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Saturday, May 4, 2013



The Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Guadalupe (T-AO 200) transits alongside the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) during a replenishment-at-sea. Princeton is deployed with Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11 to the western Pacific region. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Bartlett (Released) 130429-N-KE148-240

Sailors perform a firefighting exercise during a damage control competition in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). Nimitz is underway on a deployment to the western Pacific region. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Derek A. Harkins (Released) 130502-N-TW634-173


The X-51A Waverider prepares to launch its historic fourth and final flight. The cruiser achieved Mach 5.1 traveling 230 nautical miles in just over six minutes, making this test the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever. U.S. Air Force photo/Bobbi Zapka.
X-51A Waverider achieves breakthrough in final flight
by Daryl Mayer
88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

5/3/2013 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) -- The final flight of the X-51A Waverider test program has accomplished a breakthrough in the development of flight reaching Mach 5.1 over the Pacific Ocean May 1.

"It was a full mission success," said Charlie Brink, the X-51A program manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Directorate.

The cruiser traveled more than 230 nautical miles in just over six minutes over the Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center Sea Range, Calif. It was the longest of the four X-51A test flights and the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever.

"I believe all we have learned from the X-51A Waverider will serve as the bedrock for future hypersonics research and ultimately the practical application of hypersonic flight," Brink said.

The X-51A took off from the Air Force Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif., under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress. It was released at approximately 50,000 feet and accelerated to Mach 4.8 in about 26 seconds powered by a solid rocket booster. After separating from the booster, the cruiser's supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet, engine then lit and accelerated the aircraft to Mach 5.1 at 60,000 feet.

After exhausting its 240-second fuel supply, the vehicle continued to send back telemetry data until it splashed down into the ocean and was destroyed as designed. At impact, 370 seconds of data were collected from the experiment.

"This success is the result of a lot of hard work by an incredible team. The contributions of Boeing, Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne, the 412th Test Wing at Edwards AFB, NASA Dryden and DARPA were all vital," Brink said.

This was the last of four test vehicles originally conceived when the $300 million technology demonstration program began in 2004. The program objective was to prove the viability of air-breathing, high-speed scramjet propulsion.

The X-51A is unique primarily due to its use of a hydrocarbon fuel in its scramjet engine. Other vehicles have achieved hypersonic, generally defined as speeds above Mach 5, flight with the use of hydrogen fuel. Without any moving parts, hydrocarbon fuel is injected into the scramjet's combustion chamber where it mixes with the air rushing through the chamber and is ignited in a process likened to lighting a match in a hurricane.

The use of logistically supportable hydrocarbon fuel is widely considered vital for the practical application of hypersonic flight.

As a technology demonstration program, there is no immediate successor to the X-51A program. However, the Air Force will continue hypersonic research and the successes of the X-51A will pay dividends to the High Speed Strike Weapon program currently in its early formation phase with AFRL.

Weekly Address: Fixing our Immigration System and Expanding Trade in Latin America | The White House

Weekly Address: Fixing our Immigration System and Expanding Trade in Latin America | The White House


Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Former Executive of French Power Company Subsidiary Charged in Connection with Foreign Bribery Schem

A former executive of the U.S. subsidiary of a French power and transportation company was charged in a superseding indictment for his alleged participation in a scheme to pay bribes to foreign government officials, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut David B. Fein and Assistant Director in Charge Valerie Parlave of the FBI’s Washington Field Office announced today.

William Pomponi, 65, a former vice president of sales for the Connecticut-based U.S. subsidiary, was charged in a superseding indictment late yesterday in the District of Connecticut with conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and to launder money, as well as substantive charges of FCPA and money laundering violations.

On April 16, 2013, charges against Frederic Pierucci and a guilty plea by David Rothschild in connection with the bribery scheme were announced. Pierucci is charged in the superseding indictment with Pomponi. On Nov. 2, 2012, Rothschild pleaded guilty to a criminal information.

According to the charges, the defendants, together with others, paid bribes to officials in Indonesia, including a member of Indonesian Parliament and high-ranking members of Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), the state-owned and state-controlled electricity company in Indonesia, in exchange for assistance in securing a $118 million contract, known as the Tarahan project, for the company and its consortium partner to provide power-related services for the citizens of Indonesia. The charges allege that, in order to conceal the bribes, the defendants retained two consultants purportedly to provide legitimate consulting services on behalf of the power company and its subsidiaries in connection with the Tarahan project. In reality, however, the primary purpose for hiring the consultants was allegedly to use the consultants to pay bribes to Indonesian officials.

The first consultant retained by the defendants allegedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars into his Maryland bank account to be used to bribe the member of Parliament, according to the charges. The consultant then allegedly transferred the bribe money to a bank account in Indonesia for the benefit of the official. According to court documents, emails between Pomponi, Pierucci, Rothschild and their co-conspirators discuss in detail the use of the first consultant to funnel bribes to the member of Parliament and the influence that the member of Parliament could exert over the Tarahan project. However, when Pomponi, Pierucci and others determined that the first consultant was not effectively bribing key officials at PLN, they allegedly retained a second consultant to accomplish that purpose. The charges allege that the power company deviated from its usual practice of paying consultants on a pro-rata basis in order to make a much larger up-front payment to the second consultant so that the consultant could "get the right influence." An employee at the power company’s subsidiary in Indonesia sent an email to Pomponi, Pierucci and others asking them to finalize the consultancy agreement with the front-loaded payments but stated that in the meantime the employee would give his word to a high-level official at PLN, according to the charges.

The conspiracy to commit violations of the FCPA count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the value gained or lost. The substantive FCPA counts each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $100,000 or twice the value gained or lost. The conspiracy to commit money laundering count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction. The substantive money laundering counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction.

An indictment is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Daniel S. Kahn of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney David E. Novick of the District of Connecticut. The case is being investigated by FBI agents who are part of the Washington Field Office’s dedicated FCPA squad, with assistance from the Meriden, Conn., Resident Agency of the FBI. Significant assistance was provided by the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, and the department has also worked closely with its law enforcement counterparts in Indonesia at the Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (Corruption Eradication Commission) and deeply appreciates KPK’s assistance in this matter.


Edaphosaurus. Exhibit Museum of Natural History, University of Michigan, 1109 Geddes Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


What Happened to Dinosaurs' Predecessors After Earth's Largest Extinction 252 Million Years Ago?
Predecessors to dinosaurs missed the race to fill habitats emptied when nine out of 10 species disappeared during Earth's largest mass extinction 252 million years ago.

Or did they?

That thinking was based on fossil records from sites in South Africa and southwest Russia.

It turns out, however, that scientists may have been looking in the wrong places.

Newly discovered fossils from 10 million years after the mass extinction reveal a lineage of animals thought to have led to dinosaurs in Tanzania and Zambia.

That's still millions of years before dinosaur relatives were seen in the fossil record elsewhere on Earth.

"The fossil record from the Karoo of South Africa, for example, is a good representation of four-legged land animals across southern Pangea before the extinction," says Christian Sidor, a paleontologist at the University of Washington.

Pangea was a landmass in which all the world's continents were once joined together. Southern Pangea was made up of what is today Africa, South America, Antarctica, Australia and India.

"After the extinction," says Sidor, "animals weren't as uniformly and widely distributed as before. We had to go looking in some fairly unorthodox places."

Sidor is the lead author of a paper reporting the findings; it appears in this week's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The insights come from seven fossil-hunting expeditions in Tanzania, Zambia and Antarctica funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Additional work involved combing through existing fossil collections.

"These scientists have identified an outcome of mass extinctions--that species ecologically marginalized before the extinction may be 'freed up' to experience evolutionary bursts then dominate after the extinction," says H. Richard Lane, program director in NSF's Division of Earth Sciences.

The researchers created two "snapshots" of four-legged animals about five million years before, and again about 10 million years after, the extinction 252 million years ago.

Prior to the extinction, for example, the pig-sized Dicynodon--said to resemble a fat lizard with a short tail and turtle's head--was a dominant plant-eating species across southern Pangea.

After the mass extinction, Dicynodon disappeared. Related species were so greatly decreased in number that newly emerging herbivores could then compete with them.

"Groups that did well before the extinction didn't necessarily do well afterward," Sidor says.

The snapshot of life 10 million years after the extinction reveals that, among other things, archosaurs roamed in Tanzanian and Zambian basins, but weren't distributed across southern Pangea as had been the pattern for four-legged animals before the extinction.

Archosaurs, whose living relatives are birds and crocodilians, are of interest to scientists because it's thought that they led to animals like Asilisaurus, a dinosaur-like animal, and Nyasasaurus parringtoni, a dog-sized creature with a five-foot-long tail that could be the earliest dinosaur.

"Early archosaurs being found mainly in Tanzania is an example of how fragmented animal communities became after the extinction," Sidor says.

A new framework for analyzing biogeographic patterns from species distributions, developed by paper co-author Daril Vilhena of University of Washington, provided a way to discern the complex recovery.

It revealed that before the extinction, 35 percent of four-legged species were found in two or more of the five areas studied.

Some species' ranges stretched 1,600 miles (2,600 kilometers), encompassing the Tanzanian and South African basins.

Ten million years after the extinction, there was clear geographic clustering. Just seven percent of species were found in two or more regions.

The technique--a new way to statistically consider how connected or isolated species are from each other--could be useful to other paleontologists and to modern-day biogeographers, Sidor says.

Beginning in the early 2000s, he and his co-authors conducted expeditions to collect fossils from sites in Tanzania that hadn't been visited since the 1960s, and in Zambia where there had been little work since the 1980s.

Two expeditions to Antarctica provided additional finds, as did efforts to look at museum fossils that had not been fully documented or named.

The fossils turned out to hold a treasure trove of information, the scientists say, on life some 250 million years ago.

Other co-authors of the paper are Adam Huttenlocker, Brandon Peecook, Sterling Nesbitt and Linda Tsuji from University of Washington; Kenneth Angielczyk of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago; Roger Smith of the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town; and Sébastien Steyer from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

The project was also funded by the National Geographic Society, Evolving Earth Foundation, the Grainger Foundation, the Field Museum/IDP Inc. African Partners Program, and the National Research Council of South Africa.


U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

Surgeon General launches campaign on walking and walkable communities

Surgeon General launches campaign on walking and walkable communities


Friday, May 3, 2013

International Cybercriminal Extradited from Thailand to the United States

Algerian national Hamza Bendelladj, aka "Bx1," has been extradited from Thailand to the United States to face charges in Atlanta for allegedly playing a critical role in developing, marketing, distributing and controlling "SpyEye," a pernicious computer virus designed to steal unsuspecting victims’ financial and personally identifying information.

The charges were announced today by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates of the Northern District of Georgia and FBI Special Agent in Charge Mark F. Giuliano of the Atlanta Field Office.

Bendelladj, 24, has been charged in a 23-count indictment that was returned on Dec. 20, 2011, and unsealed today. The indictment charges Bendelladj with one count of conspiring to commit wire and bank fraud, 10 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and 11 counts of computer fraud. Bendelladj is scheduled to be arraigned today in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia before U.S. Magistrate Judge Janet F. King.

On Jan. 5, 2013, Bendelladj was apprehended at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, while he was in transit from Malaysia to Egypt. He was extradited from Thailand to the United States on May 2, 2013.

"Hamza Bendelladj has been extradited to the United States to face charges of controlling and selling a nefarious computer virus designed to pry into computers and extract personal financial information," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. "The indictment charges Bendelladj and his co-conspirators with operating servers designed to control the personal computers of unsuspecting individuals and aggressively marketing their virus to other international cybercriminals intent on stealing sensitive information. The extradition of Bendelladj to face charges in the United States demonstrates our steadfast determination to bring cybercriminals to justice, no matter where they operate."

"No violence or coercion was used to accomplish this scheme, just a computer and an Internet connection," said U.S. Attorney Yates. "Bendelladj’s alleged criminal reach extended across international borders, directly into victims’ homes. In a cyber-netherworld, he allegedly commercialized the wholesale theft of financial and personal information through this virus which he sold to other cybercriminals. Cybercriminals take note; we will find you. This arrest and extradition demonstrates our determination to bring you to justice."

"The FBI has expanded its international partnerships to allow for such extraditions of criminals who know no borders," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Giuliano. "The federal indictment and extradition of Bendelladj should send a very clear message to those international cyber-criminals who feel safe behind their computers in foreign lands that they are, in fact, within reach."

According to court documents, the SpyEye virus is malicious computer code or "malware," which is designed to automate the theft of confidential personal and financial information, such as online banking credentials, credit card information, usernames, passwords, PINs and other personally identifying information. The SpyEye virus facilitates this theft of information by secretly infecting victims’ computers, enabling cybercriminals to remotely control the computers through command and control (C&C) servers. Once a computer is infected and under the cybercriminals’ control, a victim’s personal and financial information can be surreptitiously collected using techniques such as "web injects," which allow cybercriminals to alter the display of web pages in the victim’s browser in order to trick them into divulging personal information related to their financial accounts. The financial data is then transmitted to the cybercriminals’ C&C servers, where criminals use it to steal money from the victims’ financial accounts.

According to court documents, from 2009 to 2011, Bendelladj and others allegedly developed, marketed and sold various versions of the SpyEye virus and component parts on the Internet and allowed cybercriminals to customize their purchases to include tailor-made methods of obtaining victims’ personal and financial information. Bendelladj allegedly advertised the SpyEye virus on Internet forums devoted to cybercrime and other criminal activities. In addition, Bendelladj allegedly operated C&C servers, including a server located in the Northern District of Georgia, which controlled computers infected with the SpyEye virus. One of the files on Bendelladj’s C&C server in the Northern District of Georgia allegedly contained information from approximately 253 unique financial institutions.

If convicted, Bendelladj faces a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud; up to 20 years for each wire fraud count; up to five years for conspiracy to commit computer fraud; up to five or 10 years for each count of computer fraud; and fines of up to $14 million dollars.

The public is reminded that the indictment contains only allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This case is being investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Oldham and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Ferber of the Northern District of Georgia, and Trial Attorney Carol Sipperly of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. Valuable assistance was provided by the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, which worked with its international counterparts to effect the extradition.


Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/E. Nardini et al; Optical: NASA/STScI


Scientists have used Chandra to make a detailed study of an enormous cloud of hot gas enveloping two large, colliding galaxies. This unusually large reservoir of gas contains as much mass as 10 billion Suns, spans about 300,000 light years, and radiates at a temperature of more than 7 million degrees.

This giant gas cloud, which scientists call a "halo," is located in the system called NGC 6240. Astronomers have long known that NGC 6240 is the site of the merger of two large spiral galaxies similar in size to our own Milky Way. Each galaxy contains a supermassive black hole at its center. The black holes are spiraling toward one another, and may eventually merge to form a larger black hole.

Another consequence of the collision between the galaxies is that the gas contained in each individual galaxy has been violently stirred up. This caused a baby boom of new stars that has lasted for at least 200 million years. During this burst of stellar birth, some of the most massive stars raced through their evolution and exploded relatively quickly as supernovas.

The scientists involved with this study argue that this rush of supernova explosions dispersed relatively high amounts of important elements such as oxygen, neon, magnesium, and silicon into the hot gas of the newly combined galaxies. According to the researchers, the data suggest that this enriched gas has slowly expanded into and mixed with cooler gas that was already there.

During the extended baby boom, shorter bursts of star formation have occurred. For example, the most recent burst of star formation lasted for about five million years and occurred about 20 million years ago in Earth’s timeframe. However, the authors do not think that the hot gas was produced just by this shorter burst.

What does the future hold for observations of NGC 6240? Most likely the two spiral galaxies will form one young elliptical galaxy over the course of millions of years. It is unclear, however, how much of the hot gas can be retained by this newly formed galaxy, rather than lost to surrounding space. Regardless, the collision offers the opportunity to witness a relatively nearby version of an event that was common in the early Universe when galaxies were much closer together and merged more often.

In this new composite image of NGC 6240, the X-rays from Chandra that reveal the hot gas cloud are colored purple. These data have been combined with optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope, which shows long tidal tails from the merging galaxies, extending to the right and bottom of the image.

A paper describing these new results on NGC 6240 is available online and appeared in the March 10, 2013 issue of The Astrophysical Journal. The authors in this study were Emanuele Nardini (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, or CfA, Cambridge, MA and currently at Keele University, UK), Junfeng Wang (CfA and currently at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL), Pepi Fabbiano (CfA), Martin Elvis (CfA), Silvia Pellegrini (University of Bologna, Italy), Guido Risalti (INAF-Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Italy and CfA), Margarita Karovska (CfA), and Andreas Zezas (University of Crete, Greece and CfA).

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra's science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

Friday, May 3, 2013

West Wing Week: 05/03/13 or “Nobody Does It Better” | The White House

West Wing Week: 05/03/13 or “Nobody Does It Better” | The White House

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing - May 3, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - May 3, 2013


U.S. Army 1st Lt. Robert Wolfe provides security during a meeting with the Farah provincial director of telecommunications in Farah City, Afghanistan, May 1, 2013. Wolfe, a platoon leader, is assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Josh Ives.
Combined Security Force Kills Senior Insurgent Leader
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, May 3, 2013 - A combined Afghan and coalition security force in the Burkah district of Afghanistan's Baghlan province today killed Jamal, a senior insurgent leader who had ties to both the Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, military officials reported.

As the security force approached Jamal's location, insurgents opened fire. The combined force returned fire and killed Jamal and three other insurgents.

Also known as Mullah Zabiullah, Jamal was the second-highest-ranking insurgent in the district. His cell of terrorists is responsible for suicide bombings against Afghan civilians throughout Baghlan and Takhar provinces. He recruited and trained insurgents for operations targeting Afghan officials for kidnappings and executions. He also played a significant role in linking Taliban and IMU fighters in Baghlan, working as a mediator and coordinating operations between the two networks, officials said.

The security force also detained two insurgents and seized four assault rifles and ammunition in the operation.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- In Kandahar province's Nesh district, a combined force arrested a Taliban leader and three other insurgents. The leader has operational control over a group of fighters responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also procures and distributes weapons and military equipment to insurgents. The security force also seized an assault rifle, three magazines and ammunition.

-- A combined force in Nangarhar province's Khugyani district arrested three insurgents during a search for a Taliban facilitator who provides logistical support to senior Taliban leaders throughout western Nangarhar. He organizes the purchase, transfer and delivery of weapons to support the Taliban insurgency, and has sold rockets used in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. The security force also seized a pistol, a rifle and a shotgun.

-- In Wardak province's Sayyidabad district, a combined force arrested an insurgent during a search for a senior Taliban leader who controls an insurgent group that attack Afghan and coalition forces. He also facilitates the movement of weapons and other military equipment to local insurgent cells, and is involved in building and using improvised explosive devices. During the operation, insurgents in the senior leader's compound opened fire on the Afghan and coalition troops. The security force returned fire, killing one insurgent.

-- A combined force in Khost province's Matun district arrested an insurgent leader affiliated with the Taliban and the Taj Mir Jawad networks. He is involved in high-profile attack planning and coordination for an insurgent network in Logar province and is responsible for IED operations and attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also was directly involved in a high-profile suicide attack Feb. 27 in the Afghan capital of Kabul that wounded eight peoples. The security force also arrested three other insurgents and seized a pistol.

-- In Paktia province's Gardez district, a combined force arrested a Haqqani network leader who leads a group of insurgents responsible for ambushes and IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He recently was engaged in a campaign of robberies against Afghan civilian shops and is vital to weapons facilitation in Paktia. The security force also arrested two other insurgents and seized an assault rifle and five magazines.

In operations yesterday:

-- Afghan commandos came under attack during a cordon-and-search operation in Helmand province's Sangin district and killed three insurgents who were planting an IED. The commandos seized several grenades, an assault rifle, three magazines and almost 270 pounds of opium.

-- In Nuristan province's Waygal district, a combined force killed a senior leader with ties to the Taliban and other terrorist networks. Mohammad Issa, also known as Emirati, was in charge of training Taliban fighters and leaders for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also had a history of hosting transitory international terrorists in his home. Another insurgent also was killed in the operation.

-- A combined force in Kunar province's Ghaziabad district wounded an insurgent during a search for the district's ranking Taliban military leader. He works directly with high-level Taliban officials to develop strategic-level guidance for his network of insurgents. He also has planned and conducted attacks against Afghan and coalition forces and has kidnapped Afghan civilians.

Killing killer asteroids with nuclear explosives: will this strategy work?

Killing killer asteroids with nuclear explosives: will this strategy work?


U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, poses with British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond at the Pentagon, May 2, 2013. DOD photo by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler.

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom Philip Hammond May 02, 2013

Joint Press Conference with Secretary Hagel and Secretary Hammond from the Pentagon

Secretary Hammond and I just completed a productive session regarding our two countries' continued common interests. I'd like to thank Secretary Hammond for the U.K.'s strong partnership with the United States and his friendship.

In March, I had the opportunity to meet with the U.S.-U.K. combined chiefs' conference at Fort McNair. At that meeting, that was recreated as a gathering of the American-British uniformed military leadership during World War II, much discussion revolved around our continued relationship and partnership.

Our history of being allied in defense of common interests and common values continues to strengthen the relationship of our two militaries. The discussion Secretary Hammond and I have had today, which we will continue this evening, reflect our shared desire to deepen our defense cooperation in the face of very complex and unpredictable global security.

I discussed with Secretary Hammond my recent trip to the Middle East, which highlighted the many challenges to our shared interest in that combustible region of the world, including Iran and Syria.

I also expressed appreciation for the significant contribution and sacrifices of British forces to international efforts in Afghanistan. I would also like to express my deepest condolences to the people of the United Kingdom for the three British soldiers killed this week in Helmand Province.

As the transition to Afghan security control continues, the United Kingdom will continue to play an important role in helping field strong and effective Afghan national security forces. As we emerge from more than a decade of war of shared sacrifice, our discussions also focused on preparing this alliance for the future.

Yesterday, Secretary Hammond had the opportunity to visit the Naval Air Station Pax River to observe ongoing testing of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The United Kingdom's continued commitment to this program and our growing cooperation in new priority areas like cyber, is helping ensure this alliance has the kind of cutting age -- cutting edge capabilities needed for the future.

Over these past few weeks, the U.S. and U.K. also commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Polaris Sales Agreement, a commitment that has been the cornerstone of our cooperation and shared contribution to strategic deterrence.

I congratulate Secretary Hammond on the Royal Navy's steadfast maintenance of its submarine-based nuclear forces and their continuing round-the-clock patrols. I strongly support the United Kingdom's decision to maintain an independent, strategic deterrence. Strong alliances and partnerships are becoming even more critical, more critical because both the United States and United Kingdom face the challenge of meeting global threats in a new era of constrained resources.

As our department undergoes the Strategic Choices and Management Review here, Secretary Hammond and I discussed the United Kingdom's defense strategy and ongoing efforts to rebalance its forces. DoD has gained many useful insights from recent British experiences, and our staffs continue to coordinate closely on strategy and defense planning.

We'll also continue to work closely together to ensure the NATO alliance has the capabilities needed for the future, which will be a focus of the NATO defense ministerial next month in Brussels, where we will both attend.

I look forward to seeing Secretary Hammond there and continuing our discussions today, again tonight, as to how we continue to build an effective working partnership around the world. Again, thank you, Secretary Hammond, and welcome. We're glad you're here.

SECRETARY OF DEFENCE PHILIP HAMMOND: Thank you very much. And good afternoon, everybody. I'm delighted to be here this afternoon, and I'd like to thank Secretary Hagel for his warm welcome.

As you know, I enjoyed a very close relationship with your predecessor, and I'm delighted that we've been able to pick up exactly where I left off in my discussions with Secretary Panetta.

Secretary Hagel and I have had detailed discussions about the common security challenges we face, focused, of course, upon Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran. On Afghanistan, despite the tragic news that three British fatalities in Helmand province occurred yesterday, we remain determined to see through our vital task of preventing Afghanistan once again from becoming a safe haven for international terrorists.

The events of the last few days have shown us that both our militaries continue to take risks as they carry out their dangerous tasks there, but the mission remains on track, and the increasingly capable Afghan security forces now lead on providing security for nearly 90 percent of the Afghan population and lead roughly 80 percent of all security operations. Their capability will continue to grow as International Security Assistance Force[ISAF]forces draw down towards the conclusion of our combat mission by the end of next year.

On Syria, Secretary Hagel and I reaffirmed our shared view that the Syrian regime must end the violence, stop the slaughter of its own people, and recognize that it is no longer the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. We continue to believe that a diplomatic solution is needed to end the bloodshed and that Assad and his close associates can have no place in the future of Syria. We in the U.K. are stepping up our support to the national coalition and remind the regime that nothing has been taken off the table in the light of the continuing bloodshed.

We remain increasingly concerned at the emerging evidence of the use of chemical weapons, and we demand that the regime allow the U.N. to investigate these allegations. Assad should be in no doubt that the world is watching and will hold him to account -- him and anyone else to account who is found responsible for the use of chemical weapons.

As we face up to these security challenges and those posed by Iran, we also face significant budget constraints, both in London and in Washington. Secretary Hagel and I have addressed the issue of defense reform and how we can get more bang for our buck on both sides of the Atlantic. Greater military cooperation is at the heart of this, and we also need to look at how we can encourage our partner countries within European NATO to reform their forces to take on more of the security challenge with more effective and deployable forces.

Of course, the U.K. and the U.S. already enjoy a very high level of cooperation and interoperability, but we have agreed to explore what more we can do in our armed forces to drive greater efficiencies through collaboration together.

Yesterday, as Secretary Hagel has commented already, I went out to Pax River and saw one of the fruits of our collaboration, a British pilot flying an F-35V in vertical take -- vertical landing mode. And I'm delighted about the progress that we are making in this project, and in others, such as the common missile compartment, for our next generation of nuclear-armed ballistic submarines.

The U.K. and the U.S. remain in lockstep on these projects, and as we take them forward, we will ensure the continuity of those vital capabilities.

The British-American defense relationship is strong and far reaching. It will remain the bedrock of Britain's defense policy, and will continue to be at the heart of our special relationship for decades to come.

Secretary Hagel, I look forward to working with you to maintain and strengthen that relationship in the coming months and years.

Thank you.

SEC. HAGEL: Thank you.

GEORGE LITTLE: Thank you very much. (Off-mike)

Q: For both of you, but Secretary Hagel, beginning with you, if you could be as concrete as possible here, now that we know the White House is rethinking its opposition to arming the rebels in Syria, why are you in agreement with that fresh look at rearming the rebels, since General Dempsey, your top military adviser, has already said he's very skeptical about that?

My second question, very specifically, why have you -- since the emergence of the chemical weapons intelligence -- stepped up or put new intensity into looking at what might be done in Syria?

And the bottom line for both of you gentlemen, Mr. Hammond, you've said all options are on the table, but there is a good deal of legitimate skepticism about that. Why, with respect, should anyone believe any of this is other than political window dressing by both governments? It seems -- there seems to be no indication that either government is going to exercise any option.

SEC. HAGEL: Well, first, as to your question regarding rethinking options.

Q: Rethinking arming the rebels, sir.

SEC. HAGEL: Arming the rebels. That's an option.


SEC. HAGEL: That's an option. I think Secretary Hammond framed it rather clearly when he talked about what is the objective for both our countries, certainly the United States. Stopping the violence; stability in the region, and a transitioning -- helping be part of that transitioning Syria to a democracy.

Now, those are objectives. You're always, any country, any power, any international coalition in partnership is going to continue to look at options, how best to accomplish those objectives. This is not a static situation. A lot of players are involved.

And so we must continue to look at options and present those options based on all contingencies, with the focus that we all have, I think, in the international community to achieve the objectives the best way we can.

So we're constantly evaluating. I think the president noted it a couple of days ago in his press conference, talking about rethinking options. Of course we do.

Q: So you are rethinking -- the administration is rethinking its opposition to arming the rebels?


Q: And may I ask why? What has changed in your mind? And does this put you respectfully at odds with the U.S. military, General Dempsey, who said it's not a good idea in his view? Why are you rethinking arming the rebels?

SEC. HAGEL: You look at and rethink all options. It doesn't mean you do or you will. These are options that must be considered with partners, with the international community, what is possible, what can help accomplish these objectives. We have a responsibility -- and I think General Dempsey would say the same thing -- to continue to evaluate options. It doesn't mean that the -- the president has decided on anything. But...

Q: Are you in favor of arming the rebels now?

SEC. HAGEL: I'm in favor of exploring options and see what the is -- is the best option in coordination with our international partners.

Q: Have you come to a conclusion yet?


Q: Even after all -- respectfully, even after all these weeks? You have no conclusion -- respectfully?

SEC. HAGEL: Conclusion about what options we would use?

Q: Conclusion about -- you said that your -- your think -- the administration, yes, is rethinking arming the rebels. You said, "yes." You have no conclusion yet about whether you support that rearming -- arming the rebels, sir?

SEC. HAGEL: We are exploring all options to achieve the objectives that I just talked about. These are not static situations. And you must always look at different options based on the reality on the ground, based on what you want to achieve, based on the future, based on our international partners. We talked about -- Secretary Hammond and I -- many options. We talked about relationships. When I was in the Middle East last week, I was in five countries, as you know -- discussed Syria in all five countries.

Q: Secretary -- Mr. Hammond, if I could.

SEC. HAMMOND: Yeah, I -- I -- I won't repeat everything that Secretary Hagel has already said, but I -- I agree with what he has said. It is not a static situation; it's a rapidly changing situation. We've kept all our options open. We have not thus far provided any arms to the rebels, but we have never said it's something we will not do.

But the word that hasn't come out so far in this discussion is legality. Both of our nations will only do what we legally can do. Certainly in our case, for the U.K., we have been subject to an E.U. ban on supplying armaments to the rebels. We will look at the situation when that ban expires in a few weeks' time. We will continue to keep that situation under review. But we will do what we are able to do within the bounds of legality, and we regard that as very important.

STAFF: Toby Harnden?

Q: Toby Harnden, Sunday Times. Can I ask both of you, how confident are you that the Assad regime is in control of its chemical weapons? And how confident are you that the U.S. and the U.K. knows where those weapons are?

And a second part. If a red line is determined to have been crossed, will any military action be targeted against chemical weapon sites and proportional? Or is it more likely to be a broader attempt to change the strategic equation in Syria and overthrow the Assad regime?

SEC. HAMMOND: Thank you for that. I think the -- the evidence that we have is that the regime is largely in control of its chemical weapons, principal chemical weapons sites. That is not the same as saying that we are able to account for every last unit of chemical stocks, but there is no evidence that the regime has lost control of significant chemical weapon sites yet.

In terms of the location of weapons, I think we have a great deal of knowledge of location of chemical weapons. That is not the same as saying that I can put my hand on my heart and say we know where every last item is.

In terms of any possible response, I wouldn't want to close off any options. It really follows on from the answer to the previous question. We should keep our range of options open and under continuous consideration. We should look at the evolving situation on the ground and look at the range of options that would be appropriate and legal in any given situation.

Q: But if -- if the regime has only used chemical weapons tactically and on a small scale, would you consider it legal and proportional to do a broader strategy of arming the rebels in order to overthrow the regime?

SEC. HAMMOND: Well, I -- I don't want to make legal judgments on the hoof. Before we made any decision, we would expect to have detailed legal advice from the attorney general about whether a proposed course of action was legal and proportionate in the circumstances that then prevailed. And I think, having defined it that way, we need to keep our options as broad as possible within the bounds of legality and proportionality.

MR. LITTLE: We'll turn to Phil Stewart of Reuters.

Q: And another question on Syria. Secretary Hammond, then I'd welcome your comments, as well, Secretary Hagel. You seemed to indicate this morning that in order to establish chain of custody, the international community will likely need to wait for another attack to gain the right -- to gain the right kind of evidence. Is that correct? And have initial samples and evidence trails collected by both countries degraded over time?

SEC. HAMMOND: I think the point that I was making this morning was that the fact that we have set out our intention to establish evidence of the nature and caliber that would be acceptable in a court of law, sends a very clear message to the regime that any use of chemical weapons in the future -- which by definition generates the potential to collect that evidence -- has a price. And I hope we're sending a message that will have a deterrent effect.

I'm not a technical expert, but I don't think you need to be a technical expert to know that after any use of a chemical agent there will be a degradation over time of the evidence that can be collected, and from the point of view of constructing a chain of custody of that evidence, clearly the longer the period that is elapsed between the use of such an agent, and the point where you acquire a sample, the less strong that chain of custody will be.

Q: So you would need a new -- a new attack?

SEC. HAMMOND: Not necessarily would need, but clearly, if there were future use of chemical agents, that would generate new opportunities for us to establish a clear evidence of use to -- to a -- a legal standard of evidence.

Q: Secretary Hagel, are you confident that, given the evidence that you already have or evidence that could be collected from past attacks, you would be able to work with that or would you need a -- a new attack to be able to...

SEC. HAGEL: No, I think Secretary Hammond said it exactly right. And I really wouldn't add much to what he -- to what he said. I would say again, what the secretary has already noted, there is a legal issue here as well. And, that's why evidence is so critically important here.

Q: So you need to be able to link the -- the sarin to the Assad regime...

SEC. HAGEL: Well, you need the evidence. If you're going to exercise certain options, a range of those options, that evidence is particularly important.

SEC. HAMMOND: Perhaps I can just add something from a U.K. perspective. U.K. public opinion remembers the evidence we were presented with in 2003 around Iraq, which turned out not to be valid. There is a very strong view that we have to have very clear, very high-quality evidence before we make plans and act on that evidence.

Q: Two questions, if I may -- one on Syria; one on Afghanistan.

On Syria, to both of you. This is just a kind of minor detail in a way, but when you reach your -- when you're looking at these samples, are Britain and America working the same source material or separate samples? The White House said in a conference call the other day that "Britain had its own investigation," quote-unquote. I just want to be clear, are you looking at the same material or different material?

And on Afghanistan, Mr. Hammond, the prime minister said the other day that it's -- that Britain should encourage Afghan interpreters to stay in their country. The deputy prime minister said it's morally indefensible that interpreters would be left to their own fate in Afghanistan. Are we sending mixed messages to the 600 people who've risked their lives working for British forces in Afghanistan?

SEC. HAMMOND: Okay, well let me deal with the first point first. I can't comment on the evidence or the sources of intelligence that we are looking at, for obvious reasons. But we are working in close collaboration to establish a robust -- robustness to the analysis.

On the question of interpreters, we may be sending a mixed message through what's written in the media, but that's not our intention.

I think we're all clear that we will not abandon those who have served us in Afghanistan. But we're also clear that, to the extent that these are people who have an important contribution to make to the future of Afghanistan, educated people, by definition, English-speaking people, it is our wish, if we can, to construct an offer to them which attracts them to stay in Afghanistan and be part of Afghanistan's future.

That is clearly the wish of the Afghan government to see as many of these people as possible make their future in Afghanistan. And we think that it sends an important message about our confidence in the future of Afghanistan that we're seeking to work to allow these people to build a future in Afghanistan, rather than simply abandoning the country.

SEC. HAGEL: As to your question regarding the intelligence pursuit, each country, certainly the United States, uses its -- its own intelligence agencies and institutions, and makes its own efforts. But we also collaborate, in this case with the United Kingdom and other allies to share intelligence. So it's both.

MR. LITTLE: That's all the time we have today. Thank you very much.


Recruiting Remains Strong Through First Half of Fiscal Year
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2013 - All four active services and five of the six reserve components met or exceeded their numerical accession goals for fiscal year 2013 through March, Pentagon officials reported today.

The end of March marked the fiscal year's halfway point.

Here are the active-force accessions for the first six months of the fiscal year:

-- Army: 33,857 accessions, 101 percent of its goal of 33,520;

-- Navy: 17,350 accessions, 100 percent of its goal of 17,350;

-- Marine Corps: 13,010 accessions, 100 percent of its goal of 12,978; and

-- Air Force: 13,989 accessions, 100 percent of its goal of 13,989.

The Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps exhibited strong retention numbers for the sixth month of fiscal 2013, officials said. The Navy exhibited strong retention numbers in the mid-career and career categories, and its achievement of 90 percent in the initial category is a result of reduced accessions from four to six years ago, officials explained.

The Army Reserve finished March 1,501 accessions short of its goal for the first half of the fiscal year. Here are the reserve component accession numbers:

-- Army National Guard: 26,100 accessions, 104 percent of its goal of 25,005;

-- Army Reserve: 12,976 accessions, 90 percent of its goal of 14,477;

-- Navy Reserve: 2,700 accessions, 100 percent of its goal of 2,700;

-- Marine Corps Reserve: 4,518 accessions, 101 percent of its goal of 4,472;

-- Air National Guard: 4,875 accessions, 100 percent of its goal of 4,875; and

-- Air Force Reserve: 3,685 accessions, 100 percent of its goal of 3,685.

All reserve components have met their attrition goals, officials said, and current trends are expected to continue. The latest available reserve component attrition data is through February.


U.S. soldiers and law enforcement professionals dismount a Stryker-armored vehicle after arriving for the tactical site exploitation class in the Spin Boldak district of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, April 25, 2013. The soldiers are assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division's 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force 435. The class certified Afghan police as instructors in crime scene investigation techniques. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann.
Combined Force Kills Haqqani Network Leader in Paktia Province
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release
KABUL, Afghanistan, May 2, 2013 - A combined Afghan and coalition security force killed a Haqqani network leader and another insurgent during an operation in the Zurmat district of Afghanistan's Paktia province yesterday, military officials reported.
Sarwar Khan, also known as Manzala, planned insurgent operations, reported intelligence to senior leaders, and was involved in kidnappings. He built improvised explosive devices and coordinated IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

In other Afghanistan operations yesterday:
-- A combined force in Baghlan province's Baghlan-e Jadid district wounded two insurgents during a search for a Taliban IED cell leader with ties to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who directs IED operations targeting government officials and Afghan and coalition forces throughout Kunduz province. He also works directly with Taliban senior leadership to disseminate information to low-level fighters, and is vital in obtaining money and weapons for local insurgent groups.
-- In Kandahar province's Shah Wali Kot district, a combined force killed an insurgent during a search for a Taliban leader who is responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He and his subordinates are involved in IED operations, poppy cultivation and distribution, and weapons facilitation.
-- Afghan Provincial Response Company Zabul, enabled by coalition forces, killed an insurgent, arrested three others and seized weapons and ammunition in Zabul province's Shah Joy district. The security force recovered two assault rifles, 13 assault-rifle magazines and ammunition, and destroyed a rocket-propelled grenade propellant charge, two motorcycles and bomb-making materials.
-- Also in Zabul's Shah Joy district, Afghan special forces troops, enabled by coalition forces, captured an insurgent leader during an operation to disrupt a known IED facilitation network.
-- Acting on information received from the district police chief, Afghan special forces troops found and destroyed 27 IEDs, assault-rifle magazines and miscellaneous military equipment in Helmand province's Nahr-e-Saraj district.
-- A combined force in Nangarhar province's Nazyan district killed an insurgent and wounded two others during a search for a senior insurgent leader with ties to the Tehrik-e Taliban and Haqqani terrorist networks that plan high-profile attacks against civilians, government officials and Afghan and coalition forces. He has control of more than 100 fighters, including potential suicide bombers. He also runs a training camp for indoctrinating prospective insurgents.


United States-Mexico Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research
Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
May 2, 2013

Today President Obama and President Pena Nieto announced the formation of a Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research to expand economic opportunities for citizens of both countries and to develop a 21st century workforce for our mutual economic prosperity. The Presidents reaffirmed their belief that greater educational opportunities will further our shared goals in all areas of the rich and extensive partnership between the United States and Mexico.

Through the High-Level Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research, the U.S. and Mexican Governments will encourage broader access to quality post-secondary education for traditionally underserved demographic groups, especially in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. They will also expand educational exchanges, increase joint research on education and learning, and share best practices in higher education and innovation.

This forum will build upon the many positive educational and research linkages that already exist through federal, state, and local governments, public and private academic institutions, civil society, and the private sector. It will bring together government agency counterparts to deepen cooperation on higher education, innovation, and research. It will also draw on the expertise of the higher education community in both countries.

The United States and Mexico have a long history of educational collaboration. More than 18,000 Mexican and U.S. university students study in each other’s countries annually. The Mexico-U.S. Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange (COMEXUS) oversees the Fulbright-Garcia Robles Scholarship Program, the flagship program in U.S.-Mexico academic exchanges, through which more than 4,000 Mexicans and Americans have participated in bilateral exchange programs since 1990. Fulbright and other exchange students from Mexico contribute to President Obama’s hemisphere-wide goal of seeing 100,000 Latin American and Caribbean young people studying in the United States and 100,000 young Americans studying across the Western Hemisphere. Through U.S.-Mexican public-private partnerships such as Jóvenes en Acción (Youth in Action), Mexican public high school students build leadership, English, and communication skills, learning ways to serve their communities. In addition, federal and state officials from Mexico and the United States work together to improve the quality of education for migrant students in both countries.


Mysterious Hurricane at Saturn's North Pole

Narrated video about a hurricane-like storm seen at Saturn's north pole by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing - May 2, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - May 2, 2013



U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement
Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
May 2, 2013

In 2012, the United States and Mexico signed an agreement concerning the development of oil and gas reservoirs that cross the international maritime boundary between the two countries in the Gulf of Mexico. The Agreement is designed to enhance energy security in North America and support our shared interest to exercise responsible stewardship of the Gulf of Mexico. It is built on a commitment to the safe, efficient, and equitable development of transboundary reservoirs with the highest degree of safety and environmental standards.
Mexico is consistently one of the top three exporters of petroleum to the United States.
The United States is Mexico’s largest supplier of refined oil products, mostly coming from U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.
Former Secretary Clinton and then Mexican Foreign Secretary Espinosa signed the Agreement in Los Cabos in February, 2012. Mexico ratified the agreement in April 2012
The Agreement establishes a framework that promotes unitization of maritime transboundary reservoirs. Upon entry into force, the current moratorium on oil exploration and production along the boundary in the Western Gap portion of the Gulf of Mexico will end.
Mexican law currently prohibits Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) from jointly developing resources with leaseholders on the U.S. side of the boundary. Mexico opened the door to such cooperation in a 2008 energy reform law, but only if the cooperation takes place pursuant to an international agreement governing transboundary reservoirs. The Agreement takes advantage of this opportunity.
The Agreement facilitates the formation of voluntary arrangements – unitization agreements – between U.S. leaseholders and Pemex for the joint exploration and development of transboundary reservoirs. It also provides appropriate incentives to encourage the formation of such arrangements if a reservoir is proven to be transboundary and a unitization agreement is not formed. Ultimately, the Agreement provides that development may proceed in an equitable manner that protects each nation’s interests.
The Agreement provides for ongoing cooperation between the two governments related to safety and the environment, and also provides for joint inspection teams to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Both governments will review and approve all unitization agreements governing the exploration and development of transboundary reservoirs under the Agreement, providing for approval of all safety and environmental measures.
Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have introduced bills that would approve the Transboundary Agreement and give the Secretary of the Interior the necessary authorization to implement the agreement. The Administration looks forward to speedy passage of the authorizing legislation.

Effect of the Agreement
The Agreement will enable U.S. companies to explore new business opportunities and carry out collaborative projects with the Mexican national oil company PEMEX.
It is expected the Agreement will unlock areas for exploration and exploitation along the boundary within U.S. jurisdiction by providing the legal certainty companies need to invest, potentially providing increased revenues and energy security benefits that would result from increases in production.
This agreement will make nearly 1.5 million acres of the Outer Continental Shelf more attractive to U.S. operators. The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) estimates that this area contains as much as 172 million barrels of oil and 304 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
The Transboundary Agreement will also help mitigate the safety and environmental risks that would result from unilateral exploration and exploitation along the boundary.

What cancer survivors can teach

What cancer survivors can teach



U.S. Support for the Istanbul Process
Fact Sheet
Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
April 29, 2013

The "Heart of Asia" foreign ministerial in Almaty, Kazakhstan April 26, 2013 continues a high-level dialogue focused on encouraging security, political, and economic cooperation among Afghanistan and its neighbors. This region-led dialogue was launched in November 2011 to expand practical coordination between Afghanistan and its neighbors and regional partners in facing common threats, including counterterrorism, counternarcotics, poverty, and extremism. The United States and over 20 other nations and organizations serve as "supporting nations" to the process.

As a supporting nation, the United States has taken steps to support the six confidence building measures (CBM) endorsed by the "Heart of Asia" group at the Kabul ministerial in June 2012. Some illustrative examples of U.S. government assistance are listed below:


• Through its assistance programs, the United States seeks to enhance the capability of the Central Asian States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to address transnational terrorism through inclusive technical assistance, training and mentoring, and equipment.

• The United States also funds many initiatives that aim to counter violent extremism and support moderate voices through programs in schools, sports organizations, and the media.


• The United States is working with partners in the region to develop a better environment for trade and investment, through various programs that support and facilitate regional and international trade agreements, accession to the World Trade Organization, as well as the reform actions needed to enable private sector investment.

• The United States is committed to expanding economic opportunities and supporting entrepreneurs in the "Heart of Asia" region. Assistance programs provide technical training, credit facilitation, and platforms for networking that build the capacity of local entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and expand regional commercial linkages. U.S. commitment to local procurement and use of the Northern Distribution Network to supply troops in Afghanistan is creating economic opportunity in Central Asia.


• In Afghanistan, the United States teaches English to over 3,200 youth each year. To advance regional collaboration, the United States will convene 225 teachers of English from Central Asia, Afghanistan, and South Asia for the Central Asia Teachers of English Conference.

• The United States assists with quality assurance and accreditation systems to strengthen Afghan higher education and supports eight university partnerships. The United States funds 120 full scholarships for Afghan women to attend the American University of Afghanistan and the American University of Central Asia, and 68 Fulbright Fellowships for aspiring scholars and junior faculty to study at U.S. universities each year.


• U.S. assistance builds the capacity and provides the equipment necessary for "Heart of Asia" countries to effectively fight narcotics trafficking on their borders. The United States also provides mentoring and training to border professionals across the region, as well as equipment such as training facilities, re-locatable border shelters, scanners, and communication equipment.

• The United States also provides counternarcotics assistance through international organizations, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). U.S. funding supports such programs as the OSCE Border Management Staff College in Dushanbe and OSCE customs and border guard training. UNODC’s support to the drug control agencies of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan and its Container Control Program in Central Asia help with the development of sustainable enforcement structures at select ports of entry to minimize the risk that shipping containers are used for illicit activities.


• The United States supports several initiatives that provide platforms for actors across Central Asia to work together to anticipate, monitor and respond to natural disasters. U.S. funded programs promote regional collaboration on seismology, seismic hazard assessment, earthquake engineering, and glacier mass balance monitoring. The United States also contributes annually to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance and supports multiple humanitarian NGOs for drought, flood, earthquake, winter response, and disaster risk reduction programs.


• The United States is supporting projects across the "Heart of Asia" region that improve the capacity to produce and transport energy. Projects include the construction of transmission lines; expansion and improvement of the electric grid; facilitation of cross-border regional energy connections; and development of the nascent gas sector in Afghanistan.

• The United States supports many different transportation infrastructure projects across the region. Projects include the rehabilitation of the main transit routes between Afghanistan and Pakistan; the construction and rehabilitation of 650 km of roads in Pakistan’s border regions; supporting the establishment of an Afghan Rail Authority; and funding a feasibility study on the Salang Tunnel.



CFTC Issues Order of Registration for the Natural Gas Exchange Inc.

Washington, DC
— On May 2, 2013, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission issued an Order of Registration to the Natural Gas Exchange Inc. (NGX), a foreign board of trade located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Under the Order, NGX is permitted to provide its identified members or other participants located in the U.S. with direct access to its electronic order entry and trade matching system. The Order is the first issued by the Commission pursuant to Part 48 of the Commission’s regulations, which provide that such an Order may be issued to a foreign board of trade that possesses, among other things, the attributes of an established, organized exchange and that is subject to continued oversight by a regulator that provides comprehensive supervision and regulation that is comparable to the supervision and regulation exercised by the Commission. NGX submitted an application for registration that included, among other things, representations that NGX and its regulatory authority, the Alberta Securities Commission, satisfy the requirements for registration set forth in regulation 48.7. Commission staff, in reviewing the application, found that NGX has demonstrated its ability to comply with the requirements of the Act and applicable Commission regulations thereunder. Accordingly, the Commission granted NGX an Order of Registration to permit NGX to provide direct access, subject to the terms and conditions specified in the Order, to its identified members or other participants located in the U.S. The terms and conditions applicable to the Order include, among others, that NGX shall comply with the applicable conditions of registration specified in Commission regulation 48.8 and any additional conditions that the Commission deems necessary and may impose, and that NGX shall fulfill each of the representations it made in support of the application for registration. NGX has operated in the U.S. as an Exempt Commercial Market (ECM), under then current section 2(h)(5) of the Commodity Exchange Act, since November 5, 2002, and has been registered as a derivatives clearing organization since 2008.



On the Occasion of Poland's Constitution Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
May 1, 2013


On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of Poland as you celebrate the 222nd anniversary of your constitution this May 3.

Poland continues to inspire advocates of freedom around the world and set an example of steadfast engagement on behalf of prosperity, democracy, and security.

The Polish people know how important and difficult it is to stand up to tyranny. We particularly appreciate Poland’s leadership in the Community of Democracies, and the tangible support Poland has provided for emerging civil societies from Eastern Europe to North Africa. We value our extensive security relationship with Poland, including as NATO Allies, and are proud to serve alongside Polish soldiers in Afghanistan.

As you celebrate Constitution Day, know that the United States stands with you. Ours is an alliance based on the ties of family, a love of freedom, and a shared vision based on common values.

This inspires both our nations as we work toward a free, prosperous, and democratic world.

Teen health, adult risk

Teen health, adult risk


U.S. Army Spc. Cameron Tillinghast, right, loads computers into the back of a tactical vehicle before departing Forward Operating Base Farah to meet with the Farah provincial director of telecommunications in Farah City, Afghanistan, May 1, 2013. Tillinghast is assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Josh Ives
Combined Force Makes Arrests in Helmand Province

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, May 1, 2013 - A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban leader and two other insurgents in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Afghanistan's Helmand province today, military officials reported.

The leader oversees insurgent improvised explosive device operations throughout the district and serves as a weapons facilitator, procuring and distributing explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and other military equipment for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- A combined force in Kandahar province's Panjwai district arrested seven insurgents during a search for a senior Taliban leader in charge of a cell of fighters responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also coordinates IED and suicide-bomber operations throughout the province, and is involved in insurgent weapons facilitation.

-- In Paktia province's Gardez district, a combined force arrested a Haqqani network leader responsible for IED attacks, ambushes, and kidnapping operations against Afghan and coalition forces. He also is connected to suicide bombings and coordinates the movement of weapons in the local area. The security force also arrested another insurgent.

In operations yesterday:

-- Afghan Provincial Response Company Zabul, enabled by coalition forces, killed one insurgent, arrested three others and seized and destroyed weapons, grenades and ammunition in Zabul province's Shah Joy district.

-- In Ghazni province's Ghazni district, Afghan Provincial Response Company Ghazni seized and destroyed 88 pounds of homemade explosives, 16 detonators, several radios and various IED-making materials.

-- Also in Ghazni province, Afghan and U.S. Special Forces in the Andar district provided a quick-reaction force for successful defense of a local police checkpoint.

-- Responding to an attack on local police in Laghman province's Alingar district, an Afghan quick-reaction force, led by members of Provincial Response Company Laghman, killed three insurgents who were attacking a police checkpoint.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing - May 1, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - May 1, 2013


Senate Armed Services Committee report finds lack of oversight, rising U.S. costs at overseas bases

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

WASHINGTON – A Senate Armed Services Committee review of the Defense Department’s annual $10 billion overseas spending [PDF] has found construction projects lacking congressional or Pentagon oversight, and allied contributions failing to keep up with rapidly rising U.S. costs.

The year-long review of spending in Japan, South Korea and Germany, where nearly 70 percent of spending to support our permanent overseas facilities takes place, suggests that changes to the management of such spending are necessary and that closer scrutiny is warranted to avoid future commitments that may be inefficient or unaffordable.

"Japan, South Korea and Germany are critical allies. In order to better sustain our presence in these important locations, we need to understand and control our costs. Federal dollars should always be spent with utmost care, but at a time when the Pentagon and the entire federal government face enormous fiscal challenges, the questionable projects and lack of oversight identified in this review are simply unacceptable," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the committee chairman. "Every dollar spent on unnecessary or unsustainable projects is a dollar unavailable to care for our troops and their families, to maintain and modernize equipment, and to pay for necessary investments in base infrastructure."

"This report reaffirms the committee's commitment to ensure that the resources we provide to the armed forces, as well as contributions provided by our allies, are directed towards the most critical core defense requirements of our U.S. Military stationed overseas," said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the committee’s ranking member. "In an unprecedented era of rapidly decreasing defense funds, we will continue to extend oversight to each and every taxpayer dollar spent for our national defense."

Among the review’s findings:
In Germany, force reductions will result in the return of a large number of U.S. facilities to the German government. These returns will generate payments from Germany for the "residual value" of U.S. investments in those facilities. The committee’s review of recent residual value settlements found that in-kind payments have replaced cash in such settlements despite Congress’s intent that in-kind settlements be a last resort. In-kind refers to non-cash payments, such as the provision of services or facilities that have cash value. The committee found that the Army’s Installation Management Command-Europe directed in-kind contributions to questionable projects such as planning for a $6 million furniture warehouse and $200,000 for sun-room additions to senior officer housing. The committee also found that the Department has failed to notify Congress about negotiations for in-kind payments as required by law.
U.S. Forces Korea’s (USFK) use of hundreds of millions of dollars of in-kind contributions from South Korea is subject to little oversight by the Department of the Army, U.S. Pacific Command or the Defense Department. Congress is not even notified about projects built by USFK with in-kind contributions. The committee’s review identified plans to use in-kind contributions for a $10 million museum and a fiscally ill-conceived dining hall project rather than mission-critical facilities.
A U.S. Army proposal for a public-private partnership to build military family housing in South Korea would increase the rental portion of the overseas housing allowance paid to military families housed in the development from the current standard $1,600 per month to $3,900 per month. The Army’s justification for the proposed increase relies on an unprecedented interpretation of overseas housing allowance regulations. The committee’s analysis indicates that, if approved, the proposal would cost U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars more than the standard overseas housing allowance for military families.
The committee’s findings raise issues associated with cost of the planned realignment of U.S. forces in the Asia Pacific. The committee has declined to authorize spending for some of these realignment initiatives until detailed plans and cost estimates are produced.
U.S. contributions to the cost of maintaining forces in South Korea grew by more than $500 million between 2008 and 2012. By comparison, South Korea’s contributions under the U.S. – Korea Special Measures Agreement grew by about $42 million during that same period.
In Japan, host-nation burden-sharing payments have failed to keep pace with U.S. costs. For example, Japan’s contributions to a voluntary cost-sharing program have fallen more than 80 percent since 1992 from more than $1 billion to about $200 million.

In response to the findings, Levin has asked Armed Services Committee staff to look into what changes in law may be required to reform how foreign government payments are negotiated and spent. Levin has previously communicated to the department his opposition to the large proposed increase in rental rates to support the construction of family housing in South Korea. Already, Congress has precluded the Department from spending funds to support Marine realignment in the Pacific until the Pentagon produces detailed plans and cost estimates and meets other requirements.



130428-N-QL471-088 PORTO PALERMO, Albania (April 28, 2013) The guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) arrives in Porto Palermo, Albania, to participate in an exercise with the Albanian navy. Monterey is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Billy Ho/Released)

130425-N-YW024-236 PACIFIC OCEAN (April 25,2013) Aircraft from the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group fly in formation during an air power demo above the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, consisting of Stennis, CVW-9, Destroyer Squadron 21 and guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53), is returning from an eight-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Katarzyna Kobiljak/ Released)


Proba-V in place

Proba-V in place


GSA's ENERGY STAR Buildings Save Taxpayer Dollars

15 federal buildings in national building competition make deep cuts in energy use

April 30, 2013

Washington, DC -- Today, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced that 15 of its buildings saved an estimated $961,470 taxpayer dollars and met top energy benchmarks in the 2012 ENERGY STAR National Building Competition. GSA is meeting energy performance standards in buildings across our portfolio with a variety of strategies, and our efforts are improving federal buildings and saving taxpayer dollars, while easing the government’s impact on the environment.

"These 15 buildings saved nearly a million taxpayer dollars, and across our portfolio of federal buildings we are finding ways to bring down costs and deliver better value to the American people," said Dorothy Robyn, GSA’s Public Buildings Service Commissioner. "GSA is proud to have so many of our buildings meet top rankings in such a wide competition. We are using variety of strategies to make our existing buildings more energy efficient, and they are paying off."

Two of GSA’s facilities achieved energy reductions of more than 30 percent and made it into the top 10 rankings in a competition that included more than 3,000 schools, businesses, and government buildings nationwide. The Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Courthouse in Newark, New Jersey achieved a 36.8 percent energy savings and the San Antonio Federal Building in San Antonio, Texas achieved 34.4 savings. GSA had 13 more buildings that were remarkably strong competitors in this contest and reduced energy consumption by at least 20 percent.

GSA’s participation in this contest drove down utility bills and substantially reduced greenhouse gas emissions. GSA used advanced meters and smart buildings technology to monitor improvements. Some other examples of the measures taken in these buildings included insulation projects, sealing structures, manually adjusting window shades, using smaller water heaters, and retrofitting light fixtures.

The 2012 Energy Star National Building Competition measured energy performance for the entire 2012 calendar year. GSA tracked monthly energy consumption using EPA's free online energy tracking tool, Enerby Star Portfolio Manager. The energy reductions for each of the top competitors were verified by an independently licensed professional engineer or registered architect. The program calculated cost savings using the national average costs for commercial utilities. .

In his 2009 Executive Order, President Obama directed federal agencies to lead by example in their environmental, energy, and economic performance. GSA has made our portfolio of federal buildings more energy efficient through an array of strategies including EPA’s ENERGY STAR programs, Energy Savings Performance Contracts, GSA’s Shave Energy Program, advanced metering, and Green Proving Ground Program.

Below is a complete list of GSA’s 2012 ENERGY STAR National Building Competition facilities that reduced energy consumption by at least 20 percent.

• Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Courthouse, Newark, New Jersey -- 36.8 percent

• San Antonio Federal Building, San Antonio, Texas -- 34.4 percent

• IRS Building, Provo, Utah -- 30.8 percent

• Pierre Federal Courthouse, Pierre, South Dakota -- 28.9 percent

• Allen Ellender Federal Building, Houma, Louisiana -- 27.4 percent

• Howard M. Metzenbaum U.S. Courthouse, Cleveland, Ohio -- 26.7 percent

• Thomas Foley Courthouse, Spokane, Washington -- 23.4 percent

• Neal Smith Federal Building, Des Moines, Iowa -- 23.4 percent

• F. Edward Herbert Federal Building, New Orleans, Louisiana -- 22.5 percent

• Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Building, Victoria, Texas -- 22.5 percent

• U.S. Border Station, North Troy, Vermont -- 22 percent

• Elijah Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse, Washington, D.C. -- 21.9 percent

• Grand Island Federal Building, Grand Island, Nebraska -- 21.5 percent

• Nathaniel R. Jones Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, Youngstown, Ohio -- 20.4 percent

• United States Post Office and Courthouse, Batesville, Arkansas -- 20.1 percent