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Saturday, April 25, 2015

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: WEEKLY ADDRESS ON 04/25/2015

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: A Q&A WITH FIRST LADY ON TAKE-OUR-DAUGHTERS-AND-SONS-TO-WORK-DAY

SEC BRINGS CHARGES IN PONZI SCHEME INVOLVING FARM LOANS

 FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Litigation Release No. 23246 / April 24, 2015

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Veros Partners, Inc., et al., Civil Action No. 15-cv-000659-JMS-MJD (S.D.Ind., filed April 22, 2015)

SEC Halts Fraudulent Farm Loan Scheme by Indianapolis Investment Adviser

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced charges against an Indianapolis investment adviser, its president, two associates and several affiliated companies for engaging in two fraudulent farm loan offerings, in which they made ponzi scheme payments to investors in other offerings and paid themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars in undisclosed fees. The SEC obtained a temporary restraining order and emergency asset freeze to halt the scheme.

According to the SEC's complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, in 2013 and 2014, Veros Partners, Inc., its president, Matthew D. Haab, and two associates, attorney Jeffrey B. Risinger and Tobin J. Senefeld, fraudulently raised at least $15 million from at least 80 investors, most of whom were Veros advisory clients. The investors were informed that their funds would be used to make short-term operating loans to farmers, but instead, significant portions of the loans were to cover the farmers' unpaid debt on loans from prior offerings. According to the SEC's complaint, Haab, Risinger and Senefeld used money from the two offerings to pay millions of dollars to investors in prior farm loan offerings and to pay themselves over $800,000 in undisclosed "success" and "interest rate spread" fees.

In addition to Veros, Haab, Risinger, and Senefeld, the SEC charged Veros Farm Loan Holding LLC and FarmGrowCap LLC, the issuers of the offerings, and PinCap LLC. The SEC also charged registered broker-dealer Pin Financial LLC as a relief defendant.

The Honorable Jane Magnus-Stinson of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana issued an asset freeze order against the defendants as well as a temporary restraining order prohibiting them from soliciting, accepting or depositing any monies from any actual or prospective investors, and in the case of Veros, any investors in private securities offerings. Judge Magnus-Stinson also ordered that a receiver be appointed. A preliminary injunction hearing has been scheduled for May 1, 2015.

The SEC's complaint charges the defendants with violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5, and also charges Veros and Haab with violating Sections 206(1), 206(2) of the Investment Advisers Act, and Veros with violating Section 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rule 206(4)-2. The SEC's complaint seeks permanent injunctions and disgorgement against all defendants and a financial penalty. The SEC's complaint names Pin Financial for the purposes of recovering proceeds it received from the fraud.

The SEC's investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted by Nicholas Eichenseer, Doressia Hutton, and Craig McShane and supervised by Kathryn Pyszka of the Chicago Regional Office. The litigation will be supervised by Robert Moye.

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: PRESIDENT DELIVERS REMARKS ON MIDDLE-CLASS ECONOMICS AND TRADE

U.S. SAYS IT IS "DISTURBED" BY SENTENCE BY AZERBAIJANI COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER INTIGAM ALIYEV

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Conviction of Azerbaijani Human Rights Lawyer Intigam Aliyev
Press Statement
Marie Harf
Acting Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
April 23, 2015

We are disturbed by the April 22 decision of an Azerbaijani court to sentence human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev to seven and a half years in prison, and a subsequent three-year ban from holding public office, on questionable charges.

One of the country’s most well-known human rights lawyers and head of the Legal Education Society, Aliyev worked extensively to promote the rule of law in Azerbaijan and defend peaceful activists. He submitted hundreds of cases to the European Court of Human Rights, winning a number of them.

We urge the Government of Azerbaijan to release Aliyev and others incarcerated in connection with exercising their fundamental freedoms. We also urge the government to afford all Azerbaijani citizens the rights guaranteed in the international agreements to which Azerbaijan has committed.

FTC, TECH COMPANY SETTLE CHARGES RELATED TO MISLEADING CONSUMERS OVER OPT "OUT CHOICES"

FROM:  U.S. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
Retail Tracking Firm Settles FTC Charges it Misled Consumers About Opt Out Choices
Company Falsely Promised an In-Store Opt Out, Agency Alleges

Nomi Technologies, a company whose technology allows retailers to track consumers’ movements through their stores, has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it misled consumers with promises that it would provide an in-store mechanism for consumers to opt out of tracking and that consumers would be informed when locations were using Nomi’s tracking services.

The FTC’s complaint against Nomi states that beginning in late 2012, the company’s privacy policy promised that Nomi would provide an opt-out mechanism at stores using its services.  This promise implied that consumers would be informed when stores were using Nomi’s tracking technology. The complaint alleges that these promises were not true because no in-store opt-out mechanism was available, and consumers were not informed when the tracking was taking place.

The complaint alleges that Nomi collected information on about nine million mobile devices within the first nine months of 2013. The complaint is the FTC’s first against a retail tracking company.

“It’s vital that companies keep their privacy promises to consumers when working with emerging technologies, just as it is in any other context,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “If you tell a consumer that they will have choices about their privacy, you should make sure all of those choices are actually available to them.”

Nomi, according to the complaint, places sensors in its clients’ stores that collect the MAC addresses of consumers’ mobile devices as the devices search for WiFi networks.  MAC addresses are unique 12-digit identifiers that are assigned to individual mobile devices. Although Nomi “hashes” the MAC addresses prior to storing them, the hashing process still results in an identifier that is unique to a consumer’s mobile device and can be tracked over time.

The complaint alleges that Nomi tracked consumers both inside and outside their clients’ stores, tracking the MAC address, device type, date and time the device was observed, and signal strength of consumers’ devices. In reports to clients, Nomi provided aggregated information on how many consumers passed by the store instead of entering, how long consumers stayed in the store, the types of devices used by consumers, how many repeat customers enter a store in a given period and how many customers had visited another location in a particular chain of stores.

The company’s privacy policy said that it “pledged to… always allow consumers to opt out of Nomi’s service on its website, as well as at any retailer using Nomi’s technology.” While the company did provide an opt-out on its website, the complaint alleges that no such option was available at retailers using the service, and that consumers were not informed of the tracking taking place in the stores at all.

Under the terms of the settlement with the FTC, Nomi will be prohibited from misrepresenting consumers’ options for controlling whether information is collected, used, disclosed or shared about them or their computers or other devices, as well as the extent to which consumers will be notified about information practices.

U.S.-LATVIAN DEFENSE OFFICIALS MEET TO DISCUSS PRIORITIES

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
Deputy Secretary, Latvian Defense Minister Discuss Priorities
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2015 – During a 30-minute meeting at the Pentagon today, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work and Latvian Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis talked about defense priorities and ongoing measures demonstrating U.S. and allied commitment to the Baltic region, Defense Department officials reported.

In a statement summarizing the meeting, officials said Work and Vejonis discussed the importance of clear NATO unity against Russian aggression, continued presence of U.S. forces in the region, and ways to work together to better support NATO deterrence measures.

“Work applauded the steps taken by Latvia to increase readiness and procure new systems that address vulnerabilities and increase capability,” the statement said. Work also lauded Vejonis's commitment to raise Latvia’s defense spending to 2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and to increase manning in the Latvian armed forces by 2,000 personnel by 2018, officials added.
Continued Leadership, Record of Commitment

The deputy secretary also thanked the minister for his continued leadership and Latvia's record of commitment in operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Balkans, the statement said.

Work stressed that the United States will continue to work with the Baltic States to support regional cooperation, interoperability with allies, and long-term defense modernization, officials said.

In addition to meetings in Washington, Vejonis visited Fort Stewart, Georgia, to meet with leadership of the 3rd Infantry Division, which has a company of soldiers deployed to Latvia under Operation Atlantic Resolve.

This was Work's first meeting with the defense minister, officials said.

COURT BARS COMPANY FROM BULLYING ELDERLY TO PAY FOR MEDICAL ALERT DEVICES

FROM:  U.S. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION

Court Bars Brooklyn Company from Using Threats and Intimidation to Coerce Elderly Consumers into Paying for Unwanted Medical Alert Devices
Court Orders Defendants to Pay $3.4 Million in “Unjust Gains”

At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a U.S. district court has prohibited Jason Abraham, a repeat offender, and his company, Brooklyn-based Instant Response Systems (IRS) from calling elderly consumers and bullying and tricking them into paying for unordered medical alert devices. The court also imposed a $3.4 million judgment against the defendants for their misconduct, which may be used to provide refunds to defrauded consumers.

“Instant Response Systems lied to older people to get them to pay for medical alert systems they didn’t order and didn’t want,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Their high-pressure, deceptive phone pitches were illegal, and they violated the do not call rules to boot.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, filed in March 2013, telemarketers for IRS called elderly consumers – many of whom are in poor health and rely on others for help with their finances – and pressured them into buying a medical alert service consisting of a pendant that supposedly would allow them to get help during emergencies. In many cases, IRS falsely claimed during sales calls that consumers had bought the service previously and owed the company hundreds of dollars.

The company shipped fake invoices and unordered medical alert pendants to consumers without their consent, repeatedly threatened them with legal action to coerce them into paying, and subjected them to repeated verbal abuse. The FTC also charged the defendants with illegally calling consumers whose phone numbers are on the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry.

The court order issued with the summary judgment announced today imposes both conduct and monetary provisions against Abraham. First, it bars him from violating the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule by making any false and misleading statements to induce consumers to make payments, using threats or intimidation to coerce payment, and from calling consumers whose phone numbers are on the DNC Registry. It also bars him from violating the FTC’s Unordered Merchandise Statute. Finally, the court ordered Abraham to pay a judgment of $3,432,462, the amount of the “unjust gains” he received through the scheme.

In its ruling, the court stated, “There is no genuine dispute that [the] defendants, in letters and phone calls, made material misrepresentations that consumers ordered medical alert services and owed IRS money when, in fact, they did not.” The court also found that Abraham “knowingly made misrepresentations to hundreds of consumers over a five-year period, all while subject to a permanent injunction issued in 2003 . . . which prohibited him from such conduct.”

The summary judgment resolves the FTC’s charges against Jason Abraham. Last year, the court entered a default judgment against Abraham’s company, Instant Response Systems, LLC that resolved the FTC’s charges against the company and orders injunctive and monetary relief similar to the summary judgment order against Abraham.

The FTC appreciates the assistance of the New York State Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, in this case.

Friday, April 24, 2015

U.S. CONGRATULATES PEOPLE OF TANZANIA ON TANZANIA'S UNION DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
On the Occasion of the United Republic of Tanzania's Union Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 24, 2015

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Tanzania as you celebrate the 51st anniversary of the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

Deep bonds of friendship unite the people of the United States and the people of Tanzania. The first class of Peace Corps volunteers traveled to your country to build roads connecting your cities. And soon after, President John F. Kennedy and Prime Minister Julius Nyerere shook hands in Washington, where both men reaffirmed our commitment to equality and opportunity for all our citizens.

Today, Tanzania is a model in the region of good governance, democratic ideals, and individual freedoms. We remain committed to working with you to build on your achievements in health care, access to electricity, gender equality, and in safeguarding Tanzania’s rich natural heritage for generations to come.

As Tanzanians celebrate Union Day at home and abroad, I wish you peace and prosperity in the year ahead.

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: 4/23/15: WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFING

DOD SECRETARY CARTER'S SEARCH FOR TECH PARTNERS

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

 Right:  Defense Secretary Ash Carter holds up a copy of his doctoral thesis as he delivers a lecture titled "Rewiring the Pentagon: Charting a New Path on Innovation and Cybersecurity," at Stanford University in Stanford, California, April 23, 2015. The lecture highlighted the Pentagon's new cyber strategy and innovation initiatives. 

Carter Seeks Tech-sector Partnerships for Innovation
By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2015 – Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced new partnership initiatives today on the first day of a two-day visit to California’s Silicon Valley to learn from experts who run some of the highest-tech companies in one of the nation’s innovation hotspots.

At Stanford University, where he recently served as a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution and a lecturer at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Carter delivered the annual Drell Lecture, titled “Rewiring the Pentagon: Charting a New Path on Innovation and Cybersecurity.”

The lecture, sponsored by the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation, is named for Dr. Sidney Drell, a theoretical physicist and arms-control expert who cofounded the center.

When Carter became defense secretary, he told the audience, one of his top commitments was to the future -- to stay ahead of a changing world, to remain competitive, to attract new generations to the mission of serving the country, and to stay abreast of technology.

Commercially Driven Technology

To begin leveraging commercially driven technology, he said, the Defense Department wants “to partner with businesses on everything from autonomy to robotics to biomedical engineering and 3-D printing; power, energy, propulsion to distributed systems, data science [and] the Internet of things.”

Over the years, Carter said, products developed in Silicon Valley and across the tech community have enabled transformation, progress, opportunity and prosperity across all economic and social sectors, including national defense.

“It’s made many things easier, cheaper and safer,” he added.

“But in recent years it’s become clear that these same advances and technologies also present a degree of risk to the businesses, governments, militaries and individual[s] who rely on them every day … making it easier, cheaper and safer to threaten them,” the secretary said.

The same technologies DoD uses to target cruise missiles and jam enemy air defenses can be used against U.S. and allied forces, and they’re available to the highest bidders, he noted, asking, “How do we mitigate the risk that comes with technology while simultaneously unleashing its promise and potential?”

The answer, he said, is partnership.

Investments by DoD and government agencies have historically played a role in helping to spur ground-up technological innovation in Silicon Valley and on the Stanford campus, Carter said. Vint Cerf, father of the Internet, did that work and more while he was a Stanford assistant professor and a researcher at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the secretary said.

DoD-funded Innovation

The Global Positioning System began as a defense-driven project, work on Google’s search algorithm was funded by a National Science Foundation grant, and most technologies used throughout Silicon Valley can be traced back to government or DoD research and expenditures, Carter said. “Developers of multitouch [interaction] worked together through a fellowship funded by the National Science Foundation and the CIA,” he added.

“iOS’s Siri grew out of … decades of DARPA-driven research on artificial intelligence and voice recognition, [and] a specific DARPA project funded through [SRI International, formerly the Stanford Research Institute] to help develop a virtual assistant for military personnel,” the secretary said. “And Google’s self-driving cars grew out of a DARPA Grand Challenge.”

DoD, other federal agencies and tech companies helped to ignite the spark, Carter said, but Silicon Valley companies nurtured the flame and created unimaginable applications.

But the Defense Department still makes up half of federal research and development -- about $72 billion this year, he said. And $12 billion in R&D funds support breakthrough science and technology research at universities, companies and DoD labs across the tech community.

For example, he said, several Stanford scientists have worked with DARPA, and over the past three years, DARPA has partnered with nearly 50 different public- and private-sector research entities in Silicon Valley.

“These relationships are really valuable to us,” Carter added, “and I intend to continue to nurture them.”

Disaster-response Robots

In June, the results of such partnerships will come together during the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals in Pomona, California.

At the competition, work on smaller sensors, pattern-recognition technology, big-data analysis and autonomous systems with human decision support will fuel a competition of 25 robots from around the world. Each human-robot team will try to navigate a simulated disaster area so that during future disasters such technology may be ready to help without putting people at risk.

But to stay competitive and stay ahead of threats, DoD must do even more, Carter said, “and that starts with our people, who are our most important asset both in Silicon Valley and in the military.”

Who they are and where they are affects the department’s ability to innovate, the secretary said, and that’s the rationale behind some initial steps he’s taking starting today to help the department attract new people with talent and expertise “and who want to contribute to the Force of the Future, even if only for a time or a project.”

In one such effort, the department is establishing a DoD branch of the U.S. Digital Service, an outgrowth of the tech team that helped to rescue healthcare.gov, the secretary said.

The team will help to solve some of DoD’s most intractable IT and data problems, Carter said, noting that “we have our very first team … already in the Pentagon working on transferring electronic health records from DoD to the [Department of Veterans Affairs].”

U.S. Digital Service

Another initiative Carter announced today takes advantage of the elements that make Silicon Valley “a nexus for innovation” -- an experimental Silicon Valley partnership called the Defense Innovation Unit-X, or DIUX. The unit will scout emerging and breakthrough technologies and build direct relationships to DoD.

This is “first-of-a-kind [partnership] for us, staffed by some of our best active-duty and military personnel, plus key people from the reserves who live here, who are some our best technical talent,” Carter said.

Building New Relationships

The team will strengthen existing relationships and build new ones while functioning as a local interface node for the rest of the department, the secretary said. Down the road, he added, “they can help startups find new work to do with DoD.”

Next, Carter said, the department will open a door in the other direction, from our best government technologies to industry and then back.

An existing program called Secretary of Defense Corporate Fellows sends about 15 DoD people a year out to commercial companies such as Oracle, Cisco, FedEx and others, he said.

“Right now we don’t effectively harness what they’ve learned when they come back, … so we’re going to try expanding that fellows program into a two-year gig -– one year in a company and one year in a part of DoD with comparable business practices,” the secretary said. “That way, we have a better chance to bring the private sector’s best practices back into the department.”

To invest in the most promising emerging technologies, Carter said, the department needs the creativity and innovation that comes from startups and small businesses.

“This is particularly important, because startups are the leading edge of commercial innovation,” he said, “and right now, DoD researchers don’t have enough promising ways to transition technologies that they come up with to application. I want to fix that too.”

Borrowing on the success of an intelligence community partnership with the independent nonprofit startup-backer In-Q-Tel, Carter said the department has proposed and In-Q-Tel has accepted a pilot project to provide innovative solutions to DoD’s most challenging problems.

The department will make a small investment with In-Q-Tel to leverage the nonprofit’s proven relationships and apply its approach to DoD, he added.

The Best Partners

“As secretary of defense, my mission is to make sure our military can defend our country … and we’re at our best when we have the best partners,” Carter said. “Knowing how we’ve worked together in the past and how critical your work is to our country, strengthening this partnership is very important to me.

“We have a unique opportunity to build bridges and rebuild bridges [in the commercial tech sector] and renew trust,” he continued. “That’s why I’m visiting some other companies here this afternoon and meeting with a group of tech leaders tomorrow. I want to learn how in the years to come a new level of partnership can lead to great things. That’s what’s possible through partnership.”

SPECIAL OPS WEAKENING TERRORISTS SAYS ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENCE LUMPKIN

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Right:  Michael D. Lumpkin, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, addresses the Defense Department's policy and programs to counter threats to the nation from terrorism and irregular warfare during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities, April 21, 2015. DoD screen shot.
 
Special Ops Forces Weakening Terrorist Groups, DoD Official Says
By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2015 – U.S. special operations forces are successfully taking direct action against multiple global terrorist organizations while building U.S. partner capacity, a top Defense Department official told a Senate panel today.

Michael D. Lumpkin, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, addressed DoD’s policy and programs to counter threats to the nation from terrorism and irregular warfare during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities.
Special operations forces provide “a small but vital component of our comprehensive approach to counterterrorism,” Lumpkin said, taking steps to understand and address multiple global threats including terrorist networks, a flow of foreign fighters, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and activities undertaken or sponsored by other states.

Deployed around the world, special operations forces work closely with U.S. allies and partners to leverage the nation’s respective strengths and capabilities against common threats, he added.

AUMF Critical to Special Forces

The nation’s special operations forces are a “unique asset,” Lumpkin said, an asset that can be effective only when DoD has authority to employ them properly through Authorized Use of Military Force legislation.

“I fully support our president’s AUMF to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” the assistant secretary said, adding that the authorization would “provide appropriate flexibility to confront ISIL’s affiliates where conditions merit.”

The president’s proposed legislation also would signal to U.S. allies and enemies that the United States is serious about addressing future permutations of this expanding threat.

“I urge you to favorably consider it,” Lumpkin told the panel.
By making thousands of strikes against ISIL leadership and its forces, special operations forces weakened the enemy’s ability to exert external territorial control and challenged the foundation of its propaganda, he said.

Special Forces Expanding its Reach

Yet while U.S. special operations forces work to destroy ISIL in Syria and Iraq, they also are expanding their reach into Africa and Southeast Asia, Lumpkin said.

“The recent killings of civilians in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen [and] Tunisia … highlight the expanding nature of the threat,” he pointed out. In West Africa, special operations forces are partnered with local and European allies to degrade the extremist Islamic group Boko Haram, which recently pledged allegiance to ISIL, Lumpkin said.

With what he described as a relatively modest investment of personnel and resources, he said, special operations forces and U.S. allies are exerting “significant pressure” on Boko Haram and its facilitation network.
Concern About Libya

“I’m deeply concerned that the lack of unity of government and the deteriorating situation in Libya has created a safe haven for militias and terrorist organizations,” Lumpkin said. “ISIL’s increased popularity and presence in Libya highlight the need to quickly achieve a lasting political solution.”

Across Africa, special operations forces are working with local and regional forces and European allies to degrade terrorist groups, Lumpkin noted. “These efforts have had significant disruptive effects on these organizations,” he said.
Special Ops Continue Work in Yemen

Lumpkin said he is troubled by the ongoing military aggression the Houthis are perpetuating in Yemen, and by the resulting unstable security conditions that are widespread in that country. But special operations forces will continue to contribute to the broader U.S. efforts to restore stability in Yemen, and degrade al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula,” he told the panel.

The U.S. special operations forces represent a relatively small slice of the U.S. government’s efforts against these threats, Lumpkin said. “However,” he added, “they are achieving meaningful and positive effects.”

CDC REPORTS ON TRAUMATIC INJURIES OF WORKERS AT HEALTH CARE FACILITIES

FROM:   CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION
Occupational Traumatic Injuries Among Workers in Health Care Facilities — United States, 2012–2014

Injury prevention measures that reduce the risks associated with nurse and nurse assistant duties are urgently needed. Safety cultures that emphasize continuous improvement and support resources, such as routine use of lifting equipment and training, can protect health care personnel from disabling injuries. The Occupational Health Safety Network is a web-based portal that collects data about injuries among healthcare personnel at U.S. health care facilities to help target prevention efforts and measure their impact. This report states that between 2012 and 2014, the rates of patient handling and workplace violence injuries were highest among nurse assistants and nurses; rates of slips, trips, and falls were high for nursing jobs and for non-patient care staff. During the period, workplace violence injury rates increased for all job classifications and nearly doubled for nurse assistants and nurses

SEC ANNOUNCES WHISTLEBLOWER AWARD OF OVER ONE $ MILLION

FROM:  SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
04/22/2015 11:15 AM EDT

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced an award of more than a million dollars to a compliance professional who provided information that assisted the SEC in an enforcement action against the whistleblower’s company.

The award involves a compliance officer who had a reasonable basis to believe that disclosure to the SEC was necessary to prevent imminent misconduct from causing substantial financial harm to the company or investors.

“When investors or the market could suffer substantial financial harm, our rules permit compliance officers to receive an award for reporting misconduct to the SEC,” said Andrew Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.  “This compliance officer reported misconduct after responsible management at the entity became aware of potentially impending harm to investors and failed to take steps to prevent it.”

The whistleblower in this matter will receive between $1.4 million and $1.6 million.  Whistleblower awards can range from 10 percent to 30 percent of the money collected in a successful enforcement action with sanctions exceeding $1 million.  By law, the SEC must protect the confidentiality of whistleblowers and cannot disclose information that might directly or indirectly reveal their identities.

Since its inception in 2011, the SEC’s whistleblower program has paid more than $50 million to 16 whistleblowers who provided the SEC with unique and useful information that contributed to a successful enforcement action.  All payments are made out of an investor protection fund established by Congress that is financed entirely through monetary sanctions paid to the SEC by securities law violators.  No money is taken or withheld from harmed investors to pay whistleblower awards.

THREE SENTENCED FOR ROLES IN $29 MILLION MEDICARE FRAUD CONSPIRACY

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Operator of Detroit Adult Day Care Center and Two Home Health Care
Company Owners Sentenced in $29 Million Medicare Fraud Conspiracy

The former operator of a Detroit adult day care center and two former owners of Detroit-area home health care companies were sentenced to prison today for their roles in a $29 million Medicare fraud scheme.

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

Felicar Williams, 51, of Dearborn, Michigan, was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $2,431,018 in restitution, representing the amount paid by Medicare for Williams’ fraudulent claims.  Abdul Malik Al-Jumail, 54, and Jamella Al-Jumail, 25, both of Brownstown, Michigan, were sentenced to 10 years in prison and four years in prison respectively.  Both were also ordered to pay $8,389,541 and $589,516 in restitution, respectively, the amounts paid by Medicare for their fraudulent claims.  The sentences were imposed by U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood of the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit.

All three defendants were convicted on Sept. 30, 2014, after a 12-week jury trial in the Eastern District of Michigan.  Williams was convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to receive health care kickbacks.  Abdul Malik Al-Jumail and Jamella Al-Jumail were each found guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.  Abdul Malik Al-Jumail was also found guilty of conspiracy to pay and receive health care kickbacks.  Jamella Al-Jumail was also found guilty of destroying documents in connection with a federal investigation.

According to the evidence at trial, Williams billed Medicare, through her company, Haven Adult Day Care Center LLC, for psychotherapy services that were not actually provided.  The evidence demonstrated that, in some instances, Williams billed Medicare for services purportedly provided to patients who were already deceased.  Williams also sold the private medical information of her patients to Abdul Malik Al-Jumail so that he could use it to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare.  

The evidence further showed that Abdul Malik Al-Jumail obtained patients by paying unlawful kickbacks to Williams and others, and caused claims to be submitted to Medicare for home health services, including physical therapy, that were never delivered.  Like her father, the evidence demonstrated that Jamella Al-Jumail billed Medicare for home health services and physical therapy that were not actually provided.  The evidence at trial also showed that, the day her father was arrested, Jamella Al-Jumail told an employee to retrieve falsified patient medical records from their company, which she and others later burned.

The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and the IRS, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.  The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Christopher Cestaro, Brooke Harper and William Kanellis of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Hurford of the Eastern District of Michigan.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,100 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6.5 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

FORMER EX-IM BANK LOAN OFFICER PLEADS GUILTY TO TAKING OVER $78,000 IN BRIBES

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Former Loan Officer at Export-Import Bank Pleads Guilty to Accepting Over $78,000 in Bribes

A former loan officer at the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) pleaded guilty in federal court today for accepting more than $78,000 in bribes in return for recommending the approval of unqualified loan applications to the bank, among other misconduct.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting Inspector General Michael T. McCarthy of the Export-Import Bank of the United States and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew G. McCabe of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.      

Johnny Gutierrez, 50, of Stafford, Virginia, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler of the District of Columbia to one count of bribery of a public official.  A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 20, 2015.

“Gutierrez risked both taxpayer dollars and the integrity of the Ex-Im Bank for his personal financial gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “Those charged with serving the public will be held accountable when they seek personal enrichment at the public’s expense.”

“Gutierrez betrayed the trust and confidence of the hardworking Ex-Im Bank employees and the U.S. taxpayers,” said Acting Inspector General McCarthy.  “The Office of Inspector General will continue to aggressively and diligently investigate all allegations of waste, fraud, and abuse related to Ex-Im Bank programs.”

“In his role as a loan officer, Gutierrez betrayed the trust that was placed in him by fellow citizens and took bribes in exchange for providing favorable action on loan applicants,” said Assistant Director in Charge McCabe.  “The FBI, with our partners, will continue to investigate and expose fraudulent schemes that tarnish the good and ethical work of the U.S. government.”

According to his plea agreement, Gutierrez was a loan officer for the Ex-Im Bank based in Washington, D.C.  The Ex-Im Bank is the federal agency responsible for promoting the export of U.S. goods to foreign countries through the guarantee of domestic loans to foreign buyers.  As an Ex-Im Bank loan officer, Gutierrez was responsible for conducting credit underwriting reviews for companies and lenders submitting financing applications to the Ex-Im Bank.

As part of his guilty plea, Gutierrez admitted that on 19 separate occasions between June 2006 and December 2013, he accepted bribes totaling more than $78,000 in return for recommending the approval of unqualified loan applications and improperly expediting other applications.

Specifically, Gutierrez admitted that he intentionally ignored the fact that one company had previously defaulted in 10 previous transactions guaranteed by the bank, causing the Ex-Im Bank to lose almost $20 million.  Despite these defaults, Gutierrez accepted bribes to continue to recommend the approval of the company’s loan applications.  Additionally, Gutierrez admitted that he accepted bribes from a financing broker to expedite applications submitted by the broker, and that he privately assisted the broker to improve its applications before submission to the bank.  In exchange, Gutierrez was to receive half of the broker’s profit on the transactions financed by the bank.  Further, Gutierrez disclosed to the broker inside information about financing applications submitted to the Ex-Im Bank, so that the broker could solicit the applicants as clients.

The case was investigated by the Inspector General of the Export-Import Bank of the United States and the FBI, with significant assistance provided by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Washington Field Office.  The case is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Patrick M. Donley and Trial Attorney William H. Bowne of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

PREDICTABILITY IN THE SPREAD OF DISESE AMONG SPECIES

FROM:  NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Earth Day: Disease spread among species is predictable
Study in California grassland expands understanding of biodiversity and management of emerging diseases

On Earth Day, a study of disease dynamics in a California grassland has revealed fundamental principles underlying the spread of pathogens, or disease-causing microbes, among species.

The results, announced today in the journal Nature, have implications for the maintenance of biodiversity and for addressing practical problems related to plant disease.

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, studied the phenomenon of "pathogen spillover" in grassland species on the UC Santa Cruz campus.

They found that the amount of disease present on each species could be predicted by the abundance of its close relatives in the grassland. When there were many individuals of the same or similar species living close together, pathogens spread more quickly.

Perhaps unexpectedly, that in turn promotes biodiversity by creating openings for less common species that are not attacked by these same pathogens.

Link between community structure and individual disease vulnerability

The findings reveal a tight link between the structure of a plant community and the vulnerability of individual species to disease.

"These scientists demonstrate that the relatedness of species in communities is an important predictor of disease prevalence," said Alan Tessier, acting director of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.

The researchers were able to predict which plant species introduced into the grassland would be most strongly affected by naturally-occurring diseases.

Ingrid Parker, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at UC Santa Cruz and first author of the paper, said the study adds an important new dimension to a longstanding concept in ecology known as the "rare species advantage."

Diseases take greater toll on common species

"The rare species advantage is thought to be a major driver of biodiversity in natural ecosystems," Parker said. "Most pathogens are not host specialists--they can easily move from one species to another. Whether pathogens 'spill over' depends on how closely related other species nearby are.

"Our study shows that it's the structure of the whole community around a species that affects its vulnerability to disease."

Large-scale experiment with 44 plant species

In a large-scale experiment, the researchers introduced 44 plant species from outside California. (The plants were removed before they reproduced.)

The biologists found that species with few close relatives in the grassland escaped disease, while those closely related to many resident species always showed high levels of disease.

The researchers were able to make surprisingly accurate predictions of disease in introduced species based on their phylogenetic, or evolutionary, distance from local species.

"It was kind of shocking how well we were able to predict disease at a local scale," Parker said.

Modeling "PhyloSusceptibility"

To incorporate the phylogenetic distance between species into their predictions of disease dynamics, the researchers used a "PhyloSusceptibility model" developed by scientist Gregory Gilbert at UC Santa Cruz and two other paper co-authors, Roger Magarey and Karl Suiter of North Carolina State University, who work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The model is based on USDA's global database of fungal pathogens and host plants, and can be used to predict the probability of two species sharing a pathogen.

"If a plant pathogen from Brazil suddenly shows up in southern California, you want to know what plants in California are most likely to be attacked," Gilbert said.

By showing that the PhyloSusceptibility model makes accurate predictions, the results suggest a range of potential applications.

The PhyloSusceptibility model could help avoid disease problems affecting proposed horticultural imports or reforestation projects.

It could also be used in agriculture to design intercropping or rotation systems to decrease crop disease.

Vulnerability of local species to "pathogen spillover"

Imported plants can bring new pathogens and pests into an area. The PhyloSusceptibility model could be used to assess the vulnerability of local species to pathogen spillover from such plant introductions, the scientists say.

While the PhyloSusceptibility model used in this study was based on data for fungal pathogens, Gilbert said the team has also created versions based on data for eight other groups of pests and pathogens, including insects, nematodes, bacteria and viruses.

In addition to Parker, Gilbert, Magarey and Suiter, the co-authors of the study include UC Santa Cruz researchers Megan Saunders, Megan Bontrager, Andrew Weitz and Rebecca Hendricks.

USDA also funded the work.
-NSF-
Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF

FTC BARS AUTO SHIPMENT BROKER FROM TOUTING REVIEWS IT PAID CONSUMERS TO WRITE

FROM:  U.S. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
FTC Approves Final Order Barring AmeriFreight from Deceptively Touting Online Consumer Reviews and Failing to Disclose Incentives It Provided to Reviewers

Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a final consent order with AmeriFreight, an automobile shipment broker, which stops the company from touting its highly rated online reviews while failing to disclose that the company compensated consumers to write them.

According to the FTC’s February 2015 complaint, AmeriFreight represented that its online reviews were those of satisfied customers, but failed to disclose that AmeriFreight compensated the reviewers with discounts and incentives. AmeriFreight gave consumers $50 discounts to write favorable reviews, and offered consumers the chance to win an additional $100 if their review was selected for a monthly prize.

The final order settling the FTC’s complaint prohibits AmeriFreight from misrepresenting that their products or services are highly rated or top-ranked based on unbiased consumer reviews, or that customer reviews are unbiased. It also requires the company to clearly and prominently disclose any material connection, if one exists, between the company and its endorsers.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT ON CONFIRMATION OF LORETTA LYNCH AS ATTORNEY GENERAL

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
April 23, 2015
Statement by the President on the Confirmation of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General

Today, the Senate finally confirmed Loretta Lynch to be America’s next Attorney General – and America will be better off for it.  Loretta has spent her life fighting for the fair and equal justice that is the foundation of our democracy.  As head of the Justice Department, she will oversee a vast portfolio of cases, including counterterrorism and voting rights; public corruption and white-collar crime; judicial recommendations and policy reviews – all of which matter to the lives of every American, and shape the story of our country.  She will bring to bear her experience as a tough, independent, and well-respected prosecutor on key, bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform.  And she will build on our progress in combatting newer threats like cybercrime.  Loretta’s confirmation ensures that we are better positioned to keep our communities safe, keep our nation secure, and ensure that every American experiences justice under the law.

ASSISTANT AG CALDWELL'S REMARKS ON DEUTSCHE BANK INTEREST RATE MANIPULATION CASE

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell Delivers Remarks for the Deutsche Bank Manipulation of Libor Conference Call
Washington, DCUnited States ~ Thursday, April 23, 2015

Today we announce the latest law enforcement action in our ongoing criminal investigation of the manipulation of LIBOR, the London Interbank Offered Rate, which is a critical benchmark interest rate used throughout the world.  I am pleased to be joined on this call by my colleague and friend, Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Antitrust Division.

Today’s resolution of the LIBOR investigation with Deutsche Bank is in some respects the most significant one yet.  Deutsche Bank’s London subsidiary has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud in connection with its role in manipulating LIBOR.  And the parent-level bank is entering into a deferred prosecution agreement that requires a corporate monitor.  This is the first LIBOR resolution that imposes a monitor.  Deutsche Bank is paying to DOJ the largest criminal penalty imposed yet in the LIBOR resolutions, a total of $775 million.

Today’s guilty plea, significant financial penalty, deferred prosecution agreement and corporate monitor reflect the department’s consideration of several factors, including the seriousness of Deutsche Bank’s misconduct and the level of cooperation Deutsche Bank provided in the government’s investigation.  Deutsche Bank’s cooperation at the outset of the government’s investigation was not full and complete, but it improved over time, and today’s resolution takes that fact into account.

Deutsche Bank’s manipulation of LIBOR and EURIBOR, the Euro inter-bank offered rate, was long term and pervasive.  As part of the resolution, Deutsche Bank has agreed to a detailed statement of facts that sets forth its criminal conduct.  From at least 2003 through January 2011, dozens of the bank’s traders requested that the bank’s LIBOR and EURIBOR submitters contribute rates that would benefit the traders’ trading positions.  And in brazen conflicts of interest, certain traders were also LIBOR submitters for the currency they were trading.  So the very traders who had an interest in the LIBOR fix were the ones submitting the rates on behalf of the bank.  Deutsche Bank structured its trading group in another way that benefitted the traders at the expense of submitting fair and accurate rates: certain LIBOR submitters were supervised by traders of that currency who stood to benefit from LIBOR fixes that were favorable to their trading positions.  Deutsche Bank’s manipulation involved every major benchmark currency: U.S. Dollar LIBOR, Yen LIBOR, Swiss Franc LIBOR, Sterling LIBOR and EURIBOR.

As a result, Deutsche Bank’s U.K. subsidiary, DB Group Services (U.K.) Ltd, which employed many of the individuals who engaged in the scheme, has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud.  And Deutsche Bank AG has entered into a parent-level, three-year deferred prosecution agreement, with a corporate monitor, to resolve wire fraud and antitrust charges in connection with LIBOR manipulation.

Together with penalties that Deutsche Bank is paying to our regulatory partners at the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority, the CFTC and the New York State Department of Financial Services, Deutsche Bank is paying approximately $2.5 billion in total.

The important resolution we are announcing today is just the latest action in our ongoing and active investigation.  We have charged 12 individuals to date, and three of those have already pleaded guilty.  The other charges are pending and the defendants are presumed innocent.  We have also resolved the LIBOR investigation with five other banks – six including Deutsche Bank.  These actions reflect the department’s continued commitment to investigating and prosecuting financial fraud and protecting U.S. markets.  And our LIBOR investigation is far from over.  We have more work to do – and we’re doing it.  Today’s resolution does not provide coverage against any individuals, and Deutsche Bank has agreed to continue cooperating in our investigation.

Together with our law enforcement partners at the FBI and our regulatory partners here and abroad, we will continue to gather evidence of LIBOR manipulation and bring the accountable institutions and individuals to justice.

I would like to thank the team of prosecutors and paralegals from the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the Antitrust Division who have worked tirelessly on this matter, as well as the many agents, accountants and financial analysts at the FBI for their excellent work.  I am also grateful to the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs for their help, and I would like to thank the CFTC, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.K. Serious Fraud Office for their assistance as well.

U.S. EXTENDS WARMEST REGARDS TO AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND ON ANZAC DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 23, 2015

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States of America, it is my pleasure to extend our warmest regards, this April 25th, to the people of Australia and New Zealand on this very special ANZAC Day.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Allied forces landing on the Gallipoli peninsula. The countless acts of bravery and heroism, demonstrated over ten months of battle on shores thousands of miles away, ultimately gave rise to a new national consciousness in Australia and New Zealand.

This ANZAC spirit, one defined by endurance, courage, and ‘mateship,’ still lives on in a shared commitment to individual rights and the rule of law, open and fair economic systems, and democratic freedoms. The United States is proud of our enduring cooperation with Australia and New Zealand in pursuit of these common ideals. We continue to work together on a wide range of issues, such as providing disaster relief and supporting good governance in the Pacific; promoting free trade and prosperity through the Trans-Pacific Partnership; and countering violent extremism and defending fundamental liberties at home and abroad.

As we honor all members of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, past and present, know that the United States stands firmly with Australia and New Zealand as a true friend and partner. We will forever remember the heroic efforts of 1915 and the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom.

I wish you the best on this 100th ANZAC Day. May we forever uphold the ANZAC spirit in our pursuit of peace and prosperity around the world.

Statement on the Deaths of Two Hostages in a U.S. Counterterrorism Opera...

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: PRESIDENT OBAMA VISITS THE EVERGLADES



U.S. MARSHALS ANNOUNCE ARREST OF 307 FUGITIVES TO HONOR VICTIMS OF CRIME

FROM:  U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE
U.S. Marshals Coordinate the Arrest of 307 Fugitives to Honor Victims of Crime

Phoenix, AZ – Beginning March 2nd, the U.S. Marshals Service in the District of Arizona coordinated a state wide fugitive operation involving law enforcement agencies from Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties. This operation targeted over a thousand fugitives wanted for higher level felony crimes, including homicide, robbery, rape, dangerous drugs, and assault.

During this time period, Task Force members made a concentrated effort to go after the most violent career criminals and gang members across the state of Arizona in line with a National strategy. This strategy was not about increasing arrest numbers, but rather an effort to further protect communities by targeting the most dangerous felony fugitives. The approach was quality versus quantity and was strengthened by working with our law enforcement partners to get the worst of the worst fugitives off the streets.

This apprehension effort was designed to coincide with National Crime Victim’s Rights Week. Since 1981, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime has observed an annual week of remembrance for victims of crimes. Since 2008, the U.S. Marshals Service in Arizona has coordinated targeted law enforcement partnerships to seek out and arrest fugitives, thereby ensuring the justice process continues unabated in an effort to bring closure to the victims of crime. While the U.S. Marshals Service targets and prioritizes the worst of the worst every day, operations such as this allows valley law enforcement agencies to come together in a focused initiative netting hundreds of arrests which diminishing resources does not allow to take place on a daily basis.

"In the last 7 years that the U.S. Marshals Service in Arizona has been conducting these interagency fugitive apprehension programs, more than 35,000 felons have been arrested,” said U.S. Marshal David Gonzales. “By taking these criminals off the street we have made our communities safer. Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies will continue to combine resources to deal with the problem of violent and career criminals".

This initiative proved effective here in Arizona with arrests totaling 307 throughout the state. Of that 307, arrests included 44 for Murder/Aggravated Assault, 23 for Child Abuse/Molestation, 21 for Sex Offenses/Sex Assaults, and 17 for firearms related offenses. This was a strategically focused approach through the use of the U.S. Marshals multi-jurisdictional investigative authority and its fugitive task force networks at the local level. The following arrests are examples of the type of career criminals and predators focused on during this operation:

David Ponce, 39, was wanted by the Peoria Police Department on nineteen counts of Sexual Conduct with a Minor, Child Molestation, Aggravated Assault, Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, Furnishing Harmful Items to Minors, Kidnapping and Surreptitious Videotaping. Ponce had been on the run for approximately ten months and it was believed that Ponce had fled either to Mexico or California. On April 13, 2015, information was developed indicating Ponce was in the Southern California area. On April 14, 2015 Ponce was taken into custody in Los Angeles.

Jose Araujo Flores, 18, was arrested in Phoenix on April 13th. Flores was wanted by Phoenix Police Department for his possible involvement in the shooting death of a rival gang member. It is alleged that Flores, a documented member of a criminal street gang, and four associates got into an altercation with three members of another rival street gang. Flores was seen leaving an apartment complex in Phoenix in a vehicle. Flores was taken into custody without incident.
Christopher Handy, 28, was located and apprehended in the area of 19th avenue and Northern. Handy was wanted by Mesa Police Department on Probable Cause for Home Invasion, Aggravated Assault and Kidnapping. Handy was observed walking on the sidewalk and ignored commands made by law enforcement, continuing to drop his hand towards his waist. Once Handy was placed in restraints it was discovered Handy had a hand gun in his waistband.

Alex Mundo Lara, 28, was arrested in North Carolina on information provided by U.S. Marshals in Tucson, AZ. Lara was wanted on a warrant issued by Pima County Superior Court charging Lara with Murder in the First Degree and Attempted Murder in the First Degree stemming from a drug related shooting that occurred in Tucson, AZ. During a drug transaction with the victim(s) an argument occurred and Lara produced a handgun. Lara shot the victims several times before fleeing the area.

“The Arizona Department of Public Safety is very proud to have been a part of this combined federal, state and local effort to make communities safer by helping to dismantle illegal business operations conducted by criminal gang members,” said Frank Milstead, Arizona Department of Public Safety Director.

"This multi-agency approach to apprehending violent offenders in our community has proven to be a successful method of focusing resources from various agencies towards one common goal,” said Chief Sean Duggan of the Chandler Police Department. “With every apprehension the victims of crimes in our communities can be reassured that the offenders are off the streets making our City a safer place for people to live, work and thrive.”

“This operation is a clear illustration of how effective Law Enforcement can be when they work together towards a common goal,” said Chief Larry Hall of the Buckeye Police Department. “Criminals know no boundaries and Law Enforcement must constantly adapt to the criminal element in order to be successful and better protect our citizens. This partnership shows that we did just that.”

The United States Marshals Service is the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. Annually, U.S. Marshals arrest more than 50 percent of all federal fugitives and serve more federal warrants than all other federal agencies combined.

FUTURES TRADER CHARGED FOR ROLE IN MAY 2010 MARKET 'FLASH CRASH'

FROM:  U.S. COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Futures Trader Charged with Illegally Manipulating Stock Market, Contributing to the May 2010 Market ‘Flash Crash’

A futures trader was arrested in the United Kingdom today on U.S. wire fraud and commodities fraud and manipulation charges in connection with his alleged role in the May 2010 “Flash Crash,” when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 600 points in five minutes, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Robert J. Holley of the FBI’s Chicago Division.

Navinder Singh Sarao, 36, of Hounslow, United Kingdom, was arrested today in the United Kingdom, and the United States is requesting his extradition.  Sarao was charged in a federal criminal complaint in the Northern District of Illinois on Feb. 11, 2015,  with one count of wire fraud, 10 counts of commodities fraud, 10 counts of commodities manipulation, and one count of “spoofing,” a practice of bidding or offering with the intent to cancel the bid or offer before execution.

According to allegations in the complaint, which was unsealed today, Sarao allegedly used an automated trading program to manipulate the market for E-Mini S&P 500 futures contracts (E-Minis) on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).  E-Minis are stock market index futures contracts based on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.  Sarao’s alleged manipulation earned him significant profits and contributed to a major drop in the U.S. stock market on May 6, 2010, that came to be known as the “Flash Crash.”  On that date, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by approximately 600 points in a five-minute span, following a drop in the price of E-Minis.

According to the complaint, Sarao allegedly employed a “dynamic layering” scheme to affect the price of E-Minis.  By allegedly placing multiple, simultaneous, large-volume sell orders at different price points—a technique known as “layering”—Sarao created the appearance of substantial supply in the market.  As part of the scheme, Sarao allegedly modified these orders frequently so that they remained close to the market price, and typically canceled the orders without executing them.  When prices fell as a result of this activity, Sarao allegedly sold futures contracts only to buy them back at a lower price.  Conversely, when the market moved back upward as the market activity ceased, Sarao allegedly bought contracts only to sell them at a higher price.

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

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Chicago Division.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Brent S. Wible and Trial Attorney Michael T. O’Neill of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, with assistance provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the International Assistance Unit of the Metropolitan Police Service of London, United Kingdom.  The Department of Justice appreciates the substantial assistance of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Division of Enforcement, which referred this matter to the department.

SECRETARY KERRY'S REMARKS WITH PORTUGUESE MINISTER OF STATE AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS RUI MACHETE

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Remarks With Portuguese Minister of State and Foreign Affairs Rui Machete
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
April 21, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning, everybody. Bom dia. It’s my pleasure to welcome Foreign Minister Machete here back to Washington, and I’m delighted to be able to have a chance to talk with him about important issues between our countries.

Portugal, as everybody knows, is an old and firm ally of the United States, a NATO ally. And we’re particularly grateful for Portugal’s many efforts of global responsibility, not the least of which now are their support in the coalition against ISIL, their commitment to counterterrorism, their support for sanctions with respect to the Russian activities in Ukraine and our efforts to try to implement the Minsk agreement, which we all believe will help to quiet things down and stabilize the region and be good for everybody. We also are grateful for their support for our efforts in Iraq. And there is a very significant effort by Portugal to exercise responsibility towards the environment, towards the oceans, particularly the Gulf of Guinea.

So we appreciate it – that leadership – very much. And I know recently Portugal, like other countries in Europe, has been making difficult economic choices. And I want to congratulate Portugal on the fact that it is growing. We want to see that continue. We have high hopes, but we welcome you here. So thank you very much. We’re happy to have you here.

FOREIGN MINISTER MACHETE: Thank you very much. For me, it’s a great pleasure to come back to Washington and to see John Kerry again. We will have to talk about important international issues such as terrorism, Iran and the nuclear negotiations, and to congratulate John Kerry by the results and the negotiable – strong-willed stand in which – with which he led the negotiations, with of course the problems of the Middle East and terrorism.

And we have to talk about the bilateral problems we have on agenda. We have some difficulties to settle, but they are not – this is natural among allies. So we expect to have a good conversation. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Welcome. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.

NSF REPORTS FEDERAL FUNDING OF R&D CENTERS HAS DECLINED

FROM:  NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Federally funded R&D center spending declined, latest figures say

Spending has fallen since one-time federal infusion of funds in fiscal year 2009
The majority of the nation's federally funded R&D centers (FFRDCs) reported spending less on research and development in fiscal year 2013 than they had the previous year, according to a new InfoBrief from the National Science Foundation's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).

The report details that the 40 federally-funded centers spent $16.9 billion on research and development in fiscal year 2013. Of those, 24 reported declines from fiscal year 2012, and 17 reported two straight years of decreased spending.

Federal funding for the centers has been declining since a high of $18 billion in total spending was reported in fiscal year 2010. That peak corresponded with the one-time American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which accounted for more than $1 billion of federal R&D expenditures to FFRDCs in fiscal year 2010. In contrast, ARRA-funded expenditures to all FFRDCs combined amounted to $170 million in fiscal year 2013, or 1 percent of federal R&D expenditures.

Basic research accounted for 24.8 percent of total FFRDC research and development expenditures in fiscal year 2013, a significant drop from the reported 35.2-percent share for the previous year. A major contributor to that decrease was a re-evaluation of the reported distribution of activities by Los Alamos National Laboratory. Five of the 40 laboratories--Los Alamos, Sandia, Oak Ridge, Lawrence Livermore and the NASA-sponsored Jet Propulsion Laboratory--account for half of the total reported R&D spending.

FFRDCs are privately operated organizations that the government funds exclusively or substantially. Since 2001, federal funding accounted for over 96 percent of their total R&D spending.

See more from this report: Majority of Federally Funded R&D Centers Report Declines in R&D Spending in FY 2013.

For more information and statistical products please visit NSF's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.

-NSF-
Media Contacts
Rob Margetta, NSF,

EX-IM NAMES DROPLET MEASUREMENT TECHNOLOGIES AS SMALL BUSINESS EXPORTER OF THE YEAR

FROM:  U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK
Export-Import Bank Names Droplet Measurement Technologies as Small Business Exporter of the Year
 Boulder, CO Company Employs a Team of 45 and Exports to Over 47 Countries

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank), announced that Droplet Measurement Technologies (DMT), a Boulder, Colorado small business that manufactures cutting-edge cloud and aerosol measurement devices to customers around the globe, has been named its Small Business Exporter of the Year. An award will be presented to the company at the Bank's Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. on April 23rd.

“Equipping small businesses like Droplet Measurement Technologies to grow and successfully compete on the global stage is at the core of the Bank’s mission of reducing risk and unleashing opportunity,” said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. “When innovative American small businesses like DMT have a level playing field, they can enter new markets, sell their made-in-America goods and create jobs here at home.”

“Being named Small Business Exporter of the Year is an honor in that our small technical instruments company makes the tools scientists and researchers use to study the environment,” said Droplet Measurement Technologies CEO Robert McAllister. “This award is recognition of the global nature of the science we support. It supports our mission of providing scientists worldwide with the quality instruments they need to do the research we all rely on.”

Founded in 1987 by Dr. Darrel Baumgardner and Mr. Bill Dawson, DMT works with scientists and researchers around the world to expand research and development into new products that allow countries to measure the atmospheric changes taking place related to global warming, atmospheric ozone, and other areas of particle research. DMT produces the cloud probes that are utilized for climate and weather research, aircraft icing studies, and other atmospheric research.

As a leader in scientific cloud and aerosol measurements for more than 27 years, DMT began using Ex-Im’s insurance policy over four years ago to safeguard its international accounts receivable. The company’s export sales have risen 17.5 percent and their workforce has grown by 20 percent as a result. With 60 to 70 percent of their annual sales now exports, DMT relies heavily on the insurance provided by Ex-Im.

Ex-Im Bank's 2015 Annual Conference will feature remarks and panel discussions with some of the world’s leading voices in business and trade, including IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde; National Security Advisor Susan Rice; US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker; Doug Oberhelman, chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Inc.; W. James McNerney, Jr., chairman and CEO of The Boeing Company; Steven Rattner, chairman of Willett Advisors LLC; Joe Kaeser, president and CEO of Siemens AG; Stephen S. Poloz, governor of the Bank of Canada; Jacqueline Hinman, chairman and CEO of CH2M Hill; Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba; and Dr. Mo Ibrahim, founder and chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

SECRETARY KERRY'S REMARKS AT DIPLOMATIC CULINARY PARTNERSHIP

FROM:  THE STATE DEPARTMENT
Remarks at the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership - Milan Expo Reception
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
April 21, 2015

AMBASSADOR SELFRIDGE: Ladies and gentlemen, your excellencies, distinguished guests, welcome to the Department of State for tonight’s celebration of culinary diplomacy. The Diplomatic Culinary Partnership and the American Chef Corps are some of the most unique and delicious programs we have here at State. While they might not be our most traditional ambassadors, these chefs are diplomats in the truest sense of the word. They foster cross-cultural exchange by interacting with people all over the globe. They advance economic diplomacy by promoting American food products. They increase travel and tourism by promoting the United States as an international culinary destination. And finally, they elevate formal diplomacy through their assistance in entertaining world leaders here at home.

And speaking of leaders, I now have the honor to introduce the Secretary of State to speak a little bit about – more about the impact of this special program and its effect on diplomacy. With that, Mr. Secretary. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much indeed. Thank you, thank you. Thank you very much, Ambassador Selfridge, very much. He’s our chief of protocol, so he makes sure everybody gets to the right place at the right moment – usually. (Laughter.)

Really, good evening and welcome to the State Department, to the Ben Franklin room. I am thrilled to see all these chefs standing here tonight. We are really honored to have you here. I want to thank – you are our guests of honor – the American Chef Corps, dozens of American chefs who lend their time to Diplomatic Culinary Partnership. And I’ve been able to enjoy the pleasure of your gifts of doing a meal for us in our diplomatic settings, one or the other. I want you to know that we are very, very grateful to you for the contribution you make, and I’ll say a little more about that in a moment.

I love that what we’re celebrating – food and the ability to do diplomacy in conjunction with food – as a child, the only celebrity chef that I heard of was named Boyardee. (Laughter.) And in college I lived on potato chips and pizza and all the normal stuff. I know Ambassador Selfridge is going to present awards momentarily, and unfortunately I will have to go to yet another event this evening, and I apologize for that. But I want to congratulate each and every one of the winners. I think we have over 50 tonight – over 50 of the country’s top chefs with us. And will tell you, as somebody who has worked hard to get 28 NATO countries in one room, getting all of you here is a big deal, and everybody joins me in saying thank you for it. We are very appreciative. (Applause.)

I want to thank Susan Ungaro and the James Beard Foundation for their partnership, both through the American Chef Corps and also on the USA pavilion in the Milan Expo, and I’ll talk about that in a few moments, if I can. I want to thank our cosponsors for this evening, Mars Incorporated and Chenier Energy.

And finally, I want to welcome a lot of members of the diplomatic corps – ambassador from Canada, ambassador from France, other ambassadors here. If I start leveling out all of them, I’m in trouble, but there’s one I’m going to particularly single out, and you all will allow me that privilege. It is Ambassador Bisogniero of Italy, who will be hosting, obviously, Milan. Claudio, thank you so much for being here tonight, and we’re happy to have you. (Applause.)

I also want you all to welcome and say thank you to an old friend of mine who’d taken on the task of being the commissioner to the Milan Expo. And I just swore him in as an ambassador today, and that is our Ambassador Doug Hickey, who’s over here, and you all can say hello to him. (Applause.)

And we have a lot of government officials who’ve joined us tonight. I know that when they heard that we were serving hors d’oeuvres by Jose Andres and Vikram Sunderam and Isabella – Mike Isabella, Peter Callahan, Jamie Leeds – this was not a tough sell, folks. (Laughter.) People have been sneaking in through the back doors. There we go, see? We’ve got a few sneak-ins here. I want to – it’s all right. I can call them out on it. (Laughter.)

I want to tell you something: I love to cook. I just had the opportunity to meet with all the chefs downstairs for a moment, and I really do love to cook. And obviously, in this job, I don’t get time to cook. It’s not a cooking kind of job. (Laughter.) Different kind of cooking. But it takes time to cook. You have to really appreciate it. You have to love – you have to go out and buy the things you want and prepare them all properly and then take the time with good friends to really enjoy it.

But when I was practicing law in Boston, one night I went out to dinner at a restaurant right near where my law office was, and I was bored stiff practicing law privately. And this friend of mine and I clearly had at least one good bottle of wine too many, and when we came out after dinner I was craving a chocolate chip cookie. And this has been a craving all my life. Those who know me well know I am a cookie freak. And so we said, “Wow, there’s nowhere in Boston down here where we can buy a great cookie late at night.” And I looked over in Faneuil Hall Marketplace, for those of you who know the place, and there was an open stall in there. And so we just sort of decided on the spot – we said, “Look, we’ve got to open a place where we can get a cookie. This is totally ridiculous.”

And the next morning, as a bored lawyer, I found myself in the office of the Rouse Company from Baltimore – in Boston – negotiating for the space. And they said, “What do you want to do?” And I said, “Well, I want to bake cookies and sell them.” They said, “No, we’ve got too much fast food here. We can’t do that.” And I said, “Well, what do you want?” They said, “Well, we really want a gourmet establishment.” I said, “That’s exactly what we want. That’s what we want to be. We want to be a gourmet establishment, so we’re going to do gourmet cookies” – (laughter) – “and great brownies and macaroons and things like that.”

So literally they were crazy. They signed the deal; I signed the deal. About two months later, after I had ordered my Hobart mixer and all my different accoutrements – a fancy new stove that cooked in a way that you put it in, you saw it come out at the other end; it was marvelous, not unlike those of you who remember David’s Cookies in New York. And so I was having these great visions of 40 stores in 40 cities very quickly, and I suddenly realized, “You know what? I don’t have any menus. I don’t have any recipes. We’ve got to find a way to do this quick.” So I literally went home, and on my home stove I started baking as many different chocolate chip versions as I could make, and then learned about the exponential aggrandizement of a recipe as you try to make it work with a big Hobart mixer and make it happen.

Lo and behold, we actually came up – by cribbing a little bit off the back of a Toll House cookie thing and working with – (laughter) – working very cleverly with molasses and pure Lindt chocolate and the best butter we could find and so on, we made a great cookie. And we opened on time, and so help me God, within one year we had won the Best of Boston and the store is still in Faneuil Hall Marketplace today and still making cookies. (Applause.)

So there is – so I actually know what it’s like to rush out of the office and make sure we have enough flour on hand and do all the rest of this. It was great, great fun, and I actually learned an enormous amount, frankly, about small business and part-time employees and health inspectors and paying your taxes – (laughter) – and all those good things.

There is absolutely something about good food that brings people together, and that’s what diplomacy is all about. And I have just returned from my 60th trip as Secretary of State. I’ll tell you, on many of those trips, without any question, the meals that I’ve shared with various foreign counterparts have been often the best part. But invariably, they are a critical part of our ability to be able to do business and talk and break bread and break down barriers and listen to each other and understand culture, history, and really dig underneath all the policy issues. The – literally some of the most candid and productive conversations that I have had have been over a good meal in somebody’s country.

Last fall, I hosted China’s state councilor, Councilor Yang, in Boston for what ended up being a three-hour lunch at Legal Seafoods. And Roger Berkowitz is here somewhere, the owner of – there he is over there – Legal Seafoods. And we were overlooking Boston Harbor, and we’d spent a full day up there together talking, and we were working through a lot of issues. But it was over this meal I was able to point out to Boston Harbor and talk about what we’d done to clean up the harbor and how you can take an issue and change it, and we were talking about climate change. That became a foundation for our ability, ultimately, when I went to Beijing to be able to negotiate with them a landmark deal between China and the United States, the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters. We came to an agreement, and I tell you, Roger, that setting and that meal were critical in helping people to understand the mutual interest that we shared in that. We – I think people connect in unique and powerful ways over food, and often you can make progress around a dinner table that you can’t make around a conference table. A little good wine doesn’t hurt either, for those who drink it.

The important role that food plays in diplomacy is one of the reasons that we joined with the James Beard Foundation to launch the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership in 2012. And the chefs that we have on board as part of our American Chef Corps help us share diverse American culinary traditions with the world. And along with our remarkable team here from the State Department, as well as – we have White House chefs here tonight also – we’re very grateful for what they do every day, day in and out, to help us do this. A couple of weeks ago, one of our chefs – Mike Isabella, who owns and operates some fantastic restaurants here in Washington – prepared an extraordinary meal in honor of the president of Afghanistan and his delegation. Time and again, American chefs volunteer their time and their talent in this endeavor.

But the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership is about more than exceptional catering. Our chefs have actually become culinary ambassadors. They host visiting chefs and restauranteurs from places like Algeria, Colombia, the Czech Republic. They travel abroad to bring their expertise to chefs and citizens around the world. And to date, American chefs have visited more than 30 countries in service of this specific partnership. When they travel, they actually wind up doing remarkable things. Last year, one our chefs, Mary Sue Milliken, went to Islamabad, where she spent several days with a famous Pakistani chef, Chef Shai. And they explored the country; they met with local chefs and food entrepreneurs, and they filmed a six-episode miniseries focused on these two women cooking side by side, sharing their respective culinary traditions.

On top of that, Mary Sue and Shai also taught a program of live classes targeted at Pakistani audiences. They taught one class, for example, to young mothers who wanted to learn how to cook nutritious food that their kids would actually want to eat. And they taught a group of budding entrepreneurs who loved to cook and wanted to learn how they could build a career that incorporated their passion. And between the classes and the televised miniseries, Mary Sue’s visit literally reached millions of people.

Another of our chef partners, Art Smith, had a different but equally impactful experience when he traveled to Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2013. He met with Arab and Jewish chefs, restaurant owners, everyday people who had a passion for food. And he cooked a number of meals with the folks that he met abroad, molding the traditions that they had with – that they had grown up – that he had grown up with in the American South. And I think it’s safe to say it was probably the first time that some of the people that he had dined with had ever tasted authentic grits and gravy. (Laughter.) And at the end of the trip, Art joined with Israeli and Palestinian chefs to prepare a meal at an event cosponsored by our embassy and consulate. If you ask him, he’ll tell you that this experience only reinforced in him the notion that there are no truly angry people in the world, just hungry people. (Laughter.) So these are two impactful examples of the ways in which food and chefs and this whole program can make a difference in the world and break down the barriers. The truth is that they have built bilateral relationships in ways that an assistant secretary of state or myself wouldn’t necessarily have the time to do or be able to do.

In addition to supporting American diplomacy, these chefs are also helping American businesses. For example, chef Marc Murphy visited our embassy in Rome around Thanksgiving one year, hosted an incredible holiday feast for dozens of food importers, journalists, and Italian officials. It was an opportunity to literally bring the Italian folks in and educate them and share with them the whole experience of Thanksgiving, where we have our own special traditions, but also highlighting a number of agricultural exports from the United States. And it worked. Exports went up for every single product that Marc featured during his visit.

I had the opportunity, as I mentioned earlier, to say a couple words and chat and take a photo with all the chefs here tonight. I know this matters to each and every one of them, or they wouldn’t be here. They’re as committed to American diplomacy as any group of people I’ve ever met, and they’re doing a terrific job of representing us abroad, folks. Now we’re asking them to represent us again at a very special event in the course of this summer and into the fall: as our culinary ambassadors to the upcoming World’s Fair, the Milan Expo 2015, which actually opens just 10 days from now. As many of you know, the theme of this year’s World’s Fair is “Feeding the Planet.” And we have a remarkable USA pavilion that will help us demonstrate all that we are doing and all that we hope to do in order to find solutions to food security for the 21st century.

Food security is going to be greatly challenged by climate change. Crops that grow one place today may not grow there in the future. Water may be scarce. Drought in certain parts of our country is affecting farming, affecting people’s choices in their back yard and their ability to have a garden and so forth. By 2050, there will be an expected 9 billion people on this planet. In the not-so-distant future, my friends, global food security is going to be something that demands our attention not then, but now. And I am grateful that our hosts in Milan have decided to make this the focus of this expo.

So I want to take this opportunity to thank our USA pavilion sponsors, some of whom are here tonight. They’ve made it for us – possible for us to be able to prepare many informative, interactive, and interesting exhibits, and we have a spectacular pavilion there, the outside of which – the wall going up to the top is actually a growing garden or farm space, if you will. We’re expecting this pavilion to attract millions of visitors. Already some 2 million tickets have been sold in China. There’ll be 10 million or more, I think, sold overall. There’ll be more than 20, 25, 30 million people visiting. It’ll become a major event and a major attraction on a global basis. And we are expecting this to include government leaders, business executives, global experts, and frankly, we could not have done this without all of you.

As part of our presence at the Expo, our chefs are going to help us raise awareness about the health qualities and the safety qualities of American food. We’re going to showcase American innovation and technology and promote our agricultural products and trade. And everybody involved in our pavilion and our visiting chefs are going to help us explore the future of the global food system and participate in discussions on things as simple as labeling, school lunches, working with others from around the world to figure out ways that chefs can help drive sustainability and help us protect the entire food chain.

Now, we are convinced that this cadre of chefs who’re going to take part in this – and many of whom are not here tonight – will absolutely raise global awareness about the extraordinary quality of American culinary taste and capacity. And I’ve reminded you a lot about food, talked a lot about food, and I know that since there’s a lot of food within a couple of feet of you, this is risky if I go on much longer. (Laughter.) So I want to raise a glass – I don’t have an appropriate glass here of whatever. I don’t think you do either. I don’t see a lot of glasses.

So when I’m gone, when you get a glass – (laughter) – raise a toast appropriately – there you go. Gary Doer, our ambassador from Canada is well equipped. He’s got his glass. So there you are. So here, ladies and gentlemen, is to the extraordinary contribution of our chefs. Thank you for feeding us, thank you for helping to promote our country, thank you for making us proud. And we look forward to seeing you in Milan. Here, here. Thank you. (Applause.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY'S REMARKS WITH FORMER LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER HARIRI

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Remarks With Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
April 22, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good morning, everybody. It’s my pleasure to welcome to Washington and to the State Department the former prime minister of Lebanon and a good friend personally. Each time that I have gone to Beirut, almost every time, I’ve had occasion to be able to visit with Saad Hariri. And he has worked for moderation and for thoughtful political compromise to try to move this country forward. He’s worked through very difficult challenges, obviously.

And we’re particularly, here in the United States, committed to Lebanon’s stability and security. We’re anxious to see the presidency ultimately filled and to try to see the effects of Daesh and Nusrah and Syria moved away from Lebanon so that Lebanon can really have its sovereignty respected and its future protected and guaranteed.

So we have a lot to talk about, because right now, there are some 1.2 million refugees who have spilled over from Syria into Lebanon that destabilizes the country. We are very opposed to entities like Hizballah and others using locations and places in Lebanon and nearby as pawns in this struggle. And we call on Iran and the Assad regime and others to respect the integrity of Lebanon, and permit it and its people to be able to find the peace and the stability that they have longed for so long.

So we have a lot to talk about, and I’m very, very happy to welcome the former prime minister here. I know he remains very active and is very important to the politics of his country. And we will continue to support the Lebanese Armed Forces and the forces of moderation and those who want to work together peacefully to provide the future that the people of Lebanon deserve.

Welcome.

MR. HARIRI: Thank you. I want to thank you, Mr. Secretary, for having me here. Yes, we do have a lot to talk about. Lebanon is living a very difficult time. The region also is in a very, very dangerous time also, I would say. The involvement of certain factions like Hizballah in Iran also – and in Lebanon or in Syria or in Iraq or in Yemen has grown to a point that is extremely dangerous. We believe that Iran has a good – a country that we all need to deal with, and we believe that interfering into Lebanon is not something that we would like as Lebanese people.

I would like to thank you for the support of the Lebanese army. This is something that we try to always help, because this is the basic of our security. We’re facing Daesh; we’re facing Nusrah; we’re facing al-Qaida on our borders. We have 1.2 million refugees, like you said, and we need to elect a president. So hopefully, we’ll have some good talks. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Look forward to it. Thank you. Welcome. Thank you very much, folks. Thank you.

WHITE HOUSE FACT SHEET: EARTH DAY

FROM:  THE WHITE HOUSE
April 22, 2015
FACT SHEET: Celebrating Earth Day with New Steps to Protect People, Places and Local Economies from Climate Change

Today, in celebration of Earth Day, President Obama will visit the Florida Everglades, where rising seas and other climate change impacts are endangering one of the nation’s most iconic landscapes – and increasing risks to the State’s $82 billion tourism economy. To coincide with the President’s trip, the Administration is highlighting the value of special and vulnerable places like the Everglades and announcing new steps to protect the people and places climate change puts at risk.

The President has made clear that no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. The effects of climate change can no longer be denied or ignored – last year was the planet’s warmest year recorded, and 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have happened this century. All over the country, Americans are already facing devastating impacts – from severe floods to extreme heat to increased risk of asthma attacks. These impacts pose major economic, public health, and national security threats. Climate change is also affecting some of the most iconic places in our country, from disappearing glaciers in Glacier National Park to dying Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park. These kinds of losses affect the tourism economies of towns and cities across the country that depend on sharing America’s natural splendor with the world.

That’s why President Obama has taken historic action to cut the carbon pollution that drives climate change and protect American communities from the impacts, including setting the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from the power sector, making a landmark joint announcement with China to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and supporting smart investments in resilient infrastructure. Under the President’s leadership, the Federal Government has also made significant investments to protect and restore the special places that Americans depend on but that are threatened by pollution and climate change, including the Great Lakes, the Gulf Coast, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Everglades.

In the Everglades alone, the Administration has invested $2.2 billion in restoration efforts, with the President’s 2016 Budget proposing nearly $240 million more. In addition to protecting the primary source of drinking water for more than a third of Florida’s population, these efforts are helping ensure that the Florida Everglades – a major driver of the local economy – are resilient to effects of climate change like saltwater intrusion and invasive species.

Highlighting special places and protecting communities from climate change

From diminishing snowpacks to more severe wildfires, climate change is impacting natural landscapes across the country and threatening an outdoor recreation economy that each year generates $646 billion in consumer spending and 6.1 million direct jobs.  In Florida, impacts like sea level rise are threatening some of the State’s top tourist attractions, including the Everglades and Florida Keys, with estimated revenue losses of $9 billion by 2025 and $40 billion by the 2050s.

Recognized worldwide as a unique and treasured landscape, the Everglades is a perfect example of the threat we face from climate change, including rising sea levels that result in shoreline erosion and increased flooding.  As the seas rise, salty ocean water travels inland, threatening the aquifers that supply fresh drinking water to Floridians, destroying natural habitats, and starving Everglades National Park of freshwater that also serves as the primary source of drinking water for more than a third of Florida’s population. Already, the park’s characteristic mangrove trees – the largest protected mangrove forest in the northern hemisphere – are retreating inland. The changing conditions in the ecosystem are also displacing native animals and plants like tropical orchids, some of which are only found in south Florida.

In addition to their cultural, recreational and historic value, our national parks play a significant role in our economy.  And even as climate change threatens their landscapes, national parks play an important role in preventing the worst impacts of climate change.  In celebration of Earth Day, this week the Administration is announcing new steps to recognize the value of these special places, as well as actions to protect the people and places climate change puts at risk, including:

Calculating the Value of National Parks Tourism to the U.S. Economy. Today, the National Park Service (NPS) is releasing a new report that shows that every $1 invested by American taxpayers in the National Park Service returns $10 to the U.S. economy.  In 2014, a record 293 million National Park visitors spent $15.7 billion in communities around National Parks, providing a $29.7 billion benefit to the U.S. economy and supporting 277,000 jobs.

Calculating the Value of National Parks for Storing Carbon. Today, the NPS and the U.S. Geological Survey are releasing a new report that for the first time calculates the value of National Parks for storing carbon and mitigating climate change.  The report concludes that national park lands in the lower 48 states store 14.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, and that providing this service is valued at more than $580 million each year.

Investing in National Parks. Today, NPS is announcing $26 million for restoration projects at national parks around the country, including $16 million from non-governmental partners.  These Centennial Challenge Grants are part of a multi-year effort to prepare for the National Park Service Centennial next year, including a Find Your Park Campaign to connect a broader audience to public lands and President Obama’s Every Kid in a Park initiative that will give every fourth grader and their families free access to national parks and all federal lands and waters for a full year, beginning this Fall.    

Designating a New National Historic Landmark Near the Everglades. Today, the Department of the Interior and NPS are designating the Marjory Stoneman Douglas House in Miami, Florida as the Nation’s newest National Historic Landmark.  Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s seminal book, The Everglades: River of Grass (1947), marked a significant turning point in the environmental movement, and the Friends of the Everglades organization she founded had a central role in the conservation and restoration of the Everglades.  National historic landmarks provide opportunities for Americans to make personal connections with our Nation’s cultural and historical heritage and can help drive tourism and boost local economies.

Designating National Park Week. On Monday, President Obama signed a Proclamation designating this week National Park Week and encouraging all Americans to use and enjoy the unparalleled public lands that belong to all of us.

Providing a Flood Mapping Tool to Help Communities Prepare for Storms. On Tuesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that a flood exposure risk mapping tool, originally developed for New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, has been expanded to cover coastal areas along the entire U.S. East Coast and Gulf of Mexico.  This Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper allows users to select their location and view how local populations, infrastructure and natural areas would be affected under a variety of flood scenarios, with the goal of helping communities reduce their vulnerability to current flood risks. This expanded tool is included in the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit called for in the President’s Climate Action Plan.

Making Key Landscapes Resilient to Climate Change. On Tuesday, the Interior Department, U.S. EPA and NOAA announced four landscapes – in southwest Florida, Hawaii, Puget Sound and the Great Lakes—where agencies will focus their efforts with partners to conserve and restore important lands and waters and make them more resilient to a changing climate. These Resilient Lands and Waters projects will build climate resilience in vulnerable regions and enhance carbon storage capacity, focusing on increasing coastal resilience, developing coastal wetlands and marine conservation areas, protecting drinking water for urban areas, providing wildlife habitats, and preventing threats like flooding and invasive species.

Partnering with farmers, ranchers and forest land owners to reduce GHG emissions. On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will announce new voluntary actions it will take in partnership with farmers, ranchers and forest land owners to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions and support President Obama’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.