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Saturday, June 29, 2013

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update



EPA and MPCA to Provide More than $3 Million to Restore the St. Louis River

Duluth (June 21, 2013) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced more than $3 million to help restore the St. Louis River Area of Concern. EPA will provide $2.2 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funds and MPCA will provide an additional $1.1 million through the Minnesota Clean Water Fund.

The money will be used to fund a variety of activities to guide clean-up work within the St. Louis River Area of Concern, one of 38 such areas within the Great Lakes region. The $3 million will be used to assess cleanup options at three sites; develop engineering plans for the restoration of seven sites; evaluate the potential use of dredged river sediment for use in local habitat restoration projects and conduct ecosystem monitoring activities.

"I am pleased to announce that EPA is providing an additional $2.2 million to help restore the headwaters of the Great Lakes," said EPA Regional Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Susan Hedman. "EPA and MPCA are jointly funding the next phase of work needed to reverse over one hundred years of environmental degradation in the St. Louis River Area of Concern."

"The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is delighted to be working with our federal partners, including EPA, to secure funding to address legacy pollutants, a result of historic practices in the St. Louis River Area of Concern. With the help of our local partners, we are putting finishing touches on a detailed, multi-million dollar clean up and restoration plan to delist this Area of Concern by the year 2025," said John Linc Stine, Commissioner for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

"The St. Louis River is a recreational Minnesota jewel for local people, as well as for tourists and sports enthusiasts from all around our nation and world. It's a resource central to our enjoyment and our economy," said Rep. Rick Nolan. "We commend EPA and MPCA for their commitment, involvement and contribution to a clean and healthy St. Louis River."

"The City of Duluth is grateful for the partnership and shared commitment to the health and preservation of our natural surroundings," said Mayor Don Ness. "This funding will allow tremendous progress in the restoration of a huge community resource that is a critical part of Duluth’s vision. Working together to care for our natural assets allows Duluth to remain one of the most beautiful places in the nation and one of the most sought-after outdoor adventure hubs in the world."

"The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is pleased with the announcement of the investment being made on the St. Louis River Area of Concern. The Band's water regulatory authority and ceded territory rights obligate the Band to exercise stewardship with regard to the health of the river. We look forward to working in partnership with the EPA and MPCA on developing a plan for a cleaner river," said Ferdinand Martineau, Secretary-Treasurer, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

The St. Louis River is the largest U.S. tributary to Lake Superior. The St. Louis River Area of Concern is extensive, consisting of portions of the St. Louis River watershed in Minnesota, the Nemadji River watershed in Wisconsin and the western tip of Lake Superior. Much of the environmental degradation is concentrated in the lower 20 miles of the river. Environmental problems affecting this stretch of the river include restrictions on consumption of fish and wildlife, fish tumors, contaminated sediments, beach closings, loss of habitat and restrictions on dredging. The St. Louis River was identified or "listed" as an Area of Concern in 1989 under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the U.S. and Canada. Of the 43 Areas of Concern identified by the United States and Canada, only two on the U.S. side of the border have been "delisted." GLRI funds are being used to accelerate cleanup work in the remaining Areas of Concern.

EPA has been working closely with Minnesota, Wisconsin and the St. Louis River Alliance to protect, restore and enhance the St. Louis River. The goal of these efforts is to address environmental problems affecting the watershed and, ultimately, delist the St. Louis River Area of Concern. In addition to the activities being funded by the $3 million announced today, a Great Lakes Legacy Act funded assessment of cleanup options for the contaminated sediments in Spirit Lake is already underway. Cleanup of the Spirit Lake area, including habitat restoration, could start as early as 2015. U.S. Steel is the nonfederal partner in this project. In addition, U.S. Steel, overseen by EPA and MPCA, is currently investigating contamination on its property near the river. Any cleanup of the property will be coordinated with future sediment removal and redevelopment opportunities. The Duluth Port Authority has proposed redeveloping 130 acres of the U.S. Steel property.

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update


Dempsey: Cybercom Likely to Continue Gaining Prominence

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2013 - U.S. Cyber Command, currently a subunified command under U.S. Strategic Command, likely will one day become a separate command, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

Noting that the cyber threat will only continue to grow, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told attendees at a Brookings Institution forum that he anticipates a day when operations in cyberspace become a dominant factor in military operations.

"But, at this point, Stratcom, with its global reach responsibilities, as well as its space responsibilities, is also able to manage the workload that comes with being the next senior headquarters to Cybercom," the chairman said. "I'm actually content [with] the way we're organized right now."

The chairman noted that the national effort to protect critical civilian infrastructure lags behind the military's efforts to secure its own networks, largely because information about cyber threats isn't being shared with the government.

"Right now, threat information primarily runs in one direction: from the government to operators of critical infrastructure," he said. Changing this will require legislation, he added.

The nation's top military officer said he's confident that indicators of an impending attack can be shared in a way that preserves the privacy, anonymity, and civil liberties of network users.

Cybercom will assume a new importance when that conduit opens, the chairman said. "If we get the kind of information sharing we need, that could be a catalyst for changing the organization, because the span and scope of responsibility will change," he explained.


EPA Strengthens Energy Star Requirements for Refrigerators and Freezers
Encourages "connected" features, including smart grid functionality

– The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revised its Energy Star requirements for residential refrigerators and freezers. The updated requirements raise the bar for energy efficiency in these products and, for the first time, encourage manufacturers of Energy Star appliances to include optional "connected" features. These features would offer consumers more ways to reduce the energy consumption of their refrigerators and freezers, help lower their utility bills, and better protect the environment and the climate.

Under the new standards, Energy Star certified refrigerators and freezers will use at least 10 percent less energy than models meeting 2014 federal minimum efficiency standards. If all refrigerators and freezers sold in the United States were to meet the updated requirements, energy cost savings would grow to more than $890 million each year and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of those from more than one million vehicles. Additionally, by recycling an old refrigerator and replacing it with a new Energy Star certified refrigerator, consumers can save from $150–$1,100 on energy costs over the product’s lifetime.

"We can all do our part in meeting the challenge of climate change," said Janet McCabe, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. "By choosing Energy Star appliances, families can save energy, save money, and reduce carbon pollution."

Certain Energy Star refrigerators and freezers with connected features will provide consumers new convenience and energy-saving opportunities. These products will allow consumers to view real-time energy use, receive energy-related messages, such as an alert when the door has been left open, and manage appliance settings remotely. Refrigerators and freezers with connected functionality will also be "smart grid"-ready, meaning that with consumer permission, they will be able to respond to utility signals, including curtailing operations during more expensive peak demand times.

To earn the Energy Star label, product performance must be certified by an EPA-recognized third party, based on testing in an EPA-recognized laboratory. The updated Energy Star refrigerator and freezer specification will go into effect on September 15, 2014.

Products, homes, and buildings that earn the Energy Star label prevent greenhouse gas emissions by meeting strict energy efficiency requirements set by the U.S. EPA. In 2012 alone, Americans, with the help of Energy Star, saved $24 billion on their utility bills and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to those of 50 million vehicles. To date, more than 1.4 million new homes and 20,000 facilities, including offices, schools, hospitals, and industrial plants have earned the Energy Star label.


The 'urban heat island effect' raises temperatures in cities compared with surrounding areas. Credit: NASA

Summertime: Hot Time in the City
It's the first day of summer, a hot time in the desert city of Phoenix. And in cities across the United States--and the Northern Hemisphere.

Heat islands, as these urban hot spots are called, are metropolitan areas significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas. Why?

"Us," says sociologist Sharon Harlan of Arizona State University (ASU). "It's all due to the effects of humans. We've modified the surface of the land in ways that retain heat."

Urban heat islands are the result. Soil and grass have been replaced with materials such as asphalt and concrete that absorb heat during the day and re-radiate it at night, causing higher temperatures.

Summer in a blistering desert
Harlan and colleagues in fields across the social, natural and health sciences are studying urban heat islands--and their opposites, park cool islands where plant growth throws cold water on burning temperatures.

They're conducting the research via a National Science Foundation (NSF) Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) grant. CNH is one of NSF's Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability, or SEES, programs.

"Cities can be hot and uncomfortable places for the people who live in them, with some populations especially vulnerable to health problems from urban heat," says Sarah Ruth, CNH program director in NSF's Directorate for Geosciences.

"The city environment and its human inhabitants form a complex system with multiple connections. These researchers have uncovered important information about this system and the interactions among its components.

"The results suggest ways city officials and residents can work together to create places where fewer people suffer the effects of extreme temperatures."

The hot, arid Sonoran Desert is central Arizona's natural environment. Humans have transformed the desert over thousands of years, beginning with early Native American subsistence farmers and continuing with late 19th century Anglo-American commercial growers and 20th century sunbelt migrants.

Metropolitan Phoenix is an ideal laboratory for investigating heat-related human vulnerability, says Harlan. Rapid urbanization has replaced natural vegetation and agricultural fields, increasing summer temperatures during the past 50 years.

Islands of green
What's one of the answers? Park cool islands, found the scientists.

They evaluated the effects of plants' cool greenness on a Phoenix inner-city park.

The results were recently published in the journal Urban Ecosystems. Along with Harlan, co-authors of the paper, all from ASU, are Juan Declet-Barreto, Anthony Brazel, Chris Martin and Winston Chow.

They're also working through the NSF Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site, one of 26 such NSF LTER sites across the nation and around the world.

"We predicted air and surface temperatures under two different vegetation regimes: existing conditions representative of Phoenix urban core neighborhoods, and a scenario using principles of landscape design and architecture, and urban heat island mitigation strategies," write the scientists.

They found that the air beneath and around "canopied vegetation"--trees--was cooler than the surroundings.

Larger plants such as trees absorb and reflect the Sun's rays, buffering the heat index. Scientists call it a "microclimate ecosystem service," better known as, simply, shade.

Trees also reduce hot air by turning water from liquid to gas inside their leaves. "Temperatures then fall in the immediate environment," says Martin.

It all adds up to a park cool island. "Park cool islands are usually found in irregular patterns in a city," Declet-Barreto says. "They're nested within warmer spots."

The Latino Urban Core
The team studied the role of park cool islands in a low-income, ethnic minority community in inner-city Phoenix.

The area is called the Latino Urban Core. It's bounded by industrial land to the north, south and east and an interstate highway to the west. The neighborhood's main feature is an electric utility company easement currently used as "linear park space almost entirely devoid of vegetation," states the Urban Ecosystems paper.

The Latino Urban Core's sparse vegetation is mostly in residents' yards. Patches of exposed soil with nothing growing on them are scattered across vacant lots, yards, and the grounds of the "linear park."

Parks in low-income neighborhoods tend to be hotter than parks in higher-income areas, research has shown. Although residents in low-income areas need places to cool off, these neighborhoods have less inherent cooling capacity as there's less green space.

Inner-city green space--lacking in Phoenix's Latino Urban Core--is a crucial component of urban heat island mitigation, Declet-Barreto says. "But it's made more difficult by ongoing debates over urban amenities like parks and the needed resources, such as water, tax dollars, local government will and regular maintenance."

"Ecologies of fear" often arise in neglected green spaces. "They're legacies of environmental and racial discrimination, inner-city decay and a continuing urban planning focus on fringe [suburban] development," write the researchers.

Studies have shown that in Phoenix, inner-city areas bear higher property tax burdens in comparison with suburbs, but the former receive significantly fewer tax dollars for parks, recreation and water supplies.

Minority and low-income communities are increasingly addressing such disparities by demanding a more equitable distribution of urban amenities, such as green spaces like parks.

In low-income communities, parks are often the only available public gathering places. Green spaces, scientists say, can provide cultural, social and--more directly applicable to extreme heat mitigation--human health and ecological benefits.

Cooling down urban heat islands
Finding ways to offset high temperatures in desert cities where the weather is chronically hot, says Harlan, is critical.

Extreme heat, scientists have found, is a threat to human health, increases atmospheric pollutants and energy and water use, alters regional hydrology and affects interactions between humans and ecological processes.

"The problem of heat-related deaths and illnesses is very serious," says Harlan. "Each year, heat fatalities in the U.S. happen in greater numbers than mortality from any other type of weather disaster." High heat wave events--unexpected and long-duration heat waves--are becoming more common in cities like Phoenix, Chicago and Paris.

Climate change and rapidly growing cities are likely to fuel more such events.

"Our research suggests that climate intervention strategies should be targeted at the neighborhoods and population groups that are most vulnerable to environmental hazards like extreme heat events," says Harlan. "We hope our results will be used in better decision-making about climate adaptation in cities."

Greening parks is an intervention strategy, she says, for urban heat island mitigation that could be supported with public resources.

"If targeted to low-income neighborhoods where vulnerability to heat is greater," says Harlan, "it would address an environmental inequity and provide better ecosystem services for these neighborhoods."

One antidote to an urban heat island, it turns out, is another island, a place filled with shade trees and lush growth: a park cool island.


Friday, June 28, 2013

U.S. Department Of State Daily Press Briefing - June 28, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - June 28, 2013

West Wing Week: 06/28/13 or “The Case For Action” | The White House

West Wing Week: 06/28/13 or “The Case For Action” | The White House

Remarks by Secretary Hagel at a Town Hall Meeting with Soldiers at Fort Carson, Colorado

Remarks by Secretary Hagel at a Town Hall Meeting with Soldiers at Fort Carson, Colorado

DOD Contracts for June 28, 2013

Contracts for June 28, 2013



Nighttime Image of Texas Cities

One of the Expedition 36 crew members aboard the International Space Station, some 240 miles above Earth, used a 50mm lens to record this oblique nighttime image of a large part of the nation’s second largest state in area, including the four largest metropolitan areas in population. The extent of the metropolitan areas is easily visible at night due to city and highway lights.

The largest metro area, Dallas-Fort Worth, often referred to informally as the Metroplex, is the heavily cloud-covered area at the top center of the photo. Neighboring Oklahoma, on the north side of the Red River, less than 100 miles to the north of the Metroplex, appears to be experiencing thunderstorms. The Houston metropolitan area, including the coastal city of Galveston, is at lower right. To the east near the Texas border with Louisiana, the metropolitan area of Beaumont-Port Arthur appears as a smaller blotch of light, also hugging the coast of the Texas Gulf. Moving inland to the left side of the picture one can delineate the San Antonio metro area. The capital city of Austin can be seen to the northeast of San Antonio.

Image Credit: NASA

Remarks by Secretary Hagel and Gen. Jacoby at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colorado

Remarks by Secretary Hagel and Gen. Jacoby at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colorado



Marine Transition in Helmand Ahead of Schedule, Amos Says

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2013 - Marine Corps security handoff and equipment recovery efforts in southern Afghanistan as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force are both ahead of schedule, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos said here today.

Amos told the Defense Writers Group that conditions in Helmand province, which he visited last week, are "pretty remarkable" and "dramatically different" from what they were even six months ago.

"I was there at Christmas, and I was there in February, ... and we just got back again," he said. "Even from Christmas, the focus began to [be] the advise-and-assist teams." He noted the 28- or 30-member teams drawn from across the coalition's forces worked with individual Afghan army and police kandaks, or battalions, and their headquarters.

"We brought teams in last fall, and we reorganized the structure" in Helmand from seven Marine Corps infantry battalions to two, Amos said. That demonstrates how well the Afghan army has been doing, he added -- "really well."

The advise and assist teams had been forecast for an intense effort through this year, Amos said, but "we missed the mark on that" because Afghan forces have improved more quickly than expected.

Some teams will be pulled out in the coming months, he added, and the advise-and-assist mission has gone well enough that in southern Helmand, Afghan army and police forces haven't asked for the Marines' operational help in more than a month.

"It's the same thing going up north, except the Taliban have gotten a little bit frisky trying to test the Afghan National Army in places like Sangin," he said.

Over the next year, Marine forces in Helmand will focus on advising at the corps, brigade and provincial government level, Amos said. He added the remaining two infantry battalions also will serve as a transitional "shock absorber" for Afghan forces' logistics, sustainment and training.

"This is what we would hope to happen, but we didn't think it would happen this soon," he said.

Responding to a question on how much Marine Corps equipment would remain behind after the major U.S. troop withdrawal ends in 2014, Amos said that barring any designated for handover to Afghan forces, none will. After the war in Iraq ended, he noted, the Marine Corps learned its lesson.

In Helmand, Amos said, equipment went home along with the Marines, estimating that 65 to 70 percent of Marine Corps gear already is out of the country. "We've been flying equipment out for a year and a half. ... These lots are empty. They're clean," he said.

Transition in Helmand is ahead of schedule, and nobody is running for the doors, Amos said. "We're right where we need to be," he added.



A visit, board, search and seizure team from Surface Warfare Detachment 1, embarked aboard the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) searches and secures the Royal Malaysian Navy guided-missile frigate KD Jebat (FFG 29) during a Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Malaysia 2013 exercise. More than 1200 Sailors and Marines are participating in CARAT Malaysia. CARAT is a series of bilateral military exercises between the U.S. Navy and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor Leste. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karolina A. Oseguera (Released) 130620-N-JN664-119

The amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) conducts a replenishment-at-sea. Harpers Ferry is underway for amphibious squadron-marine expeditionary unit integrated training in preparation for a deployment as part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gary Granger Jr. (Released) 130618-N-YR391-006



Army to Cut 12 Brigade Combat Teams by 2017, Odierno Says

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2013 - As part of its force restructuring due to the Budget Control Act of 2011, by the end of fiscal year 2017 the Army will reduce its number of brigade combat teams from 45 to 33, the Army's chief of staff announced today.

In addition, Army Gen. Ray Odierno told reporters at a Pentagon news conference, the Army will shrink its active component end strength by 14 percent, or 80,000 soldiers, to 490,000, down from a wartime high of 570,000 troops.

The Army National Guard will cut 8,000 soldiers, he said, without making any force structure changes. And the Army Reserve will skip a planned force increase and maintain its current size of 205,000.

In all, 12 brigade combat teams will inactivate, the general said, including two brigade combat teams, stationed at Baumholder and Grafenwoehr, Germany, already scheduled to inactivate in fiscal 2013.

Two brigade combat teams will remain in Europe to fulfill strategic commitments, Odierno said.

One brigade combat team will inactivate at each of the following installations: Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Campbell, Ky; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Knox, Ky.; Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Stewart, Ga., and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

"In the future, we will announce an additional BCT to be inactivated, which will bring the number of BCTs to 32, but that decision has yet to be made," the general said.

The Army is in the process of undergoing one of its largest organizational changes since World War II, Odierno said, noting that today's announced end strength and force structure reductions are the result of provisions of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that aren't related to sequestration spending cuts. "We are taking these actions as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011," he added.

Full sequestration beyond the current fiscal year could require another reduction in the Army's active, Guard and Reserve force structure by as much as 100,000 soldiers combined, Odierno said.

"Our decisions are in line with the fiscal year '13 budget submission, which implements a $487 billion reduction in DOD funding based on the Budget Control Act of 2011," he said. The Army's share of these cuts amounts to $170 billion, Odierno noted.

"If sequestration continues into fiscal year 2014, Army reductions to end strength, force structure and basing announced today will be only the first step," said he added.

The Army led an exhaustive review before deciding where and how to cut, the general said, looking at the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of the reductions. The final decision was based on a number of criteria, Odierno said, including the ability to train, provide for soldiers and families and the ability to expand and regenerate forces.

Geographic distribution also was considered, not only to minimize cost and environmental and socioeconomic impacts, but also to ensure the Army was in line with the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region directed by the 2012 strategic defense guidance, he said. The 33 remaining brigade combat teams will be reorganized, Odierno said.

"We will add a third maneuver battalion and additional engineer and fires capability to each of our armor and infantry brigade combat teams in order to make them more lethal, more flexible and more agile," the general said.

The changes will reduce the overall number of headquarters while sustaining as much combat capability as possible, Odierno said. "As we inactivate brigade combat teams, we will reinvest some of the soldiers, equipment and support personnel into the remaining brigade combat teams," he added.


Image: DNA Credit: NCI/Wikimedia

Bacterial DNA May Integrate Into Human Genome More Readily in Tumor Tissue
Bacterial DNA may integrate into the human genome more readily in tumors than in normal human tissue, scientists have found.

The researchers, affiliated with the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Institute for Genome Sciences, analyzed genomic sequencing data available from the Human Genome Project, the 1,000 Genomes Project and The Cancer Genome Atlas.

They considered the phenomenon of lateral gene transfer (LGT), the transmission of genetic material between organisms in a manner other than than traditional reproduction.

Scientists have already shown that bacteria can transfer DNA to the genome of an animal.

The researchers found evidence that lateral gene transfer is possible from bacteria to the cells of the human body, known as human somatic cells.

They found that bacterial DNA was more likely to integrate in the genome in tumor samples than in normal, healthy somatic cells. The phenomenon might play a role in cancer and other diseases associated with DNA damage.

"Advances in genomic and computational sciences are revealing the vast ways in which humans interact with an ever-present and endlessly diverse planet of microbes," says Matt Kane, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology in its Directorate for Biological Sciences, which funded the research.

"This discovery underscores the benefits that can result from a shift in our understanding of how this vast diversity of microbes and their genes may affect our health."

The results may lead to advances in personalized medicine, scientists say, in which doctors use each patient's genomic make-up to determine care and preventive measures.

A paper reporting the results is published today in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.

"LGT from bacteria to animals was only described recently, and it is exciting to find that such transfers can be found in the genome of human somatic cells and particularly in cancer genomes," says Julie Dunning Hotopp of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and lead author of the paper.

Hotopp also is a research scientist at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center.

"Studies applying this approach to additional cancer genome projects could be fruitful, leading us to a better understanding of the mechanisms of cancer."

The researchers found that while only 63.5 percent of TCGA samples analyzed were from tumors, the tumor samples contained 99.9 percent of reads supporting bacterial integration.

The data present a compelling case that LGT occurs in the human somatic genome, and that it could have an important role in cancer and other human diseases associated with mutations.

It's possible that LGT mutations play a role in carcinogenesis, the scientists say, yet it's also possible that they could simply be "passenger mutations."

The investigators suggest several competing ideas to explain the results, though more research is needed for definitive answers.

One possibility is that the mutations are part of carcinogenesis, the process by which normal cells turn into cancer cells.

Alternatively, tumor cells are very rapidly proliferating, so much so that they may be more permissive to lateral gene transfer.

It's also possible that bacteria are causing these mutations because they benefit the bacteria themselves.

The study was also funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF


Image caption: An enzyme (shown in blue) pulls out individual cellulose chains (pink) from the pretreated nanofiber surface (green) and then breaks them apart into simple sugars. Image credit, Shishir Chundawat, Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center

Less is More: Novel Cellulose Structure Requires Fewer Enzymes to Process Biomass to Fuel
LOS ALAMOS, N.M., June 19, 2013—Improved methods for breaking down cellulose nanofibers are central to cost-effective biofuel production and the subject of new research from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC). Scientists are investigating the unique properties of crystalline cellulose nanofibers to develop novel chemical pretreatments and designer enzymes for biofuel production from cellulosic-or non-food-plant derived biomass.

"Cellulose is laid out in plant cell walls as crystalline nanofibers, like steel reinforcements embedded in concrete columns," says GLBRC's Shishir Chundawat. "The key to cheaper biofuel production is to unravel these tightly packed nanofibers more efficiently into soluble sugars using fewer enzymes."

An article published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests-counter-intuitively-that increased binding of enzymes to cellulose polymers doesn't always lead to faster breakdown into simple sugars. In fact, Chundawat's research team found that using novel biomass pretreatments to convert cellulose to a unique crystalline structure called cellulose III reduced native enzyme binding while increasing sugar yields by as much as five times.

"The ability of this unconventional pretreatment strategy, currently under development at GLBRC, to selectively alter the cellulose crystal structure may lead to an order of magnitude reduction in enzyme usage. This will be critical for cost-effective cellulosic biofuel production," says Bruce Dale of Michigan State University, who leads GLBRC's biomass deconstruction research area.

The researchers had previously demonstrated that altering the crystal structure of native cellulose to cellulose III accelerates enzymatic deconstruction; however, the recent observation that cellulose III increased sugar yields with reduced levels of bound enzyme was unexpected. To explain this finding, Chundawat and a team of LANL researchers led by Gnana Gnanakaran and Anurag Sethi developed a mechanistic kinetic model indicating that the relationship between enzyme affinity for cellulose and catalytic efficiency is more complex than previously thought.

Cellulose III was found to have a less sticky surface that makes it harder for native enzymes to get stuck non-productively on it, unlike untreated cellulose surfaces. The model further predicts that the enhanced enzyme activity, despite reduced binding, is due to the relative ease with which enzymes are able to pull out individual cellulose III chains from the pretreated nanofiber surface and then break them apart into simple sugars.

"These findings are exciting because they may catalyze future development of novel engineered enzymes that are further tailored for conversion of cellulose III rich pretreated biomass to cheaper fuels and other useful compounds that are currently derived from non-renewable fossil fuels," says Gnanakaran.

This research was funded by the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research through Cooperative Agreement DE-FC02-07ER64494 between the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and the U.S. Department of Energy). The LANL team was supported by the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium (NABC), the Center for Non-Linear Studies, and the Laboratory Directed Research & Development (LDRD) program at LANL.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

U.S. Navy Photos of the Day Update

U.S. Navy Photos of the Day Update

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing - June 27, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - June 27, 2013



Hagel Orders Effort to Protect Allotment System From Lender Abuse

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2013 - In concert with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau enforcement action aimed at financial services institutions abusing the Defense Department's payroll allotment system, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today ordered an interagency effort to determine whether the allotment system needs changes to further protect service members.

The Defense Department's allotment system allows service members to automatically direct a portion of their paycheck to any bank or individual of their choosing. CFPB found that some lenders were not clearly disclosing the required fees charged by third-party allotment processors.

In a statement, Hagel said the settlement that CFPB announced today is the culmination of more than a year of collaboration among Defense Department leaders, the Judge Advocate General Corps of the military services and the CFPB.

"I want to thank the CFPB for their partnership in helping to protect those who protect this nation and for their ongoing efforts to increase the financial literacy and readiness of our service members," Hagel said. "However, I remain concerned about the potential misuse of the allotment system by lenders."

Therefore, the secretary added, he has directed the Defense Department's comptroller to form an interagency team to assess what changes might be needed in the allotment system going forward.

"This group will include representatives from enforcement agencies and bank regulators, and will report back to me within 180 days on steps the department can take to ensure our discretionary allotment system no longer creates an opportunity for unscrupulous businesses and lenders to take advantage of those who serve in the armed forces," Hagel said.

Media Roundtable with Gen. Campbell, Lt. Gen. Huggins and Maj. Gen. Murray from the Pentagon Briefing Room

Media Roundtable with Gen. Campbell, Lt. Gen. Huggins and Maj. Gen. Murray from the Pentagon Briefing Room



Operations Specialist Seaman Manuel Dull views the global command control system maritime console in the combat information center of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group is conducting joint force operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Achterling (Released) 130618-N-BJ178-033

An AV-8B Harrier II assigned to the air combat element of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) takes off ofrom the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Boxer is conducting predeployment training during amphibious exercise Dawn Blitz. Dawn Blitz is a scenario-driven exercise led by U.S. 3rd Fleet and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Jeffries (Released) 130613-N-SV688-275


Coral  Credit:  NOAA

Natural Underwater Springs Show How Coral Reefs Respond to Ocean Acidification

Ocean acidification due to rising carbon dioxide levels reduces the density of coral skeletons, making coral reefs more vulnerable to disruption and erosion.

The results are from a study of corals growing where underwater springs naturally lower the pH of seawater. (The lower the pH, the more acidic.)

The findings are published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and are the first to show that corals are not able to fully acclimate to low pH conditions in nature.

"People have seen similar effects in laboratory experiments," said paper co-author Adina Paytan, a marine scientist at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC).

"We looked in places where corals are exposed to low pH for their entire life span. The good news is that they don't just die. They are able to grow and calcify, but they are not producing robust structures."

With atmospheric carbon dioxide rising steadily, the oceans are absorbing more carbon dioxide, which lowers the pH of surface waters.

Ocean acidification refers to changes in seawater chemistry that move it closer to the acidic range of the pH scale, although seawater is not expected to become literally acidic.

"In our efforts to understand and predict ocean acidification and its long-term effects on marine chemistry and ecosystems, we must deal with a slow process that challenges our ability to detect change," said Don Rice, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences.

"This study shows that, with a little effort, we can find ocean sites where nature is already doing the experiments for us."

NSF funded the research through its Ocean Acidification Program, part of the agency's Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability Investment.

The scientists studied coral reefs along the Caribbean coastline of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, where submarine springs lower the pH of the surrounding seawater in a natural setting.

The effect is similar to the widespread ocean acidification that's occurring as the oceans absorb increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Led by first author Elizabeth Crook of UCSC, the researchers deployed instruments to monitor seawater chemistry around the springs and removed skeletal cores from colonies of Porites astreoides, an important Caribbean reef-building coral.

They performed CT scans of the cores in the lab of co-author Anne Cohen at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Mass., to measure densities and determine annual calcification rates.

The results show that coral calcification rates decrease significantly along a natural gradient in seawater pH.

Ocean acidification lowers the concentration of carbonate ions in seawater, making it more difficult for corals to build their calcium carbonate skeletons.

"Carbonate ions are the building blocks corals need to grow skeletons," said Paytan.

"When the pH is lower, corals have to use more energy to accumulate these carbonate building blocks internally. As a result, the calcification rate is lower and they lay down less dense skeletons."

The reduced density of the coral skeletons makes them more vulnerable to mechanical erosion during storms, to organisms that bore into corals and to parrotfish, which sometimes feed on corals.

This could lead to a weakening of the reef framework and degradation of the coral reef ecosystem.

"There are likely to be major shifts in reef species and some loss of coral cover, but if ocean acidification is the only factor there won't be total destruction," Paytan said.

"We need to protect corals from other stressors, such as pollution and overfishing. If we can control those, the impact of ocean acidification might not be as bad."

In addition to Crook, Cohen and Paytan, co-authors of the paper include Mario Rebolledo-Vieyra and Laura Hernandez of the Centro de Investigacion Cientifica de Yucatan.

The research was also funded by UC-MEXUS.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Secretary Hagel and Gen. Dempsey from the Pentagon Briefing Room

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Secretary Hagel and Gen. Dempsey from the Pentagon Briefing Room

Daily Press Briefing - June 26, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - June 26, 2013

Department of Defense Briefing by Gen. Odierno from the Pentagon Briefing Room

Department of Defense Briefing by Gen. Odierno from the Pentagon Briefing Room


Members of the 115th Fighter Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, arrive for Aviation Detachment Rotation 13-2, May 9, 2013, at Lask Air Base, Poland. More than 100 Airmen will be working with the Polish Air Force for the first F-16 fighter aircraft rotation and second overall this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kenya Shiloh)

Ramstein Airmen build capability with Polish air force
by 1st Lt. Kay M. Nissen
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

6/19/2013 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- The 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and 435th Contingency Response Group continuously train to meet sustainable medical readiness throughout the European theater here.

Training not only benefits Ramstein Airmen, but also other allies like the Polish air force who have consistently engaged in AE training and familiarization throughout 2012 and 2013.

"All NATO countries benefit from having highly skilled and qualified teams to transport wounded warriors from theater back to higher levels of medical care, and eventually back to their home country," said Lt. Col. Kevin D. Hettinger, the 435th CRG flight surgeon and Poland AE Building Partnership Capacity team lead.

In early 2012, Polish AE team members visited the 86th AES Airmen here. In turn, three months later, a member of the 86th AES attended the first medical evacuation and aeromedical evacuation conference at the Polish air force academy.

Last month, two Airmen from the 86th AES, and one Airman from the 435th CRG engaged with Poland again to focus on advancements of the Polish AE team from the previous year.

"The Polish (Aeromedical Evacuation) team has a goal of obtaining NATO certification for aeromedical evacuation," Hettinger said. "Our team was able to provide some recommendations toward this goal after reviewing published NATO standards for AE and inspection checklists."

Currently, the Polish AE team can transport stabilized Polish troops from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center back to Poland.

"Their team is amazing," said Tech. Sgt. Elizabeth Araujo, a 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron technician and fluent Polish speaker. "It's a team of six. They fly as a CCATT (Critical Care Air Transport Team). They do everything, they receive the phone call, they receive the plane, they set up and they fly."

While the Poland AE team impressed their U.S. counterparts, the Polish medical experts continue to work to reach their certification and sharpen their skills.

"It was nice to see how receptive they are and how willing they are to take in that information," Araujo said. "They're hungry for information, they want it, they're open to suggestions, they're willing to take criticism and learn from it."

While, the Polish AE team was absorbing information, the three Ramstein Airmen also learned from their interaction with fellow medical professionals.

"Both teams benefited as each shared their processes for safely moving patients during air evacuation," Hettinger said.

Training between both countries is planned to continue to ensure strategic capabilities for NATO allies throughout the European theater.

Vice President Biden Speaks on the Voting Rights Act | The White House

Vice President Biden Speaks on the Voting Rights Act | The White House


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Justice Department Settles Complaint Against Vermont Dairy Farm for Improper Medication Practices

Farm and Two Defendants Agree to Settle Allegations That Adulterated Food Was Introduced into Interstate Commerce

The United States has filed suit in the U.S. District Court for Vermont against Lawson Farm, Robert Lawson, George R. Lawson, and Lonnie A. Griffin to block them from violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) in connection with their alleged unlawful use of new animal drugs in cows slaughtered for food. The Justice Department filed the suit on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Defendants Lawson Farm, Robert Lawson, and George R. Lawson have agreed to settle the litigation and be bound by a Consent Decree of Permanent Injunction that enjoins them from committing violations of the FDCA. The proposed consent decree has been filed with the court and is awaiting judicial approval. The lawsuit continues against defendant Lonnie Griffin.

"When farms fail to maintain appropriate controls concerning the medication of food-producing animals, they jeopardize the public health," said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. "We are committed to making sure food producers have put in place the procedures and documentation necessary to help ensure that consumers receive safe foods for their family table."

The government’s action results from a series of inspections of the Irasburg, Vermont farm, which revealed, according to the FDA, that the defendants failed to maintain complete treatment records for their animals and that they sold animals for slaughter containing excessive and illegal drug residues in its edible tissues. The complaint also alleges that the defendants have dispensed prescription new animal drugs on more than one occasion without a lawful order from a veterinarian.

The complaint states that excess drug residues in animal tissues can harm consumers by causing allergic reactions and by contributing to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Both FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have warned the defendants that their conduct violates the FDCA. Nonetheless, according to the complaint, the most recent FDA inspection, concluded in August 2012, documented the continuing nature of the defendants’ violations, and established their responsibility for illegal drug residues found in edible tissues sampled by USDA.

The government’s complaint asserts that the defendants have introduced adulterated food into interstate commerce, caused new animal drugs to become misbranded and adulterated while held for sale after shipment in interstate commerce, and failed to comply with statutory and regulatory requirements concerning the extra-label use of new animal drugs.

The FDA referred the case to the Department of Justice. The matter was filed by the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont, and FDA’s Office of the General Counsel.

A complaint is merely a set of allegations that, if the case were to proceed to trial, the government would need to prove by a preponderance of the evidence.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Astronaut View of Fires in Colorado

Astronaut View of Fires in Colorado

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing - June 25, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - June 25, 2013

DOD Briefing

DOD Briefing



Statement by the President on the Supreme Court Ruling on Shelby County v. Holder

I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today. For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act – enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress – has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans. Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.

As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists. And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination. I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.

DVIDS - Video - Interconnected

DVIDS - Video - Interconnected

President Obama is Taking Action on Climate Change | The White House

President Obama is Taking Action on Climate Change | The White House



Amphibious command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) leads a formation during exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2013. Now in its 41st year, BALTOPS 2013 is an annual, multinational exercise to enhance maritime capabilities and interoperability with partner nations to promote maritime safety and security in the Baltic Sea. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Josh Bennett (Released) 130616-N-ZL691-144

The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), center, leads the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), left, and the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17). The ships are part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready group, deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corbin J. Shea (Released) 130616-N-SB587-252


Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House


Army Sgt. Andrew Markley, materiel redistribution yard noncommissioned officer for Forward Operating Base Sharana, signals for a rough terrain container handler to move containers at his facility. U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan

Centcom Undertakes Massive Logistical Drawdown in Afghanistan

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

TAMPA, Fla., June 21, 2013 - Two years ago, as commander of U.S. Forces-Iraq, Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III was marching against a strict Dec. 31, 2011 deadline to complete the largest logistical drawdown since World War II.

It was a mammoth undertaking, involving troop redeployments and equipment retrogrades that had peaked at the height of coalition operations in 2007 and 2008. At that time, the United States had 165,000 service members and 505 bases in Iraq – all packed to the gills with everything from weapons systems and computers networks to bunking and dining facilities.

Austin had to reduce the force to zero, collaborating with U.S. Central Command to determine whether equipment should return to the United States or be transferred to the Iraqis or sent to Afghanistan to support the war effort there.

Centcom, in lockstep with U.S. Transportation Command and its service components, redeployed the 60,000 troops who remained in Iraq at the time and more than 1 million pieces of equipment ahead of their deadline.

Then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, commemorating the end of America's military mission in Iraq at a mid-December 2011 ceremony in Baghdad, praised Austin for conducting "one of the most complex logistical undertakings in U.S. military history."

"Your effort to make this day a reality is nothing short of miraculous," Panetta told Austin.
Today, as the Centcom commander, Austin is facing an even more-daunting challenge as he carries out a larger, more complex drawdown operation, in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan's geography, weather and security situation and its limited transportation infrastructure present bigger obstacles than planners ever faced in Iraq, Scott Anderson, Centcom's deputy director for logistics and engineering, said during an interview at the command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base here.

Also, there's also no other combat operation to transfer the mountain of logistics to. Everything has to be transferred to the Afghans, sold to a partner nation, destroyed so it doesn't fall into the wrong hands, or returned to the United States, Anderson noted.

First and foremost among the challenges is Afghanistan's landlocked location. There's no ready access to a seaport, and no Kuwait next door, providing an initial staging point for retrograde operations as it did during the Iraq drawdown.

"Kuwait was our 'catcher's mitt,'" Anderson said. "If you were to ask me how long it takes to retrograde out of Iraq, I would say as long as it takes to get across the border to Kuwait."
In contrast, there's no similar "catcher's mitt" for Afghanistan, he said. "Leaving Afghanistan, you can't just go next door to Pakistan or up into Uzbekistan and park. Once the movement begins, you have to keep moving, and the velocity continues until [the shipment] gets home to the U.S."

Outgoing shipments -- about 1,000 pieces of rolling stock and more than 2,000 cargo containers per month -- are moving primarily by air or through ground routes across Pakistan, Eastern Europe and Western Asia known as the Northern Distribution Network, Anderson reported.

When flying equipment out from Afghanistan,"multimodal transport" is the most-favored option. It involves an initial movement to one country, usually by air, then a transfer to another conveyance such as a ship for the rest of the trip.

The shortest and least-expensive ground routes out of Afghanistan pass through Pakistan to its port in Karachi. Centcom and Transcom used the "Pakistan ground lines of communication" for about 70 percent of Afghanistan-bound shipments until the Pakistan government abruptly closed them in November 2011 for seven months over a political dispute, Anderson said.

That forced the United States to make greater use of the Northern Distribution Network, an elaborate network of rail, sealift and trucking lines established in 2009, to sustain forces in Afghanistan, he said. It continues to provide about 80 percent of all sustainment operations.

With agreements in place to channel an ever-increasing amount of retrograde cargo through Pakistan, Anderson said Centcom is satisfied that it has ample capacity to support the drawdown.

But recognizing lessons learned, he said the United States wants to keep every possible exit route open to ensure no single "point of failure" can disrupt the effort. "If you lose a route, you lose capacity," he said. "So you keep your options open. That's why we look to maintain redundant routes and we want to keep those routes 'warm' by using them."

Yet for now, only about 4 percent of retrograde equipment is flowing through the Northern Distribution Network.

One reason, Anderson explained, is that the vast majority of U.S. forces now are operating in eastern Afghanistan, which is closer to Pakistan than the NDN. "The majority of our cargo simply isn't leaving the northern part of Afghanistan," he said.

To get it across Afghanistan to the NDN involves crossing the towering Hindu Kush mountain range -- a logistical challenge that becomes monumental during the winter months.

But there are other complications to making greater use of the Northern Distribution Network, particularly for many of the shipments that initially entered Afghanistan via Pakistan or by air, Anderson explained.

Some of the physical infrastructure simply can't accommodate the heavy equipment being moved. Many of the countries involved have strict rules about what kinds of equipment can and can't transit through their territory -- with particular objection to weapons systems and combat vehicles. In some cases, nations will allow these shipments to cross into their borders -- but only if the contents are covered.

"For retrograde, we have had to renegotiate agreements with all the Central Asian nations" that make up the Northern Distribution Network, Anderson said. "It may not be as viable as route as we would like, but the bottom line is, we need it."

Anderson said he's optimistic that the retrograde is on schedule to meet President Obama's directive that the current force -- about 60,000 -- reduce to 34,000 by February.

"Between now and February, we are going to have a substantial amount of cargo move," he said. Calling the February deadline "achievable," he called it an important milestone toward the Dec. 31 deadline.

Meanwhile, Centcom leaders recognize the operational requirements that continue in Afghanistan, including upcoming elections next spring.

"Some of the equipment that we would otherwise be retrograding must remain because there is an operational imperative there," Anderson said. "So in everything we do, we are working to maintain this balance between operations going on in Afghanistan -- folks who need their vehicles and equipment -- and our ability to retrograde."

Emphasizing that Centcom will continue to sustain forces on the ground throughout drawdown operations, Anderson said signs of the transition underway will become increasingly evident over time.

U.S. bases, which once numbered more than 600, are down to about 100, some closed but most now transferred to the Afghan National Security Forces. Much of the equipment is being shared as well, although strict U.S. laws dictate what kinds of equipment can be transferred to the Afghans or any other partners, Anderson noted.

There's another consideration to weigh: leaving equipment the Afghans can't maintain over the long haul does them no good. "If we know there will be challenges in maintaining what we give them, then giving them more equipment is not going to help," Anderson said.

Meanwhile, Centcom will strive to maintain the highest quality of life for U.S. forces on the ground throughout the drawdown, he said.

One seemingly small change, however, is sending a big signal of what's ahead. Rather than three hot meals each day, U.S. forces in Afghanistan are now getting Meals, Ready to Eat for their mid-day rations.

The idea, Anderson explained, is to use up what's already available in the theater, particularly when shipping it home costs more than it's worth.

"Every day, [Marine] Gen. [Joseph F.] Dunford [Jr., commander of U.S. and International Security Assistance Force troops in Afghanistan], sits down at lunch like everyone else and eats his MRE," Anderson said. "It sets a tremendous example." In a small way, he said, it sets the tone for the entire drawdown process.

"We are doing the drawdown in a balanced way, and with concern about the taxpayers' money," Anderson said. "We want to do this in the most economical, most efficient way possible, without causing excess or waste."



Monday, June 24, 2013
Statement of Attorney General Eric Holder on the Supreme Court Decision in Fisher V. University of Texas

Attorney General Eric Holder today issued the following statement regarding the Supreme Court’s decision in Fisher v. University of Texas.

"I am pleased that the Supreme Court has followed longstanding precedent that recognizes the compelling governmental interest in ensuring diversity in higher education. The educational benefits of diversity are critically important to the future of this nation. As the Court has repeatedly recognized, diverse student enrollment promotes understanding, helps to break down racial stereotypes, enables students to better understand people of different races, and prepares all students to succeed in, and eventually lead, an increasingly diverse workforce and society. Business leaders have long emphasized the importance of a qualified, diverse workforce to their success in a global economy. And the federal government, in particular, has a vital interest in drawing its personnel, including its military leaders, from a well-qualified and diverse pool of university graduates of all backgrounds who have the perspective and understanding necessary to govern and defend this great country.

"The University of Texas’s implementation of its admissions program will now be reevaluated by the lower courts. The Department is committed to working with colleges and universities around the country to find ways to promote educational diversity that are consistent with the law."



An Astronaut's View from Station

A view of Earth as seen from the Cupola on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station. Visible in the top left foreground is a Russian Soyuz crew capsule. In the lower right corner, a solar array panel can be seen.

This photo was taken from the ISS on June 12, 2013. Image Credit: NASA

Monday, June 24, 2013

State/INL Peru Program

State/INL Peru Program

Daily Press Briefing - June 24, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - June 24, 2013

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update: Timeloc

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update


U.S. soldiers patrol through Kajir Kheyl village in Afghanistan’s Khowst province, June 12, 2013. The U.S. soldiers have partnered with Afghan national security forces to establish relationships with key village elders and learn about the needs of residents. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Robert Porter

Combined Force Arrests Extremists in Wardak Province

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release
KABUL, Afghanistan, June 24, 2013 - A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested two extremists during a June 22 search for a Haqqani network facilitator in the Pul-e Alam district of Afghanistan's Wardak province, military officials reported.

The facilitator oversees transportation and distribution of weapons, ammunition and other supplies to extremist groups and has participated in attacks targeting Afghan and coalition forces, officials said.

In a June 21 operation, a combined force in Paktia province's Gardez district wounded an extremist during a search for a Haqqani network leader who leads extremists responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in several provinces. He also oversees improvised explosive device operations and facilitates the acquisition and distribution of weapons.

In June 20 operations:
-- Afghan and coalition forces disrupted an extremist command and control point in Helmand province's Sangin district. The forces seized 33 IED pressure plates, 23 liters of homemade explosives and 10 battery packs.

-- In Ghazni province's Deh Yak district, a combined force arrested a high-level operational commander who supervised the activities of several extremist groups responsible for IED operations and the acquisition and distribution of weapons. The security force also arrested three other enemy fighters.



Appeals Court Decision Rejects Delta Request for Invalidation of Ex-Im Bank Air India Transactions

Washington, DC --- The U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington, DC today rejected a request by Delta Air Lines to vacate the Export-Import Bank of the United States’ ("Ex-Im Bank’s") support of sales of U.S.-manufactured aircraft to Air India. The Court has asked Ex-Im Bank to further explain its financing decision for the Air India transactions, but the Court chose to leave undisturbed the Bank’s financing of the Air India transaction and did not question the Bank’s flexibility in carrying out its statutory mandate.

The decision comes following the appeal by plaintiffs Delta Airlines, Inc. and the Airline Pilots Association of a lower court decision in July 2012 that determined that Ex-Im Bank properly approved financing for purchases of certain Boeing aircraft by Air India.

"I am gratified by the court’s recognition that these transactions should not be impeded by litigation. The Bank maintains significant flexibility in complying with its statutory mandates and its effort to support American jobs." said Fred P. Hochberg, chairman and president of Ex-Im Bank. "This represents a victory for tens of thousands of American aerospace workers."

Delta Airlines alleged in its suit that Ex-Im failed to consider the economic impact of its loan guarantees for the purchase of wide-bodied Boeing aircraft by Air India. Boeing, which by dollar volume is the number one exporting company in the U.S., employs about 85,000 American workers in the manufacturing of its commercial aircraft.

U.S.-India Joint Fact Sheet: A Remarkable Expansion of U.S.-India Cooperation on Science & Technology

U.S.-India Joint Fact Sheet: A Remarkable Expansion of U.S.-India Cooperation on Science & Technology

HHS launches Health Insurance Marketplace educational tools

HHS launches Health Insurance Marketplace educational tools



Cost-saving Pilot Programs to Support Warfighter Autonomy
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2013 - A call from the Defense Department to industry and government for autonomous technology ideas that support the warfighter has been answered with seven initiatives.

Chosen from more than 50 submissions, the selected ideas will be tested in the Autonomy Research Pilot Initiative, officials said.

"We believe autonomy and autonomous systems will be very important for how we operate in the future," said Al Shaffer, acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering. Autonomous systems are capable of functioning with little or no human input or supervision.

"If we had better autonomous systems for route clearance in Afghanistan, we could offload a lot of the dangerous missions that humans undertake with autonomous systems, so we have to make a big push in autonomy," Shaffer said.

The pilot research initiative's goal is to advance technologies that will result in autonomous systems that provide more capability to warfighters, lessen the cognitive load on operators and supervisors, and lower overall operational cost," explained Jennifer Elzea, a DOD spokeswoman.

"The potential cross-cutting advances of this initiative in multiple domains provide an exciting prospect for interoperability among the military services, and potentially [in] meeting future acquisitions requirements," she said. "The seven projects are at the fundamental cutting edge of the science of autonomy. The projects also integrate several scientific disciplines [such as] neurology [and] mimetics."

The seven projects are not looking at autonomous weapons systems, but rather are investigating autonomous systems for potential capabilities such as sensing and coordination among systems, Elzea noted.

The projects focus on cost savings to DOD, critical in a time of budget cuts, Shaffer said.

The program for the initiatives is estimated to cost about $45 million in a three-year period, which is not considered to be a lot of money for a government research program, DOD officials said.

"We are trying to -- especially as we go through this tough budget period -- incentivize our younger work force," Shaffer said. "Scientists work to solve problems, and what we are doing with this project is we've challenged our in-house researchers to come up with topics that will help us better understand how to do autonomous systems."

When the pilot initiatives are completed, DOD will have the intellectual property to generate a prototype or to provide to industry to produce the systems, officials said.

The seven initiatives are:
-- Exploiting Priming Effects in Autonomous Cognitive Systems: Develops machine perception that is relatable to the way a human perceives an environment. (Navy Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence, Army Research Laboratory)

-- Autonomous Squad Member: Integrates machine semantic understanding, reasoning and understanding, perception into a ground robotic system. (Army Research Laboratory, Naval Research Laboratory, Navy Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence)

-- Autonomy for Adaptive Collaborative Sensing: Develops intelligent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability for sensing platforms to have capability to find and track targets. (Air Force Research Laboratory, Army Research Laboratory; Naval Research Laboratory)

-- Realizing Autonomy via Intelligent Adaptive Hybrid Control: Develops flexible unmanned aerial vehicle operator interface, enabling the operator to "call a play" or manually control the system. (Air Force Research Laboratory, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, Naval Research Laboratory, Army Research Laboratory)

-- Autonomy for Air Combat Missions, Mixed Human/Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Teams: Develops goal-directed reasoning, machine learning and operator interaction techniques to enable management of multiple team UAVs. (Air Force Research Laboratory, Naval Research Laboratory, Naval Air Warfare Center, Army Research Laboratory)

-- A Privileged Sensing Network-Revolutionizing Human-Autonomy Integration: Develops integrated human sensing capability to enable the human-machine team. (Army Research Laboratory, Army Tank Automotive Research Center, Air Force Research Laboratory)

-- Autonomous Collective Defeat of Hard and Deeply Buried Targets: Develops small UAV teaming algorithms to enable systems to autonomously search a cave. (Air Force Research Laboratory, Army Research Laboratory, Defense Threat Reduction Agency)


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, center, Ahn Ho-young, South Korean ambassador to the United States, left, and Lewis M. "Lew" Ewing, national director of the Korean War Veterans Association, cut the ribbon June 18, 2013, to dedicate a new permanent display in the Pentagon to commemorate the Korean War. Hagel thanked Korean War veterans at the event for their service, and said the war and their service will never be forgotten. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo


Hagel Dedicates Pentagon Korean War Exhibit
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2013 - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today dedicated what he called a "magnificent" permanent display in the Pentagon to honor veterans of the Korean War.

The display opened in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1953 armistice that ended hostilities on the Korean Peninsula, and of the U.S.-South Korean alliance.

"We not only acknowledge you, we thank you," Hagel said to Korean War veterans who attended the dedication of the display, located on the first floor of the Pentagon's "A" ring. "We assure you that through this dedication today, your efforts and your noble cause will live on. You have helped shape history in a unique and magnificent way."

The exhibit comprises a collection of photographs, videos, weapons and other artifacts of the Korean War. It also highlights the advancements of women, medicine and technology and the integration of African-Americans into the U.S. military.

"The Korean War has been known in this country too long as 'The Forgotten War,'" Ahn Ho-young, South Korea's ambassador to the United States, said at the dedication ceremony. "We should change it to 'The Forgotten Victory.'"

Since the war, South Korea has made significant economic progress and a transition to democracy, Ahn said, and has an important role in global issues. "[The war] was a victory and must not be forgotten," he added.

Echoing Ahn, Hagel said the South Korean people have come far in many ways.

"I know of no other nation that has done as much in such a little bit of time to improve their people and the region, and I know of no country [that is] a better ally to the United States than the Republic of Korea," the secretary said. "We are grateful for this relationship, [and] ... what anchors it ... is that special bond of people wanting a better life, who are willing to risk anything for it."

Referencing his recent trip to Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit, Hagel emphasized how the 60-year bilateral relationship between the United States and South Korea was evident in the two nations' relationships with Japan, the Philippines, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Chinese and European allies.

"This special relationship is bigger than just the Korean Peninsula or the North Asia region," the secretary said. "It has affected the world."

The secretary said he is particularly proud of the Americans who left their cities and towns and "went far away to a very bloody conflict in a distant land, where very few knew a lot about the Korean Peninsula." Yet when the veterans returned home to the United States, he added, little acknowledgment of their service awaited them.

"Very few people knew where Korea was," he said. "But ... it was just as important in any conflict we've been in. The Republic of Korea still plays a key role as a very key ally in maintaining peace, stability and security in that part of the world."

Hagel offered his gratitude to Korean War veterans on behalf of the Defense Department's men and women.

"We acknowledge your service, everything you've done, what you mean to this country [and] the world, and the model you've provided for our young men and women for generations to come," Hagel told veterans. "It will be evidenced by this great display that we are dedicating today."


Sunday, June 23, 2013


Capt. Brandon Packard performs pre-flight checks of a B-1B Lancer June 11, 2013, at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia. Packard is a 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron weapons systems officer deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)

B-1B Lancer: More than meets the eye
by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

6/18/2013 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Carrying the largest payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory, the multi-mission B-1B Lancer is the backbone of America's long-range bomber force, and is flown here by the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron.

"We have a lot of coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. Seth Graham, the 34th EBS commander. "They're able to focus on executing their various missions because of the air support we provide 365, 24/7."

The colonel said it's hard to put into words the importance of what his unit does, but instead explained in a vignette the importance of his units air support to the nation's ground forces.

"On one occasion my crew arrived overhead of U.S. ground forces pinned down in a compound receiving small arms fire from multiple directions," Graham said. "They tell the crew they are running low on ammo and need immediate air support. My crew employed a single 500 pound JDAM in close proximity to the friendly forces which forced the enemy to break contact, and allowed our guys to walk out of that compound and back to their base. On the way out they told my guys 'thanks ... you saved our lives today!' We make life and death decisions every day ... that's the importance of what we do."

This air support wouldn't be possible, however, without all the work going on behind the scenes in the squadron.

"We are tasked by the air tasking order from the Combined Air and Space Operations Center and in turn our mission planning cell (MPC) puts together everything the aircrew will need to be successful," said Maj. Aaron Mate, the 34th EBS assistant director of operations. "The mission planning cell is comprised of a chief of operations, two flyers, intelligence and an Army liaison officer."

The MPC collects and processes data, integrating it into flight plans and mission folders that include all the information necessary for B-1 crews to dynamically support every regional command in Afghanistan on a given sortie. A pre-flight crew is then used to ready the aircraft. They run pre-flight checks to get the jet mission-ready for the crew who will fly the mission. The pre-flight crew also secures a secondary aircraft in the event the primary encounters a malfunction prior to takeoff.

"We want our number of takeoffs to equal our landings," said Capt. Brandon Packard, a 34th EBS weapons systems officer. "So we go through these checks for the mission crew in order to, one, streamline the process and, two, for the safety and security of our crews and jets. We take this job just as seriously as flying a mission."

Once the jet is ready to go and the mission crew has completed their pre-mission briefs, it's time for takeoff.

The roles of pre-flight and mission crews are rotated as directed by their aviation resources managers and policy in order to manage fatigue.

"We can't have all the fun," Mate said jokingly. "Per AFI, we limit our crews to a 16-hour day -- 13 hours in the air and three hours of mission preparation."

The 16-hour rule can be waived by the operations group commander up to 24-hours to accommodate longer missions as directed by higher headquarters.

Every crew is composed of an aircraft commander, copilot and two weapons systems officers. With an intercontinental range and the ability to carry up to 48,000 pounds of munitions at 900-plus mph, the B-1 can rapidly deliver massive quantities of precision and non-precision weapons against any adversary, anywhere in the world, at any time.

"We are one of the most flexible close-air support airframes in the Air Force," said Capt. Nikki Jansen, a 34th EBS pilot. "The B-1's speed and superior handling characteristics allow it to seamlessly integrate in mixed force packages. These capabilities, when combined with its substantial payload, diverse targeting system, long loiter time and survivability, make the B-1B a key element of any joint or coalition strike force."

The aircrews and B-1s are deployed here from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., and Dyess AFB, Texas.

"We get the greatest sense of satisfaction when the ground crew's joint terminal attack controller radios in thanking us for keeping them safe," Graham said.

During the first six months of Operation Enduring Freedom, eight B-1s dropped nearly 40 percent of the total tonnage delivered by coalition air forces. This included nearly 3,900 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. The B-1 continues to be deployed today, flying missions daily in support of continuing operations.