures for any such – for any freezing of private assets. And the people that are on the list are not – are of supervisorial rank. They are responsible officials – officials of a responsible rank. This is serious business. And I think that the list was put together with diligence and seriousness.

MODERATOR: Operator, next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from the line of Michele Kelemen with NPR. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, hi. Thanks for doing this. One, I’m curious how many of these people were already on the visa ban list, because I know there was a list that just was not made public before. How did you decide to add the Klebnikov and the Chechen case into this? And on the question of the classified list, does it really make sense to have a classified list? Doesn’t that really fuel suspicions in Russia more?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well – separate questions. The law provides – in fact the law calls on us to go beyond simply the case of Sergei Magnitsky. I’m pleased – I’m glad that we were able to do so in this initial list. It was important to do something more, and the basic criteria we had was: Do we have information about individuals involved in non-Magnitsky problems that will stand up and meet our standards? And the answer is yes, so we have done so. As I said, somebody from the Izrailov murder and somebody from the Klebnikov murder.

The classified list is something the Congress put in. There are various reasons why it would be in our interest to put people on that list. The standard was vital to the national security, we explained to the Congressional staff why the people on that list were there. You’re right, Michele; it may fuel speculation in Russia, but there – we expected, in any event, a strong Russian reaction.

By the way, I should point out that this is not a one-time only act. The law makes clear that additional names should be added as new information becomes available. The law also provides for an annual report to Congress about names that have been added, and we intend to follow the law.

QUESTION: Okay, and just one just clarification. The classified list is not – it’s not – it’s just for visa bans and not asset freezes or --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That is correct. You can’t do an asset freeze in secret. Therefore, if it’s – if there is someone on the classified list, the asset freeze does not apply. This was made very – during the discussions – in the drafting process of the Magnitsky Act, this was made clear to the Congress, that they put this in. So that’s what we’re dealing with.

QUESTION: Okay. And then how many of these people were on the previous visa bans, is my final question.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We don’t usually go public with people that are on that list, but let me say that there has been for some time a process of putting people on visa watch lists for reasons of human rights. And long before the Magnitsky Act was contemplated, the Russia desk and the Human Rights Bureau were working to put people on the list. And without saying who was and who wasn’t on it, that list was extensive and predated the Magnitsky list.

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from the line of Elise Labott from CNN. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: I think I’m good. I think my questions have already been asked. But I’m just wondering if you could – to drill down --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So happy, Elise. That’s great.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That’s great.

QUESTION: But about the classified, I just don’t – still don’t understand why it has – their names have to be classified.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The trouble that I find myself in is that if I were to explain it, I would also be explaining who they are. We did – all I can tell you is that we – when we were able to talk to the Congressional staff this morning, we could explain it fairly simply, fairly cleanly because we had simple and clean explanations. And although it’s dangerous to characterize a meeting of which you were only half, I didn’t sense a lot of pushback. I may be tempting fate, but we had easily, simply explained reasons that I can’t share with you because it’s, well, a classified list.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Sorry.

QUESTION: I mean, I think – isn’t it kind of – I mean, just to Michele’s point, the fact that these names are meant to show an example, right, of people that were human rights’ abusers? So doesn’t that kind of negate the fact that – isn’t that kind of besides the point?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I take that point. And there is in the human rights community, has been a discussion of exactly that point. Is the act advanced by having everybody public or having some people private? We discussed what the standard should be, that is how to interpret the standard that exists in the law. We came to a decision, and you have the advantage of me because you can ask anything you want, but I have to be careful about the answer. Sorry.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I know that’s inadequate but that’s because it is a classified list, and to explain the reasons would be to reveal who’s on it.

MODERATOR: Operator, we’ve got time for a couple more questions.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from the line of Paul Eckert with Reuters. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, and thank you. Turning to one of the initial responses from Moscow, a senior Russian lawmaker, the head of the State Duma’s international affairs committee, called the list minimal, and he said it showed that the Obama Administration did not want to heighten tensions between Washington and Moscow. How do you take that? Do you take that as acceptance of the U.S. – the list decision, or sort of, they’re not being chastened enough or – what does that – how do you respond to what – how they’re taking it there?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We will hear various things from the Russians. The – I’ve learned not to try to take action based on what you think the Russian reaction might be. You –it’s – I think it’s better to do what’s in the law and what’s right and what reflects American interests and American values. And on human rights, then you let the chips fall where they may. We’ve played this one straight; we haven’t tried to game it.

Of course we have a lot – we have a complicated relationship with Russia, strong areas of cooperation, strong areas of difference. Human rights is an area of difference, has been for some time. We – this is the first list to come out under the Magnitsky Act. I hope there is never an occasion for future lists, but we are prepared to do it, and we will be looking at the human rights situation in the future.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Nicole Gaouette with Bloomberg News. Please go ahead.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Operator.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for doing this. My question actually has already been asked as well, but I just wanted to ask one more about the classified list. And that is if you can tell us how many people are on it.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That’s a very reasonable question. I can’t answer it.

QUESTION: You can’t even be that reasonable?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I can’t be – even be that reasonable. I will let other – I’ll let people push that – push the boundaries of that one, but I can’t.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Sure.

MODERATOR: Operator, we have time for just one more question.

OPERATOR: Our last question comes from the line of Ali Weinberg with NBC News. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi there. And forgive me; I did not hear the last question, so if I’m being repetitive, I apologize. But if I understand correctly, it sounds like the classified list was included in your – in this action because it was required by the law. So if it had not been required by the law, is it fair to say that the classified list would not have been included or even made up?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, the law provided for a classified list. If it did not provide for a classified list, I suppose there wouldn’t have been a classified list. But it did provide for one. Now there is one. The previous question was how many people were on it, and Senior State Official Number One said: Fair question; can’t answer it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay.

MODERATOR: Thank you all for joining the call this afternoon, and have a good weekend. Bye-bye.


Weekly Address: Sandy Hook Victim's Mother Calls for Commonsense Gun Responsibility Reforms | The White House

Weekly Address: Sandy Hook Victim's Mother Calls for Commonsense Gun Responsibility Reforms | The White House

EX-IM BANK SIGNS $5 BILLION DEAL WITH DUBI ECONOMIC COUNCIL

Photo:  Dubai From Space.  Credit:  NASA.
FROM:  EXPORT IMPORT BANK
Ex-Im Bank and Dubai Economic Council Sign $5 Billion Agreement

Washington, D.C. – Fred P. Hochberg, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank), and Hani Rashid Al Hamli, secretary general of the Dubai Economic Council (DEC), inked a $5 billion memorandum of understanding (MOU) Thursday at Ex-Im Bank's 38th Annual Conference here.

"The MOU underscores our continued cooperation with our partners in Dubai and helps ensure that American exporters are not disadvantaged by foreign companies relying upon state-driven capital," said Chairman Hochberg. "The more orders American exporters fill in Dubai, the more American jobs we can support."

According to the agreement, "DEC and Ex-Im Bank anticipate that as much as $5 billion in export-credit support may be approved to finance DEC’s members’ and customers’ procurement of U.S. goods and services for a variety of Dubai infrastructure projects."

Potential areas of cooperation include, but are not limited to, air-traffic control and airport infrastructure; railway, urban-metro, and port-development projects; power generation; oil, gas, and petrochemical projects; and water-treatment projects.

In FY 2012, Ex-Im Bank approved approximately $3.32 billion in U.A.E. authorizations.

AIR FORCE COMMANDER SAYS ACQUISITON OF NEW TANKER IS NUMBER ONE PRIORITY

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Commander Stresses Importance of New Air Refueling Tanker
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2013 - The commander of the Air Force's Air Mobility Command today stressed the high priority his service places on the KC-46A tanker aircraft program.

Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva discussed progress with the program and stressed its priority in a meeting with Defense Writers Group reporters.

Air Force officials announced award of a $3.5 billion engineering and manufacturing development contract to Boeing Co. for the new tanker in February 2011.

"I'm on the record saying that our No. 1 acquisition priority in AMC -- and it remains the Air Force's No. 1 priority -- is making sure the KC-46 tanker delivers on time, on cost," he said. "And because we have a firm fixed-price contract for the development of that airplane, if we allow ourselves to get into the position where we don't have the funds to pay for the initial development of the airplane, that contract gets reopened."

This would be a bad outcome for the Air Force and for the nation –- in reverse order, Selva said.

"We'll pay more for the airplane than we know we have to based on the existing contract," he added.

The general said an initial round of site surveys for where the aircraft will be based has taken place, and the critical final design review is scheduled in July.

"We're in source selection for the simulator training devices, which means we're already started into the process of developing the curriculum and deciding how we're going to train the crews that operate the airplane," Selva said.

Selva said a recent decision will enable the Air Force to reap the new tanker's benefits faster than earlier plans projected.

"About six months ago, we finalized a decision to change the crew ratio on the airplane from two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half crews per airplane," he said. "[This] will allow us to use the airplane in greater volume earlier in its lifetime, because it's so much more efficient than the KC-135."

The KC-135 Stratotanker has provided the Air Force's core aerial refueling capability for more than 50 years.

RECENT U.S. NAVY PHOTOS



FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 

Sailors practice firefighting techniques during a general quarters drill aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Dwight D. Eisenhower is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility promoting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Andrew Schneider (Released) 130409-N-XQ474-376




130409-N-XQ474-410 NORTH ARABIAN SEA (April 9, 2013) Sailors practice firefighting techniques during a general quarters drill aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Dwight D. Eisenhower is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility promoting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Andrew Schneider/Released)

West Wing Week: 04/12/13 or “We Choose Love” | The White House

West Wing Week: 04/12/13 or “We Choose Love” | The White House

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL'S REMARKS ON U.S. NUCLEAR POLICY

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
The Future of U.S. Nuclear Policy
Remarks
Frank A. Rose
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
As Prepared
The Pryzbyla Center, Catholic University of America
Washington, DC
April 9, 2013


Thank you for that kind introduction, Stephen. I am glad to be here at Catholic University today to talk about U.S. nuclear policy. I want to thank the Catholic Peacebuilding Network for sponsoring this program. It is my pleasure to represent the State Department this afternoon.

Today, I would like to provide an update on our work, which the President laid out four years ago in Prague, when he committed the United States to seeking the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.

As President Obama noted in his famous speech, this will not be easy. Nor is it likely to happen in his lifetime. Still, over the last four years we have succeeded in moving closer to this goal.

In 2010, the Administration concluded a Nuclear Posture Review, or NPR, which outlines the President’s agenda for reducing nuclear dangers, as well as advancing the broader security interests of the United States and its allies. As the NPR states nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest threats facing the United States. The traditional concept of nuclear deterrence — the idea that a country would not initiate a nuclear war for fear of nuclear retaliation — does not apply to terrorists. While our nuclear arsenal has little relevance in deterring this threat, concerted action by the United States and Russia – and indeed, by all nuclear weapon states – to reduce their arsenals is key to garnering support from partners around the world for strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime, while also securing nuclear materials worldwide to make it harder for terrorists to acquire nuclear materials.

For instance, by the end of this year, we expect the 1993 U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement to be completed, under which 500 MT of highly enriched uranium or HEU from dismantled Russian weapons will have been converted into low-enriched uranium or LEU to fuel U.S. commercial nuclear power plants. Over 472 MT (equivalent to approximately 18,900 nuclear warheads) has been downblended and sent to the United States so far. In the United States, 374 MT of U.S. HEU has been declared excess to nuclear weapons; most of the remainder will be downblended or used as fuel in naval or research reactors. In 2011, the United States and Russia brought into force the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement and its 2006 and 2010 protocols, which requires each side to dispose of 34 MT of weapon-grade plutonium – enough in total for about 17,000 nuclear weapons – and thus permanently remove this material from military programs. Russia has also been an essential partner in the U.S. Global Threat Reduction Initiative efforts to convert research reactors from HEU to LEU and repatriate those reactors’ HEU to the country of origin. These efforts have now converted or verified the shutdown of over 75 research and test reactors, and repatriated to the United States or to Russia over 3,000 kg of HEU for secure storage, downblending and disposition.

In addition to working on the prevention of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism, we have taken steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy. We are not developing new nuclear weapons or pursuing new nuclear missions; we have committed not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations; and we have clearly stated that it is in the U.S. interest and that of all other nations that the nearly 68-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons be extended forever.

As President Obama said in Seoul in March of last year:

"[W]e can already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need. I firmly believe that we can ensure the security of the United States and our allies, maintain a strong deterrent against any threat, and still pursue further reductions in our nuclear arsenal."

Let me now address what we believe our next steps should be.

The Administration continues to believe that the next step in nuclear arms reductions should be pursued on a bilateral basis. The United States and Russia still possess the vast majority of nuclear weapons in the world. With that in mind, we have a great example in the New START Treaty. The implementation of New START, now in its third year, is going well. When New START is fully implemented, the United States and the Russian Federation will each have no more than 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads – the lowest levels since the 1950s.

Going forward, the United States has made it clear that we are committed to continuing a step-by-step process to reduce the overall number of nuclear weapons, including the pursuit of a future agreement with Russia to address all categories of nuclear weapons – strategic, non-strategic, deployed and non-deployed.

To this end, we are engaged in a bilateral dialogue to promote strategic stability and increase transparency on a reciprocal basis with the Russian Federation. We are hopeful our dialogue will lead to greater reciprocal transparency and negotiation of even further nuclear weapons reductions.

As part of this process, the Administration is consulting with Allies to lay the groundwork for future negotiations. As you may know, NATO has already dramatically reduced its holdings of, and reliance on, nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War. That said, NATO is prepared to consider further reducing its requirement for nonstrategic nuclear weapons assigned to the Alliance in the context of reciprocal steps by Russia, taking into account the greater Russian stockpiles of nonstrategic nuclear weapons stationed in the Euro-Atlantic area. While seeking to create the conditions for further nuclear reductions, NATO will continue to ensure that the Alliance’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective as NATO is committed to remaining a nuclear alliance for as long as nuclear weapons exist.

There are still further initiatives that are part of this Administration’s nuclear agenda. The United States is revitalizing an international effort to advance a new multilateral treaty to verifiably ban the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. A Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty or FMCT– would for the first time put an end to the dedicated production of weapons-grade fissile material needed to create nuclear weapons and provide the basis for further, deeper, reductions in nuclear arsenals.

Beginning multilateral negotiations on the FMCT is a priority objective for the United States and for the vast majority of states, and we have been working to initiate such negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. An overwhelming majority of nations support the immediate commencement of FMCT negotiations. The United States is consulting with China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, as well as others, to find a way to commencing negotiation of an FMCT.

In 2009, the five nuclear-weapon states, or "P5," began to meet regularly to have discussions on issues of transparency, mutual confidence, and verification. Since the 2010 NPT Review Conference, these discussions have expanded to address P5 implementation of our commitments under the NPT and the 2010 Review Conference’s Action Plan. The U.S. hosted the most recent P5 conference in Washington in June 2012, where the P5 tackled issues related to all three pillars of the NPT – nonproliferation, the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and disarmament, including confidence-building, transparency, and verification experiences. We are looking forward to a fourth conference on April 18-19, which Russia will host in Geneva prior to the next NPT Preparatory Committee meeting.

In addition to providing a senior level policy forum for discussion and coordination among the P5, this process has spawned a series of discussions among policymakers and government experts on a variety of issues. China is leading a P5 working group on nuclear definitions and terminology. The P5 are discussing approaches to a common format for NPT reporting, and we are also beginning to engage at expert levels on some important verification and transparency issues. In the future, we would like the P5 conferences and intersessional meetings to expand and to develop practical transparency measures that build confidence and predictability.

I should add at this point that when discussing areas to broaden and deepen our cooperation and to advance our common interests, it’s necessary to address the question of Missile Defense. Thirty years ago at the height of the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan saw virtue in cooperating with Moscow on Missile Defense.

While we have our differences on this issue, we remain convinced that missile defense cooperation between the United States and Russia (and between NATO and Russia) is in the national security interests of all countries involved. For that reason, missile defense cooperation with Russia remains a priority for the President. To be clear, U.S. missile defense efforts are focused on defending our homeland as well as our European, Middle Eastern, and Asian allies and partners against ballistic missile threats coming from Iran and North Korea. These are threats that are growing, and must be met.

In meeting those threats, it is important to note that U.S. missile defenses are not designed for, or capable of, undermining the Russian or Chinese strategic deterrents. For its part, Russia has been insistent on legally binding guarantees that our missile defenses will not threaten its strategic deterrent. Rather than legal guarantees, we believe that the best way for Russia to see that U.S. and NATO missile defenses in Europe do not undermine its strategic deterrent would be for it to cooperate with us. In addition to making all of us safer, cooperation would send a strong message to proliferators that the United States, NATO, and Russia are working together to counter proliferation. With regard to China, the United States welcomes the opportunity to engage in a dialogue about missile defense and other security issues of strategic importance.

As our work together over the past four years has shown, we can produce significant results that benefit both countries. As mentioned earlier, the New START Treaty is a great example of this. Cooperation on missile defense would also facilitate improved relations between the United States and Russia. In fact, it would be a game-changer for those relations. It has the potential to enhance the national security of both the United States and Russia, as well as build a genuine strategic partnership.

None of this will be easy, but the policies the Administration is pursuing are suited for our security needs and tailored for the global security threats of the 21st century. By maintaining and supporting a safe, secure and effective stockpile — sufficient to deter any adversary and guarantee the defense of our allies — at the same time that we pursue responsible verifiable reductions through arms control, we will make this world a safer place.

To paraphrase President Kennedy, whose speech 50 years ago at American University launched the NPT process, we will succeed by moving forward step by step, confident and unafraid. There is something very appropriate in mentioning President Kennedy and his era because your generation has a unique advantage. You are not burdened by the memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis, or the experience of duck and cover drills, events that characterize the experience of those who lived through the Cold War at its most dangerous points. You have the freedom to bring fresh thinking and new perspectives to how we can best enhance our national security. Positive change is hard to accomplish, so we will need your energy and your expertise to extend this debate beyond college campuses if we are to move safely and securely to a world without nuclear weapons. Your energy and your commitment are important to our efforts to reduce global nuclear dangers.

Thank you and I look forward to your questions.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House

THE COUNTERTERRORISM FOREFRONT

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Partner Capacity Moves to Counterterrorism Forefront
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2013 - As al-Qaida affiliates seek sanctuary in North Africa and the Middle East, the United States must continue to take decisive action and help partners improve their capacity to thwart terrorist organizations, a senior Pentagon official said yesterday on Capitol Hill.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee's emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee, Michael A. Sheehan, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, praised the special operations community for continually targeting key al-Qaida leadership and networks within countries of varying capabilities.

The United States "cannot allow al-Qaida to have sanctuary with impunity," Sheehan said. "A year ago, if I testified from here, I would've been talking about al-Qaida controlling massive swaths of territory in Yemen ... and Somalia. In both cases, they've been rolled back," he added.

Components of the U.S. strategy involve developing innovative, low-cost and "small-footprint" approaches to achieve security objectives, Sheehan explained.

"The task of training, advising and partnering with foreign military security forces has moved from the periphery to become a critical skill set across our armed services," Sheehan said.

In Yemen, Sheehan said, multinational forces worked with Yemenis to roll back al-Qaida. And in Somalia, which has no functioning government, the United States worked with the African Union in a United Nations peacekeeping operation to eject terrorists.

"The French have pushed [al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb] out of the major cities in north Mali, and we're working to create a U.N. operation to follow that," he said.

Sheehan told the senators that legislation authorizing training and equipping of host-nation forces, particularly in Yemen and East Africa, has been "fundamental" for the United States in successfully building antiterrorism capacity during efforts targeting al-Qaida over the past year.

In Syria, Sheehan said, al-Qaida in Iraq's network, operating under the name al-Nusrah Front, has sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition to President Bashar Assad's regime.

"Al-Nusrah Front is, in fact, an attempt by [al-Qaida in Iraq] to hijack the struggles of the Syrian people for its own malign purposes, attempting to establish an al-Qaida-governed state in the region," he said.

AIRMAN'S PERSONAL STORY

Air Force Senior Airman Austin Stoker replenishes a .50-caliber machine gun after a training mission in Afghanistan, March 11, 2013. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Face of Defense: Airman Keeps Squadron Ready to Fight
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Alexander Martinez
U.S. Air Forces Central

SOUTHWESTERN AFGHANISTAN, April 9, 2013 - When 26th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters scramble for a casualty evacuation mission, the environment they are flying into is unpredictable.

Whether the environment is hostile or not, they always prepare for the worst -- that's where Air Force Senior Airman Austin Stoker comes in. The munitions systems specialist ensures the crews have the resources to fight if they have to.

"You have to be able to go into a combat area where people are dying and pull them out, and you need firepower to do it," Stoker said. "Without it, there is no rescue and the crew isn't coming back."

Deployed from the California National Guard's 129th Rescue Wing, Moffett Federal Airfield, Calif., Stoker and the 26th ERQS aircrew, maintenance and support teams augment a highly visible and important medical evacuation mission in Regional Command Southwest.

Air Force pararescue members, combat rescue officers, crew chiefs and gunners scramble when they get word that a coalition service member is injured and needs lifesaving assistance.

Air Force Lt. Col. George Dona, 26th ERQS commander, said without all the parts of the mission working, "the crews can't fly, the helicopters won't work, and the guns won't shoot."

"I need all of this to come together," he added, "and I need it to come together on a moment's notice."

Dona said that so far, the support teams have delivered.

"They have more than just met the challenge -- they have far exceeded the expectations that I had for the squadron," he said.

Stoker's role in the mission is important in ensuring the crews can defend themselves with the ammunition he maintains and provides.

"Our mission is to provide munitions support, from the smallest rounds to grenades, [including .50-caliber machine guns] and countermeasure flares used to keep the aircraft from being shot out of the skies," the Stockton, Calif., native said.

Countermeasure flares help prevent projectiles from hitting the aircraft. Stoker said successful countermeasures sometimes are the only thing that ensures a crew makes it back from a rescue mission.

His daily duties include maintenance on ammunition systems, weapons compatibility checks, and inventory on stockpiles and expended rounds.

Stoker said maintaining an inventory is a large part of his job because the Air Force tracks 100 percent of its ammo.

"Every bullet is accounted for," he said. "If you shoot a bullet, you better have a reason."

After transitioning from active duty service to the Guard in 2011, Stoker said, he joined the 129th Rescue Wing with hopes to deploy more often.

Stoker said he has a strong respect for the rescue mission here, and for his coworkers.

"The pararescue mission is so dynamic," he said. "The lives that they save, the humanitarian missions that they do, and just being a part of it all makes me feel very good about my day-to-day service."

JUSTICE AND SOUTH DAKOTA CHIROPRATORS SETTLE FEE CONSPIRACY CASE

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Monday, April 8, 2013
Justice Department Challenges Joint Contracting on Behalf of South Dakota Chiropractors
Settlement Bars Chiropractor Association from Conspiring to Raise Fees

The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that it has reached a settlement with Chiropractic Associates Ltd. of South Dakota (CASD), an association comprising approximately 80 percent of all practicing chiropractors in South Dakota. The settlement prohibits CASD from jointly determining prices and negotiating contracts with insurers on behalf of competing chiropractors in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. The department said that CASD negotiated at least seven contracts with insurers that set prices for chiropractic services on behalf of CASD’s members and that CASD’s conduct caused consumers to pay higher fees for chiropractic services.

The department’s Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota against CASD. At the same time, the department filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the lawsuit.

"Chiropractic Associates Ltd. of South Dakota negotiated contracts on behalf of all its members, including competing providers, resulting in increased prices for chiropractic services in South Dakota," said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. "Today’s settlement promotes competition among health care providers and prevents collective action that harms consumers and violates the antitrust laws."

According to the complaint, since 1997, CASD collectively negotiated the rates and price-related terms for at least seven contracts with insurers on behalf of CASD’s members. Except for members who were part of the same practice groups, CASD’s members were not clinically or financially integrated, and CASD’s actions were not necessary to achieve any benefits for consumers.

The proposed settlement will prevent CASD from establishing prices or terms for chiropractic services and from negotiating with insurers on behalf of competing chiropractors. The proposed settlement will also require CASD to terminate its current payer contracts at various specified times, but in no event later than three months after the court's entry of the final judgment.


CASD is a company organized and doing business under the laws of the state of South Dakota, with its principal place of business in Brookings, S.D.

The proposed settlement, along with the department’s competitive impact statement, will be published in the Federal Register as required by the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act. Any person may submit written comments concerning the proposed settlement within 60 days of its publication to Peter J. Mucchetti, Chief, Litigation I Section, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 4100, Washington, D.C. 20530. At the conclusion of the 60-day comment period, the court may enter the final judgment upon finding that it serves the public interest.

Remarks With Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se After Their Meeting

Remarks With Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se After Their Meeting

Bullied kids, troubled adults

Bullied kids, troubled adults

CFTC CHAIRMAN GENSLER ADDRESSES U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE


FROM: U.S. COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION,
Remarks of Chairman Gary Gensler Before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Seventh Annual Capital Markets Summit
April 10, 2013

Good afternoon, thank you David for that kind introduction. I’d also like to thank the Chamber of Commerce for inviting me to speak at your annual Capital Markets Summit. I’m honored to be joining this summit for the fourth year in a row.

Your conference is about managing risk in a global economy so I want to start by addressing what may be one of the most significant risks you’re facing in the capital markets.

That is the risk to market integrity of the continued use of LIBOR, Euribor and similar benchmark interest rates.

Interest rate benchmarks – central to borrowing, lending and hedging in our economy – are of critical importance to members of the Chamber.

LIBOR, as you may know, purports to represent the rate at which unsecured borrowing occurs between large banks. The insufficient number of transactions in this market, though, undermines market integrity.

Given their fundamental role in the capital markets and our economy, benchmark rates must be based on facts, not fiction.

Prices and rates formed by the competitive forces of supply and demand in a robust, transparent marketplace are the best guarantee of a reliable price or rate. Yet hundreds of trillions of dollars of financial instruments and contracts rely upon a benchmark referencing a market where essentially no borrowing occurs.

Banks simply are not lending to each other as they once did. In 2008, Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, said of LIBOR: "It is, in many ways, the rate at which banks do not lend to each other."

This is a result of many factors: the 2008 crisis, the continuing European debt crisis, the downgrading of large banks’ credit ratings, as well as central banks providing significant funding directly to banks. Recent changes to Basel capital rules, including the new liquidity coverage ratio, suggest that banks may not return to interbank lending on an unsecured basis.

The shift away from banks funding each other in the unsecured market (without posting collateral) has led to a scarcity or outright absence of actual transactions underpinning LIBOR and other benchmark rates.

This situation – having benchmark rates that are not anchored in actual transactions – undermines market integrity and leaves the financial system with benchmarks that are prone to misconduct.

Indeed, as law enforcement actions brought by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority and the U.S. Justice Department have shown, LIBOR and other benchmark rates have been readily and pervasively rigged.

These cases resulted in Barclays, UBS and RBS paying fines of approximately $2.5 billion for manipulative conduct relating to these rates. At each bank, the misconduct spanned many years.

At each bank it took place in offices in several cities around the globe.

At each bank it included numerous people – sometimes dozens, among them senior management.

Each case involved multiple benchmark rates and currencies. In one case, there were over 2,000 instances of misconduct over a six-year period.

And in each case, there was evidence of collusion.

In the UBS and RBS cases, one or more inter-dealer brokers painted false pictures to influence submissions of other banks, i.e., to spread the falsehoods more widely.

Barclays and UBS also were reporting falsely low borrowing rates in an effort to protect their reputations.

Beyond these cases, there is a significant amount of publicly available market data that further calls the integrity of LIBOR into question.

A comparison of LIBOR submissions to the volatilities of other short-term rates reflects that LIBOR is curiously more stable than any comparable rate. For instance, how is it that in 2012 – if we look at the 252 submission days for three-month U.S. dollar LIBOR – the banks didn’t change their rate 85 percent of the time?

When comparing LIBOR submissions to the same banks’ credit default swaps spreads or to the broader markets’ currency forward rates, why is there a continuing disconnect between LIBOR and what those other market rates tell us?

Whether we consider the broad structural shift away from unsecured, interbank lending; the recent enforcement actions; or questions about market data, confidence in the continued use of LIBOR and other similar interest rate benchmarks is undermined.

For capital and risk to be efficiently allocated within the economy – which is of vital importance to Chamber members – interest rate benchmarks should reflect actual price discovery anchored in observable transactions.

While ongoing international efforts targeting benchmarks, which I am pleased to be a part of, will focus on governance principles for benchmarks, these efforts cannot address a central vulnerability of LIBOR: the lack of transactions in the underlying market.

The time has come for U.S. regulators to work with our counterparts abroad, along with market participants, such as the people in this room, to promptly identify alternative benchmarks that are anchored in observable transactions and determine how to transition to such alternatives. The transition must be as smooth and orderly as possible, but given the vulnerabilities in the system, I believe that a transition is warranted.

The market has some experience with benchmark transitions, albeit for smaller contracts. When the euro was created, a number of interest rate benchmarks were discontinued. How many of you remember PIBOR, RIBOR, MIBOR and FIBOR? Transitions have also occurred for energy and shipping rate benchmarks.

I recognize that moving on from LIBOR and Euribor may be challenging. But continuing to support LIBOR and Euribor in the name of stability may have the opposite effect. Using benchmarks that threaten market integrity may create more instability in the long run.

The status quo leaves your members at risk that benchmarks that were rigged in the past may be exposed to rigging again in the future.

That risk is neither good for the capital markets nor for our economy.

Swaps Market Reform

Now, let me turn to swaps market reform.

Your members benefit from transparent and efficient derivatives markets. Both futures and swaps markets provide the opportunity to hedge a risk by locking in a future price or rate. Managing the price risk of energy or agriculture or the rate risk of interest rates or foreign currency allows your members to focus on what they do best – innovating and producing goods and services for the economy.

The derivatives markets work best for farmers, ranchers, producers and commercial companies when they are transparent; competitive; and free of fraud, manipulation and other abuses. The implementation of the common-sense reforms in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) brings these benefits to the once opaque and unregulated swaps market.

Transparency lowers costs for businesses and consumers, as it shifts information from dealers to the broader public. Post-trade transparency has come to the marketplace. The price and volume of transactions is available to the public on a website, like a modern-day ticker tape.

Seventy-five swap dealers and two major swaps participants are now provisionally registered. With this new oversight, they are subject to standards for sales practices, recordkeeping and business conduct to help lower risk to the economy and protect the public from fraud and manipulation.

As of last month, the public is benefiting from the greater access to the swaps market and risk reduction that comes with central clearing. Swap dealers and the largest hedge funds began clearing the vast majority of interest rate and credit default index swaps. Compliance will continue to be phased in throughout this year.

Swaps Reforms Benefit End-users

Each component of swaps market reform has been done with an eye toward ensuring they work for end-users, America’s job providers. It’s the end-users in the non-financial side of our economy that provide 94 percent of private sector jobs.

Congress provided in the Dodd-Frank Act that end-users should be able to choose whether or not to clear swaps that hedge or mitigate commercial risks. Last summer, the Commission finalized rules to implement this exception, including for small financial institutions.

As the Chamber calls for in your Financial Regulatory Reform 2013 Report Card, the Commission’s proposed rule on margin provides that end-users will not have to post margin for uncleared swaps. We also continue to advocate with global regulators for an approach consistent with that of the CFTC.

Non-financial companies, other than those genuinely making markets in swaps, will not have to register as swap dealers.

Further, the CFTC has ensured that when end-users are required to report their transactions, they are given more time to do so than other market participants.

Exceptions for Inter-affiliate swaps

Also of importance to your members, last week the CFTC finalized a rule to exempt swaps between certain affiliated entities within a corporate group from the clearing requirement.

In addition, CFTC staff issued a letter last week exempting swaps between affiliated counterparties that are not swap dealers or major swap participants from certain swap reporting requirements. This "no-action" letter extends to swaps between almost all non-financial affiliates.

Treasury Affiliates

We’ve received many comments and had many meetings with non-financial end-users that about required clearing if they use a treasury affiliate when entering into their market facing swaps. Though I don’t have any announcements today, let me assure you that the staff and Commission are taking a close look at how to appropriately address these issues in the context of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Further Implementation of Swaps Market Reform

Pre-trade Transparency

Looking forward, it’s a priority that the Commission finishes rules to promote pre-trade transparency, including those for swap execution facilities (SEFs) and the block rule for swaps.

Pre-trade transparency will allow buyers and sellers to meet and compete in the marketplace, just as they do in the securities and futures marketplaces. Market participants will be able to view the prices of available bids and offers prior to making their decision on a transaction.

End-users will get to see the pricing and volume of swap transactions on these platforms, but get to choose whether or not to use them. Furthermore, companies will continue to be able to rely on customized transactions to meet their particular needs, as well as to enter into large block trades.

Cross-border

Looking forward, it’s also a priority that the Commission ensures the cross-border application of swaps market reform appropriately covers the risk of U.S. affiliates operating offshore. During a default, risk knows no geographic border.

If a run starts in one part of a modern financial institution, whether it's here or offshore, the risk comes back to our shores. That was true with AIG, which ran most of its swaps business out of the London neighborhood Mayfair. It was also true at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup, Bear Stearns and Long-Term Capital Management.

Thus, as the CFTC completes the cross-border guidance, I believe it’s critical that Dodd-Frank swaps reform applies to transactions entered into by branches of U.S. institutions offshore, between guaranteed affiliates offshore, and for hedge funds that are incorporated offshore but operate in the U.S. Where there are comparable and comprehensive home country rules abroad, we can look to substituted compliance, but the transactions would still be covered.

If we fail to provide common-sense oversight to offshore affiliates of U.S. entities, American jobs and markets may move offshore, but, particularly in times of crisis, risk would come crashing back to our economy and could affect your businesses all over again. As I’m standing here speaking with the American Chamber of Commerce, which has the words "JOBS" in giant letters on the front of your building, I would imagine we would agree that this would not be a good result for the American public.

Ensuring we get the cross-border application of swaps reforms right is critical to protecting you members from the risk of another foreign-affiliate failure.

Conclusion

I was flattered to see that this year, the CFTC got a slightly better grade in your annual report card than last year – you moved us up to a C+ from a C.

I also noticed that derivatives reform was graded higher than all the other issues you covered, except "Preserving the Integrity of Accounting and Auditing."

More seriously, I was pleased to see that we agree on your overall statement on derivatives reform: moving the vast majority of swaps into central clearing and onto transparent exchanges increases transparency and lowers risk.

As I’ve said in past speeches to you, why aren’t we more aligned? We both want more transparency, openness and competition in these markets, which lowers costs for companies and their customers.

And we cannot forget the real scorecard for so many Americans that resulted in eight million jobs lost.

AIR FORCE GEN. KEHLER ON PLANNING FOR THE UNEXPECTED

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Strategic Command Plans for Unexpected, Commander Says
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service


OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb., April 8, 2013 - The last thing Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler -- the point man for the U.S. nuclear arsenal as well as space, cyber, ballistic missile and other capabilities -- wants is to be caught by surprise.

As commander of U.S. Strategic Command, Kehler's job is to ensure U.S. deterrence remains so strong that it dissuades potential adversaries from challenging it.

In the days of the Cold War, the concept of deterrence was relatively straightforward, with both the United States and former Soviet Union recognizing that a nuclear attack by either side would result in "mutually assured destruction," he told American Forces Press Service.

Today, deterrence is a whole different matter, he said, with a broader array of potential adversaries, all operating in different ways and guided by different motivations. The challenge is to ensure that as the United States confronts this whole new ball game, it doesn't get dealt a devastating curve ball.

So Kehler regularly challenges his staff to think about the unthinkable to ensure they're ready for whatever comes their way.

"The question for us is, 'Are we ready to deal with uncertainty?'" he said. "Have we prepared ourselves in a way that acknowledges that surprise is going to happen -- and that surprise can be deadly if we allow it to be so?"

Being open to "alternative futures," he said, "helps us think about things we are not thinking about today, and therefore, prepare as a matter of course for things that may not unfold the way we think they will."

Kehler is such a firm believer in out-of-the-box thinking that he's made "prepare for uncertainty" one of his top five command priorities. He and his senior staff regularly gather around a conference table to ponder "what ifs" that may seem inconceivable to many.

"This isn't about what happens if Martians land," Kehler said. "This is about coming up with some plausible scenarios that make you step back and go, 'Hmmm ....'"

Doing so presents situations in a new light, and sometimes with new insights, the general said.

"I believe you can train yourself to recognize that you probably don't have it right, and that there is going to be something else out there," he said.

Kehler cited historical examples when an unrecognized "something else out there" had a devastating effect on the United States.

"I think it's our responsibility to go back and ask ourselves, 'What were we thinking on 6 December 1941, and then on 8 December 1941?" he said, referring to the dates surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor. "And what were we thinking on 10 September 2001, and then on September 12?"

Kehler said he largely agrees with those who blame the 9/11 attacks on "a failure of imagination."

"If that is so, then we had better be imaginative now," he said. "Because as complex and uncertain as the world is, we are not going to get all this right. It is not going to be all neatly presented to us in a planning problem. And that makes it more important than ever that we understand the things that are out there."

Tabletop exercises and brainstorming sessions might not identify the exact next threat or predict who will launch it, and when, he acknowledged.

"But at least we will have given ourselves a bunch of challenges to think about that I believe help us prepare for the day when something has happened that you just didn't foresee," Kehler said. "That way, we're not left flabbergasted and flat-footed here because something happened, because we weren't so locked in on things that we didn't recognize that it could happen."

THE GREENING OF THE ARTIC

Photo:  Melting Artic Ice.  Credit:  NOAA
FROM: NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
New Models Predict Dramatically Greener Arctic in the Coming Decades

Rising temperatures will lead to a massive "greening" of the Arctic by mid-century, as a result of marked increases in plant cover, according to research supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of its International Polar Year (IPY) portfolio.

The greening not only will have effects on plant life, the researchers noted, but also on the wildlife that depends on vegetation for cover. The greening could also have a multiplier effect on warming, as dark vegetation absorbs more solar radiation than ice, which reflects sunlight.

In a paper published March 31 in Nature Climate Change, scientists reveal new models projecting that wooded areas in the Arctic could increase by as much as 50 percent over the coming decades. The researchers also show that this dramatic greening will accelerate climate warming at a rate greater than previously expected.

"Such widespread redistribution of Arctic vegetation would have impacts that reverberate through the global ecosystem," said Richard Pearson, lead author on the paper and a research scientist at the American Museum of Natural History's Center for Biodiversity and Conservation.

In addition to Pearson, the research team includes other scientists from the museum, as well as from AT&T Labs-Research, Woods Hole Research Center, Colgate and Cornell universities, and the University of York.

The research was funded by two related, collaborative NSF IPY grants, one made to the museum and one to the Woods Hole Researc Center.

IPY was a two-year, global campaign of research in the Arctic and Antarctic that fielded scientists from more than 60 nations in the period 2007-2009. The IPY lasted two years to insure a full year of observations at both poles, where extreme cold and darkness preclude research for much of the year. NSF was the lead U.S. government agency for IPY.

Although the IPY fieldwork has been largely accomplished "in addition to the intensive field efforts undertaken during the IPY, projects such as this one work to understand IPY and other data in a longer-term context, broadening the impact of any given data set," said Hedy Edmonds, Arctic Natural Sciences program director in the Division of Polar Programs of NSF's Geosciences Directorate.

Plant growth in Arctic ecosystems has increased over the past few decades, a trend that coincides with increases in temperatures, which are rising at about twice the global rate.

The research team used climate scenarios for the 2050s to explore how the greening trend is likely to continue in the future. The scientists developed models that statistically predict the types of plants that could grow under certain temperatures and precipitation. Although it comes with some uncertainty, this type of modeling is a robust way to study the Arctic because the harsh climate limits the range of plants that can grow, making this system simpler to model compared to other regions, such as the tropics.

The models reveal the potential for massive redistribution of vegetation across the Arctic under future climate, with about half of all vegetation switching to a different class and a massive increase in tree cover. What might this look like? In Siberia, for instance, trees could grow hundreds of miles north of the present tree line.

These impacts would extend far beyond the Arctic region, according to Pearson.

For example, some species of birds migrate from lower latitudes seasonally, and rely on finding particular polar habitats, such as open space for ground-nesting.

The computer modeling for the project was supported by a separate NSF grant to Cornell by the Division of Computer and Network Systems in NSF's Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering, as part of the directorate's Expeditions in Computing program.

"The Expeditions grant has enabled us to develop sophisticated probabilistic models that can scale up to continent-wide vegetation prediction and provide associated uncertainty estimates. This is a great example of the transformative research happening within the new field of Computational Sustainability," said Carla P. Gomes, principal investigator at Cornell.

In addition to the first-order impacts of changes in vegetation, the researchers investigated the multiple climate-change feedbacks that greening would produce.

They found that a phenomenon called the albedo effect, based on the reflectivity of the Earth's surface, would have the greatest impact on the Arctic's climate. When the sun hits snow, most of the radiation is reflected back to space. But when it hits an area that's "dark," or covered in trees or shrubs, more sunlight is absorbed in the area and temperature increases. This has a positive feedback to climate warming: the more vegetation there is, the more warming will occur.

"By incorporating observed relationships between plants and albedo, we show that vegetation distribution shifts will result in an overall positive feedback to climate that is likely to cause greater warming than has previously been predicted," said co-author and NSF grantee Scott Goetz, of the Woods Hole Research Center.

-NSF-

WEIGHT GAIN OR SMOKING; WHICH IS WORSE?

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

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

Smokers gain a little weight when they quit, but they gain a lot more in health. A study checked whether the extra weight could raise the risk of heart disease. James Meigs of Massachusetts General Hospital and his colleagues looked at data on weight gain and cardiovascular disease among participants in the long-running Framingham Heart Study.

The researchers found quitters cut their risk of cardiovascular disease by about half compared with smokers, even though the quitters gained a bit more weight. So Meigs says:

"Patients will gain weight when they stop smoking but that weight gain doesn’t lower the overall benefit of quitting smoking, heart attack risk and stroke risk."

The study in the Journal of the American Medical Association was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

THE ASTEROID RETRIEVAL INITIATIVE

video

 

FROM: NASA
Animation: Asteroid Retrieval Initiative


NASA's FY2014 budget proposal includes a plan to robotically capture a small near-Earth asteroid and redirect it safely to a stable lunar orbit where astronauts can visit and explore it. The proposed mission would combine the efforts of three NASA mission directorates: Human Exploration and Operations, Science and Space Technology.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Keynote Address at U.S.-China Internet Industry Forum

Keynote Address at U.S.-China Internet Industry Forum

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House

MEMBER OF "IMAGINE" GROUP SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR CRIMINAL COPYRIGHT CONSPIRACY

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Member of Internet Piracy Group "IMAGiNE" Sentenced in Virginia to 23 Months in Prison for Criminal Copyright Conspiracy

A member of the Internet piracy group "IMAGiNE" was sentenced today to serve 23 months in prison, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil H. MacBride and Special Agent in Charge John P. Torres of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Washington, D.C.

Javier E. Ferrer, 41, of New Port Richey, Fla., was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Henry C. Morgan in the Eastern District of Virginia. In addition to his prison term, Ferrer was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution.

On Nov. 29, 2012, Ferrer pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. Ferrer is the fifth member of the IMAGiNE Group who has been sentenced to prison for the copyright conspiracy.

On Sept. 13, 2012, Ferrer was charged in a criminal information for his role in the IMAGiNE Group, an organized online piracy ring that sought to become the premier group to first release Internet copies of movies only showing in theaters. Four other IMAGiNE Group members, including the group’s leader, were indicted on April 18, 2012, for their roles in the IMAGiNE Group.

According to court documents, Ferrer and his co-conspirators sought to illegally obtain and disseminate digital copies of copyrighted motion pictures showing in theaters. Ferrer actively participated in the IMAGiNE Group’s illegal efforts to film copyrighted motion pictures currently showing in theaters as his co-conspirators used receivers and recording devices to secretly capture audio sound tracks of copyrighted movies playing in movie theaters. After the IMAGiNE Group obtained illegal copies of the audio and video portions of copyrighted motion pictures, Ferrer and his co-conspirators also engaged in processing or "encoding" the video files to enhance the picture quality and in synchronizing the audio files with the video files to make completed movies suitable for reproduction and distribution over the Internet, without the permission of the copyright owners.

According to testimony by a representative of the Motion Picture Association of America, the IMAGiNE Group constituted the most prolific motion picture piracy release group operating on the Internet from September 2009 through September 2011.

Co-defendants Sean M. Lovelady, Willie O. Lambert, Gregory A. Cherwonik and Jeramiah B. Perkins pleaded guilty on May 9, June 22, July 11 and Aug. 29, 2012, respectively, to one count each of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, before U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in the Eastern District of Virginia . Lambert and Lovelady were sentenced on Nov. 2, 2012, to serve 30 months and 23 months in prison, respectively. Cherwonik was sentenced on Nov. 29, 2012, to serve 40 months in prison. Perkins, the leader of the group, was sentenced on Jan. 3, 2013, to 60 months in prison.

The investigation of the case and the arrests were conducted by agents with the HIS Washington, D.C., Field Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Krask of the Eastern District of Virginia and Senior Counsel John H. Zacharia of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) are prosecuting the case. Significant assistance was provided by the CCIPS Cyber Crime Lab and the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.

This case is part of efforts being undertaken by the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force) to stop the theft of intellectual property. Attorney General Eric Holder created the IP Task Force to combat the growing number of domestic and international intellectual property crimes, protect the health and safety of American consumers, and safeguard the nation’s economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work. The IP Task Force seeks to strengthen intellectual property rights protection through heightened criminal and civil enforcement, greater coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and increased focus on international enforcement efforts, including reinforcing relationships with key foreign partners and U.S. industry leaders.

This investigation was supported by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) in Washington. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice’s IP Task Force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21-member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and our war fighters.

ISAF NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN

U.S. soldiers provide security in a local village during a patrol in the Khogyani district of Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, March 28, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jon Heinrich
 
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Combined Force in Kandahar Arrests Taliban Leader
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 11, 2013 - A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban leader and detained another insurgent in the Kandahar district of Afghanistan's Kandahar province today, military officials reported.

The leader is believed to be in charge of a cell of fighters responsible for improvised explosive device operations against Afghan civilians. He also was involved in obtaining weapons and vehicles for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- A combined force detained two insurgents during a search for a senior insurgent leader with ties to both the Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in Balkh province's Sholgarah district. The leader is the ranking Taliban official in the district and has ties to Taliban officials responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also has a history of collecting illegal taxes to finance the Taliban terrorist network, and he manages the Balkh weapons distribution chain.

-- In Helmand province's Nahr-e Saraj district, a combined force arrested a Taliban leader alleged to be instrumental in acquiring weapons, distributing them to insurgents, and leading them in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also is involved in IED research and development, with a history of experimenting with different device configurations. The security force also detained another insurgent.

-- A combined force killed two insurgents during a separate operation in Helmand's Nahr-e Saraj district in search of a senior Taliban leader. The leader has operational control over a cell of insurgents responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. His group is known to use IEDs, vehicle-mounted automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and various other weapons. The leader also is vital in insurgent weapons facilitation throughout Helmand.

In an April 9 operation in Baghlan province's Burkah district, a combined force killed several insurgents during a search for a senior insurgent leader with ties to both the Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The leader is the second-highest-ranking insurgent in the district and was responsible for recruiting and training insurgents and targeting Afghan officials for kidnappings and assassinations. He also has played a significant role in linking Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan fighters in Baghlan, working as a mediator and coordinating operations between the networks.

THE IRAQ MUSEUM AFTER TEN YEARS OF U.S.-IRAQ COLLABORATION

Photo: Iraq Cultural Heritage Initiatives. Credit: U.S. State Department
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Commemorating a Decade of U.S.-Iraqi Collaboration in Renewing the Iraq Museum
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
April 10, 2013

For ten years, the U.S. Department of State has been working closely with Iraqi counterparts and American academic and nonprofit institutions to protect, preserve, and display the rich cultural heritage of Iraq. Cultural heritage cooperation is a major pillar of the Iraq-U.S. Strategic Framework Agreement, reflecting the high value both nations place on this irreplaceable resource.

A major continuing effort has focused on the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, where looting in April 2003 left the facility physically damaged and an unsafe environment for both staff and the Museum’s collections. In summer 2003, State Department personnel were among the first responders to the museum’s needs, providing replacement photographic equipment, office furniture, and supplies. An assessment in autumn 2003 conducted by experts in museum security, environmental control, conservation, and information technology initiated a 2004 project of major improvements to the museum’s physical plant, IT capabilities, and security.

This assessment also laid the groundwork for the Iraq Cultural Heritage Project, a $12.9 million initiative developed and funded by the State Department, and implemented by the nonprofit International Relief and Development from 2008 to 2011. This project rehabilitated and furnished 11 of the museum’s public galleries, a 3-story collections storage facility, and the conservation labs, as well as providing a new roof and upgraded climate control systems.

Along with physical improvements to the building, the State Department sponsored and organized trainings for museum staff as part of its comprehensive approach to partnering with Iraqis in the preservation of their cultural heritage. In 2004, the Department funded a special five-week "Cultural Heritage Institute" through the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, to bring 22 Iraqi museum staff to the Smithsonian Institution for training in museum management, conservation, and curatorial practices. In 2009-2010, the Department’s Iraq Cultural Heritage Project also provided training for 20 museum professionals from throughout Iraq at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, covering topics from exhibit design and museum education to archaeological site excavation and stabilization.

Funding for these projects was provided through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Cultural Heritage Center and Office of Academic Exchanges, the U.S. Embassy Baghdad, and private foundations.

GEN. HYTEN SPEAKS ABOUT CYBER OPERATIONS AND CHANGE

 
Lt. Gen. John E. Hyten speaks about how cyber operations are a clear catalyst for change in the art and science of modern warfare during the Space Foundation's Cyber 1.3 luncheon April 8, 2013 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Hyten is the Air Force Space Command vice commander. U.S. Air Force photo/Duncan Wood
FROM: U.S. AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND
Cyberspace: Fundamental to joint fight
by Maj. Christina Hoggatt
Air Force Space Command Public Affairs

4/10/2013 - COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AFNS) -- Cyber operations are a clear catalyst for change in the art and science of modern warfare, Lt. Gen. John Hyten, the Air Force Space Command vice commander, said during the Space Foundation's Cyber 1.3 luncheon here, April 8.

Hyten emphasized the importance of getting back to the basics in cyber, the efficacy and potential sticking points in creating a joint information environment, and the distinctions between cyber operations, information technology, and weapon systems.

"The chief of staff of the Air Force just approved weapons system designation for six of our cyber weapons systems," he said. "We're gaining ground in normalizing cyber operations in the Air Force."

The Air Force is also integrating those cyber capabilities with other joint capabilities to meet combatant commanders' requirements. He noted that all services are endorsing a force presentation model that will build mission ready teams to support both U.S. Cyber Command and combatant command missions.

He went on to speak in support of the joint information environment.

"As the cyber core function lead integrator for the Air Force, we're committed to the goals of the JIE, but we need to make sure we don't reset any of the progress we've made in network defense, network security and cyber normalization," Hyten said.

Though the general believes in the JIE concept, he is concerned that the single security architecture remains undefined, rigorous operational processes have not been put in place or tested, and there are still significant questions about resourcing this endeavor.

"Commercialization can also reduce our need for larger server infrastructures -- they shift the significant operations and maintenance burden onto the commercial sector," he said.

He also pointed out that since cyberspace is such a sophisticated environment, both the Department of Defense and the private sector need to agree on some basic definitions.

"While our Airmen have mastered the ability to communicate through cyberspace, our inability to communicate about cyberspace, the domain, and cyberspace operations in particular, frequently causes confusion and the inability to effectively and efficiently bring cyber capabilities to the fight," Hyten said. "We won't operationalize cyberspace until we operationalize our lexicon."

Using the three recently approved lines of operation for cyber to illustrate his point, Hyten said the key to understanding this new warfighting domain will be to understand the difference between cyberspace operations and information technology.

"Each of these lines of operation is pivotal to maintaining the freedom to operate in and through cyberspace and enable the exchange of information for space and cyberspace operations," he said.

The different areas of cyber all have unique definitions, Hyten said, adding that many times cyberspace and information technology are often confused.

"If we allow these definitions to become more than that, if they become too unwieldy, they lose their meaning and they become weapons in a religious debate between different elements of our force," he said.

The general went on to suggest that by using the foundational definitions found in the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 and Joint Publication 3-12, Cyberspace Operations, the joint force will develop a more clear understanding of cyberspace, cyberspace operations and information technology.

"Despite the changes ahead, one thing remains certain, the cyberspace domain is a priority for this Nation, for the Department of Defense and for the U.S. Air Force," Hyten said. "Our success on the battlefield is one that depends on the timely movement of information. We must be ready to meet any adversary in cyberspace that presents themselves."