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Saturday, July 5, 2014

The President Delivers Remarks at Independence Day Celebration

The President Speaks at a Naturalization Ceremony



140629-N-SH953-657 DAYTON, Ohio (June 29, 2014) The U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, fly in the Delta Formation at the Vectren Dayton Air Show. The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform 68 demonstrations at 34 locations across the U.S. in 2014. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kathryn E. Macdonald/Released).

140629-N-SH953-548 DAYTON, Ohio (June 29, 2014) Solo pilots from the U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, perform the Section High Alpha at the Vectren Dayton Air Show. The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform 68 demonstrations at 34 locations across the U.S. in 2014. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kathryn E. Macdonald/Released).


U.S. Exports Reach $195.5 Billion in May

Export-Import Bank Financing Support Helps Create American Jobs

Washington, D.C. – The United States exported $195.5 billion of goods and services in May 2014, according to data released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) of the U.S. Commerce Department.

“The numbers show that the world’s consumers continue to value U.S. goods and services for their quality and reliability,” said Export-Import Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. “Given a level playing field, U.S. exporters can compete with anyone in the world, and Ex-Im Bank is proud to support them abroad as they support jobs here at home.”

Exports of goods and services over the last twelve months totaled $2.3 trillion, which is 45.7 percent above the level of exports in 2009, and have been growing at an annualized rate of 8.9 percent when compared to 2009.

During the same time period among the major export markets (i.e., markets with at least $6 billion in annual imports of U.S. goods), the countries with the largest annualized increase in U.S. goods purchases, when compared to 2009, were Panama (22.5 percent), Russia (19.6 percent), Peru (17.9 percent), Colombia (17.4 percent), Ecuador (17.3 percent), Hong Kong (17.3 percent), Argentina (16.3 percent), Nigeria (15.1 percent), Chile (14.8 percent) and Indonesia (14.6 percent).



Malawi's National Day

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
July 3, 2014

On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I congratulate the people of Malawi as they celebrate a half century of independence on July 6.

This year also marks 20 years of multiparty democracy in Malawi. The recent elections served as an example of a peaceful change of government for the entire region. Malawians spoke from the ballot box and stood for the rule of law.

On this day of celebration, all Malawians should be proud of their work to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS. While serving in the Senate, I worked closely with Sen. Frist and Sen. Helms on the bipartisan legislation that became the foundation for PEPFAR. Back then, AIDS was a looming death sentence for the entire African continent. What I saw on my most recent trip to Sub-Saharan Africa would never have seemed possible.

Today, we all hold up Malawi as a model and a leader in this fight. Malawi has saved thousands of men, women, and children from HIV infection with the help of antiretroviral drugs. You are on the front lines of a critical mission: creating an AIDS-free generation.
On this proud occasion, I wish all Malawians a happy National Day.


Hagel Praises Latvia’s Efforts to Boost Defense Spending
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 3, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met at the Pentagon today with Latvia’s Minister of Defense Raimonds Vējonis and congratulated him for the Baltic nation’s progress toward increasing defense spending.

Both leaders also discussed steps that have been taken to demonstrate U.S. and allied commitment to the Baltic region as well as ongoing efforts to provide a persistent presence in the area, ranging from augmented NATO air policing to the deployment of company-size rotational forces to the Baltic states and Poland, according to a statement issued after the meeting by Pentagon Assistant Press Secretary Carl Woog.

Latvia joined NATO on March 29, 2004.

Woog’s statement reads as follows:

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with Latvia’s Minister of Defense Raimonds Vējonis here today. Secretary Hagel congratulated Minister Vējonis on recent progress Latvia has made towards increasing their defense spending.
Among the topics discussed were efforts taken to date to demonstrate U.S. and allied commitment to the Baltic region as well as ongoing efforts to provide persistent presence in the area, ranging from augmented NATO air policing to the deployment of company-size rotational forces to the Baltic states and Poland. Secretary Hagel said we would continue to work with NATO to broaden support -- a focal point of efforts at the NATO Summit.

Finally, Secretary Hagel and Minister Vējonis discussed further opportunities for regional cooperation as discussed in last August’s Baltic Summit at the White House. The secretary stressed that the U.S. will continue to work with the Baltic States to support regional cooperation, interoperability with allies and long-term defense modernization.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Space Station Cameras and Crew Capture Views of Tropical Storm Arthur

Celebrating Independence Day




Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, brief reporters at the Pentagon, July 3, 2014. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Hinton   
By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 3, 2014 – U.S. military efforts in Iraq are focusing on securing the American Embassy and personnel in Baghdad, assessing the situation in the country and advising Iraqi security forces, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today.

Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey briefed the Pentagon press corps, focusing on the U.S. mission and role in Iraq.
Both are important components of President Barack Obama’s strategy in Iraq, the secretary said, which involves supporting Iraqi forces and helping Iraq's leaders resolve the political crisis that enabled the advance of the armed militant extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

“By reinforcing security at the U.S. embassy [and] its support facilities at Baghdad International Airport, we're helping provide our diplomats time and space to work with Sunni, Kurd and Shia political leaders as they attempt to form a new inclusive national unity government,” Hagel told reporters.

By better understanding conditions on the ground and the capabilities of Iraqi security forces, he added, “we'll be better able to help advise them as they combat ISIL forces inside their own country.”

About 200 U.S. military advisers are on the ground in Iraq, said Hagel, noting that the United States, with Iraqi assistance, has established a joint operations center in Baghdad.

“We have personnel on the ground in Erbil where our second joint operations center has achieved initial operating capability … [and] assessment teams are evaluating the capabilities and cohesiveness of Iraqi forces,” the secretary said.
The six U.S. assessment teams are focusing on questions such as the strength and cohesion of the Iraqi security forces, the strength and locations of ISIL, how deeply embedded they are, how each component fits into the larger sectarian dynamic at play in the country, the process of forming a new government in the country, and other material issues, Hagel added.

“Both the chairman and I are getting some assessments back, early assessments, through [U.S. Central Command Commander Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III] who is overseeing all of this,” the secretary said. “We won't have the full complement of all those assessments for a while but that is ongoing.”

The teams in Iraq today have one mission and that is assessments, he added.
“I don't know what the assessments are going to come back and say or what they would recommend. We'll wait to see what that is and what Gen. Austin and Gen. Dempsey then recommend,” the secretary said.

“None of these troops are performing combat missions. None will perform combat missions,” Hagel said.

“The situation in Iraq … is complex and fluid. But there's no exclusively military solution to the threats posed by ISIL,” he added. “Our approach is deliberate and flexible. It is designed to bolster our diplomatic efforts and support the Iraqi people. We will remain prepared to protect our people and our interests in Iraq.”
As most Americans enjoy the Fourth of July holiday weekend, service members around the world, especially in the Middle East, will stay postured and ready for any contingency in that region, the secretary told reporters.

“As we celebrate Independence Day tomorrow, I want to particularly express my gratitude to the men and women and their families who serve our nation at home and abroad, both civilian and in uniform,” Hagel said.

“I thank you all for what you do to keep our country safe every day,” he added.



Photo Caption: nanoparticles-When dry, aluminum nanoparticles look like simple dark gray dust.  LANL photo.
Scientists Ignite Aluminum Water Mix
Combustion mechanism of aluminum nanoparticles and water published in prestigious German chemistry journal

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., June 30, 2014—Don't worry, that beer can you’re holding is not going to spontaneously burst into flames, but under the right circumstances aluminum does catch fire, and the exact mechanism that governs how, has long been a mystery.

Now, new research by Los Alamos National Laboratory explosives scientist Bryce Tappan, published as the cover story in the prestigious German journal of chemistry Angewandte Chemie, for the first time confirms that chemical kinetics — the speed of a chemical reaction — is a primary function in determining nanoaluminum combustion burn rates.

"It's been long understood that nanoscale aluminum particles, 110 nanometers and smaller, are highly reactive. Aluminum particles at this scale have been used in novel explosives, propellants, and pyrotechnic formulations," said Tappan. "The understanding of the combustion mechanism impacts how we look at the design of ever smaller aluminum particles like molecular aluminum clusters as well as possible nanoaluminum applications like hydrogen fuel storage devices — and this might be a little 'out there' — but also energetic formulations that could use extraterrestrial water as the oxidizer in rocket fuel."

Tappan and his co-authors, Matthew Dirmyer of Los Alamos, and Grant Risha of Penn State University, made this discovery by looking for the "kinetic isotope effect" in nanoaluminum particles 110, 80, and 38 nanometers in size. The particles consisted of a "core-shell" structure with an elemental aluminum core and a two to five nanometer oxide shell. The particles are mixed with deionized water, H2O, or deuterium, D2O, to the gooey consistency of cake batter.

The kinetic isotope effect is observed in a chemical reaction when an atom of one of the reactants (water) is substituted with its isotope (deuterium, or "heavy water") and the two reactions are compared for differences. This effect is considered one of the most important tools in determining chemical reaction mechanisms.

Tappan and his team obtained burn rates by putting water/deuterium nanoaluminum mixtures in small glass tubes, placing the tubes in pressure vessels, igniting the nanoaluminum with a laser and taking measurements as the mixture burned.

For many years it’s been proposed that other mechanisms like oxygen diffusion through the particles, or tiny aluminum “explosions” in the mixture might govern the rates of the burning process. “Now we know that reaction kinetics are a major player,” said Tappan.

"Knowing much more about the mechanisms at work in metal combustion gives you a chance to refine the models that govern these reactions," Tappan added. "This fundamental knowledge gives us a window on how to better control these processes."

The research was funded by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program at Los Alamos National Laboratory, with additional funding from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.


Thursday, July 3, 2014



Venezuela's Independence Day

Press Statement
John Kerry

Secretary of State
Washington, DC
July 3, 2014

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Venezuela as you celebrate the 203rd anniversary of your independence.

Our two nations were founded on principles of freedom and equality. Both of our countries fought long, hard wars in order to secure the rights, freedoms, and sovereignty to which all people aspire. And both of our countries still celebrate our visionary founding fathers whose heroism and statesmanship inspire the world to this day: George Washington and Simon Bolivar.

The difficulties and disagreements in our official relationship in recent years do not change the United States’ commitment to the people of Venezuela and our continued support of all Venezuelans as you seek a more democratic, prosperous, and healthy future.



Readout of the Vice President's Call with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

Vice President Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko today to discuss the latest situation in eastern Ukraine and diplomatic efforts to pursue a sustainable ceasefire that would be respected by the separatists and fully supported by Russia, and would allow for the implementation of the peace plan laid out in Poroshenko’s inaugural address. The Vice President underscored that the United States remained focused on Russia’s actions, not its words. The Vice President noted the United States is prepared to impose further costs on Russia if it fails to withdraw its ongoing support for the separatists, including the provision of heavy weapons and materiel across the border.





Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Javelin Joint Venture, Tucson, Arizona, was awarded a $162,445,463 modification (P00007) to a firm-fixed-price, foreign military sales contract (W31P4Q-13-C-0129), to acquire 361 Block 1 tactical missiles and 137 command launch unit retrofits for the U.S. Army; 189 Block 1 tactical missiles and 147 Block 1 tactical missiles for the U.S. Marine Corps; and 20 Block 1 tactical missiles for New Zealand and Jordon. Appropriations from other funds obligated at the time of the award are: fiscal 2014 funds in the amount of $69,022,514; fiscal 2012 funds in the amount of $82,557,016; and fiscal 2010 funds in the amount of $3,674,160. Work will be performed at Tucson, Arizona, with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2014. Army Contracting Command Redstone Arsenal - Missile, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the contracting activity.

Birmingham Industrial Construction and Robins & Morton Joint Venture,* Birmingham, Alabama (W91278-14-D-0058); CTA I, LLC doing business as CTA Builders,* Fort Mill, South Carolina (W91278-14-D-0059); McGoldrick Construction Services Corp.,* San Antonio, Texas (W91278-14-D-0060); Royce Construction Services, LLC,* Reston, Virginia (W91278-14-D-0061); Total Team Construction Services, Inc.,* Tampa, Florida (W91278-14-D-0062); and Valiant Construction, LLC,* Louisville, Kentucky (W91278-14-D-0063), were awarded a $49,000,000 firm-fixed-price multi-year indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity multiple award task order contract for medical facilities repair and construction to support the Army Medical Command, Southern Region, with an estimated completion date of July 3, 2017. Bids were solicited via the Internet with 27 received. Funding and work location will be determined with each order. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile, Alabama, is the contracting activity.


The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Missouri, is being awarded $20,753,552 for delivery order 0201 against a previously issued Basic Ordering Agreement (N00019-11-G-0001) for non-recurring engineering and associated program management, logistics and spares for the AEA-18G aircraft in support of the government of Australia under the Foreign Military Sales Program. Work will be performed in St. Louis, Missouri (79 percent); El Segundo, California (11 percent); Palm Bay, Florida (3 percent); and other locations within the continental United States (7 percent), and work is expected to be completed in September 2017. FMS funds in the amount of $20,753,552 will be obligated at the time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.


Lockheed Martin Corp., Mission Systems & Training, Manassas, Virginia, has been awarded a not-to-exceed $11,645,964 undefinitized, firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, and cost-reimbursement contract. This contract provides contractor logistic support for the Iraqi Integrated Air Defense System. The scope of this effort includes engineering support services, on-site support, logistic management, technical support, preventative/corrective maintenance, and engineering analysis and recommendations for logistical and lifecycle support for the IADS and equipment. Work will be performed at various locations throughout Iraq, and is expected to be completed by June 30, 2015. This award is the result of a directed sole-source, 100 percent foreign military sale for Iraq, and $2,911,491 will be obligated at time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/HBNK, Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, is the contracting activity (FA8730-14-C-0030).


Thales Defense & Security, Inc., Clarksburg, Maryland, has been awarded a maximum $13,437,584 firm-fixed-price contract for purchase of sonar transducers. This contract was a competitive acquisition, and two offers were received. Location of performance is Maryland. This is a three-year base contract with no option periods. Using military service is Navy. Type of appropriation is fiscal 2017 Navy working capital funds. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Aviation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (SPRPA1-14-C-Y048).

*Small business


Chairman Describes U.S. Interests in Iraq
By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 3, 2014 – The United States has sent troops back to Iraq because it is in America’s interest for the country to remain stable and to counter Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told a Pentagon news conference that Iraq’s leaders must form an inclusive government that respects the rights of all groups.
Iraq can and should be a U.S. partner in countering terrorism, Dempsey said. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has captured large sections of the country’s north and west over the past few weeks, is a regional threat, Dempsey said, but could become a transnational and global threat in the future. They have “made some pretty significant and rapid advances.”

Yet “they’re stretched right now,” the chairman said, “stretched to control what they have gained and stretched across their logistics lines of communication.”
There are currently nearly 800 American service members in Iraq, with some protecting the American embassy and other facilities. Other U.S. troops are assessing the situation on the ground and have now opened a second joint operations center in Erbil in northern Iraq after establishing one in Baghdad last month. President Barack Obama ordered up to 300 U.S. special forces to the country last month to provide advice on how best to assist the Iraqi military in their fight against Sunni militants.

Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces have stiffened resistance in face of the militants’ gains.

“I don’t have the assessment teams’ exact language, but some initial insights are that the ISF is stiffening, that they’re capable of defending Baghdad,” Dempsey said.

Iraqi forces would be challenged however, if they went on the offensive against the militants, he added.

Dempsey emphasized the ability of Iraq’s military to defend the country depends on political leaders in Baghdad uniting to form a government of national unity.
In addition, what role the United States will play in Iraq going forward, he said, depends on the conclusions of the U.S. military assessment teams, as well as Iraq’s political progress.

Currently, U.S. advisors in Iraq are not involved in combat operations, Dempsey said, but he did not rule that out.

“If the assessment comes back and reveals that it would be beneficial to this effort and to our national security interests to put the advisors in a different role, I will first consult with the secretary, we will consult with the president,” he said. “We’ll provide that option and we will move ahead.”

Even so, he said U.S. involvement in Iraq does not amount to “mission creep.” Choosing to characterize it instead as “mission match.”

“We will match the resources we apply with the authorities and responsibilities that go with them based on the mission we undertake, and that is to be determined,” the chairman said.


Arthur was upgraded to a Hurricane early this morning and is forecast to move past the North Carolina Outer Banks tonight. Hurricane Watches and Warnings, along with Tropical Storm Watches and Warnings, remain in effect from southeast Virginia to South Carolina. In addition to coastal flooding, dangerous rip currents will impact much of the East Coast through this weekend due to Hurricane Arthur.  Map Credit:  NOAA.



Right:  A trailer operator for Medcenter Container Terminal transfers a container from the M/V Ark Futura, a Danish cargo ship, along the dock to the loading deck of M/V Cape Ray during operations at the Italian port of Gioia Tauro, July 2, 2014. The Cape Ray is tasked with the neutralization of specific chemical materials from Syria in accordance with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons guidelines while operating in international waters. U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Desmond Parks . 

Transfer of Syrian Chemicals to Cape Ray is Complete
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 3, 2014 – The transfer of Syrian chemicals from the Danish container ship Ark Futura to the Motor Vessel Cape Ray has been completed, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Adm. John Kirby said in a statement issued yesterday.

After the transfer was made in the Italian port of Gioia Tauro, Kirby said in the statement, the Cape Ray departed yesterday for international waters in the Mediterranean Sea to employ its onboard system to neutralize the chemicals.
Kirby’s statement reads as follows:

The transfer of Syrian chemicals from the Danish container ship Ark Futura to the Motor Vessel Cape Ray is complete. Cape Ray departed the Italian port of Gioia Tauro this afternoon for international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, where neutralization operations will soon begin. The neutralization process should take several weeks to complete.

Secretary Hagel is grateful to Danish and Italian authorities for their support in this process and is enormously proud of everyone who helped make possible this safe and incident-free transfer. He extends a special thanks to the men and women of the Cape Ray, Naval Forces Europe, and U.S. European Command teams for their impeccable planning and execution.



Remarks by the President on the Economy

Washington, D.C.
11:57 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  So we're going into the 4th of July weekend and what more appropriate place to be than 1776.  (Applause.)   This is an incubator for all sorts of tech startups, a lot of them focused on social change issues, on education, on health care.  And so we've got a range of entrepreneurs who are trying to figure out how can we do well by doing good, in many cases. 
And I just have to say that the young people -- and some not so young people -- (laughter) -- that I spoke to, coming from a wide range of backgrounds -- we had former Army Rangers; we had lawyers; we had former HR folks, transportation experts, engineers -- all of them had the kind of energy and drive and creativity and innovation that has been the hallmark of the American economy.
And part of the reason I wanted to come here today is to focus on what’s happened in the U.S. economy over the last several months and last several years.  We just got a jobs report today showing that we've now seen the fastest job growth in the United States in the first half of the year since 1999.  (Applause.)  So this is also the first time we've seen five consecutive months of job growth over 200,000 since 1999.  (Applause.)  And we've seen the quickest drop in unemployment in 30 years. 
So it gives you a sense that the economy has built momentum, that we are making progress.  We've now seen almost 10 million jobs created over the course of the last 52 months.  And it should be a useful reminder to people all across the country that given where we started back in 2008, we have made enormous strides, thanks to the incredible hard work of the American people and American businesses that have been out there competing, getting smarter, getting more effective.  And it's making a difference all across the country.
Now, what we also know is, as much progress as has been made, there are still folks out there who are struggling.  We still have not seen as much increase in income and wages as we’d like to see.  A lot of folks are still digging themselves out of challenges that arose out of the Great Recession. 
Historically, financial crises take a longer time to recover from.  We've done better than the vast majority of other countries over the last five years, but that drag has still meant a lot of hardship for a lot of folks.  And so it’s really important for us to understand that we could be making even stronger process, we could be growing even more jobs, we could be creating even more business opportunities for smart, talented folks like these if those of us here in Washington were focused on them, focused on you, the American people, rather than focused on politics. 
And I’ve given a number of examples over the last several months of things we know would work if we are investing in rebuilding our infrastructure -- that doesn’t just put construction workers back to work, that puts engineers back to work, that puts landscape architects back to work, it puts folks who are manufacturing concrete or steel back to work.  It makes a difference and it has huge ripple effects all across the economy.
If we are serious about increasing the minimum wage, that puts more money in the pockets of people who are most likely to spend it.  They, in turn, are most likely to hire more people because they now have more customers who are frequenting their businesses.  If we are making sure that there’s equal pay for equal work, that’s helping families all across the country.  If we’re focused on making sure that childcare is accessible and affordable and high-quality, that frees up a whole bunch of potential entrepreneurs, as well as people who are just going to work every single day, doing the right thing, being responsible, but often are hampered by difficult situations in terms of trying to manage parenting and families.
And so there are just a series of specific things we can do right now -- many of them I’m doing on my own because we have the administrative authority to do it, but some of them we can’t do without Congress.  We can’t fix a broken immigration system that would allow incredibly talented folks who want to start businesses here and create jobs here in the United States, would allow them to stay and make those investments.  That’s something that we need Congress to help us on.  (Applause.)  We’re not going to be able to fund the Highway Trust Fund and to ramp up our investment in infrastructure without acts of Congress.
So my hope is, is the American people look at today’s news and understand that, in fact, we are making strides.  We have not seen more consistent job growth since the ‘90s.  But we can make even more progress if Congress is willing to work with my administration and to set politics aside, at least occasionally -- (laughter) -- which I know is what the American people are urgently looking for.
It’s a sort of economic patriotism where you say to yourself, how is it that we can start rebuilding this country to make sure that all of the young people who are here but their kids and their grandkids are going to be able to enjoy the same incredible opportunities that this country offers as we have.  That’s our job.  That’s what we should be focused on.  And it’s worth remembering as we go into Independence Day.
Thanks, everybody.  Appreciate it.  Thanks.  (Applause.)
12:04 P.M. EDT



U.S. soldiers provide security during an air assault mission near Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan's Parwan province, June 21, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Dixie Rae Liwanag.

An Afghan soldier provides security during an air assault mission near Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan's Parwan province, June 21, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Dixie Rae Liwanag.

U.S. soldiers move toward a compound during an air assault mission near Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan's Parwan province, June 21, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Dixie Rae Liwanag.


At the FTC’s Request, Court Halts Collection of Allegedly Fake Payday Debts

Defendants Vowed to Revoke Consumers’ Driver Licenses; Made Other Illegal Threats, FTC Alleges

At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a U.S. district court has halted a Georgia-based operation from using deception and threats to collect $3.5 million in phantom payday loan “debts” that consumers didn’t owe pending trial. The court had previously ordered the defendants’ assets frozen to preserve the possibility that they could be used to provide redress to consumers, and appointed a receiver.

Norcross, Georgia resident John Williams and two companies he controls used a variety of false threats to bully consumers nationwide into paying supposed payday loan debts, the FTC charged. Williams; Williams, Scott & Associates, LLC; and WSA, LLC falsely claimed to be affiliated with federal and state agents, investigators, members of a government fraud task force, and other law enforcement agencies, and pretended to be a law firm, according to the FTC complaint. The defendants also allegedly told consumers their drivers’ licenses were going to be revoked, and that they were criminals facing imminent arrest and imprisonment.

The FTC alleges that many consumers the defendants contacted had inquired about a payday loan online at one time, and submitted contact information, which later found its way into the defendants’ hands.

“Many consumers in this case were victimized twice,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “First when they inquired about payday loans online and their personal information was not properly safeguarded, and later, when they were harassed and intimidated by these defendants, to whom they didn’t owe any money.”

The FTC alleged that the defendants’ tactics violated the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. In addition to the deception and false threats,  the defendants violated federal law by telling consumers’ family members, employers, and co-workers about the debt; failing to identify themselves as debt collectors; using profanity; making repeated inconvenient or prohibited calls; failing to provide information in writing about the debt; and making unauthorized withdrawals from consumers’ bank accounts.

This is the FTC’s sixth recent case charging “phantom debt” scams with law violations.  Other cases include American Credit Crunchers, LLC, Broadway Global Master Inc., Pro Credit Group, Vantage Funding, also known as Caprice Marketing, and Pinnacle Payment Services, LLC.

For more consumer information on this topic, see Dealing with Debt.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division. On May 28, 2014 the court granted the FTC’s request for a temporary restraining order. It granted the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction on June 19, 2014.

NOTE:  The Commission files a 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.  The case will be decided by the court.

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.



Deputy Secretary: Iftar Serves as Reminder of DoD Diversity
By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2014 – In addition to honoring the Muslim faith during Ramadan, the Pentagon’s 16th annual iftar demonstrated the importance of diversity and equality within the Defense Department, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said.

Iftar is the post-sunset breaking of the fast during the Islamic holy month.
Work, who spoke at an iftar held at the Pentagon yesterday, drew attention to the 4,500 Muslim Americans in uniform and the additional 1,000 civilians and contractors who work for the department.

“Ramadan reminds us of our shared responsibility to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves and the basic principles that bind people of different faiths together by yearning for peace, justice and equality,” Work said, citing the words of President Barack Obama.

“Tonight is an opportunity for people of different faiths to come together in the spirit of respect and tolerance to share the richness of our beliefs and to enjoy the traditions of hospitality that are such an important part of the Muslim community,” the deputy secretary said.

He also recognized Gold Star Mother Shibra Khan and guest speaker Georgetown University chaplain Imam Yahya Hendi at the event.

Work reminded attendees that they gathered not only as people of faith, but also as those who have taken the mantle of responsibility in service to the nation and fellow citizens.

“Our country’s founders understood in a visceral way [that] the best way to honor the place of faith in the lives of all Americans was to fight for justice and equality as well as liberty and freedom,” he said. “That is exactly what the men and women both in and out of uniform who serve in the Department of Defense do every single day. They are safeguarding the very ideals deemed so precious by our founding fathers.”

Work noted that religious freedom encompasses soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilian contractors. “The United States’ all-volunteer force is stronger because of the diversity and because of the culture of inclusion that we try to instill in every single person inside the Department of Defense,” he said.

The deputy secretary also said the U.S. military is among the finest not because of its equipment and technology, but because of its people.

“Our nation and our entire military family remain stronger because of the service and sacrifice of people of all faiths, including the thousands of patriotic Muslim Americans who have served and still serve in this long period of war,” Work said. “They continue a long and noble tradition of generations of Muslim Americans who have defended this country.”


Dempsey Discusses Use of Military Instrument of Power
By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

HONOLULU, July 2, 2014 – The nation’s military instrument of power works best when used in conjunction with all aspects of American might, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told the members of the International Forum at the Pacific Club here that the military instrument is powerful, but also nuanced.
The chairman’s speech brought to mind the expression “To the man whose only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” Dempsey said the United States shouldn’t be afraid to use other tools, but that there will be times when the nation will need to drive a nail, and the military provides that option.
The general spoke about the greater implications of the global security environment and how it requires the United States to broadly apply the military instrument of power.

The U.S. military is the most powerful, versatile and sophisticated in history, the chairman said. “It is also one of the most flexible and adaptable tools that our nation has at its disposal and available to our elected leaders,” he added. “It has to be to address the complex world in which we live.”

Mere military presence can shape behavior, the general noted, pointing out that a waiting American military presence can bolster diplomatic initiatives, provide support to partners and allies and deter potential adversaries. The U.S. military can share intelligence, sustain reconnaissance and provide security, he said, and American service members can and do bring relief to disaster areas and provide humanitarian supplies across continents.

The military can do a lot, and it sometimes is the default option for leaders, especially if something needs to be done quickly, Dempsey said.

The chairman said his job is to give civilian elected leaders military options. “I must articulate how our military instrument can be used to provide options and to achieve outcomes that support and protect our nation’s interests,” he explained. “More specifically, I must be clear about what effects our military can and cannot achieve. I must represent how fast we can do it, for how long, at what risk and with what opportunity costs.”

And this can’t be done in a vacuum, he added. “I must also consider how our military action or inaction contributes to or detracts from another important instrument of our national power, and that is America’s enormous power of emulation,” he said.

Dempsey touched on the geographic differences he must consider. In the Asia-Pacific region, he noted, there is a rising tide of nationalism. The region also poised to be the economic engine of the 21st century. “Traditional power-on-power relations will shape the region and ultimately decide if it will achieve its potential,” the chairman said.

Conventional military power will be important in the Asia-Pacific region, Dempsey said. In contrast, he told the audience, the tide of nationalism is receding in the Middle East and North Africa at a remarkable rate. “We see the norms of statehood being superseded by centuries-old religious, ethnic and tribal tensions,” he said. “As the region wobbles along a fault time that extends from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad, state power continues to ebb.”

Using conventional military power in that environment rarely yields expected results, the chairman noted. “Finding ways to deal with this paradox is one of the many challenges before us,” he said.

Continuing the nautical metaphor, the chairman said Europe appears to be at slack tide, with a desire for greater unity on one hand and an instinct for national self-interest on the other. Europe faces transnational extremist threats along its southern flank, the general said, and Russia is flexing its might and stoking ethnic impulses along Eastern Europe’s periphery.

“Europe is approaching an inflection point where decisions to follow either the instinct for collective interests or individual interests could transform that region into a very dangerous operational theater,” Dempsey said.

Terrorism, extremist groups and crime syndicates threaten stability, he said. Added to this is cyber, which Dempsey called “the fastest growing, least understood and potentially the most perilous factor that connects us all.”
“We must understand how this affects all our instruments of power,” he said.
Given all this, the chairman told the audience, the military exists to provide options, and those options fall into two categories: insurance and assurance.
The military is America’s insurance policy, the nation’s top military officer said. “Our most fundamental task is to protect the homeland and our citizens,” he added. “We keep the nation immune from coercion.”

The U.S. military must be prepared to take direct combat action at any time, in any place, against any adversary, Dempsey said. “Our adversaries rightly fear our dominance in the air, on the ground and from the sea,” he added. “When all our options remain on the table, our ability to change the course of events is indisputably superior to any other nation.”

The U.S. military also assures allies, he said, as the presence of U.S. service members provides reassurance to allies and deters enemies.
It’s in this second category -- assurance -- where most of the challenges reside today, the general said. The United States does not face an existential threat as it did during the Cold War, he added, and now allies are seeking assurances.
In the last month, Dempsey has visited Afghanistan, NATO headquarters in Belgium, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. In each place, he told the audience, there is a growing demand for U.S. assurances against an increasing number of threats. “There is an increasing appetite for our leadership to help maintain the international order,” he said.
“Frankly, our ability to provide this assurance is at risk, due to a growing deficit between supply and demand,” the chairman added. “Each action comes with greater opportunity costs -- that is the trade-off of some other action somewhere else due to constrained resources. Each choice requires us to assess and accept increasing risks with eyes wide open. This supply/demand imbalance demands that we bring our military instrument of power back into balance with itself.”
The U.S. military will get smaller, Dempsey said, but it is important it become more agile, more lethal and balanced.

“We want to become more predictable to allies, more confusing to adversaries,” he said.


Walking can recharge the spirit, but what about our phones?

Device captures energy from walking to recharge wireless gadgets
Smartphones, tablets, e-readers, not to mention wearable health and fitness trackers, smart glasses and navigation devices--today's population is more plugged in than ever before.

But our reliance on devices is not problem-free:

Wireless gadgets require regular recharging. While we may think we've cut the cord, we remain reliant on outlets and charging stations to keep our devices up and running.
According to a 2009 report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), consumer electronics and information and communication technologies currently account for nearly 15 percent of global residential electricity consumption. What's more, the IEA expects energy consumptions by these devices to double by 2022 and to triple by 2030--thereby slowly but surely adding to the burden on our power infrastructure.
With support from the National Science Foundation, a team of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology may have a solution to both problems: They're developing a new, portable, clean energy source that could change the way we power mobile electronics: human motion.

Led by material scientist Zhong Lin Wang, the team has created a backpack that captures mechanical energy from the natural vibration of human walking and converts it into electrical energy. This technology could revolutionize the way we charge small electronic devices, and thereby reduce the burden of these devices on non-renewable power sources and untether users from fixed charging stations.

Smaller, lighter, more energy efficient

Wearable generators that convert energy from the body's mechanical potential into electricity are not new, but traditional technologies rely on bulky or fragile materials. By contrast, Wang's backpack contains a device made from thin, lightweight plastic sheets, interlocked in a rhombic grid. (Think of the collapsible cardboard containers that separate a six pack of fancy soda bottles.)

As the wearer walks, the rhythmic movement that occurs as his/her weight shifts from side to side causes the inside surfaces of the plastic sheets to touch and then separate, touch and then separate. The periodic contact and separation drives electrons back and forth, producing an alternating electric current. This process, known as the triboelectrification effect, also underlies static electricity, a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has ever pulled a freshly laundered fleece jacket over his or her head in January.

But the key to Wang's technology is the addition of highly charged nanomaterials that maximize the contact between the two surfaces, pumping up the energy output of what Wang calls the triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG).

"The TENG is as efficient as the best electromagnetic generator, and is lighter and smaller than any other electric generators for mechanical energy conversion," says Wang. "The efficiency will only improve with the invention of new advanced materials."

Charging on the go

In the laboratory, Wang's team showed that natural human walking with a load of 2 kilograms, about the weight of a 2-liter bottle of soda, generated enough power to simultaneously light more than 40 commercial LEDs (which are the most efficient lights available).

Wang says that the maximum power output depends on the density of the surface electrostatic charge, but that the backpack will likely be able to generate between 2 and 5 watts of energy as the wearer walks--enough to charge a cell phone or other small electronic device.

The researchers anticipate that this will be welcome news to outdoor enthusiasts, field engineers, military personnel and emergency responders who work in remote areas.

As far as Wang and his colleagues are concerned however, human motion is only one potential source for clean and renewable energy. In 2013, the team demonstrated that it was possible to use TENGs to extract energy from ocean waves.

The research report, "Harvesting Energy from the Natural Vibration of Human Walking", was published in the journal ACS Nano on November 1, 2013.

-- Valerie Thompson, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow
Zhong Wang
Related Institutions/Organizations
Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center: Advancing Technology and Scien...



Statement by the President on the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

In 1964, President Johnson put pen to paper and signed the Civil Rights Act into law.  Fifty years later, few pieces of legislation have defined our national identity as distinctly, or as powerfully.  By outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, the Civil Rights Act effectively ended segregation in schools, workplaces, and public facilities.  It opened the door for the Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act.  And it transformed the concepts of justice, equality, and democracy for generations to come.
The Civil Rights Act brought us closer to making real the declaration at the heart of our founding – that we are all created equal.  But that journey continues.  A half a century later, we’re still working to tear down barriers and put opportunity within reach for every American, no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they come from.  So as we celebrate this anniversary and the undeniable progress we’ve made over the past 50 years, we also remember those who have fought tirelessly to perfect our union, and recommit ourselves to making America more just, more equal and more free.





Lockheed Martin Corporation, Orlando, Florida, was awarded a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for an amount not to exceed $200,000,000 for the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile Accelerated Acquisition program. Work will be performed at: Orlando/Melbourne, Florida; Troy, Alabama; Nashua, New Hampshire; Boulder, Colorado; and Cincinnati, Ohio, with an expected completion date of July 6, 2016. Fiscal 2014 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $33,000,000 are being obligated at time of award. This contract was a sole-source acquisition. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Arlington, Virginia, is the contracting activity (HR0011-14-C-0079).


Zieson Construction Co. LLC, Riverside, Missouri (W912DQ-14-D-4000); Lavastida Development Group, Wichita, Kansas (W912DQ-14-D-4001); Blackhawk Constructors, San Antonio, Texas (W912DQ-14-D-4002); (Hanke Construction, Wentzville, Missouri W912DQ-14-D-4003); Ruiz-Tidewater JV, San Antonio, Texas (W912DQ-14-D-4004); and HGL Construction, Inc., Midwest City, Oklahoma (W912DQ-14-D-4005), were awarded a $49,000,000 firm-fixed-price multiple award multi-year contract to provide design and building services or construction to support military construction and design-build projects within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District. Bids were solicited via the Internet with 25 received. Funding and work location will be determined with each order with an estimated completion date of July 1, 2017. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City, Missouri, is the contracting activity.

Alliant Techsystems Operations, LLC, Plymouth, Minnesota, was awarded a $23,005,070 modification (P00053) to contract W15QKN-10-C-0050 for a low rate initial production of the M829E4 120mm armor-piercing, fin-stabilized, discarding sabot, with tracer cartridge. Fiscal 2014 other procurement funds in the amount of $23,005,070 were obligated at the time of the award. Estimated completion date is June 30, 2015. Work will be performed at Plymouth, Minnesota; Jonesborough, Tennessee; Orange, California; Cabot Pennsylvania; Radford, Virginia; Elkton, Maryland; and Rocket City, West Virginia. Army Contracting Command, Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, is the contracting activity.
Carothers Construction, Inc., Oxford, Mississippi, was awarded a $15,630,000 firm-fixed-price contract with options to construct a 36,000 square foot regional simulation center to include a controlled area, simulation communication rooms, simulation suites, secure communication infrastructure, network distribution nodes, operation centers, work cells, classrooms and administrative offices. Work will be performed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, with an estimated completion date of April 22, 2016. Bids were solicited via the Internet with five received. Fiscal 2014 military construction funds in the amount of $15,630,000 are being obligated at the time of the award. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City, Missouri, is the contracting activity (W912DQ-14-C-4008).

ChemImage Bio Threat LLC*, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was awarded a $13,000,000 firm-fixed-price contract to procure the enhancement, testing, and delivery of vehicle mounted Light Guard Mercury explosive detection systems. Work will be performed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with an estimated completion date of July 1, 2015. One bid was solicited with one received. Fiscal 2014 other procurement funds in the amount of $6,370,000 are being obligated at the time of the award. Army Contracting Command, Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, is the contracting activity (W15QKN-14-C-0059).

Northrop Grumman, Herndon, Virginia, was awarded a $10,844,000 modification (P00031) to foreign military sales (Afghanistan) contract W31P4Q-11-D-0019 to provide tactical support of the Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) Program Office including field level engineering, field level technical support, reset support, logistics support, training support and technical manuals. Funding and work location will be determined with each order. Estimated completion date is Jan. 2, 2015. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the contracting activity.

Academi Training Center, Moyock, North Carolina, was awarded a $7,384,413 modification (P00006) to contract W560MY-12-C-0006 for a five-month partial exercise of option year two providing private security services at Forward Operating Base Dwyer, Afghanistan. Fiscal 2014 operations and maintenance (Army) funds in the amount of $7,384,413 were obligated at the time of the award. Estimated completion date is Oct. 31, 2014. Work will be performed in Afghanistan. Army Contracting Command, Rock Island, Illinois, is the contracting activity.


Safe Boats International, LLC*, Bremerton, Washington, is being awarded a $34,518,536 firm-fixed-price contract for the construction of four MK VI Patrol Boats. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the total cumulative value of this contract to $52,295,843. Work will be performed in Tacoma, Washington (82 percent); Kent, Washington (7 percent); Wichita, Kansas (6 percent); New Zealand (3 percent); and in Canada and Berwick, Louisiana (less than 2 percent), and is expected to be completed by March 2018. Fiscal 2013 and 2014 National Guard and Reserve Component equipment account funds in the amount of $34,518,536 will be obligated at the time of award. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Under FAR Part 8.405-6 (a)(1)(i)(C) the new work is a logical follow on to an original Federal Supply Schedule delivery order, number N00024-l2-F-2223. The original order was placed competitively in accordance with the applicable Federal Supply Schedule ordering procedures. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity (N00024-14-C-2230).

Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, is being awarded a $29,574,329 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-incentive-fee contract (N00019-02-C-3002) to define the tasks required to update the F-35 Lightening II Joint Strike Fighter Air System to be in compliance with informational security functional constraints. Work will be performed in Orlando, Florida (70 percent) and Fort Worth, Texas (30 percent), and is expected to be completed in January 2017. No funds are being obligated at time of award. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.

Ensign-Bickford Aerospace and Defense, Simsbury, Connecticut, is being awarded a $20,777,054 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the purchase of MK 165, MK 166, MK 167, MK 168, and MK 169 detonators in support of U.S. Special Operations Command. Work will be performed in Graham, Kentucky, and work is expected to be completed by July 2019. Fiscal 2014 defense procurement funds in the amount of $316,007 will be obligated at the time of award. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Federal Business Opportunities website, with one offer received. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, Crane, Indiana, is the contracting activity (N00164-14-D-JR02).

General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems Inc., Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is being awarded a $20,210,437 cost-plus-incentive-fee modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-09-C-6246) to migrate the AN/BYG-1 Weapons Control System from a Technology Insertion (TI-14) baseline to a TI-16, integrate Advanced Processing Build (APB-13 and APB-15), and deliver this capability in multiple variants to multiple submarine platforms. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy (86.36 percent) and the Royal Australian Navy (13.64 percent), under the Armament Cooperative Project. Work will be performed in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and is expected to be completed by June 2015. Fiscal 2013 and 2014 research, development, test and evaluation funds; fiscal 2012 and 2014 other procurement (Navy)funds; Armament Cooperative Project funds; and fiscal 2010 and 2011 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) contract funds in the amount of $3,297,231 will be obligated at the time of award, and $1,530 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity.
Accenture Federal Services, LLC, Arlington, Virginia, is being awarded $8,701,870 for delivery order 0007 under a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00104-13-D-QA04) for finance and audit business integration contractor support for the Navy Enterprise Resource Planning efforts. This contract contains a one year option, which, if exercised, will bring the contract value to $17,387,160. All work will be performed in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and the expected completion date is June 30, 2015. If the option is exercised, work will continue through June 30, 2016. Navy working capital funds and fiscal 2014 operations and maintenance (Navy) funds will be used on the contract. Fiscal 2014 operations and maintenance (Navy) funds in the amount $6,000,000 will be obligated at the time of award and will expire before the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, and three offers were received in response to this solicitation. The NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Norfolk, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, office is the contracting activity.

* Small Business



Abduction and Murder of Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
July 2, 2014

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the despicable and senseless abduction and murder of Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir. It is sickening to think of an innocent 17 year old boy snatched off the streets and his life stolen from him and his family. There are no words to convey adequately our condolences to the Palestinian people.

The authorities are investigating this tragedy, a number of Israeli and Palestinian officials have condemned it, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has been emphatic in calling for all sides “not to take the law into their own hands”. Those who undertake acts of vengeance only destabilize an already explosive and emotional situation. We look to both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take all necessary steps to prevent acts of violence and bring their perpetrators to justice. The world has too often learned the hard way that violence only leads to more violence and at this tense and dangerous moment, all parties must do everything in their power to protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not recrimination and retribution.



White House Report: Missed Opportunities and the Consequences of State Decisions Not to Expand Medicaid

 Today, the Council of Economic Advisers released a report, Missed Opportunities: The Consequences of State Decisions Not to Expand Medicaid, which details the effects of state decisions regarding Medicaid expansion on access to care, financial security, overall health and well-being of residents, and state economies. 
The Affordable Care Act has expanded high‐quality, affordable health insurance coverage to millions of Americans. One important way in which the Affordable Care Act is expanding coverage is by providing generous financial support to States that opt to expand Medicaid eligibility to all non‐elderly individuals in families with incomes below 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
To date, 26 States and the District of Columbia have seized this opportunity, and since the beginning of the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period, 5.2 million people have gained Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage in these States, a tally that will grow in the months and years ahead as Medicaid enrollment continues. In contrast, 24 States have not yet expanded Medicaid—including many of the States that would benefit most and sometimes because State legislatures have defied even their own governors—and denied health insurance coverage to millions of their citizens. Researchers at the Urban Institute estimate that, if these States do not change course, 5.7 million people will be deprived of health insurance coverage in 2016. Meanwhile, these States will forgo billions in Federal dollars that could boost their economies.
This analysis uses the best evidence from the economics and health policy literatures to quantify several important consequences of States’ decisions not to expand Medicaid. That evidence, which is based primarily on careful analysis of the effects of past policy decisions, is necessarily an imperfect guide to the future, and the actual effects of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act could be larger or smaller than the estimates presented below. However, this evidence is clear that the consequences of States’ decisions are far‐reaching, with implications for the health and well‐being of their citizens, their economies, and the economy of the Nation as a whole.



Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks with service members during a town hall on Fort Shafter, Hawaii, June 30, 2014. Dempsey told U.S. Army Pacific soldiers that he hopes the military services can retain their own unique field uniforms, adding that having separate military services brings perspectives to the table that are the epitome of “jointness.” DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Hinton.  

World Faces Confused Security Environment, Chairman Says
By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii, July 1, 2014 – The world faces a confused security environment, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday, but the United States can deal with it.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told soldiers of U.S. Army Pacific during an all-hands call that it is the right time and the right thing to rebalance U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific theater.

Different areas of the world mean different security situations, the chairman explained.

“In this region of the world, there’s a rising sense of nationalism among the countries,” the chairman said. “The effort and intent of China to emerge on the world stage presents a different type of security challenge.”

In the Middle East, he told the soldiers, nationalism is breaking down amid fragmentation of national identity and the emergence of extremist groups.
The situation in Europe is somewhere between that in Asia and the Middle East, the general said. “There’s a group of nations trying to pull Europe together with organizations like NATO and the European Union,” he added, but he noted that in parts of Europe, there’s also a countervailing trend to see things in terms of national interests and ethnic identities.

Worldwide, Dempsey said, the security environment is confused. “It’s something we have to address,” he added. “You take the world as you find it, not as you hope it to be. And fortunately, we’ve got a great group of leaders and men and women in uniform that are willing to do just that.”

This security environment means the U.S. military must be prepared for different operations in different parts of the world, the nation’s top military officer said. “In this region, it is nations competing with other nations,” Dempsey said. “In the Middle East, it is about groups who don’t even care about borders competing with each other. In Europe, it is something in-between. That makes it very difficult to understand how to build the force.”

In the Asia-Pacific region, the threat of conventional conflict -- nation versus nation -- is higher than anywhere else, he said. In the Middle East, the risk is the long campaign against global terrorism.

“The use of military power in the Middle East is very much different than it would be if something broke out in the Pacific,” Dempsey said. “In Europe is a new challenge with Russian aggressiveness and assertiveness that we are trying to shape through NATO.”

American service members need to be ready to confront a myriad of threats, Dempsey said. “I wouldn’t put away your field manuals that describe how to do maneuver and combined arms effects and traditional conflict,” the chairman said. “It’s probably a little early. We need to do both.”

The Asia-Pacific region has many security interests for the United States -- so many interests and implications for the region and the world, the chairman said, that the U.S. rebalance really is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.
South Asia and Southeast Asia alone have 17 percent of the world’s land mass, he noted, but 50 percent of its population.

“Frankly, the distractions we are facing elsewhere shouldn’t distract from our interests and to posture ourselves better in the Pacific,” Dempsey said.



If you’re trying to make ends meet, here’s a pitch that might catch your interest:

“Convert tomorrow’s pension checks into hard cash today.”

Sound tempting? Think again. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, advises consumers that pension advances, also known as pension sales, loans, or buyouts, come at a very steep price.

Most pension advances require you to sign over all or some of your monthly pension checks for five to 10 years. The lump sum payment you get in return is less than the pension payments you sign over, so you’re signing over money you need to live on. And pension advances often require retirees to buy a life insurance policy – with the pension advance company as the beneficiary – to insure that the repayments continue.

Pension Advances: Not So Fast

“Convert tomorrow’s pension checks into hard cash today.”
If you’re looking for a way to generate cash to make ends meet, a pitch like this may pique your interest. But before you sign on the dotted line, it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into.

Pension advances, also known as pension sales, loans, or buyouts, require you to sign over all or some of your monthly pension checks for a period of time — typically five to 10 years. In return, you get a lump sum payment, less than the pension payments you sign over. So, unlike other types of cash advances or loans, taking out a pension advance means signing over money you need to live on.

Pension advances aren’t cheap: The transactions often include fees that can push the effective annual percentage rate (APR), the cost of credit on a yearly basis, over 100%. In addition, retirees often are required to buy a life insurance policy — with the pension advance company named as the beneficiary — to insure that the repayments continue.

Questions to Ask

If you’re considering a pension advance loan, get answers to the following questions:

Are you eligible? Depending on the type of pension you have, you may not be able to sign it over. It might be against the law. Check with your pension administrator for details.

What are the costs? Be aware of all costs and fees. Ask for the APR, which is based on several things, including the amount you borrow, the interest rate and credit costs you’re being charged, and the length of your contract. This information may not be disclosed in ads or contracts, so it’s important to ask and get it in writing. In addition, there may be other costs or fees, including commissions and life insurance.

Do you have to buy life insurance? Some pension advance companies may require you to buy a life insurance policy naming them as beneficiary. If you die before all the payments you assigned have been received, funds will be paid out from the life insurance policy to cover any remaining balance.

What are the tax implications? Getting a large lump sum can put you in a higher tax bracket. Consult with a tax advisor for information and advice.

Can you cancel the transaction? Maybe not. Some pension advance companies might not let you cancel once you’ve completed the deal. Make sure you ask the company about its cancellation policy, before you sign the contract, so you know what you’re getting into.

Are there complaints about the company? Your local consumer protection agency, state Attorney General's Office, and the Better Business Bureau can tell you whether any complaints have been filed about a company. Just keep in mind that a lack of complaints doesn’t mean the business is on the up-and-up. You may want to do an internet search with the name of the company and words like review, scam, or complaint. Look through several pages of search results. And check out articles about the company in newspapers, magazines, or online, as well.
Alternatives to Pension Advances

Before you decide to take an advance against your pension, weigh your options.

Consider a small loan from your credit union or a small loan company. Some banks may offer short-term loans for small amounts at competitive rates. A cash advance on a credit card also may be possible, but it may have a higher interest rate than other sources of funds: find out the terms before you decide. In any case, shop first and compare all available offers.

Shop for the offer with the lowest cost. Compare the APR and the finance charges, which includes loan fees, interest and other costs.

If you’re considering a pension advance because you’re having trouble paying your bills, contact your creditors or loan servicer as quickly as possible and ask for more time. Many may be willing to work with consumers whom they believe are acting in good faith. They may offer an extension on your bills; make sure to find out what the charges would be for that service — a late charge, an additional finance charge, or a higher interest rate.

Contact your local, non-profit consumer credit counseling service if you need help working out a debt repayment plan with creditors or developing a budget. These groups offer credit guidance to consumers in every state for no or low cost.


Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels Speaks at “Celebrating Our History & Commissioning Our Future: a Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964”
Milwaukee ~ Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Thank you for that kind introduction.  I’d like to thank United States Attorney James Santelle for inviting me to speak today and for the remarkable work that this office does to protect the civil rights of those in the Milwaukee community and across the Eastern District of Wisconsin.  Just last month, the Civil Rights Division worked hand-in-hand with the Eastern District’s talented team to prosecute a Milwaukee man for sex trafficking.  Thanks to this close collaboration we were able to secure guilty pleas on five counts.

I’d also like to thank the cosponsors of today’s event – the NAACP Milwaukee Chapter, the Milwaukee Urban League and Centro Hispanico – both for their support of this event and for all of their work to advance the cause of civil rights.  Finally, thank you to all of you who came here today to celebrate this milestone in the continued fight for equality under the law.

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  With its landmark protections against discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and religion, the act ended the era of legal segregation in America, relegating the age of Jim Crow to the history books.  As he prepared to sign the bill, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced the goal of the law – to ensure that all should “be equal in the polling booths, in the classrooms, in the factories, and in hotels, restaurants, movie theaters and other places that provide service to the public.”

Prior to the passage of the act, there were no effective federal protections against discrimination based on race.  No effort to accommodate language minorities.  No federal protections for Americans with disabilities.  Elite colleges and universities set quotas capping admission of women or prohibited them from attending altogether.  African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Asian-Americans were excluded from hospitals, restaurants and theaters.

Thankfully, in the decades since the passage of the Civil Rights Act, there is no doubt that we as a country have come a long way.  The act laid the groundwork for other critical federal civil rights statutes, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  Many of the rights for which civil rights pioneers fought, bled and gave their lives are now guaranteed by law.

Yet civil rights is not an issue for the history books.  Sixty years after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, too many children remain in segregated schools or are denied equal access to advanced courses.  Students are disciplined unfairly due to their race or separated by race in prom and homecoming events.  Discrimination in employment and housing contributes to social inequalities.  LGBT Americans continue to face discrimination and animus.  And for too many, the right to vote is still not effectively guaranteed.

Fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Civil Rights Division’s robust caseload remains a stark reminder that too many in our nation continue to face barriers to equal opportunity.  As we contemplate a half-century of progress—and look to the work that remains—the Civil Rights Division does not waver in its responsibility to address both longstanding and emerging civil rights challenges.

Five decades after its passage, the Civil Rights Act continues to touch the lives of Americans across the country – and to serve as a potent tool for combating discrimination.  The Civil Rights Division maintains nearly 200 long-standing desegregation cases where we strive to ensure that Brown’s promise is realized in all aspects of a school district’s operations.  We aggressively enforce Title VII to ensure equal opportunity in the workplace.  In March, for example, the Department of Justice reached a settlement with the city of New York to resolve allegations that New York’s fire department discriminated against African-American and Hispanic applicants through its entry-level test.  The division uses Title VI of the act to work with court systems across the country to ensure that people with limited English proficiency are not denied equal justice.  And the Civil Rights Act’s core principle of equality under the law animates the work of the Civil Rights Division to the present day.

The Civil Rights Division is committed to eliminating crimes of hate, as true legal equality necessitates a freedom from fear.  The ability to live safely in one’s community is one of the most basic civil rights.  Throughout a diverse nation like ours, we all must be able to live and work without fear of being attacked because of how we look, what we believe, where we come from or whom we love.
The Milwaukee Sikh community recognizes this reality all too well.  Two years ago, a gunman fatally shot six people who were gathered in prayer at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek.  Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the memorial service on behalf of the President of the United States, saying:
“In the recent past, too many Sikhs have been targeted and victimized simply because of who they are, how they look and what they believe.
“This is wrong.  It is unacceptable.  And it will not be tolerated.  We must ask necessary questions of ourselves: what kind of nation do we truly want to have?  Will we muster the courage to demand more of those who lead us and, just as importantly, of ourselves?  What will we do to prevent that which has brought us here today from occurring in the future?”

Today, as we near the two year anniversary of the attack, and remember those who lost their lives, I can promise you that the Justice Department will continue to combat hate crimes wherever they occur.

Last week, I visited Philadelphia, Mississippi, to mark the 50th anniversary of the murders of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman – civil rights workers who were killed while investigating a church burning as part of the Freedom Summer movement.  In 1964, when the state declined to prosecute their murderers, then-Assistant Attorney General John Doar flew down to personally investigate.  He pursued the investigation relentlessly, and ultimately convicted Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price, Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard Samuel Bowers and five others for that cold-blooded murder.

Today, the Civil Rights Division continues to seek justice for the hate crimes of the 1960s: in 2003, a Civil Rights Division attorney working alongside the United States Attorney’s office in Jackson, Mississippi, successfully convicted former Klansman Ernest Avants for the 1966 murder of an African-American sharecropper named Ben Chester White.  In 2007, a Civil Rights Division attorney working alongside the same United States Attorney’s Office successfully convicted former Klansman James Ford Seale for the murders of 19-year-olds Charles Moore and Henry Dee.

In recent years, the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act has greatly increased the federal government’s ability to prosecute hate crimes.  Signed by President Obama in 2009, the act removed unnecessary jurisdictional obstacles in previous federal criminal laws that made the prosecution of certain racial and religious hate crimes unduly difficult.  It also empowers the department, for the first time, to prosecute crimes committed because of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender or disability as hate crimes.  Since 2009, we have used this law to indict individuals in 28 hate crimes cases, including at least eight cases involving attacks on LGBT individuals, and the first ever hate crimes case involving the abuse of individuals with disabilities.

The division’s expanded ability to prosecute hate crimes reflects our effort to address the civil rights challenges of the 21st century.  To name but a few, these challenges include addressing racial disparities in school discipline, defending the rights of LGBT Americans, combating discrimination in both housing and in lending, ensuring the fair treatment of youth in the juvenile justice system and defending the right to vote in the 21st century.

Sixty years ago, in his opinion in Brown v. Board of Education, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, “it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education.”  Yet nearly six decades after this landmark decision, considerable work remains to provide equal educational opportunities to all of our nation’s students.

In recent months, we have devoted considerable resources to addressing a modern form of school exclusion: disparities in school discipline.  Too often, the effects of school discipline policies are not felt equally—students of color and those with disabilities receive more severe punishments than their peers for comparable misbehavior.

Last year, a division investigation into disciplinary practices in the Meridian, Mississippi, public school system found that black students frequently received far harsher disciplinary consequences than white students for comparable misbehavior.  A minor school discipline offense should not land a student in a police precinct.  In too many cases, the adverse effects of this early interaction with the juvenile or criminal justice systems can be permanent, depriving those caught up in the system of opportunities for educational advancement, employment, access to housing and even the right to vote.

With the cooperation of the Meridian School Board, the division entered into a first-of-its-kind settlement to prevent and address racial discrimination in school discipline.  Under the consent decree, the district will provide students with supports and interventions before excluding them from school; establish clear guidelines for the limited and extremely serious circumstances when law enforcement intervention is appropriate; and ensure that discipline consequences are fair and consistent.

Earlier this year, the Departments of Justice and Education released guidance to public schools across the country on their obligations to administer student discipline without discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin.  This guidance provides templates for schools to adopt effective disciplinary practices that avoid discrimination and take steps to keep all students in school.  Through technical assistance documents like the discipline guidance, the Civil Rights Division attempts to ensure that our schools receive the support they need to keep young people in the classroom and out of the criminal justice system.

Additionally, the Civil Rights Division has achieved significant victories in its efforts to defend the rights of LGBT students.  Students cannot learn if they are afraid to go to school.  Students cannot learn if they are being harassed and threatened.  Students cannot learn if they feel that school administrators don’t or won’t protect them.

In a speech earlier this year, Attorney General Holder called LGBT rights one of the “civil rights challenges of our time.”  And under his leadership, the Civil Rights Division has demonstrated its commitment to ensuring that our schools foster safe and nurturing learning environments for all students, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In 2010, working with the Department of Education, the Civil Rights Division began investigating a complaint that the learning environment in the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota was unsafe and unwelcoming for students who did not conform to gender stereotypes, including LGBT students.  Many students reported being harassed because they did not dress or act in ways that conform to gender stereotypes.  Some students faced threats, physical violence, derogatory language or other forms of harassment every day at school.  Several of these students stopped attending school; a few even contemplated or attempted suicide.

In 2012, the division reached a landmark settlement with the Anoka-Hennepin school district to address this harassment.  The consent decree systemically reforms the district’s policies and practices related to harassment, and we hope it will serve as a blueprint for other districts who wish to accommodate their students’ needs.

Additionally, in 2013, the division and the Department of Education entered into a first-of-its-kind settlement agreement with the Arcadia Unified School District to resolve allegations of discrimination against a transgender student based on the student’s sex.  The student’s gender identity is male, and he has presented as a boy at school and in all other aspects of his life for several years.  Yet prior to the agreement, the district prohibited the student from accessing facilities consistent with his male gender identity—including restrooms and locker rooms at school as well as sex-specific overnight accommodations at a school-sponsored trip.  Under the agreement, the district will treat the student like other male students in all activities, and it will also adopt policies to ensure nondiscrimination for all students going forward.

Through our enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the division works hard to prevent discrimination on the basis of disability status.  Work is a fundamental part of adult life for people with and without disabilities.  It provides a sense of purpose, shaping who we are and how we fit into our community.  Meaningful work – being a contributing part of society – is essential to economic self-sufficiency, as well as self-esteem and well-being.  That’s why the division works hard to ensure implementation of the Supreme Court’s landmark Olmstead v. L.C. decision, which made clear the right of individuals with disabilities to live and receive services in their communities rather than in institutions or other segregated settings.  Our Olmstead enforcement work from 2009 to 2014 has helped protect the rights of over 46,000 people with disabilities, ensuring they will have the opportunity to participate fully in their communities.  In Fiscal Year 2013, the division continued its strong track record on this issue, participating in 18 Olmstead matters across the country.  These cases have benefitted people of all ages and all types of disabilities.

In April of this year, the Justice Department reached a settlement with the state of Rhode Island on behalf of more than 3,000 Rhode Islanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Prior to this year, the vast majority of these Rhode Islanders were consigned to sheltered workshops, where they rarely had contact with people without disabilities, performed rote menial tasks and were paid well below the minimum wage.  These workers were capable of working integrated jobs within their communities, and yet were unauthorized to do so.  This unnecessary segregation was harmful, both to those directly affected and to the community as a whole.

In response, the Justice Department, the state of Rhode Island and the business community came together to embrace real integration of people with disabilities – committing to make the state a model for others to follow.

As a result of this settlement, Rhode Islanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities will have opportunities to work real jobs with competitive wages.  State funding previously used for segregated, separate day programs will be re-directed to provide integrated options for non-work hours.  And students with disabilities will get transition services starting at age 14 so that when they leave school, they can transition into the work force.

This settlement is already improving the lives of Rhode Islanders.  For 30 years, a Rhode Island man with disabilities named Steven did what millions of Americans do every day: he got up and reported to work.  But for most of Steven's life, he had little choice other than to work in a sheltered workshop where he earned $2 an hour.  Steven didn’t expect to spend 30 years working there – even the name of the program, “Training Thru Placement,” suggested that a brighter future lay ahead.  But a lack of employment services and supports kept Steven in a segregated low-wage work environment.  Now, Steven has transitioned to an integrated office setting, where he earns minimum wage and has been receiving computer training.

A young man named Pedro, who spent his high school years unpacking and sorting buttons, was forced on graduation to take a sheltered workshop job paying just 48 cents an hour.  Now, he is working in a restaurant, where he was recently named employee of the month.  His progress has been so rapid that he no longer needs a job coach – instead, he helps his former coach assist other employees with disabilities.  These stories illustrate the transformative power of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Olmstead decision; the Civil Rights Division is proud to continue to build on their promises.

Let me turn to access to housing, which stands at the heart of the American dream.  A family’s access to housing determines far more than whether they have a roof over their heads—it affects their access to good schools, to transportation and to jobs.  Ensuring that local governments and private housing providers offer safe and affordable housing on a non-discriminatory basis has been a division priority for decades.  But in 2014, a family’s access to housing is almost always linked to its access to credit.  That’s why the division has maintained its robust fair housing enforcement efforts while also reinvigorating its efforts to ensure that all qualified borrowers have equal access to fair and responsible lending.

Since its creation in 2010, the division’s Fair Lending Unit has obtained more than $1 billion in monetary relief for impacted communities—sending a clear message that financial institutions of all sizes will be held accountable for lending discrimination whenever and wherever it occurs.

While many communities nationwide were devastated during the housing and foreclosure crises, African-American and Latino families were hit especially hard.  Across the country, the division found cases where qualified African-American and Latino families paid more for loans because of their race or national origin, or were steered to more expensive and risky subprime loans.  We also found some lenders who failed to offer credit in African-American and Latino communities on an equal basis with white communities.

Two weeks ago, the division joined the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to announce an $169 million settlement with GE Retail Capital Bank, recently renamed to Synchrony.  The bank engaged in a nationwide pattern or practice of discrimination by excluding Hispanic borrowers from two of its credit card debt-repayment programs.  The bank offered credit relief to its cardholders, but denied that relief to borrowers who requested information in Spanish, or who had mailing addresses in Puerto Rico.  Lending discrimination in any form is unacceptable, and this settlement – the largest credit card discrimination settlement in history – was an important victory in the fight for equal financial opportunity.

The division has also recently expanded our enforcement efforts to include auto lending.  For example, working with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, the Civil Rights Division reached a $98 million settlement with Ally Bank and Financial last year for pricing discrimination in its automobile lending practices.  This complaint was the division’s first against a national auto lender as well as its first joint fair lending enforcement action with the CFPB.  The settlement provided $80 million in relief to the more than 200,000 minority borrowers who received higher interest rates due to their national origin or the color of their skin.  Ally also agreed to pay an $18 million civil penalty to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and to institute safeguards to ensure that these discriminatory lending practices come to an end.

In addition, the division is acutely aware of the impact that the criminal justice system has on communities of color.  It remains an inescapable fact that disparities at nearly every stage of the criminal process keep too many African-Americans, Latinos and other minorities in poverty and deny them the opportunities that so many in the civil rights movement fought to achieve.

Over the last five years, the division has obtained groundbreaking reform agreements with police departments that will serve as models for effective and constitutional policing nationwide.  Every investigation involves a thorough examination of the challenges facing the police department, which may include the excessive use of force; unlawful stops, searches, or arrests; or policing that unlawfully discriminates against protected minority groups or women.

In recent years, the division has expanded its efforts to better protect the rights of youth in the juvenile justice system.  In Shelby County, Tennessee, a division investigation found that the juvenile court systemically violated the due process rights of youth in delinquency proceedings, as well as the equal protection rights of African-American youth.  At every critical inflection point, we found that African-American youth were statistically more likely than similarly situated whites to be driven deeper into the juvenile justice system.  And there was a significantly higher risk for young black men to be removed to the adult system than their white peers.

In response to these findings, the division entered into a comprehensive settlement to ensure that children in Shelby County will receive the full protections provided under our Constitution.  This agreement has already led to significant improvements, including the hiring of a juvenile defender, and will help make Shelby County a model for juvenile courts across the country.  Moreover, data collected from this settlement will help us better understand what interventions work to keep children in the community and out of detention.

Finally, I want to discuss the Civil Rights Division’s work in safeguarding every eligible citizen’s access to the ballot box.  When he signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson announced, “Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color.  This law will ensure them the right to vote.  The wrong is one which no American, in his heart, can justify.  The right is one which no American, true to our principles, can deny.”

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has played a critical role in ensuring that the right to vote is not abridged based on discrimination against racial or language minorities.  In thehalf-century since its passage, the Voting Rights Act has consistently enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress, as well as support from the executive branch.  Notably, after extensive hearings, Sections 4 and 5 of the act were reauthorized most recently in 2006, with the unanimous support of the U.S. Senate and the near-unanimous support of the House of Representatives.  Yet in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder invalidated an essential part of this cornerstone civil rights law.  This decision represents a serious setback for voting rights – and has the potential to negatively affect millions of Americans across the country.

There are many examples demonstrating that discrimination in voting has not been consigned to history.  Our country has changed for the better since 1965, but the destination we seek has not yet been reached.  This is why the Department of Justice will continue to carefully monitor jurisdictions around the country for voting changes that may hamper voting rights.  We will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action – using every legal tool that remains available to us – against any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s ruling by hindering eligible citizens’ full and free exercise of the franchise.

Since the Supreme Court’s decision, the Civil Rights Division has filed three cases under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  One complaint challenges the legality of Texas’ congressional and legislative redistricting maps - maps which prior to the Shelby County decision were blocked by federal courts for intentionally discriminating against Latino and African-American citizens.  A second complaint challenges Texas’s restrictive photo identification requirement as racially discriminatory in both purpose and effect.

And a third complaint challenges portions of a restrictive North Carolina voting law, passed within days of the Shelby County decision, that limits the number of early voting days, eliminates same-day registration during early voting; imposes a restrictive photo identification requirement for in-person voting; and prohibits the counting of otherwise legitimate provisional ballots that are mistakenly cast in the right county, but in the wrong precinct.  These changes were made despite evidence before the North Carolina General Assembly that such action would make it harder for many minority voters to participate in the electoral process.  Trials in all three of these voting rights cases are beginning this summer.

In June, Attorney General Holder announced the administration’s plans to consult with tribes on ensuring that American Indians and Alaska Natives have a meaningful opportunity to claim their right to vote.  It is a tragic irony that in this country – history's greatest democratic experiment – it is First Americans who have, for decades, too often been deprived the right to vote.  Standing by as Native voices are shut out of the democratic process is not an option.  That is why the Justice Department supports providing voters on Indian reservations and in Alaska Native villages with an effective opportunity to cast a ballot.  We seek formal consultation on a proposal that would give American Indian and Alaska Natives a polling place in their community, somewhere to cast their ballots and ensure their voices are heard – something most other citizens already take for granted.

Last week, the Attorney General made a statement on the one-year anniversary of the Shelby decision.  In addition to discussing the work just described, he referred to a voting rights controversy happening here in Wisconsin.  I’d like to read you what he said:

“In April, a federal district court in Wisconsin ruled that Wisconsin’s unnecessarily restrictive voter-ID law, which disproportionately impacted the state’s African-American and Latino voters, violated both the equal protection clause of the Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

“The Wisconsin law erected significant barriers to equal access without serving any legitimate government interest – because, as the judge found, and I quote, ‘The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past.’

“By restricting access and decreasing voter participation, laws such as those in Wisconsin would shrink – rather than expand – access to the franchise.

“This is inconsistent not only with our history, but with our ideals as a nation – a nation founded on the principle that all citizens are entitled to equal opportunity, equal representation, and equal rights.

“And that’s why, across this country, the Department of Justice will continue to take aggressive steps to stand against disenfranchisement wherever it exists – and in whatever form.”

The Civil Rights Division recognizes that case-by-case litigation is no substitute for Congressional action on legislation to fill the void left by the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision.  President Obama and Attorney General Holder remain committed to working with leaders from across the political spectrum to ensure that modern voting protections are adequate to the challenges of the 21st century.  History shows that advances in voting rights have been hard-won, and that progress is not inevitable: the Department of Justice will never abdicate its responsibility to protect and preserve this critical right.

I’ve touched on only a few of the division’s activities.  We enforce the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act to ensure employers do not deny employment opportunities to immigrants who are legally authorized to work or to subject these men and women to discriminatory verification procedures.  And our Policy Section works to develop policy and legislative proposals to close the gaps in our nation’s civil rights protections.

Five decades after its passage, the Civil Rights Act continues to touch the lives of Americans across the country – and to serve as a potent tool for combating discrimination.  As we contemplate a half-century of progress—and look to the work that remains—the Civil Rights Division remains committed to its mission to protect, defend and advance civil rights in our nation.  Together, in collaboration with all here today, we will continue to work to ensure equal justice under the law.  Thank you.