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Saturday, November 22, 2014


Counter-ISIL Coalition Planning Conference Concludes
From a U.S. Central Command News Release

TAMPA, Fla., Nov. 21, 2014 – A counter- Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant operational planning conference featuring military planners from 33 nations and hosted by U.S. Central Command Nov. 12 to 21 concluded today at MacDill Air Force Base here.

The conference included nearly 200 coalition participants, who worked together to synchronize and refine coalition campaign plans designed to degrade and defeat ISIL.

“This conference brought the very best plans officers from nations within the Central Region and coalition partners from around the world," said British Army Brig. Gen. Gary C. Deakin, Deputy Director of U.S. Central Command Strategy, Plans and Policy. “What I experienced, as the officer tasked to lead the planning effort, was the strength, level of determination, and scale of commitment of these 33 nations to defeat ISIL. This is perhaps the strongest coalition I have had the privilege of serving in. Our regional partners were particularly impressed by the depth of coalition support and collective will to prevail against ISIL in order to stabilize the region.”

Coalition Partners Tackle Train, Advise, Assist Planning

A major focus of the 10-day conference was to further develop coalition plans to help train, advise and assist Iraqi Security Forces so that Iraq is better able to regenerate its combat power, counter ISIL and ultimately provide for its own security. Attendees were able to solidify plans and discuss how best to synchronize and reinforce mutual efforts to aid the Iraqis. The conference also provided a unique opportunity for attendees to share their regional insights and perspectives on how best to combat ISIL and ultimately defeat the terrorist group.

“The strength of our regional campaign is the broad coalition that has come together with the common goal of defeating ISIL,” said Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, U.S. Central Command commander. “Over the past week, the best military planners from 33 nations met and developed plans to train, advise and assist Iraq's security forces. Today, I received their outbrief and was very pleased to see the enormous progress made. I am confident that their hard work will pay significant dividends going forward. It is through these kinds of collaborations and our continued cooperation that we will achieve our shared objectives, further strengthen relationships between our nations, and improve stability and security in that strategically important region of the world.”


Weekly Address: Immigration Accountability Executive Action



FTC Halts Advance Fee Recovery Scheme Targeting Victims of Timeshare Resale and Investment Scams

The defendants in a federal court action brought by the FTC have agreed to stop operating an advance fee recovery scheme for the duration of the on-going litigation. The FTC seeks to permanently stop the operation, which in the past year took close to $1.3 million from consumers, many of them elderly people who had lost money to timeshare resale and precious metal investment frauds.

According to the FTC’s complaint, telemarketers for Consumer Collection Advocates, Corp. and Michael Robert Ettus called consumers and falsely guaranteed that, for an up-front fee, typically 20 percent of the amount they lost, the defendants would recover substantial amounts of money for them – 60 percent or more – within 30 to 180 days. For consumers who had lost from several thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars and could not afford a 20 percent up-front fee, the defendants would often accept a reduced fee of less than 10 percent of their loss. The defendants also charged a back-end fee of 20 percent for any amount recovered.

According to the complaint, consumers were sent a contract and power of attorney to sign and return with an up-front payment ranging from hundreds to as much as $10,000. Consumers who did not agree to buy the service received repeated calls from defendants pressuring them to sign up. Once consumers paid for the recovery service, they stopped hearing from the defendants. Those who called to ask about their recovery were told their case was being worked on, but few, if any, consumers received any money, according to the complaint.

The defendants are charged with violating the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, which prohibits seeking or accepting payment from a person for recovery of money paid for previous telemarketing transactions until seven business days after that person receives the money.

Under a court order announced today, the defendants are prohibited from misrepresenting that consumers who buy their services will recover, or are highly likely to recover, a substantial portion of money they have lost to telemarketers, typically within 30 to 180 days. They are also barred from violating the TSR, and from selling or otherwise benefitting from customers’ personal information.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 5-0. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. On November 4, 2014, the court entered a temporary restraining order [link to TRO] halting the defendants’ deceptive scheme and freezing their assets. The defendants agreed to a preliminary injunction, which the court entered on November 17, 2014. The preliminary injunction continues the conduct prohibitions and asset freeze.

As part of a joint investigation between the FTC and the State of Florida, the Florida Attorney General’s Office filed an action against the defendants in state court on November 5, 2014, alleging the same deceptive practices.

The FTC appreciates the assistance of the Better Business Bureau Serving Southeast Florida and the Caribbean in bringing this case.

NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of 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.



Remarks for Tech Panel at U.S.-India Tech Summit
Charles H. Rivkin
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
New Delhi, India
November 18, 2014

Thank you.

I am honored to join so many key leaders in the ICT sector, from both our governments and private sectors. And I would like to thank the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology, who partnered with the U.S. Government to sponsor this important summit.

There is only so much you can do to make a garden grow. You can plant the seeds. You can enrich the soil. You can water at the right times. You can pull out the weeds. You can make sure the garden gets enough sun. But then it’s your job to get out of the way and let the garden grow on its own.

As governments, there is much we can do – and much that we should do – to help the ICT sector grow. After all, a rich and fertile ICT sector can do so much for the people we are sworn to protect and serve – our citizens.

It may sound surprising to hear a U.S. Government official start a speech by talking about gardens – and maybe that has something to do with the agriculture panel where I’ll be speaking shortly!

But it helps me underscore a fundamental point.

A rich and fertile sector was certainly the impetus behind the Digital India program, whose vision we support and whose goals we are eager to help advance.

But like the gardener – we can reach those goals best by removing the obstacles to growth, and letting things grow by themselves.

In terms of the potential for India’s ICT sector, this couldn’t be a more auspicious time.

According to the Economist magazine, India’s internet users are expected to double to more than 550 million people by the year 2018.

This will make India the world’s second largest internet market. And we fundamentally agree with the Prime Minister’s assessment that this growth will be a game-changer, driving economic growth and personal empowerment.

With this growth come many opportunities, whether we are talking about e-government that can connect people to important services … or e-commerce and other internet-enabled applications that can help small and medium-sized businesses grow and have more access to global markets …

… or quite simply, a broad platform that will allow more people to connect to the world at large.

Two way investment, unhampered by government protectionism and restrictions, would go a long way towards realizing that potential.

We also agree with India’s premise that “IT plus IT equals more IT.” And that ties in perfectly with Secretary Kerry’s prosperity agenda which does not see trade and investment as a zero sum game, but one of equal participation, open competition and mutual advantage.

Our companies are eager to invest in India, employ its citizens and operate service and manufacturing centers here.

But that means competing on equal terms, with no government-imposed restrictions or requirements that amount to protectionist barriers.

There is so much that our IT sector can bring to the table, whether that’s helping to expand broadband access, or develop emergency and disaster communications networks, or simply support social networking, online shopping, e-health, e-learning and e-government – all of which create efficiencies, stimulate economic growth, and improve social well-being.

Removing barriers would also go a long way toward improving India’s manufacturing capability too.

If any country has the intellectual capital and university system to further develop its ICT sector, it’s India.

By removing those barriers, India’s IT industry would have direct access to global supply chains – which are so critical for its innovators and entrepreneurs.

Measures like these would bring greater resonance to India’s message that it is “open for business.”

So would a bilateral Mutual Recognition Agreement, which would save manufacturers the time and expense of additional product testing, so they could deliver products more quickly to each other’s markets and lower costs to consumers.

Finally, we believe there is no greater step to helping the ICT industry contribute to the Indian economy than by opening up the satellite industry.

The Indian satellite industry is successful and mature enough to compete on the world stage without government protections.

An open, competitive satellite industry would fulfill Digital India’s goals, and offer widespread national coverage – from the Himalayas to the Nicobar Islands and everywhere between.

By bringing broadband internet access and mobility connectivity to its people, and emerging as a manufacturing hub for satcom components and systems, India would demonstrate that what’s good for the citizen and the consumer, and what’s good for the investor and the entrepreneur, is also good for the economy, for our countries, and for our citizens.

Thank you.


Remarks at the Launch of UNFPA's State of the World Population Report
Anne C. Richard
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Woodrow Wilson Center
Washington, DC
November 18, 2014

Thank you, Roger-Mark. As you noted, my bureau supports UNFPA’s work to increase access to reproductive health services and prevent and respond to gender-based violence throughout the world.

For this reason, I am very pleased to join you all for today’s launch of the 2014 State of the World Population Report on “The Power of 1.8 Billion: Adolescents, Youth, and the Transformation of the Future.”

As this report points out, our hopes for peace and prosperity depend on what happens to this, the largest generation of young people in human history.

But as it cautions, many of them struggle against almost overwhelming odds. In some countries, a girl is more likely to die in childbirth than to complete her education.

The vast majority of young people, nine in 10, live in less developed countries –where poverty is most prevalent and healthcare and schooling hardest to come by. And scarce resources are just one problem.

This report notes that young people often face additional hurdles, such as laws and social norms that can keep them from receiving reproductive health information and services – services they urgently need – to preserve their options, pursue their future goals, and even save their own lives.

For example, while millions of women have an unmet need for contraception, it is married adolescent girls, ages 15 to 19, whose unmet need is the greatest of all. They are only about a third as likely to use contraceptives as married women over 30. Many of these girls have no say in the matter. Unmarried adolescents also struggle to get information that could help them avoid early pregnancy or HIV. Health care workers or families may be hostile or judgmental, and laws may require young people to get parental consent to obtain family planning information or services.

The consequences of this unmet need can be grave. Among 15 to 19 year-old girls in low and middle-income countries, complications from pregnancy and unsafe abortions are a leading cause of death. And while HIV fatalities for other age groups are falling, among adolescents, they are rising.

What is encouraging – and the report makes this clear – is that we can solve this. The report recommends a number of promising interventions – steps the Obama Administration fully supports. They are:

Stopping early and forced marriage and preventing adolescent pregnancies
Strengthening sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights among young people, including adolescents
Preventing and addressing sexual and gender-based violence
Discouraging harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation
Promoting equal education for girls
Improving young people’s prospects for finding good jobs.
There are no painful tradeoffs here. These interventions are mutually reinforcing – and create a virtuous cycle.

More education, less child marriage and gender-based violence, delayed childbearing, healthier kids, stronger economic growth, gender equality, and expanded opportunity all go together.

That is one reason why the U.S. government supports young people’s reproductive rights, youth-friendly, integrated sexual and reproductive health services, and age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education. For example, USAID has been working in countries across the globe to meet adolescent health needs through its “Youth in Development” policy.

And why the Obama Administration has devoted more than $20 million to Secretary Kerry’s signature “Safe from the Start” initiative. Its aim is to stop gender based violence in emergencies. And, as a part of our PEPFAR HIV programs, we have reached over 114,000 survivors with post-rape care over the past four years.

And we are not alone. The vast majority of governments have lined up to support these types of policies – and the goals set forth in international consensus documents starting with the Program of Action that emerged from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development. Many have also passed laws to protect the health and rights of young people. But as this report demonstrates, that may not be enough.

For example, there is ample evidence that early and forced marriage is hazardous for girls, exposing them to dangerous pregnancies, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and often trapping them and their children in poverty. And almost all countries have established some legal minimum age at marriage. Yet one in nine girls in developing countries gets married before she turns 15. Some child brides are as young as eight or nine.

This report points to one important reason for this. Often, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab States and South Asia, laws against early marriage are not enforced. For example, India has criminalized marriage for girls under 18, but in 2010 only 11 people were actually convicted of violating this law.

This report can help close the gap between the principles enshrined in our international pledges, and what young people experience in their daily lives. It can help laws, enforcement, and programs catch up with intentions. It shows how important it is to understand what holds young people back, not only in theory but in practice, and to give them a voice in shaping solutions.

We all know that young people are the future. Thanks to UNFPA, we now know just how much is at stake. Not only the risks of failure, but the enormous benefits within reach with the right mix of enlightened policies and effective programs. Young people deserve the chance to pursue their dreams and to thrive. As this report shows very clearly, by helping youth secure their future, we can also secure ours.


A day in the life of Robotina
What might daily life be like for a research robot that's training to work closely with humans?

On the day of the Lego experiment, I roll out of my room early. I scan the lab with my laser, which sits a foot off the floor, and see a landscape of points and planes. My first scan turns up four dense dots, which I deduce to be a table's legs...
Robotina is a sophisticated research robot. Specifically, it's a Willow Garage PR2, designed to work with people.

But around the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, it is most-often called Robotina.

"We chose a name for every robot in our lab. It's more personal that way," said graduate student Claudia Pérez D'Arpino, who grew up watching the futuristic cartoon The Jetsons. In the Spanish-language version, Rosie, the much-loved household robot, is called Robotina.

Robotina has been in the interactive robotics lab of engineering professor Julie Shah since 2011, where it is one of three main robot platforms Shah's team works with. Robotina is aptly named, as an aim is to give it many of Rosie's capabilities: to interact with humans and perform many types of work.

In her National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported research, Shah and her team study how humans and robots can work together more efficiently. Hers is one of dozens of projects supported by the National Robotics Initiative, a government-wide effort to develop robots that can work alongside humans.

"We focus on how robots can assist people in high-intensity situations, like manufacturing plants, search-and-rescue situations and even space exploration," Shah said.

What Shah and her team are finding in their experiments is that humans often work better and feel more at ease when Robotina is calling the shots--that is, when it's scheduling tasks. In fact, a recent MIT experiment showed that a decision-making robotic helper can make humans significantly more productive.

Part of the reason for this seems to be that people not only trust Robotina's impeccable ability to crunch numbers, they also believe the robot trusts and understands them.

As roboticists develop more sophisticated, human-like robotic assistants, it's easy to anthropomorphize them. Indeed, it's nothing new.

So, what is a day in the life of Robotina like as she struggles to learn social skills?

Give that robot a Coke

I don't just crash into things all the time like some two-year-old human, if that's what you're wondering. My mouth also contains a laser scanner, so I can get a 3-D sense of my surroundings. My eyes are cameras and I can recognize objects...

Robotina has sensors from head to base to help it interact with its environment. With proper programming, its pincher-like hands can do everything from fold towels to fetch Legos (more on that soon).

It could even sip a Coke if it wanted to. Well, not quite. But it could pick up the can without smashing it.

Matthew Gombolay, graduate student and NSF research fellow, once witnessed the act. At the time, he wasn't sure how Robotina would handle the bendable aluminum can.

"I wanted it to pick up a Coke can to see what would happen," Gombolay said. "I thought it'd be really strong and crush the Coke can, but it didn't. It stopped."

That's because Robotina has the ability to gauge how much pressure is just enough to hold or manipulate an object. It can also sense when it is too close to something--or someone--and stop.

Look, I'm 5-feet-and-4.7-inches tall--even taller if I stretch my metal spine--and weigh a lot more than your average human. If I sense something, I stop...

Proximity awareness in robots designed to work around people not only prevents dangerous or awkward robot-human collisions, it builds trust.

"I am definitely someone who likes to test things to failure. I want to know if I can trust it," Gombolay said. "So, I know it's not going to crush a Coke can, and I'm strong enough to crush a Coke can, so I feel safer."

Roboticists who aim to integrate robots into human teams are serious about trying to hard-wire robots to follow the spirit of Isaac Asimov's first Law of Robotics: A robot may not injure a human being.

Luckily, when decision-making robots like Robotina move into factories, they don't have to be ballet dancers. They just have to move well enough to do their jobs without hurting anyone. Perhaps as importantly, the people around them must know that the robots won't hurt them.

Robots love Legos, too

The day of the Lego experiment is eight hours of fetching Legos and making decisions about how to assemble them. The calculations are easy enough, but all that labor makes my right arm stop working. So I switch to my left...

In an exercise last fall that mimicked a manufacturing scenario, the researchers set up an experiment that required robot-human teams to build models out of Legos.

In one trial, Robotina created a schedule to complete the tasks; in the other, a human made the decisions. The goal was to determine whether having an autonomous robot on the team might improve efficiency.

The researchers found that when Robotina organized the tasks, they took less time--both for scheduling and assembly. The humans trusted the robot to make impartial decisions and do what was best for the team.

I have to decide what task needs doing next to complete the Lego structure. The humans text me when they are done with a task or ready to start a new one. I schedule the tasks based on the data. I don't play favorites. When I'm not fetching Legos or thinking, I sit quietly...

"People thought the robot would be unbiased, while a human would be biased based on skills," Gombolay said. "People generally viewed the robot positively as a good teammate."

As it turned out, workers preferred increased productivity over having more control. When it comes to assembling something, "the humans almost always perform better when Robotina makes all the decisions," Shah said.

Predicting the unpredictable

I stand across a table from a human. I sort Legos into cups while the human takes things out of the cups. Humans are incredibly unpredictable, but I do my best to analyze where the human is most likely to move next so that I can accommodate him...

Ideally, in the factories of the future, robots will be able to predict human behavior and movement so well they can easily stay out of the way of their human co-workers.

The goal is to have robots that never even have to use their proximity sensors to avoid collisions. They already know where a human is going and can steer clear.

"Suppose you want a robot to help you out but are uncomfortable when the robot moves in an awkward way. You may be afraid to interact with it, which is highly inefficient," Pérez D'Arpino said. "At the end of the day, you want to make humans comfortable."

To help do so, Pérez D'Arpino is developing a model that will help Robotina guess what a human will do next.

In an experiment where it and a student worked together to sort Lego pieces and build models, Robotina was able to guess in only 400 milliseconds where the human would go next based on the person's body position.

The angle of the arm, elbow, wrist... they all help me determine in what direction the hand will go. I am limited only by the rate at which sensors and processors can collect and analyze data, which means I can predict where a person will move in about the average time a human eye blinks...

Once Robotina knew where the person would reach, it reached for a different spot. The result was a more natural, more fluid collaboration.

Putting Robotinas to work

I ask myself the same question you do: Am I reaching my full potential?

While Robotina's days now involve seemingly endless cups of Legos, its successes in the MIT lab will eventually enable it to become a more well-rounded robot. The experiments also demonstrate humans' willingness to embrace robots in the right roles.

To make them the superb, cooperative assistants envisioned by the National Robotics Initiative--to give people a better quality of life and benefit society and the economy--could require that some robots be nearly as dynamic and versatile as humans.

"An old-school way of thinking is to make a robot for each task, like the Roomba," Gombolay said. "But unless we make an advanced, general-purpose robot, we won't be able to fully realize their full potential."

To have the ideal Robotina--the Jetsons' Robotina--in our home or workplace means a lot more training days for humans and robots alike. With the help of NSF funding, progress is being made.

"We're at a really exciting time," Gombolay said.

What would I say if I could talk? Probably that I'd really like to watch that Transformers movie.

-- Sarah Bates,
Julie Shah
Related Institutions/Organizations
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence


International Security and Missile Defense
Frank A. Rose
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
University of Warsaw
Warsaw, Poland
November 19, 2014

Thank you for that kind introduction, and thanks for having me here today.

At the State Department, I am responsible for overseeing a wide range of defense issues, including missile defense policy. In this capacity, I served as the lead U.S. negotiator for the missile defense bases in Romania, Turkey, and Poland.

So I’m pleased to be here today to discuss international security and missile defense. In my remarks, I would like to discuss three key issues:

First, the United States’ commitment to ballistic missile defense (BMD) and the Fiscal Year 2015 missile defense budget request;

Second, the significant progress that has been made in implementing the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) over the past year; and;

Third, cooperation on missile defense with allies and partners outside of Europe.

2015 Budget

The United States and NATO are committed to establishing ever more capable missile defenses to address the ballistic missile threat to Europe.

As U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel noted in March 2013, the U.S. commitment to NATO missile defense and the sites in Romania and Poland remains “ironclad.”

On March 4, 2014, President Obama released his Fiscal Year 2015 budget submission that aligns defense program priorities and resources with the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).

Let me highlight a couple of key issues that you may find of interest:

Overall, the budget request provides $8.5 billion for missile defense, including $7.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency.

With regard to U.S. homeland defense provides funding to increase the number of long-range missile defense interceptors deployed in Alaska and California 30 to 44 by 2017.

It also funds a number of other programs to enhance the long-range system such as a new kill vehicle and new long-range discrimination radar.

With regard to regional missile defense, the budget continues funding to complete work on the missile defense base at Devesulu in Romania and provides additional funding ($225.7 million) for the missile defense base in Poland.

The request also includes $435.4 million for the procurement of SM-3 Block IB interceptors and $263.9 for continued development of the longer-range SM-3 Block IIA interceptor.

The fact that the United States continues to devote such significant resources to the missile defense program is a clear signal of the importance the U.S. places on the program, including the sites in Romania and Poland.

European Phased Adaptive Approach
Let me now take a few moments to discuss where we are with regard to implementation of the President’s European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) to missile defense.

In 2009, the President announced that the EPAA would “provide stronger, smarter, and swifter defenses of American forces and America's Allies,” while relying on “capabilities that are proven and cost-effective.”

Since then, we have been working hard to implement his vision. As you know, we have made great progress.

EPAA Phase 1 gained its first operational elements in 2011 with the start of a sustained deployment of an Aegis BMD-capable multi-role ship to the Mediterranean and the deployment of an AN/TPY-2 radar in Turkey.

With the declaration of Interim BMD Capability at the NATO Summit in Chicago in May 2012, this radar transitioned to NATO operational control.

Demonstrating its commitment to NATO collective defense, Spain agreed in 2011 to host four U.S. Aegis BMD-capable ships at the existing naval facility at Rota as a Spanish contribution to NATO missile defense.

In February 2014, the first of four missile defense-capable Aegis ships, the USS DONALD COOK, arrived in Rota, Spain. Over the next 18 months, three more of these multi-mission ships will deploy to Rota.

These multi-mission ships will conduct maritime security operations, humanitarian missions, bilateral and multilateral training exercises, and support U.S. and NATO operations, including NATO missile defense.

Stationing these naval assets in Spain places them in a position to maximize their operational flexibility for missions in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

With regard to Phase 2, as you know, we have an agreement with Romania, ratified in December of 2011, to host a U.S. land-based SM-3 interceptor site beginning in the 2015 timeframe.

We greatly appreciate Romania’s active role in preparing for the construction of the missile defense facility at the Romanian Deveselu Military Base.

The Romanian prompt whole-of-government support for the timely completion of the implementing arrangements and Romania’s provision of security and its infrastructure efforts have been superb.

In October 2013, I had the honor of attending the ground-breaking ceremony at Deveselu Air Base to commemorate the start of the construction at the site.

And just over a month ago in early October, the U.S. Navy held a historic naval support facility establishment ceremony at the MD facility on Romania’s Deveselu Base. This ceremony established the naval facility and installed its first U.S. commander. We view this as the first step in transitioning the facility from a construction site to the site of operations sometime next year.

When operational, this site, combined with BMD-capable ships in the Mediterranean, will enhance coverage of NATO from short- and medium-range ballistic missiles launched from the Middle East.

I also had the opportunity last year to visit the Lockheed-Martin facility in Moorestown, New Jersey, where they build the Aegis Ashore deck house and components destined for Romania.

We remain on schedule for deploying the system to Romania, with the site becoming operational in 2015.

And finally there is Phase 3.

This phase includes an Aegis Ashore site in Poland equipped with the new SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, per the Ballistic Missile Defense agreement between the United States and Poland that entered into force in September 2011.

This site is on schedule for deployment in the 2018 time frame. The interceptor site in Poland is key to the EPAA: When combined with other EPAA assets, Phase 3 will provide the necessary capabilities to provide ballistic missile defense coverage of all NATO European territory in the 2018 time frame.

So, as you can see, we are continuing to implement the President’s vision for stronger, smarter and swifter missile defenses.

NATO Cooperation

At the Lisbon Summit in 2010, NATO Heads of State and Government agreed that the Alliance would develop a missile defense capability to protect Alliance territory, populations, and forces from ballistic missile attack.

At the Chicago and Wales Summits, Allied Heads of State and Government noted the potential opportunities for using synergies in planning, development, procurement, and deployment.

We need to take full advantage of this opportunity, whether bilaterally or multilaterally, within or outside of NATO.

There are several approaches Allies can take to make important and valuable contributions to NATO BMD.

First, Allies can acquire fully capable BMD systems possessing sensor, shooter and command and control capabilities.

Second, Allies can acquire new sensors or upgrade existing ones to provide a key BMD capability.

Finally, Allies can contribute to NATO’s BMD capability by providing essential basing support, such as Turkey, Romania, Poland, and Spain have agreed to do.

In all of these approaches, however, the most critical requirement is NATO interoperability.

Yes, acquiring a BMD capability is, of course, good in and of itself.

But if the capability is not interoperable with the Alliance then its value as a contribution to Alliance deterrence and defense is significantly diminished.

It is only through interoperability that the Alliance can gain the synergistic effects from BMD cooperation that enhance the effectiveness of NATO BMD through shared battle-space awareness and reduced interceptor wastage.

Missile Defense Developments in Other Regions

The United States, in consultation with our allies and partners, is continuing to bolster missile defenses in other key regions, such as the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific, in order to strengthen regional deterrence architectures.

As with Europe, we are tailoring our approaches to the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific so that they reflect the unique deterrence and defense requirements of each region.

In the Middle East, we are already cooperating with our key partners bilaterally and multilaterally through venues such as the recently established U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Strategic Cooperation Forum.

At the September 26, 2013, Strategic Cooperation Forum (SCF), Secretary Kerry and his Foreign Ministry counterparts reaffirmed their intent, first stated at the September 28, 2012, SCF, to “work toward enhanced U.S.-GCC coordination on Ballistic Missile Defense.”

Speaking on December 7, 2013, at the Manama Dialogue, Secretary Hagel announced several initiatives, one of which was that the “DoD will work with the GCC on better integration of GCC members’ missile defense capabilities.”

Several of our partners in the region have expressed an interest in buying missile defense systems, and some have already done so. For example, the UAE has contracted to buy two THAAD batteries that, when operational, will enhance the UAE’s security as well as regional stability.

The UAE also has taken delivery of its Patriot PAC-3 batteries, which provide a lower-tier, point defense of critical national assets. We look forward to advancing cooperation and interoperability with our GCC partners in the years ahead.

Additionally and separately, we are continuing our long-standing and robust cooperation with Israel on missile defense on key systems such as Arrow 3, David’s Sling, and Iron Dome.

In the Asia-Pacific, we are continuing to cooperate through our bilateral alliances and key partnerships.

For example, the United States and Japan already are working closely together to develop an advanced interceptor known as the SM-3 Block IIA and deployment of a second AN/TPY-2 radar to Japan, while continuing to work on enhancing interoperability between U.S. and Japanese forces.

As a result of U.S.-Australia Foreign and Defense ministerial consultations this year, the United States and Australia are establishing a bilateral BMD Working Group to examine options for potential Australian contributions to BMD in the Asia-Pacific region.

Additionally, we are also continuing to consult closely with the Republic of Korea (ROK) as it develops the Korean Air and Missile Defense system, which is designed to defend the ROK against air and missile threats from North Korea.

No Constraints

Let me say a few things about missile defense and Russia.

With regard to where things stand today regarding our discussions on missile defense, Russia’s intervention into the crisis in Ukraine, in violation of international law, has led to the suspension of our military-to-military dialogue, and we are not currently engaging Russia on the topic of missile defense.

Prior to the suspension of our dialogue, Russia continued to demand that the United States provide it “legally binding” guarantees that our missile defense will not harm/diminish its strategic nuclear deterrent.

We have made clear to the Russians that EPAA is not directed toward Russia and that we cannot and will not accept legally-binding constraints that limit our ability to defend ourselves, our allies, and our partners.

As Secretary Hagel’s March 2013 BMD announcement makes clear, the United States must have the flexibility to respond to evolving ballistic missile threats, without obligations that limit our BMD capabilities.

Let me conclude by saying that we have made a great deal of progress on missile defense over the past several years.

Implementation of the EPAA and NATO missile defense is going well. For example, we broke ground on the missile defense site at Devesulu last October and are on schedule for the base to become operational in 2015.

Additionally, Congress has continued to provide sufficient funding for the missile defense program, even in these challenging times.

The United States looks forward to continuing to work with our allies and friends around to world – and especially Poland – to improve our collective security.

Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.

Friday, November 21, 2014

West Wing Week: 11/21/14 or, "Mingalarbar!"

The President Speaks on Fixing America's Broken Immigration System



Secretary of State John Kerry At a Solo Press Availability
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Paris, France
November 20, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good afternoon, everybody. As you know, I’ve spent the last couple of days in Europe, in London, and now in Paris. And during the course of that time, I’ve had very worthwhile meetings with Foreign Secretary Hammond of Great Britain, Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal here in Paris today, and of course, with Foreign Minister Fabius, and other meetings that I have had during that time.

During these meetings, we’ve discussed a range of the challenges that we face together as partners – obviously, Syria, ISIL, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, others, but particularly, as you can imagine, the focus has been on the nuclear negotiations with Iran. As all of us know, we are now a little less than a week away from the November 24th deadline for these negotiations. And none of us came to this process, I assure you, with anything except serious purpose and realism. We knew the stakes in getting into this, and we also knew the challenges.

But we’ve also – I want to make it clear – come a long way in a short period of time. After all, it was only last year when our nations first resumed high-level contact after decades of stalled relations, I think more than 35 years since we had even talked. It was only last year that President Obama spoke with President Rouhani by phone, and it was only last year when I sat down for the first time with Foreign Minister Zarif in New York at the United Nations.

Work also had to be done during that time with our European partners and the P5+1 partners and with the Iranians in order to be able to test seriously what might be possible at the negotiating table. These steps all together created an opening that we hadn’t seen or been able to possibly experience since the time or the advent of the Iranian nuclear program. As a result, last November we did conclude a Joint Plan of Action with Iran in which they agreed to freeze – effectively freeze their nuclear program while the P5+1 provided limited sanctions relief. And together, we set a frame for these negotiations on a comprehensive agreement.

And despite the skepticism that many expressed when we first reached the JPOA, as it was known – the Joint Plan of Action – the world is already safer because of it. And all sides have stuck to their commitments made under that agreement. Consequently, we are today closer to resolving the international concerns around Iran’s nuclear program through diplomatic means.

Now, we have the chance – and I underscore the word chance – to complete an agreement that would meet our strategic objectives, that would guarantee that Iran’s four pathways to fissile material for a nuclear weapon cannot be used, and thereby to be able to give the world the needed confidence that the Iranian program is exclusively and conclusively peaceful as Iran has said it is. And then at the same time, enable the Iranian people to be able to have the economic opportunities that they seek.

Clearly one can envision an agreement that is fair and possible. But it still will require difficult choices. Now, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – Iran has continued to state it has no interest in obtaining a nuclear weapon. Ultimately, if you want to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your program is a peaceful one, that is not, from a technical perspective, very hard to do. We and our European and P5+1 partners are working to secure an agreement that accomplishes that goal. And in the days ahead, we’re going to try to work very, very hard to see if we can close the gaps and get to where we need to be.

I would emphasize both sides are taking this process seriously and both sides are trying to find the common ground. That doesn’t mean that we agree on everything. Obviously, there are gaps. We don’t yet. But it does mean that we have discussed in detail the full range of relevant issues that have to be part of a durable and comprehensive agreement, including infrastructure, stockpiles, research, equipment, timing, and sequencing.

And I would also emphasize that we all know our principles in this process, and our principles as a group are rock solid. As we have said every single step of this process, an agreement like the one we are seeking is not built on trust, as much as anybody might like it to be. It is built on verification. And no member of the P5+1 is prepared to or can accept any arrangements that we cannot verify or make any promises that cannot be kept.

In a few hours, I will head to Vienna. And now more than ever we believe that it’s critical that we not negotiate in public and that the ideas discussed among the negotiations remain among the negotiators so that misunderstandings are prevented and the integrity of the discussions is preserved. So you’re going to hear, I’m sure, a lot of rumors. There’ll be conflicting reports. The bottom line is nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and it’s the negotiators who have to speak for these negotiations. We intend to keep working hard to resolve the differences, to define the finish line, and do everything in our power to try to get across that line.

I thank you very much, and I’d be happy to take a couple questions.

MS. PSAKI: The first question will be from Nicolas Revise from AFP.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. You just said at the (inaudible) that the P5+1 is united. But don’t you see some divisions, even minor divisions between the United States and France about how to get to an agreement on the nuclear program? And if so, did you manage to solve these disagreements with your French counterpart? Did you agree on everything, especially on the enrichment capacity? And don’t you fear, Mr. Secretary, that the French could repeat what they did in November 2013 when they spoiled the whole thing?

And speaking about divisions, if I may, did you raise with Laurent Fabius the issue of the warship Mistral? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, first, I just – I don’t agree with the assumptions that you’ve made in the course of that question, in many of them. And I think Laurent Fabius just spoke for France and said nous sommes en commun, we are in common. We are. He gave me a piece of paper – which we’ve had for some period of time – in which he lays out France’s four ideas about what they believe are important. I’m not going to go into them because I said we’re going to negotiate this privately. But we agree with every single one of them. We may have a minor difference here or there on a number of something or whatever, but not on the fundamental principles. We are in agreement that you have to be able to verify this, that there are limits. There has to be an acceptable level, and we’re confident about our unity as P5+1.

So I’m – we’ve had a terrific partner in France in this effort. France made a very courageous decision with respect to the Mistral, for example, which is not directly related to Iran, but it’s a courageous decision with respect to its impact, its economics, and other things. We have admiration for that kind of decision of principle. And believe me, I know people will try to find a division or create a division, but when we say the P5+1 is united, we mean it. And we’re going to work together as colleagues closely. I’ll be in close communication with Foreign Minister Fabius even today and into tomorrow and for the next few days. And we’re going to work as a team. It’s that simple.

MS. PSAKI: The next question will be from Jonathan Allen of Reuters.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. I wanted to just ask you about Mr. Hammond’s remarks. He doesn’t seem very optimistic that you will make the deadline. So – and he thinks an extension will probably be necessary. So I wondered if you would talk a bit about what sort of extension might be palatable to you, how long this might drag out for.

SECRETARY KERRY: No. We’re not talking about an extension, not among ourselves. We have not talked about the ingredients of an extension or – we’re talking about getting an agreement. Now, I know that Secretary Hammond is concerned about the gaps. We all are. And I think he’s expressing his personal concerns about how to close those gaps over the next few days, and it’s very fair for him to have those concerns. But we are not discussing extension; we are negotiating to try to get an agreement. It’s that simple.

And look, if you get to the final hour and you’re in need of having to look at alternatives or something, we’ll look at them. I’m not telling you we’re not going to look at something. But we’re not looking at them, not now. This is – we’re driving towards what we believe is the outline of an agreement that we think we can have. And a lot of work has been done, including on annexes and other things, over the course of these last months by some very effective technical and expert people in the field of nuclear power and so forth. And we’re quite confident about the groundwork that’s been laid.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.



SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, everyone. (Laughter.)


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Happy's Pizza Founder Convicted of Multi-Million Dollar Tax Fraud Scheme
On November 19, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, a federal jury after deliberating 4.5 hours convicted the president and founder of Happy’s Pizza of conspiracy to defraud the United States and 32 counts of tax crimes, the Justice Department announced today.

Happy Asker’s convictions include three counts of filing false federal individual tax returns for the years 2006 through 2008, 28 counts of aiding and assisting the filing of false federal income and payroll tax returns for several Happy’s Pizza Franchises restaurants for the years 2006 through 2009, and one count of engaging in a corrupt endeavor to obstruct and impede the administration of the Internal Revenue Code.

During trial, the evidence established that Asker was the president, founder and public face of the Farmington Hills, Michigan, based Happy’s Pizza franchise.  He also had ownership interests in several Happy’s Pizza franchises located in Michigan, Ohio and Chicago.  From June 2004 through April 2011, Asker, along with certain franchise owners and employees, executed a systematic and pervasive tax fraud scheme to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  Gross sales and payroll amounts were substantially underreported to the IRS on numerous individual corporate income tax returns and payroll tax returns submitted for nearly all 60 Happy’s Pizza franchise restaurants located in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois.  Evidence admitted at trial established that from 2008 to 2010, more than $6.1 million in cash gross receipts were diverted from approximately 35 different Happy’s Pizza stores in the Detroit area, Illinois and Ohio.  In total, the evidence at trial established that Asker and certain employees and franchise owners failed to report to the IRS approximately $3.84 million of gross income from the various Happy’s Pizza franchises and approximately $2.39 million in payroll.  The evidence at trial further established that a portion of this unreported income was shared among most of the franchise owners, including Asker, in a weekly cash “profit split.”  The cash was distributed among the investors and managers of the relevant franchises.  The IRS is owed more than $6.2 million in taxes as a result of this fraud scheme.

The evidence at the two-week trial also established that Asker purposely misled IRS-Criminal Investigation special agents during voluntary interviews conducted on Nov. 5, 2010, and Dec. 1, 2010.  Asker denied knowing co-defendant Arkan Summa, a convicted felon, and did not disclose Summa’s association with a number of Happy’s Pizza franchise restaurants.  Documents admitted during trial indicate Summa shared in diverted gross receipts from at least one Happy’s Pizza franchise in Toledo, Ohio.

Four other defendants in the case pleaded guilty prior to Asker’s trial.  On October 23, Maher Bashi, who served as Happy’s Pizza’s corporate chief operating officer, and Tom Yaldo, an owner of numerous Happy’s Pizza franchises, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States.  According to the indictment, their conduct included, among other things, creating and maintaining fraudulent accounting records and falsely reporting income taxes and payroll taxes.  On July 15, Summa pleaded guilty to engaging in a corrupt endeavor to obstruct and impede the due administration of the IRS, and Tagrid Summa, who is identified as a Happy’s Pizza franchise owner in documents admitted during trial, pleaded guilty to providing false documents to the IRS.

At sentencing, Happy Asker faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy to defraud the government.  The charges of filing a false income tax return and aiding or assisting in filing a false return carry a statutory maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for each count.  The obstruction charge carries a statutory maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of $250,000.  Asker’s sentencing is scheduled for March 5, 2015, in the Eastern District of Michigan.

The case was investigated by special agents from IRS-Criminal Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency.  Senior Litigation Counsel Corey Smith and Trial Attorney Mark McDonald for the Justice Department’s Tax Division prosecuted the case.


U.S. Mission to the United Nations: Remarks at the Center for American Progress' Making Progress: 2014 Policy Conference
Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
Washington, DC
November 19, 2014


Senator Tom Daschle, Moderator: Let me begin the conversation, if I could, by talking about America’s role. There’s a growing debate across the political spectrum, within really both political parties, about what America’s role in the world should be in this day and age; what sort of leadership we should play in foreign affairs. Over the years, especially in the last two decades in particular, we’ve experienced everything from unilateralism to coalitions of the willing to a reliance on our core alliance structure of leading from behind. But there are little consensus about the role of America today and how we should play it, and how best to advance American interests. U.S. leaders face – many U.S. leaders have called for retrenchment, and some have even called for isolation on both the right and the left. So, Ambassador Power, I’d like to start by asking you the question: is it up to America to be the lead actor in the world today? How should we look at that role? Is there a correct model as we look at the circumstances we’re facing worldwide?

Ambassador Power: Thank you, Tom. And thank you everybody for being here, and to CAP for putting on this conference and doing such important work. I mean, you put your finger on a key question for our times. I think that what we see today in the fall of 2014 is American leadership being used on key issues, whether climate, Ebola, ISIL, but whereby we don’t take simple ownership of the issue and decide that we’re going to bear the entire burden alone. We invest our resources, we lead the world, and we bring other coalitions to our side.

So, in the effort against ISIL, in Iraq, in order to support the Iraqi government forces as they try to fend off this monstrous movement, our use of airstrikes. And then we went around the world and said, “Okay, who wants to join on airstrikes? Who wants to join in providing training and equipment to these forces as they reconstitute? Who is going to take care of the humanitarian burden of all the millions of people who’ve been displaced as a result of ISIL’s explosive move across that region?” And now we have a coalition of 60 countries.

Ebola, equally dramatically; President Obama goes before the United Nations in September and says, “Look, here’s what I’m going to do. But if I do this,” and it’s a lot, “it’s not going to suffice.” And if we tackle the problem only in Liberia where the U.S. is deploying more than 2,000 troops and hundreds of CDC and USAID personnel, and aid workers and partnering with Doctors without Borders – but if we just do Liberia, and other countries don’t take the lead in Sierra Leone and Guinea, then our efforts in Liberia are going to be pyrrhic, because people can just cross the border and so forth.

So, you lead by articulating to the American people in the first instance, and to the world why it’s in your interest, and in the collective interest, to act. And then you mobilize other countries to make sure that you’re not bearing these huge burdens alone. And it’s not just even about burden-sharing and resources, which are major issues, but also just the very nature of these kinds of transnational threats, as you all know, are ones where, even if we had all the resources in the world and could bear every burden, you just, you can’t. You know, the foreign fighters in Syria, unless you get other countries to tighten their controls on their borders and prevent people from traveling, the United States, even if it wanted to, couldn’t deal with the foreign terrorist fighter problem alone. And so I think the mobilization of the world around what President Obama said way back when he was a candidate, are common security, common humanity.

Senator Daschle: This conference, as you know, is about making progress, and that applies both domestically as well as in our international efforts in our agenda. We talk at a lot at conferences like this about core progressive values. How would you say core progressive values align with American interests internationally today?

Ambassador Power: Well, I think probably people would define core progressive values in different ways. For me, it would start with regard for human dignity; the dignity of work, the dignity of a fair wage, the dignity to be treated with respect by your neighbors or respect for your own preferences in the way you live your life. And I think President Obama has really urged us to inject concern for human dignity in our policymaking, whether that’s being hugely generous in the face of ethnic violence in South Sudan, or in the face of the horrible displacement out of Syria, or wanting to close Guantanamo, recognizing again that that is – remains even – a recruitment tool and something that terrorist movements use a way of mobilizing their base and so forth.

But I think dignity is one piece of it. And then I think not only looking to make sure that you have domestic legal authority, but also being very conscientious and very dedicated to international norms and international law, while of course always pursuing U.S. interests. So, I think that those: dignity and recognizing that we live in a broad – we live on a planet where our interests also depend on having other people play by the rules, so we are stronger when we lead ourselves by playing by the rules of the road.

Senator Daschle: One of the important roles for the United States historically, and I think especially today, is bringing other countries together in multilateral forums. And there could be no one more sensitized to the need to do that and the importance of doing that, than you at the UN. But whether at the UN or as we saw with the ASEAN and G-20 forums last week, there are multilateral settings that offer opportunities for progress, but can also get bogged down, in part because –

Ambassador Power: I’ve noticed.

Senator Daschle: – of conflicting agendas, in part because you get into just a lot of talkathons that come with the very nature of groups wanting to make points. So how can America balance the importance of working with partners around the world, and the efficiency of our ability to pursue core interests on our own?

Ambassador Power: Well, I get to live a daily talkathon up in New York, so I feel I have a privileged positioned on which to talk. You know, there are a lot of inefficiencies in the international system. Just as within governments, we need to constantly try to streamline and simplify and enhance the interface that citizens have with governments as they regulate, you know, so too in the international system. If you imagine aggregating government habits across 193 governments, imagine what you end up with, right? I mean, that is not ideal. It’s not – if you were starting from scratch in 2014, you’d build a different, a different airplane, probably.

Having said that, if the United Nations didn’t exist, you would definitely build it, because you want a venue to come together. And even those countries with whom we are estranged or not cooperating in visible ways, it’s a channel for communication so you don’t have misunderstanding. It’s a way of pooling resources. You know, it is very, very obvious on the one hand, but also striking to live it where you see that the things that matter most to us, you know, may be very low on the mattering map for other countries. And so too the things that matter the most for them may not be in the top five for us. And so finding – but yet we need them to cooperate with us, let’s say on foreign terrorist fighters, where they think maybe that’s a distant problem compared to, you know, economic development or even climate change, and they need us of course to invest in their economic development and in their dignity, particularly in developing countries.

So we've tried to – I’ve certainly tried to mix it up in New York. And my impatience is the stuff of legend now, insofar as, “How are we still talking about this? I mean, what are you doing?” So, I think you’ve got to inject that spirit. You can’t accept that these institutions need to just be talkathons. We’re trying to do much more brainstorming, you know, much more – trying to bring countries together sort of staring out at a common problem and defining it as such, and then being in a position of, what could we do about it, rather than this sort of positional form of diplomacy that we’ve done, and where there’s certainly a place for that.

The one thing I’d just add finally is it’s tempting to sort of see bilateral dealings as somehow separate from or juxtaposed with the multilateral framework. But the fact of the matter is the way multilateralism works at its best is you start small, and then you expand the circle of consensus and the circle of problem-solving. But ultimately, successful multilateralism will turn also on the extent to which we have maintained, you know, stable and healthy partnerships with different countries around the world. Aggregating those friendships is what allows us to come together. And aggregating the sense of shared destiny and shared interest is what allows us to get a lot of countries to the table around shared threats.

Senator Daschle: So, how does our approach to multilateralism compare or contrast to other great powers, like China or Russia, or even allies like Britain or Japan? Similar or a lot different?

Ambassador Power: That’s an interesting question. I think that – we have embassies in just about every country in the world. And every minute of every day, we have a foreign policy of some kind with that country. And I think we view the multilateral system as a place to advance, whether human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country, or economic prosperity or trade relationships, etc. So, we’re constantly looking to advance our very particular foreign policy objectives in particular countries.

So, for instance yesterday we had very important General Assembly votes on resolutions on the human rights horrors in Syria, those in the DPRK, and those in Iran. And these votes – you know, we treat each of those votes as if it’s a huge priority for the United States. We have our embassies fanning out around the world trying to make sure that countries in the Caribbean or countries in the Middle East are voting a certain way vis-à-vis DPRK, in order to send the strongest possible signal to the regime there that they’re going to be held accountable, particularly in light of the recent commission of inquiry, the horrible commission of inquiry report on the camps and the human rights conditions in DPRK.

That ambition, you know, that range, that ability to draw on those resources, I think, is distinct about the United States. And that belief that it is in our interest to go all out on the DPRK at the same time we go out on Iran at the same time. Most of the time with other countries you’ll see some subset of the larger global agenda prioritized and that kind of effort perhaps being brought to bear, although without the resources and the reach that we have. So, and even countries like China that are taking more and more assertive leadership roles within the UN system, including by increasing in a very helpful development, increasing their contributions to UN peacekeeping in a substantial way, sending doctors and other medical professionals to deal with Ebola. So, you’re seeing them begin to step up. But, still, that – what I just described in terms of campaigning around a discrete issue, whether on economic development, on climate, on human rights in any particular country – you wouldn’t see, again, that same kind of ground game or yet that prioritization of that set of issues, certainly with human rights issues, needless to say.

Senator Daschle: So, as I look at our options, is there a downside to bilateralism, like what we’ve just recently seen with our announcement on climate with China, versus taking the traditional multilateral approach?

Ambassador Power: You know, I think that when we do strike big deals and deepen partnerships in very visible ways, it’s a lot – the relations between countries are a lot like that between individuals. Like there’ll be someone over there saying, “What about me?” Like, “Why wasn't I a part of that?” And I think you see that a little bit here and there in the margins, but compared to the good it does – for instance, if you take the historic agreement, the CAP alone – that past and present CAP leader John Podesta, his leadership in helping negotiate that on the president’s behalf; hugely important agreement. And with China and the United States leading together and early, and constituting the two biggest economies and the two biggest emitters, that puts us in a position to lead the world. And the leverage associated with us doing that together, I think, vastly outweighs any momentary kind of sense of, “Oh, I wish that would’ve been a bigger multilateral framework.” And as I said earlier, that is the way you do multilateralism. You start and get key stakeholders to make agreements, and then you broaden out the circle. And that’s of course what our hope is to do on the climate.

Senator Daschle: So let me ask one more question on multilateral institutional infrastructure before I – I want to give to couple of other issues before we run out of time. A lot of the institutions created from multilateral cooperation were created after World War II. We had a big role to fill. Those institutions really haven’t changed much, whether it’s the UN Security Council, the IMF. To what extent do they reflect today and the world as we see it globally? And to what extent, if it’s not as reflective as they should be, is there a potential for reform as we look at making these institutions perhaps more reflective of the current lay of the land?

Ambassador Power: Well, let me separate a couple of different planes on which one can look at that question. I mean, I think you’ve seen over the life of the Obama administration a real emphasis on the G-20 as a hugely important global forum, not only to deal with economic issues, but as we just saw, the G-20 issued a very strong statement on Ebola. And we would view that group of countries as in the first instance the most likely group of countries to contribute health professionals, money, building materials, etc. in the context of Ebola. So, it’s a convenient proxy for those who should have resources that they’re prepared to invest in dealing with common threats and common challenges.

So, that, I think, shift and that emphasis has occurred over the life of the Obama administration. With the crisis in the Ukraine, of course, the G-7, now, has taken on new importance, particularly with regard again to that set of issues. That’s a very useful forum for that, and for a host of other things. So, again, that venue remains important, but the G-20 is of a different order than it would’ve been back even in 2008. And this was happening with the Bush administration toward the end, as well.

In the United Nations, Security Council reform has been something that many have aspired to, for many, many years, for the obvious reason which you state, which is surely 69 years after the founding of the UN, the dynamics, the power dynamics, the economic dynamics, and so forth in the world, the demographics, everything has changed and surely there should be some modernization. The challenge is that one of the reasons that we would, that one would wish to see an updated set of international institutions is to enhance legitimacy and effectiveness, and to enhance a sense of shared ownership over the entire United Nations, because there’s a sense of alienation by some of the powerful countries that have been doing more than their fair share, like Germany and Japan – you know, tremendous contributors to the UN over many years, but were not part of the regular decision-making body.

But having said that, and with that alienation, and with that aspiration to render it more effective, there is no more divisive issue in the UN membership. And so there just hasn’t been a proposal that has attracted a kind of plurality or a majority because everybody wants – at a moment when things are being revisited, everybody wants in. And so, just as I was describing earlier in the context of bilateral deals, so too this is something where people want UN Security Council reform, but they, again, have very different views as to how you would bring it about.

So, we remain open, you know, and as these debates play themselves out – they’re heating up now because it’s the 70th anniversary approaching. And the question it poses of course rightly being asked. But it’s not clear that there’s a pathway that could gather a critical mass. And, of course, we would remain very attached to our veto, which is a hugely important feature of our leadership within the UN system. So that’s not something we’d be prepared to give up. But on the membership, we certainly see the case.

Senator Daschle: Let me turn to a couple of very specific challenges that you’re very involved with. The first is Ebola. You just came back from Africa a couple of weeks ago.

Ambassador Power: I did. Thank you for giving me a hug earlier.


Senator Daschle: Yeah, and I’d do it anytime. But I’m curious, as you explored the challenges we face, as you saw firsthand what we’re up against, and the progress or in some cases maybe the lack thereof, how would you characterize our biggest challenge today?

Ambassador Power: Well, we just still don’t have enough. There’s not enough that has been committed. Progress in – whether it’s funds, health workers, beds, as in beds in isolation units, ambulances, fuel. I mean, since again, President Obama went to the UN and stood with the Secretary General and made this appeal and we waged a full-court press around the world to get people to contribute, we have closed, we have narrowed, we say, a very large number of gaps.

But, again, particularly as you get out into the rural areas in the three countries, I mean you still have people who have never heard of Ebola. Our ambassador in Guinea was just out hiking in the countryside away from Conakry, the capital, and just went up to a group of women and said have you heard of Ebola, speaking to them in the local dialect and everything – we have a wonderful ambassador in Guinea. And so, just, social mobilization, basic, again things that money can buy: SIM cards for cellphones, cellphone coverage in parts of the country that doesn’t exist, and how that – and these are the kinds of things you can’t turn on a dime.

So, what is so gratifying is in my own experience in dealing with crises and foreign policy challenges, there’s something very unique about the anti-Ebola effort, in that you can really measure progress. You can – on my trip a couple of weeks ago, four days before I arrived, the rate of safe burial within 24 hours in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, was only 30 percent. The British had come in, they revamped the command of control working with the Sierra Leone military and civilian authorities, and that safe burial rate, just in a four-day period, had gone up to 98 percent within 24 hours, which stands to play a really important role in infection control, because unsafe burial is a huge source of infection. Same in Monrovia, because of the U.S. effort.

The U.S. has deployed these mobile labs around Liberia. We visited one about an hour flight away from Monrovia, about an eight-hour drive in Bong Country, and there are these three Navy microbiologists who had just set up this lab two weeks before we arrived. One of them had decided to become a microbiologist 20 years ago because he read Hot Zone, the Preston book about Ebola. So he can’t believe his fortune that he’s sitting here looking at Ebola under a microscope to test local samples. Before this little three-person unit of microbiologists, contributed by the U.S. Navy, arrived, the testing in that area was taking as much as a week. The samples were being driven on motorcycle, and sometimes getting lost en route to Monrovia. There was only one lab in Monrovia, and everyone in the country had to wait in order to get their test results.

So, just by showing up, that one-week time has now been cut to between three and five hours. Now what does that mean? Tangibly, it means that before, people who were Ebola-positive and Ebola-negative but didn’t know it were cohabitating within Ebola treatment units for a week. That’s not good. That’s not isolation; that’s not what one would seek. Moreover, the beds were full. And now the testing results are coming back, and 70 percent don’t have Ebola; they may have malaria, they may have a cold. If you’re lucky, if there has been social mobilization, people will be coming forward. So, now those beds are being freed up, and you’re starting to see efficiencies.

But back to your original question, I am personally, I think we’ve done a very good job on the hardware, which is the Ebola treatment units, building the facilities where people can be isolated. The software, now, is what is needed: more healthcare workers in the here and now, but also if you look out four weeks or six weeks, that next tranche, who’s going to replace the people in-country today? And this is where us making clear as the American people just how much we value the work that American doctors and nurses are doing as they go over there. So, health workers and the social mobilization, getting the locals to do away with the stigma and the fear that pervades, so that the next time our ambassador goes hiking in the countryside, everyone you meet is telling you about Ebola, rather than again, it being perceived to be foisted upon the countryside by the center, which is a bit of a risk right now.

Senator Daschle: So let me ask you – it may be too early to be able to answer this with any clarity – but to what to what extent are there already lessons learned for the next Ebola, the next H1N1, the next SARS? What can we take from this experience that might help us prepare more proactively for the next one?

Ambassador Power: I think if you look at the funding request, the resource request that President Obama sent up a week or two ago to the Hill and that we are working very constructively with both parties now to refine, I think you see some of those lessons already put in place: making sure that every state has the capability to deal with infectious disease or viruses like this that may be foreign in the first instance, but where you have training protocols that are put in place very quickly. Research into vaccines, you know, investing more in the prevention side of things. In the countries in question, part also of our funding request is to make sure that we don’t invest billions of dollars here in dealing with Ebola, get to the back end of the crisis, and then the Ebola treatment units get dismantled because they’re just tents and bricks, and they’re not themselves sustainable structures, the white vehicles belonging to the international community all get put back on cargo ships. And then what’s left of the health infrastructure of these countries?

The reason that it spread so quickly, in addition to some of the issues related to where the outbreak first occurred, being in a border region and with travel and so forth, but is that the systems were too weak to deal with it – unlike Nigeria, which was able to draw on the expertise acquired in an anti-polio – a polio eradication campaign – a generation ago. That expertise was tapped to deal with the challenge in Nigeria. Nothing like that existed in these three countries. So in addition to the U.S. preparedness, which is very, very important in making sure it’s done at the relevant, with relevant health officials at the state level, really investing not only in these countries’ health infrastructure, by bringing the World Bank and others into that effort, but also looking across the continent. And this is what the President’s global health security agenda, which predated the Ebola crisis, is now, but now has new adherents in the international community because of what’s happened. Hopefully, that’ll be the venue in which some of these changes will take place.

Senator Daschle: We didn’t get to ISIS, we didn't get to Syria, we didn’t get to Iran. There is a whole list of things we didn’t get –

Ambassador Power: Sorry about that.

Senator Daschle: But your answers were terrific, and I just can’t thank you enough for taking time out of what I know is an incredibly busy schedule to be here.

Ambassador Power: My pleasure.

Senator Daschle: And I know I speak for every person in this room in thanking you for the incredible leadership you give us every day. Thank you.

Ambassador Power: Thank you. Thank you so much.



New technology uses natural wood fibers to reinforce plastic materials
Research offers sustainable solutions that may have strong benefits to building, construction, automobile and aircraft industries
Joshua Otaigbe's research blends chemical engineering with materials structure and properties, most recently in trying to develop new and stronger composites that are sustainable and environmentally friendly.

The longtime National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded scientist, a professor in the University of Southern Mississippi's school of polymers and high performance materials, is collaborating with researchers at Oregon State University on a new technology that uses natural wood fibers to reinforce plastic materials.

If successful, "it could revolutionize the composite industry," especially manufacturing sectors that rely on these materials, such as building, construction, automobiles, and aircraft, he says.

Moreover, "wood fiber is renewable and based on agricultural products, and the composite materials we come up with would biodegrade after their service life without harming the environment," he adds.

Greater use of wood fibers in producing composites also could be a boost to the paper industry by providing an important new use for wood pulp, since "paper is a raw material for our products," he says. "We can extract wood fibers out of paper."

NSF is funding the work through its structural materials and mechanics program of the division of civil, mechanical, and manufacturing innovation. Otaigbe is collaborating with John Nairn, the Richardson Chair in wood science and engineering at Oregon State University; the two researchers are sharing the grant.

Currently, the composite industry combines wood particles--not fibers--with its polymers, "which saves money, but is a less than optimum way of doing it," Otaigbe says. "What we are doing is extracting fibers, which are different from particles. The fiber is a lot stiffer and stronger than the wood particles, and provides the reinforcing capability for the plastic."

Using wood fibers instead of particles in the direct conversion of the polymer building blocks called monomers also allows manufacturers to eliminate the melting stage, which is when the materials are shaped, then later solidified into various products. With fibers in the polymer matrix, "we can shape it without having to melt it," Otaigbe says.

The process under development involves taking the wood fibers, usually within paper, and placing them in a mold, then injecting a "reaction" mixture used to make the polymers.

Scientists then raise the temperature to 150 degrees Celsius--relatively low when compared to traditional melting methods--and the mixture forms a composite "in a matter of minutes," he says. The lower temperatures are important, since wood fibers tend to degrade at temperatures above 190 degrees Celsius.

Otaigbe has long worked on NSF-funded projects that combine polymer materials structure with chemical engineering, and also has been actively involved in university and industry research partnerships to try to solve complicated and multi-disciplinary problems.

"What I'm doing, with industry, is using my background and experience to solve relevant technical problems," he says.

For example, NSF and the Arnold Engineering Co., a U.S. manufacturer of magnets, jointly funded his research into advanced polymer bonded magnets with enhanced magnetic properties for high temperature and aggressive environments.

"Permanent bonded magnets are a $500-million market and are used in consumer products from cars to computers," he says. "But they are made from rare earth metal alloys, which are heavy and difficult to process into shapes. A need exists to develop bonded magnets with higher energy products that can withstand operating temperatures of at least 180 degrees Celsius and higher. One key issue is the identification of suitable magnetic powders and polymer matrices which can perform satisfactorily at the desired higher temperatures."

Otaigbe is the rare researcher who has simultaneously received grants from numerous NSF programs--metals, ceramics, polymers, and also from its engineering section.

He has, for example, conducted research into the feasibility of incorporating functional nanoscale fillers into waterborne polyurethanes to yield new hybrid films with improved performance properties, such as enhanced bioactivity and non-thrombogenicity (non-clot producing in the blood), thermal stability, flame resistance, environmental durability in atomic oxygen, and improved mechanical properties.

"The targeted hybrids, which are different from conventional polymers, polymer nanocomposites and microcomposites, would be useful because many of the intrinsic properties of the [new hybrids] are complementary, and hold great promise for future high-end uses, such as in biomedical devices, especially at cardiovascular interfaces, where other polymers are not useable," he says.

He also has studied ways to generate nano-structured hybrid glass/organic polymer materials via molecular level mixing of the components in the liquid state, creating novel hybrids impossible to produce using conventional methods.

"The self-organized structures, ranging from nanometer to micrometer length scales, are thermodynamically stable because the inorganic phases are mixed at the molecular level, that is, from a single phase, during processing," he says.

"The plastics industry expects a lot from advanced materials, but the relatively few that are commercially available cannot satisfy all applications and expectations," he adds. "In this context, nano-structured hybrid organic-inorganic glass thermoplastic materials potentially demonstrate all the benefits of traditional filled plastic composites, and avoid their disadvantages."

These products could translate into improved energy efficiency for such applications as high-powered laser fusion systems, biomaterials, storage materials for nuclear wastes, and as a component in load-bearing organic-inorganic hybrid composites, he says.

Also, he has worked to create new soy protein plastics derived from renewable agricultural products, designed to biodegrade safely. "One major problem with soy protein plastics is that they dissolve too quickly in water, limiting their potential uses," he says. "The new formulation makes the material more moisture resistant, providing greater control over the biodegradation process."

The research could lead to several new uses for soy protein plastics, for example, in packaging, medical sutures and sporting goods, he says.

Recently, he received an appointment naming him the Distinguished Chair in Polymer Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Lyon, the largest science and engineering university in France, as a recipient of the Fulbright-Tocqueville Distinguished Chair in France, and taught there during the spring semester.

-- Marlene Cimons, National Science Foundation
Joshua Otaigbe
John Nairn
Related Institutions/Organizations
University of Southern Mississippi
Iowa State University
Oregon State University


November 17, 2014 Hector Gomez, Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal
Western District of Texas ;
USMS Office of Public Affairs 
U.S. Marshals 15 Most Wanted Fugitive’s Skull Found by Family Dog

Fugitive was serving time for multiple counts of child sexual assault
Washington – One of the U.S. Marshals’ 15 Most Wanted fugitives is no longer being sought after his skull was discovered only a few miles from the Texas facility from which he escaped in October 2013.

On Wednesday, after DNA confirmation and next-of-kin notification, U.S. Marshals confirmed that the human skull found in Del Valle, Texas, belonged to fugitive Kevin Patrick Stoeser, who had escaped from the Austin Transitional Center where he was serving the remainder of a 156-month sentence for four counts of child sexual assault and one count of possession of child pornography. He pleaded guilty to these charges in 2003.

On Sept. 8, a Del Valle resident contacted the Austin Police Department and reported that his golden retriever had found a human skull. Authorities and the medical examiner responded, and they determined that the skull was that of a Caucasian man with “short blond, military cut hair and a partial ear.” Local media quickly reported on the discovery.

“The physical description of the human skull and where it was found sparked U.S. Marshals interest in the case, because it was very similar to key facts concerning our fugitive investigation for Kevin Stoeser,” said Deputy U.S. John Clifton, the lead criminal investigator on the case.

That interest paid off. The U.S. Marshals worked with local authorities to have the skull sent to the Department of Forensic and Investigative Genetics at the University of North Texas for DNA testing. On Nov. 5, based on the university’s results, the Travis County medical examiner concluded the skull was Stoeser’s.

“With the untimely death of Stoeser, we can now bring closure to this case,” said Robert Almonte, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas. “On behalf of the United States Marshals Service, we appreciate the assistance of our law enforcement partners throughout the nation who contributed a great deal of time and energy to see this investigation through.”

The Austin Police Department continues to investigate what caused Stoeser’s death.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Work Looks to Industry to Maintain Technology Edge
By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2014 – In remarks at the Defense One Summit here today, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work stressed the importance of engaging industry, services and the Defense Business Board in maintaining the United States’ technological edge in coming years.

Work noted the challenge of balancing resources and requirements against the landscape of what he called an “especially chaotic” drawdown and a persistent continuing resolution over the past five years.

“The temporal aspects of this strategy are going to be much more challenging than in the past,” Work said. “And we’re going to have to do rapid prototyping … or we will continually lose ground.”

Budget Uncertainty Threatens Advances

Speaking on acquisition and technological advances, Work described the Defense Department’s focus across the decades, from the 1950’s nuclear weapons, 1960’s space, 1970’s stealth and microelectronics, 1980’s large-scale systems of systems into current systems that can face asymmetric challenges.
But efforts to increase base-level demonstrations, exercises and prototyping, Work said, can by stymied by budget uncertainties.

Work said that in response to those uncertainties, the department will seek to enhance its effectiveness through the Defense Business Board, which includes former chief executive officers, chief financial officers, chief operating officers and captains of industries.

“They’re now an operational arm directly associated with my deputy chief management officer and they’re going to help us benchmark against civilian business practices,” Work said.

So far, the DoD has been able to annually identify some $26 million in savings from duplication of contracts, administrative costs and other expenses over five years through these internal analyses, he said.

“That gave us great confidence that as we look at the broader defense agencies we were going to find significant savings,” Work said.


11/20/2014 10:30 AM EST

The Securities and Exchange Commission today suspended trading in four companies that claim to be developing products or services in response to the Ebola outbreak, citing a lack of publicly available information about the companies’ operations.

The SEC simultaneously issued an investor alert warning about the potential for fraud in microcap companies purportedly involved in Ebola prevention, testing, or treatment, noting that scam artists often exploit the latest crisis in the news cycle to lure investors into supposedly promising investment opportunities.

The SEC Enforcement Division and its Microcap Fraud Task Force work to proactively identify microcap companies that are publicly disseminating information that appears inadequate or potentially inaccurate.  The SEC has authority to issue trading suspensions against such companies.  The companies whose trading was suspended today are Patchogue, N.Y.-based Bravo Enterprises Ltd., Monrovia, Calif.-based Immunotech Laboratories Inc., Toronto-based Myriad Interactive Media Inc., and Anaheim, Calif.-based Wholehealth Products Inc.

“We move quickly to protect investors when we see thinly-traded stocks being promoted with questionable information that make them ripe for pump-and-dump schemes,” said Elisha Frank, Co-Chair of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Microcap Fraud Task Force.  “Fraudsters are constantly exploiting issues of public concern to tout a penny stock company supposedly in the business of addressing the latest crisis.”

Under the federal securities laws, the SEC can suspend trading in a stock for 10 days and generally prohibit a broker-dealer from soliciting investors to buy or sell the stock again until certain reporting requirements are met.  More information about the trading suspension process is available in an SEC investor bulletin on the topic.

According to the SEC’s investor alert, similar to how natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy have given rise to investment schemes for companies purportedly involved in cleanup efforts, con artists may perpetrate investment scams related to Ebola prevention or treatment efforts.  The alert suggests that investors be wary about promises or guarantees of high investment returns with little or no risk, avoid solicitations with pressure to “buy RIGHT NOW,” and beware of unsolicited investment offers through social media.

11/19/14: White House Press Briefing


November 19, 2014
Remarks by the President at Bill Signing


Oval Office

11:58 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, as many of you know, one of my top priorities is making sure that we’ve got affordable, high-quality child care and early childhood education for our young people across the country.  Today, I am pleased to sign a bill into law which is going to bring us closer to that goal -- that’s the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant program.  I want to thank bipartisan members of Congress who are here today.

This law is going to do several important things.  It’s going to improve the quality of child care by requiring more training for caregivers and more enrichment for children.  It’s going to improve child safety by instituting background checks for staff and better inspection of facilities.  It’s going to give working parents a little more peace of mind -- if you receive subsidies to pay for your child care, you know that if you get a raise on your job or you find a job, your kids aren’t automatically losing their care because your status has changed midstream.

I first proposed legislation that accomplished some of these goals back in 2010.  When we couldn’t get it through Congress, we began a rulemaking process to try to do this through executive efforts -- and Sylvia Burwell, the HHS Secretary, is here.  Because the legislation has now passed, we are actually ending the rulemaking process because we’ve now got a law, and we’re going to be able to focus on implementing the law.

And I want to thank all the legislators here.  It’s a good step forward.  It shows that Democrats and Republicans, when it comes to making sure our kids are getting the best possible education, are united.  And that’s good for our kids and that’s good for our country.

So with that, I’m going to make sure that I sign this properly, using all these pens.

(The bill is signed.)