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Saturday, July 27, 2013

READOUT: SECRETARY OF DEFENSE HAGEL'S CALL WITH EGYPTIAN DEFENSE MINISTER AL-SISI

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 
Readout of Secretary Hagel's Call with Egyptian Defense Minister al-Sisi

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little issued the following readout:

             "This afternoon Secretary Hagel spoke by phone with Egyptian Defense Minister al-Sisi to express deep concern about the security situation and recent violence in Egypt, and to encourage that restraint be exercised during this difficult period. The United States believes that the current transition needs to be marked by inclusivity, that Egyptian authorities should avoid politicized arrests and detentions, and take steps to prevent further bloodshed and loss of life. It is in the short and long term interests of the Egyptian people to renew their path toward democratic transition, and to emphasize tolerance across the political spectrum."

Weekly Address: A Better Bargain for the Middle Class | The White House

Weekly Address: A Better Bargain for the Middle Class | The White House

THE U.S. NUCLEAR ENTERPRISE: CAPABILITY AND CREDIBILITY

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 
Kehler Lauds Capability, Credibility of Nuclear Enterprise
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2013 - Sweeping improvements across the U.S. nuclear enterprise since a 2007 incident have increased the focus on the nuclear mission and raised the bar in terms of standards and performance, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command told reporters today.

"In general, I feel much more comfortable today with the level of attention," Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler said during a Defense Writers Group breakfast roundtable. "I am very confident in the capability and credibility of the forces. And I am very, very confident in our ability to continue our deterrence mission."

Kehler was deputy commander of Stratcom during the August 2007 "Bent Spear" incident in which nuclear-equipped missiles were mistakenly transported nearly 1,500 miles on the wing of a B-52 Stratofortress bomber.

Revelation of the incident -- defense officials emphasized at the time that the weapons were never unsecured and never at risk of detonating -- led to personnel dismissals, organizational changes and heightened performance requirements.

"A lot has changed in the last six to seven years," Kehler said. "A lot has changed organizationally, ... in terms of the intensity of the focus on the nuclear part of our mission, ... [and] in terms of the assessment and evaluation that we put on the units that are involved in all of this.

"And as we say, perfection is really the standard when we talk about nuclear weapons," he said.

Among the changes was the Air Force's standup of Global Strike Command, with a singular focus on the nuclear mission and the standards applied to those involved, he said. The Navy underwent its own top-to-bottom review of its nuclear operations and activities.

The increased focus on nuclear-related units and activities has paid off in better performance levels, Kehler reported.

The general recalled his own experience with these "hard looks" during his earlier years within the nuclear force. "These are not easy evaluations to pass," he said. "And they have gotten harder."

Stratcom's nuclear deterrence mission remains critical to the United States, Kehler noted, injected with a renewed focus and sense of urgency by the president's 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and the national defense strategy.

"We recognize the Cold War has been over for 20 years," he said, but he noted President Barack Obama's pledge to maintain a "credible deterrent force" for both the United States and its allies and partners.

That deterrent is based on the triad of ballistic missile submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-capable heavy bombers and the associated aerial tankers, and the assured warning and command-and-control system that interconnects them.

Kehler called modernization of the nuclear enterprise "essential."

"We find ourselves in the position today where most of the platforms and virtually all of the weapons are well over 20 years old, and, in some cases, substantially over 20 years old," he said.

"Life extensions are due on the weapons, [and] modernization is due on the platforms ... and the nuclear command-and control system," said Kehler, noting that some of these efforts already have been deferred for almost 10 years.

Asked about morale within the nuclear force, Kehler said it's generally good. "It is not an easy job," he added, noting the intellectual intensity of the nuclear mission.
Kehler visited the Global Strike Command headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., earlier this month, to emphasize the importance of that mission to the men and women charged with carrying it out every day.

"The skills that we have for the nuclear-deterrence mission will be needed as far into the future as I can see," he said. "As long as we have nuclear weapons, it's our job to deter nuclear attack with a safe, secure and effective force. That's what we're here for."

CFTC ORDERS BAN ON TRADING FOR ONE YEAR FOR COMPANY AND PRINCIPAL IN 'SPOOFING' CASE

FROM:  COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION 

CFTC Orders Panther Energy Trading LLC and its Principal Michael J. Coscia to Pay $2.8 Million and Bans Them from Trading for One Year, for Spoofing in Numerous Commodity Futures Contracts

First Case under Dodd-Frank’s Prohibition of the Disruptive Practice of Spoofing by Bidding or Offering with Intent to Cancel before Execution

Washington DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued an Order today filing and simultaneously settling charges against Panther Energy Trading LLC of Red Bank, New Jersey, and Michael J. Coscia of Rumson, New Jersey, for engaging in the disruptive practice of “spoofing” by utilizing a computer algorithm that was designed to illegally place and quickly cancel bids and offers in futures contracts. The Order finds that this unlawful activity took place across a broad spectrum of commodities from August 8, 2011 through October 18, 2011 on CME Group’s Globex trading platform. The CFTC Order requires Panther and Coscia to pay a $1.4 million civil monetary penalty, disgorge $1.4 million in trading profits, and bans Panther and Coscia from trading on any CFTC-registered entity for one year.

According to the Order, Coscia and Panther made money by employing a computer algorithm that was designed to unlawfully place and quickly cancel orders in exchange-traded futures contracts. For example, Coscia and Panther would place a relatively small order to sell futures that they did want to execute, which they quickly followed with several large buy orders at successively higher prices that they intended to cancel. By placing the large buy orders, Coscia and Panther sought to give the market the impression that there was significant buying interest, which suggested that prices would soon rise, raising the likelihood that other market participants would buy from the small order Coscia and Panther were then offering to sell. Although Coscia and Panther wanted to give the impression of buy-side interest, they entered the large buy orders with the intent that they be canceled before these orders were actually executed. Once the small sell order was filled according to the plan, the buy orders would be cancelled, and the sequence would quickly repeat but in reverse – a small buy order followed by several large sell orders. With this back and forth, Coscia and Panther profited on the executions of the small orders many times over the period in question.

David Meister, the CFTC’s Enforcement Director, said, “While forms of algorithmic trading are of course lawful, using a computer program that is written to spoof the market is illegal and will not be tolerated.  We will use the Dodd Frank anti-disruptive practices provision against schemes like this one to protect market participants and promote market integrity, particularly in the growing world of electronic trading platforms.”

The Order finds that Panther and Coscia engaged in this unlawful activity in 18 futures contracts traded on four exchanges owned by CME Group. The activity involved a broad spectrum of commodities including energies, metals, interest rates, agricultures, stock indices, and foreign currencies. The futures contracts included the widely-traded Light Sweet Crude Oil contract as well as Natural Gas, Corn, Soybean, Soybean Oil, Soybean Meal, and Wheat contracts.

In a related matter, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority issued a Final Notice regarding its enforcement action against Coscia relating to his market abuse activities on the ICE Futures Europe exchange, and has imposed a penalty of approximately $900,000 against him. Furthermore, the CME Group, by virtue of disciplinary actions taken by four of its exchanges, has imposed a fine of $800,000 and ordered disgorgement of approximately $1.3 million against Coscia and Panther and has issued a six-month trading ban on its exchanges against Coscia.

The CFTC’s $1.4 million disgorgement will be offset by amounts paid by Panther and Coscia to satisfy any disgorgement order in CME Group’s disciplinary action related to the spoofing charged by the CFTC. As CME Group has represented to the Commission, disgorgement paid in the CME Group’s action will be used first to offset the cost of customer protection programs, and thereafter, if the disgorged funds collected exceed the cost of those programs, the excess will be contributed to the CME Trust to be used to provide assistance to customers threatened with loss of their money or securities. The CME Trust is prohibited from utilizing any of its funds for the purpose of satisfying any legal obligation of the CME.

The CFTC thanks the Financial Conduct Authority in the United Kingdom and the CME Group for their cooperation.

Concurring Statement of Commissioner Bart Chilton in the Matter of Panther Energy Trading LLC and Michael J. Coscia

July 22, 2013
While I concur with the settlement in this matter, and agree wholeheartedly with the civil monetary penalty, disgorgement, findings of violations, undertakings, and cease and desist order imposed by the settlement, I am dissatisfied with the imposition of a one-year trading ban as to the respondents. I believe that the type of disruptive trading practice described in the Commission’s complaint is an egregious violation of the Commodity Exchange Act, and warrants the imposition of a much more significant trading ban to protect markets and consumers, and to act as a sufficient deterrent to other would-be wrongdoers.

Additionally, these types of violations of the law are becoming more common with the advent of high frequency traders (HFTs)—traders I’ve termed “cheetahs” due to their incredible speed. The cheetahs are to be commended for their innovative strategies, at the same time, when they violate the law, regulators need to be firm and resolute in our desire to deter such activities. Regulators already have a tough time keeping up with the cheetahs. Without sufficient deterrents, such as meaningful trading bans, many trading cats will simply find other ways to get back to their market hunting grounds. In years past, for example, a trader who was banned for a year from trading might as well consider it a lifetime ban. People on the trading floor would know, customers would know. People wouldn’t want to do business with the trader. In today’s cheetah trading world where identities can be cloaked behind technology, a year trading ban might simply be a nice sabbatical for a cheetah trader to work on some new algo programs to unleash after the trading ban has expired.

At the end of the day, regulators will have to work overtime to be able to keep up with the cheetahs and their superfast trading.  But like the cheetahs are a breed all their own, so are regulators.  And, we are a persistent bunch.  That’s our advantage.  We may have to work out the curve to get all the technology tools we need.  But we will be tenacious and tireless in our efforts to tract down market predators that break the rules.  And, we need those that violate, or may be thinking of violating the law to understand that regulators will always be harsh hard-hitters when the rules are broken.

ACCOUNTING FOR POW/MIA MILITARY PERSONNEL

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 
Mission Fulfills Sacred Pledge, POW/MIA Official Says
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 23, 2013 - No matter what it takes, no matter how long it takes, the nation must continue to fulfill its sacred pledge to account for its missing warriors, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for prisoner of war and missing personnel affairs said today.

"We honor the sacrifices of our missing and the sacrifices of their families," W. Montague "Q" Winfield told attendees at the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in Louisville, Ky.

Winfield, also the director of the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, leads the national effort to achieve the fullest possible accounting of the more than 83,000 warriors lost while serving the United States. He also is responsible for limiting the loss and capture of Americans serving abroad in current operations.

In the last year, Winfield said, the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command has accounted for 64 missing warriors -- seven from World War II, 40 from the Korean War and 17 from the Vietnam War.

Additionally, the White House recently approved the charter for a joint U.S.-Russia commission. "This is a wonderful, wonderful advancement," he said, "because it will allow us to increase our bilateral relationship with our Russian counterparts as we seek to get more access to their archives."

One of the most important aspects of his job is meeting with family members of missing service members, Winfield said. One of those family members recently showed him a letter written from Vietnam in late 1970 by Army Sgt. George C. Green Jr., a radio operator in the 5th Special Forces Group.

"In the last paragraph of what was to be his last letter home to his mom, he wrote, 'If I am killed, no one will ever recover my body, because I don't want anyone to risk their life for this worthless piece of clay,'" Winfield said.

In December 1970, Green's reconnaissance patrol in Laos was engaged by an enemy force, and he was killed during the firefight.

"Because of the intensity of that firefight, his team had to leave his remains behind," Winfield said. "Like thousands before him, Sergeant Green answered the call to duty. Like thousands before him, Sergeant Green was a humble soldier. Like thousands before him, Sergeant Green laid down his life for his brothers in arms. Like thousands before him, Sergeant Green paid the price for our freedom with his life.

"Sergeant Green may have felt that he was a worthless piece of clay, but to us, he was and is an American hero, deserving our nation's highest priority and enduring effort," Winfield continued. "He is not forgotten."

A widow once told him that people don't appreciate a funeral until there isn't one, Winfield said.

"The men and women of the accounting community are dedicated [and] committed to doing everything humanly possible to account for America's heroes -- those who are still missing. We believe in that mission," he said.

Friday, July 26, 2013

West Wing Week: 07/26/13 or "Becoming A More Perfect Union" | The White House

West Wing Week: 07/26/13 or "Becoming A More Perfect Union" | The White House

Globální sledování vegetace

Globální sledování vegetace

European Space Agency United Kingdom (EN) Update

European Space Agency United Kingdom (EN) Update

U.S. OFFICIAL AFFIRMS U.S.-UGANDA RELATIONSHIP

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
Carter Affirms Growing Partnership Between U.S., Uganda

KAMPALA, Uganda, July 24, 2013 - Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited Uganda yesterday, meeting with senior government and military leaders to affirm the growing security partnership between the United States and the East African nation, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a statement.
The visit was part of a trip Carter is making this week to Israel, Uganda and Ethiopia to discuss issues of mutual importance with defense and government leaders in the three countries.
Carter is the highest-ranking DOD official ever to visit Uganda.

The visit gave him a chance to discuss a range of regional security challenges with Ugandan partners -- including the conflicts in Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- and ending the longstanding threat to civilians and to regional stability posed by Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army, known as the LRA.

In Somalia, for example, as of July 22, 6,220 Uganda People's Defense Force soldiers supported the African Union mission in Somalia, called AMISOM.

The United States also is committed to helping Somalia; since 2009, it has provided more than $1.5 billion in assistance to Somalia, including $545 million in fiscal year 2012, according to a State Department fact sheet. U.S. funding helps to provide training, equipment and logistical support for Uganda and other troop-contributing countries.

Senior defense officials traveling with Carter said the United States commends UPDF soldiers involved in AMISOM for their commitment and selfless support to the Somali people and to the fight against al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida-linked militant group and U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization fighting to create a fundamentalist Islamic state in Somalia.

"Uganda is a key partner in terms of security and stability in the region," a senior defense official said. "Not only do they tend to security within their borders, but ... they're operating in the region trying to track down LRA, which is something that affects four different countries in the region. It's not just Uganda, it's the Democratic Republic of Congo, it's South Sudan, and it's the Central African Republic."

Uganda, as a member of the African Union Peace and Security Council, has a role in negotiations between South Sudan and Sudan and was a strong supporter of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that led to South Sudan's independence on July 9, 2011.

Uganda and most of its neighbors have been victims and now are taking the fight to Joseph Kony and his followers. For more than two decades, according to a U.S. Africa Command fact sheet, the LRA murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women and children. In 2011, the LRA committed more than 250 attacks. In 2012, the United Nations estimated that more than 465,000 people were displaced or living as refugees across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan as a result of LRA activity in 2011.

In May 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Lord's Resistance Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, which reaffirmed U.S. commitment to support regional partners' efforts to end LRA atrocities in central Africa. In October 2011, Obama authorized the deployment to central Africa of 100 U.S. forces whose mission is to help regional forces end the threat posed by Kony.

The multiyear U.S. strategy seeks to help the governments of Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan, and the African Union and the United Nations end the LRA threat to civilians and regional stability, defense officials said. Its four objectives are to increase civilian protection, apprehend or remove Kony and senior LRA commanders from the battlefield, promote defections of those who follow Kony and urge them back into the community and provide continued humanitarian relief to affected communities, they added.

At U.S. Embassy Kampala during the deputy defense secretary's visit, Information Officer Elise Crane said Carter's visit comes at a time when security cooperation between the United States and Uganda has been very strong.

"I'd say it's the cornerstone of our partnership with Uganda," Crane said. Another important part of the partnership has been the counter-LRA effort, a truly regional mission led by the Africans, she added.

"I think the deputy secretary's visit is a good reminder that the U.S. is still committed to this mission. His visit comes at a good time," the information officer added. "The reception he got from the Ugandan security forces was very warm. They're delighted to have him, and I think this visit will strengthen our partnership even more."

While here, Carter also spoke on the phone with President Yoweri Museveni, who was traveling outside Kampala, and met with Foreign Affairs Minister Henry Okello, Chief of Defense Forces Edward Katumba Wamala, Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence Brig. Gen. Charles Bakahumura, and Chief of Staff of Ugandan Land Forces Brig. Gen. Leopold Kyanda.

The deputy secretary also met with U.S. troops supporting the Ugandan military's effort to remove LRA leaders from the battlefield and a separate contingent of U.S. forces providing specialized counterterrorism training to Ugandan forces who will deploy as part of the African Union AMISOM mission in Somalia.

In the late afternoon, despite having wrapped up a full appointment schedule and with a plane waiting to take him on to the final leg of his trip in Ethiopia, Carter and his motorcade hurried down rutted red dirt roads, stirring clouds of dust into the air on the way to Kisenyi Peacekeeping Base.

The Ugandan troops gathered around when he got there, and he told them about the people he passed along the road -- adults and children going to work, going to school, riding bikes, tending animals.

"That's why we're here," he told them, "so those people can go on living their daily lives."

Economic and human development is what it's all about and what people really want, Carter said, "but that can't happen without you all. We recognize that you're planting the seeds for the future for all of us, and we're very grateful, so on behalf of me ... and the whole DOD team that's here, thank you."


KOREAN WAR ARMISTICE ANNIVERSARY MARKED

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 
Anniversary Marks Milestone in U.S.-South Korea Alliance
By Walter T. Ham IV
8th U.S. Army

SEOUL, South Korea, July 24, 2013 - American and South Korean officials and veterans will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice agreement in the United States and South Korea this week.
Signed on July 27, 1953, the ceasefire agreement brought the brutal three-year conflict to an end.
The negotiations took place during 158 meetings over two years and 17 days while fighting continued to rage across the Korean Peninsula. Ron Miller, 8th U.S. Army historian, said language differences complicated negotiations as discussions were translated into English, Korean and Chinese.

The armistice agreement created the Demilitarized Zone -- 155 miles long by 2.5 miles wide -- that serves as a buffer zone and de facto border between totalitarian North Korea and democratic South Korea.

The armistice agreement also established the truce village of Panmunjom, where negotiations are still held between the two Koreas.

The Korean War armistice has never been followed by a peace treaty, and the two Koreas technically are still at war. Miller said North Korea has violated the armistice thousands of times. More than 450 South Korean and 100 American troops have been killed in the line of duty during North Korean provocations since 1953.

As a part of the South Korea-United States alliance, 28,500 American troops serve in South Korea to provide security on the Korean Peninsula and stability in Northeast Asia. Arriving in 1950, 8th Army commanded all United Nations Command ground forces as the only U.S. field army in the Korean War. Eighth Army has served in Korea since the armistice was signed.

Miller credits the armistice with South Korea's success today.

"The Korean War armistice agreement has successfully suspended full-scale hostilities on the peninsula for 60 years," said Miller, a native of Odessa, Texas. "As a result, the Republic of Korea has developed into a full-fledged, modern democracy. It is a prosperous, productive and responsible member of the global community."

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Daniel McShane, the joint duty officer for the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission, said UNCMAC continues to fulfill its mission of armistice implementation.

As one of the few U.S. military officers who maintain contact with the North Korean military, McShane works out of an office just 27 feet south of the border.

"This anniversary is very important," said McShane, a naval aviator from Charlotte, N.C. "The commemorations of the armistice anniversary can be seen as a clear signal that the sending nations of the United Nations Command are still dedicated to upholding the agreements that we made 60 years ago to preclude hostilities and maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula."

Lt. Col. Lee Seok-jae, who commands the Yongsan Garrison-based Republic of Korea Army Support Group and the 3,400 Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army troops who support 8th Army, expressed his gratitude for the U.S. military's contribution to security in Korea.

"A true friend can be defined when you face a difficult situation and the friend does not just ignore the situation, but comes in assistance and even takes the risk of sacrificing oneself for you," Lee wrote in a message to 8th Army leaders. "This is how the Korean people during the Korean War in 1950 came to recognize who their friends were."

"In the midst of being under attack by the North to the point where the country was on the verge of crumbling down, forces of 350,000 men from 16 nations led by the United States joined in the war in aid of the Republic of Korea," Lee added. "Especially, more than 300,000 United States soldiers participated in the war."

Lee said the U.S. military continues to serve with South Korean forces on the Korean Peninsula almost 60 years after the armistice was signed.

"The U.S. military continues to have its presence in the Republic of Korea to deter the aggression of North Korea and guard the liberty and democracy we enjoy in the Republic of Korea," Lee wrote.

U.S. CRACKS DOWN ON ILLEGAL TRADE IN SEA TURTLES IN PUERTO RICO

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE 
Friday, July 19, 2013
Eight Arrested in Puerto Rico on Charges of Illegal Trade in Endangered Sea Turtles for Human Consumption
Federal Agencies Announce Formation of Puerto Rico Environmental Crimes Task Force

Federal authorities arrested eight people in the cities of Arroyo and Patillas, Puerto Rico, yesterday on felony and misdemeanor charges for the illegal take, possession and sale of endangered sea turtles and their parts for human consumption as well as aiding and abetting violations of the Endangered Species and Lacey Act, announced Robert G. Dreher, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.

Roberto Guzman Herpin, 34, Madelyne Montes Santiago, 37, Edwin Alamo Silva, 50, Juan Soto Rodriguez, 45, Ricardo Dejesus Alamo, 33, Jose Javier Rodriguez Sanchez, 40, Iris Lebron Montanez, 53, and Miguel Rivera Delgado, 55, all residents of Patillas and Arroyo, were arrested Thursday and made their appearances in federal court.

The takedown was led by special agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), with assistance from the recently formed Puerto Rico Environmental Crimes Task Force, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Puerto Rico Police Department and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources.  Participating agencies of the task force currently include prosecutors from the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, FWS, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CID), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement- Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the FBI.

In 2011, the FWS initiated an undercover operation to investigate the illegal trade in sea turtles for human consumption. During this investigation, it was determined that these illegal sales of sea turtle meat, confirmed through DNA analysis conducted by the FWS Forensic Lab, have resulted in the illegal take of 15 individual endangered hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricate) and 7 endangered green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas).

 “Hawksbill and green sea turtles are protected by Puerto Rican law, nationally under the Endangered Species Act as well as internationally under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna),” said U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Resident Agent in Charge David Pharo. “The protection from the illegal take and sale of this and of other marine life organisms is a priority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is instrumental to the health of marine ecosystems for where they exist. These charges stem from a collaborative effort amongst law enforcement agencies to achieve a common goal of protecting our nation’s sensitive marine environments. It demonstrates our commitment to pursue those who violate fish & wildlife laws for the purpose of personal and or commercial gain as well as those that drive the illegal trade of marine life nationally and internationally.”

The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Carmen Márquez.  If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt.  Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The waters around Puerto Rico are designated as a critical habitat for the hawksbill and the green sea turtle.  The most significant nesting for the hawksbill within the U.S. occurs in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Each year, about 500-1000 hawksbill nests are laid on Mona Island, Puerto Rico.  The green sea turtle population has declined by 48-65 percent over the past century.  Puerto Rico is also home to nesting sites for the endangered leatherback sea turtle, the largest species of turtle in the world.   The leatherback sea turtle suffered a severe population crash due to human harvesting of its meat and eggs, and the destruction of its nesting habitat by beachfront development.

The Puerto Rico Environmental Crimes Task Force

Also today, representatives of federal criminal investigative agencies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division announced the creation of a Puerto Rico Environmental Crimes Task Force to investigate and prosecute environmental crimes on the island.

The commonwealth of Puerto Rico contains six national wildlife refuges (Cabo Rojo, Culebra, Desecheo, Laguna Cartagena, Navassa Island, Vieques) and is home to 25 endangered and threatened animal species, 21 of which are found nowhere else on earth. For instance, there are only 200 Puerto Rican parrots (Amazona vittata) remaining, with less than 50 left in the wild, making it one of the 10 rarest birds on Earth.  The island is also home to 49 endangered and threatened plant species. There are 37 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Superfund cleanup sites on Puerto Rico.

Through the new task force, federal investigative agencies will coordinate their efforts to investigate and prosecute those responsible for committing serious environmental crimes. Federal laws have been enacted to protect the environment, but their enforcement requires the coordinated efforts and involvement of multiple federal law enforcement agencies with the assistance local law enforcement and the citizenry.  The task force has three specific goals:

• Improve investigative coordination among the federal authorities who are responsible for protecting public health and the environment.

• Coordinate the available federal resources and improve the dissemination of information between the federal law enforcement agencies to better protect human health and the environment.

• Improve environmental awareness of the community to recognize violations of federal environmental laws and regulations.

“Through the effective and efficient coordination of federal agencies who will jointly investigate and prosecute environmental crimes on the island, the task force will help preserve the island’s abundant natural resources and wildlife, including endangered sea turtles,” said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “It is our hope and vision that these efforts will raise greater awareness about environmental crime, bring those who knowingly harm the environment to justice, and help preserve the island’s environment for generations to come.”

“With the creation of this Task Force we aim to protect the environment and the public’s health from exposure to environmental hazards, said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.  “We will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who do not comply with the environmental laws of the United States.”

“Puerto Rico’s high asthma rates and its incredible natural resources make pollution prevention together with the rigorous enforcement of environmental laws critical to the people of Puerto Rico,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “By pooling EPA resources and those of other agencies, the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and EPA’s Caribbean Environmental Protection Division can maximize the ability to ensure that those who willfully violate environmental laws are held accountable.”

“The task force will strengthen already existing enforcement partnerships that help protect Puerto Rico’s wildlife and rich wildlife heritage,” said Special Agent in Charge Luis Santiago, who oversees U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement operations in southeastern states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“This enforcement task force will be a great help for us in our mission to conserve, protect, and manage living marine resources in the commonwealth,” said Otha Easley, Acting Special Agent in Charge of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement Southeast Division, which covers eight southern states and all U.S. Caribbean territories. “Puerto Rico has a rich and diverse ecosystem, and this partnership is a significant step forward in its protection.”

SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND EMPHASIZES BUILDING SPECIAL OPERATIONS CAPACITY

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 
Special Operations Officials Emphasize Capacity Building
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2013 - Building on the lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. Special Operations Command is refocusing on helping partner militaries across the geographic commands build special operations capacity, Socom's commander reported.

The drawdown in Afghanistan will free up more special operators to support other theaters, Navy Adm. William H. McRaven said during a July 19 panel discussion at the 2013 Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colo.

McRaven reported that he already has sat down with all of the geographic combatant commanders to discuss their objectives and determine how more special operations forces can support them.

Toward that goal, Socom is returning to its pre-9/11 concept of aligning forces to specific geographic areas and providing them cultural and language training for that region, he said.

By necessity, special operators shifted their focus to Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 12 years, McRaven said, and fluency in languages other than Arabic, Dari and Pashto suffered. To rebuild lost skill sets, the command is reinvigorating its language and cultural awareness program and aligning it to the theaters "so that the right people speak the right languages and understand the right cultures in the right regions," the admiral added.

One of the big takeaways from Afghanistan has been the effectiveness of the command structure provided through the Special Operations Joint Task Force Afghanistan, he reported. It aligns all special operations missions across Afghanistan, to make them more coordinated and effective.

The task force has provided "effects that we hadn't seen in the previous decade," McRaven said. The challenge now, he told the forum, is to take the lessons learned and export them to other special operations missions around the world.

Special operators "will always be able to do the kinetic piece ... better than anyone else in the world," he said. "When somebody needs to rescue Americans or when someone needs to capture or kill the enemy, I think we have the best force in the world and will for a long time."

McRaven acknowledged, however, that "that's a small part of what we do in the special operations community."

Building partner capacity is the larger mission, he reported, and it currently involves about 3,000 special operations forces in about 84 countries outside Afghanistan. Working in small teams, they are helping partner-nation militaries build special operations capacity so their sovereign governments can deal with their own problems without the need for U.S. forces, he said.

These are core special operations capabilities that the special operations community has been conducting "for a very, very long time," McRaven said. "So any thought that this is a new idea is not correct," he added.

What has changed is the fiscal environment, he noted. "Now, we've got to do it in a little more structured fashion," McRaven said. "We have limited resources, [so] we've got to figure out where to apply those resources."

Michael A. Sheehan, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflict, joined McRaven for the panel discussion. A former Green Beret, Sheehan recalled being among only about 12 special operations advisors in El Salvador during its civil war. "I think in many ways, we're going to go back to the future in terms of the SOF mission set," he said.

Counterterrorism is actually a two-part effort, both with a special operations forces component, Sheehan explained.

"One is [that] we have to deny sanctuary to terrorists. We can't let them sit and be comfortable, or they will be able to attack us strategically," he said. "And secondly, we need to pressure the network. We need to attack the leaders, safe houses, training sites, their assets, lines of communications, et cetera."

Typically, a special operations forces advisor works with a host-nation military to help train and equip the force and plan activities designed to deny space to the enemy, Sheehan said. "On the other side, we want to have a relationship, the training, advising, equipping for the host country's kinetic action for their direct action against the enemy," he explained.

The key, Sheehan said, is to identify the best way to train, equip and advise the host-nation forces so they can successfully conduct their own special operations missions.

"When we are successful in doing that, we have then pushed ourselves back into the secondary role and enabled host countries to defend their own country," Sheehan said. "And that's our goal for the next 10 years."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

European Space Agency United Kingdom (EN) Update

European Space Agency United Kingdom (EN) Update

President Obama Speaks on the Economy | The White House

President Obama Speaks on the Economy | The White House

Pizarra Blanca de la Casa Blanca: ¿Por qué la Reforma Migratoria es Buena Para Nuestra Economía? | The White House

Pizarra Blanca de la Casa Blanca: ¿Por qué la Reforma Migratoria es Buena Para Nuestra Economía? | The White House

Plankton Bloom, Black Sea

Plankton Bloom, Black Sea


Reducing risk of heart disease

Reducing risk of heart disease

Nuit ou jour

Nuit ou jour

DOJ ON OCCASION OF 23RD ANNIVERSARY OF ADA, CELEBRATES OPENING GATEWAY TO EMERGING TECHNOLOGY

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE 
Celebrating 23 Years of the ADA – ADA Anniversary Week at the Department of Justice
July 23rd, 2013 Posted by The Department Of Justice
TUESDAY: Gateway to Emerging Technology

 This week, in honor of the 23rd anniversary of the ADA, we recognize and celebrate the different gateways that the ADA is opening up to people with disabilities.  Today we highlight the ADA as a gateway to emerging technology.

 The explosion of new technology has dramatically changed the way America communicates, learns and does business.  For many people with disabilities the benefits of this technology revolution remain beyond their reach.  Many businesses websites and government entities are inaccessible to people with vision or hearing disabilities.  Because websites are a primary means of accessing all kinds of goods, entertainment  and government services, this lack of access excludes people with disabilities from modern society.  Similarly, devices like electronic book (e-book) readers, whether used as textbooks in a classroom or to take out books from a local library, can be completely unusable by someone who is blind because accessible features they need, such as text-to-speech functions or menus and controls accessible by audio or tactile means, are not provided.

 Websites and digital technologies can be made accessible, much like adding ramps to building entrances, but few entities are including available accessibility features in their technology. The Civil Rights Division is working to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind as new technology continues to emerge.

 Increasing Technological Accessibility for Students with Disabilities at Louisiana Tech: Today, the Civil Rights Division announced a settlement agreement with Louisiana Tech University and the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System to address the use of inaccessible technology in the university setting.  The settlement resolves claims that the university violated the ADA by using an online learning product that was allegedly inaccessible to a blind student.  The student’s lack of access to the online course materials and homework lasted nearly a month into the university quarter, at which point the student was so far behind in his coursework that he had to withdraw from the course.  The settlement also resolves allegations that in a later class, the same student was not provided accessible course materials for in-class discussion or exam preparation on time.

 Under the settlement agreement, the university will adopt a number of accessibility policies, including the requirement to use only learning technology, web pages and course content that are accessible in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA standard.  The university will also make existing web pages and materials created since 2010 accessible.  The agreement also requires the university and the Board to pay a total of $23,543 in damages to the student.

Making Accessible e-book Readers Available to Patrons with Disabilities at the Sacramento Public Library:  In August 2012, the Civil Rights Division and the National Federation of the Blind entered into a settlement agreement with the Sacramento Public Library to resolve a complaint that the library’s use of certain e-readers in its e-reader lending program discriminated against people who are blind or have other vision disabilities because the e-readers did not have accessible features such as text-to-speech functions or the ability to access menus through audio or tactile means.  Under the terms of the settlement, the library will no longer purchase inaccessible e-book readers for patron use.  The library also agreed to buy several additional accessible e-readers and to train its staff about the ADA.  As a result of this settlement, the library’s e-book lending program is accessible to patrons who are blind or have other vision disabilities.

'20/20 BY 2020'


DAYTON, Ohio -- Lockheed SR-71A in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The aircraft was retired in 1990. (U.S. Air Force photo) 
FROM:  U.S. AIR COMBAT COMMAND
Beale removes fuel storage tanks that kept Blackbird soaring 
by Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo
9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs 

7/22/2013 - BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Beale is conducting a four-month deconstruction project to remove Cold War-era fuel storage tanks that once fueled the SR-71 Blackbird.

The project is a part of the Air Force's "20/20 by 2020" initiative, which aims to reduce excess capacity by reducing a base's footprint, as well as reducing operating costs by 20 percent by the year 2020.

Three of the storage tanks have already been removed, and the remaining two are scheduled to be demolished in the upcoming months.

During the mid-1960s, Beale was home to jets that required massive amounts of fuel including the Blackbird.

Five tanks at Beale's fuel terminal held between 400,000 and 657,000 gallons each of specially designed JP-7 jet fuel. This fuel was developed by the U.S. Air Force to power the SR-71 and was brought to the fuel terminal via a locomotive system.

The fuel was then pumped through a 4.5 mile-long pipeline to the flight line where the Blackbird consumed approximately 36,000 to 44,000 pounds of fuel per hour of flight.

The tanks became cold war relics with the retirement of the SR-71 in 1998 and coupled with the transfer of the B-52 Stratofortress bomber and KC-135 Stratotanker air refueling missions to other bases.

"They're kind of historic structures," said Robert Nordhal, 9th Civil Engineer Squadron flight chief of programs. "We just don't have the need for high capacity fuel storage anymore."

Nordhal said that unused structures cost the Air Force in maintenance and repairs as well as pose safety concerns.

"These tanks were not fitted with modern safety features," said Mark Hoover, fuels terminal superintendent with AKIMA Technical Solutions. "It would cost more for us to upgrade those tanks then to build new ones."

In addition to maintenance and repair costs, Beale will also save in the demolition of the tanks themselves.

"The scrap metal from the tanks is being recycled and is being used to fund the demolition," Hoover said. "It's essentially saving the Air Force tens of thousands of dollars.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

U.S. Navy Photos of the Day Update

U.S. Navy Photos of the Day Update

European Space Agency United Kingdom (EN) Update

European Space Agency United Kingdom (EN) Update

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE HAGEL ADDRESSES VFW NATIONAL CONVENTION

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 
Hagel Calls on Vets to Partner in Reshaping Military
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2013 - Opening his address today to the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention with a tribute to Korean War veterans, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called on the nation's 22 million veterans to become partners in helping the Defense Department work through "historic transition and change."

Every major conflict in U.S. history has been followed by a period of "realignment and redefinition," with "enormous ramifications and consequences for our entire defense enterprise," the secretary noted.

As the Defense Department undergoes the latest realignments and reshapes the military for the future, Hagel called on veterans "who helped build our military into the strongest, most capable and most respected on Earth" to help ensure it remains that way.

"All of us at the Pentagon, and across this administration, value your perspective and devotion to our military men and women," he told the group. "We will need your help and partnership as we manage through a period of historic transition and change.

"As I look out across this audience, I see thousands of veterans whose lives have been committed to helping our service members, their families and our veterans succeed, and to ensuring this country honors their legacy with policies that are worthy of their sacrifices," Hagel continued. "All of you, and the roughly 22 million veterans across this nation, have an important role to play in the debate over our country's future national security priorities."

Hagel pointed out that veterans of past wars depended on their elected representatives to ask the right questions and establish the proper policies before sending them into conflict. "You all have fought and put your lives on the line for this country," he said. "You did so with the expectation that you would be given the equipment, training and support you needed to succeed."

The secretary noted that many of the veterans, particularly those of the Korean War, have seen firsthand the human toll of sending a hollow force to war.

"Not one American should ever be ordered into battle without our leaders being as sure as they can be that their decision is worthy of the sacrifices that will be made by our sons and our daughters," he said.

The secretary began his address leading a thunderous applause for veterans of the Korean War whose service led to the armistice agreement signed 60 years ago this week. Hagel noted that he will join President Barack Obama and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki for a July 27 ceremony at the Korean War Veterans Memorial here to commemorate the formal signing of the armistice on July 27, 1953.

The armistice agreement ended the fighting in a three-year conflict between North Korea and China and South Korea and United Nations forces led by the United States.

"The upcoming observance is a chance for the country to fully express its profound gratitude for your service and sacrifice," Hagel told the veterans. "The Korean War veterans here today, and all across the country, should know that your fellow citizens are proud of what you accomplished, and what your generation has contributed to our security and prosperity."

CONSTRUCTION COMPANY OWNER INDICTED FOR TAX FRAUD

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Friday, July 19, 2013

Owner of New York Construction Company Indicted for Tax Fraud
The Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that Gurmail Singh, of Richmond Hill, N.Y., was arrested yesterday following his indictment on July 11, 2013, for multiple tax crimes.  The indictment was unsealed yesterday following his arrest.

According to the indictment, Singh owned Fancy and Vicky Construction Co. Inc., a construction company in Richmond Hill. As alleged in the indictment, Singh used check-cashing services to cash more than $2.9 million of checks paid to his construction company for services between 2006 and 2008.  He concealed his check-cashing activities from his tax return preparers, and this income was not included as gross income on the company’s tax returns.  Singh also diverted cash receipts earned by his companies for his own personal use.

The indictment alleges that Singh filed false 2006 and 2007 corporate income tax returns for Fancy and Vicky Construction, failed to file a 2008 corporate income tax return for Fancy and Vicky Construction and failed to file individual income tax returns for 2007 and 2008.  Singh faces a potential maximum sentence of nine years in prison and a potential fine of up to $800,000.

A trial date has not been scheduled. An indictment merely alleges that a crime has been committed, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Kathryn Keneally, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Tax Division, commended the efforts of special agents of IRS–Criminal Investigation, who investigated the case, and Tax Division Trial Attorneys Mark Kotila and Jeffrey Bender, who are prosecuting the case.


ARMY SERGEANT PLEADS GUILTY TO STEALING IDENTITY INFORMATION

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, July 18, 2013
US Army Sergeant Pleads Guilty in Georgia to Stealing Identity Information from US Army Computer System

Ammie Brothers, 29, of Columbus, Ga., a sergeant in the U.S. Army, pleaded guilty today to unlawfully obtaining personal information from the U.S. Army’s Army Knowledge Online computer system.

The guilty plea was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil H. MacBride; U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Michael J. Moore; and Director Daniel T. Andrews of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Computer Crime Investigative Unit.

Brothers pleaded guilty before U. S. District Judge Clay Land in Columbus, Ga., to one count of unauthorized access to information from a U.S. Army computer system.  She was charged on Feb. 14, 2013, in a five-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va.

In a statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Brothers admitted that between April 24, 2009, and Oct. 5, 2011, she repeatedly and intentionally accessed two victims’ Army Knowledge Online accounts, which contain personnel files for members of the armed services.  Brothers initially gained access by calling the Army Knowledge Online help desk in the Eastern District of Virginia and providing the victims’ Social Security numbers and dates of birth in order to obtain temporary passwords.

When law enforcement searched Brothers’s home in Columbus, they recovered numerous documents printed from the Army Knowledge Online system that contained victims’ Social Security numbers, bank account numbers and employment history, including the Social Security number of one minor child.  Brothers admitted to law enforcement that, in addition to illegally accessing the victims’ Army Knowledge Online accounts, she regularly harassed the victims by telephone and accessed several credit card accounts belonging to one victim, and in one case authorized charges without the victim’s knowledge or consent.

At sentencing, scheduled for Oct. 24, 2013, Brothers faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

This case was investigated by the Computer Crime Investigative Unit of U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Peter V. Roman of the Justice Department’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsay Kelly of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant U.S. Attorney Crawford L. Seals of the Middle District of Georgia.

NSF SAYS BURIED NEW JERSEY SEAWALL SPARED COASTAL HOMES FROM SANDY

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath.  Credit:  FEMA
FROM:  NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION 
Long-Buried New Jersey Seawall Spared Coastal Homes From Hurricane Sandy's Wrath
Built in 1882, then hidden by drifting sands, seawall mitigated 2012 hurricane's effects
July 16, 2013

Picture two residential beach communities on the New Jersey shore: Bay Head and Mantoloking. They sit side-by-side in Ocean County on a narrow barrier island that separates the Atlantic Ocean and Barnegat Bay.

Before Hurricane Sandy landed on Oct. 29, 2012, a motorist traveling north would pass through Mantoloking into Bay Head. He or she would note few changes in residential development, dunes, beaches or shoreline.

The difference, however, was hidden under the sand.

A long-forgotten, 4,134-feet-long seawall buried beneath the beach helped Bay Head weather Sandy's record storm surges and large waves, says geoscientist Jennifer Irish of Virginia Tech.

The stone structure dates to 1882. Its reappearance in 2012 surprised many area residents, underscoring the difficulties transient communities have in planning for future threats along their shores, Irish says.

"It's amazing that a seawall built nearly 150 years ago, then naturally hidden under beach sands and forgotten, would have a major effect under the conditions in which it was originally designed to perform," says H. Richard Lane, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences.

NSF funded the research through a rapid response award following Hurricane Sandy.

"This finding should have major implications for coastal planning, as sea level rises and storms increase in intensity in response to global warming," says Lane.

The results, published online this week in the journal Coastal Engineering, illustrate the need for multi-levels of beach protection in coastal communities, Irish and colleagues say. Irish is the paper's lead author.

"Once we got to the site, we immediately saw the seawall," Irish says.

"The beach and dunes did their job to a certain point, then the seawall took over, providing significant dampening of the hurricane waves.

"It was the difference between houses that were flooded in Bay Head and houses that were reduced to piles of rubble in Mantoloking."

With recovery efforts underway and storms still circulating through the area, Irish and Robert Weiss, also a geoscientist at Virginia Tech, along with Patrick Lynett, a civil and environmental engineer at the University of Southern California, assessed the area, documenting high water marks, damage, overwash and breaches of the barrier island.

All oceanfront homes in the two boroughs were damaged, ranging from ground-floor flooding to complete destruction.

As measured by waterlines in the interiors of homes, flooding was similar in both boroughs.

The difference was the extent of the storm's effects.

In Mantoloking, an entire dune nearly vanished. Water washed over a barrier spit and opened three breaches of 541 feet, 194 feet and 115 feet, respectively, where the land was swept away.

In Bay Head, only the portion of the dune located seaward of the seawall was eroded. The section of dune behind the seawall received only minor local scouring.

Later, using Google Earth to evaluate aerial images taken two years before and immediately after Hurricane Sandy, the researchers looked at the area's houses.

They labeled a structure with a different roofline as damaged, one that no longer sits on its foundation as destroyed and the remaining houses as flooded.

The scientists classified 88 percent of the oceanfront homes in Bay Head as flooded, with just one oceanfront home destroyed.

In Mantoloking, more than half the oceanfront homes were classified as damaged or destroyed.

Despite the immense magnitude and duration of the storm, a relatively small coastal obstacle--the seawall--reduced potential wave loads by a factor of two.

The seawall was the difference between widespread destruction and minor structural effects, the researchers say.

"We are left with a clear, unintentional example," says Irish, "of the need for multiple levels of defense that include hard structures and beach nourishment to protect coastal communities."

Additional researchers include Wei Cheng and Stephanie Smallegan of Virginia Tech.

-NSF-

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

The realities of asthma

The realities of asthma

JTAGS, first defense against ballistic missiles

JTAGS, first defense against ballistic missiles

IPHONE SPAMMER SETTLES FTC CHARGES

FROM:  FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 
'Free iPhone' Text Message Spammer Settles FTC Charges

An Internet marketer has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that he blasted consumers with millions of deceptive spam text messages.

Henry Nolan Kelly was the subject of one of a series of FTC complaints filed in March against those responsible for sending millions of spam text messages to consumers with false promises of free gift cards or expensive electronic devices.

The complaint against Kelly alleged that he sent more than 20 million unwanted text messages to consumers across the country, offering supposedly free iPhones and iPads to those who clicked on links in the messages. Those who clicked were instead taken to sites that requested substantial personal information and required an elaborate process – often involving other purchases or paid subscriptions – to be eligible for the “free” devices.

The stipulated final order against Kelly prohibits him from having any involvement with the sending of unsolicited or unwanted text messages to consumers. In addition, Kelly will be prohibited from misleading consumers about whether they have won gifts or prizes, whether a product is “free,” and from using text messages to do the same.

The order against Kelly also imposes a monetary judgment of $60,950, which is all of the money that he received in connection with the text message spamming scam. The financial judgment is suspended due to Kelly’s inability to pay. Kelly must also cooperate with the FTC in any future investigations.

The Commission vote approving each of the stipulated final orders was 4-0. The stipulated judgment was entered by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on July 17, 2013.

NOTE: Stipulated orders have the force of law when signed and approved by the District Court judge. (FTC File No. X130041; the staff contact is Robin Rock, 404-656-1368.)

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.

U.S.-ISRAELI LEADERS REAFFIRM MILITARY RELATIONSHIP

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 
Carter, Israeli Leaders Reaffirm Defense Relationship
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

TEL AVIV, Israel, July 22, 2013 - During Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter's first official trip to Israel, he and senior security officials here reaffirmed that the U.S.-Israeli defense relationship has never been stronger and agreed to continuing close consultations on shared security interests.

Carter's visit this week, made to discuss a range of issues of mutual importance -- including the unfolding situations in Syria and Iran -- comes a month after Israeli Defense Minister Moshe "Boogie" Ya'alon's June visit to Washington, where he met with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Hagel visited Israel in April.
The deputy secretary also met with Ya'alon, Israeli National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror and other senior officials. Director-General of the Ministry of Defense Udi Shani hosted an official dinner for Carter.

As part of the visit, Carter took a helicopter tour of some of Israel's security challenges, and received briefings and observed demonstrations of tactical capabilities in several areas near Tel Aviv, including the Mitkan Adam Army Base, an Israel Defense Force special training installation.

Among the elite training schools at the installation are the IDF Counterterrorism Warfare School, the IDF Snipers School, and the IDF Canine Unit, or Oketz Unit, whose logo is a winged dog head. The dogs of the unit are the special operations equivalents of canine assistants -- they climb, they crawl, they tiptoe across logs, they even fast-rope down from heights with their handlers, making no sound at all.

Israeli ground forces discussed their use of canine partners in a range of operations -- finding roadside bombs, hidden adversaries, and contraband smuggled in all kinds of vehicles -- and in performing many other kinds of jobs.

A couple of miles away, next to a rocky, shrub-covered hill, the sun beat down on a two-story building. Nearby is a narrow wooden structure built only for fast-roping. This remote part of Camp Adam has been scene of many canine and special operations training operations, and yesterday afternoon Carter watched as they showed him how they like to work.

Afterward, Carter spoke briefly to the troops before shaking their hands and presenting them with commemorative coins from his office.

"Protecting America means protecting Israel, and that's why we're here in the first place," he said. "But this is the fun part," he added, indicating the tactical demonstration area and the fit, skilled men and women in uniform, some with their dogs and some still dressed in garb that disguised them as boulders and bushes.


CORPORATION AND IT'S MAN SENTENCED FOR WETLANDS VIOLATIONS

FROM: U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 
Florida Man and His Corporation Sentenced for Wetlands Violations in Panama City

WASHINGTON - Brian Raphael D’Isernia, 69, of Panama City Beach, Fla., and Lagoon Landing, LLC, a corporation controlled by D’Isernia, were sentenced today in federal court in the Northern District of Florida for illegal dredging and felony wetlands violations in Panama City. The two defendants were ordered to pay a criminal fine totaling $2.25 million dollars, the largest criminal fine assessed for wetlands-related violations in Florida history. D’Isernia was sentenced to pay a $100,000 criminal fine, while Lagoon Landing, LLC was sentenced to pay a $2.15 million criminal fine, a $1 million community service payment, and a term of three years probation.

D’Isernia pleaded guilty to knowingly violating the Rivers and Harbors Act. D’Isernia was charged with dredging an upland cut ship launching basin in Allanton and the channel connecting it to East Bay between December 2009 and February 2010 without obtaining a permit.

Lagoon Landing, LLC, pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Water Act for knowingly discharging a pollutant into waters of the United States without a permit. Between 2005 and 2010, Lagoon Landing, through its agents and employees in conjunction with persons using tractors and other heavy equipment, altered and filled wetland areas of property it controlled in Allanton without obtaining a permit. The wetland areas were adjacent to and had a significant nexus to East Bay.

Lagoon Landing, LLC was also ordered to pay a $1 million community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a charitable non-profit organization created by Congress. The foundation will use the money to fund projects for the conservation, protection, restoration and management of wetland, marine and coastal resources, with an emphasis on projects benefiting wetlands in and around St. Andrew Bay.

“The defendants adversely impacted wetlands, which play a critical role in maintaining water quality, providing habitat for fish and wildlife, reducing flood damage, and providing recreational opportunities for the public,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance. “The sentences show that EPA, in conjunction with its federal and state law enforcement partners, will vigorously investigate and seek prosecution for those who harm these essential natural resources.”

In a separate but related civil settlement, Northwest Florida Holdings, Inc., a Florida holding corporation controlled by D’Isernia, entered into an Administrative Compliance Order with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will result in the restoration of approximately 58.63 acres of wetlands and upland buffers. The wetlands will be protected from future development by a conservation easement. The corporation also agreed to study the water quality in and around the Allanton and Nelson Street Shipyards; upgrade stormwater protection for the Allanton Shipyard; withdraw applications to convert the launching basin to a marina and create a Planned Unit Development at the Allanton Shipyard; and hire someone to oversee environmental compliance.

In a second separate but related civil settlement, Northwest Florida Holdings, Inc. entered into a consent order with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and agreed to conduct stormwater corrective actions and water quality studies at the Allanton Shipyard. The corporation will pay a $9,750 civil fine to the Ecosystem Management and Restoration Trust Fund, and $94,718.25 in severed dredge materials fees to the Florida Internal Improvement Trust Fund.

In a third separate but related civil settlement, Bay Fabrication, Inc., a corporation controlled by D’Isernia, entered into a consent order with FDEP and agreed to conduct stormwater corrective actions and water quality studies at the Nelson Street Shipyard. The corporation will pay a $6,000 civil fine to the Ecosystem Management and Restoration Trust Fund, and $76,923 in severed dredge materials fees to the Florida Internal Improvement Trust Fund.

In a fourth separate but related civil settlement, Peninsula Holdings, LLC, a corporation controlled by D’Isernia, entered into a Consent Order with FDEP and agreed to conduct stormwater improvements at property it owns located at 2500 Nelson Street, Panama City, Florida 32401. The corporation will pay a $1,500 civil fine to the Ecosystem Management and Restoration Trust Fund.

In a fifth separate but related civil settlement, D’Isernia and his wife Miriam D’Isernia, entered into a consent order with FDEP to remove unauthorized fill materials from property located in Panama City Beach, Fla. Brian and Miriam D’Isernia will pay a $250 civil fine to the Ecosystem Management and Restoration Trust Fund.

These cases were investigated by the EPA Criminal Investigation Division and the Coast Guard Investigative Service, in partnership with EPA Region 4, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard Station Panama City, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and FDEP. These cases were prosecuted by the Honorable Randall J. Hensel, Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.


DEEPWATER HORIZON OIL SHEEN SOURCE IDENTIFIED

Oil Sheen.  Credit:  NOAA
FROM: NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Study Identifies Source of Oil Sheens Near Deepwater Horizon Site

A chemical analysis indicates that the source of oil sheens recently found floating at the ocean's surface near the site of the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon oil spill is pockets of oil trapped within the wreckage of the sunken rig.


First reported to the U.S. Coast Guard by multinational oil and gas company BP in September 2012, the oil sheens raised public concern that the Macondo well, which was capped in July 2010, might be leaking.

However, both the Macondo well and the natural oil seeps common to the Gulf of Mexico were confidently ruled out, according to researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

The results are published this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

"Silver linings in the dark cloud of the Deepwater Horizon spill are very hard to come by," says Don Rice, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research.

"Among the precious few are the lessons we've learned about the marine biogeochemistry of petroleum mixtures. This team has demonstrated convincingly that we can also use what we have learned for forensic purposes."

The researchers used a recently patented method to fingerprint the chemical makeup of the oil sheens, and to estimate the location of the source based on the extent to which gasoline-like compounds evaporated from the sheens.

"The results demonstrate a recently developed geochemical analytical method and may have real-world implications in environmental management strategies for future contamination incidents," says Deborah Aruguete, program director in NSF's Division of Earth Sciences, which co-funded the research.

Because every oil sample contains chemical clues pointing to the reservoir it came from, scientists can compare it to other samples to determine if they share a common source.

"This appears to be a slow leak from the wreckage of the rig, not another catastrophic discharge from a deep oil reservoir," says geochemist David Valentine of UCSB.

"Continued oil discharge to the Gulf of Mexico from the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon rig is not a good thing, but there is some comfort that the amount of leakage is limited to the pockets of oil trapped within the wreckage of the rig."

Valentine and WHOI's Chris Reddy have worked on Deepwater Horizon for much of the last three years, investigating a wide range of problems, including the composition of the oil, detection of subsurface plumes, the biodegradation of the oil, the fate of the dispersants and the chemical transition from floating oil slicks to sunken tar balls.

"Because of our ongoing funding from NSF, we were prepared to interrogate the source of mysterious oil sheens in the Gulf of Mexico," said Valentine.

"We've been exploring new ways to do this for several years in the context of natural seeps, and this event provided us an opportunity to apply our fundamental advances to a real-world problem."

The scientists analyzed 14 sheen samples skimmed from the sea surface during two trips to the Gulf of Mexico.

Using comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography, a technique developed in Reddy's lab, the researchers first confirmed that the sheens contained oil from the Macondo well.

But the sheen samples also contained trace amounts of olefins, industrial chemicals used in drilling operations. The presence of olefins provided a fingerprint for the sheens the scientists could compare to the samples they had analyzed during the last three years.

Olefins are not found in crude oil and their uniform distribution in the sheens indicated that the Macondo well was unlikely to be the source.

The team surmised that the sheens must be coming from equipment exposed to olefins during drilling operations.

"The occurrence of these man-made olefins in all our sheen samples points to a single main source, which contains both Macondo oil and lesser amounts of the drilling fluids that harbor the olefins," said Valentine.

"This pointed us to the wreckage of the rig, which was known to have both, as the most likely source for the sheens."

The researchers compared the sheen samples to other field samples, some of which they expected would contain olefins and some they thought would not.

The reference samples included two pieces of debris from the Deepwater Horizon found floating in May 2010, as well as oil collected by BP in October 2012, during an inspection of the 80-ton cofferdam that had been abandoned at the seafloor after its use in a failed attempt to cover the Macondo well in 2010.

The team's gas chromatography analysis of BP's cofferdam samples definitively showed that it was not the sole source of the leak as there were no olefins present.

Prior to the analysis the cofferdam had become the prime suspect as the source when BP found small amounts of oil leaking from its top.

BP scientists acquired oil samples from this leak point before sealing the leak, thinking they had resolved the problem. However, the sheens on the sea surface persisted, and the lack of olefins pointed to another source entirely.

When Valentine and Reddy compared the chemical makeup of the sheens with debris found floating in 2010, they found a match. That debris, which came from the rig itself, was coated with oil and was contaminated by drilling mud olefins.

"The ability to fingerprint synthetic hydrocarbons allowed us to crack this case," Valentine said. "We were able to exclude a number of suspects and match the olefin fingerprint in the new oil slicks to that of the wreckage from the sunken rig."

The chemical analysis also told researchers which sheens had surfaced more recently than others, allowing them to reconstruct a trajectory for local ocean currents that pointed back to the oil's source.

By looking for sheens that showed the least amount of evaporation, they determined that oil surfaced closer to Deepwater Horizon wreckage than to the cofferdam site.

To explain how the oil might be trapped and released from the wreckage, the scientists point out that when the Deepwater Horizon rig sank, it was holding tanks containing hundreds of barrels of a mixture of drilling mud and oil.

Over time, corrosive seawater can create small holes through which oil can slowly escape to the surface. The researchers suspect that the containers on the rig holding trapped oil may be the source of the recent oil sheen.

In addition to Valentine and Reddy, the research team consisted of Christoph Aeppli and Robert Nelson of WHOI, and Matthias Kellermann of UCSB.

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and a Swiss National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship also funded the research.

-NSF-

Monday, July 22, 2013

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House

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

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. STATEMENT ON FACTORY SAFETY IN BANGLADESH

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR 
Statement by the U.S. Government on Labor Rights and Factory Safety in Bangladesh

WASHINGTON — The following is a joint statement from the Department of Labor, Office of the United States Trade Representative, and the State Department:
Today, the United States is outlining next steps in a longstanding effort to address in a meaningful way worker safety problems in Bangladesh — the severity of which were exemplified in the tragedies of the November 2012 Tazreen Fashions factory fire and the April 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse — and, more broadly, the ability of Bangladeshi workers to exercise their full range of labor rights.

On June 27, 2013, President Obama announced his decision to suspend Bangladesh's trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) in view of insufficient progress by the Government of Bangladesh in affording Bangladeshi workers internationally recognized worker rights. That decision followed an extensive, interagency review under the GSP program of worker rights and worker safety in Bangladesh during which the U.S. Government encouraged the Government of Bangladesh to implement needed reforms. At the time of the announcement, the Administration provided the Government of Bangladesh with an action plan which, if implemented, could provide a basis for the President to consider the reinstatement of GSP trade benefits.

Today, the Administration is making this action plan public as a means to reinforce and support the efforts of all international stakeholders to promote improved worker rights and worker safety in Bangladesh. On the basis of this action plan, the United States looks forward to continuing to work with Bangladesh on the actions it needs to take in relation to potential reinstatement of GSP benefits.
The United States is also pleased to associate itself with the July 8, 2013 European Union (EU)-Bangladesh-International Labor Organization (ILO) Sustainability Compact for continuous improvements in labour rights and factory safety in the ready-made garment and knitwear industry in Bangladesh (Compact). The United States looks forward to working as a full partner with the EU, Bangladesh, and the ILO to implement the goals of the Compact, many of which are broadly consistent with the GSP action plan we are releasing today. At the same time, the United States will pursue additional concrete actions required under the GSP action plan, such as increasing sanctions for labor violations sufficient to deter future misconduct, publicly reporting on the outcome of union registration applications, establishing an effective complaint mechanism for labor violations, and ending violence and harassment of labor activists and unions.
In addition to these complementary, government-to-government efforts, the Administration recognizes the importance of efforts by retailers and brands to ensure that the factories from which they source are compliant with all fire and safety standards in Bangladesh. We urge the retailers and brands to take steps needed to help advance changes in the Bangladeshi garment sector and to work together and with other stakeholders to ensure that their efforts are coordinated and sustained.

The Administration looks forward to continuing its engagement with the Government of Bangladesh and all stakeholders in order to effect positive change for Bangladeshi workers and to help ensure that the recent tragedies we have witnessed do not recur.

Bangladesh Action Plan 2013

The United States Government encourages the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) to take significant actions to provide a basis for reinstating Bangladesh’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits, including by implementing commitments under the "National Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety and Structural Integrity" and taking the following actions:

Government Inspections for Labor, Fire and Building Standards

Develop, in consultation with the International Labor Organization (ILO), and implement in line with already agreed targets, a plan to increase the number of government labor, fire and building inspectors, improve their training, establish clear procedures for independent and credible inspections, and expand the resources at their disposal to conduct effective inspections in the readymade garment (RMG), knitwear, and shrimp sectors, including within Export Processing Zones (EPZs).

Increase fines and other sanctions, including loss of import and export licenses, applied for failure to comply with labor, fire, or building standards to levels sufficient to deter future violations.

Develop, in consultation with the ILO, and implement in line with already agreed targets, a plan to assess the structural building and fire safety of all active RMG/knitwear factories and initiate remedial actions, close or relocate inadequate factories, where appropriate.

Create a publicly accessible database/matrix of all RMG/knitwear factories as a platform for reporting labor, fire, and building inspections, including information on the factories and locations, violations identified, fines and sanctions administered, factories closed or relocated, violations remediated, and the names of the lead inspectors.

Establish directly or in consultation with civil society an effective complaint mechanism, including a hotline, for workers to confidentially and anonymously report fire, building safety, and worker rights violations.

Ready Made Garments (RMG)/Knitwear Sector

Enact and implement, in consultation with the ILO, labor law reforms to address key concerns related to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
Continue to expeditiously register unions that present applications that meet administrative requirements, and ensure protection of unions and their members from anti-union discrimination and reprisal.

Publicly report information on the status and final outcomes of individual union registration applications, including the time taken to process the applications and the basis for denial if relevant, and information on collective bargaining agreements concluded.

Register non-governmental labor organizations that meet administrative requirements, including the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) and Social Activities for the Environment (SAFE).  Drop or expeditiously resolve pending criminal charges against labor activists to ensure workers and their supporters do not face harassment or intimidation.  Advance a transparent investigation into the murder of Aminul Islam and report on the findings of this investigation.

Publicly report on the database/matrix identified above on anti-union discrimination or other unfair labor practice complaints received and labor inspections completed, including information on factories and locations, status of investigations, violations identified, fines and sanctions levied, remediation of violations, and the names of the lead inspectors.

Develop and implement mechanisms, including a training program for industrial police officers who oversee the RMG sector on workers’ freedom of association and assembly, in coordination with the ILO, to prevent harassment, intimidation and violence against labor activists and unions.

Export Processing Zones

Repeal or commit to a timeline for expeditiously bringing the EPZ law into conformity with international standards so that workers within EPZ factories enjoy the same freedom of association and collective bargaining rights as other workers in the country. Create a government-working group and begin the repeal or overhaul of the EPZ law, in coordination with the ILO.

Issue regulations that, until the EPZ law has been repealed or overhauled, will ensure the protection of EPZ workers’ freedom of association, including by prohibiting "blacklisting" and other forms of exclusion from the zones for labor activities.

Issue regulations that, until the EPZ law is repealed or overhauled, will ensure transparency in the enforcement of the existing EPZ law and that require the same inspection standards and procedures as in the rest of the RMG sector.

Shrimp Processing Sector

Actively support ILO and other worker-employer initiatives in the shrimp sector, such as the March 2013 Memorandum of Agreement, to ensure the strengthening of freedom of association, including addressing anti-union discrimination and unfair labor practices.

Publicly report on anti-union discrimination or other unfair labor practice complaints received and labor inspections completed, including information on factories and locations, status of investigations, violations identified, fines and sanctions levied, remediation of violations, and the names of the lead inspectors.

U.S. COMMANDER OF JOINT CHIEFS MEETS WITH GERMAN COMMANDERS

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE 
Dempsey Praises Afghan Campaign Plan, Meets German Commanders
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan, July 21, 2013 - The clarity of the International Security Assistance Force campaign in Afghanistan is impressive, the top U.S. military leader said here today, and that is a tribute to leaders at all levels.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with U.S. and allied personnel at the German-led headquarters of Regional Command-North here today.

German army Maj. Gen. Jorg Vollmer escorted Dempsey and U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, commander of ISAF Joint Command, as they visited the base.

Following a lunch meeting with German and American troops, the chairman told them they are united in a common purpose and are on track to accomplish the mission. There are 2,000 U.S. troops and 8,000 service members from 17 NATO and partner nations in Regional Command-North.

Vollmer briefed Dempsey on the situation throughout the northern Afghan provinces of Badakhshan, Baghlan, Balkh, Faryab, Jowzjan, Kunduz, Samangan, Sar-e Pul and Takhar. "It's a chance for me to learn what's going well and what's not," the chairman said during his lunch with the troops. It was Dempsey's first visit to the regional command since 2007, he said.

NATO and partner nations are heavily involved with training and advising Afghan National Army forces, Afghan uniformed police and Afghan local police. Dempsey, Milley and Vollmer discussed operations through the end of 2014, which is when the NATO mission in Afghanistan expires, and the retrograde movement out of the country.

Officials speaking on background said one theme of the meeting involved the Afghan elections and the retrograde movement of NATO and allied personnel and equipment from the country.

The U.S. will maintain more than 60,000 troops in Afghanistan through this year's fighting season. That number will drop to 34,000 by February 2014, and will remain there through Afghanistan's national elections, scheduled for April 5.

U.S. forces will make up a bit more than half of the NATO and partner forces in Afghanistan for the election. And NATO has agreed to keep the number of troops in Afghanistan at 60,000 for 90 days after the election.

If Afghan officials move the elections to later in the year, it would become difficult for the U.S., NATO and partner nations to meet the retrograde timeline, the official said. "There is physics involved with this," the official added.

All NATO and partner nations are anticipating the U.S.-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement, officials said. The agreement will provide the basis for the follow-on mission, which NATO has named Resolute Support. Once the United States and Afghan leaders ink a pact, which will include legal protections for American service members, NATO will follow suit.

This will mean the number of NATO personnel training and advising Afghan forces will be known and make the retrograde movement somewhat easier, officials said.

Following his meetings, Dempsey moved to gatherings with American, German and Swedish soldiers and airmen.

Mazar-i-Sharif now hosts U.S. Air Force personnel involved with flying and maintaining KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft. They are part of a group based at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan.

"Since I've become chairman I've learned so much about what things make our military the most agile military in the world," Dempsey told the airmen.

"Among those is our ability to establish air bridges for that global reach that literally no one else has." The chairman thanked the airmen for their service, commitment and sacrifices, and asked that they pass his thanks on to their families as well.

Dempsey also met with American and Swedish medevac crews and toured a German HH-90 medevac helicopter. A planned aerial tour to other bases around the area had to be scrubbed because of dust and high winds.

Dempsey will continue his meetings in country tomorrow.

UNDERSECRETARY WRIGHT HONORS TWO WOUNDED WARRIORS WITH PURPLE HEARTS

From left: Army Command Sgt. Maj. Marshall Huffman, Southern Regional Medical Command; SRMC Commander Army Maj. Gen. Jimmie Keenan; Army Sgt. Anthony Ayers; Army Spc. Joseph Contreras; and Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica L. (Garfola) Wright, pose after the Purple Heart ceremony held at the Warrior and Family Support Center near Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, July 17, 2013. Wright presented the soldiers their medals at the ceremony. U.S. Army photo by by Rebekah Almquist
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Wright Visits, Honors Wounded Warriors in San Antonio

By Maria Gallegos
Brooke Army Medical Center


JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, July 19, 2013 - Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jessica L. (Garfola) Wright honored two soldiers who'd earned the Purple Heart medal and visited with other wounded warriors, families and staff at Brooke Army Medical Center here July 17.

Wright, who yesterday was nominated by President Barack Obama to become the permanent undersecretary for personnel and readiness, presented Army Sgt. Anthony Ayers and Army Spc. Joseph Contreras with their Purple Heart medals and certificates, while Army Maj. Gen. Jimmie Keenan, commander of Southern Regional Medical Command, was the host for the ceremony.

Wright, a retired military veteran with 35 years of service and the mother of a deployed soldier, voiced her admiration for the Purple Heart warriors at the ceremony.

"It's clearly an honor to be here. I am humbled because I am a former soldier and a mom of a soldier ... I am humbled to be here in your presence. Thank you very much for everything you have done," Wright said.

"The fact that you have given your time and energy and yourself to preserve this intangible gift of freedom that we in the United States enjoy every day -- thank you very much for that," she added.

Ayers, an infantryman, was conducting a combined dismounted patrol in Afghanistan on May 14 when he was struck by an improvised explosive device. Serving as a tank crewman, Contreras was conducting a mounted patrol in Afghanistan when his vehicle was struck by an IED on Aug. 4, 2011.

Contreras dedicated his Purple Heart medal to his grandfather, who was a World War II veteran.

"I know he would be proud of me right now if he was here," Contreras said.

Wright saluted all service members who've earned the Purple Heart.

"We owe them the honor, we owe them the dedication and the respect -- not just today but every day of their lives," she said.

Wright said she understands the apprehension that family members feel when a loved one is deployed. But, she said, the U.S. military provides the best medical care, equipment and technology in the world to support its service members.

"As a soldier, I have gone over [to Afghanistan] myself and sent a lot of people over there," Wright told the reporter. "But as a mom, your heart goes -- and so my son is there and there's not a moment in the day that I'm not thinking about him and his safety."

Following the ceremony, Wright visited with other wounded warriors, their families and staff at the Warrior Transition Battalion, the Center for the Intrepid, Fisher House, the Burn Center and the Emergency Department at San Antonio Military Medical Center. She thanked the warriors, families and staff for their dedication and offered encouragement and gratitude for their service to the nation.

"We couldn't do it without these people who give their time and energy. All of you are truly a gift from God," Wright said.

Wright is the deputy senior policy advisor to the secretary of defense on recruitment, career development and pay and benefits for 1.4 million active duty military personnel, 1.3 million Guard and Reserve personnel, 680,000 Department of Defense civilians, and she is responsible for overseeing the overall state of military readiness.