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Saturday, April 20, 2013

STATE DEPARTMENT BRIEFING ON COUNTRY REPORTS OF HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES 2012

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Remarks on the Release of the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012

Special Briefing
Uzra Zeya
Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Washington, DC
April 19, 2013

MS. ZEYA: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. I’d like to say a few words about how we use the Annual Human Rights Reports to inform our diplomacy around the world and give you a quick overview of some of the major developments they describe over the past year, then I’d be happy to take your questions.

As the Secretary said, human rights are central to America’s global diplomatic engagement, and these reports are the factual foundation upon which we build and shape our policies. Human rights are on the agenda in all our bilateral relations, such as during the recent U.S.-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue where we urged the release of all political prisoners including Le Quoc Quan, Dr. Vu and others. We advocate on behalf of those imprisoned for their activism or beliefs, including Chinese Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo and human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng and Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran, among many others all over the world.

The individual reports stand alone and they speak for themselves, so I commend them to you for detailed information on specific countries or regions. At the same time, I’d like to highlight some key developments from 2012.

First, as the Secretary noted, we continue to see a shrinking space for civil society in a growing number of countries – China, Egypt, and Russia, to name just a few. 2012 saw new laws impeding or preventing the exercise of freedoms of expression, assembly, association, and religion; heightened restrictions on organizations receiving funding from abroad; and the harassment, arrest, and killing of political human rights and labor activists.

Regardless of the means, the result is the same: When government stifles civil society, their countries are deprived of ideas, energy, and the ingenuity of their people that are needed for long-term stability and success in the 21st century.

We also saw freedom of the media under increasing threat in 2012. Record numbers of journalists were killed in the line of duty or as a consequence of their reporting. A number of governments took steps to stifle the press through the use of overly broad counterterrorism laws, burdensome regulatory requirements, and harassment or imprisonment of journalists. In Ethiopia, Eskinder Nega remains behind bars, and Calixto Ramon Martinez Arias spent six months in a Cuban prison for writing about a cholera outbreak. Some governments specifically targeted freedom of expression on the internet through new restrictive legislation, denial of service attacks, and the harassment of online bloggers, journalists, and activists. In Egypt, for example, blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah has been repeatedly arrested and harassed by the government.

Throughout the Middle East in 2012, men and women continue to organize and advocate for dignity, economic opportunity, and a stake in their political future. There were historic elections in Egypt and Libya but also troubling setbacks, including the erosion of protections for civil society, sexual violence against women, and violence and repression towards religious minorities across the region. Bashar al-Assad escalated unrelenting attacks against his own people in Syria; inter-communal tensions and political violence continued in Iraq, Bahrain, and Yemen; and governments throughout the Gulf took steps to restrict freedom of expression both online and off.

These struggles are not confined to the Middle East, especially the issue of violence against the most marginalized groups in society. The 2012 reports document discrimination against and persecution of members of religious and ethnic minorities, including Jews, Roma, Coptic Christians, Ahmadis, Baha’is, Uighurs, and Tibetans; as well as against other vulnerable populations such as persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in every region of the globe.

Women and girls continue to be at risk around the world, facing abuses ranging from sexual violence to harmful traditional practices. From Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of Congo, women and girls were the targets of repression while trying to live their daily lives, change their societies for the better, and exercise the fundamental freedoms that are the birthright of all human beings.

Thankfully, not all news from 2012 was discouraging. As the Secretary said, we’re encouraging – we’re encouraged by what’s happening in Burma. The Burmese government has released more than 700 political prisoners since 2011, many of whom have been in prison for more than a decade. Aung San Suu Kyi and 42 members of the National League for Democracy were elected to parliament in largely transparent and inclusive bi-elections. The government is relaxing some press censorship and allowing trade unions to form and register. However, many elements of the country’s authoritarian structure remain intact. And as the Secretary noted, we’re also very concerned by the conflict in Kachin state and communal violence in Rhakine state in central Burma.

In addition to the elections that I mentioned in the Middle East and Burma, Georgia held parliamentary elections that resulted in the first peaceful democratic transfer of power in that country since independence in 1992. And throughout the world every day, courageous men and women took selfless risk to stand up for universal human rights and better the lives of others.

Finally, I’d like to echo the Secretary’s thanks to our colleagues overseas and throughout the Department, including our senior editor Steve Eisenbraun, who have all worked tirelessly to put these reports together. This is truly a massive undertaking, and every year we strive to do better. This year, as the Secretary mentioned, we’ve included more comprehensive information on prison conditions, corruption within governments, workers’ rights, and the rights of women and girls.

We hope that the reports will shed light on human rights conditions around the world, and we’re committed to working with governments and civil society to stop abuses and support universal rights for all.

So I’ll stop there on that note, and I’m happy to take your questions.

MS. PSAKI: I’m just going to call on folks. We have time for a few questions.

Brad.

QUESTION: Yes. You and the Secretary both mentioned that you bring up human rights issues during all your visits, these hard truths, as you call them. Yet, recently when Secretary Kerry went to China we barely heard a word about human rights. So could you tell us the hard truths that would have been pushed during that visit?

MS. ZEYA: Sure. I’d just like to reiterate that promoting human rights is absolutely part of our bilateral agenda with China. We repeatedly raise specific human rights cases with the Chinese government in bilateral dialogues and in high-level discussions. And during the Secretary’s visit, as he made clear, he raised specific cases with the Chinese government to include the case of Chen Kegui, who is the nephew of Mr. Chen Guangcheng. He raised the allegations of abuse during his imprisonment and the harassment of his family.

Some of the other cases that we raise regularly I mentioned in my remarks, but that would include Mr. Gao Zhisheng, Liu Xiaobo, and, as I mentioned, Chen Kegui. But that is just a few of the many political prisoners in China. I’d refer you to our reports, which have much more detail on this issue.

QUESTION: And did you make any progress regarding their conditions?

MS. ZEYA: I think it’s part of our ongoing dialogue.

MS. PSAKI: Said.

QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am. My name’s Said Arikat from Al Quds Daily newspaper. I wanted to ask you about the Palestinian prisoners.

MS. ZEYA: Sure.

QUESTION: There are 4,500 of them in prison. There are about 280 between the ages of 12 and 15, and I wonder, in your current, sort of, increased activities trying to kick-off the new talks, that if you bring that issue to bear with the Israeli government.

MS. ZEYA: Right. I’d just like to reiterate that the United States raises human rights issues at the highest levels with the Israeli government. I’d commend to you our report this year on the occupied territories. Some of the major human rights problems that we identify are arbitrary arrest and associated torture and abuse, often with impunity, by multiple actors; restrictions on civil liberties; and the inability of residents to hold their government accountable. And this is taking place in areas under Hamas, PA, and Israeli control.

MS. PSAKI: In the back. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, this year’s report on Turkey seems to be a bit harsher than last year. Has the Secretary raised any of these issues with the Turkish officials? He’s been in regular contact with them. He’ll see them this weekend. Which issues has he been underlining?

MS. ZEYA: Sure. Sure. With respect to Turkey, Turkey is a vital NATO ally and an American strategic partner, and human rights are a part of our broader engagement on a range of areas. Some of the issues of concern noted in the report are freedom of expression, the status of minorities and vulnerable populations, and legal reform. And what we think is Turkey’s constitutional reform process presents an opportunity to improve the protection of minorities, women and children, as well as expand freedom of expression.

QUESTION: But has the Secretary raised any of these issues with the Turkish officials so far? This will be his third time in Turkey this year.

MS. ZEYA: I mean, it’s part of our regular bilateral engagement, but for further detail I’d have to refer back to the spokesman.

MS. PSAKI: In front.

QUESTION: Hi. I wondered if you could tell us how concerned you are about the situation in Russia. Don’t you think the civil society bit has shrunk space, as you call it – has shrunk even more since you – I mean, this report covers last year.

MS. ZEYA: Right. Right.

QUESTION: And if you would just talk generally about how you see it.

MS. ZEYA: Sure. Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah, because they’re implementing the law that you complained was passed last year. Now they’re actually implementing it, yeah.

MS. ZEYA: Right. Right. No, you’re correct. The reports only cover through December 31st, 2012, but certainly the pattern that we’ve seen emerge in Russia is deeply troubling with respect to the emergence of an increasingly restrictive environment for the exercise of civil liberties. This includes the measures with respect to registration of NGOs as foreign agents, but also restrictions on press and internet freedom. So we’ve made clear our commitment to dialogue on human rights with the Russian government, but we also remain absolutely committed to open dialogue with civil society and supporting their efforts.

QUESTION: Could I do a follow-up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I just wondered. I mean, in the past, I think the U.S. government has talked a lot about concern about human rights abuses in Chechnya, and I just wondered if you think the events in Boston are going to change in any way the government would see human rights in Chechnya?

MS. ZEYA: Right. With respect to the ongoing investigation in Boston, I just have to reiterate the Secretary’s comment that it would be highly inappropriate to make further comment on this time.

With respect to the situation in the Northern Caucasus, I can tell you this has been part of our human rights reporting on Russia in our country report since 1995. You’ll find quite a bit of information in this year’s report. And they note serious human rights abuses taking place and acts of human rights violations reportedly committed by both authorities and militants.

MS. PSAKI: This is going to be the last question.

QUESTION: Yes. You mentioned prisons. The State Department, I wonder if it’s concerned about Guantanamo prisoners; 56 out of 86 Guantanamo prisoners cleared for release are Yemeni nationals. Would you agree that the U.S. is engaged in collective punishment based on nationality?

MS. ZEYA: I would say on this we hold ourselves to the same standards by which we assess others. On the issue of Guantanamo, the President has made clear his commitment to closing Guantanamo, but this has to be done in accordance with U.S. law and in consultation with the Congress. So I’d have to refer you back to further statements by the White House and the spokesman on that.

MS. PSAKI: Just to reiterate for folks, Uzra will be at the – the Acting Assistant Secretary will be at the Foreign Press Center later this afternoon. What time will that be?

PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)

MS. ZEYA: 4:00 p.m. Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: So for people who didn’t have their questions answered, we encourage you to go over there. Thank you.

MS. ZEYA: Thanks.


Družice Proba-V bude testovat optická vlákna

Družice Proba-V bude testovat optická vlákna

PENTAGON OFFICIAL SAYS BUDGET CUTS LIMIT RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT



Credit:  U.S. Air Force. Launch Of GPS Satellite.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Budget Reductions Limit Science, Tech Development, Official Says

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2013 - The Defense Department's research and engineering department faces the same challenges the rest of the department does due to limitations caused by sequestration spending cuts, a senior Pentagon official said today.

Alan R. Shaffer, acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering, was joined by Arati Prabhakar, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, before the Senate Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities to talk about their part of the fiscal year 2014 defense budget request.

Shaffer said he represents scientists and engineers from DOD, a group that "conceives, develops and matures systems" early in the acquisition process.

"They work with multiple partners to provide the unmatched operational advantage employed by our services' men and women," he said. "As we wind down in Afghanistan, the national security and budget environments are changing."

The president's fiscal 2014 budget request for science and technology is $12 billion -- a nominal increase from fiscal 2013's $11.9 billion, Shaffer said, noting that it isn't possible to discuss the budget without addressing the impact of sequestration, "which takes 9 percent from every single program" in research, development, testing and evaluation.

"This reduction will delay or terminate some efforts," he said. "We will reduce awards. For instance, we will reduce university grants by $200 million this year alone."

Potentially, he added, the number of new SMART Scholarships —an acronym that stands for science, mathematics and research for transformation -- could go down to zero, and sequestration cuts will cause other limitations for research and engineering departments.

"Because of the way the sequester was implemented, we will be very limited in hiring new scientists this year, and the [next] several years," he said.

Each of these actions, Shaffer said, will have a negative long-term impact on the department and to national security.

"The president and secretary of defense depend upon us to make key contributions to the defense of our nation," he said. "[Science and technology] should do three things for national security."

Shaffer said science and technology should mitigate current and emerging threats and that the budget should build affordability and affordably enable current and future weapons systems to operate.

Also necessary, he said, is developing "technology surprise" to prevent potential adversaries from threatening the United States.

"In summary, the department's research and engineering program is faced with the same challenges as the rest of the DOD and the nation," he said, "but our people are performing."

Prabhakar focused on DARPA's goals in her testimony.

"[Our] objective is a new generation of technology for national security, and to realize this new set of military capabilities and systems is going to take a lot of organizations and people," she said.

"But DARPA's role in that is to make the pivotal early investments that change what's possible," she added. "[This] really lets us take big steps forward in our capabilities for the future."

The director said DARPA is investing in a host of areas to include building a future where war fighters can have cyber as a tactical tool that's fully integrated into the kinetic fight.

"And we're building a new generation of electronic warfare that leapfrogs what others around the world are able to do with widely, globally available semiconductor technology," she said.

"It means we're investing in new technologies for position, navigation and timing, so that our people and our platforms are not critically reliant as they are today on GPS," Prabhakar said.

The director also noted DARPA is investing in a new generation of space and robotics, advanced weapon systems, new platforms, and a new "foundational" infrastructure of emerging technologies in different areas of software and electronics, and material science.

The aim, Prabhakar said, is to create real and powerful options for future commanders and leaders against whatever threats the nation faces in the years ahead.

"And that work is the driver behind all of our programs," she said. "It's the reason that the people at DARPA run to work every morning with their hair on fire. They know that they're part of a mission that really does matter for our future security as a country.

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update: Brain Function And Defense

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SECRETARY BURNS MAKES REMARKS AT 'AFRICA HEALTH FORUM'

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Remarks at the Africa Health Forum
Remarks
William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Dean Acheson Auditorium
Washington, DC
April 19, 2013

Thank you. Good morning. It is truly a pleasure to welcome all of you to the second day of the Africa Health Forum, and I greatly appreciate this opportunity to appear before you.

I want to thank the World Bank and Harmonization for Health in Africa for partnering with the State Department to convene this important meeting and the many distinguished ministers, bilateral and multilateral development partners, major foundations, and private sector leaders for joining us today.

I also want to thank Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Nils Daulaire, and Dr. Ariel Pablo-Mendez, Assistant Administrator for Global Health at USAID, for their support in organizing the U.S. contribution to the forum and for their exceptional work on health systems strengthening and health care finance reform.

Finally, please allow me to extend my deepest gratitude to my friend and colleague, Ambassador Eric Goosby, for his extraordinary lifelong service to public health and his commitment to the treatment and eradication of AIDS here in the United States and across the world.

We gather here today amidst a dramatic transformation of the African continent from a region once defined largely by its problems, to a region defined increasingly by its possibilities… from a region afflicted by conflict, crisis, and impoverishment to a region known more and more for its economic growth, expanding democratic governance, and enhanced health and human development.

Rwanda, a country devastated by genocide less than two decades ago, is today on track to meet many of the Millennium Development Goals - life expectancy has doubled, maternal mortality and annual child deaths more than halved, and deaths from HIV, TB, and malaria have dropped by 80%.

In Ghana, economic prosperity and good governance have not only led to improved health outcomes, but also important innovations in health care delivery and education that are having an impact across the region.

As the continent evolves, and as governments take on greater leadership and responsibility for their own future, the nature of assistance and cooperation from the international community should evolve as well – from a donor-recipient relationship to more of a partnership.

This partnership – based on principles of country ownership, shared responsibility, and mutual respect – allows donors and partner countries to better meet the needs of the country’s population. Where transparency, good governance, and accountability are enshrined in law and in practice – our joint investments will yield more effective, more efficient, and ultimately more sustainable outcomes.

This is why sustainability and shared responsibility are two foundational principles of President Obama’s Policy Directive on Global Development and our global health diplomacy strategy.

Let me say just a few words about each.

First, to ensure that the results and significant investments we have all made to-date are durable, governments – in partnership with civil society and the private sector – should lead, implement, and eventually pay for all aspects of their health system. Partnership between Ministries of Finance and Health are critical and I am very pleased to see ministry representatives from over two dozen African countries here today.

It is this kind of dialogue that has made possible the significant transitions underway in health assistance programs across Africa, from Namibia - where thousands of PEPFAR-funded essential health care workers are now fully financed by the Government of Namibia, to Ethiopia - where U.S.-selected partners are providing technical assistance and cooperation to local partners instead of directly implementing programs themselves.

None of us are under any illusion that these transitions are easy or risk-free. But you have shown that they are possible. And this is why we must be systematic about capturing lessons from recent successful transitions from donor dependence to country ownership, just as we continue to benefit from lessons learned in transitions in family planning that began several decades ago and documented by colleagues from USAID and UNFPA present here today.

Second, the decision to elevate shared responsibility to the core of our policy approach was conscious and deliberate. The only way we can eradicate polio, reach the goal of an AIDS-free generation, eliminate the effects of neglected tropical diseases, roll back malaria, and end preventable maternal and child deaths, is if we do it together.

Our commitment to global health remains strong. Indeed, President Obama’s budget request for a $1.65 billion contribution to the Global Fund in fiscal year 2014 maintains our historically high level of support.

Consider the enormous progress in combating HIV in South Africa.

Over the last decade, the United States provided $3.2 billion to support South Africa’s fight against this epidemic. Through our joint efforts and mutual investments, millions of South Africans received treatment for HIV, and the rate of mother-to-child transmission plummeted to 2.7%. And today, South Africa is increasing its investments so that locally generated revenues are replacing hundreds of millions of dollars in external financing for antiretroviral therapy and other elements of the AIDS response.

This vision of strengthened country capacity, leadership, and ownership, is also driving the signing of more than 20 Partnership Framework agreements that bring together governmental and nongovernmental partners around a strategy to combat HIV/AIDS. And the strategy is working.

In Zambia, when the government introduced an innovative, evidence-based program and doubled its budget for antiretroviral drugs, the United States was able to provide an additional $30 million in funding. And today, through joint investment and collaboration, the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment each year, exceeds the number of people infected with HIV, putting Zambia solidly on the path to an AIDS-free generation.

We need to sustain and accelerate this positive momentum. To do so, it is vital that we translate the conversations here in Washington into actions in your respective capitals. To better support your efforts, we will be sure to share the results of this forum with our Ambassadors, Mission Directors, and their teams at our missions across Africa.

Like all of you, I have no illusions about the challenges ahead, but I remain optimistic about Africa’s future. The work all of you are doing -- day in and day out -- to deliver improved health outcomes across the continent only reinforces that optimism, and that sense of possibility. I want to thank all the participants at this meeting and our development partners from around the world for all that you do. I wish you every success over the rest of the day, and in the months and years ahead.

Thank you.

REMARKS AT U.S.-TURKEY SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COOPERATION MEETING

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Opening Remarks at the U.S.-Turkey Science and Technology Cooperation Meeting
Remarks
Kerri-Ann Jones
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Ankara, Turkey
April 4, 2013

Good morning everyone. Let me first acknowledge and thank His Excellency Minister Ergün and his Ministry and TÜBÄ°TAK for hosting today’s very important meeting. It is a pleasure to be here and co-chairing today’s meeting with Professor Altunbasak. I would also like to acknowledge and thank Ambassador Ricciardone for his comments and for joining us this morning as well.

It comes as no surprise that very early in his first term in office – President Barack Obama traveled to Turkey. In his speech to the Turkish Parliament, he said, "Turkey is a critical ally.… And Turkey and the United States must stand together – and work together – to overcome the challenges of our time." (1) There is no better foundation on which to expand and deepen our ties and tackle the challenges that both our nations face than through strengthening our cooperation on science, technology, and innovation.

In 2010, our governments took a large step forward in these efforts by signing a joint Agreement to promote science and technology. Our efforts today, and going forward, are to define the ways that the United States and Turkey will work together under this Agreement – to continue to build bridges between our countries that advance our scientific and engineering objectives and also strengthen our economies and improve the quality of our citizens’ lives.

I will speak to three broad topics today: Why science and technology is so important to our bilateral relationship? What we hope to do to deepen and expand our science and technology relationship? And finally what are some of the current U.S. priorities for science and technology?

First, Turkey and America have stood together as NATO allies for over 60 years, resulting in greater security and prosperity for both our countries. Our countries are stronger and our people are safer because we stand together. Over the past four years, President Obama and Prime Minister Erdoğan have worked to expand this relationship beyond security by increasing trade, promoting entrepreneurship, and broadening the ties between our peoples.

American technological advances and scientific research are a major source of our economic and national security strength. A vibrant knowledge-based economy provides opportunities for our citizens to prosper and enjoy upward mobility. In tripling its economy over the last decade, Turkey’s economic growth has been extremely impressive. Some have even called this the "Turkish Miracle." However, what I see is not a "miracle," but rather an outcome of smart policies implemented by the Turkish government over the past 10 years, and smart, creative, and entrepreneurial people taking advantage of these policies.

Sustaining economic growth is an important objective for both of our nations and strengthening our science and technology enterprises and promoting innovation is fundamental to achieving that objective. Working together allows us to deepen our relationship and address shared problems. Our relationship in science, technology, and innovation is important because of the potential it offers to solve problems together and improve the lives of our citizens and people around the world.

What will we do here today to enhance our relationship? The work we are doing today will deepen our U.S. and Turkey cooperation by building on existing areas of collaboration. Currently there are nearly 65 active National Science Foundation awards involving Turkey. The Engineering for a Sustainable Future Working Group is looking to expand this cooperation further, specifically by focusing on ways to make buildings more energy efficient, through their design and the materials they are made from. The National Institutes of Health, or NIH, has supported research grants between U.S. and Turkish research institutions in the past. Now, the NIH and TÜBÄ°TAK are exploring further collaborations in the areas of cancer, rare disease, infectious disease, diabetes, and regenerative medicine. Our scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey will continue to work with their Turkish colleagues to better understand earthquakes, which affect both of our countries. There are opportunities for Department of Energy laboratories to deepen their existing work to help Turkey meet its goal of generating 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2023 and increasing the energy efficiency of Turkey’s industries and buildings.

In addition to strengthening existing areas of cooperation between the United States and Turkey, we will launch some completely new areas of cooperation at today’s meeting. As the Ambassador mentioned, we will be looking at education and educational technologies to help teachers in both our countries employ technology more effectively to teach our next generation of scientists. This group is also looking to stimulate the public’s interest in and understanding of science through new science centers planned for Turkey. The Material Sciences Working Group is launching new cooperation related to designing and developing new materials to withstand extreme environments. The group working in innovative technologies in agricultural research is exploring new areas of cooperative research to improve crop yields and land use through new technologies.

As you can see, we have a lot of technical discussions, but we will also address both our nations’ commitment to fostering innovation and strengthening the breadth and depth of our scientific communities. We will examine best practices in supporting innovation through industry, government labs, and universities. I would also like to take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation for the partnership we have already established with Turkey to promote science and technology-based entrepreneurship. Turkey hosted, in partnership with the United States, the second Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Istanbul in 2011. This was an important international forum for promoting economic growth and the next Global Entrepreneurship Summit will be held in Kuala Lumpur.

Today both of our delegations include more than government officials and scientists. Representatives from academia and industry are also on both our delegations. Our science and technology enterprises have many important players and everyone needs to be engaged.

Last year, nearly 12,000 Turkish students came to the United States to study at our colleges and universities. This is more than from any other European country. More American students are studying in Turkey than ever before. By making more connections between Turkish and American universities, as will be discussed later on today, we hope to continue this very positive trend.

We have a tremendous resource in the large and active Turkish American diaspora community, who are also represented here today by several members of our U.S. delegation, including the Vice President of the Turkish American Scientists & Scholars Association, or TASSA, Professor Candan Tamerler. Professor Tamerler is not only here representing TASSA, but is also an esteemed professor of material sciences and engineering at the University of Washington and has played an active role in the Material Sciences Working Group.

We are grateful to have Nabil Habayeb, President and CEO of General Electric’s operations in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey, joining us today to discuss his company’s work bringing U.S. and Turkish scientists together in their research and development efforts.

I am very pleased to announce that in May our U.S. Science Envoy Dr. Susan Hockfield will come to Turkey. Dr. Hockfield is the former President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She will be able to share her experience of building several successful public-private partnerships between universities and private companies while at MIT. I hope that a number of you will have the opportunity to meet her next month.

Finally, as this is our inaugural meeting under our 2010 U.S.-Turkey Science and Technology Agreement, I would like to touch briefly on the United States’ ongoing commitment to fostering research and the development of new technologies. We demonstrate this commitment through funding basic and applied scientific research and by continually championing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, or STEM education. President Obama has consistently highlighted the importance of science and technology. In 2013, even with the ongoing budget debates and challenges that we face, the President underscored that "now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race."(2) He has continually called for strong, sustained federal investment in research and development, increased investment in STEM education, and championed the development of research infrastructure.

In the United States, our Federal government plays a critical role in funding basic and applied research – especially in areas in which the private sector does not have the economic incentive to invest. When looking at overall U.S. investment in research and development – 70 percent of the investment comes from the private sector.

U.S. Government research and development investments seek to improve the health of the population, move toward a clean energy future, address global climate change, manage competing demands on environmental resources, and ensure the security of our nation. Increasingly we recognize the role scientific investment plays in generating sustainable economic growth and in job creation. For example, the President has noted that "every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy."(2) And just two days ago President Obama launched a new initiative – BRAIN – Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies – which will seek to advance our understanding of the brain, address brain disorders, and generate advanced research tools.

We remain strongly committed to the role of human capital development in science and innovation. The U.S. government is working to engage more citizens to enter STEM fields. The Administration has an "all hands-on-deck" approach to STEM education – working to ensure that STEM education is high quality and available to all. Several new initiatives are working to increase the number of students studying STEM subjects, and to prepare the math and science teachers we need to teach our future engineers, inventors, and innovators.

These programs include:
A $100 million investment by the National Science Foundation to improve undergraduate STEM education practices.
A new education initiative jointly administered by the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation to improve math education at the kindergarten to grade 12 level.
In addition, the President has also begun to host an annual science fair at the White House, as he feels it is very important to motivate and engage the youth early on.

The U.S. government continues to work to improve how we utilize research and development to strengthen the scientific basis for decision-making, particularly with regard to health, safety, and environmental impacts. This includes efforts to enhance the accessibility and usefulness of data and tools for decision support. We recognize the importance of science in our own decision making processes. We recognize the importance of transparency with regards to information and data. The Obama administration is committed to increasing public access to the results of federally funded research. In February, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy directed Federal agencies with more than $100 million in research and development expenditures to develop plans to make the published results freely available to the public within one year of publication. This increased access will foster innovation, which in turn we believe will support economic growth.

In closing let me state the obvious – that our countries share similar visions of the importance of science and technology. The scientific partnerships that we build together are important ways to address our shared challenges and meet our shared goals.

Thank you again for your hospitality and hosting us in Ankara today. I look forward to our discussions, and to the progress that we can make together.

 

References
1. Obama, B. (2009, April). Speech presented to the Turkish Parliament, Ankara, Turkey.

2. Obama, B. (2013, February). State of the Union Address presented to the U.S. Congress, Washington, D.C.




Weekly Address: America Stands with the City of Boston | The White House

Weekly Address: America Stands with the City of Boston | The White House

SCIENTISTS FIND THE DESTINATION OF CHARCOAL

At NSF's Florida Coastal Everglades LTER site, charcoal is part of the dissolved organic carbon. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 
FROM: NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Where Does Charcoal, or Black Carbon, in Soils Go?
Scientists have uncovered one of nature's long-kept secrets--the true fate of charcoal in the world's soils.

The ability to determine the fate of charcoal is critical to knowledge of the global carbon budget, which in turn can help understand and mitigate climate change.

However, until now, researchers only had scientific guesses about what happens to charcoal once it's incorporated into soil. They believed it stayed there.

Surprisingly, most of these researchers were wrong.

The findings of a new study that examines the result of charcoal once it is deposited into the soil are outlined in a paper published this week in the journal Science.

The international team of researchers was led by scientists Rudolf Jaffe of Florida International University and Thorsten Dittmar of the German Max Planck Society.

"Most scientists thought charcoal was resistant," says Jaffe. "They believed that once it was incorporated into soils, it stayed there. But if that were the case, soils would be black."

Charcoal, or black carbon, is a residue generated by combustion including wildfires and the burning of fossil fuels.

When charcoal forms, it is usually deposited into the soil.

"From a chemical perspective, no one really thought it dissolved, but it does," Jaffe says.

"It doesn't accumulate for a long time. It's exported into wetlands and rivers, eventually making its way to the oceans."

It all started with a strange finding in the Everglades.

At the National Science Foundation (NSF) Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site--one of 26 such NSF LTER sites in ecosystems around the world--Jaffe studied the glades' environmental chemistry.

Dissolved organic carbon is known to be abundant in wetlands such as the Everglades and plays a critical role in the ecology of these systems.

Jaffe wanted to learn more about what comprised the organic carbon in the Everglades.

He and colleagues discovered that as much as 20 percent of the total dissolved organic carbon in the Everglades is charcoal.

Surprised by the finding, the researchers shifted their focus to the origin of the dissolved charcoal.

In an almost serendipitous scientific journey, Dittmar, head of the Max Planck Research Group for Marine Geochemistry at the University Oldenburg in Germany, was also tracing the paths of charcoal, but from an oceanographic perspective.

To map out a more comprehensive picture, the researchers joined forces. Their conclusion is that charcoal in soils is making its way into the world's waters.

"This study affirms the power of large-scale analyses made possible through international collaborations," says Saran Twombly, program director in NSF's Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research along with NSF's Directorate for Geosciences.

"What started out as a puzzling result from the Florida Everglades engaged scientists at other LTER sites in the U.S., and eventually expanded worldwide," says Twombly. "The result is a major contribution to our understanding of the carbon cycle."

Fire is probably an integral part of the global carbon cycle, says Dittmar, its effects seen from land to sea.

The discovery carries significant implications for bioengineering, the scientists believe.

The global carbon budget is a balancing act between sources that produce carbon and sources that remove it.

The new findings show that the amount of dissolved charcoal transported to the oceans is keeping pace with the total charcoal generated by fires annually on a global scale.

While the environmental consequences of the accumulation of black carbon in surface and ocean waters are currently unknown, Jaffe said the findings mean that greater consideration should be given to carbon sequestration techniques.

Biochar addition to soils is one such technique.

Biochar technology is based on vegetation-derived charcoal that is added to agricultural soils as a means of sequestering carbon.

As more people implement biochar technology, says Jaffe, they should take into consideration the potential dissolution of the charcoal to ensure that these techniques are environmentally friendly.

Jaffe and Dittmar agree that there are still many unknowns when it comes to the environmental fate of charcoal, and both plan to move on to the next phase of the research.

They've proved where charcoal goes.

Now they'd like to answer how that happens, and what the environmental consequences are.

The more scientists can understand the process and the environmental factors controlling it, says Jaffe, the better the chances of developing strategies for carbon sequestration and mitigating climate change.

The research was also conducted at NSF's Bonanza Creek; Konza Prairie; Hubbard Brook; Coweeta; and Georgia Coastal Ecosystems LTER sites, and at other locations around the world.

Other authors of the paper are: Yan Ding of Florida International University; Jutta Niggemann of the Max Planck Research Group for Marine Geochemistry; Anssi Vahatalo of the University of Helsinki; Aron Stubbins of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah, Georgia; Robert Spencer of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts; and John Campbell of the USDA Forest Service.

-NSF-

EPA NAMES TOP 10 GREEN POWER COMPANIES

FROM: U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
April 17, 2013
EPA Announces U.S. Organizations Using the Most Green Power

WASHINGTON
–– Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Green Power Partnership released an updated list of the Top 50 organizations that are choosing to use electricity from clean, renewable sources.

"We applaud the leadership demonstrated by organizations that are helping reduce carbon pollution and spur the growth of clean, American-made energy sources by increasing their use of renewable energy," said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. "As President Obama has made clear, clean energy is critical to our health, our economy, our security, and our ability to effectively address climate change."

Intel Corporation continues to top the list, using green power to cover 100 percent of its electricity load. Microsoft Corporation moved into second place by increasing its green power use to more than 1.9 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually. Apple Inc., new to the Top 50 list, ranks number 10 with 85 percent of its nationwide electricity now coming from green power.

The top 10 partners appearing on the Top 50 list include:
1. Intel Corporation
2. Microsoft Corporation
3. Kohl’s Department Stores
4. Whole Foods Market
5. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
6. U.S. Department of Energy
7. Staples
8. Starbucks Company-Owned Stores
9. Lockheed Martin Corporation
10. Apple Inc.

For the first time, EPA also released a list of partners that have committed to purchasing green power for a period of five years or more. These organizations send a strong signal to renewable energy developers, stating that they are committed to green power for the long-term and are helping to reduce future greenhouse gas emissions. Among the partners with the longest-running contracts are the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, The Ohio State University, Iowa State University, and the University of Maryland. Of the 47 partners appearing on the list, 15 are higher education institutions.

In addition, for the seventh year in a row, the agency is encouraging increased green power use among higher education institutions through the College and University Green Power Challenge. Out of the 32 competing conferences, the Big 10 is this year’s conference champion, collectively using more than 315 million kWh of green power annually and avoiding carbon pollution equal to that produced by the electricity use of more than 33,000 American homes. The University of Pennsylvania continues to be the top individual school in the challenge, purchasing more than 200 million kWh of wind power annually--more green power than any of the 75 other competing schools.

Green power is a subset of renewable energy and represents the renewable energy resources and technologies that provide the highest environmental benefit. EPA defines green power as electricity produced from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, eligible biomass, and low-impact small hydroelectric sources.

As part of the EPA’s Green Power Partnership, more than 1,400 organizations are purchasing more than 27 billion kilowatt-hours of green power annually, avoiding carbon pollution equal to that created by the electricity use of more than 2.8 million American homes. The partnership provides quarterly updated lists of partners using green power in the following categories: K-12 schools, technology and telecommunications, local government, and retail, among others.

AIR FORCE 2014 BUDGET AND SPACE

 
An artist's depiction of the Space Based Space Surveillance satellite. The Joint Space Operations Center uses data collected from SBSS to track orbiting objects in geostationary and low earth orbit, providng space situational awareness to U.S. miliitary and commercial space users. Members of the 1st and 7th Space Operations Squadron command and control the satellite. Credit: U.S. Air Force Space Command.
FROM: U.S. AIR FORCE
AF leaders highlight space program successes, address FY14 budget

4/18/2013 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Space today is in as good a position as it's been in a very long time, said Richard McKinney, the deputy under secretary of the Air Force for space.

McKinney, along with Dr. Jamie Morin, the acting under secretary of the Air Force, and Brig. Gen. Robert McMurry, the director of space programs for the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, briefed members of the media on the Air Force's fiscal 2014 Space Budget April 15 in the Pentagon here.

"We're in production," McKinney said. "We've got missile warning in production, we've got Advanced Extremely High Frequency, or AEHF, (satellites) in production, and Wideband Global SATCOM is in production. On launch -- we have 10 years of 100 percent successful flights. We have more capability today than we have ever had."

The Air Force has requested approximately $6.5 billion for its space investment portfolio in FY 2014. The top five programs include: the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, Space Based Infrared System early warning satellites, Global Positioning System III navigation satellites, AEHF military communications satellites, and space situational awareness systems.

The fiscal 2014 request is slightly higher than the fiscal 2013 request of $6.3 billion for its space investment portfolio, but does not reflect the cuts that would take place under sequestration. It does, however, reflect the Air Force's ongoing commitment to providing enhanced space capabilities to the joint team.

"We continue to offer the nation these space capabilities which are a tremendous force multiplier," Morin said. "Relying on space, whether it's reliable communications or precision navigation or warning of what others might be doing in space or warning of missile launches, all of that enables the other parts of the joint team to function very effectively and provides those force multipliers we're relying on."

And being a force multiplier is something that is all the more essential as budgets are under stress, Morin said.

"We've been working hard to take costs out of the space programs. We've had some real successes," he said, highlighting the fact that sequestration would undermine these achievements. "If we pull the rug out from under that through continued budgetary uncertainty or ill-conceived cuts, then we're going to do a disservice to the taxpayer who is just now beginning to benefit from this effort to squeeze costs down."

Morin also highlighted several space programs that the Air Force successfully found ways to stretch dollars and provide stability.

"The Advanced Extremely High Frequency communication satellite -- we are now predicting more than $1 billion in savings based on the contract work that has been done on that," he said. "On the Space Based Infrared System, we've already projected over $500 million in savings."

The Air Force has also moved to a "block buy," of launch systems, purchasing a number of items at a time, allowing for lower per-unit prices -- with a path to enable competition for certified new entrants, which will allow for significant savings.

McMurry also spoke about the successes that have been achieved through the Joint Space Operations Center Mission System, or JMS.

"We've brought the initial operational capability in three years, and pulled $500 million out of the program while still meeting operational requirements," McMurry said, describing a joint effort that involved moving to a commercially procured software approach.

The service has also seen success through partnerships with allies, enabling a cost-share where all parties can share the capability of the satellite.

"In both the AEHF and WGS communication satellite programs, you've seen us ink agreements with allies, in some cases multiple allies," Morin said. "This is win, win, win on so many different levels. It's promoting interoperability with key partners. It's driving down costs to the U.S. taxpayer, and it's building more capacity in these constellations."

In light of these successes and efforts to drive costs down, Morin emphasized the fact that programs still remain vulnerable. However the service will continue to strive for stability in the space program to ensure it can provide those capabilities the joint team relies on.

"The Air Force's capabilities in space are going to continue to be touchstones for the whole joint team, the whole of government and for the private sector," Morin said. "We're committed to enabling the joint force, providing the force multipliers that make the joint force stronger. And we're committed to doing so in a way that's respectful of the taxpayers' dollar."

(Courtesy of Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs)

 

U.S. ARMY'S CAMPAIGN AGAINST SUPPLEMENTS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Army Deaths Spur Successful Campaign Against Supplements
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2013 - A "David-and-Goliath" scenario – an Army installation commander standing up to a multi-billion-dollar industry over the deaths of three of his soldiers – has borne fruit in a national Food and Drug Administration warning and the drug maker's decision to stop production of a controversial dietary supplement.

Army Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, commander of Fort Bliss, Texas, and the 1st Armored Division, lauded USPlabs's announcement that it would stop production of Jack3d.

The supplement contains dimethylamylamine, or DMAA, a stimulant popular among bodybuilders and dieters that the FDA last week linked to elevated blood pressure and heart attacks.

Pittard's crusade against the supplement began in 2011, when two Fort Bliss soldiers, Pfc. Michael Sparling and Sgt. Demekia Cola, died of heart failure during physical training. Their autopsies reviewed that DMAA use was a contributing factor in their deaths.

In July 2012, another Fort Bliss soldier, Pfc. David Artis, died of heart stroke during physical fitness training. His death also was linked to DMAA use.

Pittard, who instituted a campaign to reduce suicides and other preventable deaths on arrival at Fort Bliss, immediately demanded that products containing DMAA be removed from the shelves of a commercial vitamin store outlet on the post. It was an unpopular move, he told reporters today, raising the ire of the Fort Bliss community, questions from some Army leaders, and criticism from manufacturers of supplemental products.

"But regardless, we stood firm in the face of that criticism," Pittard said. "We felt it was the right thing to do for our soldiers."

The pushback, he said, actually strengthened the resolve at Fort Bliss to take the fight beyond the installation's gates. Partnering with the Consortium for Health and Military Performance and the Pentagon's Department of Military and Emergency Medicine, Pittard and his staff set their eye on eradicating DMAA products across not only the Army, but also the entire Defense Department.

This unified campaign spurred the Army to ban supplements containing DMAA from all installations in March 2012. Four months later, the Defense Department followed suit, banning them from all U.S. installations. In the next promising development, the FDA issued an advisory last week warning consumers not to buy dietary supplements containing DMAA.

But the biggest victory, Pittard said, was the decision by USPlabs, the manufacturer of Jack3d, to stop using DMAA in its products.

"Yesterday's action by USPlabs really in many ways vindicates those on Fort Bliss who fought so hard and fought the supplement and billion-dollar drug industry on this issue," he said.

Pittard expressed thanks to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and Army and DOD leadership for supporting the effort. He acknowledged that it took courage to collectively stand up to powerful drug companies and others who resisted their efforts.

"And we believe this will save countless lives in the future," he said.

HABITALBE-ZONE EARTH-SIZE PLANETS CONTINUE TO BE DISCOVERED



Relative sizes of all of the habitable-zone planets discovered to date alongside Earth. Left to right: Kepler-22b, Kepler-69c, Kepler-62e, Kepler-62f and Earth (except for Earth, these are artists' renditions). Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech.
FROM:  NASA

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- NASA's Kepler mission has discovered two new planetary systems that include three super-Earth-size planets in the "habitable zone," the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water.

The Kepler-62 system has five planets; 62b, 62c, 62d, 62e and 62f. The Kepler-69 system has two planets; 69b and 69c. Kepler-62e, 62f and 69c are the super-Earth-sized planets.

Two of the newly discovered planets orbit a star smaller and cooler than the sun. Kepler-62f is only 40 percent larger than Earth, making it the exoplanet closest to the size of our planet known in the habitable zone of another star. Kepler-62f is likely to have a rocky composition. Kepler-62e, orbits on the inner edge of the habitable zone and is roughly 60 percent larger than Earth.

The third planet, Kepler-69c, is 70 percent larger than the size of Earth, and orbits in the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. Astronomers are uncertain about the composition of Kepler-69c, but its orbit of 242 days around a sun-like star resembles that of our neighboring planet Venus.

Scientists do not know whether life could exist on the newfound planets, but their discovery signals we are another step closer to finding a world similar to Earth around a star like our sun.

"The Kepler spacecraft has certainly turned out to be a rock star of science," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The discovery of these rocky planets in the habitable zone brings us a bit closer to finding a place like home. It is only a matter of time before we know if the galaxy is home to a multitude of planets like Earth, or if we are a rarity."

The Kepler space telescope, which simultaneously and continuously measures the brightness of more than 150,000 stars, is NASA's first mission capable of detecting Earth-size planets around stars like our sun. Orbiting its star every 122 days, Kepler-62e was the first of these habitable zone planets identified. Kepler-62f, with an orbital period of 267 days, was later found by Eric Agol, associate professor of astronomy at the University of Washington and co-author of a paper on the discoveries published in the journal Science.

The size of Kepler-62f is now measured, but its mass and composition are not. However, based on previous studies of rocky exoplanets similar in size, scientists are able to estimate its mass by association.

"The detection and confirmation of planets is an enormously collaborative effort of talent and resources, and requires expertise from across the scientific community to produce these tremendous results," said William Borucki, Kepler science principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., and lead author of the Kepler-62 system paper in Science. "Kepler has brought a resurgence of astronomical discoveries and we are making excellent progress toward determining if planets like ours are the exception or the rule."

The two habitable zone worlds orbiting Kepler-62 have three companions in orbits closer to their star, two larger than the size of Earth and one about the size of Mars. Kepler-62b, Kepler-62c and Kepler-62d, orbit every five, 12, and 18 days, respectively, making them very hot and inhospitable for life as we know it.

The five planets of the Kepler-62 system orbit a star classified as a K2 dwarf, measuring just two-thirds the size of the sun and only one-fifth as bright. At seven billion years old, the star is somewhat older than the sun. It is about 1,200 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra.

A companion to Kepler-69c, known as Kepler-69b, is more than twice the size of Earth and whizzes around its star every 13 days. The Kepler-69 planets' host star belongs to the same class as our sun, called G-type. It is 93 percent the size of the sun and 80 percent as luminous and is located approximately 2,700 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

"We only know of one star that hosts a planet with life, the sun. Finding a planet in the habitable zone around a star like our sun is a significant milestone toward finding truly Earth-like planets," said Thomas Barclay, Kepler scientist at the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute in Sonoma, Calif., and lead author of the Kepler-69 system discovery published in the Astrophysical Journal.

When a planet candidate transits, or passes in front of the star from the spacecraft's vantage point, a percentage of light from the star is blocked. The resulting dip in the brightness of the starlight reveals the transiting planet's size relative to its star. Using the transit method, Kepler has detected 2,740 candidates. Using various analysis techniques, ground telescopes and other space assets, 122 planets have been confirmed.

Early in the mission, the Kepler telescope primarily found large, gaseous giants in very close orbits of their stars. Known as "hot Jupiters," these are easier to detect due to their size and very short orbital periods. Earth would take three years to accomplish the three transits required to be accepted as a planet candidate. As Kepler continues to observe, transit signals of habitable zone planets the size of Earth orbiting stars like the sun will begin to emerge.

Ames is responsible for Kepler's ground system development, mission operations, and science data analysis. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., managed Kepler mission development.

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore archives, hosts and distributes Kepler science data. Kepler is NASA's 10th Discovery Mission and was funded by the agency's Science Mission Directorate.

For more information about the Kepler mission and to view the digital press kit, visit:

BAFFIN ISLAND OVERFLIGHT BY P-3B




FROM: NASA
IceBridge Flight Over Baffin Island

IceBridge closed out the fourth week of its Arctic campaign with a flight over the striking landscape of eastern Greenland's Geikie Peninsula and a survey of a Canadian ice cap before taking two days off over the weekend. Soon the mission will return to Thule to finish up Arctic flights for 2013.

The morning of April 12, 2013 saw the P-3B take off for a flight to the west, across the Davis Strait to Canada's Baffin Island. This island, the largest one in Canada, is home to an ice formation known as the Penny Ice Cap. This mission was a repeat of airborne surveys by the ATM and radar teams flown in 1995, 2000 and 2005, and added new survey lines along ICESat ground tracks. Previous airborne surveys showed the ice cap thinning and glaciers retreating in the area and the April 12 mission aimed at measuring several glaciers in the area to see how much the Penny Ice Cap has melted in recent years.

The image captures ice covered fjord on Baffin Island with Davis Strait in the background. Image Credit-NASA-Michael Studinger

Friday, April 19, 2013

ISAF NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN FOR APRIL 18, 2013

 

A coalition force member provides security during a patrol with Afghan special forces to escort a district governor in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 14, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau.

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Combined Force Detains Insurgents After Firefight
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 19, 2013 - A combined Afghan and coalition security force detained a senior Taliban leader and several other insurgents in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Afghanistan's Helmand province today, military officials reported.

During the operation, insurgents opened fire on the security force. The security force returned fire, wounding one insurgent.

The Taliban leader is believed to control fighters responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. He also is alleged to oversee weapons facilitation for insurgents and to have trained suicide bombers. He also is an improvised explosive device expert and passes orders from senior Taliban officials to the insurgents, officials said.

The security force seized two rifles, four magazines and 60 pounds of opium in the operation.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- A combined force in Logar province's Pul-e Alam district detained several insurgents and a Haqqani network facilitator believed to be a vital link in the network's IED operations.

-- In Khost province's Sabari district, a combined force detained several insurgents during a search for a Haqqani network leader who allegedly coordinates the flow of military equipment to Haqqani cells in several districts and has participated in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. The security force seized an assault rifle, a pistol, three grenades, three assault rifle magazines, ammunition and bomb-making materials.

In other news, a combined force in Kandahar province's Maiwand district killed two insurgents yesterday during a search for a man believed to be one of the district's top Taliban officials. He is responsible for planning and organizing attacks against Afghan and coalition forces and facilitating the movement of supplies and weapons. He also has plotted to assassinate Afghans who support the local government and Afghan forces.


SCIENTISTS LOOK FOR LIFE'S "WHITE GOLD"

 
Tracking high-elevation snowfall at NSF's Niwot Ridge LTER site in Colorado. Credit: NSF Niwot Ridge LTER Site
FROM: NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

An American exodus, it's been called, the largest "migration" of people in modern U.S. history.

It happened during the 1930s Dust Bowl, when severe drought conditions coupled with erosion brought about an environmental catastrophe. Choking dust storms caused major economic, ecological and agricultural damage in Texas, Oklahoma and parts of New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.

Ill winds blew across fields, plucking deep-rooted grasses and carrying them hundreds of miles. Farmlands disappeared and homes were destroyed. These "black blizzards" swirled all the way to East Coast cities such as New York and Washington.

On April 14, 1935--"Black Sunday"--20 of the worst of the storms turned day into night. More than 500,000 people were left homeless. Most headed due west in search of work. Some, victims of dust pneumonia or malnutrition, never made it.

For today's residents of states like Colorado, that scene is long ago and far away. Or is it? On Earth Week, with much of the Mountain West in an extreme drought, people in the Four Corners are wondering.

 

The search for white gold

The answer lies in white gold: snowmelt.

"Snow and its meltwaters are indeed white gold, and they're getting harder and harder to find," says Mark Williams, an ecologist at the University of Colorado-Boulder and principal investigator of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Niwot Ridge Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site in Colorado.

In western North America, snow typically begins to fall in November. It piles up, reaching its peak in April. In the Rocky Mountains region, 85 percent of the water resources come from snow as it eventually melts.

At Niwot Ridge, ecologists are prospecting for white gold, no easy task at 9,800 feet up.

Niwot Ridge is one of 26 NSF LTER sites in mountain, prairie, coastal and other ecosystems around the world. The sites are primarily supported by NSF's Directorate for Biological Sciences, with major additional funding from its Directorate for Geosciences.

Niwot Ridge is part of the Boulder Creek, Colorado, watershed, where scientists at NSF's Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) are also looking for white gold.

Their search takes them into Earth's critical zone--the region between the top of the forest canopy and the base of unweathered rock. Boulder Creek is one of six such NSF CZOs in watersheds across the country.

"The depth of winter's snowpack and timing of spring snowmelt determine how much water we will have the following summer," says Williams, who is also affiliated with the Boulder Creek CZO, "and the extent of a drought that's the most severe since the Dust Bowl."

It's 2013, not 1935. But farmers are again asking whether there will be enough water for their fields.

Water well running dry

At Niwot Ridge and Boulder Creek, scientists face howling winter winds to measure snow depth.

Without deep snows, the researchers are discovering, our water well is running dry.

"Water is critical for recharging soil moisture, keeping plants alive and replenishing stream networks," says Williams. "Those streams and rivers are what feed our reservoirs."

Water in all its forms--vapor, liquid and solid--distinguishes our planet, says John Wingfield, NSF assistant director for Biological Sciences.

"Much remains to be learned about the complex biological processes, and interactions of the biosphere and geosphere, in snow and ice cover," Wingfield says. "Large-scale shifts of snow and ice fields will have major downstream effects. The implications for ecosystems even far removed from high altitude and latitude snow and ice are unknown."

To find answers, Williams, Suzanne Anderson, principal investigator of the Boulder Creek CZO, and colleagues recently conducted a study of water flow on hillslopes of the Colorado Front Range. They published the results in the journal Hydrological Processes.

Other authors of the paper are Eve-Lyn Hinckley and Robert Anderson of the University of Colorado-Boulder, Brian Ebel of the U.S. Geological Survey and Rebecca Barnes of Bard College. Hinckley is the lead author.

"The interaction of climate and ecosystems is an example of the critical questions that lie at the interface between scientific disciplines," says Roger Wakimoto, NSF assistant director for Geosciences. "The results from this study will greatly improve our understanding of the hydrologic cycle."

The research, conducted in the headwaters of the Rockies, shows that higher temperatures are shifting the timing of maximum snow accumulation ever-earlier and decreasing the ratio of snow-to-rain.

"It's raining a heck of a lot more than it used to," says Williams. "In times past, it did nothing but snow."

A flash-in-the-pan, rain is gone more quickly than snow. Within hours of falling, it evaporates or seeps into the ground, and doesn't have snow's longer residence time on mountainsides.

"The slow melt of mountain snow is what keeps streams and rivers running like spigots turned on," says Williams. "Eventually, they lead right to the taps in our kitchens, bathrooms and yards."

Where, exactly, does the white gold come from?

As scientists at Niwot Ridge and Boulder Creek have discovered, the mother lode is hidden in snow "water towers."

"Water towers" for the Mountain West--and beyond

Mountain ecosystems serve as "water towers" that store winter snow until it's released during spring runoff.

The water towers, however, have sprung leaks.

Subalpine forests are becoming warmer and drier during all seasons. At higher elevations, alpine tundra has longer growing seasons, warmer summers and cool and wet versus cold and snowy winters.

How long a snowpack lasts is affected by what scientists call aspect: whether a hillslope faces north or south.

In the Rockies, lodgepole pines, which prefer colder, wetter climes, dot north-facing slopes; Ponderosa pines cover south-facing, drier slopes.

"You can pretty well guess how much snow a slope will have by which way it faces," says Williams, "and by which tree species grows there."

A tale of two trees

Lodgepole pine-covered, north-facing slopes are usually laden with snow straight through the winter. South-facing slopes, with their Ponderosa pines, have only intermittent snow.

"North- and south-facing slopes at the Boulder Creek CZO are an excellent natural laboratory for studying the effects of climate change on water availability and soil geochemistry," says Enriqueta Barrera, NSF program director for the CZO network, supported by the agency's Directorate for Geosciences.

Williams agrees. "North-facing slopes store more water in the 'near-surface' than south-facing slopes," he says. "On south-facing slopes, water sinks quickly into the deep bedrock."

Earlier snowmelt may be changing those patterns, "which could have consequences for the health and composition of the forest," Williams says, and for water resources.

"Research at sites such as the Niwot Ridge LTER shows how catastrophic large-scale shifts in snowmelt will be," says Saran Twombly, NSF program director for the LTER network.

Lack of snow, for example, led to forest fires like Colorado's High Park Fire of June, 2012, and Waldo Canyon Fire less than a month later. The Waldo Canyon Fire was the most expensive wildfire in Colorado history. It was also the most destructive.

"White blizzard" falling

It's April 8, 2013: date of the average peak snowpack in the Colorado mountains. Despite this winter's snow drought, the day, perhaps, of a good omen.

"Heavy snow will blanket much of the west," intoned weather forecasters. Blizzard watches went up. Snowplows, fallow too long, once again geared down.

When all was said and done, more than a foot of snow fell across high peaks and low prairies.

It sparkled across the land, until spring sunlight turned it into a precious commodity: white gold.

STATEMENT OF AGREEMENT ON PRINCIPLES OF NORMALIZATION OF RELATIONS BETWEEN KOSOVO AND SERBIA

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Agreement Between Kosovo and Serbia in the EU-facilitated Dialogue
Press Statement

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 19, 2013


I congratulate Serbia and Kosovo for reaching agreement today in the European Union-facilitated Dialogue led by High Representative Catherine Ashton. This agreement on principles for normalization of relations required compromise and political courage from both sides, and I applaud the governments of Kosovo and Serbia for making the hard decisions that will move them closer to their goals of European integration. I encourage both countries now to implement expeditiously and fully all Dialogue agreements reached to date, so that all of those living in Kosovo and Serbia can continue to build a more peaceful and prosperous future.

I commend High Representative Ashton for her facilitation of these talks between Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. Her leadership and dedication were critical in bringing about this important agreement.

The United States will remain deeply committed to seeing the people of Serbia, Kosovo, and the entire region realize their aspirations of integration into a Europe free, whole, and at peace.

CALIFORNIA REAL ESTATE INVESTOR PLEADS GUILTY TO BID RIGGING AT PUBLIC FORECLOSURE AUCTIONS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Investigation Has Yielded 30 Plea Agreements to Date

WASHINGTON — A Northern California real estate investor has agreed to plead guilty for his role in conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

Felony charges were filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco against Mohammed Rezaian, of Novato, Calif. Rezaian is the 30th individual to plead guilty or agree to plead guilty as a result of the department's ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California.

According to court documents, Rezaian conspired with others not to bid against one another, but instead to designate a winning bidder to obtain selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco and San Mateo counties, Calif. Rezaian was also charged with conspiring to use the mail to carry out schemes to fraudulently acquire title to selected properties sold at public auctions, to make and receive payoffs, and to divert to co-conspirators money that would have otherwise gone to mortgage holders and others. According to court documents, a forfeiture allegation was also included in the charges against Rezaian.

The department said Rezaian conspired with others to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco and San Mateo counties beginning as early as July 2008 and continuing until about January 2011.

"As a result of this investigation, the Antitrust Division has thus far filed charges against 30 real estate investors in Northern California for their illegal activity at foreclosure auctions," said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. "The division will vigorously pursue the perpetrators of these fraudulent and anticompetitive schemes."

The department said that the primary purpose of the conspiracies was to suppress and restrain competition and to conceal payoffs in order to obtain selected real estate offered at San Francisco and San Mateo County public foreclosure auctions at non-competitive prices. When real estate properties are sold at these auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with remaining proceeds, if any, paid to the homeowner.

"Not only is bid rigging at public foreclosure auctions illegal, it also severely undermines the integrity of a fair and competitive marketplace," said David J. Johnson, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office. "The FBI will continue to investigate and pursue those who commit fraudulent anticompetitive practices at foreclosure auctions and work with those who have fallen victim to such selfish crimes."

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. The maximum fine for the Sherman Act charges may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims if either amount is greater than $1 million. A count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The government can also seek to forfeit the proceeds earned from participating in the conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

The charges today are the latest filed by the department in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa and Alameda counties, Calif. These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division's San Francisco office and the FBI's San Francisco office. .

Today's charges were brought in connection with the President's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys' offices and state and local partners, it's the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants.


West Wing Week: 04/19/13 or “Selflessly. Compassionately. Unafraid.” | The White House

West Wing Week: 04/19/13 or “Selflessly. Compassionately. Unafraid.” | The White House

Job creation and growth with space

Job creation and growth with space

USS NIMITZ TRANSITS PACIFIC AND THE 7 SUBMARINES OF APRA HARBOR






FROM: U.S. NAVY

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) transits the Pacific Ocean behind the Military SEaliftCommand fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187) as it conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59). Nimitz is underway for a sustainment training exercise in preparation for an upcoming deployment. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raul Moreno Jr. (Released) 130412-N-LP801-006




With the mooring of the Los Angeles-class submarine USS Bremerton (SSN 698) on April 16, Apra Harbor now has seven submarines in port. This is the highest number of submarines in the harbor since the re-establishment of Commander, Submarine Squadron (SUBRON) 15 in 2001. The submarines are conducting maintenance prior to continuing their deployments. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey Jay Price (Released) 130417-N-LS794-001


Una fábrica de estrellas en la infancia del Universo desafía la teoría de la evolución galáctica

Una fábrica de estrellas en la infancia del Universo desafía la teoría de la evolución galáctica

SEC CHARGES CEO OF INVESTMENT ADVISORY FIRM WITH LYING TO CalPERS AND OTHER CLIENTS

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C., April 18, 2013 — The Securities and Exchange Commission charged the CEO of Chicago-based investment advisory firm Simran Capital Management with lying to the California Public Employers' Retirement System (CalPERS) and other current and potential clients about the amount of money managed by the firm.

Institutional investors such as CalPERS often use assets under management (AUM) as a metric to screen prospective investment advisers soliciting their business. An SEC investigation revealed that while pitching Simran's services, Mesh Tandon falsely certified to CalPERS that his firm satisfied its minimum AUM requirements. After fraudulently obtaining the business from CalPERS, Tandon also falsely inflated Simran's AUM in communications with other potential clients with whom he touted his firm's relationship with CalPERS. Tandon also fraudulently reported an inflated AUM in filings with the SEC, and he later attempted to mislead SEC examiners during a routine examination of Simran.

Tandon, who previously lived in Chicago and now resides in Texas, has agreed to settle the SEC's fraud charges.

"Tandon deliberately undermined the CalPERS screening process by grossly misrepresenting his firm's purported assets under management," said Merri Jo Gillette, Director of the SEC's Chicago Regional Office. "To make matters worse, he then used his association with CalPERS to lure other public institutional investors under false pretenses."

According to the SEC's order instituting settled administrative proceedings against Tandon, he represented to CalPERS in May 2008 that Simran met explicit AUM requirements and managed at least $200 million as of Dec. 31, 2007. In fact, Simran managed approximately $80 million at that time. Evidence indicates that Tandon was aware that Simran did not meet the CalPERS requirements for AUM.

According to the SEC's order, Tandon touted Simran's relationship with CalPERS to other prospective clients from 2008 to 2011, and he instructed other Simran employees to do the same. On more than a dozen occasions, Tandon and Simran employees falsely inflated the firm's AUM in communications with employee retirement systems and other prospective clients. Tandon and Simran also overstated the AUM in at least four of the firm's Form ADVs filed with the SEC. In February 2012, Simran withdrew its SEC registration as an investment adviser and has since ceased operations.

According to the SEC's order, Tandon violated Sections 206(1), 206(2), and 207 of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Tandon neither admitted nor denied the findings, and agreed to be barred from the securities industry and pay disgorgement of $20,018, prejudgment interest of $1,680, and a penalty of $100,000.

The SEC's investigation was conducted by Peter K.M. Chan along with Jonathan I. Katz and Andrew O'Brien in the Chicago Regional Office. They were assisted by members of the Chicago Regional Office's examination staff including Susan M. Weis, Jeson G. Patel, and Max J. Gillman.

INTEL OFFICIAL SAYS SEQUESTRATION CAUSED INTELLIGENCE DEGRADATION WILL BE "INSIDIOUS"

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Cuts Make Intelligence Failures Likely, Top Intel Official Says
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2013 - Speaking to a Senate panel about the effects of sequestration on the national security environment, the director of national intelligence said today that he's "seen this movie before."

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on current and future worldwide threats, James R. Clapper said he served through the last round of budget cuts 20 years ago.

"And we were then enjoined to reap the peace dividend occasioned by the end of the Cold War," he said. "We reduced the intelligence community by about 23 percent. During the mid and late '90s, we closed many CIA stations, reduced [human intelligence] collectors, cut analysts, allowed our overhead architecture to atrophy, neglected basic infrastructure needs such as power, space and cooling, and let our facilities decay. And most damagingly, we badly distorted the workforce."

The intelligence community has spent the last decade rebuilding, Clapper said, but, with sequestration, another damaging downward spiral looms.

"Sequestration forces the intelligence community to reduce all intelligence activities and functions without regard to impact on our mission," the nation's senior intelligence officersaid, adding that the cuts jeopardize the nation's safety and security, and that the jeopardy will increase over time.

"Unlike more directly observable sequestration impacts like shorter hours at the parks or longer security lines at airports," he said, "the degradation to intelligence will be insidious. It will be gradual and almost invisible until, of course, we have an intelligence failure."

In his 50 years of intelligence experience, Clapper told the senators, the country has never "confronted a more diverse array of threats, crises and challenges around the world."

This makes the mandatory budget cuts imposed by sequestration "incongruous," he added.

The world is changing, Clapper said, and the threat environment along with it. "Threats are more interconnected and viral," he said. "Events which, at first blush, seem local and irrelevant can quickly set off transnational disruptions that affect U.S. national interests."

Threats in the cyber realm can come from both state and nonstate actors, he said, and their danger to global security "cannot be overstated."

Climate, disease and competition for natural resources have huge national security implications, Clapper said

"Many countries important to U.S. interests are living with extreme water and food stress that can destabilize governments, force human migrations and trigger conflicts," he said.

And while al-Qaida and the potential for a massive coordinated attack on the United States may be diminished, he said, the jihadist movement is now more diffuse and still determined to attack.

The rise of new governments and ongoing unrest in the Arab world creates openings for extremists, Clapper told the senators. Opportunistic individuals and groups can take advantage of diminished counterterrorism capabilities, porous borders, easy availability of weapons and internal stresses, he explained.

In Iran, the technical expertise to enrich uranium and build nuclear reactors and ballistic missiles continues to develop, Clapper said. Tehran has the scientific, technical and industrial capability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, he continued, but the central question is whether it has the political will to do so.

"Such a decision, we believe, will be made by the [Iranian government's] supreme leader, and at this point we don't know if he'll eventually decide to build nuclear weapons," Clapper said.

"The increasingly beleaguered [Syrian] regime, having found that its escalation of violence through conventional means is not working, appears quite willing to use chemical weapons against its own people," he said. "We receive many claims of chemical warfare use in Syria each day and we take them all seriously, and we do all we can to investigate them."

Countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa are experiencing violence and political turmoil, he said, leading to civilian casualties and economic dislocation. Some 3.6 million Syrians have been displaced, and an additional 1.3 million have fled the country, Clapper said, noting that the refugee flow is placing pressure on neighboring countries.

"Moving to Asia, the Taliban-led insurgency has diminished in some areas of Afghanistan but is still resilient and capable of challenging U.S. international goals," he said. "The coalition drawdown will have an impact on Afghanistan's economy, which is likely to decline after 2014."

And in Pakistan, which faces no real prospects for sustainable economic growth, Clapper said, "the government has not instituted much-needed policy and tax reforms." On a more positive note, he continued, the Pakistani military continues its efforts to eliminate the al-Qaida and Taliban safe havens in the federally administered tribal areas.

China continues to supplement its military capabilities by strengthening its maritime law enforcement efforts in support of its claims in the South and East China Seas, he said.

"Closer to home," Clapper continued, "despite positive trends toward democracy and economic development, Latin America and the Caribbean contend with weak institutions, slow recovery from devastating natural disasters and drug-related violence and trafficking."

The intelligence director concluded his testimony by repeating his warning about sequestration spending cuts.

"So in sum, given the magnitude and complexity of our global responsibilities, insightful, persistent and comprehensive intelligence, at least in my mind, has never been more important or more urgent," he said. "So I have trouble reconciling this imperative with sequestration."