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Saturday, January 4, 2014


Hagel Discusses Terrorist Attacks With Russian Counterpart
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called his Russian counterpart today to discuss recent events in Russia.

In a statement summarizing the call, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, said Hagel offered his condolences to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for the recent terrorist attacks in Volgograd.  He also condemned the attacks and said the United States stands with the Russian people against terrorism, Kirby said.

“The leaders discussed the need to remain vigilant against these threats and considered additional opportunities to deepen our nations’ counterterrorism cooperation,” Kirby said. Hagel also assured Shoigu that the United States stands ready to provide security assistance to Russia for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, if requested, he added.

“Lastly, the two men discussed the international community’s efforts to remove Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile,” Kirby said, “and the importance of Syria fulfilling its obligations under the agreed plan."


Army to Destroy Syrian Chemical Weapons Aboard Ship
By C. Todd Lopez
Army News Service

PORTSMOUTH, Va. , Jan. 3, 2014 – Some 64 specialists from the Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center are expected to depart for the Mediterranean in about two weeks aboard an American-owned ship, the Cape Ray, to destroy chemical weapons from Syria.

The nearly 650-foot-long ship, now here, will travel to a yet-to-be specified location in the Mediterranean, where it will take on about 700 metric tons of both mustard gas and "DF compound," a component of the nerve agent sarin gas. Specialists will then use two new, recently installed “field deployable hydrolysis systems” to neutralize the chemicals.

Aboard the Cape Ray will be 35 mariners, about 64 chemical specialists from Edgewood, Md., a security team, and a contingent from U.S. European Command. It's expected the operational portion of the mission will take about 90 days.
During a visit here yesterday, Frank Kendall, undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said preparations began before the United States even knew it was committed to the mission -- or that the mission would ever materialize.

“There was a recognition that something was going to happen in Syria, in all likelihood that would require us to do something with those chemical materials that were known to be there,” he said.

In December 2012, a request was made to determine what could be done if the U.S. was asked to participate in destruction of chemical weapons from Syria.
By the end of January 2013, a team with the Joint Project Manager for Elimination and the Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center had evaluated existing technology and configurations for neutralization of chemical weapons and recommended using the hydrolysis process. Construction of a deployable system began in February, and the first prototype was available in June. A second was available in September.

“We could have waited to see what happened and then reacted to that, or we could have moved out ahead of time and then prepared for what might happen or was likely to happen,” Kendall said. “Fortunately … we took the latter course.”
Aboard the ship, an environmentally sealed tent contains two FDHS units, which will operate 24 hours a day in parallel to complete the chemical warfare agent neutralization mission.

Each unit costs about $5 million and contains built-in redundancy and a titanium-lined reactor for mixing the chemical warfare agents with the chemicals that will neutralize them.

About 130 gallons of mustard gas can be neutralized at a time, over the course of about two hours, for instance, said Adam Baker, with the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Edgewood, Md.
The FDHS systems can, depending on the material, process between 5 to 25 metric tons of material a day. With two systems, that means as much as 50 metric tons a day of chemical warfare agents can be destroyed. The mission requires disposal of 700 metric tons of material. But the plan is not to start out on the first day at full speed, Baker said.

“There is a ramp-up period,” he noted. "It's going to be a slow start. We're going to go very deliberately and safely.”

Rob Malone, with the Joint Project Manager for Elimination at Edgewood, Md., said the two chemical warfare agents will be neutralized with reagents such as bleach, water or sodium hydroxide.

“They are doing a chemical hydrolysis process. It brings the chemical agent together with a reagent, another chemical,” Malone said. “It creates a chemical reaction that basically destroys the chemical agent in and of itself.”
The result of that neutralization process will create about 1.5 million gallons of a toxic “effluent” that must be disposed of, but that cannot be used as a chemical weapon. Malone said the effluent is similar to other toxic hazardous compounds that industrial processes generate. There is a commercial market worldwide for disposing of such waste, he noted.

Baker said the effluent will be acidic and will be PH-adjusted to bring it up to “above neutral,” as part of the process. The end result will be a liquid that is caustic, similar to commercial drain openers, he added.

Malone said the operational plan includes a cycle of six days of disposal plus one day for maintenance of the equipment. On board will be about 220 6,600-gallon containers that will hold the reagents used in the disposal process, and will also be used afterward to hold the effluent.

“Everything will be kind of contained on the ship throughout the entire process,” Malone said.

The U.S. has never disposed of chemical weapons on board a ship before. But it has spent years disposing of its own chemical weapons on land, using the same process that the FDHS uses. The chemical process is not new, and neither is the technology. The format, field-deployable, is new, however. The platform, aboard a ship, is also new. These additions to the process have created challenges for the team.

“This has not been done on this platform, not been done at sea,” Baker said. “But it is taking the established operations we've done at several land sites domestically and internationally and is applying them here.”

In the United States, the U.S. military has been destroying its own chemical weapons for years at places like Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and the recently-closed Pine Bluff Arsenal, Ala. Lessons from those facilities and others were used to develop the process that will be used aboard the Cape Ray to destroy Syrian chemical weapons.

The process for disposing of mustard gas was used at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The process for disposing of DF compound was taken from Pine Bluff Arsenal, Baker said. The processes and technologies from those locations were scaled down to make them transportable.

“So there is no mystery about the process,” Kendall said. “It is a slightly different scale that we are doing it at here. We had fixed installations that had hydrolysis units that could do this job. But what we did not have was a ‘transportable, field deployable’ [system], the words we're using for these systems, that could be moved somewhere else.”

Malone, who has 20 years of experience destroying chemical weapons for the United States, said doing on a ship what he has done on land for two decades required some additional thought and effort.

“We had to figure out on the Cape Ray how to operate in three dimensions,” he said. The FHDS systems are inside tents inside the ship, for example. But the chemical weapons may be loaded on the ship on the deck above, and additional materials will be a deck below the FDHS equipment. On land, everything is spread out and on one level, he said.

“That's been the significant challenge and things we've had to overcome to get the Cape Ray ready for deployment,” he said.

Additionally, vibration studies were done to learn how lab equipment would operate on board a ship, he said. And the equipment had to be modified to anchor it into the ship using chains.

The U.S. chemical weapons demilitarization program often handles munitions that contain chemical weapons, such as rockets and projectiles that include a casing and explosive as well as the chemical component.

“That's that part that really limits throughput a lot of time, the de-mating of the explosive from the chemical agent and the body,” Malone said.

But aboard the Cape Ray, the mission will be different. It is not munitions that are being demilitarized, but liquid chemical agents.

“This can be done fairly quickly because all of the material we are receiving are going to be in a bulk configuration,” Malone said. “It's in large vessels, easily accessible, and for us it gives us a very high throughput.”

Rick Jordan, captain of the Cape Ray, a mariner for 40 years and an employee of contractor Keystone Shipping Company, said for this mission his crew expanded from 29 to 35. The additional six will support mainly what he calls “hotel services” on board the ship.

“We've got some really good folks on here that know how to train, and we've been training them,” he said. “They've got all kinds of shipboard damage control, damage control training and that sort of thing.”

He also said there is plenty of support for spill response as well as for fire suppression.

“The whole key here is teamwork,” he said. “There has been an unbelievable amount of teamwork in this whole process, from the Maritime Administration, Military Sealift Command, to the Keystone Shipping Company. I'm humbled by what is going on here. We've had about three or four days of hard training together where we've been making mariners out of them, and they've been making chemical destruction folks out of us. And we're going to continue to train. The whole trip will be a combination of production, training and being ready for the worst case scenario.”

Jordan said he has not yet received sailing orders, but estimated the time to sail to the center of the Mediterranean Sea at about 10 days. The mission will last 90 days.

That 90-day mission has about 45 days built in for “down days” due to bad weather. So the mission could be shorter.

“Weather is the single most important factor as a mariner that I have got to consider,” Jordan said. “The good news for the Cape Ray is we have lots of things to mitigate weather on board.”

He said the ship is equipped with stabilizers to dampen any roll. He also said that because the ship really has no destination, but is rather meant to serve as a platform, he can navigate around weather if need be.

Sea trials for the mission have already begun, and the Cape Ray will do more sea trials before it departs on its mission in about two weeks. It’s expected the mission will include the neutralization of about 700 metric tons of chemical weapon agents. Those agents will be transferred to the Cape Ray from both Danish and Norwegian ships in a process expected to take about one or two days.

“Exactly where and how that process will take place has not been finalized yet,” Kendall said.

U.S. Navy assets will provide security for the ship while it conducts operations, Kendall said.


Newsletter: The INL Beat, December 2013
Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
NL’s Police Partner Connects with Bangladeshi Youth

During INL Police Week events in May 2013, Assistant Secretary Brownfield acknowledged and thanked the criminal justice professionals in attendance from across the United States, not just for their efforts in countering transnational crime, but for their work as “honorary diplomats” overseas. An example of this unique diplomacy was recently displayed in Dhaka, Bangladesh where police officers from Portland, Oregon met with Bangladeshi youth at the Embassy’s American Center.

Portland Police Bureau joined the Department of Justice’s International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) to implement INL’s community policing program in Bangladesh. The program was launched in 2010, and takes place in Rajshahi Division of northwestern Bangladesh, an area previously identified as vulnerable to violent extremism. The program supports a model of policing that emphasizes the establishment of police-community partnerships and a problem-solving approach that is responsive to community concerns. Program objectives include: 1) teaching Bangladesh police officers and citizens community policing strategies and assisting them with implementation; 2) providing hands-on instruction, modeling and mentoring to Bangladesh police officers and citizens using an embedding strategy and; 3) supporting the overall community by identifying additional stakeholders with the Rajshahi Metropolitan Police.

Portland Police Bureau has been sending three police officers at a time for a period of three weeks since September 2011 to train, mentor, and work with the Bangladesh National Police. Though the officers provide training in standard areas such as case management and human rights, they also customize trainings in response to the requests of the Bangladeshi police. For instance, in 2013 they provided arson investigation courses to both police and firefighters in response to a 2012 Bangladeshi factory fire that claimed the lives of 175 people. They also offered training in areas such as working with social media, respecting human rights, and combating transnational crime to meet the needs of their communities throughout the district.

Portland police officers convened in Dhaka on November 12 to greet students at the Embassy’s American Center. Led by Captain Chris Uehara, the officers gave a presentation to over 50 students about the objectives of INL’s law enforcement program in Bangladesh. They stressed the importance of trusting police with the problems of their communities and working with them to develop tailored solutions. The team instilled in the students that each of them has the potential to positively impact their communities and act as agents of change to secure a better future for their country.

Uehara also spoke to the notable impact program has made not only the communities of Bangladesh, but on their own personal lives and careers back in Oregon. “By immersing ourselves in Bangladeshi culture,” Uehara stated, “we are able to apply what we learn to our interactions with Portland’s growing Muslim populations as well as our city’s other minority communities.” He stressed to the students that the program is mutually beneficial for the Americans and the Bangladeshis, as they are always learning from one another.

The messages resonated with the students, many of whom were personally interested in a career in law enforcement or civil service. The students engaged the police officers in a lively discussion following the presentation, and many of them expressed interest in attendingsimilar events in the future. U.S. Embassy Dhaka is currently working with ICITAP and INL to create more outreach opportunities for the visiting officers from Portland, particularly at the soon-to-be opened American Corner in Rajshahi.

Weekly Address: Time to Pass Bipartisan Legislation to Extend Emergency ...



Fourteen mountain peaks on Earth stand taller than 8,000 meters (26,247 feet). The tallest of these “eight-thousanders” is Mount Everest, the standard to which all other mountains are compared. The Nepalese name for the mountain is Sagarmatha: “mother of the universe.” Everest’s geological story began 40 million years ago when the Indian subcontinent began a slow-motion collision with Asia. The edges of two continents jammed together and pushed up the massive ridges that make up the Himalayas today. Pulitzer-winning journalist John McPhee summed up the wonder of the mountain’s history when he wrote Annals of the Former World: “The summit of Mount Everest is marine limestone. This one fact is a treatise in itself on the movements of the surface of the Earth. If by some fiat, I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence; this is the one I would choose.” In other words, when climbers reach the top of Mount Everest, they are not standing on hard igneous rock produced by volcanoes. Rather, they are perched on softer sedimentary rock formed by the skeletons of creatures that lived in a warm ocean off the northern coast of India tens of millions of years ago. Meanwhile, glaciers have chiseled Mount Everest’s summit into a huge, triangular pyramid, defined by three faces and three ridges that extend to the northeast, southeast, and northwest. The southeastern ridge is the most widely used climbing route. It is the one that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay followed in May 1953 when they became the first climbers to reach the summit and return safely. Climbers who follow this route begin by trekking past Khumbu glacier and through the Khumbu ice fall, an extremely dangerous area where ice tumbles off the mountain into a chaotic waterfall of ice towers and crevasses. Next, climbers reach a bowl-shaped valley—a cirque—called the Western Cwm (pronounced coom) and then the foot of the Lhotse Face, a 1,125-meter (3,691-foot) wall of ice.

Climbing up the Lhotse face leads to the South Col, the low point in the ridge that connects Everest to Lhotse. It is from the South Col that most expeditions launch their final assault on the summit, following a route up the southeastern ridge. Some climbers opt for the northern ridge, which is known for having harsher winds and colder temperatures. That is the path that British climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine used in 1924 during what may, in fact, have been the first ascent.

Whether the pair made it to the summit remains a topic of controversy, but what is known for certain is that the men were spotted pushing toward the peak just before the arrival of a storm. Mallory’s corpse was discovered near the northeast ridge at 8,160 meters (26,772 feet) by an American climber in 1999, but it still isn’t clear whether he reached the summit. Despite its reputation as an extremely dangerous mountain, commercial guiding has done much to tame Everest in the last few decades. As of March 2012, there had been 5,656 successful ascents of Everest, while 223 people had died—a fatality rate of 4 percent. > Read More Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using EO-1 ALI data from the NASA EO-1 team, archived on the USGS Earth Explorer. Caption: Adam Voiland.



U.S. Army Sgt. John T. Kelly, left, calls in a status update during an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Juba, South Sudan, Jan. 3, 2014. Kelly is a radio operator assigned to the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher II.

U.S. Marines and sailors help U.S. citizens into a Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules airplane in Juba, South Sudan, during an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy, Jan. 3, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III.


FTC Tells Consumers to Hang Up on Tech Support Refund Scams

The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers that if they get a call promising a refund for tech support services, it is just a new twist on an old scam.

Tech support scams try to gain consumer’s trust and access to their computer and personal and financial information. Typically, a fraudster calls claiming to be a computer technician from a well-known software company, and says they’ve detected a virus on the consumer’s computer.  Their goal is to trick consumers into giving them remote access to their computer or paying for bogus software they don’t need.

In this latest version, scammers call consumers who may have been victims of an earlier tech support scam under the guise of checking on their “satisfaction” with that service and offering a refund or new service when they express their dissatisfaction. Others may claim a company is going out of business and providing refunds to people who paid for technical support services that will no longer be provided. But it’s all a hoax. Once consumers give their banking or credit card information for a refund, the scammers actually take money from their accounts.

Anyone who gets these types of calls should hang up immediately and file a complaint with the FTC. Consumers who paid for bogus tech support or tech support refunds using a credit card should contact their credit card company and ask to reverse the charges.

Learn more about tech support refund scams in the FTC’s latest consumer blog post, and stay a step ahead of the latest scams by subscribing to Scam Alerts.

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.


Release No: NR-002-14
January 03, 2014
DOD Announces Recertification Of Imminent Danger Areas

Today, the Defense Department announced the recertification of some locations as imminent danger pay areas while discontinuing that designation for others.

A periodic review and recertification was conducted for Imminent Danger Pay (IDP) purposes and was made in coordination with the joint staff, combatant commands and military services.  The combatant commands conducted in-depth threat assessments for countries within their areas of responsibility.

Following the Defense Department’s review, it was determined that the imminent threat of physical harm to U.S. military personnel due to civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism, or wartime conditions  has been significantly reduced in many countries.  As a result, IDP will be discontinued in those areas.

IDP is authorized in areas designated by the Defense Department.  Periodic recertification of IDP ensures that imminent danger designations match the actual conditions of designated countries so that the department can provide fair entitlements and benefits.  The last recertification was completed in 2007.

The following locations will no longer be designated as imminent danger areas for IDP purposes, effective June 1, 2014:

• The nine land areas of East Timor, Haiti, Liberia, Oman, Rwanda, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
• The six land areas and airspace above Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, and Montenegro.
• The four water areas of the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, and the Red Sea.
• The water area and air space above the Persian Gulf.

IDP will remain in effect for Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, and Egypt within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.


Friday, January 3, 2014
Department of Justice Takes Steps to Strengthen Federal Background Check System for Firearms Transfers
Proposed Regulation Would Clarify Who Is Prohibited from Possessing Firearms for Mental Health Reasons

The Department of Justice today announced it is proposing a regulation that will clarify who, due to mental health reasons, is prohibited under federal law from receiving, possessing, shipping or transporting firearms.  In addition to providing general guidance on the federal law, this clarification will help states determine what information may be appropriately shared with the federal background check system for firearms transfers – the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) – in order to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who may be a danger to themselves or others.

The revised definition clarifies that the statutory terms “adjudicated as a mental defective” and “committed to a mental institution” include persons who are found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect; persons lacking mental responsibility or deemed insane; and persons found guilty but mentally ill, regardless of whether these determinations are made by a state, local, federal or military court.  The proposed regulation also clarifies that the statutory term includes a person committed to involuntary inpatient or outpatient treatment.

“We are taking an important, commonsense step to clarify the federal firearms regulations, which will strengthen our ability to keep dangerous weapons out of the wrong hands,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “This step will provide clear guidance on who is prohibited from possessing firearms under federal law for reasons related to mental health, enabling America’s brave law enforcement and public safety officials to better protect the American people and ensure the safety of our homes and communities.  And it is emblematic of the Justice Department’s broader commitment to use every tool and resource at its disposal to combat gun violence and prevent future tragedies while respecting the Constitutional rights to which all Americans are entitled.”

The NICS background check system is a critical tool in keeping guns out of the hands of those who cannot legally have one.  To date, NICS has prevented more than 2 million guns from falling into the wrong hands. In order for background checks to continue to be effective, the system must have access to relevant, correct and complete information.

Clarifying the existing Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) regulation is just one of many common-sense steps the department has taken to keep guns out of the wrong hands. The department is working diligently to reduce gun violence and is committed to using every tool at its disposal, including implementing effective prevention, enforcement and re-entry strategies.  In addition, the department is working with other federal departments and agencies to ensure relevant information is shared with the NICS and has also provided monetary support to states to improve their abilities to share this information.

Friday, January 3, 2014


Myanmar's Independence Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 3, 2014

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I’m honored to send best wishes to the people of your country as you celebrate your Independence Day.

Few days would be more appropriate to reiterate America’s commitment to supporting your country as you continue down the path towards becoming the democratic, peaceful, economically-vibrant nation so many of you have sacrificed so much to achieve.

It is my sincere hope that in the future we may celebrate the fulfillment of your aspirations.

Since I first visited your country in 1999 as a U. S. Senator, I have cared deeply about the relationship between our two countries, and, given the commitment President Obama has made to a bold new start with Myanmar, I look forward to working with you to see those ties continue to grow.

As 2014 marks the beginning of an exciting year of your ASEAN Chairmanship, please accept the best wishes of the American people for a happy Independence Day.


January 03, 2014


Pontaris, LLC,* Reston, Va., is being awarded an estimated $85,611,925 firm-fixed-price, multiple award, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for trucking services of sustainment and heavy cargo throughout Afghanistan.  This contract is a follow-on contract to the National Afghan Trucking contract.  Trucking services will be provided to and from multiple locations within Afghanistan, with an expected completion date of December 15, 2014.  Fiscal 2014 overseas contingency operation funds in the amount of $2,500 are being obligated at time of award.  Remaining funds will be obligated on individual task orders.  This contract was a competitive acquisition and 117 offers were received.  The U.S. Transportation Command, Acquisitions Directorate, Scott AFB, Ill is the contracting activity (HTC711-14-D-R039).


Nakuuruq Solutions, LLC, Herndon, Va. was awarded a $21,000,000 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for machining, welding, fabrication & painting.  Funding will be determined with each order. Estimated completion date is Jan. 20, 2017.  Work will be performed at the Aberdeen Test Center at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.  Bids were solicited via the Internet with six received.  Army Contracting Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. is the contracting activity (W91CRB-14-D-0005).


Raytheon Company, Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded a $52,084,929 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-12-C-5405) for Design Agent Engineering and Technical Support Services for Phalanx, SeaRAM, and Land-based Phalanx Weapon Systems required for maintaineance, reliability, and improvements. PHALANX Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) is a fast-reaction terminal defense against low- and high-flying, high-speed maneuvering anti-ship missile threats that have penetrated all other defenses.  The CIWS is an integral element of the Fleet Defense In-Depth concept and the Ship Self-Defense Program.  Operating either autonomously or integrated with a combat system, it is an automatic terminal defense weapon system designed to detect, track, engage, and destroy anti-ship missile threats penetrating outer defense envelopes.   Work will be performed in Tucson, Ariz., and is expected to be completed by January 2015.  Fiscal 2014 other procurement Navy funding in the amount of $4,000,000 , research, development, test and evaluation funding in the amount of $1,398,440, weapons procurement Navy funding in the amount of $1,071,849, fiscal 2013 weapons procurement Navy funding in the amount of $2,692,978,  Army funding in the amount of $1,493,606, shipbuilding and conversion, Navy funding in the amount of $1,097,756 , fiscal 2012 shipbuilding and conversion, Navy funding in the amount of $358,057, fiscal 2011 shipbuilding and conversion funding in the amount of $115,000 and fiscal 2010 shipbuilding and conversion, Navy funding in the amount of $332,929 will be obligated at time of award.  Contract funds in the amount of $4,000,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

* Small Business

West Wing Week 01/03/14 or "Best of the West (Wing Week) 2013"


January 02, 2014
Readout of the President’s Meeting with Prime Minister Key of New Zealand

Today, President Obama invited Prime Minister John Key to play a round of golf in Hawaii. The two leaders have long discussed their shared interest in the sport, and they enjoyed the opportunity to spend several hours together on the golf course. President Obama and Prime Minister Key have developed a close partnership, which reflects the friendship and broad cooperation between the United States and New Zealand. While the two leaders are both enjoying some time off with their families and friends, they also reaffirmed our continued work together to deepen our trade relationship, enhance regional security, and support the democratic values that the United States and New Zealand share.



This is the top “Editors’ Pick” among the Charts of Note – a series provided online daily by the Economic Research Service. ERS editors selected the ten best from over 230 graphs and maps posted in 2013. Charts are provided daily on the web–and via email to those who subscribe to the daily series.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013

China has been an important source of recent growth in U.S. agricultural exports, and there has been concern about the implications of recent increases in China’s domestic farm support. While it is often presumed that subsidies and price supports give Chinese farmers an advantage, these policies actually may improve prospects for U.S. agricultural exports by raising costs and prices of Chinese commodities above international levels. As a World Trade Organization (WTO) member, China agreed to relatively low tariffs and eliminated most barriers to imports apart from tariff rate quotas for several types of cereal grains, cotton, and sugar. Consequently, as China raises domestic price supports above international prices, the country tends to attract more imports. As a result, China today is a net importer of the commodities that are the main targets of its domestic support programs—grains, oil-seeds and cotton.



Histoplasmosis Outbreak Associated with the Renovation of an Old House — Quebec, Canada, 2013


January 3, 2014 / 62(51);1041-1044

On May 19, 2013, a consulting physician contacted the Laurentian Regional Department of Public Health (Direction de santé publique des Laurentides [DSP]) in Quebec, Canada, to report that two masons employed by the same company to do demolition work were experiencing cough and dyspnea accompanied by fever. Other workers also were said to be ill. DSP initiated a joint infectious disease, environmental health, and occupational health investigation to determine the extent and cause of the outbreak. The investigation identified 14 persons with respiratory symptoms among 30 potentially exposed persons. A strong correlation was found between exposure to demolition dust containing bat or bird droppings and a diagnosis of histoplasmosis. Temporary suspension of construction work at the demolition site in Saint-Eustache, Quebec, northwest from Montreal, and transport of the old masonry elements to a secure site for burial were ordered, and information about the disease was provided to workers and residents. To prevent future outbreaks, recommendations included disinfection of any contaminated material, disposal of waste material with proper control of aerosolized dust, and mandatory use of personal protective equipment such as gloves, protective clothing, and adequate respirators.
Histoplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by inhalation of spores produced by the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum (HC) (1,2). The organism can be excreted by bats and birds in their droppings and can persist in the environment for several years (3). Pulmonary infection sometimes causes symptoms typical of pneumonia (e.g., dyspnea, fever, and thoracic pain). The incubation period varies ranges from 7 to 21 days. Renovation of old houses that have sheltered colonies of bats has been associated with histoplasmosis resulting from worker exposure to aerosolized spores of the fungus (4–6). Disseminated histoplasmosis is a rare form of the infection that can be fatal, even if properly treated.
On May 19, 2013, a consulting physician contacted DSP to report that two masons employed by the same company were experiencing cough and dyspnea accompanied by fever. Other workers were also reported to be sick. A joint infectious disease, environmental health, and occupational health investigation was initiated by DSP. The objectives of the investigation were to describe the demolition work, the workers, and other persons involved, and the medical history of persons who became ill, to determine the extent and cause of the outbreak.
Initial questioning revealed that the two workers became ill 48 hours earlier. Because of the severity of the symptoms, both patients were referred to the emergency department of a Montreal tertiary-care center. One of the two patients was hospitalized. Further investigation revealed that during May 18–20, 2013, six masons were evaluated in the emergency department for similar symptoms, and two were hospitalized. All the masons had recently carried out demolition of the exterior walls of a century-old brick house and had seen a large quantity of dried bird or bat droppings behind the bricks. The demolition work was reported to have caused a cloud of dust in the immediate environment. Given the history of exposure to droppings, the diagnosis of histoplasmosis was considered.
The investigation led to the identification and questioning of the 30 persons believed to have been exposed to HC from work-site debris during April 29–May 14, 2013. Those 30 included 21 men and nine women, with a mean age of 39 years (median: 30.8 years, range: 16–77 years). A standardized questionnaire was used to record symptoms and determine potential exposures. Half of the exposed person were workers: six masons who demolished the brick walls, four bricklayers, one debris sorter working for a container company from outside the Laurentian region who picked up the demolition debris and transported it to a sorting site away from the demolition site, two other debris sorters from the same company who cleaned the bricks, and two metal workers from a third company who carried out repairs to the roof eaves. The other 15 persons included the homeowner and his wife, who lived on the ground floor of the house, and two tenants living upstairs; three visitors who walked around on the site for 10–90 minutes; and eight neighbors.
Of these 30 persons, 14 experienced respiratory symptoms: six masons, three debris sorters, the two residents on the ground floor, the two neighbors whose bedroom faced the demolition site, and one of the visitors to the site (Table). These 14 persons consulted a physician. Two workers were hospitalized. Symptoms began to appear during May 2–17, with a peak occurring May 13–17 (Figure). In order of frequency, the symptoms were dyspnea (100%), chills (86%), headaches (86%), sweating (79%), chest pain (79%), asthenia (79%), fever (71%), cough (71%), myalgia (57%), nausea (43%), diarrhea (36%), erythema (29%), abdominal pain (14%), and vomiting (14%). The average duration of respiratory symptoms was 12.6 days (median: 13.5 days; range: 5–20 days). All the symptomatic persons recovered without any specific treatment for histoplasmosis.
A clinical case of histoplasmosis was defined as the presentation of at least four of the following symptoms: dyspnea, chest pain, cough, fever, chills, sweating, asthenia, or myalgia, with onset during April 30–May 19, 2013, in a person exposed to the demolition site or involved in the handling of demolition debris during April 29–May 14, 2013. A confirmed case was defined as a case meeting the clinical case definition plus detection of HC antigen in a serum or urine specimen. All of the 14 persons who had respiratory symptoms met at least the clinical case definition. Hospitalized patients underwent radiologic investigation, in conjunction with blood and microbiologic analysis, to rule out other viral, bacterial, or fungal infections, including legionellosis and tuberculosis.
A diagnosis of histoplasmosis was confirmed for the two hospitalized masons through a positive serum and a positive urinary HC antigen test. The diagnosis for the two debris sorters was confirmed by a urinary HC antigen test. Five of the other 11 workers received a clinical diagnosis of histoplasmosis resulting from exposure to the same material as the confirmed cases, the presence of compatible clinical manifestations and chest radiographs demonstrating abnormalities. Among the 15 residents, visitors, and neighbors, the illnesses of five were considered clinical cases of histoplasmosis.
Exposure was categorized as high in persons who directly manipulated contaminated material during the demolition, transportation, or debris removal, and in persons who lived in the house during the renovation. If not present during those activities, persons were considered to have experienced low exposure.
Among the 13 persons categorized as having been highly exposed, 11 experienced symptoms, compared with three of 17 persons with a low level of exposure (relative risk = 4.8, 95% confidence interval = 1.7–13.7) (Table). Simply being present during the demolition (April 29–May 1) was also strongly associated with infection. Of 23 persons present, 14 experienced symptoms, compared with none of the seven persons exposed after demolition (relative risk = ∞, 95% confidence interval = undetermined; p<0.005).
The recommendations made by DSP consisted of temporarily suspending any further construction work and informing the workers and the residents about the disease. The risk for additional contamination from the house's environment was assessed. The old bricks from the demolition debris were contained and buried underground at a secure site. The debris around the house was removed by workers before involvement of DSP. The house's surroundings were washed by heavy rains during the following days. The Laurentian Regional Occupational Health and Safety Commission also made recommendations to the employers concerning similar work in the future: communicate health risks to workers and insist on preventive measures, particularly the constant use of a respirator. Although the masons were provided with respirators, they wore them intermittently because of the hot weather; respirators were not made available for the three debris sorters.

Reported by

André Allard, FRCPC, Denise Décarie, MD, Jean-Luc Grenier, MD, Marie-Claude Lacombe, MD, Francine Levac, MD, Laurentian Regional Dept of Public Health, Saint-Jérôme, Québec, Canada. Corresponding contributor: Jean-Luc Grenier,

Editorial Note

A wide range of activities have been associated with histoplasmosis outbreaks: construction, maintenance, renovation, excavation (4–6); caving (7); school activities or day camp (8); search for treasure (9); and agricultural activities (10), among others. The common variable inherent in these activities is the exposure to bird or bat droppings (1) or contaminated soil.
When buildings, particularly old houses, have previously sheltered colonies of bats or birds, appropriate measures should be taken before starting renovation work to protect the health of persons in and around the area.
In this investigation, the confirmation of a diagnosis of histoplasmosis for debris sorters who did not work at the demolition site but handled contaminated materials away from the site demonstrates that the radius of exposure might be greater than expected. As a result, protective measures should be recommended to all workers who might be exposed to contaminated material.
The findings in this report are subject to at least two limitations. First, a conservative approach to risk assessment was adopted by including persons such as residents of the house in the high exposure scenario, and by including clinical cases that could be related to an etiology other than histoplasmosis. Second, the small number of persons involved in this outbreak limits the power of analysis and the conclusions that can be drawn from the investigation. Moreover, the even smaller number of symptomatic persons who were tested for HC antigen reduces the specificity of the diagnosis. Despite these limitations, the high relative risk shows a strong correlation between demolition dust exposure and the onset of disease.
This outbreak highlights the importance for employers to understand the health risks associated with renovation of old houses in areas where bats or birds roost. Employers should also be made aware of the recommended health measures for their workers, such as wearing a respirator (1).


Bruno Cossette, Linda Montplaisir, Francine Veilleux, Laurentian Regional Dept of Public Health, Saint-Jérôme, Québec, Canada.


  1. Public Health Agency of Canada. Histoplasma capsulatum: pathogen safety data sheet-infectious substances. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Public Health Agency of Canada; 2011. Available at Web Site Icon.
  2. McKinsey DS, McKinsey JP. Pulmonary histoplasmosis. Semin Respir Crit Care Med 2011;32:735–44.
  3. CDC. Histoplasmosis. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2013. Available athttp//
  4. Fernandez Andreu CM, Martínez Machín G, Illnait Zaragozi MT, Perurena Lancha MR, González L. Outbreaks of occupational acquired histoplasmosis in La Habana province. Rev Cubana Med Trop 2010;62:68–72.
  5. Anderson H, Honish L, Taylor G, et al. Histoplasmosis cluster, golf course, Canada. Emerg Infect Dis 2006;12:163–5.
  6. Huhn GD, Austin C, Carr M, et al. Two outbreaks of occupationally acquired histoplasmosis: more than workers at risk. Environ Health Perspect 2005;113:585–9.
  7. Lyon GM, Bravo AV, Espino A, et al. Histoplasmosis associated with exploring a bat-inhabited cave in Costa Rica, 1998–1999. Am J Trop Med Hyg 2004;70:438–42.
  8. CDC. Notes from the field: histoplasmosis outbreak among day camp attendees—Nebraska, June 2012. MMWR 2012;61:747–8.
  9. Corcho-Berdugo A, Muñoz-Hernández B, Palma-Cortés G, et al. An unusual outbreak of histoplasmosis in residents of the state of Mexico. Gac Med Mex 2011;147:377–84.
  10. CDC. Outbreak of histoplasmosis among industrial plant workers—Nebraska, 2004. MMWR 2004;53:1020–2.

What is already known on this topic ?
Histoplasmosis outbreaks can occur when demolition work produces dust containing bird or bat droppings.
What is added by this report?
During the renovation of an old house in Quebec, Canada, 14 of 30 workers and residents exposed to dust from bird or bat droppings experienced respiratory symptoms consistent with histoplasmosis. Of the four persons whose infection was laboratory-confirmed, two were hospitalized. Illness was highly correlated with exposure to dust during demolition of the exterior walls, and with the handling of contaminated debris away from the work site.
What are the implications for public health practice?
Employers need to provide the appropriate protective equipment and reinforce to employees the necessity of applying protective measures during demolition work, including when handling debris away from the work site.



Can a Dietary Supplement Treat a Concussion? No.

Exploiting the public's rising concern about concussions, some companies are offering untested, unproven and possibly dangerous products that claim to prevent, treat or cure concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is monitoring the marketplace and taking enforcement actions where appropriate, issuing warning letters to firms—the usual first step for dealing with claims that products labeled as dietary supplements are intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. The agency is also warning consumers to avoid purported dietary supplements marketed with claims to prevent, treat, or cure concussions and other TBIs because the claims are not backed with scientific evidence that the products are safe or effective for such purposes. These products are sold on the Internet and at various retail outlets, and marketed to consumers using social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

One common claim: Using a particular dietary supplement promotes faster healing times after a concussion or other TBI.

Even if a particular supplement contains no harmful ingredients, that claim alone can be dangerous, says Gary Coody, FDA's National Health Fraud Coordinator.

"We're very concerned that false assurances of faster recovery will convince athletes of all ages, coaches and even parents that someone suffering from a concussion is ready to resume activities before they are really ready," says Coody. "Also, watch for claims that these products can prevent or lessen the severity of concussions or TBIs."

A concussion is a brain injury caused by a blow to the head, or by a violent shaking of the head and upper body. Concussions and other TBIs are serious medical conditions that require proper diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring by a health care professional. The long-term impact of concussions on professional athletes and children who play contact sports has recently been the subject of highly publicized discussions.

A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that if concussion victims resume strenuous activities—such as football, soccer or hockey—too soon, they risk a greater chance of having a subsequent concussion. Moreover, repeat concussions can have a cumulative effect on the brain, with devastating consequences that can include brain swelling, permanent brain damage, long-term disability and death.

"As amazing as the marketing claims here are, the science doesn't support the use of any dietary supplements for the prevention of concussions or the reduction of post-concussion symptoms that would enable one to return to playing a sport faster," says Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., director of FDA's Division of Dietary Supplement Programs.

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The Claims
One of the first alarms raised about dietary supplements being promoted to treat TBI came from the U.S. Department of Defense.
"We first learned from the military about a product being marketed to treat TBI, obviously a concern with wounded veterans. We were taken aback that anyone would make a claim that a supplement could treat TBI, a hot-button issue," says Jason Humbert, a senior regulatory manager with FDA's Office of Regulatory Affairs. "That sparked our surveillance."

FDA routinely monitors the marketplace. However, with more than 85,000 dietary supplements on the market and no product registration, products making false claims can slip through, at least for a time.

Typically, products promising relief from TBIs tout the benefits of ingredients such as turmeric and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil. Turmeric is an Indian spice in the ginger family. For Omega-3, FDA has recommended a maximum daily level of 3 grams per day from all sources due to possible problems with increased risk of bleeding, increases in cholesterol and problems with controlling blood sugar levels.

In its initial surveillance, FDA identified two companies selling multiple products claiming to prevent and treat concussions and other TBIs. One company claimed to have "the world's first supplement formulated specifically to assist concussion recovery," saying "it has the dynamic ability to minimize long-term effects and decrease recovery time." A National Football League player testified to its "proven results in my own recovery" from a concussion, and an unnamed "licensed trainer" said he had incorporated it into his "concussion management protocol."

Similar claims were made by the other company, which was selling four products claiming to protect against and help heal TBIs. FDA sent letters in 2012 warning both companies that their products were not generally recognized as safe and effective for treating TBIs, that the products were misbranded (a legal term meaning, in this case, that the labeling of the products did not have adequate directions for use), and that unless various violations cited in the letters were promptly corrected, the violations could result in legal action taken without further notice, such as seizure or injunction.

Both companies changed their websites and labeling.

In December 2013, FDA issued a warning letter to Star Scientific, Inc., for marketing its product Anatabloc with claims to treat TBIs. FDA continues to monitor the marketplace for products with similar fraudulent claims, and will take appropriate regulatory action to protect the public health.

"As we continue to work on this problem, we can't guarantee you won't see a claim about TBIs. But we can promise you this: There is no dietary supplement that has been shown to prevent or treat them," says Coody. "If someone tells you otherwise, walk away."

This article appears on FDA's Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Dec. 31, 2013



January 2, 2014

CFTC Orders President of a Russian Bank, Artem Obolensky, to Pay $250,000 Penalty to Settle Charges of Making False Statements to the CFTC During an Investigation

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today entered an Order requiring foreign national Artem Obolensky of Moscow, Russia, to pay a $250,000 civil monetary penalty for making false and misleading statements of material fact to CFTC staff in an interview during a CFTC Division of Enforcement investigation. The Order enforces the false statements provision of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA), which was added by the Dodd-Frank Act.

Obolensky is President of a Russian bank and co-owner of a private investment fund located in Cyprus that both trade foreign currency futures and options on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, according to the Order. The CFTC Order finds that Obolensky knowingly made false and misleading statements to CFTC staff on October 13, 2011, regarding a trade in March 2012 Japanese Yen call options contracts between these entities.

According to the Order, Obolensky said: “The two entities pursue different strategies. Pure coincidence that the trades crossed. Very isolated when viewed in the context of all of the trades the bank has placed in markets over the years.”

However, the Order finds that the two entities traded opposite each other more than 182 times and modified their orders repeatedly to ensure that they would match. The Order also finds that Obolensky made the trading decisions for the accounts that traded opposite each other so he knew that the trade CFTC staff asked him about was not a “pure coincidence” or “very isolated.”

CFTC Division of Enforcement Acting Director Gretchen Lowe commented: “Witnesses in CFTC investigations must tell the truth. If they do not, the CFTC will not hesitate to take action to enforce the Dodd-Frank’s prohibition against providing false or misleading information and impose sanctions.”

In addition to the $250,000 civil monetary penalty, the CFTC Order requires Obolenksy to cease and desist from violating the relevant provision of the CEA.

The CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this matter are Susan Gradman, Joseph Patrick, Scott Williamson, Rosemary Hollinger, and Richard B. Wagner.

Thursday, January 2, 2014




In the week ending December 28, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 339,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 341,000. The 4-week moving average was 357,250, an increase of 8,500 from the previous week's revised average of 348,750.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.2 percent for the week ending December 21, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending December 21 was 2,833,000, a decrease of 98,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 2,931,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,857,750, an increase of 19,000 from the preceding week's revised average of 2,838,750.


The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 443,513 in the week ending December 28, an increase of 25,875 from the previous week. There were 490,099 initial claims in the comparable week in 2012.

The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.2 percent during the week ending December 21, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the prior week. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 2,860,902, a decrease of 131,772 from the preceding week. A year earlier, the rate was 2.6 percent and the volume was 3,284,594.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending December 14 was 4,458,816, an increase of 179,532 from the previous week. There were 5,408,010 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2012.

No state was triggered "on" the Extended Benefits program during the week ending December 14.

Initial claims for UI benefits filed by former Federal civilian employees totaled 1,864 in the week ending December 21, a decrease of 5 from the prior week. There were 1,994 initial claims filed by newly discharged veterans, a decrease of 10 from the preceding week.

There were 22,751 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending December 14, an increase of 1,994 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 31,991, an increase of 532 from the prior week.

States reported 1,391,297 persons claiming Emergency Unemployment
Compensation (EUC) benefits for the week ending December 14, an increase of 57,965 from the prior week. There were 2,065,706 persons claiming EUC in the comparable week in 2012. EUC weekly claims include first, second, third, and fourth tier activity.

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending December 21 were in Alaska (6.1), New Jersey (3.8), California (3.4), Montana (3.3), Pennsylvania (3.3), Connecticut (3.2), Puerto Rico (3.2), Illinois (3.0), Wisconsin (3.0), Oregon (2.9), West Virginia (2.9), and Nevada (2.8).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending December 21 were in Michigan (+4,865), New York (+3,284), Oregon (+1,901), New Jersey (+1,887), and Kentucky (+1,538), while the largest decreases were in California (-5,429), Illinois (-3,509), Washington (-1,930), Minnesota (-1,627), and Indiana (-1,363).


Arson Attack at the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco
Press Statement
Marie Harf
Deputy Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
January 2, 2014

The United States is deeply concerned by reports that the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco was damaged after being targeted by an arsonist on Wednesday, January 1. We take this incident very seriously, and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security is working with the FBI and local authorities to investigate and apprehend the perpetrators. Department officials are communicating with Chinese officials to provide support and updates on the case.




General Electric, Lynn, Mass., was awarded a $572,500,000 three-year performance based logistics requirements contract, for the repair, replacement, and program support for 17 F414 engine (F/A-18 E, F and EA-18G aircraft) components.  Work will be performed at Fleet Readiness Center Southeast, Jacksonville, Fla. (60 percent) and Lynn, Mass. (40 percent), and work is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2016.  No contract funds will be obligated at the time of award.  No contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  This contract was not competitively procured in accordance with 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1).  NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (N00383-14-D-001M).  (Awarded on Dec. 30, 2013)

BAE Systems, Land & Armaments L.P., Minneapolis, Minn., was awarded a $19,273,217 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-13-C-5314), to exercise options for fiscal 2014 MK 41 vertical launching system canister production requirements.  Production requirements will include 89 MK 21 MOD 3 (SM-6) canisters, coding plug assemblies, explosive bolts, and impulse cartridge assemblies.  Work will be performed in Aberdeen, S.D. (87 percent) and Minneapolis, Minn. (13 percent), and is expected to be completed by March 2016.  Fiscal 2014 weapons procurement, Navy funds in the amount of $19,273,217 will be obligated at time of award.  Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity. (Awarded on Dec. 31, 2013)

Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Training, Moorestown, N.J., was awarded a $14,432,389 firm-fixed-price delivery order under previously awarded basic ordering agreement for the production of one Mission Signal Processor equipment suite and two array simulator cabinets in support of the Aegis Training and Readiness Center.  Work will be performed in Moorestown, N.J., (59 percent), Clearwater, Fla., (40 percent), and Akron, Ohio, (1 percent) and is expected to be completed by November 2015.  Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  Other procurement, Navy funding in the amount of $14,432,389 will be obligated at time of award.  The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-12-G-5123-0014).

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Rolling Meadows, Ill., is being awarded a $12,083,976 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract (N00019-12-C-0043) for the procurement of 11 AN/APR-39D(V)2 test assets for various naval aviation platforms, including testing support and travel costs.  Work will be performed in Rolling Meadows, Ill., and is expected to be completed in January 2015.  Fiscal 2013 and 2014 aircraft procurement, Navy contract funds in the amount of $12,083,976 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Lockheed Martin Corp., Mission Systems and Training, Baltimore, Md., was awarded a $9,710,890 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-11-C-5302) for MK 41 Vertical Launching System AEGIS Modernization module electronics production.  Work will be performed in Baltimore, Md. (12 percent); Clearwater, Fla. (48 percent); Mt. Laurel, Pa. (16 percent); Lewisburg, Tenn. (24 percent), and is expected to be completed by June 2015.  Fiscal 2013 other procurement, Navy, fiscal 2013 and 2014 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $9,710,890 will be obligated at time of award.  Contract funds in the amount of $401,781 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity. (Awarded on Dec. 31, 2013)


Caduceus Healthcare Inc, Atlanta, Ga., was awarded a $19,751,538 firm-fixed-price contract for 35 certified registered nurse anesthetists.  Funding will be determined with each order.  Estimated completion date is Dec. 31, 2015.  Work will be performed at San Antonio Military Medical Center.  Bids were solicited via the web with eighteen received.  Army Medical Command, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, is the contracting activity (W81K00-13-D-0009).


Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Stratford, Conn., has been awarded a maximum $14,352,600 firm-fixed-price contract for helicopter bearing assembly spindle.  This contract is a sole source acquisition.  Location of performance is Connecticut with a Dec. 31, 2018 performance completion date.  Using military service is Navy.  Type of appropriation is fiscal 2014 defense working capital funds.  The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Aviation, Richmond, Va., (SPRPA1-11-G-001Y).


Ball Aerospace & Technologies, Systems Engineering Solutions, Albuquerque, N.M., has been awarded a $9,133,111 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for Advanced Laser Effects Research branch (ALTER) to advance the state-of the-art of laser damage testing and target system vulnerability to laser weapons.  The deliverables for this task include:  beam train design documentation, test layout design and documentation, test hardware fabrication, test diagnostic instrumentation, raw data collection and documentation, test reports in the form of monthly technical status reports as required for test operations; and incidental programming or software developed during the test analysis and experimentation.  Work will be performed at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., and is expected to be completed on Jan. 13, 2017.  This award is the result of a competitive acquisition advertised on Federal Business Opportunities, and four offers were received.  Fiscal 2013 research and development funds in the amount of $731,000 are being obligated at time of award.  Air Force Research Laboratory Lasers Branch, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., is the contracting activity (FA9451-14-C-0313).

CORRECTION:  The contract to Komada LLC, announced Dec 31, 2013, did not have the correct city and state of the contractor.  The correct announcement should read:  Komada, LLC, Marysville, Calif., has been awarded a $15,000,000 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for Simplified Acquisition of Base Engineering Requirements (SABER) to provide construction for simplified, multi-trade construction at Beale Air Force Base, Calif.  Work performed includes a broad range of maintenance, repair, alteration and minor construction on real property valued at less than $750,000.  Work will be performed at Beale AFB, Calif., and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2014.  This is a single source award and is the result of a competitive acquisition in which an open market of offers were solicited and eleven offers were received.  Fiscal 2014 operations and maintenance funds will be obligated with the first task order.  The 9th Contracting Squadron, Beale AFB, Calif., is the contracting activity (FA4686-14-D-0002).


Remarks With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Before Their Meeting
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Prime Minister's Office
January 2, 2014

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Welcome back to Jerusalem, John. I want to use this opportunity to express once again my personal appreciation and the appreciation of the people of Israel for your unremitting personal efforts to advance peace between us and the Palestinians. I know that you’re committed to peace, I know that I’m committed to peace, but unfortunately, given the actions and words of Palestinian leaders, there’s growing doubt in Israel that the Palestinians are committed to peace.

A few days ago in Ramallah, President Abbas embraced terrorists as heroes. To glorify the murders of innocent women and men as heroes is an outrage. How can President Abbas says – how can he say that he stands against terrorism when he embraces the perpetrators of terrorism and glorifies them as heroes? He can’t stand against terrorists and stand with the terrorists. And I’m wondering what a young Palestinian would think when he sees the leader of the Palestinian people embrace people who axed innocent men and women – axed their heads or blew them up or riddled them with bullets – what’s a young Palestinian supposed to think about the future? What’s he supposed to think about what he should do vis-a-vis Israelis and vis-a-vis the state of Israel? So it’s not surprising that in recent weeks Israel has been subjected to a growing wave of terrorist attacks. President Abbas didn’t see fit to condemn these attacks, even after we learned that at least in one case – I stress, at least in one case – those who served and are serving in the Palestinian security forces took part in them.

In the six months since the start of peace negotiations, the Palestinian Authority continues its unabated incitement against the state of Israel. This Palestinian Government incitement is rampant. You see it in the state-controlled media – the government-controlled media – in the schools, in textbooks, in kindergartens. You see it at every part of Palestinian society. So instead of preparing Palestinians for peace, Palestinian leaders are teaching them to hate Israel. This is not the way to achieve peace. President Abbas must lead his people away from terror and incitement, towards reconciliation and peace.

John, the people of Israel and I are prepared to make such an historic peace, but we must have a Palestinian partner who’s equally prepared to make this peace. Peace means ending incitement; it means fighting terrorism and condemning terrorism; it means recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people; it means meeting Israel’s security needs; and it means being prepared to truly end the conflict once and for all. If we’re to succeed in our joint effort, President Abbas must reject terror and embrace peace. I hope he doesn’t miss again the opportunity to give Israelis and Palestinians a better future.

Mr. Secretary, John, I look forward to continuing our discussions. I hope that together we can forge a way to a genuine and lasting peace, a secure peace, because the only peace that will endure in the Middle East as it really is, is a peace that Israel can defend. I’m determined above all else to defend my people and my state, and I will never compromise on the security of Israel and its citizens and on the vital interests that protect our future. I think you know, John, more than most, how important it is to ensure the security of Israel. And I hope that despite the shifting sands in the Middle East, together we can build a rock-solid foundation for security and for a secure peace. And that’s the job we’re going to do in the coming days and weeks.


SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, sir. Thank you, Bibi. Thank you. Well, thank you very much Mr. Prime Minister, my friend Bibi.

And let me begin by saying to all the people of Israel that our thoughts, my thoughts, are with the Sharon family as they sit in vigil with the former prime minister of Israel, Arik Sharon. We remember his contributions, sacrifices he made to ensure the survival and the well-being of Israel, and I have many personal thoughts about my meetings with him on many different occasions – always robust and strong and clear about his positions. And so we all join – all Americans are thinking of Israel and their leader, former leader, and of the vigil that is taking place now at a very personal level with his family.

It is always a great pleasure for me to be back in Jerusalem. When I arrived at the hotel and I looked out, the sun was shining brightly on the walls of the great Old City, and it’s always a privilege to be able to see that site and to think of all of the history that is wrapped up for so many different people, and particularly, obviously, for Israelis today witnessing the difficulties that the prime minister has just referred to, and dealing with the possibilities of peace, but a possibility of peace that is always challenged by day-to-day contradictions and day-to-day realities.

I’m particularly grateful to Bibi for his hospitality. He always makes significant time available to me when I come here. We have intense and productive rounds of discussions. And we have been at this now for five months solid into six months. I think it’s safe to say that we know what the issues are. We know the parameters and the possibilities of peace. And as I said not so many months ago at Ben Gurion Airport as I left, the time is soon arriving where leaders are going to have to make difficult decisions. We are close to that time, if not at it, and I think we understand the circumstances within which we are working.

I know – I come here with no illusions – I know that there are many who are skeptical of whether or not the two parties can achieve peace. But I will tell you that I have personally learned something about the power of reconciliation. And whether or not Israelis think about it every day, so have you. In 1967, there was a war, and Jordan was on the other side of that war, and land very close to the hotel I stay in was the dividing line, and Jordan was on the other side of that line. Today, Jordan has made peace and is a partner in an effort to try to change things and move forward and be constructive.

On a personal level, last month I traveled to Vietnam on my first visit there as Secretary of State. And the transformation in our relationship – I was a young soldier who fought there – the transformation in our relationship is proof that as painful as the past can be, through hard work of diplomacy history’s adversaries can actually become partners for a new day and history’s challenges can become opportunities for a new age.

Those of us who were lucky enough to come back from the war in Vietnam had a simple saying: Every day is extra. And I have always thought that’s a beautiful expression. It’s a way of saying that we honor those who we lost by continuing their work and helping others and trying to achieve what they fought for. And so it is true here and can be true here. My many visits to Israel have shown me how this same sense prevails among some of the world’s, if not the world’s strongest survivors – the Jewish people.

This is my tenth trip to Israel as Secretary of State. And every time I visit, Israel’s security concerns are uppermost in my mind. I understand the nature of the security threat here. I know what it’s like to live in Israel with, once upon a time, Katyusha rockets coming to Kiryat Shmona, or rockets from Gaza coming into Sderot. I understand it. Every time I visit, those concerns are part of my consideration, and that is why President Obama and I remain deeply committed to ensuring that as a result of peace, Israel and Israelis feel more secure, not less. That’s our objective. And that’s why the United States will continue to play a leading role in building both Israeli capacity for Israel to defend itself by itself, but also Palestinian capabilities to address their security needs in the context of statehood.

The commitment of the United States to Israel is ironclad. We know that Israel has to be strong to make peace. And we also know that peace will make Israel stronger not just with its near neighbors, but throughout the world.

So I come here today to continue this ongoing conversation about how to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are now five full months into this negotiation. We have always known that achieving peace is a long and complicated process. It’s a tough road. But this is not mission impossible. I would note the recent poll by Hebrew University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research which shows the majorities of Israelis and Palestinians back two-state solution, though both remain suspicious of the other side. Despite the fact that we are discussing really difficult, complicated issues, I am encouraged that the parties remain engaged and substantive discussions are taking place on the core issues.

The United States has remained in close contact with both sides, and we are committed to working with both parties to reach a permanent status agreement that will end conflict and all claims. I particularly want to thank Prime Minister Netanyahu’s very difficult decision. Believe me, I know how difficult the decision was, and I know that in some quarters here that decision is not accepted – not only not easily, but not at all. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister stuck by his guns and I commend him for his courage and his willingness to follow through with something that we believe can keep us on track and help us bring a peace to Israel and to the Palestinians. I commend him, and I commend President Abbas, who also has been under pressure – there are many on his side who say break away, don’t bother, don’t – this isn’t going to go anywhere, and who argue with him that he is on an illusory path.

So I plan to work with both sides more intensely in these next days to narrow the differences on a framework that will provide the agreed guidelines for permanent status negotiations. This will take time and it will take compromise from both sides, but an agreed framework would be a significant breakthrough. It would address all of the core issues. It would create the fixed, defined parameters by which the parties would then know where they are going and what the end result can be. It would address all of the core issues that we have been addressing since day one, including borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, mutual recognition, and the end of conflict and of all claims.

Now, I want to emphasize that the discussion of an agreed framework has emerged from the ideas that both parties have put on the table. My role is not to impose American ideas on either side but to facilitate the parties’ own efforts. An agreed framework would clarify and bridge the gaps between the parties so that they can move towards a final peace treaty that would resolve all of those core issues.

President Obama and I are deeply committed to this process. President Obama came here in March, and at that time he committed the United States and me particularly to this effort, with an understanding that the possibilities provided by peace are dramatic and they are worth struggling for: Two states for two peoples living side-by-side in peace and stability and security. Peace is possible today, I believe, because the leaders – Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas – have both each taken significant steps for peace notwithstanding the difficulties that the Prime Minister has cited – and they are real. But still we are on this track, and I believe that they are both willing to take more.

In the weeks and months ahead, both sides are going to need to make tough choices to ensure that peace is not just a possibility but is a reality for Israelis and Palestinians for now and for future generations. So that’s what lies ahead of us. It is hard work, but with a determined effort, I’m convinced that we can get there. I’m happy to wish all the folks here a Happy New Year – at least by our calendar. I’m working on three calendars now, so I get to do three times a Happy New Year during the year, but I wish you from us, on our calendar, a very Happy New Year. And may we be successful in these efforts. Thank you.






Nearly $1M awarded by US Labor Department to promote workplace gender equality in the Kingdom of Morocco

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of International Labor Affairs today announced a $998,384 grant award to promote gender equality in the workplace in the Kingdom of Morocco. The grant provides funding for a project that will be implemented through a cooperative agreement between the department and Management Systems International.

The project will be implemented in collaboration with the private sector, civil society organizations and the Government of Morocco to empower women through increased recognition, promotion and enforcement of their labor rights.

"Respecting the labor rights of working women and promoting gender equality in the workplace supports sustainable and inclusive economic growth and development," said Deputy Undersecretary of Labor for International Affairs Carol Pier. "This grant will provide technical assistance to support stakeholders' efforts on these critically important issues."

Since 1995, ILAB has funded technical assistance projects to improve worker rights, livelihoods and labor law compliance. ILAB's Office of Trade and Labor Affairs currently oversees approximately $76 million in active programming to provide such technical assistance in more than 72 countries.


Accretive Health Settles FTC Charges That It Failed to Adequately Protect Consumers’ Personal Information

Accretive Health, Inc., a company that provides medical billing and revenue management services to hospitals around the country, has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that its inadequate data security measures unfairly exposed sensitive consumer information to the risk of theft or misuse.

In its complaint against the Chicago-based business, the FTC alleges the company failed to provide reasonable and appropriate security measures and procedures to protect consumers’ personal information, including sensitive personal health information. Accretive had access to a wealth of personal information about the patients of its hospital clients, including names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, billing information and medical diagnostic information.

According to the complaint, Accretive’s failure to adequately safeguard such information led to a July 2011 incident in Minneapolis, Minn., where an Accretive employee’s laptop computer, containing 20 million pieces of information on 23,000 patients, was stolen from the passenger compartment of the employee’s car. The Commission alleges that Accretive created unnecessary risks by transporting laptops that contained sensitive personal information in a way that left them vulnerable to theft.

The complaint also alleges that Accretive failed to employ reasonable procedures designed to ensure that employees removed consumers’ personal information that they no longer needed from their computers; and that in certain instances, when the personal health information of consumers was used in training sessions for employees, Accretive failed to remove that information from employees’ computers after the training was finished. In addition, the FTC alleged that Accretive failed to adequately restrict employee access to consumers’ personal information based on an employee’s need for the information.

Under the terms of its settlement with the FTC, Accretive must establish a comprehensive information security program designed to protect consumers’ sensitive personal information. In addition, the company must have the program evaluated both initially and every two years by a certified third party. The settlement will be in force for the next 20 years.

FTC staff also sent a letter to Accretive indicating that it would not recommend an enforcement action related to allegations concerning Accretive’s debt collection practices in hospitals. The letter notes that while staff is declining to recommend a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case against Accretive at this time, the practice of attempting to collect payment for prior debts from consumers while they are seeking treatment in an emergency room or other medical facility raises serious concerns.

The Commission vote to accept the consent agreement package containing the proposed consent order for public comment was 4-0. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through Thursday, Jan. 30, 2013, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final.

Interested parties can submit written comments electronically or in paper form by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section. Comments in electronic form should be submitted online and following the instructions on the web-based form. Comments in paper form should be mailed or delivered to: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-113, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. The FTC requests that any comment filed in paper form near the end of the public comment period be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions.

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each future violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000.

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. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.