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Saturday, January 3, 2015

WEEKLY ADDRESS: MAKE 2015 THE YEAR FOR QUALITY, AFFORDABLE HEALTH INSURANCE

NASA VIDEO: LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE OF SPACE EXPLORATION

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT LOOKS BACK AT 2014

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
A Look Back at 2014
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
December 31, 2014

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

The holiday season and the end of the year is a chance to reflect on the past and look ahead to the New Year. The year 2014 opened with a set of terrible conflicts raging – including wars in Syria, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. These civil wars are characterized by indiscriminate violence and attacks on innocent civilians, as combatants flout widely accepted norms and principles. In June, UNHCR announced that more people were forcibly displaced by the end of 2013 – as refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced people – than at any time since World War II.

And then summer brought more bad news and a longer list of tragedies. ISIL’s attacks spread terror across Iraq. Bloody conflict in areas of southeastern Ukraine bordering Russia displaced hundreds of thousands of lives and left thousands dead. Fighting broke out between Hamas and Israel, unaccompanied Central American children arrived in record numbers at the United States’ southern border, and Africa faced the worst Ebola epidemic in history.

Despite this daunting list, humanitarians and supporters of humanitarian causes can take pride in what we have achieved. Aid groups that faced every conceivable obstacle – donor fatigue, staffing shortages, impassable roads, blockades and attacks –still found ways to keep millions of people alive. Humanitarians managed to stave off a man-made famine in South Sudan and to bring aid to besieged cities in Syria. Throughout the Middle East, a vaccination campaign that has reached 25 million children has helped contain the spread of polio.

The United States led the world’s humanitarian efforts by again serving as top donor. With the support of lawmakers from both parties, the State Department and USAID together provided more than $6 billion in humanitarian assistance this year. U.S. contributions powered the work of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the World Food Program, UNICEF, and other leading aid agencies. We also played a role in encouraging other nations to give, some made large donations to UN agencies for the first time. Kuwait organized a second international pledging conference for the Syria crisis that Secretary Kerry attended and gave generously itself. And Saudi Arabia stepped in at a critical moment with significant support for Iraq.

The leaders of UN and other humanitarian organizations called attention to the world’s crises and worked assiduously to mount and mobilize effective responses. Aid workers on the front lines showed professionalism and valor, even as they saw colleagues murdered by terrorists and felled by Ebola.

Countries that took in refugees deserve credit for keeping their borders open as the numbers of refugees climbed. Their hospitality saved countless lives and involved true acts of generosity. The massive influx of Syrian refugees in the Middle East is weighing heavily on communities where people are poor and housing and jobs scarce; there is widespread agreement that development dollars should be directed to helping societies that are coping with the arrivals of large numbers of refugees.

Even during challenging times, humanitarians must persevere. We must defend and rally support for humanitarian principles. We must attract new donors from across the globe, collaborate more, and seek new ways to respond nimbly and effectively. Our priorities and programs must evolve, along with refugees’ needs. Millions now crowd into cities, stay for years, and need ways to support themselves, so innovations such as electronic cash cards and mobile health clinics are essential. Because victims of conflict should thrive and not just survive, we must coordinate relief and development assistance. And we should also capitalize on the growing international momentum behind stopping all forms of violence against women or “gender based” violence. We know that women, girls, and children are particularly vulnerable during crisis, but abuses can be prevented and perpetrators held accountable.

This year we commemorated the 20th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development – called the “Cairo Conference.” We noted the tremendous progress that has been made around the world to reduce poverty and maternal and child mortality and send girls and boys to school. However, global progress has been unequal, often hampered by discrimination and inequality. John Kerry attended the Cairo Conference as a U.S. Senator, and now, as Secretary of State, he points to the clear evidence that human and reproductive rights, women’s empowerment, and economic development are closely intertwined. At a 20th anniversary celebration in September, the Secretary said:

“We all know that investing in women and youth isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s a strategic necessity. It’s how you create stability, foster sustainable societies, and promote shared prosperity, because societies where women and girls are safe, where women are empowered to exercise their rights and move their communities forward, these societies are more prosperous and more stable – not occasionally but always.”

I’ve also welcomed the growing interest in helping migrants. This year nearly five thousand migrants died in transit, more than double last year’s death toll. The majority perished at sea -- more than three thousand drowned in the Mediterranean. I recently attended a dialogue in Geneva on Protecting Migrants at Sea organized by UNHCR where experts from around the world agreed: whatever the political and logistical hurdles, our first priority must be saving lives. We also recognized that migrants need to be screened for particular vulnerabilities, e.g. in the case of unaccompanied kids, trafficking victims, or because they are fleeing violence or persecution.

In the United States, we can take pride in our program that helps refugees restart their lives here. In 2014, for the second year in a row, we resettled nearly 70,000 refugees of more than 65 nationalities who are now making their homes in cities and towns across our country. Once again, we ensured that they arrived at an even pace throughout the year to give them and their new communities the best possible chance at success. While we continued to admit large numbers of Iraqis, Burmese, Somalis, and Bhutanese, we also are starting to see growing numbers of Congolese and Syrians – two populations that will make up an increasing share of our resettled refugee population in coming years.

Fortunately, our bureau works with organizations that not only share our concerns, but also share our determination to find solutions to seemingly intractable problems. It is a privilege to engage on these issues alongside a host of the world’s best aid organizations. I realize that this letter serves as a reminder of a series of tragic events around the world, but I also write to remind you, our colleagues and friends, that much is being done every day to save lives, alleviate pain and suffering, and help some of the world’s most vulnerable to find safety. Thank you for your interest in and support for our work.

Best regards,


Anne C. Richard
Assistant Secretary
For Population, Refugees, & Migration

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: WEST WING WEEK: 1/2/15

USFWS VIDEO: RECREATION

U.S. REP TO UN MAKES REMARKS ON UN MANAGEMENT AND REFORM

FROM:  THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Ambassador Isobel Coleman
U.S. Representative to the UN for UN Management and Reform 
New York, NY
December 29, 2014
AS DELIVERED

Mr. Chairman -

My delegation expresses sincere appreciation for your leadership during this session. I would also like to thank the Bureau, the Secretary of the Committee and her team, and the many members of the Secretariat who assisted the Committee during this session.

Mr. Chairman, this has been an extraordinary session. The Committee dealt with a large number of difficult issues. We experienced some long days and late nights to conclude the business of the Committee. We engaged at multiple levels from experts to Permanent Representatives, including at times when otherwise we would have been celebrating the holidays with family and friends. We made an extraordinary effort because of our shared commitment to upholding our collective responsibility to address the numerous administrative and budgetary matters that come before this Committee.

Mr. Chairman, while we were able to conclude our work and address most of the issues before us, we did not do so in the most effective way. As the Committee entrusted with overseeing the resources of the Organization, the Fifth Committee could do a better job of managing our own time and resources. In that regard, I would like to say a few words about the way in which we reach agreement in this Committee.

Mr. Chairman, for over two decades the customary practice of the Fifth Committee has been to make decisions by consensus. With rare exceptions, this practice has served the Committee well, ensuring that member states work together constructively in the spirit of cooperation.

Mr. Chairman, consensus ensures that one group of member states cannot force decisions against the will of any other group. Consensus also ensures that every member state has a voice that can be heard before agreement is reached. Consensus also requires us to balance our often competing national interests with our mutual interest in ensuring that the United Nations is well positioned to perform its mission.

But one thing is sure, holding the threat of a vote over one side’s head is not the way to reach consensus or to manage issues in this committee.


Mr. Chairman, the agreements that we reached during this session did not meet all of my delegation's objectives. I know that the same is true for many other delegations. That is the essence of compromise - we walk away pleased with some results and not so pleased with others. But, in the end, we collectively upheld our responsibility for reaching agreement on how best to provide the Organization with the resources and tools that it needs to accomplish its mission.

Mr. Chairman, in recent sessions of this Committee, including this one, there have been a few occasions when we came to the brink of deviating from our customary practice of agreeing by consensus. Fortunately, with very few exceptions, we have been able to work through our differences and preserve the constructive manner in which we work together. My delegation does not want to see the presenting of L documents become a common practice in this or any other Committee. We are truly saddened that this has become the method of choice in the past year once serious negotiations begin. Over 15 years ago this committee agreed to handle budgetary issues by consensus because the alternative would have been destructive not only to the work of this committee but to the UN as a whole. It is our hope that we can revert to that approach next year.


Going forward, my delegation commits to working to address the issues which we were not able to resolve fully in this session. We also commit to an ongoing dialogue about how the Committee can improve its working methods and preserve the spirit of cooperation which is the essence of consensus-based decision-making. We would do a huge disservice to the Organization, if we were to do otherwise and allow divisions and disagreement to become the lasting hallmark of the Fifth Committee.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, I would like to reiterate my delegation's sincere appreciation for your excellent leadership and extend our congratulations to the entire Committee for having been able to work through some significant differences and reach agreement on sustaining the important work of the United Nations.

HEALTH AND SLEEP

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES 
Why is Sleep Important?
Dec 29, 2014
By: Michael Twery, Ph.D., Director, National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Why is sleep important to you?  An estimated 35 percent of U.S. adults report less than seven hours of sleep during a typical 24 hour period.  Sleepiness resulting from insufficient sleep, irregular sleep schedules, or poor quality sleep is a cause of motor vehicle crashes, occupational errors with hazardous outcomes, and difficulty performing daily tasks.  Sleep and wakefulness disorders affect an estimated 15-20 percent of US adults who are more likely to suffer from chronic disorders including depression, substance abuse, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and all-cause mortality.  Resilience to stress, emotional regulation, and inter-personal relationships are impaired by sleep deficiency.  Recent findings suggest that investing in sleep health contributes to maintaining brain health, and ultimately protecting cognitive functions necessary for aging-in-place.  Recognizing and addressing sleep health issues presents opportunities for enhancing public health, and improving the well-being of all people.

Societal and health consequences of insufficient sleep are explored in “Sleepless in America” produced by National Geographic Channel in collaboration with The National Institutes of Health.  The documentary explains how research is changing our perception of sleep, sleepiness, and its importance to health.  The idea of “sleep” as a period when the brain simply shuts down has been replaced by an increasingly sophisticated understanding of how the rhythm of sleep and wakefulness is necessary for the biological function in every organ.   Not only does this daily “circadian” rhythm play an important role in learning and the filtering of memories in brain, but it also serves to regulate the energy level of most all cells.  Shortages of cellular energy eventually wear down natural defenses through oxidative stress and abnormalities in protein processing increasing the risk of disease.  Another NIH-funded study helped show that during sleep, a byproduct known as amyloid beta is cleared from the brain at a faster rate than when a person is awake.  Amyloid beta has been connected to Alzheimer’s disease.

What all of this adds up to is the idea that sleep should be considered just as important as eating right and getting enough exercise. Adults should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep, while teens need up to 9 hours a night. But getting good sleep goes beyond being in bed for a set number of hours. The quality and timing of sleep are two other important factors for getting proper rest each night. People who work the night shift may experience problems getting quality sleep.

Here are five tips everyone can use to help improve the quality of their sleep:
Keep your bedroom cool and dark

Put away/turn off all electronic devices while preparing for bedtime

Stick to a regular bedtime and wake time every day, even on weekends

Stop drinking caffeine by the early afternoon and avoid large late-night meals

Skip the late-afternoon nap, as it can make it harder to sleep at bedtime

Friday, January 2, 2015

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

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Myanmar's Independence Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 2, 2015

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I would like to congratulate the people of Myanmar as you celebrate the 67th anniversary of your nation’s independence.

This day is an appropriate moment to reiterate America’s commitment to supporting your country as you continue down the path of reform towards a modern, democratic, peaceful, and economically vibrant nation. It is my sincere hope that in the future together we can celebrate the fulfillment of all of your aspirations.

During my visit last August, I was struck by how much had changed since my first trip to your country fifteen years ago when I was still a United States Senator. It was affirming to see firsthand the deepening diplomatic, economic and cultural relationships between our two nations which some had once deemed impossible. The journey traveled thus far is itself the best evidence of how far we can travel together in the next journey going forward. I look forward to working with you to see those ties grow as Myanmar continues to open to the world.

Please accept the best wishes of the American people for a happy Independence Day.

NASA VIDEO: CRAZY ENGINEERING: ION PROPULSION AND DAWN

NASA VIDEO: 2014 YEAR END VIDEO

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

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Haiti's Independence Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 1, 2015

I congratulate the people of Haiti on their 211th Independence Day.

As Haitians celebrate this milestone, they can take pride in the harvest of hard work in reconstruction and development. But this is also a day to focus on the work ahead to keep faith with the promise of Independence Day. The year ahead will be pivotal as Haiti works to schedule overdue parliamentary elections. Just as we stand with the Haitian people today as they mark their 211th year of independence, the United States reiterates its unflinching support of the people of Haiti as they strive to build a stronger and more enduring democracy.

The people-to-people bonds shared by our two nations sustain a warm friendship that prevails through times of prosperity and trial. These unbreakable links give us cause to reaffirm the commitment of the United States to be a partner for a more stable and prosperous Haiti and to wish the Haitian people well on this special day.

DOJ RELEASES LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER FATALITY STATISTICS

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Statement from Attorney General Holder on Yearly Law Enforcement Officer Fatality Statistics

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund today released preliminary fatality statistics for 2014.  The data in the report shows that 126 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty this year.  The report further showed that in 2014, 50 officers were killed by firearms, 49 officers were killed in traffic-related incidents, and 27 officers died due to other causes including 24 who suffered from job-related illnesses—such as heart attacks—while performing their duties.

Attorney General Eric Holder made the following statement today:

"These troubling statistics underscore the very real dangers that America's brave law enforcement officers face every time they put on their uniforms.  Each loss is both tragic and unacceptable -- a beloved father, mother, son, or daughter who never came home to their loved ones.

"That's why, over the last six years, my colleagues and I have taken action to support these courageous men and women.  As we speak, the Justice Department continues its efforts to empower local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement personnel to do their jobs as safely and effectively as possible.  In 2011, I created an Officer Safety Working Group in response to concerns about violence directed at law enforcement.   The department is currently funding thorough analysis of 2014 officer fatalities, including ambushes of law enforcement and other incidents, so we can mitigate risks in the future.  And through groundbreaking initiatives like VALOR, we are providing cutting-edge training to help prevent violence against law enforcement, to improve officer resilience, and to increase survivability during violent encounters.

"Through our Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program, we're helping to provide lifesaving equipment to those who serve on the front lines.  And through the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program, we're offering our strongest support to our brave officers and their loved ones in the toughest of times.

"Going forward, this unshakeable commitment to those who serve will continue to guide our efforts to improve 21st-century policing and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they protect.

"I have always been proud to support these selfless public servants.  All Americans owe our courageous law enforcement personnel a tremendous debt of gratitude for their patriotic service, for their often-unheralded sacrifices, and for the dangers they routinely face in the name of public safety."

LANDLORD CONVICTED OF FRAUD AND FORGERY

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, December 22, 2014
Springfield Landlord Convicted of Fraud and Forgery Charges

SPRINGFIELD - A Springfield landlord was convicted in federal court today of fraud and related charged in connection with fires at two of his Springfield properties.

Wilkenson Knaggs, 43, was convicted by a jury following a five-day trial of three counts of mail fraud,  two counts of negotiating checks with forged endorsements, and two counts of spending the mail fraud proceeds.   U.S. District Judge Mark Mastroianni scheduled sentencing for March 20, 2015.

Following a Nov. 16, 2008 fire at 376-378 Franklin Street in Springfield, Knaggs submitted a fraudulent contract for rehabilitating the three-family house in order to obtain a payout on his homeowner’s policy.  He also forged the endorsement of the City of Springfield on a second check, cashing the check at a Boston check cashing company, and using the proceeds to buy a two-family house at 99 Central Street.  In addition, Knaggs recorded the title to 99 Central Street in the name of a relative and used the relative to make a claim on the insurance policy after a March 7, 2010, fire at the Central Street property.

The charging statutes provide for a sentence of no more than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine on each mail fraud count with lower maximum sentences on the other charges.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the statutory maximum penalties.  Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; William P. Offord, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston; Shelley Binkowski , Postal Inspector in Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service; and Vincent Lisi, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Boston Field Division made the announcement today.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen Goodwin and Deepika Shukla of Ortiz’s Springfield Branch Office.

USAO - District of Massachusetts
Updated December 22, 201

DOJ FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST PHARMA CONSULTING SERVICE FOR ALLEGEDLY TAKING KICKBACKS FROM PHARMA MANUFACTURERS

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Monday, December 22, 2014

United States Files Suit Against Omnicare Inc. for Accepting Kickbacks from Drug Manufacturer to Promote an Anti-Epileptic Drug in Nursing Homes
The United States has filed a civil False Claims Act complaint against Omnicare Inc. alleging that it solicited and received millions of dollars in kickbacks from pharmaceutical manufacturer Abbott Laboratories, the Justice Department announced today.  Omnicare is the nation’s largest provider of pharmaceuticals and pharmacy consulting services to nursing homes.  Federal regulations designed to protect nursing home residents from unnecessary drugs require nursing homes to retain consulting pharmacists such as those provided by Omnicare to ensure that residents’ drug prescriptions are appropriate.

In its complaint, the United States alleges that Omnicare solicited and received kickbacks from Abbott in exchange for purchasing and recommending the prescription drug Depakote for controlling behavioral disturbances exhibited by dementia patients residing in nursing homes serviced by Omnicare.  According to the complaint, Omnicare’s pharmacists reviewed nursing home patients’ charts at least monthly and made recommendations to physicians on what drugs should be prescribed for those patients.  The government alleges that Omnicare touted its influence over physicians in nursing homes in order to secure kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies such as Abbott.

“Elderly nursing home residents suffering from dementia are among our nation’s most vulnerable patient populations, and they depend on the independent judgment of healthcare professionals for their daily care,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Kickbacks to consulting pharmacists compromise their independence and undermine their role in protecting nursing home residents from the use of unnecessary drugs.”

The United States alleges that Omnicare disguised the kickbacks it received from Abbott in a variety of ways.  Abbott allegedly made payments to Omnicare described as “grants” and “educational funding,” even though their true purpose was to induce Omnicare to recommend Depakote.  For example, according to the complaint, Omnicare solicited substantial contributions from Abbott and other pharmaceutical manufacturers to its “Re*View” program.  Although Omnicare claimed that Re*View was a “health management” and “educational” program, the complaint alleges that it was simply a means by which Omnicare solicited kickbacks from pharmaceutical manufacturers in exchange for increasing the utilization of their drugs on elderly nursing home residents.  In internal documents, Omnicare allegedly referred to Re*View as its “one extra script per patient” program.  The complaint also alleges that Omnicare entered into agreements with Abbott by which Omnicare was entitled to increasing levels of rebates from Abbott based on the number of nursing home residents serviced and the amount of Depakote prescribed per resident.  Finally, the complaint alleges that Abbott funded Omnicare management meetings on Amelia Island, Florida, offered tickets to sporting events to Omnicare management, and made other payments to local Omnicare pharmacies.

“Although the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia is small, we will not waver in our pursuit of the largest corporations, like Omnicare and Abbott, who illegally raid the coffers of Medicaid, Medicare, and other healthcare benefit programs,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Anthony P. Giorno for the Western District of Virginia.

“Kickback allegations place elderly nursing home residents at risk that treatment decisions are influenced by improper financial incentives,” said Special Agent in Charge Nicholas DiGiulio for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) region including Virginia. “We will continually guard government health programs and taxpayers from companies more intent on their bottom lines than on patient care.”

In May 2012, the United States, numerous individual states, and Abbott entered into a $1.5 billion global civil and criminal resolution that, among other things, resolved Abbott’s civil liability under the False Claims Act for paying kickbacks to nursing home pharmacies.

The United States filed its complaint against Omnicare in two consolidated whistleblower lawsuits filed under the False Claims Act in the Western District of Virginia.  The whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act authorize private parties to sue for fraud on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.  The United States is entitled to intervene and take over such lawsuits, as it has done here.

This case illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $23.2 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $14.9 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

This investigation was jointly handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia, HHS-OIG, the Office of the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia and the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

The cases are captioned United States ex rel. Spetter v. Abbott Labs., et al., Case No. 10-cv-00006 (W.D. Va.) and United States ex rel. McCoyd v. Abbott Labs., et al., Case No. 07-cv-00081 (W.D. Va.).  The claims asserted in the government’s complaint are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

SEC CHARGES TWO BUSINESSMEN IN CHILE WITH INSIDER TRADING

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION 

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged two business associates in Chile with insider trading on nonpublic information that one of them learned while serving on the board of directors of a pharmaceutical company.  The agency obtained a court order to freeze assets in the U.S. brokerage accounts used to conduct the trading.

The SEC alleges that Juan Cruz Bilbao Hormaeche exploited highly confidential information from CFR Pharmaceuticals S.A. board meetings at which a tender offer by Abbott Laboratories was discussed.  In a U.S. brokerage account of which he is the beneficiary, Bilbao caused the purchase of millions of dollars’ worth of American Depositary Shares (ADS) of CFR Pharmaceuticals on the basis of nonpublic information about progressing negotiations between the two companies.  Bilbao used Tomás Andrés Hurtado Rourke to place the trades in the brokerage account, and Hurtado also purchased several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of ADS in his own U.S. brokerage account.  After Abbott Laboratories publicly announced a definitive agreement to acquire CFR Pharmaceuticals and commenced the tender offer, Bilbao and Hurtado tendered the ADS they purchased.  They reaped approximately $10.6 million in illicit profits.

“Bilbao abused his position on a company’s board as he stockpiled ADS on the basis of inside information that a major payday was coming soon on those shares,” said Karen L. Martinez, Director of the SEC’s Salt Lake Regional Office.

The SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York alleges that Bilbao violated Section Sections 10(b) and 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5 and 14e-3.  The complaint also alleges Hurtado violated Sections 14(e) and 20(e) of the Exchange Act and Rule 14e-3.  The complaint seeks disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest and financial penalties in addition to permanent injunctions against further violations of these provisions of the securities laws.  Bilbao allegedly used an offshore entity to engage in the insider trading, and the SEC seeks to repatriate all illegal profits.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by William B. McKean and the litigation will be led by Daniel J. Wadley of the Salt Lake Regional Office.

DOD VIDEO: IRON KNIGHTS FLY FURTHER USING "FAT COW" TACTIC

video

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

DOD VIDEO: COAST GUARD SAVES THE DAY

video

NASA VIDEO| MOON PHASES 2015, SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE

U.S. DOD VIDEO: U.S. JOINS SEARCH FOR MISSING AIRASIA FLIGHT

video

ANOTHER COMPANY PLEADS GUILTY TO PRICE FIXING ON SHIPING SERVICES OF CARS AND TRUCKS

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Monday, December 29, 2014
Third Company Agrees to Plead Guilty to Price Fixing on Ocean Shipping Services for Cars and Trucks
Company Agrees to Pay $59.4 Million Criminal Fine

Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK), a Japanese corporation, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $59.4 million criminal fine for its involvement in a conspiracy to fix prices, allocate customers, and rig bids of international ocean shipping services for roll-on, roll-off cargo, such as cars and trucks, to and from the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.

According to a one-count felony charge filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Baltimore, NYK conspired to suppress and eliminate competition by allocating customers and routes, rigging bids and fixing prices for the sale of international ocean shipments of roll-on, roll-off cargo to and from the United States and elsewhere, including the Port of Baltimore.  NYK participated in the conspiracy from at least February 1997 until at least September 2012.  NYK has agreed to cooperate with the Department’s ongoing antitrust investigation.  The plea agreement is subject to court approval. NYK is the third company to agree to plead guilty in this investigation, bringing the total agreed-upon fines to over $135 million.

Roll-on, roll-off cargo is non-containerized cargo that can be both rolled onto and rolled off of an ocean-going vessel. Examples of this cargo include new and used cars and trucks and construction and agricultural equipment.

“This is another step in the effort to restore competition in the ocean shipping industry to the benefit of U.S. consumers,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “Including today’s charges, three companies have now agreed to plead guilty to participating in this long-running conspiracy.  We are not done.  Our investigation is ongoing.”

According to the charge, NYK and its co-conspirators conspired by agreeing on prices, allocating customers, agreeing to refrain from bidding against one another and exchanging customer pricing information.  The department said the companies then charged fees in accordance with those agreements for international ocean shipping services for certain roll-on, roll-off cargo to and from the United States and elsewhere at collusive and non-competitive prices.

NYK is charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of a $100 million criminal fine for corporations.  The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

Today’s charge is the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging, and other anticompetitive conduct in the international roll-on, roll-off ocean shipping industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section and the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office, along with assistance from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Internal Affairs, Washington Field Office/Special Investigations Unit.

USA.gov TIPS FOR NEW YEAR'S EVE PARTIES

FROM:  USA.gov 

If you are hosting a New Year's Eve party, following a few simple rules could prevent a tragedy:

Plan ahead by naming a "designated driver." Make this your responsibility as the host.
Contact a local cab company to provide rides for your guests.
Serve non-alcoholic beverages as an option to your guests.
Stop serving alcohol to your guests several hours before the party ends.
Provide your guests with a place to stay overnight in your home.
If you are attending New Year's Eve parties and celebrations:

If you drink, don't drive.
Plan ahead and always designate a sober driver before the party or celebration begins.
If you are impaired, call a taxi, use mass transit, or get a sober friend or family member to come pick you up.
Or, stay where you are until you are sober.
Take the keys from someone if you think he/she is too impaired to drive.

MOST WHO SELECTED 2015 HEALTH PLANS THROUGH HEALTHCARE.GOV ARE GETTING ASSISTANCE TO LOWER PREMIUMS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES 
December 30, 2014
87 percent of people who selected 2015 plans through HealthCare.gov in first month of open enrollment are getting financial assistance to lower monthly premiums

A report released by the Department of Health and Human Services today provides the first detailed analysis of enrollment in the Marketplaces for the first month of the 2015 open enrollment period.   About 87 percent of people who selected health insurance plans through HealthCare.gov for coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2015 were determined eligible for financial assistance to lower their monthly premiums, compared to 80 percent of enrollees who selected plans over a similar period last year. In addition, more than 4 million people in both the state and federal Marketplaces signed up for the first time or reenrolled in coverage for 2015 during the first month of open enrollment. That includes more than 3.4 million people who selected a plan in the 37 states that are using the HealthCare.gov platform for 2015, and more than 600,000 consumers who selected plans in the 14 states that are operating their own Marketplace platform for 2015.

Today’s report includes data through December 15 for the 37 states using the HealthCare.gov platform, and through December 13 for 12 states and the District of Columbia that are using their own Marketplace platforms. Data for California are through December 14.  Data for automatic reenrollments are not yet available in the vast majority of states, so today’s report does not fully capture the number of people who selected plans leading up to the deadline for Jan. 1, 2015 coverage. In particular, the automatic reenrollment process for the 37 states using the HealthCare.gov platform began on December 16 and was completed for the vast majority of consumers on December 18.

HHS also released a Weekly Enrollment Snapshot that captures more recent enrollment activity in the 37 states using the HealthCare.gov platform. The Weekly Snapshot shows that from November 15 to December 26, nearly 6.5 million consumers selected a plan or were automatically reenrolled.

“We’re pleased that nationwide, millions of people signed up for Marketplace coverage starting January 1. The vast majority were able to lower their costs even further by getting tax credits, making a difference in the bottom lines of so many families,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said. “Interest in the Marketplace has been strong during the first month of open enrollment. We still have a ways to go and a lot of work to do before February 15, but this is an encouraging start.”

Detailed findings for HealthCare.gov states through December 15:
More than 3.4 million people selected a plan through December 15 in the 37 states that are using the HealthCare.gov platform for 2015, including Oregon and Nevada.  Of those:
87 percent selected a plan with financial assistance compared to 80 percent in the early months of the first open enrollment period.

33 percent were under 35 years of age compared to 29 percent in the early months of the first open enrollment period.

Nearly 1 million consumers selected a plan in the three days leading up to December 15. That is almost one third (28 percent) of total plan selections from November 15 through December 15.

Of the 3.4 million plan selections, 48 percent (1.6 million) reenrolled in a Marketplace plan and 52 percent (1.8 million) signed up for the first time.
The most recent Weekly Enrollment Snapshot with data available through December 26 can be found here.

Detailed findings for the 14 states using state based Marketplace enrollment platforms:
More than 600,000 consumers selected plans in the 14 states that are operating their own Marketplace platform for 2015.  That includes:
161,752 Marketplace plan selections in two states reporting only data for new consumers (California and New York);
153,011 Marketplace plan selections in seven states reporting data on new consumers and consumers actively reenrolling in Marketplace coverage (Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island); and
318,075 Marketplace plan selections in five states reporting data on new enrollees, consumers actively reenrolling in Marketplace coverage, and automatic reenrollees (Connecticut, Idaho, Kentucky, Vermont, and Washington).

The information contained in this report provides the most systematic summary of enrollment-related activity in the Marketplaces to date. Data for the various metrics are counted using comparable definitions for data elements across states and Marketplace types. But because many states extended their plan selection deadlines for January 1 coverage, the report does not include the full count of consumers who will have selected coverage that begins Jan. 1, 2015.

Open Enrollment in the Marketplace runs from Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015.  Consumers should visit HealthCare.gov to review and compare health plan options. Consumers shopping for health insurance coverage should sign up by Jan. 15, 2015, in order to have coverage effective on Feb. 1, 2015.  If consumers who were automatically reenrolled decide in the coming weeks that a better plan exists for their families, they can make that change at any time before the end of open enrollment on February 15.


AFGHANISTAN: COMBAT MISSION ENDS BUT, ASSISTANCE CONTINUES

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

video
℠2014 - U.S. forces will continue to assist counterparts in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

U.S. DEPT. OF INTERIOR VIDEO: HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM THE INTERIOR DEPARTMENT

U.S. OFFICIAL'S EXPLANATION OF U.S VOTE AT UN ON ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN RESOLUTION .

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
New York, NY
December 30, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thank you Mr. President,


In recent years, no government has invested more in the effort to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace than the United States. Peace – however difficult it may be to forge – is too important to give up on. As we were reminded this summer in Gaza, and as we’ve been reminded too painfully recently in Jerusalem and the West Bank, the human consequences of ensuing cycles of violence are too grave. The United States every day searches for new ways to take constructive steps to support the parties in making progress toward achieving a negotiated settlement.

The Security Council resolution put before us today is not one of those constructive steps; it would undermine efforts to get back to an atmosphere that makes it possible to achieve two states for two people.

Regrettably, instead of giving voice to the aspirations of both Palestinians and Israelis, this text addresses the concerns of only one side. It is deeply imbalanced and contains many elements that are not conducive to negotiations between the parties, including unconstructive deadlines that take no account of Israel’s legitimate security concerns. In addition, this resolution was put to a vote without a discussion or due consideration among Council members, which is highly unusual, especially considering the gravity of the matter at hand. We must proceed responsibly, not take actions that would risk a downward spiral.

We voted against this resolution not because we are comfortable with the status quo. We voted against it because we know what everyone here knows, as well – peace will come from hard choices and compromises that must be made at the negotiating table. Today’s staged confrontation in the UN Security Council will not bring the parties closer to achieving a two-state solution.

We voted against this resolution not because we are indifferent to the daily hardships or the security threats endured by Palestinians and Israelis, but because we know that those hardships will not cease and those threats will not subside until the parties reach a comprehensive settlement achieved through negotiations. This resolution sets the stage for more division – not for compromise. It could well serve to provoke the very confrontation it purports to address.

For decades, the United States has worked to try to help achieve a comprehensive end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we remain committed to achieving the peace that both Palestinians and Israelis deserve: two states for two peoples, with a sovereign, viable, and independent Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel.

The United States does not just acknowledge the tremendous frustrations and disappointments on both sides over the years in pursuit of peace; we share them. And we understand the immense challenges the parties need to overcome to make peace a reality. Yet at the same time, we firmly believe the status quo between Israelis and Palestinians is unsustainable.


The United States recognizes the role that this Council has played before in advancing a sustainable end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including through resolutions 242, 338, and 1515, which calls for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with both states “living side-by-side within secure and recognized borders.” In a May 2011 speech, President Obama elaborated further that “the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine…based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” He made clear that the “Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.”

The United States will continue reaching out to the parties in an effort to find a way forward, and we are ready to engage and support them when they are ready to return to the table. And we will continue to oppose actions by both sides that we view as detrimental to the cause of peace, whether those actions come in the form of settlement activity or imbalanced draft resolutions in this Council. The parties have a responsibility to negotiate and to own the hard choices that will be needed if they are to bring real and long-overdue change to their region to benefit their people.

Today’s vote should not be interpreted as a victory for an unsustainable status quo. Instead, it should serve as a wake-up call to catalyze all interested parties to take constructive, responsible steps to achieve a two-state solution, which remains the only way to bring an end to the ongoing cycle of violence and suffering. We hope that those who share our vision for peace between two states – Israel and Palestine, both secure, democratic, and prosperous – will join us in redoubling efforts to find a path forward that can rally international consensus, advance future negotiations, and provide a horizon of hope for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Thank you.

NASA VIDEO| FERMI HELPS SCIENTIS STUDY GAMMA-RAY THUNDERSTORMS

STATE DEPARTMENT ON SERGEI MAGNITSKY RULE OF LAW ACCOUNTABILITY ACT

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Background Briefing on Implementation of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act
Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official
Via Teleconference
December 29, 2014

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Laurie, and welcome to everyone who has joined us for this background call today. As noted, this call will be on background, so no names or titles. It’s attributable to a senior State Department official, but just for everyone’s understanding, the person who will do the background call today is [Senior State Department Official]. But from here on out [Senior State Department Official] will be Senior State Department Official, and we will get started now, and I’ll turn the floor over to our briefer. Go ahead, please.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you, everyone, for joining the call. Today, Secretary Kerry transmitted to the Congress the third of our Magnitsky reports, or reports to Congress pursuant to the Magnitsky Act. This report included a list of four Russian officials newly added to the list. They will be – in fact, are as of now – subject to both a visa restriction, a ban on entry into the United States; and an asset freeze, in accordance with the Magnitsky Act. I believe you have the four names. Two are Russian officials who were implicated in the death and subsequent cover-up of the – of Sergei Magnitsky himself. Two are Chechen officials who were implicated in the kidnapping, torture, and later framing of a noted Chechen activist – a Mr. Kutayev -- earlier this year.

These four are the latest in – as I said earlier, are the latest in the – our listings pursuant to the Magnitsky Act. We have said throughout this process that we will continue to investigate new cases, both having to do with the death of Sergei Magnitsky himself, but also having to do with non-Magnitsky-related examples of gross violations of human rights, including extrajudicial killings, torture, or other actions.

In each Magnitsky list so far, we have combined those designations associated with Magnitsky himself with those associated with other gross human rights violations. The same is true in this case. The numbers of Magnitsky-related designations have dropped, you have noticed. This is partly – in fact, it is largely due to the fact that the numbers of individuals whom we can designate, whom we can tie through fact-based analysis to Magnitsky’s death and the subsequent cover-up of that death, will drop. We’re not done with that process, but it is going to become more of a challenge to designate Magnitsky-related individuals. And just as a matter of reality, our efforts will begin to turn to the gross violations of human rights, as in the case of the Chechen activist, Mr. Kutayev.

One other thing worth mentioning about the two Russian officials, Viktor Grin, deputy prosecutor general, and Andrei Strizhov, investigator under the investigative committee, who were, of course, designated because of their involvement in the death and cover-up of Magnitsky’s killing. In their particular case, it was related to the cover-up. They are also, and in addition to this, associated with arrests, prosecutions, and other problematic actions with respect to the Bolotnaya case. You remember the demonstrations in Bolotnaya Square in the beginning of 2012, after which – during which and after which people were rounded up and prosecuted. They were not designated under the Magnitsky Act because of this involvement, but it is a fact that they were involved in Bolotnaya cases, and one of them – Deputy Prosecutor General Grin – was also involved in the Khodorkovsky and Lebedev case.

And by the way, with respect to Mr. Grin’s involvement in the Magnitsky cover-up, specifically Grin was responsible for opening two posthumous cases against Magnitsky. They put Magnitsky on trial after – well after he was dead, which astonished us. We didn’t know it was possible. And in fact, it really isn’t possible under Russian law, as I understand it, except in response to the request of the family. And Magnitsky’s family has gone on record saying they did not request their family member to be put on trial again after he was dead. So Viktor Grin’s involvement of this strange – in fact bizarre – action was one that is particularly satisfying to those of us who want to see the Magnitsky Act implemented fairly.

I will finish up here and – at this point, and happily take your questions.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to ask a question, press * then 1 on your touchtone phone. You will hear a tone indicating you’ve been placed in queue. You may remove yourself from the queue by pressing the # key. And if you are using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if you have a question, press * then 1 at this time. One moment for our first question.

MODERATOR: All right, Laurie. Please go ahead with the first question.

OPERATOR: It is from the line of Leandra Bernstein with RIA Novosti. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi. Just a question on the effectiveness of the Magnitsky sanctions. There have been some members of Congress who have – who’ve claimed that the Administration hasn’t been faithfully implementing the Magnitsky Act. So just your response on how effective you believe the implementation is, and then you made reference to further expanding the conditions to deal with the gross violations of human rights, so how effective you believe that will be.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I am aware of various views expressed by members of Congress, but for our part, the Executive Branch is happy to work with the Congress to see to it that the Magnitsky Act is implemented – not just once, not but – just twice, but over time. By the way, I should clarify what I said. This is the third list, the third time we have sent a list up to the Congress, but it is only technically the second report. There’s a technical difference, but I want to be clear.

We intend to continue to administer the Magnitsky Act. Specifically, we intend to pursue additional designations. I can’t make promises in advance as to the timing or the extent, but I can tell you that we are committed to continuing this process.

As to effectiveness, in any – in pursuit of any sustained human rights policy, results come unevenly and there tend to be tipping points. That is, our listing of individuals may have the indirect effect of putting Russian officials on notice that if they are involved in gross violations of human rights, trumped-up cases, false accusations, grotesque examples of misappropriate – mishandling of justice, such as putting a dead man on trial, under this law they may be held personally liable.

Now, this is not an ideal situation. In democracies, in the rule of law, governments and a free media inside the country are responsible for correcting mistakes and issuing reports – sometimes embarrassing to the host government when we make mistakes. But absent that process, the Magnitsky Act can serve as an admittedly imperfect tool to advance human rights and ultimately the cause of justice, which was, I believe, its intent. And it is that tool which we will attempt to advance, working with the Congress, with human rights communities, inside and outside Russia, and with the knowledge that now as in the Soviet period, a sustained, determined human rights policy can, in fact, be effective.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Laurie, would you make one more call for questions and explain how to lodge questions?

OPERATOR: Yes. If you do have questions, please press * then 1 on your touchtone phone.

MODERATOR: Okay, very good. We’ll take the next question then.

OPERATOR: And that comes from Carol Morello with The Washington Post. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you for doing this. So what is the total number of people, including those whose names you have not made public, who are on the list? And when you said that number is clearly going to diminish, I mean, realistically speaking, how many more people could we expect for you to put on the list in the future? Are we talking less than a dozen more to come, or can you just give us a ballpark figure on what might still be coming down the road? Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, the first part of your question is easy. There have been 34 individual designations so far under the Magnitsky Act in the three tranches of names we have provided to Congress. I won’t speak at all to the number of classified designations, if indeed there – I won’t even confirm that there are any, so that’s outside of this number.

I can’t give you a number, obviously, of how many designations there may be in the future, because increasingly our designations will be a reaction to events as they occur inside Russia, now and in – starting now and in the future – well, also in the recent past. But that depends – what we do depends on what happens in Russia. We’re not working according to a quota; we are working in response to actual events and our ability to link individuals with those actual events. We work very closely – the State Department works very closely with the Treasury Department, with the Justice Department to obtain information which can support a designation by linking an individual to actual conduct. And the factual basis has to be strong. I can’t, as I said, give you a number, but I can tell you that we will be working on implementing the Magnitsky Act in the future.

MODERATOR: All right, thank you. Operator, do we have any more calls in the queue?

OPERATOR: We have no additional questions.

MODERATOR: Okay. Well, then let me wrap up by thanking our briefer and by thanking all of you who participated in the call. Oh, let’s see, Senior Administration Official, would you be willing to entertain one final question?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes, I would.

MODERATOR: Okay, very good. Then, operator, why don’t you open the line for that one?

OPERATOR: And that will be from Paul Richter with The Los Angeles Times. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. I’d like to know what kind of response you expect from the Russians, if any, based on the way they’ve reacted in the past cases.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I – well, I expect that they will complain and they may threaten retaliation. They may actually retaliate. We’re aware – we are aware of retaliation they have taken in – throughout this year in response to other sanctions, particularly because of their aggression against Ukraine. So that wouldn’t surprise us, but it will not deter us from doing the right thing. And it is also true that the day will come in the future when we have better relations with Russia. I firmly believe that. It would be in the interests of both countries. But given Russian actions, that day is not today.

MODERATOR: All right. Well, that’s our last question, and I want to thank our briefer and thank all of the participants in the call, and remind once again that this call has been on background, so no names or titles, and attributable to a senior State Department official. Thanks very much, everyone, and until next time.

U.S. CONTINUES AIRSTRIKES AGAINST ISIL

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Airstrikes Continue Against ISIL in Syria, Iraq
From a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve News Release

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Dec. 29, 2014 – U.S. and partner-nation military forces continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq today, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent resolve officials reported.
Fighter, attack and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 12 airstrikes in Syria and six in Iraq, officials said.

Airstrikes in Syria
Here are the details of today’s strikes in Syria:

-- Near Kobani, 10 airstrikes destroyed 11 ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL buildings and an ISIL storage container and struck an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Day az Zawr, an airstrike struck several ISIL buildings.

-- Near Raqqah, an airstrike struck several ISIL buildings.
Airstrikes in Iraq

Here are the details of today’s strikes in Iraq:

-- Near Asad, two airstrikes destroyed two ISIL vehicles and struck an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Sinjar, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Mosul, two airstrikes destroyed two ISIL buildings and struck a large ISIL unit.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community, officials said, noting that strike assessments are based on initial reports.

Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT ON END OF COMBAT MISSION IN AFGHANISTAN

FROM:  THE WHITE HOUSE PRESIDENT 
December 28, 2014
Statement by the President on the End of the Combat Mission in Afghanistan

Today's ceremony in Kabul marks a milestone for our country. For more than 13 years, ever since nearly 3,000 innocent lives were taken from us on 9/11, our nation has been at war in Afghanistan. Now, thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.

On this day we give thanks to our troops and intelligence personnel who have been relentless against the terrorists responsible for 9/11--devastating the core al Qaeda leadership, delivering justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupting terrorist plots and saving countless American lives. We are safer, and our nation is more secure, because of their service. At the same time, our courageous military and diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan--along with our NATO allies and coalition partners--have helped the Afghan people reclaim their communities, take the lead for their own security, hold historic elections and complete the first democratic transfer of power in their country's history.

We honor the profound sacrifices that have made this progress possible. We salute every American--military and civilian, including our dedicated diplomats and development workers--who have served in Afghanistan, many on multiple tours, just as their families have sacrificed at home. We pledge to give our many wounded warriors, with wounds seen and unseen, the world-class care and treatment they have earned. Most of all, we remember the more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and we pledge to stand with their Gold Star families who need the everlasting love and support of a grateful nation.

Afghanistan remains a dangerous place, and the Afghan people and their security forces continue to make tremendous sacrifices in defense of their country. At the invitation of the Afghan government, and to preserve the gains we have made together, the United States--along with our allies and partners--will maintain a limited military presence in Afghanistan to train, advise and assist Afghan forces and to conduct counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al Qaeda. Our personnel will continue to face risks, but this reflects the enduring commitment of the United States to the Afghan people and to a united, secure and sovereign Afghanistan that is never again used as a source of attacks against our nation.

These past 13 years have tested our nation and our military. But compared to the nearly 180,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan when I took office, we now have fewer than 15,000 in those countries. Some 90 percent of our troops are home. Our military remains the finest in the world, and we will remain vigilant against terrorist attacks and in defense of the freedoms and values we hold dear. And with growing prosperity here at home, we enter a new year with new confidence, indebted to our fellow Americans in uniform who keep us safe and free.

DOL TOUTS TRAINING PROGRAM

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR 
DOL Working for You
Training Program Illuminates New Career Path
 Justin Hitchcock. Click for a larger photo.

Justin Hitchcock was working on a spray rig for an agricultural company while attending Mississippi Delta Community College. When the company closed, he followed his grandfather's advice: "you need to find a job, doing something that everybody needs... and you'll never have to worry about being laid off again." Hitchcock enrolled in the college's electrical lineman training program. Funded by the Employment and Training Administration's Workforce Investment Act as part of the Delta Workforce Investment Program, the 16-week program brought his grandfather's advice to life. Upon graduation, Justin joined Delta Electric Power Association as an apprentice lineman. His supervisor allowed him to go out on every call he could to gain experience and earn his journeyman rating at an accelerated rate. Today, Justin's entire crew is comprised of graduates of the community college program. "Nobody worries about who keeps their lights on, they just want them on. I love being one of the people keeping the lights on," he said.

NASA VIDEO | ASTEROID BENNU'S JOURNEY

Monday, December 29, 2014

DOL GRANTS WORLD VISION $10 MILLION TO FIGHT EXPLOITED CHILD LABORERS IN ETHIOPIA

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR 
World Vision receives $10M US Labor Department grant to combat
exploitative child labor in Ethiopia

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of International Labor Affairs today announced the award of a $10 million cooperative agreement with World Vision to implement a project to address exploitative labor among youth in Ethiopia.

"We know when youth are provided skills training and career services that align with needs in the jobs market, they are less likely to be drawn into exploitative labor," said Deputy Undersecretary of Labor for International Affairs Carol Pier. "Our goal is to help vulnerable youth in Ethiopia develop the skills they need to make a successful transition into decent jobs."

The project will promote education and vocational training opportunities and seek to enhance livelihoods and access to social protection programs for youth and their households. Focusing specifically on the needs of girls, the project aims to address exploitative child labor by providing youth ages 14 to 17, with marketable skills and support to secure decent work. The project will also support President Obama's Young African Leaders Initiative.

Since 1993, ILAB has produced reports to raise awareness globally about child labor and forced labor. ILAB has also provided funding for more than 280 projects in more than 94 countries to combat the worst forms of child labor by providing assistance to vulnerable children and their families.

Based in Washington State, World Vision is a non-profit, humanitarian organization conducting relief, development, and advocacy activities in its work with children, families, and their communities in nearly 100 countries to help them reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.

DOJ FILES PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT AGAINST CHICAGO BOARD OF EDUCATION

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Justice Department Files Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Against the Chicago Board of Education

The Justice Department today announced the filing of a lawsuit against the Chicago Board of Education, alleging that the board discriminated against pregnant teachers at Scammon Elementary School by subjecting them to adverse personnel actions, including termination in some instances, after they announced their pregnancies.  According to the complaint, these adverse personnel actions were in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Title VII is a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.  The statute explicitly prohibits employers from discriminating against female employees due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.

The suit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges that, starting in 2009, the principal at Scammon subjected female teachers to lower performance evaluations, discipline, threatened termination and/or termination because of their pregnancies.  The complaint further alleges that the board approved the firing of six recently pregnant teachers employed at Scammon and forced two other recently pregnant teachers to leave Scammon.  The department’s complaint seeks a court order that would require the board to develop and implement policies that would prevent its employees from being subjected to discrimination due to their pregnancies.  The relief sought also includes monetary damages as compensation for those teachers who were harmed by the alleged discrimination.

Two teachers who had been pregnant while working at Scammon filed charges of sex discrimination with the Chicago District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  The EEOC investigated the charges and determined that there was reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred against the two charging parties as well as against other pregnant teachers.  The EEOC was unsuccessful in its attempts to conciliate the matter before referring it to the Department of Justice.

“No woman should have to make a choice between her job and having a family,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division.  “Federal law requires employers to maintain a workplace free of discrimination on the basis of sex.”

“Despite much progress, we continue to see the persistence of overt pregnancy discrimination, as well as the emergence of more subtle discriminatory practices in the workplace,” said EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang.

“The EEOC will continue to vigorously enforce Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination against pregnant employees,” said John P. Rowe, former District Director of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office.  Rowe led the EEOC’s administrative investigation of the charges filed by the two teachers.

This lawsuit is brought by the Department of Justice as a result of a joint effort to enhance collaboration between the EEOC and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for vigorous enforcement of Title VII.

EARTH'S PAST CHANGING POLARITY

FROM:  NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION 

Geomagnetic reversal: Understanding ancient flips and flops in Earth's polarity
Researcher boards R/V Sikuliaq to gather data about Earth's geomagnetic history
Imagine one day you woke up, and the North Pole was suddenly the South Pole.

This geomagnetic reversal would cause your hiking compass to seem impossibly backwards. However, within our planet's history, scientists know that this kind of thing actually has happened...not suddenly and not within human time scales, but the polarity of the planet has in fact reversed, which has caused scientists to wonder not only how it's happened, but why.

This week, as the National Science Foundation (NSF) research vessel R/V Sikuliaq continues its journey towards its home port in University of Alaska Fairbanks' Marine Center in Seward, Alaska, she detours for approximately 35 days as researchers take advantage of her close proximity to the western Pacific Ocean's volcanic sea floors. With the help of three types of magnetometers, they will unlock more of our planet's geomagnetic history that has been captured in our Earth's crust there.

"The geomagnetic field is one of the major physical properties of planet Earth, and it is a very dynamic property that can change from milliseconds to millions of years. It is always, always changing," said the expedition's chief scientist, Masako Tominaga, an NSF-funded marine geophysicist from Michigan State University. "Earth's geomagnetic field is a shield, for example. It protects us from magnetic storms--bursts from the sun--so very pervasive cosmic rays don't harm us. Our research will provide data to understand how changes in the geomagnetic field have occurred over time and give us very important clues to understand the planet Earth as a whole."

Flipping and flopping

Reportedly, the last time, a geomagnetic reversal occurred was 780,000 years ago, known as the Brunhes-Matuyama reversal. Bernard Brunhes and Motonori Matuyama were the geophysicists who identified that reversal in 1906.

Researchers Tominaga, Maurice Tivey (from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) and William Sager (from University of Houston) have an interest that goes further back in history to the Jurassic period, 145-200 million years ago when a curious anomaly occurred. Scientists originally thought that during this time period, no geomagnetic reversals had happened at all. However, data--like the kind that Tominaga's team will be collecting--revealed that in fact, the time period was full of reversals that occurred much more quickly.

"We came to the conclusion that it was actually 'flipping flopping,' but so fast that it did not regain the full strength of the geomagnetic field of Earth like today's strength. That's why it was very low," Tominaga explained. "The Jurassic period is distinctive. We think that understanding this part of the geomagnetic field's behavior can provide important clues for computer simulation where researchers have been trying to characterize this flipping and flopping. Our data could help predict future times when we might see these reversals again."

Better tools equal better data

For approximately three decades, researchers like Tominaga have been probing this area of the western Pacific seafloor. With her cruise on R/V Sikuliaq, Tominaga and Tivey come with even more technology in hand.

Thirty years ago, researchers didn't have access to autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) that could go to deeper, harder-to-reach ocean areas. However, that is just one of three ways Tominaga's team will deploy three magnetometers during its time at sea. One magnetometer will be towed at the seasurface from R/V Sikuliaq. Another will trail behind the ship at mid-water depth, and the third will be part of the AUV at near the seafloor.

"The seafloor spreading at mid-ocean ridge occurred because of volcanic eruption over time. And when this molten lava formed the seafloor, it actually recorded ambient geomagnetic data. So when you go from the very young ocean seafloor right next to the mid-ocean ridge to very, very old seafloor away from the mid-ocean ridge, a magnetometer basically unveils changes in the geomagnetic field for us," Tominaga said. "The closer we can get to the seafloor, the better the signal. That's the rule of thumb for geophysics."

With the help of R/V Sikuliaq's ship's crew, Tominaga and Tivey, a cruise archivist who is also a computer engineer/scientist, and seven students (three of whom are undergraduates), the team will run 24 hours a day/seven days a week operations, deploying underway geophysics, the magnetometers, collecting data and then moving on to the next site.

Naturally, the weather can waylay even the best plans. "Our goal is always about the science, but the road likely will be winding," Tominaga said. "The most enjoyable part of this work is to be able to work together with this extremely diverse group of people. The Sikuliaq crew, the folks at UAF and those connected to the ship from NSF have all been committed to seeing this research happen, which is incredibly gratifying.... When we make things happen together as a team, it is really rewarding."

Focus on fundamentals

Not surprisingly, this kind of oceanographic research is among some of the most fundamental, serving as a foundation for other research where it might correlate or illuminate. Additionally, because the causes and impacts of these geomagnetic changes are unknown, connections to currents, weather patterns, and other geologic phenomenon can still be explored also.

"NSF, along with the entire science community, has waited years for this unique state-of-the-art Arctic vessel, and the timing couldn't be more critical," said Rose DuFour, NSF program director. "Our hope is to use R/V Sikuliaq to help carry out the abundant arctic-based seagoing science missions that go beyond NSF-funded science and extend to those from other federal agencies, like Office of Naval Research as well."

Tominaga notes that another key part to the cruise's mission is record keeping; it's why an archivist is part of her team. He even will blog daily (with pictures). As foundational research, it's important to "keep every single record intact," and she believes this broadcasting daily narrative will assist in this effort.

"Without going there, getting real data--providing ground truth--how do we know what is going on?" Tominaga said, explaining fieldwork's importance.

Tominaga is quite clear on what prompts her to keep one of the busiest fieldwork schedules, even during a season usually reserved for family and friends, sipping eggnog or champagne. "I was 'raised' as a scientist/marine geophysicist, and I don't just mean academically," she said. "I really looked up to my mentors and friends and how they handed down what they know-so unselfishly. And when I was finishing my Ph.D., I realized that there will be a time I will hand down these things to the next generation. Now, as a professor at Michigan State University, I'm the one who has to pass the torch, if you will--knowledge, experience, and skills at sea. That's what drives me."

-- Ivy F. Kupec
Investigators
Masako Tominaga
Maurice Tivey
William Sager
Related Institutions/Organizations
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Locations
Western Pacific Seafloor , Hawaii
Related Programs
Marine Geology and Geophysics

ANTARTIC SEALS MAY USE EARTH'S MAGNETIC FIELD TO SURVIVE WHILE HUNTING

ANOTHER REAL ESTATE INVESTOR PLEADS GUILTY TO BID RIGGING PUBLIC FORECLOSURE AUCTIONS

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Northern California Real Estate Investor Pleads Guilty to Bid Rigging and Fraud at Public Foreclosure Auctions
Investigations Have Yielded 51 Plea Agreements and Five Indictments to Date

A Northern California real estate investor pleaded guilty for his role in bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

Charles Rock was indicted on Dec. 3, 2014, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland, California.  The indictment alleged that Charles Rock and others agreed not to compete at public foreclosure auctions in Contra Costa County, California, and diverted money to themselves that should have gone to mortgage holders and other beneficiaries.  Charles Rock pleaded guilty to one count of bid rigging and two counts of mail fraud.

To date, 51 individuals have agreed to plead or have pleaded guilty as a result of the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California.  In addition, 21 real estate investors, including Charles Rock, have been charged in five multi-count indictments for their roles in bid-rigging and fraud schemes at foreclosure auctions in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties.

The indictment alleges, among other things, that as early as June 2008 until about January 2011, Charles Rock and others conspired to rig bids to obtain numerous properties sold at foreclosure auctions in Contra Costa County, negotiated payoffs for agreeing not to compete, held second, private auctions known as “rounds,” concealed those rounds and payoffs, and in the process, defrauded mortgage holders and other beneficiaries.

“This is the first post-indictment plea resulting from the investigation and marks a positive step forward in resolving the case,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “It is important for those who conspired to profit from rigged bids and illegal payoffs to take responsibility for their actions.”

“These charges demonstrate our continued commitment to investigate and prosecute individuals and organizations responsible for the corruption of the public foreclosure auction process,” said David J. Johnson, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office.  “The FBI is committed to work these important cases and remains unwavering in our dedication to bring the members of these illegal conspiracies to justice.”

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals.  The maximum fine for the Sherman Act charges may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victim if either amount is greater than $1 million.  Each count of mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Today’s charges are the latest filed by the department in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties, California.  These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Office.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-934-5300, or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.

Today’s charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations.  Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants.

CFTC ORDERS MAN AND CO. TO PAY $2.5 MILLION IN SANCTIONS

FROM:  U.S. COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION 
December 16, 2014

Federal Court Orders Missouri Resident Daniel K. Steele and His Missouri Company, Champion Management International, LLC, to Pay over $2.5 Million in Monetary Sanctions

Order Also Requires Relief Defendant Judy D. Steele to Disgorge Ill-Gotten Gains

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced that the Honorable Ronnie L. White of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri entered a Consent Order for permanent injunction against Defendants Daniel K. Steele and Champion Management International, LLC, (Champion Management), a Missouri limited liability company. The Court’s Order requires Defendants jointly to pay $1,544,722.81 in restitution to defrauded investors, imposes a $1 million civil monetary penalty, and requires Relief Defendant Judy D. Steele to disgorge ill-gotten gains totaling $187,083.58. The Order also imposes a permanent trading and registration ban on the Defendants and prohibits them from further violations of the anti-fraud provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA), as charged.

The Court’s Order stems from a CFTC Complaint filed on September 25, 2013 and an amended Complaint filed on July 16, 2014, charging that from approximately February 28, 2011 through September 25, 2013, Steele individually and acting as an agent of Champion Management solicited at least $1.97 million from at least 24 pool participants to participate in three foreign currency (forex) pools (see CFTC Press Release and Complaint 6712-13, September 26, 2013, and CFTC Press Release and Amended Complaint 6962-14, July 18, 2014).

Specifically, the Court’s Order finds that Steele knowingly made material misrepresentations to actual and prospective pool participants concerning Defendants’ forex trading and trading results, such as:  “I’ve been doing this long enough to know what I can consistently deliver above expenses, in all market conditions…the return is fixed and is currently 5% per month on your invested amount compounded… .”

The Court’s Order also finds, among other things, that Steele concealed trading losses, misappropriated approximately $1 million of pool participants’ funds, issued false account statements to pool participants, and failed to disclose that the counterparty to the retail forex transactions that were offered or entered into with the respective pools was not registered with the CFTC as a Retail Foreign Exchange Dealer, all in violation of Sections 4o and 4b of the CEA.

The CFTC cautions victims that restitution orders may not result in the recovery of money lost because the wrongdoers may not have sufficient funds or assets. The CFTC will continue to fight vigorously for the protection of customers and to ensure the wrongdoers are held accountable.

The CFTC appreciates the assistance of the Missouri Secretary of State, Securities Division, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority.

CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Eugene Smith, Melanie Devoe, George Malas, Kyong J. Koh, Peter M. Haas, and Paul G. Hayeck.

* * * * * *

CFTC’s Foreign Currency (Forex) Fraud Advisory

The CFTC has issued several customer protection Fraud Advisories that provide the warning signs of fraud, including the Foreign Currency Trading (Forex) Fraud Advisory, which states that the CFTC has witnessed a sharp rise in Forex trading scams in recent years and helps customers identify this potential fraud.

Customers can report suspicious activities or information, such as possible violations of commodity trading laws, to the CFTC Division of Enforcement via a Toll-Free Hotline 866-FON-CFTC (866-366-2382) or file a tip or complaint online.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

NOAA's GOES-EAST SATELLITE SHOWS STORM SYSTEMS

NASA VIDEO | FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA

FDIC VIDEO: DON'T BE AN ONLINE VICTIM

ANTI-AGING, WART REMOVAL AND WEIGHT LOSS MARKETERS SETTLE FTC'S DECEPTIVE ADVERTISING CHARGES

FROM:  U.S. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 
Marketers Settle FTC Charges That They Used Deceptive Ads In Promoting Products for Mole and Wart Removal, Anti-Aging and Weight Loss
Companies Must Stop Making Deceptive Claims

Two companies that market skin care and weight-loss products must stop making false or unsubstantiated deceptive claims about their products, under settlements resolving charges in two separate cases brought by the Federal Trade Commission.

In one case, the FTC challenged ads for DermaTend, a skin cream that was promoted for do-it-yourself removal of moles, skin tags, and warts, as well as Lipidryl, a supplement promoted for weight loss. In the second case, the agency challenged claims for Photodynamic Therapy anti-aging lotions, as well Shrinking Beauty, a supposed body-slimming lotion.

The FTC settlements in both cases prohibit the defendants from misleading consumers about the efficacy of their products and about whether their claims are backed by scientific evidence. In addition, the marketers of DermaTend and Lipidryl are required to disclose when people promoting the products are paid for their endorsement.

“These companies made outrageous claims that their products could provide a range of benefits – from removing warts to decreasing the appearance of cellulite to providing substantial weight loss,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The common thread for all of these claims was the fundamental lack of scientific evidence. Consumers deserve better.”

DermaTend and Lipidryl

Aaron Lilly, a Nevada-based marketer, owns and operates both Solace International, Inc. and Bioscience Research Institute LLC, which sell DermaTend and Lipidryl, respectively. DermaTend was advertised in SkyMall (both the magazine and website), as well as on Amazon.com and eBay, and through Google AdWords. It was also sold on company-owned websites and marketed through affiliates.

According to the FTC’s complaint, DermaTend contains the botanical bloodroot and zinc chloride. A 1.7 ounce container of the “Original” formula sells for $39.95, while a 3.4 ounce container of “Ultra” sells for $69.95. Consumers who bought DermaTend also received an emery board and instructions directing consumers to file down their mole, skin tag, or wart with the emery board before applying the product.

The complaint alleges that DermaTend ads made false or unsubstantiated claims that the product worked in a very short amount of time, caused little or no scarring, and was safe (even for children). They also touted a “97 percent success rate.” The FTC also alleges that DermaTend ads touted “real user results” supposedly showing before and after photos of consumers who had success using the products, and written testimonials, without disclosing that reviewers were sometimes paid for their stories.

Bioscience, Lilly’s other company, charged $129.99 for a three-month supply of Lipidryl, which contains African mango seed extract. The FTC complaint charges that ads for Lipidryl falsely claimed that the supplement was clinically proven to cause substantial weight loss (such as 28 pounds in 10 weeks) and reduce users’ waistlines.

The FTC’s settlement order with Lilly and his companies requires that future claims for DermaTend and other products promoted for removing skin lesions be supported by high-quality human clinical testing. Future claims for Lipidryl or other weight-loss products must be supported by at least two well-done human clinical studies.

The order prohibits the defendants from making a number of specific unsubstantiated representations; requires disclosure if endorsers are provided with compensation; and requires monitoring of affiliate marketers. The order also requires the defendants to pay $402,338 and to provide the Commission with the proceeds from the sale of four homes in Texas.

DERMAdoctor, Inc.

According to the FTC’s complaint, DERMADoctor, Inc. and its majority owner, Audrey Kunin, M.D., violated the FTC Act by making deceptive claims about their anti-aging products and a body-slimming lotion. DERMAdoctor is based in Missouri and marketed Photodynamic Therapy Liquid Red Light Anti-Aging Lotion and Photodynamic Therapy Liquid Red Light Eye Lift Lotion, as well Shrinking Beauty, a “firming, sculpting & toning lotion with lobster weight loss inspired technology.”

The complaint states that since October 2010, the defendants have marketed and sold Photodynamic Therapy lotion with extract of the noni fruit, which was promoted as able to capture UV light and transform it into visible red light that has purported anti-aging effects on the skin. The defendants charged $85 for a one-ounce bottle of the face lotion. DERMAdoctor products are sold in retailers such as Nordstrom, Sephora, and Ulta, and according to the FTC, Photodynamic Therapy was advertised on QVC, the DERMAdoctor website, and in women’s magazines, including Cosmopolitan and Shape.

Since December 2012, the defendants also have marketed and sold Shrinking Beauty, with a retail price of $58 for a 5.5-ounce tube. Through ads in magazines such as Health and on the DERMAdoctor website, the defendants claimed the product would improve the appearance of cellulite, smooth and tighten skin, and that the results were “clinically proven to reduce measurements up to one inch in two weeks.”

The proposed settlement order with DERMAdoctor requires that the defendants have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support future anti-aging and cellulite-reduction claims, as well as at least two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical studies to support claims relating to weight loss or reduction of body size. It also prohibits them from misrepresenting the existence or results of any scientific test, study or research. The order requires payment of $12,675.

The Commission votes approving the complaints and proposed stipulated orders in both cases were 5-0. The complaint and proposed order in the Lilly case were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada on December 10, 2014 and signed by the judge the next day The complaint and proposed order in the DERMAdoctor case were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Western Division, on December 23, 2014.

In the course of its investigation into Solace International and Bioscience Research Institute, the FTC worked with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which issued a warning letter to Solace regarding its marketing of DermaTend, and law enforcers in 10 California counties. The National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureaus referred this matter to the Commission.

Information for Consumers

When it comes to treatments for health and fitness, it can be tough to tell useful products and services from those that don’t work or aren’t safe. For more information, see the FTC’s guidance on Treatments & Cures and Weight Loss & Fitness.

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

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. Stipulated orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.