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Saturday, June 1, 2013

JOINT STATEMENT ON U.S.-PAKISTAN SECURITY, WMD

FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Joint Statement United States and Pakistan Discuss Security, Strategic Stability, and Nonproliferation Issues

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
May 31, 2013


Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller and Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva, Ambassador Zamir Akram, co-Chaired the 5th round of the US-Pakistan Security, Strategic Stability, and Nonproliferation (SSS&NP) Working Group in Washington on May 30, 2013.

The delegations had a cordial and productive exchange of views on issues of mutual importance, including international efforts to enhance nuclear security and peaceful applications of nuclear energy. The participants also shared views on nonproliferation challenges, as well as on the multilateral regimes on chemical and biological weapons, export controls, and the importance of regional stability and security.

This meeting is part of an ongoing series of senior level engagements between the United States and Pakistan on a range of issues related to our bilateral relationship. The delegations reaffirmed that the SSS&NP Working Group remains an invaluable forum. Reflecting the significance of these issues, both delegations look forward to continuing the process and will explore meeting in Islamabad this fall.

Weekly Address: Congress Should Take Action to Continue Growing the Economy | The White House

Weekly Address: Congress Should Take Action to Continue Growing the Economy | The White House

Remarks by Secretary Hagel at the IISS Asia Security Summit, Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore

Remarks by Secretary Hagel at the IISS Asia Security Summit, Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore

WEST, TEXAS FEDERAL DISASTER ASSISTANCE TOPS $5 MILLION

FROM: U.S. FEDEERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
AUSTIN, Texas. – In just over a month since the emergency disaster declaration for the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) have approved more than $5.6 million in disaster assistance or low-interest loans for survivors.

This total includes more than $694,000 in Housing and Other Needs Assistance and Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) from the state of Texas and FEMA. The SBA has approved more than $4.91 million in low-interest disaster assistance loans for 59 disaster-impacted residents and businesses. SBA federal disaster loans help pay for residential and business property losses as well as disaster working capital needs for eligible small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

"We are all working together to get the disaster assistance where it needs to be — in the hands of survivors," said the Federal Coordinating Officer Kevin L. Hannes of FEMA. "Survivors are taking advantage of low-interest disaster loans. We will continue to coordinate with and support our federal, state and local partners as the residents of West work to rebuild and recover."

To date, 742 individuals and families have registered for assistance. More than 900 residents have taken advantage of services provided by the Disaster Recovery Center in West and TSA has provided funding for 359 nights at hotels in West and nearby communities to provide eligible residents with a safe place to stay.

SECRETARY OF DEFEBSE HAGEL'S REMARKS AT JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
May 30, 2013
Remarks by Secretary Hagel at a Troop Event at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii

MODERATOR: Good morning, and aloha. To the PACOM ohana, it's my pleasure to introduce the 24th secretary of defense. Now, for all of you out there, he's actually been one of you, a sergeant in Vietnam, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, more importantly than that, two Purple Hearts and a Combat Infantry Badge. So he knows what he's talking about when he talks about his vision for this -- the Department of Defense.

So without further ado, Secretary Hagel. (Applause.)

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Thank you. Thank you. Good morning. Just another morning in Hawaii, isn't it? Terrible weather you're having. I'm sorry about that, that you've got such a difficult spot.

First, thank you for allowing me to greet you this morning and allowing me to acknowledge the work you do. And thank you, on behalf of our president and our country, who all recognizes that work and the importance of your efforts.

I know sometimes you feel stuck out here in the Pacific, that maybe no one knows who you are or what you're doing, but let me assure you: We do. And we're grateful. And you play a very important role not only in our national security, but the region's. And you're really a central part of the larger plan.

So please, also, thank your families. I think that families are often just taken for granted, and it's probably as difficult -- maybe more difficult for them than it is for you, and you all know that, and you know how difficult it is. But I want you to be sure and tell your families that I ask about them and that I wanted to extend my thanks and best wishes.

I know this is a pretty unique operation here when you've got a blend of your National Guard here, with active and with civilians. And we've now outfitted this squadron with, I think, the complete set of the F-22s. That's a big deal, as you all recognize. And we're very proud of that, and I know how proud you are to be the first squadron to have that situation. And I know how proud you are to have that integrated dynamic of the National Guard and active and civilians all working together.

That's as much value added as I think we can get in our system. And that -- that's as it should be. It is value added. And I think at a time when we are having to prioritize our resources, whether you catalogue that by referencing sequestration, the fact is, we are going to be doing with less. That's not unusual, as we unwind from a second war, and we reset, and we redeploy assets. That specifically is within the framework of the rebalancing that President Obama directed a couple of years ago. That was a correct decision for the reasons you all understand.

I'm on my way to Singapore after I leave here, and I will speak there. General Locklear -- or Admiral Locklear -- is there now, I think, unless he stopped off for breakfast somewhere before he got there. And we'll have a number of our leadership from the Pacific and Asia there.

But one of the points I'll make in my comments to our Asian partners and allies is that, with this rebalance, which is the right thing to do for them, too, by the way, not just for us, but for the rest of the world, that doesn't mean that we are abandoning our resources anywhere else or we're retreating from any other part of the world. We're not. Our interests are global.

But as you rebalance the challenges and opportunities -- and sometimes we forget there are opportunities -- and I think the opportunities that abound today in the world probably centered as much in the Asia Pacific as any one area -- are as unique with as much potential as maybe ever in the history of man. And I really believe that.

It's going to really depend on how wisely we govern, how wisely we respond to each other, how wisely we can form coalitions of common interests. We all have common interests. Our governments are different. Our histories are different. Our cultures are different. Some of us look different. Our languages are different. But still, the basic common interests of the human being don't change.

And I've been all over the world, like you have, been to a lot of countries in the world. I've never found a country yet or religion or a culture or a tribe that doesn't have the same feelings about their families. They love their families. You love your family. You start there. We all need the basics in life to survive. You start there.

So if that is the given -- and it is -- then why can't we get along? Well, I know that's pretty simple. I get that. But I like to ask simple questions, because we tend to kind of glide over simple things, and we tend to more than occasionally make things more complicated than they need to be.

This is a defining time in the world. This is a defining time right now. This region of the world is going to have an awful lot to say about how this next world order is built out. And we've not seen a time like this in the world since really right after World War II, that 10-year period after World War II, when, in fact, the world was built out.

The difference is, the United States held most of the cards after World War II. We don't hold all the cards this time. And, by the way, that's good. It allows other countries to share responsibilities. It allows other countries to prosper. And only then do we -- when we accept that premise -- and we all accept that -- will the world prosper. And I think we're right on the edge of that. So your role in this is pretty important.

So with that, again, I wanted to thank you for what you're doing. That's the main message I wanted to give to you this morning. And I'd be very happy -- if the general lets me -- if it's okay, I'll be glad to respond to a question, advice, suggestions, tell me to go home, whatever.

I've got a reporter, the Washington -- the Washington bureau chief for the Omaha World Herald who's with me. That's my home state newspaper of Nebraska. And I just noticed he's in a big red N cap. You can't miss him. And so if -- in particular, if you've got any advice for Joe Morton on Nebraska football this year, he will get it right to Coach Pelini and the people who are in charge. And especially if you've got a trick play, let him know.

So anything you want to talk about, I'll take a couple minutes. Yes?

Q: Good morning sir. Petty Officer First Class Alvin Balthasar. I work for the commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet. In the military, we're dealing with a lot of financial cutbacks, and I was wondering if military retirement and other benefits are going to be affected, as well, sir, in the near future?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, I think everyone heard that question. It's a very important question, because as I noted, we are going to be seeing budgets that are less and less. And we're living with that now. So we are reviewing every component of our budget. And we have to look at personnel costs, because they represent the biggest part.

Now, that always has to be subject to this reality and to this priority: You take care of your people. It doesn't make any difference how sophisticated your equipment or anything else. If you don't have good people, and if you can't keep good people, and you can't continue to educate them and train them and develop them, it won't make any difference how good your planes are or anything else. So that's a high priority, as high as any priority. Obviously, that has to connect to national security. That's our job. That's my main job as the secretary of defense, the security of this country, like it's your jobs, but you do it with people.

So everything that we're looking at -- and we are looking at everything across the board, entitlement programs and every way -- the Congress and the president are having to do the same thing with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. And so we are looking at it.

To your more immediate question, is that going to affect your retirements and benefits? We suggested in our budget presentations to Congress this year that we ask the Congress to consider things like adjusting prescription co-pays, to increase those co-pays, not -- not very much, by the way, also, TRICARE fees. Not very much. TRICARE and all the -- all the benefits that come with the commitments we make to you are still the best benefits that I'm aware of anywhere in the world. And -- and that's okay. That's as it should be, because you give up an awful lot for a career in the military. So that was the whole balance.

But we've got to do things like that or we won't be able to sustain the programs. And we can do it. We can do it smartly. We can do it wisely without hurting anybody, and that's the way we'll come at it and that's the way we'll do it.

Oh, thank you.

Somebody else? Yes.

Q: Morning, sir. Petty Officer Third-Class Michael Byrd, and I'm from commander, Naval Region Hawaii out of Pearl Harbor. My question is, how does our government plan to increase cyber security in a world where the threat of global terrorism threats through cyber warfare is growing by the day, sir?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, you just defined the issue, the challenge. One of the very few items that the president proposed in his budget that I presented to the Congress this year to be increased was our cyber warfare capabilities. We are increasing that part of the budget significantly for the reasons you mentioned.

And we are -- we're doing more than just increasing the budget. That means more people, more sophisticated approaches, and more interconnects within our inter-government agencies, obviously, the NSA, Cyber Command, Homeland Security, working with our law enforcement.

And then another very important component to this is our allies and our partners, because we live in a world -- and you all know this -- where one country's just not big enough, strong enough, good enough, wealthy enough to handle it all. We can't do it, especially cyber. And cyber is one of those quiet, deadly, insidious unknowns you can't see, it's in the ether. It's not one big navy sailing into a port or one big army crossing a border or squadrons of fighter planes crossing a border. This is a very difficult, but real and dangerous threat. And there's no higher priority for our country than -- than this issue.

I had the privilege of co-chairing President Obama's Intelligence Advisory Board for four years before I was asked to do this job. And that -- that issue took more of our time than -- than any one issue. I served on the Senate Intelligence Committee for eight years. And even 10 years ago, on that committee, we were focusing on this.

But to just give you one sense of the framing out on this and perspective, very few people 10 years ago -- very few people eight years ago, six years ago would have rated cyber challenges, dangers as maybe the biggest threat to all of us. I mean, it happens that fast. And you know all the reasons. You know, these attacks can paralyze an electric grid, a banking system, knock out computers on ships or weapons systems, and you never fire a shot. And it's hard to detect exactly where it comes from, so you've got that added problem, you respond, if you respond, where do you respond, how do you respond, are you sure you're responding to the right person, the right country, the right entity in that country? Tough issue. But we're working on it. And we're working very hard on it.

Are you -- are you in that business?

Q: (OFF-MIC)

SEC. HAGEL: Well, you're young, smart, good-looking, and you got a great future. You're a Nebraskan. No, that's a joke. I thought it was -- young, good-looking, smart, you had to be.

Who else wants -- yes?

Q: Morning, sir. I'm Corporal Harris with Headquarters Battalion on Marine Corps Base Hawaii. I'm actually about to get out of the military in a couple weeks here, and I've been noticing on the news a lot of stories about how backlogged the V.A. is. I was wondering what was being done to help streamline the system and when we could expect to see changes.

SEC. HAGEL: Well, unfortunately, that is the case. The Department of Defense obviously has a responsibility and a role in all of this, to help the VA. We've been working very closely with the VA on this over the years. We're not near where we need to be, where we should be, and where we will be.

When I came into this job about three months ago, I started looking at everything, and that was one of the first things that I looked at. I had been the deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration under President Reagan for the first year-and-a-half he was in office. And I played a role in helping get the VA on a then-computerized system. We had never, ever had anything like that.

So it doesn't mean I know a lot. I don't. But I know probably more than most people do about this, because I had responsibility of helping put it together at the VA. So I know how difficult this job is.

The first 10 days I was in this job, I went over to see General Shinseki, who's an old friend, who, as you know, is secretary of veterans affairs. We sat down for two hours, just the two of us, and said, all right, take me through it, Ric. What are we doing right? Where are failing? What are the problems?

I went back and got involved in it at DOD. I put a hold on everything going forward on RFPs, everything, until I could get a better understanding of what we were doing. We have now completely restructured it. We've taken it out of where it was, put new leadership in charge, new acquisitions people in charge, continuing to work obviously where we can, and we have made progress, by the way, in helping the VA, but a lot more.

Second, when you look at that backlog problem, over 800,000 cases, most of that is a result of claims that have come in from members who were in the military who served before Iraq and Afghanistan. Even some go back to World War II. Now, to retrieve those records, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and going back that far, is where part of the big problem is. And our role, our piece of that backlog is very small, in the backlog issue itself. And I think, unfortunately, the issue gets confused, because there are a lot of pieces to the DOD-VA partnership in how we exchange and how we have mutual roadmaps and how we are able to move things electronically back and forth.

And, by the way, there's a lot of good news on that. We've made good -- a lot of good progress. The backlog is a problem. It's a big problem. But that is separate from a lot of other things, and people get confused and don't understand that.

So bottom line is, we're doing everything we can, we'll continue to do. We're recommitted to do that. I just sent Secretary Shinseki a letter before I left a couple days ago, two-page letter, from him -- from me to him, laying out all the new initiatives that I propose we, DOD, do for VA Our chiefs of staff have talked. Our top people have talked. I have laid all these new assets out and said, do you want them? Do you need them?

People -- now, we have a lot of people at the VA now. I mean, we have had -- we have DOD people over there, and we have DOD people at VA regional centers, processing centers, especially up in Seattle, Washington. So we're doing an awful lot now. It needs to get fixed. We'll do more. And you have my word for that. Thank you.

All right. One more question, and then I'll let you guys go back to work. Yes?

Q: Yes, sir. Good morning, sir.

SEC. HAGEL: Morning.

Q: Petty Officer Littlebiggs, representative Pacific Command, J4. Yes, sir, my question this morning is that, with the activity that we're seeing here in the Pacific and in Asia, do you suspect in the near future or intermediate future that we're going to start ramping up forces as they did at CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command], sir, during that program?

SEC. HAGEL: Well, we actually are increasing our assets and -- and deployment of assets here. If you look at our naval assets, those are increasing. I think the F-22 squadron here is another indication. We're doing far more bilateral exercises out here than we ever have. We're continuing to stay on track and actually enhance and increase some of the trilateral, some of the ASEAN activities. We're doing far more than we've ever done, and -- and that comports with the overall rebalancing, which includes moving more assets into the area.

Marines, you know, we're -- we're having some exchanges and we are making some -- have made some decisions to put Marines in Darwin, Australia, and we'll increase those numbers as we go forward, as we're redeploying Marines off of Okinawa -- excuse me -- onto Guam. So redeployment, more -- some of our best assets, certainly naval forward presence, but air and naval presence, you'll see more and more of that kind of -- and as you are right now -- of that kind of increase.

Well, again, thank you very, very much. Enjoy your time here. And who is here not from -- originally from Hawaii? I know we've got National Guard here and civilians. Raise your hands, those who've -- who are not from Hawaii. Oh, you got -- probably the majority are not from Hawaii. And it's just too bad you've been assigned here, but I know you'll struggle through it with all your commitment to our country.

Well, good luck to you. Much success to you. And thank you for what you're doing. Thank you. (Applause.)

20,000 OF PREDATORS IN THE AIR OVER AFGHANISTAN

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Predator passes 20,000-hour mark in Afghanistan
by Capt. Brian Maguire
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

5/28/2013 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- An MQ-1 Predator assigned here recently became the first Predator to pass 20,000 flying hours over Afghanistan, a feat equivalent to flying 15 hours every other day, for 2,667 days.

While the Predator remotely piloted aircraft program surpassed one million hours of total development, test, training and combat in August 2011, this is the first airframe to accumulate 20,000 flying hours individually.

"Reaching this milestone is significant, but what's more special are the missions we enable every day," said Lt. Col. Russ Garner, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron commander. "

Maintainers are the key to enabling a single airframe to reach so many hours, Garner said. Maintenance keeps the aircraft flying, especially through the extreme weather in Afghanistan, he added.

"Without maintainers we couldn't reach this milestone, let alone get in the air," the squadron commander said. "This achievement is really a tribute to our maintainers."

A team of military and civilian personnel maintain and repair the aircraft.

The mission of the 62nd ERS is to provide launch and recovery for RPA assigned to the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing here.

"With only two percent of the RPA aircrew [in the career field deployed here], we're enabling 98 percent of the mission," Garner said. "During their deployment there are no days off for the crew, while they set an unbelievable operations tempo."

The MQ-1 and MQ-9 Reaper are assigned to the squadron and conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and close-air support missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The aircraft are operated by Airmen with the 62nd ERS, U.S. crews located stateside and Royal Air Force crews in the United Kingdom

 

EXPEDITION 36/37 CREW HEAD FOR THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION


FROM: NASA
Expedition 36 Soyuz Launch

A Soyuz rocket with Expedition 36/37 Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and Karen Nyberg of NASA, onboard, launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station. Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano will remain aboard the station until mid-November, 2013. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls. 751941

Friday, May 31, 2013

Press Briefing by Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest | The White House

Press Briefing by Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest | The White House

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing - May 31, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - May 31, 2013

DVIDS - Video - Brookings Institute

DVIDS - Video - Brookings Institute

ISAF NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN FOR MAY 31, 2013

 
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ray Perez-Rosa patrols through a field toward an observation point to counteract indirect fire near Combat Outpost Baraki Barak in Afghanistan’s Logar province, May 21, 2013. Perez-Rosa, an infantryman, is assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division's 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Julieanne Morse

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Combined Force Arrests Taliban Facilitator in Balkh Province
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, May 31, 2013 - A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban facilitator in the Chimtal district of Afghanistan's Balkh province yesterday, military officials reported.

The facilitator handles movement of explosives and weapons for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also collects illegal taxes from civilians to pay for weapons and controls a cell responsible for numerous attacks in the area.

In other Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- A combined force in Kandahar province's Khakrez district killed an enemy fighter during a search for a senior Taliban leader who directs and executes attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also teaches other insurgents how to make roadside bombs, distributes vests for suicide-bomb attacks, and coordinates the distribution of bombs, weapons and equipment for Taliban groups in the province.

-- In Logar province's Khoshi district, a combined force killed an enemy fighter during a search of a Haqqani network leader who coordinates and directs attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also controls several Haqqani groups in the area and has directed assassinations of local Afghans.

-- A combined force in Paktia province's Zurmat district wounded an enemy fighter during a search for a Haqqani network leader responsible for kidnappings for ransom and for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

President Obama Speaks on College Affordability | The White House

President Obama Speaks on College Affordability | The White House

The taste of beer

The taste of beer

ARMY SGT. AIDS TORNADO VICTIMS

Army 1st Sgt. Michael Treanor poses next to his emergency response vehicle while performing equipment maintenance after the May 20, 2013, tornado response in Moore, Okla. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Bruce
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Face of Defense: Soldier Taps Experience to Aid Tornado Victims
By Air Force Airman 1st Class Kasey Phipps
137th Air Refueling Wing

MOORE, Okla., May 28, 2013 - Oklahoma is known for its volatile weather and tornadoes, prompting state officials to dedicate countless hours toward educating and preparing its citizens for when disaster strikes.

Unpredictable events in Oklahoma are not, however, confined to weather. Its history remains shadowed by the tragedy of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing on April 19, 1995, in which 168 people lost their lives.

However, Oklahoma has gained perhaps a stronger reputation for the resilience of its people and their ability to come together as one to rebuild communities stricken by disaster.

Today, Oklahomans once again are picking up the pieces left scattered by the devastating May 20 tornado that left a 17-mile long path of destruction and resulted in 24 deaths, 10 of which were children.

Army 1st Sgt. Michael Treanor of the Oklahoma National Guard's 63rd Civil Support Team relies on his firsthand experience with tragedy to aid and comfort the tornado's survivors.

On the morning of the Murrah building bombing, Treanor's parents, LaRue and Luther Treanor, took his step-daughter, Ashley, into the Social Security Administration office for a routine appointment to settle some paperwork. After the appointment, their plan was to take Ashley to lunch and walk around the city. When the fateful blast happened, only a single glass pane separated them from the detonation.

At the time, Treanor was a member of an Army National Guard unit in Ponca City, Okla., but they had not yet been tasked to assist in recovery efforts.

"It's hard to sit on the sideline," he said. "It was one of those things where it was just like, 'There has got to be something more.' So, in 2000, when I heard about the civil support teams being created and their mission, I decided at that point it was a job I had to have at some time in my life. So I've kind of been working to get to where I am ever since then."

Now, as a safety officer for the 63rd CST, Treanor is able to get on the ground with his team members, who are trained to respond to a number of emergency scenarios, including search and rescue and the control of hazardous materials. They also have communications on the ground to track National Guardsmen and other emergency responders.

"I'm trained to be a first responder. If something happens, it's a guarantee that my team will be involved and I really take a lot of satisfaction in that," he said. "It means a lot to me."

He understands the need to help, especially those who are from his native Oklahoma. But he also understands the emotional toll disasters have on his fellow citizens.

"The loss, the pain, the confusion as to what to do -- we went through all of that," Treanor said. "You never completely forget or get over that loss; you just learn to deal with it. In doing that with our family, it's helped us to help other people. It's been a really educational experience for me."

He again witnessed the unification of Oklahomans and their overwhelming generosity in the aftermath of the May 20 tornado, even as those affected sift through the rubble to recover whatever belongings that might help return them to normalcy.

"There was a lot of professionalism and courtesy to the victims," he said. "I think every time a sad event like this happens, we learn something from it and improve on it."

As disaster and tragedy continue to befall Oklahomans, each instance provides a little more experience and strength to use the next time disaster strikes.

Oklahoma has used the recent tornado and past disasters to build a unified and unfaltering resilience to support both the physical efforts and the emotional needs left by the damage.

"When it happens again, because Oklahoma means tornadoes, we will be even better prepared to respond," Treanor said.

West Wing Week: 05/31/13 or "Greetings from Asbury Park" | The White House

West Wing Week: 05/31/13 or "Greetings from Asbury Park" | The White House

NSF UNVEILS LOOK AT DAM DAMAGE TO RIVER IN CHINA

 
The Salween Delta from space (south is to the upper left). From NSF-Wikimedia Commons.
FROM: NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Small Dams on Chinese River Harm Environment More Than Expected
A fresh look at the environmental impacts of dams on an ecologically diverse and partially protected river in China found that small dams can pose a greater threat to ecosystems and natural landscapes than large dams.

Large dams have been considered more harmful than their smaller counterparts.

But researchers' surveys of habitat loss and damage at several dam sites on the Nu River and its tributaries in Yunnan Province revealed that the environmental effects of small dams are often greater--sometimes by several orders of magnitude--than of large dams.

"Small dams have hidden detrimental effects, particularly when effects accumulate" through multiple dam sites, said Kelly Kibler, a water resources engineer who led the study while at Oregon State University.

"That's one of the main outcomes, to demonstrate that the perceived absence of negative effects from small hydropower is not always correct."

She and Desiree Tullos, also a water resources engineer at Oregon State, report their findings in a paper accepted for publication in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

"These researchers have taken advantage of what is essentially a natural experiment that allowed them to compare the effects of hydroelectric dams of different sizes," said Tom Baerwald of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences, which co-funded the research with other NSF directorates. "The results are applicable beyond this region."

To compare the effects of small and large dams, Kibler investigated 31 small dams built on tributaries to China's Nu River and four large dams proposed for the main stem of the Nu River.

She assessed the environmental effects of these dams in 14 categories--including the area and quality of habitat lost, the length of river channel affected, the amount of conservation land affected, and the landslide risk.

Because information regarding large dams is restricted under the Chinese State Secrets Act, Kibler modeled the potential effects of the four large dams using publicly-available information from hydropower companies, development agencies, and academic literature.

After evaluating data from the field, hydrologic models, and Environmental Impact Assessment reports on the small dams, Kibler and Tullos concluded that effects of the small dams exceeded those of large dams on nine out of the 14 characteristics they studied.

One particularly detrimental effect of the small dams is that they often divert the flow of the river to hydropower stations, leaving several kilometers of river bed dewatered, Kibler said.

From its headwaters in the Tibetan Plateau, the Nu River flows through China, Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand.

"While the number of small hydropower dams in operation or planned for tributaries to the Nu River is unreported," the authors state in their paper, "our field surveys indicate that nearly one hundred small dams currently exist within Nujiang Prefecture alone."

Thirteen large hydropower dams are proposed for the mainstem of the Nu River in Tibet and Yunnan Province in China.

Environmental, social, and economic factors make the Nu River basin extremely sensitive to hydropower installations.

In addition to supporting several protected species, the region is home to a large proportion of ethnic minorities and valuable natural resources, the authors report.

While large hydropower projects are managed by the central government, and both large and small hydropower projects undergo environmental impact assessments, decisions about small hydropower projects are made at a provincial or other regional level and often receive less oversight, Kibler and Tullos state.

The lack of regulation paired with a dearth of communication between small dam projects in China allows for the effects to multiply and accumulate through several dam sites, the authors write.

To mitigate the detrimental effects of small dams, there's a need for comprehensive planning for low-impact energy development, said Kibler and Tullos.

"The lack of analyses of the cumulative effects of small hydropower," Kibler said, "is a significant research gap with important policy implications."

-NSF-

U.S., SAUDI ARABIA SIGN OPENS SKIES AGREEMENT

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
United States and Saudi Arabia Sign Open Skies Air Transport Agreement
Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
May 28, 2013

 

Today in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Ambassador James B. Smith and Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Director of the General Authority of Civil Aviation, Dr. Faisal bin Hamad Al-Sugair, signed an Open Skies air transport agreement.

The United States-Saudi Arabia Open Skies agreement will, following a transition period, permit unrestricted air service by the airlines of both countries between and beyond the other’s territory, eliminating restrictions on how often the carriers fly, the kind of aircraft they use and the prices they charge. This agreement will allow for the strengthening and expansion of our strong trade and tourism links with Saudi Arabia, benefitting U.S. and Saudi Arabian businesses and travelers by expanding opportunities for air services and encouraging vigorous price competition by airlines, while preserving our commitments to aviation safety and security. It has been applied on the basis of comity and reciprocity since it was initialed on April 18, 2011.

The United States has over 100 Open Skies agreements with partners around the world and at all levels of development.

THE FUTURE OF U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND

 
U.S. Special Operations Command works to ensure operators have the tools they need not only for today's missions, but also for those they will confront in the future. Here, a special operations forces member attached to Special Operations Task Force Southeast fires an AT-4 shoulder-fired rocket launcher on the heavy weapons firing range at a base in the Tarin Kowt district of Afghanistan's Uruzgan province, Aug. 22, 2012. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class James Ginther
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Socom Strives to Meet Current, Future Operator Requirements
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

TAMPA, Fla., May 29, 2013 - Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, is quick to point out what he calls one of the special operations forces' most universal truths -- that "people are more important than hardware."

But as the military's most elite commandos take on some of the most challenging missions around the globe, McRaven said, he's committed to ensuring they have everything they need to succeed.

"It is my job to provide [geographic combatant commanders and chiefs of mission] the best special operations force in the world," he told Congress earlier this year.

The broad range of special operations missions -- from dramatic raids like the one that took down Osama bin Laden to lower-profile training missions designed to build partner nation capacity -- demands the best "enabling capabilities" possible, he said.

Special operators require many of the same enablers as their conventional-force brethren: mobility, lethality, situational awareness provided by intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and survivability, McRaven said. But due to the unique nature of their missions -- often highly sensitive and conducted with little notice -- they also have unique equipment and service requirements, he added.

Congress recognized that when establishing Socom in 1987, James Cluck, the command's acquisition executive, told American Forces Press Service. So as part of the initial legislation, Congress granted the new command special acquisition authorities that enable it to respond directly -- and more quickly -- to its operators' needs.

More than 25 years later, Socom remains the only U.S. combatant command with these authorities. The others, with forces from all four services, have to work through three different service acquisition systems to satisfy their requirements.

"Here, we have it all under one system, and we have one commander vetting and deciding what we are going to field and what the priority is going to be," Cluck said. "So the benefit is immense."

Cluck was quick to note broad misconceptions about Socom's acquisition function. "We have to follow the same rules and laws as everybody else does, and we are subject to the same policies as the rest of the department," he said.

What's different, Cluck said, is that Socom typically takes the larger, big-ticket systems the military services develop -- aircraft, vehicles, vessels and weapons systems, among them -- and adapts them for its operators' needs.

One example is the new CV-22 Osprey aircraft developed by the Navy and Air Force that Socom is modifying for its uses. Socom also has contracted to modify seven additional CH-60 helicopters into special-operations-capable MH-60 models during fiscal year 2013.

"Clearly the mission for a special operator is different than that of a conventional operator," Cluck said. Stealthy infiltrations, for example, require aircraft able to fly at lower altitudes and speeds, with the necessary terrain-following radars to support those missions.

"I am not building an airplane from the ground up, and going through all the oversights and testing aspects that go into that," Cluck said. "What I do is get that aircraft from the service and then modify it to our requirements."

This process, even with the associated developmental and operational testing, significantly reduces the time it takes to field the capability, he said.

And for requirements not already in the conventional forces' inventory, Socom has authority to buy them off the shelf, or it can contact industry to develop them, he said.

For the most part, the systems Socom develops itself are lower-cost than the major systems fielded by the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. Despite strict oversight requirements that apply to all Defense Departments acquisitions, they aren't subject to the level of scrutiny associated with major DOD acquisition programs, thus avoiding resultant delays.

Socom currently is selecting the source for a new ground mobility vehicle that's lighter and easier to transport by helicopter than the Humvee. The command recently awarded two prototyping contracts for foreign shipyards to build a class of submersible combat vehicles, and expects delivery of the first craft by the end of fiscal 2014.

In addition, Socom recently awarded a contract to Remington to develop a new precision sniper rifle.

"What we are looking for is, 'What is the next technology to allow our folks to be able to operate even better?'" Cluck said.

But another big factor in streamlining Socom's acquisition process is access to all the key players. That includes the operators themselves, the special operations acquisition community that supports them and the decision-makers empowered to give a proposal a yea or nay.

"One of the big advantages for us is that we are all here in one place," said Cluck, who's assigned to Socom's headquarters staff and the Special Operations Research, Development, and Acquisition Center at MacDill Air Force Base here.

"You generally can't say that about the services," in which acquisition authorities and responsibilities commonly cross multiple senior-level organizations spread across multiple states, he said.

Being on one campus gives Cluck direct reach across the organization and promotes immediate responses and close interaction, he said. Everyone associated with a project -- from establishing requirements to contracting out projects and overseeing their progress -- works together under one roof.

"We can rapidly make a decision, because we have processes in the headquarters that if a [theater special operations command] or an operational component have an immediate combat or mission requirement, we can meet and make a decision on that need within days," Cluck said. "If the command validates a requirement, we are rapidly able to move through our contracting processes to satisfy that."

Members of the Acquisition Center are cautioned against "falling in love with a requirement" when it makes sense to field the "80-percent solution," Cluck said. They also understand when it's necessary to shift gears or to abandon a program altogether when priorities or requirements change.

"We need to listen to what the operational demands are and respond to the priorities the command establishes in a budgeting sense to meet those demands," Cluck said.

"The entire Acquisition Center has a focus on the operator and the requirement, ... recognizing that whatever they need us to do is what we are going to put our talents against," he said.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE WEEKLY CLAIMS REPORT FOR WEEK ENDING MAY 25, 2013

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA



In the week ending May 25, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 354,000, an increase of 10,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 344,000. The 4-week moving average was 347,250, an increase of 6,750 from the previous week's revised average of 340,500.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.3 percent for the week ending May 18, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending May 18 was 2,986,000, an increase of 63,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 2,923,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,986,500, a decrease of 11,500 from the preceding week's revised average of 2,998,000.
UNADJUSTED DATA
The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 317,732 in the week ending May 25, an increase of 13,653 from the previous week. There were 346,260 initial claims in the comparable week in 2012.

The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.2 percent during the week ending May 18, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 2,792,143, an increase of 15,423 from the preceding week's revised level of 2,776,720. A year earlier, the rate was 2.4 percent and the volume was 3,060,148.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending May 11 was 4,578,592, a decrease of 166,659 from the previous week. There were 6,138,246 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2012.

Extended Benefits were not available in any state during the week ending May 11.

Initial claims for UI benefits filed by former Federal civilian employees totaled 1,066 in the week ending May 18, a decrease of 405 from the prior week. There were 2,063 initial claims filed by newly discharged veterans, a decrease of 66 from the preceding week.

There were 17,311 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending May 11, a decrease of 1,038 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 35,330, a decrease of 827 from the prior week.

States reported 1,726,659 persons claiming EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits for the week ending May 11, a decrease of 50,027 from the prior week. There were 2,618,445 persons claiming EUC in the comparable week in 2012. EUC weekly claims include first, second, third, and fourth tier activity.

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending May 11 were in Alaska (4.9), Puerto Rico (4.5), New Jersey (3.1), New Mexico (3.1), Connecticut (3.0), California (2.9), Pennsylvania (2.9), Nevada (2.8), Oregon (2.8), Illinois (2.7).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending May 18 were in South Carolina (+1,263), Tennessee (+1,191), Missouri (+785), Michigan (+634), and Massachusetts (+610), while the largest decreases were in California (-16,334), Georgia (-1,802), Illinois (-1,198), Kentucky (-902), and Ohio (-623).

ISAF NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN FOR MAY 30, 2013

U.S., Afghan soldiers and Afghan police conduct a presence patrol and resupply mission through Baraki Rajan near Combat Outpost Baraki Barak in Afghanistan’s Logar province, May 22, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Julieanne Morse
 
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Afghan, Coalition Forces Kill Insurgents in Kunduz
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release
KABUL, Afghanistan, May 30, 2013 - A combined Afghan and coalition security force killed three insurgents who opened fire during a search for a senior Taliban leader in the Archi district of Afghanistan's Kunduz province today, military officials reported.
The Taliban leader builds improvised explosive devices and suicide vests for insurgents. He also has directed and coordinated attacks resulting in the deaths of numerous Afghan national security forces personnel.
The security force also seized two assault rifles, a submachine gun, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and eight rocket-propelled grenades.
In Afghanistan operations yesterday:
-- A combined force in Logar province's Pul-e Alam district arrested six insurgents during two operations in search of a senior Haqqani network leader who plans, facilitates and organizes attacks. He coordinates the movement of weapons and fighters and finances high-profile attack networks active in the Afghan capital of Kabul. He also manages insurgent network personnel decisions.
-- In Paktia province's Zurmat district, a combined force killed an insurgent during a search for a Haqqani network leader who is responsible for kidnapping-for-ransom operations in the area. He also conducts attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.


Remarks by the Vice President on U.S. - Brazil Relations | The White House

Remarks by the Vice President on U.S. - Brazil Relations | The White House

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

FDIC INSTITUTIONS SHOW RECOVERY WITH INCOME INCREASES

FROM: FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION

Commercial banks and savings institutions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reported aggregate net income of $40.3 billion in the first quarter of 2013, a $5.5 billion (15.8 percent) increase from the $34.8 billion in profits that the industry reported in the first quarter of 2012. This is the 15th consecutive quarter that earnings have registered a year-over-year increase. Increased noninterest income, lower noninterest expenses, and reduced provisions for loan losses accounted for the increase in earnings from a year ago. Half of the 7,019 insured institutions reporting financial results had year-over-year increases in their earnings. The proportion of banks that were unprofitable fell to 8.4 percent, from 10.6 percent a year earlier.

FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg said: "Today's report shows further progress in the recovery that has been underway in the banking industry for more than three years. We saw improvement in asset quality indicators over the quarter, a continued increase in the number of profitable institutions, and further declines in the number of problem banks and bank failures. However, tighter net interest margins and slow loan growth create an incentive for institutions to reach for yield, which is a matter of ongoing supervisory attention."

The average return on assets (ROA), a basic yardstick of profitability, rose to 1.12 percent from 1.00 percent a year ago. This is the highest quarterly ROA for the industry since the 1.22 percent posted in the second quarter of 2007.

First quarter net operating revenue (net interest income plus total noninterest income) totaled $170.6 billion, an increase of $2.7 billion (1.6 percent) from a year earlier, as noninterest income increased by $5.1 billion (8.3 percent) and net interest income declined by $2.4 billion (2.2 percent). The average net interest margin fell to its lowest level since 2006. Total noninterest expenses were $5.3 billion (3.9 percent) below the level of the first quarter of 2012. Banks set aside $11 billion in provisions for loan losses, a reduction of $3.3 billion (23.2 percent) compared to a year earlier.

Asset quality indicators continued to improve as insured banks and thrifts charged off $16.0 billion in uncollectible loans during the quarter, down $5.8 billion (26.7 percent) from a year earlier. The amount of noncurrent loans and leases (those 90 days or more past due or in nonaccrual status) fell by $15.7 billion (5.7 percent) during the quarter, and the percentage of loans and leases that were noncurrent declined to the lowest level since 2008.

Financial results for the first quarter of 2013 are contained in the FDIC's latest Quarterly Banking Profile, which was released today. Also among the findings:

Total loan balances posted a seasonal decline. Loan balances fell by $36.8 billion (0.5 percent) in the first quarter, as credit card balances declined by $35.9 billion (5.2 percent). Balances also fell in home equity lines (down $16.0 billion, or 2.9 percent), other 1-4 family residential real estate loans (down $18.3 billion, or 1 percent), and agricultural production loans (down $7.2 billion, or 10.7 percent). The declines in credit card balances and agricultural loans reflect seasonal factors. Loans to commercial and industrial borrowers increased by $24.8 billion (1.6 percent), while loans to depository institutions rose by $17.5 billion (17.2 percent). For the 12 months through March 31, total loan and lease balances were up by $247.7 billion (3.3 percent).

The end of temporary unlimited deposit insurance for noninterest-bearing transaction accounts at year-end 2012 did not lead to large deposit outflows. Total deposits increased by $1.8 billion (0.02 percent), as deposits in domestic offices fell by $20.5 billion (0.2 percent) and foreign office deposits rose by $22.3 billion (1.6 percent). Noninterest-bearing transaction deposits with balances greater than $250,000 fell by $74.9 billion (4.3 percent) during the quarter. Balances in these accounts that were over the $250,000 basic FDIC coverage limit declined by $70.3 billion (4.6 percent).

The number of problem banks continued to decline. The number of banks on the FDIC's "Problem List" declined from 651 to 612 during the quarter. The number of "problem" banks reached a recent high of 888 institutions at the end of the first quarter of 2011. Four FDIC-insured institutions failed in the first quarter, the smallest number since the second quarter of 2008 when two institutions were closed. Thus far in 2013, there have been 13 failures, compared to 24 during the same period in 2012.

The Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) balance continued to increase. The DIF balance — the net worth of the fund — rose to $35.7 billion as of March 31 from $33.0 billion at the end of 2012. Assessment income was the primary contributor to growth in the fund balance. While the end of unlimited coverage for noninterest-bearing transaction accounts resulted in an 18.7 percent decline in estimated insured deposits in the first quarter, the estimated balances covered by the $250,000 insurance limit rose 2.6 percent during the quarter.

Interview With Doordarshan News

Interview With Doordarshan News

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 5/29/2013 | The White House

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 5/29/2013 | The White House

EXPORT-IMPORT BANK GUARANTEES $187 MILLION BOND ISSUANCE TO SUPPORT HELICOPTER SALES

FROM: U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK

Ex-Im Bank Provides $187.4 Million Guarantee for Bond Issuance Supporting Sikorsky Helicopters to Milestone Aviation Group

First Use of Capital-Markets Funding for Ex-Im-Backed Helicopter Exports


Washington, D.C. – The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) is providing a $187.4 million guarantee of a capital-markets bond to finance the export of Sikorsky S-92® helicopters to The Milestone Aviation Group Ltd. of Dublin, Ireland.

The transaction is Ex-Im Bank’s largest financing of US.-manufactured commercial helicopter exports and the agency’s first support of these exports to a helicopter-leasing company.

It is also the first Ex-Im Bank-guaranteed bond issuance in the capital markets to fund helicopter exports. Deutsche Bank Securities was the sole structuring agent and the lead book runner for the bond issuance on May 22. The bond was priced at par to yield 1.87 percent.

The export sale supports approximately 1,500 jobs in the U.S. helicopter industry, according to Ex-Im Bank estimates derived from Departments of Commerce and Labor data and methodology. The S-92® helicopters are being manufactured at Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. facilities in Stratford, Conn., and Coatesville, Pa. Principal subcontractors also involved in the manufacture are Hamilton Sundstrand, Rockwell Collins and General Electric.

"Ex-Im Bank’s capital-markets financing has proven to be a successful way to fund exports of U.S.-made large commercial aircraft. Extending this type of funding to helicopter exports will help support more American jobs and more companies in the very competitive U.S. aerospace industry," said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg.

The exports were initially financed by a commercial bridge facility that will be replaced by the funds raised by the issuance of the capital-markets bond. The helicopters are being delivered under a number of separate contracts, both directly with the Milestone Aviation Group and as part of sale-leaseback agreements. The end users are five different Milestone customers, and the S-92® helicopters will be operated in the United Kingdom, Norway and Brazil. Deliveries began in November 2012 and end in May 2013.

"The Sikorsky S-92® is a modern design, heavy-lift rotorcraft that brings economic efficiencies to our operators, and it is a very important part of the oil-and-gas and search-and-rescue market segments. Ex-Im Bank’s capital-markets financing facilitates the business transaction of this large capital investment. This financing vehicle makes the S-92® helicopter an even better fit for our customers," said Bob Kokorda, vice president of Worldwide Sales for Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. is a global leader in the design, manufacture and service of commercial and military rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft. The company has a U.S.-based workforce of approximately 13,000 employees, including 6,630 in Stratford, Conn., and 875 in Coatesville, Pa.

"We are proud to have been selected by Ex-Im Bank as the partner for their largest helicopter financing and the first capital-markets transaction to support the export of U.S.-manufactured helicopters," said Milestone Aviation Group Chairman Richard Santulli. "The support of Ex-Im Bank, and the dedication and professionalism of its Transportation team, has been instrumental in helping us place Sikorsky aircraft internationally and given us the confidence to order more units of the world-class S-92®."

Milestone Aviation Group is the first global aircraft leasing company to focus exclusively on helicopters. Milestone partners with helicopter operators globally and supports them through 100 percent operating-lease financing. The company provides financing for helicopters, serving primarily the offshore oil-and-gas industry as well as search-and-rescue, emergency medical services, police surveillance, mining and other utility missions. Since launching in August 2010, Milestone has acquired more than 90 aircraft valued at more than $1.3 billion and closed leases with 21 operators in 20 countries.


MARINE WITH A SECOND-DEGREE BLACK BELT


Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jeremy Meadows holds a Marine in a headlock while grappling at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., April 22, 2013. A martial arts instructor trainer, Meadows is one of only a few second-degree black belts assigned to the air station. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melissa Eschenbrenner
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Face of Defense: Marine NCO Strives to Lead by Example
By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Melissa Eschenbrenner
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif., May 23, 2013 - In the world's strongest fighting force, only a select few can say they've earned a second-degree black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.

Staff Sgt. Jeremy Meadows is one of the few who proudly wear two red tabs here.

Before enlisting in the Marine Corps, Meadows -- a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructor trainer with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 and a Lubbock, Texas, native -- earned a black belt in taekwondo. When he joined, MCMAP was still new and unknown to many Marines.

During his grey belt training, the challenging physical training and combat conditioning was something that made MCMAP fun, Meadows said.

"I got my green belt instructor tab in 2006," he said. "From that point, I got back to my command and started training Marines, and I fell in love with it. I like being in the dirt with the Marines. I would do that any day of the week."

The course is designed not only to prepare Marines for hand-to-hand combat, but also to add to the quality of the Corps as a whole. MCMAP is based on a synergy of three elements: physical fitness, mental strength and soundness of character.

"I try to style my life around the three synergies," Meadows said. "I just keep that in my mindset and try to better myself that way."

Meadows said he constantly sustains and passes his knowledge to other Marines, noting that it's pointless to have knowledge and skills but not share them with others. "You do know a few things, but what do you have to prove?" he added. "You should use those techniques to help other people."

Meadows wouldn't expect anything out of his Marines that he could not do himself, said Marine Corps Cpl. James Vandling, a green belt MCMAP instructor and a Randolph, N.J., native.

Marine Corps Cpl. Daitoine Austin, an operations noncommissioned officer with HMH-462, said Meadows is the type of Marine his subordinates should strive to be.

"I take a lot from his leadership style," said Austin, who hails from Cleveland. "You don't have many Marines that will go the distance to better Marines. He's not afraid of a challenge, and he's definitely not afraid of change."

Meadows said he uses what he knows as a martial arts instructor trainer and as a staff NCO to better the upcoming generation and ensure the legacy of greatness continues.

"I hope they take bits and pieces of my leadership style and apply it to theirs and strive every day to lead by example," he added. "You have to step in front and show your Marines that you're willing to do everything they do."

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICAL TESTIFIES BEFORE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman Testifies Before the U.S. House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

~ Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Chairman McHenry, Ranking Member Green, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee: Thank you for inviting the Department of Justice to appear before you today to discuss our efforts to combat financial crime. I am pleased to be here and am privileged to oversee the important work of the Criminal Division.

The Justice Department is committed to vigorously investigating allegations of wrongdoing at financial institutions and, along with our many law enforcement partners, holding individuals and corporations to account for their conduct.

Our track record in recent years shows our commitment to pursuing the most challenging and complex financial crime investigations in the country. Over the last three fiscal years alone, the Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 14,500 defendants. These prosecutions have led to stiff prison sentences for many defendants. Last year, for example, the Criminal Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston secured a 110-year sentence for Robert Allen Stanford for orchestrating a 20-year, $7 billion investment fraud scheme – just one of numerous investment fraud schemes the Department has prosecuted in recent years.

We have been just as aggressive in bringing prosecutions involving the manipulation of the markets, as seen by the extraordinary success of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan in an unprecedented string of insider trading cases over the last several years.

Our prosecutors and agents also continue to doggedly pursue health care fraudsters. Our Medicare Fraud Strike Force has convicted over 1,000 defendants of felony health care fraud offenses since the Strike Force’s inception, and the average sentence in Strike Force cases is approximately 45 months in prison.

Our fight against foreign bribery, too, is as robust as it has ever been. In just the past two months, we have announced charges against 11 individuals – including corporate executives and employees, and one foreign official – in active Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations.

Similarly, our investigation of the manipulation at various banks of interbank lending rates, including LIBOR, has had reverberations across the globe. As detailed in my written statement, the consequences thus far for several multinational banks have been far reaching, ranging from replacement of senior leaders at Barclays, to criminal charges against traders at UBS, to detailed admissions of criminal wrongdoing and the payment of substantial penalties by three global banks, to felony guilty plea agreements by Japanese subsidiaries of UBS and RBS.

As is evident from this track record, we are deeply committed to holding wrongdoers – whether individuals or business entities – to account for their crimes. In our investigations of business entities, in particular, we are guided by firmly rooted Department policy, set out in the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, which requires our prosecutors to consider a number of factors in determining how and whether to bring charges – including the seriousness of the entity’s conduct, the pervasiveness of the wrongdoing, the extent of the entity’s cooperation with our investigation, and the remedial actions taken by the company.

There has been some discussion in recent months about one of those factors – the potential collateral consequences of charging a corporate entity – and we appreciate your interest in better understanding the extent to which the Department may consider possible collateral consequences of criminal prosecutions against large, complex financial institutions.

The consideration of collateral consequences on innocent third parties, like the other factors we must consider when determining whether and how to proceed against a corporation, has been required by the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual since 2008. But the basic principles underlying that policy have a much longer history at the Department. The first Department-wide guidance on this subject was issued in 1999, and those basic principles have been reaffirmed multiple times since then, including in 2003, 2006, and 2008.

As more fully explained in my written statement, although the factors set forth in the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, for good reason, inform our prosecutorial decisions, none of those factors, including potential collateral consequences, acts as a bar to prosecution, or has prevented the Justice Department from pursuing investigations and seeking criminal penalties in cases involving large, complex financial institutions. No individual or institution is immune from prosecution, and we intend to continue our aggressive pursuit of financial fraud with the same strong commitment with which we pursue other criminal matters of national and international significance.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide the Subcommittee with this overview of our financial fraud enforcement efforts. I look forward to answering any questions you may have.

TOTAL S.A. WILL PAY $398 MILLION TO SETTLE SEC'S BRIBERY CHARGES REGARDING AN IRANIAN OFFICIAL

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C., May 29, 2013 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged France-based oil and gas company Total S.A. with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying $60 million in bribes to intermediaries of an Iranian government official who then exercised his influence to help the company obtain valuable contracts to develop significant oil and gas fields in Iran.

The SEC alleges that Total made more than $150 million in profits through the bribery scheme. Total attempted to cover up the true nature of the illegal payments by entering into sham consulting agreements with intermediaries of the Iranian official and mischaracterizing the bribes in its books and records as legitimate "business development expenses" related to the consulting agreements. Total had inadequate systems to properly review the consulting agreements and lacked sufficient internal controls to comply with federal laws prohibiting bribery.

Total, whose securities are publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange, agreed to pay more than $398 million to settle the SEC’s charges and a parallel criminal matter announced today by the U.S. Department of Justice.

"Total used illicit payments to win business in Iran, and reaped substantial financial benefits as a result," said Andrew M. Calamari, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. "Total must now pay back all of its profits from the company’s corrupt conduct and additionally pay criminal penalties on top of that."

According to the SEC’s order instituting settled administrative proceedings, Total negotiated a development contract in 1995 with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) for the country’s Sirri A and E oil and gas fields. Prior to executing the contract, Total held a meeting with the Iranian official and agreed to enter into a purported consulting agreement with an intermediary he designated. They agreed that Total would make payments to the intermediary under the guise of a consulting agreement when the real purpose was to induce the Iranian official to use his influence to help obtain NIOC’s approval of the development agreement. After the contract was executed, Total corruptly made the bribery payments that resulted in NIOC allowing Total to develop the Sirri A and E oil and gas fields and make more than $150 million in profits.

The SEC’s order requires Total to pay disgorgement of $153 million in illicit profits and retain an independent compliance consultant to review and report on Total’s compliance with the FCPA. Total also must cease and desist from committing or causing any violations of Section 30A, Section 13(b)(2)(A), and Section 13(b)(2)(B) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

In the parallel criminal proceedings, Total agreed to pay a $245.2 million penalty as part of a deferred prosecution agreement. Total also was charged today by the prosecutor of Paris (François Molins, Procureur de la République) of the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris for violations of French laws.

The SEC’s investigation was led by Sharon Binger, Alex Janghorbani, and Barry O’Connell of the New York Regional Office’s Enforcement Division with significant assistance from the SEC Enforcement Division’s FCPA Unit and the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The SEC also appreciates the assistance of French regulatory authorities.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing - May 29, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - May 29, 2013

Department of Defense Press Briefing with Maj. Gen. Miller from the Pentagon Briefing Room

Department of Defense Press Briefing with Maj. Gen. Miller from the Pentagon Briefing Room

ISAF NEWS FROM AFGHANISTAN FOR MAY 29, 2013

U.S. Army Staff Sgts. Matthew J. Bubb, left, and Jeremy N. Butler use the optic lenses on their weapons to scan rows of grapes after the unit received fire during a traffic control point in the Panjwai district in Afghanistan's Kandahar province, May 23, 2013. Bubb and Butler are assigned to 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Combined Force Arrests Insurgent in Kandahar
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, May 29, 2013 - A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested an insurgent during a search for a Taliban facilitator in Kandahar province's capital of Kandahar today, military officials reported.

The facilitator builds improvised explosive devices and distributes them to insurgents operating in the Arghandab River Valley and the provincial capital. He also oversees weapons caches and plans attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- A combined force in Balkh province's Chimtal district arrested a senior Taliban leader who plans and conducts IED attacks against Afghan government officials and Afghan and coalition forces. He also facilitates the transfer, manufacturing and testing of IEDs, coordinates and conducts kidnappings for ransom to fund insurgent operations, and coordinates the movement of insurgent fighters.

-- In Logar province's Muhammad Aghah district, a combined force wounded an insurgent during a search for a Taliban facilitator who transports fighters, weapons and suicide bombers. He also controls a group that attacks Afghan and coalition forces, equips suicide bombers with IEDs and coordinates the locations of their attacks.

-- A combined force in Paktia province's Gardez district arrested a Haqqani network leader who coordinates and directs attacks against Afghan and coalition forces and facilitates the movement of weapons, equipment and money to local insurgent cells. He also serves as an intelligence operative for senior Haqqani leadership.

DVIDS - Video - DoD Briefing

DVIDS - Video - DoD Briefing

White House Kitchen Garden Summer Harvest | The White House

White House Kitchen Garden Summer Harvest | The White House

THE AIRMAN AND THE TORNADO

Air Force Senior Airman Brandon Tucker, a crew communication specialist with the 185th Air Refueling Squadron, steps through a space where a window once was at his home in Moore, Okla., May 22, 2013. Moore was heavily damaged following a deadly tornado that passed through central Oklahoma on May 20, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Nelson Jr.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Oklahoma Airman Experiences Moore Tornado's Wrath

By Army Sgt. Daniel Nelson Jr.
145th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

MOORE, Okla., May 23, 2013 - The Midwest region is certainly no stranger to inclement weather, having heavy snow and ice in the winter months and severe thunderstorms and deadly tornados during the spring and summer.

However, the recent string of storms that have passed through the region have left the Oklahoma communities of Newcastle, Moore, Oklahoma City and Shawnee in tatters, displacing hundreds of families, and resulting in 26 confirmed deaths.

For many residents affected by the record EF-5 tornado that tore through the central Oklahoma landscape, the week began with an anticipation of thunderstorms and heavy rain. That all changed May 20 as a deadly tornado developed southwest of Oklahoma City. The tornado grew as it moved through southeastern Oklahoma City and across Moore.

In the wake of the destruction, first responders from across the country began to pour into Moore and Oklahoma City, including support from the Oklahoma National Guard.

For one Oklahoma Air National Guardsman, the tornado came only a month after he returned from a six-month deployment to the Middle East. Air Force Senior Airman Brandon Tucker, a crew communication specialist with the 185th Air Refueling Squadron, was at home working in his garage, getting his personal items moved back into his house after deciding to take his house off the real estate market.

"I was here right before the tornado came through," Tucker said. "I noticed that the wind had picked up quite a bit, and all of a sudden it just stopped, which I thought that was kind of odd. I walked inside in time to see Gary England announce that a tornado was heading toward the Newcastle Casino. I high-tailed it out of there."

The citizens of Oklahoma City and Moore sought cover wherever they could and braced for their lives. The tornado left a trail of destruction stretching 17 miles from Newcastle to southeast Oklahoma City.

Search-and-rescue efforts immediately began as first responders, Oklahoma National Guardsmen and citizens of surrounding communities converged on the area in hopes of finding survivors. As the nation anxiously watched, news reports shifted from severe weather coverage to rescues and how others could contribute through much-needed donations.

With entire neighborhoods having been being wiped out by the tornado's wrath, hundreds of Oklahomans were finding themselves homeless, and with only the clothes on their backs. Many of the residents started sifting through piles of debris and rubble in hopes of finding any personal items not swept away by the tornado's more than 200 mph winds. Some of the neighborhoods were unreachable other than by foot or were too dangerous to allow residents back into as first responders were faced with fires, natural gas leaks and unstable structures.

"It was a full 24 hours before I was able to get back home with the streets so littered with debris; you just couldn't get through any other way than by foot," Tucker said. "When I finally got back, I could hardly recognize my house. I was overwhelmed by the amount of damage."

Some of Tucker's fellow National Guardsmen went with him as he rummaged through a pile of debris that now stands where his house once was. With the support of his military family that includes his father, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Tucker, public affairs sergeant for the 137th Air Refueling Wing, Brandon Tucker has begun the long process of cleaning and rebuilding.

"I was able to find a couple of pictures that could not be replaced with just money, and my pet has also safely made it through all of this with me," Brandon Tucker said.

Oklahoma City has seen the effects of deadly tornados time and again in the past, and the resiliency of its citizens will help those who were most directly affected.

Like Brandon, the many people impacted have the support of the nation, the Oklahoma National Guard and the communities in which they live as they cope with loss and rebuild their lives.

SEED DISPERSAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS IN AFRICAN FORESTS

Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in Central Africa, site of the scientists' research. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

FROM: NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Seed Dispersal, Environmental Conditions Matter in African Forests
Nouabale-Ndoki National Park is a tree-dotted enclave in Central Africa's Republic of Congo. Heavy logging surrounds the park, but it still has one of the largest intact forests in Africa. In recognition, it recently became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Trees--thousands of them--make up a forest. How did Nouabale-Ndoki's trees become so numerous, and how do they stay that way?

The answer, say biologists, lies far below the tree canopy, in the soil where seedlings sprout.

Today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists report results of an extensive seedling experiment in Nouabale-Ndoki National Park.

The research, which involved sowing 40,000 seeds of five tree species, is a new look at "seeing the forest for the trees."

The findings, which show what limits seedling growth, are important to reforestation efforts in areas that have been logged.

Every tree can produce hundreds of thousands of seeds in its lifetime, but on average, only one seed survives to adulthood, says John Poulsen of Duke University, a co-author of the journal paper.

Other paper co-authors are Connie Clark, also of Duke, and Doug Levey, formerly of the University of Florida and now a program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology.

Which seeds have the best chance of making it to old age?

"There are basically two ways to look at successful seedling recruitment [survival]," says Levey. "Species may be seed-limited or establishment-limited."

A tree species is seed-limited if its ability to grow is determined by whether its seeds reach a particular location on the ground. The seeds may arrive on the wind or simply by falling from trees.

Establishment-limited trees are those that depend on the environment around them, rather than on seeds landing in just the right spot. If the soil is too wet or there is too much shade, a species is establishment-limited.

To test the importance of these two limitations on seedling recruitment, the scientists sowed tens of thousands of seeds.

They chose the species randomly, which allowed the results to be generalized to all tree species, not just the most common ones, says Poulsen.

The seeds were planted in different amounts in plots that stretched across an area the size of the state of Rhode Island.

Latter-day Johnny Appleseeds, the researchers couldn't do it alone, however.

"We hired a small army of indigenous, Mbendzélé hunter-gatherers," says Clark. "These families could easily locate seeds, and we were the beneficiaries of their intimate knowledge of the forest's natural history."

After the seeds were planted, the ecologists watched them grow into seedlings over two years.

They found that only a small fraction of seeds, some 16 percent, became seedlings. An even smaller amount, about six percent, survived to reach their second birthdays.

When numbers of seeds were at one end of a spectrum--rare or abundant--the trees' recruitment was seed-limited.

"When seeds were at intermediate densities," says Levey, "the chance of recruitment was influenced by environmental factors such as soil type and sunlight."

The importance of seed- and establishment-limitation changes over time, Levey says. "As individual trees get older, they need the correct soil and light exposure [become more establishment-limited]."

Not that different from our changing needs for the right nutrients and enough light as we reach our sunset years.

President Obama Speaks at the AAPI Heritage Month Celebration | The White House

President Obama Speaks at the AAPI Heritage Month Celebration | The White House

FORMER COP AND TWO MEMBERS OF LATIN KINGS GANG SENTENCED TO PRISON

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, May 23, 2013

Former Chicago Police Officer and Two Members of Latin Kings Street Gang Sentenced in Indiana for Racketeering Conspiracy and Related Crimes

A former Chicago police officer and two members of the Latin Kings street gang were sentenced to prison today in Hammond, Ind., federal court for racketeering conspiracy and related crimes.

Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney David Capp of the Northern District of Indiana made the announcement following the sentencing hearings before U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano in the Northern District of Indiana.

A former officer with the Chicago Police Department, Antonio C. Martinez, Jr., 40, of Chicago, was sentenced today to 144 months in prison after pleading guilty on Nov. 18, 2011, to racketeering, drug, and robbery conspiracies and other related charges. According to court records, Martinez and another officer committed armed robberies on behalf of a Latin Kings gang member – in some instances while in uniform and driving police-issued vehicles. They stole drugs, weapons and cash, and in some instances they were given a portion of the funds they stole as payment for committing the armed robberies.

Hiluterio Chavez, aka "Tails," 37, of Chicago, was sentenced today to 240 months in prison after pleading guilty on Jan. 24, 2012, to racketeering and drug conspiracies. Chavez, who became a Latin Kings member at an earlier age, admitted in court that he traveled with other Latin Kings leadership from the Chicago area to Texas to facilitate the organization of the Latin Kings in Texas and to ensure their allegiance to the Chicago Latin Kings. Among other crimes, Chavez participated in a robbery with Martinez and presented himself as a law enforcement officer.

Jermaine Ellis, aka "J-Dub," 21, of Chicago, was sentenced today to 205 months in prison after pleading guilty on July 30, 2010, to racketeering conspiracy. Ellis, who also became a Latin Kings member at an early age, admitted that while a juvenile he participated in the shooting deaths of James Walsh and Gonzalo Diaz in Griffith, Ind., on Feb. 25, 2007.

Court records allege that the Latin Kings is a nationwide gang that originated in Chicago and has branched out throughout the United States. The Latin Kings is a well-organized street gang that has specific leadership and is composed of regions that include multiple chapters.

The Latin Kings enforces its rules and promotes discipline among its members, prospects and associates through murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, assault and threats against those who violate the rules or pose a threat to the Latin Kings. Members are required to follow the orders of higher-ranking members, including taking on assignments often referred to as "missions."

Twenty-three Latin Kings members and associates have been indicted in this case. Aside from Martinez, Ellis and Chavez, 19 of the other defendants pleaded guilty and one remains a fugitive.

This case was investigated by the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; ICE Homeland Security Investigations; the National Gang Intelligence Center; the Chicago Police Department; the Houston Police Department; the Griffith Police Department; the Highland Police Department; the Hammond Police Department; and the East Chicago Police Department.

The case is being prosecuted by Joseph A. Cooley of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and David J. Nozick of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana. Andrew Porter of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois provided significant assistance.