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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Weekly Address: Middle-Class Economics




Right:  Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, left, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and German Chief of Defense Army Gen. Volker Wieker talk between NATO's Military Committee conference and the chiefs of defense quarterly meeting in Brussels, Jan. 21, 2015. DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen.  

NATO Focuses on Russian Violations of Ukraine's Sovereignty
By Lisa Ferdinando
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Jan. 22, 2015 – NATO is focused on strategies to deal with its two biggest threats -- Russian aggression to its east, and the threat of terrorism from its south, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and other alliance defense chiefs today concluded two days of talks at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Russian aggression, Dempsey said, has "changed sovereign borders with the use of coercion." And the recent terrorist attacks in Paris underscore the "very real threat of terrorism that comes up into NATO's southern flank."

There was consensus among the military chiefs that NATO must confront these threats, he said.

NATO Needs to Address Both Threats

"I thought this would be the most important meeting of its kind that I've had with NATO since I've been chairman, and in my judgment it proved to be just that," the chairman said in an interview on his plane back to Washington.
"We came to an agreement that NATO really does have to address both threats, and that NATO has the capability and the resources to address them both," Dempsey said. "We don't have to pick which threat is more serious."

While Dempsey declined to discuss details of the most recent allegations of Russia violating September’s Minsk ceasefire agreement, he did underscore the seriousness in which NATO views the Russian aggression.

"It is indicative of efforts on the part of Russia to support separatists in, frankly, violation of Ukrainian sovereignty," Dempsey said. "We're very concerned about it."

Eastern Europeans are very unsettled about the threats to the east, and the southern Europeans are very unsettled about the threats to the south, Dempsey said.

U.S. and European officials have expressed concern about the return of foreign fighters through NATO's southern flank, and the threat that those extremists pose to Europe.

NATO to Evolve Strategy to Address Threats

The defense chiefs also discussed the strategic concept, crafted in 2010, that informs NATO's defense planning. Global security has changed "pretty dramatically" in those four years, Dempsey said.

NATO will evolve its strategies to deal with the threats to its east and south, and the military chiefs will make recommendations on the way the NATO military arm is organized and resourced, he said.

Dempsey said it is important to demonstrate "our resolve and our reassurance" to NATO's Baltic and Eastern European allies through the Readiness Action Plan, NATO's response to the Russian aggression.

Alliance officials say the Readiness Action Plan will significantly enhance NATO’s readiness and responsiveness and ensure that NATO forces remain ready. In the interim, NATO has established a “very high readiness” joint task force coordinated by Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe.

NATO has bolstered its presence in Eastern Europe, while the United States has conducted a variety of reassurance measures to include airborne exercises in Poland and the Baltic nations.

"We have the very real requirement to reassure our allies, to increase the readiness of NATO's forces, and to adapt some of the organizations that provide NATO rapid response and the NATO command structures," Dempsey said.
The defense chiefs did "really big lifting" to address the near-term requirements on readiness and assurance, he added, and on the longer-term approach to the threats to east and south.

Pleased With Transition in Afghanistan

Dempsey said the defense chiefs were pleased with the successful transition from the combat International Security Assistance Force mission to the Resolute Support mission that trains, advises, assists and builds capacity.

Flexibility is needed in the strategy for Afghanistan, Dempsey said, encouraging the allies to "stay committed at the regional level through the fighting season of 2015." It is prudent to stay at the regional level militarily through the year, he added.

Dempsey, who said the alliance has a great ally in Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, said the strategy must consider both conditions on the ground and a timetable for progress.

"Milestones based on time are an important goal, so that you have something to reach for and to plan for and to resource for," he said. "It just seems to me that in these kinds of missions, it is useful to have both a timetable but then be willing to assess and reassess and assess again the conditions."

The United States has demonstrated flexibility, he said.

"Initially we were supposed to be at 9,800 [troops in Afghanistan] by the end of 2014, but our NATO allies had some challenges in resourcing, and so we've left an additional 1,000 there into the spring, to allow NATO to catch up with its resourcing challenges."



Caption Credit:  Located in the northwest corner of Greenland, Leidy Glacier is fed by ice from the Academy Glacier (upstream and inland). As Leidy approaches the sea, it is diverted around the tip of an island that separates the Olriks Fjord to the south and Academy Cove to the north. The resulting crisscross pattern is simply the result of ice flowing along the path of least resistance.

This view of the region pictured above was acquired August 7, 2012, by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA's Terra satellite. In April 2012, the feature caught the attention of a NASA pilot, who snapped this picture from the cockpit of a high-flying ER-2 aircraft during a research flight over the Greenland ice cap.



Court Grants Partial Summary Judgment in FTC Case against Dish Network, Finding the Company Liable for Tens of Millions of Telemarketing Violations
The U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois has found Dish Network liable for tens of millions of calls that violated the Federal Trade Commission’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), including Do Not Call, entity-specific, and abandoned-call violations. The opinion, which was issued on December 12, 2014, represents a partial summary judgment win in the case the Department of Justice filed on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission against Dish in March 2009.

The FTC’s complaint alleges that Dish initiated, or caused a telemarketer to initiate, outbound telephone calls to phone numbers on the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry, in violation of the TSR. Dish markets its programming directly, through telemarketing vendors it contracts with to engage in telemarketing, and through authorized dealers or retailers.

In the current ruling, the court found Dish liable for 4,094,099 calls it or its vendors made to numbers on the Registry and for 2,730,842 calls its retailers made to numbers on the Registry. The court found that the government met its burden to hold Dish liable for the retailers’ calls since: 1) Dish retained the retailers, 2) Dish authorized the retailers to market Dish products and services, and 3) the retailers violated the TSR by initiating Dish telemarketing calls to numbers on the Registry.

The complaint also alleges that Dish initiated, or caused other telemarketers to initiate, an outbound call to a person who had previously said that they do not wish to receive such a call, in violation of the “entity-specific” provision of the TSR. On this count, the court ruled that Dish is liable for 1,043,595 calls to consumers whose telephone numbers were on Dish’s internal do-not-call list or were marked “DNC” by Dish’s telemarketing vendor. The court left the issue of whether Dish is liable for any entity-specific violations relating to its retailers to be determined at trial.

In addition, the complaint alleges that Dish abandoned or caused telemarketers to abandon outbound telephone calls, in violation of the “abandoned-call” provision of TSR. On this count the court ruled that Dish is liable for 49,738,073 abandoned calls that Dish and three of its retailers made. The court found that Dish is liable for both its own calls, and for causing these retailers’ abandoned calls.

Finally, the court issued several findings in favor of the four state co-plaintiffs in the case against Dish. For example, the court found that the company made outbound telephone calls to residents of the states whose numbers were on the DNC Registry.

The Department of Justice filed the complaint at the FTC’s request in March 2009. DOJ, on behalf of the FTC, is jointly litigating the case with four state co-plaintiffs -- California, Illinois, Ohio, and North Carolina. The states allege that Dish violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and state law by calling numbers on the Do Not Call Registry and by making telemarketing robocalls to consumers.


Arms Control and International Security: The U.S.-Vietnam Relationship: Advancing Peace and Prosperity in 2015
01/23/2015 05:44 AM EST

The U.S.-Vietnam Relationship: Advancing Peace and Prosperity in 2015

Puneet Talwar
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam
Hanoi, Vietnam
January 23, 2015

As prepared

Thank you very much. Cam on.

Let me thank Dr. Tuan Hoang for his very kind introduction, and for the important work he has done, both as a former Minister Counselor at Vietnam’s Embassy in the United States, and here in Vietnam, to deepen the bond between our countries.

It’s wonderful to be in Hanoi, a beautiful and bustling city with over one thousand years of history and culture. And I’m especially honored to be here at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, an institution that not only provides thoughtful insight on the major foreign policy issues of today, but also educates the leaders of tomorrow.

I want to also thank Vice Foreign Minister Ha Kim Ngoc and the entire Vietnamese government for such a warm welcome.

Yesterday and earlier today, my team and I held very productive discussions with our counterparts from Vietnam. We brought representation from the State Department, Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, the United States Coast Guard, and United States Pacific Command. And on the Vietnamese side, we met with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of National Defense, and the Ministry of Public Security.

As you can tell from the delegations, our discussions were very serious and covered the full range of issues. And I think the scope of these talks over the last two days is the most recent data point on an upward trajectory that shows how far our relationship has come.

I can certainly speak for the American side when I say that this year’s dialogue has set a positive and encouraging tone for 2015, which is an historic year in U.S.-Vietnam relations.

Many of us still remember a time when an event like this one, with a visiting American diplomat speaking at Vietnam’s diplomatic academy, would have been unimaginable. But thanks to the vision and direction from our leaders over the past two decades, here we are.

As the Vietnamese proverb goes, An qua nho ke trong cay, which for those who don’t speak Vietnamese, means, “When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree.”

So this year, as we celebrate the 20th year of normalized ties, let us remember those who planted the seeds of friendship and partnership… who even in the darkest of days, had the courage and vision to see a brighter path ahead.

Twenty years ago, in 1995, President Clinton and President Anh, along with leaders like Senator John McCain and then-Senator John Kerry, ushered in a new chapter in this relationship. Many others, including Secretary Colin Powell and Secretary Hillary Clinton, built on this important groundwork and helped guide us to where we are today.

But change did not just happen at the leader-to-leader level. It also happened at the people-to-people level, with thousands of American and Vietnamese students studying abroad, forging friendships, and exchanging ideas and cultures, dreaming of the future rather than being shackled by the past.

Both our leaders and our peoples took bold steps so that today, all of us could enjoy the fruits of their labor – with more trade between our businesses, more visits between our peoples, and more exchanges between our students.

As we reflect on the tremendous progress we’ve made, today I’d like to talk about where we go from here. To ask how we can build upon the growth we’ve worked so hard to cultivate. The Comprehensive Partnership, launched by President Obama and President Sang in 2013, laid out a blueprint for how we can chart that course together.

I’d like to focus in on three areas of cooperation, all of which support our bilateral ties and underpin America’s overall rebalance to the Asia-Pacific. First, humanitarian cooperation; second, trade and economic cooperation; and third, defense and security cooperation.

The United States has a longstanding relationship with Vietnam on humanitarian issues, some of them the legacies of history. For many years now, we have worked with Vietnam to address the effects of Agent Orange, and to coordinate on issues related to the remains of missing Americans. Indeed, it was our joint effort on these issues that helped lay the foundation for the restoration of ties. And I know that Secretary Kerry, to this day, is proud of the progress we’ve been able to achieve, and how it has set the stage for the much broader partnership that we are seeing today.

We’ve also taken action to alleviate the humanitarian impacts of unexploded ordnance. Cluster munitions and other leftover remnants of war remain a humanitarian concern because they continue to endanger innocent men, women, and particularly children, long after soldiers have laid down their arms. Without a moment’s notice, these weapons can end or alter a life forever.

So our objective is clear. We want to see a Vietnam that is free from the impact of unexploded ordnance, period. And although this won’t happen overnight, with sustained focus and sustained investment, this is a goal we are committed to reaching.

That’s why, since 1993, even before we restored diplomatic ties, the United States began helping to remove unexploded ordnance from Vietnam. We are by far the largest international donor to this effort, and I just met with some of our NGO partners here in Vietnam who are working every day to implement these efforts on the ground. This year, the United States has more than doubled our financial commitment to Vietnam, with a special focus on Quang Tri Province. And next year, we expect to increase funding even more. In the United States, this work is supported across the political spectrum, because it’s the right thing to do.

Our efforts are far from finished, but by uprooting and disarming these deadly remnants of war, we are sowing a safer future for all Vietnamese.

Still, our humanitarian efforts with Vietnam extend far beyond unexploded ordnance. Since 2004, through the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, we’ve invested over $700 million to support the fight against HIV/AIDS in Vietnam.

Together with Vietnam and our other regional partners, we’re also working on humanitarian efforts throughout the region and the world.

We commend Vietnam for its first ever contribution to a United Nations peacekeeping effort, launched last year. The professionalism of the Vietnamese officers will enhance the effectiveness of the UN Mission in South Sudan. And we look forward to working with you to build on that initial commitment going forward, including by assisting with the construction of Vietnam’s peacekeeping training center, and by preparing your peacekeepers to deploy a military hospital and an engineering unit.

Even as we support humanitarian efforts in faraway places through peacekeeping, we also continue to work with our partners throughout ASEAN, including Vietnam, on disaster relief right here in Southeast Asia. The past few weeks have unfortunately provided yet another example of why this work is so important. When word came of the terrible Air Asia tragedy, the men and women aboard the USS Sampson and USS Fort Worth, along with many others from across the region, stopped what they were doing to join the search. That’s what good friends do. And going forward, we remain steadfast in our commitment to partnering with Vietnam and others in the region to be able to quickly and effectively contribute to disaster relief efforts.

Let me also take a moment to address another issue on our bilateral agenda: human rights. We strongly believe that societies that respect human rights flourish. As Secretary Kerry has said, “Greater openness is a great catalyst for a stronger and more prosperous society. And today Vietnam has a historic opportunity to prove that even further.” Whether it’s an open internet, a more open society, or freer exchange of ideas… the protection of human rights, which includes the freedom to freely express one’s views, is a step towards a stronger, more prosperous, and more inclusive Vietnam.

Over the past two decades, our countries have made great strides not only on our humanitarian agenda, but also on our economic agenda. Let me highlight just a few examples.

Twenty years ago, when we restored our relationship, our bilateral trade was just $451 million. Last year it reached almost $35 billion. During that same time period, the incomes of Vietnamese citizens have quadrupled.

Today, Vietnam exports more goods to the United States than to any other country. Our economic relationship has created thousands of jobs in Vietnam and in the United States.

In every year since normalization in 1995, Vietnam’s GDP has grown by over 4 percent. And in every year since 2000, it has grown by over 5 percent.

And Vietnam’s future looks just as promising, thanks to growing exports, increased tourism here in Vietnam, and a young, vibrant population – where over 40 percent of your people are under the age of 25. Walking along the streets of Hanoi, the youth and energy and promise of Vietnam’s future is palpable.

That brings me to the second area where we can deepen our cooperation this year: the economy and trade. As President Sang said when he visited Washington, DC in July 2013, “Economic trade ties continue to stay at the heart of bilateral relations, serving both as the cornerstone of, and an engine for the overall relationship.”

In 2015, the most important thing we can do to build on this economic progress is to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

TPP would provide the United States, Vietnam, and ten other member states a level playing field to compete in markets that together account for almost 40 percent of global GDP. It would set high standards on labor and the environment, and it would open up new markets for American goods and for Vietnamese goods. Seizing this moment, this year, is an opportunity we should not miss.

The third area of cooperation, in security and defense, is what underpins our economic relationship, our humanitarian work, and our many other areas of cooperation.

The truth is that prosperity and security are inseparable.

With over half the world’s merchant tonnage flowing through the South China Sea; with over 15 million barrels of oil per day and over 100,000 vessels per year passing through the Strait of Malacca; security is essential to the free flow of trade and commerce in Southeast Asia.

And here’s where our cooperation can really make a difference, and where the 2011 Memorandum of Understanding for advancing our bilateral defense cooperation set an excellent foundation. Because all of our security cooperation – whether it’s helping to develop Vietnam’s coast guard, promoting access to sea lanes, countering piracy, promoting disaster response, improving maritime domain awareness in the region, upholding maritime security – all of these activities are designed to underpin our economic relationship.

Working with our regional partners to help them build up their capabilities – whether it’s Vietnam or the Philippines or Malaysia or Indonesia – is a net security benefit and a net economic benefit for the region.

Last year, as you know, Secretary Kerry announced an important revision to our bilateral arms sales policy. As part of the $32.5 million he announced in new regional maritime security assistance, $18 million of that was directed to Vietnam. That investment boosts our shared security, and the prospects for our shared economic growth. And in our dialogue over the past two days, we discussed more ways to help you secure your borders and waterways, and to deepen security in the region.

Our security cooperation is already paying dividends, but there is still more work to do. One area where we are seeing tension is in the South China Sea. We continue to support diplomatic efforts by ASEAN to manage these tensions, including the establishment of a binding Code of Conduct. And we do not hesitate to raise our concerns over these tensions at the highest of levels, including with Chinese leaders.

Our policy is clear. There must be one set of rules in the South China Sea. We believe in freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, which is crucial to economic growth. We share a vision where all parties pursue resolution of their territorial and maritime disputes through peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Within the realm of security cooperation, we can also do more together to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We want to see every country adhere to international norms and obligations on weapons of mass destruction, while at the same time making available peaceful uses of nuclear technology. Going forward, our two countries can make strong contributions to counter regional and global proliferation threats.

A final topic in the security arena that is ripe for increased engagement is in the law enforcement and justice sector. We had an excellent conversation on this issue at our meetings here in Vietnam, where we highlighted the robust cooperation we’ve seen on investigations and law enforcement training programs. And we are committed to sustained engagement as Vietnam undertakes legislative efforts to implement its Penal and Criminal Procedure Codes.

As I said at the beginning of my remarks, these three broad areas of cooperation – humanitarian, economic, and security – don’t just build our bilateral ties. They also reinforce our overall rebalance to Asia.

I know that with the many crises unfolding across the world, in the Middle East, in Ukraine, and elsewhere, there are some who wonder whether the United States is still committed to the Asia rebalance. Let me answer that in one word: Yes. We are. President Obama is committed to it. Secretary Kerry is committed to it. I’m committed to it.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. The vast array of ways that we are working together, with you and our many friends throughout the Asia-Pacific – those actions, rather than these words, show that the rebalance is real.

Broadening and deepening our partnership with Vietnam is a critical pillar of the rebalance. And this year holds so much promise and possibility for us to make progress, and it’s our job now to turn those possibilities into action.

Twenty years ago, when President Clinton announced a new direction in our relationship, he reflected on the past but said, “Let the future be our destination.”

So let us continue to work together on these issues – on peacekeeping, unexploded ordnance, and human rights; on growing our trade and investment; and on building a more stable and secure Southeast Asia. So that in five or ten or twenty more years, when the young leaders here today are eating their fruit, they can think of the work we did this year to plant those seeds of cooperation… to build a more prosperous and more peaceful future.

Let me extend, on behalf of the American people, our warmest wishes as Tet approaches. To the future of U.S.-Vietnam relations, hung thinh va ben vung – full of prosperity and long-lasting.

Thank you very.  Cam on.


SEC Charges Former Executive at Tampa-Based Engineering Firm With FCPA Violations
01/22/2015 10:40 AM EST

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a former officer at a Tampa, Fla.-based engineering and construction firm with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by offering and authorizing bribes and employment to foreign officials to secure Qatari government contracts.

The SEC also announced a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with The PBSJ Corporation that defers FCPA charges for a period of two years and requires the company to comply with certain undertakings.  PBSJ must immediately pay $3.4 million in financial remedies as part of the agreement, which reflects the company’s significant cooperation with the SEC investigation.   PBSJ is now known as The Atkins North America Holdings Corporation and no longer offers public stock in the U.S.

An SEC investigation found that Walid Hatoum, who has agreed to settle the SEC’s charges, offered to funnel funds to a local company owned and controlled by a foreign official in order to secure two multi-million Qatari government contracts for PBSJ in 2009.  The foreign official subsequently provided Hatoum and PBSJ’s international subsidiary with access to confidential sealed-bid and pricing information that enabled the PBSJ subsidiary to tender winning bids for a hotel resort development project in Morocco and a light rail transit project in Qatar.

“Hatoum offered and authorized nearly $1.4 million in bribes disguised as ‘agency fees’ intended for a foreign official who used an alias to communicate confidential information that assisted PBSJ,” said Kara Brockmeyer, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s FCPA Unit.  “PBSJ ignored multiple red flags that should have enabled other officers and employees to uncover the bribery scheme at an earlier stage.  But once discovered, the company self-reported the potential FCPA violations and cooperated substantially.”

According to the SEC’s order instituting a settled administrative proceeding against Hatoum, he also offered employment to a second foreign official in return for assistance as the bribery scheme began to unravel and PBSJ lost the hotel resort contract.  Even though the bribes themselves were not consummated before the scheme was uncovered by the company, PBSJ earned approximately $2.9 million in illicit profits because it continued work on the light rail project until a replacement company could be found.

Under the DPA, PBSJ agreed to pay disgorgement and interest of $3,032,875 and a penalty of $375,000.  PBSJ took quick steps to end the misconduct after self-reporting to the SEC, and the company voluntarily made witnesses available for interviews and provided factual chronologies, timelines, internal summaries, and full forensic images to cooperate with the SEC’s investigation.

The SEC’s order against Hatoum finds that he violated the anti-bribery, internal accounting controls, books and records, and false records provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  Without admitting or denying the findings, Hatoum agreed to pay a penalty of $50,000.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by FCPA Unit members Tracy L. Price and Jim Valentino.  The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Justice Department’s Fraud Section and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


For Immediate Release
January 21, 2015 Danny Shelton, Deputy U.S. Marshal 
Middle District of Tennessee
Nashville Marshals Capture Accused Child Killer

Brentwood, TN – The man accused of shooting a thirteen-year-old girl as she lay sleeping in Lebanon has been apprehended in Brentwood, Tennessee yesterday by U.S. Marshals and Brentwood Police. Joseph C. Hendry II was arrested in a room at the Extended Stay America Hotel on Church Street. U.S. Marshals in Nashville received information that Hendry may be in the area. They knocked on the hotel room door, and Hendry eventually answered.

Hendry is accused of shooting into a house on January 5, 2015, where C’Asia Watkins was sleeping. Watkins was not the intended target of the shooting, but a motive for the homicide is unclear. C’Asia Watkins died on January 8, 2015.

Joseph Hendry II is charged in Lebanon, Tennessee with first degree murder, criminal attempt to commit first degree murder, and 4 counts of aggravated assault. He was booked into the Wilson County Jail in Lebanon after questioning by Brentwood Police.

Friday, January 23, 2015


Fewer Air Targets as ISIL Terrorists Hide, Change Tactics
By Claudette Roulo
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2015 – Success in the effort to degrade, defeat and destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant shouldn't be considered simply in terms of a body count or how much land has changed hands, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.

"What makes these guys different than a group like al-Qaida is they do have territorial designs. They have governing ambitions," Kirby told reporters during a regular Pentagon news briefing.

"They talk about this caliphate vision of theirs. And in order to govern, you have to have territory under your control. So that matters, in that regard," the admiral explained.

Airstrikes Affecting ISIL Tactics

But the more critical measure of success is one that can't be easily quantified: how ISIL’s behavior on the battlefield has changed since the start of the bombing campaign last June, Kirby said.

"We know that they are operating and communicating in much different ways now than they were seven months ago. They're no longer out in the open," he said.

Because there are fewer targets, the air campaign has slowed down, the admiral said.

"One of the reasons why maybe there's fewer targets is because they're hiding more," Kirby said. "And if they're hiding more, if they're constrained, then they're not as able to enact the same kind of influence. So they're changing the way they operate. They are definitely much more on the defensive."

ISIL forces have also slowed their attempts to seize more territory, he said.
"What we are starting to see them do is defend, you know, so they're getting into defensive positions on territory that they do have," the admiral said. "And they are -- we're seeing them try to protect their own lines of communication."

Progress Against a Potent Force

These signs of progress -- in addition to indications that ISIL is struggling due to the inability to resupply themselves and because of the loss of oil revenue -- shouldn't be taken to mean that they are no longer a potent force inside Iraq and Syria, Kirby said.

"There's a long way to go here," he said. Establishing the conditions that will lead to good governance inside Iraq and Syria will take three to five years, the admiral said, and eradicating the ideology of ISIL will require more than just a military campaign.

"I've said it before, I'll say it again: ... The real center of gravity for this group is their ideology, not their fighters, not their trucks, and not necessarily, you know, every little camp they set up or position that they establish," Kirby said.
"It's about this ideology and that's going to take time. And it's not going to be done through military means alone."

Week In Images

Week In Images

NASA | 2014 Warmest Year On Record


Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release January 22, 2015
Statement by the President on the 42nd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Forty-two years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Roe v. Wade, a decision that protects a woman’s freedom to make her own choices about her body and her health, and reaffirms a fundamental American value: that government should not intrude in our most private and personal family matters.

I am deeply committed to protecting this core constitutional right, and I believe that efforts like H.R. 7, the bill the House considered today, would intrude on women's reproductive freedom and access to health care and unnecessarily restrict the private insurance choices that consumers have today. The federal government should not be injecting itself into decisions best made between women, their families, and their doctors.  I am also deeply committed to continuing our work to reduce unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, promote adoptions, and minimize the need for abortion.

Today, as we reflect on this critical moment in our history, may we all rededicate ourselves to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons.


Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cincinnati-Area Man Indicted for Plot to Attack U.S. Government Officers
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Carter M. Stewart for the Southern District of Ohio and Acting Special Agent in Charge John A. Barrios of the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Division announced that a federal grand jury has charged Christopher Lee Cornell, 20, of Green Township, Ohio, with attempting to kill officers and employees of the United States, solicitation to commit a crime of violence and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence in an indictment returned in Cincinnati.  Cornell was charged for his alleged plot to attack the U.S. Capitol and kill government officials.

The indictment alleges that from August 2014 through January 2015, Cornell plotted an attack on the U.S. Capitol that would have killed officers and employees of the United States during their official duties.  During that same time, the defendant allegedly attempted to persuade another to join him in his planned act of violence.  Cornell also allegedly possessed two semi-automatic rifles and approximately 600 rounds of ammunition.

Attempted murder of government employees and officials is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.  Solicitation to commit an attempted murder is a crime punishable by 20 years in prison.  Possession of a firearm in furtherance of an attempted crime of violence is a crime punishable by a mandatory sentence of five years in prison.

Cornell was arrested on Jan. 14, 2015, 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 Xenia Police Department.

Cornell is scheduled for an arraignment on the charges on Jan. 22, 2015, at 1:30 p.m., before Magistrate Judge Stephanie Bowman.

Assistant Attorney General Carlin and U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the investigation of this case by the JTTF.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Mangan and Michael Dittoe of the Justice Department National Security Division Counterterrorism Section.

An indictment merely contains allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.


Small Group Meeting
Remarks With U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond Before the Counter-ISIL Coalition Small Group Meeting
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Lancaster House
London, United Kingdom
January 22, 20R15

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: Good morning, everybody. I’m delighted to welcome Secretary Kerry and our other partners here today for this important coalition steering group meeting. It’s a remarkable achievement to have brought together over 60 nations in the coalition in the fight against ISIL in Iraq and Syria.

What we are doing with this meeting is bringing together the key members of that coalition, those that are most actively engaged in the front line, to take stock of our achievements over the last four or five months, to hear from General John Allen about what is happening on the ground, and to plan the next steps of this campaign which we’ve all recognized will be a long haul to restoring full Iraqi Government control of all the territory of Iraq.

So I look forward to a very constructive discussion today with our colleagues, and we hope this will be the first of a series of regular meetings to take stock and provide command and control of the overall coalition campaign. Thank you. John.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I want to thank Secretary Hammond and Great Britain for hosting us here today, and I’m pleased to co-host with him this important meeting of the most engaged, most involved leading-edge countries, though we are critically dependent on all 60-plus nations that are engaged in this effort.

But as we have put this together now in a matter of a few months, we have gone from zero at the end of September to now, in January, in our fourth month, having stopped ISIL’s advance in Iraq, having negated their resources, their capacity to move foreign fighters, to a significant degree, and changed their operations as a result of what we’ve been able to do. We still have a lot of work to do, and the purpose of coming here is to bring everybody’s best advice, everybody’s thoughts about where there may be weaknesses, everybody’s thoughts about things we can do better, put that together, improve our own performance and operation, and lay down the strategy for the days ahead.

And as Philip said, we will make this now a regular meeting almost on a monthly basis, not at the ministerial level. Ministers will meet as necessary. But it is important to coordinate. We have a tremendous amount of work to do.

I want to thank particularly our friends here in London. Prime Minister Cameron and the President, President Obama, met a few days ago in Washington. I think everybody sensed the power of our friendship and our cooperative partnership which has never been more important on so many different fronts as it is today, and that’s why we thought it was important to come together here to follow up as effectively as possible.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I don’t think people should be dismayed. I think they should be encouraged, in fact. Police forces, law enforcement community, intelligence community of many countries have come together in an incredibly effective way to fight against an insidious, long-time planning process that has been in place. And in a sense, we’re flushing them out. These sleeper cells have been there for years now. Many of these plans have been in place for a long period of time, long preceding what we’ve been doing with respect to ISIS.

But the truth is that these groups are planning and have been planning for a long period of time, going back to Usama bin Ladin and 9/11 in New York, to attack Western interests and to go after anybody that they disagree with. Their goal is to suppress and to take over and to expand a very nihilistic, unbelievably oppressive sense of how people ought to live. And we’ve seen them carried out in the most egregiously horrendous fashion with public beheadings. They’re now threatening to Japanese hostages.

I think this is a challenge for all of us. It’s a challenge of our time. And we need to step up and lead and be strong and be clear about what is at stake, and that’s exactly why we’re here and meet today.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAMMOND: I think if I could just add to that, this conference is not just about the military operation in Iraq. It’s about the other strands of this campaign as well. And we’re very clear that undermining the narrative of ISIL, interdicting the flow of foreign fighters, stopping the flow of financial funding to ISIL, is as important as the military campaign itself. So I think we – there are reasons to be optimistic about the military campaign. As John said, we’ve stopped ISIL’s advance. We’re now rebuilding the Iraqi forces. We always said this would take time, but they will be capable and ready at some point to push back against ISIL. And in the meantime, we have to continue the work to undermine ISIL’s message in our own countries and to protect our own homelands with security measures both here and across the continent, in collaboration with our partners.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Appreciate it. Thanks very much.


January Notice -- Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Terrorists Who Threaten to Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process


On January 23, 1995, by Executive Order 12947, the President declared a national emergency pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706) to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States constituted by grave acts of violence committed by foreign terrorists that disrupt the Middle East peace process. On August 20, 1998, by Executive Order 13099, the President modified the Annex to Executive Order 12947 to identify four additional persons who threaten to disrupt the Middle East peace process. On February 16, 2005, by Executive Order 13372, the President clarified the steps taken in Executive Order 12947.

These terrorist activities continue to threaten the Middle East peace process and to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. For this reason, the national emergency declared on January 23, 1995, and the measures adopted to deal with that emergency must continue in effect beyond January 23, 2015. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to foreign terrorists who threaten to disrupt the Middle East peace process.

This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmit 21, 2015
ted to the Congress.


Thursday, January 22, 2015


Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 22, 2015

This is a sad day. The United States has lost a friend, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, and the world has lost a revered leader. King Abdullah was a man of wisdom and vision. I loved my visits with him as a Senator and as Secretary. Even as he battled age and illness, he held on to his sense of determination. His stories of his father and of his family were remarkable. He was so proud of the Kingdom’s journey, a brave partner in fighting violent extremism who proved just as important as a proponent of peace. The courageous Arab Peace Initiative that he sponsored remains a critical document for the goal we shared of two states, Israel and Palestine, living in peace and security. He also made great strides to invest in the Saudi people, and the Kingdom’s infrastructure and economic development. The scholarship program that bears his name represents an enormous, far-sighted contribution to Saudi Arabia’s future prosperity. I know he was very proud of his role as Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and as leader of his people.

Teresa and I send our condolences to the family of King Abdullah and to the people of Saudi Arabia and the region.



Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Former Mayor Charged with Wire Fraud for Using Campaign Contributions for His Own Personal Benefit

A former mayor of Dunkirk, New York, was indicted today for engaging in a scheme to defraud his mayoral campaign and supporters by stealing campaign contributions for his personal benefit, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. of the Western District of New York.

Richard L. Frey, 83, of Dunkirk, New York, was charged today in a 13-count indictment with 12 counts of wire fraud and one count of making a false statement to the FBI.

According to the indictment, from January 2003 through June 2012, Frey allegedly solicited and received several campaign contributions from area businesses and businesspeople and then, instead of depositing the donations into his campaign accounts, either cashed the checks for his personal use or deposited the checks into his personal bank accounts.  The indictment further alleges that Frey concealed the existence of these campaign contributions by not reporting or disclosing them on his campaign disclosure reports, as was required of local candidates for public office.  When asked about the scheme, Frey allegedly provided false information to the FBI.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Buffalo Field Office and the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Edward P. Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney John E. Rogowski of the Western District of New York.



FTC ‘Fotonovela’ Warns Latino Community About Debt Collection Scams
To help Spanish-speaking consumers know their rights when dealing with debt collectors, the Federal Trade Commission has created a Spanish-language graphic novel, Cobradores de Deuda, which describes the rules debt collectors must follow, and what consumers should do if they don’t.

It’s part of the FTC’s fotonovela series, a campaign to promote consumer education and protection in the Latino community. Previous issues focused on government imposters and income scams. Consumers can order all three free publications at, or read and download them at

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.  The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.



Statement of CFTC Commissioner Mark Wetjen on CFTC Approval of TOCOM as an FBOT
January 21, 2015

Washington, DC – I am pleased that Chairman Tim Massad brought forward and the Commission then moved quickly to approve registration of the Tokyo Commodity Exchange, Inc. (TOCOM) as a Foreign Board of Trade (FBOT).  As I have stressed before, this cross-border approach to the oversight of trading platforms incentivizes higher standards around the world by requiring foreign entities that want access to U.S. market participants to be subject to supervision that is comparable and comprehensive to our regime under Dodd-Frank.  I hope the Commission will move quickly to consider the remaining applications for FBOTs that have been relying on no-action relief for years.

As a next step, I believe the Commission should formalize a regulatory regime for foreign Swap Execution Facilities, just as Congress contemplated in the Dodd-Frank Act. Embracing a foreign SEF regime would be a useful step toward implementing the CFTC’s cross-border framework and would also help prevent unnecessary fragmentation of the global swaps market. Just as with FBOTs and substituted compliance, a foreign SEF regime would incentivize foreign jurisdictions to harmonize their regulations with ours.

Last Updated: January 21, 2015


Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
New York, NY
January 20, 2015 UN 

Dominic Ongwen’s arrival at the International Criminal Court in the Hague is a welcome development in the international community’s campaign to counter the LRA’s dehumanizing violence, and to bring perpetrators to justice after more than two decades of the LRA’s brutal campaign of torture, rape and murder.

I commend the governments of the Central African Republic and Uganda, as well as the leadership of the African Union, for their close coordination on this effort and for their commitment to ensuring that perpetrators of human rights violations face justice.

The fact that Ongwen will finally face trial is the latest sign of tangible progress in the African Union-led effort to end the threat posed by the LRA and its leader, Joseph Kony, to which the United States has dedicated considerable resources, including more than 100 U.S. military advisors. Today’s outcome is a great example of what can result from regional coordination in combating the LRA, and it is imperative that the African Union Regional Task Force (AU-RTF) continue to coordinate with regional governments, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), and the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) in its fight against the LRA, which still remains a serious threat to regional peace and security.

Those remaining LRA members should follow the lead of Dominic Ongwen and the more than 250 other individuals who have left the LRA since 2012. They should end their lives on the run and turn themselves in.

The United States continues to look forward to the end of the LRA and the day when its victims will finally be free from LRA terror, seeing justice that is long overdue.


Take Three: Pregnancy Discrimination

Women now make up nearly half of the U.S. labor force. Three out of every four women entering the workforce will experience at least one pregnancy while employed. Every year, thousands of women file charges of pregnancy discrimination. Latifa Lyles, director of the Women's Bureau, answers three questions on pregnancy discrimination and what it means for the workforce.
What is pregnancy discrimination? Pregnancy discrimination occurs when an employer treats a job applicant or an employee unfavorably due to her pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition. It could involve refusing to hire or promote a qualified individual because she is pregnant, firing a woman because she missed a few days of work to give birth, or forcing a pregnant employee to take leave. Pregnancy discrimination is illegal, as is pregnancy-related harassment that creates a hostile or offensive work environment. Pregnancy discrimination negatively affects not just pregnant women and their families, but also employers, who may be cheating themselves by driving away skilled, qualified workers.

What resources do pregnant workers have? At the federal level, women are protected by laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Also, many states have enacted laws that provide women with additional protections against pregnancy discrimination.

Why are these protections necessary? Today, most women work during pregnancy, often into their third trimester. Laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination are necessary because they ensure that women who want to work during pregnancy do so under the same conditions as non-pregnant employees. They also ensure that women who are not able to work due to a pregnancy-related disability are treated the same as non-pregnant workers who are similar in their inability to work. In turn, these laws ensure that the U.S. workforce is operating under the best possible conditions — those in which all workers have an equal opportunity to contribute their skills and experience.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

President Obama's 2015 State of the Union Address



Washington D.C., Jan. 21, 2015 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced a series of federal securities law violations by Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services involving fraudulent misconduct in its ratings of certain commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS).

S&P agreed to pay more than $58 million to settle the SEC’s charges, plus an additional $19 million to settle parallel cases announced today by the New York Attorney General’s office ($12 million) and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office ($7 million).

“Investors rely on credit rating agencies like Standard & Poor’s to play it straight when rating complex securities like CMBS,” said Andrew J. Ceresney, Director of the SEC Enforcement Division.  “But Standard & Poor’s elevated its own financial interests above investors by loosening its rating criteria to obtain business and then obscuring these changes from investors.  These enforcement actions, our first-ever against a major ratings firm, reflect our commitment to aggressively policing the integrity and transparency of the credit ratings process.”

The SEC issued three orders instituting settled administrative proceedings against S&P.  One order, in which S&P made certain admissions, addressed S&P’s practices in its conduit fusion CMBS ratings methodology.  S&P’s public disclosures affirmatively misrepresented that it was using one approach when it actually used a different methodology in 2011 to rate six conduit fusion CMBS transactions and issue preliminary ratings on two more transactions.  As part of this settlement, S&P agreed to take a one-year timeout from rating conduit fusion CMBS.

Another SEC order found that after being frozen out of the market for rating conduit fusion CMBS in late 2011, S&P sought to re-enter that market in mid-2012 by overhauling its ratings criteria.  To illustrate the relative conservatism of its new criteria, S&P published a false and misleading article purporting to show that its new credit enhancement levels could withstand Great Depression-era levels of economic stress.  S&P’s research relied on flawed and inappropriate assumptions and was based on data that was decades removed from the severe losses of the Great Depression.  According to the SEC’s order, S&P’s original author of the study expressed concerns that the firm’s CMBS group had turned the article into a “sales pitch” for the new criteria, and that the removal of certain information from the article could lead to him “sit[ting] in front of [the] Department of Justice or the SEC.”  The SEC’s order further finds that S&P failed to accurately describe certain aspects of its new criteria in the formal publication setting forth their operation.  Without admitting or denying the findings in the order, S&P agreed to publicly retract the false and misleading Great Depression-related study and correct the inaccurate descriptions in the publication about its criteria.

“These CMBS-related enforcement actions against S&P demonstrate that ‘race to the bottom’ behavior by ratings firms will not be tolerated by the SEC and other regulators.  When ratings standards are compromised in pursuit of market share, a firm’s disclosures cannot tell a different story,” said Michael J. Osnato, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Complex Financial Instruments Unit.

A third SEC order issued in this case involved internal controls failures in S&P’s surveillance of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) ratings.  The order finds that S&P allowed breakdowns in the way it conducted ratings surveillance of previously-rated RMBS from October 2012 to June 2014.  S&P changed an important assumption in a way that made S&P’s ratings less conservative, and was inconsistent with the specific assumptions set forth in S&P’s published criteria describing its ratings methodology.  S&P did not follow its internal policies for making changes to its surveillance criteria and instead applied ad hoc workarounds that were not fully disclosed to investors.  Without admitting or denying the findings in the order, S&P agreed to extensive undertakings to enhance and improve its internal controls environment.  S&P self-reported this particular misconduct to the SEC and cooperated with the investigation, enabling the Enforcement Division to resolve the case more quickly and efficiently and resulting in a reduced penalty for the firm.

The SEC’s orders find that S&P violated Section 17(a)(1) of the Securities Act (fraud), Section 15E(c)(3) of the Securities Exchange Act  (internal controls violations), Securities Exchange Rules 17g-2(a)(2)(iii) (books and records violations), Rule 17g-2(a)(6) (books and records violations), and 17g-2(a)(2)(iii) (failure to maintain records explaining differences between numerical model output and ratings).

In a separate order instituting a litigated administrative proceeding, the SEC Enforcement Division alleges that the former head of S&P’s CMBS Group fraudulently misrepresented the manner in which the firm calculated a critical aspect of certain CMBS ratings in 2011.  Barbara Duka allegedly instituted the shift to more issuer-friendly ratings criteria, and the firm failed to properly disclose the less rigorous methodology.  The matter against Duka will be scheduled for a public hearing before an administrative law judge for proceedings to adjudicate the Enforcement Division’s allegations and determine what, if any, remedial actions are appropriate.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by the Enforcement Division’s Complex Financial Instruments Unit and led by John Smith in the Denver office, Robert Leidenheimer and Lawrence Renbaum in the Washington D.C. office, and Joshua Brodsky in the New York office with assistance from Daniel Nigro and Judy Bizu.  The litigation against Duka will be led by Stephen McKenna of the Denver office.  The cases were supervised by Laura Metcalfe, Reid Muoio, and Mr. Osnato.  The Enforcement Division worked closely with the SEC’s Office of Credit Ratings in these matters, particularly Thomas Butler, Michele Wilham, Natasha Kaden, Julia Kiel, Kenneth Godwin, and David Nicolardi.

The SEC appreciates the assistance of the New York Attorney General’s office and the Massachusetts Attorney General’

NASA | 2014 Warmest Year On Record



01/20/2015 05:59 PM EST
U.S. Condemns Violence in Niger
Press Statement
Jen Psaki
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
January 20, 2015

The United States strongly condemns the violence that occurred in Niger on January 16 and 17 during protests against the depiction of the Prophet Mohamed in the French journal Charlie Hebdo, which resulted in the deaths of at least 10 people and the destruction of residences, businesses and other property, including places of worship. We express our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the victims of the violence.

The U.S. Government respects all faiths. In a democratic society, freedom of expression includes allowing expression that one disagrees with and protecting the right of all persons to hold different views. This freedom does not imply acceptance of content, nor is there any justification for the wanton killing of innocents and destruction of property.

We commend the efforts of government officials, religious and traditional leaders, and civil society to end the violence and encourage calm in the affected communities. The United States remains firmly committed to our partnership with Niger to expand prosperity and counter regional threats to peace and security.


For Immediate Release
January 17, 2015 Kevin Neal, Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal
District of Massachusetts 
Jimell Griffin, Senior Inspector 
Domestic Investigations
USMS Office of Public Affairs 
U.S. Marshals 15 Most Wanted Fugitive Arrested in Dominican Republic 
Fugitive allegedly killed military veteran; fled the country
 Peter Castillo (Captured)

Washington – After only three months on the U.S. Marshals 15 Most Wanted fugitive list, suspected murderer Peter Castillo is now in custody after he was arrested Thursday, Jan. 15, in the Dominican Republic.

Castillo, 26, was wanted for allegedly shooting and killing 22-year-old military veteran Stephen Perez on May 10, 2012, following an altercation that occurred in the Boston Theater District. The Boston Police Department immediately identified Castillo as the shooter, and a warrant was issued charging him with homicide. Shortly after the incident, Castillo allegedly fled to New York then to the Dominican Republic where he had extensive ties.

“The arrest of Peter Castillo is a testament to how effective and valuable our relationships are with our international and domestic law enforcement partners,” said U.S. Marshals Service Director Stacia Hylton.

“Because of these strong partnerships and the global network they provide, Castillo’s attempt to flee and disappear in another country after murdering a member of our military proved unsuccessful. We will never rest in seeking those who murder or assault our public servants,” said Hylton.

The manhunt for Castillo gained momentum when U.S. Marshals developed significant information leading them to believe he was at a residence in the city of Santo Domingo. Marshals forwarded the information to the country’s Direccion Nacional Control de Drogas Fugitive Task Force whose members responded to the location. Upon arrival, authorities discovered Castillo, with the help of local neighbors, fled the residence and hid in the neighborhood. After a brief search, authorities located and arrested him at approximately 6:15 p.m.

On Saturday, U.S. Marshals escorted Castillo back to the U.S. He is currently being held in a U.S. jail awaiting transfer to Massachusetts.

“Today, I want to commend the deputies of the U.S. Marshals Service and the officers of the Boston Police Department for their steadfast commitment to Castillo’s apprehension in the Dominican Republic” said John Gibbons, U.S. Marshal for the District of Massachusetts.

“I would also like to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of the United States Attorney’s Office, which assisted in securing the arrest warrant, and charging Castillo with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution; the Dominican Direccion Nacional Control de Drogas (DNCD) Fugitive Task Force for their assistance in the apprehension; and Interpol Washington for issuing the red notice that helped facilitate the arrest."

“Countless hours of collaborative investigative work by the agencies involved and sheer determination have finally brought Castillo to justice,” said Gibbons. “I hope his arrest brings some comfort to the family of Stephen Perez.”

"I want to commend the U.S. Marshals, our law enforcement partners in the Dominican Republic, as well as, the members of the Boston Police Homicide and Fugitive Apprehension Units for the shared efforts and team first approach that lead to the arrest of Peter Castillo,” said Boston Police Commissioner William Evans.

“Castillo’s capture should send a strong, clear message to anyone who cruelly and callously takes the life of another in our city that although you can certainly run and attempt to hide, BPD investigators, working hand-in-hand with our federal partners, will ultimately run you down, find you and bring you to justice."

“Stephen Perez was a young man who certainly deserved better. What began as a night out with friends in Boston’s Theater District on April 28, 2012 ended in an unthinkable tragedy and the loss of a young man who had proudly served his country as U.S. Army sniper in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Undoubtedly, Stephen Perez deserved more including a long life well beyond his 22 years. Today, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Perez family and it is our sincere hope that the news of today’s arrest will provide for them some small measure of comfort and relief," Evans said.

“This defendant’s capture and return to U.S. soil is a major step toward justice for Stephen Perez,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.”

“It’s a moment his family, his friends, and his fellow veterans have awaited for too long. We expect to arraign him on a first-degree murder indictment at the earliest opportunity.”


Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Two Yemeni Nationals Charged with Conspiring to Murder United States Nationals Abroad and Providing Material Support to Al-Qaeda
Defendants Allegedly Conspired to Carry Out Armed Attacks Against United States Military Personnel and Facilitated the Entry of an American Citizen into Al-Qaeda

A complaint and arrest warrant were unsealed today in federal court in the Eastern District of New York charging Saddiq Al-Abbadi, also known as “Sufiyan al-Yemeni” and “Sufwan,” and Ali Alvi, also known as “Issa al-Yemeni,” with conspiracy to murder United States nationals abroad and providing material support to al-Qaeda.  Alvi’s initial appearance was held before United States Magistrate Judge Steven I. Locke on Jan. 18, 2015, and Al-Abbadi’s initial appearance is scheduled today before United States Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom.  Al-Abbadi and Alvi were arrested in Saudi Arabia pursuant to the pending warrants in this case and lawfully expelled to the United States.

The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; John P. Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; and Andrew G. McCabe, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington Field Office.

As alleged in the complaint, Al-Abbadi and Alvi are both members of al-Qaeda who engaged in attacks against United States military forces stationed in Afghanistan.  Between 2003 and 2007, Al-Abbadi also fought against United States military forces in Iraq.  In approximately March 2008, Al-Abbadi and Alvi traveled to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan for the purpose of training with and fighting for al-Qaeda.  During that time period, both defendants helped an American citizen gain entry into al-Qaeda so that he could fight against U.S. troops in Afghanistan and U.S. citizens in the homeland.

In approximately late spring and summer 2008, Al-Abbadi and Alvi traveled from Pakistan to Afghanistan to conduct attacks against United States military personnel stationed there.   Al-Abbadi led a battle against U.S. forces in Paktya Province in May 2008 during which one U.S. Army Ranger was killed and several others were seriously wounded.

“There is no escape from the reach of our law for violent terrorists, especially if they target our military,” stated United States Attorney Lynch.  “Al-Abbadi and Alvi may have operated in the mountains of Afghanistan, but now they face justice in a courtroom in Brooklyn.”  Ms. Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to the FBI.

“With the charges announced today, these defendants will face justice for conspiring to kill Americans overseas and providing material support to al-Qaeda,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin.  “Seeking to identify, thwart, and hold accountable those who target U.S. citizens and interests around the world will remain a top priority of the National Security Division.  I want to thank the many agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for this matter.”

“The arrest and prosecution of these two individuals, who allegedly directly supported the mission of a designated terrorist organization, is a major step in the international cooperation to combat terrorism,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge McCabe.  “On a daily basis, the FBI is faced with a complex threat environment that is always evolving and changing.  Through international partnerships, the FBI will continue to pursue those who provide support to terrorist groups and ensure that they are brought to justice.”­­  

If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.  The charges in the complaint are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Zainab Ahmad, Michael P. Canty and Douglas M. Pravda, with assistance provided by Trial attorney Josh Parecki of the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section and by the Office of International Affairs.


Makers of Jungle Rangers Computer Game for Kids Settle FTC Charges that They Deceived Consumers with Baseless “Brain Training” Claims

A Texas company and its officers must stop making unsubstantiated claims that their computer game, Jungle Rangers, permanently improves children’s focus, memory, attention, behavior, and school performance, including for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), under a Federal Trade Commission settlement.

“This case is the most recent example of the FTC’s efforts to ensure that advertisements for cognitive products, especially those marketed for children, are true and supported by evidence,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection.  “Many parents are interested in products that can improve their children’s focus, behavior, and grades, but companies must back up their brain training claims with reliable science.”

The FTC’s administrative complaint states that Focus Education,its chief executive officer, Michael Apstein, and its chief financial officer, John Able, have marketed and sold the ifocus System, including the Jungle Rangers computer game, via television infomercials and the company’s websites for $214.75 plus tax, generating sales of approximately $4.5 million between 2012 and the middle of 2013.

The advertisements claimed that Jungle Rangers had “scientifically proven memory and attention brain training exercises, designed to improve focus, concentration and memory”  and  touted the software as giving children “the ability to focus, complete school work, homework, and to stay on task.” Focus Education’s website implied that these benefits would be permanent.

The infomercial featured children stating that because of Jungle Rangers they could “pay attention to [their] teacher a lot more,” and got “better grades,” and “a lot more 100 percents,” according to the complaint.  Parents, teachers, and a child psychiatrist also appeared, stating that Jungle Rangers had improved children’s school performance and behavior.

The FTC has charged that Focus Education and its officers violated the FTC Act by making false or unsubstantiated claims that the ifocus System permanently improves children’s focus, memory, attention, behavior, and/or school performance, including in children with ADHD.  The company also allegedly falsely claimed that these benefits were scientifically proven.

The proposed consent order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits Focus Education and its principals from making the claims alleged in the complaint about the ifocus System (or any substantially similar product), unless the claims are non-misleading and are supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.

The proposed order further prohibits the company and its principals from making unsubstantiated claims about the benefits, performance, or efficacy of products or services that supposedly alter the brain’s structure or function, improve cognitive abilities, behavior, or academic performance, or treat or reduce the symptoms of cognitive disorders, including ADHD.

Finally, the proposed order bars the company and its principals from misrepresenting the results of any test, study, or research; or misrepresenting that the benefits of a cognitive improvement product are scientifically proven.

Further details of the settlement can be found in the analysis to aid public comment for this matter.

The Commission vote to accept the proposed consent order for public comment was 5-0.  The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly.  The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through February 20, 2015, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final.  Interested parties can submit comments electronically by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section.

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


Remarks at the Journalists Security Conference
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 20, 2015

Well, thank you very much, Tom. Thanks for your outstanding service, your leadership, and your passion about this and all issues about human rights. And as Secretary of State, I will tell everybody it’s an enormous advantage to have an adviser who is so knowledgeable and so widely respected, so much so that the very name Malinowski has become synonymous, virtual synonym for leadership on the issue of human rights. It is my fervent wish that the world didn't give my assistant secretary of state so much to do.

This morning I also want to say thank you to another assistant secretary and his team for conceiving and organizing this conference. Now, I’ve known Doug Frantz for a long time. He worked with me in the United States Senate. He’s been in and out of journalism, but journalism is his passion, as well as public policy. And he’s really equally passionate with Tom about this issue of safety for journalists. And the reason is he was a great reporter himself and later had the experience of sending people on his staff into dangerous places, into war zones, to cover and shed light on the nature of the conflict to the rest of the world. And everybody here knows how much we value that. The open free flow of information is at the core of our democracy, at the core of our sense of rectitude about the relationship between people and the world around them.

And Doug is also somebody who tragically has lost close friends and colleagues who were killed simply for doing their jobs. Journalism is in his blood and he cares deeply about those who practice it and about the principles that should protect everybody’s freedom and safety as they go out simply to tell the story. So I thank him for bringing us together, and I thank the expert panelists – including my friends David Rhode and Sebastian Junger – from whom you are going to hear directly shortly. And I thank all of you for taking time out of your schedules, particularly those of you who have traveled some distance to be able to be here.

We all know that journalism can be dangerous. There’s no way to eliminate the risk completely, except by keeping silent, and that’s what we call surrender. So that’s not in the cards. The world obviously needs to be informed about what is happening. Silence gives power to dictators, to the abusers, to tyrants. It allows tyranny to flourish, not freedom. And so what is happening in high-threat locations such as Syria, Iraq, Somalia, or Central African Republic, Libya, Pakistan – all of these are places where they don’t want people to tell the story or they distort it. We need people who are going to shed light also on subtler forms of coercion that rot a society from within – corruption, crime. Exposing them can be dangerous, difficult, but equally critical to the capacity to have accountability and to respect the rights of people.

Today’s conference gives us a chance to look in a cooperative way at: How do we better protect journalists and other media workers who provide these windows on reality? And our particular focus is on local reporters and freelancers who lack the broad access to training and also lack, frankly, support from the largest news organizations that have a little more clout and a little more power and ability to be able to protect their people.

Why does this issue matter? Well, there are a bunch of reasons, but let me begin pretty starkly with a few: al-Moataz Bellah Ibrahim, Deniz Firat, James Foley, Gregorio Jimenez de la Cruz, Camille Lepage, Ali Mustafa, Andrea Rocchelli, Luke Somers, Steven Sotloff, and Bernard Verlhac. I could go on. Unfortunately, a bunch more were added the other day in Paris. These are much more than just names of people, folks. Each one of those names reflects a life that was prematurely cut off, and it was ended by violence – that’s just 2014, some of those names I read you; in the case of Monsieur Verlhac, earlier this month. And each reflects the death of a storyteller who had more stories to tell. Each is a personal tragedy. Each is a call to action. Each is a reminder that freedom of the press is not free but it is, in fact, very costly.

By now, we’re all familiar with the statistics. Nine media workers were among the dead in Paris. In 2014, at least 60 journalists were killed; 73 the year before that. And many others wounded, harassed, detained, or threatened. These are record numbers, getting worse, not better. And a sad litany is that it really reflects the collective failure on the part of the world community to end some of these conflicts and to preserve peace. There’s nothing I’d like more as Secretary of State than to see war correspondents left with no stories to cover; but until that distant day arrives, it’s going to remain the trademark of top international journalists that they rush to enter places that other folks are desperate to escape. It’s also true that the vast majority of the victims we mourn each year are local reporters covering local issues. And when the security environment heats up, these journalists can’t buy a plane ticket and go home. They are home. If they write or take pictures for a living, that’s the job that many of them are going to continue to do, and for that we ought to be grateful. But these journalists are also in danger, and the question today is: What more can we realistically do to help?

Decades ago, when I was preparing to go to Vietnam, I received training from the most professional military in the world. Yet I still found that a lot of what I saw and engaged in was jarring and unexpected – a certain level of lack of preparation despite the preparation, each day filled with unpleasant surprises. And even though reporters aren't sent anywhere to fight, they’re expected to do a job. And the more preparation that they have, frankly, the better the chances are for them to avoid danger. Measure that against the training that most reporters get today. What kind – what are we talking about here?

Well, you’re the experts. But if I were about to drop into an uncertain environment in order to try to cover the story, I’d sure as heck want to know as much as I could about how to protect myself, about what to expect, about what kind of equipment and supplies I should carry, about how to do first aid on myself or my colleagues, about how to develop educational and situational awareness, to identify warning signs about how to make sure that my communications are secure. I’d also want to know what not to do, what not to say, what not to have in my possession in case I were stopped or searched or abducted. And perhaps most of all, I’d want to have some help in preparing psychologically in knowing what to expect and in thinking about how to deal with the intense stress, with harsh questioning, with deprivation, and other forms of adversity. And I would feel a lot better if there were people I could call when the trouble arose or some signal or mechanism that existed to know my last location or where I was going, or all of those kinds of things that not everybody thinks about.

It’s good to know that you've prepared for the possibility that people have your back. As a rule, it’s not the responsibility, obviously, of government to step in and provide this kind of training. In fact, journalists ought to be as independent from the public sector as possible, and sometimes, that lack of independence confuses people, and those are some of the telling pre-indicators of a potential of trouble. But there are places where government can help. We do believe that.

Two years ago, the State Department launched what we call the SAFE Initiative, a pilot project to help local media workers in difficult regions. It now has five centers in various parts of the globe, and it’s focused on digital and physical security, psycho-social care, information sharing, and the establishment of regional security advisory networks. And thus far, it has reached some 300 working journalists. In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development and State Department have programs that support independent media in more than 30 countries, including an internet freedom program that provides outlets with long-term mentoring, tools, training, and techniques to help reporters keep themselves and keep their data safe.

More generally, under President Obama, we have made support for press freedom one of the recurring themes of United States foreign policy. Each day, American diplomats make known our backing in one place or another directly to government, directly to the public, but firmly, in all cases, our backing for the right of people to speak, publish, broadcast, blog, tweet, and otherwise express themselves openly and without fear and without retribution. And when journalists are unfairly detained, we always raise this issue in our meetings with foreign officials at every level, and that is true whether the journalist is an American such as Jason Rezaian, who is being held in Iran, or from some other country where the rights of journalists are violated all too often.

And this is particularly important now because the world environment has obviously changed and changed significantly. It used to be that the primary threat to journalists was just being in the wrong place at the wrong time – you step on a landmine or you get in the way of a border or a fire or whatever happens. And we’ve lost people that way, obviously, in past wars. In the past, it was extremely rare for a member of the press to be intentionally targeted, stalked, followed. But in our era, roughly two-thirds of the reporters who die violently are killed because of, not despite, their profession. They are attacked for what they have written, silenced for what they have witnessed, or kidnapped for the leverage their capture may provide. And in most cases, the perpetrators are not caught.

The truth is that freedom of the press, whether symbolized by a pencil, a pen, a camera, or a microphone is under siege, purposefully. And that is because some people, some groups, and even some governments want to dictate the truth, want to define it, want to hide what we would know to be the truth. And obviously, we cannot and we will not let that happen, especially after the outrage in Paris on January 7th, we need to make certain that we are taking all the steps in our power to reiterate our commitment to the values that bring all of you here today.

So this morning there’s a band of brothers and sisters who are here today, and I have great confidence because of you in coming here today and in my knowledge of the people and mission you are on. I know you’re not going to give up and I have great confidence in the future of press freedom and the commitment of journalists of every description to go out and find the truth and report on it no matter where they are and what the resistance and no matter how stark the danger, no matter how many efforts are made to shut you down. And we will stand with you every step of the way in all the ways that we have at our disposal.

So I ask you to sort of have at it this morning. You’re going to hear from some experts, from some folks who've been through some pretty grueling experiences, and you’re going to have a chance to really dig into this and I urge you to do so. I’d like to just ask, just to get a sense of this, I’d ask all the journalists and other media workers who are here if you have ever been attacked or kidnapped or seriously threatened in the course of doing your jobs, I’d just like for you to stand, just so we get a sense of how many you here have been through that experience. Come on. You guys who were – how many people here who have been in that experience.

We’ll that’s pretty significant. That’s amazing, as a matter of fact. An enormous number. Thank you for standing, and please, I want you to stay, be part of this discussion. Please share with everybody what you've been through, what you learned from it, what you think could be done, and I really look forward to Doug and Tom reporting to all of us here in the Department what our road-map is going forward so that we can help to do our part to try to make you a little bit safer.

I thank you very, very much for being here and I think because of you perhaps we have a chance to make future generations of journalists a little safer, a little more secure. And I can guarantee you in doing so we all contribute to the possibilities of the truth winning out and of democracy getting stronger, and I thank you for that. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Tuesday, January 20, 2015
New York Man Indicted For Attempting to Acquire Deadly Toxin, Ricin

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York and Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos of the FBI’s New York Office, announced today that a federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment against Cheng Le for attempting to acquire and distribute ricin and committing postal fraud.  Le was arrested on Dec. 23, 2014, by the FBI in Manhattan.  He was presented on a Complaint before the U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV on Dec. 24, 2014, and has been detained since his arrest.  He is expected to be arraigned on Friday, January 23, 2015, before the United States District Judge Alison J. Nathan.

“As alleged, Cheng Le attempted to acquire ricin, a potentially lethal toxin, through the Dark Web so that it could be used for deadly purposes,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara.  “Thankfully, with the help of our law enforcement partners he was intercepted and must now answer for his alleged crimes.”

“In the shadows of the Dark Web, criminals hide behind a veil of anonymity, sniffing out hidden opportunities to buy and sell illegal and potentially dangerous merchandise,” said Assistant Director-in-Charge Venizelos.  “As alleged, in this case, activity carried out in the marketplace served as a conduit for Le to obtain ricin. In his desire to acquire this potentially deadly toxin, he picked his own poison and now faces the consequences of the justice system.”

According to the Complaint, which was unsealed today in Manhattan federal court, and the indictment:

Ricin is a highly potent and potentially fatal toxin with no known antidote.  In December 2014, an individual (the Ricin Buyer) contacted an FBI online covert employee (the OCE) on an online forum.  During Dec. 2014, the Ricin Buyer exchanged a series of messages with the OCE, during which the Ricin Buyer explored the possibility of the OCE supplying the Ricin Buyer with ricin, for the Ricin Buyer to resell to at least one secondary buyer.

On or about Dec. 18, 2014, the Ricin Buyer directed the OCE to send a quantity of ricin to a particular postal box in Manhattan (the Postal Box).  The FBI later determined that the Postal Box belonged to Cheng Le.  Later that same day, FBI agents observed Le wear latex gloves while retrieving a package from the Postal Box (the Package) and mailing it at a nearby post office (the Post Office).  Law enforcement officers examined the Package, confirmed that it did not contain any hazardous materials, and determined that Le had listed a fake name as the Package’s return address.  A postal employee (the Postal Employee) informed the FBI that the Postal Employee had seen Le at the Post Office on multiple prior occasions and that Le has worn blue latex gloves on at least some of those occasions.

The FBI prepared a package (the Sham Shipment) that was consistent with the Ricin Buyer’s request to the OCE, which was then delivered to the Postal Box.  On Dec. 23, 2014, Le, wearing latex gloves, retrieved the Sham Shipment, opened it, and took the contents to his apartment, whereupon he was arrested by FBI agents.

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The indictment charges Le, 21, in two counts.  Count One charges Le with attempting to possess a biological toxin for use as a weapon, and carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.  Count Two charges Le with using a fictitious name in furtherance of unlawful business involving the mail, and carries a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.

Assistant Attorney General Carlin is grateful for the outstanding investigative efforts of the FBI, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).  Le’s arrest is the result of the close cooperative efforts of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force—which consists of law enforcement officers of the FBI, NYPD, USPIS and other agencies.

The case is being prosecuted by the office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ilan Graff and Andrew D. Beaty are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance provided by Trial Attorney Joseph Kaster of the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section.

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




U.S. paratroopers descend onto Juliet drop zone in Pordenone, Italy, Jan. 13, 2015. The paratroopers are assigned to the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade. The aircraft crew is assigned to U.S. Air Force 86th Air Wing. U.S. Army photo by Paolo Bovo.
U.S. paratroopers come in for a landing on Juliet drop zone in Pordenone, Italy, Jan. 13, 2015. U.S. Army photo by Paolo Bovo.