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Saturday, January 17, 2015



Right:  On Jan. 16 at 04:55 UTC NASA's Aqua satellite captured this picture of Tropical Storm Mekkhala approaching the Philippines.  Image Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

The Global Precipitation Measurement or GPM core satellite analyzed Tropical Storm Mekkhala and identified areas of heavy rainfall as the storm drew closer to the Philippines.

The GPM (core satellite) had an excellent view of Tropical Storm Mekkhala on January 14, 2015 at 2211 UTC (5:11 p.m. EST) as it flew almost directly above the center of the tropical cyclone. The GPM satellite is managed by both NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency known as JAXA.

GPM's Microwave Imager (GMI) instrument found that the heaviest precipitation was then occurring on the western side of the circulation center. Powerful convective thunderstorms in that area were dropping rain at a rate of over 71.3 mm (2.8 inches) per hour. This rainfall analysis also revealed that this area was the most continuous area of rainfall while most of the remainder of the storm containing only scattered bands of precipitation.

GPM's Radar (Ku Band) data were used to make a 3-D view of the storm that showed thunderstorm cloud-top heights in that area were reaching heights above 13 km (8 miles).

On January 16 at 1500 UTC (10 a.m. EST), Mekkhala's maximum sustained winds were near 50 knots (57.4 mph/92.6 kph). The center of the storm was located near 11.3 north latitude and 128.7 east longitude, about 470 nautical miles (540.9 miles/8970.4 kph) east-southeast of Manila, Philippines. Mekkhala was moving to the west at 14 knots (16.1 mph/25.9 kph).

Public Storm Warning Signals have been raised in the Luzon and Visayas regions. In Luzon, the warning is in effect for Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Albay, Burias Island ,Sorsogon and Masbate including Ticao Island. In the Mindanao region, warnings are in effect for Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Samar, Biliran and Leyte.


Convictions in Mauritania of Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, Brahim Bilal Ramdhane and Djiby Sow
Press Statement
Jeff Rathke
Director, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of Press Relations
Washington, DC
January 16, 2015

The United States is closely following the legal proceedings against Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, President of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), IRA Vice President Brahim Bilal Ramdhane, and Djiby Sow, President of Kawal e Yelitaare. We are deeply concerned by the January 15 court decision to convict and sentence them to two years’ imprisonment, and the impact this ruling will have on freedom of association and assembly in Mauritania. We urge the appellate court to review both the convictions and the sentencing without delay, and to handle these important cases in a fair, impartial, and transparent manner. We are committed to continuing our support of efforts by the Mauritanian government and civil society to eliminate slavery in Mauritania, which must be a sustained and collective effort by government, religious, law enforcement, judicial, tribal, and civil society leaders together with all Mauritanians.

Weekly Address: State of the Union Is this Tuesday



Right:  Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, addresses guests as Rear Adm. Chas Richard, commander, Submarine Group 10, (left) and Vice Adm. Michael Connor, commander, Submarine Forces, look on at the 4000th Strategic Deterrent Patrol Commemoration Ceremony at Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay in Georgia. The ceremony marked the milestone of the ballistic-missile submarine conducting 4,000 successful patrol periods since the first patrol of the USS George Washington in 1961. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rex Nelson.  

Haney: Strategic Deterrent is More Than a Nuclear Triad
By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2015 – The United States’ strategic deterrent includes a triad of nuclear delivery platforms, but other critical elements range from intelligence and missile defense to space and cyber capabilities and a capable workforce, Navy Adm. Cecil Haney said here today.

The strategic deterrent includes a robust and agile intelligence apparatus, a synthesis of dedicated space and ground sensors that provide critical early warning for missile launchers and bomber threats, national nuclear command and control and the necessary infrastructure to sustain nuclear weapons without fully testing the warheads, the admiral said.

Other parts of the deterrent are a credible missile defense system that defends against limited attacks from rogue nations, cyberspace and space capabilities, trained and ready people, a campaign plan that orients assigned capabilities and activities toward a common purpose, and synchronized treaties, policies and strategies, Haney added.

A Whole-of-Government Approach

“This is not just capability but a whole-of-government approach that requires our attention and the necessary resources,” Haney said, adding that the Nuclear Deterrent Enterprise Review Group recently established by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel provides important support for the nation's deterrent.

Even in an era of significant resource constraints the nation must get 21st century deterrence right, Haney said, and must make clear to adversaries or potential adversaries that restraint is always the better course.

“It will require us to work together as a team, as partners -- the government, the private sector and academia,” he said, “to shape policy that will have a meaningful impact on our national security.”

Haney recalled President Barack Obama’s 2009 Prague speech, in which Obama publicly stated his goal for a world free of nuclear weapons, and said the new START treaty between the United States and Russia -– formally called Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms -– is an effort to work toward that goal.

Deterrents Can Fail

“The president's 2013 Nuclear Weapons Employment Strategy and strategic documents such as the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review make it clear that as long as nuclear weapons exist,” Haney said, “the United States must maintain a strong and credible safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent and … be prepared for the possibility that deterrents can fail.”

Of the multiple states around the globe who have nuclear weapons or aspirations of acquiring them, the admiral mentioned Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.
Russia has had more than a decade of investments and modernization across its strategic nuclear forces, he said, adding that the U.S. approach to dealing with Russia in this context today is not about continuing the Cold War.

“This is about emerging capability at a time of significant concerns about Russians' execution of their near and abroad strategy,” Haney said, adding that Russia has significant cyber capability.

A Time of Significant Concerns

Russia also has significant cyber capability and Russian leaders have publicly stated that they are developing counter-space capabilities and that Russia’s armed forces have anti-satellite weapons and conduct anti-satellite research.
China also is modernizing its strategic forces, the admiral said, by enhancing silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, conducting the first fleet tests of a new mobile missile and making progress on a successor expected to be another road-mobile ICBM capable of carrying multiple warheads. China is also testing and integrating new ballistic missile submarines, providing that nation with its first sea-based strategic nuclear deterrent, Haney said.

“As I'm sure you're aware,” he told the audience, “they're also developing multidimensional space capabilities supporting their access-denial campaign. But with more than 60 nations operating satellites in space, it's extremely problematic to see China conducting missiles designed to destroy satellites.”

North Korea continues to advance its nuclear ambitions, the admiral added, and Iran has made no secret of its desire to acquire nuclear weapons.
21st Century Deterrents

Haney said, “21st century deterrents must be tailored to specific adversaries and threats, and in an integrated manner, so we can predict what deters and what prevents escalation.”

Haney’s top priority is to deter strategic attack and provide the nation with a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent force, but he’s also interested in international partnerships and promoting innovation for future capabilities.
In the past year he’s had meetings with defense ministers of South Korea, France and Australia, a former Japanese defense minister, the United Kingdom’s vice defense chief, and five partners involved in space-sharing agreements.
In October, he said, “we conducted a command-and-control exercise designed to train our Defense Department forces and access our joint operational readiness across all my mission areas with a specific focus on nuclear readiness.”
Accessing Joint Operational Readiness

Stratcom did this in conjunction with U.S. Northern Command, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and Canadian partners in exercises that included Vigilant Shield, Positive Response and Determined Dragon.
Another of Haney’s high priorities is bolstering Stratcom’s ability to anticipate change and confront uncertainty with agility and innovation.

“Last summer we cut the ribbon at U.S. Strategic Command's War Gaming Center back there at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, to help enable and challenge our thinking with the ability to look at alternative scenarios, some plausible today and some unthinkable tomorrow,” the admiral explained.
“We need to grow innovative leaders, identify new operational concepts and continue to develop cutting-edge technology so we can continue to evolve our ideas on how to deter our adversaries and potential adversaries and, of course, assure our allies.”

Finding Problems, Plucking Them Out

But Haney said the nation would not have a credible strategic deterrent today if it were not for the men and women, military and civilian, “who conduct and contribute to our strategic deterrent mission day in and day out, across all areas. From under the sea to geosynchronous orbit, they are making concrete contributions to our security 24/7, 365 days a year.”

About the much-publicized problems over the past year with some members of the nuclear force, Haney said that when such problems are found, no matter where they are, “we pluck [them] out of our system … and get through some root-cause analysis to figure out what we should be doing associated with that particular problem.”

He added, “When you look at 90 percent of our team, [they] come to work every day to do the right thing, passionate over the mission.”

In any organization, the admiral said, “You have to continue to work on that other percentage of folks … and in this case I'm very happy that we found the problem, eradicated the problem from our system and went to work with this Nuclear Enterprise Review business to work on those problems.”
Charged About the Mission

Haney said he spent 2014 traveling and meeting with all of those involved in the strategic deterrent mission.

“I can say unequivocally that those folks are fired up and charged about the mission,” he said. “I think the rest of us need to support them in how we talk about it and associate it with the plans we have now.”

The admiral added, “I am proud of working with those great Americans.”


01/16/2015 11:27 AM EST
Remarks With Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo After Their Meeting
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Hotel de Ville
Paris, France
January 16, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Madam Mayor, thank you for that very, very generous welcome, and thank you for reminding us of the extraordinary history (inaudible). And what an honor for me to be here in this historic venue which the mayor just talked about and shared some of the history.

A moment ago in her office she showed me a photograph, a historic photograph of the resistance members sitting there in her office in August of 1944, a reminder of the close, historic, inescapable relationship between our countries. I appreciate your very generous comments about all of our neighbors. I know you have a warm relationship with them. And not only am I in an historic building, but I am with an historic mayor, because she is the first woman to serve in this office, and that is no small thing.

So it’s a privilege for me to be here with you, and I’m particularly honored to be with members of the law enforcement community, those who were so directly engaged and affected by the events. And you honor us and you honor me and my country by being here today, and we thank you so much for that.

On the day of the living nightmare that began at Charlie Hebdo, I had a chance to share a few thoughts with you from back home in Washington. And today I just – I really wanted to come here and share a hug with all of Paris and all of France. I wanted to express to you personally the sheer horror and revulsion that all Americans felt for the cowardly and despicable act, the assault on innocent lives and on fundamental values.

I want to thank President Hollande and my friend Laurent Fabius, and of course, the mayor, not only for their always generous welcome, but for the grit and the grace that they have shown at this moment of testing for France. I also want to thank our embassy personnel, our ambassador, Jane Hartley, for their hard work and the support to the French people this past week. And I particularly welcome these young kids who’ve come here to share a vision of the future. Thank you.

(Via interpreter) I represent a nation grateful each day that France is our oldest ally. And just as Lafayette crossed the Atlantic some 234 years ago to help America; just as General Pershing and his men proclaimed their arrival on the shores of France a century ago with the words, “Lafayette, we are here”; just as we tackle today’s most daunting challenges side by side, the United States and France will always stand together. We will persevere and we will prevail.

In the days since January 7th, some have said it was France’s most difficult hour. But they forget the history of a country and a people that have throughout history only become, as another American who loved France and knew the cost of conflict once wrote, “stronger at the broken places.”

It was my mother who instilled in me a special love for France and taught me the history she had lived herself during the darkest days of World War II. An American born in Paris, she had become a nurse and was treating the wounded at Montparnasse. The day before the Nazis entered the city, she escaped with her sister on a bicycle and proceeded to forage her way across France while German fighters were strafing them. She eventually made her way to Portugal where she boarded a ship that brought her back to the United States.

The very first time that my parents brought me to France is really one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. It was the first time my mother had come back since she had escaped during the war and I can still hear the sounds of the rubble and the broken glass that was crunching under our feet as we walked through the bombed-out ruins of our home. Almost nothing was left; just a stone staircase and a chimney that rose up into the sky.

But it wasn’t until years later that I fully understood the incredible price of peace and liberty that both of our greatest generations paid. From the French resistance to the citizen soldiers who left American farms and factories to make the world safe from tyranny, no country knows better than France that freedom has a price, because France has sparked so many revolutions of the human spirit, including our own.

Your commitment to liberty and freedom of expression inspires the world, and I can’t begin to tell you how moved I was to see people come together near and far during the march. What was intended to tear us apart has brought us together. That is what the extremists fear the most. But make no mistake: what the extremists and the thugs and the terrorists do not understand and what they cannot understand is that brave and decent people will never give in to intimidation and terror – not now, not ever.

And we are reminded of something else, that in the darkness we can summon great light. French mothers and fathers will long tell their children and grandchildren that in these nine days that followed the horrors of January 7th, ordinary men and women became heroes at a moment’s notice. No doubt you will tell them about Lassana Bathily, a Muslim man from Mali who risked his life to save Jewish customers at the Hyper Cacher market. When he heard the gunman break into the store, he didn’t think of himself or his own safety; he helped more than a dozen customers hide downstairs in the stockroom’s cooler. He got word to the police, and in doing so, he saved lives. Asked why he did it, Lassana said simply: “We are brothers. It’s not a question of Jews or Christians or Muslims. We’re all in the same boat. We have to help each other to get out of the crisis.”

No doubt you will tell them about Ahmed Merabet, who was a pillar in his community, a family man, and passionate about his job as a police officer. You will tell them about how Ahmed rushed to the offices of Charlie Hebdoand came toe-to-toe with the terrorists before he was savagely and senselessly gunned down in the street. In a tribute to his brother, Malek Merabetsaid: My brother was a Muslim, and he was killed by people who pretended to be Muslims. They are terrorists. That’s all.

And no doubt you will tell them about Yoav Hattab, a young man with a promising future who tried to stop a brutal gunman’s terror, but paid with his own life.

We will never forget these ordinary heroes and all the victims of this tragedy, even as we confront – as the world confronts – cowardly assassins who hide behind balaclavas and assault rifles. Here is the difference between ignorance and knowledge, between falsehood and truth, between cruelty and kindness, between death and life.

I know that even as we speak, there are passionate debates over the complex issues that this tragedy has raised. But what should be beyond debate, beyond the scope of politics or religion, satire or culture, is the common aspiration to create a world rich in love and short on hate. So today at the Hotel de Ville, I join with you in honoring those no longer with us and share with their loved ones the sadness of their loss but the pride in their lives.

We simply will not descend into despair. We will turn this moment of profound loss into lasting commitment. We accept with humility the responsibility that falls to each of us to defend the values our societies cherish and extremists fear the most: tolerance, freedom, truth. In the end, our engagement – all of us in this struggle – is not a choice; it is a mandate.

(Via interpreter) I know that even as we speak, there are passionate debates over the complex issues this tragedy has raised. But what should be beyond debate, beyond the scope of politics or religion, satire or culture, is the common aspiration to create a world rich in love and short on hate. So today at the Hotel de Ville, I join you in honoring those no longer with us and share with their loved ones the sadness of their loss but pride in their lives.

We simply will not descend into despair. We will turn this moment of profound loss into a lasting commitment. We accept with humility the responsibility that falls to each of us to defend the values our societies cherish and extremists fear the most: tolerance, freedom, truth. In the end, our engagement – all of us in this struggle – is not a choice; it is a mandate. It is our obligation.

And now, a good friend from Massachusetts is here with me. He inspired many generations for many years. He is respected and revered for his integrity and the beauty of his music. He has performed all over the world, but today he wanted to be here with me to express his emotion and share our embrace with a song. Ladies and gentlemen: James Taylor. (Applause.)

(Song was played.) (Applause.)



Tiny plant fossils offer window into Earth's landscape millions of years ago
Fossilized plant pieces tell a detailed story of our planet 50 million years ago
Minuscule, fossilized pieces of plants tell a detailed story of what Earth looked like 50 million years ago.

Researchers have discovered a way of determining density of trees, shrubs and bushes in locations over time--based on clues in the cells of plant fossils preserved in rocks and soil.

Tree density directly affects precipitation, erosion, animal behavior and a host of other factors in the natural world. Quantifying vegetation structure throughout time could shed light on how Earth's ecosystems have changed over millions of years.

"Knowing an area's vegetation structure and the arrangement of leaves on the Earth's surface is key to understanding the terrestrial ecosystem," says Regan Dunn, a paleontologist at the University of Washington's Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. "It's the context in which all land-based organisms live, but we didn't have a way to measure it until now."

The findings are published in this week's issue of the journal Science.

New method offers window into distant past

"The new methodology provides a high-resolution lens for viewing the structure of ecosystems over the deep history of our planet," says Alan Tessier, acting director of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research along with NSF's Division of Earth Sciences.

"This capability will advance the field of paleoecology and greatly improve our understanding of how future climate change will reshape ecosystems."

The team focused its fieldwork on several sites in Patagonia, which have some of the best preserved fossils in the world.

For years, paleontologists have painstakingly collected fossils from these sites and worked to precisely determine their ages using radiometric dating. The new study builds on this growing body of knowledge.

In Patagonia and other places, scientists have some idea based on records of fossilized pollen and leaves what species of plants were alive at given periods in history.

For example, the team's previous work documented vegetation composition for this area.

But there hasn't been a way to precisely quantify vegetation openness, aside from general speculations of open or bare habitats, as opposed to closed or tree-covered habitats.

"These researchers have developed a new method for reconstructing paleo-vegetation structure in open versus dense forests using plant biosilica, likely to be widely found in the fossil record," says Chris Liu, program director in NSF's Division of Earth Sciences.

"Now we have a tool to look at a lot of important intervals in our history where we don't know what happened to the structure of vegetation," adds Dunn, such as the period just after the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs.

"Vegetation structure links all aspects of modern ecosystems, from soil moisture to primary productivity to global climate," says paper co-author Caroline Stromberg, a curator of paleobotany at the Burke Museum.

"Using this method, we can finally quantify in detail how Earth's plant and animal communities have responded to climate change over millions of years, vital for forecasting how ecosystems will change under predicted future climate scenarios."

Plant cell patterns change with sun exposure

Work by other scientists has shown that the cells found in a plant's outermost layer, called the epidermis, change in size and shape depending on how much sun it's exposed to while its leaves develop.

For example, the cells of a leaf that grow in deeper shade will be larger and curvier than the cells of leaves that develop in less covered areas.

Dunn and collaborators found that these cell patterns, indicating growth in shade or sun, similarly show up in some plant fossils.

When a plant's leaves fall to the ground and decompose, tiny silica particles inside the plants, called phytoliths, remain as part of the soil layer.

The phytoliths were found to represent epidermal cell shapes and sizes, indicating whether the plant grew in a shady or open area.

The researchers decided to check their hypothesis by testing it in a modern setting: Costa Rica.

Dunn took soil samples from sites in Costa Rica that varied from covered rainforests to open savannas to woody shrublands.

She also took photos looking directly up at the tree canopy (or lack thereof) at each site, noting the total vegetation coverage.

Back in the lab, she extracted the phytoliths from each soil sample and measured them under the microscope.

When compared with tree coverage estimated from the corresponding photos, Dunn and co-authors found that the curves and sizes of the cells directly related to how shady their environment was.

"Leaf area index" and plant cell structures compared

The researchers characterized the amount of shade as "leaf area index," a standard way of measuring vegetation over a specific area.

Testing this relationship between leaf area index and plant cell structures in modern environments allowed the scientists to develop an equation that can be used to predict vegetation openness at any time in the past, provided there are preserved plant fossils.

"Leaf area index is a well-known variable for ecologists, climate scientists and modelers, but no one's ever been able to imagine how you could reconstruct tree coverage in the past--and now we can," says co-author Richard Madden of the University of Chicago.

"We should be able to reconstruct leaf area index by using all kinds of fossil plant preservation, not just phytoliths. Once that is demonstrated, then the places in the world where we can reconstruct this will increase."

When Dunn and co-authors applied their method to 40-million-year-old phytoliths from Patagonia, they found something surprising--vegetation was extremely open, similar to a shrubland today. The appearance of these very open habitats coincided with major changes in fauna.

The paleobiologists plan to test the relationship between vegetation coverage and plant cell structure in other regions around the world.

They also hope to find other types of plant fossils that hold the same information at the cellular level as do phytoliths.

Paper co-authors are Matthew Kohn of Boise State University and Alfredo Carlini of Universidad Nacional de La Plata in Argentina.

In addition to NSF, the research was funded by the Geological Society of America, the University of Washington Biology Department and the Burke Museum.

Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF


Thursday, January 15, 2015
Defense Contractor and its CEO Plead Guilty to Corruption Conspiracy Involving “Scores” of Navy Officials

The owner and chief executive of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), a company providing services to the U.S. Navy, pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud charges in federal court today, admitting that he presided over a decade-long conspiracy involving “scores” of U.S. Navy officials, tens of millions of dollars in fraud and millions of dollars in bribes and gifts.  GDMA also pleaded guilty today, as did a Navy captain who pleaded guilty for accepting bribes in exchange for using his position to benefit GDMA.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy of the Southern District of California, Deputy Inspector General for Investigations James B. Burch of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), Director Andrew L. Traver of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and Director Anita Bales of the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) made the announcement.

“Today’s guilty pleas of Leonard Francis, his company, and a senior Navy officer are vitally important steps in our active, ongoing investigation,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “We will continue our efforts to root out those involved in this long-running corruption scheme, both inside and outside the Navy.  The interests of justice and national security demand nothing less.”

“It is astounding that Leonard Francis was able to purchase the integrity of Navy officials by offering them meaningless material possessions and the satisfaction of selfish indulgences,” said U.S. Attorney Duffy.  “In sacrificing their honor, these officers helped Francis defraud their country out of tens of millions of dollars.  Now they will be held to account.”

“The greed of all those involved in this massive fraud and bribery case has cost American taxpayers tens of millions of dollars,” said NCIS Director Traver.  “NCIS and our law enforcement partners have pored through mountains of documents and emails, discovering and documenting the crimes so that those who participated can be held accountable.  Although today’s pleas are a significant milestone in the case, this investigation is far from over; there is much more work to be done.”

“The guilty pleas entered today send a clear message to those who, driven by greed, betray the faith and trust of the American taxpayers,” said DCIS Deputy Inspector General Burch.  “The DCIS, along with its law enforcement partners, will relentlessly pursue those who corrupt the procurement process for their own personal benefit.”

“I’m extremely gratified that the work of our investigative support team could make a significant contribution to the outcome in this egregious case of defrauding the government and, ultimately, the American taxpayer,” said DCAA Director Bales.

Leonard Glenn Francis, 50, of Singapore, the owner and CEO of GDMA, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, bribery and conspiracy to defraud the United States before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler of the Southern District of California.  GDMA likewise pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit bribery, bribery and conspiracy to defraud the United States.  A sentencing hearing for both Francis and GDMA is scheduled for April 3, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino of the Southern District of California.  As part of their plea agreements, Francis and GDMA have agreed to forfeit $35 million and pay full restitution to the Navy, in an amount to be determined at sentencing.

As part of his guilty plea, Francis admitted to defrauding the Navy of tens of millions of dollars by routinely overbilling for various goods and services, including fuel, tugboat services and sewage disposal.

Francis also admitted that over the course of the conspiracy, he and GDMA gave Navy officials millions of dollars in gifts and expenses, including over $500,000 in cash; hundreds of thousands of dollars in prostitution services; travel expenses, including first class airfare, luxurious hotel stays and spa treatments; lavish meals, including Kobe beef, Spanish suckling pigs, top-shelf alcohol and wine; and luxury gifts, including Cuban cigars, designer handbags, watches, fountain pens, designer furniture, electronics, ornamental swords and hand-made ship models.  In exchange, Francis solicited and received classified and confidential U.S. Navy information, including ship schedules.  Francis also sought and received preferential treatment for GDMA in the contracting process.  Francis further admitted that he bribed a federal criminal investigator in an attempt to learn more about the federal investigation of his company.

Also today, U.S. Navy Capt. Daniel Dusek, 47, of San Diego, California, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery before U.S. Magistrate Judge William V. Gallo of the Southern District of California.  A sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino of the Southern District of California is scheduled for April 3, 2015.

Dusek, the highest-ranking of five present and former Navy officials to plead guilty in the case so far, admitted that he used his influence as Deputy Director of Operations for the 7th Fleet, headquartered in Yokosuka, Japan, and later as commanding officer of the USS Bonhomme Richard and the executive officer of the USS Essex, to benefit Francis and GDMA.  Dusek admitted that he hand-delivered Navy ship schedules to the GDMA office in Japan or emailed them directly to Francis or a GDMA employee on dozens of occasions, each time taking steps to avoid detection by law enforcement or Navy personnel.  Dusek further admitted that Francis plied him with lavish meals, alcohol, entertainment, gifts, dozens of nights and incidentals at luxury hotels, including the Marriott Waikiki and the Shangri-La in Makati, Philippines, and the services of prostitutes.

Dusek admitted that, after accepting these gifts, he worked to direct Naval ships to GDMA’s port terminals.  For example, on one occasion, he steered an aircraft carrier and its strike group to Port Klang, Malaysia, a port terminal owned by Francis.

In addition to Francis, GDMA and Dusek, five other individuals have pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme to date: U.S. Navy Commander Jose Luis Sanchez, U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service Special Agent John Beliveau, U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Dan Layug and GDMA employees Alex Wisidagama and Edmond Aruffo.

The ongoing investigation is being conducted by NCIS, DCIS and DCAA.  The case is being prosecuted by Director of Procurement Fraud Catherine Votaw and Senior Trial Attorney Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher and Robert S. Huie of the Southern District of California.


January 15, 2015
Vice President Biden Announces $25 Million in Funding for Cybersecurity Education at HBCUs

Today, Vice President Biden, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and White House Science Advisor John Holdren are traveling to Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia to announce that the Department of Energy will provide a $25 million grant over the next five years to support cybersecurity education. The new grant will support the creation of a new cybersecurity consortium consisting of 13 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), two national labs, and a k-12 school district.

The Vice President will make the announcement as part of a roundtable discussion with a classroom of cybersecurity leaders and students at Norfolk State University. The visit builds on the President’s announcements on cybersecurity earlier this week, focusing on the critical need to fill the growing demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals in the U.S. job market, while also diversifying the pipeline of talent in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The event and announcement is also an opportunity to highlight the Administration’s ongoing commitment to HBCUs.

Details on the Announcement

As highlighted by the President earlier in the week, the rapid growth of cybercrime is creating a growing need for cybersecurity professionals across a range of industries, from financial services, health care, and retail to the US government itself. By some estimates, the demand for cybersecurity workers is growing 12 times faster than the U.S. job market, and is creating well-paying jobs.

To meet this growing need, the Department of Energy is establishing the Cybersecurity Workforce Pipeline Consortium with funding from the Minority Serving Institutions Partnerships Program housed in its National Nuclear Security Administration. The Minority Service Institutions Program focuses on building a strong pipeline of talent from minority-serving institutions to DOE labs, with a mix of research collaborations, involvement of DOE scientists in mentoring, teaching and curriculum development, and direct recruitment of students.

With $25M in overall funding over five years, and with the first grants this year, the Cybersecurity Workforce Pipeline Consortium will bring together 13 HBCUs, two DOE labs, and the Charleston County School District with the goal of creating a sustainable pipeline of students focused on cybersecurity issues. The consortium has a number of core attributes:

It is designed as a system. This allows students that enter through any of the partner schools to have all consortia options available to them, to create career paths and degree options through collaboration between all the partners (labs and schools), and to open the doors to DOE sites and facilities.

It has a range of participating higher education institutions. With Norfolk State University as a the lead, the consortium includes a K-12 school district, a two-year technical college, as well as four-year public and private universities that offer graduate degrees.

Built to change to evolving employer needs: To be successful in the long term, this program is designed to be sufficiently flexible in its organization to reflect the unique regional priorities that Universities have in faculty research and developing STEM disciplines and skills, and DOE site targets for research and critical skill development.

Diversifying the pipeline by working with leading minority-serving institutions: As the President stated in Executive Order 13532, “Promoting Excellence, Innovation, and Sustainability at Historically Black Colleges and Universities” in February 2010, America’s HBCUs, for over 150 years, have produced many of the Nation’s leaders in science, business, government, academia, and the military, and have provided generations of American men and women with hope and educational opportunity.


Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
New York, NY
January 15, 2015


Thank you. Foreign Minister Muñoz, bienvenido. We are grateful to have you here to chair a meeting on such critically important issues, and we are appreciative of Chile’s leadership every day. Assistant-Secretary-General Toyberg-Frandzen, we thank you for your informative briefing.

Today, I will speak on three topics: Syria, Lebanon, and Middle East peace.

On Syria, we welcome the efforts of UN Special Envoy de Mistura to establish a freeze in the city of Aleppo. Any freeze must be consistent with humanitarian principles and include measures to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance. It also should reduce violence, not provide cover for any side to advance military aims, such as redeploying forces. And we welcome serious efforts to advance a political dialogue consistent with Geneva II, including those led by Special Envoy de Mistura. There is no military solution to this devastating conflict, only a political solution.

In meeting after meeting before this Council, we have presented mounting evidence of the unspeakable atrocities perpetrated by the Assad regime. This session is no exception. Since we last met to discuss Syria, the OPCW released its third report, with further evidence indicating the regime has repeatedly used chlorine as a weapon against civilians, directly violating international norms and Syria’s international legal obligations. Investigators concluded “with a high degree of confidence” that chlorine gas was used against three opposition-controlled villages in Syria last year. In one affected village, 32 of the 37 people interviewed by OPCW investigators “saw or heard the sound of a helicopter over the village at the time of the attack with barrel bombs containing toxic chemicals.” Of the forces fighting in Syria, only the Assad regime uses helicopters. Only the Assad regime drops barrel bombs.

The Council must stop the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons and ensure it has fully declared and verifiably eliminated its chemical weapons program, as required by Security Council Resolution 2118 and by the Chemical Weapons Convention. We vigorously condemn the use of chemical weapons by any party, anywhere.

The use of chemical weapons is far from the regime’s only deplorable act. As Under-Secretary-General Amos informed the Council a month ago today, the use of barrel bombs against civilians has been particularly acute in Aleppo, Hama, Idlib, Rural Damascus, Deir Ez-Zor, Ar-Raqqa and Da’ra. And the regime continues to systematically use torture as a means of inflicting suffering and extracting information. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 2,100 people died in Syrian prisons last year, and the bodies of many showed signs of torture. Because the Observatory only counts cases in which families have received a corpse or a death certificate, they believe the actual number to be much higher. This is consistent with the abhorrent practices of the Assad regime brought to light by the Syrian defector “Caesar.”

Assad, those around him, and any individuals overseeing or complicit in the commission of serious crimes in Syria must know that they will be ultimately held accountable. That is why the United States is actively supporting the collection and preservation of evidence to support future justice processes in a variety of jurisdictions for war crimes and other human rights violations, including those involving sexual and gender-based violence. Those overseeing or complicit in these crimes must be aware that the international community is building case files on its abuses, and the files are growing.

In the meantime, the immense suffering and insecurity caused by the regime’s brutality, and by the extremist groups like ISIL and Al-Nusra, continue to deepen the most severe humanitarian catastrophe in a generation. Approximately 12.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria, some 5.5 million of them children – 5.5 million children. Around 7.6 million people have been displaced within Syria, and more than 3 million Syrians have become refugees.

On January 2nd, the Italian Coast Guard intercepted a crewless ship floating 40 miles off the country’s coast. Approximately 400 people, including many women and children, were on board, huddled together for warmth in containers originally built to transport livestock. Most of them were Syrians fleeing the civil war and had been abandoned on the ship by their smugglers and left for dead. People abandoned – freezing and starving – in containers built for animals; that is what Assad’s brutality has done to Syrians. And this is not an isolated incident; days earlier, Italy’s Coast Guard intercepted another crewless ship as it steamed toward a collision with the coast, with nearly 800 Syrians packed on board.

In the face of this unprecedented need and desperation, all countries can and must do more, including by supporting the countries that are already hosting the majority of Syrian refugees, and making robust contributions to the UN’s enormous $8.4 billion humanitarian appeal.

No country has taken in more Syrian refugees than Lebanon, which is host to more than 1.1 million Syrians, and is facing growing challenges in meeting their basic needs, especially with the onset of winter. We encourage Lebanon and all receiving countries to coordinate closely with UNHCR in the development of criteria to ensure that those fleeing violence and persecution are able to enter these countries, just as we encourage governments across the region and around the world to provide refuge for asylum seekers in accordance with international humanitarian principles. Lebanon deserves the election of a president and a fully empowered government to help deal with the considerable challenges the country faces. Electing a president is of course a Lebanese decision, but it is one that must be taken now for the sake of the Lebanese people.

The suffering inside Syria is not limited to Syrians. Some 18,000 civilians are trapped in Yarmouk, the vast majority of them Palestinian refugees. UNRWA estimates that 400 food parcels are needed daily to meet the population’s minimum needs, yet over the last month, only 36 parcels total have been distributed. That is 36 parcels distributed during a time when a minimum of 12,000 parcels were needed.

Assad’s brutality has helped fuel the rise of violent extremist groups like ISIL and Al-Nusra, which are spreading terror and instability across the region. The United States and partner nations are committed to continuing to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL through operations in Syria, as well as in Iraq, at the request of the Iraqi government. And together with our partners, we are committed to rooting out ISIL’s safe havens in the region. We commend Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi for his outreach in the region and to all of Iraq’s communities – an effort that has consolidated his broad-based support – and we urge his government to continue along the path toward genuine inclusion of all groups in the political, economic, and security future of the country.

The spread of ISIL, Al-Nusra, and other extremist groups also threatens the security of Iraq and Syria’s neighbors, most directly Lebanon. Hizballah’s involvement in the conflict in Syria violates Lebanon’s policy of disassociation and has made Lebanon a target for violent extremists’ attacks. On January 10th, extremists staged a double suicide bombing at a café in the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood of Tripoli, Lebanon, in which nine people were killed and dozens more injured. Yet if the attackers aim was to divide Lebanon, they failed. A full range of Sunni, Shi’a, and Christian Lebanese leaders firmly condemned the attack, as did a broad swathe of Lebanese society, who rallied behind the Lebanese Armed Forces in pursuing those responsible. The Lebanese people also vigorously condemned the attack; in the days following it, the Twitter hashtag #JeSuisJabalMohsen was a top trending tweet in Lebanon.

Lastly, let me turn to the Middle East. For decades, the United States has helped – has worked to try to help achieve a comprehensive end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Immense though the challenges may be, we firmly believe that they can and must be overcome because the status quo is unsustainable. 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.

As you know, on December 30th, the United States voted against a Security Council draft resolution. We made our position clear: the resolution, which was hastily put to a vote, would have taken us further from, and not closer to, an atmosphere that makes it possible to achieve two states for two peoples. Since that vote, the United States, represented in particular by Secretary Kerry, has reached out to both parties in an effort to try to reduce tensions and find a path forward. The Quartet Envoys will meet at the end of this month to discuss the way ahead.

We continue to oppose unilateral actions by both sides that we view as detrimental to the cause of peace. Palestinian efforts to join the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and to accede to a number of international treaties are counter-productive and will not advance the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a sovereign and independent state. We urge both parties to exercise maximum restraint and avoid steps that threaten to push Israeli-Palestinian relations into a cycle of further escalation.

As we continue to work towards Israeli-Palestinian peace, we share the UN’s deep concern regarding the situation in Gaza. All sides must work together to accelerate efforts and increase support for rebuilding through the Gaza reconstruction mechanism. The humanitarian needs are considerable, particularly in the harsh winter months. In December, the United States announced an initial $100 million contribution for UNRWA’s 2015 needs, including in Gaza. We encourage other states to make pledges, and to promptly deliver the funds that they have already promised to fully meet those urgent needs.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Friday, January 16, 2015

West Wing Week: 1/16/15 or, "The Little Circle Thing"


NOAA Climate Study 2014 Reveals Hottest Year on Record
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 16, 2015

What’s surprising is that anyone is surprised that 2014 was the hottest year on record. The science has been screaming at us for a long, long time. We’ve seen thirteen of the warmest years on record since 2000. Greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are at an all-time high, which we know leads to a warming planet. We’re seeing higher than ever occurrences of extreme weather events like catastrophic droughts, storm surges and torrential rain. These events are having devastating economic, security and health impacts across the planet.

This report is just another sound in a steady drumbeat that is growing increasingly more urgent. So the question isn't the science. The question isn't the warning signs. The question is when and how the world will respond. Ambitious, concrete action is the only path forward that leads anywhere worth going.


Sentence of Saudi Human Rights Lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair
Press Statement
Marie Harf
Deputy Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
January 15, 2015

We are troubled by reports that Saudi Arabia's Court of Appeals, on recommendation from the Specialized Criminal Court, sentenced human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair to a full 15 years in prison for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and association.

The United States strongly opposes any law that penalizes the peaceful exercise of these fundamental freedoms, and urges all countries to defend these principles in practice.

Mr. Abu al-Khair’s case is discussed in our most recent Human Rights Report on Saudi Arabia.

1/15/15: White House Press Briefing


Remarks With French President Hollande Before Their Meeting
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Elysee Palace
Paris, France
January 16, 2015

PRESIDENT HOLLANDE: (In progress) (Via interpreter) And (inaudible) victims of terrorism a couple of months ago, this is the reason why (inaudible) the violence together. This is the purpose of (inaudible) our friendship.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Mr. President, thank you very, very much. And I think you know that you have the full and heartfelt condolences of the American people, and I know you know that we share the pain and the horror of everything you went through. We appreciate your comments about our common history with respect to terrorism. But the American people watch you and your team, and indeed all of the government lead with great elegance and grace in this week, during this difficult time. And we watched the people of France come together with a great sense of purpose and unity. It was a great lesson to the world, I think. And once again, France, through its commitment to freedom and to the passion of ideas, has made an important statement to the world.

So really, our hearts are with you and it’s a pleasure to be able to be here to share these thoughts with you on a personal basis.



This image of the interior view from the International Space Station's Cupola module was taken on Jan. 4, 2015. The large bay windows allows the Expedition 42 crew to see outside. The Cupola houses one of the space station's two robotic work stations used by astronauts to manipulate the large robotic arm seen through the right window. The robotic arm, or Canadarm2, was used throughout the construction of the station and is still used to grapple visiting cargo vehicles and assist astronauts during spacewalks. The Cupola is attached to the nadir side of the space station and also gives a full panoramic view of the Earth.  Image Credit: NASA.


Statement by the Press Secretary on the Publication of Regulatory Changes regarding Cuba

 Last month, President Obama announced historic changes to our Cuba policy, beginning the process of normalization between our countries, and announcing his commitment to ease restrictions on American citizens and businesses.  Today, the U.S. Departments of the Treasury and Commerce took a significant step forward in delivering on the President’s new direction by publishing regulatory amendments to existing Cuba sanctions.  These changes will immediately enable the American people to provide more resources to empower the Cuban population to become less dependent upon the state-driven economy, and help facilitate our growing relationship with the Cuban people.

We firmly believe that allowing increased travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba will allow the United States to better advance our interests and improve the lives of ordinary Cubans.  The policy of the past has not worked for over 50 years, and we believe that the best way to support our interests and our values is through openness rather than isolation.  The United States remains committed to our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a more prosperous Cuba that respects the universal rights of all its citizens.


Thursday, January 15, 2015
Former Executive Director of Adoption Agency Pleads Guilty to Submitting False Information to Accreditation Agency

The former Executive Director of International Adoption Guides Inc. (IAG), an adoption agency, pleaded guilty yesterday to making false and fraudulent statements to the Council on Accreditation with respect to IAG’s accreditation.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles of the District of South Carolina made the announcement.

Mary Mooney, 57, of Belmont, North Carolina, admitted as part of her guilty plea that she made false statements to the Council on Accreditation (COA), which granted IAG accreditation to provide adoption services in certain countries.  IAG marketed itself as a COA-accredited adoption services provider and numerous clients relied on IAG’s accreditation to confirm that IAG’s adoption services were ethical and in compliance with U.S. and foreign law.  Mooney admitted that in support of IAG’s application for accreditation she made several false representations, including: falsely stating that IAG was in substantial compliance with the relevant regulations; intentionally failing to list her co-defendant, Alisa Bivens, as one of IAG’s employees providing adoption services; and intentionally failing to disclose that James Harding, another co-defendant, was the functional director and head of the company.  All of these false and fraudulent statements were material to COA’s decision to accredit IAG to conduct intercountry adoptions for purposes of the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoptions.  Without that accreditation, IAG would not have been legally permitted to facilitate intercountry adoptions from any country that was a party to that convention and numerous families would have never retained IAG to provide adoption services.

Mooney is the third defendant to plead guilty as a result of this investigation.  Mooney pleaded guilty before Senior U.S. District Court Judge Sol Blatt Jr. of the District of South Carolina.  A sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date.

This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.  The department appreciates the assistance of the Office of Children’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney John W. Borchert of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamie Lea Schoen of the District of South Carolina.


Remarks With Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov After Their Meeting
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Sofia, Bulgaria
January 15, 2015

FOREIGN MINISTER MITOV: (Via interpreter) Dear Mr. Secretary, dear colleagues, for me it was an honor to host the official visit of the State Secretary of the United States John Kerry in Bulgaria. Today, we reaffirmed our strong strategic partnership between the two countries and we adopted the joint statement for the media, which is at your disposal already.

A few words on the achieved agreements. Strengthening our cooperation in the field of security and defense, energy security and diversification, rule of law, education, people-to-people ties, including by creating joint working groups, is a strong message for the strength and resilience of our relations. Our strategic partnership, our common democratic values, the high-level dialogue, and the excellent cooperation, Bulgaria treasures this highly.

In response to the challenges and changes in the geopolitical environment caused by the conflict in the Ukraine and the growing terrorist threat from the Middle East, we – our efforts in this area will contribute to improving the situation in the region and globally.

We also reaffirmed our efforts for expanding NATO, including the countries from the West Balkans in the NATO alliance, and Bulgaria will be the guarantor. The support of the U.S. in modernizing our military and the implementation of the NATO Readiness Action Plan will increase the security of the eastern borders of (inaudible) and the entire region.

Energy security is also of key importance. Our common goal is to attract investments to guarantee supply and distribution, as well as to build interconnectivity with neighboring countries.

Among the major areas in our collaboration is our effort to expand our trade and economic relations, including goods turnover and attracting new American investments in Bulgaria. Bulgaria’s potential in ICT, machine building, and other sectors will help her to attract more investments from the United States, especially in high-tech productions and in services with high added value. This topic is not only bilateral; it is also within the transatlantic relations. And here I ought to mention the TTIP and our support for the constructive negotiations between the EU and the United States on signing this agreement.

The connection – the ties between Bulgaria and law enforcement and security institutions and bodies are also on the rights, and then cooperation in combating human traffic, drug traffic, cyber crime, et cetera.

Bulgaria and the United States will also work on the people-to-people ties, on removing the visa regime for Bulgarian people. Mr. Secretary, I hope that your visit has shown you that Bulgaria is a good friend of – and a good ally of the United States, and we will continue our work for improving the situation in the region, in Europe, and globally.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Daniel, thank you very much. I’m appreciative to the foreign minister, to Minister Mitov, for his very warm welcome here at the foreign ministry. And I’m thankful to him for refueling me with a very good lunch.

I’m appreciative also for the good conversation that we had. I’m not going to repeat everything that I said earlier with the prime minister, and I’m not going to repeat everything that Daniel just said in an excellent summary of our discussion. So he has pretty fully described to all of you the breadth of our relationship and the importance of the United States-Bulgaria partnership and friendship. And it is a friendship, and it is a partnership.

And I want to emphasize that we had a broad discussion at the luncheon. I asked a lot of questions. I particularly was educated about the constitution, the constitutional process, the political process, and of course the judiciary, and the reform initiative, which this government is committed to, which is so important to the ability of Bulgaria to be able to attract capital investment and to be able to make the progress that everybody hopes for.

It’s obviously no secret that the transatlantic community is facing a lot of challenges at this point in time, and the job of creating a Europe that is whole and free and at peace is not a finished job at all. So we are focused on how to make the most progress as fast as possible in this important partnership in order to meet the challenges that we face head on. And it is clear that both the United States and Bulgaria are absolutely committed to investing in the sources of our strength, and that means in a strong, clean, and accountable judiciary, in democratic institutions, but also in our citizens, because in the end it’s the citizens who define a country.

We believe that, on energy security, particularly, there is a very important economic and security priority that we intend to follow up on in the serious ways that I talked about earlier. And we also are very committed to helping to protect Bulgaria’s very rich cultural heritage. The United States is already helping to restore the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Nessebar, and we’ve also increased the size of the Bulgarian Fulbright program for exchanges of students.

But one of the things that we talked about at lunch is the value of tourism and the newly created tourism bureau – or tourism ministry here in Bulgaria, which is an opportunity to really focus on an area that could provide enormous revenue increase, expand the economy, and also strengthen Bulgaria, as well as promote Bulgaria on an international basis.

So there’s a lot of homework to do. We’re particularly going to follow up on the economic front, on the energy front, and we laid out in a communique to everybody a pretty good summary of the new working groups and the new initiatives that we’re going to engage in.

So for me, this has been a very productive visit. I’m glad to have been able to come here, and I look forward to returning sometime in the future, when together we can announce specific progress on some of the plans that we laid today.

So thank you. Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister, for your welcome. Thank you to the president and the prime minister. Thank you to the people of Bulgaria for their friendship and partnership. And thank you so much for the work that Bulgaria has done to help to deal with international crises from Afghanistan to Iraq to ISIL, and continuing to do in their own neighborhood. We appreciate it very much. It is the mark of a strong and important country when they are as engaged as Bulgaria is today.

Thank you very much.


U.S. Mission to the United Nations: Remarks at a Security Council Briefing on Post-Conflict Peace-building
01/14/2015 01:30 PM EST
Ambassador David Pressman
Alternate Representative to the UN for Special Political Affairs 
New York, NY
January 14, 2015

Thank you, Mr. President. And let me begin by thanking the Deputy Secretary General and Ambassador Patriota for your leadership on this issue and for your briefings this morning, and to you, Foreign Minister Muñoz, for your presence here today, and to Chile for convening this important discussion.

Mr. President, preventing relapse into conflict was the primary objective for the creation of the Peacebuilding Architecture in 2005. And a decade later, it remains an urgent undertaking.

It has been said by others and we know that war is not like the weather – it doesn’t just happen; it is not inevitable. And it can be stopped. But we also know that countries that have experienced conflict once have heightened risk for relapsing into conflict again, and again. And we have seen the devastating consequences of that deadly cycle of conflict, from South Sudan to the Central African Republic.

But while war or conflict should never be deemed inevitable, too often, too many adopt a cynical passivity to emerging signs of tension or indicators of potential conflict – a passivity that assumes the futility of efforts to prevent potential conflict from metastasizing into actual conflict; and a cynicism that assumes, essentially, that certain places are just destined to fight it out.

The Peacebuilding Architecture is a living challenge to that dangerous cynicism and deadly passivity. It is a challenge for us to turn expressions of concern into coordinated actions -- actions to ensure that societies recovering from conflict do not relapse back into it. And it is a commitment to the idea that our past can indeed be put behind us and that our shared future can be built, together and in peace.

We know that when the international community mobilizes in concert with national authorities, together we can change behavior and assumptions and we can stop that which may have been written off by some as “inevitable.” Peace is built through hard work and, as the Secretary-General notes in his report, we have made “significant gains” in places and countries as diverse as Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Tunisia in efforts to consolidate peace.

In Sierra Leone, the integrated work of successive UN missions and the country team, as well as the engagement of the Peacebuilding Commission, has been critical to breaking the cycle of violence – providing space for a country and a people hungry for peace to turn their focus from war to prosperity; from conflict to electoral contests; from isolation to sustainable development. Sierra Leone has held three peaceful, credible elections since the end of the civil war in 2002, and new institutions, supported by the international community, are finding their place in society and contributing to the important work of building a government that is responsive to its citizens. Support from the United Nations has been critical to this transition.

For instance, United Nations support for institutions such as the All Political Parties Women’s Association, with a target of 30% female participation in all political parties, has increased women’s participation in Sierra Leone’s elections, building public trust in the elections process. And we know that the full and equal participation of women – whether in forging peace agreements, electing leaders, or leading post-conflict reconstruction – is absolutely critical to sustainable peace and stability. We cannot build peace for half of a society and expect it to be meaningful or lasting.

That is why the work of entities like the United Nations Peace Fund for Nepal, which has designated 30% of their funding for projects addressing the needs of women and girls -- including projects in the domain of land reform, conflict prevention, the rule of law, and the reintegration of child soldiers -- is so important. A project on land issues ensured extensive women’s participation in consultations on land use planning, a domain from which women had traditionally been excluded. Developments in Nepal demonstrate that appreciable progress can be made with targeted funding, leadership, and capacities for gender-responsive programming.

As the Deputy Secretary General noted, in Guinea, the creation of a “Women’s Situation Room” to support a network of local women’s organizations during the 2013 parliamentary elections not only increased women’s participation in the elections, it enabled them to actively participate as elections monitors and helped build confidence in the entire electoral system. The creation of community-led, early childhood development centers in Cote d’Ivoire enhanced social cohesion by bringing together women of diverse backgrounds focused on the well-being of children.

Kyrgyz women, with training from UN Women and United Nations Development Program, have formed women’s peace committees and have become important actors in monitoring tensions and government response within their community -- again, building social cohesion as well as trust between local populations and authorities in regions affected by conflict.

Full and equal inclusion of women and girls is not something that is just “just”; it is essential to build the peace of which we speak. Yet still, the participation of women in peacebuilding receives too little attention, is too often underfunded, and is too often thought of as an “effort to be inclusive” rather than a recognition that the full participation of women is a precondition of lasting peace. We must change this mindset and, in the process, change minds. And we must build our peacebuilding efforts to ensure they are inclusive, and in doing so we will make them more effective.

The recent outbreak of Ebola presented a new kind of threat to international peace and security that has indeed demanded an unprecedented response. We commend the United Nations’ critical efforts to mobilize human, financial, and technical resources to deliver an integrated response in the post-conflict countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The Peacebuilding Commission can play an important role in bringing together key partners to coordinate assistance efforts and maximize the impact of the international community on the ground.

Unfortunately, international efforts have been less successful in producing results towards ending the enduring and daily threat to international peace and security presented in places like South Sudan. Despite a hard-won independence, South Sudan has erupted into deadly and devastating conflict, exacerbating ethnic tensions, eroding hope, and provoking a dire and man-made humanitarian crisis. Despite one of the most comprehensive UN peacekeeping mandates ever adopted by the Council and despite historic levels of international support, and despite almost infinite goodwill from international partners, political leaders in South Sudan have prioritized political power and conflict over peace and stability. Their actions have exacerbated tensions, have brought about tens of thousands of deaths, have displaced nearly 2 million innocent people, and are bringing this young nation – the United Nations’ newest member state – to the threshold of state failure. We cannot give up and we cannot allow the parties in South Sudan to abandon their people’s aspirations and right to live in peace and prosperity. And in standing with the people of South Sudan, we must be unified in our demand for the violence to end and that those responsible for this carnage be held to account.

Until recently, successive conflicts in the Central African Republic, received too little attention from the international community. A lack of vision for national reform, limited political will from the international community, and successive weak UN presences with little capacity to help develop state institutions further destabilized the country’s weak governance structure and undermined social cohesion. Our action last year in authorizing an integrated peacekeeping mission to protect civilians, facilitate humanitarian access, and support the state as it seeks to re-establish governance was a necessary action to stop the ensuing bloodshed. Bolstered by the contribution of troops from member-states from several regional organizations and humanitarian donations from around the globe, these collective actions represent the most comprehensive level of international engagement in the Central African Republic to date.

Mr. President, we must reflect on these lessons as we undertake the five-year review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture. We have learned that peacebuilding requires the sustained, not sporadic, and coordinated commitment of national, regional, and international actors. It requires inclusivity – meaning women and girls are at the forefront and at the table, not an afterthought or excluded. It means the international community holds political actors accountable to the agreements they undertake and agreed frameworks to which they subscribe. And it means that addressing human rights abusers, hate, and discrimination head-on is the path to sustainable peace, not a diversion from it or an obstacle to it.

We hope that the Peacebuilding Architecture Review’s Advisory Group of Experts will heed these lessons and develop concrete recommendations to enhance the Peacebuilding Commission’s relevance and real-world impact by focusing on achieving results through its core competencies of coordination, resource mobilization, and advocacy.

2015, as others have noted, will also see the Secretary-General’s High Level Review of UN Peace Operations, as well as the Global Study of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. We must challenge ourselves not to think about these issues only in silos. Peacekeepers are essential in setting the stable foundation for peace and development and peacekeepers are increasingly and appropriately being called upon to protect civilians in dire need of protection. Protecting civilians is not only an essential element of creating space for peace, it is vital for the credibility of the United Nations in the eyes of local populations and around the world. As such, it is essential for UN peacekeepers to carry out their protection of civilian mandates robustly and in a way that gives people confidence that we mean what we say.

And in this vein, let’s mean what we say when we sit at this table and recommit ourselves to the work of the Peacebuilding Architecture. Let’s translate our commitment to the inclusion of women into the actual inclusion of women. And let’s translate our hope for peace into the hard work required of building it.

Thank you, Mr. President.


Litigation Release No. 23171 / January 9, 2015
Securities and Exchange Commission v. Daniel Thibeault et al., Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-10050 (D. MA)
SEC Charges Massachusetts-Based Investment Advisers with Misappropriation of Money from an Investment Fund

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it has filed charges against Massachusetts-based investment advisers, their principal, and others concerning the alleged misappropriation of at least $16 million belonging to an investment fund managed by some of the defendants.

In a complaint filed today in federal court in Boston, the SEC charged as defendants:

Daniel Thibeault of Framingham, Massachusetts;
Graduate Leverage, LLC, an asset management and financial advisory firm based in Waltham, Massachusetts, of which Thibeault is the principal owner, president and Chief Executive Officer;
GL Capital Partners, LLC, an investment adviser based in Waltham, Massachusetts that is controlled by Thibeault;
GL Investment Services, LLC, an investment adviser based in Waltham, Massachusetts that is indirectly owned by Thibeault; and
Taft Financial Services, LLC, which is based in Texas and is believed to be controlled by Thibeault.

The SEC's complaint alleges that GL Capital Partners, LLC and its principal, Daniel Thibeault, were the investment advisers to a fund called the GL Beyond Income Fund, and that they misappropriated at least $16 million of the money that belonged to this fund. According to the complaint, the GL Beyond Income Fund's assets consisted primarily of individual variable rate consumer loans. According to the complaint, Thibeault and other defendants solicited investments in the GL Beyond Income Fund by representing that investors' money would be pooled and used to make or purchase consumer loans. These consumer loans would then constitute assets of the GL Beyond Income Fund, and would provide a return to the investors when interest and principal payments were made on the loans. The SEC alleges that from at least 2013 to the present, Thibeault and other defendants engaged in a scheme to create fictitious loans to divert investor money from the GL Beyond Income Fund, and to report these fake loans as assets of the GL Beyond Income Fund, thereby concealing the fact that Thibeault and the other defendants had misappropriated millions of dollars from the GL Beyond Income Fund. According to the SEC's complaint, the scheme involved the fabrication of paperwork purporting to reflect numerous six-figure consumer loans using the names and personal information of individuals who were unaware that loans were being originated in their names. The complaint further alleges that money from the GL Beyond Income Fund was disbursed to fund these fictitious loans, but the borrowed money did not go to the purported borrowers whose names appeared on the documentation. Instead, it went to Thibeault and other defendants. The SEC alleges that Thibeault and other defendants misappropriated the money from these fake loans and used it for personal expenses and to run businesses other than the GL Beyond Income Fund, as well as to perpetuate the scheme by making "interest payments" on fake loans.

The SEC alleges that the defendants violated Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder and Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and that Thibeault, GL Capital Partners, LLC, and GL Investment Services, LLC, also violated Sections 206(1) and 206(2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The SEC seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest, and civil penalties against each of these defendants.

The SEC also charged two other parties as relief defendants based on their receipt of investor funds: GL Advisor Solutions, Inc., a corporation based in the Philippines that is controlled by Graduate Leverage, LLC and Thibeault; and Shawnet Thibeault, who is Daniel Thibeault's wife. The SEC seeks disgorgement plus prejudgment interest from these relief defendants.

In addition, the SEC has asked the court to consider certain preliminary relief against the parties, including, variously, temporary restraining orders, preliminary injunctions, asset freezes, an accounting of investor funds and all assets in their possession, a prohibition from soliciting or accepting additional investments, and other preliminary relief.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015


Thursday, January 15, 2015
Forty Individuals Arrested and Indicted for Social Security Fraud

On Jan. 12 and 13, 2015, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned 39 separate indictments charging one doctor, Luis Escabi-Pérez, and 39 other individuals for fraud in the application process for Social Security Administration (SSA) disability insurance benefits in Puerto Rico, announced U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez Vélez for the District of Puerto Rico.

The SSA is responsible for the implementation of the Disability Insurance Benefits Program.  The SSA provides monetary benefits to workers with severe, long-term disabilities who have worked in SSA-covered employment for a required length of time.  Spouses and dependent children of disabled workers may also be eligible to receive benefits.

Pursuant to SSA regulations, a claimant must prove to SSA that he or she is disabled by furnishing medical and other evidence with the application.  The application and supporting evidence would then be evaluated by SSA to determine the individual’s medical impairments and determine the effect of the impairment on the claimant’s ability to work on a sustained basis.

Escabi-Pérez, a psychiatrist, submitted psychiatric medical reports to the SSA in support of applications for disability insurance benefits submitted by his patients. Escabi-Pérez charged a fee for the medical visits, typically in the amount of $100.  In addition, the defendant typically charged a fee in the amount of $500 for the preparation and submittal of a psychiatric medical report to the SSA.  He would at times also charge additional fees of up to $5,000 to backdate medical records in order to create the appearance of a longer history of medical treatment.

For example, on Jan. 15, 2014, Escabi-Pérez submitted a medical report to the SSA suggesting that a patient, who was generally in good health and was not suffering from any physical or mental disabling conditions, was in fact suffering from disabling psychiatric conditions, and that the first medical visit of this patient to him was in April 2013, when in truth this patient’s first visit was in November 2013.

The patient initially received $11,242 as a retroactive payment calculated from the date of entitlement through the approval date.  Thereafter, the patient received monthly disability insurance benefit payments of approximately $1,536.  The total amount of benefits paid to the patient from the date of entitlement through the date of this indictment is approximately $27,096.  Escabi-Pérez is also facing one charge of wire fraud.  As part of the manner and means of the conspiracy, the doctor faxed the psychiatric report to the SSA supporting the existence of the alleged psychiatric conditions suffered by the patient, in spite of the fact that these psychiatric conditions were contrived.

Five indictments charge five individuals along with Escabi-Pérez of conspiracy to defraud the United States, wire fraud, theft of government property, concealment of failure to disclose an event to SSA and false statement in determining rights for disability.  These defendants, aiding and abetting each other, knowingly and willfully embezzled, stole and converted to their own use the social security disability insurance benefit payments to which the defendants knew that they were not entitled.

Another five defendants filed SSA applications during 2011, which indicated the defendants were unable to work due to “back problems, cervical conditions, pain, carpal tunnel, arms numbed, legs numbed, depression,” among others.  These defendants are charged with theft of government property because they embezzled, stole and converted to their own use, or the use of others, social security disability insurance benefit payments to which they knew they were not entitled.  These defendants are also charged with false statement in determining rights for disability because they lied in the disability report (Form SSA-3368).  The defendants stated that they stopped working because of their conditions, although the defendants knew that they stopped working because of a release agreement signed with pharmaceutical companies.

A third charge is for concealment or failure to disclose an event to SSA.  These defendants intentionally concealed or failed to disclose the fact that their medical conditions had improved.

Twenty-nine defendants are facing two charges: theft of government property and concealment or failure to disclose an event to SSA.

The defendants who illegally received the benefits are Wilma Bolet, Juana Concepción-Santana, Miriam Cosme-García, Yesenia De Jesús, Ramona García, María García-Reyes, Pedro Laureano-Vázquez, Juan López-Rivera, Elizabeth Maldonado-Laureano, Fernando Marrero-Padilla, Ernie Martell-Orta, Ángel Montes-Orria, Lourdes Reyes-Medina, Candi, Rojas-Molina, Ángel Román-Santana, Miguel Santana-Ríos, José Valle-Oliveras, Edna Vargas-Valdés, Agustín Vázquez-Izquierdo, Orlando Pérez-Juarbe, Jorge Fraguada-Romero, Elsie Boneta-Román, Julio César Álamo-Casiano, Manuel Rivera-Santos, Francisco Declet, Luis Reyes-Serrano, Ismael Alicea-Berdecía, Rosa Espinosa-González, Johany Díaz-Oquendo, Ángel Rivera-Adorno, Myrna Ruiz-Rosso, William Feliciano, Edwin Figueroa, Ana Morales-de Jesús, Rosa Pagán-Ramos, Alberto Sostre-Cintrón, Constancia Vega-García, Raúl Domínguez and Ana Ruiz-Rivera.

“This case is the result of the continued efforts of the SSA and the FBI.  Since August 2013, when 75 individuals were indicted for similar charges, including the current charges, we have filed a total of 115 indictments,” said U.S. Attorney Rodríguez-Vélez.  “This is a great example of ongoing efforts by the Government to deter fraud against the social security programs.  The Department of Justice is committed to investigate and prosecute those who engage in fraudulent schemes.  Hopefully this round of arrests will discourage more people from getting involved in these types of schemes, because the investigation continues.”

The SSA in New York and Baltimore conducted a lengthy analysis of medical source documentation in social security’s files, wherein a pattern of fraudulent activity was discovered, initiating a full investigation.  What followed was lengthy, intensive and complex investigative work—interviews, surveillances and other investigative activity.

“This fraud conspiracy scheme involving unscrupulous medical professionals and SSA disability claimants has been exposed and those involved are being brought to justice.  It was only after the analysis of medical source documentation in SSA files that SSA OIG (Office of Inspector General) was able to identify the fraudulent pattern,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Edward J. Ryan of the SSA OIG’sOffice of Investigations.  “This intensive and complex investigative work with the FBI and PRPD (Puerto Rico Police Department) consisted of numerous surveillances and other investigative activities that I cannot detail.  This intelligence was also shared with the Health and Human Services OIG for their files.  The evidence was provided to the U.S. Attorney’s Office which culminated in the additional arrests this morning.  OIG will continue to work with our partners to protect the integrity of the Social Security Trust Fund.”

“This is another social security disability benefits fraud case where shameless individuals illegally obtained the benefits provided by the federal government,” said Special Agent in Charge Carlos Cases of the FBI’s San Juan Division.  “This is not a victimless crime, but rather an outrageous, despicable and reprehensible act that deprives those who truly need assistance.  Combating social security disability benefits fraud will continue to be a priority for the FBI in Puerto Rico.”

The case was investigated by the SSA-OIG with the collaboration of the FBI and the PRPD.  The case was indicted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney María Domínguez and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa D. Bonano-Rodríguez for the District of Puerto Rico.



The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a subsidiary of UBS with disclosure failures and other securities law violations related to the operation and marketing of its dark pool.

UBS Securities LLC agreed to settle the charges by paying more than $14.4 million, including a $12 million penalty that is the SEC’s largest against an alternative trading system (ATS).

An SEC examination and investigation of UBS revealed that the firm failed to properly disclose to all subscribers the existence of an order type that it pitched almost exclusively to market makers and high-frequency trading firms.  The order type, called PrimaryPegPlus (PPP), enabled certain subscribers to buy and sell securities by placing orders priced in increments of less than one cent.  However, UBS was prohibited under Regulation NMS from accepting orders at those prices.  By doing so the firm enabled users of the PPP order type to place sub-penny-priced orders that jumped ahead of other orders submitted at legal, whole-penny prices.

Furthermore, the SEC investigation found that UBS similarly failed to disclose to all subscribers a “natural-only crossing restriction” developed to ensure that select orders would not execute against orders placed by market makers and high-frequency trading firms.  This shield was only available to benefit orders placed using UBS algorithms, which are automated trading strategies.  UBS did not disclose the existence of this feature to all subscribers until approximately 30 months after it was launched.

“The UBS dark pool was not a level playing field for all customers and did not operate as advertised,” said Andrew J. Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.  “Our action shows our continued commitment to policing the equity markets to ensure fairness and compliance with all laws and rules.”

In addition to UBS’s disclosure failures that violated Section 17(a)(2) of the Securities Act of 1933 as well as its acceptance of sub-penny-priced orders that violated Regulation NMS, the SEC outlined several other violations of the federal securities laws by UBS in its order instituting a settled administrative proceeding:

The Form ATS and amendments that UBS filed with the SEC included inconsistent and incomplete statements about the dark pool’s acceptance of sub-penny orders and the natural-only crossing restriction.  The filing also failed to attach certain required documents.
UBS violated requirements under Regulation ATS by unreasonably prohibiting subscribers from using the natural-only crossing restriction and failing to establish written standards for granting access to subscribers.
UBS failed to preserve certain order data for the dark pool from at least August 2008 to March 2009 and August 2010 to November 2010.
UBS violated confidentiality requirements under Regulation ATS by giving full access to subscribers’ confidential trading information to 103 employees who should not have had it (primarily information technology personnel).
UBS consented to the SEC’s order without admitting or denying the findings.  The order censures the firm and requires payment of $2,240,702.50 in disgorgement, $235,686.14 in prejudgment interest, and the $12 million penalty.

The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, was conducted by Stephen A. Larson, Charles D. Riely, Mandy B. Sturmfelz, and Mathew Wong of the Market Abuse Unit and Nancy A. Brown and Thomas P. Smith Jr. of the New York Regional Office.  The case was supervised by Amelia A. Cottrell of the New York office and Daniel M. Hawke of the Market Abuse Unit.  The SEC’s examination of UBS was conducted by Ilan Felix, Richard Heaphy, Michael McAuliffe, Patrick McCurdy, and Genevieve Skabeikis of the New York office.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cincinnati-Area Man Arrested for Plot to Attack U.S. Government Officers
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and Acting Special Agent in Charge John A. Barrios of the Cincinnati Division of the FBI announced today that the Joint Terrorism Task Force has arrested a Cincinnati-area man for a plot to attack the U.S. Capitol and kill government officials.  Acting Special Agent in Charge Barrios noted that the public was not in danger during this investigation.

Christopher Lee Cornell, 20, of Green Township, Ohio, was charged in a criminal complaint with attempting to kill officers and employees of the United States and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

Cornell was taken into custody today by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).  The JTTF is made up of officers and agents from the Cincinnati Police Department, Colerain Police Department, Dayton Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol, United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, United States Secret Service, West Chester Police Department and the Xenia Police Department.

The department would also like to acknowledge the Cincinnati Police Department, Colerain Police Department, Green Township Police Department and the U.S. Capitol Police for the cooperation and assistance they provided during this investigation.

The criminal complaint was filed today before a U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge.  The public is reminded that criminal complaints contain only allegations of criminal misconduct and that defendants are presumed to be innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

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Airstrikes Hit ISIL in Syria, Iraq

From a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve News Release
SOUTHWEST ASIA, Jan. 14, 2015 – U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria, using bomber and fighter aircraft to conduct six airstrikes, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Separately, U.S. and coalition military forces conducted 12 airstrikes in Iraq, using attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists, officials reported.

All strikes took place between 8 a.m., yesterday, and 8 a.m., today, local time.
Airstrikes in Syria

-- Near Kobani, six airstrikes struck an ISIL fighting position and destroyed eight ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL armored vehicle.
Airstrikes in Iraq

-- Near Bayji, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL artillery system.

-- Near Taji, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Ar Rutbah, two airstrikes struck an ISIL checkpoint and an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Baqubah, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL building, an ISIL vehicle, and an ISIL recoilless rifle system.

-- Near Al Asad, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL VBIED.

-- Near Sinjar, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL excavator.

-- Near Mosul, four airstrikes struck three ISIL tactical units, two ISIL excavators, and an ISIL bunker, and destroyed an ISIL armored vehicle and an ISIL vehicle, and

-- Near Baghdad, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports. All aircraft returned to base safely.

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, Syria, the region, and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations.

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