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Saturday, October 4, 2014

NASA RELEASES IMAGE OF TYPHOON PHANFONE

FROM:  NASA 

NASA's Terra satellite captured this image of Typhoon Phanfone and its large eye in the western Pacific Ocean on Friday, Oct. 3 at 1:55 UTC.  Image Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team.

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission or TRMM satellite flew over Typhoon Phanfone on Oct. 2, 2014 at 0939 UTC (5:39 a.m. EDT). The rainfall pattern observed using TRMM's Microwave Imager (TMI) and Precipitation Radar (PR) data showed that Phanfone was much better organized than a day earlier. This precipitation analysis revealed that intensifying typhoon Phanfone had formed a large eye. The heaviest rainfall was shown falling at a rate of over 50 mm (almost 2 inches) per hour in the northern side of the typhoon's eye wall.

On Oct. 3 at 0900 UTC (5 a.m. EDT), Typhoon Phanfone's maximum sustained winds were near 110 knots (126.6 mph/203.7 kph). It was centered near 23.6 north longitude and 134.4 east latitude, about 374 nautical miles west-southwest of the island of Iwo To. Phanfone has tracked northwestward at 12 knots (13.8 mph/22.2 kph).

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) predicts intensifying Phanfone's wind speeds will peak at 125 knots (144 mph) on October 3, 2014. The typhoon is then predicted to gradually weaken and it's track to re-curve toward the northeast and pass to the southeast of Tokyo, Japan on October 5-6, 2014.  Hal Pierce and Rob Gutro.  NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.


WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: WEEKLY ADDRESS FOR 10/04/2014

MAN PLEADS GUILTY IN SHELL COMPANY HEALTH CARE FRAUD SCHEME

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Thursday, October 2, 2014
Shell Company Operator Pleads Guilty in Multi-Million Dollar Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme

A Florida managing member of a shell company pleaded guilty today in federal court in Tampa for his role in a multi-million dollar health care fraud and money laundering scheme.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III of the Middle District of Florida, Acting Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office, and Special Agent in Charge Paul Wysopal of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office made the announcement.

Leonard Austin, 45, of Lake Worth, Florida, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida to conspiracy to commit money laundering of health care fraud proceeds.  His sentencing date will be set at a later date by the court.

According to his plea agreement and factual proffer, from June 2010 through April 2014, Austin’s co-conspirators submitted $12 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare through three purported health clinics, Cornerstone Health Specialists of Lakeland, Florida, Summit Health Specialists P.L. of Tampa, Florida, and Coastal Health Specialists LLC of Lakeland and Melbourne, Florida.  These fraudulent claims included claims resulting from illegal kickback arrangements and claims for radiology, audiology, neurology, and cardiology services that were never rendered.  In fact, some of the services were purportedly provided to Medicare beneficiaries who actually had died before the supposed date of service. Medicare paid over $2,500,000 on the fraudulent claims.

Austin admitted that he and his co-conspirators attempted to conceal the funds by transferring funds through bank accounts for the clinics and Austin’s shell company, BONB LLC, aka BioScan, and other entities.

Four other defendants were indicted in this case on health care fraud and money laundering charges and are scheduled for a jury trial on April 6, 2015. An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case is being investigated by HHS-OIG and the FBI and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.  This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Christopher J. Hunter of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

NASA VIDEO | INVESTIGATING THE MARTIAN ATMOSPHERE

CHAIRMAN NATO MILITARY COMMITTEE SAYS NATO IN TRANSFORMATION

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
NATO Changes to Meet New Threats, Challenges
By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2014 – Throughout its history, many people have forecast the death of the NATO alliance, but it has remained relevant and is set for another transformation, Danish Army Gen. Knud Bartels, the chairman of the NATO Military Committee, said today.

The chairman of the Military Committee directs the day-to-day business of the committee, NATO's highest military authority, and acts on its behalf, according to the NATO website.

NATO’s transformation will be an inherently different one than in the past, Bartels said at a Defense Writers’ Group breakfast.

Over its history, the alliance has transformed any number of times, Bartels said. The alliance went from a strategy of massive retaliation to one of flexible response. It went from a small Western alliance aimed at a single enemy to a large alliance of like-minded nations sharing and defending shared values. It went from a North Atlantic/European alliance to fighting a war in Central Asia. It has incorporated new capabilities like missile defense and focused on new defenses like operations in the cyber realm.

Transformation underway

Bartels sees a new transformation underway, but one that is fundamentally different than in the past.

“We are living in a world where everything takes place with emails, Twitter, Facebook, et cetera, et cetera,” he said. “This means that the long adaptation we have seen with our previous transformations will be an accelerated process, both at the military and political level.”

Threats will continue for the alliance, he said, and while it needs to look forward, it also needs to look to the past.

The challenge that Russia presents with its occupation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea and threats to eastern Ukraine is one example, Bartels said. Russia launched what is now being called a hybrid campaign against Ukraine.
The hybrid campaign, he said, is characterized by a mixture of conventional forces, unconventional forces, and information warfare.

Hybrid warfare not new

Bartels said hybrid warfare is not new. “You see the way the Soviet Union dealt with Finland during the first Soviet-Finnish War in 1939-1940,” he said. “If you see later on how the Soviet Union implemented its power in what became the Warsaw Pact. Maybe we have not been paying sufficient attention to it.”

The general said NATO knows how to counter such a campaign and is putting in place counters to the various tactics inherent in hybrid warfare.

One problem, he said, is the speed of decision-making on the Russian side. “This is characteristic of the system today and is a challenge to an alliance built on consensus of 28 [members],” Bartels said. “That needs to be addressed at the political level, but the summit at Wales made it quite clear that the allies are aware of the challenge and I am quite confident that the allies are ready to act accordingly when the necessity arises.”

Bartels said he addressed the threat in Vilnius, Lithuania, the site of the most recent meeting of the alliance’s Military Committee. Lithuania is one of the Baltic Republics once a part of the Soviet Union and a possible target of a Russian hybrid campaign.

“I expressed that should a nation or number of nations chose to challenge the integrity of the allies, they will be facing the full might of the most powerful military alliance in the world,” Bartels said. “I said it on purpose -- very clearly and very confident in Vilnius -- one of the Baltic States.”

General Petr Pavel, Chief of the General Staff of Armed Forces of the Czech Republic, was elected to succeed Bartels as the next chairman of the NATO Military Committee when Bartels is expected to step down in June 2015, according to the NATO website.

HHS WORKS TO FIND TESTS FOR INFLUENZA, BETTER RESPONSE TO PANDEMIC

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES 
HHS pursues detection tests for influenza

Tests for influenza viruses to improve diagnosis and speed pandemic response
Potential tests to help doctors diagnose influenza sooner and more accurately will advance in development under contracts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). The tests could help boost influenza pandemic preparedness by increasing diagnostic capabilities in near-patient care settings such as doctors’ offices, clinics, and hospitals.

One award will advance the development of a simple, low-cost molecular test under a 3.5-year, $12.9 million contract with Alere Inc., headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts. The other award, to InDevR Inc., of Boulder, Colorado, will allow a biochip test to move forward under a two-year, $7.9 million contract with options to extend the contract up to $14.7 million over four years.

The tests use different technologies to detect influenza viruses and offer different levels of information about the viruses detected. Both tests would use swabs taken from a patient’s nasal passage.

Alere will develop its iNAT Influenza A&B test which could yield results within 15 minutes and show whether a patient has an infection caused by a seasonal influenza virus type A or B infection. The company will conduct studies necessary to submit for U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance or approval, including a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments waiver for iNAT, which would allow the rapid molecular test to be performed in the near-patient settings.

InDevR will develop its FluChip-8G test to identify seasonal influenza viruses and recognize novel flu viruses within four hours in near-patient settings. Currently, this type of detailed genetic testing is conducted in state, federal, or specialty laboratories, and can take days to complete. If successful during the first two years, InDevR will conduct clinical studies necessary to submit for clearance or approval from the FDA and will develop a fully automated version of the test.

“Administering fast and inexpensive tests at the point of care has tangible benefits to personal and public health, particularly in helping doctors prescribe the right therapy immediately,” said Robin Robinson, Ph.D., director of ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) whose office will oversee the development programs. “Prescribing medication or other therapies in a more targeted way is good stewardship and will be critical to reducing the risk of antimicrobial resistance.”

Distinguishing viral influenza infections from bacterial infections could aid doctors and patients in choosing the best treatment, and could reduce unnecessary antibiotic use, as antibiotics are ineffective in treating illness caused by viruses. In addition, testing for influenza viruses in doctors’ offices, clinics, and hospitals could improve use of precautions among patients and health care workers to reduce spread of influenza from person to person.

Improved tests available in more settings can alert doctors and public health authorities to community outbreaks of respiratory illness and signal new viruses causing illness. A new influenza virus to which people do not have immunity could potentially spread quickly and have pandemic potential.

To help prepare the United States for pandemics, BARDA also is supporting development of other diagnostic platforms, including a test to identify drug resistance in influenza, as well as new vaccine technology, antiviral drugs, low-cost, portable ventilators and other medical equipment and supplies.

BARDA is seeking additional proposals for advanced development of new drugs and products to diagnosis and treat illness. Proposals are accepted through the broad agency announcement BAA-BARDA-13-100-SOL-19, available on www.fbo.gov.

These new programs are part of BARDA’s comprehensive integrated portfolio approach to the advanced research and development, innovation, acquisition, and manufacturing of vaccines, drugs, diagnostic tools, and non-pharmaceutical products for public health emergency threats. These threats include chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents, pandemic influenza, and emerging infectious diseases.

ASPR leads HHS in preparing the nation to respond to and recover from adverse health effects of emergencies, supporting communities’ ability to withstand adversity, strengthening health and response systems, and enhancing national health security. HHS is the principal federal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. To learn more about HHS, visit hhs.gov.
To learn more about ASPR and preparedness, response and recovery from the health impacts of disasters, visit the HHS public health and medical emergency website, phe.gov. Information about influenza is available at flu.gov.

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CIVILIAN, 5 NATIONAL GUARD OFFICIALS CHARGED IN BRIBERY CASE

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Five Army National Guard Officials and One Civilian Charged with Bribery
Four retired and one active-duty Army National Guard officials and one civilian have been charged for their alleged participation in bribery schemes related to the awarding of millions of dollars of Army National Guard marketing, retention and recruitment contracts.  Two of the retired Army National Guard officials and the civilian pleaded guilty for their roles in the schemes.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia, U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch of the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge Andrew McCabe of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Robert E. Craig Jr. of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) Mid-Atlantic Field Office and Director Frank Robey of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit (Army-CID) made the announcement.

“As captured by its motto, the Army National Guard is ‘always ready, always there’ for the American people,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “Unfortunately, today’s charges expose National Guard officials who were ‘always ready’ to pocket bribes and ‘always there’ to take kickbacks.  In return, the charged officials allegedly subverted the open bidding process and illegally steered millions of taxpayer dollars to the bribe-payers through marketing and advertising contracts.  Corruption should know no place in American government, but least of all in the military that so honorably serves our country.  The Criminal Division is committed to rooting out corruption wherever we find it, including in the military, so that we can ensure that no one is putting the public’s trust up for sale.”

“These criminal charges and guilty pleas reflect our continued commitment to rooting out public corruption wherever it occurs,” said U.S. Attorney Boente.  “The public contracting process should be one of integrity and fairness, and these cases should send a strong message that public corruption will be vigorously prosecuted in the military as well as other areas of government.”

“This investigation has sadly reminded us that even some members of our military are willing to trade on the trust their country placed in them to line their pockets with the profits of corrupt activities,” said U.S. Attorney Lynch.  “We and our law enforcement partners will constantly guard against and root out such corruption wherever we find it.”

Charles Sines, 56, of Stafford, Virginia, a retired colonel from the United States Army National Guard; Wesley Russell, 48, of Albany, Indiana, a retired lieutenant colonel from the Indiana Army National Guard; and Jason Rappoccio, 39, of Hampton, South Carolina, an active-duty sergeant first class from the Army National Guard are charged with conspiracy to solicit bribes and the solicitation of bribes.  Russell and Rappoccio allegedly asked for and received bribes, and Sines allegedly provided bribes.

Robert Porter, 50 of Columbia, Maryland, a retired colonel from the Army National Guard, and Timothy Bebus, 44, of Forest Lake, Minnesota, a retired sergeant major of the Minnesota Army National Guard and owner of Mil-Team Consulting and Solutions LLC, each pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Virginia in September 2014 to conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery of a public official.  Julianne Hubbell, 45, of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, a civilian who partnered with her brother, Bebus, as the vice president of operations of Mil-Team, also pleaded guilty in September 2014 to conspiracy to commit bribery.  Sentencing hearings for Bebus and Hubbell are scheduled for Jan. 23, 2015, and for Porter on Jan. 30, 2015.

“The alleged steering of large government contracts is offensive to active duty, reserve and retired members of the National Guard Bureau who took an oath to support and defend the Constitution,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge McCabe.  “It is also offensive to average American citizens who trust their government and its contractors to use taxpayer money wisely.  We urge anyone who has knowledge of corruption and abuse in federal government contracting to contact the FBI.”

“The Department of Defense places special trust and confidence in its service members, particularly those in positions to influence the expenditure of taxpayer dollars,” said DCIS Special Agent in Charge Craig.  “Guardsmen hold a unique position in our society, representing both their state and military service.  The alleged behavior uncovered in this investigation was a disservice to both, but in no way typical of those honorable women and men that serve in our Army and Air National Guard.  Identifying and investigating fraud and public corruption remains the highest of priorities for the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.  Alongside our law enforcement partners, we will continue to aggressively pursue allegations of fraud impacting Department of Defense resources.”

“We have highly-trained, Army CID special agents who are extremely talented and very capable of rooting out this type of corruption within our ranks,” said Army-CID Director Robey.   “People must realize, both in and out of uniform, that fraud will not be tolerated within the Army and Department of Defense, and greed cannot and will not trump duty and honor.”

As set forth in the indictments and other publicly-filed documents, the National Guard Bureau is a joint activity of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), state Army National Guard units and the Departments of the Army and Air Force.  The National Guard Bureau, located in Arlington, Virginia, oversees the distribution of federal funding provided to the Army National Guard and its state units.

The DOD provides millions of dollars of federal funds to the Army National Guard for, among other things, advertising, marketing and sponsorships in order to recruit new members.  The National Guard Bureau uses these funds to promote the Army National Guard by entering into advertising, marketing and sponsorship contracts.  For example, through advertising, marketing and sponsorship contracts, the National Guard was an official sponsor of Dew Tour, Warrior Dash, and American Motorcycle Association Supercross’s events, where recruiters handed out promotional items and recruited new members.  The National Guard also had a contract to sponsor Michael Jordan’s AMA Superbike team.

The National Guard Bureau can avoid a competitive bid process by awarding these federally-funded marketing contracts to Small Business Administration (SBA) certified 8(a) companies, which are minority-owned businesses.  The National Guard Bureau also provides a portion of the federal funds to the state units to allocate.

The indictments allege that Sines and Rappoccio evaded the competitive bid process by using 8(a) companies to award contracts in exchange for bribes.

According to allegations in the indictment against him, Sines founded a company, Financial Solutions, after retiring from the Army National Guard as a colonel.  Sines allegedly paid Porter, a then-active-duty colonel in the Army National Guard, a percentage of all contracts that Porter steered to Financial Solutions through 8(a) companies.  As the director of the National Guard Bureau’s Guard Strength Directorate, Porter had substantial influence over the awarding of National Guard Bureau contracts, and allegedly steered approximately $4.5 million worth of contracts to Sines and Financial Solutions.

The indictment against Russell alleges that, while on active duty as a lieutenant colonel in the Indiana Army National Guard, Russell demanded 15 percent of all profits that a private marketing company would receive from state Army National Guard units.  In return for his 15 percent cut of the profits, Russell allegedly promoted and encouraged state Army National Guard units to purchase the marketing company’s products.

The indictment against Rappoccio, an active-duty sergeant first class in the Army National Guard, alleges that Bebus and Hubbell paid Rappoccio a $30,000 bribe for steering a contract worth approximately $3.7 million to an 8(a) company chosen by Bebus.  In pleading guilty, Bebus and Hubbell admitted to paying this bribe.  In an effort to conceal the bribe payment, Bebus, Hubbell and others allegedly arranged for the payment of $6,000 in cash to Rappoccio, and the remaining $24,000 was allegedly routed from a business account controlled by Hubbell to an account controlled by Bebus and Hubbell’s brother-in-law, and then provided to Rappoccio in the form of a cashier’s check to Rappoccio’s wife.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with assistance from DCIS’s Mid-Atlantic Field Office and Army-CID’s Expeditionary Fraud Resident Agency’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Alison L. Anderson of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Fahey of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marisa Seifan and Martin Coffey of the Eastern District of New York.

Friday, October 3, 2014

LABOR SECRETARY PEREZ MAKES STATEMENT ON SEPTEMBER EMPLOYMENT NUMBERS

FROM:  U.S. LABOR DEPARTMENT 
Statement of US Labor Secretary Perez on September employment numbers

WASHINGTON —WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez issued the following statement about the September 2014 Employment Situation report released today:

“The nation’s economic recovery continued in September with the addition of 248,000 new jobs. It was the 55th consecutive month of private-sector job creation, during which time businesses have created 10.3 million jobs. In 2014, we have experienced the most robust year-to-date private-sector job growth since 1998. The unemployment rate fell to 5.9 percent, its lowest level since July 2008.
“Over the last year, there are 811,000 fewer people working part time for economic reasons. Hispanic unemployment now stands at 6.9 percent, a full two-percentage-point drop from a year ago. Hispanic poverty is also down significantly. And in 2013, overall childhood poverty had its largest year-to-year decrease since 1966.

“Things are unquestionably moving in the right direction, but we can do even better. The Labor Department and the Obama administration are working harder than ever not just to create more jobs and accelerate growth, but to strengthen the middle class and build an economy that works for everyone. Just this week, the Labor Department awarded more than $450 million to help community colleges train workers for the jobs of the 21st century – a bold long-term investment in our skills infrastructure similar to President Eisenhower’s interstate highway investment in our physical infrastructure nearly 60 years ago.

“On Wednesday, we helped nearly 200,000 workers get a raise, taking final steps to implement President Obama’s executive order increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for workers on federal service and construction contracts.
“And we recently invested in states’ capacity to explore paid leave policies. As long as we remain the only industrialized nation where paid leave is not the law of the land, we are hurting both our families and the economy. Our failure to lead on leave keeps women out of the labor force, which costs us in valuable human capital and economic activity.

“Six years after the near-collapse of the U.S. economy, we have come a long, long way. The new foundation for growth is in place. The challenge now is to expand opportunity further, to help more people benefit from this recovery, and to ensure that prosperity is broadly shared.”

DOD VIDEO: DOD CONDUCTING EBOLA TESTS IN AFRICA



PRESIDENT AND FIRST LADY EXTEND BEST WISHES TO MUSLIMS CELEBRATING EID AL-ADHA AND THOSE PERFORMING THE HAJJ

FROM:  THE WHITE HOUSE 
Statement by the President on Hajj and Eid al-Adha

Michelle and I would like to extend our best wishes to Muslims in the United States and around the world who are celebrating Eid al-Adha, and to congratulate those performing the Hajj this year.

As our Muslim neighbors and friends gather for Eid celebrations, Muslim Americans are among the millions of pilgrims joining one of the world’s largest and most diverse gatherings.  Hajj brings together Muslims from around the world – Sunni and Shiite – to share in reverent prayer, side by side.  It serves as a reminder that no matter one’s tribe or sect, race or religion, gender or age, we are equals in humanity.

On Eid, Muslims continue the tradition of donating to the poor and joining efforts with other faith communities in providing assistance to those suffering from hunger, sickness, oppression, and conflict.  Their service is a powerful example of the shared roots of the world’s Abrahamic faiths and how our communities can come together in shared peace, with dignity and a sense of justice.

On behalf of the American people, we extend our warmest greetings during this holiday.  May the prayers of peace made by the Hajj pilgrims and those of all faiths around the world be heard and granted.  Eid Mubarak.

DEFENSE SECRETARY HAGEL, FRENCH DEFENSE MINISTER LE DRIAN HOLD NEWS CONFERENCE

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian conduct a news conference at the Pentagon, Oct. 2, 2014. Both leaders discussed the international effort underway to defeat ISIL. DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett

Hagel Praises Historic Bonds, Current Coalition Ties With France
By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel welcomed French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian to the Pentagon to reaffirm their mutual resolve to address a spectrum of issues, from terrorism to infectious disease control, the two leaders said in a joint news conference today.

The secretary lauded Le Drian for France’s leading role in the international coalition to degrade and destroy the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, noting that France was the first nation to join the United States in conducting airstrikes against the terrorist network. The coalition has since grown to include 40 nations.

The fight against ISIL

“American and French forces will continue to work side by side to support Iraqi forces on the ground as French aircraft patrol the skies over Iraq and provide valuable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance on ISIL targets,” Hagel said.

These efforts, he added, enable Iraqi and Kurdish security forces to take the offensive against ISIL.

The two leaders also discussed ways to continue building and strengthening the coalition and supporting the new government of Iraq.

“The United States and France recognize the grave threat that ISIL poses to our shared regional interests and our citizens,” Hagel said.

He recounted the recent murder of a French hostage in Algeria, an incident he described as a “stark reminder of the deadly threats ISIL presents” to France and its allies.

Challenges in Africa

During their meeting today, the secretaries also focused on security challenges in North and West Africa, two regions Hagel said now face surges of violent extremism, instability and deadly infectious disease.

“France’s leadership in confronting extremist threats in the Sahel is particularly important as the United States continues to provide support to French operations in Mali, including airlift, refueling and intelligence cooperation,” he said.

Hagel also noted that the two nations will continue to coordinate efforts across the region in response to the Ebola crisis.

NATO a cornerstone of security

The defense secretary said that in discussions at the NATO summit in Wales last month, the two nations agreed on the importance of reinforcing NATO partnerships in Eastern Europe and strengthening the readiness and capabilities of the NATO alliance.

“A strong and united NATO will be critically important to assuring a Europe whole, free and at peace,” Hagel said. “That goal remains a cornerstone of America’s approach to global and transatlantic security.”

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: WEST WING WEEK FOR 10/03/14

NASA VIDEO: WHAT'S UP FOR OCTOBER 2014

EXPORT-IMPORT BANK SAYS BILLION DOLLAR GUARANTEE OF PEMEX BONDS SUPPORTS U.S. JOBS

FROM:  U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK 
Ex-Im Bank Supports U.S. Jobs Through $1 Billion Guarantee of Pemex Bonds To Be Issued in the Capital Markets
Guarantee of Pemex Bonds Will Support an Estimated 6,700 U.S. Jobs 

Washington, D.C. – The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) on Monday approved two authorizations totaling $1 billion in financing to support the export of U.S. goods and services to Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), Mexico's national oil-and-gas company.

Ex-Im Bank’s financing will support approximately 6,700 U.S. jobs, at both large and small businesses, according to Bank estimates derived from Departments of Commerce and Labor data and methodology.

“Capital-markets financing is an innovative and proven approach that helps to provide funding for Pemex’s purchases of made-in-America goods and services at no extra cost to the U.S. Treasury,” said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. ”With these authorizations, Ex-Im Bank is continuing to meet our mission to support U.S. exporters and their workers by helping to maintain American jobs in both large and small businesses around the country.”

This transaction is assisting in financing exports to Pemex of American-made oil-field and gas-field drilling services, drilling platforms, turbine generators, mud pumps, chemicals, spare parts, geophysical studies and safety equipment – among numerous other U.S.-produced goods and services.

One of the many U.S. small businesses that is benefiting from this Ex-Im Bank financing for Pemex is Checkpoint Pumps & Systems in Mandeville, La., near New Orleans. Checkpoint Pumps, a chemical-injection packages provider, is a single source for concept, engineering, manufacturing, testing and field service. The company has approximately 70 employees at its Mandeville facility and 30 additional employees at other locations worldwide.

“We confidently expect that Ex-Im Bank financing will play an even larger role in our growth within the expanding Latin American market in the coming years,” said David Cheadle, Checkpoint’s Latin American sales manager.

Pemex will issue Ex-Im Bank-guaranteed bonds in the capital markets to fund the purchases of these exports.

MARKETERS SETTLE FTC CHARGES OVER WEIGHT-LOSS CLAIMS REGARDING CAFFEINE-INFUSED CLOTHING

 FROM:  U.S. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 
Norm Thompson Outfitters and Wacoal America Settle FTC Charges Over Weight-Loss Claims for Caffeine-infused Shapewear

Two marketers of women’s “shapewear” undergarments have settled Federal Trade Commission charges that slimming claims for their caffeine-infused products were false and not substantiated by scientific evidence. The proposed orders settling the FTC’s complaints bar Norm Thompson Outfitters, Inc., and Wacoal America, Inc., from making false and unsubstantiated claims about their shapewear and require them to pay a total of more than $1.5 million for consumer refunds.

“Caffeine-infused shapewear is the latest ‘weight-loss’ brew concocted by marketers,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “If someone says you can lose weight by wearing the clothes they are selling, steer clear. The best approach is tried and true: diet and exercise.”

The FTC’s complaint against Norm Thompson Outfitters alleges the company deceptively advertised, marketed, and sold women’s undergarments infused with microencapsulated caffeine, retinol, and other ingredients, claiming the “shapewear” would slim and reshape the wearer’s body and reduce cellulite. The products, made with Lytess brand fabrics, were sold via mail order and on the company’s Norm Thompson Outfitters, Sahalie, Body Solutions, and Body*Belle websites.

Specifically, the FTC alleges that the company made claims that wearing its shapewear would eliminate or substantially reduce cellulite; reduce the wearer’s hip measurements by up to two inches and their thigh measurements by one inch; and reduce thigh and hip measurements “without any effort.” The complaint alleges that these claims are not true or substantiated by scientific evidence, and therefore violate the FTC Act.

The complaint against Wacoal America contains similar allegations. It charges that the company’s iPants supposedly slimmed the body and reduced cellulite. Specifically, the company made false and unsubstantiated claims that wearing iPants would: substantially reduce cellulite; cause a substantial reduction in the wearer’s thigh measurements; and destroy fat cells, resulting in substantial slimming. The complaint alleges that these claims are not true or substantiated by scientific evidence, and therefore also violate the FTC Act.

The proposed administrative consent orders settling the charges against Norm Thompson Outfitters and Wacoal America ban the companies from claiming that any garment that contains any drug or cosmetic causes substantial weight or fat loss or a substantial reduction in body size.  In addition, the companies are prohibited from making claims that any drug or cosmetic reduces or eliminates cellulite or reduces body fat, unless they are not misleading and can be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence.

Finally, the orders require Norm Thompson Outfitters and Wacoal America to pay $230,000 and $1.3 million, respectively, that the FTC can use to provide refunds to consumers who bought the caffeinated shapewear.

Consumers should carefully evaluate advertising claims for weight-loss products. For more information, see the FTC’s guidance for consumers of products and services advertised for Weight Loss & Fitness.

The FTC is a member of the National Prevention Council, which provides coordination and leadership at the federal level regarding prevention, wellness, and health promotion practices. This case advances the National Prevention Strategy’s goal of increasing the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life.

The Commission vote to issue the complaints and accept the proposed consent orders was 5-0 in each case. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement packages in the Federal Register shortly. The agreements will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through October 29, 2014, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent orders final.

Interested parties can submit written comments on the proposed settlements with Norm Thompson Outfitters and Wacoal America electronically or in paper form by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section of the Federal Register notice.

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

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

NSF VIDEO: SCIENCE OF INNOVATION: SYNTHETIC DIAMONDS

TWO DETROIT-AREA RESIDENTS CHARGED IN HOME-HEALTH KICKBACK SCHEME

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Two Defendants Charged in Connection with Detroit-Area Home Health Kickback Scheme

Two Detroit-area residents were arrested today on charges related to a Medicare fraud scheme in which they are alleged to have referred Medicare beneficiaries to home health care agencies in exchange for kickbacks.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office, and Acting Special Agent in Charge Jarod Koopman, of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Detroit Field Office, made the announcement.

Sophia Eggleston, 52, of Farmington Hills, Michigan, and Sekne Ali, 48, of Dearborn, Michigan, were charged in a four-count indictment, unsealed today, with conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute and substantive violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute.   The indictment alleges that both defendants recruited Medicare beneficiaries to two home health agencies in Oakland County, Michigan – Prestige Home Health Services Inc. and Royal Home Health Care Inc. – and were paid kickbacks for the patient referrals.  Both agencies purported to provide in-home health care services to Medicare beneficiaries.

The charges contained in an indictment are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and IRS-CI and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.  This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Niall M. O’Donnell and James P. McDonald of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

FORMER WELLS FARGO EMPLOYEES ACCUSED OF RATINGS CHANGE ASSOCIATED RESEARCH TO MAKE INSIDER TRADES

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION 
Two Former Wells Fargo Employees Charged With Insider Trading in Advance of Research Reports Containing Ratings Changes
09/29/2014 12:05 PM EDT

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced insider trading charges against two former Wells Fargo employees involved in an alleged scheme to profit by buying or short selling a stock before research analyst reports were published containing a ratings change.

Research analysts typically produce reports with a recommendation or rating of a stock or other security they’ve reviewed.  When an analyst alters a prior view on the prospects of a security, a new report is issued with a ratings change.  The SEC’s Enforcement Division alleges that while Gregory T. Bolan Jr. worked as a research analyst at Wells Fargo, he tipped a trader at the firm, Joseph C. Ruggieri, in advance of several market-moving ratings upgrades or downgrades that he made in certain securities.  The tips enabled Ruggieri to generate more than $117,000 in profits.

“Instead of abiding by firm policies that specifically prohibited trading ahead of published research, Ruggieri used information obtained from Bolan to make profitable trades in advance of six separate research reports,” said Sanjay Wadhwa, Senior Associate Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.  “The repeated nature of these violations demonstrates an utter disregard for our insider trading laws.”

According to the SEC’s order instituting a litigated proceeding before an administrative law judge, Bolan also tipped a close friend with nonpublic information about his upcoming ratings changes.  The friend, who is now deceased, generated approximately $10,000 in profits in a personal brokerage account by trading ahead of three ratings changes.

“Bolan gave two traders a sneak preview into his upcoming ratings changes and provided them an unfair and illegal advantage on the rest of the markets,” said Daniel M. Hawke, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Market Abuse Unit.

The SEC’s Enforcement Division alleges that after receiving Bolan’s tips, Ruggieri either purchased the relevant company’s stock ahead of Bolan’s upgrades or sold the stock short ahead of Bolan’s downgrades.  Ruggieri closed his overnight positions in those securities for a profit shortly after Bolan’s ratings changes were made public and the stock prices had moved.  From April 2010 to March 2011, Bolan published a total of eight research reports with a ratings change or initiation of coverage with an “outperform” or “underperform” rating.  Ruggieri traded profitably ahead of six of these reports in a manner that did not fit in his typical trading pattern.  Aside from this trading ahead, Ruggieri had only a handful of overnight positions in securities that had been rated within the six months prior to his trading.

The SEC’s Enforcement Division alleges that by engaging in the misconduct described in the SEC’s order, Bolan and Ruggieri willfully violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5.  The administrative proceeding will determine what relief, if any, is in the public interest against Bolan and Ruggieri, including disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, prejudgment interest, financial penalties, and other remedial measures.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Sandeep M. Satwalekar, Charles D. Riely, and John Marino of the SEC’s Market Abuse Unit in New York, as well as Peter A. Lamore and Alexander M. Vasilescu of the New York Regional Office.  The case has been supervised by Mr. Hawke and Mr. Wadhwa.  The SEC’s litigation will be led by Mr. Vasilescu and Mr. Satwalekar.

The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

U.S. CONGRATULATES PEOPLE OF GERMANY ON THEIR NATIONAL DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Germany's National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
October 2, 2014

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Germany as you celebrate the Day of German Unity on October 3.

I will always have a personal connection to Germany.  When my father served in Berlin as a Foreign Service Officer after World War II, I learned to speak German and came to love the culture, architecture, and beauty of the country.

Just last year, on my first trip abroad as Secretary, I returned to Berlin and walked its streets – past the Reichstag, past the Brandenburg Gate.  I marveled not just at the miles Germany has traveled, but at the journey we have traveled together since the fall of the Berlin Wall almost twenty five years ago.

Today, the ties that bind the United States and Germany remain stronger than ever.  Our partnership is critical for promoting security and stability in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and beyond.  Germany is our largest trading partner in Europe, and we look forward to deepening those ties as we work together for an ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

On this anniversary, we give thanks for Germany’s many contributions to the prosperity and security of Europe and to the wider world.

SECRETARY KERRY MAKES REMARKS WITH VIETNAMESE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND FOREIGN MINISTER MINH

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT  
Remarks With Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh Before Their Meeting
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
October 2, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Well, good morning, everybody. It’s my distinct pleasure to welcome the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, who I have known for many, many years. I first met him when he was a student in Boston at Tufts University, Fletcher, and we’ve seen each other many times since in my journeys to Vietnam and in his work over here.

It’s fair to say that in the first year of our comprehensive partnership, we have now made significant progress on the civilian 123 nuclear program, on the Proliferation Security Agreement, as well as on economic and other issues that are important to both of our countries.

And we still have things that we’re working on. One of the things that we want to try to conclude is the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and Vietnam is working very hard with us in order to be able to do that. We continue to talk about issues in the bilateral relationship – human rights, economic development, private company ability to be able to do business. These are all important things. And I look forward to a good discussion today, and I’m delighted to welcome Pham Binh Minh here to have this dialogue.

Thank you. Thank you, sir.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER MINH: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Want to say anything?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER MINH: Good morning. Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for inviting me to visit officially the United States. Since the establishment of the comprehensive partnership, we have recorded many achievements in all fields – economic, political, security, defense, and other areas.

So I come to United States today to meet and to work with U.S. colleagues to review the bilateral relations between the two countries. I’m looking forward to have the fruitful discussions on bilateral issues, how to deepen our relation, and also discuss the regional and international issues of our mutual interest. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, sir, very much. Thank you. Thank you all very much.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER MINH: Thank you.

23 YEAR OLD BOMB PLOTTER SENTENCED TO SERVE 30 YEARS IN PRISON

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Convicted Bomb Plotter Sentenced to 30 Years

PORTLAND, Oregon. – Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 23, who was convicted in 2013 of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) in connection with a plot to detonate a vehicle bomb at an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, was sentenced today to serve 30 years in prison, followed by a lifetime term of supervised release.

Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia and former resident of Corvallis, Oregon, was arrested on Nov. 26, 2010, after he attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van that was parked near the tree lighting ceremony in Portland.  The arrest was the culmination of a long-term undercover operation, during which Mohamud was monitored closely for months as his bomb plot developed.  The device was in fact inert, and the public was never in danger from the device.

At sentencing, United States District Court Judge Garr M. King, who presided over Mohamed’s 14-day trial, said “the intended crime was horrific,” and that the defendant, even though he was presented with options by undercover FBI employees, “never once expressed a change of heart.”  King further noted that the Christmas tree ceremony was attended by up to 10,000 people, and that the defendant “wanted everyone to leave either dead or injured.”  King said his sentence was necessary in view of the seriousness of the crime and to serve as deterrence to others who might consider similar acts.  

“With today’s sentencing, Mohamed Osman Mohamud is being held accountable for his attempted use of what he believed to be a massive bomb to attack innocent civilians attending a public Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland,” said John P. Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.  “The evidence clearly indicated that Mohamud was intent on killing as many people as possible with his attack.  Fortunately, law enforcement was able to identify him as a threat, insert themselves in the place of a terrorist that Mohamud was trying to contact, and thwart Mohamud’s efforts to conduct an attack on our soil.  This case highlights how the use of undercover operations against would-be terrorists allows us to engage and disrupt those who wish to commit horrific acts of violence against the innocent public.  The many agents, analysts, and prosecutors who have worked on this case deserve great credit for their roles in protecting Portland from the threat posed by this defendant and ensuring that he was brought to justice.”

“This trial provided a rare glimpse into the techniques Al Qaeda employs to radicalize home-grown extremists,” said Amanda Marshall, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.  “With the sentencing today, the court has held this defendant accountable.   I thank the dedicated professionals in the law enforcement and intelligence communities who were responsible for this successful outcome.  I look forward to our continued work with Muslim communities in Oregon who are committed to ensuring that all young people are safe from extremists who seek to radicalize others to engage in violence.”

According to the trial evidence, in February 2009, Mohamud began communicating via e-mail with Samir Khan, a now-deceased al Qaeda terrorist who published Jihad Recollections, an online magazine that advocated violent jihad, and who also published Inspire, the official magazine of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  Between February and August 2009, Mohamed exchanged approximately 150 emails with Khan.  Mohamud wrote several articles for Jihad Recollections that were published under assumed names.

In August 2009, Mohamud was in email contact with Amro Al-Ali, a Saudi national who was in Yemen at the time and is today in custody in Saudi Arabia for terrorism offenses.  Al-Ali sent Mohamud detailed e-mails designed to facilitate Mohamud’s travel to Yemen to train for violent jihad.  In December 2009, while Al-Ali was in the northwest frontier province of Pakistan, Mohamud and Al-Ali discussed the possibility of Mohamud traveling to Pakistan to join Al-Ali in terrorist activities. Mohamud responded to Al-Ali in an e-mail: “yes, that would be wonderful, just tell me what I need to do.”  Al-Ali referred Mohamud to a second associate overseas and provided Mohamud with a name and email address to facilitate the process.

In the following months, Mohamud made several unsuccessful attempts to contact Al-Ali’s associate.  Ultimately, an FBI undercover operative contacted Mohamud via email under the guise of being an associate of Al-Ali’s.  Mohamud and the FBI undercover operative agreed to meet in Portland in July 2010.  At the meeting, Mohamud told the FBI undercover operative he had written articles that were published in Jihad Recollections.  Mohamud also said that he wanted to become “operational.”  Asked what he meant by “operational,” Mohamud said he wanted to put an explosion together, but needed help.

According to evidence presented at trial, at a meeting in August 2010, Mohamud told undercover FBI operatives he had been thinking of committing violent jihad since the age of 15.  Mohamud then told the undercover FBI operatives that he had identified a potential target for a bomb: the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square on Nov. 26, 2010.  The undercover FBI operatives cautioned Mohamud several times about the seriousness of this plan, noting there would be many people at the event, including children, and emphasized that Mohamud could abandon his attack plans at any time with no shame.  Mohamud indicated the deaths would be justified and that he would not mind carrying out a suicide attack on the crowd.

According to evidence presented at trial, in the ensuing months Mohamud continued to express his interest in carrying out the attack and worked on logistics.  On Nov. 4, 2010, Mohamud and the undercover FBI operatives traveled to a remote location in Lincoln County, Oregon, where they detonated a bomb concealed in a backpack as a trial run for the upcoming attack.  During the drive back to Corvallis, Mohamud was asked if was capable looking at all the bodies of those who would be killed during the explosion.  In response, Mohamud noted, “I want whoever is attending that event to be, to leave either dead or injured.”  Mohamud later recorded a video of himself, with the assistance of the undercover FBI operatives, in which he read a statement that offered his rationale for his bomb attack.

On Nov. 18, 2010, undercover FBI operatives picked up Mohamud to travel to Portland to finalize the details of the attack.  On Nov. 26, 2010, just hours before the planned attack, Mohamud examined the 1,800 pound bomb in the van and remarked that it was “beautiful.”  Later that day, Mohamud was arrested after he attempted to remotely detonate the inert vehicle bomb rked near the Christmas tree lighting ceremony

This case was investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Oregon State Police, the Corvallis Police Department, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and the Portland Police Bureau.  The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ethan D. Knight and Pamala Holsinger from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon.  Trial Attorney Jolie F. Zimmerman, from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, assisted.

President Obama Meets with the Prime Minister of Israel

NASA VIDEO: THE MISSION IS IN SIGHT

COMPUTER SIMULATIONS, STATISTICAL TECHNIQUES INDICATE CALIFORNIA DROUGHT LIKELY LINKED TO CLIMATE CHANGE

FROM:  NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION 
Cause of California drought linked to climate change

Extreme atmospheric conditions responsible for drought more likely to occur in current global warming.

The atmospheric conditions associated with the unprecedented drought in California are very likely linked to human-caused climate change, researchers report

Climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh of Stanford University and colleagues used a novel combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure over the Pacific Ocean--one that diverted storms away from California--was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

The result, published today in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, is one of the most comprehensive studies to investigate the link between climate change and California's ongoing drought.

"Our research finds that extreme atmospheric high pressure in this region--which is strongly linked to unusually low precipitation in California--is much more likely to occur today than prior to the emission of greenhouse gases that began during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s," says Diffenbaugh.

The exceptional drought crippling California is by some measures the worst in state history.

Combined with unusually warm temperatures and stagnant air conditions, the lack of precipitation has triggered a dangerous increase in wildfires and incidents of air pollution across the state.

The water shortage could result in direct and indirect agricultural losses of at least $2.2 billion and lead to the loss of more than 17,000 seasonal and part-time jobs in 2014 alone.

Such effects have prompted a drought emergency in the state; the federal government has designated all 58 California counties as natural disaster areas.

"In the face of severe drought, decision-makers are facing tough choices about the allocation of water resources for urban, agricultural and other crucial needs," says Anjuli Bamzai, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funded the research.

"This study places the current drought in historical perspective and provides valuable scientific information for dealing with this grave situation. "

Scientists agree that the immediate cause of the drought is a particularly tenacious "blocking ridge" over the northeastern Pacific--popularly known as the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, or "Triple R"--that prevented winter storms from reaching California during the 2013 and 2014 rainy seasons.

Blocking ridges are regions of high atmospheric pressure that disrupt typical wind patterns in the atmosphere.

"Winds respond to the spatial distribution of atmospheric pressure," says Daniel Swain of Stanford, lead author of the paper.

"We have seen this amazingly persistent region of high pressure over the northeastern Pacific for many months, which has substantially altered atmospheric flow and kept California largely dry."

The Triple R was exceptional for both its size and longevity.

While it dissipated briefly during the summer months of 2013, it returned by fall 2013 and persisted through much of the winter, California's wet season.

"At its peak in January 2014, the Triple R extended from the subtropical Pacific between California and Hawaii to the coast of the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska," says Swain, who coined the term "ridiculously resilient ridge" to highlight the persistent nature of the blocking ridge.

Like a large boulder that has tumbled into a narrow stream, the Triple R diverted the flow of high-speed air currents known as the jet stream far to the north, causing Pacific storms to bypass not only California, but also Oregon and Washington.

As a result, rain and snow that would normally fall on the West Coast were instead re-routed to Alaska and as far north as the Arctic Circle.

An important question for scientists and decision-makers has been whether human-caused climate change has influenced the conditions responsible for California's drought.

Given the important role of the Triple R, Diffenbaugh and colleagues set out to measure the probability of such extreme ridging events.

The team first assessed the rarity of the Triple R in the context of the 20th century historical record.

Analyzing the period since 1948, for which comprehensive atmospheric data are available, the researchers found that the persistence and intensity of the Triple R in 2013 were unrivaled by any previous event.

To more directly address the question of whether climate change played a role in the probability of the 2013 event, the team collaborated with scientist Bala Rajaratnam, also of Stanford.

Rajaratnam applied advanced statistical techniques to a large suite of climate model simulations.

Using the Triple R as a benchmark, Rajaratnam compared geopotential heights--an atmospheric property related to pressure--between two sets of climate model experiments.

One set mirrored the present climate, in which the atmosphere is growing increasingly warmer due to human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

In the other set of experiments, greenhouse gases were kept at a level similar to those that existed just prior to the Industrial Revolution.

The researchers found that the extreme heights of the Triple R in 2013 were at least three times as likely to occur in the present climate as in the preindustrial climate.

They also found that such extreme values are consistently tied to unusually low precipitation in California, and to the formation of atmospheric ridges over the northeastern Pacific.

"We've demonstrated with high statistical confidence that large-scale atmospheric conditions similar to those of the Triple R are far more likely to occur now than in the climate before we emitted large amounts of greenhouse gases," Rajaratnam says.

"In using these advanced statistical techniques to combine climate observations with model simulations, we've been able to better understand the ongoing drought in California," Diffenbaugh adds.

"This isn't a projection of 100 years in the future. This is an event that is more extreme than any in the observed record, and our research suggests that global warming is playing a role right now."

The research was also supported by the National Institutes of Health. Rajaratnam was also supported in part by DARPA, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the UPS fund.

-NSF-
Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF,


NOAA OCEAN TODAY VIDEO: 'CORAL FORESTS OF THE DEEP'

DOJ SETTLES ALLEGED DISABILITY-BASED HOUSING DISCRIMINATION CASE AGAINST DEVELOPER

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Justice Department Settles Allegations of Disability-Based Housing Discrimination with West Virginia Developer

The Justice Department announced today that developer Douglas Pauley and entities affiliated with him have agreed to pay $110,000 and make approximately $1.7 million in retrofits required to remove accessibility barriers at 30 apartment complexes, involving more than 750 units in West Virginia.  The parties’ agreement will settle the United States’ claims that defendants had violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by building the complexes with a variety of features that made them inaccessible to persons with disabilities.  The United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia approved the settlement yesterday.

Under the terms of the agreement, Pauley, as General Partner of 30 limited liability partnerships, must take extensive actions to make the complexes accessible to persons with disabilities, including wheelchair users.  These corrective actions include replacing excessively sloped portions of sidewalks, installing properly sloped curb ramps to allow persons with disabilities to access the sidewalks from the parking areas, replacing cabinets in bathrooms and kitchens to provide sufficient room for wheelchair users, and reducing door threshold heights.  In addition, defendants will pay $100,000 to establish a settlement fund for the purpose of compensating individuals with disabilities who have been impacted by the accessibility violations and $10,000 as a civil penalty.

“The Fair Housing Act protects the rights of persons with disabilities to have equal opportunities to enjoy the housing of their choice,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Molly Moran for the Civil Rights Division. “And this comprehensive resolution will ensure equal access to persons with disabilities at 30 apartment complexes and will compensate those injured by the failure to provide accessible housing.”

“Housing is a fundamental human need, and it’s deeply unfair to deny persons with disabilities equal access to it,” said Booth Goodwin, United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia.  “Thanks to this case, the developer will be required to devote nearly $2 million to correcting and compensating for the harm that he and his companies have caused.  That’s an important victory for West Virginians with disabilities.”

Individuals who are entitled to share in the settlement fund will be identified through a process established in the settlement.  Notices of the settlement and a list of subject properties will be published in the Charleston Gazette.  Persons who believe they were subjected to unlawful discrimination at one of those properties either when they lived there or considered living there should contact the Justice Department toll-free at 1-800-896-7743 mailbox # 9993 or e-mail the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.govEmail links icon.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.

POST-IT NOTE USER CHARGED BY SEC WITH INSIDER TRADING

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION 

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged a Brooklyn man with facilitating a $5.6 million insider trading scheme that typically involved the passing of illegal tips via napkins or post-it notes at Grand Central Terminal.

Earlier this year, the SEC charged a stockbroker and a law firm managing clerk with insider trading and alleged they were connected by a mutual friend who served as a “middleman” in an effort to keep the two unlinked.  In a separate complaint filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, the SEC identifies Frank Tamayo as that middleman.  The SEC alleges that Tamayo received material nonpublic information from Steven Metro about 13 impending corporate deals involving clients of the law firm where Metro worked.  Tamayo then tipped his stockbroker Vladimir Eydelman, who used the confidential information to illegally trade for himself and for Tamayo and other customers.  Tamayo allocated a portion of his ill-gotten profits for eventual payback to Metro for the inside information.

“As the middleman, Tamayo was the firewall between Metro and Eydelman.  Metro had the information, Eydelman did the trading, and Tamayo kept them apart,” said Robert Cohen, Co-Deputy Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Market Abuse Unit.  “But they were wrong in believing that this would stop the SEC from detecting their scheme.”

In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey today announced criminal charges against Tamayo.  The U.S. Attorney previously brought criminal actions against Metro and Eydelman.  Those criminal cases and the SEC’s civil case against Metro and Eydelman are pending.

According to the SEC’s complaint against Tamayo, the scheme was deliberately structured to avoid detection, enabling Eydelman and Tamayo to profit without connecting the trades to an insider source and also allowing Metro to share in the trading proceeds.  For a five-year period, Metro repeatedly accessed confidential information in his law firm’s computer systems and met with Tamayo at bars and coffee shops in New York City to provide tips about firm clients ready to participate in a corporate transaction.  Tamayo typically would then connect with Eydelman near the clock at the information booth at Grand Central, where he would show him a post-it note or napkin on which Tamayo wrote the stock ticker symbol of the company to be acquired.  Tamayo then chewed up and sometimes even ate the post-it note or napkin to destroy evidence of the tip.  Tamayo also conveyed to Eydelman the approximate transaction price and timing of the deal.  After Eydelman returned to his office and gathered research about the target company, he would e-mail Tamayo supposed thoughts about why buying the stock made sense.  Their intent was to create a paper trail of e-mails to make it appear they were making their trading decisions based on research and analysis rather than inside information.

The SEC’s complaint charges Tamayo with violations of Sections 10(b) and 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 and 14e-3 as well as Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Jason Burt and Carolyn Welshhans in the Market Abuse Unit with assistance from John Rymas, Mathew Wong, Daniel Koster, and Leigh Barrett.  The case was supervised by Daniel M. Hawke, Chief of the Market Abuse Unit, and Mr. Cohen.  The SEC’s litigation will be led by Stephan Schlegelmilch and Bridget Fitzpatrick.  The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and Options Regulatory Surveillance Authority.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY'S REMARKS WITH CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER WANG YI

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Remarks With Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Before Their Meeting
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
October 1, 2014

 SECRETARY KERRY:  Good afternoon, everybody.  It’s my distinct pleasure to welcome His Excellency, the foreign minister of China, Foreign Minister Wang Yi.  I met with the foreign minister in July in Beijing for a very productive Strategic & Economic Dialogue.  We spent two days together and President Xi opened up that meeting and closed the meeting.  And we are very grateful for China’s significant commitment to that dialogue.  And in addition, we had useful conversations in August during my trip to Burma for the ASEAN Regional Forum, and we had a chance to briefly talk in New York.  Knowing that we were going to be meeting here, we held back on the length and breadth of that conversation.

But I’m very pleased that he has taken time to visit us here in Washington on the occasion of China’s National Day, and we congratulate you on that and welcome you here.  And I’m pleased he’s taken time to come here and strengthen our relationship as part of the ongoing dialogue between us.

I want to emphasize that the United States welcomes the rise of a peaceful, prosperous, and stable China, and one that plays a responsible role in Asia and the world, and contributes to upholding the existing rules and the norms on economic and security issues.  I take note that China is stepping up and contributing to this challenge of Ebola, and we are appreciative for China’s willingness to put both equipment and personnel on the line in order to help deal with this.  We view that in very positive terms with respect to China’s important role in global leadership.

And that is why we are committed – that role and our interests together – in trying to find ways to cooperate on those issues of greatest consequence on a global basis while we manage some of the differences between us effectively.  We want to show a new model of relations in which we broaden our cooperation on the common interests and constructively manage those differences so that we can be as effective as possible.

The foreign minister and I are both coming off of a very busy and very productive week in New York for the climate summit and the UN General Assembly.  There I took pleasure in participating in President Obama’s meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli and I left those meetings encouraged, significantly encouraged, by his commitment on behalf of China to the dialogue with respect to climate change.  And particularly, we talked about dealing with the mitigating of threats from global climate change and also to trying to work together as we develop the targets for next year’s conference in Paris.  We also talked about containing Ebola as well as countering the challenge of radical extremism and terrorism, and particularly ISIL.

One of the issues that we’re going to discuss today, no doubt, is the situation in Hong Kong.  And as China knows, we support universal suffrage in Hong Kong accordant with the Basic Law, and we believe in open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy and governed by rule of law is essential for Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.  And we have high hopes that the Hong Kong authorities will exercise restraint and respect for the protestors’ right to express their views peacefully.

China, importantly, is hosting APEC this year, and their hosting of that meeting could not be more timely or more important to all of us.  I know President Obama is personally looking forward to attending the APEC summit in November.  We’re grateful to the Chinese for helping to arrange the dates in a way that worked for everybody’s schedule.  And I think that the foreign minister and I in a few moments will discuss how we can make certain that that visit is a success, that it is as productive as possible, but also so that the APEC summit is the success that we all want it to be.

So Mr. Foreign Minister, I’m delighted you’re here, and I very much look forward to our conversation.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER WANG:  (Via interpreter) Secretary Kerry, friends from the press, today marks the 65th anniversary of the founding of new China.  It’s our National Day.  I want to share the joy of the Chinese people with you.  I also want to thank Secretary Kerry for his best wishes.  This is a regular visit to the United States by me; it is also a return visit for Secretary Kerry’s visit to China earlier this year.

More importantly, I’ve come to the United States to hold discussion with the U.S. side, to have strategic communication with the U.S. colleagues for President Obama’s trip to China for the APEC meeting and visit to China, particularly for the important consultations, talks between the two presidents.  I want to say that the common interests between us are far greater than our differences.  I agree with what Secretary Kerry said about the areas of cooperation.  Indeed, we need cooperation.  We can cooperate with each other.  And there is an increasing list of areas of cooperation between us, and I believe the list can go on.

There is a very important common mission for the two countries; that is, as the largest developing country and largest developed country in the world, China and the United States need to work together to build a new model of major country relations featuring non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation.  This meets our common interests, meets the expectation of the international community.  It is also in keeping with the trend of human progress.

We don’t think the process will be all smooth sailing.  There will be various risks and challenges on the way.  The China-U.S. relationship is just like a giant ship sailing on the sea.  It requires that both sides work jointly to keep the ship on the right course, keep injecting the impetus for it to forge ahead; and at the same time, we also work jointly to properly handle hidden rocks and shoals.  I believe we need to enhance mutual trust, strategic trust; reduce mutual strategic misgivings; and reduce our misjudgment.  As long as we work jointly in that direction, we will be able to meet our goal.  This is our common mission.  It is also the responsibility that we need to jointly fulfill for the international community.

The endeavor for building this new model of major country relationship is an ongoing process that we are undertaking right at this moment.  We are ready to work with the United States to enhance cooperation, properly manage our differences, and make unremitting efforts towards our common goal.

Secretary Kerry mentioned Hong Kong.  The Chinese Government has very firmly and clearly stated its position.  Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs.  All countries should respect China’s sovereignty.  And this is also a basic principle governing international relations.  I believe for any country, for any society, no one will allow those illegal acts that violate public order.  That’s the situation in the United States, and that’s the same situation in Hong Kong.  We believe that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s government has the capability to properly handle the current situation in accordance with the law.

And I am ready to have a full discussion with Secretary Kerry about those regional and international issues of mutual interest and also our strategic bilateral cooperation.  I hope that more consensus can be reached through such dialogue.  Thank you all.

U.S. DOD SAYS AIRSTRIKES CONTINUE IN IRAQ AND SYRIA

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
More Airstrikes Hit ISIL in Syria and Iraq
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

TAMPA, Fla., Oct. 1, 2014 – U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria yesterday and today using a mix of fighter and remotely piloted aircraft to conduct three airstrikes.

Separately, U.S. military forces and a partner nation used a mix of fighter and remotely piloted aircraft yesterday and today to conduct five airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq.

In Syria, three strikes near Kobani destroyed an ISIL armed vehicle, an ISIL artillery piece, and an ISIL tank. All aircraft departed the strike areas safely.
In Iraq, three strikes northwest of Mosul destroyed two ISIL armed vehicles, destroyed an ISIL occupied building, and struck two ISIL fighting positions. One strike in the vicinity of Haditha Dam destroyed an ISIL armed vehicle while another strike northwest of Baghdad destroyed two armed vehicles.

To conduct these strikes, the U.S. employed U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy fighter aircraft deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations. In addition, the United Kingdom also participated in the Iraq airstrikes. All aircraft departed the strike areas safely.

The strikes were conducted as part of the President's comprehensive strategy to degrade and destroy ISIL. The destruction and degradation of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to lead, control, project power and conduct operations.

PRESIDENT OBAMA AND PRIME MINSITER NETANYAHU OF ISRAEL MAKE REMARKS BEFORE MEETING

FROM:  THE WHITE HOUSE 
October 01, 2014
Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel Before Bilateral Meeting
Oval Office
11:23 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, it’s good once again to welcome the Prime Minister of Israel, Bibi Netanyahu.  Obviously, he’s no stranger to the White House.  I think I’ve met with Bibi more than any world leader during my tenure as President.

We meet at a challenging time.  Israel is obviously in a very turbulent neighborhood, and this gives us an opportunity once again to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel, and our ironclad commitment to making sure that Israel is secure.

Throughout the summer, obviously all of us were deeply concerned about the situation in Gaza.  I think the American people should be very proud of the contributions that we made to the Iron Dome program to protect the lives of Israelis at a time when rockets were pouring into Israel on a regular basis.  I think we also recognize that we have to find ways to change the status quo so that both Israeli citizens are safe in their own homes and schoolchildren in their schools from the possibility of rocket fire, but also that we don’t have the tragedy of Palestinian children being killed as well.

And so we’ll discuss extensively both the situation of rebuilding Gaza but also how can we find a more sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Our agenda will be broader than that, obviously.  I’ll debrief Bibi on the work that we’re doing to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, and the broader agenda that I discussed at the United Nations, which is mobilizing a coalition not only for military action, but also to bring about a shift in Arab states and Muslim countries that isolate the cancer of violent extremism that is so pernicious and ultimately has killed more Muslims than anything else.

And we’ll also have an opportunity to discuss the progress that’s being made with respect to dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, which obviously has been a high priority for not only Israel, but also the United States and the world community.

So we have a lot to talk about, and I appreciate very much the Prime Minister coming.  It’s challenging I think for an Israeli Prime Minister to have to work so hard during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but I know that the Prime Minister’s utmost priority is making sure that his country is safe during these difficult times.  And we’re glad that the United States can be a partner in that process.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Mr. President, first I want to thank you.  I want to thank you for the unflinching support you gave Israel during our difficult days and difficult summer we had -- expressed in so many ways, but also in an additional installment of support for Iron Dome, which has saved so many lives, saved many lives across the border.  And I thank you for that, and for the continuous bond of friendship that is so strong between Israel and the United States.

I also want to thank you for this opportunity to meet with you and to discuss the enormous challenges facing the United States and Israel in the Middle East.  There’s definitely a new Middle East.  I think it poses new dangers, but it also presents new opportunities.

As for the dangers, Israel fully supports your effort and your leadership to defeat ISIS.  We think everybody should support this.  And even more critical is our shared goal of preventing Iran from becoming a military nuclear power.

As you know, Mr. President, Iran seeks a deal that would lift the tough sanctions that you’ve worked so hard to put in place, and leave it as a threshold nuclear power.  I fervently hope that under your leadership that would not happen.

Equally, I think that there are opportunities.  And the opportunities, as you just expressed, is something that is changing in the Middle East, because out of the new situation, there emerges a commonality of interests between Israel and leading Arab states.  And I think that we should work very hard together to seize on those common interests and build a positive program to advance a more secure, more prosperous and a more peaceful Middle East.

I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples based on mutual recognition and rock solid security arrangements on the ground.  And I believe we should make use of the new opportunities, think outside the box, see how we can recruit the Arab countries to advance this very hopeful agenda.  And I look forward to our discussions on these and many other matters.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much, everybody.

END
11:29 A.M. EDT

U.S. CONGRATULATES THE PEOPLE OF GUINEA ON THEIR INDEPENDENCE DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT   
Guinea's National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
October 1, 2014

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Guinea as you commemorate 56 years of independence on October 2.

The United States shares a long and productive relationship with Guinea and recognizes the progress that the people of Guinea have made promoting democracy and shared economic prosperity. We look forward to continuing our close partnership in the areas of health, women’s rights, agricultural development, good governance, transparency in the mining sector, and regional stability.

On this joyous holiday, I send best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous future.

9/30/14: White House Press Briefing

The President Meets with the Prime Minister of India

DOD VIDEO: MORE NATIONS JOIN FIGHT AGAINST ISIL


DOD PHOTOS: U.S. PREPARES ARMOR ASSETS IN POLAND FOR OPERATION ATLANTIC RESOLVE

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 


U.S. soldiers prepare to unload their armor assets from a rail line as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve near Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland, Sept. 28, 2014. U.S. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Benton Conque.


U.S. soldiers prepare to unload armor assets that have arrived near Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland, and will be used as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, Sept. 28, 2014. U.S. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Benton Conque.


U.S. CONGRATULATES PEOPLE OF NIGERIA ON THEIR INDEPENDENCE DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Nigeria National Day Message
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
September 30, 2014

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Nigeria as you celebrate your Independence Day on October 1.

Our peoples enjoy an enduring partnership founded on shared values of democracy, security, and respect for human rights and the rule of law. The United States and Nigeria must continue working together to thwart destabilizing forces that would use violence to undo gains achieved to date through so much effort.

I was honored to speak with President Goodluck Jonathan at the United Nations General Assembly last week, and to welcome him to Washington, DC, this summer for the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit. We discussed how our two countries can deepen our partnership through trade and collaboration.

And weeks before, I shook hands with Beatrice Jedy-Agba—a courageous Nigerian woman who has devoted her life’s work to combatting human trafficking and bringing a peaceful, secure future to all Nigerians.

I wish all Nigerians a prosperous future on the 54th anniversary of your independence.

PAKISTANI INDICTED FOR SELLING SPYWARE APP FOR USE BY STALKERS/DOMESTIC ABUSERS

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Monday, September 29, 2014

Pakistani Man Indicted for Selling 'StealthGenie' Spyware App
A Pakistani man has been indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia for allegedly conspiring to advertise and sell StealthGenie, a spyware application (app) that could monitor calls, texts, videos and other communications on mobile phones without detection.  This marks the first-ever criminal case concerning the advertisement and sale of a mobile device spyware app.  

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew McCabe of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.

“Selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it’s a crime,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “Apps like StealthGenie are expressly designed for use by stalkers and domestic abusers who want to know every detail of a victim’s personal life – all without the victim’s knowledge.  The Criminal Division is committed to cracking down on those who seek to profit from technology designed and used to commit brazen invasions of individual privacy.”

“StealthGenie has little use beyond invading a victim’s privacy” said U.S. Attorney Boente.  “Advertising and selling spyware technology is a criminal offense, and such conduct will be aggressively pursued by this office and our law enforcement partners.”  

“This application allegedly equips potential stalkers and criminals with a means to invade an individual’s confidential communications,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge McCabe.  “They do this not by breaking into their homes or offices, but by physically installing spyware on unwitting victim’s phones and illegally tracking an individual’s every move.  As technology continues to evolve, the FBI will investigate and bring to justice those who use illegal means to monitor and track individuals without their knowledge.”

According to allegations in the indictment, Hammad Akbar, 31, of Lahore, Pakistan, is the chief executive officer of InvoCode Pvt Ltd, the company that advertises and sells StealthGenie online.  Akbar and his co-conspirators allegedly created the spyware, which could intercept communications to and from mobile phones, including Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, and Blackberry Limited’s Blackberry.  StealthGenie was undetectable by most users and was advertised as being untraceable.

Akbar was charged in the indictment with conspiracy, sale of a surreptitious interception device, advertisement of a known interception device and advertising a device as a surreptitious interception device.  He was arrested in Los Angeles on Sept. 27, 2014, and is expected to appear before a magistrate judge in the Central District of California later today.

StealthGenie was hosted at a data center in Ashburn, Virginia.  On Sept. 26, 2014, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia issued a temporary restraining order authorizing the FBI to temporarily disable the website hosting StealthGenie.

The indictment alleges that StealthGenie’s capabilities included the following: it recorded all incoming/outgoing voice calls; it intercepted calls on the phone to be monitored while they take place; it allowed the purchaser to call the phone and activate it at any time to monitor all surrounding conversations within a 15-foot radius; and it allowed the purchaser to monitor the user’s incoming and outgoing e-mail messages and SMS messages, incoming voicemail messages, address book, calendar, photographs, and videos.  All of these functions were enabled without the knowledge of the user of the phone.

Akbar and his co-conspirators allegedly programmed StealthGenie to synchronize communications intercepted by the app with the customer’s account so that the customer could review intercepted communications almost immediately from any computer with access to the Internet.  To install the app, a purchaser needed to obtain physical control over the phone to be monitored for only a few minutes.  The purchaser could then review communications intercepted from the monitored phone without ever again having physical control over the phone.  Akbar and others alleged designed SteathGenie to be undetectable to users of the phone.

According to allegations in the indictment, the business plan for the development, sale and advertisement of StealthGenie stated that the target population for the marketing of the app was “[s]pousal cheat: Husband/Wife of (sic) boyfriend/girlfriend suspecting their other half of cheating or any other suspicious behaviour or if they just want to monitor them.”  Language and testimonials on the StealthGenie website focused significantly on potential purchasers who did not have any ownership interest in the mobile phone to be monitored, including those suspecting a spouse or romantic partner of infidelity.  The indictment alleges that Akbar and his co-conspirators fabricated the testimonials.  

An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and prosecuted by Trial Attorneys William A. Hall Jr. and Peter V. Roman of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay V. Prabhu of the Eastern District of Virginia.