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Saturday, May 9, 2015


Airstrikes Hit ISIL in Syria, Iraq

From a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve News Release
SOUTHWEST ASIA, May 8, 2015 – U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve officials reported today.
Officials reported details of the latest strikes, which took place between 8 a.m. yesterday and 8 a.m. today, local time, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Airstrikes in Syria

Attack, bomber fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted five airstrikes in Syria:

-- Near Hasakah, four airstrikes struck three ISIL tactical units, destroying four ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Raqqah, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying an ISIL vehicle.

Airstrikes in Iraq

Attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted nine airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:

-- Near Asad, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying an ISIL building.

-- Near Qaim, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Beiji, three airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying six ISIL fighting positions, three ISIL vehicles, an ISIL vehicle-borne improvised explosive device and an ISIL armored personnel carrier.

-- Near Mosul, three airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units, destroying an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL heavy machine gun and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Sinjar, one airstrike struck an ISIL large tactical unit, destroying seven ISIL buildings and destroying nine ISIL heavy machine guns.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations.

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


May 09, 2015
Statement by the Press Secretary on Liberia

Today, the Republic of Liberia reached the important milestone of 42 days without reporting a new Ebola case, and we are pleased the World Health Organization was able to declare the end of the country’s current outbreak.  We congratulate the people of Liberia on reaching this important marker, and once again pledge our commitment to ending the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and helping to rebuild Liberia and other affected nations.  As President Obama said when Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf visited the White House last month, “We’re proud to partner with you and we intend to see this through until the job is done.” While this milestone is important, the world must not forget that the Ebola outbreak still persists in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea.  We must not let down our guard until the entire region reaches and stays at zero Ebola cases. And we must all work together to strengthen capacity around the world to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to outbreaks before they become epidemics.

NASA VIDEO: Space to Ground : Safe For Breathing

U.S. COAST GUARD VIDEO: Coast Guard rescues 3 from life raft near Kodiak, Alaska


Remarks at the Second Worldwide Symposium of the Foreign Trade Advisors of France
Charles H. Rivkin
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Miami, FL
May 7, 2015
Thank you, Paul, for that kind introduction.

Mesdames et messieurs les parlementaires, mesdames et messieurs les ambassadeurs… Messieurs les chefs d’entreprise, et les entrepreneurs, tous ceux parmi vous qui aspirent à créer des entreprises et à investir aux Etats-Unis…

C’est pour moi un honneur de participer à ce forum et d’avoir l’opportunité de m’adresser à une assemblée aussi prestigieuse de femmes et d’hommes politiques, de chefs d’entreprise qui viennent de cinquante pays différents, et aussi d’entrepreneurs, un mot d’origine francaise qui fait aujourd’hui partie intégrante du vocabulaire américain et de notre ADN.

Le mot “terroir” est un mot francais qui n’a pas d’équivalent en anglais. Mais après avoir parcouru les 22 régions francaises – en tant qu’ambassadeur des Etats-Unis en France – j’ai pu pleinement appréhendé le sens de ce terme: l’histoire, la culture, et la fierté qui émanent de ces territoires et qui donnent à vos regions leur identité. J’ai pu réaliser à quel point ce pays se caractérise par sa richesse et sa diversité.

C’est un honneur pour moi de me trouver aujourd’hui avec des représentants de ce pays que j’affectionne tant.

Today, in English, I will briefly explore the question that the organizers of this conference have asked me to address: “The United States in 2025: first economic and political power?” Of course, the title is intentionally a little provocative. But while we cannot claim to predict the future, we can follow the wisdom of a previous American president – Abraham Lincoln.

He once said: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

“Le meilleur moyen de prédire l’avenir est de le créer.”

Under President Obama and Secretary Kerry’s leadership, I am fortunate to be in a position where we are working to do just that.

We do this by following two key principles.

The first is that “economic policy is foreign policy, and foreign policy is economic policy.” Secretary John Kerry has not only recognized the inextricable link between foreign policy and economic policy, he has made it central to everything we do.

The majority of challenges we face are economic in nature and, very often, those challenges have security implications for the United States of America. In a world where countries like the BRICS nations are already using their economic clout to punch above their weight, it is clear that economic power is no longer an option. It’s an imperative.

The second principle recognizes the strategic value of a shared economic future. The world has become flatter, more connected, and therefore more interdependent. There is no realistic scenario for an aspiring world power to try and create its economic, or any kind of, success in individually directed ways.

In the 21st century, the ones who earn the most economic power will be those who are smart enough to share it with key partners. This is central to what the Secretary calls the shared prosperity agenda.

As Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, we are working to make that agenda real in many ways, including through two ongoing multilateral trade deals, which will not only benefit 12 countries in the Asia Pacific region, including the United States, but all 28 of our friends and allies in the European Union.

The deal that is closest to conclusion is the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, or TPP, which would bring the United States into free and open trade with Canada and Mexico; Chile and Peru; Australia and New Zealand; Japan, Malaysia and Singapore; Brunei and Vietnam.

Our hope is that this partnership will be followed by a second transformative trade deal – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – or T-TIP – which we are currently negotiating with the European Union.

These deals – together – would account for the greater majority of the world’s trade, GDP, and future economic growth. Not only that, these ambitious, comprehensive, and high-standard trade and investment agreements would allow us to create enforceable labor, consumer and environmental standards that will establish a high bar for the rest of the world.

TPP alone, if concluded, would connect Americans with 40 percent of the world’s GDP – and 50 percent of its projected economic growth. In Asia, there are currently 525 million middle class consumers. That number is expected to grow to 2.7 billion by 2030. For the United States, that’s a market that’s projected to be six times the size of our domestic one.

T-TIP is equally important to us. The transatlantic economic relationship is already the world’s largest, accounting for one third of total goods and services trade and nearly half of global economic output.

It will not only boost economic growth in the United States and the EU. It will add to the more than 13 million American and EU jobs already supported by transatlantic trade and investment. We will also build on the transatlantic ties that undergird our national security.

I know that, in the audience today, there are many companies, most of them French, that either have a presence in the United States, or are strongly considering investing here.

This brings me to a third component of the shared prosperity agenda that I would like to briefly talk about. As Assistant Secretary, everywhere I travel, from Mumbai to Mexico City, from Bangkok to Beijing, I meet with investors and other business people who tell me just how much they love investing in the United States – and how they plan to invest even more. They recognize – as we do – that the U.S. is the world’s most attractive and stable market for high-quality goods and services.

Maintaining a strong and vibrant business climate that is built on innovation, strong intellectual property rights protections, a transparent legal system and a stable regulatory environment is central to the American economy and to our way of life. And we have a consumer market, workforce, advanced technology and resources that are, frankly, second to none.

The sheer diversity of the U.S. economy means that there are opportunities for nearly every company – from start-ups to medium-sized enterprises to multinationals.

Through SelectUSA, a joint initiative with the Department of Commerce, we work to promote, increase and support inward investment in the United States. We know that foreign companies will create jobs and innovation in the U.S., and also generate profits and exports for their home countries. Not only that, these companies bring back home technology, management expertise, cultural understanding, innovative products, and access to new markets. They increase prosperity, as well as economic and political stability, for nations and workers alike.

That’s the underlying wisdom of global prosperity. It’s not a “zero sum game,” but one of mutual gain.

As Victor Hugo also said: “There is nothing in the world – not even mighty armies – as powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

“Rien n’est plus puissant – pas même les plus grandes armées - qu’une idée dont le temps est venu.”

Economic power, based on two-way trade and investment, is one of those ideas whose time has truly come. The kind of 21st century, high standard and ambitious free trade agreements that we seek will bring shared prosperity, and so much more.

As Secretary of Defense Ash Carter recently said – and I quote: “Passing TPP is as important to me as another aircraft carrier. It would deepen our alliances and partnerships abroad and underscore our lasting commitment to the Asia-Pacific. And it would help us promote a global order that reflects both our interests and our values.”

These two trade deals, ladies and gentlemen, are as much strategic as they are economic. They will solidify relations with our friends and allies around the world.

And by embracing this idea of shared prosperity, we are not only embracing the future, we are helping to write it as well.

Merci, thank you – I enjoyed having the chance to speak with you and would be pleased to answer any of your questions.


May 08, 2015
Letter -- Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to the Central African Republic

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, within 90 days prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. In accordance with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register for publication the enclosed notice stating that the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13667 of May 12, 2014, with respect to the Central African Republic is to continue in effect beyond May 12, 2015.

The situation in and in relation to the Central African Republic, which has been marked by a breakdown of law and order, intersectarian tension, widespread violence and atrocities, and the pervasive, often forced recruitment and use of child soldiers, threatens the peace, security, or stability of the Central African Republic and neighboring states, and continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13667 with respect to the Central African Republic.




05/05/2015 12:33 PM EDT
U.S. Support for Multilateral Measures
Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty and Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

The United States is committed to negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, also known as Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

We are hopeful that the two-year UN Group of Governmental Experts, which first convened in Geneva in March 2014, will serve to motivate and revitalize work on FMCT and progress within the Conference on Disarmament.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty is in the security interest of every nation, and the United States remains committed to ratifying the CTBT and bringing it into force.

The United States makes the largest annual financial contribution to the CTBTO Preparatory Commission, paying more than 22 percent of the Commission’s annual budget.

Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones

Protocols to the Africa and South Pacific Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone treaties were submitted to the U.S. Senate for advice and consent to ratification in May 2011.

The United States and other P5 states signed the Protocol to the Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty in May 2014. It was submitted to the Senate in April 2015.

The United States is committed to signing the revised Protocol to the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty.

The United States supports Middle East regional states as they work towards consensus for a conference on the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction.


Friday, May 8, 2015


V-E Day Marked End of Long Road for World War II Troops
By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 5, 2015 – When President Harry S. Truman, British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin simultaneously announced that Nazi Germany had surrendered on May 8, 1945, the joy Americans felt was tempered by where they were.

The war that began with Germany invading Poland Sept. 1, 1939, ended with the total defeat of the Nazi menace and the unconditional surrender of the German military.

In New York, London and Moscow the eruption of joy was instantaneous. Men and women rushed to the streets to hug and kiss and dance. The war against Nazi Germany was over. The killing had stopped. A great evil ended.

The End of a Long Road

On the front lines deep in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, the celebration was more muted, with soldiers gradually realizing they were not going to be shot at anymore and were going to go home.

Their joy was further tempered because, while Germany was defeated, Japan fought on. The soldiers realized their divisions, brigades and units would be part of the invasion of Japan.

In the Pacific, there was a brief acknowledgement that the European battle was over, but it didn’t really matter to the soldiers and Marines who were still attacking Japanese positions on Okinawa or to the sailors who were fending off kamikaze attacks on ships off the island.

V-E Day signified the end of a long road. Just between June 1944 and May 8, 1945, there were 552,117 U.S. casualties in the European theater of operations. Of those, 104,812 were killed in action.

In January 1945, many believed the war in Europe would last much longer.
In January, U.S. Army soldiers were still battling against German forces that had launched the Battle of the Bulge. That battle was the largest the U.S. Army ever fought and out of the 90,000 casualties around 19,000 soldiers were killed.
Events accelerated from there.

The War Moves into Germany

Bombing missions continued over Germany and every B-17 or B-24 lost over the Reich meant a loss of 10 Americans. On the ground, Allied troops mopped up German resistance on the west bank of the Rhine River.

On March 7, 1945, soldiers from the 9th Armored Division secured the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine River in Remagen, Germany. The U.S. 1st Army vaulted the water barrier and struck deep into Germany. The 3rd Army also crossed the river and moved on. On March 22, U.S. and British forces launch a massive operation over the Rhine in Oppenheim.

On April 2, U.S. forces surrounded 600,000 Germans in the Ruhr Pocket. Throughout the month, American forces begin discovering the consequences of the Nazi ideology as they liberated death camps like Buchenwald, Ohrdruf and Dachau.

On April 12, Americans were shocked by the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Harry S Truman was sworn in and vowed to continue Roosevelt’s policies.

On April 21, Soviet forces began their assault on the German capital of Berlin.
With the Soviets closing in, Hitler committed suicide on April 30 and turned power over to Admiral Karl Donitz.


On May 2, German forces in Berlin surrendered to the Soviets.
On May 7, formal negotiations for Germany’s surrender began at the Supreme headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force headquarters in Rheims, France, and the Germans surrender unconditionally the next day.

At the conclusion of the surrender, the allied staff attempted to write a message for General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower to send to allied leaders. He opted for “The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 0241, May 7th, 1945.”


May 08, 2015
Statement by the President on the Election in the United Kingdom

I congratulate Prime Minister Cameron on his impressive electoral victory.  The special and essential relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is rooted in deep and abiding shared interests and values.  I have enjoyed working closely with Prime Minister Cameron on a range of shared interests these last several years, and I look forward to continuing to strengthen the bonds between our countries, as we work together on behalf of global peace, security and prosperity.

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: Weekly Address: Honoring the 70th Anniversary of V-E Day


Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks at a Press Conference Announcing Investigation into Baltimore Police Department
Washington, DCUnited States ~ Friday, May 8, 2015

Good morning, and thank you all for being here.  I am joined today by Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, and Director Ron Davis of the Community Oriented Policing Services Office, or COPS.

Over the past few days and weeks, we have watched as Baltimore struggled with issues that face cities across the country today.  We have seen the tragic loss of a young man’s life.  We have seen a peaceful protest movement coalesce to express the concern of a beleaguered community.  We have seen brave officers upholding the right to peaceful protest, while also sustaining serious injury during the city’s unfortunate foray into violence.  And we have watched it all through the prism of one of the most challenging issues of our time: police-community relations.

When I traveled to Baltimore earlier this week, I had an opportunity to see the significant work that the city and the police department had done with the COPS Office over the last six months through a collaborative reform process.  But despite the progress being made, it was clear that recent events – including the tragic in-custody death of Freddie Gray – had given rise to a serious erosion of public trust.  And in order to address this issue, I was asked – by city officials and community leaders – to augment our approach to the situation with a court enforcement model.  I have spent the last few days with my team considering which of the Justice Department’s tools for police reform best meets the current needs of the Baltimore Police Department and the broader Baltimore community.

Today, the Department of Justice is opening an investigation into whether the Baltimore Police Department has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution or federal law.  This investigation will begin immediately, and will focus on allegations that Baltimore Police Department officers use excessive force, including deadly force; conduct unlawful searches, seizures and arrests; and engage in discriminatory policing.  The COPS Office will continue to work with the Baltimore Police Department and the collaborative reform process will now convert to the provision of technical assistance to the Baltimore Police Department.  Some may ask how this differs from our current work with the Baltimore Police Department.  The answer is: rather than examining whether the police department violated good policies, we will now examine whether they violated the Constitution and the community’s civil rights.  This approach has been welcomed by the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police, and I want to thank them for their support and their partnership as we move forward.

In the coming days, Civil Rights Division attorneys and investigators conducting the investigation, and the police experts who will assist them, will be engaging with community members and law enforcement.  We will examine policies, practices and available data.  And at the conclusion of our investigation, we will issue a report of our findings.  If unconstitutional policies or practices are found, we will seek a court-enforceable agreement to address those issues.  We will also continue to move forward to improve policing in Baltimore even as the pattern or practice investigation is underway.

Our goal is to work with the community, public officials and law enforcement alike to create a stronger, better Baltimore.  The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has conducted dozens of these pattern or practice investigations, and we have seen from our work in jurisdictions across the country that communities that have gone through this process are experiencing improved policing practices and increased trust between the police and the community.  In fact, I encourage other cities to study our past recommendations and see whether they can be applied in their own communities.  Ultimately, this process is meant to ensure that officers are being provided with the tools they need – including training, policy guidance and equipment – to be more effective, to partner with civilians and to strengthen public safety.

For many people across the country, the tragic death of Freddie Gray and the violence that followed has come to personify the city, as if that alone is Baltimore.  But earlier this week, I visited with members of the community who took to the streets in the days following the violence to pick up trash and to clear away debris – and they are Baltimore.  I visited with elected officials who are determined to help the neighborhoods they love come back stronger and more united – and they are Baltimore.  I visited youth leaders who believe that there’s a brighter day ahead – and they are Baltimore too.  I visited with law enforcement officers who had worked 16 days without a break, and were focused not on themselves or even their own safety, but on protecting the people who live in their community.  They, too, are Baltimore.

I have no illusions that reform will be easy; the challenges we face did not arise in a day, and change will not come overnight.  It will take time and sustained effort.  But the people I met in Baltimore – from protestors to public officials to an officer who had been injured amidst the violence – all said the same thing: “I love my city, and I want to make it better.”  That’s why I’m so optimistic about this process.  That’s why I’m so hopeful about the days to come.  And that’s why I am confident that, as a result of this investigation and the hard work still ahead, all members of the Baltimore community – residents and law enforcement alike – will be able to create a stronger, safer, more united city together.

At this time, I’d like to open it up to a few questions.

EPA VIDEO: Science safeguards drinking water from harmful algal blooms



Secretary of Defense Ash Carter testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee in Washington, D.C., May 6, 2015. DoD Photo by Glenn Fawcett   

Carter Urges Senators to Support Stable Defense Budget
By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 6, 2015 – Slashed budgets and high worldwide demand for U.S. military forces have created an unbalanced defense program that is taking on increasingly greater risks, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a Senate panel this morning.

The secretary testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee on the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2016 budget request. Joining him was Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Over the past three fiscal years the Defense Department has taken more than three-quarters of a trillion dollars in cuts to its future-years defense spending,” Carter said.

The frequently sudden and unpredictable timing and nature of the cuts and continued uncertainty over sequestration have made the stresses greater, he added, forcing DoD to make a series of incremental, inefficient decisions.
A Tumultuous World

“Even as budgets have dropped precipitously, our forces have been responding to unexpectedly high demand from a tumultuous world,” the secretary said.
Carter said he believes the result is an unbalanced defense program.
“We’ve been forced to prioritize force structure and readiness over modernization, taking on risks in capabilities and infrastructure that are far too great,” he added.

“High demands on smaller force structure mean the equipment and capabilities of too many components of the military are growing too old, too fast -- from our nuclear deterrent to our tactical forces,” Carter told the panel.
A Road to Nowhere

The secretary said that in recent weeks some in Congress have tried to give DoD its full fiscal year 2016 budget request by transferring funds from the base budget into DoD accounts for overseas contingency operations, or OCO –- funds that are meant to fund the incremental, temporary costs of overseas conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

“While this approach clearly recognizes that the budget total we’ve requested is needed, the avenue it takes is just as clearly a road to nowhere,” Carter said, explaining that President Barack Obama has said he won’t accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward, as this approach does.

“And he won’t accept a budget that severs the link between our national security and economic security,” the secretary added, “[so] legislation that implements this budget framework will … be subject to veto.”

If the Defense Department and Congress don’t find a different path by fall when a budget is needed, Carter said, the department will again have to make hasty and drastic decisions.

‘Holding the Bag’

“The Joint Chiefs and I are concerned that if our congressional committees continue to advance this idea and don’t explore alternatives we’ll all be left holding the bag,” Carter said, adding that the OCO approach does nothing to reduce the deficit.

“Most importantly,” he added, “because it doesn’t provide a stable multi-year budget horizon, this one-year approach is managerially unsound and unfairly dispiriting to our force. Our military personnel and their families deserve to know their future more than just one year at a time -- and not just them.”
Defense industry partners also need stability and longer-term plans to be efficient and cutting-edge, Carter said, “[and] … as a nation we need to base our defense budgeting on a long-term military strategy, and that’s not a one-year project.”
Such a funding approach reflects a narrow way of looking at national security, the secretary said.

Ignoring Vital Contributions

Year-to-year funding “ignores the vital contributions made by the State Department, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department and the Homeland Security Department,” he said.

And it disregards the enduring long-term connection between the nation’s security and factors like supporting the U.S. technological edge with scientific research and development, educating a future all-volunteer military force, and bolstering the general economic strength of the nation, Carter said.

“Finally, the secretary added, “I’m also concerned that how we deal with the budget is being watched by the rest of the world -– by our friends and potential foes alike. It could give a misleadingly diminished picture of America’s great strength and resolve.”

A Better Solution

To create a better solution than the one now being considered, he said, “I hope we can come together for a longer-term, multi-year agreement that provides the budget stability we need by locking in defense and nondefense budget levels consistent with the president’s request.”

Carter pledged his personal support and that of the department to this effort, and, he told the panel, “I would like to work with each of you, as well as other leaders and members of Congress, to this end.”


Increases in Hepatitis C Virus Infection Related to Injection Drug Use Among Persons Aged <30 Years — Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, 2006–2012

Evidence suggests drug injection and prescription opioid abuse are fueling hepatitis C increases in four states east of the Mississippi River. Surveillance data show a national increase in acute hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections from 2006-12, with the largest increases occurring east of the Mississippi River. To better understand the increase in HCV and its correlation to injection drug use, researchers reviewed surveillance data from four states showing a 364 percent increase in cases — Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Virginia — along with drug treatment admissions data. Nearly half (44.8 percent) of HCV cases occurred among people under 30, with a median age of 25. Significant increases in both urban and non-urban areas were found, with more than double the rate of cases occurring in non-urban areas. The majority of those diagnosed were white, and equally as likely to be male as female. Of the cases for which risk data were identified, 73.1 percent reported injecting drugs. Data showed increases in the proportion of persons under 30 admitted for abuse of any opioid (21.1 percent), abuse of prescription opioids (16.8 percent), and injection of any opioid (12.6 percent). While HIV prevalence in this population is currently low in these four states, the regional increase in HCV infections raises concerns about the potential for an increase in HIV infections, as injection drug use is a risk factor for both HIV and HCV. Combined, these findings highlight the need for increased HCV testing, care, and treatment services within substance abuse treatment programs.


May 06, 2015
Readout of the Vice President’s Call with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades

Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Republic of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades about the conflict settlement process, bilateral relations, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The Vice President underscored the importance of seizing the opportunity to work with newly-elected Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to conclude a settlement as soon as possible to reunify the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation, which is in the overwhelming interest of all Cypriots. The Vice President and President Anastasiades also agreed to continue strengthening our strategic partnership to deepen and expand areas of bilateral cooperation. Finally, on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the two leaders agreed on the importance of maintaining transatlantic solidarity and support for the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.  


May 4, 2015
Appalachian Community Bank Vice President Sentenced to Federal Prison for Bank Fraud

GAINESVILLE, Ga. - William R. Beamon, Jr., a/k/a “Rusty” Beamon has been sentenced to three years, six months in federal prison for defrauding Appalachian Community Bank, in Ellijay, Georgia. Beamon was convicted by a jury of five counts of bank fraud on December 19, 2014, after a five-day trial.

“Bank fraud is a critical problem that has hit Georgia especially hard,” said Acting United States Attorney John A. Horn. “Georgia leads the nation in bank failures since 2008, with 88 banks failing—including Appalachian Community Bank, the bank this defendant defrauded. These failures significantly affect the economy, making these cases important to safeguard the nation’s financial health.”

J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated: “The sentencing of Mr. Beamon will hold him accountable for his actions but, unfortunately, will not be able to restore the bank in which he worked for and betrayed. Bank fraud is not a victimless crime and the FBI will continue to provide extensive resources in investigating those who engage in such criminal acts.”

“Former banker Beamon, of TARP applicant Appalachian Community Bank, was sentenced to three years, six months in federal prison for raiding the bank’s inventory of foreclosed real estate when the bank was seeking a TARP bailout,” said Christy Romero, Special Inspector General for TARP (SIGTARP). “A federal jury convicted Beamon of bank fraud. Beamon fraudulently rented out bank-owned properties and collected rent payments for his own use, and he caused the bank to sell properties to his wife and to a shell company he controlled at severely discounted prices—prices well below what others were willing to pay. He claims he did it to save the bank, but these transactions put the bank in jeopardy, and Beamon profited. SIGTARP and our law enforcement partners will shut down TARP-related fraud, swindling, and self-dealing and ensure that perpetrators pay for their crimes.”

“The sentencing of Mr. Beamon reflects fitting punishment for an individual who abused his position of trust at Appalachian Community Bank for personal gain and caused irreparable harm to the institution. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General is firmly committed to helping ensure integrity in our nation’s banks. We value the cooperative working relationships with our law enforcement partners that bring about such successful outcomes,” said Fred W. Gibson, Acting Inspector General, FDIC.

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges, and other information presented in court: Beamon was Vice President of Appalachian Community Bank in Ellijay, Ga. Due to its poor financial condition, Appalachian was forced to close on March 19, 2010, and the FDIC was appointed receiver.

Beamon was in charge of Appalachian’s foreclosure liquidation department. In 2009, he represented to a real estate agent that he personally owned a house in Cumming, Georgia. Beamon hired that agent to market and lease the property on his behalf. In truth, however, the property was owned by Appalachian and was part of the bank’s foreclosure inventory. Beamon’s real estate agent found someone to lease the property and negotiated a lease on Beamon’s behalf. Beamon then deposited into his personal bank account more than $20,000 in rent payments and security deposits that he obtained by leasing out the bank’s property as if he were the owner. Beamon also caused Appalachian to sell bank-owned properties to his wife and to a shell company that he owned—all at prices that were substantially below what other buyers were ready, willing, and able to pay the bank.

Beamon, 54, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to three years, six months in federal prison, to be followed by five years on supervised release following his prison term, a $500 special assessment, and forfeiture of all real properties involved in the offense.

This case was investigated by the FDIC Office of Inspector General; the Department of Treasury, Special Inspector General Troubled Asset Relief Program; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant United States Attorneys J. Russell Phillips, Douglas W. Gilfillan, and Jenny R. Turner prosecuted the case.


Arms Control and International Security: U.S. Support for Transparency and the P5 Process
05/05/2015 12:29 PM EDT
U.S. Support for Transparency and the P5 Process

Transparency Visit

In 2015, the United States hosted a visit to the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories for representatives from NPT non-nuclear weapon States Parties and the UN. The visit included briefings, tours, and exchanges on U.S. stockpile stewardship and management activities, and the role played by the national laboratories in support of the President’s arms control and nonproliferation agenda.

P5 Conference Process

The United States is committed to engaging its P5 partners to advance all aspects of the NPT.

P5 engagement is a long-term investment in strengthening the NPT, building trust, and creating a stronger foundation for the work required to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.

The P5 are pursuing regular NPT-related dialogue to an extent unseen in prior years:

The United States and Russian Federation have briefed the other P5 states on their nuclear arms control verification and notification experience to foster greater familiarity with practical arrangements that promote the irreversibility, transparency, and verifiability of the disarmament process.

The P5 will release a first edition of the “Glossary of Definitions of Key Nuclear Terms” at the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

U.S. experts are working with P5 counterparts to review P5 collaboration on improving and maintaining the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty verification regime and to identify ways our unique experience can contribute to further strengthening the CTBT international monitoring regime.

The United States hosted a CTBT-related workshop, with participation by all P5 states, on data quality objectives for On-Site Inspection equipment.

The P5 released a statement in February 2015 encouraging states to undertake efforts to minimize the impact of xenon gas on the CTBT’s monitoring network.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary

The Justice Department’s Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism (OVT) today celebrates its 10-year anniversary of providing specialized assistance to U.S. citizen victims and their families when they are injured or killed in terrorist attacks abroad, announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin.

OVT was founded on May 6, 2005, by then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.  It is now part of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, which was created in 2006.  OVT’s primary responsibility to Americans who are victims of overseas terrorism is to work to ensure that investigation and prosecution remain a high priority.  OVT also updates victims and their families on the progress of any criminal investigation and prosecution, and ensures that the rights of victims and their families are treated with honor and respect by criminal justice systems around the world.  The office has worked to provide support to U.S. victims of terrorist attacks in many nations, including Afghanistan, Colombia, Germany, Israel, Iraq, Indonesia, India, Kenya, Pakistan and the Philippines, among others.  

“The Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism serves as an advocate for our citizens impacted by terrorism as they navigate foreign criminal justice systems in pursuit of accountability,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin.  “I applaud the work they have done over the last decade to aid hundreds of victims and their families, and look forward to continuing to support their office as they provide such critical resources to American victims of terrorism overseas and their families.”

“OVT is truly a groundbreaking office in the Department of Justice,” said Director Heather Cartwright of OVT.  “Victims themselves identified the need and called for the creation of an office devoted to advocating for justice for U.S. citizens who suffer terrorist attacks in foreign countries.   Ten years after its creation, OVT has developed an advocacy program to support these victims, and looks forward to providing even more comprehensive support and services in the future.”


Remarks With Djiboutian Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Presidential Palace
Djibouti, Djibouti
May 6, 2015

FOREIGN MINISTER YOUSSOUF: (Via interpreter) Ladies and gentlemen, we are happy and proud to welcome in Djibouti Secretary of State John Kerry and his delegation. This is a historical visit which reflects the excellent relationships between Djibouti and the United States. Secretary of State John Kerry met this morning young Djiboutians as part of the YALI program, the Young African Leaders Initiative, which was launched by His Excellency President Obama. This meeting took place at the Salman Mosque. The exchanges between the Secretary of State and the young Djiboutians about the future of the country – these discussions were very fruitful. We talked about tolerance, coexistence.

And the Secretary of State also had a lengthy meeting with President Guelleh. The discussions pertained to bilateral relationships as well as the various crises in the region, notably Yemen and Somalia.

I will switch to English.

Mr. Secretary General, Djibouti is a good and loyal friend and a good partner to the United States, and it will remain so, given the daunting challenges our two nations are faced with in terms of peace and security. We will continue to fight terrorism together and promote tolerance and coexistence. Djibouti values the tremendous job done by the American forces in the Combined Joint Task Force, and I would remiss to my duty if I don’t underscore that the Camp Lemonnier provides lots of job opportunities to the young Djiboutians.

Mr. Secretary, we welcome you again and we are very sorry for the hot weather. (Laughter.) Next time you come, we will ask heaven to be more merciful. You have the floor, sir.

SECRETARY KERRY: (Laughter.) Well, Mr. Minister, don’t – I actually – we had a very tough winter this year, and particularly in Boston, so I don’t mind the weather at all. (Laughter.) I’m very happy to be warm.

Thank you. Excuse me. Thank you so much for a very generous welcome. Je vous remercie beaocoup. You and the president – I appreciate enormously the chance to be able to visit Djibouti. This is my first visit, not just as Secretary of State, but my first time ever. And so I really am appreciative of the opportunity to be here, and I want to thank President Guelleh and you, Foreign Minister Youssouf. Thank you very much for your generous welcome.

A year ago, President Obama and President Guelleh announced the annual U.S.-Djibouti Binational Forum, and we held the initial round of that this year in Washington. We had a very fruitful conversation there laying out a lot of the agenda. We’re following up on that agenda, I must say, speedily and effectively. And I’m pleased to be here now to follow up on the discussions and to be able to talk to the president himself about our relationship.

The United States and Djibouti, plain and simply are friends, and we are working together in common interest on any number of things – obviously security, but well beyond security too. We just talked about a new American school that hopefully will be able to open here shortly. There are other initiatives on the economy and elsewhere. Our discussions today really reflected that we have a lot to talk about, but also things that we can learn about. I will say a word about that in a minute.

Importantly, Djibouti has become a regional base for science, for education, for health, and for the environment. Djibouti is leaning forward on climate change and on new energy sources. In fact, the Government of Djibouti and the Minister of Higher Education and Research Nabil are hosting a conference this week on environmental risk and opportunities. And I was pleased to learn about the partnerships that the local institutions are forging with American universities in order to tackle the threat of climate change.

Earlier this morning, I was privileged, as the minister mentioned, to visit the Salman Mosque and to meet with a number of young students, men and women, who are the future of Djibouti and the future of our relationship. This part of the world has an incredibly rich culture, in part because of its strategic location, and that is a great source of prosperity. But also, it can put it into the center of conflict and turbulence, as we have seen most recently with the events in Yemen. So it matters a great deal that the United States and Djibouti are able to cooperate on the basis of both mutual respect, but also mutual interest, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

One of the issues that we discussed today very briefly, because so much has happened in the positive – and I want to mention it – is piracy. Since 2007, Djibouti has been an essential partner, vital partner, in the international counter-piracy efforts. And that is important because as many of you remember, just a few years ago it seemed like the pirates were winning. At one point in 2011, pirates were holding some 32 merchant ships captive along with 736 hostages. It was a strange confrontation with history in a way, that at this moment in the 21st century, with all of our capacity and all of our communication, a major sea lane was in jeopardy because of pirates. And obviously, we made a fundamental decision it was unacceptable, it had to change.

With Djibouti’s cooperation, the world community was able to get itself together and strike back. Today, pirates hold no seaworthy ships in this region – zero – and only a small number of hostages, and we hope that before long, that too will be zero. What it proves is that we do have mutual interests where we can find a capacity to be able to cooperate and make a difference. And it goes to show that international teamwork has an ability to successfully meet some of the challenges that we see in the region.

The foreign minister and I also discussed our shared efforts to advance peace and stability in Somalia. And President Guelleh had, through his own connections and his own experience and his own concerns about Somalia and the commitment of Djibouti to be making a difference in Somalia, the president had some, I think, very relevant, important advice and counsel with respect to the road ahead. We agreed that it is critical for government to – the government in Mogadishu to finalize its constitution, hold democratic elections next year, and integrate – particularly important – integrate forces from Somalia’s regions into its national army. And the President importantly pointed out that having a national army which fully represents all of the different interests and people of Somalia will be critical to its ability to be able to have successful elections and move on to the future.

The United States Government recognizes – and I underscore that today both with my presence and what I’m saying – that the Government of Djibouti has made a very important contribution to this effort, and has also committed peacekeeping battalions – two of them – to AMISOM and has hosted the Italian Carabinieri, who train Somalia’s national police. The United States is going to continue to consult with Djibouti as we consider the provisions of broader security assistance to Somalia. And today, I say thank you to Djibouti for its contribution to this important global effort.

We’re also working with Djibouti to assist many thousands of refugees who have fled violence in the region. Djibouti has provided safe haven for many years to Somali refugees, and now, it is providing it to those seeking refuge from Yemen. We – excuse me – we recently provided $2 million to support the UNHCR’s operations in Djibouti alone, along with new support for humanitarian assistance in Yemen itself, where millions of vulnerable people urgently need help. And today, I am pleased to announce that the United States is providing another $68 million in humanitarian aid for Yemen. This contribution will include food, water, shelter and other necessities, and it will support vital work of the World Food Program, the UN High Commission for Refugees, UNICEF, the International Organization for Migration, and other international and nongovernmental organizations that are struggling to deliver aid in Yemen itself, on the ground.

In addition to welcoming Yemeni refugees, Djibouti has also helped to ensure the safe passage of thousands of evacuees from more than 60 nations, including American citizens. Our embassy here, ably led by Ambassador Tom Kelly, has helped hundreds of people to be able to secure medical care, temporary lodging, and the documentation that they need to be able to return home. And I want to thank everybody in our consular division in our embassy for their extraordinary work. The protection of American citizens abroad is a top priority, obviously, always. And we’re going to continue to do everything we can possible to be able to ensure their safety. But we are particularly grateful – we could not be doing what we’re doing today without the help of Djibouti.

We’re working with Djibouti on another challenge, which is helping the people of this country to generate a healthier and more dynamic national economy. That’s why we’re partnering with the government here on a new workforce development project that will help match the training of young people to the needs of today’s job market. During my conversation this morning with the youth leaders, I listened to each of them as they expressed their ambitions for the future, their hopes to learn English, to go to college, to university, to be able to find a job, to help to make a contribution to Djibouti. And what we, above all, want to do is prevent any young person from falling victim to the preying of violent extremists and people who offer a dead end instead of all of the possibilities of education and opportunity and work.

So I thought it was a valuable discussion, as Foreign Minister Youssouf suggested. It wasn’t as long as I would have enjoyed to hear from every single one of them. But I will share with President Obama, who has inaugurated this program called YALI, the Young African Leaders Initiative. And several of the people who were there this morning were either people who attended last year’s session in Washington of YALI or will come this summer. And I know in every case that I have met one of these exciting leaders from all over Africa, they are already fresh out of the university or in university or in early years of working, demonstrating remarkable leadership. They are the future leaders of the continent, and I have said many times, I say it again: I believe the history of this century is going to be defined by the remarkable growth and development of Africa.

I will also be reporting to the President that the friendship between the United States and Djibouti is healthy and it is strong, and we are very thankful to our hosts for their commitment to host our facility at Camp Lemonnier, where we try hard to be good guests. And I’m personally grateful always for the working relationship I have with Foreign Minister Youssouf, and very grateful for the warm welcome and hospitality here in Djibouti today.

With that, we’d be delighted, I’m sure, to take a couple questions.

MS HARF: Great. The first question is from Hidaya of RTV. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry. My name is Hidaya Mohammed from RTD Radio and Television Broadcasting News Djibouti. So as you know, the international community deploys efforts --

SECRETARY KERRY: Hold the mike up to you there so I can --


SECRETARY KERRY: Maybe it’s not even working.


QUESTION: Sorry. As you know, the international community deploys major efforts in order to stop the terrorism, and the result are not (inaudible). So my question is: Is it a strategic problem, and can you explain this failure?

SECRETARY KERRY: This – try to – on which human?

QUESTION: The – this (inaudible) is progressing in Africa, as you know --


QUESTION: Counterterrorism.

SECRETARY KERRY: Terrorism. Counterterrorism.


QUESTION: Yeah, terrorism.

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah. Well, the rise of violent extremism is something that has challenged all of us in the world. Extremism and violence and terrorism is not new to this generation, but it really began to burst on the scene as a strategy by some people during probably the 1960s and ’70s, and then has grown but reached an altogether unfathomable, incomprehensible level of depravity and nihilism with the attacks that took place in 2001 in September in New York, and then subsequently in various other parts of the world, or during that period of time, certainly, other parts of the world.

Most recently with the rise of Daesh and al-Shabaab, al-Nusrah, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and various other entities, people have regrettably found a way to exploit a great religion and to present it in a completely false manner. And they take advantage of young people particularly, and particularly those who don’t have jobs, don’t have opportunities, people who are poor, and twist their minds, indoctrinate them, and send them on missions of death and terror to literally destroy – not to build, not to provide a future. I don’t hear any terrorist group in the world talking about building schools or introducing people to literature or building a world of tolerance and of opportunity. All you hear them talking about is how other people have to live the way they order them to, and if they don’t, they’ll kill them. And Daesh particularly has proven its readiness to take the lives of other people in the most grotesque public fashion, simply because those people are part of a different religion, part of a different belief, or aren’t them.

So we have to, all of us in positions of responsibility, do everything in our power to reach out to more people, to show them the utter depravity of one road versus the benefits of saying no and taking a difficult road to school, to education, to a job, to building community, to living by rule of law, and by understanding fully what the real nature of a particular religion or philosophy or ideology is.

Djibouti and its leadership understand this, and they are pushing back against this kind of extremist effort, as are all – every country in the region. There isn’t one country here – thank you, sir, very much – there isn’t one country here in the region that I know of as a country that supports Daesh. They’re all opposed to their activities.

And so Djibouti, thankfully, is today at the forefront of our global efforts against terrorism. Ever since September of 2001, Djibouti has fully cooperated with us on this issue, they’ve provided military access to Camp Lemmonier, they have welcomed U.S. counterterrorism training, and because of its strategic location and its proximity to areas of concern, the threat that it faces from al-Shabaab extremists on its own border or people attacking its border, Djibouti is a frontline state in the efforts to stand up against terrorism.

And we will continue to work very closely with the Djiboutian Government on counterterrorism strategies for all of east Africa, for the Arabian Peninsula, as part of our effort to try to offer the kinds of young people I met today at the Salman Mosque the future that they want so much. And we’re grateful to Djibouti for hosting the only military presence in Africa – about 4,500 U.S. military-contracted personnel are on the ground here, and we’re very grateful for this relationship and for what it means, I think, in answer to your question about the pushback against terrorism.

In the end, the victory will not be defined through the military component; it will be defined through the victory of young people over this who embrace a future defined by education, by rule of law, by job opportunities, by inclusivity, by tolerance, and by the real values and principles taught in every major religion and philosophy in the world, which is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and “Love your brother as yourself,” and so forth. That’s the golden rule, and that’s exactly what is really at the core of all of our efforts.

FOREIGN MINISTER YOUSSOUF: (Via interpreter) If I can say something to answer that question, to complement Secretary of State John Kerry’s answer, it’s that we must state loud and clear that religions themselves are not the source of terrorism, whichever religion. I’m not talking only about Islam. The source of terrorism, its expansion, its escalation come from the fact that there are states that have weak institutions or there are states that have failed to ensure security on their national territory. In Afghanistan, when the state failed, we saw what happened in terms of terrorist acts in New York – 9/11 – which was mentioned by the Secretary. In Somalia, when you had a failed state, we saw what the Shabaab were capable of doing.

Today, in Libya, we talk about al-Nusrah and other groups because the state no longer exists. Syria is in the same type of situation. These states whose institutions have collapsed and which today are experiencing a situation of security void are a fertile ground and the main source of the escalation and development of terrorist activities and terrorists in general. This is a point that I wish to underscore with respect to this question that you asked.

MS HARF: Great. Our next question’s from Lesley Wroughton of Reuters. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Excuse me. I’m sorry, Mr. Secretary. You’ve just pledged additional aid for Yemen, yet today humanitarian organizations said they were unable to operate in Yemen because they’ve run out of fuel. Is it time for that pause so that humanitarian efforts can be scaled up?

Also, looking at Yemen, the Saudi campaign has dialed back on these bombardments, yet its failed to make massive changes on the ground. The Houthi still are entrenched in areas that they’ve taken up. Is it perhaps time to relook at this campaign and your support for it?

Mr. Foreign Minister, Djibouti has played a significant role in bringing it – in taking in foreigners as they’ve evacuated Yemen. What other assistance have you asked from the United States as you deal with increased refugees from this conflict?


SECRETARY KERRY: You go ahead. Yeah, go ahead.

FOREIGN MINISTER YOUSSOUF: Actually, we have been dealing with this influx of refugees from Yemen for the past three months – or two months, to be more exactly – by ourselves. I mean that the Government of Djibouti national solidary, social NGOs, communities have been deploying all kind of efforts to assist these people. Of course, so far we have evacuated 12,000 refugees from Yemen. Most of them were not Yemenis. They were Americans, Chinese, Indians, and many other nationalities. We held them at the port, at the airport. We evacuated them to gathering centers sometimes, sometimes to hotels. And we facilitated their evacuation and repatriation to their homeland.

We still have a few thousands of Yemenis in Djibouti. Some of them and their families in the capital. Around 1,000 are located in a region called Obock. We don’t have the facilities to house them there, but we opened a stadium for them. We opened other facilities belonging to private associations. We created a refugee camp there, but it is so hot and the weather is becoming very, very tough. So they are requesting to be removed or moved from that place to Holhol which is in the southern part of the country where the climate is a little bit more acceptable in a way.

But as we all know, the response of the international community takes time. We have been – we launched the call, the appeal to the international community so that the assistance can flow in, but so far we are still expecting that response. But anyway, the overall conditions of the refugees are quite satisfactory. We have a number of medical teams on the spot, some coming from NGOs. Doctors Without Borders, Arab NGOs, and others are trying to help to cover the medical needs of the refugees. And the Djiboutian Government (inaudible) Djiboutian people provides for the food and all other stuffs.

But the – I mean, the offer or the proposal of increasing the assistance to the refugees by the Secretary of State is a good omen. It is indeed a good omen because these people are in need for everything – everything. And we think that the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques also announced something like $273 million for the refugees and the Yemenis in general, and this money will come also as an omen and they will certainly take advantage of that. But I suppose and I assume that the needs are higher than that, and we hope that there will be, as the United States proposed, a humanitarian pause in the conflict so that corridors could be opened and so that this assistance could reach the most in need in this neighborly country. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: So let me emphasize we are deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation that is unfolding in Yemen – shortages of food, shortages of fuel, shortages of medicine. The situation is getting more dire by the day, and we’re deeply concerned about that. And we have urged all sides, anybody involved, to comply with humanitarian law and to take every precaution to keep civilians out of the line of fire, out of harm’s way, as well as to provide the opportunity for humanitarian assistance to be able to be delivered. And several weeks ago we urged the parties to engage in a pause in order to be able to deliver aid. The Saudis, to their credit, immediately announced that they were shifting out of one phase and into a phase for political resolution as well as humanitarian delivery, but that they would respond if Houthi continued to attack; and regrettably, they did. And so, unfortunately, conflict has continued.

Just a day or so ago, the Saudi foreign minister announced their consideration of the need for this humanitarian pause. I spoke with him yesterday. I will be there in Saudi Arabia tonight. We will be discussing the nature of the pause and how it might be implemented, but I am convinced of their desire to implement a pause. And in my conversation yesterday with another foreign minister from another country, there was an indication that others – the Houthi might be willing to engage in a pause. So I think this would be welcome news for the world if it were able to be effected in a way that doesn’t see people try to take advantage of it and either secure more territory or attack people participating in a legitimate pause.

So we hope that the coalition will join in working with the UN and the rest of the global community in order to find a way to deliver aid through the existing aid organizations that have the ability to make sure this is delivered in a way that it’s not contributing to the conflict or somehow being abused or exploited. And hopefully in the next days this is something that can take place.

The Saudis have also – or not the Saudis. President Hadi has called for a conference that he would like to see take place. And we’re certainly supportive of any efforts to have a dialogue, but we also believe it is very important to move to the UN venue as soon as possible because there is no military solution to this crisis. It’s going to have to be a negotiated political process that rebuilds a government and rebuilds Yemen itself. And I think we need to find a way to get to that. But for the time being, the immediate crisis is the humanitarian one, and I hope that very quickly the structure can be put together which will enable humanitarian assistance to be delivered to the people who desperately need it.

MS HARF: Thank you all very much.

Thursday, May 7, 2015


May 07, 2015
Statement by the Press Secretary on the Formation of Israel’s New Government

The President congratulates the Israeli people, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the new governing coalition on the formation of Israel’s new government.  President Obama looks forward to working with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his new government.  As the President has emphasized, the United States places great importance on our close military, intelligence, and security cooperation with Israel, which reflects the deep and abiding partnership between both countries.  We also look forward to continuing consultations on a range of regional issues, including international negotiations to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and the importance of pursuing a two-state solution.

USFWS VIDEO: Habitat for All Seasons: Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge



NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured these images of a significant solar flare – as seen in the bright flash on the left – peaking at 6:11 p.m. EDT on May 5, 2015. Each image shows a different wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights a different temperature of material on the sun. By comparing different images, scientists can better understand the movement of solar matter and energy during a flare. From left to right, the wavelengths are: visible light, 171 angstroms, 304 angstroms, 193 angstroms and 131 angstroms. Each wavelength has been colorized.
Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. This flare is classified as an X2.7-class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, and so on.  Image Credit: NASA/SDO/Wiessinger.


May 06, 2015
Letter -- Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Actions of the Government of Syria

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. 1622(d), provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency, unless, within 90 days prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date.  In accordance with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register for publication the enclosed notice stating that the national emergency with respect to the actions of the Government of Syria declared in Executive Order (E.O.) 13338 of May 11, 2004 -- as modified in scope and relied upon for additional steps taken in E.O. 13399 of April 25, 2006, E.O. 13460 of February 13, 2008, E.O. 13572 of April 29, 2011, E.O. 13573 of May 18, 2011, E.O. 13582 of August 17, 2011, E.O. 13606 of April 22, 2012, and E.O. 13608 of May 1, 2012 -- is to continue in effect beyond May 11, 2015.

The regime's brutal war on the Syrian people, who have been calling for freedom and a representative government, not only endangers the Syrian people themselves, but could yield greater instability throughout the region.  The Syrian regime's actions and policies, including pursuing chemical and biological weapons, supporting terrorist organizations, and obstructing the Lebanese government's ability to function effectively, are fostering the rise of extremism and sectarianism and continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.  For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue in effect the national emergency declared with respect to this threat and to maintain in force the sanctions to address this national emergency.

In addition, the United States condemns the Asad regime's use of brutal violence and human rights abuses and calls on the Asad regime to stop its violent war and allow a political transition in Syria that will forge a credible path to a future of greater freedom, democracy, opportunity, and justice.

The United States will consider changes in the composition, policies, and actions of the Government of Syria in determining whether to continue or terminate this national emergency in the future.


Secretary's Remarks: Remarks at the Embassy Djibouti Consular Section
05/06/2015 12:54 PM EDT

Remarks at the Embassy Djibouti Consular Section

John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Embassy Djibouti
Djibouti, Djibouti
May 6, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: All right. Well, I’m delighted to see you all here. You guys can’t see. Can you see over there? I’m doing my own press operation here today. (Laughter.) There you go. Wow, we don’t want that to happen.

PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY KERRY: There you go. All right. So as these people know better than anybody, and as you know as well as they do, I guess, you have been doing an amazing job under very, very difficult circumstances over the course of these past weeks, and we’re very, very proud of you. In fact, at the State Department I will tell you we’ve been hearing the stories of all of you down at the docks greeting every citizen; there isn’t anybody who’s come in who hasn’t been warmly received. And you’ve done an amazing job not only of protecting American citizens but of working with the community here in order to make this a seamless transition under the most difficult circumstances.

And I know that it’s always a little bit chaotic. I wanted to personally come here really just to tell the world about the story of what’s behind the news headlines when they read “Refugees trapped in Yemen,” or “trapped in Aden, people trying to get out.” And people have no sense of all the machinery that has to come together to work to find a way to get out, a safe way, get onto a boat, the harrowing nature of traveling across water under those kinds of circumstances; your family huddled on a deck or down below, or if you’re lucky, on a larger military ship where you have greater protection and comfort; and then to come into a port in another country and you don’t know what’s waiting for you, you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know if you’re going to eat, you don’t know what’s going to happen to you. And a – friendly faces on the dock waiting to say, “It’s going to be okay,” makes all the difference in the world.

And the entire State Department family contributed to this effort from – literally, from Madrid to Jerusalem to Casablanca, people have come together in order to work to provide not only additional people, but to provide the connections so people know who’s real, who’s what, how do you connect them to family, make those critical phone calls. And the entire embassy here in Djibouti and the entire embassy community – American and local staff – have all joined together to provide – they’ve donated food, they’ve donated clothing, they’ve donated water to some of the most needy U.S. citizens. And I will tell you everybody appreciates it, but particularly every American back home says thank you to you for doing beyond your jobs.

The – let me tell you a little bit about a few of the people so this gives you a real human being to attach to this. Saleh Mohsen Nasser arrived here from Yemen on April 11th with his wife, Arwa, and their two children, Sharifa and Mohammed. And the family fled together with Saleh’s stepmother from the port of Aden, and they arrived with some 60 other U.S. citizens on the Indian naval ship Tarkash.

Saddam Lashuel arrived here from Yemen. Did I pronounce that – mispronounce it?

PARTICIPANT: Yeah, Saddam. Saddam Lashuel.

SECRETARY KERRY: Saddam Lashuel – all right – came from Yemen on April 16th on the Indian naval ship Sumitra with his wife, their two children, who I see here – Hadeel and Zuha. And he was already documented – they were documented as a U.S. citizen at birth, but Zuha had not yet received her first U.S. passport, so there was a hurdle you have to cross. And through consular officers at the port, Saddam was able to pass a message to his brother in the United States through Ambassador Kelly to let him know that the family had arrived here safely.

Amar Motahar Zabarah arrived here from Yemen on April 16th on the Indian naval ship Sumitra with his U.S. citizen brothers, Hamzah, and Hamzah’s wife, Eman; his U.S. citizen sisters, Nasiebah and Nafiesah and Ala’a and his Yemen-born sister, Aya. And the family was in contact with the department before they left Yemen. Several officers helped them to find the transportation they needed and laid the groundwork for further assistance on arrival here in Djibouti. And actually, members of Congress had reached out to the United States – to the State Department and the embassy on the family’s behalf expressing their concern in trying to help break through the red tape.

So what you have all done and what we do, frankly, every day here – but this is special because it’s been so intense – is to change a catastrophic and daunting situation for individual human beings, American citizens, into something manageable and something less traumatic and something that ultimately can reunite them with family and with country. And so it means an enormous amount to President Obama, to me, and to every American to know that people are over here working like that to represent our country and to take care of American citizens no matter where they may be living and no matter what their circumstances may be.

This is not the easiest time, as we all know, for diplomacy in the Middle East. Four United States embassies have been closed because of the security situations in one part of this world or another, and there is extra pressure on the posts, therefore, that are open. And because of the location, Djibouti is carrying a large part of this burden, so that is a major reason why I wanted to come here today. This country, as small as it is, and its mission are extremely important, and everybody here can now begin to see more realistically why that is.

So thank you for carrying the flag, thank you for working the extra hours, for going to such great lengths to represent us as well as you have all done. We are very, very proud of you. Thank you so much. (Applause.)


May 5, 2015

CFTC Charges United Arab Emirates Residents Heet Khara and Nasim Salim with Spoofing in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets

Court Issues an Ex Parte Restraining Order Freezing Defendants’ Assets and Preserving Records

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced the filing of a civil enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against Heet Khara and Nasim Salim, residents of the United Arab Emirates.  According to the CFTC’s Complaint, Defendants engaged in unlawful disruptive trading practices known as “spoofing” in the gold and silver futures markets by placing bids and offers with the intent to cancel them before execution.

Based on Defendants’ pattern of unlawful spoofing conduct and the potential for dissipation of Defendants’ assets, on May 5, 2015, U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts issued an Order freezing and preserving assets under Defendants’ control and prohibiting them from destroying documents or denying CFTC staff access to their books and records. The court scheduled a hearing on the CFTC’s motion for a preliminary injunction for May 19, 2015.

The Complaint alleges that between at least February 2015 and at least April 28, 2015, Defendants Khara and Salim, both individually and in a coordinated fashion, regularly placed larger aggregate orders for gold and silver futures contracts on the Commodity Exchange, Inc. (COMEX) opposite smaller orders and cancelled the larger orders after the smaller orders were executed.

CME Group Inc.’s (CME Group) Market Regulation Department identified the disruptive trading practices and initiated an investigation.  On or about April 30, 2015, CME Group issued notices summarily denying Defendants Khara and Salim’s access to all CME Group markets and any trading platforms owned or controlled by CME Group.  CME Group Inc. operates four self-regulatory organizations and designated contract markets, which are the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc., Board of Trade of the City of Chicago, Inc., New York Mercantile Exchange, Inc., and COMEX.

CFTC Director of Enforcement Aitan Goelman commented: “Protecting the integrity and stability of the U.S. futures markets is critical to ensuring a properly functioning financial system.  Aggressive prosecution of spoofing is an important part of that mission.  Today’s actions make clear that the CFTC will partner with self-regulatory organizations to find and swiftly prosecute those who engage in such disruptive trading practices, wherever they may be.”

In its ongoing litigation, the CFTC is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, civil monetary penalties, and equitable relief including trading and registration bans and disgorgement.

The CFTC thanks and acknowledges the assistance of the CME Group in this matter.

CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this matter are Patryk J. Chudy, David Oakland, Neel Chopra, Katie Rasor, Trevor Kokal, Lenel Hickson, and Manal Sultan.


Arms Control and International Security: U.S. Support for Fissile Material Reductions
05/05/2015 12:24 PM EDT

U.S. Support for Fissile Material Reductions


The total U.S. highly enriched uranium inventory as of 2004 was 686.6 MT. In declarations in 1994 and 2005, the United States declared that a significant portion of that inventory totaling 374 MT of HEU would be removed from further use as fissile material in nuclear warheads.

To date, the United States has down-blended more than 146 MT of HEU—enough material for more than 5,800 nuclear weapons.

The landmark 1993 United States-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement eliminated 500 metric tons of Russian weapons- origin HEU, which was converted to LEU and shipped to the United States where it was used for peaceful purposes as fuel in American nuclear power reactors. The amount downblended was equivalent to roughly three warheads worth of HEU per day for most of the last two decades.

In 2009, the United States reported the plutonium inventory was 95.4 metric tons. In 1994 and 2007, 61.5 metric tons of plutonium had been declared excess and removed from further use as fissile material in nuclear warheads.

The U.S.-Russian Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement requires each state to dispose of no less than 34 metric tons of plutonium declared excess.

Since the early 1980s, the size of the U.S. nuclear complex has shrunk to approximately half of its original size and reduced the workforce by two-thirds.
Looking forward, the United States anticipates shifting from retaining large numbers of non-deployed nuclear warheads towards a more responsive infrastructure. Investing in a more modern physical infrastructure can allow for further reductions in total nuclear forces.


Undercover Inspections of Funeral Homes in Six States Prompt Compliance with Funeral Rule Disclosure Requirements
FTC’s Funeral Rule Requires Funeral Homes to Provide Price Lists to Consumers

Investigators working undercover in six states found failures to disclose pricing information to consumers, as required by the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, in 27 of the 100 funeral homes they visited during 2014. All but two of the 27 homes have agreed to enter the Funeral Rule Offenders Program (FROP).

The FTC conducts undercover inspections every year to ensure that funeral homes comply with the agency’s Funeral Rule. The Rule, issued in 1984, gives consumers important rights when making funeral arrangements. Key provisions of the Rule require funeral homes to provide consumers with an itemized general price list at the start of an in-person discussion of funeral arrangements, a casket price list before consumers view any caskets, and an outer burial container price list before they view grave liners or vaults. The Rule also prohibits funeral homes from requiring consumers to buy any item, such as a casket, as a condition of obtaining any other funeral good or service. By requiring itemized prices, the Funeral Rule enables consumers to compare prices and buy only the goods and services they want.

Funeral homes with price list disclosure violations can enter a training program designed to increase compliance with the Funeral Rule. This year all the homes found in violation chose to enter the FROP run by the National Funeral Directors Association rather than subject themselves to the possibility of a civil penalty action by the FTC. The FROP provides participants with a legal review of the price disclosures required by the Rule, and on-going training, testing and monitoring for compliance. Funeral homes that participate in the program make a voluntary payment to the U.S. Treasury in place of a civil penalty, and pay annual administrative fees to the Association.

The results of the FTC inspections for price list disclosures by region are as follows:

In Northwest Arkansas, 5 of the 16 funeral homes inspected failed to make a price list disclosure;
In Bakersfield, California, 7 of the 11 funeral homes inspected failed to make a price list disclosure;
In Annapolis, Maryland, and vicinity, 4 of 13 funeral homes inspected failed to make a price list disclosure;
In St. Louis, Missouri, 3 of 16 funeral homes inspected failed to make a price list disclosure;
In Westchester County, New York, 3 of 29 funeral homes inspected failed to make a price list disclosure; and
In Seattle, Washington, 5 of 15 funeral homes inspected failed to make a price list disclosure.
In addition, the FTC identified a number of homes, within the six states, with only minor compliance deficiencies. In such cases, the FTC requires the funeral home to provide evidence that it has corrected the problems.

Since the FROP program began in 1996, the FTC has inspected more than 2,900 funeral homes, and found 503 homes with violations, 486 of which have agreed to enter the FROP program, with the remainder subject to FTC law enforcement actions.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Justice Department Seeks to Shut Down Florida Tax Return Preparer and Owner of Tax Preparation Business

The United States filed a civil injunction suit seeking to bar a Tampa, Florida, man from owning, operating or franchising a tax return preparation business and from preparing tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today.  The complaint also requests that the court order the defendant to disgorge the fees that he obtained through alleged fraudulent tax return preparation.

The suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, alleges that Milot Odne owns and operates Rapid Tax 1, a tax return preparation business in the Tampa area.  According to the complaint, Odne was previously a franchisee of LBS Tax Services.

The suit alleges that Odne targets primarily low-income customers with deceptive and misleading advertisements, prepares and files fraudulent tax returns to fraudulently increase his customers’ refunds, and profits through unconscionable and exorbitant fees — all at the expense of his customers and the U.S. Treasury.

According to the suit, there is a “culture of greed” at Odne’s tax return preparation stores “that expressly promotes and encourages the preparation of false and fraudulent federal tax returns in order to maximize corporate and individual profits.”  The complaint alleges that Odne’s stores engage in fraudulent activity, including:

            •           Falsely claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit;

            •           Claiming improper filing status (i.e., head of household);

            •           Fabricating businesses and related business income and expenses;

            •           Fabricating itemized deductions on a Schedule A, including for unreimbursed employee business expenses, automobile expenses and charitable contributions;

            •           Falsely claiming education credits to which customers are not entitled;

            •           Improperly preparing returns based on paystubs rather than Forms W-2; and

            •           Failing to provide customers with a copy of a competed tax return, as required.

According to the complaint, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimates that the tax loss resulting from these activities for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 tax years could be up to $35.5 million or more.

This lawsuit is one of several filed against former LBS Tax Services-related individuals, including Walner Gachette, Douglas Mesadieu, Jean Demesmin, Kerny Pierre-Louis, Demetrius Scott, Jason Stinson, Wilfrid Antoine, Tonya Chambers, Jehoakim Victor and Lauri Rodriguez.  In February 2015, a court barred Victor and Rodriquez from preparing tax returns for others and from owning or operating a tax return preparation business.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


May 06, 2015
Readout of Vice President Biden's Meeting with Iraqi Kurdistan Regional President Masoud Barzani

This morning, Vice President Joe Biden hosted Iraqi Kurdistan Regional President Masoud Barzani at the Naval Observatory for breakfast. The Vice President underscored the United States’ strong commitment to working with the global coalition and the Iraqi people to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive campaign including military, political, economic, and humanitarian efforts. Vice President Biden and President Barzani discussed ongoing U.S. security assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga in full coordination with the Government of Iraq. Both leaders agreed on the profound need for close cooperation between the Government of Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the global coalition in the ongoing fight against ISIL, particularly with respect to the liberation of Mosul. They also agreed on the need for close coordination between Baghdad and Erbil to advance key elements of the Government of Iraq’s national program.



Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Justice Department Statement on Baltimore Mayor's Request for a Pattern or Practice Investigation into the Baltimore Police Department

Justice Department spokesperson Dena Iverson released the following statement Wednesday following the request from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for a pattern or practice investigation into the Baltimore Police Department.

“The Attorney General has received Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s request for a Civil Rights Division 'pattern or practice' investigation into the Baltimore Police Department.  The Attorney General is actively considering that option in light of what she heard from law enforcement, city officials, and community, faith and youth leaders in Baltimore yesterday.”


Airstrikes Hit ISIL Terrorists in Iraq
From a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve News Release

SOUTHWEST ASIA, May 6, 2015 – U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials reported details of the latest airstrikes in Iraq, which took place between 8 a.m. yesterday and 8 a.m. today, local time, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Airstrikes in Iraq

Attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 11 airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:

-- Near Huwayjah, three airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and two ISIL staging areas, destroying an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Beiji, four airstrikes struck one large and two small ISIL tactical units, destroying five ISIL fighting positions, eight ISIL structures, six ISIL fuel tanks, three ISIL vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Mosul, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying two ISIL buildings and an ISIL fighting position.

-- Near Ramadi, two airstrikes struck one large and one small ISIL tactical units, destroying four ISIL structures and an ISIL mortar system.

-- Near Sinjar, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying three ISIL fighting positions and three ISIL buildings.

CJTF-OIR conducted no airstrikes against ISIL terrorists in Syria between 8 a.m., yesterday, and 8 a.m., today, local time.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations.

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



ISIL Tactical Units, Fighting Positions Destroyed in Airstrikes
From a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve News Release

SOUTHWEST ASIA, May 5, 2015 – U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials reported details of the latest strikes, which took place between 8 a.m. yesterday and 8 a.m. today, local time, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Airstrikes in Syria

An attack aircraft conducted one airstrike near Hasakah, which destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

Airstrikes in Iraq

Attack, bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 12 airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:

-- Near Beiji, three airstrikes struck one large and two small ISIL tactical units, destroying three ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL structures, an ISIL warehouse, an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL excavator and an ISIL rocket-propelled grenade.

-- Near Fallujah, three airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units, destroying two ISIL structures, two ISIL vehicles and an ISIL mortar tube.

-- Near Mosul, four airstrikes struck three ISIL fighting positions, destroying an ISIL excavator.

Tactical unit, destroying three ISIL structures, three ISIL tanks and an ISIL armored vehicle.

-- Near Tal Afar, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region, and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations, officials said.

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