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Saturday, April 12, 2014

FLASHLIGHT APP CREATOR SETTLES CHARGES WITH FTC

FROM:  U.S. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 
FTC Approves Final Order Settling Charges Against Flashlight App Creator

Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a final order settling charges against Goldenshores, Inc., and its owner, Erik Geidl.

According to the FTC’s complaint, the company created a popular flashlight app for Android devices that the FTC charged deceived consumers with a privacy policy that did not reflect the app’s use of personal data and presented consumers with a false choice on whether to share their information.

The settlement, first announced in December 2013, prohibits Goldenshores and Geidl from misrepresenting how consumers’ information is collected and shared and how much control consumers have over the way their information is used.

The settlement also requires the defendants to provide a just-in-time disclosure that fully informs consumers when, how, and why their geolocation information is being collected, used and shared, and requires defendants to obtain consumers’ affirmative express consent before doing so.

The defendants also will be required to delete any personal information collected from consumers through the Brightest Flashlight app.

The Commission vote approving the final order and letters to members of the public who commented on it was 4-0.  (FTC File No. 132-3087

DOD PROVIDES VETERINARY CARE IN REMOTE LOCATIONS ON KODIAK ISLAND

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 



An Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter prepares to land at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak in Alaska, April 6, 2014. The helicopter transported military medical and veterinary professionals to remote locations on Kodiak Island for Operation Arctic Care, a Defense Department training program to provide free medical, dental, vision and veterinary care to underserved communities. DOD photo by EJ Hersom.




Army Capt. Andrew Ciccolini, left, performs surgery on a dog with his assistant, Army Spc. Carla Rodulfo, during Operation Arctic Care at a military veterinary clinic on Kodiak Island, Alaska, April 7, 2014. Ciccolini is a veterinarian and Rodulfo is an animal care specialist assigned to the 218th Medical Detachment, Veterinary Services, Fort Lewis, Wash. DOD photo by EJ Hersom.


U.S. URGES SUPPORTING GLOBAL AGRICULTURE, FOOD SECURITY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 

United States Urges Partner Countries To Increase Support for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
April 12, 2014


Trust Fund Produces High Impact, Sustainable Results in the Global Fight against Poverty and Hunger

The Secretaries of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of State yesterday sent a letter to international partner countries urging nations around the world to expand their support for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP).
The United States spearheaded the creation of GAFSP in the wake of the 2007-2008 food price crisis. It assists in the implementation of pledges made by the G-20 in Pittsburgh in September 2009. GAFSP promotes food security by providing merit-based financing for the agricultural sector in low-income countries, with a focus on smallholder farmers in poor communities. GAFSP financing and technical assistance helps to increase agricultural productivity, link farmers to markets, reduce risk and vulnerability, and improve rural livelihoods. Managed by the World Bank, GAFSP is a multi-donor trust fund and partnership among developing countries, development partners, civil society, and the private sector.
“Since GAFSP was established, we have seen sustainable reductions in hunger and malnutrition, but the challenge of meeting the global demand for food is just as pressing as ever,” wrote Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and Secretary of State John F. Kerry. “We are proud to champion this innovative program, and we call upon our international partners to join us in supporting the work of GAFSP. Together, we can make progress in the effort to eradicate hunger and poverty.”

As leaders gather for the World Bank-International Monetary Fund 2014 Spring Meetings this week, yesterday’s letter highlights the important role that GAFSP is playing in supporting the efforts of some of the world’s poorest countries in alleviating hunger and malnutrition. The letter calls on international partners to pledge additional support to meet funding goals for GAFSP. In October 2012, the United States challenged the international community to provide much needed funding for food security, by committing to contribute $1 to GAFSP for every $2 from other donors, up to a maximum U.S. contribution of $475 million. Since the announcement of the funding challenge, other donors have provided $230 million in new pledges. An additional $720 million in pledges from other donors is needed in order to fully leverage matching funds from the United States.

GAFSP consistently produces high impact, sustainable results, and the program is expected to improve the livelihoods of at least 13 million farmers across 25 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Already, some countries have seen rural incomes increase by more than 200 percent. In Bangladesh, GAFSP has already reached more than 430,000 farmers in the first two years of a five-year program, providing smallholder producers with training and improved drought- and heat-tolerant seeds and fertilizer that will help farmers adapt to climate change. Two and a half years into its five year-long Rwanda project, GAFSP has already reached more than 92,000 direct beneficiaries, of which half are women. By helping to increase soil fertility in hillside areas, GAFSP has enabled farmers to improve their yields by an average of fourfold across various crops. GAFSP has also supported the introduction of new high nutrient crop varieties that could improve nutritional outcomes for farmers and their families.

U.S. EXTENDS NEW YEAR'S GREETINGS TO PEOPLE OF THAILAND

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Thai New Year
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 11, 2014

On behalf of President Obama and the American people, it is my great pleasure to extend New Year’s greetings to the people of Thailand. I hope this Songkran provides all Thais an occasion to spend an enjoyable time with family and friends and to look forward to good luck and prosperity in the New Year.

We are proud to mark another year in the enduring friendship between Thailand and the United States. Our nations enjoy an unshakable bond that transcends politics in either of our countries, and we look forward to working together in the New Year on important issues such as trade relations, health research, security cooperation, and educational exchange.

I look forward to the opportunities that the New Year holds for both of our nations and for our alliance. I wish you a happy and healthy Songkran!

U.S. OFFERS WARMEST GREETINGS TO PEOPLE OF SRI LANKA ON THEIR NEW YEAR

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 

Sinhala and Tamil New Year's Message

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 11, 2014


On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I offer warmest greetings to the people of Sri Lanka and the vibrant global Sri Lankan diaspora.

This New Year brings a new opportunity for all Sri Lankans to join together in the spirit of tolerance, reconciliation, and peace. As Sri Lankans gather to mark the potential of the New Year, we join in celebrating with you.

As you continue your work to build a prosperous, democratic Sri Lanka, I offer my best wishes for a safe and happy holiday and a prosperous, peaceful year ahead.

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S WEEKLY ADDRESS FOR APRIL 12, 2014

FROM:  THE WHITE HOUSE 

Weekly Address: Ensuring Equal Pay for Equal Work

WASHINGTON, DC – In this week’s address, the President underscored the importance of ensuring equal pay for equal work and highlighted the steps his Administration has taken to expand opportunity and narrow the pay gap that exists between men and women. Just this week – on Equal Pay Day – the President took action to increase transparency and make it easier to recognize pay discrimination. Women make up half of America’s workforce, and are increasingly the primary-breadwinners in American families. Ensuring that women are paid fairly is a commonsense step to grow our economy.  That is why the President again called on Republicans in Congress to support the Paycheck Fairness Act and stop blocking progress that would benefit women – because when women succeed, America succeeds.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
April 12, 2014

Hi, everybody.  Earlier this week was Equal Pay Day.  It marks the extra time the average woman has to work into a new year to earn what a man earned the year before.  You see, the average woman who works full-time in America earns less than a man – even when she’s in the same profession and has the same education. 
That's wrong.  In 2014, it’s an embarrassment. Women deserve equal pay for equal work.
This is an economic issue that affects all of us.  Women make up about half our workforce.  And more and more, they’re our families’ main breadwinners.  So it’s good for everyone when women are paid fairly.  That’s why, this week, I took action to prohibit more businesses from punishing workers who discuss their salaries – because more pay transparency makes it easier to spot pay discrimination.  And I hope more business leaders will take up this cause.
But equal pay is just one part of an economic agenda for women.
Most lower-wage workers in America are women.  So I’ve taken executive action to require federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees at least ten dollars and ten cents an hour.  I ordered a review of our nation’s overtime rules, to give more workers the chance to earn the overtime pay they deserve.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, tens of millions of women are now guaranteed free preventive care like mammograms and contraceptive care, and the days when you could be charged more just for being a woman are over for good.  Across the country, we’re bringing Americans together to help us make sure that a woman can have a baby without sacrificing her job, or take a day off to care for a sick child or parent without hitting hardship.  It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode, and give every woman the opportunity she deserves.
Here’s the problem, though.  On issues that would benefit millions of women, Republicans in Congress have blocked progress at every turn. Just this week, Senate Republicans blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, commonsense legislation that would help more women win equal pay for equal work.  House Republicans won’t vote to raise the minimum wage or extend unemployment insurance for women out of work through no fault of their own.  The budget they passed this week would force deep cuts to investments that overwhelmingly benefit women and children – like Medicaid, food stamps, and college grants.  And of course, they’re trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act for the fiftieth or so time, which would take away vital benefits and protections from millions of women.
I’m going to keep fighting to make sure that doesn’t happen.  Because we do better when our economy grows for everybody, not just a few.  And when women succeed, America succeeds.  Thanks, and have a great weekend.

U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT CONTRACTS FOR APRIL 11, 2014

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
CONTRACTS

AIR FORCE

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Rolling Meadows, Ill., has been awarded a $234,134,172 modification (P00082) on an existing contract (FA8625-12-C-6598) for the Large Aircraft Infrared Counter Measures (LAIRCM) calendar year 2014 base hardware buy and needed LAIRCM support. Work will be performed at Rolling Meadows, Ill., and is expected to be completed by April 29, 2016. A majority of the acquisition supports U.S. Air Force aircraft needs using fiscal 2014, 2013, and 2012 funds as well as National Guard and overseas contingency operations funds with a total amount of $234,134,172 being obligated at time of award. Thirteen percent of the current action relates to unclassified foreign military sales including the following countries: Germany, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Strategic Airlift Capability-North Atlantic Treaty Organization Airlift Management Programme. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/WLYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity.
Boeing Co., McDonnell Douglas Corp., St. Louis. Mo., has been awarded a $9,901,126 undefinitized modification (P0005) to an existing undefinitized contract, FA3002-13-D-0012, with an initial face value of $75,598,874 for Royal Saudi Air Force F-15SA Training. This contract modification provides for an increase to accommodate emerging in-scope activities to include continental United States and outside the continental United States maintenance and aircrew and academic training. Work will be performed at St. Louis, Mo., and King Khalid Air Base, Khamis Mushayt, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and is expected to be completed by Aug. 5, 2019. This is 100 percent foreign military sales (FMS) for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The FMS customer is the Air Force Security Assistance Training Squadron. The 338 Security Contracting Squadron/LGCI, Joint Base San Antonio, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, is the contracting activity.

NAVY

Science Applications International Corp., McLean, Va., is being awarded a $9,422,253 modification to previously awarded contract (N00174-10-D-0009) to exercise option year four to perform engineering and demilitarization of munitions by providing analytical engineering and technical support services. The analytical engineering and technical support services will analyze requirements, perform assessment, data analysis/management, technical support, and program management support. Work will be performed in Quantico, Va. (60 percent), Indian Head, Md. (20 percent), and Tulsa, Okla. (20 percent) and is expected to be completed by May 2015. Contract funding will not be obligated at the time of award. Contract funding will be obligated on future individual task orders. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Naval Ordnance Disposal Technology Division, Indian Head, Md., is the contracting activity.

El Dorado Engineering, Salt Lake City, Utah, is being awarded an $8,912,643 modification to previously awarded contract (N00174-10-D-0007) to exercise option year four to perform engineering and demilitarization of munitions by providing analytical engineering and technical support services. The analytical engineering and technical support services will analyze requirements, perform assessment, data analysis/management, technical support, and program management support. Work will be performed in Quantico, Va. (60 percent), Indian Head, Md. (20 percent), and Tulsa, Okla. (20 percent) and is expected to be completed by May 2015. Contract funding will not be obligated at the time of award. Contract funding will be obligated on future individual task orders. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Naval Ordnance Disposal Technology Division, Indian Head, Md., is the contracting activity.

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp.-Electronics Sector, Linthicum, Md., is being awarded $8,900,000 for firm-fixed-price order 0002 under previously awarded Basic Ordering Agreement (N00164-13-G-WT15) to build two sets of AN/ALQ 240 (V) 1 weapons repairable assemblies in support of the P-8A AN/ALQ 240 Electronic Support Measures Repair Depot standup at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division. Work will be performed in Linthicum, Md., and is expected to be completed by July 2016. Fiscal 2012 and 2013 aircraft procurement, Navy funding in the amount of $8,900,000 will be obligated at the time of award and the funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. NSWC Crane, Crane, Ind., is the contracting activity.

Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, Largo Fla., is being awarded an $8,347,097 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-12-C-5231) to exercise options for Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) for two AN/USG-2B Shipboard System, one DDG Mod Kit, and one DDG Mod INCO-R Kit. CEC is a sensor netting system that significantly improves battle force anti-air warfare capability. CEC improves battle force effectiveness by improving overall situational awareness and by enabling longer range, cooperative, multiple, or layered engagement strategies. Work will be performed in St. Petersburg Fla. (90 percent), Largo, Fla. (10 percent), and is expected to be completed by October 2015. Fiscal 2013 and 2014 shipbuilding and conversion, Navy and fiscal 2013 other procurement, Navy contract funds in the amount of $8,347,097 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

ARMY

RLB Contracting Inc.,* Port Lavaca, Texas, was awarded an $8,286,850 firm-fixed-price contract for deep draft maintenance dredging of the Houston Ship Channel from Carpenters to Greens. Fiscal 2014 other procurement funds in the amount of $8,286,850 were obligated at the time of the award. Estimated completion date is Oct. 20, 2014. Bids were solicited via the Internet with six received. Work will be performed in Houston, Texas. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston, Texas, is the contracting activity (W9126G-14-C-0019).
Strata G Solutions, New Hope, Ala., awarded a $6,743,271 modification (P00001) to contract W31P4Q-12-D-0019 to incorporate the revised Smart, Wireless, Internal Combustion Engine Spiral 3 Technical Data Package, including increased quantity prices for each contract line item number. Funding and work performance location will be determined with each order. Estimated completion date is April 30, 2017. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity.
*Small Business

DEFENSE SECRETARY HAGEL SIGNS JOINT VISION STATEMENT WITH MONGOLIAN DEFENSE MINISTER BAT-ERDENE

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Mongolia Minister of Defense Dashdemberel Bat-Erdene sign a joint vision statement at the Ministry of Defense in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, April 10, 2014. DOD Photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo.
Hagel, Mongolian Defense Minister Agree to Deepen Ties
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia, April 11, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Defense Minister Dashdemberel Bat-Erdene signed a joint vision statement here yesterday designed to deepen a decade-long defense relationship built on shared interests and forged in combat as troops of both nations fought together in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mongolia was the final stop of a 10-day Asia-Pacific trip -- Hagel’s fourth in less than 12 months -- that began in Hawaii with a meeting of defense ministers of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, and continued in Japan, China and Mongolia.

When Hagel arrived at Ulaanbaatar’s Chinggis Khaan International Airport, among the U.S. Embassy and Mongolian Ministry of Defense officials there to greet him was a woman dressed in a traditional Mongolian garment -- one similar to Mongolian bridal designs used as the basis for costumes worn by Queen Padme Amidala in “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” according to embassy officials.

On the ground, Hagel was presented with traditional welcoming gifts: a blue silk scarf and a silver bowl containing a Mongolian dairy product called aaruul, a dried fermented milk curd.

At the Ministry of Defense, Hagel was greeted by Bat-Erdene and reviewed the colorfully uniformed Mongolian Armed Forces Honor Guard before the two leaders sat down for a meeting and later signed the Joint Vision Statement for the U.S.-Mongolia Security Relationship.

The statement, Hagel said, “expresses our shared desire to continue deepening that defense relationship.”

At a joint press conference after the meeting, Hagel characterized Mongolia, which adopted democracy in 1990, as “a valued partner of the United States” and “a growing state in regional and global security.”

During the meeting with Bat-Erdene, Hagel told the press, “I commended the minister for significant contributions the Mongolian Armed Forces have made to security around the world through participation in many activities. These include United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and fighting alongside the United States in Afghan and Iraq.”

Over the past decade the two militaries have benefited from working together and learning from each other, the secretary added.

According to a U.S. official, the Defense Department provides about $1 million annually in International Military Education and Training, or IMET, funding for MAF troops. IMET graduates have led all 10 rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Foreign Military Financing funds have been used to equip the Mongolian peacekeeping brigade with vehicles, communications equipment and personal equipment. That funding is about $2 million annually, the official said.
At the press conference Hagel said, “As Mongolia invests in defense modernization, the United States will continue to work with our Mongolian partners to include joint training and exercises. This would include increasing opportunities for Mongolia to observe and participate in multilateral exercises.”
The secretary said the defense leaders had also discussed opportunities for the forces to work even more closely together.

A current exercise in which the United States and Mongolia participate is Khaan Quest, one of the world’s largest training exercises focused on peacekeeping operations. A joint venture, Hagel said, is the Five Hills Training Center near Ulaanbaatar, established in 1983. The joint-training military site gives units large areas for field training and exercises and classroom settings for strategic planning lessons.

“We’ll continue to do more together regarding humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the secretary said, “and more joint training exercises that we discussed.”

Hagel added, “We in the United States believe that military-to-military cooperation between Mongolia and the United States is very solid, it is very strong, and we look forward to continuing to deepen and strengthen our military cooperation and relationship.”

A strong U.S.-Mongolia defense relationship is important to America’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, the secretary noted, adding that he’s made that point during his current visit to the region and in discussions with Minister Bat-Erdene.
“I did share with the minister some of my reflections on this 10-day trip. I briefed him on all the stops I’ve made,” Hagel said. “I told him about the candid exchanges I’ve had at every stop, including my most recent stop in China, and I specifically mentioned the conversations I had in China regarding the regional security issue and China’s and America’s shared interest in putting our military-to-military relationship on stronger footing, which we think is good for the Asia-Pacific region.”

Hagel said he’d met with 13 Asia-Pacific defense ministers on the trip “and for all those discussions in this 10-day trip it’s clear to me that to preserve the region’s growth and dynamism and opportunities depends on 14 strong security relationships throughout the region, increasing cooperation in areas of common interest, and resolving disputes peacefully.”

Many challenges face all nations in the region today, he added, but also many opportunities.
“We must continue to work together to seize these opportunities as we all build a better future for all of our people,” the secretary said.

After the press conference, Hagel met with 26 Mongolian soldiers who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and for peacekeeping missions in Africa, including Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Chad. The secretary thanked them for their service and sacrifices.

Mongolia has about 350 troops in Afghanistan today and they are on their 10th rotation conducting security operations. They also had 10 rotations of troops in Iraq, a defense official said.

Hagel’s final stop in Ulaanbaatar was the Government House where he met with Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj.

Hagel’s visit was the first time in 10 years Mongolia’s defense minister and president have met with a U.S. defense secretary, a senior defense official said, and the visit was critical to Mongolia's "Third Neighbor Policy" of outreach to governments beyond China and Russia.

But before Hagel left to meet with the president he received one more traditional gift from the minister of defense -- a 9.5-year old Mongolian horse, small but sturdy with a reddish coat, led by a handler to the area where the secretary was visiting MAF troops.

Hagel beamed and announced that he was naming the horse Shamrock.
“The reason I’m naming him Shamrock,” Hagel told the smiling crowd, “is that shamrock was the mascot of a place I graduated from, St. Bonaventure School in Columbus, Neb.”

Before he left for his meeting with the president, Hagel admired the horse, thanked the minister, and posed with the horse, throwing his arm across Shamrock’s withers as he was told that he would receive letters about Shamrock’s activities and well-being since the secretary was unable to take the horse to the United States.

Later, in the military aircraft on the way home, the secretary showed the reporters traveling with him a large framed photograph of Hagel and Shamrock standing cozily together, Shamrock wearing a hackamore of leather and polished stones and metal tied with a blue silk scarf.

The secretary said he would send the framed photograph to St. Bonaventure for the school’s permanent collection of graduate memorabilia.

PREPARING A COMPOSITE ROCKET PROPELLANT TANK

FROM:  NASA 


NASA and Boeing engineers are inspecting and preparing one of the largest composite rocket propellant tanks ever manufactured for testing. The composite cryotank is part of NASA’s Game Changing Development Program and Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in NASA's future missions. NASA focused on this technology because composite tanks promise a 30 percent weight reduction and a 25 percent cost savings over the best metal tanks used today. The outer shell of the 18-foot-diameter (5.5-meter) cryotank is the same size as propellant tanks used on today’s full-size rockets. The tank was manufactured at the Boeing Developmental Center in Tukwila, Wash., and like artists, the team demonstrated their passion and commitment by signing their work. The silver signatures of the NASA and Boeing team members are visible on the black dome end of the tank. NASA’s Super Guppy delivered the tank in March 2014 to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and the Kmag, a 96-wheeled cargo truck, transported the tank to a Marshall Center test area. The 28,000-gallons (105.992- liter) tank will be insulated and placed in a test stand where it will be loaded with liquid hydrogen cooled to extremely cold, or cryogenic temperatures. The orange ends of the tank are made of metal and will attach to the test stand so that structural loads can be applied similar to those the tank would experience during a rocket launch. This advanced composite cryotank could benefit many of NASA’s deep space exploration spacecraft including NASA's Space Launch System, the largest most powerful rocket ever built. Image Credit-NASA-MSFC-Fred Deaton.

HHS SAYS U.S. POPULATION GETTING HEALTHIER

FROM:  DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
HHS announces progress in disease prevention and health promotion

The nation’s health is improving in more than half of the critical measures that are known to have major influence in reducing preventable disease and death, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Healthy People 2020 represents the nation’s current 10-year goals and objectives for health promotion and disease prevention. Twenty-six specific measures—in categories such as access to care, maternal and child health, tobacco use, nutrition and physical activity—were identified as high-priority health issues. These Leading Health Indicators (LHI), if addressed appropriately, have the potential to significantly reduce major influences or threats on the public’s health that cause illness and death.

“The Leading Health Indicators are intended to motivate action to improve the health of the whole population. Today’s LHI Progress Report shows that we are doing just that,” says Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health. Koh also notes that with the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we can expect to see more improvements across these indicators.

There are 14 health indicators that have either been met or are improving in this first third of the decade, including:

Fewer adults smoking cigarettes;
Fewer children exposed to secondhand smoke;
More adults meeting physical activity targets; and
Fewer adolescents using alcohol or illicit drugs.
While progress has been made across several indicators, the LHI Progress Report highlights areas where further work is needed to improve the health of all Americans. There are 11 Leading Health Indicators that have not shown significant improvement at this point in the decade, and 1 indicator where only baseline data are available.

FTC, DOJ ANTITRUST STATEMENT ON SHARING CYBERSECURITY INFORMATION

FROM:  FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 

FTC, DOJ Issue Antitrust Policy Statement on Sharing Cybersecurity Information

Sharing Cyber Threat Information Can Help Secure Nation’s Networks and Improve Efficiency; Properly Designed Sharing Not Likely to Raise Antitrust Concerns
The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice today issued a policy statement on the sharing of cyber-security information that makes clear that properly designed cyber threat information sharing is not likely to raise antitrust concerns and can help secure the nation’s networks of information and resources. The policy statement provides the agencies’ analytical framework for information sharing among private entities and is designed to reduce uncertainty for those who want to share ways to prevent and combat cyberattacks.

“Because of the FTC’s long experience promoting data security, we understand the serious threat posed by cyberattacks,” said FTC Chairwoman Ramirez. “This statement should help private businesses by making it clear that antitrust laws do not stand in the way of legitimate sharing of cybersecurity threat information.”

“The Department of Justice is committed to doing all it can to protect the security of our nation’s networks.  Through the FBI and the National Security and Criminal Divisions, the department plays a critical role in preventing and prosecuting cybercrime,” said Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole.  “Private parties play a critical role in mitigating and responding to cyber threats, and this policy statement should encourage them to share cybersecurity information.”

“Cyber threats are increasing in number and sophistication, and sharing information about these threats, such as incident reports, indicators and threat signatures, is something companies can do to protect their information systems and help secure our nation’s infrastructure,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “With proper safeguards in place, cyber threat information sharing can occur without posing competitive concerns.”

In the policy statement, the federal antitrust agencies recognize that the sharing of cyber threat information has the potential to improve the security, availability, integrity and efficiency of the nation’s information systems. The policy statement also emphasizes that the legitimate sharing of cyber threat information is very different from the sharing of competitively sensitive information such as current or future prices and output or business plans, which may raise antitrust concerns. Cyber threat information is typically technical in nature and covers a limited type of information, and disseminating that information appears unlikely to raise competitive concerns.

The joint Department of Justice/Federal Trade Commission “Antitrust Guidelines for Collaborations Among Competitors” provide an overview of the agencies’ analysis of information sharing as a general matter. The agencies consider whether the relevant agreement likely harms competition by increasing the ability or incentive to raise price above or reduce output, quality, service or innovation below what likely would prevail in the absence of the relevant agreement.

Previous antitrust analysis on cyber threat information sharing was issued in October 2000, when the Antitrust Division issued specific guidance in a business review letter to Electric Power Research Institute Inc. Under the Justice Department’s business review procedure, an organization may submit a proposed action to the Antitrust Division and receive a statement as to whether the division will challenge the action under the antitrust laws. In that letter, the Antitrust Division confirmed that it had no intention of taking enforcement action against the company’s proposal to exchange certain cyber-security information, including exchanging actual real-time cyber threat and attack information. In that matter, the division concluded that as long as the information exchanged was limited to physical and cyber-security issues, the proposed interdictions on price, purchasing and future product innovation discussions should be sufficient to avoid any threats to competition. The legal analysis in that matter remains current.

Friday, April 11, 2014

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S REMARKS ON NOMINATING SYLVIA BURWELL FOR SECRETARY OF HHS

FROM:   THE WHITE HOUSE 

Remarks by the President Nominating Sylvia Mathews Burwell as Secretary of Health and Human Services

Rose Garden
10:54 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  Hey!  (Applause.)  All right, everybody, have a seat.  Have a seat.  Have a seat.  Well, good morning.  In my sixth year in office, I am extraordinarily grateful to have so many aides and advisors who have been there since the earliest days.  But it’s still somewhat bittersweet when any of them leave for new endeavors -- even when their successor is wonderful.
In early March, Kathleen Sebelius, my Secretary of Health and Human Services, told me she’d be moving on once the first open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act came to an end.  And after five years of extraordinary service to our country -- and 7.5 million Americans who have signed up for health coverage through the exchanges -- (applause) -- she’s earned that right.  I will miss her advice, I will miss her friendship, I will miss her wit -- but I am proud to nominate someone to succeed her who holds those same traits in abundance:  Sylvia Mathews Burwell.  (Applause.)
Now, just a couple things about Kathleen.  When I nominated Kathleen more than five years ago -- I had gotten to know Kathleen when she was governor at Kansas and had shown extraordinary skills there; was a great advisor and supporter during my presidential campaign, and so I knew that she was up for what was a tough job -- I mentioned that one of her many responsibilities at HHS would be to make sure our country is prepared for a pandemic flu outbreak.  I didn’t know at the time that that would literally be her first task.  (Laughter.)  Nobody remembers that now -- but it was.  And it just gives you a sense of the sorts of daily challenges that Kathleen has handled, often without fanfare, often unacknowledged, but that have been critical to the health and welfare of the American people. 
She has fought to improve children’s health, from birth to kindergarten; expanded mental health care; reduced racial and ethnic disparities; brought us closer to the first AIDS-free generation.  She’s been a tireless advocate for women’s health.   
And, of course, what Kathleen will go down in history for is serving as the Secretary of Health and Human Services when the United States of America finally declared that quality, affordable health care is not a privilege, but it is a right for every single citizen of these United States of America.  (Applause.)
Kathleen has been here through the long fight to pass the Affordable Care Act.  She helped guide its implementation, even when it got rough.  She’s got bumps, I’ve got bumps, bruises -- but we did it because we knew of all the people that we had met, all across the country, who had lost a home, had put off care, had decided to stay with the job instead of start a business because they were uncertain about their health care situation.  We had met families who had seen their children suffer because of the uncertainty of health care.  And we were committed to get this done.  And that’s what we’ve done, and that’s what Kathleen has done.
Yes, we lost the first quarter of open enrollment period with the problems with HealthCare.gov -- and they were problems.  But under Kathleen’s leadership, her team at HHS turned the corner, got it fixed, got the job done, and the final score speaks for itself:  There are 7.5 million people across the country that have the security of health insurance, most of them for the very first time.  And that's because of the woman standing next to me here today.  (Applause.)  And we are proud of her for that.  That's an historic accomplishment.  (Applause.)  That's right.
And, by the way, in the meantime, alongside 7.5 million people being enrolled, health care costs under Kathleen’s leadership are growing at their slowest rate in 50 years.  I keep on reading folks saying, oh, they're not doing anything about cost, except they're growing at the slowest rate in 50 years.  What does that mean?  That's in part because of Kathleen’s extraordinary leadership.
Health records are moving from dog-eared paper to high-tech systems.  Kathleen partnered with the Department of Justice to aggressively pursue health care fraud and return billions of dollars -- record sums -- to the Medicare Trust Fund. 
So, all told, Kathleen’s work over the past five years will benefit our families and this country for decades to come.  So we want to thank Kathleen’s husband, Gary, the “First Dude” of Kansas.  (Laughter.)  We got two outstanding sons, Ned and John, who have been willing to share their mom with us these past five years.  And, Kathleen, I know that your dad -- who served as governor of Ohio, and who inspired you to pursue public service and who passed away last year -- would have been so proud of you today.  So, Kathleen, we want to thank you once again for your service to our country.  (Applause.)
Now, we know there’s still more work to do at HHS.  There’s more work to do to implement the Affordable Care Act.  There’s another enrollment period coming up about six months from now.  There’s a whole array of responsibilities to meet over at this large and very important agency.  And I could choose no manager as experienced, as competent as my current Director of the Office of Management and Budget:  Sylvia Mathews Burwell.  (Applause.)
Sylvia is from a small town -- Hinton, West Virginia.  So she brings the common sense that you see in small towns.  She brings the values of caring about your neighbor and ordinary folks to some of the biggest and most complex challenges of her time.  She’s a proven manager who’s demonstrated her ability to field great teams, forge strong relationships, and deliver excellent results at the highest levels.  And she’s done it both in the public and private sectors.
As COO and later president for global development of the Gates Foundation, Sylvia worked on the cutting edge of the world’s most pressing health challenges.  As the head of the Walmart Foundation, and a member of the board at MetLife, she gained firsthand experience into how insurance markets work, and how they can work better for businesses and families alike.
Here, as my Budget Director at the White House, she’s already delivered results.  After all, in the year since she arrived, the deficit has plunged by more than $400 billion.  I’m just saying.  (Laughter.)  That's happened during that time.  (Applause.)
When the government was forced to shut down last October, and even as most of her own team was barred from reporting to work, Sylvia was a rock -- a steady hand on the wheel who helped navigate the country through a very challenging time.  Once the government was allowed to reopen, Sylvia was vital to winning the two-year budget agreement that put an end to these manufactured crises that we had seen here in Washington so that we could keep our full focus on growing the economy and creating new jobs, and expanding opportunity for everybody who is seeking opportunity.  And all the while, she’s helped advance important initiatives to bring the government into the 21st century, including her efforts to speed up job creation by dramatically speeding up the permitting process for big infrastructure projects.
So Sylvia is a proven manager, and she knows how to deliver results.  And she’ll need to be a proven manager because these are tough tasks, big challenges.  From covering more families with economic security that health insurance provides, to ensuring the safety of our food and drug supply, to protecting the country from outbreak or bioterror attacks, to keeping America at the forefront of job-creating medical research, all of us rely on the dedicated servants and scientists, the researchers at HHS and the FDA and CDC and NIH.  All of them are an extraordinary team, and sometimes the American people take for granted the incredible network of outstanding public servants that we have who are helping to keep us healthy and helping improve our lives every single day.
So I want to thank Stephen, Sylvia’s husband, and Mathew and Helene for sharing wife and mom with us a little bit longer.  We’ll miss seeing you around the White House, but I know that you’re going to do an outstanding job as America’s Secretary of Health and Human Services.  I hope that the Senate confirms Sylvia without delay.  She’s going to do great.  Last time she was confirmed unanimously -- I’m assuming not that much has changed since that time.  (Laughter.) 
And with that, I want to give them both an opportunity to say a few words, starting with Kathleen.  (Applause.) 
SECRETARY SEBELIUS:  Thank you.  Well, I want to start by thanking you, Mr. President, and Mr. Vice President, for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime to serve in this Cabinet.  I want to thank my HHS family, many of whom are here -- at least the health leaders are here -- for their incredible work.  And my personal family, represented today by our older son Ned, and my wonderful daughter-in-law Lisa; my husband Gary is on the Bench in Kansas today doing multiple hearings, which he does each and every day, and our younger son is in Ecuador.  But they’re with us in spirit.
The President has already made this case, but I want to remake it.  HHS is an amazing department.  It’s full of bright and talented and hardworking people who believe strongly in our important mission:  providing health care and essential human services to all Americans.
Now, inscribed on the walls of the Humphrey Building, where your office will be, are the words of the namesake.  And what Hubert Humphrey said is, “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadow of life.”  And that really, I think, describes what we do at HHS. 
From our work on birth-to-kindergarten initiatives to providing for the elderly and disabled, our employees help their friends and neighbors every day.  The researchers in NIH labs and scientists working to improve new drugs and devices are helping change the face of humanity by advancing new cures, research and innovation.  We’re advancing public health in the U.S. and around the globe with anti-smoking efforts and promoting maternal and child health. 
Finally, behavioral health and physical health issues will be considered both part of a central treatment, and that’s a big step forward.  Our workers, as the President said, look out for a safe and secure food and drug supply in a global market.  And our smart diplomacy, sharing health expertise and advances, win the hearts and minds of nations across the globe.  We have done transformational work in tribal communities across this country that will never be the same again.
So at any point in our history, that mission would be highly rewarding and some of the most important work anybody could do.  But I’ve had an additional amazing opportunity -- no one has ever had this before -- I got to be a leader of HHS during these most historic times.  We are on the front lines of a long overdue national change -- fixing a broken health system.  Now, this is the most meaningful work I’ve ever been a part of.  In fact, it’s been the cause of my life.  And I knew it wouldn’t be easy.  There’s a reason that no earlier President was successful in passing health reform, despite decades of attempts. 
But throughout the legislative battles, the Supreme Court challenge, a contentious reelection and years of votes to turn back the clock, we are making progress, tremendous progress.  And critics and supporters alike are benefitting from this law.  My professional work as a legislator and insurance commissioner and a governor have been tremendously helpful in navigating the policy and politics of this historic change. 
But at the end of the day, health is personal.  It’s personal to all of us.  Family illnesses and personal health challenges touch us to our core.  I’ve spent time as a daughter navigating care for ill parents.  As a mother and now a grandmother, I have experienced and worried about prenatal care and healthy babies.  We’ve had family health challenges, as all of us have.  And finding the right care can be difficult even with the best contacts and the right resources.
So the personal reward for me at the end of the day are the folks who approach me, the strangers who approach me at a meeting or pass me a note on a plane, or hand me a phone with someone on the other end saying thank you.  Their stories are so heartening about finally feeling secure and knowing they can take care of themselves and their families. 
Unfortunately, a page is missing.  (Laughter.) 
So I’m just grateful for having had this wonderful opportunity.  The President was in Austin yesterday at the LBJ Library, commemorating 50 years in the civil rights efforts led by Lyndon Johnson.  And 50 years ago, my father was part of that historic Congress.  He served in the Congress with the passage of Medicare and Medicaid, with Head Start.  And those programs are now in the agency I’ve had the honor to lead.  It seems like a wonderful passing of the baton.   
And the Affordable Care Act is the most significant social change in this country in that 50-year period of time.  So I am so grateful to have had this opportunity.  I appreciate all of the effort and support.  I thank my Cabinet colleagues who are here on the front row.  And not only are they here today on the front row, but they’ve been part of an all-hands-on-deck effort making sure that that 7.5 million people were able to sign up for affordable health care. 
So thank you, Mr. President.  And what I know is that Sylvia -- in the year I’ve had the opportunity to work with her -- is a trusted and valued friend, a great partner.  She will be a terrific leader for HHS.  So I’ll turn it over to Sylvia.  (Applause.)
MS. BURWELL:  First, I’d like to thank you, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, for the trust you’ve placed in me at my role at OMB and your confidence in nominating me for this new role.
Second, as we all honor Kathleen’s accomplishments here today, I also want to personally thank her for her support and friendship through this year.  I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the team at the Office of Management and Budget and to our congressional counterparts, with whom I’ve had the privilege to work closely throughout this year.
OMB is an extraordinary institution.  It’s a credit to the professionalism and commitment of OMB’s people that we’ve been able to meaningfully improve our nation’s fiscal policy and government management over the past year.  I also want to thank my family, especially my husband, Stephen.  It’s their support that allows me to serve.
I’m humbled, honored, and excited by the opportunity to build on the achievements that Kathleen, the President, and so many others have put in place.  If confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to carrying on the important work of ensuring that children, families, and seniors have the building blocks of healthy and productive lives, whether it’s through implementing the Affordable Care Act, supporting affordable childcare, or finding new frontiers to prevent and treat disease.
Thank you, Mr. President.  (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT:  Give these extraordinary women one more big round of applause.  Thank you, Kathleen, for your service.  Thank you, Sylvia, for your great work.  (Applause.)
END
11:16 A.M. EDT

NINE FACE CHARGES IN "ZEUS" MALWARE MULTIMILLION DOLLAR IDENTITY THEFT CONSPIRACY

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Friday, April 11, 2014

Nine Charged in Conspiracy to Steal Millions of Dollars Using “Zeus” Malware

Two Defendants Extradited to U.S. Will Make Initial Court Appearance Today

Nine  alleged members of a wide-ranging racketeering enterprise and conspiracy who infected thousands of business computers with malicious software known as “Zeus” have been charged in an indictment unsealed today in Lincoln, Neb.

Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. O’Neil of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Deborah R. Gilg for the District of Nebraska and Special Agent in Charge Thomas R. Metz of the FBI’s Omaha Division made the announcement.

The indictment alleges that the “Zeus” malware captured passwords, account numbers, and other information necessary to log into online banking accounts.  The conspirators allegedly used the information captured by “Zeus” to steal millions of dollars from account-holding victims’ bank accounts.

The indictment was unsealed in connection with the arraignment this afternoon at the federal courthouse in Lincoln of two Ukrainian nationals, Yuriy Konovalenko, 31, and Yevhen Kulibaba, 36.  Konovalenko and Kulibaba were recently extradited from the United Kingdom.  All of the defendants were charged by a federal grand jury in August 2012 with conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity, conspiracy to commit computer fraud and identity theft, aggravated identity theft, and multiple counts of bank fraud.

“The ‘Zeus’ malware is one of the most damaging pieces of financial malware that has ever been used,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General O’Neil.  “As the charges unsealed today demonstrate, we are committed to making the Internet more secure and protecting the personal information and bank accounts of American consumers.  With the invaluable cooperation of our foreign law enforcement partners, we will continue to bring to justice cyber criminals who steal the money of U.S. citizens.”

“In this case, the victims included a Nebraska bank and a Nebraska company,” said U.S. Attorney Gilg.  “This demonstrates the global reach of cybercrime and the significant threat to our financial infrastructure.  We are grateful for the collaboration of our international and federal law enforcement partners in this complex financial fraud crime."

This case illustrates the vigorous cooperation between national and global law enforcement agencies and sends a strong message to cyber thieves,” said FBI SAC Metz.  “The FBI and our international partners will continue to devote resources to finding better ways to safeguard our systems, fortify our cyber defenses and stop those who do us harm."

According to the indictment, the defendants participated in an enterprise and scheme that installed, without authorization, malicious software known as “Zeus” or “Zbot” on victims’ computers.  The defendants are charged with using that malicious software to capture bank account numbers, passwords, personal identification numbers, RSA SecureID token codes and similar information necessary to log into online banking accounts.  The indictment alleges that the defendants falsely represented to banks that they were employees of the victims and authorized to make transfers of funds from the victims’ bank accounts, causing the banks to make unauthorized transfers of funds from the victims’ accounts.

As part of the enterprise and scheme, the defendants allegedly used as “money mules” residents of the United States who received funds transferred over the Automated Clearing House network or through other interstate wire systems from victims’ bank accounts into the money mules’ own bank accounts.  These “money mules” then allegedly withdrew some of those funds and wired the money overseas to conspirators.

According to court documents unsealed today, Kulibaba allegedly operated the conspirators’ money laundering network in the United Kingdom by providing money mules and their associated banking credentials to launder the money withdrawn from U.S.-based victim accounts.  Konovalenko allegedly provided money mules’ and victims’ banking credentials to Kulibaba and facilitated the collection of victims’ data from other conspirators.

The following four identified defendants remain at large:

• Vyacheslav Igorevich Penchukov, 32, of Ukraine, who allegedly coordinated the exchange of stolen banking credentials and money mules and received alerts once a bank account had been compromised.
• Ivan Viktorvich Klepikov, 30, of Ukraine, the alleged systems administrator who handled the technical aspects of the criminal scheme and also received alerts once a bank account had been compromised.
• Alexey Dmitrievich Bron, 26, of Ukraine, the alleged financial manager of the criminal operations who managed the transfer of money through an online money system known as Webmoney.
• Alexey Tikonov, of Russia, an alleged coder or developer who assisted the criminal enterprise by developing new codes to compromise banking systems.

The indictment also charges three other individuals as John Doe #1, John Doe #2 and John Doe #3.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Omaha Cyber Task Force.  The Metropolitan Police Service of the United Kingdom, the National Police of the Netherlands’s National High Tech Crime Unit and the Security Service of Ukraine provided significant assistance in the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney William A. Hall, Jr. of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven A. Russell of the District of Nebraska. The Office of International Affairs in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division provided valuable assistance with the extradition.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

U.S. OFFERS BEST WISHES TO PEOPLE OF NEPAL ON THEIR NEW YEAR

FROM:  STATE DEPARTMENT 
Nepali New Year (Bikram Sambat) Message

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 11, 2014

Nepali New Year (Bikram Sambat) Message

On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I offer the people of Nepal best wishes for a prosperous and joyful New Year.

Nepal has achieved important milestones this past year, including the democratic election of a new Constituent Assembly.

I hope that the coming year will bring further progress towards enduring political stability and the full completion of a new constitution, keeping your country on the path of prosperity and peace.

Naya Barshako Shubha-Kamana!

HAZLETON, PA., AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT AGREES TO EQUALIZE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY FOR ENGLISH LEARNER STUDENTS

FROM:  U.S. EDUCATION DEPARTMENT
U.S. Department of Education Announces Resolution of Hazleton, Pa., Area School District Civil Rights Investigation
APRIL 11, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has entered into an agreement with the Hazleton, Pa., Area School District to bring the district into compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for English Language Learner (ELL) students in the district.

OCR initiated an investigation to assess whether ELL students in the district have access to equal educational opportunities and whether the district adequately notifies national origin minority parents and guardians who are limited-English proficient (LEP) of school activities that are called to the attention of other parents.

“The Hazleton Area School District’s decision to equalize educational opportunity for its nearly 11,000 students, including its nearly 1,300 English language learner students and their families is a major step forward for the district’s children and families,” said assistant secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon. “This agreement protects English language learner students’ longstanding right to equal opportunity to participate in school programs, services and activities. The agreement also ensures that the district provides language assistance services to limited English proficient parents – to support their active participation in their children’s education.”


OCR found the district noncompliant in the following ways:

Some students whose primary language is not English were inappropriately excused from the English language development program;
The district did not provide required instructional time for over 240 elementary school ELL students;
The district did not evaluate the effectiveness of its program and address any deficiencies;
The district did not have an effective system to identify LEP parents and to ensure that interpreters were always available when needed.
Under the agreement, the district will take a number of corrective actions, including:

Ensuring that students whose primary home language is not English will be promptly assessed for English language proficiency to determine eligibility for placement in an English language development program and that students will not be improperly exempted from assessment;
Assessing students who were improperly exempted from language proficiency assessment to determine whether they may be eligible to receive English language development services;
Conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the English language development program at each school level to determine its effectiveness and making modifications to address areas where the program is not meeting the district’s goals;
Developing and implementing policies and procedures to ensure that LEP parents are notified, in a language they understand, of school activities that are called to the attention of other parents; and Providing training to appropriate staff on procedures for identifying language-minority parents and on policies and procedures for serving language minority parents.

OCR will closely monitor implementation of the agreement to ensure that the commitments are implemented in a timely and effective manner and that they result in equal opportunities for students to participate in the district’s education programs.

U.S. EXTENDS GREETINGS TO PEOPLE OF LAOS ON THEIR NEW YEAR

FROM:  STATE DEPARTMENT 
Lao New Year
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 11, 2014

On behalf of President Obama I am delighted to extend my greetings to the people of Laos on the occasion of the Lao New Year.

The American people join you in the spirit of hope, celebration, joy, and renewal. May the New Year bring prosperity to Lao people all around the world.

The New Year is a time of great opportunity and expectation and I hope this year will provide even greater opportunities to work together and enrich the important friendship between Laos and the United States.

U.S. OFFICIAL'S BACKGROUND BRIEFING ON P5+1 TALKS

FROM:  THE STATE DEPARTMENT 

Background Briefing on P5+1 Talks
Special Briefing
Office of the Spokesperson
Senior U.S. Administration Official
Vienna, Austria
April 9, 2014


MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for your patience. Welcome to our backgrounder. I think most of you know the ground rules here, but just to remind people, you all know [Senior U.S. Administration Official] who will be doing this all on background as a Senior U.S. Administration Official. Please, let’s all keep it to that. [Senior U.S. Administration Official] will give a few brief opening remarks, and then as always, we’ll open it up for questions. And please, when I call on you, even though we know most of you, please give your name and your media outlet.

With that, I’ll turn it over.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. Hello, everyone, and thank you for coming today for this backgrounder. It’s amazing to think that only a few months ago, many of us were in Geneva in the freezing cold finalizing the Joint Plan of Action at 4 in the morning. And today, we find ourselves at the halfway point in these comprehensive negotiations in a somewhat warmer and beautiful Vienna. Geneva was beautiful, just cold. (Laughter.)
In the past two days, we have continued our substantive discussions about all of the issues that will have to be part of a comprehensive agreement – every single issue you can imagine. These sessions have been in-depth and the conversations have given us important additional insights into where the biggest and most challenging gaps will be as we move forward.
At this point, we don’t know if we’ll be successful in bridging those gaps, but we are certainly committed, as everyone in the room is, to trying. One thing to keep in mind as we reach this midway mark is that all sides have kept all of the commitments they made in the Joint Plan of Action. That’s given all of us more confidence as we negotiate this even tougher comprehensive agreement.

In that vein today, we’ve just concluded a meeting of the Joint Commission that was announced when we implemented the Joint Plan of Action. Given it’s the halfway point, we thought it would be an appropriate time to check in on implementation progress, and as I said, the report out of that meeting which I just received is everyone acknowledged that everything was going well. This meeting took place at the experts level, not at the political directors level.
The next step in this process is to begin actually drafting text, which we have all said would happen after this round. This round and the last round was used to review all of the issues and understand each other’s positions at the beginning of this negotiation. I would caution everyone from thinking that a final agreement is imminent or that it will be easy. As we draft, I have no doubt this will be quite difficult at times. And as we’ve always been clear and as we said explicitly when we were negotiating the Joint Plan of Action – and it is even more so for the comprehensive agreement – we will not rush into a bad deal. We just won’t do it. No deal – as Secretary Kerry has said many times, as the President of the United States has said, no deal is better than a bad deal.

So now, we’ll move forward to begin drafting actual language. We’ll meet back here in Vienna at the political director level in May. As always, our experts and political directors will be working in the meantime on all of the technical issues that are a part of these talks. And we are all very focused on that special date, July 20th, because we believe that it should give us sufficient time to reach a comprehensive agreement if an agreement is indeed possible.
With that, I’m happy to take your questions.

MODERATOR: Great. Go ahead, Lou from Reuters. Kick us off.

QUESTION: Thanks. So just a couple questions here. When you said that every single issue you can imagine was discussed, did this include Iran’s ballistic missile program? And also, when the – the Iranians have just now said that you’ve got – Foreign Minister Zarif said that the deal is 50 to 60 percent agreed. And I know what you said in the conference call and what you said just now. How would you respond to that? And do you think that that’s an irrelevant comment?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In terms of your first question about ballistic missiles, the Joint Plan of Action covers, in one way or another, everything that needs to be in the comprehensive agreement, including resolution of concerns. It also discusses the UN Security Council resolutions must be addressed as part of any comprehensive agreement, and I think that you are well aware that one of the UN Security Council resolutions speaks of concerns regarding ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. So when I say that all concerns have been discussed, all concerns have been discussed.

On your second point, I take seriously everything that Minister Zarif says. My own view is that the only percentage that matters is the one when we either get a comprehensive agreement or we don’t. In all of this negotiation, it is indeed like a Rubik’s cube. All of the pieces have to fit together just so to reach a final agreement that will ensure that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon and that the international community has the assurance it needs that Iran’s program will be exclusively peaceful.

Similarly, the Joint Plan of Action says that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. So one could agree to even 95 percent, and that last 5 percent might mean you’d never get to the agreement. So the only thing that matters at the end of the day is to get to the agreement, and that’s what we’re trying to do. And I think there are two principles that are important: Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and nothing is agreed until everyone agrees to it.

MODERATOR: Great. Yes, to the left of Lou.

QUESTION: Jay (inaudible) from Reuters. Would you say, though, that since the talks began in February that you have managed to narrow your decisions or narrow the gaps in (inaudible)?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What I would say is we understand each other a great deal, better than we did when we began, in terms of each other’s positions on the various issues of concern. It’s not that we didn’t know what each other’s positions were at the top lines, but a lot of this is quite technical, and the details matter enormously. And so we all have a much, much deeper understanding of each other’s positions. When one has that kind of understanding, you begin to see where there might be areas where one could reach agreement, you begin to see where the gaps are the largest, and where, in fact, you may indeed be close to an agreement. But again, until everything is agreed, nothing is agreed.

MODERATOR: Yes, here in the front.

QUESTION: Jonathan Tyrone with Bloomberg News. And just briefly, if you could characterize the Chinese envoy Wang’s comment about Russian participation as being, quote “utterly constructive,” and maybe give your side of that.

And then the broader question I’d like to pose is: There’s a lot of signaling, so the Iranian deputy foreign minister confirmed that Iran and Russia are, in fact, in trade talks about broadening trade, something that Mr. Kerry referred to specifically in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. It looks like – he also said that they’re not close to signing a deal. But it’s obvious that there are contingency plans being formulated in the event of a failure of this process.

My question to you is: Is there a danger that the signals from the contingency planning overcome the positive signals that you’re trying to project through the actual process of dialogue that’s going through July?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What I would say is that my [Russian colleagues] played the constructive, focused role that they usually do. And we have – [Sergei Ryabkov] has worked as part of the P5+1 all through the Joint Plan of Action and now through the comprehensive agreement. And he and his team are very useful and important participants in this process.

In terms of the trade talks that Iran and Russia may be having, we have been very direct to both parties that should they bring this day to closure and engage in activity that is sanctionable under our sanctions, we will take appropriate action. And we’ve urged both parties not to move forward, to preserve the negotiating process.

Now, events happen in the world. You may have noticed that. And we cannot control them all. You may have noticed that as well. And so we have to deal with what happens in the world in general. You all have asked time and again has Ukraine made a difference, which was the reason you asked – or someone asked Mr. Wang about Russia’s participation. So we take these issues on board and we all stay focused on what we’re trying to do here, but we will all have to take whatever appropriate action we need to take under the laws of our lands.

MODERATOR: Great. Laurence Norman with The Wall Street Journal.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for doing this. Can you – I have several short questions for you. First of all, the timing for the next round was announced on May the 13th, but there was no end date given. I mean, could they go on for five days, a week? Is there any sense of that?
And secondly, can you give any indication of what was discussed in the Joint Commission, issues that came up? And did you discuss the UN ambassador pick with (inaudible) yesterday?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Anything else?

QUESTION: Sure. (Laughter.) Can you rule out foreign ministers heading up to the next round – (laughter).

MODERATOR: I was wondering when that question would start getting asked.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Every time we come to any of these rounds, even when we have announced it’s going to be two days or three days, we call come with the presumption we will stay for as long as we need to stay. Obviously, as one begins to get into drafting, it is even more possible that you’ll stay longer than you planned to stay, so I assume that is why neither the – Lady Ashton – the High Representative of the European Union – nor Minister Zarif and their teams gave an end date. We were all planning for the week to be here and we’ll do whatever is necessary.

I think for all of us involved in this between now and July 20th, we understand that there is no higher priority. The stakes here are quite high for all the reasons you all well know, because we are trying to ensure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon and that their program is exclusively peaceful. And so everyone in the room has explicitly said they are ready to do whatever they need to do and change their schedules and their life to do what is necessary.
On the Joint Commission, it just concluded, but the agenda for that Joint Commission was really just to check in with each other – that’s why it’s at the expert level – have we kept all of our commitments on sanctions relief and other things that we needed to do, and is Iran keeping its commitments? I would note that secretary – Director General Amano made comments I saw in the press today affirming yet again that Iran has kept all of its commitments on their set of obligations. So it was just a check-in. It wasn’t a very long meeting, to tell you the truth, but a useful one, a very useful one.

In terms of the UN ambassador pick, what I would say is that you all have heard the comments from Jay Carney from the White House podium that we believe that this candidate, this possible nominee, is not viable from a U.S. perspective, and we have conveyed that directly to the Iranians through the channels that we have available to us. And I’m going to leave it there on that.

And as far as the foreign ministers flying in, that’s not planned, but --

QUESTION: Can I just check – so you’ve conveyed it through your channels, and maybe I’m not aware of what the U.S. diplomatic speak – I mean, does that mean – (laughter) – does that mean that you’ve conveyed it through the channel of being here and (inaudible)?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’m not going to get into how that message got delivered to the Iranians.

MODERATOR: Great. In the back. Sorry, I can’t see you.

QUESTION: It’s George Jahn of the --

MODERATOR: Oh, hey, George. Sorry, continue.

QUESTION: George Jahn of the Associated Press. Assuming that any oil deal with Russia goes through, I think what you’re saying is that Russia could face potential sanctions. That would probably impact very, very hard on the talks, possibly resulting in less of the Russian cooperation that you’re talking about. But you are saying that the United States is going to take this step even if that happens, (inaudible).

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think the Secretary has been very clear about it, I’ve been very clear about it, others in our government have been very clear about it, that anyone who takes sanctionable action faces the potential for sanctions.
MODERATOR: Yes.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: But let me add one thing: As you all have said yourselves, they are in talks. Nothing is consummated, nothing is executed, nothing is done. I think that both Iran and Russia understand the stakes here. I expect and suspect that they understand that the priority in the first instance is to try to reach a comprehensive agreement if we can reach one.

MODERATOR: Yes.

QUESTION: Kasra Naji from BBC Persian Television. On the issue of the money that was released to the Iranians, the Iranians are having trouble getting their hands on it. Did this issue come up either in the talks or in your bilateral? How far are we into this? Is this close to a resolution? You said the two sides are sticking to their commitments under the Geneva agreement. Is this causing trouble within that context? Any information on that, I will be grateful. And secondly, on your bilateral, anything of interest?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Anything of interest I’m going to discuss, or anything of interest at any rate? (Laughter.)

On whether Iran has access to the repatriated funds that were part of our obligation under the Joint Plan of Action, we and the European Union on all of the sanctions-related obligations have done everything that we committed to doing. And I think if you ask the Iranians, they would say that we have complied with our obligations under the Joint Plan of Action.

And I know there have been stories written, there have been all kinds of issues. All of these things are always complicated to make happen, but we have made them happen. And so I think you will find – and part of the Joint Commission today was to check in on all of those issues. All the appropriate colleagues were there on both sides, and the report I just got out right before I walked in here is that everybody was grateful for the work that had been done on both sides and that everyone had complied with their obligations.
QUESTION: So the money is being released?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The – everything that we were supposed to do and the tranches we were supposed to do it has been done.

QUESTION: So the Iranians are saying that we have got our hands on the money?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You’ll have to ask the Iranians.
As term – in terms of the bilateral, our bilateral was – as I’ve said to you now, it’s now normal. We met for about an hour and a half. We only talk about two things in the bilateral. One is nuclear negotiation. We make sure that Iran understands our perspective on all of the issues under discussion, and they’re able to tell us directly their views about our views. And the other thing we discuss and do so quite decidedly and in a focused way is our American citizens about which we are concerned – Mr. Hekmati, Pastor Abedini, and Robert Levinson – all of whom deserve to be home with their families.
MODERATOR: Yes, right here.

QUESTION: Thank you. (Inaudible) Television Network. Iranians have tweeted yesterday evening that Arak does not need to be converted to a light-water reactor. Can you please confirm about the decision because of the (inaudible)?

And my second question is: When you start drafting, you have to (inaudible) from all of the things that you have discussed till now. And is this going to work like a block by block, or can we expect everything being done is the next meeting, or are you going to say that, okay, let’s draft this part in what way and then come back? How will that (inaudible) work?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So I’m not going to get into the discussion of the mechanics of how we’re going to negotiate, because that’s also a subject of strategy in negotiations and that’s also a subject of the confidentiality of the negotiations in terms of how we’re going got proceed. Because then your next question will be, “Well, if you’re going to block by block, what will be the first issues you will discuss?” And I’m not going to get into that, because as I said to all of you, this is a negotiation with very high stakes, very crucial. We want to keep the details of the negotiation inside the room. And that answers your first question as well in the sense that all kinds of public comments are made. That usually happens in negotiations. They are meant to try to frame the negotiation. But the only thing that matters is what happens in the room, what gets agreed to among the parties in the room, and whether an agreement at the end of the day can be reached.

MODERATOR: Great. Yes, right here on the left.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) five weeks. Are you going to talk to them about the pace of this? Would you prefer that the next meeting to be sooner?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So you assume with that question that between now and when we come back here nothing is going on, and I can assure you that every single day work is being done on this negotiation. That happens in a variety of ways within capitals, among and between capitals, through our experts having meetings among themselves and with Iranian experts. There is not a day in my life now where I’m not spending at least some of my time, and I’m responsible for the whole world, but spending some of my time virtually every single day on this. And as we get further into this, it will be – it will take up most of my time and ultimately probably all of it.

MODERATOR: Yes, behind Laurence. Right there. Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you. (Inaudible) do you expect this to be finished here in Vienna, if it is finished at all, of course? Or are you going to go back to Geneva for a kind of signing ceremony? (Laughter.)

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The reason that we’re in Vienna is because we wanted, when we started the comprehensive agreement, to sort of end a chapter and begin a new one, so we switched cities. But from the beginning, the Iranians wanted to have a meeting in a city where there were UN facilities. So in fact, this whole process is out of a mandate from the UN Security Council, so it is a UN-based mandate. And so that’s why we’re in Vienna, because the UN is here present in Vienna as well.

So we expect we will continue to do our negotiations here in Vienna. I suppose someone could suggest that would change, but right now that’s my expectation. And I want to thank you and your city for hosting us so well. We are very well taken care of here. People help us get through traffic. The food is delicious when I get to leave the hotel and have some. Most of our meals we all eat together in the hotel where we’re having the negotiation, but tonight I’m going to get to go out sometime very late tonight and try some of your cuisine, so I thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Who else? Yes, right here.

QUESTION: Yeah, we’ve been talking a lot about bridging gaps --

MODERATOR: Where are you from? Sorry.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. (Inaudible) from Radio France International.

MODERATOR: Thanks.

QUESTION: Could you just specify one sort of example of gaps that you managed to bridge so far (inaudible)? Can you tell us what percentage of the gaps you (inaudible) so far at the beginning to bridge? (Inaudible.)

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So you’re right; I’m not going to identify where we bridge things, where there are gaps, where we see possibilities of agreement, where we see challenges, because it won’t help the negotiation. And as much as I care about the press and feel a responsibility to let people know what’s going on, I feel a greater responsibility to make sure that the negotiation stays inside the room.

And as for percentages, as I said earlier, it – at the end of the day what matters is whether we get to an agreement or not get to an agreement. And we could agree on 95 percent of the things, and that last 5 percent, which will probably be the hardest set of issues or issue, means we do or don’t get an agreement.

QUESTION: Well, how far are you from the 95 percent?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: (Laughter.) I don’t think we can say. We used the first round of the comprehensive agreement to lay out a framework for negotiating. Then the second and third rounds were to go into great detail on each of the issues of concern, to set up an understanding to get to drafting. So we’re now finished those two rounds. We have covered every issue of concern both here in Vienna and through experts’ groups meetings that have taken place in between, and political director’s consultations which have taken place in between, and now we are set to start drafting. And quite frankly, until you get down to it, and you get down to the details, we don’t know whether we’ll be able to get to the end of this or not. I hope we do, but I don’t know.

QUESTION: Yes. Stephanie Bell with BBC News. The – Minister Wang came out and said that this round of negotiations has gained considerable momentum. Would you agree with that assessment?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What I would say is that all of these rounds have been productive, have been constructive, have been thoughtful, have been professional. But what I would say is that now we have to get down to it. And then we will know whether we’re headed in a direction where we can get to a comprehensive agreement or not. We all want to. We all believe we can. But none of us know until we really get to the drafting and the text and the detail whether it’s possible or not.

MODERATOR: Yes, right there.

QUESTION: Stefan Graham, Danish Broadcasting. I have question to your bilateral meetings. Did the Iranians acknowledge the presence of all three American citizens in Iran? And are they any closer to being released?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’m not going to get into the details of our conversation, and I do that both for the protection of those three Americans and for the privacy consideration of their families. But what I can say is that we have important conversations about all three and try to do whatever I can to get them closer and ultimately bring them home.
MODERATOR: Yes, who else? In the back.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me say just one thing. I meet with the families or people in the Department meet with the families, and it’s always terribly difficult. The Levinson family hasn’t seen Robert Levinson for seven years. Any of you – you all have family members, and just imagine what it’d be like if you hadn’t seen them for seven years and didn’t know where they were.

MODERATOR: Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) for (inaudible), the Russian news agency. The last time there were four topics that were specified and we’re extracting this from. This time, this thing, you have said all issues have been discussed, which presumably means that you have to return to those four issues that were discussed the last time. Is that the case, and if so, why was there any need to return to them?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As I said, we were using these two rounds to make sure we covered all the issues. The issues that we did last time, we sent our experts away to do some work products. And so we wanted to get the results of those to try to move forward a little bit more if we could. Again, these are very technical discussions, and I’ve learned an awful lot about nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, but I’m not a technical expert. So we need to rely on them to do a lot of work and bring it back to the political level. And we also knew that since we were going to move to drafting after this that we wanted to have one last review of every issue before we left here.

MODERATOR: Great. I think we have time for maybe a few more if we’ve answered all your questions. Yes, George, go ahead again.

QUESTION: Thanks. How many issues are there? I mean, how many categories? As Andrei said, the last time four issues were mentioned, (inaudible). (Inaudible) issues separated by topics?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: George, there’s a totality of issues, but each one of the issues has a myriad of subsets to it. So I couldn’t give you a count. And all of the issues interact with each other. And as I’ve said before, some – on some issues, if you can move forward, you may open up trade space on another issue. When we’ve talked about enrichment before, that has many, many pieces to it – from stockpiles to facilities to enrichment levels to centrifuge production. I mean, it’s just a myriad of subsets. And that’s true of every issue. So it’s quite impossible to sort of give you a count because it also requires you to categorize at what conceptual level you’re having the discussion.

What I can say is that we laid out in the first negotiating round all of the issues of concern to both parties, to both sides, and we have discussed them all. And they will all have to be addressed in some way.

MODERATOR: Let’s do a few more. Yes, right here in the front.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I just wonder: What do you think the positions? Is it more understanding or more accepting or more incentives or threatening, or what? Because it looks like still the Iranians are talking about redlines.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As I said, what I care about most, what we all care about most, is what’s happening in the room, that all kinds of things will be said in public, and we understand that. We listen to it. It’s very important information. But what matters is what happens in the room. And it’s about all of the things you say – not threatening so much. It’s a very professional discussion. But it is, of course, understanding each other better. It is seeing if there are some technical solutions to problems of concern, whether in fact there are incentives, disincentives perhaps as well, but not in the manner in which you were suggesting.

I think the largest disincentive for everyone is if we can’t reach an agreement, then diplomacy has not succeeded. And we all appreciate that the best way to solve this problem is through diplomacy.

MODERATOR: Great. Maybe just a couple more. Yes, Laurence, we’ll go to you and then --

QUESTION: Very quick (inaudible) it was that you conveyed the message, was it conveyed directly that the U.S. could deny them a visa (inaudible)?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’m not going to get into either what message was conveyed or to whom or how. I think we should leave it where it is right now, which you heard from Jay Carney, the spokesperson from the White House, say that we do not believe this is a viable candidate.

MODERATOR: Last one.

QUESTION: This is Indira’s question.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Indira’s question. (Laughter.)

MODERATOR: Even when she’s not here, she’s here.

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Tell her hi.

QUESTION: She’s always here. Possible military dimensions – is it enough for the IAEA to weigh in and determine those questions have been answered within that body, or does evidence that it has been cleared also need to convince the P5+1, the UN Security Council? I mean, where does the criteria, I guess, fit in?

SENIOR U.S. ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I’m not going to speak to specific criteria because that goes to where we are in the negotiation. What I can say to you is a couple of things that we’ve been very clear about. One, possible military dimensions is a central responsibility of what the IAEA is doing under its responsibilities. We want to support the IAEA and we want to encourage Iran to do everything they can to make substantive progress in the work they’re doing with the IAEA. And secondly, we have said that we will not be able to get to a comprehensive agreement without those issues being addressed.

MODERATOR: Great, thank you all for coming. Again, just as a reminder, this was on background. That means no names and no titles, just as a Senior U.S. Administration Official. And we will see all of you back here on May 13th. Thanks, guys.